June 13, 2017 8:00 PM, EDT

Ordered to Cut Regulations, FMCSA Panel Identifies 12 'Nothing Burger' Rules


WASHINGTON — A Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration advisory committee gave its blessing to a preliminary plan by the agency to eliminate 12 mostly outdated “nothing burger” commercial vehicle regulations to comply with President Donald Trump’s executive order to ease regulatory burdens on businesses.

Some of the regs under the microscope are outdated or no longer relevant due to electronic technologies replacing paper, while others are simply no longer being enforced.

The president’s executive order calls for not only a review of the agency’s regulatory landscape, but also instructs regulators to eliminate two existing regulations for every new significant rule that an agency adopts.

“It’s a difficult challenge for a safety agency,” Robert Miller, director of FMCSA’s office of policy, strategic planning and regulation, told the committee of truck and bus stakeholders at a June 12 meeting at the Department of Transportation headquarters. “Our regulations are safety driven, and they have a safety purpose.”

But Miller added, “A lot of what you see this afternoon is not going to be a reduction of a lot of dollars. It’s really more of a cleaning up effort. ... Here’s the big nothing burger, as I think the phrase goes these days.”

John Lannen, the committee’s chairman, said he was pleased to see the effort to remove some of the unnecessary regulations.

“But you could be opposed to, as I am, to saying arbitrarily that if you pass one thing, you have to remove two,” Lannen said.

The 12 regulations the agency is considering eliminating include three Interstate Commerce Commission “remnant” regulations, related to carrier routing requirements, loss and damage cargo claims and a preservation requirement for certain records.

Other regulations under consideration include a noise emissions standard; a requirement for roughly 300 carriers to provide financial statements to the agency; some cooperating agreements with states; a driver qualification reg that has become outdated since commercial driver licenses and medical certificates can now be accessed electronically; and a time card exception for changing workdays from 12 to 14 hours for certain drivers.

Other regs the agency is considering taking off the books include a controversial 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. restart provision that was recently eliminated by Congress; a requirement still on the books requiring no-defect driver vehicle inspection reports; a transportation of migrants regulation now under the purview of OSHA; and a reg addressing a number of confusing agricultural requirements.

Miller said that before formally removing the 12 regs — and possibly others — from the books, there will be a Federal Register posting and opportunity for public comment.

“We’re not 100% sure we’ll remove them all,” he said. “We’ve not done all of the analysis yet, but we thought from a regulatory clean-up perspective, would this be a helpful approach?”

There is a possibility that some could affect carriers’ business operations or some may have congressional mandates that need to first be eliminated, according to Miller.

The bottom line is that if the unnecessary regs can be eliminated, they would go into a sort of bank that would open the door for a number of new regulations, said Larry Minor, FMCSA’s associate administrator for policy. And based on the guidance given to the agency, Minor said the two rules that are eliminated don’t have to be as significant or related to the new rule that is adopted.

“The new [DOT] secretary [Elaine Chao] has made it clear she’s not here to compromise on safety,” Minor said. “Safety is still the No. 1 priority so that whatever you’re doing with these regulatory actions, we’re not supposed to be compromising safety.”