The OOIDA-ATA battle breaks out into a full verbal brawl, all in public

Photo: Shutterstock

Photo: Shutterstock

The always tense relationship between the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the American Trucking Associations blew up in full verbal war over the last two days.  

The battle was kicked off by comments made by the head of the ATA and reported by DC Velocity, which had a reporter at the Nasstrac Shipper Conference and Expo in Orlando. At that meeting, ATA President Chris Spear described some of OOIDA’s stances as “meaningless,” called it “combative,” and said he doesn't "lose sleep" over OOIDA's mission, "how it implements it, and the struggles it faces,” according to the news report. 

“In an extraordinary series of comments, Spear said that he and his family have received death threats from OOIDA interests, that persons affiliated with OOIDA interests have threatened to bomb ATA's headquarters in Arlington, Va., and that OOIDA interests have labeled an ATA executive vice president—who Spear did not identify--a child molester,” the report said.

That brought a quick rebuttal from Todd Spencer, the acting president of OOIDA.

The charge that “questionable tactics” and “harm” have been threatened against ATA officials “is patently false.”

Spear, according to the Spencer statement, “doesn’t even recognize his pursuit of divisive policies and use of disparaging words have fueled the acrimony not only in our industry, but among his own members.” “It appears that as we remain committed to being the lone, loud voice representing the truckers that the ATA has little to no regard for, Mr. Spear simply feels ATA’s positions and policies are vulnerable, and he is lashing out with falsehoods and misrepresentations,” Spencer said.

The latest dispute between OOIDA and the ATA is over the so-called Denham amendment, which would reassert federal dominance over such trucker rules as hours of service and mandated breaks. The ATA is in favor of the Denham amendment; OOIDA is opposed. The amendment was included in the FAA appropriations bill passed late last month by the House of Representatives. It still needs Senate and conference committee approval.

The two associations also have long been on opposite sides of the ELD mandate, OOIDA opposed, ATA more accepting of the new requirement.

The prepared—and less candid—formal statement by the ATA in response to its president’s comments, and the OOIDA response, was far less combative than Spear’s Orlando remarks.

“As I understand it, at the conclusion of his remarks and presentation (Spear) was asked specifically about the OOIDA issue and offered a candid response based on the experiences of ATA staff in recent months,” ATA spokesman Sean McNally said. “That said, ATA’s mission is to secure victories on behalf of our industry and our members. We’ve worked hard to build broad coalitions, reaching out to those who have an interest in the future of this industry, including OOIDA, and we will continue to do so as we advocate on behalf of the entire trucking industry. We hope OOIDA’s members can see the value in joining the broader industry and support change.”

According to the DC Velocity report, Spear also brought up the issue of allowing drivers under the age of 21 to drive interstate. "Where is OOIDA on this issue," the news service quoted Spear as saying, “voicing wonder why the group wouldn't back a bill that would create more opportunity for its members.”