July 2004 Letters

Check out those you do business with
I had a pretty good job as an independent contractor for FedEx Ground and I was on track to at least break even for my first year in business as an owner-operator.

Then I met a seemingly nice owner-operator who was supposedly starting his own business hauling cattle. He described many things that appealed to me and with promises of high revenue, low bounce miles, very little idle time, time at home whenever I wanted, etc. I jumped ship and bought a trailer and started hauling livestock.

Almost immediately, the promises were broken. I remember sitting at a Garden City, KS, truck stop for eight days.

It was the same thing time after time. I wanted to bail out but had no contacts for loads and the only thing a livestock trailer is good for is livestock. I finally threw in the towel. Shortly after that I leased my truck and trailer to the guy who signed papers to pay me for the loads I had hauled, pay for the truck and trailer and maintain them.

Every month I had to get on him to pay. Then last September he stopped paying. I finally recovered my truck in San Antonio, TX, and my trailer in Maryland.

The truck had never been washed, and personal items I left in the truck were missing. The tires had cords exposed. The trailer frame was broken and many gate pins, hinges, etc. were broken. I was going to attempt in court to recover some of my loss, but was told the guy was preparing for bankruptcy.

I sold my truck at a loss, and will be unable to sell the trailer due to the damage. I am now out of trucking.

Please be thorough in investigating your potential business partners.

John Ratcliff
Bunker Hill, WV

One of my favorite HOS rules
I am enjoying a few days home time. I decide to wax my car. I am off duty. If I take 3 steps to my right and begin waxing my truck, I am “on duty, not driving” because I am working on my truck.

Want another one? I am still at home. I am cutting my grass. I am off duty. My neighbor asks me to cut his grass because he is not feeling well. I agree. I am still off duty. If I charge my neighbor $5 to cut his grass, I am on duty, not driving because I am getting paid for doing work. Do you know anybody who would log these properly?

Come on, DOT. Give us some rules a normal human being can live with and maybe more drivers would run compliant.

Name withheld
Deltona, Florida

Penalize four-wheelers and trucks the same
I just read the feds overturned the new HOS rules citing driver health issues. What a joke. When are they ever going to take their heads out of their butts? They are trying to make everybody safer on the highways by only regulating one side.

It seems to me all they are doing is wasting time and money. Why did they waste all that money on surveys and studies when they don't even use them? Both sides came up with about the same numbers (for who is at fault in car/truck accidents) – 88 percent are the cars’ fault and 12 percent are the trucks’ fault.

CRASH, PATT and all the other little groups just keep chasing their hind ends when the numbers are right in front of their faces. Why is that they spend all this time and money and then they go into a state of denial. The highways are not going to get any safer if they don't penalize both four-wheelers and trucks the same. It’s kind of one-sided don't you think?

Look at the numbers. It’s not to hard figure it out.

I think it’s time they get it right. This HOS B.S. has gone on long enough and it’s costing the taxpayers plenty. They need to quit wasting time and money and look at the simple facts. One side can't do it all.

Bob Rutherford
Climax, NC

Take us off the per-mile pay system and HOS will be OK
It seems with all the uproar over the HOS that there is really only one way to get all us drivers up and running to any kind of standard. I have been trucking for 16 years and have owned my own truck for the last four years.

The only way to get drivers to conform to any standard is to take us off production work. If you worked at a jean factor and got paid by how many pairs of jeans you made in a day, you would work your tail off to make as many as possible. It’s the same with us, we get paid by the number of miles we run, therefore we run as many as possible. I try to keep as close to legal as possible and wouldn't have a problem doing it legal if we lived in a perfect world, but there is always something that messes that up. From traffic to road work to weather to accidents, break downs and on and on...

I know that there would be a major scream if this was to ever come about, but it’s the only way. The DOT doesn't have enough officers to enforce the rules they have now, not to mention any of the changes the whiz kids in Washington come up with. I do believe this is something that can work.

Loren Wilkinson
Conway, AR

Parking privileges pulled
I think it would be great if malls would open up their lots to trucks for overnight parking. I wonder though about how long it would be before the malls would get tired of picking up bottles full of urine and bags of trash.

My mom runs a roadside cafe in northern Montana, there is not much truck parking on U.S. Highway 2, so last year she had some land cleared it wasn't much I think is was only enough space for 9 or 10 trucks but it was filled every night. After a couple of weeks we noticed that trash was starting to pile up and we thought that it is was stupid of us not to have put out trash cans.

We put out a can at each end of the lot, I figure at the most someone would have to walk 5 or 6 truck lengths to get to a trashcan. This did not help much, we had to add a weekly garbage patrol to our to do list. This spring we blocked the lot and planted grass. My dad is a trucker and I know that truckers need a place to rest, but finding people that are willing to pick up bottles of urine is hard to do.

Name withheld
Havre, MT

Won’t vote for Bush
Now that 35,000 inferior Mexican drivers and trucks are becoming a reality, it is time for the American drivers and trucks to send a message of our own. Each OOIDA member should have a sticker on their truck or trailer that reads: “35,000 Mexican trucks and drivers means I will vote no on you in the November election Mr. Bush.”

I wonder how many forklift operators along the California to Texas border are going to lose their jobs? How much warehouse space is going to go empty along the same border? I am having trouble figuring out who in the United States benefits from this and why it was necessary. The politicians should have gone one step further and included an unemployment benefit section for all the Americans that will now lose their jobs, trucks and businesses to a Mexican.

Four years ago I voted for the man. Today, I have new and confusing Hours of Service rules, the highest diesel prices I can ever remember, the first nightly body counts since the Vietnam War and a national debt that is totally out of sight. The only way we have to answer this now is to vote the person most responsible for it out of office.

J.R. Pierson
Montrose, CO

HOS ruling won’t do any good
This is the most stupid thing I have heard of. Why do they listen to these people that seem to have an ax to grind against truck drivers. The old HOS did not take our health into consideration either, but they want to go back to that while they figure something else out. That does not make any sense. Let’s just stick with what we have until we find something better. It will do no good to keep jumping around for these off-the-wall groups until we appease them. We are big boys. We should be able to take care of ourselves.

Richard Kaldenberg
Camas, WA

Editor’s note: The court ruling that vacated the HOS rules did not reinstate the old rules. The new rules remain in effect until further notice. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration was given 45 days to respond to the court’s ruling, which was handed down July 16.

Is the problem Big Brother, or greed, or both?
While I fully support the end to government mandated split speed limits, I also believe the industry should stop pointing the finger only at “big brother.”

In North Dakota and Minnesota, where the interstate speeds are 75 and 70 mph, there are truckload carriers, both Canadian and American, proudly announcing that their trucks are governed at 62 mph (100 kph). LTL carriers pulling doubles around with tractors classified as “city units” that can’t even maintain 60 mph throw in a little wind and they’re lucky to maintain even 55 mph. Is this not an industry mandated “split speed” limit for the sake of corporate greed?

It’s time to consider the driver’s and the public’s safety by requiring these carriers to provide their drivers with equipment that has the ability to achieve the posted speed limits. Then and only then do we have the right to point the finger at “big brother.”

Richard J. Troy
Moorhead, MN

Taxed out the wazoo
I have been involved with the transportation industry for about 12 years now. I started out driving over the road. I now provide accounting services for people in the transportation industry.

I have a very strong view on what I see to be a very big part of our nation's budget – tax revenue from truckers. Truck drivers pay sales tax on their purchases all over the U.S. and on their trucks when they buy them. They pay international registration fees for the license plate on their trucks. They also pay: fuel tax, weight/distance tax, heavy vehicle use tax and state and federal income taxes as well as Social Security and Medicare.

Here is where it gets tricky. If you are leasing the truck from one of the big trucking companies, it is common practice that the company pays the fuel tax, weight/distance tax, registration fees and heavy vehicle use tax on the behalf of the truckers. The company then deducts the amount of those taxes from the truckers’ pay.

When the truckers file personal income tax returns, they deduct those taxes from their gross income. But then these big companies report the taxes under their federal ID number, making it look like the taxes were paid by the company, instead of the person whose money actually paid the fees. That is a double deduction.

To me, this means that only half of what should actually be going into our government budgets is making its way there. If we had more of the monies that are supposed to be being paid in, paid in, we would have more money in the budget, right?

I realize that big trucks cause more wear and tear on our roads than our cars do, but the general public is by no means aware how much extra these big trucks are paying to use the roads.

I am not a politician, and do not have experience in politics. But I do see what is going on, and I am hoping that someday, in some way, I can be a part of a change for the better.

Debi Fox
McLoud, OK

Why the difference in rates?
Re: Doug Clark letter. In California, while the good brokers were paying $2,750 to $3,000 recently, I called Dallas Cargo Master and they were offering loads out of the same area to Dallas for $2,000 to $2,250.Let Mr. Clark answer why the difference in the rates. This was produce not dry freight.

David Ozee
Jefferson, TX

Brokers not a favorite subject
Why are there 15,000-plus brokers in the United States? Answer: Because the federal government doesn’t know which are still in business and which ones have folded and moved on to start again. Don’t be surprised, next year it could be 17,000-plus brokers and they still won’t have any legislation to operate legally. I better close here as I will start to vent and brokers are not my favorite subject except when it comes to death and taxes.

John Botts
Foley, MN

Ten hours off doesn’t guarantee 14 hours of alertness
Editor’s note: The writer originally sent this letter to Parents Against Tired Truckers and Public Citizen after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit vacated the FMCSA’s Hours of Service regulations on July 16.

Have you ever nodded off in church after a good night's sleep? Have you ever nodded off at your desk after a good night's sleep? Either situation is inconsequential; however, if I nod off while at work there will be an 80,000-pound missile flying down the highway at the maximum speed allowed by law. The consequence could be disaster.

You advocate making truckers sleep 10 hours a day, uninterrupted. Adult human beings cannot sleep 10 hours straight. Nor will 10 hours of sleep guarantee 14 hours of alertness sufficient to pilot such a dangerous piece of machinery as an 80,000-pound truck. Hunters have known for a long time that animals have two periods of activity during each day followed by two periods of rest. What do the animals know that you don't?

Driving a truck down the highway is an extremely boring activity. When all systems are “go” there is not a lot to occupy the mind. Speed is normally controlled by the machine. Long distances do not require changes in direction often enough to warrant a great deal of attention to the task at hand, especially when driving a regular route. Even engine systems are now monitored by computers and constant vigilance on the part of the operator is no longer necessary, nor is it possible on a modern truck with no system indicators other than trouble lights.

All the drivers of today's trucks need do is aim the truck down the road. The mind is lulled into a state of complacency. An idle mind tends to want to shut down and sleep. Mostly a small break will refresh the idle mind and return it to a state of alertness, but that will not last for more than a few hours. As time marches on the idle mind wants to return to sleep. Mere observation of incarcerated people or caged animals will reveal this fact to those who wish to observe.

By advocating a continuous 11-hour block of driving, and not being able to stop the time clock without financial penalty for small rest periods, you are not promoting truck safety. What do you think the level of alertness of the driver of a truck will be during the sixth hour? The seventh hour? The eighth hour? Now lane changes are becoming automatic. The ninth hour? Are your children driving home from school now? The 10th hour? Is there a situation unfolding that requires evasive action. The 11th hour? Finally I can get some sleep without financial penalty. Is that a car entering the highway? I don't care. I just want to get some sleep. Is the car accelerating enough to get out of the way? No. It’s going too slow. Can I change lanes? There is a car beside me. Can I stop in time? I don’t know. I wasn’t very alert. Oh, God help us. I sure hope their gas tank doesn’t explode. Maybe they can survive.

Your recent lawsuit sets up the above scenario hundreds of times a day. By penalizing a driver for taking a nap to revive his alertness your misdirected suit caused the crash in the above situation as surely as if you were at the wheel of the truck.

Responsible people do not drive while impaired by low alertness. Responsible people provide for their families. Do not make truckers decide which responsibility to forego.

R. A. Braeking
Santa Fe, TX

Bleeding hearts should change lanes
Well folks I just learned on my e-mail that the special interest groups have got the courts to resend the new HOS and revamp it or whatever. When is this crap ever going to stop in this system of ours? The majority of our society can scream, raise hell, write letters to our elected officials and generally we get zip!

Some dang bleeding hearts minority special interest group (based in California generally) greases the government wheel and it's a done deal. I know it's been repeated and repeated over and over, but the trucking industry is paying the lion’s share of taxes, etc. to support and maintain this nation’s interstate system, which I might add was designed by the Eisenhower administration to expedite interstate commerce and military movement – not private vehicles.

So my question to all our government reps is, “Where in the hell do these bleeding hearts groups get off dictating how we should run the transportation industry?” When you can go and when you must whoa, and let us not forget what lane they'll let us use as we journey along on our interstate system, or is it theirs? I'm confused.

Let's start our own group and demand no more cell phones, eyeliner, lipstick, coffee etc. be used by private vehicles during peak rush hour periods. We'll start off with small demands and work our way up. Put all the private traffic on the secondary roads where they're supposed to be anyway. No sense in overwhelming them right off the bat.

For the record I agree that the new HOS needs to be restructured here and there. My point is the industry should be in control of this not the special interest groups. Run compliant folks and kiss off hauling cheap freight. If everyone would say no, the problem would solve it's self. We are our own worst enemy on this one.

Spence Denning
Sparta, TN

CDL doesn’t stand for Cheap, Dumb Labor, or does it?
I remember when the CDL was first introduced and all the talk of drivers finally gaining professional status similar to airline pilots and railroad engineers and the wage increases that were bound to follow.

Well, we have had the CDL for more than 10 years now and where is the windfall increase that was supposed to follow? The ads I read all boast $35,000 maybe $40,000 per year. Seems to me airline pilots are around $100,000 per year. Perhaps much of this is self inflicted, how many pilots do you regularly see showing up to work with flip flops, sweat pants, unkempt hair and beards, using vulgar language on the CB, tailgating motorists at highway speeds, using the size of their vehicles to intimidate motorists into getting out of our way, etc, etc.

How many of us have calculated that with our 70-hour work week and assuming a starting wage of $15 per hour, a new driver should earn $66,300 each year based on a 40-hour work week and time-and-a-half for hours over 40. At $25 per hour the figure rises to $110,500 per year. Kinda makes $35 K seem pitiful now doesn’t it?

I have given up being an owner-operator and now work a 45-hour week and make better than I ever did as an o/o and even have full benefits. I’m home every night and weekend, etc. I still miss being on the road and every day I feel the call to return, even though I know it means 70 to 90 hours each week, being subjected to almost feeling like a criminal at every scale house, low pay, etc, etc.

I am still and always will be a member of OOIDA, whether I return to driving or not, because I love this industry and I want to be a part of what it can be highly skilled and respected professional drivers, the driving force of the American economy.

W. Shane Steele
Stockbridge, GA

Anti-idling laws are hazardous to our health
I just noticed the reason behind the court saying the new HOS had to be thrown out driver health. Would this not be a good way to take the states to court and get the anti-idling laws thrown out due the adverse effects on driver health?

Just a thought.

John R Sholly
Bartlett, TN

Why mall owners don’t want to let trucks park in their lots
This is in response to the letter sent in by Donald Pendergrass Jr. about malls allowing trucks to park in their lots. Maybe he hasn't noticed the following reasons why mall owners would be absolutely stupid to allow any truck drivers to park in there parking lots.

  1. Drivers are the worst for littering.
  2. Rest areas and other parking areas stink of urine and are littered with urine bottles. Mall shoppers don't deserve to have to walk across parking lots and have there shoes stick to the urine-coated asphalt.
  3. Costs of cleaning the lots and hosing them down with chemicals would be very expensive.
  4. Who in their right mind wants oil leaking, fuel filter changing, trash-throwing drivers in their lot?

The burden of parking is not the responsibility of mall owners or any other business. That is what they made truck stops for. If anybody is to blame it’s the officials that allow firms like Pilot or Love's to build in-and-out truck stops. They only want one thing money. It is up to state and local officials stop these businesses from building in this manner.

After 30 years and the negativity that the new breed has brought to this industry, I too am gone from this industry.

Dave Magistrale
Seligman, AZ

Problems to resolve before opening border
I just read the letter William Nelson wrote you about the possible problems with Mexican trucks crossing the border. I too had a "run in" with a Mexican driver. He was driving his truck, but pulling someone else's trailer. Unfortunately, he did not have the trailer hooked properly, and it came unhooked. The trailer hit the side of my truck, causing a significant amount of damage.

The driver did not have any insurance on his truck. Fortunately the owner of the trailer did. The accident could have been much worse. Had my truck not been parked where it was, some cars parked past the truck could have been hit.

That trailer hit my truck hard enough to lift the truck and trailer – loaded with 42,000 pounds – off the ground. Not to mention the jolt my niece and I received. I am thanking God that my niece, who was riding as a passenger on break from school, was in the bunk and did not get injured.

Let’s hope and pray that someone will take this seriously and deal with it as it should be. Close the borders until all issues are dealt with, and we know those trucks will be safe, operated properly, and they are made to obey all of the rules and regulations we have to follow.

Patricia Stoakes
Sioux Falls, SD

Chrome doesn’t pay
With fuel prices the way they are, I hear many complaints of drivers that can no longer make a living. I have little sympathy for many of these drivers after looking at their trucks.

The first thing they need to do is take those chrome-plated stacks and mufflers off the side of the cab and put them behind the cab where they won't create drag. Then take those 55-gallon drums you call air filters off the side of the hood and put a plastic one under the hood. Then take that chrome-plated, flat, Texas bumper off and put on a plastic, contoured, aerodynamic bumper. That's like pushing a barn door down the road.

Look at the new Freightliners, Volvos and T-2000s. They have even taken the grab handles off the side and put them inside the doors just to reduce drag. International Eagle now only gives you one CB antenna. The other one is just for show anyway. Look at how your quarter-inch antenna bends at 70 mph. That is drag you can see.

Unfortunately, you don't get paid based on how much chrome is on your truck. You get paid by the mile. An oil-burning 10-year-old Freightliner cabover makes the same per mile as a tricked out KW. If you have one of these chrome-plated rigs and are making money, God bless you. You are a good business person and are probably not the one complaining about fuel prices.

Name withheld
Deltona, FL

HOS rules just don’t make sense
Since the inception of the new "HOS" rules I have entertained the thought of giving up my first effort as an owner-operator. The shippers and receivers show little or no regard as to time of loading or unloading. I can't understand how it was determined that sitting and waiting to be loaded/unloaded counted against your on-duty hours.

It’s a definite misconception that all humans are regulated by the same circadian rhythm cycle. This is beyond the control of any ordinary human.

There is an immediate need to remove this very unsafe requirement. Obvious reasons include:

There are no parking spaces available in the evenings. Trucks are parked on the entrance and exit ramps in the rest areas. Some rest areas are grossly undersized and poorly designed to accommodate the big trucks.

At the fuel stops, trucks are parked in the fire lanes and no parking areas, other trucks are blocked in because there is a lack of space.

On top of all this, other trucks are being allowed into the country. What kind of government do we have? Have they forgotten about the citizens?

Willie C. Lewis
Herron, MI

Editor’s note: In view of the recent court decision vacating these rules, you are not alone here, Willie. Watch Land Line for details.

More Letters from July

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