OOIDA member testifies about high cost of fuel, regulatory burden

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 3/7/2012

OOIDA Member Chris Milburn told a congressional panel on Wednesday that rising fuel prices, coupled with an ever-increasing regulatory burden, are having an adverse effect on small-business truckers who find it tougher than big carriers to absorb added costs.

Milburn, a leased owner-operator from Hilliard, OH, testified Wednesday, March 7, before the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Power. The topic of the hearing was American energy and the rising cost of fuel.

He said that an owner-operator running 100,000 miles in a year can spend $80,000 on fuel at $4 a gallon. With those kinds of costs and thin profit margins, a spike in the cost of equipment or fuel harms a small operator.

“Trucking is a hyper-competitive business and each of us operates on extremely thin margins, so any cost increase, especially those related to fuel or regulatory mandates, has an impact,” Milburn told the panel, adding that a 5-cent increase in the price of fuel can increase annual costs by $1,000.

“For many truckers, business income and family income are basically one and the same,” he said. “Money isn’t available to put towards what is important to their family, including basic household expenses like mortgage payments.”

Much of the subcommittee hearing, chaired by Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-KY, was centered on energy production and possible solutions to bring relief at the pump. Other panelists included representatives from the American Petroleum Institute, Center for American Progress, the National Association of Convenience Stores, Truman National Security Project, and American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers.

As could be expected at a hearing on fuel prices, many subcommittee members attempted to hold Big Oil’s feet to the fire.

During opening remarks, Milburn was able to say that a small-business trucker does everything he can to run as efficiently as possible – and that can make the difference between making it and going under. Unfortunately, he added, government agencies continue to pursue costly regulatory burdens that threaten to drive up costs.

“Unfortunately, the answer for many in government to the challenge that fuel prices present to truckers is more regulation – instead of commonsense actions like expanding access to American energy,” Milburn stated in his testimony.

“While there is certainly a need for sensible regulation, trucking – especially small-business trucking – has been assaulted by a barrage of unnecessary and costly regulation which, when coupled with the rising cost of fuel, is certain to force some small-business truckers to park their vehicles.”

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