The War on Trucking: Part 3

War on Trucking 3 a

March 13, 2014| Sam Burlum | Diesel EnginesEmissions Standardstrucking   Written by, Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter and author of The Green Lane, a syndicated column Published by The Alternative Press.com, www.SamBurlum.com and http://www.Truthabouttrucking.com

As a part of a three segment series, I took a look inside the war that is being waged on the American truck driver.  Two major issues have forced both national carriers and owner-operators to have concern about the profitability of the trucking industry.  We previously spoke about the environmental compliance lurking in the shadows nibbling at the heels of the transportation industry, forcing owner-operators to go for broke.  Truckers willing to take a pro-active position on becoming greener in their operations want the freedom of choice of what technology works for their fleet and budget.   Many trucking fleets have been taking steps to become sustainable, and have identified that young consumers consider the environment when chosen to do business with other companies.

On the forefront of the battle zone both in the court room and the media is the California Construction Trucking Association (CCTA), an organization known as the industry voice for the independent truck driver.  California Construction Trucking Association, who filed a notice of appeal to the United States Courts of Appeals for the ninth circuit, in its debate with both CARB, stating it is unconstitutional to mandate someone to give up their property threw regulation, in the name of progress on emissions compliance.  The case (CDTOA v. CARB, Case No. 2:11-CV-00384-MCE-GGH), has been ongoing for two years.  The purpose of the mandate under CARB, is to enforce heavy-duty, on-road truck and bus regulation that forced replacement of most diesel powered commercial motor vehicles that do not meet 2010 EPA emissions standards operating in the State of California. As discussed before these rules are forcing either the replacement of engines or retrofitting of equipment with Diesel Particulate Filters (DPF’s) that can cost upwards of $20,000 per vehicle. Many in the industry have seen through the claims used to justify this regulation.   Another myth is that there is plenty of public grant funding readily to assist truckers in complying.  Most small-business truckers are not qualified for the program, which the CCTA says is a program that was designed to hurt the industry from the start.  The private sector has had to face the brunt of the multi-billion dollar expense to unnecessarily replace trucks originally built and certified to USEPA emissions standards.

“All of these large trucking fleets and regulators wrap around themselves with the green flag, which is nothing more than a way for government and industry to create social organization of private business,” commented Joe Rajkovacz, Director of Government Affairs and Communications for the CCTA, “It truly is the demise of the small independent trucking industry in our country, and unionize trucking to become only government and large national carriers.”  Rajkovacz, is a seasoned industry authority, having over thirty years in connection as a small trucking firm owner who transitioned to the advocacy side of the industry, working to protect the interest of the free market, and smaller trucking companies, who make up the majority of the owner-operator pool.

Rajkovacz has testified at hearings under the Clean Truck program and is in the forefront of the battle between the CCTA and CARB.  “This is the most important case in the trucking industry for this generation,” he added.  “The Ports of Los Anglos tried to regulate interstate commerce, on what is considered public property, which is a dangerous thing.”

Part of the regulation was intended to set up a licensing fee system that would cost $2500 per company, and $100 per truck thereafter to have the ability to enter the property and conduct business.  Masking this under environmental concern is just a way to eliminate small trucking from the equation.  Big national carriers have joined in in favor of the regulation because it gives them the ability to rid the competition (owner-operators and smaller trucking firms).

“If this case falls in favor of CARB, it will bring the wheels of free commerce to a screeching holt,”  continued Rajkovacz.  Providing insight to the precedence that this case will set, under the Clean Air Act, provides a special provision that allows for CARB to have more regulatory and enforcement power than US EPA, where EPA cannot regulate engines already in use, it can only regulate what comes from factory.  Under the special provision, CARB can regulate both.  States can opt in to choose either CARB or EPA standards when adopted environmental emissions standards.  Under this provision, CARB in essence, becomes a de facto national regulatory agency, that is accountable to no legislative body; hence setting the stage for CARB to become judge, jury, and executioner.

The magnifier of this Rajkovacz highlights is that other states will look to adopt the CARB model, especially cities, counties, states that are desperate in creating new ways of generating revenue, affecting the trucking industry even further.

Trucks are not the only target of regulators.  Trailers have also become the center of attention.  Refrigerated trailers, also known as reefer units, are coming under attack.  Reefer units are powered by small diesel engines that operate independent of the rig they are pulled by.  Most reefer units stay in service for over 20 years, and consume just as much diesel fuel as a truck over its lifespan.  Carrying a $7000 price tag, most reefer units face a similar fate in having to be retrofitted with smaller versions of the DPF as older rigs.  Reefer units under mandate, now have a required retirement age of service; just after seven years of seeing the road, reefer units have to be refurbished or scrapped and replaced for a new reefer unit.  Industry experts project that the cost of this regulation will force the price of refrigerated goods to skyrocket.  Goods such as produce to meats, seafood to dairy, are all subject to having higher prices at the grocery store to help the transporters cope with the cost of compliance.

It gets worse.  To hold the industry accountable, and create a self-policing tool, regulators have adopted law, fining brokers, shippers, warehousers, and truck dealers for hiring non-complaint owner-operators or national carriers.  This is war in the worse kind, pinning trucker against trucker, and dividing what once was a thriving community of men and women who ran the roads, serving our nation’s transport needs.  Companies are forced to hire extra staff to track compliance internally and externally.  Fines can extend to vender chains and preferred providers within someone’s logistics chain.  Many firms are hiring specialist to handle the task, to research their companies supply chain.  The practice changes how most companies model out their corporate affairs, and now have to factor in finances to have a team of people who perform reverse logistics, collect data and disclosures, and compile and report the records to CARB and other agencies.  CARB has been acting fast, already handing out fines, upwards to $300,000 dollars per enforcement, as they did with an Ontario based trucking company Foster Enterprises, who were not informed about the added compliance measures.  The fine became court imposed by CARB.

Is CARB and EPA out of control?  Many criticize the unlimited and unchecked police powers that CARB and EPA utilize to impose unrealistic policies, then they enforce them, racking up record revenues from fines.  The defendant in these cases don’t have assistance or an advocate in government to turn to, thus giving the power to CARB and EPA to be the police agent that wrote the citation, are the prosecutor, the judge, jury, and executioner.  In many cases where payment is not received they become the enforcer in collecting the debt.  Many debate on how this action is in violation of the United States Constitution, the Fifth Amendment, where the accused has a right to a fair trial.  The harsh reality in America today, is that more agencies have adopted the same policies, allowing for unlimited powers and resources on the side of government and limited if little or nothing on the side of the citizen.  This directly pits bureaucratic government against the private sector.  Both industry and former legislators agree that these agencies have lost vision of why there were originally founded, and have found themselves astray of their original path of being a protection only agency, not enforcement agency with unlimited police powers.

We asked former Congressman McEwen (R-Ohio) to chime in on the issue.

“The problem I have with this type of regulation from the EPA and CARB is that they are infringing upon your free market rights, and want to dictate whether you are going to drive either a tricycle or a truck. These civil agencies with police powers create unrealistic expectations, knowing that they cannot be met in a reasonable time period, then come into small business with overnight enforcement action, hurting the small business owner.”

“EPA needs to set a standard, and then let the free market decide who is going to be the winner or loser, never denying people their constitutional right to freedom of commerce, thus letting the best technologies for the best price wins in the free market.  Along the way, people in government have failed to recognize they are accountable to ‘We the People,” added McEwen.  “EPA and other civil agencies with unlimited police powers have gone unchecked for so long, and now they can do what they wish with very little oversight from legislative bodies that represent the people, clearly violating the legislative process and the constitution of the people.”

Both CARB and EPA have many of their cases heard in a civil court, since all of the imposed regulation is of a civil matter, not criminal.  The American Trucking Association (ATA) have used the very tool of civil court against these agencies in a recent decision that was overturned in 2011, by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, who voted in favor of the ATA on shooting down the mandate that would require the consolidation in hiring drivers to company drivers, and eliminate owner-operators from the Port of Los Angeles.  There are additional parts that were bundled with this regulation, many of them under the auspice of environmental justice.  Richard Pianka, ATA Vice President and general council, expects the case to be put on the courts calendar in April.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) is also looking to take their fight to the next level.  On their agenda for the new year are legislative fights that ensure regulations that protect economic vitality of the trucking industry, and the rights for owner-operators to have an equitable work environment within the United States; which means having to battle on the environmental compliance front, and on behalf of owner-operators who want to comply but wish to have the freedom of choice to shop in the marketplace to shop for technology that best suits their needs, not the needs of only one corporate giant.

“The policy of having to install a DPF is conflicting to the constitutional practices of the free market.  There are products that will limit emissions for far less cost,” stated Eddie Wiese, Owner-Operator of YZ Enterprises, “This is communism and a dictatorship when a government agency says you have to have a product that they have chosen from the free market, and if you don’t you will be fined.  Someone should look into the relationship between Donaldson (who manufactures DPF’s), CARB and the EPA.  Follow the money and you will surely find a bunch of rats that came up with a way to keep out any viable competitive product from being included as reasonable option.  The system was designed to keep everyone else out that had a bigger better cheaper idea, and Donaldson as the only provider of DPF’s.  The whole thing stinks.  You’re held to a very high priced item that really does not work for the trucking industry, and fined if you do not have it.  Truckers in this country have a gun to their head by their very own government, and almost no way to fight back.  When all of the trucking companies close because they cannot make a profit, then who will ship the goods then if one million trucks just shut down?”

This is not the end to the war on trucking.  It seems to be just a part of the process.  We all have a responsibility to care about these issues.  Many of us turn a blind eye to the real issues our country face.  Many people have an attitude that “well this does not affect me,” I beg to differ.  The next time you are at the grocery store and you wonder why $100 only gets you two bags of items instead of four as it did just a short four years ago, and the price of bread had doubled, know that a truck was involved in moving it from the manufacturer to the warehouse to the store shelf.  Owner-operators are tired and either turning in their rigs for another line of work, and national carriers are raising freight charges to their record highs to continue the cat and mouse game of keeping up with the regulation.  Where does it end?  Where does the line get drawn?  You decide with your consumer dollar, every time you purchase an item that was hauled by a truck, who will win the war on trucking.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur who lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water, Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses, and Life in the Green Lane-in Pursuit of the American Dream.

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The War on Trucking: Part 2

War on Trucking 2 a January 14, 2014| Sam Burlum | Diesel EnginesEmissions StandardsFuel CosttruckingWritten by, Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter and author of The Green Lane, a syndicated column Published by The Alternative Press.com, www.SamBurlum.com, and http://www.TruthaboutTrucking.com

As continued of a three part series, I took a look inside the war being waged on the American truck driver.  Two major issues have forced both national carriers and owner-operators to have concern about the profitability of the trucking industry.  We previously spoke about the environmental compliance lurking in the shadows nibbling at the heels of the transportation industry, forcing owner-operators to go for broke.  Truckers willing to take a pro-active position on becoming greener in their operations want the freedom of choice of what technology works for their fleet and budget.   Many trucking fleets have been taking steps to become sustainable, and they have identified that young consumers take into consideration the environment when chosen to do business with other companies.

But environmental compliance is not the only threat on the horizon.  Owner-operators and national carriers are facing monumental regulation that will change what is left of the opportunity in making trucking profitable.  Landmark regulation is looming behind the fiscal cliff, which will change the current model in the trucking industry, and the motive behind the proposed regulation is in the name of environmental justice and health care.  I am talking of proposed changes to the Hours of Service (HOS) enforced by the Department of Transportation, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that will take effect July 1, 2013.  The other is a piece of legislation on the floor of the Senate that will give change owner-operators to be classified as full time employees.

Owner-Operators and critics believe the changes in HOS rules main function is to eliminate independent owner-operator 1099 contractors from the equation, and to get all drivers to become 1040 w-2 employee.  By eliminating the 1099 contactor model will force owner-operators to park their trucks and take a job either leasing from a national carrier, or switch careers all together.  The argument is that most 1099 owner-operator contractors have older equipment; trucks and trailers which EPA is working very hard to eliminate from America’s highways.  Most of these owner-operators have developed relationships with national carriers and carved out niche market dedicated runs.  Other owner-operators that don’t serve national carriers or fortune 500 companies, have developed their own clientele made up of local merchants, manufacturers, and farmers who otherwise could not afford the high price tag of transport from a national carrier.  The proposed bill will force over 600,000 plus 1099 contractors and owner-operators to rethink their career in the trucking industry.  Performing the math on the effect of the proposed bill will be a big win for government but a huge magnifying loss for the economy.

“The cost of eliminating owner-operators from the road in the name of the environment will push the cost of local and regional manufactured or grown goods through the roof and in the end will force up higher prices on the shelves.  In a tough economy, consumers are watching their spending habits with the nation’s economic confidence already weak as America faces the fiscal cliff,” commented Eddie Wiese, Owner-Operator of YZ Enterprises LLC, “As an owner-operator, we have strived to survive and adapt to the laws that have cut most owner-operators that have older trucks from transporting out of the busiest port and terminal areas.  Now the EPA and the Senate wants to finish us off by getting rid of us once and for all.  But they will allow trucks from Mexico to enter our boarders without being environmentally compliant or have all of the proper insurances, making the roads dangerous for Americans to travel.”

“If anything government should be looking to do whatever it can to keep us on the road.  Owner-operators contribute to the economy just as much as a national carrier; we pay highway and fuel usage taxes, purchases services and goods while on the road, and sometimes take on part time help to assist with local deliveries. As owner-operators we still have to pay income taxes (either as small business owners or sole proprietors). I don’t see truckers from out of the country paying their fair share to contribute to the American economy.  This whole thing is result of government getting in the way of business they don’t understand, nor had any experience in. The only thing government knows how to do is tax us to death and create new laws. If they had to live six days a week on the road for the meager margins the trucking industry makes, I am sure things would be different,” Wiese continued.

National carriers would benefit in gaining market share and would favor some of the opportunity to capture the void in the industry; however the opportunity is also a double edged sword.  National carriers would have the added expense to add pricey trucks and equipment to their fleet.  The temporary void would have an effect on how fast goods make it to the shelves of retailers, therefore allowing for the rule of supply and demand to take effect.  National carriers would have to also launch major HR campaigns, since hiring a truck driver is more complicated than one would think.  There are background checks, drug and alcohol testing, and of course spending time examining abstracts, that have to be conducted.  New applicants without a CDL would have to be licensed and trained before hitting the highway.  Hiring 1040 w-2 employees carry a price tag for larger transportation providers.  They implement the 1099 owner-operator model to offset the cost of stationary employees.  National carriers hire owner-operators to deliver goods in situations where loads would cause a national carrier a loss in profit.  National carriers save on health care, fuel cost, purchasing of equipment, and maintenance when contracting with owner-operators.

One of the largest benefits of hiring owner-operators for a national carrier does not have to pay to health care cost for drivers.   The changes in the rules would not only lower the production rate and hours of service in which a driver can operate a vehicle on the road, it would force every owner-operator to have to participate in the Affordable Care Act also known as “Obama Care”.  With over 600,000 plus owner-operators having to be classified as employees, would significantly add resources to the pool for Obama Care.  The changes would be crippling.  Most truck driver’s average gross wages average just $41,000 including hourly wages, overtime, commissions, bonuses, and profit sharing (according to payscale.com).  When one calculates the average of taxes one contributes currently, most drivers only see between $26,000 to $32,000, in take home pay.  Having to contribute to Obama Care will add an additional burden upwards of an additional 10%-15% in new taxes (depending on their income bracket).

As an owner-operator, one must cover all of the expenses of their replacement and repair of equipment (truck and trailer), fuel and highway usage tax (both state and federal), licensing fees (state and federal), cost of living expenses while on the road, tolls and parking, fines and penalties for not keeping up with all of the regulations, while on top of trying to inch out some profit to make a living.  Truckers are responsible for more than just delivering a load to its destination.  Today drivers have a massive amount of paperwork in reporting, which burns up valuable production time.  The reporting tracks their every move, mile of travel, maintenance schedule and repair, delivery, type of cargo, fuel used, and purchases if business related.  By the industry experts, some of the reporting is necessary in the name of national security, in a post 9/11 world.  However most truckers lose sleep over the fact that missing any details in their reporting opens the door to fines and penalties when proceeding threw a weight station or DOT stop.  Drivers are responsible individually for paying for fines and penalties out of their pocket.  Now HOS is proposing mandatory electronic log and reporting equipment in every big rig, which will trigger automatic red flags for regulators, giving them the tools to enlarge their enforcement activities.

“If you move these drivers from independent contractors to full-time employees, the impact is going to be very significant in terms of carrier cost structures”, commented Mike Regan, president of TranzAct Technologies, active member of NASSTRAC, and notable commentator on the freight transportation sector generally, during an interview with Supply Chain Digest.

Facing regulatory threats, many companies have already made moves to prepare to eliminate company drivers (w-2 employees).  Many companies have begun to hire more owner-operators to limit the effects of Obama Care and having to deal with the cost of environmental regulation.  Seeing the writing on the wall, one company, Wakefern Food Corporation (The parent warehousing and product provider of Shoprite Supermarkets) closed down its Middletown/Wallkill, NY terminal, and moved the warehousing operations to Pennsylvania. This move eliminated over 500 plus jobs, while terminating the influence of the Teamsters Local 445 in the Wakefern workforce.  When the terminal’s operations were moved to Pennsylvania, Wakefern’s model for transporting its goods to its Shoprite stores was to hire owner-operators to take over the previous duties once performed by company drivers.  The State of NY and then Governor of NY Governor Pataki, offered the company tax incentives and rebates to stay in their current home.  Wakefern turned away the offer citing that the incentives were not enough to allow the company’s operations to be sustainable having to deal with current and future looming health care and regulatory expenditures.

Wakefern’s decision to change its business model has been felt throughout the transportation industry, and has the pain has hit a major nerve in the Garden State, where many trucking firms are adopting similar policies that will eliminate company drivers, and add drivers to the owner-operator pool.  Other firms in order to combat the environmental regulation, that will cost their company millions of dollars, are moving their vehicle inventory to be housed and registered in other states.  New Jersey company National Retail Systems, the parent of National Retail Transportation and Keystone Freight have looked into registering and housing vehicles in states that do not have heavy emissions regulations that have come to cripple the trucking industry.  These moves mean the loss of jobs to states; especially New Jersey who’s unemployment rates peak just above 9.7%, two points higher than the national average.

With the war on trucking in high gear, and the bombs of Obama Care, HOS, and emissions compliance already falling from the sky, national carriers and owner-operators are deep in the trenches, trying to maneuver through the land mines in order to make a profit.  The current industry average profit margin is less than 7% for national carriers and half of that for owner-operators (according to CNN’s Fortune 500 industry analytical website). Many agree with all of the mounting concerns in the industry, job growth will not be added into the equation any time soon.  For many truckers facing monumental regulation and cannot afford to keep up, they are hanging up their hat and looking to cash out of their equipment or join others on the unemployment line.

“I always thought this was a right-to-work state. I thought you had the right to work and when they take your right to work away, well what do you do? I don’t have any way of feeding my family after they take my truck away. I’m 68 years old so I ain’t just going to run out and get a new job just anywhere at my age so this totally puts me out of the business and puts me out of work,” Ron Lord commented in an interview with KRCR TV, an ABC News Affiliate.  Ron Lord is the owner-operator of Lord Trucking out of Red Bluff, CA.  Lord, like many owner-operators are facing the regulation that will cost anywhere from $16,000 to $24,000 for a verified soot filter or look to replace their truck altogether. Lord, who has been in business for over 30 years, is making an effort to get other truckers together to find a solution to this issue.

Whether it is national or regional carrier like NRS/NRT or Wakefern, or owner-operators like Wiese and Lord, they fight the same war on trucking.  Ultimately the consumer will be the loser and the economy a part of the collateral damage between the sparring of industry and government.  The thin line that separates government from the free market is quickly disappearing.  There are landmark decisions that have given government agencies with unlimited police powers to flex their regulatory muscle going totally unchecked.  What is next for the trucker to do?  In the last part of our three part series, we will focus on the key battles of these conflicts, that the trucking industry are taking the liberty of fighting back against the regulations they say are hurting their profitability.  We will take a look at the court battles and the organizations that are bringing these concerns to the public eye.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur who lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water, Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses, and Life in the Green Lane-in Pursuit of the American Dream.

The War on Trucking: Part 1

War on Trucking 1 aDecember 1, 2012| Sam Burlum  | EmissionsStandardsGreenSmart Emissions Reducertrucking Written by, Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter and author of The Green Lane, a syndicated column Published  by The Alternative Press.com, www.SamBurlum.com, and http://www.TruthaboutTrucking.com

The trucking industry has always been a very competitive arena, owner-operator versus large national carriers; trucking has for the most part been a tough way for one to make a living.  In today’s volatile market, trucking has had many competitive factors that affect whether transporting a load is profitable.  Rising cost of fuel and tolls, highway taxes and costly repairs, price wars set by the dispatching brokers, rising insurance cost, and the initial layout of replacement or upgrading equipment (truck and trailer) are just some of the ongoing concerns one must face when behind the wheel of a rig.  Today new threats are emerging and are instruments of war against the trucking industry, causing many fleet owners to go for broke and consumers to face rising cost of consumer goods.

Regardless which side of the trucking bed one wakes up on there are no denying two key regulatory and legislative laws that have been the modern weapon of choice against one of the most important industries that move our country.   One of the largest concerns that have truckers up in rage has been emissions standards tagged in the name of environmental justice.

The cost of compliance has been forcing many owner-operators to park their trucks, larger firms to upgrade to expensive equipment, and for the end consumer to pay the price of these very costly modifications.  One piece of regulation has been the National Diesel Campaign and Stop the Soot Campaign, under the supervision of the EPA.  The program has dictated to the market which product or innovation will be the winner or loser in mitigating emissions, and truckers must use what EPA has stated must be used, or park their equipment, purchase a new truck, or go to work for a national carrier who can afford to keep up with compliance.  The law and program does not give truckers the option to purchase equipment that best suits their fleet needs, or suit their budget.  Equipment under this program, has to be used by public transportation providers (such as transit systems, government contractors, and DPW fleets), carries a very high price tag.  The equipment also has been known to rob vehicles of their standard fuel economy.  This program alone has cost New Jersey Tax payers $176 million dollars, to pay for equipment from a few selected emissions equipment manufacturers who are “on the list”.  And now the trucking industry is forced to participate in the same program.

Another part of the program gave grant money to owner-operators who hauled out of the ports in New Jersey to purchase a new truck.  The grant would give an owner-operator (who qualified) 25% down on a new truck, if they traded in their older truck to the salvage yard.  The program would only be open to around 110 trucker owners who operated a truck that was older than a 1994.  Great concept, but if the owner-operator could not afford the payments along the way to pay off the new rig, the rig would be repossessed and the driver out of business.  Today only 11 of the 110 owner-operators still have their trucks.  The rest had their trucks repossessed and went to work for a national carrier.  Of the 11 owner-operators, their average payment is $2000 per month, leaving very little money in their pocket to put food on the table.  What is very interesting about this program is that the majority of the owner-operators had trucks where the engine was repowered (or rebuilt).  Repowered trucks have engines or rebuilt engines from newer year make models with low miles.  These engines do meet emissions requirements.  With the way the law has been written, production dates decides which vehicle is allowed in the port, not the performance or production date of the actual engine.  This forces good affordable trucks off the road.

These programs and laws have been adopted in New Jersey and California with good reason.  Both states are high impact transit states that include low income housing areas in between industrial complexes.  Both states are in high profile port areas that manage the majority of the foreign made goods that make it to the shelves of US retailers.  Both states have massive environmental issues including numerous browns-fields and poor air quality; however they have failed to usher in the economic benefit of these policies as promised.  And, oh by the way, neither state has a sound economic engine as a result of over regulated industry.  Critics have contended that such environmental policies in the transportation sector would have a huge effect on the cost of goods and services, create tax increases, and force vehicles to have higher prices tags on their windows at the dealership.  Sorry to say, the critics got it right.

I find very interesting that the law was built around production date.  What about the truck driver who has a totally rebuilt 1986 Classic Mack or Peterbuilt, with a new engine, is affordable to maintain, and is bought and paid for?  That driver is not allowed into our nation’s ports to carry freight.  So if you are wondering why the cost of imported goods has begun to catch up with the price of American manufactured or grown goods, then you need to take a look at how many $50,000 trucks have been forced off the roads and replaced by vehicles that now exceed the cost of $150,000 to purchase.  When one does make the choice to purchase a new truck, it cost $30-50k more than models of just six years ago.  Truck engine manufactures have been forced to utilize the same equipment the EPA has forced down the throat of the aftermarket, causing truck prices to skyrocket. The average return on investment for a big rig was five years, when an owner-operator could pay off their note.  Today it is almost double that.

“The work has not gone away, just the cost of doing business has gone up with all these new equipment laws,” quoted Brion Lamwers, a trucker from Sussex County, “How much more is the government going to squeeze out of the truckers pocket?  And what about the poor guy who put his money into the older truck because that is what he could afford?  You’re gonna have tell him he now has a parade piece only and he can’t provide for his family? What the hell’s going on in this country when the people who work to make this country move are told what equipment they can or cannot have; it insane to think that policies like these are looked at as the one size fits all that some bureaucrat or legislator makes so they can keep their job or get re-elected.  And yet these things go unchecked when new technology is made available to the trucker that is more affordable or helps them with fuel economy.  It’s like they don’t even care about the poor guy behind the wheel as long as he has a way to pay government more money to stay behind the wheel.”

So is there a war on trucking?  The industry seems to think so.  Mike Regan, president of TranzAct Technologies, active member of NASSTRAC, and notable commentator on the freight transportation sector generally, drew some notice in late 2010 by warning that there was an emerging ‘war on trucking’ that should have not only carriers but shippers concerned, from an article recently published by the Supply Chain Digest.  “The war is still going on; however I would suggest that instead of being phases of an active campaign, we are actually seeing a lull as things sort out. There are a lot of things happening in Washington DC that are taking precedence right now over things related to the transportation industry.  But I want to emphasize that these issues, it’s not that they’ve gone away, it’s just that they’re not getting the attention right now given the election campaigns, the fiscal cliff, etc.”

Truckers are not against the environment.  Many of them do want to play their part in preserving the planet for tomorrow’s generation.  Many owner-operators have looked for ways to incorporate technology into their fleet, while not costing them out of pocket as much money as the equipment promoted through government.

“I looked for ways to hold onto my older International which was my bread and butter until I could afford another newer rig.  The one thing government does not understand about owner-operators is that we are resourceful and do care about our equipment.  It’s what allows for us to provide for our families,” stated Eddie Wiese, an owner-operator of Yz Enterprises LLC, who works the I-95 corridor, “I retrofitted my trucks with technology that was not on the EPA list, and that technology made it affordable for me to be in business.  My rig is cleaner than most new trucks, and it gets better mileage.  My unit needs very little maintenance versus the equipment on the EPA list, cost less, and I can take care of the equipment myself, without any additional special training.  EPA and state agencies need to promote technologies that provide a return on investment for people if they want people and the industry to adopt it as standard.”

“EPA and government need to get out of the business of picking what they feel are a good products, and let the end users decide.  My friends who have the EPA list equipment have more breakdowns with their trucks, higher maintenance cost, and more down time due to those problems.  The device I have has paid for itself several times over, provides for better fuel economy, and helps me be a green trucker.  I don’t mind helping the environment, but I don’t want to go broke in the process,” he continued.

So what is the happy medium between satisfying regulators and lawmakers and the people who have to pay the price for the decisions make?  How can owner-operators to get the most out of their investment into compliance while trying to get a return on the cost?  To find out, I turned to recognized Fuel Economy Expert and author of the Ultimate Fuel Economy Book, Michael Holler for the answers.

“No single source has all of the answers.  The role of government regulation should be limited to quantifiable results, regardless of the mechanism.  If the rules limit particulate emissions, a truck owner should be allowed to put jelly doughnuts on the air hoses, so long as that truck meets or exceeds performance mandates.  Regulation (if even needed) should be based on performance, not a list of compiled or campaigned contributors. Realistic performance requirements open the doors for good old fashioned marketplace competition.  With a fair and competitive market, quality and performance improves, while prices decline.  A model of this has been the cell phone and computer industry,” shared Holler.

In a time which America needs to do everything it can to preserve the little industry it has left, regulation and legislators again is sending another important economic driver over the cliff to join our fiscal policy.  The next time you purchase a good from a retailer, think about the truck driver who got it there, and what their cost were just was for you to purchase that new designer shirt or have that out of season fruit or vegetable at the grocery store, imported from another country.  Truckers are your friends and neighbors, the unsung heroes of the highway that move our country.  They want to do what’s right, and they want to provide the best they can. They just don’t want to do in the name of any war.

Large national carriers have been instituting policies and procedures around economic and environmental sustainability, recognizing that both concepts go hand in hand.  And with more than just environmental regulation, the industry is bracing itself for another round of profit eating laws that will limit job growth, make the US trucking industry less profitable and more competitive, and will usher in more government into the lives of private business.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur who lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water, Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses, and Life in the Green Lane-in Pursuit of the American Dream.

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