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Moratorium to delay driver training rule

January 20, 2017

As expected, among President Trump's first actions as president was to declare a moratorium that generally directs federal agencies to postpone for the publication of new rules and delay for at least 60 days the effectiveness of rules that have been published but not become effective. The action appears to affect just one regulation directly related to trucking: The entry-level driver training rule. The rule, which was published December 8, 2016, was not scheduled to take effect until February 6, 2017. The compliance date would be February 7, 2020. 

 

Under the White House memorandum, federal departments and agencies are to review delayed regulations during the 60-day period to determine whether regulations raise substantial questions of law or policy. If not, the rule would take effect once the 60-day period ends. If so, agencies would notify the White House Office of Management and Budget to discuss appropriate action.

 

Such moratoriums have become routine when an incoming president and outgoing president are from different political parties, and it is unclear what the fate rule's fate might be. The American Trucking Associations has voiced support for the rule. Meanwhile, several safety advocacy groups and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association have filed a petition for reconsideration because the final rule does not require a minimum number of hours in behind-the-wheel training as the proposed rule did. However, ATA's support of the rule depends completely on the use of a proficiency-based standard rather than an hours-based standard.

 

Even if FMCSA ultimately decided to leave the rule in place, there would be one more option for overturning it without a new rulemaking. Congress could disapprove the rule by invoking the Congressional Review Act, a law that allows Congress to disapprove a major rule issued within the past 60 legislative days. Due to several extended breaks, 60 legislative days covers a period that extends back to summer.

 

Assuming the rule survives both the Trump administration and Congress, it's not out of the woods. The petition from OOIDA and the safety groups signals another potential lawsuit on the driver training issue, which has been bouncing around Congress, the courts and the agency for more than 25 years.

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