OOIDA’s 2020 Year in Review
December 30, 2020
Even by Washington D.C. standards, 2020 was bizarre.
The COVID-19 pandemic upended everyone’s expectations, redefined “business as usual,” and nearly cratered the economy. And that’s just its impact on trucking.
OOIDA’s executive vice president Lewie Pugh, as well as OOIDA’s director of government affairs Collin Long and director of federal affairs Jay Grimes joined host Mike Matousek on the Wednesday, Dec. 30 broadcast of “Live From Exit 24” to look back on the year that was and to look ahead to what’s next.
Listen to ‘Live From Exit 24’
Despite a lot of difficult factors, the four-member team in OOIDA’s D.C. office managed to get a lot done in 2020. Early on in the pandemic, the District went into a complete shutdown, which included ending in-person meetings with lawmakers and their staffs.
“It’s been weird and wild, and at times exciting and at other times I don’t think we’ve ever been more stressed out having to do this job,” Long said. “In the back of your mind, you know that your members are still out there busting their humps, making sure people are safe and healthy throughout the pandemic. And we certainly knew that we couldn’t give up any of the fight we’ve been making for years just because we’ve come up against some difficult conditions.”
Long said the Association spent a good portion of 2019 laying the groundwork for HR 6104, a bill to provide desperately needed truck parking. The bill was introduced in early March, just weeks before the pandemic turned everything upside down.
When Matousek asked the panel to grade FMCSA’s response to the pandemic, Grimes said the agency deserved “high marks” overall for the way it responded with waivers for hours-of-service, expiring credentials and other relief.
“A lot of times the wheels move slow when it comes to DOT and FMCSA…” he said. “They really acted quickly, had an open dialog with a lot industry stakeholders, and made some commonsense decisions that helped truckers keep the wheels moving and made sure all the critical deliveries were made.”
Not even the pandemic could slow down the pace of regulatory rulemakings, highlighted by the FMCSA’s Sept. 29 rollout of sweeping changes to the hours-of-service. Changes that were initiated at the behest of OOIDA and its membership.
“Our top issue was the implementation of the hours-of-service rulemaking,” Grimes said. “This final rule had some commonsense improvements and more flexibility for drivers in key areas.”
In April, freight rates dropped to historically low levels, putting renewed emphasis on broker transparency.
“(DOT and FMCSA) have never put more attention on it than they have this year,” Grimes said. “That will hopefully be one that continues on through the rulemaking process.”
The biggest thing that hasn’t changed and won’t change is OOIDA’s commitment to fighting for truckers. Another thing that won’t change, Pugh said, is the role that active, engaged members play in helping to advance that agenda.
“As truckers, as drivers, as voters, you need to pick up the phone and call your politicians. You need to start doing it now,” he said. “The biggest anchor in all that is we need our membership to pick up the phone and call in.”
Looking ahead to 2021
A new highway bill figures to be on the horizon, and OOIDA is hopeful that the next attempt will be less partisan that the bill that was advanced this summer. Especially since Democrats have a smaller margin in the House of Representatives, and will need more bipartisan support.
“Hopefully they realize that getting a highway bill passed is a good way to jumpstart the economy in a post-COVID world,” Long said.
What will 2021 look like on the regulatory front? Grimes says there are a number of issues the incoming Biden administration could choose to prioritize.
Some of the labor-centric issues, involving detention time and driver misclassification could be top priorities for a Democratic administration and Congress. Additional federal oversight of autonomous vehicles could also be in the offing.
“The last four years, the DOT and FMCSA have done a pretty good job in reaching out to the trucking industry and to drivers,” Grimes said. “That was kind of a breath of fresh air. We’re hopeful that any new administration continues that attitude and mentality.”
“Live From Exit 24,” is scheduled for 11 a.m. Central every other Wednesday. Listeners can tune in to the show on the Live From Exit 24 website, OOIDA Facebook page or on OOIDA’s YouTube channel. The next episode airs Wednesday, Jan. 13.
“Live From Exit 24” launched this year as a way to expand OOIDA’s communication with members and to hear directly from drivers across the industry. OOIDA is asking for truck drivers to fill out a survey to let the Association know how you are liking the show so far. The survey is here. LL