President Donald Trump met Thursday afternoon at the White House with trucking industry executives to discuss issues of concern, including health care, regulatory rollback, tax reform and infrastructure.
During a photo opportunity in the Cabinet Room, Trump expressed admiration for the job truckers do
moving the nation’s goods, and said the Republican health care bill would correct problems with Obamacare that have negatively impacted motor carriers, especially mom-and-pop operators.
“Obamacare has inflicted great pain on American truckers. Many of you were forced to buy health insurance on the Obamacare exchanges. You experienced a crippling rise in premiums and a dramatic loss in options,” he said. “So you know the problems, and it’s put a lot of the trucking businesses out of business, which is pretty tough. In addition, many union drivers are slated to have their plans taxed to pay Obamacare, and they’ve been against it for a long period of time. And trucking companies that are considered large employers have to offer government-mandated health insurance. You have the mandate that just doesn’t work for them. You’re forced to do things that you don’t want to do.”
The House is scheduled to vote Friday afternoon on an Obamacare replacement in a test of Trump’s leadership, but the outcome is very uncertain because Republicans are split over how to actually change the existing insurance system without hurting millions of Americans.
Trump, who has previously met with executives from the manufacturing, retail, technology and small business sectors, said his policies will help lift the trucking industry.
“We will rewrite our broken tax code and fix our terrible trade deals. We will also eliminate job-killing regulations where you guys are so subject to regulations, and we’re going to free it up. You’re going to be back to business,” he said. “And we’ll make sure America’s infrastructure is the best in the world. Right now, it’s probably the worst it’s been in 40 years. I have friends in your business, they say trucking from Los Angeles to New York and back, it’s very tough on the trucks - never used to be that way - with the condition of the roads and the highways.”
Trump administration officials have talked about their interest in a public-private partnership based on tax credits to support $1 trillion worth of infrastructure construction.
Trucking industry officials were already pleased this week when the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) withdrew its proposed safety fitness determination rule, which would have used data from the Compliance, Safety, Accountability system (CSA) to create publicly available fitness ratings for carriers. The agency will study the matter more before proceeding. The industry has argued that the data in the CSA system can be flawed and is unfair to publicize because shippers may make carrier selections that could financially harm carriers that actually have safe operations.
Among those attending yesterday’s meeting and representing some of the largest motor carriers in the nation were American Trucking Associations (ATA) President Chris Spear; David Congdon, CEO of Old Dominion Freight Line; Mike Ducker, CEO of FedEx Freight; Rich McArdle, president of UPS Freight; Tonn Ostergard, CEO of Crete Carrier Corp.; Eric Fuller, CEO of U.S. Xpress; and John Smith, chairman of CRST International. Several professional truck drivers with top driving records also participated in the background and the ATA brought on White House grounds a big rig emblazoned with truckside advertising promoting the industry’s safety message. The drivers gave a personal tour to the President
as he sat in the cab of the truck.
Meanwhile, the trucking association that represents owner-operator small business truckers said it will launch a lobbying campaign to hold the administration and Congress to their pledge to reduce regulations, which it says have been excessive when it comes to trucking.
“We are concerned that the promise to reduce regulations will instead turn into an effort by policy makers in Washington, D.C. to add even more burdensome regulations,” Todd Spencer, executive vice president, of the Owner-Operators Independent Drivers Association, said in a statement. “Congress should be working to eliminate costly regulations like ELD's (electronic logging devices) and speed limiters rather than adding even more rules and red tape.”
Under federal hours-of-service regulations, commercial truck drivers are limited in the number of hours they can work and drive daily as well as on a weekly basis. The FMCSA’s mandate requires that truck drivers use ELDs to track their driving and non-driving activities. ELDs automatically record driving time, engine hours, vehicle movement, miles driven and location information.
The FMCSA finalized the rule in December 2015 for all interstate commercial motor vehicles model year 2000 and newer. Companies have until the end of this year to comply.
FMSCA estimates the ELD final rule will prevent 26 fatalities and 562 injuries resulting from crashes involving large commercial motor vehicles every year on average. Large motor carriers, mostly represented by the ATA, support the rule because of concerns that mom-and-pop truckers cheat on recording work hours in their logbooks to run longer and make more money. Larger companies, which also have greater resources to install the technology, say the rule creates an even playing field.
The Department of Transportation is also developing a rule for devices that would automatically cap the speed of tractor trailers below 70 mph.