Washington Insider
100,000 members! What it means in Washington

Paul Cullen Jr.
the cullen law firm, pllc

One hundred thousand is a big number for a trade association. For people who know OOIDA, this number is all the more impressive because it is composed of the most politically and philosophically diverse group of individuals. Professional truckers would usually rather blaze their own path through the world than follow anyone else’s.

Many strong-willed men and women, however, saw a common interest among truckdrivers that could be better served through group action than by disparate individual voices. This is the historical perspective on OOIDA’s growth. The question that arises for the future is what effect this milestone will have on pursuing trucker issues in Washington and the states.

Giving OOIDA officials the ability to walk up to Capitol Hill with a piece of paper that says “100,000 members” will get attention from politicians because that many people can influence the political process with their action. But 100,000 people will only get action from politicians when they do just that.

There’s no doubt that 100,000 people can make a lot of phones ring on Capitol Hill, can write a lot of letters to their lawmakers, can request a lot of meetings in their legislators’ hometown offices, can attend a lot of town meetings, can make substantial campaign contributions collectively through their political action committee and can hold those elected officials accountable at election time for their efforts to help or hurt truckers. These are the activities that make the Sierra Club, NRA, Handgun Control, pro-life, pro-choice and animal rights groups so effective.

These activities constitute political action, but they have little to do with partisan politics or taking sides between the political parties. One of OOIDA’s strengths is that its membership is made up of liberals, conservatives, Libertarians, Republicans, Democrats and independents. Despite these varied political views, OOIDA’s agenda has one focus: working for policies and laws that are fair to all professional truckers. It is a practical policy rather than an ideological one. Sometimes Democrats will champion OOIDA issues, and sometimes Republicans will champion them.

For example, while owner-operators oppose burdensome regulations on small businesses, owner-operators are greatly protected by the federal truth-in-leasing regulations that level the playing field between carriers and owner-operators. These small-business truckers know that taxes pay for the roads, and that in order to have good roads, they must pay their fair share. But they oppose new tolls and increased taxes when a sizable chunk of the fuel taxes they already pay are diverted away from highway projects.

These are fair, practical policies, not partisan ones. They are policies elected officials of any political persuasion would support, if they knew their constituents supported them.

OOIDA provides many excellent benefits to its members. Providing information about the government’s activities is one of them. Focusing members’ political action through “Calls to Action” is another. You may not have thought that becoming a member of OOIDA would add to your “to do” list. But it is by spurring the action of its members that effective trade associations wield power. You might say that paying your dues was the beginning of your membership activities, not the end of them.

In the end, OOIDA’s future political success will all depend on individual action working in the same spirit that founded OOIDA 30 years ago. An OOIDA member is not one of 100,000 drones. He or she is an individual whose efforts are vital to the association’s success with lawmakers. Only by combining and focusing the continued efforts and contributions of 100,000 individuals will OOIDA reach the potential political power of this many members.