Challenging Federal Regulations

Kevin Anderson Regulations, Transportation

As an industry that makes its money by traveling in, around, and through states, the trucking industry must deal with federal regulations. Federal regulations are a different breed of animal in our system of justice. Regulations are created, administered, and enforced by federal officials. These officials largely are not elected, and enjoy job security that is akin to that of judges.

Regulators on the federal level are empowered to do their jobs through some sort of federal legislation. Because our country is so large, and there are so many different industries and sectors of the economy, congress and the executive branches of government have opted to empower bureaucrats with the ability to regulate the many aspects of our economic lives.

Every agency in the federal government has at its core some legislation that describes what it is, what it regulates, and sets bounds for its work. For example, there is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. It was created in the year 2000 by congress, and was given the mission to improve the safety of commercial motor vehicles as enunciated in the Motor Carrier Safety Act of 1999.

Federal Agencies Have Limits

If you look at the mission and purpose of the FMCSA, for example, it is broad and ambiguous as to what it is actually empowered to do. And when federal legislation lacks specificity, an agency can take broader and broader powers to accomplish its mission. And the opposite is true too, if legislation specifically says what an agency can or cannot do, then the agency is necessarily limited in the rules it can publish and enforce.

Putting these issues aside, every agency and its rules are regulated by something known as the Administrative Procedures Act. This act is the framework that each agency must work within to make, administer, and enforce rules in any given industry. At the heart of this act is the requirement that no agency will take actions that are “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law.” 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(A). Additionally, agencies are prohibited from making regulations that do not adhere to the procedures that are required by law, meaning the provisions of any legislation giving an agency power.

It is most commonly using one or both of these two avenues that a person, company, or entity can challenge the legality of an agency’s action. In fact, it was this approach that a group successfully challenged the FMCSA’s daily driving limit regulations. In that lawsuit, Owner-Operator Independent Drivers v. FMCSA, 494 F. 3d 188 (D.C.Cir. 2007), a group successfully challenged the fact that the FMCSA did not publish their procedures and data that they used to come to the conclusions that based the rule they published. As a result, the court overturned the rule and it was not implemented until the agency followed the procedures outlined by law.

This is just one example of many where agency rules or regulations have been successfully challenged under the APA. It is a check and balance against regulators and officials that are not elected to the positions of power that they enjoy. At Anderson and Yamada, P.C. we understand federal regulations, state and federal law, and court opinions as they apply to the trucking industry. For all your trucking law needs, contact us. We look forward to being your partner.