OOIDA to Congress: Improve inefficiencies to kickstart ‘road to recovery’

| 2/23/2009

Approving stimulus packages and tinkering with home mortgage factors may help the U.S. economy to begin growing again.

Helping truckers avoid waiting hours at a time to load and unload, however, can save the economy billions right now without costing a dime, OOIDA told a Congressional panel this past week.

Joe Rajkovacz, OOIDA regulatory affairs specialist, told a subcommittee of the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure about the Association’s concerns with freight transportation in Southern California.

The U.S. House of Representatives held a joint field hearing of two subcommittees of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure: the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit and the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials. The hearing was titled “Confronting Freight Challenges in Southern California.”

Specifically, Rajkovacz pointed members of Congress to the untold numbers of hours drivers are forced to waste because of waiting to load and unload at ports and warehouse docks.

“As we anticipate the writing of a new highway bill, we must not underestimate the importance of freight movement in the United States’ road to recovery,” Rajkovacz said. “We must rather take advantage of the opportunity before us, have the courage to effectuate change, and recognize that the time is upon us to make significant investments where needed and address inefficiencies in the supply chain that have bogged down the system for decades.”

Rajkovacz was one of only a few panelists who didn’t request funding help from Congress. Other offering testimony included executive directors from the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach; a senior vice president for the Union Pacific Corporation; the head of the BNSF rail’s Public Private Partnership group; and representatives of the American Trucking Associations and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

“Since deregulation of the trucking industry in 1980, our industry has had a long spiral downward in how both shippers and receivers treat drivers,” Rajkovacz said. “In fact, it is estimated that drivers spend as much as 44 hours per week in uncompensated time at loading docks. Since our time represents no cost to them, they are actually encouraged to abuse it regardless of the hidden ancillary societal costs such as increased congestion, potential hours of service violations and a tremendous cost to consumers.”

Rajkovacz cited recent research submitted by the FMCSA titled” Motor Carrier Efficiency Study Update,” which showed inefficiencies listed as “time loading/unloading” and “empty miles” as the two greatest factors contributing to inefficiencies in trucking today.

Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-OR, was particularly interested in port inefficiencies, Rajkovacz told Land Line on Monday, including a look at reinstituting detention penalties.

“Congressman DeFazio really keyed in to my discussion on reinstituting the detention law,” Rajkovacz said.

OOIDA also brought up its concerns with recent Clean Truck Plans approved by the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which ban many older trucks and require special taxi-style concessionaire licenses that motor carriers must obtain for port access.

“We must recognize that the policies passed in our nation’s ports, no matter how well intended, could potentially have a profound negative impact on the U.S. supply chain as ports in Canada and Mexico become increasingly viable competitors,” Rajkovacz said.

To read OOIDA’s testimony from the hearing, click here.

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer