Another four years of the Obama administration ensures little will change regarding the pipeline of trucking regulation, and despite some carriers and shippers’ protests, the certainty helps shippers and carriers, a truck regulation expert said Monday.
Carriers and shippers also know they will have to take into account new costs fueled by health care reform legislation, as the re-election of President Obama ensures the Affordable Care Act, widely-referred to as Obamacare, will stay on the books, said Randy Mullett, vice president of government relations and public affairs at trucking and logistics giant Con-way. There was some hope in the trucking community that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney would work to repeal or ease regulation facing the industry if he was elected president.
“There will be no substantial changes (in regards to trucking regulation). That certainty in itself is helpful,” Mullett said.
But that sense of certainty for carriers and shippers is clouded by not knowing how aggressively the Obama administration will tighten carbon emission rules and wade into disputes over whether independent contractors are employees. Obama’s State of the Union address, expected in January, should give an indication on how forcefully his administration will push Environmental Protection Agency regulation.
The president in September pulled the agency back from tightening emission rules further, but corporate America fears the administration will be emboldened by its victory to push bolder environmental regulation. Whether Obama allows for more natural gas drilling and the exports of natural gas will also affects the small but expanding use of the alternative energy to power truck fleets. Mullett said allowing more natural gas exports would benefit the domestic industry in the long-term because the broadening of markets would help reduce the glut of supply and fund better fuel network infrastructure.
The other major unknown for the trucking industry is how the Obama administration will react to increased Teamster-backed lawsuits seeking the classification of owner-operator truck drivers as employees instead of as contractors. Most recently, a federal judge in New Jersey dismissed a Teamster-backed lawsuit against a drayage carrier in July. The administration, “which is pretty disposed to a pro-labor policy,” has yet to step into the state-level skirmishes, Mullett said.
“When you don’t know things, you assume the worst,” he said.
Mike Regan, president of TranzAct Technologies, thinks there might be a federal government push to reclassify independent operators, allowing the Teamsters to expand their membership by the hundreds of thousands. He cited an American Trucking Associations study that put the number of independent contractors at nearly 600,000 drivers several years ago.