March 2004 Letters

Long Haul responds to reader concerns
Editor’s note: This letter was sent to a Land Line reader in response to a complaint regarding a Long Haul ad in the March/April issue of Land Line.

Long Haul was very pleased to have our new Heavy Duty appearance product line debut within the professional truck market. We ran our first ad this past month. This ad has caused some of your readers a good deal of anxiety. For this, we at Long Haul sincerely apologize.

We are a small and very hardworking group that is very excited about our launch. In our haste to put our a marketing message – “Our Heavy Duty products work harder so you can get back to your hobbies” – we went over the line of good taste in trying to make our audience laugh.

Since then, we have learned a great deal from your readers. What has been communicated to me (and I have communicated to our ad agency!) is that you as professional drivers do not like the insinuation of what the ad was saying – point well taken!

One thing I have learned for certain, is that no matter how small you are or how many different directions you are being pulled, if a marketing message is going out with your brand on it, you better take the necessary time to make sure you agree with it. It is no excuse; we made a mistake.

Our team at Long Haul looks forward to having you experience our “best foot forward,” and that is our product.

We hope that everyone can enjoy our next ads. We look forward to seeing you in the truck stops or at the truck shows nationwide.

Bob Reifsnider
President
Long Haul Performance Truck Products
Denver, CO

With Sirius, the day goes better, quicker
Thanks for the favorable write-up on satellite radio. As you dig deeper into the message boards for Sirius and XM, you will see a deep loyalty of investors for their “favorite” company.

Personally, I have a Sirius unit in my company vehicle and personal vehicle, and a home unit, all using the same receiver unit. The days of a driver going to various cities and constantly having to change radio stations are over. Whether you have Sirius or XM, the day goes better and quicker.

Currently, there are other reporters and news groups that tend to promote one company over the other. What is needed is fair and balanced reports on both companies. Thanks for your fair and balanced report.

Steve Plasic
Dauphin, PA

A world of change, but still the best job out there
I pulled into the Flying J in Matthews, MO, early in the evening the other day after loading lumber in Troy, TN.

As dark approached, I was online in my KW, hooked to the Internet and surfing, reading e-mail and checking my stuff for sale on eBay. Glancing around, a lady in a truck across from me was doing the same; I could see the glow from the computer she had in the doghouse.

When I started driving in 1957, hauling gasoline and fuel oil around Minneapolis, MN, they gave us a 5-foot-long 2-by-10 to put across the seats to sleep on if we really got tired. Day drivers did not have to log. In 1962, the company bought a new Autocar tractor with a 220 Cummins. It was really wonderful; it could pull a load of gas 60 mph when you got it rolling.

Things have really changed, and it is still the best job in the world. We have so much; hearing young guys bellyaching on the CB is disheartening, and I tell ‘em to learn to live on the money and get a Stetson hat, some blue jeans and cowboy boots and start enjoying the job.

Mark Berg
Bovey, MN

Fix loading and unloading problems – HOS will take care of itself
I wish to point out a very relevant issue in the HOS rules.

Why is there so much pressure to make more and more rules to ensure safety on the road? Why is safety under strain? Because of long loading and unloading delays causing drivers to rush to their next appointment. No amount of playing with HOS rules will change the ground realities. Drivers will drive the way it is necessary to drive for:

  • Going for loading.
  • Loading delay.
  • Scaling, refueling, food.
  • Drive to next appointment/rest.
  • Food/fuel.
  • Drive to delivery place.
  • Unloading/delay.
  • Going to next loading/rest.

So the cycle will continue.

The new rule gives the driver only two breaks that are really accountable toward rest.

Now, the crux of the matter. Why is there a problem? Because distributors are ordering by the case and not the pallet, and wholesalers are allowed to sell and ship by the case and not the pallet.

If wholesalers can only ship by the nearest pallet count, then the transportation industry has no problem as all-full truckloads will be straight in loading and runoffs, drastically reducing the bottlenecks and giving more time to the drivers to be safe on the road.

The LTL industry has and will have different HOS in work as they come home at night.

Gary Guraya
Reading, PA

XM radio educates listeners
I enjoyed your article on satellite radio. I am a big fan of XM, and have had it in the truck since August of 2002.

One thing that you failed to mention was satellite radio keeps the drivers up to date on current events. I listen to many political and news programs throughout the day; I really love the debate on Fox news channel.

I also love listening to CNBC during the day. I like to be in the know on the markets, and with XM, I am right there at the opening bell. I am also educated from the many channels I find on the radio, from Bob Brinker to CSPAN.

XM and other satellite radio puts drivers in the know. Drivers have all day to drive. Why don’t we all educate ourselves through radio?

Adam Sharp
St. Charles, IL

I am done
After 18 years in this industry, the past eight as an owner-operator. I’m done. For most of that time, I sacrificed my family to do the one thing that I wanted to do since I was a little kid. At that young age, I would be amazed at these large trucks cruising down the highway.

When I started, I was in heaven. As time went by, I learned that it was a thankless job, where dispatchers would take advantage of a person’s kindness. The last few years, it has amazed me the people behind the steering wheels call themselves truckers.

On these pages, though, I am preaching to the choir. Please keep up the good work, those of you who know what it means to be a trucker. Also, just a suggestion: Maybe put some peer pressure on those who need it.

Greg Hunter
Monroe, MI

Last time we had so many taxes, we had a ‘Tea Party’
This country was founded because of the excess taxation, tolls and fees imposed upon the citizens of England. When this type of taxation was imposed upon this country, it resulted in the Boston Tea Party.

The government of today is not much better than the kings, queens, lords and earls of yesteryear. Greed is the name of the game. Sure, vote yourselves automatic raises. Get full retirement benefits before you’ve been in office 20 years. It’s only taxpayers’ money.

The war is only creating a larger homeless and uneducated population. When you send a married person with a family to war who becomes disabled because of war wounds, how are they able to maintain the family standard of living, housing, food and college educations for the children, etc.?

To impose additional tolls, taxes and fees on the trucking industry should be viewed as cruel and unusual punishment.

There were thousands of drivers lost last year because of:

  • High fuel costs;
  • Excessive traffic fines;
  • Excessive tolls;
  • Excessive repair bills;
  • Low freight rates;
  • Not enough parking spaces;
  • Unfair hours-of-service rules;
  • Restricted travel lanes;
  • Split speed limits;
  • Complete disregard of traffic safety rules by smaller vehicles;
  • Excessive product and ATM fees at fuel stops;
  • Poorly maintained parking lots at fuel stops; and
  • Poorly maintained shipping and receiving docks.

Someone who is knowledgeable of the trucking industry or a committee who has power to govern the trucking industry should be appointed as soon as possible.

Willie C. Lewis
Herron, MI

More truck stops, not rest areas
We need more truck stops – a lot more. You could build a new truck stop across the street from every truck stop in the United States and it would be full the next day.

I mean full-service truck stops, not fuel stops. It is impossible to get to a place to eat a real meal at a fair price. Most places can’t even fix a flat tire for you, or jump-start your truck.

I could go on and on, but rest areas will not work for any of these. Wake up in a rest area with your truck dead or snowed in for a day or two and see if you are dumb enough to do it again. I have been out here 33 years, and I can't remember the last time I was in a rest area. All the rest areas are all full anyway.

With fuel prices up and out of sight, no place to eat or sleep, this country is in as bad a shape as before interstates were built.

Any of this make you want to run out and buy a truck and start driving?

John Barker
Florissant, MO

Raising a stink over potty practices
On a recent trip to California, I stopped at a well-known truck stop for fuel.

As I pulled up to the pump, I noticed the truck in the next bay was a United Van Lines truck based out of Fenton, MO. The driver was in the process of getting something out of the side box.

I didn’t pay much attention until I got out of my truck to begin fueling. As I’m taking the cap off the tank, he remarks about the high cost of fuel, and I naturally agree. As he’s talking, I realize he is taking the cap off his porta-potty and dumping raw sewage into the garbage can.

By the time I get over the shock of what I just saw, he already has slammed the porta-potty back into the side box and went inside to pay for his fuel. An attendant came out to get my truck info, so I told him what I had just witnessed. His response was, “No kidding.” The smell was atrocious.

The attendant made no effort to correct the situation or confront the driver, so I presume this must be an acceptable practice. The RV dump was less than 20 yards from this driver’s fuel island.

Maybe we should all start relieving ourselves in the garbage cans instead of using the restrooms. This way, the truck stops could save on the water usage, labor paid to clean restrooms, toilet paper, paper towels, etc. The only person to suffer would be the poor peon hired for garbage detail.

No wonder we truckers have such a “crappy” reputation.

Maury Tieszen
Estherville, IA

Here’s what we expect, not what we’ll do for free
I was listening to Steve Sommers on The Truckin’ Bozo Radio Network last night to the one caller (I forget his name) who was talking about how the changes in hours of service has cut his pay about $400 a week since it has started, even with a paltry 2-cent-a-mile pay increase. I have been predicting that trucking will someday see driver pay move from a per mile basis to hourly.

Anyway, I thought when these changes were first proposed that this is the first step toward moving trucking away from the primitive way that we are being paid. I have long advocated that we need to be paid hourly, with overtime and for all hours actually worked, and I believe this is the start down that road. A piddling 4- or 5-cent-a-mile increase is nothing when you consider we need to triple or quadruple our rates of pay just to catch inflation, let alone give us a raise.

There is a reason why drivers are leaving that driver’s company; money is the only reason most of us do this job. McDonald’s is paying close to what most of us make because they have to pay you for every hour you work with overtime. Most fast food chains are paying somewhere between $8 to $10 an hour because they have no choice to get people to work for them. Now is the time for us to make our displeasure with this industry’s pay and pay method. I expect to be paid for all my time on the job all the time. I don’t give freebies often. If a job is worth doing, it is worth being paid for it.

The new regulations are our chance to force an hourly pay system where we get paid for all time on the clock and get our overtime. We need to make it clear first to our employers, and then our government servants that the old, primitive system is no longer acceptable and we want this change made and now.

Be patient with the new regs, guys. They may be the best thing that has happened to us yet. For a change, we may be able to tell everyone else what we expect from them, instead of being asked to what we can do for free for them.

John Larsen
Dayton, OH

It’s just a game, people!
Please tell me that you are not going to start writing about video games portraying redneck truckers (Big Mutha’ Truckers). It’s only a game, for crying out loud!

There more important issues to give a “razzberry” to rather than a video game. I have seen other games in large truck stops throughout the nation that have the same type of theme to them, but they also include guns that you, the truck driver, can use to shoot the bad motorcycle rider trying to rob you. Should we give them a “razzberry” too? No, because it’s just a game!

I am very disappointed in you and the magazine for printing this article.

By the way, did I forget to mention that I am a professional Teamster driver of over 20 years. When I saw this game advertised on TV just before Christmas, I knew I had to have it. Try it before you knock it; you might just have some fun. My 10-year-old son and I have had hours of fun with this game.

Darin Gawne
Reed City, MI

Editor’s note: Thanks for your letter. We agree that sometimes, drivers may get a bit defensive about how truckers are depicted in various media. However, we received several complaints from OOIDA members about this video game. Let’s put it this way: Say, for example, someone debuts a computer game called “Find Jimmy,” where instead of finding Waldo, you try to locate Jimmy Hoffa’s remains. Or one called “Teamsters with Guns – the Good ‘Ol Days.” How would you react? We suspect you’d be outraged. So would we.

Dragon not part of Trail of Tears
I would like to correct a historical inaccuracy contained in a letter published in the February issue of Land Line.

The forced removal of the Cherokee from their native lands, also often referred to as the Trail of Tears, did indeed begin in many ways in Graham County, NC, to the south of Deal’s Gap, aka “The Dragon.” But that precipitous (and then non-existent) route high above the Tennessee River was not the one taken.

The Army used a series of stockades along the eastern slopes of the high ridges of the Great Smoky Mountains that form the boundary between Tennessee and North Carolina as “collection points.” One of these was located in Graham County, and it was from this point that Winfield Scott, the general overseeing the removal, ordered his engineers to begin scouting and constructing the roads for the removal.

They chose to head south into the relatively flat traverse of the Valley River, which led them directly west toward Tennessee. They blazed a new road across what is now known as Tatham Gap, a road that still exists as a winding, unpaved U.S. Forest Service road.

The forced removal is indeed one of the sadder moments in the histories of two great nations. Andrew Jackson’s willingness to betray the Cherokee is despicable and confounding, particularly in light of the Battle of Horse Shoe Bend during a Creek Indian uprising in 1814. Jackson’s own life was spared after he was captured by a Creek warrior and then rescued by the great Cherokee war chief Junaluska. Junaluska, who lost his wife during the removal, later would openly regret his actions that day.

Deal’s Gap, for all its own history, is not guilty of complicity in the Trail of Tears.

Jeff Seabolt
Robbinsville, NC

Fly-by-night brokers create real problems for trucking couple
My husband and I own a small independent trucking business. We haul all kinds of wheeled freight from coast-to-coast and border-to-border. Our backhauls are mainly cars.

We often find the cars listed on a Web site called www.CentralDispatch.com. We had to go through a pretty rigorous background check to sign up with this Web site.

Over the past year, we have struggled harder and longer to collect from the brokers on this site. More and more of the listing brokers would put “call” for broker information. I complained to the Web site and received a very unenthusiastic response. By Christmas, we had enough outstanding accounts receivable that we were in a tight spot. I contacted OOIDA to ask for assistance in attempting to collect on these debts.

Brokers are required to carry a $10,000 bond, but they don’t have to notify anybody when they are going belly-up so that you have the opportunity to file against it. Some of them, especially in Florida, feel like they’re working out of their cars.

By now, you’re saying, why don’t you quit using them? That would be great, but to make our business successful we have to have the truck paying in every direction it goes. We often have to take loads that hardly even pay in the hopes of paying for the fuel to get us to the real paying load or home.

I have begun trying to track these brokers’ information down on the Licensing and Insurance System located on the FMCSA site, and what I’m finding is very often their bond has just been involuntarily canceled, their license has been involuntarily revoked, or I can’t find their company listed under the MC number they have given me.

I have tried to talk with the FMCSA about this issue, but we’re talking about trying to have an intellectual discussion with a federal employee – a rare thing, at best.

I have now begun filing complaints against these brokers through the FMCSA site, but I don’t think anything really happens to them.

Jennifer Reid
Grain Valley, MO

Seat-belt laws 
In my state, Washington, the fine for not wearing a seat belt in a car started out at $86. The big “click it or ticket” campaign must have been a gold mine for the state, because the very next year the amount of the fine was increased to $101. Nothing was ever published by local media justifying the increase.

Call me cynical, but how many more lives do these folks believe a $15 increase will save? No one knows, and if they do, it is a closely held secret not to be divulged.

Al Dedmon
Lynnwood, WA

Common sense and emissions
With the new emissions the government is enforcing: Do they understand that the trucks burn more fuel because of the worthless fuel mpg that we are getting? But they don’t care, because most them (politicians) are oil investors.

Karl Monroe
Green Isle, MN

Make those mufflers mandatory
In the past six to eight months, I have noticed that more and more small communities are passing engine brake laws. This concerns me, as I look at the use of the engine brake as a cost-saving measure.

I am an owner-operator. In talking to other drivers and owner-operators, it has come to my attention that other drivers are more concerned with the sound of their truck and how loud it is in order to make a big impression.

I think Colorado has the right attitude by making mufflers mandatory. I think this would save me the money I am losing on maintenance and wear and tear on my braking system.

Paul Martin
Coldwater, Ontario

This shop stands behind its work
I have been an owner-operator for the past two years. My experience has been when you take a truck in for service, you pay big money and hope you get remotely close to what you are expecting to pay for. That includes dealers, garages and service centers.

I have been taking one of my trucks to Truck Lube USA in Franklin, OH, at Exit 36 on I-75. It seems that they had been forgetting to grease the u-joints. I had a rear joint come apart in Montgomery, AL. So I had the rear shaft removed in Alabama by the TA ($42) and got the truck home.

I took the truck to Howard’s Truck Repair in Tipp City, OH. Good people. They informed me that my joint was dry and had been dry for a while. I called Truck Lube USA on the phone. They listened to what I had to say and checked the history on the truck; I had almost a year in services. They called Howard’s Truck Repair, spoke to them, then they sent me a check. They even paid the TA bill to remove the shaft – the complete repair bill!

I could not believe this. After two years of getting repairs done on my vehicles, this happens. Hey Freightliner! Hey International! Look at how these people do business.

I strongly recommend Truck Lube USA. They are friendly, professional, fast, clean, competitively priced and stand behind their work.

Rick Pierce
Dayton, OH

Make sure those benefits are really there
I am the wife and co-driver of Phillip W. Shores, the driver killed in Laramie, WY, on Jan. 18, 2003.

The company we worked for did not file this under workers’ comp, and they canceled our life insurance the previous October and did not tell any of the drivers. Our employee handbook specifically stated that they would let us know in writing of any changes, yet they did not tell us about our life insurance.

I am on a crusade now. I tell all the other drivers to make sure the benefits their company says they pay for are really there, because they (the companies) can cancel the benefits and not tell the drivers.

My company said dispatch was supposed to tell us, and dispatch says they forgot. I only know what they had written in the handbook about changes, and they did not follow through with their own rules.

Sometimes you don’t get everything you are promised by trucking companies.

Gerry Lynn Shores
Phenix City, AL

Making a toll-free detour
I'm a driver who uses the (Pennsylvania) turnpike regularly, but as of July 31, I will only be using it in bad weather.

I will opt to run on I-80 or Route 22, and possibly in Maryland on I-68. Route 22 is only 23 miles longer. And if I go into Connecticut, I-80 is only about 5 miles longer.

Bennett W. Ruter
Cincinnati, OH

I never dreamed it would get to this
I’m a truck driver who is trying just to make a living. In the past 27 years, I have never had a violation, accident or a DOT violation in inspections on the road. But I am, along with other drivers, subjected to stops by state and local police who are qualified to check for DOT violations.

I have seen drivers pulled over while cars are passing them as if they were parked. The reason is that the police officer wants to do a DOT check. The bottom line is money.

The pressure today’s drivers are under is uncalled for. I follow every aspect of safe driving and record keeping, and so do other drivers. When the law was passed in 1987 allowing state law agencies to check trucks, some police departments added special units to do inspections.

I never dreamed that professional drivers would be treated like the lowest form of life on Earth.

David Redmond
Buford, GA

NYC idling rule extreme
I think all trucks need to stop delivering to New York. Let them get their freight another way.

It may seem extreme, but that (New York City’s three-minute idling rule for trucks) is just unreal. I wonder if they wait till it’s 25 degrees to turn on their heater at home?

I think it’s time to stop bringing any freight to New York till they change the laws.

Sonya Morgan
Harrah, OK

Get a real job
This letter is directed to the FMCSA through Land Line Magazine:

I am finding it difficult understanding who is responsible for the new hours of service and how they were determined. As I look at the rules, I am completely baffled as to how the HOS rules were derived.

Driving a truck is not similar to the everyday 8 to 5 job. It would be prudent to obtain an understanding of the actual effort that is undertaken to do our job.

Explain to me your reasoning for a driver having to log his meals on-duty. If we have to include our meal time as on-duty time, I think employees at 8-to-5 jobs had better get one hour of overtime from this day forward. They should also have to do a vehicle inspection on their cars before they drive an hour and a half more or less to their job.

The HOS change will adversely affect the driver’s ability to generate an income that ensures his survival. Get a real job and find out how the world works.

John H. Dam
Sidney, NE

States with tolls? I quit going through there
I quit going to Ohio and Pennsylvania just because of the reasons stated in your report (“A prophesy with a problem,” March/April 2004 Land Line).

Why pay tolls on roads where you can't stop when you want, the costs are higher at the Oasis and when you still have to pay fuel taxes on top of tolls, when they are just running parallel to good highways at the same speed?

As a company driver, when someone else is paying the bills, I take the toll road. But as an owner-operator, I take the cheap way. The freight pays the same no matter which way you go, and companies will not pay higher rates to go through toll road states, so I just quit going through them.

I just wish others would do the same.

Dave Scott
Patoka, IL

Don’t charge truckers twice
I don’t think it is fair for the trucking industry to pay more to go across the turnpike. They pay their share.

All it will do is push the truckers off the turnpike, and all of them will be traveling on the small roads through small towns in Pennsylvania. That is not safe at all. The turnpike will lose more money by not having the trucks traveling on the turnpike.

Why is it the trucks are paying turnpike tolls and paying road mileage tax quarterly? Where is the money going? The truckers should not get charged twice.

Please do not raise the rates for truckers.

Matthew Hoffman
Schnecksville, PA

How they see it …
As one of the members in the Pennsylvania Call to Action, I responded to the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and was given a response, which I have attached. See what you think …

John Hemminger
Grove City, PA

Dear Turnpike Customer,

Thank you for writing to express your concerns about tolls on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

This toll increase simply keeps pace with inflation since the last increase. According to the Consumer Price Index or CPI, the cost of tolls will not increase at a higher rate than other goods including medicine, food, gas, or homes. One service, however, that has in fact outpaced inflation is the cost of rebuilding roads, says the Automobile Association of America (AAA).

The last time tolls were increased for the Pennsylvania Turnpike was 1991. Since then, Turnpike customers have enjoyed a holiday from toll increases.

Our Turnpike is a safe road today. But, if we do not implement a toll hike, the potential clearly exists for the road to become unsafe. With current revenues, it will take 104 years to reconstruct the Turnpike; but with the proposed increase, we could finish in just 30 years. We will also be able to widen the road where it tends to bottleneck, build new ramps, more adequate shoulders and sound walls, eliminate dangerous curves, improve interchanges and make E-ZPass work even better for drivers.

The original PA Turnpike was constructed in the 1930s using the best engineering practices of the day. It was made up of just 9 inches of concrete poured upon compacted earth and designed to carry only 500,000 vehicles annually. More than 60 years later, some 500,000 vehicles pound the road every day, including thousands of tractor-trailers weighing more than 75,000 tons (a size unheard of back in the mid-20th century).

These facts are noted because the vast majority of the Turnpike has never been reconstructed. Today's best engineering practices demand that our highway is rebuilt using more than two feet of modern road-building materials. This reconstruction is critical for keeping the road safe. In addition, the Turnpike is responsible for more than 800 bridges many of which are in need of replacement. The engineering design life for a bridge is roughly 50 years. It should be cause for some alarm that 300 of our bridges are at least that old today – and an additional 300 will be that age in the coming decade. Hence, in the next 10 years, 600 of 800 bridges will be significantly older than their intended design life.

Every penny of this increase will go to improve the road, and none will be spent on administration, which will continue to be streamlined. Further, this will be the last toll increase for at least the remainder of this decade, so Pennsylvania Turnpike customers can once again enjoy a holiday from toll increases while driving a better, safer road.

If you would like additional information about the specific projects that are planned, our Capital Plan, or other issues related to the toll increase, please visit our website at www.paturnpike.com and review our Commonly Asked Questions or press release sections, found under the Special Announcements heading on our home page.

Maureen Avellino
PA Turnpike Commission
Customer Assistance Center

Editor’s note: Yes, that’s not a misprint, truckers. She did say “thousands of tractor-trailers weighing more than 75,000 tons.”

This does not compute
[In reference to a proposal to split speeds in Tennessee to control pollution in the state.]

So if we keep every truck that crosses the state of Tennessee inside the state 21 percent more time, it will reduce the pollution problem? This means that every truck that crosses east/west will be in the state running nine hours instead of seven, and those traveling north/south will increase from three hours to four. How can increasing the amount of trucks in the state by 21 percent reduce pollution?

So if we run 1,800 rpm in 8th gear at 55 mph, it will pollute less than running 1,800 rpm in 9th gear? Isn’t 1,800 rpm the same pollution as 1,800 rpm? This does not compute!

Sounds like the old bait and switch – to increase revenue instead of reducing pollution.

As crazy as traffic is these days, it would be dangerous to put 80,000-pound rolling roadblocks on the highways. All it would do is make traffic worse. Trucks haul the nation’s economy; slow the trucks, and you slow the economy.

Chuck Boyd
Knoxville, TN

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