Grassroots advocacy, redux — more on last week’s meetings in Congressional offices

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Updated Jan 29, 2018

Earlier this week I spoke to Virginia-based household-goods-hauling owner-operator Dave McCauley about the meeting with Senator Ted Cruz on truckers’ issues around the electronic logging device mandate and the hours of service, among other concerns. McCauley provided the initial engineering behind the meeting, hauls with a Michigan-based Allied Van Lines agent, National Storage, in Kalamazoo, after two decades and some working with a variety of similarly affiliated household-goods agents.

While it’s true there’s been no shortage of public infighting (public on social media, anyway, before whatever moderator scrubs whatever posts we’re talking about, in some cases) among the variety of groups that have organized since this time last year around protest of the ELD mandate — whether disagreements on tactics, squabbles over who gets to take credit for what, or whatever else — McCauley invited along a variety of individuals among different groups to come along for what became a broader roundtable for the meeting with Cruz.

And McCauley takes a broad view of the advocacy efforts, generally, as do many of the individuals involved.

“Anything anybody can do to further the cause is a good thing,” McCauley told me, and that extends from making trips to D.C. to taking meetings with House and Senate members when they’re back in their districts. “I urge people to go to their congressman’s office when they’re home – they’ll have a transportation person there. You can set it up over email,” as he did with the Cruz meeting. “Go talk to these people. They put their pants on the same way we do in the morning. If you’re nervous, take somebody else with you.”

Should you do so, be prepared to propose solutions to problems you raise. The key thing he’s learned, particularly after the Cruz meeting, is that lawmakers “want solutions. If we’re going to do away with the ELD, what are we going to use? Are we going to keep crying about hours and go back to paper logs where everybody can run the way they want to run?”

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Or what else, exactly? As I noted in my prior post about that meeting, as big a topic of discussion as ELDs was the hours of service rule — with some tweaks to it, maybe rigid accounting with ELDs isn’t as big a deal as many feel it is today.

“We gave them all of our complaints” about hours, McCauley says. And Cruz “looks right at us and says, ‘give me solutions’.”

At that meeting, McCauley says solutions that hadn’t been pondered before weren’t on offer exactly, given more flexible splitting of the sleeper berth period to extend the duty day is under study at DOT currently, as I also noted in the prior post. (That doesn’t mean Congress couldn’t decide to just go on and make them make the change, study or not, however unlikely that is.)

McCauley personally favors a return to the pre-14-hour-rule 10 on, 8 off, with flexibility for splitting the off-duty period. “I think the old 10 and 8 is the way to do it,” he says, echoing many Overdrive readers polled about the subject a couple years back toward the “hours of service wish list” I compiled via Channel 19 here. In that poll, in which respondents were asked to name their single most preferred potential hours of service change, around 8 percent most favored such a return to older rules. More, however, took the approach that FMCSA today is attempting to field-test  — aside from removing the 30-minute break, allowing more flexible sleeper splits without a wholesale rewrite of the current rule was the No. 1 most-favored option for hours revision.

Let’s hope FMCSA’s study, currently mired in the Office of Management and Budget approval process, stays on track.

Meanwhile, there are other ideas aplenty — find links to four proposed by members of one of the Facebook groups organized against the mandate in my post from last week Friday.

Wherever you stand, says McCauley, if you’re coming to D.C. to visit your reps, feel free to hit him up for recommendations. He lives in Stafford, Va., right outside Quantico, “nice and easy to get to D.C. I’ve got a sofa I’ve offered” to several drivers, among them owner-operator Joe Alfaro, one of last week’s Cruz meeting attendees.

Speaking of that meeting — the hour-long talk with Cruz wasn’t the only one that took place that day. McCauley and members of the group also visited Senator Deb Fischer’s office and “talked to her transportation guy for a bit,” who took two full pages of notes for the Senator, McCauley says. “We weren’t done there. During that week I’d reached out to the lead transportation guy in Congressman Rob Wittman’s office.” Wittman represents McCauley’s district, Va.-1st. The group talked to an aide to Wittman.

Trucker Shelli Conaway also had a meeting with Senator Rand Paul’s office the day after the Wednesday Cruz meeting. “I went with her,” McCauley says. “We sat with aides about an hour and a half there,” where an informed aide spoke of potential segment-specific rules. The aide felt “heavy haul needed something different than what a reefer might need,” for instance, McCauley says. “It was a good conversation.”

In the end, he paraphrased something trucker/singer-songwriter and ELD or Me group cofounder Tony Justice said on a recent online radio show, something McCauley says he well agreed with though he doesn’t know Justice and has disagreed with him on some points in the past: “It doesn’t matter which Facebook group you’re in, as long as we’re all working toward the same thing.”