Truckers urged to use social media

| October 17, 2011

Ultimate Marketing CEO Landon Middleton presented at the convention on using Facebook fan pages to network and promote businesses and causes. (Photo Todd Dills)

Truckers can use social media to have their voices heard in fighting federal regulations, said Trans Products/Trans Services Regulatory Manager Rich Wilson, at a panel discussion at the first annual Truck Driver Social Media Convention Oct. 15 in Tunica, Miss.

“Fight the bureaucrats with bureaucracy,” Wilson said in responding to driver frustration with numerous new rules from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and a feeling of powerlessness to do anything about them.

“There are 13 million voices in the United States with CDLs in their back pocket,” Wilson said. “Get enough people in there and start talking” and drivers could have a measurable effect on regulatory planning.

The convention, organized by Allen and Donna Smith of the Truth About Trucking organization, attracted approximately 200 drivers, owner-operators and industry participants.

Communication and networking tools can be effective in spreading a message, promoting a business and sharing information, said Landon Middleton, CEO of Ultimate Marketing Solutions, who manages social media campaigns for Truckers Matter advocacy group. “Facebook is where people are choosing to do life with each other,” he said, citing statistics that showed the online social site accounts for 15 percent of all world Internet traffic. “As a business owner, or someone with a passionate message, doesn’t it make sense that I take advantage of that?”

Use it and other tools to distribute and gather information, Wilson said. “Power is intelligent knowledge,” he said, “making your point in the right place.”

Keep informed on proposed regulations by subscribing to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration notifications of meetings. When you can, go to the public meetings and make your point of view heard. More drivers are needed there, he said.

He gave the example of a recent meeting of the FMCSA’s Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee, where he saw that the committee is “80 percent truck enforcement people. There are no truck drivers on that committee.” In the meeting, a law enforcement representative proposed to require drivers utilizing electronic on-board recorders to have paper logs to fill out an eight-day history manually because he simply didn’t want to have to lean over a driver to check the on-screen log.

On new regs, read rule proposals and the trade press and consider fellow drivers’ points of view. “The federal government will listen when we know how to put our words into comments in the right way,” Wilson said.

FMCSA is required by law to consider every comment submitted, he pointed out. It’s important to individualize your comment as much as possible. Ask yourself, “how will it affect you?” Wilson said. “Give examples of cost, expenditures…cover all the bases in a very small area.”

Driver comments will make a difference. “Just look at the current hours-of-service revision,” Wilson said. “It was supposed to go into effect in July. The Office of Management and Budget was so overflowed with comments that they had to hire private contractors to sort through them. They’d never had so many comments on a proposed rulemaking in the history of the FMCSA.”

On the federal docket, as on Facebook, said Middleton. “Be careful what you say. The key is to avoid ‘the big mistake’ ” of making it “a one-way communication.” Facebook should be used to network and promote businesses and causes and to create a back-and-forth dialog, but “too many people get on Facebook and do a lot of shouting,” he added.

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  • John S

    Sorry to disagree but the lack of unity in trucking does not say to me that we can stop anything. Trucking unity is even worse now then when deregulation hit in the 80s. Even trucking companies on not fighting anything. I am never for shut downs but if you want people in Government to take notice. Protesting gets you the most exposure. Because then you get media exposure.

  • Todd Dills

    John, Thanks for the thoughts, and that very lack of unity among drivers/owner-operators was a subject brought up at the convention. Nobody said regulatory influence to the benefit of the driver would be an easy, straight path, of course.

    As for engagement in the rule-making process, Rich Wilson speaks from hard experience when he conjures an image of what would happen if even a tiny fraction of the millions of CDL holders showed up for Washington meetings on potential new rules, to recommend such engagement. He prefers that than shutdowns and protests, as he was out there shutting down with so many in 1979, as an owner-operator, the biggest result for him being that some other carriers in the area called on his and others’ shippers while they were protesting, to take their freight. Also, in today’s world, as mainstream media outlets are fractured and spread ever thinner, it’s an open question as to whether drivers can even count on that.

    Engagement in the rulemaking process, utilizing the tools available to communicate viewpoints among the driver core, may well be the best option for having a real impact on the regs. In any case, thanks for reading and commenting. Feel free to email me anytime with story ideas/views: Or just comment here.

  • Allen Smith

    I agree with John about the lack of unity in trucking, especially among drivers. However, this very first convention achieved one of its primary goals, and that is media exposure.

    Bloomberg Businessweek and a freelance journalist for the NY Times were on hand to cover the event, along with Challenge Magazine, Truckers News and of course, Overdrive Magazine.

    This annual event will work toward uniting drivers as they once were decades ago. It will not happen with just one event, but I am hopeful that we will see this take place in future annual conventions.

    As this convention grows, so will media exposure for drivers.

  • Todd Dills

    Thanks for the thoughts, Allen. Have BusinessWeek or the Times published anything as yet? strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.