If my memory serves me correctly, was not the trucking industry deregulated through the Motor Carrier Regulatory Reform and Modernization Act, more commonly known as the Motor Carrier Act of 1980? I am fairly certain that it was. Yet, today it seems that more and more regulations are being imposed on the industry and most are largely aimed at the truck driver.
In the beginning, the Motor Carrier Act of 1980 only partially decontrolled trucking, but joined by a biased ICC, the Act was to rid the industry of regulations… or did it? Today, the U. S. trucking industry has regulations at both the federal and state levels. On the Federal side, regulators of the trucking industry include the U.S. DOT and the United States Customs Office and at the state level, we have the DMV and public utility commissions.
Supporters of deregulation included President Gerald Ford, consumer advocate Ralph Nader, Senator Edward Kennedy, thousands of shippers and President John F. Kennedy who was the first president to recommend to Congress, a reduction in the regulation of surface freight transportation. Following President Jimmy Carter’s lead, Congress enacted the Motor Carrier Act of 1980.
Opponents of deregulation included the Teamsters Union and the American Trucking Association (ATA). Arguing that deregulating the industry would cost drivers jobs and that service would decline, adding that smaller communities would find it difficult to obtain service, the opposite has proven to be the case. According to an ICC report, service to small communities have improved and complaints by shippers have declined. Studies also show that deregulation has made it easier for non-union workers to get jobs in the trucking industry.
The devastating effect of deregulation on the American Trucker
Supporters of deregulation on the trucking industry enjoy pointing out the billions of dollars saved by shippers in regards to their inventory holdings. In 1981, one year after the Motor Carrier Act was enacted, shippers GNP percentage fell from 14% to 10.8%, a savings of $62 billion. The U. S. DOT estimates that the gain to industry in shipping, merchandising and inventory control is between $38 and $56 billion per year. According to one study, doing away with any remaining federal controls would save U. S. shippers another $28 billion per year.
At the time, 77% of shippers surveyed, favored deregulating the trucking industry. By 1982 rates for truckload-size shipments fell by 25% and rates charged by LTL carriers had fallen by ten to twenty percent; many shippers reported declines in freight rates as high as 40%. It is very clear to see who exactly stood to gain from the deregulation of the trucking industry.
As rates lowered, so did driver pay and the effect on owner operators were devastating, as well as leading to the decline in truck driver training standards. It has caused trucking companies to push the driver harder and faster, chasing the bottom line and moving the safety and welfare of truck drivers further down the list of priority.
Regulating the industry or regulating truck drivers?
Personal bankruptcies for the first half of 2012 were 627,000. In 2011 alone, 1.46 million individuals and 36,000 businesses filed for bankruptcy. Since 2006, over five million have done so and many states are on the verge of filing as well, not to mention concerns that even the United States Government is on the brink. As the economic chaos continues, the American trucker and trucking companies alike, continue to see regulation after regulation being forced upon them, creating further financial responsibilities:
- Speed Limiters
- HOS changes
- Carbon based emission controls
- Sleep Apnea screening tests
With the continuation of increasing transportation bureaucracy, there is only one way for the industry regulators to keep up and that is to hit the industry and truck drivers with more regulations and fees.
It is no wonder that drivers continue to voice their concerns about the future of their chosen profession and that many believe that we may literally be witnessing the disappearance of the true independent American trucker.