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OOIDA board meets
In setting a course of action for 2014, the OOIDA Board of Directors got a complete rundown on Association business, was briefed by the D.C. crew, and heard an earful from the Association’s litigation counsel. To an aggressive list of strategies, the board said “go for it.”

By Sandi Soendker, editor-in-chief

OIDA Board of Directors, officers, the Association’s D.C. crew, litigation counsel and a slate of working staffers gathered in April at the Association’s Grain Valley, Mo., headquarters to conduct old business, as well as new business, and nail down current strategies to advance the Association’s priorities.

In OOIDA President and CEO Jim Johnston’s opening statements to the board, he emphasized that 2014 has potential to bring opportunity for truckers willing to be involved. He commended the many board members who commented, testified and met with lawmakers this year on behalf of the membership.

“And rest assured you’ll be called on again,” he said, “because truckers are the real experts.”

The need for Congress to pass a highway bill was a topic that naturally dominated much of the talk time.

“We think the highway bill is the best way, the only way, to pursue the big ticket items that are our objectives,” said OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer.

“There are major issues on the table we can address in a highway bill,” added Spencer. “Among those is entry-level driver training. It needs to be a mandate. And we need to fix some critical problems within the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.”

OOIDA’s Director of Government Affairs Ryan Bowley said FMCSA needs to be overhauled, partly because the agency is not an advocate for the transportation industries it regulates.

“Within the DOT, other agencies are partners with the businesses that make up their mode of transportation,” said Bowley. “When FMCSA was created, Congress set their priorities as enforcement and compliance, setting up what could be called today’s often adversarial relationship.  Railroads have a voice within the walls of DOT, and transit has a strong advocate with the Federal Transit Administration. Outside of a few folks within the Highway Administration’s freight office, there isn’t an advocate within DOT for the truckers – truckers who move the lion’s share of the nation’s goods.”

Agenda
Spencer updated the board on the Association’s legislative affairs. Bowley and Director of Legislative Affairs Ben Siegrist reported on the Association’s government affairs agenda. One of the agenda topics – the proposal to increase minimum insurance levels – set the board room “on fire,” as one board member said.

FMCSA has been required by Congress in MAP-21 to do a study to determine whether the current $750,000 minimum liability insurance required to be held by carriers is too low. In late April, the agency said it plans to create a rule upping that minimum, prompting a resounding “no way” from OOIDA.

“It would be a win-win for attorneys on both sides and a lose-lose for everyone else,” said Spencer.

Some fervent supporters like a select group of large carriers that calls itself the Trucking Alliance say it will “level the playing field.”

“When they say level the playing field, think Hiroshima,” said Spencer, “because that’s the level they are talking about.”

ELDs, speed limiters, the regulation on driver coercion and detention time were among the topics that claimed top spots. Other issues on OOIDA’s radar include policies on sleep apnea, fuel efficiency standards for heavy trucks, and the capacity of the Medical Examiner Registry to adequately handle the DOT-physical needs of the nation’s commercial drivers. He said FMCSA is under heavy fire but moving forward with hours of service, CSA and more.

Bowley described the current political landscape in Washington D.C. as a shifting battlefield as the nation’s capital digs in for 2014 midterms.

“Everything in D.C. is about the next election,” he said. “And that starts the day after the old election.”

“In the transportation world, of course, the $64,000 question is will the Highway Trust Fund be out of money and, if so, what will happen,” he said.

Litigation report
OOIDA’s litigation counsel Paul Cullen Sr. of The Cullen Law Firm, Washington, D.C., attended the meeting to provide board members with an update on OOIDA’s litigation efforts against motor carriers, the FMCSA and some state taxing authorities. He updated the board on a slate of lawsuits currently active and several that the Cullen Law Firm and OOIDA are now considering.

Cullen also updated the board on OOIDA v. New York, a case against that state’s taxing authority. In April, OOIDA filed for class certification. The lawsuit challenges certain highway taxes as unconstitutional and discriminatory against out-of-state truckers who have paid the taxes in order to do business in New York.

In OOIDA v. Comerica on March 20, 2012, a federal court in Columbus, Ohio, ruled in OOIDA’s favor and awarded the class $5.5 million, but the case has not seen closure due to an appeal by Comerica.

Daniel Cohen of the Cullen Law Firm is the lead attorney in OOIDA v. CARB.  The Association challenged CARB’s rule that requires trucks from other states to be upgraded in order to do business in California, claiming it is a violation of the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Cohen reported via conference call that the case was going through various motions and he expected a motion to dismiss from the Air Resources Board to be the next move on CARB’s part.