Bernie burns trucking: So what?

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Not being a fan of hate mail, I plan to do my best to stay away from offering opinions regarding the 2016 campaign for president of the United of the States. Still, campaign-related items pile up on my desk and I’ve decided to periodically dump the pile on you, dear reader. What you do with it is not my concern—just don’t blame me.

At the top of the pile this week, (thanks to the more than a few folks who passed it along to me) is a fired-up Sen. Bernie Sanders looking to a more energy-efficient future:

“We can create a state of the art rail system which takes trucks off the road,” Sanders proclaims.

C-SPAN covered the March 8 Sanders rally in Miami, and the comment clip is here:

But the apparent source that has truckers talking is a Facebook video of that video, posted by Truck Chicks and Funny Pics, which had generated more than 800,000 views as of Monday morning, along with nearly 1,500 comments. Most seem to come from truckers or trucking supporters, and they’re not happy. My favorite (because it’s funny, and maybe a little too close to home for the industry): “He has to get trucks off the roads. The new generation of idiots who will vote for him aren't going to drive trucks!”

My reaction: We’ve heard it before. From a Republican. Granted, then-Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was working for President Obama, but getting trucks off the road was a common talking point and a key part of part the administration’s “vision” for overhauling the U.S. freight system back in 2010. (Along with shifting more freight to rail, the plan also wanted to beef up freight movement on the waterways, if I recall correctly.)

American Trucking Assns. President and CEO Bill Graves fired off a letter to set LaHood straight, writing that the idea of taking a substantial number of trucks off the road by shifting freight to rail is “a gross misconception” and doing as the Obama administration suggested “would bring our nation’s supply chain to a screeching halt.”

There’s those pesky details: Railroads serve only 1 in 5 communities and, even with substantial growth, intermodal rail would still move less than 2% of the freight.

“Trucks move almost 70 percent of our nation’s freight because for decades businesses and individuals have come to rely upon trucking as the most efficient and flexible form of freight transportation. Please do not disregard that fact as you work to shape transportation policy for the future of our nation,” Graves said in closing.

And one might have thought that Sanders, avowed friend of working Americans, should have thought the trucks comment through a little more carefully. Or maybe he did, guessing that truckers aren’t really his core constituents. And he’d be right, if this uShip poll from earlier this year is accurate.

As always, stay tuned.

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