FMCSA and Trump

It’s been forever and a day since I’ve posted. I’ve had things to say, a number of times, but I have been trying not to rush to the computer every time I get upset, which is often. In my experience, posting things when you’re angry almost always turns out badly. Unless you’re Donald Trump, of course. More on him in a minute.

I’m going to answer a number of questions I’ve gotten over the past few months, largely about Trump, in Q & A format:

Q: Who is the new Secretary of Transportation?
A: Elaine Chao. A long-time moderate Washington bureaucrat. She was the Secretary of Labor under George W. Bush, and Deputy Secretary of Transportation under George HW Bush, way back when. She’s married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Q: Will she change things at FMCSA?
A: By herself… no. She will likely be more interested in helping spend money on infrastructure that Trump keeps talking about. I doubt she knows, or cares, anything about trucking or highway deaths. However, depending on who she appoints as head of the FMCSA; yes, things could change.

Q: Who will the new FMCSA Administrator be?
A: Unknown. Probably an ex-cop from one of the States, or a former State bureaucrat. Those are the usual suspects. If the nominee has any trucking experience at all, that could be taken as a positive sign.

Q: What do you think of Donald Trump?
A: I am going to narrow my answer to domestic policy which could affect trucking. I think Donald Trump is a lying con-man, who has no intention of doing half of what he promises. However, considering the unrelenting march of government in the past several years, if Trump does just 10% of what he promises, he’ll be a very successful President. We will see if he can even manage that much.

Q: I read today that Trump believes he can cut regulations by 75%. When will that happen?
A: Never. I mean, hahahahahaha! No really, seriously, HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Ok, sorry. Seriously, most of these regulations have basis in law, passed by the U.S. Congress. The ELD mandate, which is loved by ATA, and hated by nearly everyone else, is in the law. The FMCSA can’t just say, we’re not doing that. Well, maybe they could. This is Trump we’re talking about here. As I stated above, if Trump manages to cut 7% of the regulations, they should see if his giant head will fit on Mount Rushmore. Because, no one cuts regulations. Ever.

Q: I read that the Trump Administration will shrink the non-military Federal workforce 20%. Will that mean 20% less FMCSA auditors?
A: Well, if that actually happened, yes, that’s what it would mean. It’s not going to happen. Typically, you might see a hiring freeze, that might last 12-18 months. Maybe positions open due to retirement may not be filled immediately. It never lasts. The growth of government goes on and on and on. If Trump shrinks the FMCSA 1%, I’ll eat my hat.

Q: I read that a poll said 28% of Federal employees will quit due to the incoming Trump Administration. Will that happen?
A: Not in 10,000,000 years. There may be a few 55 year olds who retire early, but they were probably leaving anyway. 99.44% of Federal employees will not be going anywhere, Trump or no Trump.

Q: Assuming the new Trump FMCSA Administrator will actually follow through on 7% of his boss’ rhetoric, when might this happen?
A: It will probably take 18-24 months before you see any real change in the FMCSA, and by extension, their MCSAP State partners at the scalehouses. When your new Administrator takes charge, it will take them a year just to figure out what the FMCSA does. Then it will probably take another year to figure out if the FMCSA is doing the right things.

Q: Again, assuming the new Trump FMCSA Administrator will actually want to provide some regulatory relief, where might they start?
A: Well, there’s an endless list of useless regulations on the books, or in the regulatory pipeline, so there’s no shortage of places to start.

The ELD mandate is probably off-limits, because it’s a law. However, there’s always wiggle-room for an executive agency in how it implements a law. Congress writes a law, which says something like, ‘by such and such a date, the Secretary will promulgate rules which will mandate vehicles of such and such a size to have electronic logging recorders, etc, etc”. So, the devils in the details, and that’s left to FMCSA.

FMCSA could extend the implementation date. It could extend the exemptions. It decided that if you fill out a paper log 9 days out of 30, you need an ELD. Trump’s FMCSA could make that 15 days out of 30. They could issue interpretations which will relax who will need the ELDs.

Hours of Service
I actually think they will kill, once-and-for-all, FMCSA’s idiotic 1am – 5am, and 168 hour reset provisions, which have been suspended by the courts and Congress for the past few years. That seems like a no-brainer. Beyond that, they definitely could loosen the hours of service rules. The foolish 30 minute break rule could go. They could allow more flexibility in the 14 hour rule, maybe by bringing back the split sleeper berth rule.

Speed Limiters
They could kill this rule, although I doubt they will because ATA wants it.

Entry-Level Training Standards
Another rule, with very limited use, which could be easily delayed, or shelved.

Safety-Fitness Rule
A rule which should be shelved, but probably won’t be. There are way too many bureaucrats in the upper management of FMCSA who are married to their CSA system. I believe the details of this rulemaking would be too wonkish for a new Administrator to understand, so they’ll just leave it up to the same bureaucrats who’ve been pushing it for the past 6 years.

There are any number of other bureaucrat regulatory nightmares and pipe dreams which could be shut down. Sleep apnea. Linking the medicals to the CDLs, which has created another gigantic paperwork nightmare. All we can do is hope for the best.

Q: All in all, is Trump a good thing for trucking, or a bad thing?
A: He is probably a good thing. It would very difficult to make things any worse, so almost by accident, Trump could be a good thing.

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