The trucking industry is one where workers are constantly pressured by a number of factors. When it isn’t demanding dispatchers and sluggish shippers, it’s regulatory frameworks made by those who don’t truly understand the field and its challenges.
But some policies have worked well for truck driving, which remains one of the most popular jobs in the United States, year after year. Trucks are America’s dominant mode of freight transport, moving over two-thirds of all the goods that find their way around the U.S., Mexico, and Canada.
But the regulatory framework that can help or hinder workers can also go through some major changes. These changes, even when made with good intentions, can have long-standing effects – some of which are hard to predict and easy to ignore while focusing on the prospective perks of the change.
Trade deals are an example of such mandates. These deals make it possibly for interstate and international freight companies, truck drivers, and brokers to simplify their workflows and streamline operations across large regions. This helps to form regular routes, providing a degree of uniformity that is helpful in many instances.
But the legal and corporate frameworks that the trucking industry currently operates under may be changing soon. President Donald Trump claimed to be on the side of the trucker during his campaign. He spoke about two issues candidly – refining infrastructure and repealing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Drivers are slowly seeing discussions about infrastructure starting to take shape, but the debate about NAFTA has been in effect for a while. The consensus among many in the trucking industry is that changes need to occur, but only up to a certain point. Some were hoping for a modernization and reorganization of NAFTA, rather than a full repeal.
American Trucking Associations chief economist Bob Costello commented on the changes to NAFTA, saying: “Compared to when we started I have to say I’m a bit more pessimistic. I thought it was a great idea to update NAFTA. I think everyone was under the impression that it would be a lot easier than it’s been, and therefore I think reality has set in and we’re probably a little bit more pessimistic. But by the same token, I don’t think it’s all done either.”
The main argument against NAFTA has always been that it favors big companies and foreign employees – all at the expense of the domestic worker. Trump’s aim in rolling back red tape and ending long-running agreements like NAFTA (which was introduced in 1994) has always been to put the U.S. and its workers first.
But in the case of trucking, such a plan could potentially backfire. Supply chains that deliver thousands upon thousands of goods to various areas could be disrupted for unknown periods of time if the agreement is pulled out of too quickly.
This would be a terrible hit to the momentum of trucking, which has been great in 2018 and is only predicted to improve provided no major disruptions occur.