Administration shreds paperwork mandate for drivers of big rigs

The Obama administration proposed Thursday to ease paperwork regulations for truck drivers, a move the officials said would save the industry an estimated $1.7 billion annually.

The action is part of the president’s initiative to identify, scale back and, in some cases, repeal unnecessary federal rules, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said.

“President Obama challenged his administration to find ways to cut waste and red tape, a challenge I pledged to meet during my confirmation hearing,” Foxx said in a written statement announcing the proposal.

Under current rules, big rig drivers are required to conduct daily inspections of their trucks — both before and after trips — and file Driver Vehicle Inspection Reports (DVIRs) after each inspection, whether or not a problem was found.

The paperwork burden is considered among the heaviest across the federal government’s blanket of rules. Only around 5 percent of reports identify problems.

Under the new draft regulations, the inspection requirements would remain in place, but drivers would only have to file reports if they find problems.

“We can better focus on the 5 percent of problematic truck inspection reports by eliminating the 95 percent that report the status quo,” Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) head Anne S. Ferro said, hailing the move to a “defect-only” reporting system.

Interested parties and members of the public will have 60 days to weigh in on the proposal before a final rule is issued.

The administration highlighted the rule as the latest success in its “regulatory look-back” ordered by President Obama via executive order last year. Under the directive, agencies are required to scour all regulations on the books and come up with plans to consolidate or scrap those that are overly burdensome or duplicative.

The White House says it has come up with hundreds of proposals to lessen the regulatory burden facing the private sector, though critics of the administration note that new rules are piling up faster than outdated ones are removed. 

In the case of the trucking industry, for example, the eased restrictions come on the heels of new rules further limiting the hours drivers can spend behind the wheel. Those regulations were opposed by the industry, which said it would exacerbate a national driver shortage and drive up costs to consumers.