|The War on Trucking|
When people talk about the ‘War on Trucking’ back in 2010, they have to think about other reactions: aren’t we being extreme? Do you really believe that there is an actual ‘War’ on the trucking industry? If there is a War on Trucking, who is the opponent and what are the implications for shippers?
Well, for those who have asked these questions, or are still wondering, take note: the Stand Up For Trucking Fly-In event in Washington D.C. proved conclusively that the War on Trucking is real; and it is being funded by the railroads and OOIDA. Together, they are doing whatever they can to avoid and eliminate any competition, or avoid the need to make the investments necessary to serve shippers in the future.
Perhaps some context will be useful. The Stand Up For Trucking Fly-In was an historic event. For the first time ever, 170 transportation professionals from 12 different industry associations got together in Washington DC. They met with over 140 Congressional and Senate representatives to discuss transportation, specifically the trucking industry, and their vital importance in managing corporate supply chains.
According to the timing of the event, they visited the representatives’ offices the day before the House T&I Committee met to markup the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act, a new Surface Transportation (or Highway) Bill. If you read this blog then you know how I feel about the need for a national highway bill. The fact that this country has funded the highway system on continuing resolutions since SAFETEA-LU expired September 30, 2009 is an embarrassment.
This new legislation included, among other things, language from the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act (SETA). SETA would allow States the flexibility to determine whether properly configured trucks (e.g. trucks with a sixth axle) would be allowed to haul 97,000 pounds on selected roadways within States. According to John Runyan, the Executive Director of the Coalition for Transportation Productivity (CTP): “Voluminous academic research and practical on-the-ground experience has proven that States should have the option to put more productive, six-axle trucks on interstates.”
Beyond eliminating hundreds of thousands of trucks from the road, saving billions of gallons of diesel fuel each year, as well as enabling billions of dollars in savings for shippers, here is the real kicker: A sixth axle on a truck actually creates a “softer footprint” on the highway, and the additional braking capacity enables safer braking capacity.
In response to concerns about bridges, shippers and carriers have gone on record that they would be receptive to funding provisions which would enable States to more than adequately cover any additional wear and tear on the bridges.
The SETA debate brought together two unlikely allies, the American Association of Railroads (AAR) and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA). Collectively, they are waging a war to make sure that the trucking industry remains in the Stone Age.
Specifically, AAR has staunchly opposed any federal efforts to allow States the flexibility to raise truck size and weight limits. According to AAR, the operator of a typical 97,000-pound, six-axle truck pays only half of the cost of repairing road damage caused by its use. Taxpayers pick up the rest of the tab. According to AAR’s President and CEO Ed Hamberger: “Americans don’t want 97,000 pounds on our nation’s highways.” Of course, the AAR isn’t really interested in an honest debate; if they were, they would actually have to submit credible studies instead of bogus reports that are funded by railroad dollars.
OOIDA, which represents predominantly small (one to five trucks) fleets, states that longer and heavier vehicles are more difficult to handle, and that the roads are really designed for vehicles that weigh no more than 80,000 pounds. Tell that to States like Maine, Vermont or Michigan, or other States where they have successfully run heavier trucks for years. Ignoring any empirical data, OOIDA states that increasing size and weight limits has never resulted in a reduction in truck traffic, the heavier vehicles would damage the roads, and that user fees for heavier trucks would never be sufficient.
What’s really is going on? The railroads will to do anything possible to increase the cost of trucking so that they can charge higher rates for traffic that can be diverted from truck to rail. And the leadership of OOIDA, doesn’t want to have their members make the investment necessary compete in the future.
Add it all up, and the facts point to a War on Trucking. These organizations will do whatever is necessary to defeat common sense legislation that saves billions of gallons of diesel fuel, billions of dollars in transportation costs for shippers, and actually results in better safety on America’s roads and highways. And so last week, they succeeded in getting the SETA language struck from the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act.
Substantial progress were made in this War on Trucking. First of all, the railroads were forced to come out from behind the proverbial bushes and fight us head-on. Instead of relying upon other groups to do their bidding, their fingerprints are all over the place. You can go to Opensecrets.org, key in the names of the members of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and you will see that OOIDA and the Railroads are major contributors to many of these Representatives campaigns.
Second, it’s time for the railroads and OOIDA to recognize and accept that safety, and the condition of roads are extremely important issues for shippers and carriers. By suggesting that shippers and truckers are willing to place profit above safety and our infrastructure, the railroads and OOIDA are doing a massive disservice to the cause of promoting the importance of transportation in this country’s prosperity.
Source: By Mike Regan, President, TranzAct Technologies