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The fate of the independent trucker is important for Iowa, not only because of the farm products they haul, but also because they are a vital link between rural Iowa and major transportation centers.
Yet the truckers say rising fuels costs, lower speed limits, excessive competition, a lack of rate regulation and burdensome government paperwork requirements have combined to threaten their economic future as never before.
Truckers have been hit hardest by the 60 per cent increase in the cost of diesel fuel since 1972.
"Operating costs have risen more than 20 per cent in the last five years, but freight rates have stayed the same," said Fred Adrian of Everly, who owns eight semi-trailers which he uses to haul livestock to the Peoria, Ill., stockyards.
TOO MANY TRUCKERS
Truckers say the 55 mile-per-hour speed limit causes lost time on their runs-and time is money in the transportation business.
However, the biggest problem, according to Adrian, is that "there are just too many little truckers running around." For a $6 fee, anyone can become a trucker and start hauling livestock or farm produce," Adrian said.
Adrian and others said the overabundance of truckers and the lack of rate regulation for carrying livestock or farm produce means that freight rates for those commodities will stay low-too low to counter higher expenses.
"We have regulation for our hours and safety equipment, why not for our rates as well?" asked Bernard Yelli, dispatcher for Iowa-Montana Express, a cattle hauling firm based in Sioux City.
What Adrian, Yelli and others would like is the kind of regulatory protection given the big cross-country carriers which haul manufactured products.
Those carriers charge rates established and protected by state and federal regulatory agencies. More important, from the truckers' viewpoint, are provisions allowing big regulated carriers to block the entry of new competitors into the trucking business at "convenience and necessity" hearings conducted by regulatory bodies.
Small truckers, unlike other transportation businesses such as railroads, barges and airlines, are vulnerable to new competition because of the relative ease with which a person may buy a truck and get a license to haul livestock or farm produce.
SMALL TOWN DELIVERY
But their desire to have their business restricted flies in the face of proposals by President Ford to deregulate the trucking industry through weakening of the rate-making and entry authorities of federal and state regulatory bodies. Charles Ingersoll, executive vice-president of the Iowa Motor Truck Association, warns that deregulation could mean the end of regular truck service into small Iowa towns.
"Rates have been set at artificial levels to subsidize the small markets where it is not profitable to serve," Ingersoll said. "Deregulation would mean that a town like Van Meter in Iowa would have to pay top dollar to get any kind of truck service."
The arguments in favor of deregulation hold that present regulatory restrictions-mainly in the hauling of manufactured products-impose artificially high freight rates and also restrict competition.
The independents' desire to see some of their competitors winnowed out may come true even without regulatory changes. Many truckers here reported they are losing money.
C.R. Ballstadt of Knereim has been a trucker since 1936 and was honored by the Truckers' Day board as a "trucking pioneer." But Ballstadt said that independent trucking, as presently constituted, holds little future for a young man.
"With trucks costing up to $60,000 per unit to buy and outfit, it's hard to see how a guy can make enough to keep up with his payments," said Ballstadt, who hauls cattle to the Sioux City stockyards.
Ballstadt also spoke against the "little fly-by-night truckers" who are crowding the livestock hauling business and called for more regulation.
He added that while independent truckers aren't very concerned about the continuing battle in Iowa over legalization of 65-foot double bottom trucks (cattle haulers got what they wanted two years ago when 60-foot livestock
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haulers were legalized), they do want an increase in Iowa's gross weight limit from 73,280 pounds to 80,000 pounds.
"That increase would mean the difference between taking a loss and making a profit," Ballstadt said.
OPPOSED TO WEIGHT INCREASE
Although the federal government has endorsed the 80,000 pound limit, there is little chance Iowa truckers can get it here without the same long battle that has accompanied the drive to legalize 65 foot trucks.
Gov. Robert Ray has indicated that his opposition to long trucks extends also to heavier rigs, and the Iowa Department of Transportation (which has been generally favorable to longer trucks), also opposes weight increases on the theory that the extra weight would drive up road maintenance and repair costs.
Another problem that faces all truckers-big and small-is the welter of paperwork truckers need to wade through to get their various licenses and permits from state and federal regulatory agencies.
"It takes a specially trained lawyer to figure out all the regulations we need to run in the 48 states, not just a traffic manager," said Donald Berg, transportation manager for Iowa Beef Processors in nearby Dakota City, Neb.
Berg appealed to various state truck licensing and regulatory officials at Truckers' Day for help in lightening the load of paperwork that now grinds down truckers.
One system, called the International Registration Plan (IRP), will help with uniform licensing of trucks. Unfortunately, the IRP will do nothing to help truckers with uniform fuel permits and commodity hauling authorities, for which they also must tangle with the different state capitols.
As expected, the Truckers' Day bash produced no stirring organized efforts by truckers, who have made independence their watchword. There was no talk of a strike, such as the one staged briefly early in 1974.
Instead, the truckers conversed among themselves about regulation, fuel economies, and truckers' position within the state and national transportation frameworks.
Those are hardly issues that make for a good television or movie script, or lyrics to a country song or lingo on CB radio channels, but they are the issues that will determine the future of the “Last American Cowboys.”
AMERICAN TRUCKING ASSOCIATIONS, INC.,
STATE GROSS AND AXLE WEIGHT LIMITS AS OF JANUARY 1, 1976
The maps which follow indicate the maximum gross, single and tandem axle weight limits in each state as of January 19.6. They reflect the substantial progress made in the states during 1975 in securing state weight limits which conform to the new Federal standards enacted January 4, 1975.
In summary, there are now 34 states which are at or near the Federal weight limits on the Interstate System. As may be noted from the maps, most of these states permit the higher limits on all major highways as well as the Interstate System.
The limits shown include tolerances, both statutory and administrative, that have been published and are generally applicable. There are, however, a number of special exceptions to the laws, both as to weights allowed on specific types of equipment or in certain seasons of the year, and tolerances variously described as "scale error," "ice and snow" and "enforcement" that cannot be adequately depicted on maps of this type. A few states also have lower limits for axle and gross weight on secondary or farm to market road systems. Although great care was exercised in trying to obtain accurate information, it cannot be "guaranteed" that the data herein is complete in all cases. For more detailed information on any state, it is suggested that you check with the appropriate state trucking association.
UUTIS EXSingle Axle Load Limits in Thousands of Pounds (including tolerances) in Effect on January 1, 1976
TESTIMONY OF GEORGE KING, KING TRANSFER
Mr. KING. NO. I have a comment. The Government publishes a Federal Register every day of what happens in Washington. And in it every day it has the listings of the Interstate Commerce Commission. It has the listing of the applications and the denials. It's published there in Washington every day.
Mr. HUNGATE. Your name, sir?
Mr. KING. George King from Onawa, Iowa. King Transfer. Mr. HUNGATE. Thank you, sir We will try to mesh these together if you gentlemen will briefly conclude. Our time is going to get us here.
Mr. HIRSCHBACH. I will furnish you the information which I have of which I speak here today.
Mr. JENSEN. I would very much like to see those figures because we have also asked the ICC for those figures. Just for interest, to set the record straight, in 1973, 533 certificates were granted of which 31 for general commodities only.
In 1974, it was 432, of which only 30 were for general commodities only. This would certainly contrast to the figures you have given us. So I would very much like to see the figures you speak of.
Mr. HUNGATE. I hope we didn't have our minds made up before we got here. So that's one of the advantages of getting this information.
If I understand you and the testimony given by Ms. Fitzgerald here, you don't want deregulation or doing away with it. She said reregulation or a better form that was more effective. Is that a fair statement?
Mr. HIRSCHBACH. Regulatory reform, yes.
Mr. HUNGATE. Well, the subcommittee also heard testimony when you talk about the paperwork blizzard which you have all testified about and the hindrance it proves, that you need some degree of uniformity in this and simplicity. Is there any proposed uniform slips or is there any such model set of paperwork? Do you know of any?
Mr. HIRSCHBACH. In what area are you speaking?
Mr. HUNGATE. Well, this whole area. You have to fill out things for, I guess, fuel, your licenses, and your bingo cards and all that and the various variations between the States. Has any group proposed a model thing where they might be uniform and they might be simplified?
Is there any in existence anywhere allowing you to do that? When they get it passed, they will propose a model code, a model set of forms. Does that exist?
Mr. HIRSCHBACH. Partly. For instance, in this area where we prorate our licenses and vehicles, we have in a number of States what we call a uniform prorate package. Ms. Fitzgerald is completely familiar with it and has covered that in her testimony.
I think that these people tried to get their forms fairly consistent but it is still a long way to go.
Mr. HUNGATE. Well, I am interested because the reference has been made of the speed the Federal Government moved with when we got speed limits set uniformly. And we have them in Europe. You could drive from Luxembourg to Italy and back to France, you know, Denmark, with only one filing-you don't even have to file all these papers. You get one set of permits and it just works everywhere. It would seem that that should be possible.
Ms. FITZGERALD. You know, every mother thinks that her baby is the most perfect. When we go to meetings of the State administrators, which we do, we attend all the meetings when they are devising the forms that they are going to be using, each administrator is so jealous of the form that they have devised that there is no giving
I will give you just a ludicrous example. They are supposed to have uniform abbreviations that you use. Would you believe what the abbreviation for a trailmobile is in Iowa? TRIM. Everyplace else it's TMO.
But if you send in an application and you have used the wrong abbreviations-in Iowa, Wilson Trailer WILS. Everyplace else WSN. There is no giving on it. They will meet and they all talk about uniform procedures, uniform applications.
Then when they finally come out, we get the printed form. There is no uniformity. They will all have the same number of columns, but they are spaced differently.
If you dare to use a form that has been printed by another State, it's kicked back to you. It's not processed. So they talk about uniformity, but the only thing uniform is the fact that there is no uniformity.