TCA update: Report on association activities

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Along with Dealing with a host of legislative matters, the TCA has been in the process of developing a new strategy for the next three to five years, said TCA president Chris Burruss in his remarks to members. The last strategic plan was done in 1999, so “it's certainly time to take another look at it, and at the same time think about what we want this organization to do going forward.”

With the 1999 plan, TCA began focusing on education for members by identifying educational opportunities. “Under the new strategic plan, this has been taken a step further, with a focus on four key areas: safety, business efficiencies, environment - which is becoming much more important nowadays, and workforce development.”

Burruss said TCA is looking at a trucking company's various departments and figuring out what instruction and training the people in each department would need to do their job more successfully. “This is being done throughout the company, all the way up to management.

“It's an aggressive agenda, but it's one that we fully intend to meet.”

While working on a new strategic plan, TCA decided that its policy manual needed to be updated, and it is in the process of doing just that.

Later this year, TCA will begin looking at the American Trucking Associations' five-point size and weight plan and a sustainability report. “We want to determine if TCA needs to follow suit or break and go out on our own direction on these.”

Legislation

Burruss expects that several regulatory matters will be determined before the new administration arrives at the White House.

“We still don't know what's going to happen with hours of service. It's entirely possible that FMCSA's final rule on it could be the same rule. The courts never did find fault with the rule itself, they found fault with technical issues on how the rule was promulgated.”

If it is the same rule, “Public Citizen would be in a difficult position to challenge that.”

On a related issue, he noted that a request has been made to the Department of Energy for an exemption from the sleeper berth provision of the current hours of service rule for transporters of sensitive freight, nuclear waste mostly. “TCA is going to file comments in support of this, and we will use it as an opportunity to argue that this exemption should apply to the entire industry.”

The FMCSA has a rulemaking on entry-level driver training that might be completed shortly, Burruss said. “TCA supports a competency-based, rather than an hourly-based, training program.”

Additionally, TCA “believes the accreditation requirements for instructors is overly burdensome, costly and impractical. The training instructor requirements in place already limit a small pool of available driver training instructors.”

There are several bills in Congress on a fuel surcharge pass-through. Basically, said Burruss, these say that if an owner operator pays for the fuel, and the fuel surcharge is collected, the surcharge has to be passed along to the owner operator.

“In theory, there is no argument,” said Burruss. “But some disclosure requirements say any charge associated with a load and the surcharge must be disclosed to the owner operator. That raises a lot of concerns for a lot of reasons.”

He doesn't think these bills “will go anywhere because there is a lack of co-sponsors, but we're keeping an eye on them because the risk with those types of bills is that they get tacked onto other bills at the last minute, often with bills that have nothing in common.”

Government

With regard to the upcoming elections, Burruss said “no matter which side wins - Republican or Democrats, we must work with them, and that's where involvement is going to be key. If the Democrats get into office, it's going to be tougher on trucking.”

He noted that for many years, the trucking industry “has done a great job” of defeating most anti-trucking legislation, but about seven to 10 years ago, all that started to change. “Congress and state legislatures decided that if trucking wasn't going to be part of the solution, they didn't want to hear from us.”

By way of example, he cited the last highway bill. “We had been successful in saying no to fuel tax or registration fee increases, and the White House agreed with us. But because the Highway Trust Fund was running out of money, Congress decided to find replacement funding sources and went after tolls. We (trucking) said that if tolls were going to be raised, we might be able to accept a fuel tax increase.

“Congress said it's too late. We asked you for the last several years to give us a solution and you didn't.”

The message here, stressed Burruss, “is that we've got to be a part of the solution, or we're going to be cut out of the discussion.

“If we want to have a seat at the table, and have a chance of opposing and defeating things we can't work with, we're going to have to figure out what we can live with. And that's one of the things TCA is focusing on as it goes forward.”

He also warned that as the government looks at highway funding, the environment, and fuel economy, “mass transit has the best opportunity it has ever had to make an argument for more investment.

“The worry is that money for it might come from the Highway Trust Fund.”

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