Owner Operators Coalition of Virginia hires trucker as PR director

| 12/8/2008

A recently formed coalition of port truck drivers at Hampton Roads, VA, has promoted a truck driver to work full time on port issues. The Owner Operators Coalition of Virginia recently promoted Paul Yurkovac to the position of director of public relations and project coordinator.

Founded in early 2008, OOCVA is attempting to meet with port and political leaders to address driver concerns over port efficiency. The coalition plans to build its membership as it brings port leaders and interests together to solve issues important to truckers.

OOCVA has received advice and support from OOIDA, which has been represented at OOCVA meetings and has nearly 1,000 members of its own in the Hampton Roads area. That area includes Virginia Port Authority-owned Norfolk International Terminals, Newport News Marine Terminal, Portsmouth Marine Terminal and the Virginia Inland Port.

Yurkovac recently discussed OOCVA’s intentions with OOIDA Regulatory Affairs Specialist Joe Rajkovacz and OOIDA’s XM satellite radio host Mark Reddig. That dialog will soon be aired on OOIDA’s Land Line Now satellite radio show.

Yurkovac said he has sold his truck and will work full time to build OOCVA’s membership, which now totals more than 200 drivers.

“It’s important that the drivers see there is a resource,” Yurkovac said. “And we want to increase the resources at the drivers’ disposal.”

As ports across the country consider new environmental rules, Yurkovac said port officials have a vested interest in improving efficiency and getting drivers in and out of the port quickly.

Ongoing expansion of the Panama Canal could put East Coast ports in prime position to handle more freight coming from Asia, Yurkovac said.

“There’s so much lost time; we’re trying to convince them to do something that has very strong long-term benefit for the port,” Yurkovac said. “But they won’t come here unless the efficiency is up to par with other ports throughout the world.”

Rajkovacz said OOIDA’s experience in bringing truckers’ interests to elected officials and regulators makes the Association a model for groups like OOCVA.

“They’re doing something that is very, very unique in that they are essentially taking what we do nationally and in Washington DC, and bringing it local,” Rajkovacz said. “It’s kind of the macro versus micro view. And it’s been fun to watch how the organization has matured. Clearly, we can show people how to mimic that success – if they’re willing.”

Rajkovacz remembered attending an OOCVA meeting in the spring and seeing Virginia State Senator Yvonne Miller, chairman of the senate’s transportation committee, voicing her support for port drivers who are required to wait in line for equipment repairs on chassis they don’t own.

“She raised the picture of predominantly African-American port drivers working for free on state property,” Rajkovacz said. “This harkens back to an era obviously that isn’t very pretty in America, and it’s outrageous that any American is forced to work uncompensated.”

When OOCVA formed, Yurkovac said, the coalition was fortunate to have a bevy of drivers who brought their own talents to the coalition.

“Right at the first meeting, it was apparent there were a few guys and gals there that really wanted to step up and take a leadership role,” he said.

OOCVA officials include President John Lawson, Vice President Lewis Hill, Resource Development Coordinator Shawn Heard and Financial Officer Curtis Griffin. Other officials are administration coordinators Esther Lewis and Pam Gregory and Board Members Herbert Lewis and Mike Gregory.

Heard has worked on the Coalition’s Web site, while Hill is well known among port drivers for his ability to stir passions, Yurkovac said.

“Lewis is probably the best guy to get out there on the ground and get drivers riled up and excited about coming to a meeting,” Yurkovac said. “His BS tolerance is next to nil.”

For more information on the Owner Operators Coalition of Virginia, visit www.oocva.org.

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer