Setting an agenda for a stronger industry

Aug. 1, 2008
Now that the Olympics are over, Americans are paying more attention to another race, one that has been running longer than the Olympics and will not be

Now that the Olympics are over, Americans are paying more attention to another race, one that has been running longer than the Olympics and will not be over until November.

Like the summer Olympics, this is a special contest, one that comes along every four years. It's one that almost every politician in the country — from the president on down — will be running.

The political rhetoric will be reaching a crescendo in the coming weeks. While it is unlikely that a politician running for general office will address the specific needs of our industry, the elected leaders of our industry trade associations can and do. We spoke to some of them recently to learn what issues are important to them. Here is what leaders in our industry trade associations expect to see when the new Congress convenes in January.

  • Truck trailers

    Richard Bowling, president Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association, considers the upcoming highway reauthorization bill as particularly important to truck trailer manufacturers. The bill, set to expire next year, is far more than just funding for highways. It also is a means for making revisions to a wide range of transportation concerns. For example, the American Trucking Associations is pushing to have a provision included in the bill that would raise the standard national weight limit from the current 80,000 pounds to 96,000 pounds. Bowling says, however, that Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey recently made a push to freeze size and weight laws at current levels. Battle lines on this issue, Bowling says, already have been drawn. But with increases in fuel prices, efforts to improve the efficiency of American trucking make more sense than ever before.

  • Light- and medium-duty trailers

    The National Association of Trailer Manufacturers has a set of ideas that President Travis Eby hopes will be included in the highway bill next year. First, the association would like to see a uniform brake law that would set standards for light- and medium-duty trailer brakes in all 50 states (see July TBB for details). Such a provision would improve overall highway safety while creating a level playing field for trailer manufacturers — regardless of the requirements for the state in which they operate.

    Eby says the association also is seeking to make it legal to pull light- and medium-duty doubles trailers. The idea is to make it more efficient for manufacturers to move assembled, empty trailers to the customer or dealer. He points out that loaded double sets are legal for truck trailers up to 97 feet long. Although a set of light- and medium-duty trailers might measure 84 to 87 feet, law enforcement officers continue to stop drivers of doubles sets of these types of trailers.

  • Truck bodies and equipment

    Mike Kastner, senior director of government activities for the National Truck Equipment Association, is looking for candidates that share several key positions, including taxes.

“What will the candidates' position be?” he asks. “Will they be advocating additional taxes on small businesses? What about inheritance taxes? Many of the businesses in our industry are small and family owned.”

Kastner also would like to see national trade associations offering health care coverage, but the issue at the head of the list is an energy policy. He would like to see a long-term cure and not just an ointment.

“Everyone accepts the fact that we have an energy crisis, but there is no agreement about what to do,” Kastner says. “Democrats and Republicans have sharp differences, but there are even differences within the parties. Worse yet, there seems to be a lack of leadership on this issue. Boone Pickens is out there spending his own money trying to get something done. But our politicians should be out front on this.”

Others in our industry feel the same way — that a lack of energy policy is sapping the overall strength of the U S economy.

“NATM has broad membership,” Eby says. “Our members produce trailers that are used throughout the economy. Energy prices are affecting us all. People are withholding purchases because of rising prices. We need a president who has a strong energy policy. We also need relief from rising prices for commodities such as steel, aluminum, and wood.”

The race we are about to watch over the next couple of months may not be as inspirational as the contests that were held in Beijing — but there's a lot more gold at stake.

About the Author

Bruce Sauer | Editor

Bruce Sauer has been writing about the truck trailer, truck body and truck equipment industries since joining Trailer/Body Builders as an associate editor in 1974. During his career at Trailer/Body Builders, he has served as the magazine's managing editor and executive editor before being named editor of the magazine in 1999. He holds a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Texas at Austin.