Line One
Letters to the Editor

You would think trucking companies would figure this out
At first the idea of 18-year-olds driving 80,000-pound vehicles seems scary, at best. But if you look at the reality of modern-day high school graduates, why would they want to endure 4-8 weeks of classroom training and even more training, riding with some “old guy” four more weeks just so they can become a second class citizen? Have you talked to many 18-year-olds lately? 

Why don’t trucking companies spend the resources on the qualified drivers that they already have? And, concerning the driver shortage, why would you buy more trucks than you had drivers for and why would you commit to more freight than you knew you could cover? Over a period of time it seems companies would figure this out. Finally, important players in this issue have been silent so far – the insurance companies. Are they going to be anxious to insure these younger drivers for millions of dollars in liability coverage? If they’re not, the whole issue is moot.

Bill Brown
Thomasboro, IL

Drive/operate smarter
First, if a person does not set up his freight contracts to include a fuel surcharge in the event of high fuel costs rising, he is a fool. Second, for those leased to a company that does not acquire fuel surcharges they are fools.

If you can’t survive under your current contract, you renegotiate; if you can’t, you look for a better contract elsewhere. If you are leased to a company that offers no support you go elsewhere. To stay put under conditions that you know are going to put you out of business not only is foolish, but stupid on your part.

The company I am leased to not only acquires a fuel surcharge of up to 12 cents a mile, but also offers fuel discounts of up to 10 cents a gallon at their fuel stops. My fuel costs at the end of 2000 were no higher than in 1999. We don’t need government interference. We need to drive/operate smarter. If you can’t, maybe you are in the wrong business.

Anna Brown
Fargo, ND

A rose to Ralph Brown
I was just reading Land Line (February 2001) under “Trucker Perspectives,” you have a very insightful article. Ralph Brown wrote about his experience driving in really frustrating traffic. His realization that his life (or anybody else’s) is not worth a load is so true. This message extends not just to professional drivers, but all of us. How many times has it happened that one of us speeds through a construction or school zone to get to a meeting? I share his sentiments that if all of us only took the time to put in perspective the need to “get someplace,” against the tragic consequences of aggressive driving behavior, it would improve traffic safety immensely. I think this driver deserves a rose. In your next publication, it would be great to have it reprinted and offer him a rose for his contribution to traffic safety. I also am going to use this for my traffic safety programs. I know your publication isn’t largely read by the general public, but Mr. Brown’s comments are wise beyond belief and deserve to have a large audience. If you have the opportunity, please let him know that his thoughts are appreciated. Thanks for sharing it. 

Lisa Irwin
State Support Commander
Motor Carrier Div. Michigan State Police
Lansing, MI

Editor’s Note: Will do, Lt. Irwin. Actually, the perspectives and the performance of Mr. Brown are typical of a majority of professional truckdrivers. The others just get more notice.

Too many taxes on truckers
We need relief from the six taxes we have to pay in respect to our tractor-trailer. The taxes are: 2290 federal road tax, state and federal tax, fuel tax to ride on the roads, state and federal tax at the pumps for fuel.

We have not had a freight rate increase since 1988. Everything we need to buy has doubled and sometimes tripled in price. It is costing us $500 - $800 dollars more per month at the fuel pump. The differences in fuel prices state to state can be as much as 35-40 cents per gallon. Does this make sense?

I have been in the trucking business for 40 years and would challenge any man to come on the road and show me how to make a more profitable living. I have an $80,000 investment in my Kenworth tractor and trailer. I have to work 70-80 hours per week (at the cost to my family) and sleep and eat at places like truckstops and McDonald’s because so many places don’t allow us to frequent them.

Charles H. Burlew
Hammondsport, NY

Ralph Brown is right 
I just read Ralph Brown’s letter on safe driving. It mirrors my own attitude. When I was younger, I used to get upset with unsafe drivers and try to “make them pay.” I was lucky and never had an accident. I even received a couple of safe driving awards because of luck, not safe driving. I am now older and have my truck leased to Superior Carriers, Oakbrook, IL, a company that does not support unsafe driving. Superior is a tank truck company that stresses safety above all else. On-time delivery runs a close second. I have spent years of my life traveling around this country seeing lots of close calls, and accidents, some serious, some not. I decided several years ago that my life or anyone else’s is not worth the chances one takes through driving aggressively or driving sleepy. I have people cut me off regularly, I mumble a few choice words to myself and back off. I have people pass me occasionally and give me the one finger salute and have come to the conclusion that as long as it didn’t make me bleed it didn’t hurt, so I just wave or act like I didn’t see it and forget it. You can’t believe what this attitude can do for your stress level. 

Michael Gross
Milton, KY

Help for the little guy
Why can’t this government come to grips regarding the fuel prices as well as regulating this industry? The worst thing to happen to the trucking industry was deregulation. It allowed too many companies to cut everyone else’s throats. I believe the larger companies are doing their level best to eliminate the small owner-operators who are only trying to make a decent living like we used to. These companies that are closing their doors, are leaving o/o’s out there holding the bag, with unpaid invoices for loads hauled and thousands in escrow that they will never see. This is totally unacceptable. These companies should be held liable for all monies earned by the o/o’s. This country (government) needs to follow the labor laws that make bankrupt companies pay the employees earnings before creditors. 

We, as o/o’s, do not have any recourse to force these companies to pay us what we have already earned. We pay highway-use taxes, insurance for the loads, the fuel, the wear and tear on the truck, then the company (broker) we have already hauled the load for still gets paid. What’s wrong with this picture? 

Duane Wilson,
Vancouver, WA

Editor’s note: Good points made here. Let me refer you to two articles in this issue. Read the story about Intrenet Inc. on page 16 and also, go to page 52 and read René Tankersley’s article on bankruptcy.

Let’s stop ignoring our problems
Lower truck speed limits, lane restrictions, no Jake brakes allowed, no truck parking anytime … how can anyone realistically expect otherwise when you have people driving trucks far above speed limits, rattling windows with unmuffled exhaust, trashing everyplace they park. No one respects an irresponsible, inconsiderate bully in any venue and especially on the highways. As long as the industry ignores this problem we can expect Joe Citizen to be anti-truck. To run without a muffler is very inconsiderate. A true truck driver would not do this. I sometimes have to run my engine just to drown out this racket in order to get some sleep. If the various industry organizations continue to ignore these things we will all be back to double nickel, and Jake brakes might join radar detectors on the banned list. It looks as if law enforcement is ignoring it also, probably letting us hang ourselves so they can get speed limits rolled back. Trucking could head some of this off by sponsoring legislation requiring limited speed settings and mufflers on trucks.

Robert A. Johnson
Canyon, TX

Everyone ought to experience HHG at least once
We read with enthusiasm the article “HHG Movers...Ambassadors” in the February 2001 issue. It was great and so true. My husband was a HHG owner-operator for Mayflower for 16 years. I tagged along quite a lot after the children got older. So I was able to experience everything described in the article plus more. Seeing the country, meeting the people, these are the upsides of HHG. Here are some downsides: The one dearest to a mover’s heart (besides the revenue) is finding a place to park.

After 15 hours of loading or unloading furniture and you’re in a small town that doesn’t boast a 24-hour anything. Then there’s the lumpers and their wages; it varies from state to state, but generally around $15 per hour, more than we would end up making some of the time. If they work well, that’s great, but if they stretch out the time, carrying one lampshade box at a time, visiting with the customers or each other, etc., it can cost you more money and time. We had several loads where the customers didn’t like one or more of the lumpers, wanted different ones, wouldn’t let them inside their homes. We even had one where the lumpers just up and left us (they didn’t do stairs). 

When I read about the claims and the avoidance of, I had to laugh. There are times when it is just pure luck if you don’t get one. Try a load in a large, busy city, upstairs apartment with a third floor elevator. You hire “trusted” lumpers from the agency. While you’re upstairs doing inventory, the lumpers are moving things downstairs to an unattended truck (unless you hired one extra to guard the van). A TV gets waylaid and you don’t find out until delivery when it doesn’t check off the inventory. Who pays the claim? You. 

Everyone should experience HHG at least once, especially the dispatchers who think a half-inch on the map is just across town instead of a hundred miles and they want you there and loaded yesterday. It was a great article. 

Peta DeVries
Sterling, UT

One of those incidents truckers fear most
On Jan. 19, 2000, I was returning home after a week out. Our yard is located in a small town where the streets are narrow and the turns are tight. While negotiating a sharp right turn around the town center monument, there were two boys waiting to cross the street. I followed their every move while I proceeded to complete my turn. Just as I was straightening out to complete my turn, one of the boys who was on his bicycle, in the snow, with sneakers on, slipped off the sidewalk and landed under the rear tandem of my 48' 102" flatbed. After the ambulance and fire department extracted the boy and med-lifted him to the hospital, I was informed that he wouldn’t make the flight to the hospital. I was devastated, as I have children of my own. 

I was issued a citation from the town for an improper right turn, and the district attorney charged me with negligent operation of a commercial vehicle. I was also informed that I should obtain an attorney, which I immediately did. When I was informed the next day that the boy had survived the most critical stage, the first 24 hours, I was ecstatic, but my troubles didn’t end there. The legal ramifications were a two-year loss of license, revocation of my CDL, a $2,000 dollar fine and two years in jail. After a lengthy investigation and many court appearances, not to mention the almost $11,000 in legal fees, it was determined that the design of the roadway was improperly designed to handle large trucks and I was subsequently cleared of all wrongdoing and the charges were dropped. I guess what I’m trying to say is that no matter how careful you are, no matter what safety precautions you take to eliminate the hazard, accidents will happen. Take some free advice and don’t end up like me, check twice, get out and look if you have to, because you never know.

Chuck DiFonzo
Saugus, MA

Power in numbers 
I’ve been aware of OOIDA and Land Line for quite some time, but have not realized what you’re all about. I’m very thankful that OOIDA exists or things would be worse than they are. Few people know some of the shenanigans that transport companies pull that have a negative effect on our entire economy.

When they found out drivers were willing to focus on violating laws for them, they licked their collective chops at what they would be able to get away with. With attention diverted, they could work on schemes as free labor, sub-minimum pay, etc. 

There is no better example of an industry where greed rules than trucking. What happened to the idea of paying for the miles we drive and our other work instead of just driving more miles? It used to be 1,500 miles a week, now its 3,000, what’s next, 5,000? Drivers, quit cutting your own throats, join OOIDA and become part of the solution.

Name withheld

The chickens will certainly go to roost
As I read this morning’s news on your web site, it reminds me of our close family friends in Nottinghamshire, England, who are trying to survive the economics in their own trucking business. Foreign trucks, high fuel, etc. is driving a lot of them out of business as well. It should make one stop and think what will be in store for American independent truckers when Mexican trucks start north en mass. With the driver shortage, will there be low paid Mexican drivers competing for American driving jobs? 

Time will tell; my grandfather used to say the rabbit will run the circle and the chickens will certainly go to roost. I think when it’s all over the rates will certainly go up. But a lot of us good ‘ole boys may go out of business before they do. But as the feds get more and more control over the trucking industry and only the big ones are left standing and rates are sky high for the shipper, it may be a good idea for the shipper to adopt the old adage, “hindsight is 20/20.” As the cost of operating escalates ever higher, more and more expense is dumped onto people who, quite frankly can’t stand much more, me included. Common sense must prevail, time will tell, I suppose. 

Brandon & Tonya Flynn
Hawkins, TX

The other day at a service plaza on the Kansas Turnpike, I picked up two one-liter bottles of pee off the parking lot not 20 feet from a trash container. I was not only embarrassed for myself, but for all of us, because we were once again being judged by the staring four-wheelers as they were leaving the plaza. Do we think that these people don’t vote, or that some of them don’t have a relationship with a legislator, a regulator, or an enforcement official? We are in the forefront of public scrutiny simply because we are out there all the time. So stop wondering why access to parking has become such a struggle; the actions of the past are now biting us in the butt. People do not want to be responsible for cleaning up our trash and our human waste products, among many other inconsiderations which I don’t need to mention. 

Sean McCarty
Kingsville, MO

“Road Law” hits home
Your column regarding the New Mexico speeding tickets hit close to home. Several months ago, I, too, got a speeding ticket from an officer in an obvious speed trap at the end of road construction. I signed the ticket as I was instructed, the officer told me my fine, and I drove away. I phoned TVC-ProDriver so they could find a local attorney to handle it for me and only then did I notice the fine print where I signed, unknowingly admitting guilt.

These tactics are shady and only good as a revenue-enhancer from an already over-taxed industry. I now know next time, should I get stopped in New Mexico, to read the fine print. It may have saved me from helping pad New Mexico’s tax funds.

Mark R. Taylor
Warren, Arkansas

Kentucky stop
(Re: the KY interdiction story in February LL) This is horrific! I sure hope this is an isolated incident. The thought of being summoned to a police car via CB is scary and surely will cause more incidents of this nature in the future. As a 20-year vet of the trucking industry I do not believe I would have left my cab either. The patrol officer showed the likes of being fearful of performing his job duties and for what reason? Has a truck driver gone on some sort of rampage in Kentucky and killed 22 patrol officers or even one that anyone is aware of?

I hope that Barry and Rae Ann are OK and can get on with their life soon. 

Terry Sherrer
Sacramento, CA

No “two-week wonders”
One night I laid over in Wildwood, FL, at the speedway, and witnessed a driver and co-driver attempt to back into a parking space. After several attempts and hitting the truck next to them twice, they left in a hurry. I talked to the driver on the radio and she denied hitting the truck as she drove out of the parking lot, but I did manage to get the truck and trailer number for the poor victim. 

I’m not perfect, yet I haven’t had a ticket in over 11 years, own a large car that can exceed 80 mph, never backed into another truck, or even caused an accident. I credit this to learning to drive from a veteran driver in the early 80s, not a driver farm. If I wrecked it, I bought it, if I curbed a steer tire, I bought it and paid for the alignment. I’m just getting to the point that I no longer fear the four-wheelers as much as the drivers of the large companies that completed the “two-week-wonder training.” We all had to start somewhere, but we ride in a vehicle made of aluminum and fiberglass. If you like tailgating, stop at a junkyard for trucks and look around.

Bill Harris
Dawsonville, GA