If ever there was a time I wished I had a crystal ball, it’s now. I want to know how the war on terrorism is going to affect me, and plenty of truckers feel the same way. Will there be work? What about freight rates? What will fuel cost? Will there be shortages with so many trucking companies that have gone out of business and taken truckers with them? If I pull a load will I get paid? Will the company still be there to pay me? How can I protect myself from carriers or brokers going out of business?
And there’s more. Our U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft has asked for new police powers to protect us from terrorists. DOT Secretary Norman Mineta has the task of doing what must be done to keep terrorists from using big trucks for weapons of mass destruction. Now, I am getting concerned. Maybe even scared. Not from terrorists, but scared of our government.
My forefathers fought very hard for us to have the rights we have, and I don’t know if I am ready to give up these rights. Our government in the past has abused our rights. As a truckdriver, I’ve seen this many times. I still feel the sting of random roadside drug inspections.
And our government has not always been truthful with us. How bad is this? Are we in danger here on the home front? People are afraid to travel. Travel is what we do for a living. I agree with Maureen Dowd who writes for the New York Times. She likens the government’s actions to the Amity Island city officials in “Jaws.” Telling us to go back in the water, and we are not so sure they know how bad the thing is that’s out there threatening us. I am a Vietnam veteran and remember being told that “Agent Orange” was not harmful. (“No, you don’t need masks. This stuff won’t hurt you…”)
So, will we have to inspect more trucks in order to protect us from terrorists, or will it be an excuse to write more tickets for brakes being 1/8 inch out of adjustment or to a driver who made a mistake adding up hours in his logbook? Will the cry of “more security” become another form of revenue enhancement? Maybe this “it’s for your own good” mindset will even result in the searching of our trucks.
The truth is, bigger government has become a reality and our civil liberties are likely to be compromised in the name of war. It is important that Uncle Sam give us some guarantee from the git-go, that these new and additional inspections won’t result in fines while government is looking for terrorists.
Additional inspections create problems other than citations. Drivers can still only log 70 hours a week. What about the time we give up crossing borders or just getting inspected. Here’s an idea. How about a surcharge on the freight bills? Every time you get inspected a surcharge should go to the driver of the truck. After all this is for everyone’s safety. I am sure the receivers and shippers want safe shipments, so this additional charge shouldn’t bother them.
I don’t have a crystal ball, so I don’t know what next year will bring. But, I am pretty sure it will be different than what we have ever faced before. I will be looking to see what happens in trucking and if broader public security can be achieved without trampling some freedoms.