Trucking Leaders: What Are You Fighting For?

 

Anybody remember the cool 90’s movie PCU?

Check out the movie if you’ve never seen it. It’s worth the time and has some good performances by Jeremy Piven (Entourage) and David Spade among others.

It wasn’t a box office hit by any stretch of the imagination, but it had some rather interesting themes mixed with some low brow humor and topped off with some really great quotables. One of my favorites is “We’re Not Gonna Protest”.

This thought has surfaced to me time and time again when I think about the trucking industry’s relationship with the FMCSA. They draft and issue notice of new regulations, the industry complains about the increased cost of compliance, the lack of  benefits and the unfairness of it all, etc.

The associations feel as though they would be doing their membership a great disservice to not stand up and be counted in the fight. Largely, dragging the process on for longer than needed and all for nothing except for the lining of pockets.

What if it could be different this time around? 

 

The FMCSA, as a short refresher, is the DOT’s safety enforcement arm. They are responsible for coming up with ways in which to regulate the trucking industry on behalf of the laws passed by Congress.

I’ve recently written and spoken in great detail about the newly published changes that the FMCSA is undertaking with the SFD or Safety Fitness Determination.  In short, the SFD is the scorecard that the FMCSA uses in determining if a motor carrier operates safely enough to continue doing business on America’s roads.

There are some pretty big changes coming down the pike with these newly proposed regulations. If you would like a recap of some of them, please check out my current blog series about the topic in my recently published posts.

You can check out the entire 267 pages of fun and excitement by visiting the FMCSA’s website.

Too often, we get so caught up in “protesting” the actions of the FMCSA to actually stop and evaluate the changes and explore the positive ways in which some regulations can help the industry.

 

My kids don’t get to make the rules and they sure as hell don’t get a say in how those rules are enforced.

They can chose to obey them or not. That’s their choice and they are keenly aware of the benefits of compliance and the drawbacks of non-compliance.

Like it or not, this is a very similar circumstance that the trucking industry finds themselves in.

 

In this particular instance, before the agency could even release the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, a “coalition” of 8 or so trucking industry groups came out to protest the unfairness of the changes.

The most notable point of contention is the use of roadside inspection data in determining if a motor carrier is operating safely. The industry groups’ point is that the data contained within those inspections shouldn’t be used until the agency has completed the recently mandated study of the current safety measurement system. Todd Dills does a good job of laying out their basic argument in his recent Overdrive article.

I’ll be the first to admit, that I don’t believe that the government should play a large role in most folks lives. This is especially true when it comes to commerce. Being a new Founder/CEO of a small business, I couldn’t feel more strongly about this.

 

 

 However, one must also consider the potential benefits that some governmental involvement could be beneficial. There are a lot of “fixes” suggested in the newly proposed regulations that could have a positive impact on the industry.

A great example would be making the actual SFD more clear by moving away from the prior Satisfactory/Conditional/Unsatisfactory framework to a simple “Unfit” category.

Another would be the attempt to insert some type of crash preventability assessment into the process rather than just having any accident counted against the trucking company.

The sheer breadth of reach (moving from making a SFD for around 15,000 motor carriers a year to about 75,000 each month) should be celebrated rather than derided. It’s in everyone’s best interest to get bad actors off of the roadways as quickly as possible.

Not only is it bad for the industry’s image, it’s bad for business!

Congress is powerless to make any changes to the suggested regulations! 

 

You’re focusing on the wrong check or balance on the governmental scale. The Judicial Branch (by way of the Administrative Law Divisions) has purview here.

 

 

Congress makes transportation law and then the US DOT is responsible for  enforcing those laws. As the trucking industry was being de-regulated in the early 1980s, that enforcement power was bestowed upon the FMCSA Administrator by the DOT Secretary.

There are set laws and a great body of case law to support the agency rulemaking process in the US. Once an agency goes through their rulemaking motions, the regulations are passed and it literally takes “An act of Congress” to have those changed. (See the recent FAST Act passage)

Lawsuits have to be brought before an Administrative Law Court to be heard. Typically, this is just a stall tactic as Administrative Law courts rely heavily on the “technical expertise” of the federal agency who made the regulations. The court is there to ensure that the correct legal process was followed rather than to debate the merits of said regulation.

My point is that these lawsuits that are being crafted as we speak are a huge waste of time and money!!!  

 

If you really want to invest the millions that are about to be wasted on these silly stall tactics, then have all of those funds diverted to whichever Presidential horse your association or group wants to ride, because Federal Agency appointments are made by THE PRESIDENT!

 

 

 

As a side note, it happens to be an election year for that particular office, so maybe some action on that issue is in order…

Let’s just take a moment to level set. We’re at the beginning of the 60 day open comment period on the newly proposed regulations.

 

THIS IS YOUR CHANCE TO LEARN ABOUT THE NEW REGULATIONS AND OFFER YOUR OWN COMMENTS INTO THE PROPOSED CHANGES. BY LAW, THE FMCSA WILL HAVE TO REPLY TO YOUR COMMENT!!

If you don’t comment, it’s kinda like not voting and then complaining for the next 4 years about how the person elected should have never been there. Unless you make a comment, then you really have no voice in the proposed changes.

I get it, it’s easier to sit back and assume that everyone else has this and commenting would be a waste of your time and effort than it is to actually educate yourself on this major change and take action for yourself.

If that comment rubs you the wrong way, then I invite you to really ask yourself why?

I’m calling folks out.

 

Let’s don’t hide behind the articles and columns and associations to determine what your view on this should be. Take some time and review the proposed changes for yourself. Comment on them. Choose to say: “We’re not gonna protest”!

 
Sam Tucker is the founder and CEO of Carrier Risk Solutions, Inc., an Atlanta, Georgia based transportation risk management startup. Prior to this venture, Sam spent 13 years underwriting trucking and logistics accounts at some of the most well known insurance companies. He holds degrees in Business Economics and Finance/Risk Management as well as multiple professional insurance designations. Carrier Risk Solutions’ innovative safety management platform can be found online at www.MySafetyManager.com. Reach Sam by email at STucker@CarrierRiskSolutions.com or by phone at 855-211-5550.

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