From disbelief … to reality

By Robert Esler, Life Member

I remember back in the ’70s the truck shutdowns and protests that were heard all over this country. It was utter disbelief that anything concrete would come out of all the chaos. There was no unity. Everyone thought their beef was more important than others and that their solution was the only way to solve the problem.

OOIDA, along with many other organizations, was born out of the confusion. I was elected to the OOIDA Board of Directors in 1980. That year, groups from all over the country met in DC. OOIDA President Jim Johnston and I were there.

The room was split down the middle with broker groups on one side and owner-operator groups on the other.

A representative from the DOT told us we had to get our act together “in order to be heard and get positive results.” So an election was held to determine who would lead a coalition. After a heated debate and two votes, Jim Johnston won by a single vote.

Sometime later Jim and I were in a car crossing over I-70 in Oak Grove, MO. At the time, the Association was renting office space. Jim looked at me and asked, “What do you think of us owning our own building?” To be quite honest I thought he had rocks in his head. 

Fast forward to 2013 – from disbelief to reality. OOIDA is now the largest trucking organization in the United States. Near the place where the Association was first headquartered in a trailer chained to a light pole in Grain Valley, MO, stands a facility that houses nearly 300 employees who serve more than 150,000 members.

It has been said for every disbeliever there is a believer. From the founding of our country to the present time, the believers have led the way. 

Forty years later, nothing has deterred that desire to see that truckers are treated fairly. I don’t see that ever changing. LL