The Motor Carrier Act of 1980 eliminated virtually all economic regulation of the trucking industry. This long – sought legislation freed the nation’s truckers from 45 years of stifling government control.. In signing the bill, President Carter said, “The Motor Carrier Act of 1980 will bring the trucking industry into the free enterprise system where it belongs. “To ensure the safety of truckers and those with whom they shared the highway, safety regulations were left in the hands of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

Most practitioners agree that the deregulation of transportation was a necessary and overdue step. Rates since then have reflected market conditions rather than being held at artificial levels; and for the most part, service is better. Shippers and carriers alike are free to be creative and innovative in establishing rates and service parameters. Some would argue however, that possibly the FMCSA has gone too far, and under the cloak of safety regulation, actually inhibited the efficient operations of motor carriers. I do not believe that anyone can argue that safety regulation is not an absolute necessity, but it seems that every few months some new rule is being enacted.

Drivers’ hours of service rules have been in effect for some time; but there is still disagreement about when, how, and for how long drivers should rest.

CSA 2010 was a far reaching regulation governing safety and the condition of both drivers and equipment, but it was flawed in the way carriers and drivers were scored.

In December, 2015, FMCSA ruled that within two years all tractor, manufactured after 2000, would be required to have electronic logging devices. According to DOT, these devices would reduce hours of service violations, reduce crashes by tired drivers, and prevent 20 deaths and 434 injuries each year. They project an annual safety “benefit” of $394.8 million. As often happens in these matters, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) has filed suit against FMCSA, alleging the rules “do not advance safety and are arbitrary and capricious.” They had already filed a suit in May alleging ELDs violate the fourth amendment rights of professional truck drivers against unreasonable search and seizure.

More recently, the DOT has proposed a rule that governors be placed on all new vehicles weighing over 26,000 pounds. Speeds will be limited to yet-to-be decided limits of 60, 65, or 68 miles per hour. Again, DOT says hundreds of lives will be saved, depending on the final rule. This proposal is supported by the American Trucking Associations and many major motor carriers that already have installed governors. The OOIDA objects again because it could take control away from drivers when it might be needed, and creates dangerous interactions between slower truckers and faster cars, (Some western state speed limits are as high as 85mph.) DOT has asked for comments on this proposal.

By no means am I opposed to safety regulation, but I do think DOT should make an extensive review of motor carrier safety and settle on a solution or plan that would not affect carrier operations so often.

Written By: Clifford F. Lynch