Washington Insider
Ever vigilant on legislative front

By Jay Grimes, Manager of Federal Affairs

My first six months at OOIDA have been exhilarating. I have met and heard from many dedicated and hardworking drivers; learned about the issues that shape the trucking industry; and witnessed the passage of the first long-term transportation bill in more than a decade. Your phone calls, emails, and letters to lawmakers advocating OOIDA's positions last year achieved many positives for small-business truckers in the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act.

While we were successful in maintaining current minimum insurance requirements, blocking increases in truck size and weight limits, and removing flawed CSA scores from public view, we must remain vigilant in protecting those victories throughout the rest of this Congress and in the years ahead.

If you recall, OOIDA lobbied against the inclusion of language in the final highway bill that would impact fair pay for drivers. The provision would empower large carriers to further reduce driver wages, allowing them to have to pay truckers only on a "piece rate" basis, which is just a fancier way of saying "per mile."

This would mean drivers would not be paid for detention time, safety inspections, paperwork, or any other activities that take place when the wheels are not moving. Thanks to your outreach, this language was not part of the FAST Act. However, we knew our work was far from finished.

In Washington, OOIDA has already seen the piece rate language reintroduced. Just two weeks after the FAST Act, large carriers were again unsuccessful in their attempts to add their language in the omnibus appropriations legislation, the bill extending funding for the federal government.

Undaunted, those same carriers have now successfully included the provision in the initial version of what's known as The Aviation, Innovation, Reauthorization, and Reform Act or AIRR Act, a bill designed to authorize aviation programs. (For more information on the AIRR Act, see Page 31.)

The inclusion of language related to trucking in an aviation bill is one of many contentious items contained in the AIRR Act. The bill remains far from a finished product, but the presence of the piece rate language emphasizes the importance of communicating with your lawmakers, even about an issue that has come up many times in the past.

Do not hesitate to contact your lawmakers about current legislative items, no matter how many times you've talked to them about the subject in the past. Many times, elected officials and staff are unaware that legislation has been reintroduced. It's important to let them know that the issue has popped up again and in what manner. For instance, simply tell them "the piece rate language can now be found in Section 611 of HR4441, the AIRR Act."

Additionally, updating your lawmaker about OOIDA's position is always helpful. We must counter the opposition's argument, even if our position has not changed. If Congress does not hear from us, they will think that the matter at hand is no longer important to OOIDA. History has proven that the more our members contact Washington, the better the chances of making OOIDA priorities a reality.

As we move forward in the legislative calendar, we anticipate that other aspects of the FAST Act will be revisited. The most likely of these issues will be minimum insurance requirements along with truck size and weight limits. These are issues that are seemingly brought back by the same folks every year.

While nothing has been formally announced regarding these issues thus far, we are closely monitoring any bills and discussions about possible reintroduction. Of course, OOIDA will update members on any relevant legislative updates through our Calls To Action. During these pivotal months, we cannot afford to rest on our laurels. We must continue working to make our victories from the FAST Act permanent.

I look forward to seeing everyone at MATS. LL