The Trump administration repeatedly promised during the campaign to rein in federal regulations in an effort to give businesses more freedoms (thus encouraging economic growth). As a result, several trade organizations like the American Trucking Associations (ATA), the Western States Trucking Association (WSTA), and the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) have spoken up in an effort to become a part of the wave of regulatory rollbacks.
Our firm takes a brief look at some the federal regulations that could be on the chopping block.
One of the broadest changes transportation lobbyists want to enact is how regulations are written across the board. The new administration has stated that they want to create regulations based on stronger cost-benefit analysis with an eye toward solutions that benefit safety and commerce. Their implication, in this case, being that current regulations were “well-intentioned” but ultimately damaging.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with this approach—in theory. As a law firm that has represented numerous victims of negligent trucking, we also know that the trucking industry has dragged its feet to build safer and better trucks citing “economic impact” as an excuse. Rear truck guards, for example, took 40 years to become mandatory despite 200 fatalities a year from rear underride accidents.
We can only hope that their desire to create beneficial policy is not based solely on the economic impact but also considers the benefits to the public.
Electronic Logging Devices
ELDs are devices that record a driver’s time behind the wheel and would be used to enforce hours-of-service regulations. ELDs would be installed to replace paper logs and presumably keep truckers accountable to their reported numbers. The Obama administration aimed to make ELDs mandatory within the next few years. The ATA, the nation’s largest trucking association, supported the decision.
However, the WSTA and the OOIDA believed that it would encourage unreasonable search and seizure and violate each trucker’s privacy. They fought the regulation in court using these arguments, but the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago rejected the argument.
These two trucking organizations plan to lobby against the regulation, likely under the banner of privacy rights. Unlike the Obama administration, the Trump administration might be more prone to listening to the WSTA and OOIDA, as they have long railed against restrictive commerce regulations—and mandatory ELD installation would provide an ideal target.
Speed Limiting Devices
Speed limiters are devices that are installed into the electronic module of a truck’s engine. It would keep the engine from exceeding speeds of 60, 65, or 68 mph (or whatever menu regulators would dictate). This idea is relatively new—the NHTSA and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration only proposed it last August. However, the ATA already plans to oppose it—or propose the same speed limiters for all passenger vehicles as well.
Their argument stems from the fact that speed limiters don’t allow trucks to pass each other. On the nation’s two-lane roads, two trucks moving side-by-side would result in massive congestion. They believe speed limiters create more safety issues than they solve.
Meal & Rest Break Legislation
For some background, currently states can dictate their own meal and rest break requirements for truckers on top of federal regulations. Interstate truckers have to account for these requirements as they pass through those regions—particularly California, which is the subject of the ATA’s objection.
Both the ATA and the WSTA want Congress to limit California’s power to create unique legislation for interstate truckers. They believe that it would burden drivers and shipping companies who are already under strict federal regulation.
However, trucker unions disagree with the precedent the policy creates. Policy advisers for the teamsters believe that limiting state power so brazenly makes truckers legally vulnerable to other federal regulations. To them, it’s more beneficial to allow state governments to maintain their power and bear the brunt of multiple regulatory agencies.
The truck accident lawyers at Stewart Tilghman Fox Bianchi & Cain, P.A. sincerely hope that the trucking regulations that keep our roads and drivers safe continue to be enforced and improved. While we understand the desire to benefit commerce, people’s lives always come first. That’s been our philosophy as lawyers and as private citizens for decades, and we will continue to represent that philosophy on behalf of those injured by negligent truckers.