As I write this editorial, fuel prices are leveling off and actually dropping (a little) in many parts of the country. The OPEC cartel has grudgingly agreed to step up production and supply the world with a little more oil. And Congress and the Clinton Administration are again debating the appropriate solution to the reoccurring devastation these yahoos are able to inflict on the United States every few years through their illegal monopoly of the available world oil supply.
I would like to be writing about the quick action taken by our elected officials to head off the catastrophe this situation is causing for tens of thousands of small business truckers. I would like to be reporting that the solutions have been put in place to address the current problem and its inevitable future reoccurrence. Perhaps by the time you read this the solution will be in place. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, as of now it is not.
The first and most important solution we are working for is a mandatory fuel surcharge to include a mandatory pass-through to the party who bears the cost of fuel. Our goal is to have the surcharge mechanism passed by Congress as a law to remain on the books to address the current problem and future fuel price disruptions. Even beyond the devastation these situations cause for small business truckers, it is certainly not in the national interest to allow OPEC to disrupt the national transportation system, along with oil prices and supply every few years, as they have since 1973.
Second, we are asking for a government investigation into the predatory and destructive ratemaking practices that have ravaged this industry for the past two decades since deregulation. The economic theory that under total deregulation, competition and the free market system would make everything OK, with reasonable prices and fair profits for everyone, is simply not working. If it were, small business truckers - the most productive and hard-working segment of the industry - would not be failing in record numbers because of a relatively minor escalation in costs. There wouldn't be a driver shortage and mid-sized carriers wouldn't be consolidating and going out of business in record numbers.
A stable, reliable, transportation system is even more important to the nation's continued economic prosperity than stable oil prices. It is certainly more important than continuing to try and prove out a failed economic theory, that free and unfettered competition will produce the best of all worlds.
In addition, we will continue pushing both the Congress and the administration to develop a national energy policy that will move this country toward increased domestic production and away from its growing dependence on foreign oil supplies. Conservation is not the solution, because no matter how much we reduce consumption, the lack of domestic production will forever keep us dependent on foreign oil.
I also want to mention the March 16 demonstration in Washington, DC, and apologize for the very short notice we provided to members. I appreciate very much the special effort of those who participated, and I know many more of you would have been there if there had been adequate advance notice.
Overall, I feel the demonstration was a resounding success. It gained national (even international) media attention to the effects of the fuel price problem on small business truckers, and unfortunately, sometimes it takes media attention to gain heightened government attention. We received a great many favorable comments from truckers who saw the coverage on TV. But while that type of exposure was beneficial in publicly showing that there really was something happening to bring attention to the problem, it is also important to recognize that the real work and development of solutions does not take place in the public eye of the TV camera.
Most of the truckers who participated on March 16 didn't just return home after the rally. They used the opportunity to take the next and most important step, which was visiting their elected representatives to explain the problem and ask for their support of the necessary solutions. Many others who weren't able to attend, wrote letters and called their representatives with the same message. These efforts were extremely helpful to us in our work in meeting with the Congressional leadership, and at the Congressional and Senate hearings, where we have presented testimony since the rally.
In addition, over the past several months, myself and other OOIDA representatives have met with the President's Chief Economic Advisor, the Secretary of Transportation, and virtually all Congressional Committees with jurisdiction to address the solutions. The point I want to make is that a great deal of activity is taking place, and while you are not likely to see it on TV, it really is the most important part of the process for achieving solutions.
Just as important is the follow-up you can do by writing, calling or visiting your elected representatives. Tell them about how this problem affects you personally and ask for their support of the solutions necessary to correct the problems.
Just one final point I would like to make about the March 16 demonstration. A successful demonstration is not about a lot of yelling and waving banners. It's about being there to demonstrate concern for a particular issue, and then following up as our members did after the rally. I have always been extremely proud of the people I represent, but never more so than when Congressman Nick Rahall, senior minority member of the Ground Transportation Subcommittee, used his opening comments during my testimony before his committee to express his appreciation and commendations to OOIDA and its members for their "professional" conduct during the previous week's demonstration.
I hope there won't be a need for another demonstration, but if there is, I promise there will be more advance notice. I can also assure you that time invested in participation will be a productive investment, and that we will not ask you unless it is absolutely necessary.