(April 8) WASHINGTON, D.C. — Like “Rocky” sequels, it just keeps coming back.

After it languished in Congress last year, Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Kit Bond, R-Mo., reintroduced the Motor Carrier Fuel Cost Equity Act on Feb. 7.

It was then referred to the Senate Subcommittee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, where it sits.

The legislation would make it mandatory for motor carriers, brokers and freight forwarders to add a fuel surcharge adequate enough to cover the increased cost of fuel higher than $1.15 per gallon.

The surcharge amount would be calculated according to mileage and fuel use.

While it waits for Congress to take action, the bill has gained the support of the Truckload Carriers Association, Alexandria, Va. On March 3, the association’s board of directors voted unanimously to support it.

The association is encouraging its members to write their representatives in support of the legislation, even going so far as to provide a prewritten letter urging Congress to take action.

CRITICAL LEGISLATION

“The need for such legislation is critical to the survival of truck drivers and truckload carriers such as us but also to the stability of the trucking industry in general and the overall economy,” the letter reads. “Unless S#1914 is enacted into law so that drivers and carriers can recoup the increase in fuel prices, this significant and detrimental consequence will not only continue, (but also) the number of trucking bankruptcies in the future will increase.”

Jim Johnston, president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, Grain Valley, Mo., which has supported the legislation since it was first introduced in the 106th Congress in 2000, welcomed the additional support.

“The truckload industry must speak with one voice to address the devastating effect that high fuel prices have had on our industry,” he said. “This bill will help both motor carriers and owner-operators recoup their higher fuel costs and prevent the demise of thousands of small businesses.”

However, not all areas of the trucking industry are so quick to throw their support behind the bill. Fletcher Hall, executive director of the Agricultural Transportation Conference for the American Trucking Associations, Alexandria, Va., said his organization is monitoring the action on the legislation.

PRIVATE IS BETTER

“We generally feel that private sector contracts are better vehicles to handle this kind of situation,” he said.

Some in the produce industry have expressed concern over whether such legislation would affect produce carriers, who often do not have written contracts and are exempt from many regulations that apply to other areas of trucking.

Hall said the legislation is mutually inclusive and would apply to any carrier and any commodity being carried.

Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the independent drivers group, said he doesn’t see why the measure wouldn’t apply to produce.

“My perception is that it would apply to all shipments,” he said. “Do produce carriers operate on something other than (diesel) fuel?”