Wanted: Smarter, simpler, more streamlined trucking regulations

Greg Fulton | September 15, 2013

Colorado Motor Carriers Association President Greg Fulton’s last opinion piece for Overdrive‘s Voices section argued for government better serving the interests of independents and small fleets


Recent statistics reflect that more than 90 percent of the trucking companies in the country are made up of businesses that have 20 or fewer employees.  Very few of these companies have a staff attorney, regulatory director, or tax specialist. Yet because of the increasing complex web of laws and regulations in our country, almost all of these companies at one time during the year will need to retain the services of one of these specialists.

An owner of one small trucking company once mentioned to me that he woke up every morning worried that he was unwittingly violating at least one regulation or law each day. Because of the volume of laws and regulations and their changing nature, he could never be certain what exactly had changed day to day and where he failed to comply, but it was a constant concern.

The point is that every year, our state legislatures and the U.S. Congress, as well as officials with federal, state, and local governments, pass hundreds of new laws, regulations, ordinances, and rules that affect trucking in one way or another. In most cases these laws and regulations are approved by well-meaning elected officials or government agencies who are seeking to address particular issues that have been brought to their attention. Unfortunately, though, no one tallies the overall number, the cost and time to implement, or most importantly the cumulative impact that these measures may have on small businesses, the primary generator of jobs in our country. While there may be some analysis of the impact of a particular regulation, it generally is done in a void without consideration of other rules. Add to this the fact that there is little consistency among many of the state laws and one can see the problems this dynamic poses for small trucking companies and owner-operators.

For a number of years much has been said by elected officials about streamlining the regulatory process and reducing the burden on small businesses. While there has been some progress, the regulatory onus continues to grow. This is occurring at a time when the country is still trying to recover from the recession and our nation faces even more competition on an international basis. To remain competitive in this environment our trucking companies are being pressed to be more productive and efficient. One way to do this would be to reduce the “regulatory drag” that saps critical time and money from our trucking companies, hitting small trucking operators especially hard.

Rather than investing in new trucks and trailers, creating additional jobs, and improving their facilities, our trucking companies find themselves spending more and more money on attorneys, tax consultants, and regulatory experts.  Companies have little choice, because the cost of failing to comply with even one of these regulations, along with defending themselves against a perceived violation that may or may not even have existed, could mean the loss of their business or serious financial implications.

Even in cases where a company successfully defends itself, the legal bills may run into thousands of dollars along with countless staff hours spent working on the problem. 

As we consider the future, we must recognize that our world is evolving with new technologies and ideas, our understanding of the environment is growing, and we are moving toward an international marketplace — some new regulations will be needed. 

But rather than continuing down the existing road and adding to the problem of regulatory complexity, we need to rethink how we craft regulations. We need to think in terms of “smart regulation.”  Such an approach would seek to make new regulations simpler, more understandable, less costly, and easier to deal with from a compliance viewpoint. The language in any new regulation and what’s required should be clear and concise and not require a small trucking company or owner-operator to retain an attorney to understand it.

Recently, we had an example of this form of “smart regulation” in Colorado with the modification of the state’s diesel emissions-testing program. Rather than having all fleets conduct an outdated and time-consuming opacity test on all vehicles, the State passed a law that allows an option whereby a fleet can demonstrate compliance with emissions standards through electronic transmittal of their computerized maintenance records showing that they meet or exceed manufacturers’ maintenance specis. Rather than have companies focus on a test that provides little value, it allows them to cut out this step and place  greater attention on engine maintenance. It was a clear win-win for both state and industry. 

Government agencies should also do a better job on outreach and training for the industry on any new regulations or laws. From an efficiency standpoint, regulations should be constructed in a manner that enables cost-effective enaction and enforcement as well as easy compliance for businesses. Any new regulations should be designed as building upon existing systems and information rather than forcing companies to re-input data. At the same time, we need to look at new technologies and systems in our mobile and hi-tech world that will allow convenience and ease for trucking operators in complying with regulations as well as better understanding them. 

Finally, agencies should actively and creatively seek input from the affected sector of the trucking industry before adopting new regulations. Focus groups, electronic town hall meetings, and webinars should all be considered to gain greater input and understanding of proposed regulations and ensure that they are crafted in a user-friendly manner that may lessen time and cost. 

While looking forward, we must also look back. It is important that we look to eliminate any unnecessary or outdated regulations. At the same time, we need to streamline the existing ones. Both of those processes along with the crafting of “smart regulations” could help us create a regulatory environment that is simpler, more understandable, and less onerous.    

  • martymarsh

    And that my friends, is how Washington keeps the money wheel turning.

  • William McKelvie

    How’s about we just SCRAP the FMCSA and start over. With folks who do not ignore Congressional meetings, that are caused by their own illogical regulatory decisions from the get go? Or how’s about a regulatory agency that actually does actively listen to the industry, and not just make up rules based on computer labs? Nah, that would make sense. Sooner or later, truckers will have had enough to stand together and put aside the petty differences and help each other make a valid stand against Ferro and her supporters. It won’t take many of us, CA port truckers proved that a few weeks ago. The time is coming, and soon.

  • Guest

    Sure we have yet ANOTHER New Law in CALIF all mexicans legal or not..will get a drivers license.
    Expect MORE hit and run Savages on the Freeways..they have license…and maybe a CDL TOO???? But no insurance, no money, no education, cant speak or read English….Great New Law for Americans to Enjoy!!!

  • g

    None ofthat is going to happen…history in industry shows us that only MORE complex regulations are added…never LESS….”Progress” will show us MORE monitoring for sure…Salesmen are lined up in Washington to get their Monitoring Device sold to Congress and FMCSA….they want to get RICH…Trucking is a TARGET INDUSTRY…infact Lobbyists help write the legislation for MORE rules and regulations that will benefit THEIR interests…ta hell with some trucker dude…Look at HASLAM from Pilot…Case in Point..Cheating every trucker he can get in touch with!!!
    Look for MORE rules…..and Armies of Dot Cops…paid Union Wages and nifty benefits……Bigger Weigh Stations….Observation Towers…Real Time Cameras and Communication to speak direct with the Monkey/Driver. lol.

  • martymarsh

    I like your thinking, BUT, the big companies like the ones on the board at ATA is getting everything in their favor from Washington, so it better be soon.

  • martymarsh

    Now you are on the money.

  • William McKelvie

    ATA? Last thing I saw was the ATA wanted the old rules back. The TEAMSTERS wanted the new rules to stay and pushed for it hard.

  • William McKelvie

    You’re 100% correct, not one bit will change or happen as long as we have people who write books and blogs but never go to DC, get their names on the federal meetings but never show, and just sit on the porch and bark. That is for damn sure. Whereas, if one day, by the hand of GOD that we realize how much power we have just in sheer numbers to make things happen, it will happen.

  • martymarsh

    It doesn’t matter, next week you will have to fight them also, but I guess this week we all want the same thing.
    ATA wants you gone.

  • William McKelvie

    ATA has had a separation at the top, this year. USGVT wants four companies to run it all is what I hear, yeah good luck with that in our lifetime. We have numbers, time to stand up to them, even if it is just a few of us, time to push and hard.

  • martymarsh

    I certainly agree with that.

  • http://www.lifeasatrucker.com/ The Crazy Trucker

    I agree with a lot of what was said Overdrive. Nice to see a different conversation about the industry.

  • RalphMalph

    Just shut down the Fuel Hauling for a week and watch it ALL come to a stop !

    The Canucks shut everything down when they get a Wild Hair, why don’t we !

  • PattyCakes

    You force the Truck Nazi’s to give a tally of the money that the Truck Nazi’s collect via Fines on a Annual Basis and then try to convince us how soon they are going to give up that income

    …….. we could bring it to a halt if we had the stones.

  • John Scott

    Just pay drivers for hours worked! All hours worked. You would see improvements big time in efficiency. Trucking companies would stop hauling for shippers with long delays. Same goes for receivers. Right now, all we keep doing is arguing over extending HOS or changing them. This is because many of the on duty hours are not reimbursed. Drivers work more hours because many of those hours are unpaid. 80 hours in 7 days and its still not enough? Come on, your looking at the problem and solution all wrong.

  • Frank


  • felix

    all we have to do shut down for a long long week and , see what happen,we are the target drivers, evreytime the economy went down trucking industry get targeted ,
    look back from 1991 to 1997, so many drivers come out, so many regulations now from 2008 we are still the target because construction is down, so many new drivers come out. we do need to each other to make it happen, other wise we be on food stamps.

  • hacksaw

    From a life time member of OOIDA and a retired owner operator, how about you all joining and increase the no. of foices heard in Washington

  • B PIEL

    Government putting more people out of work! If they gave corruption in local,state and Federal government this much attention the whole country would be much better off! I have trucked for over 30 years and am now out of work due to a stroke and the medications I have to take are on the feds no drive list so I’m out of work and on SS which NOBODY CAN LIVE ON! I would much rather be working and are NOT impaired buy the meds as I have been on them for 6 years now. NO I don’t want unsafe drivers on the road next to me or across from me either but I would like to be able to work! Look at all the companys and Owner operators that have closed shop and all there employees that are out of work. If the people in the trucking Industry would just ban together like the others have in the world [Canada,england,etc] we could get changes for the better just as they did and have a better wage along with a life but when you can’t get people to ban together it is going to get much worse.

  • bigred

    In October there is a march to Washington and shut down planned for 3 days…Get in line with your bob tails and plan on attending….

  • Kevin J. Reidy

    There is a petition out to do just that. Drivers should not be exempt from Fair Wage And Hour laws anymore

    Since the original reasoning by trucking companies to pay by the mile was that they had no real way to oversee drivers while out on the road, mileage pay was the only way to make those lazy truck drivers do their jobs.

    NOW that we have electronic real-time driver monitoring/.communication, that reasoning is no longer valid. The majority of the largest trucking companies know where their drivers and vehicles are all the time.

    Hourly pay would massively change this industry for the better for company drivers, and the ATA is already lobbying against…against YOU.

  • g

    This is a last ditch effort and the ONLY thing congress will listen to. Until truckers put up this Fight…they will be walked on.

  • g

    A fight is brewing…the best fight is to plan a shut down….there is not much choice….Congress will listen then..drivers will have to get HOME by a certain date..like this October planned shut down and STAY HOME as LONG as possible…..plan these “Events” every few months and “they” will see WE have POWER….otherwise they will continue the beating.

  • Joyce Brenny

    I completely agree with the pain of all the regulations. Some days it is only by the grace of God and a push out the door that I continue to run this trucking & logistics company of 50 trucks and 90 total employees. How can I possibly give my employees & customers what they need from me when my desk is filled with- “do or else” stuff pilled up from the government? Heck we even have the government regulating the rain that runs off our trucks! It is mind boggling and stressful to say the least! There just isn’t enough time in the day! I could hire more employees to help take care of all of this… then I have more taxes to pay, more health insurance etc… Its a confusing vicious cycle. At 51 years old, I hate to say that my light at the end of the tunnel is sell or retire- how long can I do this… I am tired. I find my time is spent more on fighting the political bombardment than running my business, and this is point blank wrong!! Joyce Brenny

OverdriveOnline.com strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.