Wednesday, March 8, 2017

What’s in the cards for the next four years?














'SIMA will continue to lead the way as an advocate for the business success of the snow and ice management industry.' 


By Martin Tirado, CAE
A new president has been inaugurated in the United States, and there is no shortage of organizations, media and individuals expressing their thoughts on “what a Donald Trump presidency” means for them. In the snow and ice industry, there will be some effect since President Trump was elected based on his support of positions that starkly contrast those of former President Obama. President Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress will push for changes from the top down while state and local initiatives will affect our industry regardless of who’s in charge in Washington, D.C. 

Many issues may affect the business climate in the United States, such as the planned repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, a focus on deregulation and immigration reform, the promise of border taxes, and withdrawal from or renegotiated trade pacts. Specific to our industry, here are a few things to look for in the next four years:

Chloride’s impact on freshwater 
At all levels of government, there has been increasing awareness of the need to limit chlorides applied to paved surfaces. Despite a general sense of deregulation from the federal government, some of this momentum will continue to grow. SIMA is in the late stages of its Sustainable Salt Initiative research project, which hopes to define industry standards for application rates that are defensible in slip and fall cases.

H-2B and workforce development
The exterior maintenance industry is among those facing a labor shortage, and it affects businesses year-round. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the largest user of the H-2B guest worker program is the landscape industry. H-2B is not an immigration issue; it’s a workforce issue that allows businesses to hire seasonal workers from foreign countries. In the fall, Congress did not renew returning work provisions that would exempt certain H-2B workers from the non-immigrant visa cap, which stands at 66,000 for FY 2017. This could further tighten an already strained labor pool. Although not a winter issue, despite its green-industry focus, it would be naïve of SIMA not to advocate on behalf of our many members who use this program. We have supported the National Association of Landscape Professionals on this issue for several years and will continue to do so. But it is clear we need to explore ways to recruit more workers into the essential industry of snow and ice management.


Liability limitations
State legislators are starting to take notice of laws that put undue liability responsibility on the shoulders of snow and ice management companies. In August 2016, Illinois passed the Snow Removal Service Liability Limitation Act that voids provisions in snow removal contracts that shift risk solely to one party. Although it applies to both sides, typically snow and ice companies must accept most of that liability, even in the absence of negligence. SIMA is also engaging with and supporting initiatives such as New Hampshire’s Green SnowPro program. Contractors who successfully complete a training program become certified and obtain liability protection on slip and fall cases where proper documentation was maintained. These are positive steps toward easing the burden of risk on professional snow contractors. It will be interesting to see whether other areas of the country follow suit.

In talking with other snow and landscape industry leaders, there is a shared opinion: Expect the unexpected. But regardless of the politics in Washington, SIMA will continue to lead the way as an advocate for the business success of the snow and ice management industry. 

Martin Tirado, CAE, is SIMA CEO. Contact him at martin@sima.org.

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