December 10, 2019 4:30 PM, EST

USDOT Announces ‘Rule for Rules’ to Structure Reforms

Transportation Secretary Elaine ChaoSecretary of Transportation Elaine Chao by Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg News

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The U.S. Department of Transportation is seeking to improve the way it proceeds with rulemaking, guidance and enforcement by structuring a series of reforms.

In a final rule announced earlier this month, the department indicated it is codifying the Trump administration’s directive on the regulatory process, such as eliminating two regulations for each new one that is enacted, as well as budgeting procedures and implementing the Regulatory Reform Task Force.

The rule is meant to promote transparency, and reinforce due process in enforcement actions. “It will continue to aid the department in promoting clear and effective engagements with all those who are impacted by DOT’s regulations, which touch on all forms of transportation,” according to the department’s announcement.

Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao praised the rule, focusing on potential benefits.

“When rules are outdated, duplicative, overly complex and contradictory, they harm the cause of safety and effectiveness,” Chao said in a Dec. 5 statement. “This effort enhances the department’s regulatory process by providing greater transparency and strengthening due process in enforcement actions.”

The rule will be effective 30 days after its publication in the Federal Register.

Specifically, the final rule revises and updates rulemaking procedures, consolidates existing administrative procedures, and incorporates and reflects the department’s policies. Additionally, the final rule codifies the initiation and conduct of enforcement actions.

According to the notice DOT provided, the rule “removes the existing procedures on rulemaking, which are outdated and inconsistent with current departmental practice, and replaces them with a comprehensive set of procedures that will increase transparency, provide for more robust public participation, and strengthen the overall quality and fairness of the department’s administrative actions.”

Further, it “reflects the existing role of the department’s Regulatory Reform Task Force in the development of the department’s regulatory portfolio and ongoing review of regulations.”

The task force is DOT’s internal body led by the Regulatory Reform Officer. The task force includes a working group that coordinates with the secretary’s office and DOT operating administrations to review and develop recommendations for deregulatory action. The group presents its recommendations to the leadership council, which submits recommendations to the secretary.

The Regulatory Reform Officer’s primary objective is to evaluate proposed and existing regulations and making recommendations to the secretary about their promulgation, repeal, replacement or modification, consistent with the law.

The task force was established via an executive order in 2017. The executive order also directed that for every new regulation issued, at least two regulations be targeted for elimination.

DOT has demonstrated savings of about $3.6 billion in regulatory costs to the economy and consumers, the department indicated in this month’s announcement. Additionally, DOT noted it has exceeded President Donald Trump’s “2-for-1” regulatory plan since 2017.

Earlier this year, DOT filed a Federal Register notice about the review of existing regulatory guidance documents.

“DOT has statutory responsibility for a wide range of regulations and guidance documents,” according to that notice, which was published in February. “DOT has responsibility for developing policies that implement a wide range of regulations that govern programs such as acquisition and grants management, access for people with disabilities, environmental protection, energy conservation, information technology, occupational safety and health, property asset management, seismic safety, security, and the use of aircraft and vehicles.”

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