As the Trump Administration starts to take shape and Capitol Hill is poised to take up yet another omnibus spending package to keep the government running, the head of the American Trucking Associations has issued a gimlet-eyed take on the election results that captures the political nuances industry lobbyists must embrace.
In a Nov 14 letter to members, ATA President and CEO Chris Spear said that “those who actually vote can change the road traveled by an entire nation.”
He said the presidential outcome along with the retention of GOP control of both chambers of Congress “will directly impact the trucking industry, further defining the landscape of issues that govern our future, including free and fair trade, comprehensive tax reform, and dedicated and sustainable funding for infrastructure.”
In Spear’s view, the Trump Administration may “allow ATA increased input to shape regulatory proposals in a transparent, inclusive and data-driven manner.”
However, he added, that “one thing is clear– to make progress on legislation, we will continue to work with both Republicans and Democrats to achieve most of our goals, particularly in the Senate where there is a working majority, not a voting majority.”
Spear advised that ATA has been wasting no time prepping for the expected year-end omnibus spending legislation package that “would include” a permanent fix for the Hours of Service rule and federal preemption of meal and rest breaks imposed by several states.
“It is now possible that Congress will instead opt for a second consecutive Continuing Resolution (CR) during the upcoming lame duck session,” Spear said of the likely outcome. “The CR would fund the federal government through the first quarter of 2017.”
According to Spear, delaying an omnibus package until early next year would allow the Republican-controlled House and Senate to “send a stronger package” for signing by newly sworn-in President Donald Trump.
He noted that although ATA “would welcome immediate passage” of legislation that addresses both Hours of Service and meal/break preemption, “a short delay of the Omnibus would only increase the likelihood that these two ATA priority issues are passed.
Spear added that “a short delay” might enable ATA to secure a “full remedy” regarding preemption that would include piece rates as well. “The question about moving the Omnibus spending package isn’t about ‘if,’ but ‘when.’”
Turning to highway funding, Spear pointed out that right after the election, Trump said he would send a $1 trillion infrastructure plan to Congress within his first 100 days in office. Noting that he had proposed ATA establish a new Infrastructure Funding Task Force during the group’s annual meeting in October, Spear said he now intends to establish this task force “no later than the end of this month” to ensure that “ATA is in a position to help the next Administration and Congress shape and pass a dedicated and sustainable funding package for our nation’s roads and bridges.”