By Jim Johnston, OOIDA President and CEO
Elsewhere in this issue of Land Line, you will find the latest update on our federal court action against the Minnesota State Patrol’s outrageous driver fatigue evaluation program. Outrageous is, in fact, an inadequate word to describe the patrol’s conduct because they went far beyond outrageous to the point of violating the Fourth Amendment constitutional rights of truckers. The recent ruling by Federal District Court Judge Donovan W. Frank is a major victory and a very important ruling in favor of the constitutional rights of professional truckers.
Unfortunately, what the patrol was doing was not the only outrageous aspect of this case. It is yet another glaring example of the rest of the trucking industry’s willingness to stand by and allow the rights and interests of the professional drivers they so depend upon to be trampled into the dust without a word of objection.
Motor carriers (particularly those based in Minnesota), as well as their state trucking association, were well aware of what was going on. In fact, they conducted seminars with the state patrol where the program was explained in detail, yet they made no objection. We discovered that instead of standing up for the rights of their drivers, many simply terminated drivers who were unfortunate enough to fall victim to the patrol’s crusade, further compounding the injustice.
Interestingly, while nothing was heard from the industry either before or during the trial (except for those who instructed their drivers to stay out of it), shortly after the decision was handed down the Minnesota Trucking Association released the following statement:
“The Minnesota Trucking Association is pleased with this ruling recently handed out by the United States District Court – District of Minnesota in the matter of OOIDA/Stephen House vs. The Minnesota State Patrol. In it, the court established important precedents that should protect drivers from unreasonable fatigue-related inspections. The court affirmed what we have long held as critical factors in enforcement: that fatigue measures should be science-based and standardized, that the behaviors under observation should have a proven impact on highway safety, and that drivers have a right to know the standard by which they are being judged before inspection takes place.”
Again, this wasn’t released until after the judge’s ruling. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at the shameful silence of the industry and I’m really not. We see it every day with drivers left to fend for themselves to deal with abusive treatment at shipping and receiving docks, in roadside enforcement practices, and in the constant barrage of new regulations that the industry seems more willing to encourage than to oppose – which increases the burden on professional drivers.
The issues keep piling up and the load isn’t getting any lighter. I continue to be surprised at the numbers of non-members who want OOIDA to be out there battling the wrongdoings. In fact, they are among the first to congratulate us on our accomplishments. Those same drivers, however, are slow to join and stand with us in this effort.
The bottom line: The cost of justice is not cheap. OOIDA spent in excess of $1 million on the Minnesota case alone. There are a number of battles on the horizon, and it’s obvious that OOIDA is the only army on the field fighting for truckers.
We have the capability to blaze some paths, as they say, where there were none.
But a critical part of our effectiveness really does start with you. If you’re already a member, participating in the Association programs instead of supporting the competition would be a big help.
If you’re not already a member, I hope you will join and add your support. LL