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SBTC says it’s ‘on front lines’ for truckers, but it needs to pick its battles better

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The Small Business in Transportation Coalition claims the FMCSA violated the Sunshine Act when it failed to give one weeks' notice on HOS listening session Friday at the Great American Trucking Show. Not true, said a federal official with knowledge of the act. (Courtesy: SBTC)

The Small Business in Transportation Coalition — at least according to its website, truckers.com — “is a network of over 14,000 transportation professionals, associations and industry suppliers that is on the front lines when it comes to issues that affect transportation professionals operating small businesses.”

Lately, the SBTC appears to be positioning itself as a one-organization wrecking crew targeting the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Seldom a day goes by that our inbox doesn’t see the wrath and fury of the organization’s rants, punctuated with color and large print to try and get its point across.

SBTC’s most recent foray with the agency is over FMCSA’s denial of SBTC’s application filed a little more than a year ago for an exemption from the electronic logging device requirements for all motor carriers with fewer than 50 employees, including, but not limited to, one-person private and for-hire owner-operators of commercial motor vehicles used in interstate commerce.

“FMCSA Denies SBTC ELD Exemption Application, SBTC Blasts FMCSA’s “Absolutely Corrupt” ELD Exemption Request Denial,” read the red headline in large type.

Under the headline was the familiar “no sign” over the word “Discrimination.”

AN EDITORIAL

A couple of weeks later came a big red headline reading, “The SBTC Confronts FMCSA over Corrupt Handling of ELD Exemption Application Alleging 1,900 Commentors [sic] were Defrauded by FMCSA.”

The SBTC was strangely silent on August 14 when the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking about HOS was released, but now it appears to want a court to stop the public listening session on the proposed changes to the HOS rules scheduled for Friday at 10 a.m. at the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas.

An e-mail came late Tuesday with the headline, “Breaking News: The Small Business in Transportation Coalition confronted FMCSA officials today over lack of

The Small Business Transportation Coalition used both graphics and large color type to get across its point in e-mails it sends to media and stakeholders.

notice of the GATS HOS Listening Session that is required by the federal open meetings law. Read our email below, then… vote here in our poll to tell us what to do next!”

Readers were given three options:

  1. Ask a federal judge to issue a temporary restraining order prohibiting FMCSA from holding this meeting.
  2. Let the meeting happen (if they do not cancel the meeting) and pursue the open meetings law violation in court after the fact.
  3. Let the meeting happen after having noticed (sic, we suspect they meant notified) FMCSA that a violation occurred but take no further legal action.

As of Thursday morning, 62% voted for option 1, 29% for option 2 and 9% for option 3.

Obviously, the SBTC worked its readers into a frenzy.

Why in the world would an organization such as SBTC want to force the cancellation of a listening session where the very folks they represent will have an opportunity to speak directly to FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez about proposed changes to HOS, like them or not?

The SBTC’s James Lamb said it was his understanding that, under the Sunshine Act, the agency is required to afford the public a week’s notice of a meeting.

“Although we appreciate the agency’s attempt at outreach, without proper lawful notice, the agency will not realize full participation as is the public’s right under the law,” Lamb wrote in the e-mail. “Truckers and carriers wishing to participate need more than a mere three days’ notice to plan to attend these meetings and their right to participate is infringed upon due to this apparent negligent violation of the Sunshine Act.”

We found evidence that as far back as July the media reported the meeting would be held.

Two months’ notice seems pretty sufficient to us.

But that aside, a source with knowledge of the Sunshine Act told The Trucker that the Sunshine Act requirements do not apply to the HOS listening session or the notice of that meeting

Regardless of whether proper “legal” notice was given, this is only a listening session, and a pretty important one at that.

Furthermore, based on the recent proposed changes, much of the suggested revisions are at least in part the result of driver input at listening sessions like this one.

The SBTC needs to stick to the real, important issues facing the industry, such as the driver shortage, driver pay and a rising accident/injury/fatality rate.

Rants against the FMCSA are getting you negative publicity.

Solving the real issues will give you credibility and positive press.

 

 

 

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1 Comment

  1. James Lamb

    August 26, 2019 at 4:36 pm

    The SBTC offers this rebuttal in response to this OP-ED

    https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/dear-trucker-due-process-matters-love-sbtc-james-lamb

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The Nation

Lane Departures: Why would California lawmakers saddle trucking with the ABC test?

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Well, he said he’d do it.

If you look elsewhere on this website, you’ll see a story I did about a week ago about AB5, a bill passed by the California Senate on September 10 into the waiting arms of Gov. Gavin Newsom, who had long telegraphed he was looking forward to signing it.

Yesterday, he did it. And come the new year, trucking is going to have to live with it.

AB5 — the full name is the “Employees and Independent Contractors” bill — is ostensibly intended to prevent employers from exploiting workers and skirting expenses by relying on “independent contractors” to make their businesses run instead of hiring full-fledged employees, who come with all kinds of nasty baggage like guaranteed minimum wages, overtime and payroll taxes, mandatory breaks, insurance and other horrific profit reducers.

The bill got off the ground in the wake of a court case last year in which a delivery company called Dynamex was determined to have improperly reclassified its workers as independent contractors in order to save money.  In making the decision, the court applied what is known as the ABC test, which presumes all workers should be classified as employees unless they meet three criteria.

Like the court case, the bill, which will codify the ABC test across the state, seems to have been at least in spirit aimed at companies like Dynamex that are part of that there so-called “gig economy” all the young folks are so hopped up about. Ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft are almost always mentioned as Public Enemies 1A and 1B of supposed independent contractor charlatans.

The problem with AB5, its critics say, is it proposes to perform an appendectomy with a chainsaw, ripping into industries that have long-established business models that extensively use independent contractors to the satisfaction of all involved.

A great big example would be trucking, because it appears the ABC test would prevent carriers from contracting with owner-operators or smaller fleets in California. I’ll let you imagine the consequences if that’s true.

If you’ve read the article, or your planning to read the article, I’d like to apologize in advance because as I’ve been learning about this AB5 business, I have some lingering questions that I could not answer. I have calls out to a couple of experts on the legal and logistical nuances. Unfortunately, experts don’t observe journalistic deadlines.

But then, I figured, this story is going to be around a while, so we can keep building on what we know. I may have answers to some of these questions by the time you read this. Or maybe you will be able to provide some of the answers. I mean, you don’t need to have a title or a degree or be part of a think tank to know a thing or two.

My first question is this: They didn’t pull this ABC test out of thin air. A majority of states already use the test in some manner on matters of job status. California’s application of ABC is based on Massachusetts’ broad, strict use of the test. So, hasn’t trucking had to contend with this standard there and in in other states already? I haven’t heard reports of empty store shelves in Massachusetts. Is there some simple workaround already in existence just waiting for cooler heads to prevail?

Second, from what I gather, ABC has had its critics for as long as it’s existed. Is it just the sheer size of California’s economy that makes this case so important or somehow different?

I’m going to go way out on a limb and say “probably.” Last year, California’s economy outgrew that of Great Britain. If it were an independent country, California would have the fifth-largest economy in the world. And what happens in California rarely stays in California. The state has a major influence on the rest of the nation.

California’s economy is closing in on $3 trillion a year. Real estate, finance, the entertainment industry and that nest of tech behemoths in Silicon Valley are responsible for big chunks of that.

And let’s not forget agriculture. California ranches and farms reaped $50 billion in receipts in 2017. That’s a lot of food, a lot of truckloads.

California also has some of the nation’s largest seaports. The Port of Long Beach alone sees about $200 billion in cargo a year, with 11,000 truckloads leaving the port each day. And most of what doesn’t go by truck from there eventually winds up on a truck somewhere inland.

Add it all up, and trucking is a huge player in the California economic machine. Why would lawmakers want to strip its gears with this law? Some lawmakers are even on record saying they are worried about what this could do to the industry. Then why are they doing it?

The bill’s sponsor, Democrat Lorena Gonzalez of San Diego, is not some gung-ho rookie lawmaker. She’s in her third term, and she already has made a national name for herself as a champion of the working class with several pieces of legislation she has supported.

AB5 could fit into that collection quite nicely. But it isn’t a trophy she needs in a hurry. She won her last two reelection campaigns by about a 3-1 margin.

And she’s also been around enough that she surely understands that despite its best intentions, the broad-stroke, one-size-fits-all approach AB5 takes will do more harm than good to many industries, including trucking.

In fact, she’s as much as said so. Gonzalez has already indicated that once the bill becomes law, she’d be open to making amendments and granting exemptions.

So why wait? The bill already grants exemptions to real estate, to doctors and dentists. Even newspaper delivery people got a last-minute, one-year exemption.

The California Trucking Association and the Western States Trucking Association pushed for an exemption. Dozens of truck drivers testified in Sacramento. And you have to think state legislators are at least vaguely aware of what goes on in their own districts.

So, they could grasp the importance of the guy who throws a newspaper in their driveway from a passing car at 4 a.m., but not of the people who deliver, like, everything everywhere all the time?

We all know how long fixing bad legislation can take. Even if they put it on the “fast track,” how much damage will occur before trucking can get an exemption?

I did hear back from one legal expert on the matter. Greg Feary, president and managing partner at Scopelitus, Garvin, Light, Hansen and Feary LLC, said there are a couple of cases in Ninth Circuit Court that could spell relief for the trucking industry. Even so, the legal system can move almost as slowly as the legislative system. He estimates California truckers are going to have to live with AB5 for at least a year.

Questions abound. I’m not looking forward to some of the answers.

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The Nation

Trucking submarine style in Texas

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Texas is getting hit hard with flooding.  This takes it to new levels!


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The Nation

Flooding in Texas – That cab’s gonna be a bit damp!

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KHOU reporter Melissa Correa happened to be on scene and captured this video.  Another motorist grabbed a hammer and rope and saved the drivers life.

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