Washington Insider

By Collin Long, OOIDA DIRECTOR OF LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS

While there is no shortage of action on Capitol Hill right now, there seems to be a significant lull in transportation and trucking-related activities.

Health care, taxes and investigations are grabbing the attention of lawmakers and headlines alike. It almost feels as if critical transportation issues are yet again being spurned in favor of more high-profile matters, but nothing could be further from the truth.

President Trump has made investing in infrastructure a top priority. I certainly don’t need to remind you that our nation’s roads and bridges desperately need a robust investment plan. So, sooner or later, Congress will have to develop legislation that improves our national transportation system.

The downside of infrastructure spending packages is that supplementary items tend to get tacked on and tucked into the legislation. Unfortunately, this is how the proverbial sausage is made in Washington. Think of things like the electronic log mandate and other shortsighted regulatory directives surfacing in past highway bills.

So, while trucking issues aren’t at the forefront of policy discussions at the moment, it’s likely they will be soon. Today is the perfect time to educate lawmakers and staff about what is most important to drivers – creating a sustainably-funded and efficient transportation system, and developing a sensible regulatory environment that supports small businesses.

Many groups, from mega-fleet associations like the American Trucking Associations and Trucking Alliance to so-called safety groups, are promoting their priorities for future infrastructure legislation.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that issues like raising insurance requirements are perpetually on the back burner simply because OOIDA blocked their inclusion in previous bills. These proposals are like Kardashians. No matter how unpopular they are, they never really go away. And like Kardashians, there’s always a new one you didn’t know existed. The anti-trucker agenda never stops.

That’s why it’s so critical for you to take these “lulls” and play a bit of offense. Call your elected officials weekly. Get to know the legislative assistant who handles trucking related policies for your lawmakers.

Legislative assistants are typically young and eager. Most make the move from college directly to Capitol Hill – two locations that are rarely considered the real world. Often, an LA’s knowledge of the day-to-day struggles of small businesses is limited, and familiarity with the trucking industry is virtually nonexistent. That is why it is so important that you share your experience and concerns. They need to understand how the policies advanced by Congress affect you and your family.

You can pick one issue a week. This week is ELDs and the need to delay the regulation because there are just too many problems with the rule. Next week, emission regulations and the problems they’ve caused for your trucks. Week three, talk about speed limiters.

When another group approaches them to talk about how speed limiters will make our roads infinitely safer, they may remember a story you shared involving a 15-mile backup with four-wheelers whipping around trucks in a road rage-fueled frenzy, and question the effectiveness of limiting a truck’s speed. They may even pick up the phone and call you for more insight.

Think of it from an “Art of War” perspective.

The best time to plan an attack isn’t in the middle of a battle; it’s during the lulls. When Congress isn’t in the throes of negotiating a new bill, that’s the time to strike. Waiting to see what gets dropped in the hopper puts you in an automatic position of playing defense.

The administration is very clear that it wants regulatory reform and infrastructure investment. The time has never been more perfect for the voice of actual truck drivers to be heard loud and clear in the halls of Congress.

We have plenty of resources for you to pull from on FightingForTruckers.com. Feel free to use the talking points and even the “email your lawmaker” function if you prefer to write rather than talk on the phone.

Let’s go on the offense together. The time is right. LL