Dr. Michael H. Belzer
Dr. Belzer is a former Teamster tank truck driver with ten years and more than three quarters of a million miles of over-the-road experience. He was a driver both before and after deregulation. For thirty years, he has been studying the economics of the trucking industry, supply chain infrastructure, truck driver health and safety, unionization and collective bargaining, and the effects of deregulation.
His experience and research show that recruitment, retention, and safety problems are economic, not technical. Based on his research and analysis, he proposes clear policy solutions to the issues facing the trucking industry: fair labor standards, "safe rate" regulations, and the use of market forces to create incentives for behavior changes. As he knows from his perspective as an economics professor and as a former truck driver, being a truck driver was once a good job and it can be one again.
Dr. Michael Belzer is Professor of Economics at Wayne State University. He teaches Principles of Macroeconomics and has taught graduate courses in industrial organization, labor economics, and transportation economics. Dr. Belzer created and chaired the Transportation Research Board (TRB) Committee on Trucking Industry Research for more than 12 years and serves as Emeritus Member of that committee for life. He served nine years on the TRB Committee on Truck and Bus Safety and Truck and Bus Safety Committee Subcommittee on Motor Coach Bus Safety as well as nine years on the TRB Committee on Freight Transportation Economics and Regulation, in addition to service on the TRB Freight Systems Group Executive Board. He has served on the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) Sector Council for Transportation, Warehousing, and Utilities since 2006.
He is author of Sweatshops on Wheels: Winners and Losers in Trucking Deregulation (Oxford University Press, 2000), co-author of Truck Driver Occupational Safety and Health: 2003 Conference Report and Selective Literature Review (with Gregory M. Saltzman; National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 2007), and numerous peer-reviewed articles on trucking industry economics, labor, occupational safety and health, infrastructure, and operational issues. He testified to members of the Australian Parliament on November 21, 2011, in support of SafeRates legislation, passed in March 2012. That legislation created a new regulatory regime for Australia intended to take compensation out of competition in an otherwise competitive, deregulated interstate trucking industry. It was repealed by the Liberal/Nationalist Coalition Government in April 2016. He also testified (transcript and working paper) before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Small Business on July 11, 2012, regarding safety regulation of the motor carrier industry.
He has led and completed numerous projects for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Volpe Center, including “Truck Crashes and Work-Related Factors Associated with Drivers and Motor Carriers” (completed 2009), “Impact of Compensation Practices on Number of Citations & Recordable Accidents Incurred” (2003), and “Economic Impact Assessment of Proposed Hours of Service Changes” (completed 2002). He completed a study of the North American motorcoach bus industry in August of 2009, which found dramatic safety differences between traditional U.S. intercity motor coach bus carriers and “curbside” bus companies, which have become common between major U.S. city centers (typically Chinatowns), and an expanding industry segment consisting of intercity and international bus companies serving the Spanish-speaking market associated with Mexican and Latin American clientele. His research with Prof. Peter Swan of Penn State – Harrisburg estimated the elasticity of truck operator demand for toll roads and estimated the diversion of trucks as tolls rise, and their research has shown that truck diversion to secondary roads causes safety costs that far exceed the benefits in higher tolls, suggesting that selective tolling may be bad public policy.
Starting in 2009, Dr. Belzer developed a strategic economic development plan to transform Southeast Michigan into a global freight transportation hub, presenting a feasibility analysis, “Transforming Michigan into a Global Freight Gateway,” at the Atlantic Gateway Initiative conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia in October 2009 and at many public and private for a since then. He is President of Great Lakes Gateway, a Michigan not-for-profit corporation sponsoring the Great Lakes Global Freight Gateway, a strategic initiative to create an inland port in southeast Michigan. His organization brought major cargo owners together with the CN Railway, Halifax Port Authority, and the State of Michigan on October 11, 2011.
His consulting firm, Sound Science Inc., works on trucking and other transportation issues, especially safety and worker misclassification, and he has acted as an expert witness in numerous lawsuits involving trucking labor issues.
A.B., College of Arts and Sciences, Cornell University, 1972
M.S., Graduate School, Cornell University, 1990
Ph.D., Graduate School, Cornell University, 1993
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