Commitment to freight: OOIDA member part of advisory group

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 11/26/2013

OOIDA Senior Member Terry Button says he’s pleased with the level of knowledge and expertise among the members of the National Freight Advisory Committee.

“I learn things from them and they learn things from me,” Button says of the committee’s 47 members appointed by the U.S. Department of Transportation earlier this year. Button, an owner-operator from Rushville, N.Y., represents OOIDA on the committee, which met Nov. 20-21 in Washington, D.C.

Photo by David Tanner

OOIDA Senior Member Terry Button

“Being involved in trucking and that part of highway transportation, and agriculture, I didn’t realize in their own modes how the airports, the seaports and rail all have the same types of issues that myself and the other drivers on the highway face, whether they be environmental, safety, innovation, technology – just different things we try to adjust to,” Button said.

The committee is charged with advising the U.S. secretary of transportation on the development of a national freight strategic plan and national freight network. The U.S. currently does not have a national strategic plan for freight movement, but the current highway law MAP-21, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, mandates its development.

Within the National Freight Advisory Committee framework, Button co-chairs a subcommittee on research, innovation and technology. He says the subcommittee members speak by phone every couple of weeks. The committee as a whole first met June 25 and is tasked with finalizing its recommendations within two years.

Button says he’s pleased to see highways, bridges and trucking placed in high regard among the vast majority of committee members.

“Everybody’s committed to make sure our infrastructure is maintained and expanded. We’re working on how to fund it and present it and maintain it and move it forward, but everybody knows we need to have good highways and good bridges,” Button said.

“The safety agenda that OOIDA is promoting and sponsoring – the educating and training of drivers – is so important on the highways in all those modes of transportation, and those people realize it,” he adds.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Deputy Secretary John Porcari and Federal Motor Carrier Administrator Anne Ferro have all addressed the committee thus far. The next meeting of the full committee is in February 2014 in D.C.

“They want new ideas. They want things that can make sense and they want things that we can recommend and do sooner than what this plan calls for,” Button said.

Committee discussions are not without conflicts, Button says.

He says he had to call out a faction of committee members who claimed that a proposal in Congress to increase the minimum liability insurance limits on trucking from the current $750,000 to $4.42 million was an issue affecting highway safety.

“They told everybody in there that that needed to be done for the sake of safety, and that’s like a slap in the face to safe driving and the concern that I have for the public,” Button said.

Aside from that interaction, the committee as a whole is committed to improving freight movement and seeing that infrastructure gets funded. Committee members have access to DOT staff who help them with research and current policy matters. Button says they’re of tremendous help.

“Their DOT staff truly cares,” he said. “There’s always going to be a few that aren’t on the same page, but they truly care. They just don’t quite understand things always. That’s where me and the other members of this committee are there to help them in the facts and reality of what goes on every day.”

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