The Trucking industry “must act, and act decisively” to work with the Obama Administration for legislation that is favorable to trucking. The change of presidential administrations has created many challenges, including independent contractor status, environmental issues, and universal health care, TCA President Chris Burruss said in his convention address.

Two key issues “that demand immediate action” are the Highway Reauthorization Bill, and the diversion of highway funds earmarked for transportation projects to other things, he said.

“Even with the elimination of diversion, the Highway Trust Fund will not be able to meet its current obligations for future infrastructure improvement needs,” said Burruss. “Because of this, we must determine what we as an industry, and we as an organization, can support.

“Otherwise, we will be on the receiving end of some historic, hard-to-absorb or pass-along taxes, particularly when these increased taxes and fees are used by the government to spend more on projects unrelated to transportation.”

Further, he said the trucking industry “must defend against policies it disagrees with, and must actively promote those that are in harmony with our existing policies.”

Burruss observed that the hours-of-service regulations are still not resolved, and the regulations on electronic onboard recorders are expected to be considerably more extensive than was originally thought.

Entry-level driver training rules will be coming along as well. While there is no indication of what they will look like, the trucking industry needs to be prepared for the rules' eventual release.

Another challenge is the driver shortage, he added.

“It has not gone away,” he said. “It is merely hidden by a lack of demand for equipment, and will return to the forefront.

“My point is, we have our work cut out for us, and while we must be vigilant on these new issues, we must not lose sight of the older ones.”

Industry groups “can't impact any issue without member involvement and member volume. That is the power of associations. Get involved, and stay involved.”

Business pressures

“As a collective industry, we may not agree on every issue, but I believe we have a collective appreciation for those issues that are universally dangerous,” said Burruss. “It is on those issues that we must focus our attention and our resources.

“Our enemies are well-organized and well-funded, vocal, and visible. We have the potential to be the same, and we must be the same. We are a vast industry, and we must become the kind of constituency that elected leaders fear: angry, frustrated, determined, and motivated.

“I have seen what this industry is capable of when we truly act as one,” Burruss said, “and it is time for that power to be felt again.”

He acknowledged that all companies are expending a lot of energy to keep their operations going in these tough economic times, “but the regulatory and legislative challenges — some new and some old — will not wait for times to get better. This administration and Congress will not wait, and our adversaries will continue to push.

“We must work together as an industry to solve problems,” Burruss said, “and work as one against those who would see us taxed and restricted more. We have the collective power. We only have to harness it and use it. If we do that, we are a force to be reckoned with.”

Burruss closed his remarks with a quote from Henry Ford: “When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.”