By Mike Antich
Between 2001 and 2010, there were a record 38,000 new regulations published in the Federal Register, the daily periodical of the federal government of the United States, which, among other things, publishes for public review all proposed and final regulations issued by federal governmental agencies.
One way to illustrate the growth of governmental regulations in the past decade is to examine the Federal Register itself, which, in 2010, printed 81,405 pages, an all-time high. In 2010, federal governmental agencies issued 3,573 final rules (regulations) compared with 3,503 in 2009. The trend is for even more regulations to be issued in the near future. The number of proposed rules increased to 2,439 in 2010 from 2,044 in 2009.
One sobering caveat is that these regulations do not include the even larger number of regulations introduced by state, county, and municipal governments, along with local regulatory agencies. Invariably, this multitude of regulations has impacted fleet management.
"The introduction and expansion of new regulations has seemingly increased at an accelerated pace at all levels of government," said Steven LaPorte, director, business operations for North American Transportation & Shred Operations for Iron Mountain Information Management in Boston. "We have also experienced an increase in the application of permitting regulations at the local and county levels. Many of the local bylaws that create and sustain the permits - and related fees - are written very broadly to best facilitate the widest possible interpretations. As a result, notice is received informing of a requirement to obtain a permit or registration that you weren't even aware existed, and whose applicability appears to be questionable at best, but you comply because of the time and energy that would be required to contest the requirement."
The vastness of this increased regulatory activism has added to the administrative burden of already stretched fleet managers.
"One of our key challenges is staying on top of government regulations to avoid compliance issues and fees," agreed Mike Lahr, director of logistics for LKQ Corp. in Urbandale, Iowa.
Impact on DOT-Regulated Fleets
The Compliance, Safety, Accountability initiative (CSA 2010) - previously known as the Comprehensive Safety Analysis - created one of the biggest impacts on fleet management since it applies to all trucks that operate interstate and require a US DOT number. CSA is an enforcement system, which tracks, measures, evaluates, and intervenes with motor carriers. Although CSA does not create any new driver/vehicle regulations or recordkeeping requirements, it did create a monumental sea change in how truck fleets manage drivers and their fleet operations in order to remain DOT-compliant.
"The weighted scoring methodology employed by the CSA makes it relatively easy to lose ground in a BASIC category in a short period of time, but difficult to recover without an extended period of months at zero (or very close to zero) points assessed. I can easily foresee many carriers with good safety and operating programs getting pulled into intervention status. It is also absolutely necessary for each carrier to carefully evaluate its records each month and to immediately contest those results if there is an error. We have already identified several incidents that were mistakenly attributed to our company and successfully challenged them. I can attest that the DataQ process is responsive and works well, but the burden falls on the carrier to institute the challenge and submit the necessary proof," said LaPorte.
All fleet managers strive to be DOT-compliant, but CSA added a new element of urgency. "With the implementation of CSA, it is more critical that drivers do their logs, DVIRs, and fuel reports correctly, and in a timely manner," said Carl Nelson, fleet manager for AM - Liner East, Inc. in Berryville, Va. "Since none of them like paperwork, getting them to do it and turn it in is always a challenge."
An Increasingly Activist FDA
Many truck fleets are involved in the transportation and distribution of food products. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is one of the executive departments within the Department of Health and Human Services, a cabinet department of the U.S. federal government. Among other things, the FDA issues regulations to enforce food safety. Recent legislation, the Food Safety Modernization Act, was signed into law by President Obama on Jan. 4, 2011. It aims to ensure U.S. food safety by shifting the focus of federal regulators from responding to contamination to preventing it. This not only applies to farms and restaurants, but also companies that distribute food products.
Many fleet managers believe the Food Safety Modernization Act will bring about significant changes for truck fleets that transport perishable products.
Another regulation is the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP), a quality control system to safeguard against improperly handled food. "HACCP rules may take growth capital away from companies and redirect it to compliance of unstated new rules," said Gregg Hodgdon, director of fleet operations for E.A. Sween Company based in Eden Prairie, Minn.
As with many well-intentioned regulations, there always seems to be unintended consequences and, in the case of these rules, they fall right into the laps of truck fleet managers.
Let me know what you think.