Trucking industry associations rarely agree on anything, but the American Trucking Associations, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, and the Independent Truckers Association have issued statements disavowing Internet-fueled plans for a trucking protest on Washington, D.C., this weekend.
For some time now, a Facebook page has been advocating that truckers descend on the nation's capital for three days starting Oct. 11 in protest of a vague litany of "government corruption," a mish-mash of right-wing activist talking points and general anti-trucking-regulation complaints.
The Facebook page, "Ride for the Constitution," had nearly 100,000 "likes" as of midday Wednesday. But there are some major "dislikes" of the plan.
ATA and OOIDA both issued statements criticizing the proposed protest.
Mike Parkhurst, a former owner-operator magazine publisher and chairman of the Independent Truckers Association, which claims credit for trucker shutdowns in the '70s and '80s, issued a statement saying the whole thing will "fizzle."
"While I applaud the goal of making an impact on Washington, the dates chosen for the actions could not be more idiotically planned," Parkhurst said, noting that Congress is rarely in session on weekends.
Many of the complaints on the Facebook page have little to do with trucking, from false claims that President Obama is not a U.S. citizen and demanding his impeachment, to complaints about Obamacare, claims that the Department of Homeland Security is unconstitutional and gives TSA agents the right to commit crimes of sexual misconduct, and demanding the City of New York "release our vets."
Trucking-related complaints include emissions regulations, idling laws, the new hours of service regulations, CSA, CARB, electronic logs, truck parking, and high fuel prices.
An earlier version of the Facebook page, "Truckers 2 Shut Down America," was taken down by Facebook after some in the trucking industry complained to Facebook about racist comments.
It's not even entirely clear who's behind this effort. Three main spokespeople have emerged:
- Pete Santilli, whose underground Internet webcast show on The Guerilla Media Network starts airing immediately when you go to the website http://ridefortheconstitution.org/. Santilli is the registered contact for the website. On Twitter, he calls himself a “Proud Domestic Terrorist."
- Earl Conlon, a Georgia trucker. In a YouTube video, Conlon says, "I want to demand the arrest for treason of Barack Obama, his administration, Nancy Pelosi, John Boehner … John McCain … the list is huge. … we have a treasonous government and it's time to take our government back."
- Zeeda Andrews, who says she's a former country music singer from Florida.
Conlon told U.S. News and World Report Monday that as many as 3,000 truckers were coming to Washington on Friday with the intention of shutting down the Beltway. Among other things, he said, the truckers will seek the “arrest of everyone in government who has violated their oath of office," and talked about convening a "citizens grand jury" to do so.
But on Tuesday, Conlon backpedaled somewhat, telling The Washington Post that while there still may be thousands of truckers coming to Washington Friday, they won't intentionally shut down traffic.
Mainstream trucking groups, while acknowledging that the industry does have legitimate complaints about some legislation and regulations in Washington, are trying to make sure people realize that this effort does not represent trucking as a whole.
“The individuals leading this particular effort have no direct affiliation with trucking and appear to be using truckers in order to gain media attention and air grievances not related to trucking,” the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association said in a statement. “We do not support assembling in an unlawful, unpermitted manner, committing crimes, making threats on our lawmakers or behaving in such a way to cast safe, professional truck drivers in a negative light.”
ATA spokesman Sean McNally told Politico.com, “The American Trucking Associations is not a sponsor of this ‘strike’ nor do we endorse or condone the activities of these few individuals. ATA and the vast majority of America’s truck drivers will continue to deliver the nation’s most essential goods unabated even while we continue to work through whatever policy disagreements we have with Congress and the administration.”
Parkhurst said, "sadly, government will incorrectly conclude that this non-existent shutdown proves that truckers can continue to be slapped around like a rag doll. Federal myopia cannot see the calendar with the numbers boldly printed stating 2014 and 2016."