Message to Congress: Highways/Truckers are Top Priority
Don’t underestimate the effect of new regulations on the nation’s commerce, was the unmistakable message delivered by a contingent of shippers, carriers and trade association officials who traveled recently to Capitol Hill. The visit, which organizers named “Stand Up for Trucking,” was intended to convey concern about pieces of legislation currently awaiting action on Capitol Hill, and to remind lawmakers that more than 7 million Americans work in trucking-related jobs. Among the concerns the group took to Washington:
- Highway Reauthorization Act: The House of Representatives recently began action on a five-year $260 billion surface transportation plan that includes provisions for everything from infrastructure investment to truck weight limits to the hyper-political Keystone pipeline project. The “American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act” is expected to receive full House consideration in February. According to Logistics Management, trucking advocates support a “longer-term (six years, ideally) that focuses on funding the 166,000 mile National Highway System, addresses highway congestion and establishes a freight program to address interstate commerce.”
- “Final” Hours of Service Regulations: Industry supporters were alarmed when, in late December the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued a final rule that will reduce drivers’ work weeks from 82 hours to 70, and require rest periods that include the hours between 1am and 5am. Trucking advocates oppose the changes, which they say will force the hiring of additional drivers, thereby driving up costs and resulting in more trucks on the road.
- Interstate Tolls: Some members of Congress are in favor of increasing – and in some instances initiatiing – interstate highway tolls as a way to fund infrastructure improvements. The trucking coalition strongly opposes this, arguing that fuel taxes are a more efficient and fairer way of raising revenues. Plus, the industry argues, tolls amount to double taxation, since trucks pay both existing user fee taxes, and would be forced to pay a toll on top of that.
The more than 100 pro-industry supporters held meetings with a number of influential House and Senate members who will play a role in the legislation that eventually emerges from both the House and Senate. “We have to help our lawmakers understand the impact and dampening effect regulations are having on our businesses,” Dan England, chairman of truckload carrier C.R. England told Logistics Management. “We’re hoping to find people who can see reason.”