Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A matter of clarification …

We don’t often run calls about what’s said on other shows. We figure if folks have a question, or comment or complaint with those shows, they should contact them.

However, recently, OOIDA headquarters has been flooded with calls about radio host Kevin Rutherford, particularly about some of the comments he’s made about OOIDA, and about the fuel surcharge legislation the association is supporting.

As I said, we normally wouldn’t run calls about another show, but as our own Reed Black once said, if you get this many calls about any topic, you ignore it at your own risk.

So I hope you’ll indulge me if I take this opportunity to clarify some things.

First, some of the callers – and folks writing on our forum and others – claim that OOIDA has asked XM Satellite Radio to take Mr. Rutherford’s show off the air.

The association has not asked for that to happen, and would not ask for that. XM controls their own programming.

We disagree with Mr. Rutherford on the fuel surcharge issue. And he has a right to his opinion.

What we encourage all truckers to do is listen to all sides of the debate, do your own research as well, and come to your own conclusion regarding any issue.

As far as the fuel surcharge bill, The TRUCC Act, I can’t understand who would oppose it – outside of the brokers and carriers who stand to profit even more if it doesn’t pass.

The only thing this legislation requires is transparency, so everyone involved knows what is being paid; and it requires it to be passed through – that money collected for increased cost of fuel to the person who pays for that increased cost. What could be simpler?

If I understand Mr. Rutherford’s argument correctly, it’s that he doesn’t want the government involved in the fuel surcharge – or any other part of the business of trucking. I believe his contention would be that it distorts the free market.

However, I would say this: The debate over OOIDA’s fuel surcharge bill is not a debate about the free market.

It is not a distortion of the free market to allow everyone involved in a contract to actually see the contract.

It is not a distortion of the free market to ensure that consumers and shippers actually get what they pay for.

It is a distortion of the free market to fraudulently collect money for fuel when that money’s not being used to pay for fuel.

And that’s what collecting a fuel surcharge and giving it to the middleman is … It’s fraud. Government has a legitimate role in preventing fraud.

We used to call that kind of activity law enforcement. Now, Mr. Rutherford calls it stifling the free market.

Another point of contention are comments Mr. Rutherford made regarding OOIDA. I wanted to hear those comments myself, and I have listened to that conversation, which took place on his show.

Mr. Rutherford said he thinks OOIDA has harmed the trucking industry. He says he doesn’t want to belong to a group representing owner-operators or other truckers because a group like that would distort free market forces.

That’s a very fine ideological stand. However, that type of ideology doesn’t work in the real world, and the real world is where truckers live.

The thing Mr. Rutherford misses is that everyone else, including the big carriers, will and do have representatives in Washington.

He misses the fact that there will be regulation of this industry by our government. It doesn’t matter whether we like it or not. That’s reality.

So do you want owner-operators to be the only people without representation when those regulations are written? Do you want other truckers like company drivers to have no representation as well? Isn’t that a little like unilateral disarmament?

Do you want regulation that screws you and rewards your competition? Or do you want regulation that provides an equal environment for all?

I guarantee you, the other folks who take an opposite side will be there, will have representatives, will ask for a regulatory environment that favors their members, will ask for new regulations that restrict truckers in their daily activities.

And if no one else is there, if there is no voice, a voice like OOIDA, those people and their representatives will get what they want.

Mr. Rutherford seems to live in an ideal world where we live in a truly free market and the government stands to one side, hands off, to allow all businesses to compete in a perfect environment.

I’m sorry, Mr. Rutherford. That world doesn’t exist. Not anywhere on Earth.

Here in the real world, OOIDA exists so that truckers have a voice.

That does not mean we expect the government to do everything for us. It does not mean we oppose anything free market.

And likewise, supporting bills like The TRUCC Act does not mean that we’re socialists. Trust me when I say, nothing could be further from the truth.

But like it or not, the government is already involved in this business, up to their ears.

The only thing we’re trying to do is to ensure that the government’s involvement doesn’t destroy otherwise viable businesses.

Mr. Rutherford often says that when someone has a grievance with him, they should call his show and talk it out.

It’s clear Mr. Rutherford has a grievance with OOIDA. So we’d like to do the same – We’d like to invite him to be a guest on our program and to discuss the issues with someone here from OOIDA.