Polite protesting truckers get results in Washington

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Truck with a flag on Constitution Avenue
Well-mannered trucking-protest participants made friends of Metro and Park Police and Secret Service agents. Photo courtesy of Diego HZ.

WASHINGTON — Naysayers had been at it since before the start of the May 1 “mayday” protest by small trucking business owner-operators. It seemed that no one, perhaps not even the protesters themselves, thought the protest would result in much change. Many thought that, like the “slow rolls” that happened in Houston, Los Angeles and Phoenix earlier, and even like past trucker demonstrations in the capital, truckers would do their thing and then go home, claiming victory for raising awareness of the truckers’ plight while accomplishing little, if anything.

OTR Capital

This protest was different.

The movement of owner-operator trucks to parking places along Constitution Avenue almost didn’t resemble a protest at all. Horns were blown at specific intervals, but when is Washington ever without the din of traffic noise? In the COVID-19 pandemic environment, traffic was already severely reduced, and the usual throng of tourists was gone.

Well-mannered trucking-protest participants made friends of Metro and Park Police and Secret Service agents. Local residents and workers made signs for their cars and vans, mirroring the messages they had seen on protester trucks and blowing their horns, too. Smells wafted from charcoal grills as people gathered under waving American flags to share the dinner sizzling on the coals.

When the protest was over after three weeks, the giant piles of litter left after most protests weren’t there. The polite protesters left the area cleaner than it was when they arrived.

Still, the criticism continued. Some said the truckers were fighting for the wrong things. Others said they shouldn’t be protesting at all. Names were called. People were banned from social-media sites because of their ugly verbiage. And now that it’s over, some people question what was really accomplished.

A grassroots protest, however, isn’t a labor negotiation. It doesn’t end with a signed contract between union and management. And, under the United States’ form of government, there are no royal decrees to instantly settle disputes. There are channels to follow, agencies to involve. Tangible results take time, but they are results, just the same.

So, what results did the polite protesters achieve?

  1. They got their White House meeting. They didn’t always agree on the issues, but they never wavered from their desire to be heard. Presidential tweets and soundbites favoring their cause were welcomed, but not enough. Even when their cause made national news due to the sound of air horns during a Rose Garden press conference, they weren’t done. They said they were staying until they got their meeting — and they did.
  2. The Department of Justice reversed its decision not to investigate brokers for collusion and for price gouging during a time of crisis. In fact, the one time that protesters blocked Constitution Avenue was in response to a DOJ announcement that it was not investigating. That decision changed, quickly.
  3. Although some of the protesters’ demands were already being worked on by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), things were proceeding rather slowly. During, or perhaps because of the protest, OOIDA increased the urgency of its campaign. The organization sent a call to action to its members, sent letters to all members of Congress and then sent another letter to House and Senate Leadership, filed a petition with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and issued numerous press releases and articles through its own in-house publication.
  4. The protest generated presidential interest in the application and enforcement of 49 CFR 371.3, the regulation that requires brokers to share load information, including the amount paid by the shipper, to all parties involved in the transaction who request it. Encouraged by broker organizations such as Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA), brokers commonly ignore the requirements of the regulation by forcing carriers to waive their rights of access to the information in order to do business, or by making the information available under conditions that most carriers cannot meet. In the White House meeting, Chief of Staff Mark Meadows was clear that the issue needs to be fixed.
  5. The protest woke the public as well as many government officials to the idea that small business trucking carriers are underrepresented when changes to regulations are discussed. As pointed out by United States Transportation Alliance (USTA) CEO Mike Landis, nearly 90% of all registered carriers have 10 or fewer trucks and are too small to join the industry giant American Trucking Associations (ATA). Yet, when changes are discussed, ATA often has a seat at the table — while small trucking business don’t.
  6. Brokers now know the spotlight is aimed squarely at them. The protesters acknowledge the free-market system and, except for a scant few, aren’t calling for limits on broker revenues. But the protests shined a light on those shadowy parts of the brokerage business, such as demanding large payments from customers while only spending a small percentage for the actual service performed. There are more arguments and, perhaps, litigation to come, but brokers are on notice that they are being watched and questioned.
  7. The protesters earned the admiration of many among the millions of truckers who weren’t at the protest with their display of unity and their perseverance. Many doubted they would get anything done. They were wrong. A group of people who, as Jeremy Johnson, administrator of the Facebook Group The Disrespected Trucker, said “couldn’t agree on a free cup of coffee” stood together with the Eastern European group, the Hispanic contingent, the Sikh business owners and the rest, a diverse group of ethnicities and genders. They weren’t sure who would speak for them, and demands varied from group to group, but they were determined to be heard.

So, while concrete results are still to come, the protest has achieved more than anyone expected it to. Wheels are turning at DOJ and FMCSA, under the watchful eye of President Trump and his staff. Voices have been heard.

More importantly, the protest has brought together more truckers than any in recent memory. While it’s doubtful that the number of trucks in Washington ever exceeded 200 at one time, many participants rotated in and out, trying to devote time to the cause while dealing with personal and family matters and maintaining at least a partial revenue stream for their businesses. Estimates range from 500 to 1,000 total truckers spending at least some time at the protest.

One group, The Disrespected Truckers, had less than 3,000 members prior to the protest. In less than three weeks, that number swelled to more than 9,000. The usual complaints about the business of trucking were replaced by discussion of the protest and its goals. Other Facebook groups have seen similar results. Even as the protest was winding down, some truckers were still on their way to Washington to join in.

The protesters know there are remaining issues to resolve, and the fight isn’t over. In trucking, there will always be more issues to resolve. If needed, one strong and growing group of owner-operators is ready to return to Washington to politely resume the fight.

For over 30 years, the objective of The Trucker editorial team has been to produce content focused on truck drivers that is relevant, objective and engaging. After reading this article, feel free to leave a comment about this article or the topics covered in this article for the author or the other readers to enjoy. Let them know what you think! We always enjoy hearing from our readers.

17 COMMENTS

  1. The Small Business in Transportation Coalition, a group representing small truckers spoke with DOJ on at least 3 different occasions and provided evidence. They played a huge role in starting the investigation.

  2. Brokers don’t want a cap on how much the ought earn in every booked load, they claim that this type of action is against the “free market”, which is a totally correct assumption. But “free market” means “free information for all” as well, specially nowadays. Information is power, so to all those unscrupulous brokers, a big shout: “Give the power to the ones who shoulder this industry the most”!!.

  3. Brokers don’t want a cap on how much the ought earn in every booked load, they claim that this type of action is against the “free market”, which is a totally correct assumption. But “free market” means “free information for all” as well, specially nowadays. Information is power, so to all those unscrupulous brokers, a big shout: “Give the power to the ones who shoulder this industry the most”!!.

  4. We are not dependent on your health system, health care or your list of euphemized health phases/words you use to butter up and fool the naive and week so you can degrade their/our bodily systems to an even higher degree then what you’ve already done with your completely atrocious anti life out right crimes on humanity. Crimes on humanity which are of the highest order.

    We depend on, clean pure air, clean pure fresh water, clean pure fresh food(frugivorous digestive system and Biology) and a clean pure fresh environment all of which you guys & week corrupt naive fearful humans have done their best to compromise and neglect us of. We have none of these basic dependencies met right now in this time period or for as long as I can remember. You fools whom are supposed to be managing these most critical resources along with the best interest of the people are just F-ing up these most basic bottom line life support systems that we are so dependent on. And it sure looks like this is being done/has been done by design/on purpose/intentional.
    When we have these basic dependencies met the only part of the medical system we need is accident based trauma & poison units. We sure as hell don’t need the other 99% of this mostly parasitic industry….

    Why is our water infiltrated with brain and nerve damaging poisons? What is our food supply grown in/with. Why is our food supply grown with brain and nerve damaging poisons? Why is our air being sprayed day after day? Why is our environment being destroyed?

  5. Not into left or right nor the political dogma that you people have your mind & thoughts damaged by. Why does everything have to be about politics in your people’s minds. What a distraction from pure thought to say the least. This is the real sickness in plain sight & easy to recognize by peoples who’s minds are not completely consumed by this sickness. Have anyone of you ever thought of just stopping participating in such a system or to just quit paying attention to the nonsense of these systems essentially letting them go to die as others recognize stop & let go?

    Stop participating & they die.

    To be honest i have not ever participated in any politics and certainly do not pay attention to such garble. So yeah, my mind does not even play in that arena let alone think about the garble of that realm of human sickness.

    You war is within created by your out of balance lifestyles/habit/addictions/dependencies. The war within begins when things that are not supposed to be inside the human organism are put inside. You people put these things inside every day multiple times a day. As long as humans do this, the war with in will continue unceasingly without stop intern manifesting on the outer reality and without stop or no end. A consequence of putting things inside that are totally not supposed to be there will only lead to further and further degeneration/weakening of the human organism exacerbating the internal war and likewise intensifying the external wars. Though I doubt any of you reading this will understand at all what I just wrote in this paragraph and that shows how truly out of touch you folks are……….

    Pasteur vs. Bechamp. One of these men believed in Ghost. Consequently, the one whom believed in the ghost repudiated that belief on his death bed & acknowledged that the other man was correct all along.

  6. Wearing FACE MASKS/having FACE MASKS do to/because of CON-VID-19 is complete 100% scam artistry….. Hands down bar none. Wearing face masks do to human pollution/waste/air pollution is 100% legit.

  7. This is PATHETIC believing in Phantoms and ghosts. Absolutely utterly pathetic to the irrational dogma x 100,000,000,000.

    Maybe the most dogmatic person on earth. How can you not be when having an agenda 24/7??? DOGMA Bill.

    You yourself need not do anything. Enjoy life. In fact, we don’t want you to do anything. Please keep your hands out of everything….. And maybe spend the rest of the time you have left understanding your delusion’s. Maybe then you can truly better yourself, because you have a lot to work on. You can’t even see that though. There is no way in heck you should be spending your time on anything else but.

  8. You love to make believe in the BOOGIE MAN, Fairy tales & ghosts?

    Keep your false face on…………….

    I guess it is easier to pull off sick Schemas and scams when everyone is participating in make believe irrational utter nonsense.

    I bet you can’t even begin to contemplate the fact that your educational systems does nothing more than form people/you into scam artist without you even being aware of that fact. You go to school to learn how to be a scam artist/be molded into a scam artist and at the same time you learn how to be susceptible to being scammed. Your higher educational system that you waste your money/energy on does nothing more than make you into a more skilled scam artist. All this is done without you even being aware of it… Pathetic……… people’s get molded into the highly degenerate states of a narcissistic psycho-sociopathy…

  9. Best way to protest such nonsense is to assemble. Organize/have large gatherings out in the most public places that can be thought of. Do it for days on end. Show them that you have no faith or belief in the garbage info that they try to force feed you. Protest it all, the dogmatic social distancing, the ridiculous pathetic face mask nonsense, everything. It’s PATHETIC believing in Phantoms and ghosts/the bogie man. Absolutely utterly pathetic to the irrational dogma x 100,000,000,000. IT is So so Pathetic being made to believe any of this garble doo garbage that is force feed by the junk media. SURE alright Yeah, let’s just make believe 24/7 dressing up in costumes & run away/distance ourselves from all other life forms. Pathetic…………irrational…………………..dogma………………….

    Great places to have these gatherings/assemblies are directly outside the locations of the major mainstream junk/garbage media outlets. NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX, ESPN, Microsoft, GOOGLE, APPLE, FACEBOOK etc….. Let’s do it. Get it organized.

    MORE PROTEST EVERYDAY. If you don’t want such PHANTOMS & GHOST to be used against you again in the future we’ve got to push back harder. I mean real hard. More protest every single day. Larger #’s.

  10. It was my understanding that the truckers blocked Constitution Ave during the May 13 Motorcoaches Rolling for Awareness rally when they realized we weren’t there to support them. I think our 1008 motorcoaches driving around the mall in DC dwarfed the number of truckers there. I understand their plight as my late husband was an owner operator but we were there trying to save our whole industry.

  11. I didn’t understand anything LOVE commented,crazy. So after all this what was accomplished. I hope they didn’t sell them a pig with wings. I guess we will see if the brokers will add another fine print and DOJ catches it. Are the brokers from China?

  12. I would love to know who’s decision it was to shutdown the restaurants in Truck Stops during this pandemic?
    Thought we were “essential workers,” every bit as important as those working in hospitals and first responders, so please tell me how many hospital cafeteria and dining rooms were closed?
    Working those long hours… expecting a doctor or nurse not to have ready access to hot meal would be inhumane!
    Give me a break! The Dept. of Transportation with one word could’ve deemed Truck Stops dining rooms essential and they would’ve NEVER CLOSED! Exclude the general public, for working drivers only and there’s plenty of room to social distancing.
    Owners of Flying J/Pilot, TA, Petro and the rest, should all be ashamed of yourselves for allowing various State Health Dept. and Governor’s decrees to close your doors!

  13. I would love to know who’s decision it was to shutdown the restaurants in Truck Stops during this pandemic?
    Thought we were “essential workers,” every bit as important as those working in hospitals and first responders, so please tell me how many hospital cafeteria and dining rooms were closed? ZERO!
    Working those long hours… expecting a doctor or nurse not to have ready access to hot meal would be inhumane!
    Give me a break! The Dept. of Transportation with one word could’ve deemed Truck Stops dining rooms essential and they would’ve NEVER CLOSED! Exclude the general public, for working drivers only and there’s plenty of room to social distancing.
    Owners of Flying J/Pilot, TA, Petro and the rest, should all be ashamed of yourselves for allowing various State Health Dept. and Governor’s decrees to close your doors!

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