As election certification continues, trucking industry awaits impact from likely administration change

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Fracking
Former Vice President Joe Biden has promised to eliminate fracking in at least some situations, but he backed off from the threat of an outright ban as election day neared. Shown above is an aerial view of natural gas well fracking in northwestern West Virginia’s Marcellus Shale Formation.

More than two weeks after the Nov. 3 election, President Donald Trump has yet to concede the race. Former Vice President Joe Biden, the projected winner according to most of the major news organizations, is preparing to assume the presidency on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20. In the meantime, the Trump team has filed a bevy of lawsuits alleging election fraud in several states.

While the counting — and recounting — continues, two critical U.S. Senate races in Georgia won’t be decided until results from the Dec. 1 runoff election are final. Georgia election law specifies that the winner of an election must receive at least 50% of the vote. If that doesn’t happen, a runoff election is held between the top two vote-getters.

Currently, Republicans hold a 50-48 edge in the U.S. Senate. Winning both of the Georgia seats would create a 50-50 tie, with Democratic Vice President-elect Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote. Winning either Georgia seat would ensure the Republicans a Senate majority. Both parties are pouring massive amounts of cash into the races and sending high-level representatives to aid the campaign.

The House of Representatives remains firmly under Democratic control, although Republicans picked up some seats and several more are still contested.

While most trucking organizations refrained from making statements about the election results, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) issued a Nov. 7 press release congratulating Biden and Harris on their victories. CEO Chris Spear made the statement, “We congratulate President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris on their hard-earned victory, and we look forward to working with their administration to strengthen the economy and rebuild our national infrastructure.”

“Trucking’s story speaks to all of America, not one specific political party,” Spear said. “Just like the great industry we represent, ATA is about getting the job done.”

Ellen Voie, president and CEO of the Women In Trucking Association, provided this statement to The Trucker: “As part of a heavily regulated industry, we appreciate the opportunity to allow the market to dictate the way we move forward with technology, labor practices and more.”

She continued, “However the election ends, we want a president who will appreciate this industry’s passion for safety, efficiency and competition. At the Women In Trucking Association, our goal is greater gender diversity and we will bring more women into the industry in the coming years, regardless of the outcome of the election.”

In the Nov. 3 election, record numbers of votes were cast by mail, with a number of states promising to count them even if they arrived late — up to 10 days late — as long as they were postmarked by election day. Mail-in votes tend to trend for Democratic candidates, and Trump repeatedly encouraged his followers to vote in person to avoid potential issues with the U.S. Postal Service.

If Congress remains divided, it will undoubtedly lead to more gridlock in the next four years. Legislation that is important to trucking, such as a bill to rebuild the country’s crumbling infrastructure, will likely suffer as each party insists on the provisions it wants included. In the past, Democrats have called for more investment in “green” technology such as charging stations and renewable-energy subsidies, while Republicans have insisted on more cash for road and bridge repair.

Another issue expected to be hotly contested is the economy. While the president can mandate some actions with executive orders, long-term actions such as tax cuts must be passed by Congress. The two chambers will undoubtedly disagree, as Republicans argue that tax cuts stimulate spending while the Democrats prefer government stimulus, funded by more tax dollars.

The Democratic platform also calls for increasing the minimum wage to $15 and the classification of independent contractors as employees, two actions that would impact trucking if passed.

COVID-19 will be another factor in upcoming legislation. Both parties claim they want to stimulate the economy by putting money into the hands of citizens, but both want to include funding for partisan projects to which their opponents object.

We can expect Congress to continue bickering over another economic stimulus package, infrastructure, labor law, energy independence and other topics.

The area where the undecided presidential election is likely to have the greatest impact is in presidential appointments to federal agencies. The Department of Transportation and Environmental Protection Agency, in particular, have a large impact on the trucking industry.

Recently, Democratic Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts sent a letter to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s deputy administrator, Wiley Deck, accusing the agency of a “loophole-ridden and patchwork system of accountability.” The letter questioned why FMCSA hasn’t developed tighter standards for granting authority to new applicants, what is being done about states that are slow to submit information about driver-safety violations, and why the agency hasn’t developed a single source that carriers can use to check driver backgrounds, among other things.

Additionally, several unions, including the Teamsters, have expressed opposition to recent changes in hours-of-service regulations that give drivers more leeway in deciding how to use rest periods. Because labor unions typically support Democratic candidates, it’s reasonable to assume that leadership appointed by a Biden administration would be sympathetic to both Markey’s letter and union demands.

New leadership at the EPA might also impact trucking. Trump has issued an executive order that, in effect, negated fuel mileage and emissions standards imposed by former President Barack Obama, angering Democrats. As president, Biden could reinstate those standards.

Fuel prices might also suffer under a Biden administration. The former vice president has promised to eliminate fracking in at least some situations. Both he and Vice President-elect Harris have threatened an outright ban on fracking, but Biden backed off from that threat as election day neared. What he hasn’t backed off from is a promise to transition the country away from petroleum in favor of renewable energy.

All of this stands to push fuel pricing upward. Until renewable energy resources are developed to replace fossil fuel use in transportation, the U.S. could return to dependence on foreign oil to meet its needs.

A Department of Labor led by a Biden appointee would likely address the classification of employees, following a plank in the Democratic platform that claims owner-operators and contractors are misclassified. The resulting confusion, as well as higher costs for trucking companies, would not be helpful.

Of course, if Trump is successful in contesting election results in swing states and ends up the winner, his administration would most likely continue both current leadership and policy at the DOT, FMCSA, EPA and DOL — generally considered to be more favorable to the trucking industry than a Biden administration would be. As of this writing, the prospects of a Trump victory are very slim, but his team is pressing onward.

For over 30 years, the objective of The Trucker editorial team has been to produce content focused on truck drivers that is relevant, objective and engaging. After reading this article, feel free to leave a comment about this article or the topics covered in this article for the author or the other readers to enjoy. Let them know what you think! We always enjoy hearing from our readers.

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