May 21, 2013 9:00 AM, EDT

U.S. to Ease Inspections Rule for Truckers, Official Says

By Timothy Cama, Staff Reporter

This story appears in the May 20 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will propose a regulation later this year that would absolve truck drivers of their duty to file reports about truck and trailer inspections that do not find any equipment defects, a federal official said.

Repealing the “outdated” requirement, first instituted in 1978, would save the trucking industry $1.5 billion a year “without adversely affecting safety,” Polly Trottenberg, undersecretary for policy at the Department of Transportation, said at a hearing of the House Committee on Small Business  earlier this month.

“We know that FMCSA’s regulations can have a large impact on the trucking industry, particularly small and independent carriers, and this proposal could make a real dramatic difference for those small carriers,” Trottenberg told the committee.

The action is part of the Obama administration’s Retrospective Regulatory Review plan, launched in January 2011 with the goal of eliminating unnecessary, duplicative or excessively burdensome regulations. FMCSA repealed the requirement to file no-defect driver vehicle inspection reports for only intermodal chassis in June 2012.

Of all of the regulations DOT is considering revising under the regulatory review, the no-defect report rule will save small businesses the most money, Trottenberg said.

Truck drivers must inspect each truck and trailer they drive at the end of each day — including brakes, tires, mirrors, lights and steering — and give reports of those inspections to their carriers. When FMCSA repealed the requirement for intermodal chassis, it conservatively estimated that 95% of inspection reports show no defect.

Drivers still would have to complete the inspections under FMCSA’s proposal but would not always have to file a paper or digital report.

Ted Scott, director of engineering at American Trucking Associations, said his group would likely support repealing the requirement to file no-defect reports.

“It’s a good idea; it’ll save us a bunch of money,” Scott told Transport Topics.

The trucking industry’s savings would include the time drivers save completing and filing the reports and the space or data it requires to keep them on file, Scott said. “There’s a lot of blank pieces of paper out there sitting in files,” he said of existing no-defect reports, which carriers must keep on file for three months.

Recent FMCSA actions under the president’s regulatory review plan also have included the elimination of the requirement that commercial drivers report out-of-state traffic convictions to the states where they are licensed.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s staff is currently reviewing the no-defect inspection report proposal for all truck drivers, FMCSA said. The agency plans to release its detailed proposal in September, when it will gather comments from the public for three months before considering whether to make the regulation final.