Ohio lawmakers are pursuing legislation to benefit motor carriers wanting to bring more drivers into the trucking industry.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is opposed to both pieces of legislation.
Sponsored by Reps. Ryan Smith, R-Bidwell, and Nathan Manning, R-North Ridgeville, the first bill would create a commercial truck driver student aid program for eligible students enrolled at a certified CDL school or career college.
Financial aid would come via a grant or loan. The state would adopt conditional rules for loans received by the program and requirements for certification of CDL schools.
A total of $5 million would be appropriated to support the student aid program.
The sponsors say the legislation is part of a package of bills “aimed at increasing the amount of truck drivers in the industry, which has decreased in recent years.”
Mike Matousek, OOIDA director of state legislative affairs, has communicated to bill sponsors the Association’s concerns about the measure.
“While some motor carriers might need additional drivers, it is primarily because they have a driver turnover issue – not a driver shortage,” Matousek said.
He notes that driver turnover can easily reach 100 percent at many carriers annually.
“This is a reflection of noncompetitive pay and poor working conditions – again not a driver shortage.”
Matousek said the bill actually provides a taxpayer subsidy to “churn out new drivers.”
OOIDA is not opposed to efforts that address potential barriers to entry, but the real issue is driver retention.
“HB154 ignores that completely while simultaneously reducing safety,” he said. “We need more qualified drivers, not simply more drivers.”
The bill is in the House Education and Career Readiness Committee.
Another piece of legislation in the package would provide a tax credit to motor carriers for eligible training expenses for prospective drivers.
Sponsored by Sen. Cliff Hite, R-Findlay, SB114 would cap the tax credit at $3 million annually with the amount allotted to a single employer set at $50,000.
“In short, it is a taxpayer subsidy for large motor carriers,” Matousek said.
“SB114 exacerbates the economic dysfunction that continues to harm small-business truckers and professional truck drivers.”
He adds that contrary to what others might claim, there is chronic overcapacity in trucking and too many drivers.
In reference to the perceived driver shortage, Matousek says the turnover is a reflection of non-competitive pay and poor working conditions, both of which are issues that many carriers simply refuse to address.
“Churning out new drivers drives down freight rates – in many cases below market value – and removes any incentive to retain more qualified drivers.”
The Association believes that while there are many variables, more experienced drivers equate to safer drivers and safer highways.
The bill awaits assignment to committee. The House version, HB155, also awaits assignment to committee.
In another action of interest at the statehouse, Gov. John Kasich has signed into law a two-year, $7.8 billion transportation budget bill.
One component in the budget sets up a two-year pilot program in Clinton, Franklin, Lucas, Mahoning, Montgomery and Stark counties to reduce commercial vehicle registrations from $30 to $15.
The Registrar of Motor Vehicles is required to study the effect of lowering the fees for possible expansion.
To view other legislative activities of interest for Ohio, click here.