If you’re like me, and I know I am, you probably remember CW McCall’s hit protest song, “Convoy.”
It ushered into U.S. parlance CB radio terms like, “Breaker One-Nine” (a reference to Channel 19, the most popular for US truckers at the time) and “Smokey” (a term for police, like “Smokey Bear” and “heat”), as well as “Bear” (another term for police, akin to “the Fuzz” from the inner city). It was pretty cool, because it was about a bunch of truckers getting fed-up with hassles from the “heat”, and forming a convoy to break a police roadblock. It even inspired a movie, which can only be said for a handful of songs in the history of recorded music.
Well, you can bet a few contemporary truckers played that tune in unison on Friday, April 12 as they engaged in a nationwide “Slow Roll Protest” of federal regulations that have hobbled them for years, especially since the incredibly meddlesome Obama Administration.
They are protesting for more flexible working hours, relaxed rules on electronic logging devices, more training for new semitrailer drivers and more truck parking and amenities along expressways.
Which does’t say a lot about what “rules” they mean, who imposed those “rules” on them, whether those “rules” are constitutional, or how those rules really effect them and consumers.
So, we’ll do ABC 7’s job and delve into this a little deeper.
The trucking industry is one of the most “regulated” in the United States, which means that those trying to earn a living in it are some of the most threatened by US politicians and bureaucrats. The three primary means by which political gangland tactics are employed are the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Transportation (DOT), and the rarely mentioned-but-powerful Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) – all of which are “excused” by misreading Section One, Article Eight, Clause Three of the Constitution.
Those familiar with the section will know I speak of the so-called “Interstate Commerce” clause, which James Madison warned was not to be read as giving the feds power to regulate anything that went over state borders, but was a remedial power to allow state governments in trade conflicts with each other to appeal to Congress for resolution.
Virtually any modern politician doesn’t like to discuss that, of course, because if they abided by the original intent of the clause, they would lose most of their power to shake down businesses and hand out money with strings attached.
Overall, the Obama Administration piled nearly 4,000 new regulations on US businesses, consumers, and property owners, and many of these came in the form of regs on long-haul truckers.
Obama imposed more stringent fuel efficiency mandates, forcing truckers to change the loads they carry, change the physical makeup of their trucks, or buy new trucks altogether. If they don’t comply, Obama’s rules dictate that they pay a fine.
The Obama Administration imposed reduced “Hours of Service” mandates, cutting by twelve hours the length of time truckers could work within a seven day period, and compelling them to stop for a half-hour every eight hours. The gang also proposed a federally mandated “speed limiter” that would have been placed on every truck, as well as a “health screening mandate” that would have forced every trucker to undergo tests for possible sleep apnea.
The Trump Administration has dropped the last two, but an associated Obama-era rule, called the “Electronic Logging Device”, or “ELD”, though proposed to be dropped by President Trump, is still mandated. It’s an actual electronic monitor, forced into all trucks, that allows police to plug-in and see when truckers started and stopped, so, in effect, it can act as a speed limit monitor to show any moment when a trucker exceeded a posted speed limit.
Obama’s gang also proposed a prohibition on what are called “Glider Kit” trucks, or big-rigs fitted with used engines, because, of course, emissions from those evil old engines might cause the Earth to melt. But don’t worry, because it won’t take any energy to create new engines, and they don’t cost truckers a thing.
Initially, Trump was going to stop that prohibition, but it looks like his EPA is going to allow the mandate to “move forward” as the political parlance goes.
So, all told, truckers are in a far, far worse position, freedom-wise, than they were in the 1970s when McCall released the protest song that became part of Americana.
And while many other drivers might fear "Big Scary Trucks" or "BSTs" and welcome the "regulations", the conflict between truckers and others on the roads is really a manifestation of government running the roads. As always, this creates a "tragedy of the commons" pitting different interests against each other.
Meanwhile, federal bureaucrats and politicians actually get paid and take tax money from the truckers themselves in order to make it harder for truckers to figure out their routes, speeds, loads, vehicle specs, and departure times. They make it harder for truckers to handle weather, traffic jams, and the demands of an increasingly online-to-home delivery system dependent on their efficiency.
The federal regulations also harm consumers, driving truckers out of the business and decreasing the supply of their services.
Is it any wonder that contemporary truckers are protesting? They’re trying to wake up Americans to their fight against the politicians.
Perhaps McCall’s scions need to create a new “Convoy” song to act as the soundtrack.