In an effort to gain some insight into the day-to-day workweek of a trucker on the road, U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) climbed in a cab for a trip with a member of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. OOIDA Vice President Todd Spencer was also along for the journey.
OOIDA member John C. Taylor of Cross Junction, VA, gave Wolf a quick ride Jan. 27 along Interstate 81 from Winchester to Mt. Jackson. Spencer and Taylor fielded the congressman's questions and voiced their opinions on a variety of trucking-related issues.
Wolf accepted the offer for a ride-along during a meeting he hosted early in January at Harrisonburg regarding the widening of Interstate 81. The interstate is being widened from four to six or eight lanes, due to heavy use.
Taylor, a 51-year veteran of the road, offered to play the role of chauffer. He took the congressman down a stretch of the Virginia interstate that is plagued with heavy traffic.
Wolf rode along a 50-mile leg of a journey that, for Taylor, would eventually end in Tampa, FL. Wolf said he was given a better perspective of what life is like on the road.
After talking extensively with Spencer and Taylor, he noted that truckers often come up on the short end of the stick.
"It looks as if truckers are being exploited in many instances while trying to do their jobs," he said. "I think we can look into the problems and at how shippers can contribute to solving them."
Spencer says Wolf was eager to discuss several issues important to the trucking industry.
"By all indications, Congressman Wolf appeared to enjoy his experience in a commercial vehicle," he says. "He was friendly, open, and interested in learning about the lifestyle of the trucker."
The three men discussed issues such as loading and unloading, scheduling, and safe parking. Spencer says Wolf was made aware of the state's lack of sufficient rest areas, and their two-hour time limitations for truckers. Likewise, they discussed the Mexican truck issue as it relates to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the need to staff the trucker hotline at the Office of Motor Carriers.
The topic of change at the Office of Motor Carriers also came up. Spencer says that Wolf remained adamant that things had to change at OMC.
"In his view, the relationship between the Federal Highway Administration and the Office of Motor Carriers is ‘tarnished,'" Spencer said. "Congressman Wolf feels that it is in need of a significant change."
Wolf has long been a proponent of moving the Office of Motor Carriers away from the Federal Highway Administration. Since his Jan. 27 trip, he has re-introduced legislation to place the OMC under the jurisdiction of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Wolf said he is also interested in looking at ways to separate cars and trucks on Virginia's interstates. He recently appointed a 10-member task force to ensure truck safety during the improvements along I-81.
After the trip, Spencer remained optimistic that OOIDA would be able to work with the congressman in the future. "He didn't stop asking questions the entire trip," he said. LL
-by Jason Cisper, photos by Chuck Giorno Photography