Wednesday, March 7, 2012

ASECTT Legislative Summary: Small Business Administration Roundtable and Congressional Visits

On February 14 and 15, approximately a dozen ASECTT members were in Washington.  On the 14th a meeting was held at the Small Business Administration with members of the FMCSA and various stakeholders.  The following day, ASECTT representatives visited with approximately two dozen Congressmen, Senators or staffers to explain the problems with CSA/SMS methodology and to seek Congressional oversight in light of the pending highway reauthorization legislation.

SBA Roundtable
At our request, Bruce Lundegren, Assistant Chief Counsel for the Office of Advocacy of the Small Business Administration, called an SBA Roundtable and invited the Agency and relevant stakeholders.  Ms. Ferro and half a dozen Agency officials attended and presented a PowerPoint touting the advantages of SMS methodology and “raising the safety bar.”  Although affirming the NASTC et al. v. FMCSA settlement and the Agency’s ultimate obligation to credential carriers, the Agency doggedly adheres to the mantra that transportation and accountability requires publication of SMS scores with no regard to the collateral effect on efficiency, competition or small businesses.  Utilizing the UMTRI study, the Agency attempted to justify its alleged correlation between compliance and safety notwithstanding numerous examples of systemic flaws, data inadequacies and insufficiencies, and the countervailing Wells Fargo study which was mentioned by our group and others.
The Administrator acknowledged that SMS remained a work in progress and that promised changes to the dray industry’s problems with the equipment BASICs remained unaddressed.  It became clear that the Agency intends to expand SMS methodology to track and brand drivers exacerbating the driver shortage as safe experienced drivers with paperwork violations are negatively profiled.  Representatives from OOIDA joined in our expression of concern over the program and its effect.
Although the ATA is increasingly critical of aspects of SMS methodology, its member representative and small carrier spokesman expressed pride in his hard earned compliance scores and advocated publication of scores in order for his company to obtain competitive advantage over others with higher scores.
In sum, the meeting with SBA did not produce surprising results.  As long as roadside compliance improves as a result, the Agency seems to view competition for safety scores as a worthy cause to be encouraged notwithstanding the collateral damage or effect on small businesses.
In addition to plaintiff’s bar and safety advocates, clearly there are those within the industry who seek competitive advantage in the name of safety and clearly it will fall to us, an ad hoc group, to press our concerns with the industry, before Congress, and through the rulemaking and judicial process.  Although a representative of the National Foundation of Independent Businesses appeared, noted in their absence was any representation of TIA, NITL or NASTRAC.

The Hill
February 15th was a busy day on the Hill as we broke into two groups and raced from one meeting to the next on both the Senate and House side.  Every member of our group contributed and it was truly helpful to have constituents of key senators and congressmen who could speak up and show how jobs and small businesses in their states and districts are prejudiced.  Given the different treatment of SMS methodology in the proposed Senate and House Bill, the timing of our meetings was key.  Clearly, more follow-up and grassroots opposition to SMS methodology is needed.

Special thanks are owed to the ASECTT members who came to Washington to support our efforts.  They are:

Craig Drum – Forward Air
Steve Sample – Tyme-It Transportation
Karen Pelle - Megatrux
Ruby McBride – Colonial Refrigerated
Gary Weilheimer - Medallion Transport & Logistics
Jim Hamm and Lanny Samples – R.E. Garrison
Jim Morse - RFX
Bill Bierman – Transportation Loss Prevention and Security Association
Fred Huennekens – DDI Transportation
Scott Michaelis – Southern States Cooperative
Mark Sisk – Curtis Brokerage Services

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