Twenty-nine bobtail trucks staged in the wee hours on Constitution Avenue between the Washington Monument and the White House today in an attempt to garner the attention of the President on the electronic logging device mandate. Demonstrators seek a two-year delay, which the H.R. 3282 ELD Extension Act of 2017 would put in place, and, ultimately for many, repeal is the goal.
As noted in yesterday’s report on the Channel 19 blog, Operation Black and Blue organizer and small fleet owner Scott Jordan called today’s efforts in part something of an attempt to approximate a truck show among the tourists, residents and others that are commonly throughout the area, something another group of around 11 trucks had been engaged in both Wednesday and Thursday — most of that contingent, including one among protest leaders in Mintu Pandher, left this morning before today’s activities began.
So far, overall the groups have been unsuccessful in garnering anything other than local or niche press coverage around the nation, and that appeared to be the case thus far this morning when Overdrive‘s Carolyn Magner was on-site.
The demonstration followed an ongoing push on Capitol Hill to build support for H.R. 3282, which remains at 55 cosponsors as of this morning, and a meeting yesterday with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration officials that gave Scott Reed a “good feeling,” he says. At once, he says “no promises were made” by officials relative to the ELD mandate, where the discussion centered. Participants included Reed and small fleet owner Scott Jordan, Sikh community owner-operator leader Mintu Pandher, trucker John Allen, RTM Transportation independent owner-operator Joe Alfaro (of Las Vegas) and others.
Attendees were invited back for further discussions in the future, however, DOT officials confirm.
Asked about some suggestions in social media that officials offered the coalition of protest groups a formal seat on the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee (MCSAC) of industry stakeholders, safety advocacy groups and law enforcement officials, however, Worthy said that was not the case.
Clearly, however, the groups got DOT Secretary Chao’s attention. The meeting “was informative,” said FMCSA External Affairs Director Sharon Worthy, “for FMCSA and for the visiting group. FMCSA did not offer any seats on the MCSAC. In fact, MCSAC was never mentioned. We [FMCSA] said that we would meet with the group again on future issues.”
Owner-operator Mike Landis, who along with Mintu Pandher and several participating truckers who’d staged on Constitution Avenue Wednesday and Thursday but who left D.C. this morning, says his group, at least, is prepared to return to D.C. if nothing changes relative to FMCSA’s engagement with independent drivers on these issues.
After the meeting House Rep Brian Babin (R-Texas), the sponsor of the ELD Extension Act of 2017, met with truckers outside the DOT headquarters. Today, notes Magner, there was plenty of praise for the Congressman and hope that the truckers’ efforts resulted in the Congressman’s bill’s success.
Owner-operator Alfaro, for his part, echoes a multitude of others in a bedrock concern about the simple cost of doing business in trucking as an independent. “The cost of being in business is growing exponentially,” he says, and the ELD mandate is another part of that. “I’m most worried about the future of this business and how many more costs I may ultimately incur.”
He says he makes this stand not only for the independent truckers but for “independent small business people in general … down to the guy with a kiosk at the mall.”
With all the attention on D.C., an under-reported aspect of the ELD mandate protest events this week has been out west, where many drivers and owner-operators associated with Operation Black and Blue and the Indian-American Sikh community have engaged in demonstrations in Sacramento early in the week, Bakersfield on Wednesday and in a convoy of a number of trucks from Yuba City, Calif., to Fresno, noted Virginia-based owner-operator Deep Singh. “We are not against ELDs” carte blanche, Singh said, rather the mandate coming at a time when there is no accountability in the form of regulation or, he believed, in the marketplace for shippers and receivers at loading docks, among other concerns.
An influx of owner-operators from that community on Wednesday this week well-outnumbered those otherwise participating, Landis estimates, and was probably key in what success has been seen in his view.
More views from the nation’s Capitol from this week follow:
–Carolyn Magner contributed to this report.