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.