More June 2004 Letters

Broker asks: Why wasn’t I invited?
In response to the article in May 2004's Land Line titled "I refuse to work for free”: The gentleman who was quoted as saying that all brokers got together and decided to pay only a dollar a mile for loads hauled is very sadly mistaken.

Why wasn't I invited to this so-called conference? I have been involved in the trucking and transportation business for more than 20 years.

We here at Sunshine Express work very hard to keep carriers paid in a timely matter and give these individuals and trucking companies the best rate per mile, as well as the best possible fuel surcharge we can.

Sunshine Express has been in business now for 20 years and has great lady that has a reputation that is nothing less than superb. You can ask anyone in the states of Texas and Louisiana in trucking and they can verify what I am telling you today.

Mr. Telles needs to research his verbal outbursts before he quotes anything else regarding brokers. Anytime he wants to visit a very busy, efficient and well-rounded truck broker's office, have him call us.

Brokers are not bad guys . . . or in our case, bad women.

Darlene Clark
Waskom, TX

It’s time to use the ‘b’ word – boycott
It’s about time that the word “boycott” becomes part of our vocabulary.

No need to strike, just individual drivers making an individual decision not to pick up or deliver loads to a company or state likewise in the purchase of goods and services.

If 100 drivers who purchase 100 gallons of fuel in Illinois every week buy that fuel in the next state, $15,000 in revenue leaves the cash registers of vendors in that state. If loads start sitting on docks waiting to be picked up, or deliveries are delayed by 24 hours ... you get the picture.

I understand the IFTA ramifications, but it wouldn’t take long for legislators to figure out what’s going on ... especially if businesses in that state start voicing concerns about their economic distress.

If you think that the troubles of Illinois drivers are not your problem, think again. The legislatures in other states will be watching the outcome of Illinois’ efforts. If a state is successful in raising fees or tolls on trucks, and other states see little or no fight put up, you could be next.

Therefore, my company has decided … we will no longer pick up, deliver to or purchase any goods or services within that state.

R.H. Appleby
Harrisburg, PA

Last nail in the coffin
I was watching Lou Dobbs on the television last night when I discovered the Supreme Court opened the Mexican border to the United States for Mexican trucks to do business in the United States. It would seem to me the last thing we need up here are 34,000 more foreign trucks competing for low freight rates in an industry already wounded from the high cost of operating, government rules and regulations and soon-to-be high repossessions, again.

Could it be, that this could be the last nail in the coffin for American independent truckers? It was stated last night that the ATA was for all of this. The ATA has always looked after the interest of “big corporate trucking” and could give a hang about small independent trucking. I know OOIDA is and has been against the opening of the border to protect small independent trucking.

The only ones NAFTA has been good for are the large trucking concerns and big government. In my opinion, our future as small independent truckers is in jeopardy. Outsourcing jobs has become quite common in this country; our jobs could be next. I’ve trucked since the 1970s and have seen more changes than I care to remember in this industry. This boondoggle is the worst yet. I hope for every independent trucker I’m wrong about all of this. Only time will tell.

Brandon Flynn
Hawkins, TX

It’s time for truck drivers to step up
I would like to give another take to the situation in Mr. Telles letter published in the May 2004 issue of Land Line.

I am an owner-operator in the tow-away part of trucking – picking up new empty trailers from manufacturer and delivering them to their new owners. We also pull equipment and loaded trailers, but 95 percent of the trailers are empty. Also, there is a fair amount of bobtail (about 17 percent) for which we are usually not paid. For this work we receive 85 cents per mile.

We also get a fuel surcharge of 1 cent per mile for every 5-cent increase over $1.10 per gallon. The info for this is provided by the U S government on the Web. We are now getting 13 cents per mile.

As one would suspect, my truck gets good fuel economy. To add to that economy, I have reduced idling to a minimum. I have installed a gen-set and roof air. And I have slowed down. Never does the truck go more than 65 mph. And that is when bobtailing. Mostly, I go 55 or 60.

In addition to a dramatic fuel mileage increase of more than 1 mile per gallon, I rarely have to change lanes, speed up or slow down to avoid vehicles getting on the road. This eliminates having to "mash the motor" unnecessarily and saves even more fuel and wear and tear on my million-mile Detroit. I don't pass a lot of vehicles, but I find a certain feeling of "peace" with that speed.

Working two weeks a month, I make a nice living, setting back 10 percent of my gross in a whatever fund for the truck, and taking all of December off each year. I have no other source of income.

These are tough times for this industry and we are mostly at the bottom of the hill that "you know what" rolls down. The only ones lower than us are the American consumers.

I realize that my situation or attitude is not shared by everyone. I don't mean to say that Mr. Telles should not park his truck. If it costs him 37 cents a mile for fuel, it may have some malfunction. Somewhere between the 37 cents a mile and the after surcharge 8 to 10 cents a mile our respective trucks cost to run, he has room to put that truck back on the road.

There are those among us who feel that the way to make money in this business is to bust the speed limits with their big, smoky motors, blowing their train horns and biting in the butt all who get in their way. I believe the days for this type of operating are numbered.

How about we quit complaining and each figure some way we can deal with this problem individually in a positive way.

As for me, I'll be the one between ABF and Roadway getting 8.4 miles per gallon up the hill. Wave when you go by, but please use more than one finger.

David Ault
Bismarck, AR

More than the old HOS needs revamping
I send you this for what is worth, because it is my opinion as to what was missed when the trucking industry and the government decided to revamp what they thought was wrong with our industry. The hours of service were not the problem. It was that the government was afraid of stepping on the toes of industry to hold them accountable for the time a truck has to spend at the dock just to get loaded.

The fact that that most owner-operators are listed as contract labor makes this the bigger problem with what is wrong in the trucking industry today. The trucking companies did not want to address this issue because they would have to show that indeed the owner-operator is an employee and should be paid an hourly rate and mileage. The hourly rate would take affect when the driver is loading and unloading and the mileage rate would take affect when the driver is moving from point to point.

Oh yes, I know this sounds simple, but try to talk to the company that you are leased to, and you get the door slammed in your face. They do not even want to go down that road because this would change the way they do business. This would mean that rates would have to go up and shipments would have to be moved on a timely basis. Gee what a concept; this would mean that we would not be running up and down the roads for nothing.

However, if you think this is going to happen anytime soon you are sadly mistaken. I have been in this business for more than 30 years and I have not seen a rate increase in that time, so to think it might happen in the next year is just laughable.

All the lobbying and all the talking about what is wrong is just that – talk. Now everyone has to take action, but we all know how that works. No one wants to take the time to get involved and so the story continues, and it will go on until we as a collective group come together and stand up for what we want.

Mike McRae
Elkins, WV

One more reason for pre-trip check
Coming to work this morning on I-65 just north of Nashville, up ahead I saw a rig getting on the interstate – dry van. As he swung into the granny lane, I realized that one of his trailer doors was wide open and swinging.

I got on the CB and tried a couple times to get him, but either my puny little rig didn't put out, he didn't have his on or he was ignoring me. I was close enough behind him to see that the van was completely empty – fortunately no pallets, load locks or anything in it far as I could see.

I sure hope he was deadheading for someplace close by. He might have seen it in the mirror – can't imagine that he didn't if it swung at the right time – and he wasn't someplace where he could easily get out of traffic.

Bill Hudgins
Nashville, TN

Parking ordinance draws fire
I have lived in Summerville, SC, more than six years. In that time, I have always been a truck driver and owned my own truck. Two years ago, the good people of Summerville banned drivers from bringing their trucks to their residences. For 30 days, permits were offered to drivers to park their trucks at their property, but the way I interpreted that is if you did not own your property and your truck was not registered to your property then you were required to obtain a permit.

I own my home, and my truck is registered to my house, therefore I believed I did not need to apply for a permit. I have never had an issue in six years of having my truck parked at my residence. Since Feb. 1, I have received an $1,100 fine for parking in my driveway. The police officer gave me four hours to find a safe secure location to park my truck – which, according to him, was the rest area on Interstate 26.

Frankly, there is no safe or convenient location offered to me by the town of Summerville. At least with my truck in my driveway, I do not have to worry about vandalism or theft that would cause me loss of income. Even with my truck at a secure a location, for which I now pay $60 a month, there is not a guarantee that nothing will happen to it. There is added inconvenience of my family by having to transport me to and from my truck. I also perform my own maintenance, which I can no longer perform, which is an added expense of $150 a month.

I have spent an average of $30,000 a year in fuel in Summerville alone. All my repairs and items for my truck are purchased in the Summerville area (ranging from $3,000 to $5,000 a year). I am leased to All Transportation in Summerville at 1613 Main St. With this company, I average three to four loads a week to and from the Summerville area.

This ordinance has not only created an inconvenience for myself and other drivers that come into the area to load/unload. There is no place to park since the truck stops are full of local trucks that cannot park at their own homes. Passing an ordinance to beautify our community has caused trucks to be scattered all over the town. Instead of having trucks park at their own residence, they are forced to park at store parking lots and other places, which puts them at risk of receiving a fine. Eighty-one percent of South Carolina towns are solely provided with merchandise and products by trucks. Summerville falls within that 81 percent. Nothing is taken in or out of Summerville unless on a truck. With this ordinance the town is basically saying that is doesn't mind seeing my truck backed into a dock unloading/loading, but it’s not good enough to be backed up into my driveway.

The good people of Summerville have taken my right to park my property on my property. I am forced to exercise my right to spend my money elsewhere. I will no longer buy fuel in Summerville or pay for any repairs or items purchased for the truck. I will also no longer load/deliver freight from the Summerville area. I will also register my truck in another state, and I am in the process of recruiting other drivers to do the same.

Brian A. Belfiore and Bobbi J. Belfiore
Summerville, SC

Do the math: Cheap freight doesn’t pay
Having been an owner-operator since 1973, I have seen my share of highway through a windshield. Like many of you, I think about ways to improve my financial situation.

I have been fortunate to have had, and still do have, jobs that pay above average rates. I know that so many owner-operators are not so fortunate. We all know today’s freight moves way too cheap. Companies advertise 89 cents to $1.03 per mile pulling their trailers with plenty of miles available.

Well, that may sound great to someone who doesn’t understand the cost of operating per mile, and from the number of truckers leased to these companies it appears there aren’t too many that haven’t really put a pencil to it recently.

I was recently doing a questionnaire for a magazine and one of the questions was, “What is your cost per mile of operation?” So, I decided to refigure and I started wondering what some drivers were not adding to their total that would lead them to believe they could pull 90-cent freight and succeed.

I realize everybody is not going to have exactly the same expenses but it won’t vary all that much from person to person.

The figures I’m using here are based on a first-time owner-operator, running 125,000 miles per year with a new truck that they just bought for $95,000 assuming they are fortunate enough to have saved $10,000 for a down payment. The payment with interest at approximately 8 percent would be roughly $1,700 per month. Plus, you have to add the down payment to your operating costs.

Another of your major expenses will be the driver – I figured 35 cents per mile.

I figured fuel costs to be 24.9 cents per mile, and then added routine maintenance, including oil changes, chassis lube, filters, clutch adjustments and labor based on oil changes at 15,000-mile intervals. Tires cost about 2 cents per mile. Brake replacement adds another 0.2 cents per mile. Depreciation for an average new truck will be about $12,500 per year for the first five years – a cost of 10 cents per mile.

Some owner-operators say they can eliminate some expenses doing certain work themselves. But, aren’t you at least worth $10 per hour? Why would you want to do it and not figure it as an expense? Be sure to figure in truck washing; replacement of air filters, wiper blades, light bulbs and switches; cell phone and long distance bills; cleaning and polishing supplies; accountant fees; fuel additives for winter; road tolls; electric bills if you plug in your truck in winter; and fines or late filing fees. All these miscellaneous expenses add up to $2,305 for me, which is 1.8 cents per mile.

In some circumstances workers’ comp insurance is mandatory for another $2,100 annually for 1.6 cents per mile.

Health insurance through a group policy with a major carrier for a family of four will run you at least $250 a month, that’s another 2.4 cents per mile.

Federal highway use tax is $550 per year for another 0.4 cents per mile. Employment tax is going to be some where around $10,000 annually, so that will be 0.8 cents per mile.

All things added together total $1.09 in costs per mile. That, my friends, is just the cost of operating that truck. So, if you’re not generating more than $1.09 a mile, you’re just out there in the way of the truckers that are making a living pulling freight for $1.20 or higher.

Sure I can hear it now: “It doesn’t cost me $1.09 to run my truck. I don’t have work comp. And I don’t have health insurance.”

You could go through my expense list and subtract any expense that is being paid by your carrier, just make sure they are not deducting it from your settlement.

If this letter keeps one person from leasing to a low-paying company and losing their truck, then it will have been worth all my time and effort to write.

Jack R. Anderson
Darlington, IN

One more truck out of business
I have parked my rig for good. With $2.15 a gallon and higher insurance costs, and now that the Mexican border is fully open to Mexican trucks, there is no way I am going to try to compete with 10-cent-a-mile drivers who will never follow our motor vehicle laws.

This I get to experience every day here in Phoenix, where many Mexican drivers have no license, insurance or even legal papers to be here.

Mexicans will be running loads all over the United States for half the price that I can do it for. God help the trucking business, except for Swift, who will be importing Mexican drivers to drive for Swift de Mexico and Swift in the U.S. Both trucking companies will take over this industry.

William Nelson
Phoenix, AZ

Trucker says to heck with NYC freight 
I made a pickup at Suffolk, VA, to be delivered at New York City. As always, I called the receiver for the time to deliver the two pallets of peanut butter. The lady that answered first wanted me to deliver on Monday, four days after pickup, to which I – in typical New York fashion – told her “no way.” She finally agreed to 7 a.m., and when I arrived, made me wait for four hours even though she had the space and manpower to take the pallets out.

In the interim, I was chased around . . . because according to them, you can only stay in a loading or unloading zone for one -- count it one – hour.

All I say is this: To heck with the NYC freight. As far as I am concerned, they can take their city and frame it, and as far as peanut butter, I don’t want to see another jar of it.

Joaquin Sotomayor
Brooklyn, NY

How many times do you have to hear this? 
Come on, drivers – do you live like this at home? Do you throw your trash out in the driveway? Do you p--- on your carpet? Do you throw bottles of p-- in your yard?

If you do, you’re nothing but a slob.

People talk down about truck drivers, and some points are legit, some aren’t. Next time you are in a rest area, truck stop or parked on a ramp, look around and see all the trash. I bet your mother or wife wouldn’t let you do that at home.

Let’s clean it up out here. I’ve never pulled into a rest area or truck stop where there weren’t any trash cans around, so let’s use them, please.

David Smith 
Mansfield, OH

The modern version of Catch 22
The other day I tried to slide the tandems on my trailer and I couldn't get the brakes to set up. So I went to my mechanic, an employee for many years at a major truck dealership.

He diagnosed the problem. While he was under the truck I asked him to inspect all of the trailer brakes. As I watched, he did the inspection. I then took my trailer to a trailer shop to get the problem fixed. After the trailer was repaired I asked the mechanic to inspect the brakes. As I watched, he did. About 250 miles later I got pulled into the Dunsmuir scalehouse and inspected. Low and behold they found a cracked brake lining.

My point isn't to find fault with either of the mechanics who inspected my brakes, nor lament California Highway Patrol's discovery of the defect. Rather I want to point out that there is nothing further I could have done to ensure that my truck was in safe operating condition and yet a major safety defect was still able to escape the eyes of two well-qualified and capable mechanics.

If something accidental would have occurred and the condition of the brakes was determined to be a contributing factor, my ass would still be tacked to the wall. Is this the modern version of Catch 22?

Douglas M. "Lumpy" Fabish
Eugene, OR

Higher broker bonds a good idea
I read the Transportation Intermediaries Association president's state of the association report in their April publication and want comment on his insistence that brokers’ bonds should not be raised and that the real bad debt issue for motor carriers is “double brokering.”

I feel his argument is way off base. I have incurred bad debt from brokers hundreds of times. It had nothing to do with "double brokering." It was because the brokers simply would not pay the freight bills. When filing on their surety bonds, it is always the same story. Amounts owed to the motor carriers are always more than the surety bond amount.

I feel I do a competent job in checking credit with D&B and Compunet. I have credit standards established and followed before hauling any freight. Our collection department keeps up with non-payments, but the problem is the broker's credit value is always a moving target. You never know from one month to the next the broker's financial condition. Usually, you find out when it’s too late.

I strongly support OOIDA’s proposals. It is much more realistic to have a $300,000 to a $500,000 bond in place. At least the motor carrier will then stand a chance to collect its due.

The value in a higher bond is many of the fly-by-nights will have to go out of business because the bond will have to be secured by them personally. If the Transportation Intermediaries Association is going to be an ethical support organization to the brokerage industry, it should change its position in this matter.

Michael Kibler
Gary, IN

Same song, second verse
I just wanted to comment on your HOS article in the February issue.

The only difference between the regulations in December 2003 and today is that instead of lying on line 1 we now lie on line 2.

I would love to get 10 hours of rest in one period and work on a 14-hour day, However, the only way that will happen is if the FMCSA does away with the split sleeper option for solo drivers.

The original intent is a great idea; however, it is too far from reality to have any positive effect on professional drivers.

Sam Truax
Richburg, SC

Trucker says to heck with NYC freight 
I made a pickup at Suffolk, VA, to be delivered at New York City. As always, I called the receiver for the time to deliver the two pallets of peanut butter. The lady that answered first wanted me to deliver on Monday, four days after pickup, to which I – in typical New York fashion – told her “no way.” She finally agreed to 7 a.m., and when I arrived, made me wait for four hours even though she had the space and manpower to take the pallets out.

In the interim, I was chased around . . . because according to them, you can only stay in a loading or unloading zone for one -- count it one – hour.

All I say is this: To heck with the NYC freight. As far as I am concerned, they can take their city and frame it, and as far as peanut butter, I don’t want to see another jar of it.

Joaquin Sotomayor
Brooklyn, NY

One down, and plenty to go
My wife and I own a small trucking company, and we run under our own authority. We deal with a lot of different brokers who always find different reasons to delay payment for services rendered.

We were happy to see the involvement that OOIDA had in the downfall of Byron Hunt of Imperial Transportation Group. It’s good to know that one of them is out of business, but many more to go!

Now bigger fish to fry: getting the bigger brokerages (like C.H. Robinson) to up their pathetic low-ball rates. Who are they trying to kid? Aren’t we supposed to make the 80 percent of the load and them make the 20 percent? It seems the other way around.

That’s why we are proud to be OOIDA members and display your stickers on the trailer “SAY NO TO CHEAP FREIGHT.” We would love to see you write an article voicing our frustrations about brokers saying “That’s all we have in a load.”

Marc Boeckel
Cleveland, GA

Headed for the top of the charts
While driving down the road the last several days, I kept thinking about an episode of the TV show “Friends” where two of the stars are trying to make a baby smile by doing a rap that goes something like this: “I like big butts and I cannot lie ...” I have never heard the rest of how this goes. But after driving several hundred – OK thousands of miles – I came up with my own version:

Truckers Rap by Alvie

I hate big bumps 
And I’ll tell you why
Makes my belly jiggle
Put a wiggle in my thigh.

My truck is a bouncin’
I can’t hold the wheel,
Four-wheelers flyin’ by 
They say it’s no big deal.

The load is a shiftin’
My reefer’s not a coolin’
Petal to the metal
Boss says he’s not foolin’

Chicken coops are open 
Just up the road,
Better go around
I got a heavy load

Put the hammer down
Move on up the line
Ain’t no way
To make Chi town on time.

Brake check ahead 
Traffic jam 
News chopper above
We’re on video cam.

Everywhere you look 
Road construction
Too many orange barrels
They are interruption

Winter months ahead 
Freez’n rain
Backer down
This can be a pain.

Milepost flyin’ by, 
If a steer tire blows 
It’s gonna be scary
Every driver knows.

Keep the wheels a turnin’
Gotta make a live’n.
Asleep at the wheel 
You’ll never see Thanksgivin’

Life as a trucker 
Gotta take it day to day.
To many hours, 
Not enough pay.

Shoulda wrote a verse 
'Bout ol’ Smokey bear.
I was headin home 
Like I didn’t have a care.

Sure am thankful 
Some are pretty kind.
He says do the double nickel
And there’ll be no fine

I ask myself 
On a daily basis,
“Is this my last run?”
And just in case’s

If it should end today, 
Have I been livin’ right?
Me and the big guy
Are we hangin tight?

I Hate Big Bumps

Alan Constant
Salem, IL

We’re transporters, not lumpers
I recently read a letter in the December issue of Overdrive Magazine by Ken Whitford of Apple Valley, CA., concerning a carrier’s “loading test.” He came up with a very valid point. What with all the concern over driver fatigue and all, why should truck drivers be expected to load and/or unload freight to begin with? Doesn’t this just add to a driver’s fatigue?

I’ve done my share of “fingerprinting,” and I know how I felt by the time I was finished. Granted, there are some that actually enjoy the getting the exercise, and that’s great. But that should be the driver’s choice, not something mandatory. I don’t consider myself lazy or out of shape, but there are older drivers, or those that may have physical conditions, who shouldn’t be expected to lump freight.

I believe the time spent loading/unloading would be better used by the driver to catch up on paperwork or logs, grab a bite to eat, check out their truck or just “chill” before heading out again.

I’d like to see the trucking industry as a whole take the attitude that we are transporters, not lumpers. Let the shippers and receivers know. “It’s your freight – you handle it!”

Bob Clayton
Browns Mills, NJ

It’s all about image
I am writing to complain about the jaws bug screens and winter fronts with the feet hanging out. I also don’t like the ones with a cow skull or skull-and-crossbones.

Adam Beyer
Burbank, IL

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