Ohio House panels advance bills intended to ‘churn out’ new drivers

July 17, 2018

Keith Goble

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Ohio lawmakers are advancing legislation to aid motor carriers wanting to bring more drivers into the trucking industry.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association opposes both pieces of legislation.

CMV student-aid program
The House Finance Committee voted 22-3 to advance a bill to create a commercial truck driver student aid program for eligible students enrolled at a certified CDL school or career college.

Financial aid would come via a grant or loan. The state would adopt conditional rules for loans received by the program and requirements for certification of CDL schools.

A total of $5 million would be appropriated to support the student aid program.

The sponsors say the legislation is part of a package of bills “aimed at increasing the amount of truck drivers in the industry, which has decreased in recent years.”

Speaking to committee members, Rep. Nathan Manning, R-North Ridgeville, said the country is projected to have 800,000 unfilled jobs by 2027 because of aging professional drivers leaving the workforce.

Mike Matousek, OOIDA manager of government affairs, has communicated to bill sponsors the Association’s concerns about the measure.

“While some motor carriers might need additional drivers, it is primarily because they have a driver turnover issue – not a driver shortage,” Matousek said.

He notes that driver turnover can easily reach 100 percent at many carriers annually.

“This is a reflection of noncompetitive pay and poor working conditions – again, not a driver shortage.”

Matousek said the bill actually provides a taxpayer subsidy to “churn out new drivers.”

In testimony provided to the committee on the bill, Ohio Trucking Association President Thomas Balzer said “churn” in the trucking industry is no different than any other industry.

“All industries from accounting, to law, to medical, to restaurants, have churn. … Churn is not a bad word. Churn tells me that people are gaining experience and getting better jobs,” Balzer said

OOIDA is not opposed to efforts that address potential barriers to entry, but the real issue is driver retention.

Matousek said HB154 ignores that completely while simultaneously reducing safety.

“We need more qualified drivers, not simply more drivers.”

The bill awaits further consideration in the House.

Training tax credit for motor carriers
Another piece of legislation in the package to advance from a House committee would provide a tax credit to motor carriers for eligible training expenses for prospective drivers.

The House Ways and Means Committee voted unanimously to advance a bill, HB155, to cap the tax credit at $3 million annually with the amount allotted to a single employer set at $50,000.

Matousek said it amounts to a taxpayer subsidy for large motor carriers.

“HB155 exacerbates the economic dysfunction that continues to harm small-business truckers and professional truck drivers.”

He added that, contrary to what others might claim, there is chronic overcapacity in trucking and too many drivers.

In reference to the perceived driver shortage, Matousek said the turnover is a reflection of noncompetitive pay and poor working conditions, both of which are issues that many carriers simply refuse to address.

“Churning out new drivers drives down freight rates – in many cases below market value – and removes any incentive to retain more qualified drivers.”

The Association believes that, while there are many variables, more experienced drivers equates to safer drivers and safer highways.

Matousek notes that OOIDA is not opposed to efforts that address potential barriers to entry, “but the real issue is driver retention, and HB155 ignores that completely.”

To view other legislative activities of interest for Ohio, click here.

Keith Goble

Keith Goble has been covering trucking-related laws since 2000. His daily web reports, radio news and “OOIDA’s State Watch” in Land Line Magazine are the industry’s premier sources for information regarding state legislative affairs.