If truckers are to convince regulators that the hours-of-service proposal won't work, they'll need to speak up now. If truckers are to put themselves in a position to be less vulnerable to the whims of OPEC and others, truckers will have to convince lawmakers in our nation's capitol. If you do not belong to OOIDA or you're not making your position on these two critical issues heard, you need to ponder the consequence of being silent. The stakes are enormous.
The efforts of OOIDA, its members and other truckers have produced results on fuel costs. On May 11, Congressman Nick Rahall introduced legislation (HR 4441 - the Motor Carrier Fuel Cost Equity Act of 2000) that will provide relief to small business truckers from the economic devastation that comes when fuel prices rise rapidly.
This legislation provides emergency temporary relief for virtually all in the truckload industry and requires the surcharge be passed through to the person who pays for the fuel. While shipper and broker groups oppose this legislation, what ethical person would oppose fuel money going to the person that pays for the fuel?
Opposition from shippers is by no means unexpected. Some large shippers were demanding rate cuts at the very time truckers were paying a dollar or more per gallon in higher fuel costs. This legislation presents a real opportunity for brokers through their group, the Transportation Intermediaries Association, to show they really are partners with the motor carriers providing the services they resell. Brokers could do this by supporting this bill, but don't expect it to happen this way.
On June 8, HR 4441 had a very favorable hearing in the House Ground Transportation Subcommittee. The bill has bi-partisan support and by the time you read this, there should be many more co-sponsors and the legislation will be pending on the House floor. Lawmakers respond to the concerns of folks in their districts - especially in an election year, but time is not on our side. Call your Congressmen today and urge them to support HR 4441. Then call your Senators. These calls will be a lot easier to make than ones you have made to lenders when high fuel prices wipe out half your annual pay. The capitol switchboard is 202-225-3121.
Finding a solution to skyrocketing fuel prices has been a top priority for OOIDA for most of this year. Now comes the hours-of-service debate that could alter the industry in a way that benefits no one. While vitally important, this issue is now a little less time-critical than the fuel surcharge legislation. Bowing to political pressure, DOT Secretary Rodney Slater has extended the time allotted to hear from truckers and others for an additional 90 days. Based on the current proposal, the new Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration desperately needs to hear from real truckers by the thousands. The HOS proposal in its current form will benefit no one and it very well could make our highways less safe by causing good experienced safe drivers to leave this industry in droves. Lawmakers are hearing plenty on this. Not only from truckers, but from shippers and receivers that realize the dramatic changes being proposed could make truck transportation significantly less efficient at increased costs of 30 percent or more. (Makes a fuel surcharge look like chump change, doesn't it?)
In our initial comments to FMCSA at the Washington, DC, hearing, we told the agency to go back to the drawing board. There is more than a feeling among some in Washington that this reform effort should be abandoned in favor of keeping the rules as they are. This could be an option. I don't believe it's possible for FMCSA to fix every issue in trucking with this proposed rule, but there are indications they have tried. It just won't work. Share your thoughts with FMSCA (you now have until Oct. 30) and lawmakers on issues important to truckers. In both issues, small-business truckers and drivers are the men and women on the front lines with the most at stake; the most to lose; and, thankfully, the most to gain by being directly involved in the issues with lawmakers and policymakers in Washington, DC.