Thursday, March 3, 2011

Now we’re footing the bill too?

Mexico’s situation is spiraling out of control with violence. Our own government will not even send inspectors to work in Mexico anymore. It’s too dangerous. The Department of Homeland Security issued an alert warning truckers to stay out of Mexico.

Yet, here we are holding hands and singing “kumbaya” and going to open our already weak border to trucks from Mexico.

We know how this plays out. Mexico will put its best foot forward and send a few legit poster children into the U.S. to blaze a path for the lesser qualified. The U.S. has final say on which motor carriers get access with the pre-authorization safety audits. Woo hoo. Big deal.

Mexico’s databases are junk. The corruption within the legal system makes any information input suspect. How on earth are U.S. inspectors supposed to know what they are really dealing with?

But there’s something even more disturbing going on here.

There is no plan to inspect every truck and driver coming in from Mexico. It doesn’t go on now because of limited resources.

However, interestingly enough, President Obama said today that the U.S. has the manpower to inspect every single rail car bound for Mexico to make sure we’re not shipping guns down there. And last spring, he said the same thing.

Dang. That’s a lot of inspections we’re doing to protect Mexico.

How can our own government not afford us the same protections from trucks coming in from Mexico?

While we’re talking about your hard-earned tax dollars benefitting Mexico, let’s look at this electronic on-board recorder requirement. All Mexican trucks allowed to operate in the U.S. as part of this program will be required to have them.

Guess who’s paying for them. We are. The U.S. taxpayers. Now if the funding comes from the Highway Trust Fund, that adds insult to the injury because U.S. truckers basically support the trust fund.

So now your own tax dollars are paying for another truck from another country to come in and compete for your freight. How does that make any sense?

If Mexico cannot live up to its obligations, and for crying out loud, pay their own way, then they are no more ready for a cross-border trucking program than I am ready for retirement.

The Obama administration and the Department of Transportation must interject some sanity into this bilking of U.S. taxpayers to launch a program that is going to get people hurt and put plenty of truckers out of work.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Original thoughts only, please

For years, OOIDA has preached the virtue of being involved in the regulatory process. Drivers will not be heard if they don’t talk. It’s pretty simple, really.

All of a sudden, maybe with social media’s explosive growth, there are “experts” all over the place telling you how to comment effectively.

Unfortunately, many of them are wrong. Very wrong.

Take, for example, Facebook events urging people to call FMCSA. Those calls, while they may make you feel better, will do little more than that.

Calling FMCSA and chatting up a staffer is not submitting your comments to the official record.

I reached out to FMCSA Spokesman Duane DeBruyne to explain what happens when someone calls FMCSA to “comment” on a proposed regulation.

His response via e-mail:

“Neither the content, nor the number of phone calls, are docketed, and therefore, are not considered within the rulemaking public commentary. Telephone callers to FMCSA are advised that their comments must be submitted in writing. Individuals who leave a voice message (and a return telephone number) will receive a return telephone call and are likewise advised.”

Form letters and petitions are not quite as ineffective as phone calls, but close. They might make an impact when you wave around a stack of papers at a city council meeting, but their overall effectiveness is severely neutralized when it comes to the regulatory process.

In fact, if you don’t believe me, let’s take it from a man who should know: former administrator of the FMCSA, John Hill.

In his words:

FMCSA is obligated to review and analyze relevant comments to the docket regarding a notice of proposed rulemaking. When a series of form letters are received, those comments tend to be catalogued together and then referenced in the analysis as a single thread of comments. Therefore, the value of a comment by a regulated driver is diminished by not taking the time to make it specific and unique to the proposed regulation.”

That’s pretty clear.

It also tells you that you need to take your time and present your original, specific thoughts on proposed regulations. That is what is effective.

There’s also a new resource for people who want to comment effectively, http://regulationroom.org.

This is a joint venture between the Department of Transportation and Cornell University. After years of trying to educate readers and OOIDA members not only on how to navigate the regulatory websites, but on how to comment effectively, I cannot tell you how impressed I am with Cornell’s efforts here.

It’s a fantastic way to see what are considered “good” comments, and how to have an effective voice in the process.

If you’re in doubt about how your comments will stack up, go check out this project. Of course, you can always call OOIDA. They’ve been in this game for many years, and certainly won’t steer you wrong.