U.S. Scraps $1.7 Billion Trucking Paperwork Requirement

The U.S. Transportation Department relaxed a requirement that trucking companies file equipment inspection reports regardless of whether defects were found, a move it said will save the industry $1.7 billion a year.

It’s the biggest savings under a directive from President Barack Obama to regulators to cut red tape and improve conditions for business, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx told reporters today in Washington.

“It’s the kind of win-win solution that I hope our department will continue to find over the coming months,” Foxx said. The proposal would save “business billions of dollars while maintaining our commitment to safety,” he said.

The paperwork reduction may help offset the cost of other regulations on trucking companies now taking effect. A U.S. requirement for shorter driving shifts and more rest that took effect July 1 has added about $18 billion in costs for lost productivity to a $600 billion industry, according to the freight data and forecasting consultant FTR Associates, based in Bloomington, Indiana.

The paperwork reduction is a “good first step” that may lead to re-examining other regulations that add cost for the industry, the American Trucking Associations said in a statement today.

The Arlington, Virginia-based group wants flexibility on the driver-rest rules and revisions to a safety-scoring system the Transportation Department uses to select companies for audits.

“This step will provide modest relief to professional drivers and motor carriers,” ATA President and Chief Executive Officer Bill Graves said in a statement. The industry is optimistic Foxx “will quickly act to provide relief on more substantive issues,” he said.

Highway Projects

On another important issue for the trucking industry, highway construction, Foxx declined to comment on the breakdown in Congress on bills to fund transportation programs. He pointed to the president’s call this week to link highway spending to a broader deal on cutting corporate taxes.

The administration has also proposed paying for transportation projects with money saved from winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Foxx said. It would take a dialogue between the administration and congressional leaders to find a solution, he said.

“There’s an openness to hearing what further ideas there might be in Congress,” Foxx said. “I don’t think anybody is going to be able to unilaterally cross that Rubicon.”

The trucking industry had been required to conduct inspections on rigs and other trucking equipment before and after trips, and to file reports regardless of whether safety deficiencies were discovered. Under the new rules, truckers will only have to file reports if defects are found.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration chief Anne Ferro said the new rule would eliminate 95 percent of the reports, allowing the agency to “better focus on the 5 percent of problematic truck inspection reports.”

Obama issued an executive order in May 2012 for agencies to cut regulations that add unnecessary costs to businesses, according to a Transportation Department statement today.

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