government affairs blog
On July 1, a convoluted and controversial change to the rule governing the driving schedules for our nation’s commercial vehicle drivers may go into effect, much to the dismay of the trucking world. But the concern over the modifications to the “Hours of Service” rule should be shared by the entire business community, because commercial driver’s paychecks may not be the only things negatively affected.
At a recent congressional hearing, the trucking community asked Congress to step in and have the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) scrap the rule, or at a minimum delay implementation. They did so by providing evidence demonstrating a potential loss to general productivity in the industry of 1.5 percent – 4 percent. Combining that estimate with a government report on the impact of the regulation, the new regulation could generate a $356 million loss per year per percentage point drop in productivity.
This decrease in trucking productivity has a direct relationship to the health of the vehicle aftermarket. In 2012, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) trends show that 68.5 percent of all domestic shipments were carried on trucks. It can be argued that every product made for, used in, or sold by the aftermarket was transported on a commercial vehicle at one point or another. So if the commercial vehicle industry slows due to choppy and decreased driving hours, the aftermarket inevitably slows, as well.
The potential decrease in productivity comes from the way the new rule structures how many hours in a week a commercial vehicle driver can consecutively operate and what hours during the day they can and cannot drive. The new rule requires 34 hours rest between a driver completing up to 70 hours in eight consecutive days before they can “restart” their driving logs. This cuts the current 82 hour driving week significantly.
The most confusing provision, however, dictates what hours during the day commercial drivers can actually drive. The rule requires drivers must have two periods in a driving cycle where they are not on the road between the hours of 1 a.m. – 5 a.m. These tend to be the best hours of truck movement because competing traffic is low and drivers can maintain faster and steadier speeds. By tying driver’s hands during prime periods industries relying on fast, on-time delivery of goods are also crippled.
The ripple effect for aftermarket suppliers, distributors and retailers means specifically altering product delivery schedules to accommodate the slower shipping process. The only other option would be for the trucking companies or aftermarket organizations with their own fleets to take the costly action of hiring more drivers and purchasing additional trucks to fill the gaps created by the restart requirement and limited weekly driving time.
Although there is no indication that the FMCSA will back down from implementing the new regulation, the trucking industry, including the ATA and Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, continue to work with Congress and the federal agency to stop this from taking effect, slowing down the economy and eventually slowing down your business. How this battle turns out could have an impact not only on the bottom line of the truckers, but the many businesses that depend on trucking to ensure their profitability as well.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed lawsuits last week against Dollar General Corp. and a BMW plant in South Carolina. The issue in the lawsuits is over both companies’ use of criminal background checks. So, the short answer is that criminal background checks are not, per se, illegal, but your employment practices could run afoul of the law if the results appear to discriminate (even indirectly) against minorities. In these cases mentioned, African-Americans were fired from their jobs or had job offers revoked in what the EEOC claims were disproportionate numbers, based on convictions found as part of a criminal background check. It should be noted that in both cases the companies vehemently denied that there was any race discrimination.
Behind these actions is the not very well-known release of the “EEOC Arrest and Conviction Criminal History Guidance”. This rulemaking (the process that fleshes out legislation into regulation) has come under fire for a lack of transparency, and at issue with many employers and federal legislators is the lack of a public comment period, which would allow for discussion of the effects on workplace and public safety by hindering the ability of employers to conduct criminal background checks.
In a June 11, 2013 Washington Post article on the EEOC lawsuits, several studies were cited that have investigated the effects of a criminal record on employment. One key finding was that “white offenders were only half as likely to get a callback from a potential employer and the effect was even greater for blacks”. While this kind of research may appear to fall in to the “obviously” category for many of you, there are very interesting issues at play here, and solid data enhances the debate over the issue that the National Employment Law Project puts succinctly, “Millions of Americans - one in four adults - have arrest or conviction records that often follow them throughout their lives.”
An EEOC spokesperson commenting on the lawsuits stated that “Overcoming barriers to employment is one of our strategic enforcement priorities. We hope that these lawsuits will further educate the public and the employer community on the appropriate use of conviction records.” Several states have recently enacted legislation that echoes this sentiment, and added new barriers to conducting criminal background checks.
The Post article also made note of a Society for Human Resource Management survey, which found that “more than two-thirds of companies conduct criminal background checks.” If you’re company is part of this apparent majority, perhaps you agree with the belief expressed in a recent business coalition letter sent in opposition to another state’s attempt at aforementioned legislation: “As long as there is workplace violence, fraud, theft, and a need to protect vulnerable populations, there will always be a need to review the criminal histories of applicants for certain positions.” Adding to any employers’ concerns is the simple truth that in the aftermath of any workplace violence, a lawyer will quickly file a lawsuit against the employer on any victim’s behalf.
This issue clearly will cause many to think about personal and professional stories of redemption where the journeys often begin with an employer giving an ex-offender their first break. That being said, it seems that this should be a personal decision by an employer with the job applicant’s full history at hand, and not one where the employer is blindsided by past histories that come back to roost.
Do you live down the street from a state senator? Do you regularly meet with your U.S. senator in his or her local state office? Or perhaps you regularly attempt relive your old college days with a current U.S. Congressman who happened to be your freshman year roommate?
These types of relationships are ideal examples of the information AAIA is striving to gather as we expand our grassroots database to include such valuable data from our membership. In Washington, relationships are key, and this kind of information can help make your association’s government affairs efforts significantly more effective.
AAIA is in the process of distributing a survey to determine which of our members have a strong relationship, personal or professional, with one or more elected state or federal officials. Our objective is to thoroughly survey the AAIA membership for relationships with elected officials who then would help the association further its government affairs goals.
Since all relationships are different, the survey strives to not only find out which legislators our members know, but also the nature of those relationships. Therefore, the survey asks for the names of elected officials that you know and then provides options to choose from in defining the relationship such as “friend,” “neighbor” or “hosted a fundraiser.” Next, there is an opportunity to elaborate in order to help the government affairs staff better understand that relationship. Providing as much detail as possible will help our staff to analyze the nature of each relationship so we best optimize our approach in dealing with each legislative office.
This survey, along with other initiatives recently undertaken AAIA’s government affairs department, is part of a concerted effort to reach out to a wider array of elected officials in order to better educate them on our industry and our issues. For a $300 billion industry that provides over four million jobs to the American economy, the aftermarket’s political organization efforts do not come close matching its economic robustness. However, continuing to develop a grassroots network which includes a database of legislator relationships can greatly strengthen our presence on Capitol Hill and during negotiations over important aftermarket and business-related issues.
Important information to keep in mind:
- The survey allows you to complete your responses for one legislator at a time. If you have a relationship with more than one legislator, you can access the survey multiple times to complete your responses for each additional legislator.
- We encourage you to share all relationships, since all contacts are important, but we especially want to hear about close relationships that might be useful in building support for our industry government affairs agenda.
- All information provided through the survey will not be used in any way other than to assist in AAIA’s advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill. AAIA will not leverage your relationship with a particular legislator beyond a simple reference without first contacting you.
- If you prefer, you are welcome to provide us with any information over the phone at 301-654-6664 or simply by email at email@example.com
Thanks to all members in advance for their help in making this survey a success! To access the survey please click here or copy the following URL into your web browser: http://research.zarca.com/k/RQsSXWTsQYRsPsPsP
I am always asked, “How bad are things in Washington?” It’s a relevant question, considering the number of scandals emerging from the White House and the acrimony between Democrats and Republicans in Congress. If you read the papers or watch the 24-hour news channels (not recommended for those with high blood pressure), the image of a city that is in constant gridlock emerges and there appears to be nothing on the horizon that will change the situation, at least anytime soon.
In my opinion, the image is largely accurate. However, in the middle of the mess we call our nation’s capital, over the last couple of weeks, there have been a few glimmers of hope that elected officials are in small ways breaking the gridlock.
The first major development was the passage by the Senate Judiciary Committee of immigration reform legislation. Controversial, yes, but the passage was the result of a bi-partisan team of senators that worked a bill through a committee mark-up session (that is the process when a bill is debated and amended before passage) that was fraught with peril. The senators worked together to accept amendments that should help when the bill is considered in the full Senate, but no changes were accepted that would have killed its main intent which is to provide a path to citizenship for illegal aliens. Whether we agree or disagree with the goal of the bill, it was clearly a case where both sides worked together to achieve a result.
The second development was the joint introduction by Senators David Vitter, R-La., and Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., along with eight Republicans and eight Democrats, of legislation to modernize how chemicals are reviewed and approved by the Environmental Protection Agency. Both sides of this issue agreed that the current system of regulating use of toxic chemicals is unworkable, but up until last week, there was no agreement as to how to correct the problems. In fact, Senator Lautenberg had introduced legislation that was strongly opposed by business groups and which was considered dead on arrival in the Senate. However, his willingness to compromise with Republicans on key issues involving how chemicals are reviewed by the Environmental Protection Agency and state preemption now provides new hope that this issue could move forward.
Of course, both these bills face very difficult prospects for enactment. The immigration reform bill will certainly face a difficult battle ahead and it is unclear whether a bill can pass without support from many conservatives that are strongly opposed to immigration reform.
While the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) agreement has been widely praised by many, some environmental groups have indicated that they do not think that the compromise provides adequate protections for human health and there will be significant attempts to amend the bill as it moves through Congress. Like immigration, it will be up to the sponsors to carefully guide the bill through what will be a difficult debate in the Senate, while at the same time ensuring that the main goal of the bill is preserved. Additionally, it is unclear how the recent passing of Senator Lautenberg will impact the prospects for the legislation since he had been the champion for TSCA reform in the Senate over the past several sessions and it is unclear who will take on his leadership role.
So, a long way to go in both instances, but in Washington progress is often measured by inches and not miles. It’s only after baby steps are taken that we look back and see how big the small steps really turned into, or not. Further, there are major issues that the Congress will need to address, including a long term solution to our growing deficit, where no solution appears in sight. They require huge amounts of compromise from both sides and at this point no one appears ready to give in. In any case, it will be worth watching these two pieces of legislation as they are debated for any signs that the body is finding a way to legislate; or whether political considerations will doom this Congress to more gridlock in the months to come.