While the winner of the 2020 election is not yet official due to recounts, lawsuits, and accusations of fraud, it is hard to deny that the likelihood of becoming president has shifted into Biden’s favor. Strongly enough, in fact, that it is worth speculating what the shift in power would mean for the trucking industry. Here are some things we postulated.
Change to the Department of Transportation
Without going too far into detail on the executive branch in the government, the Secretary of Transportation is nominated by the president and confirmed by a senate vote. Elaine Chao, a republican who is the second-longest running member of the cabinet behind Mike Pence himself, would almost certainly be replaced. The same logic would apply for the people that lead the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator, Raymond Martinez and James Wiley Deck. These changes would precede just about all other changes that a Biden presidency would lead to.
Executive Order 13771
One of the first executive orders Donald Trump signed while in office, Executive Order 13771 requires two stipulations from any new regulations:
- For each new regulation, two must be repealed.
- The cost of implementing the new regulation must either save money or cost nothing, lest more regulations need to be repealed.
If Biden gets into the Oval Office, it is safe to assume this Executive Order will be repealed. This is not to say that the DOT and FMCSA may make a conscious effort to minimize the costs of regulation, but they will no longer be directed to do so. Some may see this as a benefit, as some regulations may be too important to have to compile two others to repeal in order to make it happen, but others may be worried that adding regulations without a balancing act would be cumbersome for truckers.
Executive Order 13924
Another key executive order Donald Trump signed that is likely to be repealed is 13924, titled “Regulatory Relief To Support Economic Recovery”. The executive order not only asked parts of the administrative branch to reduce the spread of coronavirus, but also to mitigate the potential economic fallout that could occur from it.
One such example of the FMCSA working under executive order 13924 is the exemption from hours-of-service when delivering goods related to the coronavirus pandemic, which has been in effect for well over half a year now and is currently extended until the end of the year.
With the Democratic Party being more concerned about halting the spread of COVID-19 than the resulting economic fallout, it is highly likely this executive order will be repealed, with a stronger focus on making the country healthier rather than employed. The balance between reducing medical and economic impacts of the coronavirus is a question each person must ask themselves.
Typically regulations regarding emissions go along the lines of “vehicles that do not meet this standard of pollution at this point in time can no longer be manufactured or sold”, but are allowed to be driven into the ground and the end user eventually obtains a replacement vehicle.
This has always been a step towards cleaner energy, but a well-maintained truck can last up to two decades on the far end. It may one day come to pass that it will become unlawful to drive a truck manufactured before a particular date.
On the other hand, the push towards cleaner fuel may provide fleets with tax incentives to purchase electric-battery or fuel cell vehicles, when they come to the heavy-duty market.
The current DOT has been relatively hands-off for autonomous vehicles (pun intended), as the technology has not been far enough in development for mass production of higher level autonomy.
A Biden presidency may lead to stronger regulations and scrutiny of companies developing this technology, causing it to be safer, but also come out later. Ultimately, the chances that the technology will be available for the common public in four (or eight) years is highly unlikely in the first place, so any additional regulation here is of little concern to the common trucker.
While it is possible Donald Trump may still be able to win the presidency for a second term, the cards currently read in Biden’s favor. It will be interesting to see how the next few months play out, and who will have his hand on the Bible come January 20th.
Whatever the case, the future of trucking is all but certain to be less tumultuous than it was in 2020.