Michael Belzer

Associate Professor Economics
Phone: 313-577-3345

Areas of expertise

trucking industry labor policy


Dr. Michael H. Belzer teaches economics at Wayne State University.   He teaches courses, mostly at the graduate level, in industrial organization and transportation economics.  Dr. Belzer created and chaired the Transportation Research Board (TRB) Committee on Trucking Industry Research for more than 12 years and currently serves as a member of that committee, the TRB Committee on Truck and Bus Safety and Truck and Bus Safety Committee Subcommittee on Motor Coach Bus Safety, the TRB Committee on Freight Transportation Economics and Regulation, the TRB Freight Systems Group Executive Board, and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) Sector Council for Transportation, Warehousing, and Utilities. 

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, which creates a new regulatory regime for Australia intended to take compensation out of competition in an otherwise competitive, deregulated trucking industry. He also testified 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.  Recently published 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; subsequent 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.

Most recently, Dr. Belzer is developing 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.

In the News

To retain drivers, some trucking companies try giving them a voice on the job