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OOIDA’s board identifies top 12 government affairs issues

Rod Nofziger
OOIDA government
relations representative

At the spring meeting in Grain Valley, board members approved a 2004 government affairs agenda to guide the association’s legislative and regulatory efforts in Washington, DC.

Drawing from their experiences and wide-ranging backgrounds, the board identified 12 major areas that significantly affect association members and the trucking industry. This was no small task considering the myriad of issues with which truckers must regularly contend. The agenda issues are certainly not the only ones the association will be working on, but they represent the “Top 12.”

Fuel prices
With fuel prices at historic highs at a time of inadequate rates, the board placed the highest priority on passing legislation that would require fuel surcharges to be used by all motor carriers, freight forwarders and brokers. Moreover, all money collected from surcharges should go to the people who actually pay for the fuel. The board noted some truckers were currently receiving surcharges, but the overall consensus was that most truckers are either getting back a fraction of what they pay for fuel or more likely, were getting back nothing at all.

Foreign drivers
Mexican motor carriers can only bring international goods into the United States from outside the country. After the truck makes the delivery, its options are to return to Mexico empty or to load a product bound for Mexico. Board members related that they are hearing more and more accounts of foreign drivers operating illegally inside our borders, violating these “cabotage” laws, and that enforcement of these laws is pretty much non-existent. This has been a problem for many years, but the situation seems to be getting much worse.

Highway funding approaches
Funding for highway construction, repair and maintenance is getting a lot of attention in the nation’s capital these days with Congress working on the big six-year highway bill. The board agreed that the amount of money being spent on highways should increase and that the amount of highway money being spent on non-highway projects should be drastically decreased. OOIDA will continue its efforts to ensure that money collected for our highways is done in a fair and reasonable way. The association also will continue to place a high priority on fighting efforts to open the nation’s interstate highways to widespread tolling.

Inadequate parking
Every trucker knows there is not enough parking at truck stops or state-operated rest areas. Whether it is through privatization of rest areas or by other means, the association will find ways to expand available truck parking and ensure that drivers get a chance to rest when they need to.

Loading, unloading
Recent studies show that drivers spend anywhere from 33 to 43 hours each week loading, unloading and in “detention.” Some members are reporting that the situation is starting to improve with the onset of the new hours-of-service regulations, but the board believes much must be done before the situation is made right. Regulation, legislation and litigation were all ways discussed as possible avenues for achieving this goal.

Background checks
A rulemaking in April by the FMCSA helped to bring about fairness and privacy in background checks of truck drivers. However, OOIDA continues to have concerns with what driver information should be collected, how that information is collected, who collects it and how it should be used.

Bad brokers
The need for increased oversight of broker operations and registration was a consistent topic of discussion at the spring meeting. Board members want to help the reputable “good guys” of the broker world weed out the bad ones. Efforts to do this through regulatory and legislative channels have already begun.

Truck size and weight
The board voted to continue opposing increases in truck size and weight restrictions. It also opposed the expansion of double and triple combination trailer use on interstate highways. Though OOIDA’s efforts have been successful in this area for many years, attempts are constantly being made to change the laws and regulations governing truck sizes and weights. Some opponents of the association’s position have tried to turn this into a “state’s rights” issue and others have attempted to chip away at current laws by creating special exemptions for certain groups or certain states.

Education and training
The board also voted to continue the association’s efforts to increase education and training requirements for new truck drivers. Recent regulatory and legislative attempts to address theses needs have been steps in the right direction; however, those steps were far too small, the board said.

Intermodal and chassis issues
The FMCSA took another step in the right direction earlier this year with a rulemaking to place identification numbers on intermodal containers and chassis as a means of tracking safety records for the owners of the equipment. However, truckers will still be saddled with fines and repair costs for equipment that they have little control over, not to mention the safety hazards involved with operating much of the equipment. OOIDA will work with others in the trucking industry to pass a legislative remedy for the situation.

FLSA exemption
Remove the Fair Labor Standards Act exemption from overtime payment to truck drivers and promote hourly compensation for employee drivers.

Idle-reduction equipment
Finally, the board identified a new area of concern — to find ways to make idle-reduction equipment and technology more accessible to truckers. As reported in the June issue of Land Line, states are increasingly writing into law new restrictions on truck idling. Tax exemptions and financial incentives may help truckers get the equipment they need to comply with these laws.

You can help OOIDA achieve these important objectives and help make things better for your fellow truckers by becoming an active participant in our country’s political process. One way to do this is to sign up to be a part of OOIDA’s Call-to-Action program. To learn more about the program, contact the association at 1-800-444-5791. Your lawmakers in Washington need to hear from you. As former President of the United States Grover Cleveland put it, “Officeholders are the agents of the people, not their masters.”

Rod Nofziger can be reached at rod_nofziger@ooida.com.

Aug/Sept Digital Edition