I ran into TFI Logistics broker Dan Metully at the Truck Driver Social Media Convention last weekend. Metully, regular Channel 19 readers may well recall, is also the man behind the TransportWatch.com site, founded as a tool for owner-operators and brokers to use to help police the bad actors in the industry. (And about which: expect updates in the near future to make the site more generally “user-friendly,” said Metully, which he hopes will boost participation.)
I thought I’d share some news he surprised me with: He’s running for his native Montana’s’ State Senate District 45 as a Democrat. Metully (pictured) has a history of serving on his local school board, and saw an opportunity to make a difference this year. Montana residents, you can catch a long, substantive interview with him touching on issues from the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid to education, infrastructure and the oil boom ongoing in the Eastern part of the state, via this page.
On the broker bond increase
Metully’s also been a source of mine in the past on issues related to the broker/freight forwarder bond increase included in the MAP-21 highway bill this year. His TFI Logistics company is on the small side, though it’s been around for almost a decade now. I shared some details that Metully gave me about the business in this post from early in the year, when the bond-increase measure was moving toward passage:
His brokerage holds the minimum $10,000 bond. “I’ve contacted the people who hold my bond,” he says, to ask about the possibility of them writing a $100,000 bond for his business, “and they’re not sure they can write these sureties” given the basics of his business, with a total 10 independent contracted agents and 2 office staff to whom Metully of course feels a responsibility to keep in business. “A lot of carriers want to say that a lot of brokers are no better than pond scum, but there are a lot of us that are trying to make a living just like other honest people. In my view, the carriers that we deal with, we have real relationships with them, and we try to make sure that that’s honored. If something goes wrong, and it’s our fault, we stand accountable.”
Since then, he says today, his surety provider has come back with an offer for the minimum $75K bond included in the MAP-21 highway bill that will see his annual $750 premium rise to $5,500 in the first year, then $2,500 thereafter, he says. He’ll survive that increase, he says, but Metully continues to believe the bond increase is anticompetitive in nature, putting his objection to it this way: The premium hike “is not the worst thing in the world, though it’s quite a difference from what we paid before. I’m OK, but it will make it much more difficult for businesses like mine to start in the future, even if [the individual starting the business] is the most honest guy in the world. And I believe, as it goes with the smaller freight brokers, so it will go with the smaller carriers as well. This kind of thing is anticompetitive at it’s core – they’re trying to concentrate power in the industry.”
On campaign finance and Citizens United
We talked again yesterday, and the subject of the Frontline documentary episode “Big Sky, Big Money,” which aired earlier this week, came up (you can check it out, and it’s well worth the time, here). The episode tracked efforts to rein in official corruption over the nation’s history, driven for more than a century often by campaign spenders with big pockets and, without disclosure laws, no ultimate accountability for results. Montana has been out in front among states for a century now, since the 1912 passage of its state Corrupt Practices Act, intended to rein in monied interests’ control of state officials at the time.
The Frontline episode well illustrated how the state is at the center of the debate over political campaign spending rules, freed up nationally by the Citizens United decision over the last few years. Here’s what Metully had to say about it: “When a lot of people think about Montana, they think about this pristine wilderness, but we’ve got plenty of SuperFund sites that are [the direct result of] the baloney coming from corporate influence in politics. [If current trends hold], there will be no voice for the common man in politics…. It makes me so proud to be a Montanan and know that we’re leading the charge against this. Just think, Montana passed its Corrupt Practices Act in 1912 – in 2012, we have the same things occurring that brought about the Corrupt Practices Act in the first place.” Read more on the subject from Metully here.