Fly-in participants pleased industry is now on offense

WASHINGTON — More than 70 United Motorcoach Association members and staff greeted Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., with a standing ovation at UMA’s annual Capitol Hill Days “fly-in.”

“You don’t have to applaud me or stand up. I’m just doing my job,” Perry told the group at a reception at the Capitol Hill Club.

The applause was prompted by Perry’s sponsorship of HR 2120, Buses United for Safety, Regulatory Reform and Enhanced Growth for the 21st Century (BUSREGS-21).           Perry, who serves on the House committees on Transportation and Infrastructure, Foreign Affairs, and Homeland Security, submitted the bill to the House on the evening of April 25, one day before UMA members ventured to Capitol Hill for more than 300 appointments with U.S. senators, representatives and legislative aides to discuss industry issues.

BUSREGS-21 is the industry’s answer to policies that are considered regulatory overreach. The bill is designed to initiate essential regulatory reform, leading to improved safety, expanded investments and job creation, thereby helping the industry to thrive once again.

Perry told UMA members it’s better to be on offense when it comes to dealing with Congress.

“It’s an amazing thing when you as a business owner are afraid of your government,” he said. “That’s not the government I grew up with. You’re on offense now. We’re gonna call the shots. This is our bill.”

He reminded the UMA members that the day’s meetings were just the starting point for getting the bill passed.

“We’ve got to shepherd it along. We’ll need your help, especially with the Senate,” Perry said.

The CEOs and executives in attendance appeared eager to answer the call to action, both at the fly-in and upon returning to their home states.

“I will come to this event as long as I’m a member of UMA,” said Gregory Page of Corinth Charters and Tours in Corinth, Miss. “We’re making a difference as a group. I think it’s the best thing we do.”

This was the third fly-in Page has attended.

John Bailey, president of Bailey Coach and chairman of the Pennsylvania Bus Association, was pleased with his visit with Rep. Perry’s staff and his sponsorship of HR 2120. “Scott Perry is my congressman. He understands our wants, needs and desires.”

Becky Weber of Prime Policy Group, UMA’s government relations firm in Washington, reminded the fly-in participants that they represent an industry in decline, with 342 fewer motorcoach companies and 4,063 fewer vehicles than in 2010.

The number of new operators applying to enter the industry and gain approval by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has also declined during the past 10 years.

Based on an analysis by Prime Policy Group of the most recent agency data, only 67 new companies were approved for service in a one-year period, a figure much lower than in the previous decade.

Weber told UMA members to emphasize that safety is a priority when talking to their representatives.

“You’re already safe,” she said. “The people who have been regulating you to death think they’re making things safer, but there is no proof.”

She cited current U.S. Department of Transportation statistics showing only five school bus fatalities and 20 motorcoach fatalities annually while operating in a highway environment that claims more than 38,000 lives each year.

“We’ve got a bill that can provide a real legacy for this industry,” Weber said. “It’s allowing us to take an offensive position, and you all have been asked to get the message to the congressional staffs. These meetings are extremely important. These folks are taking count that you’ve made a visit to D.C. When you go home, you have to be ready for follow up.”

Weber told the group that elections create opportunities. “We have a Republican trifecta in Washington right now with the Senate, House and executive branch. That creates opportunities.”

Jeff Polzien, chairman of the UMA Legislative and Regulatory Committee and president and owner of Red Carpet Charters of Oklahoma City, shared his enthusiasm for the chance of HR 2120 to reform programs impacting the bus industry.

“We are in an industry under assault from the government,” Polzien said. “We’re continuously under attack. It’s time to take back our industry. We’ve always been playing defense. This year we have a chance to be on offense because of HR 2120.”

UMA members targeted House members on the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and Senate members on the Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation for meetings.

Dale Krapf, chairman of the UMA board and of Krapf’s Coaches Inc. in West Chester, Pa., was part of a group that met with Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., the ranking member of the Senate Transportation Committee.

“This was the most positive experience I have had in coming to the Hill,” Krapf said. “We were well prepared. Sen. Nelson’s office has been negative in the past, but they were very positive during our visit this year.”

Daniel Bratcher, vice president of Daisy Charters & Shuttles in Corpus Christi, Texas, had four meetings with members of the Texas delegation, Republican Reps. Lamar Smith and Kevin Brady, Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett and Republican Sen. Ted Cruz.

Bratcher said he attended the fly-in to voice concerns about overregulation and laws written to apply to both trucks and buses. Both of those issues are addressed in HR 2120.

“We have no one to blame but ourselves,” said Bratcher, referring to laws written to apply to trucks and buses. He said the industry could make a difference by providing comments when requested by agencies during the rulemaking period of a regulation.

“UMA makes it very easy for us to do this,” he said, by keeping members updated on issues and providing sample letters and contacts.

HR 2120 states that “in all rulemakings impacting both commercial motor carriers of passengers and commercial property carriers, the Secretary of Transportation shall provide a separate and distinct analysis, including a cost-benefit analysis, specific to the impact of the proposed rulemaking on motor carriers of passengers.”

Ken Presley, UMA’s vice president of industry relations and COO, told members what a difference they can make when their voices are heard by Congress and they comment during agency rulemaking periods.

“You guys did it again,” he said.

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