Earlier this summer, President Jackson released a video explaining what cabotage is and how it harms Maine truckers in the forest products industry.
AUGUSTA — Senate President Troy Jackson of Allagash introduced legislation to protect Maine trucking jobs at a public hearing before the Legislature’s Taxation Committee on Tuesday. LD 188, “An Act Regarding the Transportation of Products in the Forest Products Industry” would require large landowners to follow federal cabotage laws to remain eligible for the Maine Tree Growth Tax Program.
“It shouldn’t be this hard to make a decent living working in the Maine woods, whether it’s logging or wood-hauling. However, for far too long, people in power have been exploiting loopholes and ignoring federal laws at the expense of working Mainers,” said President Jackson. “All this bill does is ask large landowners to do the bare minimum: follow federal cabotage law, recognize the abuse of the H-2A visa program and give Maine workers the fair shot they deserve.”
The term “cabotage” refers to point-to-point truckloads in the United States. Under federal law, Canadian drivers are allowed to deliver international shipments into the U.S. and then pick up a load to be delivered back to Canada. However, at no time can a driver deliver their initial load in the U.S., pick up a subsequent load in the U.S. and deliver that load to another destination within the country.
In the Maine woods, large landowners use Canadian truck drivers to deliver loads within the state at a cheaper rate, which violates federal cabotage law, depresses the wages and eliminates Maine trucking jobs. Canadian drivers can perform the same job as Maine truck drivers at a cheaper rate due to a favorable exchange rate and their national health care system.
In an effort to circumvent federal cabotage laws, large landowners have routinely misused the H-2A visa program. The H-2A visa program was designed to give farmers the ability to hire short-term workers to pick crops that would spoil in the fields if they weren’t picked in a timely manner. The program explicitly includes provisions to protect the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers.
LD 188 would apply to any landowner who owns 50,000 or more acres of forest land. The penalty takes effect after two violations of federal cabotage law. The bill also would prevent any landowners engaging in the practice from receiving certain tax incentives, state grants or other state funding.