OOIDA President says treating truckers as "villains"
through more stringent, targeted enforcement is not the answer
to improved highway safety; warns of potential impact on safety
caused by the exodus of thousands of experienced drivers
April 3, 2002, Grain Valley, MO ---- Jim Johnston, President
of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA)
today said the continued blind emphasis on developing more stringent
and more invasive methods of enforcement against truckers will
not result in increased highway safety. OOIDA is the nation's
largest trade organization of professional truckers, representing
the interests of the country's 350,000 small business truckers.
Delivering a keynote address to the International Truck and Bus
Safety Symposium at the University of Tennessee, Johnston said,
"There is a price to pay for this philosophy of blindly pushing
ahead with continuously increasing enforcement. Obviously the
millions of dollars invested every year in this effort is a stiff
price but even more significant is the rule of diminishing returns."
Diminishing returns, according to Johnston, result from the negative
impact the increasing levels of enforcement are having on professional
drivers, influencing many of the best to exit the business.
Johnston said, "The exodus of thousands of good, hardworking
professional drivers who are sick and tired of being treated as
second class citizens or targeted for enforcement in every jurisdiction
they pass through, is a substantial loss to the industry and to
the effort to improve commercial vehicle safety."
He pointed out that there is no pool of well-trained replacements
to fill the seats of those experienced professionals leaving the
industry. New, inexperienced replacements would only have a negative
impact on highway safety.
"Truckers have far more at stake than most in improved highway
safety, and should be considered partners in the efforts instead
of the unjustified targets of enforcement efforts."
In his remarks, Johnston singled out for particular criticism
agencies, politicians and other state and federal forums that
continually depict truckers as careless, reckless, irresponsible
lawbreakers in need of targeted enforcement. He cited several
recent examples of law enforcement officials and politicians whose
derogatory comments towards truckers were seemingly done for public
relations motives, to seek additional funding or simply to cover
their "political behind".
Johnston quoted DOT statistics involving fatal collisions between
trucks and passenger vehicles showing passenger vehicles were
at fault in the vast majority of cases. "Truckers are the
safest drivers on the road and they do an outstanding job in furthering
the cause of highway safety".
Johnston recommended alternative considerations for budget allocation
in addressing highway safety. Commenting on roadside inspections
and enforcement for vehicle defects, including the millions of
dollars budgeted by states for such new technology as infrared
devices which can detect brake problems as trucks go by, Johnston
said efforts should be made to direct funding to research for
correcting major vehicle defect problems. "Would it not make
more sense to invest some of these resources to develop efficient,
dependable brake systems that are less prone to maintenance problems?
Does anybody really believe that a large percentage of truckers
are knowingly and intentionally running around out there with
dangerously defective brakes?"
Additionally, said Johnston, the lack of mandatory standardized
training has left the door open for many abuses and a continuing
influx of new and unprepared drivers. "It is absolutely ludicrous
that occupations such as barbers, hairdressers and insurance agents
are required to go through mandatory training in order to be licensed,
but that no training at all is required to obtain a license to
operate an 80,000-pound truck over the highway."
Johnston went on to also mention loading and unloading abuses
faced by truckers at docks and the lack of adequate parking and
rest facilities as other factors impacting on the stress and daily
performance of truckers. These are growing problems that must
"The answer lies not in further victimizing and alienating
this force of drivers but rather in finding ways to involve them
in addressing the problem," Johnston said. "Truckers
are intelligent, patriotic citizens who are willing to work hard
and commit their efforts and loyalty when the cause is worthwhile."
text of Jim Johnston's speech at National Safety Council symposium