Washington Insider

By Ryan Bowley, OOIDA director of government affairs

I have said before that 2014 was a roller coaster year for truckers in Washington, D.C., and so many policy and media ups and downs made things discouraging at times.

This year is shaping up to be the year where truckers, led by so many active and passionate OOIDA members, are on offense. Not just moving the ball down the field a few yards at a time, but putting together a solid drive.

When truckers take action – telling their stories through emails and phone calls to lawmakers – they achieve victories. Two examples:

There are many steps ahead, but because of thousands of OOIDA members spending a few minutes on FightingforTruckers.com, the Congress is poised to take action that will hopefully halt the push to arbitrarily increase insurance requirements.

Truckers weighed in. When the votes were counted on an amendment by former trial lawyer and current U.S. House Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Pa., to give the FMCSA the green light to move forward with the increase, truckers won a huge victory.

The margin of that vote – more than 70 – was larger than any trucking-related vote in the past few years. Just a year ago, the margin was two. That does not happen by chance.

It happens because we had the facts on our side, but facts are meaningless if they are not being communicated by the right people and in the right way. And so truckers across the country talked from the heart about how the issue affected their business and their families.

The same holds true for the issue of bringing reforms to the FMCSA and the CSA program, where action by OOIDA members – including several one-on-one meetings between OOIDA members and lawmakers and their staffers – have made a real difference.

Truckers came to lawmakers like Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., and Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., and raised the real problems that exist with the FMCSA’s regulations and regulatory process, including the Compliance, Safety, Accountability program, CSA.

But it has not just been a handful of truckers here and there. It has been a long-standing effort with (again) thousands of truckers engaged by writing emails through FightingforTruckers.com and making phone calls.

That means that when the D.C. staff talks with a lawmaker’s office about the bills these two lawmakers have introduced, the office already knows that they have voters back home who support OOIDA’s position. That is how truckers, and OOIDA as an organization, have influence here in Washington, D.C.

While I mention the thousands of active and engaged OOIDA members and other truckers, there are many others who have not taken the next step to help make sure that small-business truckers are not on the menu when the FMCSA, the mega fleets and the trial lawyers come up with their latest idea for a new regulation or a new cost.

Simply put, we are going to need as many truckers making the phone calls and sending the emails through the rest of the calendar year and beyond. After years of slow action, Congress is speeding up, knowing that the rest of this year and early next represent the last opportunity to pass major legislation before the 2016 election.

A highway bill, appropriations bills, FMCSA reforms, HOS changes, tolling, highway funding – these issues and more are on the agenda, and we need everyone suited up with their helmets on and ready for the next play.

Close readers of the Washington Insider might remember that I have used the football analogy before, talking about how we are fighting for “inches” here in D.C.

We are still fighting for those inches, but with every first down a touchdown becomes more realistic, as does a game in the win column.

But to get there, we need to make sure everyone, including folks who right now haven’t gotten in the game, is in the huddle and fighting. LL