DALLAS — The cost benefit analysis used by trucking’s top federal regulator to justify new Hours of Service rules “are a sham,” CSA has missed its mission of safety and instead focused on compliance, and tolls are something used by politicians to fund infrastructure because increasing fuel taxes might get them thrown out of office, says American Trucking Associations’ Chairman Dan England.
Indeed England, chairman of the board for C.R. England Inc., didn’t mince words when asked to comment on the state of the trucking industry Wednesday afternoon at the third annual Commercial Vehicle Outlook Conference. The event is being here in conjunction with the Great American Trucking Show, which starts Thursday and continues through Saturday at the Dallas Convention Center.
It’s clear that the current administration in Washington “is beholden to certain interest groups and labor is one of them,” England told conference attendees.
England, whose family founded the company in 1920 and grew it to one of the country’s largest privately held carriers, said the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration doesn’t understand the cost impact of regulations such as the new HOS on business.
He said to justify reduced driving hours in the new HOS rules, which are to take effect next year, FMCSA used the figure of 2.2 percent of large truck crashes being fatigue-related for HOS changes in 2005-06, but is now singing a new tune, that 13 percent of large truck crashes are caused by fatigue.
If a trucker who is “mildly fatigued” is driving down an unknown road and a four-wheeler swerves in front of the truck, it’s a crash caused by fatigue, according to FMCSA, he added.
He also said the agency is operating under the premise that fewer hours spent working means that time will automatically go toward sleep. “That’s why our lawyers feel pretty confident” about the lawsuit ATA filed against the new HOS Feb. 14, he confided.
As to CSA, he continued, it has “wandered from its basic charter [of safety]” to deal more with compliance, giving shippers, insurance companies and the public the idea that carriers are unsafe when they’re not. In short, “Carriers over the threshold in certain BASICs are not unsafe.”
As for tolls, England stated, voters are scared off by fuel tax increases so politicians are heavily pushing tolls to pay for roads, bridges and highways. What voters don’t realize, he said, is that tolls are more costly in the long run.
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He said of every $1 taken in tolls, 30 to 35 percent goes to administrative fees.
Even with the new highway bill approved recently by Congress, the question is still how to pay for the infrastructure, he said. “The political reality is that most politicians know if they increase [fuel] taxes they won’t be in office very long. So the country is filled by [people] advocating tolls; there’s a groundswell of advocating tolls.”
Likewise, the independent contractor status is under fire. Look for more class action suits questioning independent contractor designation in the future, England predicted.
Asked what trucking could look forward to with four more years of the Obama administration, he predicted more of what he called “demonization” of business, increased regulations but poorer regulations, more costs in doing business but less safety, or in the case of the new HOS, “a degradation of safety.”
Dorothy Cox of The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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