With the close of the latest Supreme Court session, STC has observed an interesting reevaluation of the role of the “administrative state.” The SCOTUS decision in West Virginia vs. EPA found that EPA overstepped its authority in creating emissions caps to regulate greenhouse gas emissions because Congress hadn’t provided specific direction to do so. SCOTUS came to a similar conclusion when it struck down the OSHA mask mandate this spring, saying that OSHA had overstepped the authority given to it by Congress. Some have referred to this as a new front on efforts to control the “administrative state.”

That got us thinking about how that may impact the world of motor carrier safety. Many of the rulemakings from FMCSA rely on the authority transferred to it in the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999 as well as legacy laws like the Motor Carrier Act of 1935 and the Motor Carrier Safety Act of 1984, which grant the agency wide leeway to prescribe rules “on the safety of operations and equipment”. . . “when needed to promote safety of operations.” STC has opined before on the necessary efforts of FMCSA to transform itself into one that listens (and hears) the ideas and concerns of the regulated community. We’ve seen progress here. More work needs to be done.

From our vantage point, the trucking industry benefits from the mission it shares with its regulators: Safety. One perceived difference between the “administrative state” we endure and recent SCOTUS examples, is that our industry is, at times, leading in the safety space. Our moral and economic interests are aligned to reduce crashes and crash severity. While FMCSA, and its predecessors succeeded in setting a baseline for safety and compliance, technology is speeding ahead, solving new safety problems, and accelerating behavioral change with data and artificial intelligence. The safety paradigm is shifting as FMCSA and NHTSA struggle to keep pace with innovation. The next frontier in this struggle is how to properly address the governmental and industry roles with respect to advancements coming with ADAS and AV technologies. Establishing the proper balance between what needs to be regulated versus not is critically important not just for safety, but also to assist in maintaining a level playing field in a hyper-competitive marketplace. The decisions by the government need to be well thought out and evidence-based, not rushed through for the sake of getting things done.

While the “administrative state” may be under fire, STC hopes our shared mission will help build mutual trust and allow the trucking industry to continue to innovate. We’ll need some help along the way, and for that, we will need some guidance and direction from the “administrative state.”