SCRA looks back at successes from 2023
29 December 2023
SCRA advocacy gains were undeniable in 2023. Mike Chalmers reports.
Acknowledging that 2023 was an extremely productive year for SCRA advocacy, CEO Joel Dandrea pointed out that, among a healthy list of victories, SCRA played a key role as part of a team contracted by the US Federal Highway Administration to implement supply chain resiliency strategies during and after natural disasters for a now-completed guide.
“We also weighed in with a broad industry coalition and signed onto a letter in July encouraging the Biden Administration to help avoid a UPS strike that had the potential to cripple the national supply chain,” he said.
In addition, Dandrea recognised that the Foundation (SCRF) delivered a completed draft of its much-anticipated Public Benefits Analysis Report, which will help support SCRA’s advocacy strategy moving forward.
And on the membership side he was quick to mention, “The Association retained over ninety-two percent of its members from 2022, and by the looks of member engagement in 2023, member loyalty and interest continues to meet and exceed pre-pandemic numbers.”
Jason Bell, SCRA membership director, agreed, “A great example: we saw a hundred and eighty first-time attendees at the Workshop in September. I think everyone is hungry for new business.”
Of note, added Bell, “We’ve overhauled our awards programme. The questions and requirements will stay the same but the process to submit applications should improve significantly. Members around the world will see that process open for 2024 awards on January first, and we encourage all members to apply for the appropriate awards for their business.”
Notable wins for SCRA on the crane and rigging side were steady throughout 2023. Through its participation in the Construction Industry Safety Coalition, the Association was signatory to formal comments submitted to the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on the Use of Leading Indicators. The comments urged OSHA to recognise the impact on small businesses and to develop and create tools that can be applied across industry regardless of jobsite size and different construction sectors.
At the international level, SCRA, along with the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), hosted the International Crane Stakeholders Assembly in March. It not only examined global industry issues like cyber security and the right to repair but agreed to develop new guidance documents addressing crane operations around powerlines, asymmetrical outriggers, lift planning and training of personnel.
According to Beth O’Quinn, SCRA senior vice president, Crane & Rigging, SCRA worked with AEM and the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators in writing letters to the Virginia General Assembly in opposition to H.B. 1392 and S.B. 840 – which would have created unnecessary regulations on crane activities in the US state of Virginia.
“Ultimately we established that the language proposed in this bill was in direct conflict with ASME [American Society of Mechanical Engineers] standards that have long been the national safety standard for the industry,” she indicated. “Specifically, the language proposed adding new roles, ‘safety engineer’ and ‘project manager’, that are not identified in the ASME B30 standards.”
Both the Virginia Senate and House have now passed this issue by indefinitely.
On the Hours of Service (HOS) front, O’Quinn pointed out that the five-year exemption (through 2023) SCRA had previously acquired from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) for the 30-minute rest break for drivers operating mobile cranes with a rated lifting capacity of greater than 30 tons, is no longer needed. “The agency heard our concerns and made necessary changes to the regulations that no longer necessitate an exemption,” she said.
O’Quinn also explained that SCRA committees and task forces have been busy in 2023 developing resources addressing key safety issues, including best practices for tower crane procedures, a boom dolly safety e-learning module and a resource focusing on the types and selection of supporting materials for mobile cranes.
On the transportation side SCRA sponsored and attended the annual Trucking Association Executives Council meeting in Rhode Island, USA, in July. The organisation, constituted by the executives of all 50 state trucking associations, enables SCRA to build grass-roots coalition support nationwide with boots-on-the-ground efforts in individual states.
The Association also filed comments to the Federal Register in support of FMCSA’s changes to its CSA Safety Management System policies. It noted that while industry remains concerned at the pace of federal rulemaking, the specific changes to SMS are welcome as a more accurate and equitable way to report the safety performance of specialized carriers.
And harmonisation remained a key focus throughout 2023, said Chris Smith, vice president, transportation. To that end, he pointed to a Permit Policy Committee meeting in 2022 that prioritised five US states that require more attention than others. “We still have our national permit harmonisation and automation campaigns but, from that meeting, we thought we could make significant progress this year in Massachusetts, Utah, California, North Carolina and Iowa.”
According to Smith, “The Iowa Legislature unanimously passed legislation to give the state DOT the flexibility to waive some of their permit rules for emergencies as well as special economic projects.”
While Massachusetts is still a work in progress, he added, “SCRA hired full-time lobbyist Mark Malloy who continues to build a coalition both of SCRA member and non-member companies looking to overcome the state’s low 130,000 pound superload permit threshold.”
Smith acknowledged that California remains one of the few states left without an auto-issue permit system – but a productive meeting in Carlsbad with the joint California DOT (Caltrans) and California Trucking Association’s Permit Advisory Committee has him optimistic that an active programme will soon be in place to ultimately push them forward. Similarly, while North Carolina got off to a rocky start with its new system, things appear to have evened out more recently.
As for Utah, Smith confirmed, “Utah, Colorado and Oklahoma do not permit nine-axle trunnion-style trailers the same 60,000 pound-per-axle weight limit as longer tridem configurations. However, our members continued to host productive in-person industry roundtables with Oklahoma DOT and Colorado DOT during major SCRA and WASHTO [Western Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials] 2023 events.”
Smith noted that SCRA’s Permit Policy Committee met again this summer. “We haven’t picked a new top five,” he said, “but we’re going to survey all SCRA members about pain points in any state, and then use that feedback to prioritise the next list.”
Looking ahead, Smith is excited about the upcoming Specialized Transportation Symposium (20 to 22 February 2024, in Houston, Texas, USA). “It has become the forum for government and industry to meet and work together,” he stressed, “and I don’t know how we would have these recent successes without the consistent growth of this event, and the relationships and collaboration it produces.”