Monday, March 12, 2007 - The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has reached another milestone in its quest to improve the lives of America's truckers and the safety of America's highways.
On Friday, March 9, OOIDA hit the 150,000-member mark when it welcomed trucker Robert L. Smith of Butler, PA, to its ranks.
Smith said he joined the association because he wanted to do something about the issues facing the trucking industry. That's the same reason OOIDA's founders gave 34 years ago when they formed the trade association, which has grown to be the largest organization in the country representing professional truckers.
Although its name suggests to some that OOIDA is only for owner-operators or independent truckers, the Association's membership is open to any and all truck drivers. But, according to a survey by the OOIDA Foundation, many of the members do share common denominators:
- The average OOIDA member is a male of about 50 years and has been driving truck for more than 20 years.
- Computers have become a staple of the average OOIDA member: half of the members use computers to find loads on the Internet, and more than half use mapping software.
- About 40 percent of OOIDA members spend anywhere from 11 to 40 hours a week waiting to load and unload their trailers.
- OOIDA members tend to be politically active, with 85 percent as registered voters and 77 percent of survey respondents saying they voted in the 2004 general election.
- More than half of OOIDA members have contacted an elected official to give them a truck driver's point of view on an issue.
Smith said he fits that member profile in more ways than one - particularly from the politically active standpoint - even though he's only 30 years old and has only been driving truck for eight years.
He wasn't born yet when OOIDA President and CEO Jim Johnston and other truckers founded OOIDA, but Smith said he is more than willing to pick up the banner and help with the fight against things like government-mandated speed limiters, better working conditions for truckers and more realistic fuel prices.
Concerns about fuel were at the center of the formation of the Association in 1973. The fuel shortage and rationing back then spurred a couple thousand drivers to pay $10 initiation fees to OOIDA with the intention of becoming dues-paying members. Some lost interest though, and all of those who paid the initiation fee did not join.
By 1979, the membership was growing slowly but steady, finally closing in on the 1,000 mark. By 1981, the Association was representing about 3,200 professional truckers. By 1989, it was more than 14,000.
OOIDA marked its 20-year anniversary in 1993 and membership records claimed 17,253.
In April of 1998, the staff moved into a new building with 87 employees and 39,000 members. With a bigger building and expanded staff, membership exploded, reaching 50,000 by May 2000.
The goal of claiming 100,000 members strong was achieved in August 2003.