Notes on having notes

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So the meeting with Senator Portman’s Southwest District Director, Connie Laug, ended up being a phone conference, because she couldn’t make it to our area the day we had scheduled, and it was a huge relief for me, even though she seemed genuinely apologetic about it.

(I don’t think she read the piece about my anxiety over Rottweiler-head. That’s probably a good thing. Or maybe she did and decided I might need to be screened before a face-to face. I’m so glad I didn’t think about that before she called.)

Her punctuality caught me off guard, which is also a good thing, since I might over-prepare a little sometimes, and get “wordy,” and start saying “You know?” and “So anyway” a lot. You know? So anyway, she called at 2 p.m. on the dot, and I didn’t have time to do much but appreciate the fact that someone on earth has a consideration for other people’s time before we got into a pretty easy conversation about some of the most pressing concerns we have as small business trucking company owners in the State of Ohio.

(Side note: “Concerns of a small business trucking family” is the title of the request for an audience I sent to Senator Portman, via his website, which is how we got an appointment to be heard. I don’t know if every Senatorial website has this option, but look for it. I can’t speak for your state, but ours was pretty quick to answer.)

Stuart Smalley 2017 06 28 09 04Make no mistake, Connie Laug is an exceptionally busy person, and Senator Portman has about six million dumpster fires to put out right now, so this conversation wasn’t a casual chat. She had specific questions, and thank the dear Lord and OOIDA, I had answers, along with paper to forward her, backing up the information we presented to her. I cannot stress to you how important it is to be able to back up your information with numbers when you talk to the representatives. They’re not so much concerned about how you “feel” about something as they are concerned about being able to lay a piece of paper on the table and point to numbers and say, THIS, when they’re making a case for whatever they’re making a case for in front of their peers.

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Here are a few things I took away from the call.

I hate to be redundant, but numbers matter. The most specific questions asked were about cost and how the burden of regulation affects it. This is a big, hairy deal in the present political climate, and it’s finally getting some attention. Use it.

Stick to a specific issue and know what it is. It’s very easy for a conversation about the upcoming ELD reg to stray into hours of service problems. It’s important to make the clear statement that one is intrinsically involved with the other, but they are separate regs and issues. The fact that the two cannot be used lawfully together by each variety of trucking due to the lack of flexibility in the HOS, and will require multiple exemptions – which puts an undue burden on DOT enforcement, seems to be of high interest in our particular state.

Be prepared. Don’t be prepared like weirdo me, and say “You know?” and “So anyway” a lot. You know? So anyway, there are a ton of resources, right at your little fingertips, you can prepare with. If you’re a member of OOIDA, you can call them up and they’ll help you find what you’re looking for. I have been told more than one story about “the good old days,” when members would make a weekly call to plan their letter or phone calls to their representatives. That’s still a thing, y’all. There’s also a website, that writes the dang letter for you. I mean, it really can’t get much easier.

There are a lot of people involved in the process of getting the information on the desk of the player. The things we presented will be forwarded to the Transportation Adviser in DC, and he’ll most likely be the next person we talk to, either face to face, or on the phone. I feel pretty certain the TA is well aware of these issues, but again, numbers are important. Truck driving is one of the most common jobs in the state of Ohio. This is an issue that will affect a lot of people within the constituency. If that’s the case in your state, it never hurts to mention it.

I know a lot of people have professed to be tired of writing letters, which I find curious, because the number or people publicly declaring so double the number of responses made when ELD comments were open, making it statistically impossible for more than half of those who are so “tired” to have made a comment. Even I can math that much.

Numbers aside, I’m going to encourage each and every one of those who are concerned enough to take to Facebook to either keep on writing those letters and making the calls, or start following through with letters and calls to the appropriate places, instead of wasting time fighting with each other on Facebook.

I firmly believe enough interest can be generated to get the ELD law delayed until the hours of service rules can be amended, but it’s going to require sticking to the point and being very specific about what the point is, and it’s going to require numbers of people to direct their concerns in the correct places.

In the infamous words of Stuart Smalley, “You can do this. You’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and by golly, people like you.”

(OK, I realize the “people like you” thing isn’t entirely true — people don’t generally have an affinity for trucking, but they sure as hell like what you bring them. And I like truckers. So there’s that.)