Line One
Letters to the Editor

My brother’s keeper
I was traveling through Missouri and stopped at Kingdom City, MO, because they had a McDonalds with truck parking. As I was turning onto the ramp, I saw him. He was short, dirty, ragged and old. He was wearing an old fatigue jacket with numerous holes and frayed cuffs. He held the usual cardboard sign. I passed him by.

After parking my truck, I went into McDonalds to eat and saw his bag sitting by the door. There he was, in line, behind a well-dressed truckdriver just a few people in front of me. When the driver stepped up to the counter he gave his order to the person at the counter then turned to the little man and asked him what he would like, “anything you want,” he said when the man hesitated slightly. 

I ate my lunch and watched them as they sat together eating. As they left the driver shook his hand, hugged him and said, “take care.” I intercepted the driver and told him I witnessed his kindness. His only comment was that he didn’t do it to be seen. I told him I knew he didn’t, but that someone greater than me had seen it. He said, “I know.” We parted and all that day I wondered if this wasn’t what Jesus meant when He said “to the least of these.” I sure failed him on that test. Everyone there had, except one truckdriver. 

Ed Lester
Decatur, AL

OOIDA’s still here
You provide your readers a great source of information on what is going on in the trucking industry and at the same time being the written voice of OOIDA. Rock on, Land Line! I would like to also congratulate OOIDA for its 25 years of “continuous service.” 

I have been a member for many years now and have never been disappointed with them. If I have a question or a problem, they have always been there with a quick answer or solution. There for a while when I was involved in a dispute with a company, Todd Spencer and Gary Green went that extra mile to help, thanks guys. For all of you reading this magazine that are not yet members of OOIDA do so now! With a new administration going into Washington, we need an even larger voice than we have now, which is 59,000 strong. With all the problems we truckers are facing at this time, we need OOIDA more than ever. Thanks OOIDA for being there then and for still being here now. 

Barry I. Bouldin 
Coolidge, TX

I’ll take the corrosion over the ditch 
I don’t own my own truck, but I have in the past and now drive for a private carrier. I get a new truck every four years, so I don’t really care what they put on the damn road as long as it takes the ice off. I haul foam, my weight ranges from light to empty. I keep my ’99 FLD 120 Condo spit polished, but have noticed that some chemicals I have picked up in Wisconsin, Minnesota and South Dakota will not come off the windshield on the part the wipers don’t hit. I had Blue Beacon in Laramie, WY, hit it with acid last week and it still would not come off … but I will take that over the ditch.

I also don’t buy that story about road chemicals putting trucks in the ditch. I’ve dragged 53-footers around from the Dakotas and Chicago to the West Coast too long to buy that. If you ditched it, you were driving too fast or did not belong on the road at all.

B. Zeilinger
Council Bluffs, IA

Pleased with his Cummins 
I was quoted in the Dec/Jan. 2001 issue “Oil, engines, & o/os” article as being less than pleased with the performance of my Cummins Signature 600. Nothing could be farther from the truth! I am extremely pleased with my engine’s performance, power and fuel mileage.

I did have the engine overhauled at 207,000 miles, but not because it “faltered” as stated in the article. I have one of the early engines that was produced by Cummins, engine #519. Like any new product from an innovative company, they continually come up with improvements. Cummins approached me about putting in new cylinders with new ring design to improve on engine blow-by. I will admit, I was apprehensive about having my engine “overhauled,” because of its excellent power and fuel mileage. I was afraid it might reduce the fuel mileage I was getting by having to re-break in the engine. After putting 54,000 miles on it since it was worked on, I will say it still is getting great fuel mileage, great power, and it has reduced the amount of blow-by and oil “slobber” problems.

Cummins has been great to me. They opened their plant up to other Signature engine owners and me in July 1999 for “Cummins Appreciation Days.” This was a great opportunity to “network” with all the different people from the plant and exchange valuable information on this engine.

I would like to address another issue about drivers complaining about not seeing the “average” owner-operators covered in Land Line. I consider Land Line and OOIDA to represent above average drivers and owner-operators in the fact that we take pride in our rides as well as our jobs. I consider us to be a “cream of the crop” organization. One that has raised the bar on expectations as to how we present ourselves and our equipment. That is one of the reasons I enjoy showing my truck. Don’t think the trucks at truck shows don’t work. Sure there are a few that don’t, but most run as many miles as “average” trucks on the road. The difference is, we take pride in how we are perceived.

Chris Lewis
Jackson, MO

Politically correct?
A letter from a member in reference to the November issue caught my attention. It was in reference to the advertisement for a tee shirt depicting a hand protruding from an oil barrel displaying the single finger salute. In her letter she makes the assumption that those that would order the shirt do not have respect for either themselves or the industry they live and work in.

I feel that if she had taken the time to read the advertisement in its entirety rather than focus on just the shirt it may have had a different meaning. In bold print it says “you asked for it” implying that many hard-working men and women wanted a piece of OOIDA history. From a time when the membership was smaller and possibly not as politically correct, but got us to where we as an association are today. 

Paul Sasso
Edgewater, FL

While the wheels are turning... 
Many hobbies or interests can be projected into the trucker’s downtime. I have witnessed drivers coping with the dreaded downtime in numerous ways. Watching truckstop TV, playing video games, reading paperback novels, practicing guitar or fishing, to name a few.

My interest and hobby is the stock market. I keep investment books and financial literature on board. It is difficult to get the Wall Street Journal delivered to an OTR driver, so I arranged for a hometown friend to divert his used journals into the closet. When I am leaving home, he usually has 10-15 issues ready for me for rich downtime reading.

When I am stuck somewhere with a lot of downtime, I also do the bobtail library run. I update my reading of Forbes and Fortune magazines. And most libraries have the Value Line Investment Survey located in their reference rooms.

The OTR trucker is in the driver’s seat in more ways than one. Crisscrossing the country, carrying diverse shipments of freight allows him a good view of the economy. 

Consider this: A stock analyst usually follows many companies from his desk. He reads their belated financial reports in order to evaluate the investment merit of their stock. Wall Street in its way is warfare and you have to have the best information at the earliest time and the discipline to act on it.

A market indicator is a tool that helps the investor predict if and when the market will turn up or down. In my case, a forklift driver revealed timely information which happened to be a correct indicator of an upturn in paper. As a trucker and not a stock analyst, you are not required to seek out this information, much less act upon it for your own financial gain. However, no one will deny you the opportunity to capitalize on this aspect of trucking. Just remember, when you hit the dock at any company, imagine you are a stock analyst disguised as a truckdriver.

Dan Doss
Greenwood, SC

Engine brake noise 
It seems so funny to me that people buy or build a house right next to the airport and then bitch about the noise. Just like the “No Jake Braking” signs as you descend Parley Canyon into Salt Lake City. Are you telling me the highway was not there when those houses were built?

Anyway, let’s consider, about all we have out there nowadays are 60 Series Detroits, Cummins N-14’s and Cats, a few E-7 Macks, none of which are very noisy while braking, except for possibly the Cat. I had a Mack E-7, and even though the Dynatard brake built by Mack was about equal to holding your hat out the window; it was not loud at all. Neither is an N-14 Cummins.

Now if you want to hear some noise, let me descend Parley (Canyon) loaded heavy, with an old 335 Cummins or better yet a 220 Cummins without a turbo. If you will recall, on an older engine, Cummins or Mack, with an Air Research or Switzer, or Cummins OEM Turbo, stamped into the casting of the turbine side of the turbo it said “muffling device.”

After I attain high gear, I would switch the engine brake to on, full power or all heads. This is why, Mr. Safety Man, you always preach about reaction time and reaction distance, etc. Consider you are traveling at 55-60 on I-35 through Dallas or Austin or anywhere for that matter, rush hour traffic, and someone cuts in front of you and then slows to exit. As soon as you release your foot from the accelerator, your vehicle is braking, by means of engine braking and although not as dramatic as friction braking, your vehicle is by all means slowing. In the split second that is required to move your foot from one pedal to the other, your engine brake is slowing your vehicle. Now if that ain’t a safety issue, what is?

Nothing sounds better than an old Cummins or Cat cackling down a grade. Well, maybe a top fuel nitro-burning dragster, but if you can’t appreciate some five- or six-inch straights bellowing down a grade, then move away from the interstate. Because I like ’em.

Chuck Reasoner
Joplin, MO

Editor’s note: Chuck, your comments on people building houses next to highways and airports are right on. And many are the truckers that appreciate the sound of a cackling engine, but if the end result of your comments is that it is OK for a vehicle (a volkswagen or a large car) to not have a muffler, you’re likely to find that position a hard sell with policymakers.

Newbies speak up 
I appreciate the OOIDA publications we receive as a tool in which to gain both current and historical perspectives on this industry.

Your articles are timely and timeless, and I want to thank you for the quality of your articles.

John & Jenni Bourdon
Tenino, WA

Not surprised 
It comes as no surprise to me that manufacturers are doing poorly. For years they have not supported the industry that keeps them alive. When was the last time you heard of any heavy-duty truck or trailer company going head to head with the state they build the equipment in to stop a poor piece of anti-truck legislation? 

A few years ago, I was at a truck dealer lot attempting to purchase a used truck. I asked the salesperson (who was the general manager) what was the hourly shop rate? He replied $65 per hour. My reply was, “that’s a little pricey, is it not?”

The comment he made was, “You pay for knowledge and expertise. It does not take a smart person to drive a truck, but it takes brains to keep one going...” that floored me. All I could do or say was, “well, dear (to my wife) it’s time to call it a day” and left.

Truck manufacturers have not stood behind the equipment they manufacture. For the most part they spend money and time fighting warranty claims when they should be fixing the equipment. I wonder who the people at Dorsey are blaming for the loss of their jobs, no doubt it’s the trucking industry. 

When poor anti-truck legislation, like the hours of service, is before Congress it behooves all involved in the industry to make a difference, not just drivers. 

Terry Sherrer
Sacramento, CA

Hauling produce 
I recently read in Land Line where there is a big demand for produce haulers. But all I ever read about produce hauling is negative and there are so many things that can go wrong with hauling produce. A few of these things are receivers that are very rude and turn down produce for the least little thing. And they get mad if you are a few minutes late and they get upset if you are early. And if you are on time, they put you in the back lot and you wait for hours and hours and sometimes you wait until the next day and they use your truck for storage while the driver sits there and the reefer runs and burns fuel. If you pull a flatbed for example, the products are not as delicate and you usually do not have to unload it because a machine does it and when you get there the receiver is very business like and acts very professional. The rates are just as good as produce and sometimes better and you don’t have the hassle that you do with produce. So, my question is: What is going to happen when everyone who hauls produce starts to realize that they can make just as much pulling flatbed and dry van, and not have to put up with bossy receivers and wait for hours to get unloaded? You don’t have to worry if they will take it when you get it there. This the way I am and I am sure there are thousands of other truckers that feel the same way. 

Shane Moser
Troy, AL

Experience counts
I opened the mailbox and got my Land Line and along with it was a letter from Swift. I get a few each month telling me that they have a job for me right here in Las Vegas and I could be home more often. I drive for Ryder mostly from California to Durham, NC. I have 15 years driving experience, seven with Ryder. I’ve driven triples, doubles, flat, reefer and dry in all kinds of weather. So I called to see what’s up. I told them my background and they said 29 cents per mile.

I was shocked and told them that’s an insult to professional drivers; that’s rookie pay. Then I was OTR and read about a driver 10 years with this company and making 26 cents per mile and I thought that’s his fault for selling himself so cheap and there were some other big companies the same way. Well, you get what you pay for and if they wanted me it’s 35 cents per mile to start and there better be some raises and benefits in time because I know what I’m worth. And if more drivers at those high turnover companies would wake up and see what they’re worth it just might get better out here. 

PS: Then we can work on the book-smart college morons that know trucking, but have no stick time.

Ron Britt
Las Vegas, NV

O-Os need plenty of business sense 
I find the owner-operators in the same situation we were in when I first became an owner-operator in 1965. We all want to start out with a chrome-plated large car in an industry where the rates are dictated by the super large carriers and the small financially mature company. Many, perhaps most, have no business background or training and no finance experience, and do not know it is necessary until it is too late. Having been in that situation and experienced the loss of business and credit that goes with it, I know firsthand.

It has always been relatively easy to start in “business” as an owner-operator, but it is even easier now. With the glut of used trucks on the market, a driver can almost write his own deal. It is not so easy to stay with that deal. Companies will put you to work with no “up-front” money, and some will front you the start-up costs because they are going to get rich from your hard work. It is the free market at work and I have no problem with that.

Prepare yourself to have some financial independence when purchasing your equipment. With payments current and some small amount of savings, you can say no to cheap rates. Somebody will probably haul that load at that cheap rate and you will sit doing nothing. That is our market system and with some management we can survive. The owner-operator was much better off before the Motor Carrier Act of 1980.

Stephen D. Cross, VP
Cross Ag Transport Inc.
Madison, GA

Making trouble? 
Jim Barrow (“Letters to the Editor” Dec./Jan. 2001) was right on the Jake brakes and straight pipes. These dimwits running them are making trouble for everyone in trucking. It has gotten really bad in this area. I imagine how the poor people in that town feel about it. They have always been very good about letting trucks park in town. I can see that goodwill going away if something isn’t done. 

We need to get behind some sensible legislation that will cure this problem instead of waiting until we have a mess of local laws that are hard to live with.

Robert A. Johnson
Canyon, TX

“Sweatshops on Wheels” 
I have just finished “Sweatshops on Wheels.” Belzer has failed to grasp the true depths to which our industry has sunk and totally ignores the salient factors that forecast its continued plunge. A few points:

1. Belzer appeals for a reformation of the industry on the basis of national interest. Trucking is not conducted for the benefit of the United States of America. Trucking is conducted for the purpose of distributing goods that produce a profit for transnational individuals who control corporations. 

2. Belzer gives only short shrift to the effects of immigration and foreign carriers in our ever-tightening downward spiral. 

3. Nowhere is attention given to the U.S. government’s tax policies. 

Doug Fabish
Eugene, OR

I drove for a company in February 1996 for one year as a company driver, hauling trailers to Chicago, IL, from Milwaukee, WI.

As I arrived at the plant, I started feeling dizzy with an upset stomach. I didn’t know it, but I was having two strokes at the same time. They sent me to the hospital, which cost about $40,000. Then I stayed at the VA hospital for 30 days. It was seven months before the doctor let me go to work. 

When I returned home, I had doctor bills and hospital bills. When I took the bills to my employer to file on my insurance, I was told that I had no insurance. Come to find out they had me listed as an owner-operator instead of a company driver. With all these bills facing us, my wife divorced me and we went bankrupt. Don’t assume you have insurance. Check with your employer to see if you are covered. Don’t let this happen to your family. 

Dick Kloss
Milwaukee, WI

You can’t have it both ways
Sherry McClanahan states in her letter (Oct. 2000), “The government should stop sticking their nose in where it doesn’t belong.” The next paragraph reads, “...don’t stop until the government gives you what you need and want.”

My point is simple. Look to yourself first for solutions, then to friends and family, but if you look to government they will stick their nose in and their help always comes with strings attached. Take help from government and they will own you.

Dean Jensen
Eagan, MN

No points off her CDL 
In July “Roses & Razzberries,” the first item talks about a driver on the NY Thruway who received a ticket via the mail when he averaged 77 mph between E-ZPass sites. You did mention the posted speed was 65 mph. I am a truckdriver. I hope all drivers exceeding the speed limit by 12 mph are ticketed, whether through the mail or by a trooper in person. I have never had a ticket, or even been pulled over by a trooper because I stick to the speed limit. No points off my CDL or money out of my pocket.

Susan Hall
McMurray, PA