The Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association is urging truckers to turn up the heat as the highway bill makes it way toward the Senate floor.
The Senate version of the bill does not yet include mandatory fuel surcharge legislation, which was approved by the House in its version of the bill. Truckers are being urged to contact their senators and ask them to include the surcharge in the Senate's bill, known as S732.
The House version - HR3 - requires motor carriers, brokers and freight forwarders to implement fuel surcharges. In addition, it requires that 100 percent of those charges be passed on to the individuals who actually buy the fuel. It also prohibits firms from changing their rates to offset the surcharge.
Rod Nofziger, government relations representative for OOIDA, said on April 15 that the bill could make its way to the Senate floor at any time.
"Hypothetically it could come up next week," he said. "But the better bet is the end of April or the beginning of May."
Todd Spencer, executive vice president of OOIDA, said he is optimistic about the fuel surcharge legislation, in spite of opposition from such groups as ATA and the Transportation Intermediaries Association.
"This is an old problem that raises its head periodically and ravages the industry," Spencer said. "It's ironic that the same people who have been acknowledging for years now that we have a chronic shortage of capacity and a chronic shortage of drivers are oblivious to the economic realities that create and perpetuate exactly that situation."
Nofziger questioned ATA's motives, saying it appears to be working against the legislation at the behest of companies like Yellow Roadway and Wal-Mart.
"It's curious that Yellow Roadway is making such a stand against this, when the legislation clearly applies only to the truckload sector," he said. "It makes one wonder about their future intentions with the truckload sector, once they've reached their limit on monopoly in the less-than-truckload sector. Perhaps they aspire to be the Wal-Mart of the trucking industry."
The Owner-Operator Independent Drives Association is urging truckers to write, fax and call the U.S. senators and urge them to include the same fuel surcharge language in the Senate's version of the bill.
If truckers are uncertain who their senators are, they can contact OOIDA's Membership Department and they will look up the information. The toll-free OOIDA number is 1-800-444-5791.
Truckers can also call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121, give the operator their ZIP code and be directly connected to their Senator's office.
- By Terry Scruton, senior writer