April 2004 Letters

Building your transportation IQ
The “Off the Network” column is a wonderful idea! It should be a real intelligence builder given the compartmentalized minds of truckers.

Land Line, of course, has always been in my mental toolbox. There isn’t a driver out there that doesn’t need to raise their transportation IQ.

I sure enjoyed the article and numerous letters about U.S. 129. Another “stimulating” ride is U.S. 52 South out of Williamson, WV. Once you pass the Hatfield Cemetery, start gettin’ ready!

Gerald Lee Stull
Huntingdon, PA

New Yorker says: Boycott New York
I wish every trucker would boycott New York.

I live in New York, and I hate what these cops do about truck idling. I live on Long Island, and if you ask anyone driving a four-wheeler or anyone else that doesn’t know anyone who drives a truck, they hate seeing them in New York.

Let these people see what it’s like to go to the supermarket and have empty shelves. They wanted to build a truck stop on Long Island, and the people out here said no way. They didn’t want us out here period.

The only way people will understand is when you take something away from them that they take for granted. So anyone thinking of coming to New York, think again.

Suffolk County police will wake you up at 2:30 or 3 a.m. to write you a nice ticket if you’re idling your truck in the rest area between exits 51 and 52. I guess they get a kick out of this.

Alan Forsyth
Patchogue, NY

Another trucker who’s giving it up
I am like a lot of owner-operators who are giving it up because of the rising cost.

I’ve been driving since 1972 and been an owner-operator about 20 years. With the cost of fuel, insurance, tolls and all the little extra things that the owner-operators are hit with, we should boycott some states like Arkansas and Kansas that hit you with extra taxes just because you run their road, even though you buy their high-dollar fuel. Let them haul their food, clothing and all their supplies in their pickups and SUVs.

Most brokers think owner-operators are a rolling bank. When I haul a load, I would like to get paid for it. But the broker needs my money to operate on, so they make me wait 21 to 30 days to get paid. They don’t care if you go out of business or lose your truck, because they will find someone who will haul the next load.

I know that for us to stay in business, a lot of things need to change. Maybe we need a truck strike like we had in the mid ‘70s It may be too late to help me, but it may help the rest.

Roy Simmons
Bluejacket, OK

Until we log legal, the abuse will continue
It is quite evident that the majority of truck drivers do not realize their logbooks are legalized lethal weapons. The motor carriers, shippers and receivers could care less how long drivers wait to be loaded, unloaded or wait in readiness to be dispatched, which requires many unpaid hours and is logged as “off-duty” time. These are the reasons for what has become known as “truck driver fatigue.” It doesn’t require a scientific study. It is a fact.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has redefined the definition of on-duty and off-duty time and now is known as on/off duty. This was done at the expense of the motoring public and the benefit of the motor carriers and big business. The FMCSA has furthered this to include the use of the sleeper berth by a single driver just as a double team operation would use it. Aren’t they working enough hours already?

PATT and CRASH have filed lawsuits in federal court in opposition to the new hours of service. While, on the other hand, the ATA and others have joined the battle to ensure the new hours of service remain intact. Are you surprised? With the aid of the new hours of service and its loopholes and double talk, the motor carriers, shippers and receivers are controlling a driver’s logbook by the use of all these non-paid hours of work.

So long as drivers continue to falsify their logbooks, nothing will change. The motor carriers, shippers and receivers will see it as a blank pistol, which will be of no threat to them and their bottom lines. Drivers and the motoring public, on the other hand, will experience it as a loaded gun waiting to go off because of the fatigue factor. Drivers need to realize falsifying their logbooks does not put more money in their pockets; it takes money out and causes unsafe driving conditions for themselves and anyone on the road with them.

Our slogan should be “It’s the logbook, stupid.” We should log everything legal and see where that takes the trucking industry. We have everything to gain and nothing to lose. After all, the logbook is for “driver and public safety” only, not someone’s bottom line.

David P. Gaibis Sr.
New Castle, PA

‘They’ don’t care about us
On Feb. 3, 2002, I wrote a letter to President Bush. I let him know how I felt about the trucking problem in this country.

On Nov. 5, I got a reply; of course, I never thought I would ever get one in the first place. A form letter, no doubt from the “special assistant to the president and director of presidential correspondence.”

He doesn’t care about us; that’s obvious. No one does. What we need is a 100 percent stoppage of all commercial vehicles. I know that will be impossible, as we don’t stick together; it seems to me that there is no other option. Hit them where it hurts. Let them all go hungry.

I hope things would or could get better. A year or two, and I’m sure I’ll be gone too, because I’m sick of it.

John Palmer
Fort Lauderdale, FL

Give credit where credit is due
You gave a great deal of credit to stars who barely took part in the festivities at MATS. I credit their appearances, but come on, Kenworth did a heck of a job putting up the show and getting Charlie Daniels to perform.

Let’s give credit where credit is due. His performance typically demonstrated the patriotism we as U.S. citizens have lacked and needed a kick in our butts since 9/11.

See you in 2005.

Don Wojtaszek
Kendall, NY

Trip planning software
Regarding the routing software article by Bill Hudgins in February issue, I use a program called PC Miler 1.5. It gives routes in text form and all of the exits by number and highway numbers and times, too. You put in your parameters, and it does the rest.

It can be changed. It gives the time it takes to run it; you can use the default settings for speed by each state or reset it for your use and needs. Enter the time allowed for each stop, and it figures it out. It will put in the truck stop of your choice when you need it, and the exit is there. A lot of effort and research went into this program.

I use it prior to every load, and it is very close to actual miles. You have several choices of types of routes: practical, network, etc. I use practical routes for the most part. I, however, do not have the hazmat module because it cost about $4,000 per the people at PC Miler, and an owner-operator can’t afford it.

A lot of trucking companies use PC Miler. I would be lost with out it, not literally.

Gordon Alkire
Riley, KS

Why a slowdown or strike wouldn’t work
In the past few weeks, I’ve been hearing truckers talking about a strike or a slowdown.

This would be the end to trucking as we know it. We would be put down by the public. The trucks from south of the border would be here in a flash.

Don’t move cheap freight.

Peter Reid
Rowlett, TX

What’s fair is fair
I liked the article about the safety review that would follow the driver from job to job.

It really would be nice to see this go one step further and put in place a requirement that would allow any driver applicant to review that carrier’s overall safety record before he commits to employment by that carrier.

By that I mean, the driver should be able to access information such as does this carrier have a history of maintenance safety violations, or has their equipment been placed out of service while going through normal CVSA roadside inspections, etc. I think you catch my drift here.

If a carrier is able to obtain from prior employers’ information regarding the safety habits of a driver applicant, then I think it is only fair that a driver should be able to “check up” on a carrier that he might be interested in getting a driving job from. What’s fair is fair!

Pete Klick
Sequim, WA

Editor’s note: You can get some safety info and the latest safety rating on the motor carrier from www.safersys.org. If you are an OOIDA member, you should see what our Motor Carrier Rating System has to say. Call Amber (Business Services) at 1-800-444-5791, Ext. 134, and she will mail you a report.

Where’s the part where I take a break?
In all the things I have read about the hours-of-service rules, nobody has asked this question: When do I eat or take a break? I drive a day cab and thus have no sleeper to extend my 14 hours.

If I go on-duty at 6 a.m., take 15 minutes pre-trip, drive 5.5 hours to my destination, take 2.5 hours to unload, 5.5 hours driving back and 15 minutes post trip, that equals 14 hours.

Question is: when do I eat, use a restroom or take a break? I am sure the DOT officers don’t work their shift with no break.

If you have to make the choice of having lunch, taking a break for a cup of coffee or going to the bathroom, or making it back home to your family that night, what would you do? That’s right – grab a sandwich, a cup of coffee and eat while you are driving.

Nobody that I can see cares about the driver. They should have let you log 1.5 or 2 hours off-duty for a lunch or a dinner break, etc. Or is there, and I missed it?

Frank Griesemer
South Canaan, PA

We have to work together to end fuel crisis
That trucker in California [John Telles, who shut down his truck over high fuel prices] is right. When are the people in this business going to get it?

The only way I can see an end to this is for OOIDA to start a movement similar to the Run Legal program of last year. We need a voice so loud that even the deafest politician will hear.

A lot of the other problems are the big carriers deliberately fixing rates so low as to thwart competition.

We all know the problems, now let’s step up to the occasion and do something. Now is the time; this is an election year.

Richard B. Rollins
Tucson, AZ

Bad choices 
The article on John Telles is very good and probably an accurate portrayal of the owner-operator’s plight. However, how does going to work for a company for 40 cents to 50 cents per mile help him?

It seems to me the money – which is the driving force to that decision – will push us all into company jobs.

Maybe that is our only choice eventually?

James H. Reed Jr.
Woodville, OH

I’ve parked my truck, too
[In regard to trucker John Telles, who parked his truck over high fuel prices.]

I am not surprised! I’ve done the very same thing.

Over the past year, I downsized from four trucks to one, and as of March 10, zero.

I’ve been driving commercially off and on since 1965. Both my dad and father-in-law were also truckers. It’s disgusting to see what is happening to America’s truck industry. No political support, no driver cohesion … it truly has become a one-on-one business.

It’s really not worth the continued aggravation to run blindly onward without hope of financial improvement. At least OOIDA provides a voice for those of us who don’t have one.

Roger Mann
Orlando, FL

New and improved ‘liebook’
I agree with OOIDA member John H. Dam regarding your “breakfast, lunch, dinner” break as considered as “on-duty” time. It is totally asinine and only contributes to more drivers trying to maneuver their rigs while gobbling down a meal. Unhealthy and unsafe!

What a slap in the face for any weary driver looking forward to sitting down to a hot meal, knowing that he/she is supposed to log it as “on-duty.” Ha! Well, truckers are vastly underrated in the intelligence department, so I have no doubt that this ridiculous “rule” will be sidestepped adeptly in the “new and improved liebook.”

When the new HOS were proposed, I was in favor of them ... but I see now that they are too rigid and unrealistic. There are too many variables in this industry, and simply shutting down after 14 hours is not feasible. As a trucker who drives “local,” I am often in a situation where I am past my 14 hours, but am unable to just “shut down.”

I am, however, pleased to see that we drivers get 10 hours off instead of eight. Eight hours was not enough for an over-the-road or a local driver. I believe local drivers should have a 12/12 type of status. Locals are a “different animal,” so to speak.

Christy Kuppler
Ocean Gate, NJ

Top of the class
I am an OOIDA member and a company driver. My company’s trucks can only go 65, and I get passed by many owner-operators.

As we all know, the trucking industry as a whole has about hit rock bottom. However, I have noticed that OOIDA members are top of the class. They look in their mirrors when they pass and even give you the “thank-you” flash lights after you give them the “all-clear lights.”

I just wanted to encourage OOIDA to keep up the good work. Little things do matter.

Christopher Jones
Ottawa, KS

Give your business to the little guys
In response to the letter titled “More Truckstops”: I think we have to take a real look at these big name truck stops. Do you really think these Flying J’s or TAs or all the rest give a damn about the truck driver? No. They all changed from truck stops to the tourist-friendly travel centers.

I’d go to Flying J spend about $300 plus in fuel, and they wouldn’t even say thank you. Meanwhile, a family pulls up in a car and fills up with gas puts a whopping $20 of gas in has five people in the car, and everyone gets a soft drink free.

Go to the small guy who really wants your business. I will not buy a single gallon of fuel from any large name truck stop anymore. I hope more of my fellow drivers do the same. Then maybe they would wake the hell up.

Alan Forsyth
Patchogue, NY

Let officials know what you think of tolls
Will this ever end? What? The continued efforts by states to administer tolls to pay for roads.

They say we, the trucks, do not pay our fair share, although my base plates and permits amount to well over $2,000, and the fuel taxes that we pay are beyond comprehension.

The Federal Highway Trust Fund should be for the highways and highways only – no bicycle trails, no mass transit, no antitruck, period.

While a recent article in USA Today stated many people did not mind paying a toll, they do not pay the inflated tolls trucks do.

What can we do? Pass the cost onto the shipper. Let them know as such, we cannot continue to absorb this additional cost. Let your elected representatives know your dismay as well. Vote the morons out who are blind to our needs.

David Finch
Cleveland, OH

Saying so long to the Pennsylvania Turnpike
Thank you for calling attention to the Pennsylvania Turnpike toll increase. As an intermodal owner-operator leased to a carrier out of Cleveland, I drive to and from the Pittsburgh area daily, often twice daily. In 2003, I spent $8,600 on tolls in Ohio and Pennsylvania, with about half of that being spent on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

We receive a stipend for our turnpike costs that pretty much covers our toll cost now, except when we carry a load of approximately 37,000 pounds or more. My carrier is showing no interest in increasing that stipend when the tolls go up, so the increase would cost me $10 to $20 a day, $50 to $100 a week, and so on.

I can assure Mr. DeFebo of the Pennsylvania Turnpike that in my need to control the bottom line of my business, I will respond to the toll increase by traveling far fewer miles on the turnpike on an ongoing, not a “short term,” basis. I think it’s very likely that most of the trucking industry will have to do the same.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike’s claim that it has not had a toll increase since 1991 is simply not true. With the addition of the new Warrendale interchange at mile marker 30 and the restructuring of the ticket system in 2003, my Pennsylvania Turnpike costs went up 6 percent.

Dan Corr
Cleveland, OH.

Find another carrier
To Callie Dodson (Company to owner-operator: Send Rover to Mars): You two will likely be happier at another carrier if your former carrier had that little disregard for you two.

Unless there are other issues involved, the company did a poor job bridging the gap between requirements of the customer and the owner-operators. After all, good owner-operators are hard to find.

Danny R. Schnautz
Pasadena, TX

Technology an important part of trucking today
Freightliner of Knoxville and Freightliner of Chattanooga have always tried to stay ahead of the “standard” in amenities and advantages for our customers.

Your article, “Cutting the electronic leash,” pinpointed where we feel it’s important to be in this day and age. We recognize the importance of communication technology for our customers. Our locations are 24/7 operations for the convenience and needs of the trucking industry.

We recently added Wi-Fi hotspots at both of our locations for customer use. Unlike most hot spots available to the trucking industry, our service is free of charge. Fast and easy communication is important to the lifestyle of a truck driver, and as a member of OOIDA, I understand the need for contact with family and friends as well as access to reliable information available on the Internet such as road conditions, weather and news.

There are so many changing factors involved in transporting our goods and materials across the country. We feel it’s our duty to support our industry, which is so important to the livelihood of every citizen of North America. I encourage OOIDA members and your readers to visit us; and don’t forget your laptop!

Patrick T. Carroll
Freightliner of Knoxville
Freightliner of Chattanooga
Knoxville, TN

Why is this our problem? Answer: It’s not
It is this simple: If you only have two docks, you only schedule two trucks. If it takes you two hours to unload, then do not schedule other trucks before the end of that time. If you need more help on the dock, hire some. If you want a pallet restacked, do it. If you have the space and manpower to unload 10 to 20 trucks at a time, then get it done and let the trucks all leave.

Once you count that load and sign for it, it’s over. The trucker does not have to be there while you do your dock work. The alternative is paying the trucker for his time. Clock him in when he arrives and let the time begin.

Maggi Dillinger-Ingle
Aurora, CO

Bait-and-switch warning
More and more when we contact a broker for a load, they will perform a little bait-and-switch tactic.

They will tell us that the load is a COD load. The company might be a shyster company, but we won’t have to bill them or deal with them monetarily at all. The driver gets almost to the load and has begun calling the pick-up contact when he finds out from the contact person that the load isn’t COD.

The driver calls the broker to find out what is going on, and all of a sudden a terrible mistake was made, it isn’t COD. The driver has fuel invested, time invested and is now stuck with a load that he may never get paid for.

Jennifer Reid
Grain Valley, MO

This is one cool piece of equipment
A friend and fellow OOIDA member asked me if I saw the ad for TruckFridge in Land Line. Of course, I had not seen it, but looked it up. Boy did my “thrifty” light go on bright green at that – $449; with shipping and tax, still under $500.

The inside of the unit is bigger than OEM and quieter. I have let it run for four days without starting the truck and still had plenty of juice to start up (I think it has shut-off protection built in to save batteries). I would strongly recommend this unit whether you are “thrifty” or not.

Harry Pitt
Tampa, FL

Just exactly how many hours do you want to work?
The new [HOS] rules aren’t perfect, but I feel they were a long-needed step toward change. Now if we could only get more drivers to abide by the new rules and actually show the effect of the changes. I also feel that if more drivers were following the old rule, the changes would not have been as necessary.

And yes, I am an independent, regional owner-operator, so I am not one of those “clueless outsiders.”

Tom Novak
Alma Center, WI

Don’t haul if third-party logistics are involved
I have had a shipper that I have serviced occasionally for the last few years. Their rates have always been tolerable, but nowhere near great.

I received a phone call today from some woman named Lulu from a company called “Transplace.” She called to get my fax number so that she could send me a contract packet. I returned her call and asked her who she was and what she actually wanted. She proceeded to tell me that her third-party logistics company as of March 1, 2004, was going to assume all of the freight moving for my shipper.

I proceeded to tell her that there was no way I would do business with them. The shipper’s rates are low enough, and there was no way I would haul their freight after giving “Transplace” a cut right off the top. I then told her never to call back.

I feel that I am right in this decision. If I do this, it is not business-smart, and this horrible problem of third-party logistics companies assuming payment responsibilities to carriers while not having to hold a bond will continue. This problem will be eliminated if everybody can stick together and not haul this freight.

Please inform your members of this so we can get problems like this solved. The government already takes too much of our money. Let’s stop third-party logistics companies like this one from taking more.

Mike Long
Marion, IN

Editor’s note: Mike, if you haven’t already done so, I would suggest you contact your shipper and advise them you do not choose to work through a 3PL company.

Also point out that you have been providing them with on-time service, etc., for however long. In other words, resell your services to them. Chances are, the 3PL company has promised to save them money and simplify their shipping needs. This can happen only if the 3PL company can find carriers that will provide satisfactory service at lower costs.

If your shipper doesn’t care about service, you may have lost them unless you are willing to work through a 3PL company. However, if they want quality service at reasonable rates, they may stay with you.

Many are the shippers that were lured by a cheap rate and switched back when they didn’t get quality service.

Todd Spencer
Executive Vice President

No trust in brokers 
In my short time now as an owner-operator, I too have unfortunately built a lack of trust for truck brokers.

I am turning down nine out of 10 loads due to cheap freight. Also, when I ask them if they are sharing in fuel surcharges, most say it’s built in, or the amount that they include is about one-third the actual fuel required to make the trip.

Is there any reason why they would not divulge their contract information to the carrier? Perhaps it would become a norm for them to include a copy of their customer agreement so the carrier could see for themselves whether or not it is prepaid, whether or not they are being paid fuel surcharges, etc.

Kimberly Casey
Lake Havasu City, AZ

Education is the key
I am a driver from Florida. Although I do not run 48 states anymore, I do have concerns about split speed limits. I think to make the highways safer, we need to educate new drivers on what it takes to stop a truck and the basic operation of a tractor-trailer.

Let’s make it mandatory for driver’s ed classes to cover the distance it takes to stop and how easy it is to roll a semi. And yes, let’s show them the results of an accident involving a truck and car. Show the graphic details the way they do with the drinking and driving videos.

I think education is the key.

Jason Maggard
Bradenton, FL

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