Issues & Positions
Agenda for the future

Jim Johntson
President, OOIDA

With this year being the 25th anniversary of OOIDA, I have found myself reflecting on the early days of the association and some of the more memorable accomplishments and failures we have experienced. While it is important to look back occasionally, the real challenge is in the future and in using the lessons learned in the past to make the future better.

Obviously, the accomplishments are pleasant to think about. But the failures are probably even more important. First, because you learn from them and second, if you don't experience failure then you probably haven't set your goals high enough.

OOIDA was founded back in 1973 because professional truckers (drivers and owner-operators) had little, if any, say in government and industry decisions that affected our day-to-day lives and ability to earn an honest income. The goal set by those of us who founded the association was to create an association strong enough to give professional truckers a powerful voice in all issues that affect them and to place them on at least equal footing with all other interests involved in the trucking industry. We are still here to celebrate our 25th anniversary and are rapidly growing in strength-primarily, because we have never lost sight of that goal, even though at times it seemed very far out of reach.

Although we still have our work cut out for us, the goal is now within reach and we have a clear agenda for accomplishing it. First, whenever possible, we will negotiate with opposing interests to reach an equitable resolution of the issue. Second, we are continuing to increase our effectiveness and resources in working with the regulatory agencies and the legislative process. And third, when all else fails, we have a growing and proven ability to address the issues through the courts.

The effectiveness of our court actions is probably best demonstrated by the fact that the American Trucking Association (ATA) now has an educational session on the agenda for its national convention titled "Owner-Operator Lawsuits: Are You Next?" My message to motor carriers is: If you make your profit by cheating and stealing from our members, you could very well be next, but if you deal with them in a fair and honest manner, then you have no reason to be concerned.

ATA, by the way, has intervened in the court proceedings on behalf of the carriers and has joined them in an effort to remove jurisdiction from the courts in favor of addressing the issues at DOT. Strange, I don't recall ever hearing about motor carriers seeking the jurisdiction (or perceived shelter) of any regulatory agency when they were involved in lawsuits with individual truckers...

Another important initiative we are working on and hope to have in place before the end of this year is the motor carrier rating system that I mentioned briefly in the September/October issue of Land Line. As you know, motor carriers already have a system for rating professional drivers. They do it through employment references or through DAC reports that sometimes unfairly brand drivers as poor employment prospects simply because a driver may have left the company over a disagreement that had nothing to do with the individual's driving or work record.

Our rating system will not be designed to blackball the crooks in the business, but rather to help identify those companies that provide fair compensation and an honest working relationship. The first step is a questionnaire that will be mailed to all members requesting information on the carrier you are presently working for as well as others you have worked for in the past. We will also provide an opportunity for the companies to comment on information received regarding their practices. In addition, we will welcome direct contact from companies wishing to submit the necessary information to apply for a rating under the program.

The current system of moving from one carrier to another in the hopes of finding a better deal is not only costly and disruptive to the income of professional truckers, it is disruptive and unproductive to the entire industry. It also helps to perpetuate the existence of the unscrupulous or downright dishonest companies who are able to continue to attract new victims through false or misleading advertising and claims of good income. In reality, this "good income" quickly disappears under the weight of improper deductions or requirements to purchase unneeded or overpriced services or insurance products from the company.

Motor carriers that are considered honest, fair-dealing companies should not be concerned with the lawsuits currently under way. In fact, they should welcome a rating system that will help to separate their operations from the false claims of the others.

As always, we welcome your comments and suggestions on this project as well as any advance information you would like to send that relates to companies with which you have had experience. LL