Opinion: Trump fights for Michigan truck drivers

Ray Martinez

America’s commercial truck drivers are the men and women who make our nation’s economy work. More than 70% of domestic freight moves via trucking — connecting U.S. consumers to goods from throughout our country and the entire world.

In Michigan, the trucking industry provides more than 200,000 jobs — meaning 1 out of every 17 jobs in the state. 

In this June 13, 2019 photo, truck driver Terry Button poses with his truck during at stop in Opal, Va., Thursday, June 13, 2019. The Trump administration has moved a step closer to relaxing federal regulations governing the amount of time truck drivers can spend behind the wheel.

At the same time, the economic boom under the Trump administration and the increase in product deliveries directly to our homes has made the trucking industry more important than ever for the livelihood of the U.S. economy.

While it is an exciting time for the trucking industry in America, many commercial truck drivers are rightfully concerned about federal regulations that limit their efficiency, make them feel unsafe, and make their jobs more challenging.

That’s why the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has developed a proposal to reform the existing "hours-of-service" regulations that dictate the driving schedules of commercial truckers. Safety is — and will always remain — the top priority for the Transportation Department, so this reform effort is focused on making safer, smarter and more effective rules. 

A double-trailer semi truck heads northbound on E. Sasse Rd. in Ingersell Twp. as it crosses the Fleming Drain.  Michigan's soybean farmers paid half the cost to purchase strain sensors to analyze bridge integrity in Midland and Lapeer counties. The road commissions paid the rest.

In response to these challenges, the department has authored proposed regulatory changes which are designed to improve safety by increasing flexibility for truck drivers. These proposed changes would give drivers more control over how their day is broken up — which will increase productivity and efficiency, and encourage more job seekers to join the trucking industry. Rather than being forced to take rest breaks solely on basis of the clock, these regulatory changes offer truck drivers more options and greater flexibility. 

Making smart updates to federal regulations encourages a healthier economy, while at the same time maintaining important safety requirements. During the Trump administration, the Transportation Department, under the leadership of Secretary Elaine L. Chao, has eliminated 23 regulations for every new one implemented — saving American taxpayers $1.2 billion in 2018 alone. And this regulatory reform agenda has worked. The American economy added than 6.2 million jobs since 2016 and unemployment has fallen to its lowest level in nearly 50 years. Wages are rising and there is more money in the pockets of hard-working Americans throughout the country.

Encouraging this strong economic growth is exactly why it’s important to listen to America’s commercial truckers and explore ways to make federal rules more efficient. The proposed regulatory changes to the trucking hours-of-service rules are estimated to save the motor carrier industry as much as $274 million annually.

As commercial trucking is a critical component of the nation’s economy, adding flexibility, regulatory relief, and cost savings will benefit all American consumers.

Michigan’s truck drivers work tirelessly to ensure that goods are moved seamlessly throughout our country and delivered to businesses and homes in every community in the nation. Like most motorists, truckers strive for the same thing we all do — to put in an honest day’s work and make it home safely to their families.

Truck drivers have asked for smarter and safer regulations, and the administration has listened and acted. By retooling federal rules to make them safer, more efficient and more effective, we can ensure Michigan truck drivers can operate safely and continue to support our nation’s strong economy. 

Ray Martinez is the sixth administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the agency within the U.S. Department of Transportation responsible for regulating and providing safety oversight of the nation’s commercial motor vehicles.