July 2005 Letters

Pay attention to your body
I was reading the article “Getting a leg up on good health” in your May issue. I have learned from my own experience to pay attention to what your body is trying to tell you.

On the Feb. 4 of this year, I went the doctor because my left leg was swollen. He sent me to the emergency room.

I drove trucks for only 4 years. I developed deep vein thrombosis, or DVT. The doctor said this was from the sitting for long periods of time while driving.

Now, as a result, I am not allowed to drive for one year. Your article is very interesting. Drivers should take this very seriously. And more should be published on this topic.

Terri Harvey
Dillsburg, PA

No trucks means no goods
I know a lot of people don’t like diesel fumes polluting the air. However, it’s not only trucks that pollute the air; it’s also cars and factories. So before everyone complains about trucks and idling laws, they need to realize that it’s more than trucks.

If people want truckers to get a ticket for excessive idling, I want them to get a ticket for excessive exhaust noise and smoke from other vehicles.

Also, people and law officers are out to get truckers. Why truckers? Without trucks, America will go down fast.

Let me remind you what trucks do for America. Trucks bring food to your stores. Trucks deliver merchandise to the malls where you like to go and blow your money. Trucks deliver cars to your local dealerships. Trucks deliver fuel and gas to your local gas stations. Trucks bring food to your favorite restaurants. Without trucks, schools would start going down, because trucks are what supplies educational materials to the schools your kids attend.

Imagine America without all of the above – what would it be? Take advantage of what you’ve got. Without trucks, you won’t have any of it. It will be like the 1600s.

Chris Young
Parsons, WV

Stop driver turnover
Without going into a lot of my 37-year history as a truck driver, I have a plan to stop problems that many drivers have.

All drivers should be paid a minimum of 50 cents per dispatch mile, all owner-operators should be paid a minimum of $1.50 per dispatched mile. All delay time – for any reason – should be paid a minimum of $20 per hour, whether at a loading dock, receiving dock or on breakdown.

Whenever drivers are supposed to arrive for loading or unloading, they should be paid for all the time there, until they leave. Also, the shipper will load, and the consignee will unload. The driver is not to touch freight in vans, just be there on time unless weather or traffic conditions cause a delay. All flatbed loads that have to be tarped should be paid $150 minimum for tarping and securing.

All dispatches should be made so drivers can get their proper rest and still make their load and unload times without unsafe driving.

To make it brief, a driver or owner-operator should be paid for all their time on breakdown, at loading docks or at an unloading dock. The old saying, “Drive more miles, earn more money,” will make an old person out of you fast.

Drivers need to drive less and make more.

J. C. Maxwell
Franklin, KY

Senator needs to think again
I would like to comment on your article about the Alabama Safety Campaign.

What no one mentioned is that we loggers have to carry $1 million in liability insurance. This is required by the mills that we haul our products into. Also, the DOT is out there and checks our trucks weekly. It would be nice if all vehicles were checked like this.

Sen. Means is just another example of someone in power that does not know what he is talking about. This is par for the course for Alabama. Next time he is sitting on the throne “thinking,” he needs to think about where paper comes from.

Katherine Knox
Dadeville, AL

Docks drive drivers daffy
I am writing in regard to the article in the magazine about hours of service. The time spent at docks is by far the most time consuming of all trucking operations. I can tell you of personal horror stories of hours spent receiving nothing for waiting at docks.

Grocery warehouses are the worst of all offenders. I personally try not to go to any of them anymore. Jewel in Melrose Park, IL, Central Grocers in Franklin Park, IL, and Certified Grocers in Hodgkins, IL, are the absolute worst of all that I have been to.

And let’s not even talk about Wal-Mart centers. They charge to unload a no-touch load. Otherwise you have to unload it by hand with a hand jack, not an electric one. And they say they are so concerned about safety. Yeah, right.

If anything is ever done about this problem, it would make life a lot easier at these types of warehouses. But they are so intent on ripping the trucker off that they just do not care about the truck driver. Maybe you can tell how angry I get just talking about this subject. Your article was right on target.

Wayne Borchardt
Fort Atkinson, WI

NAFTA: consider this
I read the story titled “NAFTA cross-border trucking status report released: DOT Inspector General finds work to be done,” and I think you are right about some things.

I’m the manager of traffic for a Mexican truck company that crosses to the United States every day. Our type of operation is also called a transfer service, because we only have trucks, cross tanks or flatbeds that Mexican companies cannot cross because they don’t have a DOT number, their drivers don’t have hours left to drive or many other reasons.

I cross from Matamoros, Tamaulipas, to Brownsville, TX. The company I work for only operates on the border; it never gets out of Matamoros or Brownsville.

I totally agree that more inspectors are necessary to ensure safety on the roads; however, there’s something I think you need to take into consideration about our type of business in the border.

When we get fined by the Texas DOT, we get tickets from $150 and up. My company only charges $180 round trip and from that our profit is $50. That means we don’t get profits at all sometime.

I believe fines should be reduced to businesses like us because most of the truck owners in the Tamaulipas area are thinking of going to strike and stop the services until our voice is heard by someone over here. I personally don’t like this type of situation, but I can’t let my business go out of service just because there’s no specification in the Texas DOT rules for our type of business.

Millions of dollars could be lost with this strike just in one day.

Alejandro Castro
Matamoros, Tamaulipas Mexico

What’s more important – noise or safety?
On the subject of engine brake bans, I think as owner-operators, we ought to be able to use every bit of engineering we can get our hands on when it comes to enhancing safety.

Any body that’s been down Interstate 8 going into San Diego knows that the use of an engine brake allows you to save your brakes for that sudden stop that you’re going to encounter during rush hour. I think the signs should read, “Noise ordinance in effect,” not “No engine brake.” Safety should be the primary concern of city officials, noise secondary.

If someone has kept that playing-cards-in-your-bicycle-spokes-noise-making attitude, fine them, so that they grow up. But don’t let safety suffer.

Mike Schober
Corpus Christi, TX

Jakes vs. bikes in Illinois: let’s be fair
After reading Mark Reddig’s articles on Illinois, I am going to write some letters to Springfield and ask the following question: If the noise created by a safety device can be ruled as against the law, why does law enforcement turn the other ear (or cheek) when a motorcycle or other vehicle is creating excessive noise?

This strikes me as being discriminatory, as the only enforcement of noise is against commercial vehicles – big trucks – not maintaining or following the Illinois EPA or the Federal Mandated Noise laws as written. I have a motorcycle as well as being an owner-operator and can testify and actually show video proof that this is a fact, not a perception.

If we want to squash the noise issue on Jake/engine brakes, we need to address it in this manner, I feel it will be a hands-down win for us until noise enforcement is equal on both sides of the fence, which we know will never happen.

P.S. I have spent over 15 years as a firefighter/paramedic and a police officer in the Will/Grundy County area. Morris, IL, has already posted and is enforcing the engine brake ordinance.

Ralph H Brainard Sr.
Odell, IL

Foreign language tests puzzle trucker
Recently I wrote to state Sen. Jon Erpenbach in Wisconsin’s 27th District and asked why CDL written tests are available in foreign languages when the federal regs say commercial drivers in this country must be able to communicate in English.

Here is his response:

“Dear Dave,

“Thank you for calling me requesting information about the languages that Commercial Driver’s Licenses (CDLs) are offered in.

“Trucking is very important to Wisconsin’s businesses and industries, shipping almost 90 percent of all the freight in, and out of, the state. Because of the large number of products that need to be transported both within and out of Wisconsin, we need as many talented truck drivers as we can get.

“To enable more drivers to be able to transport good in Wisconsin the CDL knowledge written test is offered in three languages: English, Spanish, and Russian.

“I hope that this information has been helpful to you. If you wish to find out more information, it is available at the Department of Transportation Web site at www.dot.wisonsin.gov.

“Thank you for contacting me, and if I can ever be of assistance on this or any other matter, please feel free to contact me.

“Sincerely, Jon Erpenbach, State Senator, 27th District”

The problem I have with the senator’s response letter is, if they can’t read or speak English, how can they read and find out what’s on the load, especially hazmat loads? If something would happen, they would not be able to communicate with anyone, and they would be unable to read road signs with special instructions.

David Elsner
Brodhead, WI

Editor’s note: Although the senator did not point it out, Wisconsin’s DOT Web site states that CDL tests for hazmat and school bus endorsements are only available in English.

An alternative to foreign oil
Recently, a farmer friend of ours suggested to us that we ought to try soybean fuel when we bought our bulk diesel fuel. We liked the idea and decided to give it a try. Luckily, we have a fuel supplier (Monroe Oil Company) in Monroe, NC, that carries it. We have a small “fleet,” a Sterling brick truck and an International dump truck. Our other Ford trucks also run on diesel, and we are using bio-fuel in them, too.

My husband has said that after keeping track of his fuel mileage, he’s gained an extra two miles per gallon using soy fuel.

I was getting ready to write to you when I got the March/April article featuring bio-fuel and BioWillie. Hopefully his involvement in the business will bring attention to bio-fuel and get more people using it.

It occurred to me that since we are at the mercy of OPEC and overseas fuel supplies, that it would behoove the American public to embrace this alternative fuel source and support research to increase its use. Think about it: the government is paying farmers subsidies not to produce. Why not pay them to grow soybeans and make fuel so we can stop paying the Middle Eastern countries that seem to hate us so much anyway?

Thanks for letting the readers know about the bio-fuel Web site. It was a great source of information on the product. As always, thanks for the useful information published to us, and for the work you do on behalf of the trucking industry.

Anita Bishop
Mineral Springs, NC

The flip side of the driver shortage
If you are to believe industry experts and leaders, there is an unprecedented shortage of drivers that is not to end any time soon. As a result, big companies have decided to target minorities and immigrants to fill their vacant truck seats.

Unfortunately, I’m one of those targeted.

After months on the job, I came to realize I had taken a job away from an American truck driver, not because there is any shortage, but because they are not willing to do this job for the miserable amount of money currently paid by these companies so they can keep making billions in profits.

I’m ashamed I was used this way and am currently looking for a way out of this industry altogether.

Alberto Lazo
Miami, FL

Bikes make the noise and shirk the responsibility
Why is all the focus on trucks’ Jake Brake noise, as opposed to very loud motorcycles? At least we can control our sound output, as we do not purposely alter our mufflers or engines to constantly roar down the road.

They don’t care if it’s a residential neighborhood, early in the morning, or if you just got your screaming 2-year-old to sleep, only to be startled awake by a very loud motorcycle.

While I am not defending unnecessary Jake usage, I personally use it very rarely except in the mountains and on the interstates. But the issue of motorcycles is rarely addressed as the noise menace that they have become.

Scott Dubay
Sharpsville, PA

No room at the Inn-diana
I hope someone keeps an eye on the parking situation in Indiana. I bet you that after May, the accident rates will go up and it will be from tired drivers. I live in Indiana and know personally that there is not enough space to park.

One example is the rest area around Lebanon. Besides only having about 20 truck parking spots, there is not enough room behind the trucks to make a swing into the spots even if they are open. Why isn’t someone doing or saying something about this for drivers? It comes down to money, not safety.

“Our Man Mitch” is not only going after drivers – he is going after all kinds of avenues to make up money lost in other ventures. But, as usual, ignoring drivers and the safety of the other vehicles out there doesn’t bother them, because money is the bottom line. I’m sure the items left on the side of the road are a problem – it always has been – but at what price is a life when a driver can’t find a place to rest and has to keep going.

Another question is how many DOT officers will be sitting right down the road when a state police officer knocks on the driver’s door and gives a ticket, the driver says he’s out of hours and the officer tells him to move on. Bam – the DOT is notified, the driver is out of hours and they nail him with another ticket.

I guess when loads start getting delivered late because a driver has to pull over early enough to find a spot, then maybe someone will say something. I doubt it, however, because the state of Indiana will not use any of the fine money to create more spaces, you can bet on that.

Richard Vernon
Monon, IN

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