2014 Legislative Guide
New highway bill, election year heighten need for lawmakers to hear from truckers
Ensuring they listen takes some work

By Ryan S. Bowley, OOIDA Director of Government Affairs

This is going to be a critical year for transportation policy in the U.S. The highway bill signed into law in 2012 is set to expire at the end of September. Both the House and Senate transportation committees are beginning work on a new bill, and issues that directly affect truckers will be on the priority list.

Making things even more critical, the entire membership of the House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate are up for re-election this fall. And while most campaign ads and speeches will deal with issues beyond trucking and transportation, both sitting lawmakers and their challengers will be asking truckers for their support.

There are OOIDA members in every single Congressional district in the country – 150,000 strong. Yet if folks don’t speak up and don’t ensure that lawmakers know how issues and policies affect truckers and their families, then your support will be taken for granted when the election rolls around. If elected officials don’t hear from OOIDA members, when policy issues come up it will be all too easy for them to listen to the American Trucking Associations or major shippers – folks that absolutely do not have the interests of truckers in mind.

Hearing from truckers is one thing, but how can you take the next step, ensuring that your representatives in Congress actually listen? It’s not something that will happen overnight, but the work you put into it will absolutely lead to a reward:

  • Get to know the staffers responsible for transportation issues. In D.C. lingo, this is the “Transportation L.A.,” or legislative assistant. 
  • If you can, call on a Friday. Things are slower in Washington, as lawmakers are generally back in their states and districts. Staffers will have time to talk about your issues.
  • Focus on one issue at a time. Don’t call in with a laundry list of issues, and don’t mix trucking issues with non-trucking issues. Keep things separate, especially since the transportation staffer probably doesn’t cover health care or tax issues.
  • Maintain and develop your relationship. Keep up contact, especially if the staffer is tough to reach. If you do start chatting, work to develop a relationship and become their resource on trucking issues. Share your email or phone number if you want, so the staff knows they can call you if they have a question.

The next highway bill is going to have a long list of important issues for OOIDA and for you as a trucker. Highway funding, tolling, insurance minimums, speed limiters and so many other topics are likely to be on the table during the next year. OOIDA staff will be hitting the halls and wearing down their shoe leather to make sure that lawmakers know where truckers stand on these issues, but we depend upon you to bring that message home by making phones ring and sending emails.

In the coming months, your home is likely to be filled with the sound of campaign ads and robo-calls carrying the messages of lawmakers and candidates. Now is the opportunity to make sure they get the message from truckers. LL