Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Working toward a ‘better history’

We’ve got a brand-new president who says we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and get to work. “Choose our better history” is one way he put it in his inaugural address.

It’s reported that he plans to start tomorrow. He’s not the only one who plans to hit the ground running.

The new political landscape in Washington will present OOIDA and our members with new challenges as well as new opportunities. It’s a big job for our OOIDA leadership and our government affairs staff and a job OOIDA has already tackled.

Back in November, OOIDA Executive VP Todd Spencer – who was in the crowd at the National Mall in DC today at noon – met with the Obama transition team to talk about trucking issues.

Next, here’s what OOIDA will be doing to make the next years ones of accomplishment on behalf of the trucking community.

We will be busy forging relationships with about 60 newly elected lawmakers of the 111th Congress and educating them and their new staffs.

And, of course, we’ll be getting to know the new leadership and political appointees who are moving in at the Department of Transportation, Department of Homeland Security and other offices. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator John Hill left FMCSA’s office on Friday and went home to Greenwood, IN, where his new job will be with the private sector and a solutions group aptly called The Hill Group.

The other political appointees at the FMCSA are gone, too. Until the new team arrives, the acting administrator is the agency’s ranking career employee, Rose McMurray, who is the Chief Safety Officer.

Not many names are being tossed about as Hill’s replacement. When that happens, we’ll be on it.

Here at OOIDA, we think we can expect different positions by the Democratic administration on several issues. Recent history indicates that the Democrats will probably be less open to turning interstates into toll roads; not fond of opening the border to Mexican trucks; and probably won’t love the idea of increasing size and weights.

One issue we will watch is what happens to mandatory electronic on-board recorders. As the changeover to the new administration becomes official, the EOBR rule failed to make it out of the White House Office of Management and Budget. That’s where it went in November for review. It normally takes about 90 days for a rule to get reviewed and get a yea or nay. EOBRs went in but didn’t come out, which was reportedly a disappointment to the FMCSA and John Hill.

Mandatory EOBRs in commercial trucks is a rule that the Obama administration may be more open to considering from a safety perspective. The president has already appointed a new head of OMB. Obama selected Peter R. Orszag as his nominee for OMB director. Orszag is an economist who has been director of the Congressional Budget Office since 2007. He testified last week before the Senate Budget Committee, where he is expected to sail through the confirmation process.

Rick Craig, OOIDA’s director of regulatory affairs, told Land Line’s Charlie Morasch on Monday that FMCSA’s proposed EOBR rule will now be decided by the Obama administration. It could be approved by the OMB in its current state, or could be changed.

So it’s a brand new day in DC today – a sober one, but a hopeful one. And that is sure what the trucking industry wants to see.