Land Line History
Land Line in the late '80s: Educating the industry

by Jason Cisper

During the late 1980s, OOIDA had become a stronger, more powerful association for owner-operators. Land Line helped to spread the word about the association's involvement in state and federal regulation of the trucking industry.

More than 50 editions had been printed and distributed free of charge to truckers across the United States. Circulation had swelled to 55,000. The magazine regularly featured a full-color truck photo on the cover (which has become Land Line's "calling card") and biting headlines that shouted "Keeping the states honest," and "Say goodbye to 55." Todd Spencer (currently OOIDA's executive vice president) was the magazine's managing editor. And in 1987, a young staff writer named Sandi Laxson (now Sandi Soendker) joined the team.

The magazine's "new products" section hyped a few items that have since disappeared from the market. Among them were the Snooze Alert (affixed to the steering wheel of a truck, it emitted an alarm when the driver's grip relaxed and the trigger button wasn't held in), the Fanny Warmer (an electric seat heater) and a digital tire pressure gauge.

In 1987, the trucking industry faced some serious issues. Land Line was packed with in-your-face information and editorial copy regarding OOIDA's actions. "We at OOIDA participate in numerous high level advisory committees on various issues," Jim Johnston, president of the association said in 1987. "We constantly find ourselves in the very small minority who are willing to stand up and fight in defense of the outstanding safety record that truckers have been able to maintain under the most difficult circumstances imaginable."

Perhaps the most memorable battle of 1987 and 1988 was the association's fight against random drug and alcohol testing.

The U.S. Department of Transportation was planning to implement random roadside testing. Proving the adage that "a picture is worth a thousand words, the cover of the November/December 1987 issue of Land Line, spelled out the situation. Sandi and Todd collaborated on an article questioning the constitutionality of such tests. "Sometimes Congress makes laws using the 'hope and poke' method," the article reads. "Congress is hoping this proposed law will work but it's going to be truckers that get 'poked.' And maybe poked really hard."

Black box technology was a problem even in 1987. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) filed a petition proposing required on-board computer/monitoring devices for heavy trucks. On Oct. 13 of that year, Johnston submitted comments to the Federal Highway Administration, opposing such technology. Cost and privacy issues were among the main arguments against on-board monitors. Land Line documented the association's stance. (IIHS's efforts eventually fell by the wayside.)

Land Line had provided a means by which information about the industry and the association could be passed on to truckers. Because of the magazine's gutsy format, many drivers became members. And because membership increased, the magazine remained free to all truckers.

In a push to persuade truckers to join OOIDA, the March/April 1987 issue of the magazine asked an important question. It remains relevant today:

"As an owner-operator you are an extremely important part of the national transportation system. You are the most productive and competitive force within the entire trucking industry . does it make sense that, individually, we should be barely surviving?"

Watch for the next article chronicling the history of Land Line in the July issue.