Today’s Pickup: OOIDA President Jim Johnston passes away from cancer

Jim Johnston, longtime president & CEO of OOIDA, lost his battle with lung cancer on Monday.

Good day,

Jim Johnston, longtime president and CEO of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), has passed away following a year-long battle with lung cancer, the association announced Monday evening.

Johnston served as OOIDA president and CEO from 1974 to the present. He died at his home in Grain Valley, Mo.

“The trucking industry has lost a visionary and crusader for the rights of all truckers,” said Todd Spencer, who will now serve as acting president of OOIDA. “He leaves behind a legacy of passion and persistence that we will undoubtedly look to as our inspiration going forward as we continue the mission of the Association.”

OOIDA was founded in 1973 by a group of truck drivers looking for a unified voice. Johnston was instrumental in its growth. “From its humble beginnings in an office trailer chained to a light pole at a truck stop in Grain Valley, Jim nurtured OOIDA to its current status as the largest national organization of professional truckers in the country,” OOIDA said in a statement.

“We are prepared to continue the fight as only Jim would want us all to do,” said Spencer. “He loved every minute he spent as a trucker, but when circumstances required it in the ’70s he stepped down from behind the wheel to give a badly needed voice to truckers, the real truckers that move America. Every driver today is better off because of that decision he made years ago.”

American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear said the industry would miss Johnston’s drive and vision for America and its truckers.  

“We are saddened by the news of Jim’s passing. One of the first meetings I had in this role was with Jim and his team. He was a passionate leader for drivers and the industry, advocating issues that helped build this great nation. Jim never strayed from who he was and who he represented – truckers. Jim was a warrior, and he will be missed.”

Following military service in the U.S. Navy, Johnston began his trucking career as a driver and owner-operator. He gave up his driving career to lead OOIDA, which now has more than 160,000 active members and 350 employees.

Johnston served on research panels of the National Academy of Science Transportation Research Board, the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, U.S. General Accounting Office, and others dealing with various aspects of trucking operations, such as commercial vehicle safety, truck size and weight issues. He formerly served on the National Motor Carrier Advisory Committee to the U.S. Department of Transportation. He was a member of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance Senior Strategic Advisory Committee, and a former member of the ITS America Commercial Vehicle Operations Policy Subcommittee, on which he served as chairman of the committee’s Data Privacy and Control Task Force.

A memorial page has been set up for sharing condolences and messages to friends and family.

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Final Thoughts

The passing of Jim Johnston, president & CEO of OOIDA since 1974, will be felt by all members of the association and the industry as a whole. Whether you are for the owner-operator or the big carrier fleet, Johnston’s impact on the industry was immense as he led OOIDA into a significant champion of drivers and the industry.

Hammer down everyone!

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Brian Straight

Brian Straight covers general transportation news and leads the editorial team as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler.