Jim Johnston, one of the founders and the long-serving leader of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, has died at age 78 after more than a year-long battle with lung cancer.
Johnston, who served as OOIDA president and chief executive officer from 1974 to the present, died at his home in Grain Valley, Missouri.
“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, in a press release. “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.”
Johnston was one of a group of truck drivers that started OOIDA in 1973, realizing that a unified voice was the only way for independent truck drivers to be heard in Washington. He fought aggressively to build the organization into what it has become today as the largest national organization of professional truckers in the country.
He continued to work full time until only days before his passing, said the association's announcement, "and remained dedicated to his core mission and that of the association – fighting for the rights of truckers."
“We are prepared to continue the fight as only Jim would want us all to do,” added 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.”
OOIDA was at loggerheads with the American Trucking Associations over a great many issues, but the two associations did come together to work on some industry challenges, such as improving trucking's image.
American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear recalls that one of the first meetings he had in this role was with Johnston and the OOIDA team.
“We are saddened by the news of Jim’s passing," Spear said in a statement. "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.”
A memorial page has been set up for sharing condolences and messages to friends and family. A celebration of life that will be open to the public will be arranged and announced at a later date.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is a national trade association representing the interests of small-business trucking professionals and professional truck drivers. The association currently has more than 160,000 members nationwide. OOIDA was established in 1973 and is headquartered in the Greater Kansas City, Missouri, area.
Updated 1/9/2018 9:25 a.m. EST to add ATA reaction.