NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Are Truckers Selling Market Freedom For A Short Term Benefit?

September 29, 2000

Independent truckers want the federal government to make shippers pay them a surcharge if the weekly price of diesel fuel rises more than five cents above a 52-week average. The measure, contained in the proposed Motor Carrier Fuel Cost Equity Act of 2000, has strong support within both parties.

But critics warn that the independents are risking re-regulation of transportation if the government gets back into the business of price controls which it abandoned in 1980 when the trucking industry was deregulated.

  • Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a powerful backer of the bill, admits that the provision could add costs for consumers, but says that is a small price to pay.
  • He argues that independents truckers are victims of government policies -- such as curbs on drilling for oil in the U.S. and high fuel taxes -- so government is obliged to undo the ill effects of its wrongs by helping them.
  • But critics point out that many industries are burdened by government without being entitled to subsidies -- such as, for example, homebuilders who were hurt by higher softwood lumber prices when the U.S. blocked imports from Canada.
  • Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.) says he finds it "offensive" for a Republican Congress "to start rewriting contracts and passing laws saying what contracts must contain or cannot contain."

In a letter to House Speaker Dennis Hastert, Competitive Enterprise Institute vice president James Gattuso has argued that for the first time in nearly 20 years "the federal government will again be in the business of determining the prices charged in the trucking marketplace."

Source: John Berlau, "Will Fuel Aid for Strapped Truckers Lead to Transport's Re-Regulation?" Investor's Business Daily, September 29, 2000.


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