‘Truckers to Shut Down America’ viral meme keeps moving

| September 24, 2013

In what seems to have started with a Facebook page launched by Florida resident Zeeda Andrews (aka Zeeda Hutton), a self-described “former country singer” with little connection to trucking other than long past truck-stop performances, an October 11-13 nationwide shutdown and concurrent convoy to the nation’s capitol drifted toward what could be called a mini semblance of organization over this past weekend.

Andrews appeared Saturday, Sept. 21, on an online radio show hosted by online radio host Pete Santilli at the site of the “Guerilla Media Network.” Santilli is the owner of the Ride for the Constitution.org site, which claims to be a central place for information on the Oct. 11-13 events, and his Guerilla Media site is now playing host to a daily online radio show hosted by Andrews centered around the notion of a driver shutdown. (The “Truckers to Shutdown America” Facebook page that launched the meme was either shut down itself or removed between Saturday and today; rumors that it was pulled by Facebook and not deleted by the owners were unable to be confirmed. A new page has popped up in the interim here.

Overdrive‘s attempts to contact Andrews directly went unresponded to before the first version of this story appeared on September 24. Andrews posted in commentary under the story developments to a list of demands she was putting together (also posted to the newer Truckers Ride for the Constitution Facebook page). As of this writing, they were largely centered on efforts to roll back various perceived regulatory and business encroachments on trucking business viability, including:

1) Environmental regulations “forcing the industry to put unproven technology in new trucks just to reduce emissions.” 

2) Federal allowance of “states, municipalities and businesses to pass anti-idling laws” making federally mandated rest ever more difficult to achieve in-cab.

3) Insurance companies not covering “trucking companies that don’t install in their trucks expensive logging software, GPS, and communications devices … thereby pushing independent truck drivers out of business because they can’t compete.” 

4) Attempts to “push legislation through that requires the independents to carry $1 million bond in addition to the insurance.”

5) The Affordable Care Act’s potential ripple effects “causing trucking companies to keep drivers’ hours below 30 hours … as they can’t afford the insurance increases.”

On Santilli’s show over the weekend, in addition to an ongoing concern over fuel prices, Andrews claimed a broad goal of “restoring our Constitution” for any shutdown or action. “The people that can’t get out there” for a convoy to D.C. on October 11, Andrews said, “can simply do nothing. Prepare yourself for it – no commerce, no banking, no shopping. Enjoy your family that day. We’ll encourage everybody to assemble peacefully” wherever they are, she added. 

A flyer hosted at RidefortheConstitution.org directs readers back to another site owned by online talk show host Pete Santilli -- text of the flyer begins with "Independent Truckers of America are essentially operating on slave wages..." Click through the image to read the text in full. For a decade, though income has been somewhat stagnant measured against inflation, average take-home for owner-operators in the United States has tracked around or above $50,000 yearly in Overdrive's surveys, and recent ATBS client data showed an overall $52/year average.

A flyer hosted at RidefortheConstitution.org directs readers back to another site owned by online talk show host Pete Santilli — text of the flyer begins with “Independent Truckers of America are essentially operating on slave wages…” Click through the image to read the text in full. For a decade, though income has been somewhat stagnant measured against inflation, average take-home for owner-operators in the United States has tracked around or above $50,000 yearly in Overdrive’s surveys, and recent ATBS client data showed an overall $52K/year average, hardly “slave wages.”

Callers into the Saturday edition of the show, including owner-operator William McKelvie, stressed that any action taken in the name of truckers needed to stress real-world trucking issues — from problems stemming from the new hours of service to CSA’s crash accountability problem and, generally, over-regulation and overreach by Anne Ferro’s FMCSA — not just broad concerns with generalized misdirection in government. “Our concern is that our issues will not be heard,” McKelvie noted.

Commenters far and wide around the web from the trucking community reflected such sentiment, if not objecting to the notion of a shutdown or “general strike” categorically. Many were keenly interested in the idea: Overdrive has seen numerous queries as to the validity of the called-for action since it started making its way around the web last week. 

For the first time this weekend, Andrews, with Santilli, named a date and place for the start  of a convoy, mentioning a planned rally Oct. 10 at the TravelCenters of America location on Lewiston Rd. in Ashland, Va. Prior to that, no mention of logistical details had been made, and little else emerged from nearly three hours of discussion Saturday on Santilli’s show. As Land Line writer Jami Jones put it in her dissection of the issues here, “the details of when and where are sketchy. No idea if permits have been applied for or if the group even understands the logistical nightmare of getting a tractor-trailer combination into the Washington, D.C., area. Much less near the Capitol or White House.”

Efforts are being made, however. A call placed to the mentioned TA location from an organizer had been made days ago, store manager Jay Farley said the morning of September 24. He referred the caller to TravelCenters of America’s corporate office. TA’s Tom Liutkus told Overdrive this morning that no rally will be hosted at the Ashland location on October 10 and that organizers would have to look for another, more public location to assemble. 

Also over the weekend, the Huffington Post ran this item on the virality of the former “Truckers to Shut Down America” Facebook page, which at its height had generated more than 77,000 likes in the course of just several days. In the Huffington Post piece, Sean McNally of the American Trucking Associations disavowed any rumored association of his organization with the shutdown effort. Andrews had quoted the ATA’s 2006 “When Trucks Stop, America Stops” white paper on what would happen if an act of terrorism or other emergency shut down the trucking industry.

That paper also inspired in part this fictional story — about a government-mandated emergency shutdown — which first appeared in Truckers News in the year 2008. 

 

The numerous owner-operator shutdowns of the 1970s were mentioned in historical context in this “Breaking Free” feature on owner-operator business history in our 2011 50th anniversary issue

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