Washington Insider
Things we appreciate: lawmakers who understand trucking

By Ryan S Bowley, Director of Government Affairs

This summer has been a true roller coaster for the trucking world, with highs and lows inside trucking, here in Washington, and across the country. 

During this time, members of the mainstream media have self-appointed themselves experts in everything trucking. They have gone on to write articles and record TV and radio segments about complex issues related to truck safety, hours of service and regulations, with little knowledge about the issues but with a lot of emotional sensation. 

Trucking critics, groups that offer themselves up as “safety advocates,” are right there waiting for the media feeding frenzy, ready to convert any well-intentioned report on the facts into a story about passion. In today’s world of competitive media, passion sells better than truth.

All of this has an impact on the legislative and regulatory world for trucking. Indeed, a list of regulations that are the result of a single high-profile accident would not be a short one. And while many of them do affect safety, good policy is never made when emotion is the driving factor.

When the emotion is high and the passions are up, it is so important that individuals out there turn the world back toward facts and truth.

So many of you have been actively doing just that, as you have written a letter to the editor to your local paper, left a comment to an article, or just talked about the realities of the road with a friend or family member. Your work has an impact here in Washington with lawmakers and their staffers.

Lawmakers have also provided that dose of reality and have focused on turning the debate away from sensationalism. 

The best recent example has been Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and her understanding of the hours-of-service issue. Unlike many others recently, Collins and her staff spent the time, did the research, and heard from truckers and others about the impacts of the hours-of-service regulations. 

Indeed, a lot of what she talked about during a recent floor speech could have been said by a trucker about the restrictive hours-of-service regulations pushing truckers into situations where it becomes more difficult to operate safely.

Other senators followed, including Sen, Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., explaining in clear language the facts and the reality that you and other truckers face every day.

This commitment to reality can be found in the House as well, with lawmakers like Rep. Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., continually raising problems about FMCSA regulation and Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., highlighting the impacts on drivers from hours spent waiting at the dock. 

It’s not possible to list all the lawmakers who “get” trucking, but a lot of it is because of the work you have done to talk about your businesses, about your commitment to safety, and about how wrongheaded regulations and industry practices harm both. 

To see the effects, one only has to look at the debate on hours-of-service in the Senate, the one that pitted the facts against emotional sensationalism.

In just a few days, almost 6,000 individual messages were sent to the Senate by OOIDA members, and hundreds more phone calls were made while you were out on the road. The debate and the discussion in Washington turned away from the passions of the mainstream media and toward the facts and the reality being spread by professional drivers.

The same held true for the recent vote in the U.S. House on the insurance minimums issue, where small-business truckers won an extremely close vote. The calls and emails by OOIDA members and other truckers truly made all the difference. 

The sensation and misinformation that the mainstream media has pushed out about trucking this summer is pretty tough to deal with. But that should serve as a rallying cry to every trucker out there on the road.

Congress – unlike FMCSA – actually has to take facts and the views of truckers into account as it sets policy. The more truckers share those views and facts, the better chance we can halt policymaking based on emotion and clear away the problems that are systemic to FMCSA and today’s truck safety policies. LL