November 2003 Letters

Prejudice in California
I wanted to send you this article from The San Bernardino Sun newspaper from Aug. 4, 2003. I thought you’d find it interesting.

As a former truck driver, I have seen firsthand how California Highway Patrol treats truckers. They treat you basically like you are the scum of the earth. No one in the United States treats truck drivers worse than the CHP.

As if they don’t treat truckers bad enough, they are now going to crack down even more on the four-wheelers who are pulling boats, trailers, etc. I will believe that when I see it.

I could say a lot more, but for now all I will say is I feel sorry for any truck driver who has to go to California.

C. Wettergreen
Needles, CA

Editor’s note: Here are a few quotes from the article:

“With $1.1 million in new federal grant money, the California Highway Patrol launched this year’s version of its big-rig safety crackdown in July. But CHP cruisers and helicopters won’t just be targeting semis that weave in and out of lanes, drive in the wrong lanes or speed …”

“We’re not here to point fingers at those who pilot the 18-wheelers. The blame for truck-involved collisions is divided equally between commercial carriers and passenger vehicles. But because few motorists who tangle with a big rig walk away from accidents unscathed, the CHP will focus first on trucks ...”

Hazmat rules will hurt many truckers
I know the new rules for hazmat are for the welfare of us all, but they need to give us a break.

I think that we spend a lot of money out there when we are trying to work, but this crap about fingerprinting is for the birds. I think that this move will put a lot of jobs on the line, but at the same time I do understand the reason behind it as well.

Jacob Tijsma Jr.
Rainsville, AL

Sticking together’s starting to look pretty good
Everyone seems to agree that we all need to stick together to make changes. “United we bargain, divided we beg” is a sticker seen on many hard hats worn by union members.

I’d be interested to hear from drivers who were around when there were lots of union companies who are still driving today for non-union companies. Are things better now, or when everyone stuck together?

Recently, there was a new contract coming due for Chicago area garbage haulers. The companies wanted to give small pay raises, and have drivers pay into their health and welfare. The strike lasted only nine days. Other union members wouldn’t cross picket lines, and the companies had to come up with a good contract.

Try doing that when it’s just one driver refusing to haul cheap freight. I’m sure it’s tough knowing someone else will take it, and hoping eventually things will change. Unions are about collective bargaining …; does anyone think all of us sticking together is a bad thing?

Greg Rourke
Batavia, IL

New HOS doesn’t address time at shipper, receiver
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the new hours-of-service regulations coming into effect with the new year is the failure to address the amount of time wasted by uncaring shippers and receivers. Even though this time is to be included in the driver’s day, nothing has been done to compensate drivers for time lost to revenue production.

It therefore falls to the individual owner-operator or contractor to be sure that detention requirements are included in the bid for each load. A reasonable amount of time at each end of the move and each stop-off is understood, but customers who waste excessive amounts of your time must be made to understand that you, as a professional, value your time and expect to be paid for it, just as the customer's personnel expect to be paid when they are on the job.

Company drivers should insist on additional pay to serve habitually abusive customers, and contractors need to check your lease contract to see which option works best for you.

Each driver and/or contractor needs to contact dispatch or broker immediately when time abuse becomes a possibility. This allows a chance to work with the customer in a calm fashion to correct the situation while reminding the office that this customer needs watched, as the driver is obviously watching his/her productivity.

Customers should realize that in a mileage-based compensation system, a driver’s time is needed to earn income, and act accordingly.

Kellie C. Brau Jr.
Kaufman, TX

Exaggerated claims?
It seems that you fail to understand the point that I was making in the “More Letters” section of the August/September 2003 issue of Land Line.

By spreading the weight of a 105-foot-long, 129,000-pound LCV onto nine axles, the weight per axle will be less than a normal rig grossing 80,000 pounds. That is why they call it a “bridge formula,” intended to lessen the impact on roadways and bridges.

By creating an image that LCVs will create more road and bridge damage and that they demand more of a driver’s skills in bad weather is putting this magazine in the same camp as the 20/20 bunch who tried to portray all trucks as killer trucks.

If you want to see them banned due to the economic impact they have on rates, I have no argument with you. Just say so instead of trying to make exaggerated claims of harm. Next thing you know LCVs will be blamed for stealing money from school lunch programs and are the reason Grandma has to eat cat food.

I have been pulling Rocky Mountain doubles for the greater part of my 25-year career, and I cannot honestly recall when was the last time I saw one of them all wadded up in a ditch, in any kind of weather. But I have a “T” endorsement on my CDL indicating I have been trained in the more demanding skills it takes to operate them.

Ken James
Evanston, WY

Head-on suicide: getting to the facts
In regard to the man who committed suicide by driving head-on into a truck:

I can’t believe that a company would ask a driver to get back in a truck after an accident like that. The company in question should have given Mr. Tippie some time off and offered to get him some mental help.

I hope Mr. Tippie finds a job soon and goes on.

Leslie B. Gough Jr.
Golden Eagle Trading Co.
Russia, OH

Editor’s note: Edward Tippie’s former employer told Land Line he had to replace Tippie because he was unable to drive. He explained that his company is a small, two-truck operation and needs to keep both trucks on the road. He told Land Line that if Tippie ever wanted to return to work and his company has a truck available, he would rehire Tippie.

The last straw
I've been toying with the idea of getting out of trucking for the past year or so. Now, with the new HOS, I think that this will be my last year in this noble business.

I’m tired of angry shippers, stupid dispatchers and unbelievable delivery appointment times. I hope that those of you that keep trucking are very successful.

Jeff Lee
Ellentin, FL

White sheets: It happened to me
In the July issue of Land Line, I read Pete Rigney’s article about the “white sheets in Connecticut.”

I was stopped outside of Hartford by a Connecticut State Trooper and checked for violations. I had none. He wanted to know if he could check the inside of my tractor. I said yes.

When he came out he said, “You know I could give you a ticket for not having white sheets on your bunk and the pillows being on the left side instead of the right.” I told him I never heard of this DOT rule. He said it was state law. I asked him the reason for this, and I was told the white sheets for sterilization to be used for bandages in case of accidents. The pillows are on the right in case while sleeping on the shoulder of the road, if someone plows into you, your head would be away from point of impact.

I said, “Well that kinda makes sense, but the white sheets after me sleeping on them wouldn’t be sterile any longer, and if I needed a bandage, I could care less what color it was.”

He told me that was the way it was. I said, “as far as I know federal law supersedes local law, and if the pillow was to be on the right, the truck manufactures should build them that way.” He told me the next time make sure I had white sheets and pillows moved or I will be fined heavy.

That was back somewhere between 1973 through 1976, and I’ve only been back through Connecticut maybe five times since then.

No, I did not get a ticket, nor do I remember the trooper’s name, but for the longest time after that, I kept asking drivers at different truck stops and places if they ever heard of such a thing. Until I read your article, I thought I was the only one that knew about that ‘cause I haven’t found another driver that has. No, I didn’t go to jail, and I am sure I didn’t start the rumor or am the only one that it happened to. But it did happen to me.

Charlie Simpson
Fort Pierce, FL

My sincere thanks
I just wanted to express my profound admiration and gratitude to the entire OOIDA organization for its proactive involvement in recognizing the worth and dignity of both truth in the abstract and of all owner-operators in the real world.

With sincere appreciation and esteem,

Malcolm J. Robertson III
Greensboro, NC

Attitudes must change
I greatly appreciate the role your organization took in the run compliant month. In order for changes to be made to the truck driving industry, a more concerted effort over a longer period of time will be required. It will be necessary for a larger percentage of drivers to participate. If we can get approximately 75 percent of the drivers to participate over three consecutive months, we as a group can control our finical futures. It is imperative that the newer drivers take a leading role.

The trucking industry’s ability to exploit was built upon the backs of the senior drivers. It is my opinion that the generation that built this industry was so ingrained with the notion that you do not challenge authority that they gave unscrupulous companies the ability to line their pockets with cheap labor. Almost all trucking companies were forced to follow suit in order to be competitive.

Recently I spoke to several drivers, and I found that the senior drivers almost without exception when I expressed my option about the major issues facing the driving industry told me “to stop whining.” It is exactly this “stop whining” attitude that needs to change.

Christopher Plom
Croswell, MI

All year long

We should not only run under the current hours of service for the month of June but all the other eleven months as well.

W.D. Bird Jr.

Editor’s note: W.D., We couldn’t agree more.

Why trucks avoid the Ohio Turnpike
Tolls, the turnpike commission and treatment by the Ohio Highway Patrol.

This is the “Jeopardy”-like three-part response to the question recently posed in the media by the Ohio turnpike commission: “What is the cause for the substantial drop in use of the turnpike by truckers in recent years?”

The three-part answer is simple. First, there are the tolls. In 1995, the turnpike commission hiked the tolls for trucks by a whopping 80 percent. With such a biting increase, truckers found alternative routes or bypassed Ohio.

Second, the Ohio Turnpike, when it was built decades ago, was financed by bonds and paid for by tolls. When the highway debt was paid, the pike was supposed to become toll-free and part of the nationwide interstate highway system. The turnpike indeed became Interstates 80 and 90, but the Turnpike Commission stayed on, and it has continued to exact high tolls. Toll road sections of the U.S. interstate system, by the way, receive no federal funds.

Third, the Ohio Highway Patrol has earned nationwide contempt from truckers for its despotic, targeted ticketing of truckers exceeding 55 mph, especially on the turnpike. The patrol vigorously opposed any efforts by lawmakers and others to eliminate the state’s 55 mph truck speed on the freeways, despite its proven traffic safety hazards, because it is addicted to the enormous truck speeding fine revenue it collects. Why should truckers pay outrageous tolls and fines for the privilege for traveling the turnpike at 55 mph when they can drive other highways and the same speed with no toll?

This should explain to the turnpike commission why truck traffic has diminished. Tolls on the turnpike should be eliminated, and the turnpike commission should be dissolved. The Ohio Legislature should disregard the patrol’s spurious objections, and have the integrity to make safety the top priority by equalizing speed limits on all Ohio Freeways.

Fredrick J. Falls
Mansfield, OH

It’s all in the initials
In the August/September issue of Land Line, Truckers Perspectives, Peter Ruhl asks: “Why is a professional CDL driver doing warehousemen ’s work?”

The answer is in his question:

Cam “Roadrailer” Hamilton
East Leroy, MI

Let them drive
When 18-year-olds want to drive, let them.

I got my CDL right out of high school; it was just good in my home state. I was riding and driving at 15 or 16 with my uncle, but it was nothing like when the weight was on my shoulders. I hauled lumber and then logs, and then on to a local cattle-hauling job.

Sure, I was young, but not as likely to get lost right at home. I probably made lots of good drivers mad, but I didn’t hurt or kill anyone. In fact, I was 26 before even a minor accident on snow and ice.

I say give them a chance. We all know it’s not as easy as they think it will be.

John W. Grimes
Lancaster, KY

Lighten up on the age limit
I am a truck school graduate. I graduated at the top of my class. My long-term goal in life is to become an owner-operator. I have my class “A” CDL. But I can’t get started trucking out of state because of that stupid age limit of 21.

I am 20 right now; I have about 10 months until I am 21. The thing that has gotten me is the age to drive out of state. It is BS. I will admit a lot of 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds are immature and irresponsible, but the trucking industry needs to lighten up on the age deal.

A lot of people graduate from high school at age 18 or 19. If they want to pursue a career in trucking long-haul they should be able to drive truck out of state after they get proper training from a legitimate truck driving school or a trucking company that is willing to train people to be new drivers.

To me it would be a step in the right direction for the trucking industry to bring back the apprenticeship, or a program allowing 18- to 20-year-olds drive out of state. They can do a process of elimination to weed out the irresponsible and immature and allow those young, responsible, mature and safety-minded young people to be able to drive.

Give us younger people a real chance to show the trucking industry that not all of us are irresponsible and immature.

Joseph A Walker
Burnham, ME

Brings back some good memories
I recently found your magazine in a pile with other magazines, destined to be thrown away here in a makeshift tent for soldiers to use for rest and recreation.

Being an old over-the-road driver, I grabbed it quickly. It brought back good memories of when I used to run the U.S. and Canada for 14 years. I am not letting it go. This is the best reading material I’ve gotten ahold of besides the old junky Army books here.

I drive the Army’s largest rig, the HET. It has 40 tires on the trailer and eight large tractor tires. It’s one big piece of machinery. We’ve been hauling missions into Iraq since April. We’ve lost only two tractor-trailers, one from a land mine and another when we came under attack. We had to abandon one tractor-trailer. When we came back the Iraqis had set it on fire.

We hope to be home soon. I truly do miss being in an 18-wheeler. Please say hello to all those truckers on the road for me. You don’t know how much you miss home until you get deployed to a country like Iraq. It’s a game of survival.

God bless you all, and God bless the United States of America.

Sgt. Alberto M. Martinez
U.S. Army
San Antonio, TX

What about 18-year-olds?
I have one question for you: I am wondering what the outcome is on the 18-year-olds driving trucks over the road.

The reason I was wondering is because I am an 18-year-old about to graduate high school, and I have always wanted to drive a truck like my dad, who is a 30-plus-year veteran of the road.

I have had a taste of the road, and I love it. The roar of the engine and hum of the tires against the pavement. Some call me crazy or obsessed. I tell them they have to feel it to believe it.

Billy E. Gibson Jr.
Houston, MO

P.S. I’ve been a longtime reader of Land Line Magazine. Keep up the good work.

Editor’s note:

 Well, Billy, back in February this year, Congress torpedoed a pilot program that would have allowed some 18-year-olds behind the wheel. And that’s not likely to change anytime soon.

But while you can’t go cross-country just yet, you can start your career. Many states allow 18-year-olds to drive intrastate, or within one state. Also, you might consider where you are going to get training, and start work on that. OOIDA believes better and more training is an important part of what needs to be done to improve our industry, and this is your chance to do your part.

Good luck!

Thanks for the cheap freight
In June, most everyone slowed down and saw higher rates in return. They do this one month a year and think it’s the best thing since fried chicken.

In July they all go back to running wide ass open again. What’s up? I guess they miss cheap freight rates.

I myself run like everyone did in June, 365 days a year. I too enjoyed higher freight rates in June. Thanks everybody. Thanks for running wide ass open for 11 months a year and keeping the rate as low as you can.

Tim Sheehan
Moultrie, GA

Let’s keep the momentum going
I am an owner-operator with one truck running under my own authority. I spent the first three weeks of June running Pennsylvania to Florida and back, and the last week running Pennsylvania to North Carolina.

I agree that the transportation industry on the whole needs a major reworking. The new HOS rules are still a joke. What’s wrong with 14 on, 10 off, with the 14 to be used for driving, sitting or whatever? With today’s trucks, you can drive 14 hours without fatigue. Fuel breaks and meals give you the breaks you need to stay alert. We also don’t need a weekly maximum on hours – 14 per day, seven days a week, end of story.

Most of the rates are laughable, as are some of the safety regs. Driver compensation for wait times is a must, as is detention time for the carriers. We need to make the shippers and receivers realize that we are not their employees, therefore we do not have all day to sit there, and the best way to get their attention will be through their checkbooks.

As for what to do next, I think the answer is pretty simple. Don’t stop what you started. The problems we face today didn’t start overnight, and they won’t be fixed in a month. It will take time, and it will take a leader to keep it going.

Who better than you, Jim, to keep the ball rolling and to keep the momentum going. We all know that the best way to build a bigger snowball is to keep it rolling once it starts, so don’t let it stop now. Let’s shoot for a run compliant quarter, then six months, then run compliant year. Also, let’s start working to up the rates, as we all know that the best way to get everyone to run compliant is to make sure they are earning enough to live without having to break the law to earn more. Also, owner-operators need to make enough to be able to keep their trucks repaired and safe to run down the road.

So, keep up the good work. You have a great organization, dedicated to making the trucking industry better. What better way than to keep going with what you started?

Steve Bixler
Valley View, PA

Education is the key to traffic safety
I read with interest your latest article on split speed limits and the need for change in the August/September issue of Land Line.

I was born in London, England, and have been driving trucks for around 15 years, 5 here and 10 across Europe. From what I have seen over my five years here, one of the main problems in situations like these is, quite simply, education.

When I took a test to get my car license here, I answered two pages of questions and drove around the block a couple of times. One of those pages was all about school buses, which – let’s be honest – if you need a test about bright yellow school buses with red, yellow and flashing strobe lights, stop signs that swing out when slowing down, signs all over them that inform the road user what to do around them, then you don’t really need a driving license at all.

When I took my CDL test, it was a four-week schooling course, driving on every different road, under all conditions. The written tests alone, of which there were numerous, took nearly all day.

Just a quick look at the various studies in truck-related accidents prove that the majority of time, it is not the truck driver’s fault.

If people were more informed about trucks and drivers, then we could all get along better on the highways instead of carrying on with the “them and us” scenario that exists out there. I doubt there are many drivers that have a clue about speed limiters on trucks or the various ways that trucks perform when approaching even the slightest gradient under a heavy load.

Here’s a thought: If excessive speed is the root cause of accidents in Illinois, then how about making it a statewide speed limit of 55 mph or less for all traffic.

Now that sounds like fun doesn’t it?

Simon Dron
Wilmer, AL

Hairpin curve? Use that horn
Where I live, we have a lot of windy, switchback mountain roads like this U.S. 129 seems to be. The trick is, you crack your window and listen, and when you see that you are coming to a hairpin or switchback, you lay on the air horn. That’s what they are there for.

Try it sometime, and you’ll be surprised.

Douglas M. “Lumpy” Fabish
Eugene, OR

What kind of flowers do you like?
With regard to the devices to stop hazmat trucks possibly hijacked: The ones I’ve read about are activated by bumping the back of the trailer.

Now who are they going to get to tap the back of a truck going 70 that is instantly going to lock up the brakes?

I hope they send flowers to the widow.

Greg Rourke
Batavia, IL

Human behavior is the cause
Having read your article [on split speed limits] as well as being in the trucking business since 1972, I have seen this topic appear many times. I think when stating the case, most miss the point for two or three reasons. The most common reason is they are emotionally attached to either one side or the other.

The fact of the matter remains, as long as there is a split limit, there will be someone trying to pass the slow-moving truck, which on two-lane roads has lead to many accidents in the past. On hills with dramatic speed drops, this factor increases, with the ever-impatient driver weaving back and forth until he or she can pass.

With all the fuss directed at who is right, we always overlook the practical reasons, which are fundamentally human behavior. This behavior dictates how we react: When we are held back by someone, our first knee-jerk reaction is to beat the one holding us up. Which simply stated is: You have no right to make me wait. Truly a shame, but it has been my view for years.

Larry Rohde
Buford, GA

Don’t wait – get involved now
This is a message to all truckers, but can apply to all citizens. It concerns a certain amount of laziness and applies to the new hours of service rules, hazmat regulations, gun control, speed limits, zoning regulations, child abuse, taxes, education … I could go on and on till I find something that matters to you.

I will admit I have a tendency to ignore elections, ignore upcoming issues and sit around and say it doesn’t make any difference. We sit around and bitch about it, but really, how many bother to sit down and write a letter to your senator, representative, mayor, governor or even the president to voice your concerns?

You say it won’t make any difference? Well, it won’t if no one does it.

The majority of these people are elected or appointed officials, and that means they can lose their cushy jobs if they don’t please the majority. When you do nothing, you make the other side the majority.

You have organizations such as OOIDA, but do you support them? They can only do what they can with the weight of support behind them.

Get involved, because truckers are not the Bubbas, the drug freaks and nuts that the press and everyone else has put us in. There are college grads and many intelligent drivers out there, and it is time to tell the politicians and the public that we have a voice.

Find an organization such as OOIDA that is willing to fight for your rights, and support them. Give them the clout to fight for your rights. Big business has the numbers and the lobbies to get things done. Don’t wait till it affects you personally; get involved and get active.

Dave Dow
Charleston, IL

Move those toll booths, and let’s have uniform speeds
The tollway speed increase [proposed in Illinois] is a danger to all modes of transport, whether it is private or commercial traffic.

A higher speed will cause more hard stops on the tollway as cars stop to pay the toll, and will increase crashes around the toll booth area. It will create more problems because of the current toll system, which makes you stop in the middle of the highway to pay toll.

In order to allow a higher speed, all the toll booths will have to be removed to on/off ramp locations, more like Ohio and New York or New Jersey. The current speed limit is high enough for the toll road, and sending the traffic on two different speed limits will cause more crashes and more fatalities. Every one should drive at the same speed – trucks and cars – that will promote safety.

All the research shows that 71 percent to 98 percent of crashes are due to the drivers of cars, so to let those drivers responsible for more fatalities on the highways drive at a higher speed will induce more crashes. They cannot handle the current rules safely.

Azriel Barzly
Huguenot, NY

Flying J Internet deal not so bad
In a recent issue of Land Line, there is a letter to the editor and a raspberry for Flying J and their new Internet service.

I felt like Craig Wahnish when I first found that I couldn't just walk in and hook up to a phone jack. I, like Craig, use an 800 number that costs 10 cents a minute (AOL), but the Flying J service costs the same. The difference is you are connected to a local number, so it would appear you only pay once.

At the Clive, IA, Flying J, I swiped my credit card to get a line so I could access the local number. Then I was charged nothing to be online. As far as that goes, I now have their high-speed service. The introductory cost is $99.95 for a full year, and you can hook up at any of the high-speed boxes inside the truck stop. Or you can get a PCMCIA card or USB antenna in your truck and hook up at high speed.

At Pontoon Beach, IL, I hooked up to an inside box with the Ethernet cable and logged on at 440 kbps. You can get less than a year, but grabbing a year’s service at the special price made sense to me.

This service is being set up by a company owned by Flying J, but will be available at other truck stops, not just the J’s.

Tom Newman
Altamont, IL

We’ve done this to ourselves
In regard to your engine brake ban survey: In trucking all across this country, my wife and I see these signs more and more.

It seems to be in the central states primarily, but is spreading rapidly. This problem is (from my experience) another case of “us” being our own worst enemy. Perhaps as a result of the “few bad apples spoiling the whole barrel” condition, which again, is another small part of the “you drive yours and I'll drive mine” mentality we have to deal with on the road today.

I’m sure other drivers would agree with me that this problem started, or at the very least escalated radically, when drivers/owners decided to blatantly break the law and remove the mufflers from their trucks for the “cool” look of those large diameter straight pipes.

Some of the trucks were properly changed to get the look while retaining the noise control by putting a muffler under the truck when they put the big straight pipes on. But far too many didn’t.

Disturbing the peace and rattling windows when the ‘Jake’ comes on in the middle of the night seems to be considered “cool” by some yahoos on the road today. They even do it in the truck stops, with no regard for other drivers who may be trying to get some badly needed sleep.

We need to weed out the bad apples from this industry and return to being responsible adults on the highways so the law-enforcement officials and town officials can find better ways to spend their valuable time than harassing all because of a few.

Vern Boulet
Candia, NH

Safety first, right?
My husband was recently in Kansas during a really bad storm. There was a wreck in front of him, so he was the first on the scene.

Thank God the driver wasn’t seriously injured, but what if he had been? How many drivers out there have taken a CPR and first aid course?

When my husband comes in for more than a few hours, I’m signing him up for a course. It only takes about six hours and could save lives.

Our truck drivers are usually the first on the scene, and they should all know what to do and what not to do. I just think it would be a good idea for all drivers to take a course next time they get home. It could save someone else's life, or your own life could be saved.

Safety first, right?

Lori Pokol
New Middletown, OH

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