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Contemplating the Roots of Our Industry this Election Day

Contemplating the Roots of Our Industry this Election Day.Transportfolio


Well, it’s finally Election Day! This election cycle has brought out many areas of disagreement; however, investment in transportation infrastructure in the United States is not one of them. Agreement on this point is strong, yet details like how to pay for infrastructure and trade policy seem to have no consensus whatsoever. It makes you wonder if anything bold could ever happen again in transportation legislation.

President Carter changes trucking forever
For those of you who love history, this election is a great reminder of how presidential leadership, along with a functioning legislative process, completely changed the trucking industry in 1980. In her 1987 book, Braking the Special Interests, author Dorothy Robyn chronicles how trucking went from a highly regulated industry where motor carriers filed public rates for specific lanes with a huge government agency, the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), to the deregulated industry we are all familiar with now. It will surprise many that it was President Jimmy Carter who signed the Motor Carrier Act of 1980 into law in July 1980, only a few months after listing it as a top priority of his in December 1979.

Vocab with roots in the regulated structure
Many of the terms and vocabulary of modern day supply chains have roots in the regulated structure of our industry that you may not be familiar with. An exempt commodity was a commodity (such as produce) that did not require a rate on file because the administrative process was too cumbersome to adjust rates in a time of harvest when rates needed to fluctuate quickly to attract capacity. A tariff was the actual document that a rate was recorded on. A broker was created and defined by law with the Motor Carrier Act of 1980.

Today’s transportation changes
President Obama signed the FAST Act into law in December 2015, and it provides a reliable source of federal transportation funding for five years. Many states and cities have infrastructure funding on the ballot today. Transportation for America has a good summary of some ballot measures to watch if you are interested in transportation funding this election season.

With all the talk about increased investment in infrastructure, there is a fair amount of speculation we may see an additional bill in 2017. But the question remains, will it be as bold as the Motor Carrier Act of 1980?


Andrew Lewis

What a great perspective into the history of transportation!



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