Forum addresses wide range of topics hurting truckers in Washington state

| 8/12/2008

Although the turnout was a little less than what OOIDA member Sherrie Bond said she was hoping for, Bond said she wasn’t disappointed at all in the quality of information that was discussed at a community forum in Chehalis, WA, on Friday, Aug. 8.

U.S. Rep. Brian Baird, D-WA, who sits on the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, hosted the two-hour forum with about 50 truckers and lawmakers, along with Bond and her husband, Bob, who helped organize the event. The Bonds own a log-hauling company in Chehalis.

“We had some messages from truckers Friday night that said they were sorry they couldn’t be at the meeting, but they were offered an opportunity to make money and they couldn’t turn it down,” she told Land Line on Tuesday, Aug. 12. “We, of all people, understand their situation. They have to make money to support their families.”

She said the panel made up of truckers was phenomenal, and everyone had something to interject about the struggles they were all facing to keep their businesses aloft as fuel prices still hover above the $4 per gallon mark.

“Everyone on the panel had the opportunity to discuss things that are hurtful to each one of our businesses in different facets of the trucking industry,” Bond said.

Bond said one idea she and others proposed to Baird was introducing some sort of emergency funding that would become available for truckers to apply and receive small-business loans.

“This money would need to be for truckers that want to get out of debt and possibly make improvements to their old equipment to make it safe or more fuel-efficient. It would be working capital to keep them going.”

She said many truckers who need help now don’t qualify for a Small Business Administration loan based on their credit ratings.

“Anything that is proposed would have to kind of turn a blind eye to truckers’ credit ratings,” she said. “They have been facing some tough times, but they need an opportunity to borrow money.”

She said Baird suggested to her to have truckers across the country contact their U.S. representatives in their home states now to give them a “heads up” on supporting some sort of emergency funding measure to help save small-business truckers.

“He (Baird) said that when they get the proposal, they would be able to say they had received a bunch of phone calls from folks in my district on this, too,” Bond said.

Bond, along with other truckers, were meeting later in the day to put together a rough draft for Baird’s staff, who are going to meet on this issue later this week in Vancouver.

Another topic of discussion was HB1307, which was passed in Washington state in 2007 as a result of an accident regarding a log truck in the state in 2005. According to the language in the bill, once a red tag is issued on a truck for a safety violation, such as a clearance lights violation, any truck operating under that U.S. DOT number is also shut down as well, according to Bond.

“So there goes your revenue for all of your trucks for a day or two or however long it takes you to get the problem fixed on that one truck,” she said.

Another suggestion Baird addressed at the forum was on the issue that passenger vehicles should be taxed at the rate they are using fuel to provide money for the roads and that commercial vehicles should not be taxed.

“Baird said many passenger vehicles use fuel very freely, and they need to either conserve or manage their fuel consumption,” Bond said. “However, trucks have no choice in their consumption of fuel. If consumers need their products at a reasonable price and in a timely way, then truckers need a break right away.”

– By Clarissa Kell-Holland, staff writer