America’s truckers are an important line of defense against human trafficking

On any given day, there are tens of thousands of people being trafficked into and within the United States. A large percentage of these victims are minors, often young females, who are brutally forced to preform commercial acts of sex or labor against their will.

It is crucial to raise awareness for a crime that far too often goes undetected, and the trucking industry has stepped up.  Professional truck drivers are the eyes and ears of America’s roadways, playing a vital role in ending modern-day slavery. Over the past decade, America’s trucking industry has placed itself on the frontlines of this important fight, and has made meaningful contributions in the comprehensive effort to identify the victims and perpetrators of this heinous act.

The Trucking Association of Massachusetts (TAM), along with the American Trucking Associations, are partners with Truckers Against Trafficking, a nonprofit organization that trains professional truck drivers on best practices in recognizing and reporting the red flags of human trafficking.

Due in large part to its partnership with this important organization, our industry has served as an effective and powerful ally and asset to law enforcement who seek to identify and prosecute these crimes. To date, at least 708 likely human trafficking cases have been generated by truck drivers who witnessed suspicious activity and reported it. Truck drivers have identified 1,296 human trafficking victims, and made nearly 2,700 calls to the national hotline after noticing questionable activity while out in the field.

Because of the oppressive nature of human trafficking, perpetrators often commit their crimes during broad daylight, out in the open and undetected by the general public. It is necessary that our communities are able to recognize the subtle signs of the crime and know how to report it. America is fortunate that truck drivers, the professionals who spend the most time on the road, are so committed to this cause, helping law enforcement catch these criminals, and saving the lives of innocent people.

The American public must remain vigilant and committed year-round to battling the human trafficking crisis that plagues our communities and destroys lives. Despite the trucking industry making outstanding strides this last decade, there is a limit to how far individual drivers can carry this progress on their own. We need all Americans to join the fight.

Warning signs that all people should be aware of include an individual not having knowledge of their whereabouts or control of their identifications; restricted and controlled communications or not being allowed to speak for himself or herself; CB radio chatter about “commercial company” or flashing lights that signal a buyer location; signs of branding or tattooing of a trafficker’s name (often found on the victim’s neck); a van or RV that seems out of place or a vehicle dropping someone off and picking them up after 15 or 20 minutes.

All individuals who believe they have witnessed or are aware of human trafficking should call the National Human Trafficking hotline at 1-888-373-7888.

We urge you to join the trucking industry in the fight against human trafficking.  The victim you save could be somebody’s daughter, niece or nephew, or a next-door neighbor.

[Update] Massachusetts truck drivers and COVID vaccine

Updated Feb. 9 at 2 p.m. ET

While we were initially told Massachusetts truck drivers were included in Phase 2, Group 3, we have been informed this is not the case. At this time, truck drivers do not have any favorable status. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has also informed us they will not be reviewing requests from any groups concerning vaccine availability until at least until April.

TAM will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as they become available.

The original post from Feb. 1 is below.

[Original post starts here.] The Massachusetts Department of Public Health confirms Truck Drivers in Massachusetts will be in Phase 2, Group 3, Transit. They advise to monitor, When can I get the COVID-19 Vaccine? | Mass.gov webpage, for the latest information on the state’s COVID-19 vaccination plan. At this time, the Department of Public Health is not scheduling appointments directly.

Phase 2 will launch Feb. 1.

  • First group is now 75 and older
  • Second group is now 65+ or individuals of any age with two co-morbidities as outlined by the CDC. Please remember it is only the diagnosis that puts an individual “at increased risk” grouping, not the “may put at risk” grouping on the CDC website – Certain Medical Conditions and Risk for Severe COVID-19 Illness | CDC. Start date for this group is TBD and based on availability of vaccines.
  • The rest of the phases remains as two additional groups
    • Early education and K-12 workers, transit, utility, food and agriculture, sanitation, public works, and public health workers,
    • Individuals with one comorbidity.

Additional information will be forthcoming regarding groups within this phase, timing, vaccination access and clinics. Groups are placed sequentially within each Phase. You will also be able to check with your primary care provider or local pharmacy. Your primary care provider and local pharmacy may also have additional information at that time.

Phase 3, once the vaccine is available to the public, which is projected to be in April, vaccine clinics will be available on the CDC’s interactive website: vaccinefinder.org.

Please monitor COVID-19 Vaccine in Massachusetts | Mass.gov for updates to the COVID-19 Vaccine Plan.

UMassSafe launches survey concerning safety summits

Our friends at UMASS have received funding from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to conduct a commercial vehicle safety summit in 2022 or 2023. They are looking for your input on current, new or emerging technologies relevant to your work in preventing crashes involving large trucks and buses, as well as conference logistics, location, etc.

The University of Massachusetts Traffic Safety Program’s (UMassSafe) plan is to focus on advancing best practices for technologies that prevent large truck and bus crashes.

TAM encourages all commercial vehicle stakeholders to participate in the survey. To ensure the summit is relevant you the needs of attendees, please take a few minutes to complete the survey.

UMassSafe does excellent work, benefiting the trucking industry in the state. Thank you for participating.

Amazon testing AI cameras to monitor drivers

From The Independent.

Amazon is testing cameras equipped with artificial intelligence in order to monitor delivery drivers while they are working. The cameras will provide drivers real-time alerts to help them stay safe when they are on the road however many drivers apparently reported concerns to CNBC about the addition due to worries about corporate surveillance. …

The cameras record 100% of the time, Amazon says, with four lenses capturing the road, driver, and sides of the vehicle collecting 16 different safety features including speeding, hard-breaking, or distracted driving.

Read the full article at The Independent online.

TAM fact sheet on current rolling stock tax

Brief Summary

This legislation seeks to bring Massachusetts in line with a majority of other states within which an exemption from sales and use tax for rolling stock already exists. As drafted, the legislation amends Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 64H (i.e. sales tax) and Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 64I (i.e. use tax) to specifically exempt rolling stock from the sales and use tax. “Rolling stock” is defined as “vehicles such as trucks, tractors, and trailers that transport goods in interstate commerce.”

The legislation does not allow a motor carrier to avoid paying the multitude of fees otherwise required under federal, state and local law. Many other surrounding states (37) do not tax rolling stock; therefore, creating another incentive for interstate trucking companies to either leave Massachusetts or forego it in favor of other states. (i.e. potential companies in the future).

A recent study by Northeastern University’s Dukakis Center has shown that the elimination of the rolling stock tax will potentially produce an additional $15.9 million in additional taxes created by the growth of the for hire portion of the trucking industry. According to the same study, when factoring in private fleets as well, this benefit could double. This initiative will also incentivize trucking companies and companies with truck fleets to use newer, safer and more environmentally friendly trucks in the Commonwealth – whereas the current policy discourages this.

This legislation, which received a favorable report from the Joint Committee on Revenue last session, was included as part of the House Economic Development Bill during the same session.

Rationale

  • The Trucking Association of Massachusetts (TAM), which represents the Commonwealth trucking industry, has seen the trucking industry in Massachusetts decline as many trucking companies move to other states. Part of the reason that trucking companies have left the Commonwealth is due to the Commonwealth’s tax policies.
  • The Massachusetts Department of Revenue started collecting sales and use tax for rolling stock purchased in other states where those states have an exemption in place for rolling stock. The Commonwealth did not have a tax on rolling stock until 1996, but did not enforce the same until 2006.
  • This legislation will create a more attractive environment for trucking companies to remain in the Commonwealth. Trucking companies rely on constantly maintaining and upgrading their equipment. This means purchasing new rolling stock on a regular basis. If they know that their out-of-state purchases will incur an instate tax, the companies will work to reduce their nexus to the taxing state (i.e. Massachusetts).
  • By keeping trucking companies in the Commonwealth, the good jobs and competitive salaries that these companies offer will remain within the state. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, Massachusetts has the fifth highest annual mean wage for heavy and tractor-trailer drivers within the country. If more trucking companies find Massachusetts tax policy less favorable than neighboring states, the loss of Massachusetts trucking companies will become even more significant.
  • If the Commonwealth discourages trucking companies from domiciling in the state, transportation expenses will rise — further impacting the high cost of living already experienced in the Commonwealth. The costs associated with transporting goods are fairly straightforward. If the Commonwealth’s tax policies cause trucking companies to domicile elsewhere, the additional fuel, tolls and vehicle maintenance, among other costs, will be borne by Massachusetts residents and businesses.
  • This legislation is a matter of common sense. If a company does not purchase a product within State (A), it is not fair for State (A) to tax the company for purchasing a product in State (B). The purpose of taxes and fees is to support the mechanisms that help the taxpayer. (i.e. road and bridges, police, fire, etc.). In the case of the trucking industry, gas taxes, tolls, vehicle registrations and other license fees and taxes cover the expense of the trucking industry. Collecting sales and use tax on rolling stock purchased in other jurisdictions creates a disincentive for companies to expand in the Commonwealth. Given that states such as New Hampshire, which exempts rolling stock from sales and use tax, Massachusetts’ current tax policy will simply lead to higher costs for Massachusetts residents and businesses while driving economic opportunity to neighboring states. Various truck companies, who may be domiciled in Massachusetts or have repair facilities in Massachusetts, are now seeking to locate them outside of the state to reduce the substantial nexus necessary to collect such tax.
  • This legislation will create a more attractive environment for trucking companies to remain in the Commonwealth. By keeping trucking companies in the Commonwealth, the Commonwealth will keep the good jobs and salaries these companies offer within the state. Historically, states have exempted rolling stock from sales and use tax. If the Commonwealth discourages trucking companies from domiciling in the state, transportation expenses will rise further impacting the high cost of living already experienced in the Commonwealth.
  • From a public safety and environmental perspective, this legislation will ensure that trucking companies and companies with truck fleets will run their newer trucks in the Commonwealth. If a company knows that it will have to potentially pay a tax on new rolling stock used in the state, the company will not allow the rolling stock to have any nexus or connection to the Commonwealth. This means that older, less safe and more environmentally unfriendly trucks remain in the Commonwealth.
  • The Dukakis Center at Northeastern University was asked by the Trucking Association of Massachusetts to study the economic impact of the trucking in the Commonwealth. Key findings from the Dukakis Center study, released this Spring, included the following:
    • “The overall trucking industry (including private and for-hire tucking) represent about one in 12 jobs or about 300,000 jobs in Massachusetts in 2017.”
    • “Each local trucking employee on average generates $3,396 per year in state and local payroll, income and property taxes and each local truck on average generates $3,125 per year in taxes from support service activity.”
    • “Most states—37 out of 50—exempt for-hire interstate trucking firms from paying sales tax on new equipment purchases to encourage interstate trade by local firms. States with full exemptions include four New England states—Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island— and a fifth, Vermont, with the tax capped at $1,850 per truck. Massachusetts is the only New England state with no sales tax exemptions for interstate for-hire trucking firms.”
    • “The following occupations illustrate how well these production jobs pay: 1) diesel engine mechanic (2017 US average income=$48,000 and MA=$57,550); 2) riggers (US=$50,270 and MA=$56,650); 3) machinist (US=$44,160 and MA=$51,020); and, 4) heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers (US=$44,500 and MA=$50,580). Source: Bureau Labor Statistics (2017).”
    • “There are several problems with Massachusetts’ application of sales and use taxes applied to trucks (aka, taxing rolling stock). First, doctrinal inconsistency: most states apportion and promote local trucking activity; Massachusetts does the opposite. Second, taxing rolling stock and increasing the relative tax burden motivates relocation (the impact of state and local taxes on location is well established). Third, the benefits of efficient trucking are broad, but the costs are disproportionately borne by local trucking companies (in a competitive industry passing along these costs to customers is impossible). Last, taxing local companies at a higher rate yields slower local company growth.”
    • “Analysis of the number of for-hire trucking establishments in each state over time illustrates that states that apply sales tax on the purchase of trucks engaged in interstate carriage have significantly fewer firms. From this perspective, we presented a counterfactual consideration above: if Massachusetts for-hire trucking employment grew at the rate of the United States, 2,768 more employees and 2,076 more power units would be operating and generating an additional $15.9 million in tax revenue per year.”
    • “Hence, we find that if Massachusetts’ for-hire trucking industry grew at the same rate as the overall United States rate, we would have 2,768 more employees and 2,076 more power units would be operating. In total, an additional $9.4 million in payroll, income and property taxes, and $6.5 million in taxes related to purchase of support and ancillary services: hence, an additional $15.9 million per year. As Massachusetts private fleets are also subject to the same sales and use taxes, we assume the impact will be similar; hence, total tax implication can twice as much when including supermarket, manufacturing and other private fleets.” (emphasis added).

Environmental benefits of eliminating the tax on rolling stock in trucking

Proposed legislation will encourage trucking companies to reduce emissions and increase fuel efficiency

Legislation being considered in the Massachusetts legislature seeks to bring Massachusetts in line with a majority of other states (37 states, including the six neighboring New England states) within which an exemption from sales and use tax for rolling stock already exists. This proposed legislation does not allow a motor carrier to avoid paying the multitude of other taxes and fees otherwise required under federal, state and local law. However, many other surrounding states do not tax rolling stock; therefore, creating another incentive for interstate trucking companies to either leave Massachusetts or forego it in favor of other states. (i.e. potential companies in the future).

A recent study by Northeastern University’s Dukakis Center has shown that the elimination of the rolling stock tax will actually produce at least an additional $15.9 million in taxes created by the growth of the for hire portion of the trucking industry. From an environmental perspective, this initiative will incentivize trucking companies and companies with truck fleets to buy newer, safer and more environmentally friendly trucks in the Commonwealth – whereas the current policy discourages this. In particular, this legislation will promote a cleaner, greener Commonwealth by promoting the purchase of vehicles with higher emissions standards and greater fuel efficiency.

Emissions

Removing the incentive to hold onto trucks as long as possible in Massachusetts will lead trucking companies to purchase new trucks. As reported by California Environmental Protection Agency, Air Resources Board (ARB), “new technology diesel engines using low sulfur fuel reduce the emissions and risks of diesel particulate matter by over 90 percent compared to diesel engines of the past. This brings the emission levels of PM2.5, oxides of nitrogen (NOx), and gaseous toxic air contaminants from new technology diesel engines down to or below the levels found in the exhaust emitted by other fossil-fueled vehicles, such as gasoline and compressed natural gas vehicles.” By purchasing new trucks, companies will be reducing the presence of particulate matter (PM2.5) by 99% and the presence of nitrogen oxide by 98%. The key, however, is getting older trucks off of the road.

Accessed from California Air Resources Board, https://ww3.arb.ca.gov/newsrel/2012/diesel-tech-faq.htm (Sept. 15, 2019).

The environmental benefits of encouraging the purchase of new trucks is significant. On November 13, 2018, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the Cleaner Trucks Initiative (CTI), a future rulemaking to update standards for nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from highway heavy-duty trucks and engines. Over the last decade, NOx emissions in the U.S. have dropped by more than 40 percent. Nonetheless, EPA expects that heavy-duty trucks will be responsible for one-third of NOx emissions from transportation in 2025. As well, the technology surrounding electric trucks continues to improve – meaning electric powered trucking will be able to eliminate the emissions that have been associated with carbon based fuels. Older trucks, which are often grandfathered when new standards are created, do not have the newest technology.

In all cases, however, Massachusetts’ current law on the taxation of rolling stock creates a disincentive where trucking companies are encouraged to keep their less clean trucks. Notwithstanding the impact Massachusetts current law has on the behavior of national trucking companies, who can simply cycle their older trucks through the state, the current policy is counter-productive to the Commonwealth’s environmental protection strategies. Bringing the rolling stock exemption back to Massachusetts will create an incentive for purchasing cleaner diesel and alternative field trucks in the future.

Fuel Efficiency

According to the Diesel Technology Forum (DTF), “while continuously making commercial trucks more fuel efficient, diesel engine and truck manufacturers have also been making them dramatically cleaner, a significant accomplishment considering that increased fuel efficiency and lower emissions are near opposite and competing forces in diesel engine design. In fact, diesel vehicles manufactured after 2010 achieve an average 5 percent improvement in fuel economy resulting in petroleum reduction equivalent to 5.8 billion barrels of crude oil. An owner of a single Class 8 truck powered by the latest clean diesel engine can expect to save about 960 gallons of fuel each year compared to previous generations of technology. Additional fuel-saving strategies are being developed to improve efficiency, including further engine refinements, vehicle aerodynamics and expanded use of hybrid technology for some applications.”

*Accessed from North American Council for Freight Efficiency,
https://nacfe.org/annual-fleet-fuel-studies/, (Sept. 15, 2019).

Again, the future opportunity for reducing the use of carbon fuels through the purchase of new vehicles will increase. As further reported by the DTF, “[n]ew diesel vehicles are increasing their penetration in the marketplace because they are more fuel efficient, in part, due to meeting the requirements of Phase 1 of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Fuel Efficiency standards that went into effect in 2014. Manufacturers are also investing new technologies including new engine designs to meet Phase 2 of these rules that kick-in in 2021. Over the lifetime of the vehicles affected by the new rule, the program is expected to reduce oil consumption by more than 530 million barrels, result in more than $50 billion in net benefits, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 270 million metric tons.”. But, again, without changing Massachusetts current laws relative to the taxation of rolling stock, companies will not update their vehicles until the last possible moment – thereby increasing our overall carbon fuel consumption.

The elimination of the Commonwealth’s tax on rolling stock will improve air quality and reduce the use of fossil fuels in addition to creating jobs and supporting the future of the trucking industry in Massachusetts.

Pilot program would open long-distance trucking to 18-year-olds

From the Washington Post.

A federal agency is proposing a pilot program to allow people as young as 18 to drive trucks across the country, an idea enthusiastically supported by trucking companies as a way to open the door to recruitment in high schools but facing deep opposition from safety organizations that say it will lead to immature drivers causing more crashes.

Read the full article at the Washington Post.

Second COVID-19 relief package expected soon

The US House of Representatives is set to pass a second COVID-19 relief package – totaling about $900 billion – on Monday night [Dec. 21]. The coronavirus relief is wrapped into a $2.4 trillion spending package. From Forbes.

This proposed bill is being enacted to correct a number of problems that PPP borrowers have had, and also opens the door to new opportunities for borrowers who were not treated as well under the previous program.

The broad parameters concerning the business side of the legislation are generally not surprising, though there are important details still outstanding:

  • PPP first and second draw loans are included . It appears there will be a $284 billion pot for all PPP loans. The maximum loan size for any PPP loan will be $2 million. Additional qualifying expenses for PPP loan forgiveness include computing software to enable remote work for employees, property damage from the public unrest earlier this year, supplier costs of essential goods or services in effect at the time the PPP loan was applied for, and costs related to PPE and adaptive investments made to comply with local governmental mandates. Authority for the SBA to issue PPP first and second loans expires March 31, 2020. PPP loans that are under $150,000 shall have a simplified loan forgiveness application.
  • In order to qualify for a second draw PPP loan, a business may not have more than 300 employees, have spent or will spend their first PPP loan, and demonstrate at least a 25% reduction in gross receipts against same 2019 quarter.
  • The bill allows businesses to deduct expenses associated with their forgiven PPP loans- though we are not sure if there’s a cap on the size of the loan that you can be permitted to deduct (I saw one report of a $150k cap, which wouldn’t be great for us)
  • PPP eligibility expanded to 501(c)(6) entities with some restrictions. A 501c6 is eligible for a PPP loan if it does not receive more than 15% (up from 10% in “908” of its receipts from lobbying. Lobbying activities cannot compromise more than 15% of the activities of the entity, and the cost of lobbying activities of the organization did not total more than $ 1 million during the most recent tax year that ended Feb. 15, 2020. Finally, to be eligible for a PPP loan, a 501(c)(6) cannot have more than 300 employees.
  • Business meals will be fully deductible for the next two years (2021-2022). Currently there is only a 50% deduction for such expenses.
  • The Employee Retention Credit is extended to June 30, 2021. Beginning in January 2021, the new credit rate rises from 50% to 70% of qualified wages. The legislation also expands eligibility for the credit by reducing the required year-over-year gross receipts decline from 50% to a 20% decline.
  • The agreement would also temporarily allow people receiving the Earned Income Tax Credit and the refundable portion of the Child Tax Credit to use their 2019 incomes when applying for the payments. Because the credits are linked to how much people earn, that would help those who’ve seen their incomes fall in the wake of the pandemic.
  • Direct payments: Individuals making up to $75,000 a year will receive a payment of $600, while couples making up to $150,000 will receive $1,200, in addition to $600 per child. The deal also makes the stimulus checks more accessible to immigrant families.
  • Employers who receive Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans may still qualify for the ERTC with respect to wages that are not paid for with forgiven PPP proceeds . This is retroactive to enactment of the CARES Act.

Updated FMCSA COVID-19 guidance

Please see the attached waivers, Notices of Enforcement Discretion Decision (NEDDs), and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), which update FMCSA’s Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) guidance previously issued on Sept. 18.

These waivers are posted at the links below and allow carriers and SDLAs to continue to adapt to the pressing issues related to physically distancing and COVID-19 in light of the continuing public health emergency.

These waivers, NEDDs, and FAQs have been updated to extend the expiration date to Feb. 28, 2021, and include the following:

Boyle Transportation on moving COVID-19 vaccine

In a recent CNBC interview, Andrew Boyle, co-president of Boyle Transportation, discussed the recent rollout of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Boyle Transportation is working with UPS to distribute the vaccine. Boyle was interviewed on the Worldwide Exchange program with Dominic Chu.