The upcoming election is one of the most important in our history – and in your life. Before you vote, please ask yourself, “What has the current State and Federal Administrations done for the transportation industry – especially trucking?” You might also ask, “Do we really need more laws or more taxes?” These are truly dismal times in the most important and regulated industry in the United States. But no matter what the product is or how much or how little it costs, it still has to get to the public on some type of a truck. I have seen too many small carriers pack it in and move to another state, or go out of business altogether, in the last four years. We must stop the bleeding!
No matter how you view your job or career in trucking, you are one of the most important people in your neighborhood, as everyone depends on your driving abilities to move their freight in a safe and efficient manner. But no one really appreciates what you do – as evidenced by the truck parking shortage across the nation, the third-party meddling and continued indecision on the final hours of service rules, the attacks on carriers for utilizing independent contractors, and much more. Simply put, as an industry, we just have too many regulations to abide by and too many people to please.
In the United States, there are around 49 million people on food stamps, 100 million on some type of government aid, and 23 million unemployed. And with “Obamacare” on the horizon (January 1, 2014), companies with 50 or more employees, like Olive Garden and Red Lobster, are already boosting their number of workers on part-time status (meaning they work less than 30 hours a week) to avoid any fines. We do not need any more business regulations – we already have enough. Diesel fuel was just $2.88 and gasoline was $2.84 per gallon before the current administration was put into office. Now look at it! The trucking industry also has the EPA and CARB cracking down on “clean air” regulations that are crippling the economy and forcing many truckers out of business. Where does it end?
The trucking industry has to deal with even more Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigations now that the economy is going so slow. OSHA whistleblower complaints, pursuant to the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA), are escalating on a weekly basis. Extra diligence is now required of trucking companies to avoid complaints and respond to any claims appropriately. All trucking companies now have to be aware of what is called “protected activity” under this Act. Some example lawsuits in the news lately include a $30,000 settlement to a Knoxville truck driver who complained about faulty trailer lights, and in another huge lawsuit, a California truck driver was awarded $18 million in a wrongful termination judgment for retaliation for reporting alleged safety violations to federal agencies. The trucking industry also has the Federal Department of Labor and the California Employment Development Department (EDD) harassing carriers, trying to misclassify independent contractors into employees, in California and all over the United States, in an effort to simply collect more taxes.
To keep my 10-4 Magazine readers here in California (and beyond) informed, here is some important information I recently found on the Howard Jarvis Foundation website (www.hjta.org). These facts clearly show that the state of California has more money than they need, but still spends it foolishly. In California, the people have the highest gas tax in the U.S. (64.5 cents per gallon); the highest sales tax in the U.S. (7.25%); the second highest income tax in the U.S. (9.3%); the highest corporate tax in the U.S. (8.84%); the 15th highest property taxes in the U.S.; and the 3rd worst business tax climate in the entire nation. California’s state and local government employees are the highest paid in all 50 states (U.S. Census Bureau). For example, the average annual base salary for a California State University (CSU) president is about $298,000, plus a house and $12,000 car allowance. President Hirshman at CSU San Diego earns $400,000, and still gets all the rest of the perks, too!
California taxpayers are responsible for $62.1 billion in unfunded liabilities for the government retiree’s health care benefits (State Controller John Chaing). California taxpayers are responsible for $497.9 billion in unfunded pension liabilities for government employees – that’s about $24,000 per California household (Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research). Local pension costs are growing twice as fast as spending on emergency services, health, education, parks and social programs (Californians Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility). Note: California State Parks recently got caught trying to hide $54 million from the California Department of Finance.
California has the 3rd highest state unemployment rate – 10.8% (Bureau of Labor Statistics). California has 12% of America’s population and 33% of the nation’s welfare recipients (Department of Health and Human Services). Californians face the 6th highest energy costs among all of the states (Small Business and Enterprise Council), and has the worst credit rating (Standard and Poors). What more do I have to say?
How can one expect to succeed in the transportation business (or any business) when all government wants to do is tax us to death to pay for their liberal oversight. In my opinion, if the wrong party does not make the right decisions in this election, we will be in a recession. The threat of a “fiscal cliff” has been talked about and it is very possible. The fiscal cliff I refer to is the $600 billion in tax INCREASES that will occur on January 1, 2013 should Congress NOT extend what has become known as the “Bush Tax Cuts” that were put in place in 2001. That money will have to come from somewhere! Right now, the economy is growing at a very slow rate of 1.6%. If all these tax increases take effect, we will likely see our gross domestic product (GDP) contract by about 3.6%, putting the United States in a full-blown recession again. Let’s try not to let that happen!