A key lesson of these last twelve, tumultuous months has been the paramount importance of a strong supply chain. Multiple events – early pandemic runs on groceries (especially toilet paper), ongoing microchip shortages, the Suez Canal logjam and shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline – have heightened national consciousness of the complex networks that we depend on every day to receive life’s essentials.
But as we work to shore up those supply-chain vulnerabilities, some lawmakers at the state and federal level are actively pushing policies that would sever the supply chain’s most central and critical link: America’s trucking industry. Measures like the PRO Act in Congress would virtually ban independent contractors from working in trucking—destroying the livelihoods of more than 350,000 small-business trucking entrepreneurs, and disrupting the safe and timely delivery of goods to every corner of our country.
Trucks are the single linchpin connecting the totality of what our economy produces with the growing demands of the American consumer. Virtually all goods touch the back of a truck at one point in their lifecycle. As the old adage goes: if you got it, a truck brought it.
Although some elected officials understand the general importance of trucks and the drivers behind the wheel, few fully grasp the intricacies of how our industry actually works. Independent owner-operators are an essential pillar for a viable trucking industry. Take for example the holiday season, as shopping create a surge in freight volumes and the demand for trucks. Trucking companies that serve retail stores use independent contractors to expand their capacity, rather than hiring new full-time drivers or buying or renting equipment that is only needed for a month’s time.
This model is a win-win-win. It benefits consumers by ensuring store shelves are stocked and that they get their purchases on time. It benefits tucking companies by giving them the resources they need to serve their customers during peak freight season. And it allows independent truckers to run their own company on their own terms. Measures like the PRO Act allegedly protect independent contractors who may be taken advantage of in certain industries other than trucking, but this one-size-fits-all approach does not account for how our industry operates.
When you talk to owner-operators in the trucking industry, they’ll tell you they chose to be independent contractors because it gives them the freedom to be their own boss. It provides schedule flexibility and the power to decide how much they make, instead of being paid a fixed amount as a company driver for a larger fleet and having to take the routes given them. If life demands they take time off to care for a family member or attend their children’s graduation, they own the prerogative to do so.
Fortunately for West Virginians, our state legislators in Charleston took a strong stand against efforts to destroy the independent contractor model. Senate Bill 272, which was passed and signed into law in March, protects the owner-operators in trucking and their right to work as independent contractors while also promoting safety. Thanks to the leadership of the West Virginia Senate, the West Virginia House of Delegates and Governor Jim Justice, West Virginia set an important precedent for other states to follow.
We call on U.S. Senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito and the state’s entire congressional delegation to continue this same fight in Congress. The trucking industry is one of the last bastions of blue-collar entrepreneurialism in our country today. The PRO Act would not only shatter the American dream for hundreds of thousands of independent truckers, but it would also decimate the linchpin of the U.S. supply chain.
Director of Government Affairs
West Virginia Trucking Association