The road to involvement
Truckers go out of their way to make voices heard

By David Tanner
associate editor


Michael Goldstein knows his way around a tanker truck. The fuel hauler from Los Angeles has a good command of his route and his job duties. It’s old hat to this U.S. Army veteran and life member of OOIDA.

But every so often, when duty calls, Michael leaves the comfort zone of his Mack to make a different type of delivery – one that requires a separate set of skills and tools.

Welcome to the world of involvement. Like many before him, including OOIDA founder and President Jim Johnston, regular folks like Michael are speaking up on behalf of professional truck drivers and their Association.

In February, Michael received an invitation to a transportation roundtable hosted by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-CA, and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. It was time to leave his comfort zone and get into the discussion.

“This is really the first experience I’ve had with something of this magnitude,” Michael said.

“It was very educational, to say the least. My thing is, I’ve never been very good at public speaking. It was intimidating because there was a lot of news media there because the L.A. mayor was there.”

Michael was able to convey, both in person and later in a letter to Boxer, a point he has always wanted to make about trucking in his home state.

“One of the recommendations I made was about California having a right-lane restriction on trucks. Let the trucks get out into the middle lane,” he said. “People are merging too slow and you have to slow down. If the through trucks could be in the middle lanes we could maintain a constant speed.”

During the roundtable, Michael got to see firsthand what truckers are up against in the form of lobbyists and stakeholders competing for transportation dollars. He said lobbyists from rails and trails were out in full force.

“But it seemed like (Boxer and LaHood) were trying to gather ideas. I think they pretty much already have their ideas on which direction they’re going to go on the highway funding,” he said.

“Sen. Boxer and Ray LaHood get it. They know that freight movement needs to be a big part of the next transportation bill.”

OOIDA leadership first met Michael in Littlerock, CA, during a battle between truckers and the town council over parking.

Michael also spoke well during an hours-of-service listening session hosted by the FMCSA in Los Angeles.

“What is so useful about having members like Michael step forward is it actually puts a name and a face on the issues,” said OOIDA Director of Regulatory Affairs Joe Rajkovacz.

“They’re getting involved in the process. Instead of letting events control them, they are getting involved in trying to control the events.”

Advocacy is not for everyone, but it can be rewarding. Just ask OOIDA Senior Member Danny Schnautz of Pasadena, TX, who has spoken at countless meetings, events and lawmaker shindigs.

“I realize that the driver’s been getting the short end of the stick for quite a while. And unless somebody keeps speaking up, it’s only going to get worse,” he said.

It pays to stay up-to-date on information about groups, lawmakers and their positions to know what you’re up against, he said.

“I need to go in there on target with a message for that group, not just some kind of talking points that would be good for any group,” he said. “If I have a clear factual message that isn’t loaded up with hype and it’s not self-serving, then I’ve found them more eager to listen once I get past the first few sentences and they see that I’m not just trying to take care of myself.”

Danny says every lawmaker and group is different, but they are always courteous and willing to hear him out.  

“Stick with it,” he says. “Just because it starts off and they’re kind of rushing you, quite often – about every time – things settle down and they end up listening.”

So far, so good for Michael Goldstein.

“I’m trying to get a little bit more involved in these things,” he said. “As far as the function as a whole, I learned a lot about how these things work.” LL