By Nick Goldstein, vice president of regulatory and legal issues, ARTBA

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Jan. 27 reversed recent improvements to its procedures for issuing regulatory guidance documents. Guidance is important because it details how federal agencies interpret their regulations, and how they apply to the corresponding regulated community.  

ARTBA has long expressed concern that the guidance process often lacks transparency and opportunities for public input, yet these documents have the force and effect of federal regulations. In 2019, the Trump administration addressed many of these shortcomings through an executive order (EO), which ARTBA supported. It required federal agencies to take comments on significant guidance documents, allow petitions from regulated parties to withdraw out-of-date guidance, and establish websites where active guidance could be accessed and searched.

On Jan. 20, President Joe Biden rescinded the Trump-era EO government-wide, citing concerns that it reduced the flexibility of federal agencies to issue guidance. While the DOL is the only agency to rescind the guidance reforms so far, others are likely to follow suit pursuant to Biden’s order.

ARTBA will continue expressing support for a more transparent, inclusive guidance process.  Likewise, we will communicate concern when federal agencies issue guidance relating to transportation construction under processes that do not meet these standards.