Line One
Letters to the Editor

Hot dogs and Jakes
I recently read an article in your magazine regarding engine brakes, exhaust brakes or Jake brakes. I would like to see some sort of regulation requiring the mandatory use of OEM or equivalent equipment on all commercial vehicles. I do believe in Jake brakes, and used one when it was necessary. If an automobile were to remove their muffler, it would not pass inspection. With the number of trucks on the road growing daily, I see no reason to remove your muffler. (Today’s engine performance and high tech makes up for any monetary gain and the cost of removing them and placing straight pipes in their place.) Also, I see no reason to use your Jake brake in traffic traveling at rush hour speeds (0-40 mph). I do see reason for preventing noise pollution or using your Jake brake for downgrades to prevent brake fade and over revving an engine.

These “Hot Dogs” who opt for straight pipes and remove their mufflers should be required to put mufflers back on their rigs. If all these drivers want to do is look cool, there is a set up available to place the muffler under the cab and run straight pipes up.

Dave Bates
Mt. Laurel, NJ

One more thing about reefers
I recently became a member of OOIDA, but have been reading Land Line for a while. I always find your magazine full of information, and I just want to add something. I was reading “Understanding Reefers,” and found it to be full of stuff that a person who is just getting started pulling reefers needs to know. 

However, in the list of things to get ready to load, you say that after you’re loaded, you start the reefer and set it at the desired temperature, since it was pre-cooled. This depends on what you have in the box. If you have cold stuff you know is cold or you pulped and you know is the right temperature, you set it to the desired temperature. If you have a hot load of produce at 60 F and set it at 38 F, you’ll have produce “Popsicle.” You have to step it down. Start at 5 degrees below the pulp temperature and keep dropping it until you get to the desired temperature. Another example of things a driver does that’s not his job. Oh well, add it to the list.

Jim L. Baron Jr.
Greenville, NY

Young drivers deserve a shot?
Because I left the road one year ago and am now driving a local truck, I’ve been hesitant to renew my membership with OOIDA. After reading an article in the April 2001 issue of RoadStar magazine titled, “Young Drivers Deserve a Shot” by Deborah Whistler, I could not get my renewal notice in the mail fast enough. In her current article concerning the 18-year-old driver debate, she states the following, “Before you all rush to judgment with the immediate and predictable trucker response that this is obviously just another ploy by mercenary big fleet boys to acquire cheaper labor, consider the facts.” Ah ... just a second. Stop the press. Immediate and predictable trucker response? Is that what she just said? Are we truckers who are seeking nirvana just not thinking straight? That’s interesting. I guess Ms. Whistler knows just what us predictable truckers think. As far as I’m concerned, Ms. Whistler may know what the TCA thinks, or what the ATA thinks, but she sure as hell does not know what I think.

In case you’re interested, here is what I think. I don’t care who drives semis, as long as they’re good at it and are paid accordingly. What bothers me is that these 18 year olds will not be given a complete picture of life on the road. A lot of these details will be conveniently left out. They will be given (and rightly so) entry level wages. Then when they’ve been out there for about two years, and have gotten it out of their systems (and presumably are at a higher wage) the majority of them will quit and try something else. And for two years, the companies will have gotten a couple more years of cheap labor. Do I have it figured out? Or am I just acting like a damn truckdriver. The “mercenary big fleet boys” as Deborah so fondly refers to them, will continue to train them because you know “we have a driver shortage” and Deborah thinks we should “give the 18 year olds a chance.” When in doubt, follow the money.

Let me finish with the warning: In the article, she mentions she is going to call OOIDA President Jim Johnston and ask him (rhetorically) when he started driving trucks. I would advise him to respond, “Eighteen, Deborah, when did you start?”

Rich “Banjo” Smith
St. Paul, MN

Editor’s note: Actually, Rich, the U.S. Navy got Jim first. He was in his early twenties when he started trucking.

Younger drivers
I e-mailed RoadStar to support Jim Johnston’s stand against bringing kids into our profession. The desire for low wage labor is clearly the motive here. What a sham! To me it’s more proof that our industry lacks viable competent leadership. I hope all drivers will support Jim’s stand.

Don LaRegina
Enterprise, AL

Ellen’s new book? Read it!
Regarding Ellen Voie’s new book, “Marriage in the Long Run,” here’s a suggestion for all who are interested in seeing how our other halves truly get along without us. Pick up and read (maybe more than once) this compelling book. Like most drivers, I presumed to know the goings on at home whether close at hand or far away, but boy, was I wrong! Oh sure I got the jest of it, but the subtle nuances weren’t there. Though this to me is not a panacea for all problems it can, and in my humble opinion, does shed a new light on what can be a daunting task. Ellen does a fine job laying out story after story on how this can be coped with, as well as articles that hit close to home regarding the ups and downs of our chosen profession. May many more books follow.

Dan Rowley
Chesterfield, MI

Understanding reefers
In the March/April issue of Land Line you printed an article by Paul Abelson titled “Understanding Reefers.” (Part two of this article appeared in the May issue.) Although we have pulled a reefer trailer for many years, we found the article very informative and helpful.

Marilyn J. Pulliam
Brush Prairie, WA

Outta here
After 25 years of being an OTR driver, mostly as a company driver, I have decided to call it quits. This decision has been brought on primarily by health reasons; however, I have wanted out of the business for quite a long time. I can write a book on all the reasons why I have wanted out of the business, I can also write one about the positive reasons I lived the profession for all those years. All of those factors have been discussed in this publication at length, both pro and con.

My contribution to any of those discussions would be moot, and therefore with this one exception I will not get on the soapbox. The last contractor I drove for was forced out of business and into bankruptcy last summer. The huge increase in fuel costs pushed him over the edge. It needs to be stated that a lot of other factors went into the decline of his business; the inability to retain good drivers being a big factor. There is always the question of why he couldn’t keep his drivers? I would have to say that driver pay, home time, and overall working conditions were the biggest causes. I cannot imagine a better man to work for. However, the companies he leased his equipment to left a lot to be desired. These companies treated this contractor and his drivers as though that corporate organization (and not an independent businessman) owned the equipment.

I would like to make a short statement to the thousands of drivers (both company and contractors) that membership in this organization (OOIDA) is just about the only thing out there that even vaguely represents the common, or perhaps the uncommon, truckdriver. OOIDA is as good as it gets for the average driver, and the best that it gets for the owner-operators. If more “average” company drivers will join up, the ability to get more issues on the table will occur.

I will continue to view the OOIDA web site to keep up with what’s new, I will do so from a safe following distance, health reasons aside I have no desire to go back to it.

Floyd E. Case
Omaha, NE

Loading abuses
The recent rule changes regarding loading and unloading our trucks have made some good changes in our industry, but only for the shippers and receivers who abide by them and allow truckers to get rest. Some, however, find their ways to get around all the different ways companies run their operations. I recently went to Fleming Foods in King of Prussia, PA. There they unload your truck for you but you have to break the load down. The load I personally brought in was approximately 3,000 cases. I can see sorting freight to get an accurate count and properly check it in. I had 21 solid pallets – one item on each, 25 block, 4 high. They required me to re-stack all freight one high. To top it off they only give you the blue Chep pallets (75 lbs. each) to accomplish this task. As an ex-OTR driver, I do not know how I would have dealt with this place. Now a company driver and paid by the hour, I do whatever is asked of me. HOS reform will never work as long as any driver is required to do this kind of work. If the customer wants freight a certain height, it should be shipped that way or have the receiving company be responsible for breaking it down after it’s checked in. 

Name withheld 
Mt. Laurel, NJ

Checking brake stroke adjustment
I just read the article that you wrote for the March 2000 issue of Land Line Magazine on “Pre-Trip Inspections.” I believe that you were very thorough in your approach to the article and that the owner-operators will get a good “refresher” on what they should be doing before pulling out of the lot. Hopefully, they will also take your suggestions to heart and do these items if they are not already doing so.

There is one point in which I believe you may have given the reader a false sense of security though. You state at the top of page 74 that “with more and more trucks having automatic adjusters, it [brake adjustment] is becoming less of a problem by the day.” You must have the statistics to back up this statement, but it is my impression from talking to drivers and fleet mechanics that there is still a lot of room for improvement in the reliability of the ASA (automatic slack adjusters). Additionally, I note that at least one automatic slack adjuster manufacturer just introduced an ASA with a built-in stroke indicator. This would seem unnecessary if the ASA were working as I understand them to work. I believe that we should not be telling the drivers to check their brake stroke adjustment less (especially if it is “the most frequently found violation at roadside inspections.”) Instead, we should be continuously telling them of the importance of checking the brake stroke adjustment – to operate safe vehicles and thus to avoid roadside inspection fines. 

Again, it was a good article but I hope in the future that Land Line Magazine can do an article on the importance of checking the brake stroke adjustment – automatically and manually.

Ron Hudnell
Winston-Salem, NC

Hanging it up
I recently decided to hang it up. I made the decision after several months of deliberation and a couple of job offers from customers I have served for some time. After 15 years driving a truck (seven as an independent), I am still struggling to make a living. Life on the road has to be one of the toughest jobs not to mention a dangerous one. I recently took a job with what used to be my best customer and I am making an honest living with good benefits, and finally starting to save for the future. I have come to realize that a professional driver is a lot more than just being one of the best drivers on the road. It also means being a savvy businessperson, excellent bookkeeper, human resources director, administrator, salesman, secretary, mechanic and working 24/7 even when you’re asleep. 

I want to encourage the men and women who literally keep this county moving because I have a tremendous passion for trucking, and even more respect for those doing it. I would like to give my thanks and gratitude to all I have met along the way and to those I hope to meet in the future. You can count on my continued support. Thanks OOIDA for everything you do.

Rich Emery
Conifer, CO

Guilty by election: the Alan Dilts story
Perhaps I am naive, but there is still a part of me that wants to believe that law enforcement personnel are people of integrity and that we are all on the same side of the law. How often have we been told to cooperate with law enforcement personnel and everything will turn out fine. I have hauled everything from bananas to Cheerios. Several times a month I pick up a pre-sealed trailer at a shipper, or a port. How am I to know if someone stashed some hash inside a box of Lucky Charms?

As Alan Dilts did (March LL), I would have assisted the authorities, thinking I was doing the right thing. Never would it have entered my mind that I was aiding an inept, warped law enforcement officer who saw me as his next collar.

Had Mr. Dilts not been such an outstanding citizen by assisting the officer, would he have been any less innocent? Had he not been so trusting in our legal system and requested an attorney while standing beside the road, would he have appeared any more guilty? Any unsuspecting trucker could be used as a decoy by drug pushers who salt the trucker’s load with drugs then tip off drug enforcement authorities. The distracted authorities then go off looking for small, unsuspecting prey while the big shipment goes by undetected. Since the authorities missed the big bust by this distraction, they had to make someone pay for their mistake. Mr. Dilts became their scapegoat.

How am I supposed to respect misguided, inept law enforcement officers who miss the truth by being blinded by the obvious.

Kristopher Kane
Oakland Mills, PA

Is it Playboy or is it Land Line?
In your March/April magazine, I had to check the front cover to see if I was still reading Land Line, a nice family oriented magazine, or if someone had slipped a Playboy magazine into my home. Please, let’s keep it clean. Thanks for the 99.99999 percent you’re doing right.

Jack Durkin
Lemitar, NM

Editor’s note: Due to the phone calls, e-mails and letters, the Luxura III mattress ad will not appear in Land Line unless the ad is changed. This is your magazine; we’re listening.