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Can we learn to march to the same drum?

Dear Jim, 
I spoke with you in regards to your address to the TCA. I must admit you’re right. Until drivers get together to stop allowing themselves to be used by their companies and learn to say the magic word “no,” nothing will change. Companies will continue to sell their drivers’ labor cheap, expecting them to run all night just so some customer can make him sit waiting for hours to unload that hot load. From what I’ve been told you were a driver at one time, so you can’t be bs’ed on what goes on out here. I’ve been a driver for 11 years and an owner-operator for the last four, and I’ve heard and seen the bull some of these companies feed these new drivers. I’ve seen how corrupt a Kmart in New Jersey can be, all the way down to how Kroger can force a driver to unload goods.

Every time there is a fatal accident involving a big truck these people scream bloody murder without really looking at all the facts. According to the University of Michigan, 87 percent of all car vs. truck accidents are a direct result of driver error, by the driver of the car. Yes, we are the professionals, but we can’t drive our truck and their car too. 

Driver fatigue is another big issue; drivers do get tired and after our great leaders spend a ton of money on surveys and sleep-pattern cycles, all they had to do to save money (taxpayer dollars) was to ask the drivers. We are expected to pick up a load at 9:00, drive 500-600 miles over night, fight traffic, weather and road construction, be on time then wait to unload, then either pay some lumper outrageous prices, or unload it ourselves, then run pick up our next load and do this over and over again. Well, that is going to lead to an accident. The odds are piling up against us. Everyone knows that the TCA and the ATA are nothing but company yes men. And I quote Mr. Mike Reeves of M.S. Carriers Inc. of Memphis, TN, who once told me today’s drivers are “a dime a dozen.” So until OOIDA, ATA, TCA and all the other trucking associations start marching to the same drum and in the same direction, nothing constructive will get done. 

First, the DOT needs to set new hours of service, instead of 10 hours make it 14 hours in 24; with a max of 133 hours of on-duty driving and on-duty not driving in a seven-day period.

Second, increase freight rates, plus, start charging these customers for time waiting to load and unload at a fair rate of about $25 per hour that gets paid directly to the driver, plus, start telling the customer simply “you order, you load and unload.” The FMCSR need to be enforced by the book in each and every state, stop all these states from reading the rules as they see fit.

Ed Fowler 
Memphis, TN

Response from OOIDA President Jim Johnston
Ed: Thanks for the comments. Your information is correct. I drove from 1962 to 1975, most of that time as an owner-operator. You made some excellent points about trucking companies, drivers and associations “marching to the same drummer” to change this industry for the better. In order for OOIDA to achieve these goals, the membership numbers must continue to grow. OOIDA’s membership numbers directly relate to the amount of impact we are able to provide on the issues that affect small-business truckers.

When will we find a spokesperson?
Jim, I applaud you on your efforts to bring justice to the practice of unfair treatment of O/O’s. I know that you can only do so much. My question is: When will we find a person willing to stand up for our disappearing rights and be a spokesperson for the truckers all over the country? As you know, this person would have to have a great deal of intestinal fortitude and probably have a “death wish” because anyone who tried to improve the way of life for us will undoubtedly be dealt with the way Jimmy Hoffa was. God only knows what happened to him. 

I tell anyone who starts complaining on the CB about the issues at hand today, there are different ways to handle these issues: write your congressperson, join OOIDA, or take a stand to turn off the keys until something is resolved, which brings us back to finding someone crazy enough to want to put their life on the line to be a spokesperson and deliver the issues to the appropriate people who could change them if they had the pressure put in the right place.

Ken Meredith
Butler, PA

Response from OOIDA President Jim Johnston
Damn, Ken. I’m not sure how much closer you can get to standing up than at a podium in front of 200 carriers, their association and their attorneys delivering the message that anyone of them could be next on the list. See the “Straight Talk” on our website ( for the text of my comments at the Truckload Carriers Association meeting.

The difference is that here you have an association standing up and fighting for truckers. The structure of the association is designed to continue the pursuit of our goals regardless of what might happen to any one individual. When Hoffa was brought down they were able to send the union in an entirely new direction. Also, he made the take of mortgaging his soul to organized crime in order to develop much of the power he was able to wield. The course we’re taking is certainly not as dramatic or as sensational as some of the things Hoffa did and progress is considerably slower. But working through the courts to take down the largest and worst offenders will in the long run be just as effective and much longer lasting. 

Removing the anti-competitive influence of those companies that generate their profits by cheating and stealing from professional truckers will result in significant benefit to all truckers not just those directly affected by these unconscionable practices. The solution, in other words, does not lie with one individual hero. Individuals are far too vulnerable. Solutions are best achieved by all of us working together through a strong, stable organized structure not prone to individual weakness or vulnerability. That structure is OOIDA and the heroes are all of our members whose support makes possible the gains OOIDA is able to achieve.

Jim Johnston, OOIDA President

Lane restrictions are for safety?
I am a rookie owner-operator, new OOIDA member, and curious. Recent action in South Carolina as quoted by Bob Lee, Federal Highway Administration division administrator said, “Reducing heavy trucks to these two lanes reduces the number of lane changes for trucks.” 

The new restrictions apply to sections of highways that are six or more lanes wide. This is for safety? Why is there not more action against all the states that force us to stay in the two right lanes? Is it really safe for the cars we see trying to get on the interstate while looking straight ahead, never looking until the last second. Is it safe to have trucks governed to a speed, which causes back-ups in these trucks that are restricted? Finally, the frustration factor, do these state representatives ever consider the fact we truckdrivers are just human? We get frustrated, just like the news reports of road rage. Granted, it is our job as professionals to control our emotions while driving, but ultimately we are all human and the restrictions can slowly eat at our patience/professionalism.

Gordon Matts
Lebanon, IN

Reply from OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer:
We have yet to see a safety benefit from lane restrictions or split speed limits. What these restrictions always do is cause traffic to bunch up, tailgating occurs and then unsafe lane changes. And yes, restricting trucks to the right lane makes it harder to enter or exit the interstate highway.

Many lawmakers grossly underestimate how serious the safety consequences are of these policies. The truth is, most lawmakers are reactionary when they hear lots of complaints about anything. They are inclined to act. Sometimes that means bad laws or policies are put in place.

The only real solution is to continue to try to educate lawmakers about traffic control strategies and lots more.