Affordable Care Act

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Under a provision of the Affordable Care Act, which takes effect in January 2014, employees who work at least a 30-hour work week must receive health benefits from their employers. And the IRS has indicated that colleges must ''use a reasonable method for crediting hours of service,'' noting that it would not be reasonable to include ''only classroom or instruction time and not other hours that are necessary to perform the employee's duties, such as class preparation time.'' The proposed rules don't provide a definitive formula for calculating instructor workload, but ''further guidance may be provided,'' according to the announcement.

The agency is collecting comments on the proposal through March 18.

House Education and Workforce Committee News

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Chairman John Kline (R-MN) of the House Education and Workforce Committee spoke last week about the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). Chairman Kline helped usher a Republican-backed bill through committee last year that would have consolidated 27 of the job training programs contained in WIA into a block grant. The proposal was never taken up by the full House, but it will likely be reintroduced as is and move through the committee swiftly despite Democratic opposition.

News from The House Education and the Workforce Committee

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The House Education and the Workforce Committee hearing will hold a hearing on Tuesday, February 5 entitled "Challenges and Opportunities Facing America's Schools and Workplaces". The witnesses for the hearing are:

Dr. Jared Bernstein, Senior Fellow, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Washington, DC

The Honorable Gary Herbert, Governor, State of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah
Mr. Jay Timmons, President and CEO, National Association of Manufacturers, Washington, DC

The Honorable Laura Fornash
Secretary of Education
Commonwealth of Virginia
Richmond, VA

Legislative Committee will monitor the hearing and will report back accordingly.

Trucking adds 5,000 jobs in January

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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.


Dept. of Labor has Issued a Prediction Favorable to the Truck Driving Career

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Consistent with the USA Today article, the U.S. Department of Labor has issued a prediction which is very favorable to the truck driving career. The current Occupational Outlook Handbook contains the following quote which can be shared with prospective students:

Employment of heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers is projected to grow 21 percent from 2010 to 2020, faster than the average of all occupations.

As the economy grows, the demand for goods will increase, and more truck drivers will be needed to keep supply chains moving. Trucks transport most of the freight in the United States, so as households and businesses increase their spending, the trucking industry will grow.

CITATION: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Heavy and Tractor-trailer Truck Drivers, on the Internet at

FHWA Webinar on Registration Data Collection

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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

A draft version of the proposed FHWA-561 is available for review at the link above. For further information please contact Brad Gudzinas at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 202-366-5024.

Truck Safety Largely Exempt from Sequestration

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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.”

Other Risks

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.