The U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on Thursday proposed eliminating a burdensome paperwork requirement
for truck drivers related to vehicle maintenance that could save the trucking industry $1.7 billion per year.
Truckers are required to conduct pre-and post-trip inspections of their tractors and trailers and file reports with the employing motor carrier after each tour of duty, whether or not an issue requiring repairs is discovered. The vehicle inspection reports are classified by the Office of Management and Budget as the 19th-most time-consuming compliance function across all federal agencies. Only 5 percent of reports filed include defects, according to the Department of Transportation agency.
It estimates that commercial vehicle drivers spend 47.2 million hours per year filling out clean inspection reports.
The administration says it only wants to require the inspection reports if defects or deficiencies are discovered by or reported to the driver during the course of daily operations.
In January 2011, President Obama ordered federal agencies to review existing regulations and determine if any are redundant, out of date, or ineffective. The White House last year followed up with further instructions for agencies to reduce red tape where possible. The FMCSA proposal represents the largest paperwork reduction across the government since last year's executive order, according to the administration.
"We can better focus on the 5 percent of problematic truck inspection reports by eliminating the 95 percent that report the status quo," FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro said. "Moving to a defect-only reporting system would reduce a significant paperwork burden facing truck drivers and save the industry billions without compromising safety."
Under federal regulations, commercial vehicles must undergo an annual safety inspection conducted by a certified mechanic. In addition, state and federal inspectors conduct unannounced, random inspections of commercial vehicles at terminals, weight stations, truck stops and at destinations. Vehicles that fail random safety inspections are immediately placed out of service and not allowed to operate until the safety problems are corrected.
In 2012, about 3.5 million random inspections were conducted, according to the FMCSA.
A year ago, the agency eliminated a comparable requirement for truck drivers operating intermodal chassis used for transporting containerized cargo. The change is estimated to save the intermodal industry about $54 million per year.
New DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx promised more initiatives in the future to cut red tape at the department
The American Trucking Associations downplayed the impact of the proposed ruling.
“ATA appreciates the Obama Administration’s proposal to provide relief on a longstanding paperwork-related burden in the trucking industry, and we look forward to working with Secretary Foxx to implement it in the near future,” ATA President and Chief Executive Officer Bill Graves said. “Though this step will provide modest relief to professional drivers and motor carriers, ATA is optimistic this signals Secretary Foxx’s willingness to provide reasonable and appropriate relief to the industry and he will quickly act to provide relief on more substantive issues.”
The industry group said it hopes DOT will address the fairness of the Compliance, Safety and Accountability program for measuring driving history, the new regulations governing hours-of-service that extend rest breaks and restart periods, and more flexibility for sleeper berth requirements, as well as redundant background checks required by the Department of Homeland Security.
“ATA believes in sensible, data-driven regulations,” Graves said, “and we hope we can count on Secretary Foxx to be guided by evidence and scientific research to review, and if necessary, revise the rules of the road for our industry.” - Eric Kulisch