GRAPEVINE, TX. The flood of new and proposed federal regulations targeting the trucking industry is arguably the hottest topic thus far here at the annual American Trucking Assns. (ATA) Management Conference & Exhibition, which began Sunday afternoon in Grapevine, TX.

David Osiecki, senior vice president of policy and regulation for ATA, framed the problem for conference attendees during his remarks at the opening luncheon on Sunday.

There is a lot of talk about this administration using regulatory agencies to accomplish their agenda without the support of the Congress, Osiecki observed. Whether that is true or not, the level of regulatory activity has been unprecedented.

According to Osiecki, 59 “economically significant” rules were published per year in the first two years of the Obama administration, plus countless others. A regulation is considered to be economically significant if its impact is greater than $100 million.

In 2011, he noted, 19 proposed rules from eight different federal agencies were introduced which would impact trucking. Thirteen new rules were finalized, and there are more to come. “There is no let up on the regulatory side,” Osiecki said. In response, the ATA has made 19 separate filings on proposed rules and delivered “hundreds of pages” of commentary—not all of it in opposition.

ATA has supported the proposed EOBR rule, as well as proposals to increase size and weight limits for trucks and establish fuel economy standards. In many cases, individual fleets have also voluntarily gone well beyond regulatory requirements in the interest of improving safety.

Changes to current hours-of-service (HOS) regulations, on the other hand, generally top the list of proposed rules that the industry has pledged to fight. Dan England, chairman of C. R. England and the incoming chairman of the ATA, said he would use his new platform to oppose any changes to the current hours-of-service regulations, including legal challenges, if necessary.

Jim L. Hebe—senior vice president, North American sales operations for Navistar--in remarks to the press on Monday, noted that regulations are too often targeted to “the lowest common denominator,” forcing experienced drivers and smaller fleet operators with millions of miles of safe driving to their credit, out of business.

Congressman Pete Sessions (R-Texas), the chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee and a guest speaker on Sunday, also attacked the general level of regulatory activity coming from the current administration. In July alone, he said, a total of 229 new rules (not all trucking-related) were proposed and 379 new regulations were finalized, ten of which are economically significant.