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Roses & Razzberries

ROSE to The Travel Channel for its special titled simply “Truckers.” The show had its corny moments – including a man who strapped a jet engine on his truck to race biplanes. But it also told the stories of several truckers, including some OOIDA members, in a positive and generally factual way, and gave the general public a peek into life on the road. The Travel Channel’s promotion of the show online told viewers that they would “travel America’s highways with a unique group of people who sacrifice friends and family to transport goods that keep the country’s economic engine running.” Amen, brother.

Here’s an extra-juicy RAZZBERRY to the makers of Road Rage cards. The spiral-bound cards have various angry messages that drivers can flash at other vehicles. Among the more polite: “I hope your cell phone gives you cancer,” “Stop tailgating,” “Get out of the fast lane, moron,” and “Speed it up already jacka - -.” Remember, those are the polite ones. It’s hard to think of a worse idea to add to the already volatile mix on today’s roads.

OOIDA member Garrie Pendergrass offers a heartfelt ROSE to Fikes Truck Lines out of Hope, AR. When Garrie’s fiancé, Betty Limnelan, was diagnosed with cancer, Fikes pulled out all the stops to help the couple cope with the illness. Betty had to go to Salt Lake City for treatment, so Fikes flew her out in the company’s private plane. They also helped pay part of the cost of her treatment out of their “I Care Fund,” which is funded with contributions from drivers. On top of all that, Garrie says they made sure he stayed loaded and running to keep the income coming in, while still providing him plenty of time to get out and visit Betty. “It’s just amazing how much they have done,” he said. “They’re the most family-oriented company I’ve been anywhere close to. … They’re the best.”

RAZZBERRY to the person who threw a pumpkin through OOIDA member Jim Hailey’s windshield near Scottsville, KY. The incident cost Hailey “a trip to the emergency room, three weeks of lost wages, $3,000 damages to my truck, having to replace my glasses and a very frightening experience.” Jim offers a word of warning to fellow truck drivers: “Even though I did not wreck and have experienced a windshield being hit before, I could not have believed the damage a pumpkin would do to the hood as well as under it.”

Hailey, however, does offer a ROSE to several people who helped him out after the pumpkin hit his rig: the trucker who stopped and helped, not even leaving a name; Sgt. John Weaver of the Scottsville Police, who stayed with Hailey’s truck until it could be moved; and Karen Witcher of Dollar General, who heard Hailey’s call for help on the CB. She went to the scene, offered assistance and comfort, and even went to the hospital. Witcher also made arrangements with Dollar General to allow Hailey’s truck to be parked on their property.

A whole bowl of RAZZBERRIES to the owner of the Comfort Inn in Marion, IL. Recently, an OOIDA member was staying at the hotel. During the free breakfast the next morning, the inn owner was “meeting and greeting” the guests when he decided to start a conversation about trucks. Apparently unaware that one of his guests made his living behind the wheel, the owner proceeded to tell everyone how bad trucks are, how they want to raise the speed limit, how trains should be hauling more, and on and on. We have a couple of bits of advice for the inn owner. First, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. And second, don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

OOIDA member Michael Zanella offers a ROSE to trucker Gary Forberger of Hastings, PA, and writer Audrey Brothers-Konior of the Northern Cambria, PA, Star-Courier newspaper. Forberger did what many talk about – he took a member of the media on a ride in his truck and showed her what life was like on the road. The writer learned well, and although we might pick a few nits with what she said, she wrote a piece that overall should be a big help in getting the public to understand truckers better.

Similarly, OOIDA member Floyd Hershey offered a ROSE to the Dover, OH, Bargain Hunter, another local paper, for recent articles it published on truck drivers. Like the article in the Star-Courier, one of those stories talks about some of the hardships of driving, but also offers some sharing-the-road tips for car drivers, such as reminding them of trucks’ longer stopping distances. Articles in smaller papers may not reach many people, but the battle to improve the image of trucking may be won in inches, not miles. These articles helped us move a few inches in the right direction.

A big wet RAZZBERRY to the folks whose work allowed numerous leaks in Boston’s multibillion-dollar Big Dig. The Boston Globe reported that the system of tunnels, which moved interstates underground in the city, is taking on millions of gallons each year, and that it could take 10 years – and numerous lane closures – to fix the problems. The Globe also reported that engineers found documents showing contractors may have known about the leaks as early as the late 1990s.

ROSE to the folks at the Alabama Department of Transportation and their contractors for fixing a bridge at Birmingham’s famed “Malfunction Junction” a month ahead of time. Traffic was diverted beginning Oct. 21, when a tanker truck crashed and exploded on the northbound Interstate 59 bridge over Interstate 65. The truck burned with such intensity that portions of the bridge were destroyed, a spokeswoman for the Alabama DOT said. The interchange reopened Dec. 4. The early finish earned the contractors a $50,000 per day bonus, which some officials said could add up to $1.3 million.

RAZZBERRY to The Washington Times and wire service United Press International. In a UPI story carried in The Times Dec. 1, the reporter wrote: “Increasingly congested traffic patterns have led the U.S. government to adopt technology such as ‘black boxes’ for large trucks to make the roads safer.” Huh? Since when? The piece continued, “The government has instituted tighter controls on the number of hours truckers can be on the road – and the black boxes help monitor that.” Did we miss something? When did that happen? The story was partially taken from an article in The Christian Science Monitor, which got the issue right: “Government officials are pushing for a black box in every truck to ensure compliance.” Here’s a suggestion to our friends at The Times and UPI: Before you write, it might be good to first read.

We’d like to phone a RAZZBERRY in to cell company T-Mobile for its recent television ad. The spot shows three young men in a car that is caught under the ICC bumper on a trailer as the truck continues to head down the road at full speed. The point of the ad (if it can be called such) is that the guys won’t call the “How’s my driving” number on the back of the truck because they don’t want to pay roaming fees. We’re divided here at Land Line on how we feel about this ad – we’re not sure if it’s incredibly insulting, or just plain lame. In either case, here’s a Bronx cheer for you, T-Mobile.