Regulatory Targeting of Trucking Industry Goes Deeper than Safety or Fear
It’s no secret to anybody involved with trucking that the industry seems to be a favorite whipping boy of the regulatory community. This is not to say that the industry shouldn’t be subjected to an appropriate level of regulation, but the aggressive and adversarial focus on trucking seems like overkill, even in today’s regulation-crazy world.
Fear or Ignorance?
One of my friends, Jack Roberts over at CCJ, recently suggested that this is primarily due to the average voter’s fear of trucks.
While I absolutely agree with Jack that politicians have yet to lose many votes by betting against trucking, I have to take exception with what he sees as our industry’s inability to affect a cure.
As in most cases of fear, the root cause behind the fear of trucks is ignorance. Not just ignorance as the average voter’s complete lack of knowledge regarding trucks, but also ignorance in that the average voter believes they know all about trucks after stumbling their way through a non-commercial driver’s license test.
Although it may be a little more crass choice of wording, I’d prefer to define the justification for regulatory overkill as the average voter’s ignorance of trucks, not their fear of them.
While Jack correctly observes that trucking rarely gets a break no matter which political party is currently in power, he only considers the elected branches of government when calculating the power equation.
On those rare occasions when one party does hold the House, Senate, and Presidency, many groups that are not subject to election continue to heavily influence the course of truck industry regulations.
No Order in the Courts
The most obvious of these is the judicial branch of the federal government. Not since the Supreme Court handed down the Wickard vs. Filburn (Plain English Translation → the Commerce Clause lets government do anything it wants) decision in 1942, has the judicial branch been even remotely connected with conservative, free market, or capitalist ideals.
The Bureaucratic Party
More so than the branches of government established by the Constitution, the “unofficial” branch of government, otherwise known as the bureaucracy, has an even bigger impact on trucking industry regulation. Within the bureaucracy, trucking has so many strikes against it that it is hard to pick where to start.
First, government agencies measure success by the size of the budget. No agency ever developed a bigger budget by regulating less. Next, unlike other modes of transportation, most of the people who run the trucking regulation agencies do not come with industry experience. More typically, they come from law enforcement or other non-trucking backgrounds.
Not only are the agencies’ leaders inept, but most of their front-line workers suffer from the same previously described ignorance of trucks. They have never worked behind the wheel, delivered a load, or met a deadline; yet they still feel qualified to regulate the trucking industry.
Last and possibly least, for a variety of reasons, it’s pretty rare to find a Republican, Conservative, or Libertarian in any non-appointed position in the bureaucracy. It would be fair to say that the Democratic Party perpetually holds the bureaucratic “branch” of the federal government, especially when surveys routinely back this up.
Big Government Republican?
In spite of all the rhetoric tarring George W. Bush as a de-regulating robber baron, his administration was no particular friend of trucking, as Jack correctly notes. However, the reality, contrary to the rhetoric, was that “W” was no friend of small government. The lesser evil of two bad alternatives, yes, but by no means a small-government guy.
Yes We Can
While there is little we can do in the short term to make the judicial and bureaucratic branches of government more business-friendly, we absolutely can have a pretty immediate effect on the elected branches of government at the federal, state, and local levels.
We haven’t put true small-government conservatives in power in a quarter-century. Why don’t we give it a try for a change?