June 2003 Letters

The best thing since air conditioning
To the good people at OOIDA:

I am a Teamster. I think the run legal in June idea is one of the best things since a/c. Keep up the good work.

Peter Reid
Rowlett, TX

Running compliant is 100 percent correct
You’re 100 percent correct regarding running legal in June 2003. But, it should continue beyond June.

Imagine the wrath of the dispatchers when we call them and tell them that we’re only 35 miles from our destination (on Friday, no less), but we have to shut down for 8 hours. Wow. We’d better hold the telephone at least 12 inches from our ear.

Thank you, President Johnston, for writing that letter to the trucking companies. You wrote a very factual and hard-hitting letter, which was long, long, long, overdue. I especially liked your last sentence: “… [from Mike Belzer’s “Sweatshops on Wheels]…this industry’s perpetual race to the bottom.” That’s exactly right. It is a race to the bottom. A slow collective suicide.

We’ve come a long way down already.

I will say that Land Line Magazine is the best, most down-to-earth trucking publication I’ve ever read to date. I’m new to your magazine, although I have known of OOIDA for some time. Just never contacted you before. One morning in March 2003, I saw a man in the Rogers, MN, TA wearing OOIDA logos, but he left before I had a chance to visit with him.

I plan to become a paid member of OOIDA as soon as my personal finances allow.

Ron Michaelson
Wells, MN

Would you like some whine with that?
I read the article in Land Line written by Mark Taylor with great interest.

I have been pushing in the direction of total compliance as a solo driver. I haven’t even started with the no-holds-barred, take-no-prisoners strict compliance yet, and my phone is already ringing with whining complaints.

The comments and questions sound like, “You need to take a serious look at your logbook,” or “I’m looking at these dispatches and can’t see how you are out of hours,” and “You’re logging your maintenance time? Why are you doing that?”

The outfit I’m currently leased to runs on a just-in-time schedule dictated by Rhom and Haas chemicals. It will be interesting to see if they can maintain on-time performance when the true extent of how under-manned and under-trailered they are is shown by strict compliance of the owner-operators in their fleet.

If what I expect to happen happens, then OOIDA can be expecting a call soon. Thanks for everything that you do.

Joe Shannon
Millville, CA

Everybody but truckers and farmers
During the little bit I get to listen to the “Truckin’ Bozo,” he talks about Safety Month. There are responses like “It won’t work,” “I can’t do it and make a trip,” “They won ’t let me.”

One answer surprised me: “I’m doing all right.” Maybe we are – considering everything. It is not an apathetic answer, but an honest answer.

I think where you ought to focus on is getting truckers in the “fair wage board” or whatever it is called. That thing that everybody except farmers and truckers have to abide by – minimum wage and overtime.

Richard Winslow
Cannon Falls, MN

A real American man
After reading your article about William G. Rode, I could not help but feel the need to write this letter. Mr. Rode is what I would call “A Real American Man.”

This guy gave his time to the U.S. Forestry Service, Army Corp of Engineers in Germany, as a dude ranch guide, an owner-operator, on the board of directors with OOIDA, served on the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, was a leader in his local 4-H Club and on top of that, he writes poetry. I am please to read about someone who gives more to his city, community and country than what he takes out.

William G. Rode is a perfect example of a professional over-the-road driver who has many things to offer of himself. Just from what I read about Rode, I would guarantee that he would be the driver who would risk his life to save someone else if he were to come upon someone in an accident. I personally would like to be more like Rode and would encourage all of us to give more to our families, give more to our towns and give more of ourselves to make this country a better place to live.

Thanks, William, for the great act of showing what a “Real American Man” is all about.

Kevin J. Meyer
Hutchinson, KS

When the clock starts …
I agree fully with Shelvey Meyer's outlook on how we should be paid (May letters). I cringe at the thought of what companies would try to pull if it became necessary for them to pay us by the hour.

I say keep the mileage and or the percentage pay, but when you pull on that customer’s property, the clock starts. Now that would probably entail the shippers and receivers having to start requiring appointment times, but that’s OK, because at least then you have an idea of a time schedule in which you may be unloaded/loaded.

You want to take your time Mr. Warehouseman? Fine with me! They call it demurrage time, and your company is going to neuter you with a dull box cutter when they get this bill. Bye, I'm going to bed.

Oh yeah, tell that missing link you call a lumper (which, by the way, I will no longer pay for) not to shake my truck while unloading – I'm a sensitive sleeper.

Mark Garrison
Longview, TX

Let’s be fair about this parking thing
My husband and I live in the desert of southern California. If we had stayed in our former home, my husband would not now be working as an OTR driver.

The street in front of our former home was too narrow for two small import cars to drive past each other without one of them going onto the shoulder with two wheels.

The city council in Bullhead City, AZ, decided it would be illegal for anyone to park any large vehicles at their homes, including RVs, boats and especially commercial semi-tractors. Unless we wanted to pay a monthly storage fee, we would have had to leave the tractor-trailer parked on the shoulder of the road about a mile from the house.

Commercial shopping or other locations with large parking lots would not allow the truck to be parked there unless we were utilizing their facilities.

The noise of an idling diesel engine can be quite annoying – I know because my husband’s truck has been parked here and left idling when he is only stopped here for a meal/coffee. His truck does not get left idling if he is not going to be driving it within a short time.

What might be a good idea is to come up with a framework for a parking ordinance that includes references to the space required, locations where parking would be allowed and the issues related to noise.

Truckdrivers want to be good neighbors, but that will not happen if the other neighbors are not going to work fairly.

Dianne Long
Earp, CA

A few suggestions on HOS
The DOT has said its piece, and again we see just how hard they work for the safety of the drivers and general public. How long do you think it took them to come up with these changes? I'm sure they took into account the opinions of the drivers, because, after all, who would know better how to fix the system than those of us who are stuck in it?

The only thing they did right is have the hours reset after 34 hours off.

They could have easily fixed the whole system in four easy steps:

1. Make it illegal for shippers to require drivers to count and/or load the freight that is put on our trailers. The only requirement a driver should have to face in picking up a load should be to tell the shipper how his trailer is to be loaded.

2. Make it illegal for a driver to unload his freight at the destination. The receiver should be required to sign the bills “seals intact at destination,” then unload the truck.

3. Shippers and receivers should have two hours to load or unload their freight, or be charged a fee large enough to make them not want to delay the trucks any longer than necessary.

4. Any citations given for logbook violations should be issued to the company, not the driver. The company dispatches the drivers. They should be responsible for the consequences. If they started to pay the fines, they wouldn’t be so quick to ignore the law.

If the DOT would have instituted just these four changes, we would have plenty of time to do our driving and get our rest, too.

Bob Finch
Leola, PA

Why not all drivers?
We all know safety is an issue, but why only with truckdrivers? Why don’t all license holders have to have special training, carry logbooks or only be allowed to drive so many hours a day?

I recently went with my husband. It was late at night, and all along off-ramps and rest areas and in truckstops, all spaces were filled with drivers resting. But guess what we saw just up the road? A pickup on its top in the ditch. Guess someone forgot to pull him over and remind him to take his eight-hour nap.

All those who look down on truckers should remember: Without their dedication and hard work, you “regular” people wouldn’t have your coffee in the morning, your car you drive to your 9-5 job or the baseball that you are lucky enough to toss around with your kids after working only eight hours that day.

These truckers are just as much as heroes as our servicemen. They sacrifice so that others may benefit. They miss birthdays and holidays, listen to their kids grow up over the phone and watch them in pictures, with each mile hoping to make enough to someday be able to lay their heads in one spot for more than one night.

It’s their choice, yes, but someone has to do it, and I don’t think it’s too much to ask for the rest of us to have some consideration for them – even admiration – instead of being down on them.

Heather McMullen
Nevada, IA

An ode to over the road
I am writing to you in regard to my brother, Pete Damon. He was an owner-operator for well over 40 years. His last rig was a green Freightliner called “Erin Go Braugh.” He loved the industry and the road more than anything else in his life.

Pete passed away June 10, 2002. In going through his things, I found the enclosed poem.

Peg La Fleur
Las Vegas, NV

“Over the Road”

Over the road
is the best
For a traveling man
his soul to rest
There’s nothing like
those miles ahead
But there’s no TV
and no feather bed
No eight to five
with a half-hour lunch
No coffee break
but no clock to punch
Scales, flat tires
or a brake spring
Run out of fuel, with
no more to put in
Tappets, injectors
are but a few
Of the things that may happen,
or go wrong for you
No enough sleep,
for sleep is a crime
Cause you gotta move that load
to get there on time
When you finally arrive
all tired and dirty
The man says “Sorry,
It’s after four thirty”
So off to a truckstop,
a shower and bed
Too tired and weary to care
what lies ahead

--Peter Damon

Broker to truckers: This is your fault
I am a small auto transport broker, and to be honest, I'm getting a little tired of truckers blaming brokers for all their problems. You truckers believe it's our fault that freight prices are low. I’m here to tell you the error of your ways.

One of the mistakes you make is assuming the broker is making a huge commission on your load. Speaking for myself and several other auto transport brokers I know personally, that is not the case. Don’t get me wrong, I know of brokers who charge 40 percent and more, but they are the exception, not the rule. Most of us charge a reasonable rate, and we are having as hard a time as you guys making a living.

Another mistake you make is even thinking a broker can cause prices to drop. Think about it, then explain how that can happen. If the price the broker is offering is too low, don’t haul it. If nobody will haul it for the money offered, it has to go up, right?

Now, rethink the original problem. The way I see it, it’s the truckers’ fault. More specifically, independent truckers. Too many of you independents will haul a lousy load, just to pay the fuel, in hopes you will make it up on the next one. You won’t.

All you have done is show the broker someone will haul it at that garbage price. Guess what? Next time, he’ll try it lower yet. And somebody will take it. And that, drivers, is how it got this bad.

Guess how it gets fixed. You. You stop hauling cheap freight. You convince other drivers not to haul cheap freight. I hate to say this, but you guys have to stand together. If you do that, all us nasty, evil brokers will have to raise rates.

We used to be independent owner-operators. We went belly up. We blamed brokers, too. True, brokers still owe us $4,000 that we will never see. But it was our own stupidity that drove us out of business. We hauled cars just to fill the spot, to pay for fuel. Are you guys in business to make the finance company, the insurance company, the truckstops and the fuel stops money, or are you trying to make a good living for you and your family? Nobody can do it but you.

Again, we are former owner-operators who failed. We know what your expenses are. We believe you guys deserve the lion’s share of the money. Don’t you? I’m telling you straight, we don’t make stupid promises that we know a driver can’t keep. We require communication between driver and customer. That way, nobody is misunderstood. What else can a broker do? I mean it. If you guys won’t help yourselves, why should we?

Lloyd Heinemann and Linda Blum
Mountainside Auto Transport Inc.
Black Canyon City, AZ

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