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Todd Dills

It’s the little things: ELD conversations where it matters short- and long-term, on Capitol Hill

| October 03, 2017

Are you participating in ELD mandate protest efforts this week?

Results above current as of 4 p.m. Central, 10/3/2017.

I rolled out to Washington, D.C., with the non-virtual ELD or Me crew — those traveling from the Doswell Truck Stop to the nation’s capitol were a group of around 20 drivers, ultimately, this morning, with others hanging back at the truck stop (local media paid a visit there around noon) and with others I know planning to arrive as the week goes on. It’s a sort of Internet-meets-reality for a Facebook group with more than 17,000 members. But hey, it’s the little things, as Tony Justice is fond of saying — or rather, if not saying exactly, certainly expressing the sentiment — that often turn big corners you don’t expect.

It was a particularly early morning for Justice and group members Rob Hallahan and Brian Bucenell, among others who were awake when Justice arrived at midnight — and still awake after a two-three hour process, including trailer ramp hydraulics malfunctions, getting the four passenger vans they rented to ferry folks to and from D.C. unloaded.

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An original founding member, Scott Reed, staged closer to D.C. with another trucker, both with meetings with House members on their schedules today intended to build support for the H.R. 3282 ELD delay bill in the House.

The group coming in from Doswell called something of audible. After tentative planning all along to demonstrate near the White House, events have intervened, taking the President today to the devastation in Puerto Rico, tomorrow to the scene of the horror in Las Vegas. After a slow process of fighting the gridlock coming in, then getting their bearings straight, by 10 a.m. about half of the group had positioned outside the place where influence on the delay bill is most urgently needed — outside the Rayburn Office Building where House Reps and their staffers have their offices.

When I first made the scene and took this picture, Justice (with sign) didn’t realize (and neither did I, frankly) he was standing beneath a statue depicting the “Spirit of Justice,” as the engraving above his head here reads. On the other side, flanking the steps on the right up to the entrance to the Rayburn building, is the “Majesty of Law” — the marble statues were sculpted by C. Paul Jennewein .

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It’s fairly amazing how standing around holding a sign or a flyer inspires substantive conversation in this particular spot. As staffers and Reps came and went, a multitude of discussions happened, and among others (owner-operators Lee and Lisa Schmitt, Buck Hartley, Scott Bradley and more) going in and out of the building for further meetings Justice ultimately happened to run into a staff member of his Rep in the area around Knoxville, Tenn., John Duncan. He called a contact he’d made in Duncan’s office in past and went in to meet with him — the staffer said Duncan was pretty well tied up with other meetings today.

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About the staffer, Justice said, “he has a very close friend who’s an independent owner-operator, and he understands that one size doesn’t fit all. After we were walking out, from that meeting [with the staffer], we ran right into Congressman Duncan,” Justice says. “I asked him to look into supporting H.R. 3282. I got a little more of a chance to explain to him how it affects us as drivers, and I really think he listened. They don’t know our jobs, they don’t really know what they’re voting on half the time.” And he says to anyone who would discount the personal touch in these things. “It’s kind of like the music business or any business, you just keep chipping and chipping away. You do everything you can do with the knowledge the good Lord gave you. You show up, and just see if the stars line up, and sometimes you’re successful.”

Tony Justice with Congressman John Duncan (R-Tenn.)

Huntington, W.Va.-based owner-operator Riley Clay has meetings with both of his Senators in W.Va. lined up for tomorrow, among others. Clay, 61, is mulling taking early Social Security next year when he turns 62 if the mandate goes through, but he hasn’t ruled out keeping on trucking. He stresses his reason for being in D.C. as a sense of responsibility for preserving traditions and privacy for the next generation of truckers coming up — “I’m not here for me. I’m just about done with this stuff. I’m here for the future guys,” he says.

Reed’s work inside today included 100-plus drop-ins at Congressional offices and meetings with both Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and his own Congressman, Republican Jim Jordan of Ohio, both members of the House Freedom Caucus — the latter of whom, as I reported previously, voted against the amendment to the recent appropriations bill that would have delayed the mandate for a year. Reed reported good results on the potential for both reps to cosponsor the stand-alone ELD Extension Act of 2017.

From the pickup of Riley Clay as half of the group searched for parking — the flyer is one members handed out to anyone they talked to.

Operation Black and Blue early today shared information calling for their members and fellow travelers to gather in the area near the Ellipse from 7 a.m. on, between the Washington Monument and the White House on the other end of the National Mall — that call extends through Wednesday and Thursday as well.

How are you participating in the protest efforts, or not? If you’re reading on a smartphone, tap the image to call and leave us a message to weigh in with your story. If you’re on a desktop, call 530-408-6423. Make sure to tell us your name and state of residence.

A group of what looked to be around 30-40 trucks or more had been staged in Hagerstown, Md., judging by a live video posted by the Black and Blue group this morning. In general, though they’re on either side of the Mall and D.C. as yet, in their staging areas, both groups are after the same goal: bolstering the ELD delay bill and desiring, ultimately, a more full repeal. I did see one Operation-festooned car looking for parking around 2 p.m., but I didn’t get to the Ellipse area today. I plan to tomorrow.

Meantime, stay tuned for more.

POLL: Are you participating in ELD-mandate protest efforts kicking off this week?

Having been promoted for a start date of Tuesday, Oct. 3, various protest actions against the mandate for truckers to use electronic logging devices are ...

Update: After I posted this I began to see videos on Facebook of a Black and Blue parade (bobtail) through D.C. (Few participants, reportedly, made it to the Ellipsis.) Plans for the group apparently shifted and their Ellipsis gathering may be off the next days. Tune in to ELD or Me’s Facebook group or the Operation group’s for their plans for the next few days.

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