Since August 1, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has published 14 exemption requests in the Federal Register, requesting input from the public and affected stakeholders. Some are broad requests for full exemptions from large swaths of rules like hours of service and electronic logging devices. Others are more targeted appeals on specific rules, like a recent request for relief from the under-the-hood pre-trip components to the CDL skills test, which some say hinders the licensing of new school bus drivers. STC thinks at least a few of these requests stand little chance of success. So why publish them?
Perhaps an example may help illustrate a benefit. Many parents prefer a no-exceptions policy to rules. It’s easier, leads to fewer objections, and makes clear with whom the authority lies. Over time, it also leads to fewer exception requests and, fewer conversations about the purpose of the rules and the impact on those who live by them. The danger in not sitting down to discuss these rules regularly is that, without giving children a chance to offer input, parents remain unaware of any unintended consequences these rules may cause. Regularly discussing rules, our goals in having them, and how they should evolve to meet a family’s needs are important, especially as kids grow.
STC has been consistent in our belief that, just as with any rules in the household, regulations need constant reassessment and evaluation. Publishing these exemption requests is one way FMCSA engages the regulated industry in those important, consistent public conversations about the applicability and consequences of their rules, some of which have been on the books for decades and targeted at an industry that is barely recognizable today. Sure, Ronnie Brown III may not be granted his exemption request from all hours of service and ELD rules because he has an exceptional driving record, but it’s worth engaging in the conversation because we may learn something about the effectiveness of the rules or the consequences of compliance in today’s environment.
So, next time you see an exemption request published in the federal register, consider accepting their invitation to have a seat at the table to engage FMCSA in meaningful discussions that may help the agency adapt its rules to an increasingly evolving industry. Watching from afar and complaining about the regulations at the water cooler isn’t going to do anything to change the industry for the better.
Engage in the dialogue, FMCSA is listening.