If there is one thing Americans agree upon, it’s that the federal government could and should be better. It would be difficult to find anyone who has ever interacted with federal bureaucracies who does not think they could be far more efficient, effective, and responsive. That’s the spirit behind this administration’s push for regulatory reform: making government work better and smarter.
At the U.S. Department of Transportation, regulatory reform is focused, first and foremost, on making America’s transportation systems safer. Improved safety can be achieved in part through innovation, which outdated or poorly devised regulatory rules and processes – as well as unrealistic mandates – can stifle.
One of the Department’s most significant initiatives is the SAFE Vehicles Rule, the products of joint rulemaking by DOT and the Environmental Protection Agency to reset national fuel economy standards for America’s passenger vehicles and light trucks. We have proposed new fuel economy standards to replace previously established extreme mandates that would have made new cars significantly more expensive.
For many individuals and families on a tight budget, more expensive means cost-prohibitive. And that means fewer adults and children benefiting from the better car safety features and performance of newer models. Thus, the SAFE Vehicles Rules could achieve nearly $250 billion in new-car savings for U.S. consumers relative to the previous standards, and save thousands of lives by reducing the average age of vehicles on America’s roads.
For years, the aviation sector has grappled with the problem of regulations failing to keep up with advances in technology. For example, in recent years there have been dramatic advances in technology, manufacturing techniques, composite materials, flight controls, and propulsion systems. Old regulations were unable to match the pace of this new technology, which has impeded innovation. For general aviation aircraft, the Federal Aviation Administration is now moving to a performance-based approach coupled with stringent manufacturer safety standards. This will allow broader adoption of the best, safest technologies and encourage development of improved, newer, and even safer innovations.
Drone technology is the most significant development in aviation since the introduction of the jet engine. Today, there are more than 1.2 million registered drones in the U.S., but the rules and regulations governing our national airspace never anticipated drones. The Department is safely and efficiently enabling the integration of unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace.
The Department is also determined to extend America’s lead in space by streamlining the permitting process required for commercial space launches. Six years ago, the United States was in third place in commercial space launches, behind Russia and China. In 2017, for the first time in 14 years, our country regained the lead with a record number of commercial launches. And the U.S. is on track to beat that record in 2018.
DOT’s efforts to alleviate regulatory burdens, boost innovation in transportation technology, and foster economic growth and job creation are yielding impressive results. The previous administration imposed billions of dollars of new costs on the American people through DOT regulations each year. Under this administration, DOT has achieved cost savings for Americans of more than $1.5 billion since early 2017.
This dramatic turnaround can be explained by the fact that of the 158 DOT active rulemakings in 2017, more than half (82) were focused on reforming the regulatory process. Contrast that with the previous year, in which only 14 percent of DOT’s 132 rulemakings constituted reform. Today, under this administration, the Department is actively pursuing 120 regulatory reform initiatives.
Safety is always the Department’s top priority. These strategic regulatory reforms will improve safety while advancing transportation systems that improve quality of life for our citizens and promote economic growth. That’s not just good government, it’s smart government.
Derek Kan is Under Secretary for Policy at the U.S. Department of Transportation.