Commenting on proposed regulations: It is your right

February 2020

Keith Goble

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When it comes to elected officials, most people know their voice in the process is their vote. But, what happens once those lawmakers are in office and pass laws that in turn dictate that federal agencies impose even more regulations. Are you cut out of the process?

Elsewhere you’ll read about talking to members of Congress and how OOIDA will help you stay informed so you can be active on enacted laws.

What about FMCSA? Does a truck driver have a voice there? The short answer is: Absolutely.

The rulemaking process, which results in new regulations that can dictate almost any aspect of your trucking life, is open to the public, and you do have a voice. Unfortunately, not many truckers take advantage of it.

Take hours of service, for example. It appeared to be one issue that all truckers are passionate about. Yet, out of some 3 million-plus truckers, about 8,100 truckers took advantage of their right to comment on the proposed regulation. Of course OOIDA did, but, that’s not enough. Truckers must be involved in this critical part of the process.

Don’t let the process intimidate you. It’s actually pretty simple.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, for example, collects comments on its “docket” located at Regulations.gov.

Before you start through the electronic process on the Internet, be sure you have the correct Docket ID. This is how the system knows what you are specifically talking about in your comments.

The Docket ID identifies a regulatory action the agency is putting in the record for public view and possible comment. It will contain a series of letters and numbers separated by dashes. For example, FMCSA-2018-0248 is the docket related to proposed hours-of-service changes. (Don’t bother commenting on it now because it’s closed.) The dashes are critical when looking up a particular rulemaking. When you’re searching for a specific document to comment on, if you use the dashes incorrectly – or not at all – you won’t find the document you’re looking for.

You can have someone else do it for you online, too. A friend or relative can be a big help. The steps are the same except that on the first page they should click that they are submitting for a third party and fill out their info as the representative. The other fields for organization and such are unnecessary.

Step by step guide to filing online.

  • Go to Regulations.gov.
  • Fill in the “Search” field with the Docket ID and either hit enter or click on “Search.”
  • Click on the title of the docket you want to comment on. Once on that page there will be a “Comment Now” button appearing. Click on the icon.
  • Type in your comment.
  • Fill in your name (You can do it anonymously, but names are better).
  • You don’t have to give your contact info. (If you do, it will appear with your comments).
  • Under category, select “Public Comment(s).”
  • Hit continue.
  • Preview your comments.
  • Hit “I read and understand the statement above.”
  • Click “Submit comments.”

Of course, submitting comments electronically via the Internet isn’t your only option. If you prefer to hand-write or type it out and fax it? Easy enough. On the top of the page include the Docket ID. Make sure you include your name. Then you can:

  • Fax comments with the Docket ID number to 202-493-2251;
  • Mail comments with the Docket ID number to:
    Docket Management Facility
    S. Department of Transportation
    Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Ave. SE
    Washington, DC 20590-0001

Or, if you are super ambitious, hand deliver comments between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday except on federal holidays to the ground floor of the U.S. Department of Transportation building, Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Ave. SE, Washington, D.C. LL

Keith Goble

Keith Goble has been covering trucking-related laws since 2000. His daily web reports, radio news and “OOIDA’s State Watch” in Land Line Magazine are the industry’s premier sources for information regarding state legislative affairs.