AmericanJobCreators.com Dispatches from the Road

Congressman Darrell Issa
Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee

Western HiWays trucking company
headquarters sits among the oil derricks and citrus groves just off Highway 65
in Bakersfield, CA.  Its 13 drivers haul
everything from fresh produce to new cars, giving life to the industry adage,
"If you bought it, a truck brought it." 
The health of American trucking, which itself supports
about 7 million jobs, is closely tied to the health of our national
economy.  In fact, roughly 70 percent
of all goods in the United States move by truck. As part of the
AmericanJobCreators.com initiative to expose the true scope and costs of
federal regulations, we visited Western HiWays Safety & Human Resources Director
Doug Grove and Operations Manager Kelly Grove.

The federal government regulates
commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) to ensure the safety of both the truck driver
and the general public sharing the road.  Almost everything on or in a typical long-haul
truck – which runs about $120,000 each – has a
corresponding federal regulation administered by the Department of
Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, including special licensing, training, and equipping
rules to account for the unique safety challenges of trucking.

"We can’t just jump out there and go
with 80,000 pounds [in tow]," said Mr. Grove who drove for 28 years before
becoming Western HiWays Safety Director. 
"You’re going to have tires blowing. 
You’re talking 120 degrees out in the desert.  Heat wears on everything.  Electrical, lights, the whole nine yards."

The need for common-sense safety
regulations is clear.  State-to-state
enforcement of federal rules is not, adding regulatory uncertainty and more
paperwork to the list of obstacles Western HiWays faces in the Obama
Economy.  On top of the thousands of pages of federal CMV regulations to stay on top of, Mr. Grove said he
recently spent two weeks dealing with a paperwork discrepancy between
regulatory agencies. 

"This is where it’s really messed up
because it had to go to Washington to get straightened out," said Mr.
Grove.  "That was a hectic two
weeks."   

Extra paperwork and the roughly
$10,500-per-employee annual compliance cost the average US small business pays
aren’t the only regulatory hurdles Western HiWays must overcome in order to
compete.  Well-intentioned Washington
regulations often become, at best, impractical – at worst impossible to follow
– when forced upon American job creators.  

The Department of Transportation’s Hours of Service regulation, written to prevent accidents caused by driver fatigue, is
one example.  The rule says CMV drivers
may only work 14 hours a day – 11 actually driving – and the driver must keep a
logbook of the total hours spent driving and resting.  It sounds sensible, but the regulation doesn’t
account for the reality of the road.

"You got drivers going into these places
to load, and sat eight to ten hours. 
That’s on the clock," said Mr. Grove. 
"If they sit there eight hours, they can only drive three hours.  If we didn’t get our mileage in, it don’t
matter.  Once your 14 hours are up, it’s
up."

Where do CMV drivers rest in order to
comply with the Hours of Service regulation?

"Biggest problem nationwide when these
drivers go in, they can’t find a place," said Mr. Grove.  "Truck parking across the whole nation has
been limited.  We can’t park on the
road.  We can’t park on the ramps.  You can’t go to a shop center.  They’ll run you out.  [No place to rest] is a big safety problem
and a lot of people don’t realize it."

An unintended consequence of the
well-intentioned Hours of Service rule is that drivers actually may be more fatigued on the road during the
day.

"And with the logging system, you can’t
go in the afternoon and take a nap without it counting against your time," he
added.  "Before they changed this, you
could stop and break your hours up.  You
could take a nap."

Part of the change comes from special
interest lawsuits, not from listening to actual truck drivers.  For example, as a result of a 2009 special
interest sue-and-settle agreement, the Obama Department of Transportation may make the
Hours of Service rule even less reality-based. 
Meanwhile, job creators like Western HiWays hang in the balance.

"Without the trucks running, America
stops. And I think Washington D.C. needs to know that," said Kelly Grove said.
"They literally regulate these little mom and pop companies out of business.
And how are they going to feel when they go to the grocery store and their
shelves are empty? How are they going to feel when they want to build that big
new mansion and they can’t get any bricks?"

The cost of one federal regulation is
rarely a deathblow.  It’s the cumulative,
ever-growing burden of Washington red tape that imperils job creators like
Western HiWays.

"We employ twenty to twenty-five
people," said Mrs. Grove.  "If we go out
of business, that’s going to be 20-25 people in unemployment."

Do the Groves feel the federal government takes Western HiWays into account
when writing and enforcing regulations?

"I think – and it’s not just in
trucking, it’s in anything," said Mr. Grove. 
"Anybody can read a book. You can go to college and still be an
idiot…[Washington] needs to get out and, and get in the trucks and experience
what actually all happens."

 "I don’t think they’ve taken the time to come
out here and see what it’s really like," he added, slowly shaking his head.

The Obama Administration has 4,257 new
federal regulations in the pipeline, 219 of which carry an annual cost of $100 million or
more

It will be hardworking job creators like Doug and Kelly Grove of Western
HiWays forced to either pay up or shut down. 
Unless the Obama Administration listens and stops the regulatory
onslaught, private-sector jobs – like long-haul truck rest areas – will be
harder and harder to find across America.

-Team Oversight

Are you like Doug and Kelly Grove of
Western HiWays, trying to create jobs but stuck paying the cost of absurd
government regulations? Visit
AmericanJobCreators.com right now to speak out.

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