This is a particularly difficult time for me to be putting together my editorial comments for this issue of Land Line. It's difficult not because of a lack of important issues to discuss, but rather because one of the most important battles we have ever taken on will be decided one way or the other, after this issue goes to press. Our success or failure in this battle will have a tremendous impact on the future profitability of all professional truckers, and perhaps even the survival of many small business owner-operators.
I am referring of course to the mandatory fuel surcharge legislation that we succeeded in having introduced in Congress. My frustration stems from the fact that we have put all of the effort and resources we could muster behind passage of this much-needed legislation for the past six months, and now just two weeks before Congress adjourns for the year, it has still not been passed and the final outcome is still uncertain. At the risk of already being proven wrong by the time you read this, I can only say that at this point, chances look very good that we will succeed. We do have opposition from some members of Congress who are opposed to any government involvement in private business relationships, but we also have strong support from many influential members of Congress who understand that the free market doesn't always work the way the idealists think it should.
If passed, it is important to recognize that this legislation is not necessarily a quick fix, "cure-all" to the fuel cost recovery problem. We will still have our work cut out for us in enforcing its provisions, and we plan to provide the most aggressive assistance possible in accomplishing that objective. If it doesn't pass, the Congress will be out of session until after the first of the year. This will leave no chance for a government-imposed solution. The only viable alternative at that point will be to withhold services from those carriers, and or shippers, who do not provide adequate compensation to cover the increased costs.
It is absolutely essential that truckers get involved and be players in the political process
For those of you who are members of OOIDA, we will be getting out an immediate newsletter when the final results are determined, laying out a strategy for dealing with whichever alternative develops. For those who are not members, I hope you will join. It has never been more important for all of us to work together.
I also want to take this opportunity to express my appreciation to the many OOIDA members and others who made our job of communicating the urgency of this situation to the Congress much easier through their contacts with their elected representatives throughout this process. This brings me to the point of what I feel is the most important and timely message that I can share with you.
Election time is just around the corner. It is once again time to make the decisions on selection of those people at the local, state, and national level who will have a significant impact on our business and personal lives for at least the next several years.
While obviously the presidential election is extremely important and gains by far the most media attention, candidates for other offices, both state and federal, can be at least as important when it comes to addressing those issues that will significantly impact your business and personal lives. It is important to recognize, however, that voting for the person who you feel is most qualified to fill a particular elected position is only a small part of the process. In other words, no matter how qualified that candidate may be, it is not realistic to assume that they will be knowledgeable or sensitive to those issues that are most important to you. You must communicate with them on those issues, and there's no better time to start than during the election process, when they are seeking your support.
In all of our efforts at communicating with elected representatives and their staff throughout the past year, the difference was like night and day between those who had heard from trucker constituents, and those who had not. Those who had heard from truckers were aware of the problems, and in most cases, prepared to discuss solutions. With most who had not heard from truckers, we spent most of our time trying to convince them there was a problem, and many didn't seem adequately motivated to seriously address the solutions. There were also minor demonstrations occurring in different parts of the U.S., and more serious blockades throughout Europe at the time of our visits and I can tell you without hesitation, that calls from constituents explaining the problem and asking for assistance had much more impact on those representatives than all of those demonstrations combined.
There really isn't any better time to begin building a good relationship than now.
Communicating with your elected representatives is obviously important when there is a problem. It's even more important though, to develop a relationship and line of communication before serious problems occur. Your communications don't necessarily have to be with the Congressman or Senator directly, although that is helpful. It is sometimes even more beneficial to communicate with their staff person who specializes in transportation issues. You can be helpful to the staff by offering to be a source of information on industry issues in general. In turn, when issues come up that affect you, you will find it much easier to communicate your concerns to them.
As I mentioned earlier, election time is a time when candidates for office are asking for your support. There really isn't any better time to begin building a good relationship than now. You can do that by offering to help the candidate of your choice to get elected, or reelected, and then provide them assistance by getting actively involved whenever possible.
In the next couple of years, there will be many pending issues that will come before the Congress that will impact your business and personal lives. We will also be bringing up new initiatives to address some of the long-standing issues affecting truckers. Even some of the regulatory issues, such as hours-of-service and black box surveillance mandates, will likely be addressed by the Congress before they are finally resolved. OOIDA is rapidly growing in strength and effectiveness, but we will need your help in achieving the important objectives. It is absolutely essential that professional truckers, drivers, as well as small business truckers, get involved and be players in the political process. That's where the solutions are and I can guarantee you that no one else is going to do it for us!