May 2003 Letters

The difference between pups and the big dogs …
Regarding Don Simmons letter about Elvis Presley being a truckdriver: Driving early ‘50s Chevy and Ford pups around Memphis, TN, is not truck driving.

I’m 66 years old. I started driving a 1934 Chevy one-and-a-half-ton farm truck hauling wheat to Atchison in 1949, as well as other straight trucks. I spent four years truck driving for the U.S. Army.

I figured I was a truckdriver after I drove an 18-wheeler in more than three states.

Jimmie Buster Sr.
Atchison, KS

Understanding the other side of engine brakes
I can understand why people in villages, cities and urban areas are banning engine brakes.

I deliver LTL furniture all over the United States and Canada. Engine brakes have their place on hills and mountains, which they were designed for.

Drivers who use them to draw attention to their rigs need to live with the noise all day and night. There is no need. First of all, they set up the driver for a jackknife situation. Second, they make people nervous when the engine brake comes on for no reason other than to scare them. Third, the noise gets into homes and businesses.

Arnold Demaske
Ettrick, WI

A rip-off of the trucking industry
Diesel fuel prices have risen over 20 cents per gallon and more in the past two months. Shipping rates are dropping faster than the diesel prices are escalating. Factor in the total cost per mile it requires to operate a truck and we are not even making minimum wage.

Diesel prices have now gone from even with gasoline to 20 cents higher than gasoline. It seems the government and petroleum industry want trucking to subsidize automobile owners and railroads.

If the diesel price does not come down to a reasonable figure, I will start a campaign to not vote for any incumbent who has ignored what the petroleum industry is doing to U.S. truckers.

Also, to these who are voting against a fuel surcharge: Your comeuppance is due.

I believe the nation’s shippers should be required by law to pay no less than 10 percent below the national fuel prices for shipping their goods, i.e., if the national fuel price is 1.62.9, the minimum freight rate should be no less than 1.45 to 1.46 per mile.

Trucks are supposed to be the backbone of the transportation industry.

Richard E Waltemath
DeSoto, MO

A little consideration, please
We have drivers who think the engine brake is their only brake. It’s ironic that they aren’t good enough drivers to give residents a break when they and their kids are asleep.

There are some good drivers out there who never had a Jake Brake and drove safe all their careers.

I don’t believe the majority of truckers are inconsiderate, but some are. We all need to try to consider the other people before we can expect them to consider us.

Mike Mitchell
Sweetwater, TX

Let’s change the law
Funny things happen when you have been in this business for a time.

Back in the early ‘80s, when most drivers were percentage, they cried to get mileage pay. They lost the income there. Now they want hourly pay.

Do they really think companies will pay them the $18 per hour? They will lose on this one too. Let’s look at the real problem – waiting time. If you don’t know it, waiting time is by law billed separately.

Let’s change the law to a new bill of landing, 8x10 with a mandatory waiting time on it. Sign in, sign out, bill the customer.

Shelvey Meyer
Ocklawaha, FL

Stop backups at weigh stations
How about getting a federal law enacted shutting down weigh stations that have backed-up ramp traffic?

This is a well-known danger to not only the truckers but to all motorists. The weigh stations either should have extended ramps or automatic closed signs when full.

Steve Johnson
Burton, MI

Oversized abuse reaps an oversized response
I would like to clear up some misconceptions conventional truckers have about “oversize load” haulers.

While most truckers are patient and good-natured about their encounters with overwidth loads, there has been an increase in verbal abuse directed at the drivers and their escorts.

Most of the time these overly wide loads stay within the far right lane as they go down the road. Many loads take up more than one lane, which is where escorts come in.

Parked cars and trucks, trees, signs, pedestrians, guardrails, cones, barriers, narrow bridges and road debris have to be taken in to account. It is the escort’s job to get the oversize load moved to the left in order to get around these hazards. Sometime that means using the left lane.

Just as soon as you turn on your signals, four-wheelers speed up to try and get around you first. That is why the escorts will often secure the left lane well before the load reaches that “shoulder hazard.”

Once the load is past the hazard, we move out of your way again.

Like you, we have a schedule to keep. Unlike you conventional truckers, we have “curfews” to deal with. All large cities ban oversize loads from being on the road within the city limits during the hours of 6 to 9 a.m. and again between 3:30 and 6 p.m.

What goes around comes around. Truckers who cuss and carry on like spoiled brats usually get paid back by having the oversize load hold that passing lane a little longer than necessary. You reap what you sow in this life, so be courteous to your fellow truckers and they will respond in kind.

Pamela Rosen
Tonopah, AZ

Just what we need – another fee
I have long been a supporter of the Flying J network of travel plazas. They have always supplied better and more consistent services and better-priced fuel than any other.

However, I feel their recent actions are not in the best interest of drivers. It appears they are now making us pay to plug our laptops into the data ports located in the drivers lounge and restaurant.

This used to be free, but now you have to either swipe a credit card or your frequent fueler card to gain access to their “high-speed” Internet access, which charges you 10 cents a minute or 5 cents a minute, depending on which card you use.

Granted, this is not much, but I already pay for a 1-800 access number, plus a per-minute charge. Why should I have to pay more just to plug into their phone jack? I’m sure they will come back with some overstuffed corporate reply, but what it looks like to me is more gouging of an already over-gouged industry.

Craig Wahnish
Fort Lauderdale FL

Editor’s note: Land Line’s staff was able to confirm through Flying J’s Web site that they are charging 10 cents per minute, with a 5-cent-per-minute rebate for some users.

Who are these people?
I have a caption sign on my truck. It says, “God must have loved stupid people, He made so many.”

Nationwide, politicians want to write new amendments to steal from the road and bridge money to support their overspending. Most of these politicians are men. Show me a man that knows how to stay on a budget, and I’ll show you a woman who had a sex change.

Why don’t they just cut back on the states’ spending? Fire some of those lazy city, county and state workers. Everyone in a truck has seen it out along any given highway: One to two guys working, with six to seven watching. Or they’re always on lunch break.

Just exactly how much do these transportation officials know about a semi? Instead of everybody being greedy and sucking the drivers dry from high fuel costs to sitting at a dock and all the fines from their stupid rules and regs – all in the name of safety – it’s only about the money. If safety is the issue, why don’t they educate the cars, vans, pickups and the happy camper drivers about semis?

You know the state and federal governments just love all the hate and discontent out on the road between drivers. People complain about the weather, but these new rules and regs we can control. But we won’t, because no one will stick together.

Karen C. Nading
LaCrosse, KS

You shouldn’t have to run that hard
In response to a letter in May 2003 Land Line from Mr. George Foster.

You see Mr. Foster, it’s not about attitude. You shouldn’t have to run – and these are your figures – 140,000 miles a year to make a decent living. Even worse is 3,000-plus miles a week, which, with two weeks off, rounds out to about 180,000 miles a year.

Congratulations on becoming an owner-operator three years ago. I would be very interested to know if you’re still in business three years from now. Of course, you could always run 165,000 miles a year and make more.

Tom Trotter
Souderton, PA

Lancaster, OH, says thanks, OOIDA
The parking ordinance (in Lancaster, OH) was rejected by city council April 28.

They are proposing an excessive idling ordinance in its place. Many of us owner-operators and drivers attended the meeting and expressed our opposition to the original ordinance, and accepted the new idling idea. It has not passed yet, so we need to keep informed on any changes etc. However, it seems we have won the battle so far.

I want to personally thank you [Todd Spencer] and your staff at OOIDA for the great help and support you gave in defeating this. I know I speak for all the drivers in the area. We couldn't have done this without OOIDA.

Randy Anderson
Lancaster, OH

Hazards for hazmat drivers
I have been real happy that as hazmat transporters, we do not have to do the tire checks anymore in the interest of national security. I am now concerned about another regulation for hazmat transporters I feel is unsafe and should be changed.

This is the law that only hazmat trucks should stop at railroad crossings. The DOT has cracked down on us for an accident in Illinois involving a truck and an Amtrak train, which if I am not mistaken was not transporting hazmat.

Where I feel this is unsafe is that only hazmat trucks are required to stop. Motorists see trucks drive right on through a grade crossing, and the vast majority of motorists could not tell you the difference between a milk tanker and a chemical tanker, let alone the difference between a cargo truck with hazmat and a cargo truck hauling food.

In Canada, where I think they do it right, you do not have to come to a complete stop. The reason is national security. Any terrorist just has to wait at a railroad crossing for me or any other hazmat driver.

I don’t know whether to break the law and take a chance of getting my license taken away or take a chance and put my life in jeopardy by stopping for a law that is unsafe. I hope someone wakes up and can do something about this.

Bill Steckert
LaPorte, Texas

Congratulations, Gordo
I have known Gordon Betts for about 12 years now and can't think of a nicer, more decent man. Congratulations to Gordon on his recent appointment with OOIDA. And, hey, Gordo ... nice suit!

Michael Beeson
Troutdale, OR

Who are we helping here?
In regard to your story “Putting the brakes on trucks in California”:

This is what we all need on our trucks if we want the “terrorists” to be able to stop us whenever they wish.

Jeffrey R. Moller
Bessemer City, NC

Shame on the whole lot
In response to Road Forum from Dave Faltermeier:

I entered the trucking industry in 1991 and hopefully have left for good January 2003.

Everything Dave said, I say ditto, brother. I believe the conditions that the OTR truckdriver has to work under, around and with are absolutely a disgrace to the American way of life; it is more suitable for a Third-World country.

I, too, was a company driver, and my last seven to eight years as owner-operator. I’ve pulled vans, reefers, flats and drop-decks.

I also had numerous jobs but had no freight claims or late delivery, nor any traffic tickets or accidents since I started driving.

I believe the American trucker is one of the most vital parts of our economic system, and without him, everything would come to a complete standstill and chaos would be the order of the day.

I say shame on you, America. Shame on you, brokers, who skim the cream off of every load, with your 40-hour week. Shame on you, dispatcher, who used to be one of us. But most of all, shame on us who continue to put up with this backward style of commerce.

Robert R Griffith
Belton, MO

The real problem in trucking
Recently, OOIDA sent me a pamphlet encouraging all drivers to run compliant in June. The goal, it seems, is a roundabout way to get an increase in rates.

The rates are not low because the shippers and carriers don’t want to pay more. The rates are low because the owners-operators/carriers are willing to accept the rate being offered.

The problem boils down to what is known as a low “barrier to entry.” That means anybody with two bits and a CDL can buy a truck and be in business. These people have no education and no business acumen. They think a balance sheet is something you get at a CAT scale and variable costs is when the price of fuel goes up.

Those who do know what we are doing are comforted by the fact that these guys will eventually be out of business. But the hazard is that we have to compete with them in the interim, and that costs the rest of us money.

The trucking industry has also created the great illusion known as the “driver shortage.” There has never been a driver shortage. I think what the companies are really saying is there is a shortage of drivers willing to work for the substandard wage they are offering.

If you look at the better companies in the industry, they never have a problem finding drivers. In fact, they usually have a waiting list to get on there.

The only solutions to this dilemma are to raise the barriers to entry by requiring increased education and training levels, and reducing productivity by lowering speed limits and hours of service.

James S. Bricken
Cibolo, TX

Back to the buses again
I bought a 9760 new in 1983. It was a demo with 17,400 miles on it and a two-axle short sleeper made to pull double 27-footers and still be only 65 foot overall. I sold it in 1996 with 1,230,000 miles on it.

It broke my heart to sell it. It was part of the family, but there’s not much money in trucking anymore.

About 15 years ago, I went to work for Trimet in Portland. Back to transit buses. I really love it. Of course, the money and benefit packet is nice too. One month training at $7.50 per hour and then start out $10 per hour. But after 35 months, you are at pennies under $29 per hour. Also best benefit package I ever had, even in the “Glory Days.”

Bob DePew
Welches, OR

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