Line One
Letters to the Editor

Not safe out there with 18 year olds
I was an owner-operator for over 40 years. In 1958, I bought my first truck and sold the last one in 1997. I ran 38 states and Canada. I consider the Motor Carrier Act of 1980 the worst thing to happen to interstate trucking in my lifetime, especially for the owner-operator. By 2001, the rates have been slashed so low that carriers cannot pay a high enough wage so that a driver trying to support an average family can make ends meet. Now the carriers want to lower the legal age to 18 so they can have more drivers entering the business. Of course, these younger drivers can work cheaper because they, for the most part, do not have family to support. The job is a lark for them. They have not seen much yet in life. Driving a truck is as important a job from their standpoint as flying a plane, driving a bus or sitting in the oval office presiding over the USA. An 18-year-old driver cannot be expected to make rational decisions or accept the responsibility necessary for safe or dependable operation of an 80,000 lb. or more truck. It takes a lot of maturity to do it any time, but when on ice and snow or fog or even rain, these younger drivers cannot be safe with just the schooling and no actual experience. I truly hope the DOT does not get this program started. Best of luck with your great organization. Keep on truckin’.

John Peterson 
Waterville, NY

You’re not being fair to 18 year olds
I don’t think you are being fair to all of the 18 year olds. I started driving in Michigan when I was 17. Michigan messed up and issued my license. When they (the state) found out, I was (already) 18 and I have been driving ever since. I pulled “gravel trains,” seven-axle oil tankers and flatbeds all before I turned 21. In 1976, I hired on with Wales Transportation to run OTR. I came to Texas with three years experience to drive a big truck. These only had 18 wheels! I had great teachers – my dad and his friends. The guys at Wales kept an eye on me so I didn’t hurt myself hauling oil field supplies. I’m now 45 years old and have not had any wrecks. 

Bill Ater Jr.
Arlington, TX

Are advertisers more important than readers?
Magazine advertisers must be more important than readers. There can be no other reason I can think of that causes 99 percent of all trucking magazines to refuse to write about dishonest motor carriers, lemon trucks and trucks with dangerous defects. Land Line seems to be the exception. 

A. Morris
Algona, WA

Road Law
I just wanted to give you some feedback on the “Road Law” section you have added to the magazine. First, I like it very much. We need this kind of “absolutely correct” information on various topics that every truckdriver thinks he is an expert on; when fact of the matter is, no one knows which story is the right story. Why, because we have no source of reliable information to go to verify or ask anything. This column has addressed that important need – thank you. 

I have contacted James Mennella a number of times in the last six months. The first two times I e-mailed questions (one question each time) to them, I got no response. James told me to resubmit the questions, which I did; plus, two more. He promptly responded the next day. That was very nice. Then I responded to that reply, and he answered the following day as well. That also was very nice and I told him so.

So it seems that whatever the problems were initially, they have apparently been resolved, and I am now very pleased with their service. Thank you for hooking the members up with solid information that we can depend on. And with people who are responsive to inquiries. So, as always, OOIDA comes through big time for truckers. Thank you very much for all that you do … for all of us. I, for one, greatly appreciate it.

Dave Snellings
Crofton, MD

Extra patrols?
I have listened to several TV stations during the past few days and I heard that “although big rigs cause only 10 percent of local accidents, the CHP (California Highway Patrol) is performing extra patrols to make sure these large trucks are obeying the rules of the road … such as illegal lane changes and using the wrong lanes of the freeway.”

Yes, big rigs do wrong things. But if they cause only 10 percent of accidents, why put extra patrols on them? I would use the extra patrols on the 90 percent of drivers that cause the rest of the accidents. 

Sandra Hileman
Shasta Lake, CA

Review those phone bills
On March 13 my husband called home from Iowa. We talked three minutes. On April 4, he called home from Illinois and we talked for eight minutes. The bill for these two calls was $23.06! I called Sprint and they said the calls were billed by AT&T. My husband used his Sprint calling card but both calls were listed as “operated assisted.” Part of the charges were 30 cents a minute for using a payphone. 

When I complained to Sprint they said I had to call AT&T. AT&T apologized for naming the calls “operator assisted” but did not offer any reduction in price. The company rep said it wasn’t “slamming” since we aren’t their customers! Duh! That is exactly what it is. I complained to the Federal Communications Commission. They refunded part of my bill. It did take six or more months, but the FCC does pay attention. I urge all truckers to take a few minutes and read their bills. Take the time to make a complaint. We can get big results if we band together.

Dixie Norman
Warsaw, IN

Editor’s note: Dixie, your letter prompted us to delve into the telephone robbery problem, and we found more than we have space to tell you. Look for a longer article in an upcoming issue. Like many calling card users, you unknowingly used two long-distance companies, which can be an expensive mistake. Here are some ways to avoid being charged extra fees for calling card calls:

  • Never dial “zero” before making a calling card call. Always use the 800 number on your calling card.
  • Be sure the access number you dial gives you the same telephone company with which you have your calling card plan. Using two different companies means extra charges.
  • If you make more than one or two calling card calls per month, make sure you are on a calling card plan, which will give you better rates.

Many thanks to all of you at OOIDA for the help we got settling an issue that had gotten out of hand. One call to OOIDA got results. After a flash of conference calls, threats of physical violence and demands for payment, the entire issue was resolved, and I guarantee you one thing, this issue would have gone on forever if OOIDA had not stepped in. 

And then when I get my next issue of LL, what do I find but the best article you could imagine by Donna Ryun, chock full of some of the best advice in print. Take my word folks, right is right, and wrong is wrong, but if you don’t stand up to some of the companies that you do business with, they will take from you till there isn’t any more to take. And without people like OOIDA in your corner, they’ll have you signing up for a trip to hell, and make you look forward to the trip, right after you max out your gold card for the tickets. 

DJ and Helen Durant
Salem, NE

What makes old codgers anti-social?
I’ve been kicked out of a few bars in my time, but I’ve never been kicked out of a restaurant before. I made Phoenix, ran out to the Eloy Petro, fueled and stayed overnight. Saturday morning I showered, bought a paper and headed for breakfast at the Petro restaurant. It had a crowd at the cash register and I walked on by towards the back. There was another crowd by the buffet and I went by scanning for an empty booth. I sat down at a dirty one and opened up my paper.

A restaurant fellow, evidently a manager, came up and asked me if I “just walked by those people and sat down there.” I said “yeah” thinking he was checking to see if my table needed cleaning or if I was just finishing my meal. He said, “you just walked by people waiting for tables” and then told me to get up and leave the booth. Not ready for this, I whined, “But I’m a truckdriver and this is a truckstop, isn’t it?” Not a good comeback, I guess. I could plainly see non-support from the line of old codgers I had walked by. Since I’ve gotten to be an old codger myself, I’ve noticed we get picked on more and that seems to make codgers a bit anti-social.

I went out in search of a manager, owner or whomever; whined around a little more and finally got an assistant manager. She went to somebody higher up who refused to see me and sent word down that the restaurant was a separate facility and operated with their own procedures.

I am 66 myself, but not retired. When I do, I won’t be eating at truckstops. What I can’t figure is why seniors go to a Petro restaurant when they can get a better meal, price and service at any Denny’s. Maybe they figure it’s too hard to negotiate Denny’s lots with their campers so they just stop at truckstops, I don’t know.

Anyway, since it was obvious I wasn’t going to get fed at Petro unless it was from the convenience store, I went on down to TA. There I found an atmosphere more tuned towards truckers. I think I’ll start fueling there, too.

R. Buck
Centralia, MO

Blew our credit rating
My husband David bought a 1995 Volvo in 1998 and our problems are with the truck and the place we bought it from. We know you expect to have normal repairs and replacement. This truck has been in the shop for repairs just about every month since we bought it. We feel the repairs and tire wear is above normal. We are on our fourth set of steer tires. We have repaired switches, gauges, injectors and shocks. I can’t tell you how much we have spent on the air-conditioning and it doesn’t stay fixed – everything from a new condenser to Freon. None of this includes downtime with food and motels. 

We work for a good company who loans us the money and takes it out of our settlement. Since 1998, we have spent $26,064.18. David was just home two weeks ago and spent over $1,000. And he was on the road three days and spent four days down with repairs of $1,200. Plus motel and food. And we just bought steer tires again. 

This truck repair has managed to totally blow our credit rating to the point we can’t get another truck much less borrow to help with household bills. Now we know why the American trucker has had to turn in their trucks.

Jacky Taylor
Hazel, KY

I give up 
I have a 1994 Volvo. It leans to the left all the time. I’ve had it looked at and had the front end rebuilt and it still leans to the left. I have put three new Bridgestones on the front end in the last year. I had it aligned and balanced. The three years I’ve had this truck it has always pulled to the right and had a shimmy. After front-end work and numerous alignments and balancing, I give up.

Charles Baldridge
Peggs, OK

Nothing but trouble
Total cost of repairs and maintenance for one tractor from June 1997 to December 1998 was $20,158.50. This does not include extensive warranty work done on this vehicle like transmission and clutch. I averaged out-of-pocket at $1,120 per month.

I purchased five new 1998 Volvo VNL 64Ts and had nothing but trouble with them. I went out of business on March 31, 1999. The truck mentioned above was the first purchased in May of ’97 and I had nothing but trouble with it. I didn’t get much satisfaction from Volvo.

Matthew E. Brodak
Aliquippa, PA

Too many problems to list
In response to your articles on the problems with Volvos, I would like to add my ongoing problems with my 1997 Volvo. The instrument cluster has not worked from day one. The speedometer reads 52 mph whether I’m going 20 or 60. Most of the other gauges are non-functional. The dealership and Volvo doesn’t seem to care if this problem is remedied or not. 

The right steering tire is shot. This truck has amassed an approximate total of $4,500 in repairs since purchase. Two Volvo dealerships have yet to solve the constant failure of electrical items with this truck. The front end shakes terribly between 35 and 50 mph. The alignment was checked and the truck is properly aligned. There are too many other problems to list and I am seeking legal counsel.

Dale E. Clark
Shelby, OH

Can’t wait for shore power 
It is about time. It is interesting that the fleets are the reason why we are to finally see AC power in truckstops. I call it power in numbers. They are the same fleets whose engines are idling needlessly in perfect weather while my windows are opened. Forever, I’ve been breathing their fumes.

Shore power will also help bring down the prices on auxiliary power units (APUs) for trucks. I can’t wait for shore power. The sooner the better for me. Fleets who are slowly eliminating independent carriers from the industry either by killing the rates or asphyxiation at night in truckstops should demand engines off because of needless idling. Forty percent of the time you start your engine because the idiot next to you is running his and you have to shut your windows not to breathe his exhaust. With shore power, my windows will always be closed and if my neighbor idles, it no longer matters. I can buy a lot of AC power for what they charge for an APU. I almost feel like thanking the fleets “but I won’t.”

While I’m at it, the next task for truckstops would be at the fuel islands. Please add dump capabilities for Porta Potties. Truckstops would make money and everybody benefits from the parking lots remaining clean of odors and diseases. My wife thanks you ahead of time.

Robert J.P. Beaudet
Zephyr Hills, FL