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we already have on the books,” he said, citing speeding and aggressive driving. “ATA has policies in place calling for reductions in speed limits for safety reasons, fuel efficiency reasons, the benefit we derive in green house gases reductions—and we get basically zero level of interest, because no one has the political courage to tell people to slow down.” Still, Graves called the distracted driving

initiative an industry opportunity to be safer, pointing out accidents involving commercial vehicles “more often than not” are caused by passenger cars. “So we’re as interested in the behavior of

those folks as we are in the behavior of our own drivers,” he said. The question remains “whether they

might go too far” in setting regulations that could impact operational communications between the truck cab and the carrier. “How many different things are you

doing in your cab that will qualify under the definition of texting?” Graves said. “We need to keep an eye on this.”

FUEL EFFICIENCY Speaking ahead of the Obama

administrations’ recent call for greater fuel economy standards on large commercial vehicles beginning in 2014, Graves offered a preview and opinions on what to expect from the EPA/NHTSA partnership. “It’s going to be a big deal,” he said—again

noting “an opportunity” for trucking. “But it’s going to be expensive.” Engine makers and truck OEMs are going to be expected to build a more fuel efficient equipment, Graves explained; aerodynamic improvements, lighter materials, tires with low rolling resistance all cost money. “And the companies that operate that

equipment are going to be expected to train drivers to be more fuel efficient,” Graves said. “It will probably force you to spec some of your equipment with transmissions geared in ways to consume less fuel on the highway. It’s a package deal. To me, that sounds like a really, really complicated federal rule, but that’s the direction they’re going.”

LABOR ISSUES While Graves emphasized both the

challenges and opportunities associated with a number of industry issues, when it comes to trucking’s labor-related developments “it’s just challenges.” “Clearly, there is a lot of politics involved

in the labor side of the equation. One of the things that unions were very interested in

achieving was the card check legislation, the Employee Free Choice Act,” Graves said. And while the bill made it through the

House, “there are a number of senators who would rather not see that come up for a vote,” Graves added, and so suggested the bill likely would not pass. “But I don’t think you’ve seen the last of

that initiative, and anything that creates an environment where it is easier to gain union certification has the potential to drive up operating costs,” he said. More important to trucking is the issue of

independent contractor status. Graves outlined the plan by the Port of

Los Angeles, challenged in court by ATA, which would eliminate the use of owner- operators at the facility. Graves called the plan “an assault” on interstate commerce, and “a thinly veiled attempt” to organize port trucking company employees. “We keep winning and they keep

appealing, but we’re finally at a point where we think we’re going to get a verdict that will support us,” Graves said. Unfortunately, the Teamsters have begun “circling around Capitol Hill,” angling to subvert trucking’s interstate commerce protections by changing the law. As an example of where such a shift

might leave the industry, Graves recounted efforts by adjacent communities near Boston, with one wanting to ban truck traffic during the day, and the other at night. “They think it’s the ‘beam me up, Scotty’

freight delivery system,” Graves said. Graves also referred to the bill by U.S.

Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) which would repeal the federal safe harbor provisions for classifying workers as independent contractors, with the result being changes to the tax code that make it harder to prove contractor status and force them to be wage- based employees. “This industry depends a lot on

independent contractors. They’re basically the folks that pick up the slack when we need to go out on short notice and find additional capacity to move product,” Graves said. “We’re going to work as hard as we can to continue to protect their status.”

MEXICAN TRUCKS With regard to the trucking provisions of

the North American Free Trade Agreement, Graves said the Bush administration’s “go slow, cautious” approach to long haul trucking to and from Mexico was the correct policy— even if it might have been overly deliberate.

ROADWISE | JUNE 2010 | 17 But “political pushback, on both sides

of the aisle” led to termination of the Bush program, prompting retaliatory tariffs by Mexico, “and they did it in a very politically savvy way,” Graves pointed out, noting the tariffs take aim at districts represented by trucking program opponents in Congress. Graves added both labor and owner-

operator groups oppose any truck program with Mexico, putting the Obama administration “in a real quandary.” “My guess is that it’s going to come

down to one or two things,” Graves said. “We’re either going to recreate the same pilot program, and go through that kabuki dance again. Or the U.S. is going to figure out a way to offer Mexico some incredible amount of money…The administration could decide to do something to buy its way out of responsibility under NAFTA.”


July 5 MCMOffice closed (Independence Day)

July 14-16 52nd Annual RMRSR McCall, Idaho

August 18-20 71st Annual MCM Convention Billings, Mont.

August 18 Board of Directors Meeting Holiday Inn Grand, Billings, Mont.

August 18 Safety Management Maintenance & Technology Council Meeting Holiday Inn Grand Billings, Mont.

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