Spring Training: Updating The Rulebook

A look at rules, regulations and organizations that are affecting the way business is done.

The Updated Rulebook of BusinessMajor League Baseball’s official rulebook is a truly massive tome. It’s well over 100 pages and regulates everything from how far the pitcher’s mound is from home plate to what determines an official plate appearance. Each year, the Playing Rules Committee reviews the existing rules and explores opportunities for changing or updating them. The committee can also add new rules when it sees fit. For instance, in August 2008, it instituted a rule that allowed for the use of instant replay on questionable home run calls. Like it or not, all of the MLB teams fall under the umbrella of the Rules Committee and must abide by any policy it institutes.

It’s much the same in the gases and welding industry, where companies must abide by constantly changing regulations. However, for gases and welding distributors, there’s much more than just one committee to worry about. From the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to the Internal Revenue Service, regulatory bodies of all shapes and sizes are constantly updating and implementing procedures, regulations and mandates. Ideally, it is incumbent upon management to make sure that employees understand and abide by these changing regulations. However, much like in baseball, each player or employee is ultimately responsible for his or her own compliance with the rules. In this spirit, GAWDA Edge is offering young executives a look at 5 regulations, current or pending, that every gases and welding professional should know.

Texting Strikes Out
The dangers of texting while driving have long been documented. It is estimated that drivers who text while driving are even more dangerous than those who drink and drive. Recently, the United States Department of Transportation decided to do something about it and banned texting while driving in all commercial vehicles. That means if you fire off a text while running your route, not only are you endangering those around you, you’re breaking the law. The DOT is taking this one seriously. Expect to be ticketed and expect to be fined. In an interview with CBS, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood summed up the Obama Administration’s stance, “We’re going to set the highest bar possible. … Any distraction that takes two hands off the wheel and eyes off the windshield should not be allowed,” he says. Drivers who violate the regulation face fines of up to $2,750.

IRS Adjusts Rates
Do you drive a personal vehicle for your business? If so, you’re probably aware of the standard mileage rates used to calculate the deductable costs of operating an automobile. Well, effective January 1, those rates are changing. As of the first of the year, the standard rate for business miles driven will be $.50 per mile. The new rate is slightly lower than last year’s rate. The IRS claims that it
reflects the generally lower transportation costs compared to a year ago. To find out more about the rates, check out the IRS Web site.

Ramping Up Employee Scouting
By the time a Major League Baseball team drafts a player, it knows everything there is to know about him. The way things are moving, it may soon be the same in gases and welding. Due to go into effect in mid-2010, a new DOTsponsored Driver Pre-Employment Screening Program will allow employers of commercial vehicle drivers to electronically access driver inspection and crash records as part of the hiring process. That means if a driver has a history of accidents, you’ll be able to quickly disqualify that person from consideration before completing a full background check.

A “Hazmat” Luxury Tax
Much like the richest baseball teams have to pay a luxury tax each season, the biggest hazmat shippers might be getting new fees implemented. The PHMSA is proposing to adjust the statutorily mandated registration and fee assessment program for shippers and carriers of certain quantities of hazardous materials. In 2010-2011, the annual fee for those registrants not qualifying as a small business or not-forprofit organization would increase from $975 to $2,975 (both figures are plus a $25 administrative fee). Small businesses and non-profit rates would stay the same. That means most GAWDA distributors will be getting a break that the competition won’t be receiving. That should level the playing field against the big spenders—hopefully it will work better for them than it has for the Kansas City Royals.

Eliminating the Drug Problem
It may have taken it a while, but Major League Baseball is finally getting serious about its substance abuse program. Now a 50-game suspension is mandatory for first-time violators. GAWDA members, however, have always been serious about a drug-free workplace. Now they’re going to have another avenue to ensure such an environment exists. Currently in development is a ruling that would create a central database for verified positive controlled substances and alcohol test results for CDL holders. The database would also indicate instances in which a CDL holder refused to submit to testing. The regulation would require employers to report these results and refusals. This information would then be available to employers during the hiring process. It may seem extreme to some, but in an increasingly litigious society, it’s important to ensure that your company and its vehicles are in the right hands.

These are just a few examples of the rules and regulations that are making a direct impact on our industry. To keep up with all of the latest news, sign up for The GAWDA Connection or read the latest from all of the GAWDA Consultants at www.weldingandgasestoday.org. It’s the surest way to guarantee that you and your company are never called out at the plate.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association

Spring training