July 2003 Letters

This is not for the faint of heart
To all you want-a-bees who want to own your own truck and become owner-operators: beware! This is the quickest way to ruin your credit, become heavily in debt, not have adequate income, not have a steady paycheck and be on the verge of bankruptcy in 45 days or less.

This is a true story. I have gone from having A-1 credit to being heavily in debt, and cannot pay my bills for the first time in many years. This all occurred within the last 45 days, when I bought my first truck.

I found out there is not enough freight out there, so I cannot get miles, which is how I earn my living. Maybe I am not with the right company, but time has run out to do anything about it now.

Not only am I going to lose my truck, I will lose my down payment, and the money I put out for permits, plates, insurance, etc., which is not a small sum of money. I am faced with possibly losing my home, my credit cards and my car. And I am already in trouble with the IRS, and local state income tax agencies. And I am faced with looking for a driving job again.

So if you don't have several thousand dollars put away until you really get your feet on the ground and start earning a steady income, don't even think about it.

This has been one of the worst experiences of my life.

Robert March
Heath, OH

Living in the land of escalating fines
I have just finished reading your article on home truck parking [in Lancaster, OH]. The city council did the right thing.

Living in Boynton Beach, FL, the city has a law that states no trucks over one ton can be parked in a residential community. When we moved here from Maryland, we didn't know about the law. Someone reported my truck parked in my driveway. The next day, I received a letter from code enforcement saying I was going to be fined $25 a day.

I then went through the neighborhood and noticed quite a few motor homes parked in driveways that were well over one ton. With this, I went to a local councilman who lives in the area and was told that motor homes – no mater what size – are exempt from this law, and that my truck can only be parked on the street or in my driveway for 15 minutes.

To me, this is discrimination. But we moved it.

Then, about a month ago coming in, I brought it home to take out clothes, dog, etc. It was parked overnight.

Next morning, it was moved. Guess what? Code enforcement dropped off another letter upping the fine to $500 a day. So now we have to park a distance from home and hope nothing happens.

Tim Yeager
Boynton Beach, FL

Waiting for a reply from LA-LA Land
I sent an e-mail to those California folks, in reference to that trailer-stopping device. I asked them, in a most polite way, if they had considered two things:

1. Once the device is activated, what are the odds of the trailer jackknifing or blowing a tire and spraying innocent vehicles with debris?

2. I wondered what would stop terrorists from overriding the radio signal or using the signal to their own advantage?

Walter Burke
Vian, OK

Moving on
Regarding the proposal to cut the rolling stock exemption in Illinois:

I would like to know if the governor (of Illinois) stops to think about the lost money from truckers moving out of Illinois.

I live in Augusta, IL, and have lived in this state all my life. If the state makes this law, I will no longer be a resident of this state.

Ralph Leighty
Augusta, IL

I like the new HOS
I agree with the new HOS. I like it, although they need to crack on the people at the docks and warehouses where we pick up and drop off.

I have one thing to say though. Doctors – when they are interns – have to pull 24 hours, sometimes 36 hours. But in between, they can find a place and get some sleep.

Truckdrivers usually can't, because we have a strict deadline to get to where we have to be. Yet the doctors don't have strict laws (on hours-of-service) to follow.

Timothy B. Steed
Parkersburg, WV

Editor’s note: Congress is now looking at federal legislation that will address resident physicians working long hours with little sleep. It’s called the Patient and Physician Safety and Protection Act of 2003 and was introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sen. Jon Corzine (S952) and in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. John Conyers (HR1228).

It pays to reduce idling? 
In regard to your June article titled “It pays to reduce idling” by Paul Abelson:

I bought an auxiliary generator set from a manufacturer in southwestern United States. I’ve owned it for 3 1/2 years with the following results: initial cost $6,200; would not work more than five weeks without breaking; several times it took over two months to get replacement parts; over $3,000 in lost revenue while unit was being repaired; and $2,000 to $3,000 in repairs and replacement part costs not covered by warranty.

Now, after 3,900 hours, the motor needs a ring job ($1,600) and another alternator ($200).

When I contact the manufacturer, all I get is a commercial about how good their product is. Well, I know how good it is; that’s why it's now sitting in my garage.

Perhaps when its reliability is proved to me, I might consider another one. But not until then.

Gregg Alls
Woodsfield, OH

Display the flag with respect
I called OOIDA after the 9/11 terrorist attacks to ask that the rules of flying the Stars and Stripes be published in Land Line. Thank you.

It saddens me to see those who use our banner as a decoration instead of in the manner in which it should be, to show the strength and pride of our nation. Most have all the good intentions but not the knowledge of how to display it.

To fly it from the back of a trailer in a parade on the Fourth of July is quite appropriate, but not while running down the road where it is collecting the filth and grime of our nation’s highways.

Flying it from the side of a bunk is no different. Using it as a bunk curtain or backdrop on the wall of your bunk is disrespectful. It is to be flown where it can fly freely, not subjected to adverse wear or in conditions that allow it to be saturated with dirt and filth.

If you want a curtain or backdrop, go buy some red white and blue bunting.

To find a flag thrown into a trash can in a rest area or truckstop makes me wonder just how much respect whoever placed it there thought they were giving to the flag that represents the blood, sweat, tears, sacrifice and pain it took for them to enjoy the freedom they have here.

It's not only your duty to display it in a manner that shows respect; it's your duty to dispose of it in a manner of respect.

Jack Webster
Wolcott, IN

Inexpensive fax alternative
I read Michael Tadlock's letter in the February 2003 issue of Land Line, where he complained about the Bloomington T/A charging high fees for permit faxes.

I have a tidbit of information that may help some drivers.

If you have a laptop computer in your truck, an e-mail address and a portable printer, you can get faxes sent directly to your computer! And it is all free!

There is a free service called efax. Their Web site is www.efax.com.

You will be assigned a dedicated fax number. (You don't get to choose the area code of your fax number, unless you choose their premium service, for which there is a monthly fee -- so the fax number may be long-distance for you. But if you only receive faxes, then it doesn't matter if it’s long distance.)

What happens is that when you are faxed something, it goes to the efax headquarters. They then scan the document and send it to you through your e-mail address.

I have used this service for three years now, and have never had a problem with a fax getting "lost." The turnaround time has always been very, very fast. I have called to ask for a fax to be sent to me – and by the time I have my computer booted up and logged onto the service provider, the fax is waiting for me.

As long as you have Internet access, you can access your fax. You can either access your e-mail account by taking your laptop computer inside to the truckstop and finding a land line phone or (the way that we do it) through our digital phone.

This last method is the most convenient, because we have received faxes as we're rolling down the road.

Even if you don't have a portable printer, you can still view your fax on the computer screen. Of course, for the most versatility, you would want to be able to print your faxes – and portable printers can be gotten cheaply.

So if a driver is already making use of a laptop computer and an e-mail address, drivers might want to look into this free fax service.

Harvey S. Warnick
Rachelle A. DeMunck-Warnick
Holt, MI

Thanks for the warning
Thanks for the great info on the (New Jersey) truck scam.

For me, it’s a little too late. Back in 1995, I got hit with that scam. It cost me fifty bucks, but the company I was driving for at the time gave me all the money back, so I didn't lose any.

I believe the New Jersey toll commission should make all drivers that use the turnpike at Newark exits aware. How about a big sign at all exits for Newark that says “A BIG SCAM IN PROGRESS.” Or, hand out something to warn these drivers. Better yet, the service plaza could help, too.

Rob Patterson
Arnold, MO

Sound familiar?
Did you know that a waitress in Utah only averages about $2.14 an hour?

You would think the prices would be less for the food, but they’re not.

We as drivers need to help these ladies because at the end of the year they have to pay taxes on, I think, 15 percent of there receipts, because that’s what they are supposed to average in tips – if they make that much or not.

Think about it: They are being used for profit and not being fairly paid for their time.

Sound familiar?

R.E. Mills
Rochester, WA

It’s the wives who have the tough job
Thank you for the recent article about myself and my wife (“Waiting on the home front,” July 2003). My wife, Marilyn, as with most truckers’ wives, is the one with the hard job here at home holding it down.

The problem we as truckers had overseas was the mindset of the company I worked for. It was the same if not worse than some companies and some of the public here in the states.

I again thank you for the article, your magazine and the work you do for the owner-operator industry.

Ken Kennedy
Nashville, AR

Things that go bump in the road
I’d like to send a razzberry to Arizona Department of Transportation or at least the engineer of the “speed bumps” on the eastbound and westbound lanes of I-10 just north of Tucson.

These are repairs to the Rillito and Canada Del Oro bridges, which were obviously needed. But instead of “launching” everyone twice per bridge, I think they could have at least paved over both bridges totally.

Any truckdriver who has been over these bridges may be experiencing broken product and can’t figure out the reason that might have happened.

I know I have, and I don’t have very happy customers.

Paul Handlin
Tucson, AZ

Say it ain’t so
Please tell me that I am misunderstanding the new hours of service.

If I start my day at 4:30 a.m., drive two hours to unload (three hours at the dock, no touch), then drive two hours for my pickup (two hours, no touch), I now only have five hours to drive because of the 14-hour rule.

I will have logged nine hours driving, three-quarters hour (pretrip load and unload) on-duty, not driving, and the rest off-duty.

Where is everybody going to park for 10 hours when we all stop at the same time every night?

Raymond A. Friend
Zionsville, PA

Editor’s note: I’m afraid you understand perfectly, Ray. As soon as you begin your daily tour of duty, the clock starts ticking and runs continuously for 14 hours, after which you must not drive until you have taken at least 10 consecutive hours off-duty. Shorter off-duty periods will not stop the clock. The only way to extend the 14-hour day is by using the sleeper berth exemption. As for parking – that’s a good question.

New computer setup is just fine
In response to Craig Wahnish about computer access in Flying J … Personally I like the new setup. At first, I was not fond of it, but now I think it’s a good idea. Now, you can actually get hooked up.

Before, a few drivers would monopolize the few lines that were there, and the rest of us were out of luck.

I was in Carney’s Point, NJ, and saw one couple that took the only table with access and spent five to six hours in this booth looking for loads. I guess they just figured no one else would want to use it.

Another thing I like at Flying J now: Their new high-speed service is a real good deal.

I am not a big fan of many things Flying J does, but this is one I agree with after I gave it some thought.

Mike Corwin
Trenton, OH

Let it start with you
Way back in 1972, I was stopped by one of Florida’s Finest for making too much noise with my big truck. I was young, and running straight pipes was cool back then.

Anyway, as we talked and the officer wrote, he explained to me how laws against trucks and truckers are talked about at cocktail parties. What I am trying to say is that when you drive in a way that PO’s four-wheelers, someone is going to write their representative, either state or federal, and complain. If enough complaints are called or sent in, something usually gets done. The wheel that squeaks gets the grease.

Yes, I do not like it when cars cut me off, etc. etc. etc. However, after 33 years behind the wheel of a semi, I have learned to slow down, enjoy the ride and be “like a good doctor” – have lots of patience.

Drivers, if someone does you a stupid act, remember what Our Lord said in Matthew 7:12: “So in everything, do to others as you would have them do to you.”

If we, the pros on the highway, the white knights of the road, start to be more courteous to others, it just might get contagious and take off like a herd of turtles. Well, you know what I mean.

Let it start with you.

Robert A. Ciaccia
Conshohocken, PA

Consider the people being reported on
I am writing in response to Pete Rigney’s column in this month’s edition of Land Line.

I don’t know if the “embedded reporter” thing is such a good idea. Some would argue that the world has a right to this kind of news, but on the other hand, we have to consider the rights of the people having to participate in the war. How would you feel if it was someone you knew or one of your family members that got shot on live television?

To me, it is no different than people who rubberneck at car wrecks. It is a fact of life that people will die in war, but to give it this “reality TV” treatment does not help in any way to reinforce the horrors of war.

For the people that are there, the wounding or death of a comrade or buddy is an intensely personal, often intimate moment as the impact of what is happening finally becomes clear.

I would say it is incumbent on those who would record such a thing to be very careful in just how much needs to be reported, and resist the urge to inflate ratings or increase market share with the blood of American soldiers.

If you are curious about things of a warlike nature, you have a tool you can use, even in the age of factoids and short attention spans: Your imagination. You can supplement that with the stories of those who were there before, in Vietnam, or World War II.

But if you feel you need the up-to-the-minute “experience” of our country’s latest conflict; if you want to know about the gut-wrenching sense of fear you get when you wonder if you will ever see home again; if you want to hear about the fear you have for your friends who are in the war zone; or if you’re curious about the smell of a dead, burnt human being, just ask me. I will tell you.

Travis Burns
Claypool, AZ

A solution to the idling problem
After reading your article about the drivers in Lancaster, OH, and their problems concerning parking their tractors at home and complaints about idling, I felt I could offer a little help to those drivers who feel they must let their tractors idle all day and night on those long cold winter days.

I solved this problem buy installing an 1,800-watt block heater into the tractor block and a timer I purchased from Sears. I also use a wire extension cord to carry the load.

I set the timer to come on two or three hours before the time I need to start the truck. The block and water are nice and warm, and the truck starts with no problem ever in the coldest of weather.

I know that some drivers plug in the trucks without using timers and leave the heater run all weekend, and that is OK. But, it shortens the life of the block heater and cost a lot more money. An 1,800-watt block heater will really make that electric meter spin. Two or three hours are all that is needed to do the job. I start the truck up about 15 minutes before I want to leave with the block heater still working, and it is ready to go when I am.

I have an older Cummins big cam 400, and it really starts hard and smokes a lot when started cold. I use my system all year long. Even in the summer.

Bill Baker
Elkhart, IN

A good repair shop experience
Early in March after loading in North Carolina, with several stops and a final in California, my transmission let go.

I was lucky and almost coasted into a rest area, able only to get enough out of it to get parked. I knew it was at least serious, so I called a wrecker and had it towed to the brand name garage in Atlanta, which was 30 miles away.

It was about midnight when we got parked. The night shift guys said I should get some rest and talk to the day crew at 7 a.m. At 7, the manager laid out the alternatives and timelines for various approaches, he suggested that I could call Richard Kerns Truck Parts in Ellenwood, GA – and I did so – to check on available transmissions. Mr. Kerns suggested that they could come and get my tractor and get me back on the road pretty quick as they had the parts and mechanics available.

So after getting permission to leave my loaded trailer in the yard at the dealer, they towed my tractor, arriving at Kerns place about 9 a.m. Within a few minutes, they had reinstalled the drive line and diagnosed the transmission. After a brief consultation, they started to work, and at least two guys were working on the truck.

Very shortly, they had it on the floor along with the clutch assembly. We looked everything over, and I gave the OK to go with a complete new clutch while we were in there and a rebuilt 13 speed.

The work was done professionally, and I was back under my trailer at 3 p.m. the same day. The bill was fair, certainly not cheap, but what is these days? I have never been more satisfied with any service in the 40 odd years that I have been in business. I was able to continue on my way and maintain the schedule as it was planned.

They are not only very efficient but also very nice people, and I thank them very much.

Bruce Wiltse
Nipomo, CA

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