Screenshot of broadcast from WSYR-TV

Screenshot of broadcast from WSYR-TV

If the hashtag #MeToo, which accompanied a flood of women sharing their stories on social media in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, was able to change the national conversation about sexual harassment, could an online movement have the same kind of power for drivers protesting mandatory electronic logging devices?

More than 20 years ago, in 1996, I wrote a feature called A Trucker’s Introduction to the Internet. I wrote about e-mail, the World Wide Web, search engines, how to get on the Internet via providers such as America Online and AlterNet … and about something called UseNet newsgroups, the electronic bulletin boards that were the precursor to social media.

I was struck this week about how things have changed. All you have to do is look at the social-media-fueled efforts of truckers to express their displeasure with the electronic logging device mandate.

It started in October, as truckers took to Twitter in response to President Trump using the American Trucking Associations for a backdrop during a tax reform speech. The tweet storm used the hashtag #ELDorMe. And by tweeting to @POTUS and @realDonaldTrump using the hashtag, drivers took their concerns directly to the Oval Office, or wherever it is the president likes to use Twitter.

This week, social media was used to organize anti-ELD rallies planned in more than 40 states Monday. A Facebook group distributed information and posted photos and local news reports of the events.

According to published reports, a group of about 50 truckers held a news conference in the office of U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), while trucks circled the statehouses in Lincoln, Nebraska, and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Screenshot of broadcast from WSYR-TV

Screenshot of broadcast from WSYR-TV

The Monday “media blitz,” which focused on trying to get local reporters to run with the story, got a fair amount of publicity, including in Lancaster, Pennsylania; Frankfort, Kentucky; Newton, Kansas; Gulfport, Mississippi, Nashville, Tennessee, West Palm Beach, Florida, Liverpool, New York, and Fresno, California.

The truckers were using some smart talking points, pointing out not only concerns about the cost to truckers, whether they truly improve safety, and driver privacy, but also potential to impact the price of consumer goods.

Screenshot of broadcast from WLOX-TV

Screenshot of broadcast from WLOX-TV

It appears some of the scheduled protests were less successful than others, based on Facebook posts. In some locations, virtually no truckers showed up. In Albany, New York, and San Francisco, California, local TV stations never showed up for interviews as they had said they would.

But there were plenty of posts on Facebook and Twitter. Some of the tweets from this week’s efforts:

With the ELD mandate deadline of Dec. 18 only two weeks away and no sign that the government is going to delay the rule or exempt small truckers, some drivers are now talking about a shutdown. To truly have impact, though, that would take more than getting TV coverage of protests of a dozen truckers here and a dozen truckers there. I’ve seen numerous shutdowns planned in the 27 years I’ve been covering this business. Can the power of the hashtag make it happen?

Author

Deborah Lockridge
Deborah Lockridge

Deborah Lockridge

Reporting on trucking since 1990, Deborah is known for her award-winning magazine editorials and in-depth features on diverse issues, from the driver shortage to maintenance to rapidly changing technology. 28 Jesse H. Neal honors.

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Reporting on trucking since 1990, Deborah is known for her award-winning magazine editorials and in-depth features on diverse issues, from the driver shortage to maintenance to rapidly changing technology. 28 Jesse H. Neal honors.

View Bio
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