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Oregon Pilots Mileage-Based User Fee

Posted By John Hausladen, Thursday, August 1, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 16, 2013

This Time It’s Not California – While we often look to California for ideas that push the boundaries, this month Oregon gets the title. Mileage-based User Fee (MBUF) have been successful in advancing the concept through a "user choice” pilot study. Trust me folks, this is not the camel’s nose under the tent. This is the nose, the head and most of the neck. We need to keep a careful eye on these developments.

My counterpart in Oregon, Debra Dunn, provided this update to her members. They have been also battling this idea, but to no avail. I thought I would share it with you.

MBUF Gaining Momentum in Oregon- With the passage of Senate Bill 810, the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) will soon have the ability to assess a charge of 1.5 cents per mile for up to 5,000 cars and light commercial vehicles and issue an equivalent gas tax refund to those who volunteer for the new fuel tax alternative. Governor Kitzhaber (D) is expected to sign the bill into law and the system is required to be operational by July 2015.

Vehicle owners must apply to participate in the program. Once accepted, they will use an approved metering technology that will track mileage. ODOT will need to oversee the administration of the program, including developing the methods to record and report on the number of miles enrolled vehicles travel on highways.

ODOT must also determine the accuracy of the data collected, privacy options for persons liable for the per-mile road usage charge, the security of the technology, the resistance of the technology to tampering, the ability to audit compliance, and "other relevant factors that the department deems important."

In addition, ODOT will need to find at least one method of collecting and reporting the number of miles traveled by a subject vehicle that does not use vehicle location technology and adopting standards for open system technologies.

The Salem Statesman Journal reported that "implementing the voluntary program would cost an estimated $2.8 million in the 2013-15 biennium, which will be used to fund staffers, according to the bill's fiscal note. Revenue from the program is expected to be minimal."

Meanwhile, Back in Minnesota- Governor Dayton has sent his very likeable new Commissioner of Transportation Charlie Zelle on the road to build support for increased transportation funding. Given the Governor’s desire for a "bold” plan, I would be surprised if a similar MBUF pilot wasn’t part of the plan.

It is too early to make predictions regarding the 2014 legislature’s desire to take on transportation funding. House members will be up for election, making raising any new taxes a low priority, especially in light of the 2013 tax increases.

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Minnesota's Clean Air

Posted By John Hausladen, Monday, July 1, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 16, 2013

It is fascinating how something can be both a help and a hindrance. Take our industry’s essential role in the economy. As we all know, without trucks, America stops.

Those many trucks also consume lots of diesel. When the government wants to crack down on emissions, they zero in on – you guessed it – essential industries who consume carbon-based fuels like us!

The good news is that Minnesota generally enjoys good air quality, and is in "attainment” as defined by the United State Environmental Agency. However, as the agency undergoes its periodic review, there is a risk the EPA could tighten its standards and push Minnesota into "non-attainment” with regards to either fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and/or ground level ozone. Trucks contribute to both of these pollutants.

Once you go into non-attainment, states are forced to adopt certain strategies to reduce those pollutants. Think California Air Resources Board regulations, and you can see why we want to stay in attainment.

Here was the big idea: What if those entities emitting pollutants could develop a voluntary program that both reduced emissions and kept more government mandates from coming down? That was exactly the goal of the Minnesota Clean Air Dialogue. As a participant of that group, I am pleased to say that we have developed such a plan.

Most gratifying is the fact that the plan recognizes the significant investments the trucking industry has made in its engines and equipment over the past decade. Rather than recommending some new regulatory mechanism, the plan supports the natural improvement that is coming as fleets turn over.

The plan also builds on many of the voluntary programs put in place for the trucking industry. With regards for mobile diesel sources, the plan made six recommendations:

Mobile Diesel Recommended Actions
Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Grants
Alternative Fuel Vehicle Incentive for Fleets
Education and Outreach to Reduce Truck Idling
Incentives for Diesel Engine Retrofit/Repower/Rebuild/Replace
Emissions Reduction Guidelines for Public Fleets
Model Contract for Public Works Projects

We will continue to work with the group to now implement these recommendations. For more information about this ongoing effort or to obtain a full copy of this report, visit the project website at www.environmental-initiative.org. Questions can be directed to Environmental Initiative at info@environmental-initiative.org or 612-334-3388.

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2013 Legislative Wrap Up

Posted By John Hausladen, Saturday, June 1, 2013
Updated: Friday, July 12, 2013

With the 2013 Session of the Minnesota Legislature wrapped up, it is time to take stock of how the trucking industry fared. The answer is always a matter of perspective. We beat back many onerous provisions, but also lost on some important items.

 
To be honest, I can't remember a session where so many real threats were leveled at our industry. It has also been over two decades since we had the kind of one-party rule we experienced in 2013. This was a very challenging environment for trucking and business in general.


Your involvement made a huge difference. I will say it again. Your involvement DID have an impact. We could easily have had many more losses had it not been for an engaged and active membership. You should take pride in the fact that your e-mails, letters, calls and visits changed votes. You put faces and people behind the data and arguments being used by our lobbying team at the Capitol. Thank you!


Wins

  • The sales tax was NOT extended to trucking services
  • The sales tax was NOT extended to motor vehicle repair labor
  • The motor vehicle sales tax was NOT increased to 6. 85 percent
  • The independent contractor definition was NOT changed
  • Street utility fees were NOT approved 
  • New tolling was NOT allowed under proposed public private partnership pilots
  • A gross receipts tax was NOT applied to motor vehicle fuel


Losses

  • The 6. 5 percent sales tax was extended to warehousing services
  • A fourth tier was added to the state's personal income tax
  • Wheelage taxes were allowed in all Minnesota counties


Now, we are in the interim, which in legislative speak means half-time of this biennial session. Policy items introduced are technically still alive and can be taken up when the legislature reconvenes in February.  During this interim, we will be working to strengthen relationships with legislators and work hard to make our case on some lingering problems. 

 

The warehouse tax is one example. Some good news is that we were able to push the effective date back to April 1, 2014. This gives us one session to repeal the tax. Fortunately, legislative leaders began backtracking on the tax the day after the session ended and pledged to reexamine it. With some prompting from the MTA, the Star Tribune took an editorial position on June 4 urging the legislature to do just that.

 

So … keep your head up and in the game. We are going to play hard until the final buzzer next May.

Tags:  Legislative 

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Staying Vigilant

Posted By John Hausladen, Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Updated: Friday, July 12, 2013

I enjoy running for exercise. In my better moments, I even dream of running the granddaddy of all marathons, the Boston Marathon.

 

During a trip to Boston two years ago, I even tracked down the finish line of the race. It is painted on the street in front of the Boston Public Library. I sent a photo to my wife of me by the finish line with the caption "The closest I will likely get to the finish line of the Boston Marathon.” An aging body, slow pace and ever faster qualifying standards mean it will remain a fun dream.

 

Up until a month ago, Copley Square in Boston was known only to locals, tourists or those crazy marathoners. Sadly, the bombings on April 15 made average people around the world experts on the geography of greater Boston.

 

Out of the tragedy came stories of courage and vigilance. Once again, professionals and citizens alike rushed to the aid of the runners and spectators without care for their own safety. Most dramatic for me was the manner in which bomber #2 was tracked down. A citizen was vigilant, noticed something was not right regarding a stored boat, peeled back the tarp, and to his shock found the bomber. A quick call to 911 and this terrorist was taken alive.

 

It all reminds me that truckers continue to be in the perfect position to be our security eyes and ears on the road. We are creatures of repetition and consistency. We drive the same routes, go to the same places and haul critical goods. We know when something looks normal, and when it seems not quite right.

 

The terrorist bombings in Boston should serve as a reminder that we need to remain alert and prepared. This might be a good time to offer your drivers a refresher course on observation and reporting protocols.

 

I dusted off our old Highway Watch materials to give myself a refresher. It all boils down to being observant regarding behavior. Look out for suspicious behavior and take mental or physical notes when something seems out of the ordinary, such as:

 

  • Lack of proper identification, uniform or work gear
  • Loitering, watching or staring
  • Taking photos, video or notes
  • Strangers asking questions about loads, schedules or destinations
  • Unusual behavior for situation (calm when others are stressed or vice versa)
  • Unexplained presence for an extended time
  • Vendors or delivery personnel who don’t know the job
  • Leaving articles unattended
  • Trucks or trailers parked where they should not be

 

If you believe a crime is being committed or human safety is threatened, call 911. Be prepared to give as much detail as possible. It was the vigilance and communication of an ordinary citizen that led to the capture of bomber #2. We certainly can do no less.

 

I have always held the Boston Marathon in great esteem as one of America’s great athletic events. It will now and forever take on even greater meaning as a symbol of strength and resilience. Trust me, it will be run next year … though by runners far more qualified than me. But hey, this is America. A guy can always dream, right?

Tags:  Safety 

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Do Legislators Really Listen?

Posted By John Hausladen, Monday, April 1, 2013
Updated: Friday, July 12, 2013

During the recent MTA Truck to the Capitol, Rep. Tim Kelly of Red Wing was posed the question: How can I get my legislator to pay attention when I contact them? Implied in the question is a cynicism that politicians don’t really listen. His response was candid and encouraging. Yes, they do listen. However, some methods work better than others to get their attention.

 

Personalization is the Key – Legislators tune out messages that come in the form of mass e-mails or blast faxes. While volume is meaningful, personalization is the key. The same exact message received from a large number of constituents is noticed, but not given the same weight.

 

I Am a Constituent – In any form of communication, it is very important to note that you are a constituent. Declare your special status in the subject line (e.g. Subject: Constituent from Your District Opposes HF 1234). Repeat it in the first line of the message. Making it clear you are a constituent – and a voter in his or her district – moves your message to the top of the pile. Elected officials hear from lots of folks, so they need your help flagging those they represent.

 

Area Code, Please – Phone calls really do work. You are not likely to reach a legislator when you call, but your message will be noted. Most legislators review all of their messages and try to return them, especially from constituents. If they cannot call, they will ask staff to call you back. The same rules apply when you call. Identify yourself as a constituent, state what bill or issue you are calling about, and leave information on how you can be contacted. One little-known secret is that legislators are very willing to set up telephone appointments. You can work with his or her staff to set up a time and have a meaningful conversation.

 

Old School Really Works, Too – In an electronic age, a handwritten note really stands out. Legislators view these as gems, works of personal effort and commitment. Sending a personal note almost guarantees it will be read by the legislator. The legislative world operates at a fast pace, with sound bites and bits of information. A letter allows you to both personalize your story and develop your argument. Legislators value a real-life story about how a policy or law impacts you. The personal letter is still one of the most powerful lobbying tools you have.

 

Don’t Blast ‘Em – Think what you may about legislators, they are people just like you and me. A courteous, professional tone elicits a much more positive response. You can be firm and disagree, without being disagreeable. While legislators may not share your views, they are not enemies. Use them for the voice and resource they are.

 

Get to Know Them Back Home – Legislators, by the very nature of what they do, rise from the ranks of your friends, neighbors and business acquaintances. They come from your communities. They understand the unique aspects of where you live, from the price of corn in Marshall to the walleye limit on Lake Mille Lacs. Meet them were they live. Say hi at church. Invite them for coffee. Attend one of their local meetings. They want to help their neighbors and friends. Again, you don’t have to give up your principles to be a respected constituent.

 

Best Truck to the Capitol Ever – With over 80 attendees, this year’s Truck to the Capitol was the best ever. Our members did a fantastic job delivering the message with facts, honesty and real-life stories. I have never been more proud to be a trucker!

Tags:  Legislative 

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A Call to Action

Posted By John Hausladen, Friday, March 1, 2013
Updated: Friday, July 12, 2013

Fellow truckers, this is a time to be heard. Minnesota’s family-owned trucking companies and the communities they serve will be hit especially hard by Governor Dayton’s proposed budget.

 

Our best reading of the Governor’s proposed budget tells us that trucking services will be assessed the sales tax. Eighty five percent of Minnesota’s manufactured tonnage moves on a truck. These manufactured goods are moved multiple times, either as raw commodities or components, before they achieve their finished state.

 

Governor Dayton’s plan will add 5.5 percent to the cost of each of those moves, creating a negative multiplier effect. Trucking companies simply don’t have the margin to absorb those costs.

 

They also don’t have the margin to cover the additional sales taxes they will pay for obtaining critical accounting, legal and consulting services. Those costs will have to be passed on to the consumer as well.

 

This proposal will impact pass-through business as well. There is no question a truck driver needing repair work will avoid getting the work done in Minnesota if he can avoid it.

 

We believe the Governor’s income tax proposal will negatively impact the ability of our family-owned businesses to grow and remain competitive. Since most Minnesota trucking companies are organized as Subchapter S corporations (S Corps), they will see their personal state income tax rate increase by over 25 percent.

 

These higher taxes will directly impact the ability of these family-owned businesses to upgrade or add to their fleets, effectively stifling job creation. Furthermore, increasing the state’s per capita income tax ranking from eighth to fourth highest in the nation will not attract trucking companies to do business in Minnesota.

 

When you add this state income tax increase to the new federal taxes on Medicare mandated under the Affordable Care Act, S Corps would effectively pay 11.61 percent more than C corporations (C Corps) in Minnesota. Projected revenues under the Dayton plan would drop dramatically if S Corps convert to C Corps to avoid those taxes.

 

It is time to remind legislators that 68 percent of Minnesota communities rely exclusively on truck transportation for everything transported in and out of those communities. Those communities are going to feel the reverberations of a bigger freight bill with no value added.

 

Truckers, the threat is very real. The governor is serious, so it is critical to make your voice heard. Send e-mails, place calls and join us in Saint Paul on March 14 for our annual Truck to the Capitol.

Tags:  Legislative 

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From Minnesota to Washington DC

Posted By John Hausladen, Friday, February 1, 2013
Updated: Friday, July 12, 2013

Congratulations to our New America’s Road Team Captains

 

I can’t tell you how excited I am to have John Borman of Koch Trucking and Nathan Wick of UPS Freight as members of the 2013 ATA America’s Road Team. I have had the pleasure of working with Road Team members for the past 17 years, and they are truly the best! You will not find safer and more articulate truck drivers anywhere on this planet. Their commitment to improving highway safety and telling the trucking story is unparalleled. I have also grown to appreciate the huge commitment the motor carriers make to support these drivers.

 

Great Minds Think Alike

 

I just have to comment on the amazing timing of two major honors for Nathan Wick. His selection and announcement as both a Road Team Captain AND MTA Driver of the Year are purely coincidental. The evaluation process for each honor proceeded independent of the other. It just goes to show what a solid individual Nathan is, and how great minds to think alike!

 

Minnesotans Hold Key Transportation Positions in Congress

 

From a congressional perspective, Minnesota retains key seats on the congressional committees charged with overseeing transportation issues. Senator Amy Klobuchar retains her position on the Senate Commerce Committee. Congressman Tim Walz returns to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee with a new peer, newly elected Minnesota Congressman Rick Nolan (D-MN8).

 

Join Us for April Call on Washington

 

We will be meeting with the entire federal delegation when we make our 2013 Call on Washington, April 9 to 11. Every year for more than a decade we have made the trek to our nation’s capitol to educate lawmakers regarding our issues. These visits make a difference, as evidenced by many MTA priorities included in the 2012 Federal Highway Bill. The trip is open to all MTA members. In addition to our congressional visits, we include a little site seeing and have time to enjoy some great food.

 

MBUF Will Be Key Topic

 

The concept of mileage-based user fees is simply not going away. The Government Accounting Office says Congress might want to consider a mileage fee for trucks and electric vehicles when it looks for ways to strengthen highway funding. GAO said that while privacy concerns and other issues limit the usefulness of such fees for automobiles, Congress should consider a pilot program to test them for trucks and electric cars. The agency was responding to a 2011 request for an analysis of vehicle mileage fees from the House Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee. You can bet this will be one of the topics we will discuss when we go to Washington.

 

Regulations in the Pipeline for 2013

 

Recently, the Department of Transportation released its annual list of regulatory priorities. The relevant truck safety issues of particular significance include:

 

  • Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse – Proposed Rule Planned for April 2013
  • Mandatory Truck Speed Limiters - Proposed Rule Planned for May 2013
  • Electronic Logging Devices (EOBRs) – Supplemental Proposed Rule Planned for July 2013
  • Safety Fitness (CSA Safety Ratings) - Proposed Rule Planned for November 2013

These dates are merely targets and are not set in stone. In fact, it is far more common for agencies to miss these targets than to hit them. However, they do offer some indications of DOT’s priorities and when the industry might anticipate action on important issues. We’ll keep you updated as these and other issues move forward in 2013. Remember, we’ve got your back!

Tags:  Industry 

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Trucks Bring It! In 2013!

Posted By John Hausladen, Tuesday, January 1, 2013
Updated: Friday, July 12, 2013

I am proud to be a trucker. I know you are too. At the start of a new year it is good to remember just who we are and what we do for the State of Minnesota.

 

Trucking Drives the Economy

 

  • Provide 120,980 direct and industry-dependent jobs (one out of 18 in the state), representing totaling $5.6 billion in wages
  • Provide 44,460 truck driving jobs paying an average salary of $37,775
  • 14,550 trucking companies call Minnesota home, paying local property taxes
  • Trucks transport 85 percent of total manufactured tonnage in the Minnesota (528,529 tons per day)
  • Over 68 percent of Minnesota communities depend exclusively on trucks to move their goods.

 

Trucking Pays the Freight

 

  • Pay approximately $680 million in federal and state roadway taxes and fees.
  • Pay 33 percent of all taxes and fees owed by Minnesota motorists, despite trucks representing only 8 percent of vehicle miles traveled in the state.
  • Typical five-axle tractor-semitrailer combination paid $6,240 in state highway user fees and taxes in addition to $7,771 in federal user fees and taxes.

 

Safety Matters to Truckers

 

  • Truck-related fatalities dropped to their lowest numbers in a decade
  • Fatal crashes involving trucks dropped 37 percent in the past decade
  • Persons injured involving trucks dropped 27 percent in the past decade
  • Persons killed involving trucks dropped 41 percent in the past decade Clean

 

Air Matters to Truckers

 

  • Combination trucks consumed over 57 billion fewer gallons of fuel than passenger vehicles in the U.S. Combination trucks accounted for just 17 percent of the total highway transportation fuel consumed.
  • New diesel truck engines produce 98 percent fewer particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions than a similar engine manufactured prior to 1990.
  • Sulfur emissions from diesel engines have also been reduced by 97 percent since 1999

 

Tell the Good News – With that refresher under the belt, be bold, be loud … and be truckers!

Tags:  Industry 

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