January 2004 Letters

Best job I ever hated
I’m sorry to announce that after 11 years in the trucking industry, my health deprives me of the ability to drive a truck for my profession.

I’ve been asked many times how I liked trucking. My reply was, “It’s the best job I ever hated.” Anyone who ever drove knows what I mean. I don’t think my fondness for driving will ever leave me, and that is a good thing to me. I’ve received several safety awards, which is an accomplishment, but the friends I’ve made mean much more to me.

I would like to stay active in trying to make our profession better for us.

Take or make the time to stop and have a meal or cup of coffee with your friends when you run across them. Take or make time to help someone out. (Who knows, you might start something good.) And last but not least, be safe. For yourself, your family and for everyone else’s family on the road.

David Wright
Morganton, NC

Not everyone in Illinois is paying more
The new IRP fee increase in Illinois has affected owner-operators, big trucking companies and businesses having their own trucks. But it does not affect farm operations using equipment with farm license plates.

Compared with Illinois base plates, farm plates are inexpensive. No highway use tax is paid, and mileage is unlimited.

The 25-ton truck is a thing of the past; now a days, farmers haul 80,000-pound loads on hopper bottoms, frameless dump trailers and some lowboys to haul their own heavy machinery on.

Why should they be exempt from paying more? I think they should be paying an equal share also for using the road.

Brian Surratt
Chapin, IL

Ohio is not so bad
Regarding the letter on the Ohio Turnpike by F.J. Falls:

Ohio is one of the few states in the country where the State Patrol is the only force allowed on the turnpike, all cars are clearly marked, and never, never sit at night without marker lights visible. Many other states, including Pennsylvania, use junked cars, unmarked pickup trucks and the like to catch and harass drivers. So, my friends, when one looks at the total picture, Ohio is really not that bad.

I have driven in each and every state and most of Canada, and our turnpike will stand up to any of the rest.

Robert J. Sharp
North Ridgeville, OH

A few memories of the good old days
I had to retire from driving over the road for 37 years because of back problems.

I enjoy reading your magazine and keeping up with the amazing changes in the trucking industry. I look back from the time I started driving, April 1966: Fuel was 17 cents a gallon, mileage pay was 7 cents per mile. Those were the good old days.

I miss the freedom of the road. God blessed me with 3 million miles – accident free.

James L. Camp
Fort Payne, AL

Not enough rest areas
There are not enough rest stops for these drivers. If we made more areas, we could have less drivers falling asleep at the wheels (Not that that happens a lot.).

For example, in our area of Deltona, FL, my husband, who has just begun to be an owner-operator, had no place to park his rig for a while. We parked it in another area where some other rigs parked. Well, it was on a dead-end street, and we got a parking ticket.

Parris Beegle
Deltona, FL

Quitting is the easy way out
This letter is in response to the November letter to the editor titled, “I’m getting out of this game.”

If all the good apples in the barrel were taken out of it, all that would be left would be the rotten ones. We certainly don’t want that. We in this profession need the good apples to stay in the barrel. You might not see your impact on the industry, but trust me, your impact is felt.

Why not stick around with the rest of us and continue to try to change the things that you don’t like?

If you or anybody else has a problem with free labor, then I urge you to take a stand and dump your present carrier.

Quitting is the easiest thing you can do. It takes guts and determination to change the things you don’t like.

Mike Taylor
Hector, AR

It’s not worth my life
Last year, I bought an older truck and leased on with a company that runs up in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut a lot.

Now here is my problem: If I have to cross two or three bridges a day and maybe hit a couple of toll roads, this means I have to carry the cash for them. Now that makes me a target to get robbed. And I think back to the man that was shot in the back on I-44 with a shotgun. They only got like $40 or so and left, but took him from his wife and twins, who will never know him.

I think my life is not worth those greedy politicians putting one dime in their pockets.

I do not pay for any of those states any more; they can take a loss on the fuel, food and other items this trucker will never get from them again.

P.T. Sutphin
Iron Station, NC

Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down
I have been in the trucking business for over 30 some years, and I have never seen it so messed up as it is today.

Our industry has had everything thrown at it in the last several years, and somehow we as a whole have managed to land on our feet. But with the new hours-of-service regs, we have lost ground.

If anyone has the answer I wish they would speak up. I feel that we as owner-operators will be a thing of the past before too long.

Mike McRae
Elkins, WI

Don’t save me a spot
A while back, I had tired of the treatment I was receiving from the major mail carrier I had been driving for. After two and a half years, I realized my heart was not with their program.

My first thought as to leasing to a carrier was to the carrier I had been leased to for about 10 1/2 years; not a bad statement when you consider the normal turnover in the industry. Actually, the reason I had left was that my wife has some serious heath issues, and I couldn’t be gone from home as long as had been acceptable before.

I called and visited with the recruiter, a lady who had started in their offices about four years after I had been there. We talked over old times for a couple of minutes and then I asked if they were leasing owner-operators at that time. She said, “Of course we have a spot for you, anytime you're ready to come back.” I asked about the contract and was told, “It’s the same as before ... we’ve added Trip Pack, but that’s about the only change.”

I said, in light of our long and profitable relationship, I didn’t think a ½ percent boost in my end of the contract was out of line for the years I’d been there and for however many years we continued our relationship. The immediate response was, “We can’t do that!”

I pointed out that in light of increasing fuel costs, tractor prices and increases in every segment of my cost of operation, it was very necessary. The replay was again, “We can’t do that.”

I asked if she received annual raises, and I knew the answer before she declined to answer.

Since the contractors are the ones producing the revenue for the company, and they bear the bulk of the costs, it seems only fair that an annual review of those costs result in an increase of the revenue to those contractors. But since that didn’t seem to suit their plans, I ended the call as nicely as I could, “Well, I guess you don’t need to save me a spot.”

Gordon Betts
Ogallala, NE

Shippers and dockside delays
The FMCSA’s Annette Sandburg states that “a lot of the shippers are just not aware of the new HOS changes and their impact on drivers,” and that “a little more outreach into shipper community” is necessary.

“Shipper community” dockside delays have been required to be logged as “on-duty” time (which directly reduces the driving time available against the 60/70 hour limit) for what – 70 years? This is nothing new. How can these people (federal regulators) possibly think that new regulations for drivers are going to have an impact on the “shipper community,” which has ignored their “impact on drivers” for the last 70 years?

Drivers do not control shippers or receivers. “A little more outreach” ain’t gonna do it either. Nothing will change at the dockside until the feds issue realistic regulations that protect the drivers from abuses there and enforce those regulations.

New Jersey is getting a clue. Their efforts (A3491, A3492) to fine terminals for delaying drivers and overloading are the only way that such delays and overloads will cease.

Michael Fisher
Oroville, CA

How will they get shippers to shape up?
I just finished reading your interview with Annette Sandberg.

Sandberg admits her group doesn’t have any “regulations” to put forth on the shippers to get the trucks in and out. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that if the shippers don’t know about the new rules, then how are the rules going to work?

She figures that the truckers will tell the shippers and after we have to pay fines, we’ll complain to the shippers and maybe something will be done. Wrong!

Roger Diver
Marksville, LA

The power in numbers
We had just purchased two new Firestone steer tires in Amarillo, TX, where we live, and left for California.

In Gila Bend, AZ, one of the tires started throwing 4-inch pieces of rubber off of it. We bought another new tire at a truck stop and kept the one they took off. On the way back from California, in Cuervo, NM, the other Firestone tire blew out and took half the front fender with it. Now we had two tires at $500 each and need a new fender for almost $1,000. Everyone said that we were just out the money because Firestone won’t pay anything.

We had to fill out papers and were told by Firestone to ship the tires and pay the freight charge of $207 at this time. We also sent a copy of everything, including all bills and letters, to OOIDA. We thought this is going to be waste of time because OOIDA has a promotion for Bridgestone-Firestone.

Firestone said that in 30 days they would have an answer; 45 days went by, and I called Jerry Bartley at OOIDA. He said he would take care of it. I thought, heard that before. But Jerry called Firestone and their lawyer three or four times a day and didn’t give them a break at all. Amazing.

We got a check in the mail for over $2,000 from Firestone. Thank you, Jerry Bartley and OOIDA, you are great.

So if you think you can’t stand up to big companies yourself, forget it! Like Jim Johnston says, there is power in numbers, and even Firestone doesn’t want to lose more than 100,000 potential tire buyers.

Don and Mary D’Amico
Amarillo, TX

The way it is
I recently bought fuel and stayed overnight at Sturbridge Isle Travel Plaza, exit 1 off I-84 in Sturbridge, MA.

My experience was not a pleasant one, beginning with the rudeness of the night shift clerks at the fuel counter. I discovered that this fuel stop charges credit card price for using Comdata card, they charge you to park there and their shower facilities are a joke.

When I discussed the issue the next morning with the truck stop manager, he rudely told me that’s the way it is.

I now stay at the New England Truck Stop in Sturbridge at exit 3A. What a night and day difference in attitudes. They at New England have my business when I have a layover in that area in the future. Keep up the good work.

Robert Maher
Whittier, CA

You asked for it
The classic truck owned and operated by Sam Watson is by far a truck that has had extensive overall reconstruction.

I have had the opportunity to talk to Sam at a show that was held in Buckhannon, WV. The show was a car and truck show. I had the chance of seeing pictures of the truck from its original state of condition to the finish in which the truck has had several things done.

Sam explained that the truck is even in operation in the winter. I have observed the 600 Cummins with all the right trimmings and chrome unimaginable, right down to the frame bolts. Please show this truck if at all possible.

Russell L. McElwee II
Hedgesville, WV

Editor’s note: We contacted Sam and his son Ed. They’ve done some fantastic stuff with this truck. Here it is.

Maybe the new HOS will help
Personally, for me the hardest thing about being an owner-operator was the crazy hours. They were never the same from one day to the next and eventually the lack of proper sleep caused extreme tiredness.

That took all the fun out of being on the road, and I am hoping that the new rules will help establish a semi-normal sleep schedule.

It will also help if truckers will adhere to the rules and thereby drive up rates so we can all make a good living with some semblance of normal hours.

Robert Falk
Fresno, CA

One size does not fit all
I run a day-cab and make several stops and return to my point of origin daily.

Under the new HOS rules, I can see myself busting butt to get my job done before my 14 hours are up. That means no breaks or lunch or any other stop that would eat up my time. I thought the new rules were about safety.

People that have never been associated with trucking don’t have a clue as to the many different factions of truck driving – i.e., long haul, city delivery, short haul, etc.

Larry DeLanghe
Bremen, IN

Get the message out – trucking style
One option to think about [to combat higher registration fees in Illinois] is to get some of those van trailers with a banner stating to the effect, “A public service message to the constituents: Thanks to Gov. Blagojevich, you will now have to pay 36 percent more for the products you buy.”

Strikes are not good PR, and protest is like sex – it’s good for the moment, and soon forgotten.

I reside in Indiana; the increase won’t have a huge impact on my operations. However, it is this type of thing that needs to be watched. If you don’t think that the Indiana Senate is watching, guess again. If Illinois gets away with it, the fee will spread across the nation like a wildfire.

Rocco DeBeneditto
Lake Village, IN

‘Dragon’ has a dark story in its past
I read with much interest the articles about “the Dragon,” so I have to share a few little comments.

This route was also one of those used by Andrew Jackson and the U.S. Army to forcibly remove the Cherokee people from their homeland.

The Cherokee won a Supreme Court decision in their favor. Andrew Jackson had the Army, the Supreme Court did not, so out you go; and so they marched a large group of people – some barefoot – down to the ferry, over the river, and placed them in a stockade all summer. Disease struck, and 3,500 people are buried in a pasture at Rattle Snake Springs, TX.

Then the remnants were force-marched through Nashville so Andrew Jackson could watch them go by in rags and barefoot leaving blood in their footsteps – “ethnic cleansing.”

This is not a road for a greenhorn or a white-knuckle driver. It is just a little excursion back in history for a race of people that those greedy people in control tried to wipe out.

Lynn Cooley
Borden, IN

Showing real concern
Editor’s note: This is a response to a quote from a recent Land Line story about the effort to overturn the split speed limit in Illinois and the governor’s veto of a bill that would have ended the split.

“During the review process, he heard from supporters and opponents, and was very much moved by the fact that a 10 mph increase in an 8,000 pound truck increases its force at impact by 40 percent,” Abby Ottenhoff, press secretary for the governor, said. “Out of his concern for safety for cars on the road he vetoed it.”

Since the governor seems so concerned, perhaps he could figure out how much harder a car hits the back of a truck at 65 mph over 55 mph, then enlighten the motorists of his fair state at the risks they’re taking by traveling faster than their sometime targets and demand a matching speed limit for cars and trucks.

That would demonstrate a true concern for the well being of his subjects (even if not a desire to continue in office after the next election).

Frank D. Becker
Calhoun, GA

A logo that means ‘professional driver’
Yesterday evening before going to work, I was browsing the Internet and came across your Web page. I was reading your articles about drivers running compliant with the traffic laws. I thought this was a novel idea, and believe every month should be a compliant month.

I had never heard of your organization, but I liked what I read. The views of the “professional” trucker was opposite of what is usually observed on the highways.

Not eight hours later, I met a driver with an OOIDA logo on his truck; it was below the driver’s door. I asked whether the logo was his, and he proudly said that it was. I was impressed with this gentleman; he was honest and a very pleasant.

I am a deputy sheriff, and that driver had purple lights on the rear of his sleeper. The driver had just installed them and admitted he knew they were not in compliance with the law. We talked for a few minutes, and he went on his way and I went my way.

That driver was the only violator I had stopped all night. Really slow night it was. What saved him from the wrath of my pen? The views of the group that he displayed on his truck.

I hope that your organization can help increase the number of “professional” truckers out there on our highways. Maybe if there were more drivers like the one I met last night, the trucking profession would be looked upon as the valuable resource that it once was and still is. It is a shame that trucking is looked down upon by so many people.

I know that each driver has a job to do, and I respect that. Please, know that I have a job to do, and the non-compliant drivers keep me very busy.

Thank you for your time and be careful out there.

Tim Brogan
Warren County Sheriff’s Office

I too have fallen victim to DAC
Recently, I have read about how carriers put misleading information on drivers’ DAC reports, etc.

I, too, have fallen victim to DAC services and past employers reporting false information. I have been in touch with two past carriers who claim I’ve had accidents. One carrier is showing me having two accidents; I agree to one of them. But when they are asked for a copy of the accident report, they claim they can’t locate it. Then I asked how they can report an accident if they don’t have the report to follow up on.

Another carrier claims I had an accident, but also has no report of it ever happening. To my knowledge, I didn’t have any when I was leased on with them, but these companies think they can do this and get away with it.

I hope OOIDA and my fellow members take action against this injustice. So for right now, I’m working on cleaning up my past record with DAC services, calling ex-carriers, keeping track of my situation and filing rebuttals (not like that helps, but I’m trying).

OOIDA is our sole voice out here in this industry. I’ll keep fighting for what is right and just and continue my support for OOIDA and our industry.

Dave Popper
Brick, NJ

Giving your time away
I have read several letters about the abuse of truckers by both shippers and receivers. Here is what I have done to relieve my company of this problem.

1. I have sent all shippers, receivers and brokers a form letter:

Due to the new federal hours of service, which will take effect Jan. 4, 2004, a driver will have just a 14-hour window to be on duty. We can no longer deduct the drivers loading/unloading times/wait times from his total on-duty time; therefore, anything over an hour wait time (after scheduled appointment) will be billed at the rate of $100 an hour to compensate our drivers for their lost time and wages. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me @_____________. Thank you for your cooperation.

2. Had a rubber stamp made:

Time In: ____________
Time out:____________
Total Time:___________

3. I stamp all my bills of lading and record my time.

This way, the shippers, receivers and brokers can see exactly how much time is spent doing their work prior to the start of the new HOS. I have found that most understand and are starting to make the necessary adjustments to accommodate this problem. One mill has ordered a new forklift so two loaders can work together to get you on the road faster.

I would like to see all OOIDA members do the same thing and then stand together. When shippers, receivers and brokers start getting billed and then turned over to collection for unpaid demurrage times; or when truckers refuse to load or unload at a particular shipper or receiver, things would turn around in a hurry.

Gar A. Gilmore III
Wenatchee, WA

Let’s salute these women of merit
Milwaukee has a new sheriff; Detroit; and now the FMCSA. All are women; all with an educational, hands-on, working “man’s” background that is second to none.

I applaud all of them for their career achievements.

Annette Sandberg should be an excellent administrator, and her “coming through the ranks” as a former inspector in Washington state, and her answers to the questions put to her by Land Line’s Dick Larsen have me thinking: “She’s one of us.”

James P. Cihowiak
Appleton, WI

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