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There are 206,746 trucking companies in the US, most of them very small. Nearly 90% have five trucks or fewer. Many consist of owner-operators, people who own one truck and drive it themselves on a freelance basis for any given company.
It’s challenging for owner-operators to band together and voice their opinions. It gets more complicated during a pandemic, where truck drivers are more important when it comes to stocking grocery stores and hospitals.
Todd Spencer, who began his career as an owner-operator in 1974, has been a leader in ensuring truck drivers can make their experiences known. He’s the head of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), which has been increasingly lobbying lawmakers as the pandemic places unusual demands on drivers.
One key part of Spencer’s advocacy has been pressing the federal government to provide personal protective equipment to truck drivers, which the administration agreed to do in April. OOIDA, with other groups, also fought to stop the shuttering of rest areas. Several states, including Pennsylvania, reopened those areas after continued demands from truck drivers nationwide.
“For the vast majority of people who operate trucks, we’re going to be the only real voice that they have,” Spencer tells Business Insider.