Letters to the editor

OOIDA’s “State of the Highway” presents real world solutions
First, I personally feel that your “State of the Highway” (SOTH) address was one of the most poignant and direct comments presented to the powers that be concerning the problems we face every day. And it offered real world solutions to each and every issue addressed.

On the issue of safety and lane restrictions I feel it odd, to say the least, that I-85 north out of Atlanta recently widened to five and six lanes, and with federal dollars – still has trucks restricted to the two right lanes. Not only does this present a hazard as far as traffic flow, as you stated, but the signage adds one more problem to drivers trying to negotiate. The signs say no trucks in the left four and five lanes. So now we have to count lanes along with our attempts to safely negotiate and interact with auto traffic. My main question is how a municipality can restrict lane travel or even complete interstate travel, as is the case on I-75 through Atlanta, when these are funded in part by our highway-use funds and road taxes? 

Once again congratulations to OOIDA on a fine job in presenting the “SOTH” to DOT and FMCSA. This is just one more tool for me to use out here when someone asks me why I am a member and why they should be.

Paul Sasso
Edgewater, FL

Editor’s note: Atlanta gets away with their total restriction on “thru” trucks in downtown Atlanta because this restriction was in place prior to passage of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982 (STAA). That act required states to allow trucks on all STAA routes. Regarding lane restrictions, and speed limits too, these matters are left completely up to each individual state. And sometimes, sound highway safety principles can take a backseat to local politics.

“State of the Highway” says it all
You hit the nail on the head with your comments to the FMCSA (OOIDA’s State of the Highway Address). I hope that it didn’t fall on deaf ears. I am a firm believer that the motoring public needs to be more aware of their responsibility in sharing the roadways with commercial vehicles. The courtesy on the roadways today has given way to the hurried pace of today’s generation. 

It seems that the trucking industry is constantly getting the blame for every highway mishap involving passenger and commercial vehicles. I feel that the biggest factor in these mishaps is due to increased passenger and commercial vehicles using roadways that were designed to handle the traffic of the ’60s and ’70s. A good example can be found in Los Angeles. In order to accommodate the increased traffic, additional lanes have been added. But to achieve this, lanes are narrower. Narrower lanes and 102-inch trailers don’t mix. Thanks again, keep up the good work. 

Mike Fuller
Cottonwood, CA

Make lane restrictions fair to trucking taxpayers
Concerning those states who find it necessary to impose lane restrictions on trucks, perhaps the federal government should withhold from the state a percentage of federal road use taxes paid by truck owners. The percentage of this deduction could be equal to the percentage of the road trucks are prohibited from using.

For example, in Indiana and Georgia trucks are restricted to the right lane only on four lane highways and the two right lanes on eight lane highways. This means trucks are not allowed to use a large percentage of the highway they pay to use. Therefore, the feds should deduct from those states a large percentage of the taxes paid by trucks and refund them to the truck owners. Playing this kind of hardball with “do-gooder” states like the two just mentioned might make them think twice about the double standard they have imposed upon us. In addition, it may discourage others from adopting the same unjustified restrictions.

D. Gleaton
Southmayd, TX

No can do 
For the last few years I was employed as a company driver until the company was purchased from a major Midwest conglomerate. They offered us the option to either purchase the inventory they had on hand or look for another job. 

I did so knowing all I was doing was purchasing my job. I knew the trade route and the customers that we’ve been servicing and it was comfortable to me. They agreed to lease purchase a 1998 Pete 379 with 470,000 plus miles at $47,600. I also must pay base plates, bobtail insurance, liability, etc. and a truck payment at $350 per week for 136 weeks. On a spreadsheet of 3,000 miles, that averaged $700 to the truck per week before taxes and health insurance.

There was a clause that we could turn in the truck at any time without any penalties. I recently turned in the truck back to the company. I got cold feet after adding up the figures. I would walk home with nothing. After $700 minus 25 percent for taxes, SSI, IRA and health insurance, the bring home pay would probably amount to less than what you would make at a daily temp job, not counting food and miscellaneous.

George Proferes
Clearwater, FL

The number one thing is – become a member of a trucking organization that can represent you and has clout. Start with OOIDA (no they did not pay me to write this). Until the owner-operators unite, you are going to have a tough go. One organization backed by tens of thousands of people can carry an enormous amount of clout. I believe the industry is being invaded by red tape. It needs to be cut.

Kevin W. Egly
Broken Arrow, OK

Fuel gouging
I just want to say thanks to the owner-operators with the idea of writing a letter to the truckstop/fuel stops that took part in making nothing but pure profits over the events of Sept. 11. I have since cut up my cards and written a little note to the ones I used to use like the Pilot, Ambest and Williams. And I have no plans to ever use them again. I will pay extra to the TA and Petro just because of their frame of mind not to overcharge drivers at that time. I hope more drivers will follow suit and maybe these large fuel companys will learn something.

Loren Wilkinson
Conway, AR

Cost per mile
I am amazed at the difference of opinion in regards to cost per mile. Everyone’s should be the same. If you work for less than your costs, they should have to pay a gift tax on your free contribution. 

In 2000, I purchased a new truck and trailer. Monthly costs on the truck: $5,339.37. Monthly costs on trailer: $561.46. Cargo insurance is $78.50. My cost (rounded up) is .60 per mile. I feel that as driver I should make at least .32 per mile or why bother? Now for the topic that I have not seen addressed. The owner’s profit should at least be what a driver makes or .32. So we have .60 truck operating expense, .32 drivers salary, .32 owner’s profit, which equals $1.24.

Everyone who owns one or 100 trucks and trailers should at least make $1.24 per mile or I would suggest they get out so the rest of us can. I haul for two shippers who are constantly amazed at how cheap some owners will work. Maybe I have missed the boat, but I feel we should be demanding the $1.24 per mile rate and not accepting the generous offers of .80. We also need to standardize the cost adjustments needed for freight to low return freight areas. It costs the same to operate equipment in New Mexico as it does in Ohio.

Terry Barnes
Pittsburg, KS

Driver appreciation
It has to be said to Mr. Kasicki that if you did not feel appreciated during Driver Appreciation Week, then you are in the wrong business or maybe with the wrong company. Complainers reap what they sow and in my 20-plus years of being in this business, any form of appreciation should be accepted graciously with the intent it was given. Driver Appreciation Week was not established to automatically give out money to you who think you deserve it, but simply to say “Thank You Driver” for your hard work.

It is not mandatory for everyone to participate and in this world we live in today, you can’t expect it.

The fact that some companies and businesses give gifts or bonuses at that same time of Driver Appreciation Week is strictly up to them. Those of us who chose to show some extra appreciation to our drivers during that week did so in a way that was appropriate for our specific company and our drivers did appreciate it. We, however, do not show our appreciation to our drivers just once a year. Our drivers are thanked every week for their hard work and dedication to the company. A simple thank you daily for a driver checking in on time or catching a mistake by a shipper, receiver or dispatcher (me) goes a long way in keeping driver morale up and keeping top notch, hardworking, dedicated professional drivers working for us.

Now, Mr. Kasicki did not say whether he was a company driver or owner-operator, but in my opinion and based on my 20-plus years of experience in this business, his attitude needs to go or he needs to find a different company to work for or maybe a different occupation. But don’t come to me. We won’t hire complainers. They’re bad for company morale and customer relations.

Linda Melin
Melin Truck Service
Hartford, SD

Editor’s note: You do make some very good points in support of Driver Appreciation Week. Ray Kasicki made some good points, too. As far as drivers graciously accepting what appreciation they get, I’ll share Ray’s unpublished view. “It’s kind of like the wife who is abused by her husband every day of the year, but then he sends her roses on their anniversary.”

Dock Report can help
We thoroughly understand the frustration expressed by Steve Rohr of Reeds Spring, MO, in the October issue of Land Line. Trucking companies are often at the mercy of receiving dock managers. We encourage Steve, and every other driver who experiences the inefficiencies at shipping and receiving docks, to report their experience at CompuNet created the interactive web site so that trucking companies can research and report the conditions at docks throughout North America. There is no charge to access the site.

CompuNet maintains the site for the benefit of the industry. By sharing information, carriers can at least be better prepared for lumper fees, additional charges and wait time. The information can also be useful in determining the real cost of hauling for a particular customer.

Cindy Aldridge, President
CompuNet Credit Services Inc.

Taxed to death 
The costs to operate a semi-truck can be overwhelming. For example, every year we pay $550 for highway use tax. We also come up with approximately $1,700 every year for a license plate. We also pay tax on fuel at the pump and then every quarter if we have driven too many miles in one state and not bought enough fuel, we pay taxes again. I have paid my taxes and every year I give the federal government between $6,000 and $8,000. I owe, and I pay it. I feel like I am being taxed to death.

I feel like we are being punished for driving a truck down the highway. How do you think they got the big machinery into New York, to help with the clean up effort.

Rebecca Montgomery
Ewing, NE

On the bus now
I really enjoy reading your magazine. As I was reading about the Trucker Fest 2001, I was really shocked to see so many of the winners were not OOIDA members. I just recently became a member, because we (the trucking industry) need all the help we can get. I encourage all to become members. 

Troy Brown
Splendora, TX

State of the Highway
I read your State of the Highway address. I agree 100 percent with the address and I stand behind every word written. I was very impressed. My main concern is the safety of the road and I am very much against duel speed limits and the dangerous lane controls. We need more people like you who have done their studies with common sense and less government control who can be lobbied into creating dangerous laws for the sake of revenue. It’s time our nation’s officials put some common sense into the safety of our highways and recognize the equal rights of all citizens. The 14th Amendment clearly prohibits these states from creating dangerous laws.

The 14th Amendment reads, “No state shall abridge any laws or privileges between the citizens.” Not only are duel speed limits dangerous, they are discrimination and a violation of the 14th Amendment.

Thank you once again for the outstanding job OOIDA has done.

Greg Carlson
Wildomar, CA

Teaching student drivers 
I disagree with Brandon and Kathy Thorpe (October LL “Letters”). I am an instructor in a western states school. I, for one, and all my instructors do not tell these students they will have all the knowledge to drive over the road and will learn the rest out on the road. Our students are told at the outset of this four-week course it will be what they need to pass the driver qualifications that are state-mandated. We train students to and above the standards that are required of us. These students are in a classroom for one week and the other three weeks are spent on a five-maneuver course. As a driver with 12 years on the road, I would like to see just a third of the industry go through this course and pass it the first time out. 

Kenneth Ray 
Las Vegas, NV

Hi to all you good folks at Land Line. I write to you today with a heavy heart. I am out of the trucking business now after 30 years and a lot of “white lines.” My best to all there in Grain Valley. Thanks again for doing such a great job for the industry. My best to Jim Johnston, we’ve been going down that road together for quite a while.

Fred Bliss
St. Albans, VT

Respect is a two-way street
In your October issue were two articles that caught my eye. Maybe because they were completely opposite of each other on their final meaning. Edwin Fowler from Memphis, TN, is 100 percent correct on respect and how you get it – you earn it and if you think you get it any other way, you’re only fooling yourself.

The other article I want to take issue with and perhaps offer my solution is from Paul Ruffin (“When Truckers Police the Roads”). I’ve done that, but after a year or so, I noticed the situation didn’t get any better. If you do something one way each time and it gradually gets worse, are you going to keep doing it the same way?

Another thing, if a four-wheeler makes room for you, don’t forget to flash your lights to thank him. It is a two-way street – if you want respect, give it and when someone gives you respect, thank them.

Larry W. Boyer
Sikeston, MO

Mexican trucks 
I read with a fair amount of disgust where Senator Gramm and Senator McCain both believe that Mexican trucks that are crossing the border now “are better maintained than U.S. trucks.” Have these two been hiding under rocks or are they just trying to hedge their bets for the next election? Perhaps both individuals have forgotten who put them in office. Plus, silly me, I was always under the idea that our elected officials were supposed to represent our citizens. Maybe they are just representing their own best interests. I travel to Otay Mesa, CA, (San Diego truck border crossing) quite frequently and the condition of the Mexican trucks and the way they operate scare my wife, as well as myself. Please do not get me wrong, I am not an isolationist. I am just concerned about everybody on the highway.

John M. Fragnella
South Royalton, VT