January 11, 2018 3:00 PM, EST

OOIDA President Jim Johnston Dies at Age 78

Jim Johnston, the co-founder and longtime president and CEO of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, has died after a yearlong battle with lung cancer. He was 78.

Johnston was an outspoken advocate for the interests of truck drivers. His motto was “Never give up. The only option is deciding how best to fight back.”

OOIDA's Johnston passed away after a year-long battle with lung cancer.

“The trucking industry has lost a visionary and crusader for the rights of all truckers,” said OOIDA executive vice president Todd Spencer, who will serve as acting president of the association in accordance with a succession plan in the group’s bylaws.

Johnston was part of a group of truck drivers who started OOIDA in 1973, working out of an office trailer at a truck stop in Grain Valley, Mo. He became president of OOIDA in 1974, served eight five-year terms and was serving his ninth at the time of his death.

Spencer said Johnston worked full-time until days before his passing and will be a source of inspiration for an organization that now has 160,000 members and 350 employees.

“We are prepared to continue the fight as only Jim would want us all to do,” Spencer said in a statement Jan. 8. “Every driver today is better off because of that decision he made years ago.”

He was a passionate leader for drivers and the industry, advocating issues that helped build this great nation.

ATA President Chris Spear on Jim Johnston

A native of Summerfield, Mass., Johnston grew up in Davenport, Iowa, and enlisted in 1956 in the U.S. Navy, where he worked on a ship as a boiler man. After completing his military service, he worked as a driver and owner-operator.

American Trucking Associations President Chris Spear in a statement recalled Johnston’s commitment to the industry.

“One of the first meetings I had in this role was with Jim and his team,” Spear said. “He was a passionate leader for drivers and the industry, advocating issues that helped build this great nation. Jim was a warrior, and he will be missed.”

Johnston served on many government and industry transportation groups, including the National Academy of Science’s Transportation Research Board, the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the National Motor Carrier Advisory Committee of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Johnston is survived by his wife, Karen, and a brother, Chuck Johnston.