The real work starts with you

By Laura O’Neill-Kaumo, OOIDA director of government affairs

The buzz from the presidential election of 2016 is still palpable and everyone seems to be focused now more than ever on the politics that play out at the administrative level. While we as individuals can’t help but feel the mood of the country, we as trucking advocates still have a very important job to do for you with our work cut out for us – and so do you.

It will be tempting over the next year, or even few years, to continue to either praise or blame the administration for what benefits or ails the trucking industry and for any problems owner-operators and small businesses may face. However, it is imperative to remember that the administration, no matter who is occupying the Oval Office, takes its cue from the House and the Senate. It is easy to blame FMCSA for actions that they may take or for failing to be active in areas in need of reform, but often the agency’s ability to make decisions is limited to the parameters Congress has established for them.

The real work – the real and most effective advocacy that is persuading lawmakers to act – has to occur at the grassroots level and has to begin with you. Lawmakers want to hear from their constituents and be educated on issue areas where they can make a difference. Most do not know the first thing about trucking, which is why they often fall for gimmicky ideas like “speed limiters will make highways safer” or “we have to lower the driving age because there is a trucking shortage.” We know this is nonsense, but do the men and women in your state whose job it is to represent you know that? More importantly, have you told them?

In 2017, there are going to be even more advocates representing special interests in the trucking industry. They are well-funded and well-organized. The only thing that can truly stop them is communication from the drivers who are their own best advocates. Luckily it is very easy to reach out to your lawmakers in today’s age of social media. There are a number of ways for your voice to be heard and, quite frankly, they want to hear from you so take advantage of it.

Every trucker in this country is represented by one member of Congress and two senators. Most of these folks have town hall meetings. You can easily look up their website and find a notice about when they will be available. Also, many have office hours in an office location near your hometown. Lawmakers split their time between D.C. and their districts. You don’t need to fly to Washington to have an impact. They have full-time staffs that are right there, ready to speak to you.

If that is not an option because you are on the road most of the year, you can send a message via email, Facebook or Twitter to many of your elected officials. The best place to start is to go to your lawmaker’s website or visit FightingForTruckers.com to look up your representatives. We even have an option available for you to immediately make email contact. If none of those options appeal to you, simply pick up the phone and call. Leave a message with a staffer. Those messages do get through. LL