If you thought it was pretty stupid to model the United States shipping and hauling system after command-and-control communism and fascism, if you thought it was kind of unwise and immoral – not to mention unconstitutional – to rely on the never-dreamt-of-by-the-Founders “Transportation Secretary” to handle the relationship between you and the imported products you would like to buy at a local store, you might be in good company.
The governors of 15 states announced on November 22 their participation in what they call “Operation Open Roads," a combined effort to simultaneously reduce state government burdens on truckers and the ports they serve and also appeal to the Biden Administration to cut the burdens it and other administrations have imposed on the people working the supply chain.
The plan includes signatory GOP Governors Ron DeSantis (FL), Bill Lee (TN), Doug Ducey (AZ), Brian Kemp (GA), Brad Little (ID), Mike Parson (MO), Greg Gianforte (MT), Pete Ricketts (NE), Doug Burgum (ND), Mike DeWine (OH), Kim Reynolds (IA), Larry Hogan (MD), Kevin Stitt (OK), Henry McMaster (SC), and Greg Abbott (TX), and, as noted, it takes a two-pronged attack that, for students of federalism, is laudable, but does not fully embrace the view of the Founders.
First, the governors enumerate what they see as the immediate problems that plague the proper functioning of the supply chain.
Rather than unleashing the economy, President Biden dramatically increased regulations and rulemaking authority that prevent private sector growth. The President mandated vaccines on private businesses, putting more jobs in jeopardy as we work to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. With 7.4 million people unemployed and 10.4 million job openings, we have a shortage of 80,000 truck drivers, an all-time high for the trucking industry. With more paychecks at risk, American families are forced to pay more for food, gas, and everyday goods as inflation surges to a 30-year high under President Biden’s watch.
The matter of inflation has deeper roots than those belonging to Biden’s policies, and they have to do with government ties (in this case the government-created Federal Reserve and government spending) to money printing. But the immediate problem of high prices due to the century-long inflation of the money supply is quite valid. As is the governors’ point about fuel costs being an impediment to the flow of the supply chain.
Higher gas prices and energy costs not only hurt American families, but they also hurt our trucking and shipping industries, making it harder to stock store shelves.
Specifically, the lack of haulers has clogged western ports, a matter on which I wrote (tying in the California environmental regulations that burden truckers still further) in October. The governors wrote:
Disruptions due to supply shortages increased 638% during the first half of 2021 for essential products, including semiconductor chips, plastics, and cardboard. The delay of shipping vessels arriving to North American ports from Asia has ballooned from 14 hours in June 2020 to 13 days in September 2021. Supermarkets are receiving 40% of what they order compared to pre-pandemic fulfillments of 90%. Approximately 40% of U.S. shipping containers pass through west coast ports that sit in a logjam, and yet our east coast ports remain open for business. Problems are exacerbated by critical shortages in containers, chassis, and drivers to unload and move goods. Once again, where the Biden Administration has failed the American people, our governors will step up to lead.
Okay. That’s blustery and full of fire, but the governors have a plan of action that could, indeed, help:
Therefore, as governors, we commit to using our authority where allowable to modify weight, size, or load restrictions to allow more cargo to move more efficiently; adjust hours of service constraints to provide truck drivers more time and flexibility; deregulate education and occupational licensure barriers to get more commercial truck drivers on the road; and convene state agencies in transportation, commerce, workforce, and other related fields to coordinate with private industry, local governments, and neighboring states where appropriate to ensure greater efficiency, connectivity, and data sharing among shippers and receivers at ports, distribution points, storage facilities, and other intrastate corridors for the expedited loading, unloading, and transport of freight.
Their plan also delineates coastal states:
Specifically for those states with costal ports, we commit to support our ports to operate at full capacity, increase tonnage capacity, and accept more Panamax ships waiting off the west coast.
Already, this proclamation has seen action, such as that exhibited by South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster (R), who issued an executive order on November 23 to lift many state requirements and limits imposed on shippers who use South Carolina roads, specifically stating:
I hereby authorize and direct the South Carolina Department of Transportation (“DOT”) and the South Carolina Department of Public Safety (“DPS”), including the State Transport Police, as needed, to waive or suspend application or enforcement of the requisite state and federal rules pertaining to the registration, permitting, length, width, weight, load, and hours of service for commercial vehicles and operators of commercial vehicles operating in accordance with FMCSA’s (Federal Motor Carry Safety Administration’s) August 31, 2021 Extension and Amendment of Emergency Declaration No. 2020-002 Under 49 CFR sub-section 390.25 or any future amendments of supplements thereto…
And there is much more, which, likely, the other 14 GOP signatory governors will follow, at least in part.
But the trick here is not the action the governors are taking or will take to lift federal and state regulations.
The hitch is not that they complete their Operation Open Roads announcement by calling on Biden to lower taxes and cut spending in order to reduce federal debt. Those are all laudable and important.
The hitch, from which we can learn, appears when they note in their announcement:
Further, we call on the Biden Administration to suspend outdated federal regulations that unnecessarily require commercial driver’s license holders to be 21 years old and lower the age to 18 years old so that well-trained, working adults can work across state borders. In addition, we call on President Biden to suspend the burdensome federal mandate for COVID-19 vaccines for all private employees, specifically for the trucking and transportation industry so that driver shortages are not further exacerbated by an additional barrier to employment. Further, we call on the Biden Administration to review and revise any federal policies that deter use or domestic manufacturing of essential transportation equipment, including intermodal containers, chassis, and automobiles, trucks, and tractor trailers.
The lesson here is shown by American history and the founders, and it goes even deeper than that.
All state governors swear oaths to protect and defend the U.S. Constitution. As a result, they have an obligation to NOT abide by unconstitutional edicts, regulations, or statutes.
All of the regulations imposed on trucking, gas, and truckers themselves find no basis in any enumerated power found in the U.S. Constitution, and, as a result, every governor has a sworn duty to nullify them by not enforcing them and by blocking all federal agents who try to do so. The weak-kneed approach of “asking for” or “calling on President Biden” to do something is ineffectual, and meaningless.
The Doctrine of the Lesser Magistrates (also known as "Interposition") that is interwoven in the Western-Christian political tradition requires this kind of action, as well.
So we can learn from this. We can be encouraged, and we can encourage more… courage. As these governors step closer to what the Founders envisioned and what has been lost. Then, we can take the steps towards deeper understanding of ethics, by recognizing the fact that no government politician actually has any authority over anyone, ever. To think that a politician does have “authority” is to accept the mindset of the slave, or the tyrant.
Does any good person want to be either?