Normally, what happens in late March in Louisville, Ky., occupies the attention of the trucking industry for that week.
However, this year, while the Mid-America Trucking Show was underway, something else grabbed the headlines.
Two tractor-trailers pulled up in front of the Truman balcony on the White House, and officials of the American Trucking Association met with President Donald Trump.
The most frequent question I heard at Mid-America this year was this: Where was OOIDA? Why weren’t they there as well?
So let me answer that.
First, this was an event set up by ATA. And it was actually connected to the Republican health care bill that failed over that weekend, an attempt to show another industry that could benefit from the president’s plan.
Todd Spencer, OOIDA executive vice president, told a group of us recently that OOIDA did not consider health care policy as core to the Association’s mission. In short, we’re a trucking organization that represents individual truck drivers on issues specific to that industry.
And while the Association would not be interested in that event for that reason, they are glad to work with the administration now and at any time in the future to improve a host of problems plaguing the industry.
For my part, in talking with a few truckers who asked me about it at MATS, I had a different take.
First, from an outside, general public perspective, the event may have promoted a better image of trucking, which is a good thing. And in my world of “credit where credit is due,” the folks at ATA who put this together did a good job, and deserve a proverbial pat on the back from the folks they work for.
And while the trucking executives in attendance did get a few minutes with the president to discuss health care (again, not the pressing issues in trucking, but health care), the fact is, the main result of the event (in terms of mainstream media coverage) is a picture of the president honking a truck horn.
While this was being planned and going on, OOIDA’s government affairs staff was earning their pats on the back as well.
They were earning their salt through their successful effort to end the much-derided once-a-week requirement and the two mandatory 1 to 5 a.m. periods from the 34-hour restart rule.
They were also taking a victory lap on the elimination of the Safety Fitness Determination rule, which would have used points and ratings from the widely discredited CSA system to rate the safety of small-business motor carriers and determine whether they would be pulled off the road.
OOIDA’s staffers were not getting pictures. They were working within the halls of government, in the offices of U.S. representatives and senators, at the regulatory agencies, working to fix the many problems that beset truck drivers every single day.
They were also working with state governments across the country to stop outrageous bills charged to truckers for non-consensual tows, eliminating or preventing split speed limits and more.
They were developing and then announcing a campaign titled “Knock Out Bad Regs,” an effort to identify the regulations that most create problems for truckers and eliminate them from the books.
OK, OOIDA didn’t get the photo op, yet. The ATA scored some PR points.
But in the end, which group got more done that week? Were I to make that bet, my money would be on the folks at OOIDA’s D.C. office. They do the heavy lifting, and they get the important work done.
And in my book, that is what counts.