FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez gave a speech at the American Trucking Association’s Management Conference and Exhibition this week. He shared some insight into the agency’s plans for the regulatory future of the industry.
Martinez was introduced by ATA President and CEO Chris Spear who praised the change that he’s seen in the FMCSA since Martinez took office. “We have not witnessed this level of engagement since the inception of the agency,” said Spear.
The ATA has every right to be pleased. Things were going well for their member companies before Martinez took over, and since then the regulatory needle has swung even further in their favor. The FMCSA’s policy appears to be moving in lock-step with ATA’s lobbying agenda in nearly every category he addressed.
In his speech, Martinez talked about ELDs, HOS reform, autonomous vehicles, and more. The ELD mandate is still in effect despite Martinez comparing enforcing it to walking in to a buzz saw. HOS reform is in motion, and the FMCSA is taking a hands-off approach to autonomous vehicle regulation. The FMCSA is even moving against the state-level meal and rest break provisions that have been the source of several costly lawsuits against multiple ATA member companies.
Allowing truckers under the age of 21 to drive interstate is also on the ATA’s agenda. The FMCSA seems to be moving towards leniency there as well. Martinez noted the pilot program the FMCSA is working on to allow former military drivers under the age of 21 to drive interstate.
If that pilot program goes well, the FMCSA may expand the testing to non-military as well. The ATA has said in the past that lowering the interstate CDL requirement to 18 could open up trucking as an option to recent high school graduates.
But not everyone thinks lowering the interstate driving age is a good idea. Even Martinez acknowledges that.
“I know what the problem is with young drivers; the insurance companies know what the issues are,” Martinez said. “But maybe there’s a difference. Is there a difference when somebody gets a CDL and that’s how they earn a living and they decide they’re going to take it seriously? I think there is.”