Nebraska Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb) made good on her pledge to reform the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), filing a bill in late June that would make the agency’s rule-making process more transparent to industry stakeholders and Congress.
Fischer previously criticized the agency, vowing to initiate a reform process. Fischer’s bill, the Trucking Rules Updated by Comprehensive and Key Safety Reform Act, would force changes at the agency.
One of the key provisions of the proposed law requires the FMCSA to, as stated in a summary of the proposed law, “…conduct a comprehensive review of all rules, regulations, regulatory guidance, and enforcement policies. “ It must also publish a schedule of the process and describe how it will accomplish that review.
When the review is complete, Fischer’s proposed law requires the FMCSA to make public its findings. FMCSA would then have 24 months in which to, if necessary, change its rules and enforcement procedures to make sure they are consistent and uniform.
Fischer’s bill also seeks to reform the process the FMCSA’s uses to create its regulations. At the heart of this provision is greater involvement of motor carriers of all sizes, and more scrutiny of the agency’s cost-benefit analysis including independent peer review.
The proposed law was sent to the Commerce Committee, which is chaired by Sen. John Thune (R-SD).
“I share the FMCSA’s commitment to increasing the safety of our nation’s roads. We must never lose sight of this goal,” Fischer said in a hearing focused on the trucking regulatory agency. “Some of the FMCSA’s actions over the past several years, however, challenge our shared goal of enhancing safety.”
She made special note of problems with the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program as well as the 2013 hours of service (HOS) rule.
The reform legislation would focus on a complete review of FMCSA’s current guidance, and establish a regulatory framework which must include “a more robust cost-benefit analysis” that represents carriers from a wide variety of business models and, when necessary, the agency should also conduct "a real-world study” of the proposed regulation, she explained at the time.
According to a section-by-section outline, Fischer’s bill would require FMCSA to conduct a comprehensive review of all rules, regulations, regulatory guidance, and enforcement policies every five years.
Other requirements cited in the analysis include the following:
• When evaluating regulations and enforcement policies, FMCSA must specify how it plans to evaluate future rules to measure their intended outcomes;
• For future regulations, FMCSA must provide a wider scope and selection of motor carriers in its cost-benefit analysis, including truck and bus carriers of all sizes, operation types, and sectors. FMCSA cost-benefit analysis shall be subject to independent peer review by a balanced panel of experts; and
• FMCSA shall prioritize stakeholder petitions based on the likelihood of safety improvements and respond to petitions no later than six months after a petition is submitted, and the agency must maintain a publicly available inventory of all petitions received, including information about the disposition of each position.
“Though the burden of FMCSA’s mission is immense, Congress must reform the agency to ensure higher levels of trust, collaboration, and, ultimately, more effective regulations to keep our nation’s roads safe,” Fischer said.
The American Trucking Associations (ATA) sees the bill as one that will create job opportunities and address the driver shortage.
“In each of the continental United States, a person can get a commercial driver’s license and drive a truck at the age of 18, but federal law prevents them from driving across state lines until they reach the age of 21,” said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves. “It is illogical that a 20-year-old can drive the 500 miles from San Francisco to San Diego, but not the eight miles from Memphis, Tennessee to West Memphis, Arkansas—or simply cross the street in Texarkana. Even more illogical is that a 20-year-old may not drive a truck in any state if the cargo in it originated outside the state or will eventually leave the state by some other means.”
In April, Fischer questioned why FMCSA released an app designed to provide streamlined mobile-device access to CSA data on trucking companies.
“I have serious concerns about FMCSA's release of the app and the agency's decision to use resources to enhance public access to inaccurate data,” Fischer wrote in a letter to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.