November 2004 Letters

There outta’ be a law
I am writing this letter because of the steadily rising cost of fuel. The majority of shippers are currently paying a fuel surcharge to their carriers and freight brokers, and some are passing this on to the owner-operators to whom it was originally intended. But, a large number of carriers and brokers are not passing this surcharge on to the actual carrier of the goods. This is creating a hardship for the truck owner and at the same time allowing the broker to increase their profit margin at the expense of those hardest hit by these record-high fuel prices.

In my opinion, these fuel surcharges were created for the sole purpose of offsetting the high costs of fuel and not so that the brokers could increase their profits. I believe that it should be written into law that any broker who receives a fuel surcharge must give 100 percent of that amount to the actual carrier, the person for whom it is intended. I believe these brokers should be fined severely for not passing on this essential part of this business. It is not that I am out to put them out of business, it’s just that I want the money that is intended to help me pay for the fuel.

name withheld

Truckers save lives every day
I recently sent this letter to several big city newspapers. I don’t know whether they will publish it or not, but it was worth a try. I feel like we can say all we want to in the trucking magazines, but the general public is never going to see it.

We as an industry get ground down constantly and I feel the public needs to hear our side.

Editor’s note: The writer included a detailed description of an incident on an Interstate where three four-wheelers and an RV created a dangerous situation that could have been fatal.

Only by the grace of God, did the driver of the third car see my husband coming and sped straight toward he guardrail, giving my husband only 10 inches to get past the back end of her car. The guy in the second lane never merged.

I want to know, was his time and hatred of big trucks worth chancing all the lives in those cars and RV? I think not.

I rode with my husband for five and a half years. I have seen him literally stand up in his seat slamming on the brakes trying to stop to keep from running over vehicles. We have been sick at our stomachs for hours after an incident and the person that caused it never knew how close they were to getting hurt or losing their life.

That truck has every right to be on that highway. In fact, interstates were built for military trucks to transport commodities. For those of you that don’t realize it, that’s what big trucks still do today. We get your food to your grocery store, your gas to your pumps, your clothes, soap, shampoo, toothpaste to your department store, even the parts that were put together to build the car that you drive were more than likely hauled by truck.

We are regulated on everything we do. How we maintain our brakes, tires, headlights, tail lights, etc. We are the only industry that I know of that is told how many hours we are allowed to work. Doctors are made to work 36 hours straight when they start out. Lawyers can work as many hours as they want. And how many of you factory workers, nurses, etc. put in 12-hour days and then drive home? We’re not allowed to do that.

We are required to drive 10 mph slower than cars in split-speed limit states. Rarely can we go through these states without getting the finger. For the states that restrict big trucks to the right two lanes, it seems to me to be backwards. Trucks should be in the left lanes. We don’t jump on the interstate and jump off at the next exit. It would be safer for cars to be in the right lanes and big trucks in the left two. This alleviates merging traffic and also a big truck blocking the view of oncoming traffic.

I want to say: Don’t judge a person because they are driving a big truck. They are humans too. Sure there are a few bad apples, but a few bad apples doesn’t make the whole orchard worthy of cutting down. They are just out there trying to do their job and keep America rolling.

Diana Combs
Austin, KY

The apprentice approach creates better breed of drivers
My father has been in trucking for 45 years. We are a small outfit with 20 trucks. I myself am only 27. If it were not for my father I would not be in this industry.

Before the CDL all you needed was a license. My father would hire a driver just out of high school and put him with another driver to train. When he was ready they would cut him loose, but only around the city. My father’s way was the only way. You have to crawl before you can walk. When that driver had enough experience to drive around town and feel comfortable with what he was doing, then the driver moved to over-the-road if he so wished.

Now you have to be 21 to drive. By the time someone has already turned 21 they have already found a different career. Then the only thing left is someone looking for a job not a career. When 18 year olds were able to drive intrastate there were better drivers and more loyal employees.

Now everyone is out chasing that greener grass – wanting to drive 200 miles a day but get paid for 2,000 miles. My opinion may not count but it seems to me that the drivers saying 18-year-olds should not be able to drive are the same ones that were 18 if not younger driving a commercial truck. I believe if 18-year-olds were only allowed to drive inrastate or maybe only an allowed distance from a terminal for three years there would be a better breed of drivers.

Jason Stanley
Atmore, AL

How did that driver get a CDL?
I, along with just about everyone else associated with trucking, am very interested in your article concerning the driver of the truck involved in the horrible accident in Sherman, TX. I would be very curious as to how someone that cannot speak English and therefore, I am to assume, cannot read English, can be qualified to obtain a CDL.

My curiosity concerning this one point came even before the possibility of the connection to the scandalous obtaining of CDLs in IL. The most disgusting part is that Illinois is so hard on the trucking industry. They impose more restrictions than any other state that we used to run in. Will the officials that received kickbacks or payoffs, if this proves to be the case, be prosecuted the same as the driver? It is time for all truck drivers to demand the same rights as the everyday motorists that we see routinely driving down the road, eating and talking on the cell phone or reading the newspaper.

Thanks so much for a really good article.

Linda Parsons
Lafayette, LA

Editor’s note: The District Attorney told our Associate Editor Mark Reddig that the driver “has a limited ability to speak English.” According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s regulations for driver qualifications, Section 391.11, commercial driver’s license holders must be able to “read and speak the English language sufficiently to converse with the general public, to understand highway traffic signs and signals in English, to respond to official inquiries and to make entries on reports and records.” By the way, last year, the FMSCA posted an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) asking questions about the English language requirement of the regulations. Despite OOIDA’s concerns, the notice was withdrawn.

Owner-operator’s wife thanks other truckers
It was great to see your article about the American Worker of the Year on your Web site, especially since he happens to be my husband, Octavio Vazquez. As you can tell, I am extremely proud of him and the hard work he performs as an owner-operator. We both realize that there are millions of other truckers like him who work just as hard and deserve our heartfelt thanks and appreciation for all they do. Thanks for mentioning Octavio in your publication.

Jill Vazquez
Tribune, KS

Editor’s note: A cattle hauler, 42-year-old Octavio Vazquez was honored as the 2004 American Worker of the Year by Dickies Workwear. He was selected from thousands of nominees nationwide, and is the first naturalized citizen to receive the honor, which is given annually.

Rookie driver expresses thanks
I would like to give a big thank you to all of America’s truckers. All truckers share a common bond, which is a love of the industry. I guess you are born with trucking in your blood. I know I was. I am only 20 years old and as soon as I was old enough to obtain a CDL I went out and got one (the day of my birthday). The job these men and women do everyday often goes without the many thank yous they deserve, they keep America moving. So next time you see a trucker, take the time to say thank you. Who knows you just might make someone’s day.

Mark Baker
Rankin, TX

Soldier’s mom says thanks
My name is Bev Murphy and I live in Marshall, IL. A friend of mine brought a copy of Land Line Magazine to me telling about the 1544th Transportation Company out of Paris, IL. My son is a member of the 1544th and talks about escorting the civilian trucks that haul the mail.

The article just made me feel very proud of our sons and daughters and I know some of the other family members would enjoy it too.

We support our 1544th Family Support Group, but also have a smaller county group that has been very supportive. We have about 20 soldier families and we meet at least once a month to pack boxes to send to our soldiers. I don't know what I would do without their support. I can truly relate to the article written by Renee. This will be the toughest thing we will ever have to endure.

Bev Murphy
Marshall, IL

‘Baseplate Baghdad’ gave credit where it was due
Your article “Baseplate Baghdad” in the October issue was great. Truck drivers never get the recognition they deserve, but your article lets other drivers know that there are some of there own over there along with the military.

My husband Maurice A. “MOE, the Flymaster” Paquette Sr., was in Iraq. He is now home, as he became ill and had to leave the Mideast.

We were leased to Landstar Ranger as part of the A & E division. We were one of the 300 trucks qualified to haul explosives out of the 6,000 leased to Landstar. We hauled bombs, rockets, missiles, etc. We pick up the units and took them to the bases or ports to ship out. They were kids. It finally got to Moe, he said that it was not only the kids that should be over there. He is 57, has had a quadruple bypass and said, I can’t fight, but I can drive a truck.

He came home tired and sick. He can’t sleep, and still has nightmares now and then. He found a job driving, home every night. However he fell off a flatbed, injuring his shoulder and was “terminated.” But, that is a whole ’nother story.

Keep the articles coming about the drivers over there.

Lee Paquette
Chester, VT

Chrome may not pay, but it sure looks good
In response to Name Withheld’s letter “Chrome doesn’t pay,” I just have to comment.

I’m sorry that driver didn’t give a name. I suppose I wouldn’t want to either with a letter like that.

Without big pipes, shiny air cleaners, large bumpers, dual CB antennas, etc., it just ain't worth driving. Fuel economy or not, like the quote says: “Life is too short to drive an ugly truck.”

I noticed that this person pointed out Freightliners, Volvo’s, etc. Not the prettiest trucks out on the road. No mention of the classic Pete 379 or Kenworth W900L.

When I'm out on the highway, I am proud of my truck – clean, shiny and very large. One has to take pride in what earns them a living.

Mim Mischenko
Marysville, WA

Who’s on first and I Don’t Know is on the mower
I was going to shoot off a letter and do some complaining, but you probably get so many of those that it makes you dizzy. So here’s something a little lighter.

One thing that has always given me pause to think is the “Mowing Operation Ahead” sign. You know the ones I’m talking about. Here you are, going across Kansas or Nebraska on a narrow, two-lane highway looking to get a load of beans. Right after you pass a sign that says “Road Narrows,” you come across the other sign.

Yes, the collapsible orange sign “Mowing operation Ahead.” So you come out of hyperdrive and scan the horizon – you can see in every direction for 50 miles and there’s not a human on a John Deere in sight. But, it is obvious that someone has been mowing the ditch. But why?

Are they trying to beautify the countryside that the same 35 farmers see on their weekly trips to town for a soft ice cream? Or is it like I believe – that during the good times when the states had tons of money to throw around they hired some folks to mow the lawn. After the funding ran out, the big brass just forgot them. So now, they are wandering for eternity, grooming their section of two lane.

As you ponder this and all the other conspiracies that you heard on the “Coast to coast” show last night you notice that there is no personal vehicle in sight. How did the operator of the mower get to the job site?

This fuels the idea that E.T. of some other wily organization has taken control of the hapless mower operators and has them housed in some underground facility.

Finally, off in the distance, you see what you believe could be a mower. As you get closer your mind starts to ease, thinking the guy is just leaning against the tire having lunch. Then you see the flapper top on the exhaust pipe slapping up and down – engine is running, but no operator.

Slowing down, you realize that you are the only person in the country that has not been swallowed by the plot to turn the human race into drones. When at last you give up hope of ever seeing home and loved ones again, you see a weigh station up ahead.

Hallelujah, it’s open. For the first time you are overjoyed to see a DOT official – if in fact it is a DOT official ...

Bill Burch,
Brighton, CO

Anti-idle laws conflict with ADA provisions
I have read with interest the various articles on anti-idling laws, but I haven’t seen anything about idling when the driver has a medical condition that requires it. I have Chronic Obstructive Sleep Apnea, and have to sleep using a CPAP machine that requires 110-volt power at a constant voltage provided through a power inverter. The batteries of a Class 8 truck cannot provide the constant voltage needed to run a CPAP for eight hours. As a company driver, a generator or APU is not an option for me.

I would be interested in hearing from drivers with sleep apnea or other medical conditions that require idling on how various entities with anti-idling laws have handled this situation. Personally, I avoid taking my DOT breaks in areas that have anti-idling laws with active enforcement.

Another question is how anti-idling laws conflict with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Sleep apnea is a disability where the protections of the ADA do apply to allow the use of a CPAP.

I have had some discussions with other drivers with sleep apnea on this topic via a message board used by drivers from my company. None that I am aware of have been cited for idling while using their CPAP but all of us avoid known areas of anti-idling enforcement. Sleep apnea is a condition that creates grave health issues for drivers that do not properly use their CPAP.

If nothing else, this topic might be one for the OOIDA lobbying effforts to make lawmakers aware of. A simple clause exempting idling during a DOT sleeper berth break when documentation (prescription) for a CPAP or other medical devise is available might solve many problems.

Bob Stanton
Batavia, IL

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