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Opinion: Approaching Midterms Put Issues in Focus

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10/20/2010 8:00:00 AM

By Bill Graves
President CEO
American Trucking Associations

This Opinion piece appears in the Oct. 18 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

Midterm elections are right around the corner, and a number of issues are at the forefront of voters’ minds — not the least of which is the economy. Everyone wants to know what will be done about job creation and economic growth.

We’re keeping an eye on the economy in the trucking industry as well. We think the data show this economic cycle is sustainable. It’s likely that growth will slow a bit during the remainder of this year and the beginning of 2011, but that slow-and-steady pace means the chances of a double-dip remain relatively small. Even small gains are translating into good news for the transportation sector. American Trucking Associations’ truck tonnage index has seen consistent year-over-year growth, and for-hire trucking employment is gaining.

Aside from the economy, one of the most pressing issues is CSA. Safety always has been a top priority for ATA. We’ve embraced CSA and the opportunity it offers for the industry to get bad actors off the road and improve the safe image of the industry; however, there are still a number of aspects of the program that need to be clarified. One of the sticking points for us is crash accountability and how at-fault and unpreventable crashes are weighted. We’re also keeping an eye on how warnings and citations will be regarded. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has announced a handful of positive methodology changes, and we will continue to monitor the effect of CSA on our members and the industry.

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We’re prioritizing other safety issues, including hours-of-service regulations, electronic logging devices and distracted driving.

The new proposed HOS rule already has been sent to the Office of Management and Budget, and we expect it will be unveiled very shortly. This is a very big deal for fleets and the shipper community. I’m concerned that HOS regulations may change, even though crash statistics have improved dramatically since the current rules were implemented. Even as the industry has become safer, several citizen groups have been advocating for reduced working hours and increased restart hours. We also may learn more about electronic logging and when electronic logging devices will become mandated. I believe it will happen; it’s just a matter of when.

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