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Why the FMCSA’s truck safety agenda always seems stalled

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is the federal agency most directly tasked with ensuring commercial vehicle safety on America’s roads. By extension, it is also tasked with ensuring that the rate of devastating truck accidents which occur annually in the U.S. remains as low as is possible. The FMCSA has been granted significant regulatory authority in order to advance these aims. However, many of the agency’s efforts seem to stall for significant periods of time before anything is ever accomplished. When the issue of commercial vehicle safety is so pressing, why does it take so long for the FMCSA to get anything done?

Oftentimes, Congress directs the FMCSA to carry out specific mandates. However, the regulatory process that governs these mandates tends to be quite time-consuming. Among the factors adding to the time-consuming nature of the regulatory process are notice-and-comment periods, feedback analysis periods and re-opening or extension periods for both notice and/or comments.

In addition to public feedback, the FMCSA often needs to engage in various testing phases, talks with industry leaders and pilot programs. All of these obstacles occur in addition to the fact that Congress often passes added mandates on a given issue while the FMCSA is still undergoing phases of the process for previous and related mandates. When new instructions are given by Congress on an issue that is already being resolved in some way, the process may need to be begun anew or be revised in significant ways.

The FMCSA’s past efforts have helped to keep commercial vehicle rates lower than they might be. However, numerous factors do keep this agency from moving more expediently and broadly than it otherwise might.

Source: Commercial Carrier Journal, “Rulemaking 101: The process behind FMCSA’s regulatory agenda,” Jill Dunn, Dec. 29, 2013

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