New Trucking Alliance Bids for Leadership on Safety

The small group of trucking companies that agitated for mandatory electronic onboard recorders in the recent highway bill is on a mission to apply the same laser focus to a half-dozen additional safety initiatives, including mandatory speed limiters and improvements to drug and alcohol testing.
“I didn’t feel that there was any other issue, ever, probably within my lifetime in trucking, that was more important to get done and get done as soon as possible than to get an EOBR mandate,” said Steve Williams, chairman of the eight-member Alliance for Driver Safety & Security, known for short as The Trucking Alliance.Williams, chairman and CEO of Arkansas-based truckload carrier Maverick Transportation, helped launch the group in 2010 for the sole purpose of getting Congress to pass the mandate. The alliance was motivated not just by their shared commitment to the mandate, but also by frustration with the regular order of trucking business on Capitol Hill, which they found too slow and tenuous.Now that recorders are the law – the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has one year to finish the rule and three years to put it into effect – the alliance is doubling down.

Its agenda for the next two-year congressional cycle is to promote hair testing for drugs, creation of a drug and alcohol clearinghouse, mandatory speed limiters, higher financial requirements for would-be truckers and consideration of alternative compliance methods for determining safety fitness.None of these issues is new. Some of them already have been proposed as rules. And all are on the safety agenda of the American Trucking Associations.But the Alliance intends to push them using a new business model for truck lobbying, a model created out of impatience with the style of representation that ATA brings to Washington.

ATA is a federation of state trucking associations and operating groups such as the Truckload Carriers Association, as well as its trucking company members. The policy agenda that ATA’s professional staff carries to Congress and the regulatory agencies is shaped in a committee process that reflects the interests of the broad-based federation.Williams, a former chairman of ATA and current chair of the association’s research arm, the American Transportation Research Institute, was not satisfied with how onboard recorders fared in this process.
“ATA has to lobby a laundry list of issues that are collectively important to everyone but have different levels of importance to different factions within the industry,” he said.

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