WASHINGTON — On the 20th day of protest along Constitution Avenue in Washington D.C., more than 100 small business truckers got what they’ve been waiting for — a meeting at the White House.
Two representatives of the protesters, Michael Landis, CEO of United States Transportation Alliance and Sergey “C.J.” Karman, CEO of Ezlogz and admin of the Ezlogz Slavic Community group on Facebook, were ushered into the West Wing just before 9:30 a.m. Eastern time on May 20 for the meeting.
From the government side, President Trump’s Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, was joined by Acting FMCSA Administrator Jim Mullen and Staff Secretary Derek Lyons.
As Landis and Karman exited the White House after the meeting, group spokesperson Janet Sanchez went live with a Facebook video.
“Our boys just got out of the White House,” she announced. “They were in there for over an hour, and they came out with smiles.”
A crowd of protesters and onlookers quickly gathered as Karman and Landis stepped up to a small public address system. Karman took the microphone first. He thanked the administration for hosting the event and for the opportunity to speak.
“We answered a lot of questions,” he said. “We told them about price gouging, collusion, and anti-trust. We told them about the hard-working Americans who are driving and have no money, because the money has already been divided.”
Next, Landis spoke.
“We were tested, I can promise you that,” he said. He related that Mullen had peppered the pair with questions as the meeting commenced, but they held their ground.
“What we can back up with truth and our experience, they can’t touch,” he said.
Landis spoke to the administration officials about the lack of representation of the small business truckers. He pointed out that organizations such as the American Trucking Associations (ATA) often have the ear of government agencies despite representing only a small percentage of carriers.
“That has to change,” Landis told officials.
The previous evening, Landis outlined his position in an exclusive interview with The Trucker.
“The ATA (American Trucking Associations) represents trucking to the government, but little guys like us can’t be members,” he said. “The interests of the people with money are overriding the concerns of the little guy.”
Landis continued, “If you think that 89.7% of for-hire carriers are little guys, (with) 10 trucks or less, and ATA does the talking, that means that 89.7% of us aren’t represented.”
Landis conceded that the percentage he quoted was a year or more old and might have changed, but, he said, the number wouldn’t have changed by much.
Preparing for this morning’s White House meeting, he said, “We have a chance to be a true voice of what we’re doing on the road, and the truth behind it. We need to have active truck drivers that can have a say in things,” adding, “I want to use this as a way to create that open line of communication, from now on.”
One of the high points of the meeting occurred when the pair explained that brokers were not complying with the requirements of 49 CFR 371.3, which requires disclosure of information for each load hauled to all parties who participated, upon request.
Karman related that Meadows then asked Mullen, “Is that a rule?” Mullen responded in the affirmative. “Then why aren’t you enforcing it?” Meadows asked.
As Mullen explained issues with authority and jurisdiction, Meadows asked for five “setup” packets from brokerage firms and the names of five brokerage CEOs.
Landis and Karman explained how brokers were asking carriers to waive their rights to information in their contracts, refusing to do business with those who refused.
“Is that true?” Meadows asked Mullen. When Mullen answered affirmatively, Meadows told him, according to Karman, “You need to fix that.”
The topic of the petition filed yesterday by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) asking the FMCSA to require brokers to provide load information within 48 hours was discussed. Karman made it plain that the protesters don’t think the proposal goes far enough.
“We need that information up front, while we are negotiating the load,” he said.
Karman further called on truckers to report claims of broker gouging to the Department of Justice, which Meadows said would be investigated.
Landis went on to explain how he had discussed his claim that small business truckers are not represented at government agencies and committees, using the same argument he had given to The Trucker the previous evening.
“For us, this is a pretty good step in the right direction. I’m not going to call ‘victory,’ but they understand that we have no representation except for ourselves,” Landis said.
“It’s a ‘sort of’ victory,” Karman interjected.
“They understand the issues and they understand that we, as Americans, want this fixed, that as Americans, for Americans, we want a voice,” Landis continued.
Karman added that when the pair asked if President Trump would be joining the meeting, they were told by Lyons that Trump couldn’t attend but was, in fact, listening to the live feed.
Karmen related that Meadows had expressed thanks to the protesters for sticking together throughout the protest and that the chief of staff said, “It’s time to go home.” Karmen then recommended the protesters stay one more day, “to see what happens and to celebrate.”
Landis concluded, “The president is on our side. He wants us to succeed, and he doesn’t want us to be overrun. We won the battle, but we’re still in a war.”
To wild cheering, he said, “Let’s go celebrate.”
Satisfied that, after 20 days of protest, they had finally achieved their goal of a White House meeting, the group gathered for a photo with the Washington Monument in the background. The feeling was that their voices, as well as their air horns, had finally been heard.
Lisa and Lee Schmitt, co-hosts of the “Trucking With the Schmitts” Internet radio show (www.blogtalkradio.com/truckingwiththeschmitts) that airs every Monday at 7 p.m. Central time, were excited about the meeting results.
“We just watched the video,” Lisa Schmitt said, “and we’re going to watch it a few more times to make sure we get it all.”
Schmitt, who said the couple had been in Washington at the start of the protest, marveled at the unity shown by the protesters.
“People say the brotherhood of truckers is gone,” she said. “But we saw it — the brotherhood is alive. I wish there could have been 1,000 trucks,” she added.
Correction: This article originally stated incorrectly that Trump Senior Adviser Jared Kushner was present at the meeting. Kushner was not in attendance.
Cliff Abbott is an experienced commercial vehicle driver and owner-operator who still holds a CDL in his home state of Alabama. In nearly 40 years in trucking, he’s been an instructor and trainer and has managed safety and recruiting operations for several carriers. Having never lost his love of the road, Cliff has written a book and hundreds of songs and has been writing for The Trucker for more than a decade.