Although they have yet to name a new Secretary of Transportation, President-elect Barack Obama’s Transportation Transition Team has been hard at work developing new infrastructure plans and speaking with trucking leaders about their biggest concerns.
Obama recently announced that his economic recovery plan will focus heavily on infrastructure improvements. Although specifics of the proposal have not been released, the President-elect said U.S. highways would be a major priority in his Administration.
“We will create millions of jobs by making the single largest new investment in our national infrastructure since the creation of the federal highway system in the 1950s,” Obama said. “We’ll invest your precious tax dollars in new and smarter ways, and we’ll set a simple rule – use it or lose it. If a state doesn’t act quickly to invest in roads and bridges in their communities, they’ll lose the money.”
In addition, Obama’s transition team has met with representatives of several trucking groups, including the American Trucking Assns. (ATA), the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA), Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA), National Private Truck Council (NPTC) and various truck manufacturers, to address some of the biggest issues confronting the industry.
"Overall, we were impressed with the Obama team's desire to hear from us, and we hope this becomes the start of an ongoing communication flow that will continue throughout the new Administration's term in office," said Chris Burruss, president of TCA.
According to TCA, the group’s representatives spoke of their concerns about the industry’s current direction on productivity gains and the recent hours-of-service ruling. They also focused on safety issues, emphasizing the importance of rebuilding bridges and highways, calling the administration’s plan to rebuild infrastructure a “win-win” for the trucking industry that would help businesses survive economic difficulties.
OOIDA executive vp Todd Spencer disagreed with proposals from ATA and others about increasing truck size and advocating speed limiters, saying it would make the roads less safe.
“It’s easy for people who aren’t on the road to advocate things like lower speed limits or speed limiters. It’s not their time they're giving away,” Spencer said. “It’s not the trucks running over cars out there. It’s cars running into trucks. It just makes no sense to make trucks bigger road blocks.”
Spencer also pointed out shortcomings OOIDA sees in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s regulation enforcement. “We’re concerned that FMCSA has continually misdirected its limited resources in a manner that diverts enforcement priorities away from efforts that would have a greater impact on highway safety,” he said. “Enforcement priorities that ignore the relationship between highway safety and the coercive demands of freight brokers, shippers, receivers and motor carriers upon drivers are doomed to miss the mark in achieving real improvements in highway safety.”