Late OOIDA co-founder nominated for trucking honor

January 25, 2022

Ryan Witkowski


OOIDA co-founder and longtime President Jim Johnston may soon have another honor added to his name. The late Johnston has been nominated for the Mid-America Trucking Show’s Wall of Fame. The nomination was announced on the MATS Facebook page on Jan. 19.

This year marks the 50th anniversary for MATS. This year’s show, according the MATS website, aims to celebrate “the entire trucking industry and the men, women, and companies who built this great industry and made MATS the largest and longest-running annual trucking event.”

In doing so, MATS plans to unveil its Wall of Fame at this year’s show, as they look to “honor the many outstanding professionals that have made significant contributions to the trucking industry.”

Angel Burnell, chief of staff at OOIDA, said she believes Johnston is more than deserving of the honor.

“To say that Jim Johnston made a significant contribution to the trucking community is really an understatement,” Burnell said. “He dedicated his entire life to building OOIDA for the betterment of all drivers and the industry in general. His work influenced legislative and regulatory changes, and his leadership provided direction during even the most tumultuous times.”
From the nominations, inductees will be chosen by the Wall of Fame selection committee. The committee will include input from the American Truck Historical Society.

Burnell, who worked alongside Johnston for 18 years, said his work left an indelible impact on the trucking community.

“He was a mentor, leader, organizer, advocate and friend to those that chose trucking as their profession, and he will forever be remembered as someone that refused to give up the fight,” Burnell said. “He has certainly earned a place on the MATS Wall of Fame for all that he was and still is to trucking.”

Inductees will be honored on the commemorative Wall of Fame, which will be on display at MATS. In addition, MATS plans to maintain a Wall of Fame page on their website. Inductees be unveiled during the MATS 50th Anniversary Celebration and Ceremony on March 24 in Louisville, Ky.

Current OOIDA President Todd Spencer was nominated in April 2021.

Nominations will be accepted until Jan. 31 and can be submitted at the MATS website.

 Fighting for the rights of all truckers

Johnston was elected president of OOIDA in 1975. Under his leadership, OOIDA grew to become the largest national organization of professional truckers in the country. Johnston tirelessly led OOIDA’s legal challenges against state governments on issues associated with unfair treatment against truckers.

Johnston served on research panels of the National Academies of Sciences Transportation Research Board, the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, U.S. Government Accountability Office, and others dealing with various aspects of the trucking industry.

Johnston also served on the National Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee to the U.S. Department of Transportation. He was a member of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance Senior Strategic Advisory Committee, and a member of the ITS America Commercial Vehicle Operations Policy Subcommittee, on which he served as chairman of the committee’s Data Privacy and Control Task Force.

On Oct. 6, 2015, Jim was honored on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Bill Shuster for his leadership and dedication to the industry.

Johnston died Jan. 8, 2018. At the time, Johnston was serving his ninth five-year term as OOIDA president and CEO.

In a news release following his death, then acting President Todd Spencer summed up Johnston’s lifetime commitment to truckers well.

“He loved every minute he spent as a trucker, but when circumstances required it in the ’70s, he stepped down from behind the wheel to give a badly needed voice to truckers, the real truckers that move America,” Spencer said. “Every driver today is better off because of that decision he made years ago.” LL