Senator Proposes Bill to Reform FMCSA

Kevin Anderson Regulations, Transportation

Senator Deb Fischer, from Nebraska, recently introduced S. 1669, “a bill to reform the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.” The FMCSA was originally created by congress as a branch of the Department of Transportation to enforce the provisions of various federal motor safety laws. How the agency does that has come under scrutiny by industry and congressional leaders from the beginning, and that is what the senator is trying to change.

This proposed bill comes after the senator’s past comments about the FMCSA, its rulemaking process, and abuses of power in previous congressional hearings. If passed, the bill would dramatically change how the FMCSA goes about its day-to-day business, and would involve industry players with rulemaking.

Problems Bill Seeks to Fix

The text of the bill is not yet available, but a section by section analysis has been posted. The problem, as announced by the bill, is that the FMCSA rulemaking process is frustrating to many involved in the trucking industry. Industry leaders, law enforcement agencies, and safety organizations have all voiced these frustrations in the past, and the bill seeks to address those concerns. Chief among the concerns are the agency’s rules for hours of service and the Compliance, Safety, Accountability scoring program.

There are several elements that the bill seeks to introduce in an effort to fix these problems. Those include:

  • Increased transparency on how the agency makes its rules;
  • Increased input from industry leaders and stakeholders;
  • Increased input from the general public on how rules are made; and
  • A stronger cost-benefit analysis when major rules are implemented, including how the rule will affect companies, the economy, and safety.

The stated goals are all aimed at improving both the mission of the agency, and how the rules affect the trucking industry in general.

Major Components of the Bill

The major components of the bill would dramatically change operations at the FMCSA. For example, every five years the agency would be required to evaluate all of the agency’s rules and publish a public report. That report would have to show that all of the agency’s rules are:

  1. consistent and clear;
  2. current and consistent with the motor carrier industry in general;
  3. uniform and enforceable on a consistent basis; and
  4. provide a statement on whether the rules are still necessary.

This requirement alone would change how work is done at the FMCSA.

The rulemaking process itself would also change. Under the terms of the new bill, the agency would have to:

  1. specify what the intended outcomes of a new rule are;
  2. increase the cost-benefit analysis of all new rules, to include what impact the rule will have on all sectors of the trucking industry; and
  3. allow for independent and industry input through the comment process on all new rules.

These reforms would put an increased burden on the agency to show exactly what the new rule would do, and involve more player in the rulemaking process.

It is not clear whether this bill will pass, or even make it to a committee vote. But the winds of change are blowing towards the FMCSA. As trucking companies move forward into the unknown of federal agency reform, new rules, and other changes, it is important to have a partner in the process. At Anderson and Yamada, P.C., our trucking law attorneys follow all the changes in the law affecting the trucking industry. Contact us so we can serve you and your company.