Regulatory Challenges Faced by Owner-Operators

Truck for a hero section
Written by Owner Operator Team

Regulations related to safety standards, environmental policies, hours-of-service rules, and economics pose challenges to the trucking industry and affect both large companies and independent owner-operators. Owner-operators who run small businesses and operate their own trucking companies may find it especially challenging to navigate these complicated and frequently strict regulations.

In order to effectively represent the interests of these owner-operators, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) is vital. As an advocacy organization, the OOIDA seeks to change laws and regulations to make the environment more manageable and favorable to independent truck drivers. Todd Spencer, the organization’s president, has led the OOIDA in advocating for fairer rules and laws that address the particular requirements and difficulties experienced by owner-operators in the trucking sector. Small business truckers’ issues have received significant attention thanks in large part to Spencer’s leadership, which has made sure their opinions are heard during legislative and regulatory negotiations.

In this article, we will delve into Todd Spencer’s insights during the Small Fleet & Owner-Operator Summit, a significant event held on FreightWaves. This summit provided a platform for industry stakeholders to discuss and address the regulatory challenges faced by owner-operators in the trucking industry.

Key Regulatory Challenges

Here are the main takeaway points from Todd Spencer regarding regulatory challenges that are currently affecting owner-operators.

Election year impact on trucking legislation:

  • Congressional focus. Todd Spencer highlights that 2024, being an election year, diverts Congress’s attention toward election campaigns rather than trucking issues, resulting in a legislative pause on trucking-related regulations.
  • OOIDA’s strategy. Despite this challenge, OOIDA aims to keep key trucking issues prominent and ensure they remain on the legislative agenda.

Driver bathroom access:

  • Current issue. Truck drivers often face restricted access to bathroom facilities, which are usually reserved for employees only.
  • Legislative effort. The Trucking Bathroom Access Act aims to require companies to extend bathroom access to truck drivers, aligning their accommodations with those provided to their employees.

Opposition to mandatory speed limiters:

  • FMCSA rulemaking. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is considering implementing mandatory speed limiters, with a rule expected in May.
  • Spencer’s concerns. Spencer argues that lower speed limits for trucks can create traffic impediments and increase road rage, turning trucks into “rolling roadblocks.” He suggests that such mandates, supported by large carriers, are not genuinely beneficial.

Other mentions:

  • Regulatory pause. The election season results in a slowdown in addressing trucking regulations.
  • Advocacy for drivers. OOIDA continues to advocate for practical and beneficial changes for owner-operators, opposing mandates they see as counterproductive or harmful.
  • Balancing act: The organization is striving to balance the need for regulatory changes with the realities of political cycles and industry pressures.

Impact on Owner-Operators

Each of the points provided by Todd Spencer will have a direct impact on owner-operators’ well-being and, in some cases, financial stability.

Congress becomes more preoccupied with campaigning during election years, which delays legislation and neglects important regulatory concerns. Due to this unpredictability, owner-operators find it difficult to plan ahead and make wise decisions about equipment investments and compliance.

Truck drivers’ health and well-being are directly impacted by the absence of driver restroom access. Due to restricted access, drivers must take more time to locate appropriate facilities, which can cause schedule disruptions and delivery delays.

Implementing speed limiters poses a number of difficulties since they hinder traffic flow and can increase the risk of accidents and road rage incidents. Due to these restrictions, trucks are forced to go slower than other types of vehicles, which increases travel times and limits the number of deliveries that can be made.

Broader Industry Perspectives

Other industry experts, such as the American Trucking Association (ATA), have expressed similar worries about legislative inertia during election cycles. They point out that it delays important reforms that might enhance operational efficiency and safety for all drivers.

Access to bathrooms is especially important for female truckers, according to a Women In Trucking Association survey, highlighting the need for inclusive solutions in the trucking sector.

On the other hand, proponents of speed limiters, such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), contend that by lessening the severity of incidents involving big vehicles, they can improve road safety, implying a trade-off between operational efficiency and safety.

While other industry experts emphasize the potential long-term safety benefits and point to the need for a balanced approach that takes both operational efficiency and regulatory compliance into account. Todd Spencer and OOIDA, on the other hand, concentrate on the immediate operational and financial challenges posed by current and proposed regulations.


It is essential that the regulatory challenges we talked about be addressed for the owner-operator community to prosper. Working conditions and operational effectiveness can be greatly enhanced by making sure that drivers have access to necessities like restrooms and taking care of the consequences of speed limitation laws. Fixing these problems contributes to drivers’ increased job satisfaction, improved safety, and decreased stress levels – all of which are critical for keeping a qualified workforce.

Owner-operators and other trucking members must be aware of regulatory developments and take an active role in lobbying campaigns. Organizations such as OOIDA, which also works to press for positive legislative outcomes, vitally represent owner-operators’ interests. By becoming members of such organizations and contributing to advocacy activities, individuals can help develop policies that better assist the trucking community and provide a fair and sustainable regulatory environment.