Be heard: Engage your representatives directly

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This editorial’s author, retired owner-operator Mike McRae, hails from Elkins, W.Va.This editorial’s author, retired owner-operator Mike McRae, hails from Elkins, W.Va.

As we approach the mid-term election we find ourselves hearing from all of the advocacy groups and Congress as to just what to do about the trucking industry. Congress has just kicked the long-term funding bill into next year as it’s a hot potato to talk taxes during an election year. We have groups calling for stricter regulations because trucks are killers. Congress and the DOT still can not get the hours of service right as the fight still goes on over the 34-hour restart. These are just a few issues, and another that has been coming back is the need for states to do more to protect truckers who are on their breaks from those who feel the need to rob and kill them.

In among all of this are lawsuits against carriers/leasing companies who wrongfully or fraudulently charged fees to owner-operators, among various cases brought by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. On top of that, throw in all the normal B.S. that floats around any truck stop at any counter in Anywhere, USA, and you have a mix for an industry that runs more on rumor than fact. Oh yes, there is some truth tied into the stories that you hear. But for the most part, if you are well-informed you know that it is just that, B.S.

The industry needs to approach the most important things that have direct effects on this industry. For one, the long-term funding of a highway bill that has teeth in it and can generate funds for the future of our infrastructure system. Also, take on the expensive rule changes in hours and e-logs. There needs to be an end game for this e-log mandate, and help for those that need funding for the equipment for their truck — or trucks for small fleets. Also, we need to throw in the CSA review and how it affects you or your company if you’re a small fleet owner. This has the most effect on how you will be able to do business, as shippers and receivers are looking at that score to choose who they use to haul their products.

Now you may think that you have all your bases covered, and that most of these are just out of your control, but you’re wrong. If Congress goes along with raising the fuel tax, then we all are going to be on the receiving end of this. As I know, fuel taxes are the easiest way to collect the funds needed for the Highway Trust Fund, and have been for a long time, but my question is, is it sustainable? Or will Congress and the DOT going to come up with new devices for funding?

I have found that for the trucker who wants to get involved and wants their voice heard you get to know your state-level representatives and national congressmen. It doesn’t take much to do this. Show up at an event where they might be speaking and walk up and shake their hand. Use a few words to let them know that you have some things that are bothering you and take a few minutes to explain to them what might have you steamed. Don’t go on a tirade, just explain that you and other drivers have this complaint, and you would like them to look into it. You may not get the reaction from them that you’re expecting. But if you’re asked to go into detail, make sure you have your facts straight and only speak to the problem you would like them to help with. If he or she asks for you to give them more information on this problem, make sure you have it. This is your chance to speak, and it may be the only chance you have to get them informed on the issue that needs their attention.

The reason I put these ideas together is I have used this very same approach and got my issue heard. I live in West Virginia, and a few years ago our state was going to raise the weight limits on some trucks that haul coal and lumber. This was going to cut into our state’s heavy haul industry, which has to purchase permits if we are going to move anything that is high, wide or otherwise over-dimensional. Our group got together and put together a petition and went to the capitol. We took the time to speak to the committee on highway funding and WVDOT. As a result of our efforts, the state was able to enact a bill that only covered haul roads that these companies were using to get their coal to the rail siding or the lumber to the mill, and the trucking companies had to pay for the permits needed for overweight to transport these goods to their destination. It can be done if you are willing to take the time just to get involved. But if you don’t get involved, then as my dad and grampa would tell me, you don’t have any reason to complain when things are not going the way you think they should.

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