Since 1952, NASSTRAC has done a great deal to make the voice of shippers heard in the halls of Congress and in offices of rulemaking agencies. It, along with a few other organizations, has focused squarely on freight transportation issues—not glamorous, perhaps, but as key to economic health as clear arteries are to your heart.
Now called the National Shippers Strategic Transportation Council, the group has also made education for its members and provider relations crucial areas of focus.
Recently, NASSTRAC issued for the first time a National Policy Agenda. I recommend it to anyone responsible for moving or receiving cargo, no matter what industry you are in. The short 12-page document (available here) provides an excellent briefing on some of the most important issues facing shippers and carriers. The document was drafted by Ben Gann, director of legislative affairs for NASSTRAC, with assistance from Michael Regan, the group's advocacy chair, and John Cutler, its legal counsel. (I discussed the agenda and other issues recently with Gail Rutkowski, NASSTRAC's executive director. Look for the interview in the June issue of DC Velocity.)
The document's release is particularly timely as Washington is facing (or more likely, refusing to face) some critical transportation issues. Perhaps at the top of the agenda is the September expiration of MAP-21, the current law that funds and sets priorities for highway spending. What has proved particularly frustrating in recent years for advocates of highway construction and repair is persuading Congress to find a way to update the way the bill gets funded. As vehicles of all sorts have become more fuel-efficient, revenues from the existing fuel tax system no longer come close to meeting the most basic needs.
There are plenty of other issues in front of Congress and regulatory agencies affecting things like driver safety, international shipping and trade, and energy and the environment, all addressed succinctly in the agenda.
For instance, NASSTRAC is calling on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to fix its Compliance, Safety, and Accountability carrier safety scorecard, which too often dings truckers for things that have little to do with safety. It calls on Congress to permit states to decide whether to allow heavier and longer trucks on their roads to improve truckers' productivity. It supports the U.S.-Mexico Cross Border Trucking Pilot Program, which would allow Mexican drivers to operate beyond border areas for up to three years. There's more.
The document does not offer detailed policy prescriptions. Rather, it outlines major areas of concern and in general, asks policy makers to draft rules that make scientific and economic sense. It doesn't matter whether you agree with everything in it. It is still as good an outline as I've seen of what shippers, carriers, and policy makers ought to be thinking about.