Recently, I had the pleasure of accompanying several state trucking associations to the nation’s capital during their “Call on Washington” program. What is this program you ask? It is a grassroots initiative designed to bring state trucking association members to Capitol Hill and give them an opportunity to connect with their U.S. senators and representatives to voice their concerns over the legislative and regulatory landscape.

When it comes to meetings with members of Congress and their staff, I find that the most powerful voice in the room is that of the constituent. It is the voice expressing the realities of federal regulation and legislation, or lack thereof, on a daily basis back home in the members’ districts and states. Rightfully so, time and again I see this dynamic play out and these most recent visits certainly were no different. The majority of the conversations centered on highway reauthorization. As we all have seen and continue to watch this political drama unfold since SAFETEA-LU expired in 2009, it’s all the more important for politicians to hear directly from their constituents on these critical issues.

While funding has proved to be the most difficult obstacle for Congress to solve in a bicameral and bipartisan highway bill, there are also a number of policy provisions on the table that would be very beneficial for the trucking industry. In particular, mandating electronic onboard recorders and a U.S. DOT study on FMCSA’s new 34-hour restart provision were two that were discussed. As these visits continue to be fresh in my mind and I see the positive impact and awareness these state association members brought to their senators and representatives, I ask myself, why aren’t more trucking executives taking an active role in this process?

Getting involved in advocacy can seem like a daunting task. But at a time when it seems politics trumps all, it is all the more imperative that the trucking community gets involved in every possible way to support the industry, ensure we are heard from, and essentially help to create a stronger, more secure future for trucking. If you wish to get involved, there are many other avenues one can take. The first and perhaps the most important one is contacting your local, state and U.S. elected officials. This can entail traveling to Washington, D.C., meeting with your representatives in their local or district offices, or speaking with them or their staff over the phone. Creating and maintaining relationships is a sure way to bring awareness to issues that face both you as a carrier and the industry as a whole. The job of elected officials is to serve you, and it bodes well for them and their staff to listen to your concerns and to take them into account as they make decisions impacting the industry.

Another approach is to join a state or national trucking association. Associations have advocacy infrastructure set up for members to jump in and get involved. As we all know, there is always strength in numbers, and by joining an association you have the opportunity to join together with your peers and send a very loud and resounding message to legislative houses across the country.

After witnessing how constructive and effective the “Call on Washington” visits were, I can’t say enough how important it is to take that step forward and get involved. In such fragile economic times, the trucking community, as the backbone of the economy, can’t take the back seat.

David Heller, CDS, is director of safety and policy for the Truckload Carriers Assn. He is responsible for interpreting and communicating industry-related regulations and legislation to the membership of TCA. Send comments to Safety411@truckload.org.