Editor’s Page
Catch 22

Sandi Soendker
Managing Editor

You know the expression, “Catch 22.” It has become a byword in the English language.

It came from Joseph Heller’s book, “Catch 22.” Maybe you read it. Maybe you just skimmed “Cliff’s Notes” back in school. The book deals with the theme of the insignificance of human beings in the big scheme of things. One can die, and his demise is hardly noticed by others. But mainly, it’s known as a classic discourse on what’s nuts and what isn’t.

Where that “Catch 22” phrase comes from is not likely to be half as interesting to American truckers as what it means. In your trucking world right now, you should be able to relate in a big way. You are living and working in one big friggin’ Catch 22.

The book is set in the military world of WWII. The men in a bomber squadron make constant efforts to complete their quota of missions, but their efforts are totally futile. The commanding officer continually increases the number of missions his men must fly so he will get a promotion. A main character, Capt. Yossarian, asks to be excused from flying and pleads insanity. His request is rejected because of one catch. The catch is, if you are concerned with your safety in the face of real and immediate danger, then you MUST be a rational person with a sound mind and therefore not eligible to be grounded. The colonel explains the rule: In order to fly bombers, you have to be insane anyway. If you realize that and ask to go home, it’s proof you are NOT crazy. The rule cited by the colonel, of course, is Catch 22.

In Heller’s book, the bureaucracy and its bumbling, absurd obsessions are rigorously satirized. “They” can do it because nobody can stop “them.” Why can’t anyone stop them? Catch 22. Why can’t anyone see this Catch 22 or have a copy of it? Catch 22.

In the book, “big business” is characterized by this guy named Milo, a bloodsucker who profits off the war. His financial obsession is so extreme that Milo is even willing to destroy his own men simply to make a short-term profit.

Does all this sound familiar?

Joseph Heller could have been writing about trucking, where none of this is fiction, where compliance is required but noncompliance is the Catch 22. You must do it as a condition of your employment. You must do it to survive. No matter there are thousands of pages of compliance rules, thousands of inspectors to keep you “compliant.” The rule of noncompliance OVERRULES the compliance. Why? Catch 22. From the Catch 22 angle, you have to be crazy to be a trucker anyway. If you have concerns and you no longer want to donate outrageous numbers of uncompensated and unproductive hours, it must be absolute proof you are not crazy and you better get out. You don’t belong in trucking.

That’s because the trucking industry operates on the conviction that working truckers 60 to 70 hours a week or more and paying them for 40 is the way it is.

Some truckers accept this. Others know it’s ridiculous but can’t stop the hamster dance. And then there are those who are ready to change the system, despite the obvious sacrifices that will be required.

During OOIDA’s June Safety Month of strict compliance, truckers who are fed up with flying too many missions must expose the destructive absurdity of the establishment’s current protocol. Running compliant is an opportunity to show strength, and, importantly, it demonstrates sanity, paving the way toward the development of more practical and reasonable standards — and a better quality of life for drivers.

It’s way past time to rewrite trucking WITHOUT the Catch 22.

Inside this issue of Land Line is a special section on OOIDA’s June Safety Month 2003 and what can be achieved by a collective effort of strict compliance with the regulations. Be sure to read Jim Johnston’s open letter to trucking management on Page 12. On Page 14, Rick Craig delves into the fine points of compliance. Also in the section, truckers weigh in. On Page 20 is a special Road Forum by OOIDA member Mark Taylor. On Page 21, more truckers speak out.

For more information and details on how to participate, call 1-800-444-5791 or go to