Like many businesses and associations, stay-at-home orders altered the way the OOIDA Board of Directors conducted the spring meeting, but they carried on virtually.
The board room at 1 N.W. OOIDA Drive was empty. That didn’t mean the OOIDA Board of Directors weren’t hard at work during the spring board meeting in early May.
With the COVID-19 outbreak and restrictions on unnecessary travel, the executive team at OOIDA decided to hold the biannual meeting virtually, like so many other meetings are held in these unprecedented times.
“OOIDA was born during a crisis 47 years ago,” OOIDA President and CEO Todd Spencer said in his opening remarks. “The situation was dire for many truckers and having a voice to fight for our rights took commitment and dedication. Right now, it’s more important than ever that we remain committed to the fight for the rights of all truckers, and every one of us needs to embrace that commitment at a very personal level.”
For obvious reasons, the COVID-19 outbreak and the strain it has put on truckers dominated much of the discussion. While the need for immediate relief and changes were paramount in those discussions, the board members and staff talked strategies to carry forward positive changes beyond the emergency declarations.
In an unprecedented move, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued its first national emergency declaration waiving hours of service for truckers providing direct assistance in support of emergency relief efforts.
Drawing from extensive experience on regional emergency declarations, such as those issued during recovery efforts, OOIDA knew that truckers would be essential but their needs and rights likely would not be considered.
“We were taking care of things before other associations ever started addressing anything,” Doug Morris, OOIDA’s director of security operations, told the board members via the Zoom meeting. “It got to be a very cumbersome system with all of the 50 different states – almost like 50 different countries with separate jurisdictions within them – for truckers to try and navigate.
“We were part of the conversation to start with streamlining things and removing roadblocks for truckers.”
Morris reported on OOIDA’s participation on a number of working groups that coordinate directly with the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
Ranging from multiple conference calls daily to weekly meetings, OOIDA’s Washington, D.C., staff actively represented truck drivers’ interests and needs in groups such as:
- FEMA National Business Emergency Operations Center.
- Department of Homeland Security Cross Sector Council.
- DHS-Critical Infrastructure Security Agency.
- COVID-19 Freight Logistics Committee.
- TSA Highway and Motor Carrier Sector Coordinating Council.
- TSA Surface Transportation and Security Advisory Council.
- American Logistics Aid Network.
- TWIC Stakeholders Committee.
“There was a narrative that everything was great for truckers, and we knew it wasn’t. And we had to make sure that they understood that,” Morris said. “The rates are bad, there are segments struggling. The reality is that everything is not OK.”
In addition to the task force participation, OOIDA’s advocacy efforts come in many forms. Along with meetings on the Hill with lawmakers, OOIDA has been sending letters to leaders all around the country as problems arose – many times accompanying those letters with Calls to Action. The active participation of the membership in those Calls to Action were instrumental in many successes, the D.C. team reported.
Letters highlighted in the meeting, held in early May, included:
- March 17 – Federal Government/PennDOT:
Keep Rest Areas Open.
- March 20 – Federal Government:
Urgent Actions That Can Help Truckers.
- March 20 – Restaurant Associations:
Truckers Need Places to Eat.
- March 20 – Federal/State Government:
OOIDA is an Essential Business.
- March 24 – CVSA:
Postpone International Road Check.
- April 3 – White House:
Mayday Letter re: Testing, PPE.
- April 6 – Congress:
Long-Term Solutions for Trucking Industry.
- April 9 – Utah DOT:
- April 9 – Congress/FHWA:
Let Food Trucks Serve Truckers in Rest Areas.
- April 14 – Grocery/Retail/Shippers:
Trucker Access to Basic Supplies.
- April 14 – Congress:
Fix SBA Assistance Programs to Help Truckers.
- April 15 – New Mexico DOT:
No Temperature Screenings for Truckers.
- April 24 – Canadian Government:
Payroll Tax/Meal Allowance Relief.
The efforts by the OOIDA D.C. staff got a big shot in the arm when Spencer sent the “mayday” letter to the White House on April 3. The letter requested “urgent and immediate action” to protect drivers as they haul essential freight during the pandemic.
OOIDA implored the president to do everything he can to provide truck drivers with personal protective equipment, testing and, if needed, access to treatment. The Association said that truck drivers are the vital link in the nation’s supply chain.