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PMTA Members Talk Trucking Issues with Lawmakers at Ward Transport in Altoona

PMTA Members Talk Trucking Issues with Lawmakers at Ward Transport in Altoona

On Friday, September 9, PMTA and Ward Transport and Logistics Corporation hosted a Legislative Meet-and-Greet at Ward’s headquarters in Altoona, PA. PMTA members were able to hear from many local lawmakers and talk with them about issues affecting their companies and what the legislature might do help the industry.

In attendance at the event were the following PA General Assembly members:

  • ·       Sen. Judy Ward
  • ·       Sen. Wayne Langerholc
  • ·       Sen. Cris Dush
  • ·       Sen. Joe Pittman
  • ·       Rep. Kerry Benninghoff
  • ·       Rep. Rich Irvin
  • ·       Rep. Lou Schmitt
  • ·       Rep. Jim Gregory

PMTA President & CEO Rebecca Oyler welcomed the group, thanking Ward Transport and Logistics for hosting the event. Rebecca thanked Ward for being a member of PMTA because Ward represents what PMTA works for on behalf of all its members: the opportunity for PA trucking companies and the businesses that support them to compete effectively, succeed at they do, and thrive so that they can contribute to the economic prosperity of the state and the nation.

Rebecca thanked Sen. Langerholc for authoring and the lawmakers in the room who had voted for the compromise that stopped PennDOT’s P3 bridge tolling initiative, which PMTA had long fought to stop. She mentioned several issues that are holding the industry back in PA, including high costs to operate compared to other states, CARB, and PA registration requirements.

Rep. Benninghoff, House Majority Leader, opened by stating that the legislature works for everyone in the room and that PMTA members should stay in touch with lawmakers to make sure they understand the industry’s issues. Sen. Pittman agreed but noted that, though the Legislative branch is important, the people who are in the Executive and the Judiciary branches are critical too. Rep. Schmitt also agreed but noted that because the legislature is the policymaking branch, it’s critically important to tell legislators what’s important to the industry, stating “if you’re not in the conversation, it doesn’t count.” Sen. Ward agreed that legislators need to hear thoughts and ideas from PMTA members – today and long after today.

Rep. Gregory noted his experience in addiction treatment and recovery and discussed how important this is to the industry. He said that policymakers are actively looking for solutions, if members have found any, please share them.

Sen. Dush stated that underinsured motorists are affecting the industry every time they are involved in an accident with a truck and noted that the legislature is working to address this.

Sen. Langerholc thanked PMTA for working hard on behalf of its members to fight bridge tolling. He said that the issue wasn’t being discussed early on and may have slipped through except for PMTA’s calling attention to it. He is glad that Gov. Wolf ultimately signed SB 382 because bridge tolling would have been an astronomical cost to the trucking industry.

Langerholc also noted that the Transportation Committee recently held a hearing on PennDOT’s contract with an Australian company to complete the nine bridges. This P3 contract would require about $9 billion over 30 years for projects that would cost around $3 billion now.

Rep. Irvin discussed the U.S. truck driver shortage, noting that these are family-sustaining jobs. Career and technical education is important to push for.

Member questions followed. The first question asked whether the legislature would consider reducing registration fees for trucks because the high costs of registration in PA drive companies to less expensive states to register, leading to fewer registered trucks and less revenue overall. Sen. Langerholc agreed and thought that it would be a good issue to bring up next year. Rep. Benninghoff stated that most legislators don’t know how much it costs to run a truck on the road and how punitive these costs can be for small businesses. He agreed that this may be an issue for next session. Sen. Ward told members to invite a lawmaker to their facility to show them their business and discuss these issues with them.

Rep. Schmitt added that people don’t generally understand how heavily regulated the trucking industry is, including that small businesses must comply with the same rules as big businesses. Sen. Dush reiterated that members should make sure they talk to their legislators about these costs. Added costs mean less employees.

The next member question related to infrastructure funding, specifically, how to ensure that funding raised for this purpose funds roads and bridges. Sen. Dush noted that the liquid fuels tax is not tracked well – it should be tracked by zip code. Sen. Langerholc stated that federal money is automatically dispersed according to formulas. With the state’s Motor License Fund, the amount going to the PA State Police was reduced this year, but is still substantial, and this needs to be addressed.

The conversation then turned to PennDOT’s winter weather restrictions. There was some discussion over whether they have in fact increased safety on the road. Some legislative guests and members noted that the private sector is well positioned to determine for themselves whether or not it is safe to drive. The companies in attendance noted that they each have a process for keeping their drivers safe during winter weather and determining whether it is appropriate to drive. A member pointed out that PennDOT’s reason for winter weather restrictions is their concern about being able to clear the road if a large truck is disabled. This is an issue that need to continue to be discussed.

A member brought up a concern about drivers involved in accidents he has investigated that are unable to understand English. This is a safety concern but probably a federal issue.

Another member asked how the state might provide incentives (tax incentives or insurance incentives) to implement safety technologies in trucks. Some legislators thought that tax incentives may be a good idea, though others believed that reducing companies’ overall tax burden would be the best way to free up funding for these technologies. A suggestion was made that the safety industry should make studies about the impact of technologies available to actuaries in the insurance industry.

Lastly, a member asked about tort reform. What can PMTA do to stop lawsuit abuse? Rep. Benninghoff answered that members should pay close attention to judicial elections – know who is running and what they stand for. Also vote in retention elections.

The event closed with a tour of Ward’s facilities.

PMTA’s next Legislative Meet-and-Greet is Friday, September 16 at Klapec Trucking in Reno, PA. Guests include: Rep. Carrie Lewis DelRosso (also candidate for Lieutenant Governor), Sen. Scott Hutchinson, Rep. Donna Oberlander, and Rep. Brian Smith. Register to attend today!

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