Overdrive‘s Rearview series is a new recurring monthly feature taking a historical look at the trucking industry through the lens of archived editions of Overdrive.
Less than 20 years after Congress passed the Motor Carrier Act of 1980 to deregulate trucking, legislators passed a bill to establish a new federal agency tasked with regulating the industry.
The Motor Carrier Safety Act of 1999 created the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration under the U.S. Department of Transportation. Up to then, truck-related enforcement was handled by DOT’s Federal Highway Administration. Congress gave the new entity the reins to more thoroughly regulate trucking and public transportation companies, their equipment, their drivers and more.
Quoted in the January 2000 Overdrive, then-U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater foreshadowed the coming regulatory activism, saying the new law will allow “the department and states to more effectively identify problem drivers, take remedial action and get high-risk drivers off the road. It will enable us to ensure the safety fitness of newly formed motor carrier companies, levy strong sanctions on foreign carriers who operate illegally … and impose stiff fines on violators.”
In its nearly 17-year history, FMCSA has reached deep into owner-operators’ lives in ways small and large. It’s warned truckers about the potential hazards of electronic cigarettes and pioneered complex initiatives, including hours of service overhauls and the creation of the Compliance, Safety, Accountability program.
Many other ambitious regulations are in various stages of FMCSA enactment: mandates for electronic logging devices and speed limiters, mandatory sleep apnea screening and a database of truckers who have failed a drug test.