Outreach to immigrant communities among truckers should be a top priority of owner-op organizations

The author of this letter, Ernest Tufft, owns and operates California-based Tough Trucking.


truck at portCalifornia leads the nation for many issues, from safety to emissions, and it has the largest number of owner operators—many of whom are immigrants.

Now, I belong to OOIDA, but I don’t see this Midwestern organization having much clout because the lobbyists are recruited from conservative GOP staffers. Also, Midwestern politics has a chokehold on the organization, with a majority of the board members coming from there.  So, while owner-operators in California are challenged by inequity, facing big fleet-controlled organizations like the California Trucking Association, and are challenged by implementing new emissions systems, by higher fuel taxes, and by a lack of parking spaces, OOIDA lives in it’s Midwestern dream world, trying to apply old-fashioned logic to California’s futuristic agenda.

This industry is dominated by owner-operators, fleet owners and drivers who would participate more fully if OOIDA’s magazine (Land Line), and Overdrive for that matter, were published in Spanish, Punjabi, or even Russian. While English continues to be the language of business, OOIDA faces a fundamental problem of becoming irrelevant. Going to trucker trade shows in search of new members won’t provide the sort of membership that impresses the California Air Resources Board or Department of Transportation meetings OOIDA lobbyists attend.

Another issue is the tendency to put on the blinders and take a “my way or the highway” approach to dealing with CARB or DOT. OOIDA doesn’t appear to fund much in the way of its own research. These member surveys are not enough. OOIDA needs to put some money into quality university research programs that investigate how, for example, transit and highway funding interact. As it is now, OOIDA seems to assume that if the tax dollar isn’t spend on paving over potholes and fixing bridges, then it’s a dollar taken away from the trucks on the highways. In reality, we know that transit systems do reduce urban highway congestion, and that even spending money on local feeder transit to rail transit has the potential of eliminating commuter traffic truckers deal with daily.

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Opinions are cheap, but research is not. I’m a busy driver, so don’t ask me to do this, but OOIDA needs to stop belly-aching and start putting membership drive efforts into enrolling the vast immigrant driver population, to encourage this population to raise their expectations of wages and working conditions, as a way to stabilize the marketplace for workers like me. –Owner-operator Ernest Tufft

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