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PMTA Members Meet with Lawmakers at Klapec Trucking in Western PA

PMTA Members Meet with Lawmakers at Klapec Trucking in Western PA

On Friday, September 16, 2022, PMTA and its Northwest Chapter, along with Klapec Trucking Co., hosted a Legislative Meet-and-Greet at Klapec’s facility in Reno, PA. Members were able to hear from local lawmakers and discuss with them many issues affecting their companies and the trucking industry in PA.

In attendance at the event were:

  • ·         PA State Sen. Scott Hutchinson
  • ·         PA State Rep. Donna Oberlander
  • ·         PA State Rep. R. Lee James
  • ·         PA State Rep. Brian Smith
  • ·         Kyle Hannon on behalf of U.S. Sen. Bob Casey
  • ·         Brad Moore on behalf of U.S. Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson

PMTA Northwest Chapter President Dale Knox welcomed the group, introduced the team from Klapec Trucking, and thanked them for hosting the event. Dale introduced PMTA President & CEO Rebecca Oyler, who reiterated her thanks and talked about Klapec’s history as a Pennsylvania family-owned business. Klapec is an example of the type of company PMTA works hard on behalf of every day. She then discussed some of the barriers that hold the trucking industry back in PA, including high costs to operate compared to other states, CARB, and PA registration requirements. Rebecca thanked the legislators who voted to stop PennDOT’s P3 bridge tolling initiative.

Sen. Hutchinson stated that the legislators were there to learn from the experts in the audience. He was pleased that the tolling was stopped because it would have been a drag on the trucking industry. It is his goal to help businesses grow. This means limiting costs that government imposes, especially with inflation so high. He mentioned that several tax code changes will make attracting and retaining businesses easier. He is also concerned about unpaid Turnpike tolls and stated that the General Assembly is considering ways of addressing this.

Rep. James mentioned his work in ensuring that elections are run well because, “no matter how you’re registered, you want your vote to count.” Tourism is an important focus for him as well, as many local businesses are struggling to recover from the pandemic. He also stated that the General Assembly has worked on several constitutional amendments this year.

Rep. Oberlander stated that the anti-tolling coalition will continue to be vigilant to ensure that tolling isn’t presented as a solution again. She was interested in addressing the CARB issue that Rebecca had mentioned, getting Pennsylvania out of California’s emissions standards. She had heard from constituents about new CDL requirements (ELDT) preventing veterans drivers from getting back into the industry.

Rep. Smith, who owned his own trucking company before running for the General Assembly, talked about going into the transportation industry because he didn’t want to sit behind a desk. He compared being a House member to being a dispatcher – he never knows what will come up on any given day as he is out and about meeting with constituents. He would be interested in sponsoring a bill that would allow federal inspections to be sufficient for PA-registered tractors.

Brad Moore talked about the importance of associations for businesses. Legislators and staff know a little about a lot but depend on associations like PMTA to educate them on the details. He thanked the members in the room for their work, saying that trucking is a unique industry that touches every other industry. He mentioned workforce and inflation as being significant issues that affect the industry.

PMTA’s first member question related to electric trucks. He was concerned that state and/or federal policy would push the industry to all electric, like California, by 2035. Rep. Oberlander believed that this is unachievable and unnecessary. Sen. Hutchinson stated that he is opposed to having PA’s regulations tied to other states.

The member wondered what the legislators thought about a mileage-based user fee. He was especially concerned that it may be an add-on to the fuel tax, and the fuel tax wouldn’t go away. Rep. Oberlander responded that electric vehicles are not currently paying their fair share of roadway taxes. The General Assembly had tried to increase their registration fee, but this was defeated.

Rep. Smith noted that trucks already pay a mileage-based tax, but cars are different, and the solution is more complicated. He said discussions need to happen. The answer must be either/or, and not both. Sen. Hutchinson stated that electric vehicles should not get a free ride as they are already highly taxpayer subsidized. He believes that the public will not tolerate a GPS-based mileage-based system because of privacy concerns and that a simpler system will need to be found. Rep. James noted that he has not yet seen a workable plan for replacing the fuel tax, so discussions must continue.

A member asked about high truck registration fees in Pennsylvania forcing many national trucking companies to register out of state. Lower fees may bring them back to Pennsylvania and increase funding for roads and bridges. Rep. James responded that the legislature is aware of it and discussing potential solutions. Sen. Hutchinson asked PMTA how PA compares to other states, and PMTA staff volunteered to send that information to the participants.

A PMTA member brought up abusive towing practices and provided an example towing bill his company received with an exorbitant cost. He said that something needs to be done to stop the practice. Rep. Smith responded that this happened to his company too, so he is aware of the issue. He also mentioned auto insurance minimums as a high priority for him. The legislators were interested in addressing the issue. Rebecca mentioned that abusive towing is a national as well as a state issue and that PMTA is working on several fronts on the issue. It is a problem that many PMTA members have experienced, and it must be addressed.

A member asked about drug and alcohol testing. She understands why random testing is necessary but wondered whether there could be any flexibility. Testing providers have 9-5 hours, but drivers don’t. Working around their hours and travel to get 50% of drivers tested every year is difficult.

A member brought up PennDOT’s winter weather restrictions. He said that drivers know when conditions are bad and when they need to park their truck. Rep. Smith agreed and mentioned that the legislature was able to get milk haulers exempted last year. He stated that local drivers know how to drive (or not drive) in bad weather, but some truckers on the road are still a problem. Rep. Oberlander said that PennDOT has been lowering speed limits, rather than shutting down the roads, which is what they want to see. Rebecca stated that PMTA has been discussing the restrictions with PennDOT.

Another member brought up lawsuit abuse as a major concern and mentioned that safety systems and technology are preventing accidents and reducing severity. However, insurance rates continue to climb. The participants agreed that this is an issue that should be addressed.

Kyle Hannon thanked participants and volunteered to pass on to Sen. Casey many of the concerns that members brought up. The event closed with thanks all around, lunch, and a No-Zone display featuring a Klapec truck.  

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