Well, this has been a tough year for many of us. Iím
sure you have seen hard times reflected in the more modest toy requests youíve
received for this year. We certainly have seen the stress reflected in the
supply chain through bankruptcies, closed facilities, job losses, and excess
capacity. While we all hope for a quick turnaround, it has become clear that it
will be well into 2010 before we see any major relief. Because of that, Iíve
scaled back my requests a bit this year. Even so, they may prove tough to fill.
All I can ask is that you do the best you can.
I donít know whether youíre a Democrat or
Republican, but whatever side youíre on, my first request will require some
artful dodging and weaving.
I think we all agree that we need a new, comprehensive
highway bill, but what we donít agree on is how to pay for needed
improvements. There are huge differences of opinion between House and Senate,
Democrats and Republicans, and heaven knows who else. Will you please see if you
can bring some cohesiveness to the situation and get everyone on the same page
with a well-funded plan for improving the nationís transportation
infrastructure? I realize this is a tall order Ė you might want to consider a
threat to ban scotch and brandy in congressional stockings.
Last year, I asked for access to U.S. highways for
Mexican truckers, and as you well know, the situation is even worse now.
Because of our stubborn refusal to abide by the terms of NAFTA, the Mexicans
have fired back and slapped tariffs on $2.4 billion worth of products we export
to Mexico. Maybe this year you could assign a couple of your smartest bilingual
elves to the project. We really need to get this fixed.
Another thing I wish you would look into is the new
"cap and trade" legislation. While Iím not clear on all of
the details, it does seem that the legislation will raise carrier (and other)
costs. I am not opposed to protecting the environment, but the last thing we
need in the industry today are increased expenses. Please make sure Congress
understands the impact of its actions on the supply chain.
This next one is a repeat from last year, but itís
nonetheless important. Right now, fuel prices are down from the historic
highs of July 2008, due to the economic slump. But even with all the pricing
volatility of the last few years, the overall trend has been undeniably upward.
For example, today, diesel fuel is running between $2.30 and $2.50 per gallon.
While this is far better than, say, $4.00; in 2003, it averaged about $1.60.
Certainly, more emphasis is being placed on hybrid and other fuel-efficient
automobiles, but we need some work on trucks and tractors. Alternative energy
sources are the only real solution to the problem. The elf who has been working
on this has made some progress, so keep him humping.
There is a bill lurking in the Senate that could
restore some of the rail regulation that was removed in 1980. Proponents
of the bill argue that some rail carriers are exercising monopolistic power over
shippers that are served by only one railroad and engaging in other predatory
practices. Please keep an eye on this one. We have 100 years of proof that rail
regulation doesnít work, and since 1980, when many restrictions were lifted
from the railroads, rates have declined, productivity has increased, and there
has been a tremendous amount of capital investment.
I am for fair treatment of all shippers, but we must
be very careful not to restore the stifling regulation that existed for so long.
There are good arguments for both sides, but please keep this on your watch list
and move in if it starts to get out of hand. This is a tough list, Santa, but I
feel certain you can have some impact.
A very Merry Christmas to you, Mrs. Claus, and all the