Your regulatory watchdog and sometimes, regulatory pit bull

Rick Craig

In the years after OOIDA’s formation, a flurry of unfeasible, unworkable and dim-witted regulations surfaced to burden truckers. Today, there are simply too many rules — they’re difficult to understand, and they’ve been concocted by people who have never been behind the steering wheel of a tractor-trailer.

The bureaucracy, in its zeal to do the job right, often goes overboard, mostly because it’s ignorant of how truckers really work. That’s why it’s vital for truckers to have effective watchdogs on the job — not just somebody to whip up a few protest e-mails or press releases — but a unified voice that effectively challenges nit-picking and often costly regulation.

In the past, it was necessary to subscribe to the voluminous Federal Register and pore through tens, even hundreds of pages each day to ferret out pertinent notices. The world of electronic communication makes that task much easier, but it still takes persistent effort to keep up with the barrage of daily announcements published by various agencies that influence trucking.

OOIDA’s staff evaluates the effects certain notices may have and takes the appropriate action. Written comments are submitted in response to all significant proposals. When meetings are scheduled, OOIDA sends its representatives to participate. And when final rules are published, the details appear right here in Land Line.

What’s more, the magazine, its Web site and OOIDA’s site regularly notify members of pending rules and of public meetings.

To put things in perspective, think back for a moment to the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” where Jimmy Stewart sees what life was like without him. Let us suppose truckers had not united 30 years ago and had not remained unified. What regulations might still be on the books?

For starters, you might still have all those individual state plates to buy; and you’d probably be required from time to time to pull over and pee in a cup or forced to roll up a sleeve and give blood for no reason except one — you’re a trucker.

You might still be driving from inside a flat-nosed, postage-stamp-sized cab; and you might still be filing separate fuel tax reports to individual states. Early on, the association proposed and fought for agreements that lifted this paperwork burden.

In addition, motor carrier interests might have had unlimited and exclusive access to any driver’s background information. The association told federal authorities as the new Homeland Security Department took shape this idea was, well, lunkheaded. Only federal authorities, and not potential employers, should have such access, OOIDA insisted. The feds agreed.

And back in the early days, chances looked pretty good regulators would keep a national speed limit — 55 mph. Truckers said that decision should be left up to the states — and Washington eventually agreed.

Moreover, you might still be taking disputes with your carrier to an understaffed office somewhere within the FHWA, instead of having the right to file a civil suit.

Just like Jimmy Stewart, owner-operators needed a “Clarence” — a unifying force to pluck them out from under a flood of ill-conceived, job-threatening regulations.

We know the average truckdriver can’t possibly stay on top of all regulatory issues. That’s why truckers continue to ask the meaning of what desk jockeys churn out regularly through a dizzying array of negotiated, proposed, supplemental, interim — the list goes on — “rulemakings.”

So in 30 years’ time, OOIDA has grown in proportion to its membership’s needs. You know us and we know you — together, we’ll continue making a difference.

And as we look toward this new and dangerous age, we’ll insist on elevated standards for entry-level drivers in an effort to boost professionalism and safety.

Together we’ll make that effort because, as Jimmy Stewart discovered, there’s a future to deal with.