Countdown To Shutdown: Black Smoke Matters Founder “Feeling Great” Despite “Haters”
Little Rock, Arkansas – The founder of Black Smoke Matters (BSM), a grassroots group of truckers planning a nation-wide shutdown beginning April 12, says he is “feeling great about it.”
Joe Denney is the founder of BSM and a 46-year truck driving veteran with more than 6 million accident-free miles. In a brand new exclusive interview with Transportation Nation Network (TNN), Denney expressed his optimism about the upcoming shutdown.
“I’m getting all kinds of good vibes from people all over the country,” Denney said. “There’s more to this than trucking. We are talking about people’s constitutional rights.”
Denney and BSM leaders have a list of grievances with the state of current working conditions for truck drivers, such as electronic logging devices (ELD) being federally mandated, insufficient driver training standards, lack of safe truck parking, and inflexible hours of service (HOS) regulations.
“Our whole agenda on April 12th is getting media coverage and letting the American people know what’s going on out here. The ATA is buying these regulations like you can buy nuggets at McDonald’s. I’m tired of seeing these families being killed out here over the greed.” – Joe Denney, Founder of BSM
Add them all up and Denney says the safety of the motoring public and of truck drivers is in peril. “I personally can’t understand how people can keep from standing up and fighting for better training and the rest of this stuff that’s happening right now,” Denney exclaimed.
Critics Take Aim At BSM
After calling for, and organizing a shutdown, BSM has come under intense criticism from media outlets, trucking leaders, and some drivers. One recent report from a business news media outlet quoted a driver as referring to the group as a “domestic terrorists.”
Denney said that characterization of BSM was grossly misguided.
Allegations leveled at BSM include the group’s indifference to the effects a shutdown might have on people who need their medicines and babies who might not get formula if truckers stopped operating.
Further, critics say BSM wants to create an environment of anarchy and even block U.S. interstates and highways which could lead to disastrous consequences.
Denney called the allegations “bulls—” and flatly dismissed the critics as “haters.” He commented, “We are not out here for anybody to get harmed or do without their medicine. I would hope to God nobody would block any lanes. I hope the Highway Patrol would take control of that situation.”
Another common criticism being voiced by some trucking leaders is that a shutdown will not only be ineffective, but counter-productive, especially at a time when the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is moving forward on new HOS rules the agency says will provide “more flexibility” for truck drivers.
U.S. DOT Secretary Elaine Chao announced last Friday a Notice Of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) regarding HOS had been sent to the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review.
TNN reported on Tuesday that OMB had already deemed the newly proposed rule as “economically significant” which is notable since such a designation often requires months, not days.
Still, Denney and BSM leaders would like to see the rulemaking process sped up and become more transparent. Trucking stakeholders have not yet seen the proposed HOS rule and will not until the OMB completes its review.
FMCSA must then complete an economic impact analysis before publishing the rule in the Federal Register. The industry will then have an opportunity to review and comment on the proposed rule before it can be finalized.
Denney said one of BSM’s goals is to expedite this process. “I think the shutdown will make them work a lot quicker,” he said. “They can go to the president to get an executive order. They can at least speed the process up.”
BSM’S Message & Media Outreach Plan
On April 12, Denney and BSM supporters intend to suspend their day-to-day duties as professional drivers, but it does not mean they will be on vacation. Not at all in fact.
Denney said leaders intend to head to New York City in an effort to garner media attention from national mainstream outlets.
“We plan on having trucks go in to NYC the media capital of the world,” he said. Other media events are also being planned during the shutdown in cities like Chicago and Washington D.C.
BSM also intends to meet with FMCSA leaders during the shutdown.
In the past few months hundreds of truckers have participated in about a dozen truck convoy protests, known as “slow rolls,” in an effort to bring attention to the planned shutdown.
While Denney believes the slow rolls have been “great” at attracting media attention to the plight of truck drivers, he is hopeful the shutdown will elevate the media’s interest even more.
“There’s more to this than trucking. We are talking about people’s constitutional rights. I am looking for a big turnout!”
Denney said the key to the shutdown’s success will be getting their message to the American public because it is a matter of life and death. “Our whole agenda on April 12th is getting media coverage and letting the American people know what’s going on out here. The ATA is buying these regulations like you can buy nuggets at McDonald’s. I’m tired of seeing these families being killed out here over the greed,” he commented.
BSM leaders acknowledge that as the shutdown has drawn closer, people who initially pledged to be onboard have begun to waffle and even back out.
Denney believes it’s a matter of courage or lack thereof. “I just don’t think people have the backbone they should have as American citizens,” he said.
Nevertheless, Denney and the BSM movement are remaining optimistic about their prospects to achieve some of their goals through the shutdown. “I am looking for a big turnout,” he opined.
(image courtesy of Black Smoke Matters)
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