Senator Mark Allen’s office has been apprised that president of the Oklahoma Trucking Association Jim Newport has been communicating with legislators and truckers about Senate Bill 1380. “There appears to be some misunderstanding about the bill that I’d like to clear up,” said Allen.
President and CEO of the Oklahoma Trucking Association (OTA), Mr. Newport serves on the Board of HELP, Inc., a company that OCC regulates, and the parent company of PrePass. The state of Oklahoma partners with PrePass to allow motor carriers to bypass inspection facilities and ports of entry. HELP, Inc. is governed by a Board of Directors. Serving with Mr. Newport as Board Member from Oklahoma is Lynne Jones, Interim Director of Transportation Division at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.
Various news media sources reported in 2017 that the FBI was investigating a Missouri legislative dispute involving truckers and HELP, Inc. In April 2017, the Missouri Auditor announced an investigation into potential conflicts of interest related to state officials’ placement on the board of a company that provides technology that allows truckers to bypass state weigh stations while also regulating that company.
“There is no doubt in my mind that a regulator serving on the board of a private company it regulates is a clear conflict of interest, especially when that company has competition in the market and the regulator is in a position to erect roadblocks, delay or stop the ability of a competitor to enter the market,” said Allen. “Drivewyze, for instance, has implemented their program in 42 states, many of which required integration with IRD equipment, none of which took longer than four months to become operational. It’s my understanding that Drivewyze has been trying since July 2015 to work with OCC to implement their program in Oklahoma. An MOU was signed with the OCC on 11/25/2015. Almost three years later, Drivewyze is still not operational in this state.
“Let that sink in for a moment,” Allen continued. “OCC regulates which company allows motor carriers to bypass inspection facilities and ports of entry in the state of Oklahoma. The Interim Director of the Transportation Division of the OCC serves as board member for that company, as does Mr. Newport of OTA. HELP, Inc., that same company, accepts $15,000 in annual membership dues per year from the state of Oklahoma to cover travel, lodging and meals for board members to attend two board meetings a year in various states.”
Allen believes the crux of the strong opposition to his bill is that the Oklahoma Corporation Commission stands to lose revenue if the bill were to pass. “It’s such a common sense proposal, there’s just no reasonable explanation for this much political opposition unless it’s the loss of a considerable amount of revenue and/or control,” said Allen.
“First they tried to say that somehow I would benefit as the Senate author, which is ludicrous, because my business would of course be subject to the same laws as all the other businesses. Remember, ODOT and DPS were involved in the writing of this legislation. In committee DPS was attacked, which is also ludicrous, since DPS is the lead agency authorized by the Governor to implement MCSAP. And now it appears as though the truckers are being misinformed. There’s just no doubt in my mind that politics are in play here,” Allen said.
“This bill is a clear consolidation bill that will streamline the industry and put licensing, permitting and enforcement to the only authority authorized by the Governor to conduct Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) inspections recognized nationwide,” added Allen. “I say again: the legislation has the support of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and the Department of Public Safety. It makes significant progress in truly creating the envisioned Trucking One-Stop Shop.”
The Department of Public Safety’s primary mission is to provide a safe and secure environment to the motoring public; to that end, DPS Troop S officers are authorized by the Governor under the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP) to enforce FMCSA regulations in Oklahoma. Troop S officers are trained, certified and authorized by FMCSA to perform federal safety inspections and identify driver and vehicle Out of Service violations. After the inspection, the information is uploaded to the national system and is accessible nationwide to law enforcement.
The Oklahoma Corporation Commission conducts credential inspections that have to do with CMV registration, payment of fuel taxes and UCR credentialing. Although penalties are assessed, no safety inspections are conducted, no data is uploaded into the national system, no report is entered into the carrier’s safety profile, and carriers operating under a federal Out of Service order are allowed to resume travel. When a citation is issued, the bond must be paid onsite before the truck is allowed to resume travel.
“In today’s world of advanced technology,” said Allen, “this is not only antiquated and inefficient and confusing to truckers, unfortunately it also puts public safety at risk.” He notes that most states have commercial vehicle enforcement set up in the manner SB 1380 proposes. Oklahoma is one of two states still behind the times.
“Let’s put the bitterness of politics aside and look at the long term vision that this bill represents,” suggested Allen.
“It’s an undeniable fact. We know that Oklahoma is way behind the curve on this. I’m told that in the last few years, Louisiana, Tennessee, North Carolina and Florida have all moved to the consolidation of motor carrier safety. Productivity is better, along with consistency and continuity. It’s just a much better system,” said Allen.
“If we look at the Florida Department of Transportation, we’ll see that the FDOT takes care of the weigh stations, scale houses and permits, and the Florida Highway Patrol takes care of enforcement. In Florida, a single website gives access to the commercial vehicle citation payment center, CDL medical information, IFTA and IRP accounts, state skill test sites, commercial driver license third party testing, frequently asked questions, and much more.”
Florida allows for the application to file IRP renewals and other IRP transactions, the filing of IFTA tax returns, the ordering of decals and the ability to pay for it all online. Florida calls it the “Fast Lane” to your IFTA and IRP accounts.
“Let’s be clear. If you’re a trucker and legislation like this passes, you’re going to love coming back to Oklahoma,” stated Allen. “There will be no more confusion as to what constitutes a safety inspection by which agency. No more immediate payments on the side of the road for an OCC citation before you can resume travel. With the passage of this bill, Oklahoma highways will be safer. The trucking industry will be better served. Agency duplicative duties will be consolidated and streamlined. Transparency will finally become the norm. And Oklahoma will no longer lag behind the rest of the nation in commercial vehicle enforcement because there will finally be a Trucking One-Stop Shop, as envisioned so many years ago.”