July/August 1998 Magazine Archive

Member profile

"Just do what you say you're going to do, both for your customers and your drivers."

Doug Burch
OOIDA member since 1995

When the final chords of "This is where the cowboy rides away" fade and the roar of thousands of voices fills the night sky, Doug Burch knows it's time to go to work. As he heads for the parking lot, a Texas cowboy in a starched shirt and Wranglers grins at Doug and says, "trucks sure are looking good."

"Thanks, boss," Doug answers. Another George Strait concert is over, and it's time to literally get the show on the road. George ducks into his bus and Doug backs his truck into position to begin loading.

Doug's earliest experience in the trucking industry was helping his owner-operator dad fold furniture pads. Doug was nine at the time. By the time he was 21, Doug was an over-the-road driver for a household goods carrier. In 1963, he became an owner-operator and has been trucking ever since.

"I could stay in the office," says Doug. "David has plenty I could do, but I love trucking. I can't give it up." The office Doug refers to is the headquarters of Tour Transportation in Lancaster, Texas, and David is Doug's son, who runs the business. David was a broker for Paramount Show Transportation in 1988 when George Strait needed a truck for his first tour as a headliner. As a favor, Doug agreed to take the job. In 1990, Doug and David formed Tour Transportation with two trucks and George Strait as their primary customer.

"One of the best things in my life is having a son who I can work with. We agree on most everything, too." Twenty-seven trucks now carry the Tour Transportation logo, a mix of owner-operators and company-owned rigs. They haul concert apparatus, displays for trade shows, Broadway productions, and other industry-related entertainment equipment. Five Tour Transportation trucks are currently assigned to the George Strait Country Music Fest.

"Honesty is one of the two most important ingredients to the success of Tour Transportation," Doug tells Land Line. "Just do what you say you're going to do, both for your customers and your drivers.

"The folks behind the wheel are the other most important ingredient in the success of Tour Transportation. Honesty attracts better quality drivers and owner-operators, and that quality will grow your business for you. The professionalism of your drivers makes the single biggest impression on your customers. You can sit in your office and talk to the customer all you want to, but if you're not treating your drivers right, it will show in the way the driver treats the customer and the freight."

In his spare time, Doug (aided and abetted by his wife Millie) enjoy spoiling David's three sons. "I guess all these years with George has had some influence on our family," laughs Doug. "I got our seven-year-old grandson a guitar for his birthday, and he's serious about playing it. He says he wants to be just like George Strait, so I guess I'll be hauling equipment for him one of these days."

 

Starting Over

Roy Blunt 
U.S. House of Representatives
Missouri 7th District

The most honorable way to revamp the income tax code is to sunset it out of existence and start over with a clean slate

In 1913, Congress and the States created the federal income tax to pay for America's growing federal government and its new leadership role in the world. We started with a 30-word constitutional amendment (the Sixteenth) and a four-page form for the collection of graduated income taxes. The lawmakers who wrote the initial income tax law had little idea what it would become today.

With a $20,000 exemption, most Americans (98 percent) didn't have to pay any income tax while the wealthiest paid from one to seven percent in taxes when the new income tax started. By the late 1970s, Americans in the top tax bracket were paying more than 80 percent of their income to Uncle Sam. Today, the highest marginal tax rate is just less than 40 percent; 54 percent of all federal income tax is paid by the top 20 percent of wage earners; the 20 percent who are the lowest wage earners pay six percent. The tax code has become a monster.

Virtually all businesses, large and small, have a tax accountant to safely maneuver around the pitfalls of the IRS code. But the code is so complicated, even the experts fall prey to its tricks and turns. We spend an estimated 5.4 billion hours a year and $200 billion trying to comply with a code that is incomprehensible. That is more than it takes to produce every car, truck and van in the United States.

The Internal Revenue Service, which was created in 1913, is now the largest single agency of the federal government with more than 135,000 employees which nearly equals the entire population of Springfield, MO, the Congressional district that I represent in Congress.

The American income tax code is perhaps the world's most revised, lobbied and despised document. Every year, it seems, it is rewritten. In 1997, more than 200 changes were added. Most professions, industries, income groups, crafts and special interest groups have their own tax niche in the code. It is no wonder that lobbyists watch every change in the tax code microscopically to determine its impact on their turf.

Nothing would eliminate special interest lobbying more quickly than eliminating the current tax code.

If the tax code were based on simple principles rather than intentionally complex legalese, those companies, professions and interest groups would lose their special tax treatment, and therefore, be subject to paying their fair share of the tax burden. A tax code that rewards savings, taxes everyone fairly, is simple and understandable, but does not raise more taxes than the federal government gets now – should be our goal. We can only achieve that by eliminating our current tax code.

The only way to end the IRS as we know it is to eliminate the existing tax code. The current tax code is the evolutionary work of Congress. It's the job of Congress to fix it. The fairest, most honorable way to revamp the income tax code is to sunset it out of existence and start over with a clean slate. We can then set to work on designing a tax code based on simple principles that every American can understand.

That is impossible today. The tax code is 5.8 million words long, covering 7,000 pages of tax law and 5,000 more pages of interpretations of the first 7,000 pages. The IRS prints 480 different tax forms and more than 280 brochures on how to fill out the forms. The 1040EZ tax form, the least complicated personal income tax form, requires 33 pages of instructions. NO one understands – not even the employees at the IRS who are supposed to enforce it – all the aspects of the American income tax system. It is so cumbersome, dense and complex that it is beyond comprehension. A new $4 billion IRS computer system was declared a "failure" because it could not decipher the tax code.

The IRS has built its reputation of fear and intimidation on the ever-changing tax code. The tax code is like quicksand. You are on solid ground one day and sinking the next. Case after case has been documented to show that IRS tax interpretations are ever-changing and often inconsistent. What is legal one year may be declared illegal the next year, and made retroactive creating years of back tax liability!

Senate hearings in 1997 showed the IRS targeting those least able to defend themselves against egregious fines and improper conduct by the IRS. In fact, the IRS gave bonuses to agents who did the best job of collections, without regard of their tactics or principles.

Tax court is the only civil court where a person is guilty until he can prove he does not owe the taxes the IRS claims.

Reforming the way the IRS collects taxes is coming from both inside the IRS and the Congress. Twenty-eight new "taxpayer rights" have been approved by the House. Most notable are new safeguards that shift the burden of proof from the taxpayers to the IRS about taxes owed. Another provision allows the taxpayer to recover legal fees in fighting frivolous IRS claims. Reforming the IRS may solve some problems, but until the code is replaced with a simple, fair alternative there is little hope of getting the "little guy" out from under the IRS's guns.

More than 40 percent of the $13 billion in proposed tax fines were dropped in 1996 when challenged as excessive. It is normally the wealthy who have the resources to challenge the taxman. So, middle Americans are being targeted to pay. Is it any wonder that most people would rather pay than fight the IRS? We can never cure these kinds of abuses as long as we have the current tax code. Despite Congressional efforts to make the IRS more professional and user-friendly, it is more likely the agency will stay entrenched and hide behind a tax code that is neither fair nor understandable.

The tax code is 5.8 million words long, covering 7,000 pages of tax law and 5,000 more pages of interpretations of the first 7,000 pages. The IRS prints 480 different tax forms and more than 280 brochures on how to fill out the forms. The 1040EZ tax form, the least complicated personal income tax form, requires 33 pages of instructions.

I'm co-sponsoring the Tax Code Termination Act (HR 3097) which sunsets the federal tax code as of Dec. 31, 2001. We need to debate real tax reform, not just patches to the existing system. The tax code is hopelessly broken and abolishing it is the necessary first step to debating, designing and adopting a simple and fair replacement tax system. Under the Tax Code Termination Act, today's oppressive tax code would survive for only four more years, at which time it would expire and be replaced on Jan. 1, 2002, with a new tax code that will be determined by Congress, the president and the American people.

Admittedly, scrapping the existing tax code and replacing it with a better system is not a simple task. However, four years is plenty of time for the nation to collectively decide on a new tax system. Having a date certain to end the current tax code will force the issue to the top of the national agenda, where it will remain until Congress and the president finish writing the new tax law.

Between now and 2002, we need to continue eliminating unfair parts of the current tax code. The "marriage penalty," death taxes and taxes on sales of property and stocks not indexed to inflation are wrong. We should knock a few of them off while we debate the kind of fairer, simpler tax structure that we want to take into the 21st century.

If Americans truly want tax reform, it must begin with the creation of a new tax system based on principles, not the ability of lobbyists with armloads of campaign contributions to sway congressional opinion. LL

 

SPECIAL BULLETIN

The Tax Code Elimination Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday, June 17, by a vote of 219 to 209.

Moving mountains

It takes 19 semis and a number of buses to move equipment for the George Strait Country Music Festival. And 13 of the folks driving those 19 semis are members of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. OOIDA members move the George Strait Country Music Festival

It takes 19 semis and a number of buses to move equipment for the tour. And 13 of the folks driving those 19 semis are members of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. When the festival landed at Arrowhead Stadium (the home of the Kansas City Chiefs) on May 16, Land Line was there to watch OOIDA members in action.

The trucks came from carriers whose focus is hauling specialized equipment for the entertainment industry including Tour Transportation (providing 5 trucks), ShoQuip Transportation (8 trucks), Stage Call Corporation (4 trucks), and Southland Express (2 trucks). Cargoes ranged from sound and lighting equipment, stage and rigging, tents, plywood and tools, to T-shirts, souvenirs and haybales.

Since there is only a little over 14 hours between the end of each Saturday show until the beginning of the next day's show, it was necessary to have two transportation teams (and two sets of lighting, sound and stage equipment), a Saturday team and a Sunday team. The trucks assigned to move the Straitland attraction made every show. Straitland closes at 7 p.m. to allow sufficient time for the move.

Because no single organization handles every aspect of the show, no one could tell us exactly how many people it takes to coordinate, move, set up, work the show itself, run the concessions and provide security. However, estimates start at 300 and go up.

Who's at the wheel

Tour Transportation is the "Peterbilt fleet" with the George Strait Country Music Festival. OOIDA Members Doug Burch (see member profile, page 10), Bryan and Particia Harper, Ed Cox, Tom Edelman and Billy Thompson drive the five Tour Transportation trucks assigned to the tour. Two of the trucks are assigned to carry lighting for Saturday shows, two carry lighting for Sunday shows, and the remaining truck keeps the George Strait concession in Straitland (a midway-type attraction set up in a lot adjacent to the stadium) stocked with T-shirts, caps and other souvenirs.

Kyle Jones is an OOIDA member from Baytown, Texas. He is the transportation director for the George Strait Country Music Festival and also doubles as the stage manager. Kyle has been around the music industry for 14 years, part of which he spent pursuing his own music career. When that didn't work out, he stayed on in the business end of the music industry.

In January 1997, Kyle's brother Ken (who is a trucker) convinced him to get into the transportation end of the music business. A few months later, Kyle took delivery on ShoQuip Transportation's first truck, a Kenworth T2000. ShoQuip now owns twelve trucks, an assortment of Kenworth T2000s and W900Ls, along with two new Volvo 770s. Driving the ShoQuip trucks for the George Strait Country Music Festival are Ken, Martin Walker, Bill McShane, Mike Lanferman, Ross Rylance, Paul Rodriguez, John Chandley and Bill Kearl (all OOIDA members). These drivers haul production equipment, sponsorship materials, sound equipment for ShowCo Sound and other necessary materials.

The Southland Express trucks are driven by Tom Gray and Noel McFarland. They haul sound and lighting equipment specifically for John Michael Montgomery. Stage Call's four trucks haul generators and the PA system. They are driven by Steve Gerch, Erich Peterson, Richard Hodde and Bob Hoffman.

A lumping nightmare

"Of course loading and unloading the trucks is a huge job," said Kyle Jones. "Most of the actual loading and unloading is done by local labor, but just getting the trucks into position to unload can be a major undertaking. In a few places we can get the semis to the edge of the field, and that makes things a little easier. Here at Arrowhead, the tunnel that leads down to the field is big enough, but it's curved, and they tell us that when the Rolling Stones played here, a semi got stuck in that curve. So outside the stadium a makeshift dock was built, using plywood sheets laid across a couple of flatbed trailers, and all the equipment was off-loaded onto that. Then it had to be loaded onto straight trucks (rented locally), or onto forklifts and taken through the tunnel onto the field and unloaded there. Of course, it has to come out the same way, so all this equipment is unloaded twice and loaded twice, and that burns up a lot of time."

Strait into the night

Asleep at the Wheel leads off the entertainment at 1:00 p.m., and the majority of the truckdrivers retreat from the stadium, as if it's their cue for some much-needed shut-eye. Bound to their log books, they've learned to block out the hype and sleep throughout performances by Lila McCann, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Lee Ann Womack and John Michael Montgomery. The weather is scorching.

Some of the trucks have already pulled out, destined for Minneapolis in accordance to the leap-frog strategy necessary to make the schedule. Later in the evening, as the deafening din of 51,838 fans rock the Kansas City night, the remaining truckers emerge from their sleeper cabs, rested. Kyle Jones escorts George Strait into the spotlight as the drivers gather in the dark seats behind the stage, grabbing a bite to eat and a few more hours of quiet time before the load-up.

The country music icon from Texas turns in his final number around 10:45. Soon, the take-down begins. The sound of the rumbling diesels replaces the roar of the crowd.

In the pre-dawn, the trucks are loaded and the drivers are ready to take to the blacktop. Other cities, other shows. Provo is still a long way down the road.

 

Update

"They took my truck"

The costly recovery of Greg Nelson's Peterbilt

In the May/June issue, you read the story of Greg Nelson, an Iowa trucker whose truck was seized in Van Horn, TX, because an inspection revealed it had two VINs. During the time it took to determine why the second VIN was on the truck, 43-year-old Greg suffered a heart attack and died. Greg's family believes the stress he was under was the main contributing factor to his death. The family, led by Greg's wife, Dixie, continued the effort to recover his truck.

The trouble started back in the mid-80s. Greg's truck was in fact a 1984 kit. The VIN plate near the clutch pedal had been switched with the VIN plate of the wrecked 1981 truck the kit had replaced. The truck's owner kept his title showing the 1981's VIN, and the wrecked truck with a title showing the 1984 kit's VIN was sold and eventually rebuilt. Greg bought what he thought was a 1981 Peterbilt in 1996.

After Greg's truck was seized, and the VIN switch was discovered, Texas officials refused to release the truck until the Nelsons presented a title showing the true VIN. The rebuilt wreck was discovered in Omaha, NE, the property of a man named Gilbert Gibreal. Since each truck owner had a title showing the true VIN of the other's truck, the most obvious solution was for the owners to simply trade titles.

Mr. Gibreal refused to trade titles. Gibreal told Land Line that he had paid for a 1984 truck, and since his truck was only a 1981, he expected to be compensated for the difference. Mr. Gibreal reportedly retained an attorney to pursue his claim against the dealer who sold him the truck. Land Line's story ended with Greg Nelson's truck sitting in Van Horn, running up a sizable storage bill.

The final chapter

Gilbert Gibreal finally agreed to trade titles with Dixie Nelson, but not without a cost. On May 4, Dixie drove to Omaha with a certified check for $2,000 — Gibreal's price for his cooperation.

Finally in possession of the correct title, Dixie, accompanied by Greg's brother Daryl (also a trucker), headed for Van Horn for a May 12 court date. Upon confirmation that she indeed had the title, the court awarded her Greg's truck.

"I couldn't look anybody in the face," said Dixie. "I just wanted to scream at them — they finally did what was right, but it was too late for Greg."

From the courthouse, Dixie and Daryl went to Lolo and Sons Wrecker Service, where she paid a $3,050 storage bill. Daryl carefully went over the truck to make sure it was roadworthy, and found that a tire needed to be repaired.

"It seems like it's taking forever to get this tire taken care of," Dixie said in a phone call to Land Line. "I don't feel like I can breathe until we are out of Texas."

Several hours later, Dixie took a deep breath. "We're out of Texas," she reported. "I can quit looking over my shoulder. I just wish Greg were here to know that we finally did it." LL —R.J.

 

Charles Holman, OOIDA Board Member, dies

Charles Holman, 59, of Childress, TX, passed away May 15, at his home after a short bout with cancer. Charles is survived by his mother, Flossie Holman; a daughter, Audrey Powell; two sons, Tim and Jay Holman; sisters, Grace Holman and Lila Hoobler; and brothers, Robert, Wayne and Wilson Holman.

Charles was an army veteran, a cotton farmer and for the past twenty years, a bull-hauler. Charles had served on the OOIDA board since 1992.

Charles occasionally would refer to himself as a bulldog — a remarkably accurate description for the man and his approach to every facet of life. In the capacity of OOIDA board member, Charles served as an expert on U.S./Mexico border issues related to NAFTA.

A few years back when the nation's attention was focused on health care reform, Charles again was an expert for the more than 40 percent of owner-operators who have no medical coverage. At age 26, Charles had a heart attack that required major surgery. With small children to raise and no health insurance, major surgery wasn't an option for Charles and he knew many others in the same situation.

While never a politician, Charles could and did relate to policy makers at every level. Charles had long been politically involved in his home county and in the state's capital over split speed limits and weight laws, and with the DPS on truck inspections. In Washington, D.C., he tackled issues that were national in scope but with a focus on real working people.

Like Will Rogers, Charles would say he never met a man he didn't like. The reverse was true as well, if you met Charles, you liked him. Trucking lost a good man and so did the world. LL

 

Roll on, Charles
by Robert Esler, Secretary, OOIDA

 

In life's journey, you meet a lot of people. Some you will remember, but most will be forgotten. But then, one will leave a lasting impression on your mind. Such was the man from Texas, Charles Holman.

Charles was a Texan, through and through. From his walk to his talk, you knew. A trucker by profession, Charles was at ease with all he met, be it a fellow trucker or United States Senator. He could spin a yarn that would make you laugh until your sides burst, or he could speak with conviction on his favorite subject, trucking.

When you met Charles and shook his hand, you knew you had a friend. Words on paper can never express the true grit of Charles. It was a sad day when I learned of his passing.

I can see him now, at that last weigh station in the sky, saying "Sorry, sir, but I've got to get them cows on the road."

Roll on, Charles. Godspeed.

Aug/Sept Digital Edition