The three levels of bonehead

December 1, 2017

John Bendel

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Boneheads.

They’re out there. Not just any boneheads, but boneheads about OOIDA. These boneheads are specialists.

I know of them from Jon Osburn, OOIDA’s ambassador at large. Jon and his faithful guard-dog, Sassi, visit truck stops all over the country in the Spirit of the American Trucker, a beautiful Western Star and OOIDA’s information trailer. Jon speaks with and helps hundreds of drivers in any given week, members and nonmembers alike, and he likes the good people he meets – except for the rare boneheads.

That’s my word, not his. Jon is understanding and patient. He doesn’t call anyone a bonehead. I am not, so I do. And I believe there are three levels of boneheadedness.

The perfect example of a Level One bonehead is the guy who came into the trailer recently and said OOIDA was responsible for the entire ELD issue. ELDs were created and secretly promoted by OOIDA, he said. This level of bonehead is not a problem. No one but another Level One bonehead can possibly believe him.

Level Two boneheads are a bit more troubling. Take the fella who told Jon that OOIDA founder and President Jim Johnston owns a major stake in Omnitracs, which markets ELDs. Maybe the guy believes it because he heard it from another guy who seems to know all kinds of secret stuff, and that guy said there’s definitely someone named Johnston who owns Omnitracs stock. Or maybe it’s Munson or Bunson. But it could be Johnston, right?

Problem is, this kind of rumor is smaller and more personal than the first one. While the idea that OOIDA secretly supports ELDs is easy to disprove, a crazy claim of stock ownership is not. How can you show someone you don’t have something?

Of course it’s not true. In fact, knowing what I know, I laughed out loud when Jon told me about it.

Which brings us to Level Three boneheads.

A couple of months ago, the Supreme Court refused to hear OOIDA’s case against the ELD mandate. Many drivers were hopping mad. Who can blame them? Two or three accosted Jon complaining that OOIDA “lost” the fight against ELDs. OOIDA did a lousy job! How dare OOIDA lose!

Now this sort of nonsense is different. It’s not a ridiculous tale and it’s not a poisonous rumor. Instead, it’s perverse logic that turns the truth on its head. In this upside-down world, you don’t get angry at the people and institutions supporting ELDs. Instead you attack the only organization of any consequence that has fought against ELDs, smartly and consistently from the very beginning. Who else fought that long and hard for drivers? No one, that’s who. OOIDA – and only OOIDA– took the fight all the way to the Supreme Court.

According to Jon, the guys who attacked OOIDA were nonmembers. “They hadn’t done a thing to help in the fight,” Jon said. “They’re part of the problem.”

Not only that, but in their upside-down world they believe the fight against the ELD mandate is over. Not so. OOIDA did not “lose” the fight against ELDs. The Supreme Court chose not to hear the case, meaning OOIDA never got to make its case before the judges. And this may not be the last lawsuit against the mandate in any case. OOIDA has been in court fighting the ELD mandate for years and winning other rounds, including two before the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit that delayed the mandate earlier in the decade.

Meanwhile, OOIDA has gathered a coalition to fight the mandate in Congress. OOIDA also has taken the issue back to the regulators requesting an exemption for small fleets and owner operators with good safety records. Given recent FMCSA exemptions and shifting regulatory policy in the Trump era, OOIDA’s request has merit. This war is far from over.

Honestly, I don’t know how Jon stays cool when confronted by boneheads. He is a knowledgeable, patient person who genuinely likes truckers. He answers questions about OOIDA as well as about industry news and issues, and he helps drivers understand how OOIDA works for all American truckers. At least he tries.

Sometimes even the boneheads come around.

John Bendel

John Bendel is Land Line’s contributing editor-at-large. A former trucker, former editor at National Lampoon, and longtime truck writer, John is an author, photographer, and freelancer for New York Times. There’s more, but in short, his insight and matchless style of writing makes “Gizmos and Gears” a runaway reader favorite.

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