June 2004 Letters

Land Line ‘centerfold’ not a bad idea
The article from Dan Wyllie from Naperville, IL, in March/April issue on Page 124 wouldn’t be a bad idea. A Land Line centerfold of a big fancy truck, especially Peterbilts, would be fine. But looking at an IH or Volvo would be nice, too.

Steve Wurtz
Delmont, SD

Let’s dump these high fuel prices and low rates
I just read your article “I Refuse to Work for Free,” and boy, do I agree 1,000 percent with what Mr. Telles has said. Amen!

My husband, John, and I currently own a trucking company, Iron Horse Trucking, in Southington, CT. We have a 1998 Mack “R” model tri-axle dump truck. John has been an owner-operator for more than one-half of his trucking career.

John and I found some old invoices from the late ‘70s to early ‘80s. The rate back then was $48 to $50 per hour. The cost of fuel was around 75 cents per gallon, and the cost of insurance for a year was somewhere around $2,000 a year.

Now, fast-forward to the year 2004. The average cost of diesel fuel in Connecticut is currently $1.80 per gallon, and insurance will cost you approximately $5,000 a year. Now for the good part: Rates for a tri-axle (if you’re lucky): $50 an hour. You can make more – if you haul by the ton and haul overweight. I’m sure you know the state of Connecticut is extremely strict on the weight laws, and John and I don’t feel the fines are worth it.

The constant and steady rise in the price of fuel is having a major impact on small businesses such as ours! We’re having a difficult time just paying the basics on the truck – insurance, the truck payment itself, registration and permits. Add to that the fuel bills that just keep climbing.

We’re considering selling our truck, and John is considering looking for a job running equipment or driving someone else’s truck. We figure even if he gets paid $10 to $15 per hour operating someone else’s equipment, that’s a whole lot better than he’d make operating our own.

Mary Sestilli
Southington, CT

Trucker says thanks for being there
I am really excited to be a new member of OOIDA. I have been out of trucking for about three years, and now my wife wants to retire after 33 years of teaching. We have just purchased a 2001 Kenworth and 1999 Ravens stepdeck.

I want to thank Nancy in your insurance department for all the help she gave me on getting my physical damage insurance. She made everything about getting set up seem easy. We look forward to a long association with OOIDA. Thank you again for being there.

Charles Elyard
Post Falls, ID

Trucker says Land Line tossed him a life line
I am writing to thank you for saving many years of my life.

I am a subscriber to your magazine and read every issue. The March/April 2002 issue had quite an impact on my life. While reading the your health article titled “Prostate cancer: detecting it early could save your life,” I realize I could relate to five out of seven symptoms.

When I told my wife, she made an appointment for me with our doctor. Even though I was young (42) and my PSA level was not high, my doctor sent me to a specialist. Prostate cancer was confirmed.

I had surgery in August of 2002 with excellent results. To this day, I am cancer free. I felt it necessary to write and let you know that your magazine is important and does have an impact.

Rick Reno
Hermantown, MN

Another officer who knows what ‘professional’ means
I read with interest a letter the Trucker Perspective in the May ’04 issue of Land Line, written by Michael W. Johnson of Riverside, CA, regarding Officer Tim Brogan of the Warren County, VA, Sheriff's Department.

I had a similar experience at the scale in Bowman, ND, with Officer Trenton Scott. I could tell by the way he approached me to ask that I come in for a level 2 inspection that it was not going to be an unpleasant experience.

He was businesslike, polite, respectful and knowledgeable of his responsibilities.

When I discussed our experience with his supervisor, I suggested that he rent him out to an unnamed state located between Texas and Arizona for the purpose of training their DOT officers in the skill of dealing with people in the manner that I enjoyed in Bowman, ND.

Charles R. Peppard
Sioux Falls, SD

The reality of the new HOS
This is short, but I think more to the point regarding the reality of the hours-of-service rules:

Was: 10 hours driving, five hours work = truth 18-hour days
Now: 11 hours driving, four hours work = truth 19-hour days

The only ones gaining are the carriers and shippers. They gain one extra hour of driving.

Nothing changes, because in order for the driver to make a living, he must cheat on loading and unloading time. He must drive 700-plus miles per day instead of 600-plus miles per day.

(Name withheld upon request)
Hopewell Junction, NY

Blackballed again; thanks, DAC
First, your article on DAC was very good and to the point. I have been a professional driver since 1976, and since DAC became widespread, I have been personally blackballed twice, both times was after turning in trucking companies for unsafe acts and violations.

DAC of course allows a rebuttal, but it is worthless and is never given a second glance by a future employer.

I travel 48 states, and most drivers I have spoken with are unaware of what DAC is. I have made numerous statements to White House staff in past years and to Congress to tell them of the horror, only to have the FBI come calling me because I told them I how really felt.

This is the only such occupation with this type of nationwide blackballing service. It's about time drivers speak up and refuse to work for any carriers that use DAC other than for MVRs; safety is spelled out in one’s motor vehicle report, not the bogus lies entered on DAC by company employees.

John M. Esposito
Orange Park, FL

It isn’t the business it used to be
My better half drives a truck, and he has been doing so for over 13 years. To this day he is only making 10 cents more than he did in 1990 when he started.

This man has a passion for driving since he was a young boy, and still to this day he has that same passion – only when I’m riding with him, because then he can show me all the new places and sights over every hill. The look on his face is like a kid in a candy store.

But lately, that look has turned into frustration, anger and a sense of betrayal from the other drivers, warehouses, trucking companies. A long time ago, a fellow driver called out for any information and got it; today, you call out and no reply comes from the radio. And if it does, it is usually a bad, dirty, disgusting remark.

The warehouse doesn’t care if a driver has to sit and wait for hours to get loaded or unloaded, because they figure that the driver will not leave without his or her load.

The trucking companies say well, we don’t force any driver to take a load if their funny book (log book) pages are full, or say, well, do your best to get there, when a hot load comes out the gate.

And the pay raises – what a joke: a one-half cent increase. The common 9-5 worker would be appalled at that raise, and you should be also. There are a lot of pencil-pushing brownnosers in the government who have no idea what a trucker’s day consists of. What looks good on paper 90 percent of the time doesn’t work well in the real world.

I hate to say it, but until all the drivers stop and look how bad the system is abusing them, the conditions are going to stay the same. My hat goes off to every trucker out there. Safe travels, and keep it out of the rhubarb.

Kay Christensen
Dilworth, MN

Lack of coverage hurts trucker
I’ve been driving truck for 25 years accident free. All of a sudden, I slipped down in the TA truck stop in Eloy, AZ, on some water or soda, and I find out the company I drive for has no workers’ compensation nor insurance.

The truck stop didn’t even have any warning out.

Now I’m off hurt without any kind of income except for my wife’s. I’m lost, because I’m used to working. But I can’t work the way I hurt.

Gence Allen Hervey
Timpson, AZ

Slow down and enjoy life
I am all for running legal in June, but someone needs to crack down on all these hot shots out here. If you aren’t running as fast as them, they are on your case.

Construction zones are the worst. I run the speed limit in these zones. It’s too easy to get in trouble or for someone to get hurt. The new drivers out here try stupid things, and then we all sit while the wreck is cleaned up.

I’m far from the perfect driver, but these hot shots who have to fly down every bit of road they travel are ridiculous. They are the first ones to complain about speed limits. They are the first person to swear up and down the cop gave me a ticket they didn’t deserve.

Slow down; enjoy life. You won’t get there any faster than me. I run 5 to 10 mph faster than I should, so I’m not a goody two-shoes, but you people take it to the extreme.

David Smith
Mansfield, OH

A bad future is coming to pass
I love trucking and all it stands for, but after reading your December/January Land Line, I am glad that I got out of it when I did.

My crystal ball showed a very grim picture of the future. I just didn’t expect it to accelerate like a truck with burnt-out brakes over an icy mountain pass.

Over the last year, reading about the numerous problems of tax increases, hours-of-service changes, loss of rest areas/truck stops, just to name a few, I do not see how my fellow truckers can afford to stay on the road.

If truckers continue to be put in the middle having to pay for everything then soon there will be no one out there delivering goods. People making decisions for the truckers should have had at the very least three years OTR and a taste of trying to make a living doing it.

I am sure there are many other drivers out there that have chosen to get off the road because of the problems and many more will quit.

Is there hope? Yes but everyone all the way down to the lowly baby-sitter needs to know truckers are great people and not the monsters that have been portrayed.

The trucker needs to be able to concentrate on driving, not on everything else. You don’t expect a cook to do open heart surgery; so why does everyone expect the driver to be a lumper, tax accountant, juggler, police officer, etc.?

All politicians, shippers, receivers, lawmakers and the president need to be put on a truck for a month or more. How fast would things change then?

I no longer drive, but I am going to stay involved in the trucking field in hopes that the future will change for the better and I can go back to my first love – driving.

Sally Scott
Tekoa, WA

The feds are the real problem
There are many things wrong with the trucking industry today for sure. But one of the main things not right is our own federal government. Most of these people have no real idea of what trucking is all about.

They all make more net income in a year than an owner-operator makes gross income. Something is way out of balance here. It has been going on for years for sure. It just gets worse.

These people in government have no idea of what it is like to be on the ground floor – if they ever were on the ground floor, that is. Most of them were born into affluence, so they never had to really work to make their way in life.

If the feds don’t change their ways, the entire country is not going to get any better, and neither will the trucking industry.

Lael E. Sikes
Royal City, WA

Necesitan hablar Ingles
How many motor carriers would hire a driver who was under 21 years old? How many would hire him if he did not have a physical? Or what if he could not drive a CMV safely or did not even have a CDL?

I hope the answer is none.

Then why is it that so many will hire a driver who cannot even speak English? The same regulation that requires all the things listed above also requires that a driver be able to read, speak and understand the English language.

This is America. We speak English here. If you want to be a professional driver in America, learn to speak the language. We do not need you on the roads affecting safety when no one is able to communicate with you.

Enforcement personnel need to be able to communicate with drivers. Safety and security are at risk if they cannot.

Motor carriers need to be able to communicate with their drivers. How else are you going to be sure they are abiding by the rules?

I do my best to answer questions and help people when they contact me. But that is hard for me to do when I cannot even understand them.

If you have been able to read this far, then this probably doesn’t apply to you. Sorry for preaching to the choir.

Al Rohm
Dover, DE

Driver says don’t change the new HOS
I am speaking out on the HOS changes, mainly on the article in your May issue.

Big companies, not only Wal-Mart, would love to see changes in the new law. I am a short-haul driver, and I believe in the new HOS rules. Once a driver’s day begins, it ends 14 hours later. The driver is in control, and companies don’t like that.

If the legislators change off-duty status, it will only cause drivers to falsify their logs showing “off-duty” instead of “loading” or “unloading” so they can save time. It would open the doors for companies to intimidate drivers, giving them bad runs for legal logs and more money or better runs for cheating on logs.

If you run a 70-hour workweek, you’re done in five days. For a 60-hour workweek, in order to do five days, I can only do 12 hours a day. If my company wants me to run hard and do a 14-hour day, that’s great. Come Friday about 11 a.m., I’ll be off-duty for 34 consecutive hours, or until Monday morning.

I think legislators should be focusing more on laws and fines for shippers and receivers detaining a driver.

Bob Hudon
Webster, MA

It’s about money, not noise
As an owner-operator who pays my own bills, I feel it is time to explain to all the company drivers and all those outside the trucking industry just what my Jake Brake does for me.

A Jake Brake costs somewhere around $2,500 to $3,000. Once on the truck, it costs nothing to use except maybe a few dollars to repair a broken wire or replace a switch.

On the other hand, it costs me about $200 dollars per axle to replace my brakes. My truck has five axles, so a complete brake job can cost up to $1,000. Every time I step on the brake pedal, it causes wear on the brakes; therefore it costs me money.

In today’s world of cheap freight and high-priced fuel and shop costs, why wouldn’t I use my Jake Brake every time I need to slow down, whether I am going downhill, on the level or going up hill.

So you see, it isn’t a matter of trying to “make noise” or “show off” that prompts me to use it all the time; it is just simple economics.

When you pay your own bills, you save wherever you can.

Steve Bixler
Valley View, PA

Broker: Mr. Telles, our industry needs you
I read with dismay the article in your May issue “I Refuse to Work for Free.”

The tumultuous economy has put hundreds of carriers out of business within the last couple of years. The most efficient ones were able to scrape through these demanding times and are now a part of the resurgence of economic growth in our country. One of the valuable resources that is a necessity to the demand are owner-operators like Mr. Tellis who made it through the recent difficult times that so many others could not.

As a broker, in no way do we NOT want a carrier to be profitable. Without carriers, we are out of business. Additionally, I am not aware of any group of brokers, as Mr. Tellis says, “went to a conference and decided a dollar a mile was it.” From our standpoint, we do ask the carriers what they need for the loads we have available. Yes, there are times we do not have the revenue needed by the carrier to haul the load at a profit. However, some carriers can haul the load for less and be profitable because their operating expenses are lower.

There are thousands of companies out there that hold themselves out to be “truck brokers.” The most credible are members of the Transportation Intermediaries Association. This is the only organization that represents our industry and is bound by a code of ethics when you become a member.

I would urge Mr. Tellis to visit their Web site at www.tianet.org and find one of their members to work with. The transportation industry is in need of carriers like Mr. Tellis and we do not expect him or others like him to “work for free.”

Doug Clark
Cargo-Master Inc.
Dallas, TX

Stop protecting people who don’t run compliant!
While we’re all running complaint in June, let’s stop protecting the drivers who aren’t so compliant. Enough with the bear reports on the CB! We are only helping the outlaws among us.

These drivers are damaging our reputation as professionals by driving too fast. If someone is driving too fast, they are probably tailgating to force others out of the fast lane. They are probably late or in a hurry, and their logbook is behind or they have multiple logbooks. And we’re helping them get away with it.

Why do drivers still break the law for the companies (or brokers) they drive for? If they get caught or are in a wreck the company isn’t going to protect them, and everyone knows this. Yet, everyone still does it.

Why should our insurance rates go up to pay for the idiots among us? Why do we protect them?

While we are running compliant to help change the abuse on the loading docks, we are shooting ourselves in the foot (again) by allowing outlaws to drive around us. We should let law enforcement do their job and root out the unsafe drivers among us who continue to give us a bad reputation.

Wayne Weisser
Las Vegas, NV

A policy from the ‘Why Bother’ Insurance Co.
I hauled potatoes from Idaho to Florida. I got in bad health and hired a driver to drive my truck for me until I got better. Currently, I have insurance with Canal Insurance Co., Greenville, SC, and my policies show I have the coverage that I asked for.

Unfortunately, my driver was on a trip to Miami and had a heart attack. The driver was taken to the hospital (he is OK), but my ThermoKing unit stopped cooling, and the load spoiled. This was mid-July 2002 in Florida.

There was a claim of about $11,500. I went down, picked up the truck and brought it back to Wyoming, and got started filing all the paperwork for the insurance company. Later, I found out the coverage on my policies that was listed in black and white is not so.

They refused to pay the claim. My local agency fought them as far as they could. In the meantime, the truck’s down and there’s no money coming in. That makes it hard to hire a lawyer. That also makes me wonder why I paid $8,000 to start with.

Dale Rodgers
Arco, ID

Give the tickets to the real ‘idiots’
I read your article recently about different states considering the ban on Jake brake use.

I have also noticed some cities and towns with a ban have backed up and added that “unmuffled” or “straight pipes” are forbidden.

I think it’s great that they recognize where the problem is and who the “idiots” are. I just laugh.

Also, more and more states are writing tickets to the clowns who have the straight pipes and the “other group” that has the train horns. Arkansas and Texas have joined the other states to fine you if you have them. Texas will write you a ticket if it is hooked up.

Davey Jones
Dallas, TX

Government: Stop now or watch the truckers disappear
We in the trucking industry are facing the highest taxation, we are the hardest hit by these extremely high fuel prices and some of the highest insurance rates. But when these state officials – with their all-knowing wisdom – continue to give themselves pay raise after pay raise, they realize that they are now faced with a deficit that continues to grow and grow. Their solution is to pull these dust-covered laws and taxes that haven’t been used in 50 plus years.

So in order to cover their stupidity and poor business planning and budgeting, we’ll once again double the truckers’ taxes, including their fuel taxes. They seem to think we have money trees in our bunks.

When is the government going to wake up? After they have taxed every qualified trucking company into bankruptcy and stranded a few hundred trucks on the side of the roads because they could not afford the fuel anymore? Who then is going to get their goods to the local stores they depend on?

I’ve heard five drivers with one to 10 trucks say they are closing their doors, retiring and getting out of the industry this week alone. Once we start hauling everything by horses again and it takes two to three weeks or longer in the winter months, do you think the light may come on in their overeducated minds that maybe we went to far?

At this rate, there won’t be anyone willing or qualified to do the job.

John Bolton
Denmark, WI

The story behind the farm plates
On the letter in the February issue of Land Line from Brian Surratt: What he does not mention is that these trucks running on farm plates in most all states that I know of are restricted to how far they may travel from their farm. They also cannot hire out their trucks.

So they have to pay as much for their equipment, but cannot make money directly from its use. Most states also make them exempt from IFTA due to the fact that most of their miles are off road, and it would be too hard to keep it apart. (I know for sure that Vermont and New Hampshire are that way.)

Chris Routhier
Wausau, WI

This does not compute
I’d really like to know how the federal DOT figures that the new HOS rules are going to enhance safety in the long run, or at all.

It has been proven beyond a doubt that people in four-wheelers cause the greater percent of accidents involving trucks. Why doesn’t the DOT do something about this fact?

The DOT also touts the fact that the new HOS rules will create thousands upon thousands of new jobs in the trucking industry. How the heck are thousands of entry-level drivers – probably 50 percent of which will be foreign and should not have been let into the country to start with – going to enhance the safety factor in the trucking industry?

A 30-day trucking program and all these new so-called truck drivers get turned loose? The DOT should also do something about this fact also.

The DOT is not addressing the problems in the trucking industry in the proper way at all.

Lael Sikes
Royal City, WA

Fix freight rates
Instead of lobbying the government for another band-aid [fuel surcharges], lobby the large carriers to stick together on fuel surcharges and to some point on rates.

If the larger carriers require a fuel surcharge, then smaller fleets wouldn’t be at such a disadvantage or afraid to ask for one. The airlines follow each other on rates and charges, why couldn’t the trucking industry? With a mandatory fuel surcharge, what stops brokers and shippers from lowering the freight rate, then adding the fuel surcharge, and we still aren't getting paid enough.

The market will eventually fix itself. If truckers or companies can’t survive the widening gap between fuel prices and rates and can’t get their own fuel surcharges, can’t or won’t raise rates, then maybe they shouldn’t be in business anyway. The market requires companies and owner-operators to be inventive and resourceful to be among the strong or in the right niche to survive.

I’m hoping that OOIDA will continue its political work on our behalf and come up with new ways to use that lobbying power to influence the industry to do the right thing in freight rates and their treatment of drivers.

We as an industry think we are so taken advantage of, just above slave labor, and we put up with it, do nothing but complain at the coffee counter.

If you just sheepishly take cheap freight, get taken advantage of and run illegal, you not only insult and hurt yourself, you’re hurting the driver next to you.

Wayne Weisser
Las Vegas, NV

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