Roses & Razzberries

By Terry Scruton, "Land Line Now" senior correspondent

ROSES to longtime truck driver and OOIDA Life Member Erik Michaels, the recipient of the 2015 Pilot Flying J Road Warrior Award. Erik was given the award for battling back after being stricken with a form of multiple sclerosis while on the road back in 2013.

After suffering what appeared to be a stroke and losing his motor skills, Erik was left completely paralyzed for about a month and a half. And now, two years and a lot of intense rehabilitation later, he's back on the road. As part of the award, he got $10,000, which he says will go a long way toward helping with his medical bills. Congratulations, Erik, on both the award and the comeback.

RAZZBERRY to the FMCSA for its rulemaking on electronic logging devices, which forces drivers into using the things whether they want to or not. We've known this rule was coming for quite some time, and OOIDA has repeatedly reminded the FMCSA that these devices do nothing to improve safety. But those concerns have apparently fallen on deaf ears, as the FMCSA published its final rule back in December.

Drivers were rightfully outraged by the rule. Electronic logs don't do anything to curb unsafe behavior and serve only to violate the privacy rights of truck drivers. Not ones to waste time, OOIDA took the FMCSA to court almost as soon as the ink was dry on the final rule. This fight isn't over. It's just getting started.

To show we're not above giving credit where credit is due, here are some ROSES to the FMCSA for another final rule published in late 2015 that will actually benefit drivers. The FMCSA now has the authority to take action against those who coerce drivers into violating federal regulations.

This is one rule that OOIDA has been after for a long time. Now drivers finally have recourse when a shipper, broker, receiver or company tries to force them to break the rules. Of course, it relies solely on the driver to file a report on the offending party, but it's still a step in the right direction - a direction the FMCSA should draw a map to so it doesn't forget how to get there.

ROSES to truck driver John Matala of Cambridge, N.Y., for his heroic effort in potentially saving the entire town of Manchester, Vt., from what would have been a certain disaster.

This past November, the valve on a 10,000 gallon propane tank was inadvertently left open by another driver. Fire Chief Philip Bourn said the leak covered about an acre and could have been catastrophic. Bourn said he may have had to evacuate the entire town of 4,300 people. Instead, Matala risked his own life to run in and close down the valve.

Unfortunately, Matala suffered third-degree burns to nearly 30 percent of his body and had to be hospitalized. He made it home before Christmas, but was still recovering, according to a report from his family on a GoFundMe page set up to help with expenses.

The word hero gets tossed around a lot - sometimes too lightly - but in this case there is no better way to say it.

RAZZBERRY to a group calling itself Safe Roads Illinois and purporting to support, well, safer roads in the state of Illinois. In particular, they are focused on Will County. Even more particular, they are focused on truck traffic in Will County where, to quote their Facebook page, it has "overrun our communities . creating dangerous and life-threatening situations."

Right. We're sure every last one of the so-called "life threatening situations" is 100 percent the fault of the truck drivers. It gets even worse. They have a website that is loaded with one-sided, fear-mongering stories about trucks that make ads from accident attorneys look fair and balanced by comparison. For instance, click on the website and you are greeted with a quote from a Will County resident, bigger than life and set on a background of blinking images featuring wrecks involving big trucks: "We live in fear."

Look, we all want safe roads. Yes, truckers too. But needlessly scaring people and demonizing trucks and those who drive them isn't the way to do it. Maybe the people of Will County would like it if trucks stopped coming there altogether. Probably wouldn't be long before that quote is amended to read "We live in fear . of empty store shelves."