Line One
Letters to the editor

Fuel shock 
On Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists committed an act of war upon U.S. soil. I, as well as thousands of company truckdrivers and owner-operators, listened with shock and horror to the news reports and regular updates from our companies.

Upon pulling into the Pilot Travel Center, Fernley, NV, at 7:30 p.m. for diesel fuel, I found another shock. The price of diesel fuel was $1.73 per gallon. I was concerned after hearing radio reports of widespread price gouging. My wife, Renee, spoke with the fuel desk cashier. She found that the price per gallon was $1.63 just hours before the crisis in the Northeast. I asked the clerk who was responsible for the sudden increase in fuel. She gave me the name of the store manager, Bryan Welsh. It was apparent that Pilot Corp. saw an obvious, sick excuse for spiking fuel prices. In addition to the sudden price increase, I was advised that they would charge me an additional 6 cents per gallon because I chose to pay with my company fuel card, which is a MasterCard debit card.

Renee immediately phoned the Fernley, NV, sheriff’s department to find out what we could do. The dispatcher advised Renee that, while it was wrong, there was nothing the sheriff’s department could do about the situation.

Yes, our shores have been attacked. Our sense of security shattered. We must band together to insure this does not ever happen again. Price spiking is illegal. Price spiking based on such a horror is immoral. 

Mark & Renee Taylor
Warren, AR

Fuel shock II
This is a follow-up letter and the response I received from the Pilot Corp. At 3:48 p.m., Sept. 12, I received a call from a Pilot rep who told me that he was responding to an e-mail from me only moments earlier. He called me almost as fast as Pilot raised fuel prices after the raid on New York City. I was glad to hear from him.

He began by stating that the store managers have no control over the fuel prices at their stores. He further stated that “Pilot had to raise the price of their fuel because their costs had increased.” I questioned him as to why their cost had gone up only hours after the attack. The Pilot rep informed me it was because all refineries had shut down production of fuel at the moment of attack and were put back in operation today. I found this difficult to believe – that all refineries could shut down in a matter of hours and come back in operation as quickly, causing a price gouge such as this. At this time, he informed me that a 10-cent increase in fuel was not a price gouge, that a price gouge was a three or four dollar price movement. This was only a price spike. I told him that a sudden price spike of 10 cents was a price spike unbearable to small trucking companies such as mine. I could not pass this unexpected cost on to my customers.

He defended the position that they had the right to pass their cost on to their customers. In my opinion, the 10-cent movement Pilot charged only hours after the attack on New York City was only a way to take advantage of a terrible situation to make a profit. I stated I could not understand how the price of the fuel in the ground could rise so rapidly. When I fuel my truck, the cost of that fuel in my tanks stays the same. In my mind, the price of fuel could only go up when he had to replenish his fuel supply at a higher rate, not before. He informed me he had a degree in economics, although I do not know what that had to do with this?

I did thank the Pilot rep for taking the time to call me on the cell phone in my truck so soon after receiving my e-mail to explain the price spike and I would make the correction to the letter I sent. I told him I would like to know who I was talking to when I made my correction to the letter, and he asked to be named as “a Pilot Corporation representative.”

At 4:03 p.m., the following e-mail was received from Jon Adam: Mr. Taylor: We changed our prices based on the costs we incurred, Pilot Corporation

It is still my belief that Pilot Corp. and its store in Fernley, NV, took advantage of a tragic situation to make a profit at my family’s expense by raising the price of fuel by 10 cents upon the news of this event. I purchased 209.952 gallons of fuel at $1.799 per gallon, for a total bill of $366.91; invoice number 302724. I firmly believe I was overcharged 10 cents per gallon and the Pilot Corp. owes me a refund of $20.99. In addition, I was charged an additional 6 cents per gallon for using a Transportation Alliance Bank debit card, which amounts to $12.60. I would like this refunded to me also, for a total of $33.59.

Mark R. Taylor

Fuel gouging
The Flying J in Sullivan, MO, raised their diesel fuel price from $1.439 a gallon when one of our trucks fueled on Monday, Sept. 10 to $1.829 a gallon when another one of our trucks fueled at 3:48 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 11, and $1.699 a gallon when we fueled at 8:24 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 12.

I have asked them to refund to us the difference between the price we paid and the price we should have paid. I imagine if you would investigate, you would find that the amount of profit for the 2-3 days of high prices would be a significant amount of money when trucks take on as much fuel at one time as they do. I have figured the difference that I expect to be refunded and it is as follows:

Sept. 11 
We paid:
$1.829/gallon x 140.91 gallons =$257.73
We should have paid:
$1.439/gallon x 140.91 gallon = $202.77
Expected refund: $54.96
Sept. 12
We paid:
$1.699/gallon x 163.09 gallons =$277.11
We should have paid:
$1.439/gallon x 163.09 gallons = $234.69
Expected refund: $42.42

Multiply the difference by the hundreds of trucks that fueled during those two days and Flying J will owe huge sums of money to a lot of people who will not have or take the time to ask for a refund or report the unfair pricing. Each truckstop and trucking company have records of each fuel purchase made for the purposes of fuel tax reporting.

Loren Hunt
Battlefield, MO

OOIDA is in your corner
Thanks to OOIDA’s Business Services department for help in conjunction with a member’s appearance in a small claims court matter against a company in South Dakota. With your help, I was very much prepared to present my case to the judge and I was ready to answer all of the questions that might be asked.

The company in question had owed us for our last four loads, and they also refused to refund our escrow money. I made copies of all my bills upon deliveries and maintained all my documentation from the company in regards to trips made and money, which was paid for those trips. 

Armed with all this information at my disposal and ready, with the help of your organization, I was able to obtain a judgment of $7,395.

I would like to encourage all of you owner-operators out there to maintain documentation in regard to loads delivered and people/numbers made in regard to those loads. With this information, you can protect yourself from companies like this one who do not want to pay us for our hard work. There are many companies out there like this and we, as owner-operators, need to protect ourselves from people like this.

I have been a member of your organization for two years and in many cases you have helped me with answering many of my questions as well as obtaining my own authority. I encourage all owner-operators to get involved with OOIDA and see if you don’t agree with me that a new owner-operator needs to be successful as well as one that has been out there for years. If they do not provide the service you are requesting, they can steer you in the right direction to answer your question or get the service that you may need.

Curtis and Evie Griffith
Florence, AL

A more honest man I never knew
I believe Alan Dilts (“Guilty by Election,” March/April LL) could no more knowingly transport drugs than the man on the moon. I knew him as a fellow trucker and later as my dispatcher for the heavy-haul outfit I was leased to for 25 and a half years. A more honest man, I never knew. His word was his bond. If he told you he would do something it got done even if it ended up hurting him in the end. The people he dealt with, both customers and owner-operators, trusted him more than anyone who held that job before or after. There’s a good chance he was set up as a sacrificial goat to cover somebody else. There was no way he would have done this knowingly.

If OOIDA should set up a fund to help him get started again, let me know, as I would be glad to contribute some money to such a fund. They probably have sold his truck and pocketed the money. If you should speak to Alan again, please tell him Mike DeChaine says hi and he has our prayers.

Myron L. “Mike” DeChaine
Tulsa, OK

Editor’s note: Larry Dilts, Alan’s son, has set up a truck fund at Lawson Bank in Kansas City, MO. Donations can be sent to: Alan L. Dilts Truck Fund, PO Box 46725, Kansas City, MO 64188-6725.

Backbone of America? 
Have we gotten so far off-track in helping other countries that U.S. citizens are going to be left jobless, thus causing mass starvation, homeless families and more? Is this what it means to be a U.S. citizen? I feel you need to step back and take a long look at the consequences of opening the border to Mexico and the effects it will have on the truckdrivers and trucking companies that have worked so hard for this “land of opportunity.”

The U.S. truckdrivers have to support themselves and keep their trucks up to par to stay on the roads. I believe the government is going to use our tax dollars to bring the Mexican trucks up to par and meet the safety qualifications of the U.S. roads. Why should I as a taxpayer be held responsible to bring their trucks up to spec when I have to maintain my own truck without any government help?

Robert J. McGranaghan
West Lebanon, NH

At any age, two weeks of training is not enough
This is why I say it won’t make any difference if the drivers are 18. If they are trained in only two weeks, we’ll have the same problems with bad drivers that we have today. I’ve been an owner-operator since 1977. I have been a Teamster since 1971. I’ve been trying to retire since last year, but I can’t sell my truck, thanks to flooding of the market with trucks.

I went on a run to South Carolina and at one of the truckstops we started talking about the new breed of trucker. They come out of school thinking they know everything, but they don’t. On this last trip I talked to about 50 drivers. They all told me the same thing. This so-called new breed will pull out in front of you, sometimes without using their turn signals. They also get the potty mouth award on the CB. When you are passing them, they will drift over into your lane every time you pass them. You go into a truckstop today it looks like you’re in a Salvation Army shelter. 

Richard Quinn
Brodhead, WI

No system in place at the border
There’s another battle brewing. American individual operators will soon have to compete with Mexican labor. The agreement is that the Mexican carrier would transport Mexican goods from the border to say, New York City. The receiver of those products could ship products back to Mexico. If the receiver has no products to ship back, the Mexican carrier is supposed to go back to Mexico empty. 

There is no system in place that will prevent the Mexican carrier from picking up products in New York and delivering them in say, Cleveland, then picking up a load in Cleveland and delivering it to Orlando, FL. In other words, there’s nothing to prevent the Mexican carriers from operating in America for as long as they want. Labor costs for Mexican carriers are one third that of American drivers. Without a system in place to fulfill the “spirit of fairness” that was designed in NAFTA, American drivers and their families will suffer greatly.

Once again I fear that one political party will succumb to the same “spirit of unfairness” that took away the whole fuel surcharge from those who actually pay for it, and will allow the demise of American drivers and owner-operators.

A rising ocean submerged the fabled land of Atlantis. I pray that a rising “spirit of unfairness” will not make our nation into many little islands of fairness.

Gary L. Snyder
Rantoul, IL

State of the Highway address 
I read with interest your testimony to FMCSA (“State of the Highway,” Oct. LL). I found it very comprehensive and well reasoned. I hope that you will make it an annual rite. 

If there is one thing that I would like to see added at some point is much higher standards for obtaining and maintaining a CDL. I have some other professional licenses in Florida. Comparatively, getting and keeping a CDL is a joke. 

You now also have a very powerful argument in this area too. We just saw, at least in part, what happens when the lowest bidder, paying the lowest wages, is responsible for safety. When the failure results in thousands dying in an hour, it is spectacular and grabs everybody’s attention. We lose the same amount of people in two months on the highway, but in smaller increments. The results, however, are the same. 

Making carriers and shippers more accountable is desirable. But requiring more and better educated drivers should also be part of the solution to make the highways safer. I would even add that you should have to get certified for “specialized” hauling. It is time to end the time-honored habit of “sink or swim” when it comes to driving trucks. And there is no doubt in my mind that pay would follow skills demands up the ladder. 

I hope that you will institutionalize this report on an annual basis to provide a basis for both discussion and action. 

Lars Holfve 
Cape Canaveral, FL

OOIDA holds a necessary check and balance position
I don’t agree with OOIDA on every issue, but you hold a very necessary check and balance position in a large and critical area. I appreciate your great magazine and the fact that you took out the “girlie” mattress ad. I commend you for that no matter what anyone says. Oh, and for those who objected to your removal of the ad, what difference does it make to them that you responded to others and used your own good judgment? Also, I commend your legal people who call the “powerful” (including the government) on the carpet for their dirty schemes. 

James Long
Sharon, WI

Overnight idling 
The subject of overnight idling is one of longstanding interest to me. First of all, I don’t do it. Only two times in eight years and both were in minus 20 F, midwestern nights when I was afraid the engine wouldn’t turn over. I’ve been to all the equipment shows and looked at all the auxiliary heat/cool systems and all of them have drawbacks. Anything without a gen set is too weak to heat and cool all night, and gen sets are expensive, heavy and noisy. The best arrangement is an external source of power. It will fit on the floor of any large sleeper with only a drain pipe through the floor. But how do you power the thing? I carry a 100-foot extension cord and I’m always looking for places to plug in.

Shippers and receivers often have external plugs, but truckstops and rest areas almost never do. I would pay $5 a night to any truckstop that would provide electrical plugs in their lot. It’s worth it to me to be comfortable enough to sleep. (Summer heat is worse than winter cold.)

The main problem with long-term idling is lube oil contamination. The engine stays too cool and unburned fuel gets by the rings into the oil and dilutes it. The net result is reduced engine life unless you change your oil more often. Besides burning more fuel while a driver is asleep, a heater hose can let go and coolant loss takes place, or a fuel leak or accessory seize up. An unattended engine is possible trouble I don’t need.

Tom Koller
Thornton, CO

Sweeping our own doorstep 
I have been a trucker for going on 30 years. I have a big burning concern that I feel someone needs to do something about. I can’t do it by myself. This industry needs to sweep its own doorstep. We are looked down on by nearly everyone we encounter. And for good reason, look at some of the outright slobs in the trucks (to use the coined phrase, “one bad apple”). Well, we have a heck of a lot more than one bad apple per bushel. It’s high time that something is done about those who choose to degrade this industry with their sloppy cut-offs, sleazy hair, beards, etc. I, for one am sick of it and there’s no doubt others feel the same way as I do. 

Another bad thing is the CB radio. Now, I’m no “Mr. Perfect,” I have gotten angry on the CB, cussing out the dopeheads that seem to swarm into the truckstops, the lot lizards too. And we have the gall to expect representation from our legislators? Sure there are great drivers out there that take a lot of pride in the job, just not enough of them.

I really hope someone, somehow, can do something about making the trucking industry what it once was – proud, hardworking individuals who really cared for the job they did and cared for those using the highways with them.

John Little
Magna, UT

Editor’s note: While your comments about driver appearance and language on the CB have merit, you overlooked one very crucial reality for every driver who exhibits bad behavior – there is a motor carrier that wants to fill a truck seat more than anything else. As long as carriers can profit by hiring and recruiting less than professional drivers, they will do so. And you and good carriers, too, will pay a price for that shortsighted thinking.

Business, the old fashioned way
I wanted to write and let other drivers know that there are still some very honest truck shops who are very concerned and committed to doing business the old fashioned way – honestly and up front. I found one of the best. 

Diesel Injection of Pittsburgh sold me my parts when my motor blew and we were rebuilding it. Because of a human error, the pistons were the wrong size, but were in the correct box with the correct part number on the box. After installing and running 400 miles, the motor blew again. We tore the motor back down and returned all parts to Diesel Injection of Pittsburgh, and Gary and Pete discovered the mistake. They very quickly gave us all new parts and paid the labor to reinstall our motor the very same day. There was no anger or trying to get out of the situation. 

We want to thank Bruce Mallinson, Gary and Pete for their quick and efficient solving of our motor problem and treating us so well while waiting for the parts. They shall have all of our business in the future. By the way, the truck is running great. 

Carl & Linda Carrico 
Kissimmee, FL

Use a trucker-friendly truckstop
I just read in your June issue in the “Roses and Razzberries” section where the Flying J truckstop charged a driver (who purchased 136 gallons of fuel) for a thermos filled with less than 20 ounces… When are these people going to learn? I personally think its time we leave those people to the RV crowd and do our business where we’re appreciated. Thanks for a great magazine, Land Line.

Randy Coffee 
Leesville, SC

I just wanted to send this note to say “God bless” and may you all, and your families, be wrapped in God’s care and spirit. I don’t know how you all felt when the news anchors made reference to the semi-trucks with medical supplies or the flatbeds with the generators and equipment coming to ground zero. I felt proud, as I am sure you all did if you even got to hear the reference and see the brief footage. We are Americans and despite all this we will stand tall and proud. Without trucks, our military and our grand spirit, America stops.

Theresa Leipert 
Pinson, AL

Those two-week wonders who think CDL means “center driving lane”
There seems to be great controversy over the issue of allowing 18-year-olds to drive trucks. I personally am against the mere idea of allowing these kids behind the wheel. Sure the argument goes on that everyone had to get their start somewhere, but at 18? Come on. Here in Georgia, the governor is considering raising the legal driving age for five of Atlanta’s metro counties to 17. Why? Simply because of the increasing number of teenage fatalities in car accidents. Many of the teens killed were driving at 90 mph plus and under the influence of intoxicants. Sounds mature to me! Now imagine these same kids behind the wheel of a truck capable of doing over 80 mph. Eighty thousand pounds of steel charging down an interstate, manned only by a child.

As for those who are in favor, most are recent graduates of trucking farms and have little room to talk. I have driven since 1981 and have seen more and more truck accidents caused by lack of experience. These “two-week wonders” think CDL stands for Center Driving Lane, refusing to stay in the right lane at any given time. If you dare say anything the response is either, “If you’re in such a hurry you should have left earlier” or “You had to get your start somewhere.” True, I did have to get my start somewhere, it happened to be with an older driver who would only allow me to drive forward after I could drive backwards. Not much of the time spent behind the wheel was on interstates, but the back roads of Georgia.

Wake up! We need people who have the same love and dedication of trucking as in the past. My prediction is that within 10 years this industry will be so regulated that only a few companies will remain. All trucks will be tracked by “Big Brother” via satellite, bar codes will be in place over MC numbers, scanned as you pass through a weigh station, black boxes will replace logbooks, and drivers will be nothing more than steering wheel holders. 

I am a professional with an A-plus driving record to prove it. I challenge each and every driver who is against the issues that we face to contact your representatives in government and voice your opinion. The squeaky wheel gets the grease! Stand up and be heard. Vote, participate and take action!

Bill Harris
Dawsonville, GA

Florida rates? Let somebody else lose the money 
In response to all the truckers and companies complaining about Florida rates. I have a question for you. If you think the rate is cheap out of Florida, why do you take loads that only pay 60 cents to $1 a mile? If you had any business sense you wouldn’t. Why not go north to another pick up point and get a decent rate. By the time you calculate all your miles, you will come out further ahead. You also would not be giving the shippers here the satisfaction of getting their freight moved dirt cheap. Let someone else lose money. Someday we’ll read about that person or company going out of business. I don’t want to see misfortune for anyone out here, but if you can’t have a little sense there is no cents. Most of us are in the same book. Let’s all get on the same page and we can work together to make it a little better out there.

Jim Broland
Stuart, FL