The American trucking industry, like everyone else in the nation, is waiting with bated breath for the outcome of the midterm elections. Most analysts’ best guess is that the Republicans are likely to take control of the Senate and retain possession of the house. If they do, the legislative agenda may shift, with repercussions across the country.
The most obvious shift could be that with the same party in control of both houses, the persistent gridlock in Congress may shift, sending more legislation through faster. Whether that is a good or bad thing for trucking depends on which bills come down the road.
Generally, Republicans are more cautious with both regulation and spending than Democrats. A Republican-controlled Congress would therefore be less likely to pass new regulations and could actually ease some of the existing rules. That would seem like good news to a lot of trucking companies and their drivers, who consider themselves over-regulated. However, a Congress that refuses on principle to raise taxes or spend on infrastructure could be problematic. The nation’s highways and bridges need maintenance and no one is more aware of it than the people who spend their working lives on the road. That work must be paid for somehow. The ATA (American Trucking Association) has called for an increase in the gas tax, something that would require Congressional approval.
So, whichever way the election goes, the industry will likely see some gains and some losses.
But if the ATA is not specifically rooting for either political party, it still has hopes for the upcoming legislative season. Besides the increase in the gas tax and preserving the Highway Trust Fund, another priority is suspending some of the restart provisions of the new hours-of-service rule, at least until they can be studied more. Changes to safety rules, tax reform, and changes to CDL requirements—in order to address the ongoing driver shortage—are also on the want list.
Many of the rules that influence the trucking industry are not under direct Congressional control, of course. Instead, these regulations are put in place by the Executive Branch in the course of enacting existing law. These types of regulations are influenced by election cycles because the Executive does not like to come out with new rules right before elections, especially a presidential election. For the next year or so, regulatory activity is therefor likely to be busier than normal in order to get as much out of the way as possible before the next campaign season.
Politics is not usually associated with trucking, but of course, like everything else, the industry is shaped by policy and law. The ATA—and the many individuals with ties to trucking—are naturally interested in shaping policy and law in turn. No matter how today’s results come out, starting tomorrow, there will still be plenty for people interested in politics to do.