Freight Executives Press Congress on Trucking Priorities
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WASHINGTON — Policy initiatives that could improve economic and legal conditions for the trucking industry were raised during a meeting between family-owned stakeholders and federal lawmakers Sept. 20.
Business executives — including trucking officials — representing long-standing family-owned operations called on the Congressional Family Business Caucus to advocate on their behalf on issues including the economy, litigation and taxes.
Specific to trucking, John Smith, chairman of CRST International Holdings, told the congressional caucus that the nation’s current economic landscape raises the potential for sectorwide layoffs. For about the past year, Smith said, the industry has been experiencing degrees of economic disruption that have him and others worried about the future.
“Short-term worry: huge trucking recession,” Smith said at the Capitol Hill forum, hosted by advocacy firm Family Enterprise USA. “It’s hurting. We put off capital purchases.”
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Peter Latta, chairman and CEO of A. Duie Pyle, emphasized a need for reforming aspects of the civil justice system around the country. Tort reform, he explained, is atop the list.
“We both have a target — a bull’s-eye — on our back,” he said of he and Smith. “But we didn’t wear it today. Every other day of the year it’s on.”
Latta told lawmakers: “Get some meaningful tort reform in this country by eliminating contingency fees; losers pay winners for the costs.”
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Other family-owned companies at the forum called on lawmakers to minimize regulations they deem burdensome and to reform the estate tax. Stakeholders stressed that their businesses help to employ millions of people while generating trillions of dollars in annual revenue. They also cautioned that workforce shortages, rising costs and intricate regulations often hinder productivity for family-owned operations.
Family Enterprise USA and American Trucking Associations recently formed a strategic partnership to advocate on behalf of family-owned businesses.
“We’re excited to have ATA and its members as part of our growing family-business voice on Capitol Hill,” Pat Soldano, president of Family Enterprise USA, said this month. “Our goals are to educate our legislators on the size and power of family-owned trucking companies, and all family businesses, and to let them know of damaging tax and economic policies affecting their business.”
“ATA has been advocating on behalf of family-owned businesses for almost a century as we enter our 90th year,” noted David Bauer, vice president of state and policy for ATA. “This partnership with Family Enterprise makes perfect sense as we head towards looming tax debates in Congress.”
Bauer added, “Family Enterprise USA has been a strong voice on behalf of the country’s backbone: family-owned businesses that employ millions of Americans. ATA members look forward to adding our own voice to theirs as we take to the halls of Congress to promote tax policy that both protects and promotes family businesses.”
Pertaining to legal affairs, ATA dedicates services specific to helping carriers identify affordable insurance. ATA explained its Insurance Task Force “chose tort reform as a means of attacking the underlying cause of high insurance rates: outrageous and unfair verdicts caused by a deeply flawed judicial system.”
According to ATA, the task force “focuses its efforts on those reforms most important to the trucking industry (e.g., elimination of joint and several liability, caps on punitive damages, the recognition of collateral sources, the admissibility of non-use of seat belts) and works closely with state trucking associations to ensure that trucking industry interests are included in state tort reform efforts.”
At the event, Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.), chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, expressed gratitude for the contributions of many family-owned enterprises. The senior Republican also pledged to pursue the stakeholders’ priorities.
“I’m hoping that tort, real tort reform is something that we can get done in a serious way. It needs to happen. Because how we make things happen is by using leadership skills. Communications is one of those,” the committee chairman said. “I think when it comes to the future of tort reform, we need you at the table.”
Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.), a member of the tax-writing Ways and Means panel, emphasized for stakeholders the importance of engaging in talks with lawmakers.
“Understanding the challenges, the generational challenges that confront the family enterprise is crucial because it’s how we learn what we need to know to make the decisions we make,” Schneider said.
Republican strategist Frank Luntz moderated the panel discussion between lawmakers and stakeholders. He also coached the stakeholders on communication techniques he said are meant to better deliver fact-based issues to Congress. A theme of his presentation was to emphasize concepts of community and togetherness because, Luntz explained, “we’d rather help family businesses than help multinationals.”
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