Blog Post

Congress Turns to Trucking for COVID-19 Lessons

ATA Chairman Randy Guillot carried the industry banner on Capitol Hill, testifying before two powerful Congressional committees.

Having worked in trucking for more than three decades, Randy Guillot is used to talking shop. As the owner of two family-run motor carriers out of Jefferson, Louisiana, a typical day’s work involves discussing operations with many different stakeholders, like his partners, drivers, suppliers and customers. Trucking is a high-touch business after all, and communication is critical to keeping things moving.

But in these last two weeks, Guillot took these conversations to a new venue: the United States Congress. As current Chairman of the American Trucking Associations, Guillot was called twice to testify before two different Congressional committees—in both the House of Representatives and Senate—to provide insight into our industry’s operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only did he champion the heroic efforts of truckers throughout the ongoing national crisis, but he also seized the mantle to press lawmakers on our association’s highest priority issues, including infrastructure funding, lawsuit abuse and repeal of the antiquated federal excise tax on new trucks.

“Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the trucking industry has been thrust to the forefront of our national consciousness. While most activity ground to a halt across the country, America’s 3.5 million professional truck drivers kept moving. These heroes continue serving on the frontlines, ensuring everyone has the goods they need to get through these challenging times."

- Randy Guillot

 For members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and Senate Commerce Committee — two panels with powerful jurisdiction over trucking— these hearings marked the first opportunity to hear from transportation stakeholders in an open setting since the onset of COVID-19. And speaking on one of our country’s biggest stages, Chairman Guillot detailed for them how trucking has responded to the unfolding challenges of the last few months, while also laying down concrete steps Congress can now take to help our industry carry this economy through to recovery. 
 
Here are three key takeaways from the hearings:

1. The need for federal infrastructure funding is now greater than ever.

He hammered this point home at every opportunity and in extremely timely fashion, as House T&I Chairman Peter DeFazio just recently unveiled a draft infrastructure bill that the committee will soon begin debate over.

While he explained both the short-term and long-term economic benefits, Guillot also underscored how and why infrastructure is paramount to driver safety and well-being — the ostensible focus of both hearings.

2. Targeted tax incentives will help jumpstart the recovery.

There’s an antiquated law currently on the books that disincentivizes fleets from purchasing new equipment. The 12% federal excise tax on heavy-duty vehicles was first imposed in 1917 as a means to pay for World War I, and today it remains the highest excise tax on a percentage basis that Congress levies on any product. While the Great War is long over, this law is now preventing newer, cleaner and safer trucks—to the benefit of everyone—from being on the road.

ATA, along with a broad coalition of manufacturers, dealers and carriers, is advocating for a suspension of the FET through calendar year 2021, which would put trucking in a “purchasing mode again,” as Guillot explained. This would support manufacturing jobs as our economy recovers and offer a multitude of downstream benefits for the environment and highway safety.

3. The partnership of federal agencies has been critical.

Guillot lauded the U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, under the leadership of Secretary Chao and Acting Administrator Mullen, for their swift response to the crisis. The resources provided by the federal government were instrumental in mitigating the pandemic’s impact on the industry and enabling us to keep moving despite nationwide lockdowns. 

Early in the crisis, FMCSA provided targeted and temporary waivers on hours-of-service and other regulations to provide carriers with flexibility needed to respond to surge demand in certain freight categories. ATA worked closely with DOT to exert pressure on state governments to reopen public rest areas that closed under lockdown. We also coordinated with FMCSA and our state federation partners to distribute more than 1.5 millions protective make to frontline truckers across the country.


These topics and more will be covered in full at this year's Management Conference and Exhibition, October 24-27, in Denver Colorado. MCE will be the first major opportunity for trucking industry leaders to meet in-person with colleagues from across the the country as our nation begins to eye economic recovery, and we have put together a program designed to spark conversations and to help each other move forward from crisis to recovery. 

New this year: register now and pay later. Registrants can defer registration fee payment until September 1, 2020.