Knuckling down
Owner-Operators Coalition of Virginia hires first full-time employee to expand port of presence

By Charlie Morasch
staff writer


An OOIDA member who helped found the Owner Operators Coalition of Virginia has become the coalition’s first full-time employee, serving in the Hampton Roads, VA-area.

Paul Yurkovac said he has sold his truck and will work full time to build OOCVA’s membership after accepting the position of director of public relations and project coordinator.

OOCVA’s membership now totals more than 200 drivers.

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

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.

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 shippers won’t come here unless the efficiency is up to par with other ports throughout the world.”

When OOCVA formed, Yurkovac said, the coalition was fortunate to have a bevy of drivers who stepped up to take leadership roles.

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.

OOIDA Regulatory Affairs Specialist Joe 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 Sen. 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.”

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