April 2005 Letters

Don’t complain about compliance
This letter is in response to Greg Sample’s letter, “Fine the source of the problem,” in the March/April 2005 issue.

I have been driving over the road for 25 years. No one forces us to run illegal. When I’m given a load I can’t legally deliver, I tell the company/broker to change the appointment time to when I can legally be there, or give the load to someone else. It’s amazing how many hot loads aren’t so hot anymore.

The driver won’t be fired, but the company/broker is surprised that a driver actually has the gumption to stand up for himself. Even if you are fired, with a little research, there is a better job around the corner.

We don’t need all the times, dates or other useless data stamped on the bills. We don’t need EOBR’s. All this data is for drivers who cannot think for themselves, and a tool for enforcement agencies to collect revenue, from a simple mistake on the paperwork. We simply just have to be professional and tell it like it is in a courteous, businesslike manner.

Charlie Palmer 
Greenbrier, TN

Where has all the fuel tax gone?
After reading the latest issue of Land Line, it got me thinking of how it was to buy fuel for $1.29 a gallon and think, “This is bad for business.”

But now we, the trucking industry, are paying over $2 a gallon. Reading on in Land Line about how states want to raise taxes to support road repairs, I question where all the tax money that comes from the price of fuel and gas has gone. When will enough be enough?

I also think and wonder when and if the routes I travel will someday be made into toll roads, toll roads that only trucks will be made to pay and finance. What about the millions of cars that travel the same road everyday? The same cars that cut off the trucks, the same cars that make it so hard for us trucks to move the freight from place to place. We in the trucking industry are restricted to the far right lanes and have to compete with slow-moving cars, campers and the like. Again I ask – when is enough going to be enough?

Thank you for a very informative magazine, and keep up the good work. I look forward to every issue.

Jim Moore
Inverness, FL

Fuel temps have him hot
I was just reading the “Hot fuel not a hot deal” article in the March/April 2005 issue. I have said this for a long time. I fuel at Flying J, and not pointing a finger, but their fuel does not go as far as other truck stops. The main reasons I stop are because I can get everything done and write checks. Sometimes I feel like getting a good five-gallon can and putting fuel in that before fueling my truck. I am a one-truck owner, but last year I spent just under $30,000 for fuel.

Richard Kunkle
Plymouth, IN

Thanks for the authority
I would like to give a big bouquet of roses to OOIDA for their efforts in helping my wife and I achieve our own authority. Everyone was very helpful and knowledgeable when it came to getting everything completed. We checked a lot of companies but no one matched the knowledge (or price) of OOIDA.

To all the staff at OOIDA in authority and Truck Insurance, thank you.

P.S. Any of you thinking of getting your own authority, save your time – just call OOIDA.

Ken & Julie Snowdell
Bonne Terre, MO

Going reg-crazy
Remember when seatbelts were only going to be required for children, and drivers would not be stopped if they were not wearing them? I truly believe that the teen ban is only a stepping stone to a full-blown cell phone ban.

While for some this would probably be a good thing, in the age of instant communication where I am tracked by satellite, fingerprinted for safety and drug tested on the side of the road, am I supposed to pull off to the side of the interstate to answer the phone when dispatch wants to know if I am there yet? Better yet, how about trying to pull off when you’re on the Cross-Bronx Expressway or in downtown Chicago?

I am an owner-operator, and have tried to keep up with all the new laws. That in itself is a full-time job. Laws are coming out by the dozens, and each one has some valid point in its origin, I am sure. However, to please everyone, we will wind up sitting in a white room with a white jacket on that buckles in the back.

If a man breaks into my home and injures himself on the wad of Ethernet wires I have wrapped around my home office computers while trying to take them, how much will I have to pay him in the civil suit?

If a man has a few beers on his way home from a hard day at work and hits my wife’s car, I am not on his list of visitors at the county jail; therefore, I can’t go to the jail and ask him why he thought it was a good idea to knock back a few on his way home, rather than waiting until he got there?

Why are illegal immigrants not deported when they get behind the wheel without a license or insurance after having a few too many, and drive into a family on their way home from church?

And how can a city annex land, simply because a subdivision is going up three miles outside city limits? For the tax dollars, of course.

Like I said, if we pleased everyone, we’d all be in padded rooms with white jackets that buckled in the back. It seems to me that things will never be simple again.

Raymond S. Garland
Ball Ground, GA

Putting a stop to brake ban complaints
I have been hearing a lot of crying over engine brake bans lately. So far, I have not heard anyone address the one simple fact – the locals do not want to hear an engine brake at 3 a.m. Personally, I don’t want to hear one either, especially if the truck has an unmuffled exhaust. I really believe that most bans are caused by trucks without mufflers.

How many drivers would change their minds if the shoe was on the other foot?

John Fragnella
South Royalton, VT

The wardrobe makes the man
I have been a professional truck driver for just over six years and in this very short time, I have watched in disbelief as our industry’s reputation – and the public’s viewpoint of truckers – took a negative spin out of control.

There is only so much that I felt I could do to change this perception, so one and a half years ago I started to wear a shirt and tie during all aspects of my job. Let me tell you: the results have been incredible.

The new level of attention and respect I receive in contact is unbelievable. It feels nice to be treated as the professional that I am.

Here is my challenge to all operations/fleet managers – have your drivers try it. They don’t have to spend a lot of money on fancy shirts. Just consider adding a solid-color tie to any button-up shirt. Once they try it, they will never be treated like they are when they wear a T-shirt.

As I drive down the road, I receive looks of admiration and respect from four-wheelers. That is something that I have only heard about as legend of how people used to view drivers – as the knights of the road.

Scott Dubay
Sharpsville, PA

Take a break from the Jakes
In response to the article on engine brake restrictions in a recent issue of Land Line: once again, the few manage to screw things up for the majority.

You can’t blame municipalities for banning them in certain areas. You’ve got clowns out there with straight stacks and one resonator, which in most cases are fine and dandy, until you light the Jake Brake. Then look out.

I run straights myself, but I like to think I have better sense than to use a Jake around town. A lot of wannabe truckers do it on purpose to get their kicks, draw attention or whatever. So once again, a few clowns have shot us in the foot.

We need to clean up our own stable before we start pointing fingers elsewhere.

Spence Denning
Sparta, TN

Watch where you point that dash cam
The article on dash cams in trucks was good, but you should point out that trucks going into sensitive areas might not be able to enter with the cameras.

One that can be easily removed and left with security at a gate would be a better choice, unless there is no chance of going into sensitive areas when picking up military or hazmat loads. It would be a shame for someone to spend big bucks on something they later find they cannot use.

G. Cummins
Hayes, VA

Peculiar Pennsylvania parking problem
I had a similar parking problem as the driver had in Lockport, IL in a recent letter. The small town that I live in had an ordinance that prohibited truck parking from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. After receiving five or six parking tickets, I had to do something. I stayed home a few extra days so I could attend the weekly borough meeting to discuss this with the councilman.

As the meeting started, I noticed that four of the members on the borough council were on the high school football team with me 35 years ago. I said to myself, “This is a done deal.”

I presented my case to the council and after a little discussion, they voted to amend the law so that I could park my truck on one side of the street that is against an industrial area.

It pays to take the time to voice your problem.

Robert Ciaccia
Conshohocken, PA

Hot fuel has driver steaming
Your March issue of Land Line had two good articles about hot fuel – temperature hot, that is.

I’ve been aware of the high expansion constant of fuel for a long time and set up my computer bookkeeping system to keep records of hot fuel purchases. When fueling, I check the temperature by feeling the nozzle and note when it is “Warm” or “Hot.”

One such location is the Flying J truck stop at Lebec – also known as Frazier Park – in California. Since I have been running the West Coast for the past 10 years, I’ve frequented that truck stop. Hot fuel cheats us unless the pumps compensate for the temperature, which I doubt is the case at Frazier Park.

Once when fueling, a California Highway Patrol officer drove up nearby and I talked to him about the problem. He said he would report it to the proper authorities. I doubt that happened, since subsequent purchases have nearly always been “hot.”

I’ve been told that one method used to heat up fuel is leaving a loaded, uninsulated delivery truck parked in the sun.

If OOIDA wants to do anything about this, I’d think that the truck stop at Frazier Park, CA would be a good place to start.

Al Williams
Oak Harbor, WA

Fishing for a good conversation
While sitting at the breakfast bar in the truck stop the other morning, I really got to fuming about the drivers chatting about the world’s problems, and they, of all people, knew just how to solve all the problems that are plaguing mankind.

We all know what the problems are, and whining at each other won’t help a thing. It was pretty easy to identify the main culprit of this whine-tasting event, and I set out to derail his train of thought. While the whine master was catching his breath, I turned to the main recipient of this verbal barrage and asked him with great intent, “Where are you from?”

He told me, I said “I heard the fishing is absolutely incredible at some parts of the year in your area.” With great enthusiasm, he commenced with the local fishing stories. When he was done, another driver – obviously interested in the new topic – continued with the fish tales. I was only there for a few more minutes, admiring my successful hijacking of the conversation from the whine master, and getting more and more satisfaction every time he would attempt to intervene with more reports of doom and unfair treatment.

It isn’t that I disagree with the naysayer; it’s just that we should be telling our elected officials our concerns, not each other. When I sit down for breakfast in the morning and start a conversation with the guy next to me, I’d like the conversation to be about fishing, when the word “largemouth” comes up.

Kerry Balog
Glendale, AZ

‘Safety’ = ‘Profit’ for legislators
All mandating EOBRs would do would be to put more tools in the hands of governments to extend their arm to our hard-earned dollars. It has nothing to do with safety.

If they are really concerned about public safety, they can come up with a better idea, which in my opinion is to limit how many miles you can drive in a 24-hour period.

This will put an end to all the paperwork, intimidation by the trucking companies, shippers and receivers, and stop the DOT with their nonsense rules and regulation in regard to safety.

States, county and city governments use the word “safety” every time they want to raise money. We are tired of supporting irresponsible money-spending representatives.

On behalf of all my fellow drivers, enough of this constant abuse.

Gerair Balian
Salinas, CA

Don’t bite the hand …
It seems to me that with new truck prices going through the roof, fuel not doing any better, insurance going up and people that don’t know anything about trucking dictating how to run our HOS, the government still wants us to look out for trouble and keep America moving. Yet they are the same people trying to make our jobs hard.

Last time I checked, you are not supposed to bite the hand that feeds you, but what do I know: I’m just a truck driver looking out for my family’s future.

Ferdinand “Benji” Banchs
Mason City, IA

Hazmat checks leave driver caught between the rules
In regard to the new revisions to the hazmat endorsement, I agree with it. I hope it screens out the people who don’t deserve the endorsement.

What I am upset about is when I was going through the process of changing my CDL from Class B to an A, I took the written combination test along with the hazmat in November before the rules changed. On the Class A permit, it says HAZ MT 1 P, meaning I took it once and passed it.

Yesterday I went for the driving portion, and the Secretary of State office in Peoria, IL, was trying to tell me I had to go through the background check even though I took the test and passed before the ruling went into place. I would fight with them, but I am about to start a new job hauling farm chemicals, so I don’t have time to fight.

I am going to do what they tell me I need to do, but to humor me, would I be right on this issue?

P.S. I enjoy trucking, and as soon as I turn 21, I am going to purchase a tractor and trailer, and run on my own authority.

Andy Roth
Morton, IL

Parking fee isn’t about IdleAire, it’s about hot air
After reading the letter from IdleAire in a recent issue, I felt that I had to reply.

Anyone that runs Atlanta knows this truck stop and their policy concerning IdleAire. You must pay $5 to park, and since everyone pays this, they will not force anyone to move from the Idle Aire spots. This is pure profit for the truck stop. Therefore, I no longer use this truck stop, nor do I use any of their other locations.

I have also informed FedEx – the company to whom I am leased – why we no longer use them. It doesn’t matter what discount they offer on fuel: we will not return, and trust me, I have told every driver that I can to not use this company, fuel needed or not. I don’t feel that IdleAire can control this situation: only the truck stop can.

P.S. We use IdleAire when we can. Thanks for listening.

Trudy Rhodes
Hendersonville, TN

‘Broker’ not always a dirty word
I have been a fan of OOIDA ever since I got an interest in the freight industry. Being a freight broker (which some call “the other side of the aisle,” as opposed to being a professional trucker), OOIDA helped me see things in the right perspective. I wish that we brokers had a similar association like OOIDA. The one out there, which I will not name here, isn’t worth the membership fee they charge for doing nothing.

It is in the best interest of both freight brokers and owner-operators to have common goals and values. Making sure everyone gets paid, not encouraging drivers to run illegally and so on. However, I must say that in the past few months, some issues in your publication are a little bit over the line. It is unfair to keep labeling freight brokers as the bad guys.

One example, I wrote to your magazine last month regarding increasing freight brokers’ bond to sky-soaring amounts. I have covered that in my letter last month, so I will not discuss this in length now.

Regarding your article in the March/April 2005 issue, “How do you know you’re getting your fair share of a brokered load?,” I have respect for the law that a broker must share information with an owner-operator. However, you are putting the whole thing out of perspective.

The idea of the law is to protect truckers so they get their fair share. This will be the case if, let’s say, the broker agrees to pay the owner-operator 80 percent of the load, so the driver wants to be sure he is getting his actual fair share. But what happens if we agree to a flat rate on a backhaul lane to $1.90 a mile and we charge the shipper $3.00 a mile? Well, we just made a good deal.

If the law states that you may see the record, good. Don’t like what you see, too bad. In my opinion, this law does not make sense at all, like most government regulations forcing red tape by stupid legislators with no good reason. Just like black boxes for drivers does not make sense at all.

And to all of you owner-operators: There are plenty of honest freight brokers to deal with. Those of you who have worked with our firm know it firsthand. We didn’t force loads on you, we paid you detention fees after the agreed free time and most important of all, we paid you on time.

Moses Knopfler
Brooklyn, NY

Bush goes Dutch
So, President Bush wants a national sales tax. For a long time it has looked like he has been a wannabe shoot-from-the-hip John Wayne or Ronald Reagan-type western hero actor. Now it is certain that he is following the scripts the Republican Party laid out for Reagan. California’s Schwarzenegger is doing it too. All three of them campaigned on a platform of lowering taxes, but the truth is that all they do is shift them from the rich to the working class and then raise them. We don’t brag about it, but we lived in California when Ronald Reagan was governor there. It was interesting to see where his script was taking us, which turned out to be the same one he used as president.

Talk about how history repeats itself. During his 2000 campaign – just before hanging chad came into our lexicon – G.W. declared that he wanted to “Bring back the Reagan Years.” It seems to be the same script every wannabe cowboy-actor-politician tries to follow, from G.W. to California’s new governor-on-steroids. Well yes, they do try to improve on the scripts some. G.W. is adding some of J.R.’s lines from the old “Dallas” scripts and California’s Schwarzenegger jumps into telephone booths to swallow pills and come out in a blue suit with cape and a big red “S” on his chest. Americans sure do like their movies, and they believe them too.

What surprised me is that G.W. managed to carry the Midwestern agriculture states who seemed to forget all about the Reagan depression they had when their newspapers were decrying the epidemic of suicides from family farmers who were forced to sell out and knew no other way to make a living. I know: as an over-the-road trucker I read the newspapers from dinky towns to big cities all over the country. Did R.R. care? Apparently not. He told them that farming was just another business and that if they couldn’t make it, they should get out of the way and let the big boys take over. And that’s just what happened.

Yep, the working class sure has a short memory. We’ve already forgotten the Clinton economy and “Peace Dividend.” So dig into your pockets, folks. We’re going to have a national sales tax; we’ll lose Social Security and Medicare; the next stock market disaster will wipe out 401k’s and with it any hope of retirements for working people; inflation will destroy the retirements of current retirees; Enron- and WorldCom-type CEOs (that’s the short list) will continue to declare bankruptcy and abscond with their ill-gotten gains at an even greater rate; and the United States will lead the world into war after war until the “blood – of low income servicemen – runs as high as the horses’ bridles.” Gee, what script did those words come from?

Al and Barbara Williams
Oak Harbor, WA

Younger member encourages activism
I want to extend a personal thank you to all of you outstanding people. Because of you, all of you, I am more aware and active politically than I have ever been. I have contacted my representative on several issues via e-mail. I am committed to continuing this awareness and seeing what transpires.

I am also grateful that Mr. Johnston opened OOIDA to company drivers. I am also sure I am one of the youngest – at age 28 – to be in the association.

I am hopeful of those things yet to come. Together we can make a difference to the industry. Let’s make waves.

Chad Walworth
Eau Claire, WI

Good intentions, bad inspections
I am an owner-operator with intrastate authority in Texas. In recent months, the state police – along with numerous county and city units – have initiated an unwarranted campaign of harassment and intimidation against truck drivers.

Specifically, they are conducting roadside inspections in which they are unforgiving in a search for presumed safety violations. Now, to be clear, this is no routine DOT inspection. For example, I have been personally inspected twice in about three months, in addition to three inspections for another of my trucks during the same period. Both of these trucks travel the same routes daily and have been ostensibly chosen at random. The officers have consistently cited us for excessive oil leaks, overweight, and tires of less than 3/32 tread depth.

I have been moderately successful in fighting these citations in court for the following reasons:

  • The portable scales used are rarely calibrated, and even when they are, it is not by any certified technician but by a department supervisor;
  • There are no specific tire measurements taken by the officer who apparently just “eyeballs it;”
  • My trucks have no oil leaks, and officers mistake blow-by residue for an oil leak.

Each of these situations is typical, given that the police departments are taking officers trained in law enforcement and, through the magic of a little department training, turning them into supposed experts on the mechanical workings of a tractor-trailer. These guys have no more expertise to diagnose and cite safety violations than does my doctor, lawyer or pastor. Hey – I think even my lawyer knows the difference between blow-by and an oil leak. However, the fact that the officers are not qualified to conduct the inspections is merely part of the problem as I see it.

For roadside inspections, we need to also look at the legality of them altogether. They are conducted without any reasonable cause. Consequently, they are in essence a suspicion-less search for presumed safety violations.

This is a clear violation of civil rights, where the truck driver is presumed guilty until proven innocent. I had to, at my time and expense, go to court and prove myself innocent of charges cited by unqualified police officers that presumed I was guilty without suspicion before they initiated the inspection. How can any reasonable person see this as constitutional?

If police pulled this same scheme on passenger vehicles, there would be an outcry. People would be outraged not only at the violations they received, but also at the mere waste of time and insinuations of wrongdoing. I personally tend to the majority of repairs made to my vehicles and take it as a personal insult when a police officer – with a few hours of classroom instruction – presumes to know more than I do about the safe operation of my trucks.

In addition, I have a personal and company safety record that is above reproach. This safety record should be considered in any sort of DOT profiling. Rather than these roadside inspections, most often the epitome of a safety hazard themselves, the reasonable and constitutional solution would be that officers be allowed to stop and inspect vehicles only when visible or otherwise obvious violations are noticed. In other words, reasonable suspicion must exist.

Dick Gleaton
Southmayd, TX

Sen. McCain fails to respond, loses trucker’s vote
Thank you for keeping us informed about the fuel surcharge and what is going on with that bill.

I have written our senators, John McCain and Jon Kyle. I have heard from Sen. Kyle many times on this and he said he will take a look at the bill. He even sent me a letter about this.

Although Sen. Kyle has been responsive, I have never heard from Sen. McCain. It really saddens me to think that he supports our president and seems to be tagging along wherever he goes, but yet cannot reply to the very people who voted him into his position. You can bet that when election time comes we will not be supporting Sen. McCain.

We will continue to support OOIDA and its beliefs in helping the trucking industry and the small-business owner.

Mr. & Mrs. Charles Monroe
Glendale, AZ

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