Guest Columns

FULTON: ‘REGULATORY DRAG’ DRAINS CRITICAL TIME AND MONEY

To keep on trucking, we need to move toward smarter and simpler regulation

The Colorado Statesman

Recent statistics reflect that over 90 percent of the trucking companies in Colorado are made up of businesses that have 20 or less employees. Very few of these companies have a staff attorney, regulatory director, or tax specialist. Yet because of the increasing complex web of laws and regulations in our state and country, almost all of these companies at one time during the year will need to retain the services of one of these specialists.

An owner of one small trucking company once mentioned to me that he woke up every morning worried that he was unwittingly violating at least one regulation or law each day. Because of the volume of laws and regulations and changing nature of them, he did not know what law or regulation, where he failed to comply, but it was a constant concern.

The point is that every year, our state legislature and Congress as well as our federal, state, and local governments pass hundreds of new laws, regulations, ordinances, and rules that affect business. In most cases these laws and regulations are approved by well-meaning elected officials or government agencies who are seeking to address particular issues that have been brought to their attention. Unfortunately, no one tallies the overall number, the cost and time to implement, and most importantly the cumulative impact that these measures may have on small businesses which are the prime generator of jobs in our country. While there may be some analysis of the impact of a particular regulation, it generally is done in a void without consideration of other rules.

For a number of years, much has been said by elected officials about streamlining the regulatory process and reducing the burden on business. While there has been some progress, the regulatory onus continues to grow. This is occurring at a time when businesses are not only competing on a state and national basis but on an international basis. To remain competitive companies must become more productive, yet this “regulatory drag” drains critical time and money.

Rather than investing in new capital, creating additional jobs, and expanding facilities, companies find themselves spending more and more money on attorneys, tax consultants, and regulatory experts. Companies have little choice because the cost of failing to comply with even one of these regulations along with defending themselves on a perceived violation, that they may not realize even existed, could mean the loss of their business or serious financial implications. Even in cases where a company successfully defends itself, the legal bills may run into thousands of dollars along with countless hours by staff.

As we consider the future, we must recognize that our world is evolving with new technologies and ideas, our understanding of the environment is growing, and we are moving toward an international marketplace, and some new regulations will be needed.

Rather than continuing down the existing road and add to the problem, we need to rethink how we craft regulations. We need to think in terms of “smart regulation.” This concept would seek to make new regulations simpler, more understandable, less costly to all parties, and easier for businesses to comply. The language in any new regulation and what’s required should be clear and concise and not require a small business to retain an attorney to understand it. Government agencies should do a better job on outreach and training for businesses on any new regulations and laws.

From an efficiency standpoint, regulations should be constructed in a cost-effective manner to enact and enforce as well as ease of compliance for businesses. New regulations should be also designed to build upon existing systems and information rather than forcing companies to re-input data.

At the same time we need to look at new technologies and systems in our mobile and hi-tech world which will allow convenience and ease for users. Finally, agencies should actively seek input from affected businesses before adopting new regulations. Concepts, such as focus groups, electronic town hall meetings, and webinars with affected businesses, should all be considered to gain greater input and understanding of proposed regulations and ensure that they are crafted in a user-friendly manner that may lessen time and cost.

While looking forward, we must also look back. It is important that we look to eliminate any unnecessary or outdated regulations as well as streamline existing ones. This process along with the crafting of smarter regulations could help us create a regulatory environment that is simpler, more understandable, and less onerous while at the same time ensuring the safety and welfare of our state.

Greg Fulton is president of the Colorado Motor Carriers Association, which includes over 600 companies involved in the trucking industry in Colorado.