Secret shopper strikes OOIDA
Truckers often tell the staff here at OOIDA headquarters, "You should put yourself in my shoes." So we did just that.

By Kerry Evans-Spillman
Land Line staff


During a meeting one morning in the Land Line Magazine “War Room,” we decided to conduct a little experiment. We wanted to know how much we could learn about OOIDA’s benefits and services in one single phone call to our Association headquarters in Grain Valley, MO.

The results were remarkable, but to be expected.

I posed as Mrs. Sally Evans – my mum, who actually does own a Freightliner, although it’s a converted RV and not a functioning freight hauler unless you consider Dad and a few cats “freight.” My accomplice was longtime OOIDA employee Diane Halsey, Assistant Supervisor of our Switchboard Department. My victims were various unsuspecting co-workers who had absolutely no idea what was really happening when they answered the line.

The initial place Diane sent my call was to our Membership Department, which for most first-time OOIDA callers is where to start for an overview of all the Association does. Emily Engleman told me about our lobbyists in DC; member benefits such as truck rebates (eight, count ’em), insurance, and help with getting one’s authority; and receiving Land Line Magazine. Since I was pretending to be new at this, I told her I wanted to know more about truck insurance. Emily was going to be a tough act to follow because she obviously was very knowledgeable about the Association, but I had faith that one of our truck agents would be able to tell me everything I ever wanted to know about properly covering my pretend truck.

After enjoying Mark Reddig’s voice and informative tidbits on our hold “music” for a brief moment, I was connected with Primary Liability Truck Agent Angie Watkins. Angie is the kind of person who takes a trucker’s business seriously, but she’s friendly and helpful at the same time. After discussing what sort of trucking operation I intended to have, she told me what insurance products I would need to be legally insured and to be reasonably protected from loss.

My next stop was Doreen Weakley, a team leader in the Authority Division of the Business Services Department. I bet a lot of you with your own authority have talked to her at one time or another and know how sharp this lady is. She gave me a good explanation of how to get my own authority, the specifics for my state, and an estimate of what it would cost if OOIDA filed my documents for me. She even told me how to save some money by doing certain parts of it myself.

Doreen then connected me with CMCI Customer Service Rep. Kathy Gaines. Kathy broke down the ins and outs of drug testing for me like a seasoned specialist. I had already filled a whole page of notes and I wasn’t even halfway finished with my one phone call.

Previously, Kathy and I spent a couple of years in the same department, which is probably how she busted me by recognizing my voice. Since we already talked about what CMCI could do for me, I went ahead and let her in on the secret – that I was doing an experiment to gain as much info as possible in one call. She agreed to keep up the ruse and sent me to another department, so I could continue my test.

Next I got Joe Greer in Equipment Finance. To my surprise, he told me things I didn’t even know we could do. Did you know we could finance an engine rebuild? Pretty amazing stuff. I was very pleased with the way things were going even if I was annoyed with myself for not knowing we could finance a rebuild. Still, nobody is perfect.

Medical Agent Adam McDonald was the next specimen under my microscope. “Medical” doesn’t begin to describe all the things Adam’s department can do. Individual plans, dental, vision, life, IRAs, occupation accident, accidental death and dismemberment: Those agents can give you details on all of it. That’s impressive.

Last year, the OOIDA Foundation began hosting seminars to help educate owner-operators on all aspects of their business. The program has received such positive feedback that they’re going to continue to hold classes a couple times a year. I wanted to know more about this, so I was connected with JoAnn Vanderlinden in Membership. She told me all I needed to know about these seminars and even offered to put me on a list to receive notification when enrollment for the next class begins.

Then I wanted to talk to someone about a DAC report. JoAnn connected me with Dale Watkins. I don’t think he even had to look up the address for sending a DAC report request. He sounded as if he knew all the specifics off the top of his head.

Dale also explained that Member Assistance can answer my questions about federal regulations, state regulations, certain lawsuits and a number of other trucking topics – sort of like having a “phone a friend” trucking expert. Furthermore, Dale said his department can help me try to collect from a deadbeat broker if I don’t get paid. Too bad we even have to offer this to members, but unfortunately it’s a necessary service.

Finally, I wanted to leave a comment for the folks at Land Line Now. Off to the switchboard I went, where I was assisted by Receptionist Sharon Wheeler. If you’ve contacted us, your call might have been answered by Sharon live and in-person. Unlike most companies, OOIDA has a team of real humans who answer the phones and direct calls with air traffic controller-like precision. They also sometimes serve as a bridge between two departments when one employee needs to connect the caller to someone else at the Association. Sharon helped in just that way by taking my call from Member Assistance and connecting me with the voice mail for Sherry Murry, the Traffic Coordinator in Land Line Now.

Since that was the last stop on my list, I noted the time it took for my trip through some of the various departments here – 37 minutes and 44 seconds. In that time I learned more than I have room to mention here.

If I had been an actual trucker member calling, there’s even more I could have done in a single phone call – like report a broken windshield claim to CTCM, tell the Foundation about hot fuel at a certain location, or ask questions about my medical or truck insurance premiums.

 Where else can a trucker go and take care of so many aspects of his business while at the same time help the fight for his or her rights with one single phone call and a little bit of time? LL