SPECIAL REPORT: OOIDA seeks new fuel surcharge legislation

| 10/12/2005

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is launching a new campaign to get fuel surcharge legislation introduced in Congress.

This time, however, the approach is a bit different. Todd Spencer, executive vice president of OOIDA, said that the previous fuel surcharge legislation that was cut from the Highway Bill earlier this year would have made a fuel surcharge mandatory.

Spencer said the new legislation, known as the Fairness In Trucking Transactions Act, or FITT, would require that if a surcharge is assessed and is paid by the shipper, then that surcharge must be passed through in its entirety to the person who paid for the fuel.

"On most shipments, a fuel surcharge is already collected," Spencer said. "In most instances it doesn't get through to the person who pays for the fuel."

In addition, the legislation would require an accounting of any and all fees paid by the shipper to all parties involved in the transaction. Spencer said this would shed light on transactions and allow everybody to see exactly who gets the money and where it went.

"It puts a stop to the shell game that's played by a lot of the middle men in the process," he said. "You have truckers basically being beat and hammered, big time. And right now it's all hidden. Everybody would like to know who's getting the money."

Spencer doesn't anticipate much difficulty in getting support for this new bill when Congress resumes Oct. 17.

By not requiring a mandatory fuel surcharge, Spencer said the new legislation takes away one of the key arguments put forth by opponents of the original legislation - that it was a step toward reregulating the trucking industry.

"The reregulation argument is gone," he said. "It's now an accountability issue; a fairness issue."

Spencer said he hopes the bill will be one of the first orders of business for Congress when it returns from recess next week.

The key, he said, will be the Senate Commerce Committee, which is chaired by Ted Stevens, R-AK. Other key players on the committee are John McCain, R-AZ; Trent Lott, R-MS; Conrad Burns, R-MT; Kay Bailey Hutchinson, R-TX; Olympia Snowe, R-ME; and Gordon Smith, R-OR.

- By Terry Scruton, senior writer