Shipping Change

Shipping Change

Online surveys are notoriously unscientific, better used for entertainment than for true illumination. But one recent poll of readers may shed some very real light on politics and transportation as the country prepares for a change in the federal government.

Asked in an online survey by our sister publication The Journal of Commerce which presidential ticket would be better for transportation, 64 percent of those responding said a McCain/Palin administration would be best for the industry.

That's sharply at odds with voters overall, who by a 52.3 to 46.4 percent margin concluded last week that an Obama/Biden administration not only would be better for the country but that Barack Obama and the government he will bring into power will, in fact, be entrusted with trying to repair the fundamental problems the United States faces at home and abroad.

There have been few elections in the post-World War II United States we can recall when the gap between the broader electorate and the business world has been so stark, and that gap suggests the depth of the enormous challenges the incoming Obama administration will face.

But it's just as important to understand the gap also presents a great challenge to many in the business world that viewed the potential for an Obama administration with trepidation and now are preparing to see the reality of Democratic control of both chambers of Congress and the White House for the first time since 1994. As U.S. Chamber of Commerce head Thomas J. Donohue put it in a congratulatory letter to President-elect Obama, "Any successful and sustainable recovery must involve the business community."

Of course, business leaders also say they have some very real concerns, and they certainly may have more work on their hands.

Balloting was still going on last week when Teamsters union chief James P. Hoffa raised the prospect of "re-regulation" in transportation and said the difference between the Bush administration and an Obama-led government would be like "night and day." It's hardly soothing to business that the union was early on board to the Obama campaign and worked hard for his election.

But when he got to specifics, Hoffa said rail safety and hours of service rules in trucking should be on the table. Those are areas where the union has battled business but they don't necessarily suggest a broader desire to unravel 30 years of transportation deregulation.

And some business leaders say that although they may try to "educate" an Obama administration about concerns, there's not much to suggest a change from the dismal performance of the Bush administration will mean turning away from policies that have provided proven economic opportunity over many years.

Although leery of the impact of last week's Democratic juggernaut, Transportation Intermediaries Association President and CEO Bob Voltmann still recalled, "All the transportation deregulation bills that helped build this enormous, dynamic logistics industry that is the envy of the world have come from Democrat-controlled Congresses and presidents."

Like many in transportation management, he's hoping the Obama administration remembers that as well.