Top: Bill McCarthy, who plans to vote for Bush, is concerned about fuel prices, as are many of his fellow owner-operators.
Bottom: Owner-operator Web Jamison plans to vote for Kerry even though he is skeptical about either candidate’s ability to help the trucking industry.
The officials sent to Washington, D.C., in the new year will have a say in a wide variety of issues, including matters dear to the heart of owner-operators.
“Lawmakers can track who votes,” says Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. “We want truckers to be full participants. Then you can ask for accountability and ask for what you want.”
Bill McCarthy, an owner-operator from Claremore, Okla., leased to Interstate Express, wants lower fuel prices, a fuel surcharge and a revised hours-of-service rule.
“I’m voting for Bush because Kerry is a tax-and-spend Democrat, and he’s not going to do anything to lower fuel prices,” McCarthy says.
Energy policy rarely takes center stage in a presidential race, but amid such high prices for diesel as well as gasoline, owner-operators are hardly the only voters feeling pain at the pump. President Bush and Sen. John Kerry have developed plans to reduce Americans’ reliance on Middle East oil, but it’s up to voters to discern which would be more effective.
Bush’s plan seeks to increase domestic oil and gas production and supports drilling for oil in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The President also proposes billions of dollars in tax incentives to accelerate the development of hybrid and fuel-cell vehicles.
Sen. John Kerry’s plan relies on conservation and efficiency measures to cut consumption. He proposes $10 billion in incentives to encourage production and purchase of more fuel-efficient vehicles. The senator also wants to stop pumping oil into the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve until prices fall. He opposes Arctic drilling.
Such differences between the presidential candidates mean little to Web Jamison, an owner-operator from Atlanta. He says that although he plans to vote for Kerry, he doesn’t believe either candidate will benefit the trucking industry. “It seems like everyone is coming down so hard on the truckers right now,” he says.
In some recent years, OOIDA has lobbied for a mandatory diesel fuel surcharge, though the proposals have never gone far in Congress. However, the fate of such legislation could be affected by this year’s voting because the majority party in the Senate and the House determines committee control, including the Transportation Committees.
“These are the people who have a direct effect on taxes that affect the trucking industry – tolls, highway spending in a particular state or bottlenecks and new roads,” says Mike Russell, vice president of public affairs for the American Trucking Associations.
Even those who don’t serve on a Transportation Committee affect trucking through their votes on certain issues, such as implementing a mandatory fuel surcharge. Spencer suggests, for example, contacting the transportation staff person in your lawmaker’s office to ask where he or she stands on language in the Highway Reauthorization Bill that would allow for tolls on interstate highways.
House and Senate representatives have been working to finalize the reauthorization bill for months. Section 1609 of the Senate version of the bill, supported by the Bush administration, allows states to begin collecting tolls on interstate highways. OOIDA and ATA oppose all new highway tolls except those proposed in Section 1603 (the “Kennedy Amendment”) of the House bill. The amendment provides only for tolls that are voluntary, that may be used only to fund construction of new highway lanes and that will expire after the construction.
As of July 5, 82 percent of contributions from trucking industry political action committees went to Republican candidates, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Such PACs include OOIDA, 57 percent of whose contributions supported Republican candidates, and ATA, 82 percent of whose contributions supported Republican candidates. ATA contributed $4,500 to Bush.
Election time provides an excellent opportunity for communicating with lawmakers, Spencer says, but owner-operators should alert elected officials about trucking-related matters throughout the year. “It takes 100 phone calls to a congressman’s office for a congressman to even become aware of an issue,” he says. “The bottom line is be involved.”
ABSENTEE VOTING EASIER IN MANY STATES
It used to be that state election laws permitted voters to cast an absentee ballot only if they met specific requirements about being out of town on Election Day. Now, most states allow unconditional early voting, in person or by mail. In Georgia, for example, any registered voter can cast a ballot in person at his county voter registration office the week prior to an election.
But if your state hasn’t embraced the early voting trend and you know that you’ll be on the road on Election Day, you’re eligible to vote absentee. While the cutoff date for the receipt of absentee ballots is typically before the close of polls on Election Day, some states require that the ballots be received the day before.
Absentee voting and advance voting are usually managed by the secretary of state’s office, though some duties may be delegated to local registrars’ offices. You can find your registrar’s office telephone number by looking under county government listings or calling your county courthouse.
OOIDA’S CONGRESSIONAL DONATIONS*
House of Representatives
Roy Blunt, R-Mo. $5,000
Sherwood Boehlert, R-N.Y. $3,000
Bob Filner, D-Calif. $1,000
Tim Holden, D-Pa. $2,000
Kenny Hulshof, R-Mo. $2,000
James Oberstar, D-Minn. $5,500
Jack Quinn, R-N.Y. $2,000
Ike Skelton, D-Mo. $500
Don Young, R-Alaska $1,000
Total to Democratic House candidates: $9,000
Total to Republican House candidates: $13,000
Christopher ‘Kit’ Bond, R-Mo. $3,500
Mac Collins, R-Ga. $1,000
Kay Hutchison, R-Texas $1,000
Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J. $5,000
Total to Democratic Senate candidates: $5,000
Total to Republican Senate candidates: $5,500
*Based on data released by the Federal Election Commission July 5 and compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.
ABSENTEE VOTING CONTACTS
Federal Election Commission
District of Columbia
Contact each county
or (888) 884-8683
or (800) 352-0867
(801) 538-1041 or (800) 995-8683
HAVE YOU SIGNED UP TO CAST A BALLOT?
The deadline to register to vote in the 2004 General Election varies according to state, but can be as early as one month before Election Day, Nov. 2. Registration applications may be obtained from either the local election official in your county or city or through registration outreach programs sponsored by such groups as the League of Women Voters. In addition, you can also register to vote when applying for a driver’s license or identity card at motor vehicle or driver licensing offices, as well as at many other public facilities.
TRUCKER TALK. Truck.net features an Election 2004 Discussion forum for truckers to post their views on issues and candidates. Click on RoundTable to find the forum.