Is Trucking Really Deregulated?

Written by Neal Willis


The United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) oversees the Mar1st_2creation of nationwide transportation policy and several agencies operate under its umbrella, including the FMCSA, FHWA, FAA, FRA, MARAD and the U.S. Coast Guard.  The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was originally part of the USDOT but is now under the United States Department of Homeland Security.  


As a result of the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) was established within the USDOT on January 1, 2000.  Deemed by some as overbearing and playing the role of “big brother” to the trucking industry, the FMCSA plays an integral part in the industry promoting highway safety with the primary mission of preventing commercial motor vehicle related loss of life and injury.  A few of its roles include: 

  • Commercial Driver’s Licenses - develops licensing and testing standards for commercial motor vehicle drivers.
  • Data & Analysis - gathers and publicizes data pertaining to motor carrier safety and it steers resources towards improving motor carrier safety.
  • Regulatory Compliance & Enforcement – works to improve safety and remove unsafe carriers from the highways. 
  • Research & Technology – conducts and coordinates research and development to help improve the safety of motor carriers and commercial motor vehicle operators.
  • Safety Assistance - offers states financial assistance to help promote safety programs and perform commercial motor vehicle inspections.


Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) oversees the safety and health of all employees concerned with the loading and unloading of freight at locations off the highway, such as warehouses, plants, marine terminals, shipyards, etc.  Should a driver of a truck become an emergency responder for a spill or other type of catastrophe, then OSHA would have jurisdiction.

In order to protect human health, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) oversees the safety of the Mar1st_1natural environment (air, water, and land) and advocates and sponsors pollution prevention.  The EPA monitors and evaluates the safety of the workplaces themselves, such as the trucking terminals, warehouses and maintenance shops.  

Just ten years after the Motor Carrier Act of 1980 deregulated the trucking industry, 1/3 of the 100 largest trucking companies were out of business.  That deregulation, however, was only economic in nature.  It did not cover nor deregulate safety, driving laws and other areas of concern that, in some way, shape or form, pertain to the industry.  Covering everything from the amount of hours a driver can work to the amount of pollution allowed from a Class 8 truck’s emissions, there are seemingly more regulations today than ever before.

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