By Laura C. O'Neill
OOIDA government affairs counsel
While one of the jobs OOIDA does is fend off anti-trucker legislation, another job we do is find lawmakers who see it our way and urge them to introduce measures to help keep trucking a healthy and profitable profession full of competent drivers.
It would seem like lawmakers on Capitol Hill would jump at the chance to introduce legislation to help truckers out there who only want to make an honest living in this profession. Even Homer Simpson can figure out that truckers are a critical work force that drives the nation’s complicated commercial economy. So why is it so hard for truckers to get the message to lawmakers?
For instance, it would seem to be a no-brainer that lawmakers would want to introduce legislation prohibiting shippers/receivers from wasting a driver’s time at loading docks. A recent study noted that this costs consumers $3 billion to $5 billion annually. It interferes with a driver’s ability to rest. It contributes to unnecessary emissions as drivers sit idling waiting for someone to get their act together. And it is one more excuse for competent professionals to leave this industry in favor of a profession that pays better and treats them with more respect. Think about it. Do lawyers, doctors, accountants, carpenters, and plumbers give away their time for free? We all know the answer to that. Why can’t we convince lawmakers?
And it would seem like a no-brainer that we should have laws to promote driver education and training for all entry-level truckers and promote implementation of graduated CDLs.
And it would seem to be a no-brainer that employed drivers be included, not exempted, from the Fair Labor Standards Act requirements for overtime pay.
Well, the truth is, there’s always two sides to every battle and Capitol Hill is one ongoing Friday fight night. The opposition is well-funded and well-organized, which keeps us here at OOIDA playing defense much of the time. By the way, that’s sure never stopped us.
So what is the answer? How do we preserve this profession and identify lawmakers who not only oppose anti-trucker provisions, but are also willing to introduce legislation that protects the driver?
Well, the answer to that is you. Keeping in constant touch with your member of Congress helps us level the playing field. You may hear us say it too often, but it’s true. Most members of Congress have an office in their district that is near you. If you have the time, stop by and say what’s on your mind. If you don’t have the time, pick up a phone or shoot them an email. Most members of Congress are human beings just like you and me (I’ve met a few who aren’t, but I won’t name names), and they want you behind the wheel because you are the best at what you do. They don’t really want people who are better qualified to be dog walkers and burger flippers. They don’t want a national highway system full of heavy trucks piloted by McDrivers.
This is appropriations season and the biggest bill in the transportation world – the highway reauthorization bill – is upon us. This means that the American Trucking Associations, Federal Express, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and all of their buddies are on the Hill pushing for legislation that would increase size and weight standards, make cross-border trucking a reality, perhaps even mandate speed limiters and all of the other things that will kill this profession.
Our OOIDA lobby needs you to step up in big numbers.
As Jerry Maguire might say, “help us, help you.” We need you now more than ever or else we will be talking about a shortage of burger flippers in this world instead of a shortage of quality truck-driving professionals. LL