Monday, January 4, 2010

Statehouses back in session: Get in the mix

Happy New Year! With the calendar turning over to 2010, there are a lot of new things happening in states right now. About a half-dozen states are working in new rules that lawmakers endorsed during the past year. The most notable change is probably in Illinois where, with the help of OOIDA and truckers in the state, trucks now are allowed to travel at the same speed as other vehicles on most interstates.

This is a great time to open up the line of communication with your elected officials. In the months ahead, much more discussion is expected to take place about changes affecting transportation and the trucking industry in statehouses around the country.

States are not easing back into the swing of things either. Lawmakers from California to Maine are scheduled to be back at work by the middle of this week. In all, more than two-thirds of the nation’s state legislatures will have convened their 2010 sessions by mid-January.

This is a big election year. It is likely to create some increased urgency among elected officials to reach out to their constituents as they work to secure votes for the fall. This year’s legislative labors are certain to be critical to the way you conduct your trucking business, which is an opportunity to use to your advantage. Issues likely to receive attention in state legislatures across the country include highway tolls, privatization, transportation funding, fees and fuel taxes, to name a few.

Ideally we could rely on lawmakers to look out for our best interests, but for the most part they have no idea what those issues are. It’s your responsibility to clue them in.

You may feel as though you are one small voice in our big country, but if you don’t speak up, who is going to do it for you?

OOIDA has a membership of about 158,000 professionals in the trucking industry. If all members did their part to contact their elected officials, it would have a dramatic effect on the decisions lawmakers make.

There are several ways to educate your lawmakers: Make a phone call to their offices, send them e-mail, write a letter to them, send them a fax or meet with them in person.

The preferred method of communication depends on the office. A growing number of lawmakers rely heavily on social networking sites. It is a good idea to call their office and ask for the best way to correspond with the lawmaker. This also serves as a good way for you to introduce yourself to the lawmaker and their staff.

You can monitor the Web sites at ooida.com, landlinemag.com and landlinenow.com daily or tune in to Land Line Now on Sirius-XM for updates on legislative action in your state. For in-depth coverage and a state-by-state accounting of action that relates to your business, read “OOIDA’s State Watch” in every issue of Land Line Magazine. And the most complete roundup of state legislative efforts can be found here.

Don’t let this opportunity pass you by. Contact your elected officials and express your concerns.

Editor’s Note: If you become aware of a new law proposed in your home state that would affect trucking, call Land Line at 800-444-5791 and ask State Legislative Editor Keith Goble to place it on the Association’s watch list. You can also e-mail the information to statelegislativedesk@ooida.com.