The big news this month is that FMCSA sent its hours of service (HOS) “final rule” to the White House Office of Management and Budget. It’s the last stop before it’s published for the world to see and represents another step in what started with industry rumblings about the need for more flexibility following implementation of Electronic Logging Devices in 2017. Since the advance notice of proposed rulemaking was published in August 2018, this HOS change process has been on a fast-track. This latest move signifies FMCSA is not taking its foot off the gas. But why?
This rulemaking will mark an important victory for the Trump Administration and its promise to reduce regulatory burdens (for trucking and many other industries). Regulatory reform and relief is something President Trump is sure to hang his hat on during his re-election campaign that will kick off in earnest at the Convention in August. With the OMB review expected to take three months or so (March-May), FMCSA’s final HOS rule could be published in the Summer just prior to the Convention. STC strongly suspects the rule will be published in early Summer (June ish) and will come with a six-month implementation period (i.e., a compliance date six months after it’s published). This means carriers could be benefitting by the end of the year… and it would likely be protected from a new Administration overturning it should the Trump Administration not win a second term.
A June publication may also guard against another potential threat to its implementation: the Congressional Review Act (CRA). The CRA allows Congress to nullify rules within 60 “session” days of their enactment, though historically, it has rarely been used. This changed when President Trump was inaugurated and enjoyed Republican majorities in both the House and the Senate. It was used to nullify 15 significant regulations published late in the Obama Administration. With a potentially contentious election on the horizon, safeguarding signature achievements could very well be a strong motivator for this Administration. Time will tell.