New priorities for a new DOT secretary?: Take two

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Updated Dec 11, 2016

The question shown above, asked attendant to news of President-Elect Trump’s likely nominee for DOT Secretary, Elaine Chao, former Secretary of Labor under George W. Bush, reprised the question asked when President Obama nominated current DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx to replace outgoing Secretary Ray LaHood back in 2013.

It brought more than a few responses, among them plenty of sentiment expressed of a piece with Steve Mitchell‘s message for incoming Secretary Foxx in 2013: “When are they going to come up with a program to do away with all these new programs?”

Since that time, Congress has been the vehicle through which truckers and other trucking interests have gotten a little of what they want, however (see both the rollback of 2013-implemented changes to the restart, likewise the dent put in CSA, pulling scores from public view), not the DOT and its Secretary. At once, noted Craig Veccelio under news of the potential of a Trump administration to deliver on regulatory relief, Chao’s pick by Trump was cause for some hope: “Chao has a history of deregulation, so we might get some relief.”

William McKelvie, commenting on Facebook, asked a rhetorical question: “Can we please just get back to trucking now? We need a system that works with the drivers and owners, not against them,” going on to echo Phil Killerlain‘s own message: “First, end the ELD mandate!”

McKelvie: “If the big companies want [to use] ELDs, that is fine, and if they want to play race the clock, then let them pay their drivers by the clock hour.”

As watchers both for and against the ELD mandate have noted, however, Congressional action or a court order are likely to be necessary to turn back the ELD mandate. OOIDA, as it is, continues to press its challenge to the mandate in court. But given a recent Republican-controlled Congress is responsible for codifying the ELD mandate, the legislative front could represent a tall order unless representatives hear and truly listen to the drumbeat coming from many truck owners and drivers against the mandate.

Opposition or antipathy to ELDs is so strong among Overdrive‘s audience that 7 in 10 readers report eye-ing the mandate’s pre-2000 model year exemption for their operation, whether already running in a 1999 or older truck or actively looking for one today. The very mention of the possibility of difficulty for a Trump administration and its DOT in acting against the mandate, in this linked report, drew such ire that one reader went so far as to suggest Overdrive was an outspoken supporter of the mandate for simply reporting reality.

That reader’s further commentary, however, reflected the view of many small-business truckers all around the country, suggesting moving against the mandate in any way possible ought to be priority No. 1 for the new administration — and Congress: “If an independent like me is fine with my paper logs, why force me to [use an ELD]? I may get my log checked by an officer maybe once or twice a year. In over 30 years I’ve never had a ticket or warning on any logging issue. So what’s really the issue? If I’m off my log and get checked out I am subject to the consequences, paper or electronic.

“It’s just an unnecessary extra expense and trouble for my little operation anyways. I feel confident it’s the same for thousands and thousands of others like me.”

Other messages for the incoming Secretary of Transportation
Chuck Shaffer: “Talk to the guys doing the work not the suits in the office! The solutions that work for the guy on the street isn’t always what the suits think is best. Much like the 14-hour rule!”

Phil Killerlain: “Return the [pre-14-hour-rule] hours of service! But retain the 34-hour reset!”

Paul Marhoefer had a very simple message: “Parking parking parking.” 

Andy Soucy: “I would ask her to ask herself who is to benefit monetarily from [any] rule. If there is a specific industry [or segment] that will benefit in any way, then it’s not about safety.” 

Soucy also brought up the issue of the longstanding exemption of company-employee drivers from the Department of Labor/Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime-pay requirements placed on employers in other sectors, which some readers over the years have advocated should be repealed to encourage a less-incentive-driven pay system based on the principle of pay for all time worked. For owner-operators, such a changed landscape might have indirect, longer-term benefits for rates/income. “I’d prefer if they would implement basic working regulations [for employee drivers] to trucking to include abolishing pay per mile,” Soucy noted.

Such a change would likely require close coordination with a DOL friendly to such a change and Congress, too. Don Lanier recalled Chao’s own time at the top of the DOL in his commentary about what he saw a “political favor” appointment — Chao is the wife of Mitch McConnell, Republican Senate leader. At the head of the DOL, the Taiwan-born Chao, who came to the United States as a young child, drew criticism for not vigorously enforcing those same overtime and other wage protections in other sectors.

What do you feel should be the No. 1 priority for the next DOT Secretary? Weigh in via the poll at this link or drop a comment below.