By David Tanner
Every once in a while a regular Joe steps out of the crowd to fight for what he believes in.
In fact, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association was founded by regular Joes who were trying to make a living as truckers during the oil embargoes of the 1970s.
Somebody had to do it then, just like somebody had to do it recently in Indiana.
OOIDA member Randy Nace - a regular Joe by occupation and demeanor - stepped out in April to fight for something he believes in.
Randy and several other Indiana residents filed a lawsuit April 12 challenging the constitutionality of a lease that opened the door for foreign investors to profit from the Indiana Toll Road for 75 years.
"I'm awful proud to be in this fight. It's one worth fighting," Randy told Land Line.
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, knowing a lawsuit was about to be filed, signed the lease that awarded control of the 157-mile chunk of road to a Spanish-Australian investment consortium called Cintra-Macquarie.
With 10 years under his belt as an owner-operator, Randy makes no bones about who he is.
"I'm just an average guy out here making a living," he said.
Randy decided not to sit idle, instead taking a leading role because of a bigger picture he sees with privatized toll roads.
"The toll road doesn't really affect me in my job, but it's the country's infrastructure," he said. "It's more of an issue of right and wrong with me, more than my use of the tollway."
Randy heard about the lease idea in November 2005 and called the Citizens Action Coalition in Indianapolis. The coalition took action and gathered help from other concerned groups, including OOIDA.
"It's not just an Indiana issue, it's a national issue," Randy said. "I can see it affecting consumers . and that's going to affect anything you buy, from soup to nuts to tires. It affects everything in the grocery store."
This is Randy's first time getting involved in something so big.
He has taken the grass-roots movement to the highways, too, with the launch of a green-ribbon campaign. He would like to see truckers and motorists tie green ribbons to their mirrors or antennas.
"(It is) to show some kind of a solidarity movement here, and maybe get people putting them on their cars or whatever they're driving," he said. "If we stop it here, we may have a braking effect on other parts of the country."
Part of the campaign is raising enough money to fight the toll road lease in court. That could take as much as $200,000, including appeals.
Randy said a victory would make the cost worth it, because the toll road lease is in the billions.
"Yeah, it's $3.85 billion, but that's chicken feed compared to what it's going to cost in the long run," he said.
Gov. Daniels has earmarked the $3.85 billion bid by Cintra-Macquarie for other road projects. Randy and the other plaintiffs believe that's unconstitutional because proceeds from toll roads are supposed to go to pay off public debt.
"You're going to have all these jobs started and none of them finished, and all this money going to Australia and Spain," he said.
Randy believes 75 years is a long time for a lease.
"Seventy-five years ago, people drove Model Ts. Let's all look into the future 75 years. Are we going to be driving like this in 75 years?" Randy said. "Between the fuel prices and the toll road prices, it's going to drive us all out of business."
Adding another layer of context to Randy's opinion about foreign firms controlling U.S. infrastructure is the fact that he has a son serving in Iraq.
"We're selling the roads out from under them while they're over there," he said.
"A pound of greed and no common sense - that pretty well explains things in Indiana."
To learn more about the lawsuit challenging the Indiana Toll Road lease, visit majormoves.org.