Right-Wing Truck Convoy Off To Rocky Start

by Jana Ritter - Published: 10/09/2013

Right-wing activists who have made headlines saying they’ll use big trucks to jam Beltway traffic this weekend are already off to a rocky start. Barely a day after U.S.News & World Report wrote about the “Ride for the Constitution,” organizers are condemning a former compatriot who suggested that the group will “arrest” congressmen.

Four trucks

Meanwhile, mainstream trucking industry organizations are completely disavowing any connection with the activists, including some protest supporters who alleged they plan to snarl traffic for three days by circling Interstate 495 at 55 mph.

The protest website talks about bringing a million truckers to D.C. or instigating a nationwide trucker strike that would soon mean empty store shelves. Pete Santilli, an Internet radio host who has been serving as the official spokesman for the ride, said, “We’re looking for an Egypt moment, where 100 million people will get out on the street, get out on the roads and demand that our legislature follow the Constitution.”

Police agencies say they’re keeping an eye out. “Virginia State Police are aware of the proposed protest, but we are not in a position to comment on any preparations at this time,” spokeswoman Corinne Geller said. She later added that “as long as the vehicles comply with Virginia law, then the Virginia State Police will not interfere with their protest.” A Maryland state police spokesman similarly said officers there are prepared to “keep the highways clear and safe.”

The threats have also caught the attention of two major trucking industry organizations, which said they're not participating in any such protest — despite the industry's disputes with the Obama administration and Congress over regulations.

“The individuals leading this particular effort have no direct affiliation with trucking and appear to be using truckers in order to gain media attention and air grievances not related to trucking,” the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association said in a statement. “We do not support assembling in an unlawful, unpermitted manner, committing crimes, making threats on our lawmakers or behaving in such a way to cast safe, professional truck drivers in a negative light.”

Both OOIDA and the American Trucking Associations said legal means are the best way to battle unfriendly regulations.

The convoy organizers have complaints related to trucking regulations but also embrace false claims about Barack Obama’s birthplace and accuse the president of “treason” for funneling weapons to Syrian rebels. Conlon also told U.S. News on Monday that the truckers will seek the “arrest of everyone in government who has violated their oath of office.” That led the group to ask the media not to quote Conlon as a spokesman.

At the top of the demands on the protest website is the repeal of new hours-of-service rules that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration put into place July 1. The rules, upheld by a federal appeals court in August, require a 34-hour rest break each week and 30 minutes of off-duty rest for each eight-hour day. The activists' other trucking-related complaints include other federal regulations, the price of fuel and a lack of parking.