Washington Report: Concrete Industry Must Remain Engaged

by Patty Power, ACPA Washington Advocate

Greetings from Washington D.C., where the politics are as hot as the weather. The upcoming presidential contest between a sitting and incumbent president leads the story. However, federal elections across the country will have a major impact on upcoming political leadership. Our country is very divided, and the balance of power in Congress reflects the divide. Currently, the Democrats lead the Senate, with a one-vote margin. As of publication, the Republicans lead the House by one vote (218 Republicans, 213 Democrats, and four vacancies). In addition to the partisan divide, wide splits exist within each party between their moderate and extreme members. Compromise, a necessary element of the legislative process, is very difficult to achieve in today’s circumstances. Congressional leaders are challenged at every turn.

While presidential election years are not known as productive legislative years, Congress has been busy. Congressional committees have been working through annual funding bills, major reauthorization bills like the Farm Bill and the National Defense Authorization Act, and long-standing intractable issues like immigration reform. Chances that any of this legislation is finalized before the election is slim at best. Chances of it being completed during the 118th Congress’ lame duck session depends on the outcome of the election. If the election winners got the legislation they wanted during the session (or prior to the election), there is a good chance the legislation will be finalized. And the election losers may be more willing to compromise to save what they secured pre-election than take their chances when out of power.

In this unpredictable political atmosphere, ACPA remains vigilant. Because federal actions may impact how concrete pumpers: 

  • Work: for example, the Federal Motor Carrier Safely Administration (FMCSA) Hours of Service (HOS) rule;
  • Pay taxes: for example, the mobile machinery taxes;
  • Access equipment: for example, the heavy-duty truck greenhouse gas emission standards imposed by the Federal Environment Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board (applicable in 17 states). This emission standards issue has been thoroughly discussed in prior columns and at the seminar at World of Concrete this past January; and
  • Access jobs: like the Build America, Buy America requirements and the Project Labor Agreements (PLA) required for Federal Construction Projects valued at $35 million or more; or more broadly affect the concrete pumping industry’s market share, like the tall wood building preferences in federal buildings, along with other possible low-carbon building material requirements.

History has shown us that being actively engaged with the federal decision-makers leads us to positive outcomes, as was our experience with the FMCSA HOS rule. The proposed HOS rule would have required concrete pumpers to take a 30-minute break eight hours into the workday. After making formal rulemaking comments and regularly communicating, including meetings in Washington with Members of Congress and administration policy makers, FMCSA leadership accepted ACPA’s argument to count the on-duty wait time every pumper experiences. The industry avoided potentially needless and costly delays.

Materials preferences applied to federal construction projects, and possibly to construction projects that receive federal funds, is an issue that has faced the concrete industry for years, specifically, concrete vs. asphalt roads. Timber has been actively and persistently pursuing favorable treatment for wood building construction in military and other federal construction. We have worked closely with NRMCA and other concrete-related industry lobbyists to fight against this special treatment for wood. To date, we have been successful in either securing language that includes concrete in sustainability requirements or stopping wood’s favorable language altogether. The wood industry’s market grab efforts in Washington continue.  A new Senate bill that favors wood construction in federal and military buildings was introduced last month. The wood industry will not stop and if we do not respond, timber will win market share.

All of these issues, along with the upcoming reauthorization of the Federal Highway Program, present opportunities for ACPA to ensure that the federal government supports concrete pumpers across the country. By communicating with Washington decisionmakers about who concrete pumpers are, what we contribute to the nation’s infrastructure, and how and why federal policy must consider our industry’s needs, ACPA will position concrete pumpers for success, both now and in the future. 

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