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On the 13th day of Christmas

Bill Hudgins
Columnist

Those of you who spent the past few months delivering Christmas can appreciate that it is a bit weird to be writing about the holidays in early October. 
But deadlines in trucking and publishing are peculiar, aren’t they? And when the date on the cover says December-January, as it does here, you’re tempted to bag the holiday theme altogether. 
But I are a professional journalist, as my old cop-reporting prof used to say, so here goes.
This year, I’m giving you and the rest of the trucking industry my top 10 wishes for Christmas, Hanukkah, Ramadan, Boxing Day, New Year’s, Epiphany, NFL Playoffs, March Madness, Derby Day and every other day.

10. Lower fuel prices. Wait, no. If they lower fuel prices, it’ll be an excuse to cut rates and thus what ends up in your wallet. Higher rates that reflect what it really costs to move 80-plus percent of the nation’s freight. That’s what I’m wishing for.

9. A simple, elegant, efficient solution to on-board power and idling. I love the rumble of a 550-hp diesel as much as anyone, but if you had an oil leak (or worse, a coolant leak), wouldn’t you fix it? Necessary for comfort it may be, but idling is a diesel leak that flows upward, in the form of smoke. 
There’s probably more than one way to fix it, but with fuel at the price it is now, it shouldn’t take a Manhattan Project-sized effort to – literally – empower your rigs. Oh yeah, the feds should give a tax – and gross vehicle weight – break for installing whatever gear is necessary.

8. Ever feel dirtier after a shower in some places than when you went in? A former colleague often groused that builders should figure out a way to offer showers as options in their larger sleepers. 
So I wish this as an option in the 2006 data books. It would be too much to ask, I suppose, for a tax and weight break on this, too.

7. To those of you who never get north of I-80, I give you I-94 and the upper end of I-15 with no glare ice to worry about on a cold, clear midwinter night when the aurora borealis is jitterbugging and the CB skip is rolling in from San Diego.

6. For those of you who never run below I-90, I wish some time on I-10 with a guide to the best Gulf seafood, Louisiana and Tejana restaurants (and parking lots that allow big rigs).

5. You folks who run Atlanta, New York, Boston, Philly, Chi-town, Shaky Side and La-La Land: I wish you one day when nobody’s in your way. If that happens – Be-HAVE, baby!

4. You troops in war zones and folks over there in Iraq running the Iron Pony Express and fuel convoys and everything else that needs delivering: 
I wish you … well, better armor and more of it; a bunch more victories and ceasefires; no more hungry-eyed children begging at the roadside (or maybe, as Mark Taylor told us in the October issue, trying to slow down a truck so his older brother could fire off an RPG); good letters and e-mails from home; a safe and speedy return. Mostly, though, I wish you simply Godspeed.

3. Here’s one for the shippers, dispatchers and logistics folks: I wish you two weeks on the road. Not just a day or a couple of days on a dedicated milk run. 
But an honest-to-goodness, where-next, I’m-outta-clean-underwear-and-don’t-think-I-want-to-shower-in-this-place, where’d-all-these-four-wheelers-come-from, my-appointment’s-now-but-I’m-27th-on-your-board? kinda excursion. Then you’ll know what we’re talkin’ about.

2. This next one is long and complicated. First, for all of our sakes, I wish we could run a few miles in the other fella’s cab. Foreign truckers marvel at our equipment, roads and truck stops. More than a few – including those just beginning to run out of Mexico – marvel that we don’t have bandits or widely institutionalized thievery among our DOT federales or local policia. 
A fellow trucking journalist who once rode from England to Kazakhstan came back with tales of bandits and crooked cops, as well as water so nasty that a sparse mouthful sent another driver to the hospital. 
Yet, we have more in common than just our differences, and – most of us – deserve better treatment, better pay, more respect, more self-respect and less danger. 
It seems from time immemorial that the folks who move stuff – whether it’s Hannibal’s elephant wranglers or Washington’s teamsters or Patton’s Red Ball Express – rarely get more than the back of society’s hand. Worse, we fight among ourselves, often over the silliest things. 
And if deregulation has proved anything, it proved that the cost of a trucker’s livelihood – and maybe his or her life – is less than a penny a mile. As OOIDA keeps telling you, don’t take cheap freight: Think of this as trucking’s Golden Rule.

1. My No. 1 wish is the one I close with every time: Be safe, make money and get home often.

Bill Hudgins may be reached at billhudgins@earthlink.net.

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