Forty years – has it really been that long?

By Jim Johnston, OOIDA President and CEO

As you might imagine, with this being the 40th anniversary year for OOIDA, there has been a great deal of reflection around here on our history. Well, to be honest, a lot of that reflection has been pushed by a very persistent staff of Land Line reporters led by their even more persistent editor-in-chief, Sandi Soendker. Sandi has taken the firm position that it’s time to talk about our history.

Seriously, though, while I feel the future is far more important than the past, it is also important to reflect on the past and what brought us to where we are today. To be certain, we have learned from both our successes and our failures.

I recall back in the early days that one of my dreams (a bit naive as it turns out) was to start the biggest bonfire in the country fed by all those logbooks and hour-of-service regulations. We all know how that one turned out. This probably comes under the heading of “be careful what you wish for” because the government and large motor carriers are now on board with doing away with logbooks. The problem is they would like to replace them with electronic surveillance systems. And the battle goes on.

One question that I have been asked many times over the past several months is what I consider to be our most important accomplishment. There are many that I consider important and some even groundbreaking. In the ’70s, fuel surcharges and the ICC leasing regulations helped control the abusive practices of motor carriers that were widespread at that time with no remedy available.

In the early 1980s, the passage of uniform size and weight limits across the country ended the practice of barrier states down the middle of the country blocking the free flow of interstate commerce. In addition, the passage of uniform licensing and permitting requirements ended the practice of each state requiring its own plate and permit on every truck that used its roads.

Also in the late ’80s we brought successful lawsuits against numerous states over retaliatory and unconstitutional taxation of out-of-state truckers and gained provisions to prevent windfall profits to carriers by requiring that tens of millions of dollars in refunds be passed through to the owner-operators who actually paid the taxes.

Then there was the legal action in the early ’90s over the abusive practices of the Tennessee Public Service Commission that resulted in bringing down the entire agency. There was also the more recent legal action that ended the unconstitutional fatigue enforcement program of the Minnesota State Patrol.

While all of these and many others were very important victories at the time they were achieved, I have to go back to the beginning for the achievement I consider most important.

As any good builder will tell you, the first and most important part of any structure is a strong foundation. The foundation and guiding principle of OOIDA is that it and any business that it operates will always be owned and controlled by the membership it represents. It will be obligated to no one other than the membership. Control will always be exercised through the board of directors elected by and from the membership. We also established built-in mechanisms to ensure that it will always remain that way.

Over the past 40 years we have seen hundreds of different start-up associations come and go – many with good intentions and many not so good. They lacked that strong foundation necessary to survive. Our basic foundation and guiding principles are what brought us to where we are today and will continue to ensure that we are here for you in the future.

Now all we need is a few hundred thousand more good people to come on board to help increase our effectiveness going forward. I look forward to seeing you all at your convention and truck show in October. LL