Members sound off on truck parking, hours of service during OOIDA Town Hall

March 28, 2019

Greg Grisolano

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Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association members and representatives of the Association’s leadership team met face-to-face before the start of the Mid-America Trucking Show for a dialogue about the biggest issues facing drivers on the road during the OOIDA Town Hall Meeting.

Hours of service, a possible underride guard mandate, truck parking, speed limiters and potential increases in the federal fuel tax and in insurance minimums were all on the members’ minds, as well as the Association’s radar.

“We want to hear what’s important to you, and what issues we need to pay attention to,” said Mike Matousek, OOIDA’s manager of government affairs. “Your feedback is important.”

‘A safe place for us to park’

Lee Zirbel and her husband Gary have had enough of being told, “You can’t park here.”

The Zirbels, who drive van and live year-round in their 1999 Freightliner, came to the OOIDA Town Hall Meeting for members on Thursday at the Mid-America Trucking Show to voice their frustrations with the lack of safe, available truck parking.

As states close rest areas and more truck stops add paid parking spaces, the Zirbels say the situation is untenable and unsafe for drivers and motorists. And when they have tried to reach out directly to states, they get the runaround because they are not residents.

“There’s people being killed, vehicles being damaged, tickets being written,” she said. “We pay permits and taxes and everything else. Where are our rights?”

“Why should we pay more and more like we have unlimited pockets for these states? How can we reopen these rest areas?”

“Unfortunately, some states view rest areas as a drain on their budgets,” Matousek said. “We also have to fight NIMBYs, even in situations where truck stops and rest areas want to expand.”

Fuel tax, tolling

In his opening remarks at the OOIDA Town Hall Meeting, OOIDA President Todd Spencer said the Association will continue to support a fuel tax increase as a means to increase transportation funding.

“OOIDA supports an increase in the federal fuel tax,” Spencer said, noting that those revenues could go to bolster transportation spending at the state level. “If there isn’t a funding mechanism available to the states from the federal level, then the states start doing their own ‘creative’ things. And paying a fuel tax makes more sense than tolls.”

On the toll fighting front, Spencer provided an update on the Association’s pending lawsuit against the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission for its toll increases on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Spencer said the turnpike tolls have generated in excess of $600 million in revenue that has been spent on a variety of projects other than maintenance and upkeep of the turnpike.

“We believe, and we think that Pennsylvania believes we have a really good case. And if we’re successful, a lot of that money is going back to the truckers who paid it,” he said.

“No one has ever done more to fight back against that crap than OOIDA has,” he said. “It makes no sense for every trucker not to be a member.”

Spencer said the push for safer highways is certainly one that OOIDA and truckers can support.

“We lose more truckers on the road in crashes than any other occupation, so highway safety should be a priority,” he said. “If we’re going to focus money on priorities, let’s try to do it where we get the biggest bang for the buck.”

Matousek said the new Democrat-controlled U.S. House of Representatives may give truckers an opportunity to address detention time. He said the issue is one OOIDA has found an advocate for in current Transportation Committee Chair Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon.

Another issue the Association hopes to lead the charge on in 2019 is establishing an independent, third-party arbitration process for DataQ challenges.

Under the current system, most states refer a DataQ challenge to the law enforcement agency that wrote the initial violation. The agency is responsible for reviewing the complaint and issuing a ruling. Lewie Pugh, OOIDA executive vice president, says the Association hopes to push states to adopt a more independent arbitration model, pioneered by the state of Arizona.

“Right now, we’re asking the desk cop if the beat cop is right, and sometimes, we’re asking the beat cop if the beat cop is right,” Pugh said.

Under the Arizona system, a five-person panel reviews the evidence when a DataQ challenge is issued.

“We’re trying to model it where it’s truly independent and you have a fair shot at being successful,” he said.”

While hours of service reform is likely coming, Matousek told a member who asked about additional ELD exemptions for small fleets and owner-operators that the issue is unlikely to move forward in the new Congress.

Greg Grisolano

Greg Grisolano joined Land Line in 2013. He was formerly a reporter for the Joplin Globe. He brings business writing and photography skills to Land Line, and has a passion for finding and telling stories about the people who make up the trucking industry.

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