Letters: ‘Sport Trucking,’ Small Carriers
These Letters to the Editor appear in the Sept. 14 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.
I believe there are a lot of carriers engaged in “sport trucking” as described in the story “Pace of Fleet Failures Slows as Banks Delay Foreclosures” (click here for story). Trucking companies that “aren’t doing it for a profit” will hurt only themselves in the end and make it bad for the rest of the industry — both shippers and carriers.
We have seen a decline in fuel prices, but that is covered in fuel service charges. Rates have declined. The other costs — equipment, taxes, insurance — all have been the same or on the rise, so the base rates before the fuel need to stay steady or increase. Banks are reluctant to lend anybody money. Trucking is very capital-intense; there are better places for banks to invest.
Pollywog Transport Inc.
The national transportation policy established by Congress merely pays lip service to encouraging the formation of small, privately owned motor carriers and, as a result of deregulation, there are now more than 600,000 trucking companies. The vast majority are truckload carriers that operate fewer than 25 units and depend on owner-operators many times to grow.
This vital partnership between owner-operators and small carriers is threatened by a combination of welfare advocates, state and federal bureaucrats, and legislators who misapprehend the relationship between small carriers and owner-operators as independent businesses.
The owner-operator model has allowed hundreds of thousands of hardworking Americans to establish their own businesses, purchase and manage trucks, retain the family home or farm, and build a future free from layoffs, plant closures and the exportation of jobs overseas. Independent contractors are the lifeblood of small carriers because small carriers often lack financial clout to grow their business with company-owned and financed equipment.
Both small carriers and independent contractors should be alarmed by state and federal legislative initiatives that would deprive owner-operators of their small business status as independent contractors. (There were more than 70 bills in state legislatures to increase the tax burden on owner-operators last year, and the reclassification bill has been reintroduced in the House of Representatives.)
There may be abuse of independent contractor status in other industries like construction, but the protection afforded independent contractors by the truth-in-leasing regulations plus the safe harbor afforded for years under applicable federal and state tax statutes, has created an effective business model that is not broken and does not need fixing.
Just look at the groups that are pushing the reclassification agenda. They are welfare advocates, big-government types, plaintiff’s bar and blue state liberals who do not understand our industry and do not value or appreciate small businesses. The only constituency in the trucking industry that openly advocates reclassification of owner-operators from independent contractors to employees is the Teamsters union, whose labor boss mentality is out of step with 21st century reality.
Bigger isn’t necessarily better. The combination of big business and big labor is not the answer, as the perils of YRC clearly show. I fear that small businesses, both small carriers and independent contractors, are threatened by the winds of political change as never before and that concerted opposition to reclassification of owner-operators by all affected parties is imperative.
Not many businesses like interstate trucking afford opportunities to blue-collar workers to start their own businesses. Our organization strongly supports independent contractor treatment of owner-operators at all levels of government.
National Association of Small Trucking Companies