September 2013

Overdrive Magazine | Trucking Business News & Owner Operator Info

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Voices The undeclared war on owner-operators By Greg Fulton While there is no declared or undeclared war on owner-operators by government, it sure feels like it. How else can one explain the variety of laws and regulations that may adversely affect them? First, we have governments seeking to reinterpret the relationship between carriers and owner-operators. While the independent contractor model has been in place for more than 50 years and has often worked for both drivers and companies, a number of states continue a push for leased owner-operators to be considered employees. This initiative fails to recognize that the thousands of employeedriving jobs that these individuals could accept. Instead, they choose to be owner-operators because of the freedom and opportunities it provides them. This push acts to limit those opportunities as some companies reconsider owner-operator use for fear of investigations and fines. Second, the new hours regulations have disproportionately affected many owner-operators. The timing of these regulations is particularly frustrating as those independent drivers, who recently survived the country's worst recession in our generation and are still struggling, now face another blow to their financial wellbeing. Probably even more vexing is that the new regs are not based on sound science and offer little benefit in their eyes in the way of safety. More regulations are on the way. The recent federal highway reauthorization MAP-21 requires regulators to finish 29 safety regulations in 27 months. Included in this list are several that will affect owneroperators. Third, the changing standards for vehicles have increased costs while posing a reliability challenge. The 2014 engine standards are estimated to increase costs for a tractor by thousands of dollars. Based on the fact that large fleets buy significant numbers of new trucks, their costs will be substantially less per truck than those of an owner-operator buying one vehicle. Unfortunately, these new engines come on the heels of the 2010 models, which have had their share of problems. How do we get to a truce in this undeclared war? As in any battle, one [in this case, the rule makers] stops firing the weapons. … Excessive regulations, including those relating to inspections, are one of the attacks on owneroperators cited by Fulton. Why would our government make war on one of the most productive and safest groups in the transportation sector? When Colorado Motor Carriers Association President Greg Fulton posed this question through his opinion piece published on our website and elsewhere, he drew lots of comments. However, not every owner-operator endorsed the viewpoint. Waco, Texas-based independent Cody Blankenship said such prognosticators "could not be more wrong. There's plenty of guys like me thriving and doing it safely." At press time, Blankenship was contemplating adding another truck and driver to deal with increased reefer/hopper bottom demand. Visit OverdriveOnline.com/tag/owner-operatorstop-challenges for further reading on big industry problems and solutions. Scan the QR or search "undeclared war" on OverdriveOnline.com for Fulton's entire piece. Congress piles on "We've got to stop this bill dead in its tracks," wrote one commenter on Overdrive's Facebook page upon news of the so-called "SAFE HAUL" Act, introduced in July in the House of Representatives by Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.). The bill, H.R. 2730, would raise minimum carrier insur- ance requirements from $750,000 to $4,442,000. "Requiring this much insurance will put uncountable numbers of small carriers out of business," wrote Daniel Perry, also commenting on Facebook. "The only winners will be the mega-carriers … and the ambulance-chasing socalled lawyers." Jake Mizell: Owneroperators won't last much longer if this keeps up. At press time, the bill had been referred to the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee with eight Democratic cosponsors. Govtrack.us metrics put it at a very low probability for passage. 4 | Overdrive | September 2013 Voices_0913.indd 4 8/27/13 8:55 PM

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