September 2010 | Commentary | Checking In

First They Came For Our Trucks

Tags: Trucking, Green Logistics, Legislation, Public Policy, and Regulations

Keith Biondo is the publisher of Inbound Logistics magazine.

The War on Trucking. Are You Prepared? That's the headline of the ad on page 111 of this issue, sponsored by NASSTRAC, an association comprised of a cross-section of shippers. Citing the challenges posed by CSA 2010, cap and trade, and Hours-of-Service changes, NASSTRAC is undertaking advocacy to guard the interests of anyone using trucks in America.

Is there a war on trucking? Last month, Federal Judge Christina Snyder ruled that independent truckers draying at the Port of Los Angeles will be prohibited from serving the port as owner-operators by 2013 because of their inability to meet diesel emissions standards. If they want to work the port, they'll have to dump their trucks and hire on with a larger carrier.

Green stewardship aside, does a local entity have the power to regulate an industry that is already regulated at the federal level? Wouldn't that create a patchwork of conflicting state and local regulations at odds with uniform federal regulations? Isn't this the same patchwork argument the U.S. Department of Justice is using in its lawsuit to prevent states from enforcing immigration law? Does a federal judge have the right to use environmental concerns to put hundreds of small truckers out of business?

If this precedent is rolled out nationwide, that number will grow to thousands. That's one reason why the American Trucking Associations is planning to appeal, and why many ports are watching closely to see how this plays out.

Truckers have issues with the Obama Administration's aggressive stance on greenhouse gas regulation. Poor job growth may make ratification of the job-killing cap and trade law impossible, at least for now. Yet, the Administration is attempting an end run around Congress by using a "tailoring rule" to rewrite the Clean Air Act passed by Congress more than 40 years ago. Ultimately, this takes regulatory power away from the states and brings it back to Washington.

Some states are already rebelling. In an open letter to the EPA, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott writes: "In order to deter challenges to your plan for centralized control of industrial development through the issuance of permits for greenhouse gases, you have called upon each state to declare its allegiance to the recently enacted greenhouse gas regulations—regulations that are plainly contrary to U.S. laws... On behalf of the State of Texas, we write to inform you that Texas has neither the authority nor the intention of interpreting, ignoring, or amending its laws in order to compel the permitting of greenhouse gas emissions."

If the Administration succeeds with this anti-jobs end-run around Congress, costs will rise at every supply chain touch, and jobs will go to where jobs come first. Every warehouse, manufacturing plant , or anyone emitting CO2—meaning you—will be next. Trucks are on the front lines of the CO2 issue also.

First they came for our trucks. Will we do nothing?