Safety Will Be Served – Two Rules The Trump Administration Should Not Drain From The Regulatory Swamp

By Dave Osiecki, President, Scopelitis Transportation Consulting LLC

Shortly after President-Elect Trump’s victory on Nov. 8, I wrote a piece on how the Trump Administration’s “regulatory relief” efforts, and a likely regulatory moratorium, might affect trucking-related regulations.  That article opined on eight separate rules, two of which had already been published by the Obama Administration, and the remaining six in various stages of development.  Since writing that article just a few days ago, the Obama Administration has decided to move forward with two trucking-related rules—one establishing a national clearinghouse for commercial driver drug and alcohol test results, and the second imposing higher training standards for new drivers entering the trucking industry.  Barring an unforeseen bump in the regulatory road, both rules will be published before the end of 2016 (and perhaps even before the end of November).  As the title of this article suggests, in my view, neither of these rules should be delayed or withdrawn by the new Administration despite its otherwise understandable motivation toward less regulation. Here’s why…

Let’s start with driver training standards (known as the ‘entry-level driver training’ rule).  First and foremost, this rule is focused entirely on safety—not paperwork reduction, and not improved driver health and longevity, but safety of the new driver-trainee and safety of the motoring public. This rule will substantially raise the training bar, and is designed to improve the safety knowledge and driving skills of people choosing professional truck driving as a career.  Second, the rule is congressionally-mandated and, hold on to your hat, it’s been under development at the federal level for 25 years!  Not a typo, 25 years.  In 1991, Congress required the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) to develop improved driver training standards and, for a host of reasons, it’s taken a quarter century to do so. There’s also a third compelling reason for the Trump Administration not to delay or shelve this rule–there’s broad support for it in the trucking and truck driving school industries, as well as in the law enforcement and public safety communities.  This support was developed during a painstaking but worthwhile regulatory negotiation committee process that unfolded in 2015.  That work, and the safety rule that was negotiated and drafted by the stakeholder committee, should not be discarded for at this late stage—as if it was the current Administration trying to rush out an ill-conceived regulation.

Turning to the drug and alcohol test results clearinghouse, this upcoming rule also is safety focused.  Since the mid-1990s, truck drivers testing positive for illegal drugs, or for illegally consuming alcohol while on-duty (or just prior to coming on-duty), have been able to move from one trucking company to the next without being detected by the new company as a violator and substance abuser.  These drivers identified loopholes in the federally-mandated testing program and the driver hiring process, and have been exploiting them for two decades.  The upcoming clearinghouse rule will close both loopholes and, in doing so, will help support trucking industry efforts to ensure that only clean and sober professional drivers are operating on our nation’s highways.  While this rule has a few detractors in certain factions of the trucking industry, the vast majority of stakeholders, including an overwhelming number of truckers and trucking companies, support it.  And, importantly, this clearinghouse rule had broad, bipartisan support in Congress when language requiring it was included in the 2012 MAP-21 surface transportation reauthorization law.

Given the congressional impetus for both rules, their broad support in the trucking and stakeholder communities and, most importantly, the truck safety issues they are designed to address, the Trump Administration would be well served to salute, support and implement them.