Don’t like the laws? Change ’em

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Tolls for a five-axle big rig to use the Ohio Turnpike increased Jan. 1 from $31 to $38.50. The Ohio Turnpike Commission also voted to adopt E-ZPass use on the highway, and said that the automated toll collection system should be available by 2009.

Georgia Department of Transportation said it received four competing proposals to develop truck-only toll lanes on the western side of Atlanta’s Interstate 285. The state has yet to determine whether the toll lanes will be voluntary or mandatory.

NationaLease Purchasing and AmeriQuest Transportation and Logistics Resources completed their previously announced merger when shareholders of both companies approved the move. The unified AmeriQuest leasing participants operating under the NationaLease brand say they have formed the largest leasing organization in North America, with more than 700 locations. Also, NationaLease says it now has the largest reciprocal road service network in North America.

Fleet One announced what it called its largest contract to date with Chevron Products, allowing the Fleet One Local fuel card to be accepted at more than 10,000 participating Chevron- and Texaco-branded retail sites. Fleet One also announced an agreement with Sunoco that allows the fuel card to be accepted at Sunoco’s 4,600-plus gas stations and APlus convenience stores.

Successfully operating a business that crosses numerous state lines countless times each day – states with laws and regulatory bodies as unique as the geography of the states themselves – is a tall order. Chief financial officers and controllers usually are preoccupied with just keeping up with compliance on those laws, and consequently are often too busy to work to help change or improve them.

Fortunately, trucking companies have allies in their quest to ease the pain of doing business. State and national trucking associations offer much-needed representation in the form of governmental lobbyists, legal advice and networking opportunities. But for those bodies to be most effective, CFOs and controllers should get involved and help identify regulations that impact their companies.

Consider Georgia, which is nestled in the heart of the Southeast. Most trucks operating in the region must pass through the state at some point, and it’s no wonder why so many carriers choose to locate there.

“We’ve got some of the best sets of laws for truckers in the nation, but unfortunately, we still do have some laws on the books that make our lives more difficult, and we need to do a better job of implementing the positive laws we do have,” says GMTA President and CEO Ed Crowell. He cites Georgia’s two-tiered fuel tax as a prime example. “Georgia’s system of fuel tax has a huge impact on how fuel is accounted for,” he says. “Some companies are finding that they can save a lot of money by buying their fuel in other states. That is costing the state countless tax dollars and is potentially driving owners to relocate elsewhere.”

Another challenge is state governments’ increasingly common desire to raise revenue by establishing toll roads. Crowell has worked with the help of industry accountants and activists to point out how toll roads would affect shipping customers in a competitive industry, such as grocery wholesaling. One company contemplated complete relocation of its warehouse to another county in order to avoid the cost penalties associated with higher freight charges from being located down the toll highway. A nearby competitor would not be on that road and be subjected to the same costs pressures the tolls would bring.

Crowell says business owners should expect their industry advocates to be proactive rather than reactive in their lobbying efforts. For example, if your representatives constantly are playing catch-up with the laws that each state government is passing – instead of fostering new, more productive laws – offer to help. If your lobbying group is on the offensive more often than not, your industry probably has the government’s ear, and the laws in your state probably are friendlier for your business.

“Don’t hesitate to ask your representatives to accomplish more – that’s their job,” Crowell says. “A lot of businesses are content simply writing a check to their lobbyist each month without ever seeing any positive results. That’s unacceptable, and people need to expect more.” Crowell also recommends that trucking companies network as much as possible. “Go to your state convention, and take your CFOs, controllers and accountants with you. You need to know what is going on in your industry, and you need to know who else is on your side.”

Controllers and CFOs need to help by being active on committees that analyze the financial impact of proposed laws and regulations, suggesting the ones that are most onerous and business-hindering, working to help communicate their impact, and working with others to suggest and promote alternatives. “If your representatives don’t offer a seminar or conference to keep you apprised of the state of your industry, and their work for you, that’s a problem that needs to be addressed,” Crowell says. Send your CFO or controller to such meetings and ask that they get involved in helping their state or national organizations guide its advocates toward better laws for trucking.


FedEx reports solid 2Q revenue, earnings
FedEx Corp. reported the following consolidated results for its second fiscal quarter of 2007, which ended Nov. 30: revenue of $8.93 billion, up 10 percent from $8.09 billion the previous year; operating income of $839 million, up 6 percent from $790 million a year ago; operating margin of 9.4 percent, down from last year’s 9.8 percent; and net income of $511 million, up 8 percent from $471 million the previous year. Total combined average daily package volume at FedEx Express and FedEx Ground was up 7 percent year over year for the quarter, led by ground and international express package growth, the company said.


Resources
Georgia Motor Trucking Association. http://gmta.org

Lobbyist defined, as published by wikipedia.org. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lobbying

“How to be an Effective Advocate.” www.change.net/links/lobbylinks.htm

“Effective Lobbying at the Grassroots Level.” www.ieeeusa.org/policy/guide/grassroots.html