For-hire trucking companies added 5,000 payroll jobs in January on a seasonally adjusted basis as the overall economy added 157,000 nonfarm jobs, according to the latest estimates released Feb. 1 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The national unemployment rate ticked up slightly to 7.9 percent.
Payroll employment in trucking in January totaled 1.375 million jobs — up 0.36 percent from December and 47,400 jobs, or 3.6 percent, from January 2012. The total number of seasonally adjusted payroll jobs is higher than previously reported because BLS has adjusted figures going back at least five years. Trucking employment is up by 141,100 jobs, or 11.4 percent, from the bottom in March 2010, but it remains 78,300 jobs, or 5.4 percent, below the January 2007 peak.
The BLS numbers for trucking reflect all payroll employment in for-hire trucking, but they don’t include trucking-related jobs in other industries, such as a truck driver for a private fleet. Nor do the numbers reflect the total amount of hiring since they only reflect the number of employees paid during a specified payroll period during the month. Due to high turnover rates, the BLS estimates may overstate the number of job positions due to the methodology used in the agency’s Current Employment Survey.
For-hire trucking companies added 5,000 payroll jobs in January on a seasonally adjusted basis as the overall economy added 157,000 nonfarm jobs, according to the latest estimates released Feb. 1 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The national unemployment rate ticked up slightly to 7.9 percent.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has been systematically collecting state motor vehicle registration data through its 500-series data reporting (Form FHWA-561) since the early 1940s to facilitate the Federal-aid Highway Program. Periodically, the FHWA conducts data reassessment activities with the goal of increasing data reliability and reducing data reporting burden while maintaining historical continuity and meeting new program and initiative needs.
Currently, the FHWA is examining state motor vehicle data covering all data items. The existing FHWA-561 form requires states to fill out over 200 data items. Our preliminary assessment indicates that these can be replaced by approximately 90 percent fewer items. However, before any actual implementation of such changes, the FHWA would like to learn the feasibility of the new proposed data items and form.
The FHWA will host a webinar to present the preliminary proposal, obtain feedback, and discuss potential issues on March 5, 2013 from 3:30-4:30PM EST. View the webinar here. Phone: 1- 877-848-7030 Passcode: 6217068
By Oliver B. Patton, Washington Editor
There’s an air of resignation in Washington about the deep cuts in federal spending scheduled for March 1.
If sequestration happens, the cuts could affect $1.2 trillion in discretionary and defense spending. Highway safety and construction programs would be spared, for the most part, because their money comes through the Highway Trust Fund.
Congressional leaders and others are pessimistic about preventing the automatic, across-the-board cuts.
“We think these sequesters will happen,” Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., chair of the House Budget Committee, said on Meet the Press a week ago.
Ryan was politicking, blaming Democrats for the situation, but he is not the only one who is concerned. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told The Washington Post he thinks the cuts are more likely. And Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., told the Post that odds probably are even that the cuts will occur.
Steve Bell of the Bipartisan Policy Center, the former staff director of the Senate Budget Committee, thinks the risk of sequester is high.
“Our estimate, based a wide survey of senior congressional staff and some members, indicates that the odds of at least a partial sequester are very high and that a full sequester is a better than 50-50 proposition,” he said in a commentary posted on the BPC website.
The situation arises from a deal cut by Congress in 2011 to impose automatic, draconian cuts in federal programs if legislators could not agree on a plan to reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion.
The theory was that the cuts would be so painful, particularly to defense, that Congress would be forced to act.
With the deadline approaching, however, there is no deal in sight.
Trucking Programs Mostly Exempt
According to an analysis prepared by the Congressional Research Service, the core motor carrier safety programs run by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration are exempt from sequestration.
The same applies to programs administered through the Federal Highway Administration, and to operations and research at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which regulates truck safety equipment.
These are not 100% exemptions, however. For instance, about 3% of FMCSA’s budget does not come through the Highway Trust Fund. This sparks concern in the safety enforcement community.
Steve Keppler, executive director of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, said sequester could create risk of furloughs among FMCSA staff, which might limit the agency’s ability to process safety grants.
Duane DeBruyne, a spokesman for the agency, acknowledged that the sequester exemption is not complete but said the shortfall would be slight and the agency is prepared.
“There is a fractional amount – less than $1 million from an overall agency budget of slightly more than $570 million – that potentially could be exposed should sequestration occur,” he said.
“The agency is confident that it has contingency plans in place to ensure that normal work-flow of services, functions and daily activities would not be disrupted.”
While these specific federal programs are protected, trucking shares the general economic risks arising from sequestration.
Bell of the Bipartisan Policy Center noted that the slowdown in business in the fourth quarter of 2012 is attributable in part to workforce reductions among defense contractors and sub-contractors in anticipation of sequestration.
That period saw the largest defense spending cut since 1972, said Bob Costello, chief economist for American Trucking Associations.
John Larkin, managing director of transportation equity research at Stifel, Nicolaus, also noted that defense-related shipments softened in the fourth quarter as contractors prepared for sequestration.
“It is not clear, though, that defense cuts would have a big, direct impact on carriers serving defense contractors,” he added.
Bill Wanamaker, director of government traffic and security operations at ATA, confirmed the point.
He said most of the defense cutbacks would be in new programs having to do with weapons and vehicles.
“If DOD wants to move freight, and there is a considerable amount of ‘retrograde’ freight, returning from battle theaters, then they have to pay for it,” he said.
“There may be some discretionary freight that could be postponed, but frankly, if a warrior needs it, we’ve got to move it, and DOD has got to pay for it.”
There still is a risk that sequestration would negatively impact the overall economy, according to Bell.
He said the Congressional Budget Office forecasts a 0.7% drop in GDP growth in 2013 due to the sequester’s effect on small businesses and government personnel.
He forecasts the loss of a million jobs if full sequestration occurs.
Larkin offered additional perspective.
“While sequestration may bring GDP growth down 100 to 200 basis points in 2013, the Sandy recovery and rebuilding effort, the rebounding housing market, and the recovering auto industry will combine to create a mediocre to lackluster demand environment in 2013, much like we have seen the past couple of years,” he said.
Supply and demand for trucking will remain more or less in balance this year, he said. “This is frustrating to truckers because just a normal recovery would have created a raging bull trucking market by now. It is within reach, but the seemingly perpetual, pathetically slow economic growth prevents the Golden Age for trucking from fully developing.”
Costello of ATA said that while there’s a significant risk to the economy from sequestration, it pales compared to the risk of not raising the debt ceiling.
“If they don’t raise the debt ceiling it means that the government can only spend what it brings in on any given day,” he said. “We think it would be the equivalent of a 40% cut in government spending almost overnight.”
That would send the economy over a cliff, which is why he’s been spending a lot more time on the debt ceiling than on sequestration, he said.
The deadline for raising the debt ceiling is mid-May.
A federal appeals court on Friday, January 25, 2013 ruled that President Obama exceeded his constitutional authority with three appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) while the Senate was on break last year. This ruling casts doubt on hundreds of decisions the NLRB has made in the past year, ranging from enforcement of collective bargaining agreements to rulings on the rights of workers to use social media.
The ruling also raises questions about the recess appointment of former Ohio attorney general Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and about the actions taken by the agency during his tenure, including major new rules governing the mortgage industry. Obama named Cordray at the same time as the NLRB nominees, and his appointment is the subject of a separate lawsuit in D.C. federal court.
Options for the Obama administration include appealing to the full D.C. Circuit Court or to the U.S. Supreme Court. APSCU will monitor the Administration’s next move and will report back with the latest information.
The Truckload Carriers Association has named Mark Randall of Mesquite, Texas, a professional driver trainer for Werner Enterprises of Omaha, Neb., as its latest Highway Angel. Randall is being recognized for taking preventive measures that ultimately saved a life.
On Oct. 24, 2012, around 1:30 p.m., Randall and a student were headed westbound on I-80/680 in Omaha. With only two miles to go before dropping off a load, Randall was at the wheel. He stayed within the speed limit of 60 mph and made a mental note of the considerable traffic all around him.
To his right and up ahead, Randall noticed a motorcyclist who appeared to be following much too close to the car in front of him. He was also traveling about 60 mph. Randall's safety instincts kicked in, and he began to slow down.
"I always make a big point of being aware of my surroundings when I'm operating these vehicles," said Randall, who was recently recognized by his company for a million miles of accident-free driving and also received Werner's Humanitarian Award for his actions that day. "I pay good attention. In fact, I was just about to make my student aware of the possible hazard ahead when the motorcyclist suddenly accelerated and attempted to pass the car. But he was just too close and hit the rear of that vehicle."
Randall immediately began scanning the lanes for a way to get out of the path of the doomed motorcyclist. Surrounded by traffic, he knew that he could not suddenly switch lanes without putting other vehicles in danger. His only viable option was to stay put and maintain control of the tractor-trailer, which was fully loaded with thousands of pounds of tires.
As if in slow motion, Randall saw the motorcyclist hit the pavement hard and slide directly into his path. He immediately put on his flashers and continued to brake, finally coming to a controlled stop - within 10 feet of the man on the pavement.
The student got out to render aid, while Randall called 911. The motorcyclist had survived and was miraculously okay. Not only had Randall managed to avoid hitting the man, but he is also credited for using his truck to protect the motorcyclist from being run over by the oncoming traffic hurtling toward him at 60 mph.
At the accident scene, the responding state patrol officer made a joke, saying that the motorcyclist had been incredibly lucky that day and should probably continue that luck by purchasing some lottery tickets. Another officer responded, "How does someone crash a motorcycle in four lanes of traffic doing 60 miles per hour and not get killed or run over?"
Feeling triumphant at what had just happened, Randall turned, pointed to his big blue truck, and said, "Because THAT truck stopped, and he was lucky to fall in front of ME!"
For helping the motorcyclist, Randall was presented with a Highway Angel lapel pin, certificate and patch. Werner Enterprises also received a certificate acknowledging that one of its drivers is a Highway Angel.
The 2013 CDL Coordinators/IT Manger's Meeting took place last week in Houston, TX, and Anne Ferro, FMCSA Administrator, led off the second day with a keynote presentation on FMCSA safety efforts. She thanked the AAMVA community for its safety efforts, noting that jurisdictions meet the challenge of "incorporating an essential safety mission into an exceedingly complex customer service environment."
She said her agency continues to "raise the bar for safety" to identify and disqualify poor drivers from operating commercial vehicles and to take action against operators who do fail to maintain safety standards.
Recent legislation - MAP 21 - provided FMCSA with additional opportunities to improve road safety and makes it possible for the agency to continue to rely on strong collaboration with partners. As a result of MAP 21, the agency will pursue 29 rulemaking activities, research and analysis on a variety of issues, and a number of program improvements.
She touched on the drug and alcohol clearinghouse, employer notification, the Commercial Learners Permit rule, and the agency's military CDL program. "The federal government and states share the same passion to save lives," she said. "FMCSA's vision remains a crash-free environment for commercial vehicles."
The trucking industry added 4,200 new jobs in December while the nation’s overall job rolls, grew by 155,000, the Department of Labor said.
The U.S. unemployment rate remained unchanged in December at 7.8%, matching November’s, four-year low.
Based on adjusted government numbers, trucking grew by 2,900 jobs in November and 4,200 in October.
Bob Costello, Chief Economist for American Trucking Associations, dubbed the overall December employment numbers “no better, no worse.”
Trucking added 44,400 jobs overall in 2012, slightly below the 46,900 for-hire trucking jobs added in 2011, Costello said.
“Still, the growth in trucking employment far outpaced overall payrolls,” he added. “Specifically, trucking employment was up 3.5% in 2012 while nonfarm payrolls increased just 1.4%.”
There were 1.36 million people employed in the for-hire trucking industry in December, the highest since November 2008.
“The numbers show that we are growing and that the industry is hauling more freight. We’ve only had one monthly decrease in all of 2012, and that was in March,” Costello added.
The government data are not influenced by the industry-wide shortage of truck drivers, he said.
“I don’t think the shortage would cause the numbers to go up,” Costello said. “If you’re short workers and you can’t hire them, it doesn’t count.as a positive.”
Elsewhere in the economy, the Department of Labor report for December showed that the trend of lower public-sector payrolls continued with government jobs contracting by 13,000 while private firms added 168,000 people to payrolls during the one-month period.
Manufacturers and construction firms added 25,000 and 30,000, respectively, during December. For the construction industry, last month marked the largest monthly gain since September 2011. In 2012, construction employment rose by 18,000, or just 0.6%.
However, new housing starts increased more than 25% last year, which means employment will have to rise soon for construction growth to continue, the government said.
WASHINGTON, D.C.—January 10, 2013, H.R. 4057, the Improving Transparency of Education Opportunities for Veterans Act of 2012, as amended, was signed into law by President Obama.
H.R. 4057 (112th): Improving Transparency of Education Opportunities for Veterans Act of 2012
To amend title 38, United States Code, to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to develop a comprehensive policy to improve outreach and transparency to veterans and members of the Armed Forces through the provision of information on institutions of higher learning, and for other purposes.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. COMPREHENSIVE POLICY ON PROVIDING EDUCATION INFORMATION TO VETERANS.
(a) Comprehensive Policy Required-
(1) IN GENERAL- Chapter 36 of title 38, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new section:
Sec. 3698. Comprehensive policy on providing education information to veterans
‘(a) Comprehensive Policy Required- The Secretary shall develop a comprehensive policy to improve outreach and transparency to veterans and members of the Armed Forces through the provision of information on institutions of higher learning.
‘(b) Scope- In developing the policy required by subsection (a), the Secretary shall include each of the following elements:
‘(1) Effective and efficient methods to inform individuals of the educational and vocational counseling provided under section 3697A of this title.
‘(2) A centralized mechanism for tracking and publishing feedback from students and State approving agencies regarding the quality of instruction, recruiting practices, and post-graduation employment placement of institutions of higher learning that--
‘(A) allows institutions of higher learning to verify feedback and address issues regarding feedback before the feedback is published;
‘(B) protects the privacy of students, including by not publishing the names of students; and
‘(C) publishes only feedback that conforms with criteria for relevancy that the Secretary shall determine.
‘(3) The merit of and the manner in which a State approving agency shares with an accrediting agency or association recognized by the Secretary of Education under subpart 2 of part H of title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1099b) information regarding the State approving agency’s evaluation of an institution of higher learning.
‘(4) Description of the information provided to individuals participating in the Transition Assistance Program under section 1144 of title 10 relating to institutions of higher learning.
‘(5) Effective and efficient methods to provide veterans and members of the Armed Forces with information regarding postsecondary education and training opportunities available to the veteran or member.
‘(c) Postsecondary Education Information- (1) The Secretary shall ensure that the information provided pursuant to subsection (b)(5) includes--
‘(A) an explanation of the different types of accreditation available to educational institutions and programs of education;
‘(B) a description of Federal student aid programs; and
‘(C) for each institution of higher learning, for the most recent academic year for which information is available--
‘(i) whether the institution is public, private nonprofit, or proprietary for-profit;
‘(ii) the name of the national or regional accrediting agency that accredits the institution, including the contact information used by the agency to receive complaints from students;
‘(iii) information on the State approving agency, including the contact information used by the agency to receive complaints from students;
‘(iv) whether the institution participates in any programs under title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1070 et seq.);
‘(v) the tuition and fees;
‘(vi) the median amount of debt from Federal student loans under title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1070 et seq.) held by individuals upon completion of programs of education at the institution of higher learning (as determined from information collected by the Secretary of Education);
‘(vii) the cohort default rate, as defined in section 435(m) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1085(m)), of the institution;
‘(viii) the total enrollment, graduation rate, and retention rate, as determined from information collected by the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System of the Secretary of Education;
‘(ix) whether the institution provides students with technical support, academic support, and other support services, including career counseling and job placement; and
‘(x) the information regarding the institution’s policies related to transfer of credit from other institutions, as required under section 485(h)(1) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1092(h)(1)) and provided to the Secretary of Education under section 132(i)(1)(V)(iv) of such Act (20 U.S.C. 1015a(i)(1)(V)(iv)).
‘(2) To the extent practicable, the Secretary shall provide the information described in paragraph (1) by including hyperlinks on the Internet website of the Department to other Internet websites that contain such information, including the Internet website of the Department of Education, in a form that is comprehensive and easily understood by veterans, members of the Armed Forces, and other individuals.
‘(3)(A) If the Secretary of Veterans Affairs requires, for purposes of providing information pursuant to subsection (b)(5), information that has been reported, or information that is similar to information that has been reported, by an institution of higher learning to the Secretary of Education, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Labor, or the heads of other Federal agencies under a provision of law other than under this section, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall obtain the information the Secretary of Veterans Affairs requires from the Secretary or head with the information rather than the institution of higher learning.
‘(B) If the Secretary of Veterans Affairs requires, for purposes of providing information pursuant to subsection (b)(5), information from an institution of higher learning that has not been reported to another Federal agency, the Secretary shall, to the degree practicable, obtain such information through the Secretary of Education.
‘(d) Consistency With Existing Education Policy- In carrying out this section, the Secretary shall ensure that--
‘(1) the comprehensive policy is consistent with any requirements and initiatives resulting from Executive Order No. 13607; and
‘(2) the efforts of the Secretary to implement the comprehensive policy do not duplicate the efforts being taken by any Federal agencies.
‘(e) Communication With Institutions of Higher Learning- To the extent practicable, if the Secretary considers it necessary to communicate with an institution of higher learning to carry out the comprehensive policy required by subsection (a), the Secretary shall carry out such communication through the use of a communication system of the Department of Education.
‘(f) Definitions- In this section:
‘(1) The term ‘institution of higher learning’ has the meaning given that term in section 3452(f) of this title.
‘(2) The term ‘postsecondary education and training opportunities’ means any postsecondary program of education, including apprenticeships and on-job training, for which the Secretary of Veterans Affairs provides assistance to a veteran or member of the Armed Forces.’.
(2) CLERICAL AMENDMENT- The table of sections at the beginning of such chapter is amended by adding after the item relating to section 3697A the following new item:
‘3698. Comprehensive policy on providing education information to veterans.’.
(b) Survey- In developing the policy required by section 3698(a) of title 38, United States Code, as added by subsection (a), the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall conduct a market survey to determine the availability of the following:
(1) A commercially available off-the-shelf online tool that allows a veteran or member of the Armed Forces to assess whether the veteran or member is academically ready to engage in postsecondary education and training opportunities and whether the veteran or member would need any remedial preparation before beginning such opportunities.
(2) A commercially available off-the-shelf online tool that provides a veteran or member of the Armed Forces with a list of providers of postsecondary education and training opportunities based on criteria selected by the veteran or member.
(c) Report- Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall submit to the appropriate committees of Congress a report that includes--
(1) a description of the policy developed by the Secretary under section 3698(a) of title 38, United States Code, as added by subsection (a);
(2) a plan of the Secretary to implement such policy; and
(3) the results of the survey conducted under subsection (b), including whether the Secretary plans to implement the tools described in such subsection.
(d) Definitions- In this section:
(1) APPROPRIATE COMMITTEES OF CONGRESS- The term ‘appropriate committees of Congress’ means--
(A) the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions of the Senate; and
(B) the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and the Committee on Education and the Workforce of the House of Representatives.
(2) COMMERCIALLY AVAILABLE OFF-THE-SHELF- The term ‘commercially available off-the-shelf’ has the meaning given that term in section 104 of title 41, United States Code.
(3) POSTSECONDARY EDUCATION AND TRAINING OPPORTUNITIES- The term ‘postsecondary education and training opportunities’ means any postsecondary program of education, including apprenticeships and on-job training, for which the Secretary of Veterans Affairs provides assistance to a veteran or member of the Armed Forces.
SEC. 2. PROHIBITION ON CERTAIN USES OF INDUCEMENTS BY EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS.
Section 3696 of title 38, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new subsection:
‘(d)(1) The Secretary shall not approve under this chapter any course offered by an educational institution if the educational institution provides any commission, bonus, or other incentive payment based directly or indirectly on success in securing enrollments or financial aid to any persons or entities engaged in any student recruiting or admission activities or in making decisions regarding the award of student financial assistance.
‘(2) To the degree practicable, the Secretary shall carry out paragraph (1) in a manner that is consistent with the Secretary of Education’s enforcement of section 487(a)(20) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1094(a)(20)).’.
SEC. 3. DEDICATED POINTS OF CONTACT FOR SCHOOL CERTIFYING OFFICIALS.
Section 3684 of title 38, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new subsection:
‘(d) Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this subsection, the Secretary shall ensure that the Department provides personnel of educational institutions who are charged with submitting reports or certifications to the Secretary under this section with assistance in preparing and submitting such reports or certifications.’.
SEC. 4. LIMITATION ON AWARDS AND BONUSES TO EMPLOYEES OF DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS.
For fiscal year 2013, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs may not pay more than $395,000,000 in awards or bonuses under chapter 45 or 53 of title 5, United States Code, or any other awards or bonuses authorized under such title.
Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Vice President of the United States and
President of the Senate.
CORPUS CHRISTI -- There's a good chance most the stuff you use everyday got to you by arriving on a truck.
That's why in this uncertain economy, the trucking industry is booming right now and Del Mar College is staying busy training drivers to hit the road.
Starting a career in the trucking industry is an option many job searchers are considering.
After just one week looking for work, Bill Lowery found there are three main industries in high demand. "Doctors, nurses and truck drivers," he told us.
So, after a coast guard career, followed by government contracting, he's now got a new title; student. "Its been a long time since i've been a student," Lowery said.
After 3 weeks of intense training, the likelihood is, he'll have a job. The oil and gas industry in our area is always searching for drivers.
"A lot of times, students have something lined up before they're even finished," Program Director John Rojas told us.
Although the course is short, it's intense, 10 hours a day, 6 days a week.
Believe it or not, they trusted me to take a crash course and drive the truck with students on board.
"Keep the clutch in as deep as you can and then there it is in 1st," explained Instructor Eduardo Saenz as he directed me step by step.
He wasn't nervous, but I was. I actually drove an 18 wheeler across the parking lot with students observing me from inside the truck. Talk about nerve wracking.
There are 4 students assigned per truck, that way, 3 are observing, while one's actually learning hands-on.
Once I parked the truck, they all clapped. I'm not really sure if the students were clapping because I did well or because they survived the wild ride, but, Lowery is definitely pleased with the class and his potential for work after graduation.
"You've got the refineries, all kinds of possibilities, live stock, so you name it, there's stuff around here to haul," Lowery told us.
Because the business is booming, so is the demand for classes and that's creating yet another job opportunity.
"I'm looking for instructors right now," said Rojas, "all they have to do is have 5 years experience driving."
Classes open about every two weeks and they fill up fast. Retired military are able to use their gi bill to pay 100% of the course if they're eligible. The Texas Workforce Commission will also help fund the course for eligible students. The 3 week class costs $3500. Brand new graduates have the potential to earn $40,000 a year. For more information on Del Mar's Truck and Bus Driver Training Program, click here.
Lost amid the hoopla surrounding Congress’ last-minute agreement on avoiding the economic “fiscal cliff” as the new year dawned was a provi¬sion in the deal that could help the trucking industry as it moves to replace aging equipment during 2013.
Under the legislation, which President Obama has signed, fleets will be able to continue to write off half of the cost of equipment purchases on their 2013 tax bills. The existing tax relief pro¬gram expired on Dec. 31.
Relieved truck dealers said renewal of the tax write-offs — known as bonus depreciation could help boost lagging truck sales.
“We’re optimistic that it’s going to help,” said Dave Thompson, president of TEC Equipment Inc., of Portland Ore. TEC sells a mix of heavy and medium-duty, trucks.
The old bonus depreciation program had expired Dec. 31, the same day the Senate passed the new bill. The House approved it the next day, Jan. 1.
President Obama signed the new tax measure on Jan. 3, which was the same day the 113th Con¬gress was sworn in, officially making Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) the new chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure committee for the session that will end in January 2015.
Barbara Boxer (D-Calif) remains chair¬woman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee while Jay Rockefeller(D-W.Va) will stay at the helm of the Senate Commerce Committee.
The legislation, called the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, raises taxes on the wealthiest Americans while keeping tax cuts for most households. It also renewed the $1-a-gallon tax credit for biodiesel producers.
“Under this law… companies will continue to see tax credits for the research that they do, the investments they make and the clean energy jobs that they create,” President Obama said during a press conference.
Thompson said sales held steady the last two quarters at TEC dealer¬ships in California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington but that “not every¬body was prepared to buy” due to the economic uncertainty.
“Now they might,” Thompson said. “That depreciation will be a bonus; 100% is better but 50% is pretty nice.”
TEC sells Volvo and Mack Trucks as well as Hino and Isuzu medium-duty trucks and GMC light-duty commercial trucks. It also has truck rental and leasing businesses, so, under the new tax bill, Thompson can also deduct 50% of the purchase price of new trucks he buys for that side of his firm.
Normally, depreciation write-offs are stretched over several tax years as a new asset deteriorates with age.
However, to help the manufactur¬ing sector recover from the reces¬sion, a bonus depreciation program was created in 2010. Under it, in the 2011 tax year, equipment buyers could write off 100% of their pur¬chase cost that year.
In 2012, the write-off dropped to 50% of the purchase cost and the program was to expire at the end of that year.
But keeping the 50% write-off is expected to help spur truck sales this year because the tax break “takes some of the sting” out of the higher cost of more fuel-efficient trucks, said Richard Witcher, chairman of American Truck Dealers and CEO of Minuteman Trucks, a light- and medium-duty truck dealership in Walpole, Mass.
“In the last 10 years, we’ve added, without [counting] federal excise tax, as much as $30,000 to the price of a truck for emissions controls,” Witcher said.
Witcher also said increased truck sales in 2013 will boost the economy.
“With every truck that somebody buys, there’s a job at a factory some¬place [and] there’s a job supporting the job at the factory” Witcher said.
At their dealership and service cen¬ter, bonus depreciation has also allowed Witcher and his brother, Bill, to write off capital investments, such as a $1 million truck-painting facility.
For biodiesel producers, continua¬tion of the $1-a-gallon tax credit is a lifeline. The tax credit helps keep the higher cost of biodiesel fuel com¬petitive with regular diesel, backers of the alternative fuel have said.
“This is not an abstract issue,” Anne Steckel, vice president of fed¬eral affairs at the National Biodiesel Board, said in a statement. “In the coming months, because of this decision, we’ll begin to see real eco¬nomic impacts with companies expanding production and hiring new employees.”
The tax bill makes permanent the income tax cuts approved during the Bush presidency for households with incomes of less than $450,000.
Had Congress not acted, the Bush-era tax cuts would have expired this month for all income levels. At the same time, a series of automatic spending cuts were scheduled to have occurred this month as a result of demands that the federal deficit be reduced.
Hence, the term “fiscal cliff” became a metaphor for what some economists said would be a severe double blow to the economy as both personal and government spending declined.
Although Congress and the presi¬dent were able to forge a deal on the tax issues, they could not agree on spending reductions, so they put off action on deficit reduction for at least two months.
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