Issues & Positions
What truckers want

Todd Spencer
Vice President, OOIDA

After two years of campaigning and an election night that seemed like it might never end, the election of 2000 is finally over! It made history in many ways, and for all truckers that voted, you should know that you participated in an election that will be talked about by students, citizens and scholars centuries from now.

The election for U.S. President wasn't the only election decided after recounts. There were several of those in the U.S. Congress. Many political contests really did go down to the wire.

This election was also noteworthy for other reasons. Some good, some not quite so good. The tab for elections across the country is estimated at $3 billion dollars - a staggering sum of money that should give nearly everyone reason to wonder if there aren't better ways to elect public officials.

On the positive side, many more voters turned out for this election than four years ago, and the effects and the importance of grassroots involvement of voters was more pronounced than ever. In many political contests, organized groups of voters produced the margin of victory or defeat.

The importance of truckers voting and being involved in the political process is more obvious everyday. Every vote really does count and can make the difference. In talking with members, it appears more truckers voted in 2000 than ever before. That's great news!

Small-business truckers were more on the minds of elected officials in Washington last year than ever before. No lawmaker was unaware of truckers' struggles with fuel prices. And no lawmaker was unaware of the horrific problems that would have occurred had the proposed HOS regulations gone into effect. They know because thousands of truckers told them so with letters, phone calls and even personal visits.

There are valid differences of opinion on how best to resolve issues in trucking, and issues for the nation in general, but there is no substitute for communication and participation in the process. You have to be involved.

The George W. Bush administration is taking shape and will be off and running by the time you read this. The president's selection as DOT Secretary is former Congressman Norm Mineta of California, a former Chairman of the House Public Works and Transportation Committee, and one of the most knowledgeable people in Washington on trucking issues. In my opinion, President Bush could not have made a better choice for the top spot in transportation.

As I write this, the Bush administration is preparing its agenda for transportation. OOIDA has a transportation agenda, too. During 2001, we will be doing our best to place the OOIDA agenda at the top of the administration's agenda, and the same for U.S. Representatives and Senators.

Major progress was made last year in convincing lawmakers just how outrageous the original DOT hours proposal was

What issues do truckers feel most strongly about right now and want brought to the attention of the Bush administration and Congress? We asked members to tell us in a recent solicitation for the OOIDA Political Action Committee.

In addition to much concern about fuel prices and the tough time most truckers have offsetting increased costs, OOIDA members told us their top concern was recent government efforts to mandate hours-of-service regulations that are not workable or practical. Extreme concern was expressed regarding government efforts to force black boxes into the cabs of your trucks. Major progress was made last year in convincing lawmakers just how outrageous and far-off the mark the original DOT hours proposal was. Communication from thousands of truckers made the difference on this one. Great job!

Next on the truckers priority list, is the loading and unloading environment. Most truckers do not believe problems in this area are fixable without government involvement. They want to see mandatory detention time payments; shipper load-consignee unload; and they want to see a greater role for the U.S. DOT on issues that are clearly attributable to shippers, receivers, brokers and others. Lawmakers heard from truckers on these issues last year. The DOT even started moving in the right direction on this one by asking Congress for more authority. Major newspapers are now writing about these situations and now there is even a book, "Sweatshops on Wheels." Keep up the pressure - progress is being made.

On safety and compensation issues, many truckers believe the two are clearly linked. They believe entry level driver training should be required, along with on-the-job training. Compensation methods (per mile, etc.) do play a role in safety on the highways, as does the exemption for truckers from the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Other concerns - placing tolls on existing interstate highways. It's difficult for me to imagine that most lawmakers even know they approved this as law three years ago. Lawmakers should fix this mistake, but in case they don't, OOIDA lawsuits filed against four states for collecting both tolls and taxes on the same miles have had a chilling effect on the toll road movement. Ain't it a shame?

Size and weight - this one will be on the table in DC in 2001, courtesy of the folks that always believe bigger is better. This one is sure to give truckers a black eye, but not likely more profit.

The Clinton administration, and most lawmakers, heard from many truckers on these issues and others last year. The message did get through to more lawmakers than you may imagine. We have momentum to build on with lawmakers, and we have a new administration in the White House that needs to be informed and educated.

The OOIDA Political Action Committee solicitation netted more than $65,000, with a majority of contributions from truckers of no more than $35. That's certainly not big money in Washington, DC, but it is a great start for professional truckers.

Modest contributions combined with thousands of politically involved truckers will allow OOIDA to assist those lawmakers that are able and willing to push needed changes in our industry. Changes to benefit you. Thanks for your efforts, participation and support in 2000. Let's keep it going into the new millennium.