Editorial: Rules to Live By

Without rules for everyone to follow, the world would become a chaotic place. But uncertainty about which rules one must follow can itself create chaos.

The future of federal regulations that affect trucking is up in the air, creating confusion and setting the stage for potential chaos if answers aren’t available.

Although they’re slated to take effect in fewer than five months, Phase 2 greenhouse gas emissions rules for trailers and glider kits may soon be the subject of review, according to a statement from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Citing “significant issues” that have been raised about the rules — which have been challenged in court by trailer makers — EPA administrator Scott Pruitt said the agency intends to open a rulemaking to revisit the Phase 2 rules. Pruitt said the agency will incorporate the “latest technical data” in the review, but the time it takes to review that data and decide on the fate of the rules could have consequences for businesses. As it is, manufacturers that have been working to comply with the regulations are now in limbo about whether some or all of that work might have been for nothing.

Meantime, lawmakers are asking the U.S. Department of Transportation for clarity on a decision to withdraw a rulemaking designed to help medical examiners with diagnosis and treatment of obstructive sleep apnea. In a letter to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, four U.S. senators asked why a proposal that sought public comment on OSA rules aimed specifically at truck and bus drivers and some rail workers was sidelined.

The rule was jointly proposed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Federal Railroad Administration in May 2016. At the time, the agencies described sleep apnea as a “critical safety issue.” However, in dismissing the rulemaking, the agencies said current regulations are appropriate. The senators counter in their letter that the proposed rule could help avoid “future fatigue-related tragedies” and have asked DOT to reconsider.

While battle lines have been drawn on these issues, Republicans in the House of Representatives are willing to pursue nationwide uniformity when it comes to meal and rest break rules for truckers.

A provision included in a fiscal 2018 funding bill would prohibit states from adopting their own rest-break laws for truckers. The House provision would sideline efforts by some states to adopt their own rules and return to drivers and fleets the certainty that they have for years enjoyed under current federal rest-break laws.

In this last example, let’s hope leaders see a guidepost that will steer them toward decisions that help the nation’s motor carriers safely and efficiently move freight. Because whether it’s laws for equipment or laws that regulate the actions of drivers, the goal of crafting clear, common-sense regulations for trucking is one we can support.

Rules to live by.