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House reps hear regulatory, supply chain, carrier safety rating concerns

May 23, 2023
Industry stakeholders, including representatives from OOIDA, TIA, NATSO, and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, discussed possible solutions to supply chain bottlenecks during a recent House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure hearing.

When legislators ignore the needs of those who haul freight, overarching supply chain problems are inevitable. That’s at least how small business truckers see it, according to William “Lewie” Pugh, EVP of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

During a recent House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure hearing, Pugh reminded federal policymakers that 96% of trucking companies are small businesses that operate six or fewer trucks. However, he pointed out, truckers feel their concerns have fallen to the lowest priority among supply chain workers.

“Lawmakers and regulators have long prioritized corporate carriers, law enforcement agencies, safety advocacy groups, along with shippers and receivers over the truckers when developing supply chain policies,” Pugh stressed. “This has led to an increasingly difficult environment for both professional drivers and small business trucking.”

The purpose of the May 10 hearing was for representatives to learn more about supply chain bottlenecks and to discuss possible solutions with freight transport stakeholders. Pugh was joined by Anne Reinke, president and CEO of the Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA); David Fialkov, EVP of government affairs for NATSO, which represents America’s travel plazas and truck Stops, and SIGMA, which represents the nation’s fuel marketers; and Cole Scandaglia, senior legislative representative and policy advisor for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

“The trucking industry plays a crucial role in the supply chain, ensuring that goods and supplies are transported from one location to another,” said Committee Chairman Sam Graves. “We need to make it easier for women and men to choose this profession, which is one of the most common paths to a middle-income lifestyle that does not require a college degree.”

Truckers feel shackled by regulations

During his testimony, Pugh conveyed what he said that “millions of truckers have been saying for far too long.”

Truck drivers continue to struggle to find a safe place to park, wasting nearly an hour of productive time each day, Pugh told the committee. He also stressed that drivers are still routinely denied access to restrooms at the facilities where they pick up and deliver freight and that unpaid and unproductive detention time continues to increase and burden drivers.

Pugh also used the opportunity to lambast a pending speed limiter proposal, which OOIDA has been a staunch opponent of.

See also: Speed limiters a 'big, sexy issue' in 2023

“There have never been more regulations imposed on our industry, and truckers comply with these rules at an extremely high rate, yet crash rates continue to increase,” Pugh said. “Despite no requirement to do so, the administration is moving forward with an extremely unpopular speed limiter mandate that will slow the movement of freight, increase crash rates, and ruin driver recruitment and retention.”

Pugh also called out “EPA’s multifaceted attack” on diesel trucks, which OOIDA maintains will dramatically increase small business truckers’ cost to purchase and operate new vehicles.

Pugh urged the committee to support the Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act, a measure to prevent FMCSA from issuing a speed limiter mandate; a vote in favor of the resolution to nullify EPA’s NOx rules; and to support legislation to ensure drivers have restroom access and reduced unproductive detention time.

“Fundamentally, we believe that good jobs and good working conditions in the freight industry directly translate to a stronger supply chain,” noted Scandaglia on behalf of Teamsters, the largest union in the freight industry.

“A strong supply chain also depends on both a healthy and safe workforce,” Scandaglia advised. “Teamsters unequivocally reject watering down training standards, attacking fatigue protections, and putting heavier, more dangerous trucks on our interstates.”

Fialkov, whose associations represent some 80% of motor fuel transporters, pointed out that both state and federal governments should have more flexibility to waive hours-of-service and weight regulations to overcome supply disruptions. Both NATSO and SIGMA also support truck parking legislation, he added.

“We encourage the committee to pass that bill as soon as possible,” Fialkov said. “Truck drivers need safe, reliable parking. The supply chain relies upon truck drivers having safe, reliable parking.”

A call to update carrier safety ratings, eliminate 'fraud epidemic'

From TIA’s perspective, which represents the third-party logistics industry, there are two issues that impact the safety and efficiency of the supply chain that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration must prioritize, according to Reinke: updating and modernizing the federal motor carrier safety rating process and eliminating illegal brokering practices.

For years, TIA has pushed for a “more effective” motor carrier safety rating process, Reinke told the committee, calling today’s visible audits of trucking companies “outdated, ineffective, and resource constrained.”

“The FMCSA can get to maybe 5,000 inspections a year,” Reinke said. “There are upwards of 500,000 motor carriers, so that means the vast majority of motor carriers are not rated. They don’t receive a safety rating when they are new entrants into the marketplace like they’re supposed to after 90 days and they don’t receive a follow-up compliance review, which they are supposed to do every five years because they just don’t have the resources to do it. Why is that? Because they have this requirement that they have to have a physical audit.”

A new bill, H.R. 915 or the Motor Carrier Safety Selection Standard Act, aims to solve this issue and is in the first stage of the legislative process. The bill, introduced into Congress in February, would establish a national motor carrier safety selection standard for entities that contract carriers to transport goods.

In the meantime, rather than removing that physical audit, TIA suggested implementing a measure to amplify the data FMCSA already receives.

“While the H.R. 915 rulemaking is promulgated, [that measure] would establish an interim standard because right now our members don’t have to check on anything in order to hire a carrier. That doesn’t seem to promote safety,” Reinke said, noting that TIA fully supports H.R. 915 and requests the committee include this legislation in an appropriate bill.

A second priority for TIA’s members is eliminating what Reinke called “a fraud epidemic in the supply chain, which interrupts the safe chain of custody of the nation’s freight and is estimated to cost brokers, carriers, shippers, and consumers around $800 million or more.”

TIA had advocated having language included in 2012’s MAP-21 that codified legal brokerage, created a $10,000 penalty for conducting illegal brokerage activities, and formed a national consumer database to report fraud cases, Reinke said.

“Unfortunately, due to a lack of enforcement, there are a proliferation of bad actors in the supply chain illegally brokering, registering as carriers through hundreds of different motor carrier numbers, and conducting outright freight fraud, theft, and holding freight hostage,” Reinke explained.

About the Author

Cristina Commendatore

Cristina Commendatore was previously the Editor-in-chief of FleetOwner magazine. She reported on the transportation industry since 2015, covering topics such as business operational challenges, driver and technician shortages, truck safety, and new vehicle technologies. She holds a master’s degree in journalism from Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut.

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