DC visit (Day 2):
Each June, TIA members fly into the nation’s Capital to lobby for/against legislation and regulations that are an impact to the trucking 3PL industry. Each year seems to add a few more of these issues that need t be addressed. However, because of time constraints (only 20-30 min meetings) and the complexity of the issues, we could only concentrate on two issues this week.
(1) Making sure the next Highway Bill is a multi-year fully funded bill.
(2) Informing committee members that certain Agriculture Groups are trying to carve out language in the current highway bill that undermines the FFIT amendment that makes sure all motor carriers using outside carriers use a broker bond to move freight.
Although both of these requests were simple and generally well received, no one wants to pay for it. The 20-year-old 18.5 cents-per-gallon tax is a decreasing source of funding as more fuel-efficient autos and hybrid/electric cars become less fuel dependent. This leads to an underfunded Highway Trust Fund and the need for money from the General Fund to make up the difference. As we soon found out, when you start talking about raising revenue in Washington, everyone stops listening. No Congressman or women wants to put their name on a bill that would be labeled as a “Tax Hike”.
Washington is one of those places were you arrive very optimistic and leave somewhat pessimistic. Each office had a staff person in the meeting that seemed to be just as (sometimes better) informed as their Congressman/woman. All of the politicians were well-educated speakers and generally concerned about the two discussion points.
I would say the two best meetings we had were with two freshman congressman from Illinois, Brad Schneider (D) and Rodney Davis (R). They are part of the class of 50 freshman just elected in November. They say that they all came in with the “reach across the aisle” attitude of non-partisan politics. Let’s hope it catches on to all 435 members of the House and 100 Senators.
Alec Gizzi meets Rep Brad Schneider (D – IL)
My visit to DC this week (Day 1):
So after a full day of Board Meetings with our industry associations, TIA arranged for the FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro to stop by and share her thoughts on her Agency’s commitment to highway safety. The DOT’s favorite administration has a full plate of rulings that must be issued before November this year. No doubt that these rules will change the way trucking companies operate in the US. Leading the way this summer is the new Hours of Service rule making that will go into effect July 1st. Pending lawsuits will not deter Administrator Ferro from launching the 32 hour re-start rule that some OTR trucking companies have said will effect their gross margins up to 5%-8%.
Next up for Ferro is enacting the Unified Registration System (URS) combining DOT & MC numbers for motor carriers, brokers, and freight forwarders into one unified number that will easily distinguish which mode of carriage freight moves. She expects this to be presented by August.
With the MAP21 bond increase set for October 1st, FMCSA has to issue some specific guidelines on how to enact certain requirements written into the law. For example, what are the funding requirements for bond companies that issue them or defining the term “interlining” which is sometime used for convenience by motor carriers that are brokering their loads without a broker license. Administrator Ferro hopes to have these in place by September, not leaving herself much time here for error! And finally EOBR (Electric On-Board Recording) devices in trucks to replace the written log books that can lead to easy manipulation by drivers trying to stretch their hours.
On top of all this is the one big change she inherited back in 2009 when appointed by President Obama. Of course I am speaking of CSA and all of the backlash she is getting from the transportation industry regarding the “basic” scores posted on the SaferSys Web Site. The “basic” scores are accumulated of 3.5 million state-wide road-side inspections done by qualified state and federal officers each year. These scores are then processed so the agency can best utilize resources for full compliance reviews (about 20,000 a year). Currently these full on-site compliance reviews are the only way a carrier can obtain a SMS (Safety Measurement System) score of Satisfactory. By November of this year, FMCSA hopes to propose a new way to enact SMS using the road-side inspections that will increase the number of carriers receiving a rating.
Ms. Ferro also took questions from TIA members about the controversial CSA Basic Scores, but being a good politician didn’t always choose to answer them. She will rely on the industry to continue to be the watchdog since FMCSA does not have the resources to police the bad actors (a whole other blog discussion).
Yes, its a full plate for the FMCSA and Administrator Ferro this year, and let’s hope she is up to the tasks.