Federal Update
Defense bill could squeeze small-business truckers out of DOD loads

By David Tanner, associate editor

A provision in a national defense bill on Capitol Hill has the potential to squeeze small-business truckers out of hauling loads for the Department of Defense.

Members of a House committee inserted language into the bill during conference negotiations to require haulers of military materials – such as missiles, weapons, ammunition, explosives, radioactive materials and classified items – to have rollover stability systems, collision warning systems, a safety performance history not exceeding the 50th percentile in any of the BASICs under CSA, round-the-clock office staffing, and $15 million in public liability insurance.

Senate language intervenes, however, trusting current DOD criteria for hauling sensitive loads. Senators have called for additional study before changes are considered.

OOIDA supports the Senate provision and questions the House’s tactic as favoring certain vendors and carriers.

“It was an attempt by someone to pretty much preclude small businesses from being able to haul that particular DOD freight,” OOIDA Director of Government Affairs Laura O’Neill said.

“It has all of these safety requirements and technologies that small businesses typically don’t have. The military saves a lot of money by being able to contract with small businesses to haul freight that may be sensitive in nature but not necessarily harmful to the public if there is an accident. The language is really excessive, unnecessary, and designed to give a collective few a monopoly on this type of hauling.”

OOIDA Senior Member Danny Schnautz says the House version could make it even more difficult than it is now for a small company to break into the DOD market.

“It’s a push. It’s a money thing,” he said. “DOD loads are a very hard market to break into to begin with. As they enhance those rules, it’s going to be even more stringent.”

Schnautz points out that truckers hauling hazmat in the private sector get along just fine without being overregulated.

“A lot of military stuff is not special except that it may be classified,” he said. “It’s not explosive and doesn’t need rollover stability systems. The private sector hauls sensitive loads every day and does it well.” LL