Throughout his campaign, President-elect Donald Trump vowed to invest heavily in the nation’s crumbling infrastructure and reduce or roll back regulations that govern trucking, transportation and other industries.
As he works to fill his remaining Cabinet positions, here are some of the top regulatory and legislative issues the transportation industries would like to see Trump address.
Trump listed rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure as a top goal of his presidency. The American Society of Civil Engineers gave U.S. infrastructure a D-plus rating earlier this year.
Trump proposed a $1-trillion long-term infrastructure funding plan to fix the nation’s roads, bridges and ports. Labor groups are supportive of new infrastructure projects, which could put thousands to work in construction jobs and also stimulate economic growth.
“It is time we commit to again making our infrastructure the envy of the world,” said Teamsters President James P. Hoffa.
Trump and President Barack Obama both support the use of public-private partnerships, or P3s – a partnership between government entities and private-sector businesses – to pay for the projects.
However, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which represents more than 150,000 small-business truckers, opposes P3s, especially if tolls on truckers and motorists are used to pay for the projects.
During his campaign, Trump said he supported regulatory reform and planned to issue a temporary moratorium on new agency regulations once elected.
The Western States Trucking Association would like the incoming administration to increase requirements for federal agencies to “perform meaningful cost-benefit analysis to justify rulemakings,” said Joe Rajkovacz, the trade group’s director of governmental affairs.
The American Trucking Associations, the industry’s largest trade group, said it is hopeful that the Trump administration will offer common sense solutions to measure regulatory outcomes using “an inclusive and data-driven approach.”
The trade group said it is looking for policy that “focused on good, sound safety and economic outcomes, rather than a process that proposes well-intentioned solutions in search of problems,” said Sean McNally, spokesman for the ATA.
“We do think there will be opportunities for trucking to shape, not just the rules that are being written now, but how future rules are written,” McNally said.
One of the hotly contested regulatory issues trade groups would like to see Trump’s administration settle is the impending mandate to equip trucks with so-called electronic logging devices, or ELDs. Truckers have 12 months to switch recordkeeping from paper logs to ELDs, which are linked to a semi-truck’s engine and capture the movement of the truck and record how much time a driver spends behind the wheel.
The ATA supports the ELD mandate, claiming it will level the playing field for all truckers, and said it looks forward to its implementation.
Other groups like WSTA oppose a blanket mandate on ELDs and said the devices should be required only for truckers with a “history of hours-of-service violations.”
The ELD mandate also has encountered fierce resistance from OOIDA, which says e-logs would spur unreasonable search and seizures and argues that the devices do not increase safety. The trade group lost an effort to overturn the regulation last month when the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago rejected arguments that the use of ELDs would violate truck drivers’ privacy and foster carrier harassment over driving hours. The trade group said it plans to file a petition due Dec. 15 asking the court to rehear its case.
Since the ELD rule was challenged in court and upheld, Avery Vise, president of TransComply, a trucking industry regulatory compliance consulting firm, said he doesn’t see Trump reversing the regulation because the administration would have to undo the “formal rulemaking process.” The push for ELD use dates back to President George W. Bush’s administration.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions Standards:
Environmental groups fear the Trump administration will reverse greenhouse gas emissions and fuel economy standards launched by the Department of Transportation during the Obama administration.
The EPA issued new standards in August that will force manufacturers to reduce carbon emissions from a wide range of commercial trucks, buses and cargo vans that weigh more than 26,000 pounds in three phases by 2027.
The multi-year review process is intended to slash carbon emissions by approximately 1.1 billion metric tons over the lifetime of the vehicles sold under the program, or about a 25-percent reduction compared with the current rules.
Trucks account for 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions produced by the U.S. transportation sector.
Some small-business truckers said they can’t afford to keep their equipment updated to comply with the stringent federal regulations.
However, environmental groups said they would like to see even more stringent standards to ensure air-quality issues are addressed.
The Phase 2 rules are “extremely cost-effective,” said David W. Cooke, an analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists.
“The technology pays for itself so quickly it’s hard to see it being a significant impediment even for people who are in the market for a new vehicle,” Cooke said. “New vehicles will actually increase the ability for truckers to reduce their fuel expenses.”
Battle lines also are being drawn over light-vehicle fuel economy standards.
When the EPA determined last week that automakers must meet tougher fuel economy standard targets set through 2025, the Auto Alliance, an industry lobbying representing companies that account for 77 percent of U.S. auto sales, criticized the ruling.
“This extraordinary and premature rush to judgment circumvents the serious analysis necessary to make sure the [fuel economy and greenhouse gas] standards appropriately balance fuel efficiency, carbon reduction, affordability and employment,” the alliance said. “The evidence is abundantly clear that with low gas prices, consumers are not choosing the cars necessary to comply with increasingly unrealistic standards. Wishing this fact away does no one any favors, and getting this wrong has serious implications.”
Trump transition team officials have said the new administration may review the rules.
A controversial proposed rule that would require heavy-duty trucks to be equipped with an electronic device that limits their top speed could be killed by Trump, Vise said. Speed-limiter technology works with a truck engine’s electronic control module to govern how fast the vehicle can travel. Older trucks don’t have the electronic controls.
The measure, proposed by the Transportation Department’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in August, floats using speed limiters to cap maximum truck speeds at 60, 65 or 68 mph.
ATA said it supports reducing speeds but opposes the way the proposed rule is written because it’s unclear how a menu of top speeds will work when passenger vehicles are traveling at a much faster pace on the same roads. The trade group has urged safety regulators to limit the speed of all vehicles, including passenger cars, to 65 mph.
WSTA and OOIDA oppose mandatory speed limiters on trucks. The groups argue that the technology could create a safety hazard because speed governing creates a hazard when trucks running side by side can’t pass each other and wind up creating rolling roadblocks and traffic congestion.
Meal and Rest Break Legislation:
Another top priority for the ATA and WSTA is for Congress to pass legislation that would prohibit states such as California from enforcing their own unique meal and rest break requirements for truck drivers.
A 2014 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit affirmed that California could enforce its own meal and rest break requirements for the trucking industry. The ATA and WSTA said they would continue to push back against jurisdictions that are imposing extra meal and rest break requirements on interstate drivers already limited by federal hours-of-service regulations.
“We are keen to see the federal government assert itself and preempt the patchwork of state-level regulations on the trucking industry … that create an impediment to the safe and efficient flow of commerce,” the ATA said.
But the Teamsters will lobby hard against such a change. The union will argue that Republicans have long been the party of states’ rights and limited government and that blocking states from imposing their own rules over trucking would be inconsistent with that philosophy.
“What else might a state lose control of if the federal government blocked its ability to set basic labor standards for its citizens when hauling a good made in another state or country even though the drivers never leave that state?” Sam Loesche, the union’s transportation policy advisor, said earlier this year.
Hours of Service:
Congress could act on hours-of-service legislation in the appropriations bill before the end of the year. This would fix a loophole in the 2015 funding bill that unintentionally removed the 34-hour restart that truckers use to reset their on-duty clocks.
Once out of hours, the drivers had to take a so-called 34-hour restart – waiting 34 hours before driving again – and not do any overnight driving from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. for two nights. In late 2014, Congress suspended the two overnight provisions in the rule after the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration implemented a more stringent 34-hour restart rule, which went into effect in 2013.
The rule was based on the amount of on-duty time a driver can have in a rolling seven-day or eight-day period. Truckers are not allowed to drive after 60 hours in seven days if they didn’t work for a trucking company that operated a full seven days a week.
If they did work for a motor carrier that operated seven days of the week, a driver was not allowed to drive after 70 hours in eight days.
Major trade groups – including the ATA, WSTA and OOIDA – would like to see a permanent fix that keeps the 34-hour restart and would return regulations to the less-restrictive requirements in force in December