Line One
Letters to the editor

It never ceases to amaze me
The first thing I read when I get my Land Line is “Letters.” It is interesting to see how the rest of the trucking industry looks at things. Things like NAFTA and the opening of the border to let Mexican trucks in the United States should be of the utmost concern and be opposed by everyone in the trucking industry and all citizens of this country who aren’t even in the trucking business.

It never ceases to amaze me how the bureaucrats and politicians and big business can come up with things, like NAFTA, that will benefit only them and to heck with all the hardworking U.S. citizens who are just trying to make a living and survive.

The United States has traded with Canada and Mexico for years, so what is NAFTA needed for anyway? NAFTA is totally un-American, as it has caused thousands of lost jobs already and caused hundreds of small businesses to go broke. I know, as I am one of the small businesses to go belly up.

Lael Sikes
Royal City, WA

Paying more for using credit card
On Jan. 4, 2002, I stopped at the Pilot on Craig Road in Las Vegas for fuel and food. The fuel credit price was $1.27 and I used American Express for payment. When I got to the fuel desk, I was charged $1.34 for using Amex. I use Amex for my fuel charges and while I’ve stopped at this particular Pilot many times, this is the first time they up-charged the purchase. There is another Pilot in Amarillo, TX, that does the same thing and I don’t stop there anymore. As far as the Las Vegas Pilot is concerned, I’ll be taking my business someplace else. 

James Van Etten
Wofford Heights, CA

Outlawing a safety device
Many cities and towns are passing laws prohibiting trucks from using Jake Brakes or engine brakes. All we ever hear is safety, safety, safety. Yet they want to take a safety device away from us. To me this just does not add up. 

I do understand they are noisy and people who live along the highways may be disturbed, but that is something they should have considered when they bought the property. I live close to a railroad, but I do not complain about the trains coming through at 3 a.m. I knew this when I moved here.

The bottom line is they want safety, but want to take away from us a safety device.

Robert Cole
Duncan, OK

Ten solutions to driver shortages

1. Companies need to do their homework. Keep trucks loaded, drivers can’t afford to sit, neither can the company.
2. Buy better trucks. Stay away from “dime a dozen” company trucks. Better trucks create a more appealing package for experienced drivers.
3. Make sure drivers are getting home. Home time, or lack thereof, is one of the largest driver complaints.
4. Keep tabs on your driver’s paychecks. How much money do they take home? Do your incentives create extra bonuses?
5. Keep drivers informed of the company’s goals and how the company is doing. Profit sharing is one way to inform drivers and to motivate them to work harder.
6. Listen to complaints and do something about them. Acknowledge problems. How much you care about drivers, shows in the way you handle complaints.
7. Listen for problems with certain brokers, shippers or receivers. One bad warehouse or broker may be costing you drivers.
8. Don’t haul cheap freight. Drivers have calculators too.
9. Hire quality dispatchers. Abusive dispatchers will cost you drivers. 
10.Even if an experienced driver’s record isn’t perfect, he is probably a better risk. A good record doesn’t guarantee a good driver.

Elvin Shirk
Barnett, MO

Practical thinking, activism and effective leadership
I’m writing to compliment you all on the wonderful work you do for the independents. I’ve never read any association magazine that does so much to help fix problems. Most all other associations choose to take the political line and avoid anything that might get their industry, government regulators, suppliers or members’ hackles up. You, on the other hand, take your gloves off and challenge the problem makers regardless of their position or economic clout.

It’s so refreshing to see people with PhDs in common sense and horse sense. No legal mumbo jumbo here, just straight up clear thinking and action! I’ve told other associations and their leaders if they want to find out how to be effective for their industry, subscribe to Land Line and take notes. Maybe in a year or so of rethinking their trade, they can turn their cultures into practical thinking, activism and effective leadership. America needs great leader role models — you’re at the top in my book.

Dave Fankhauser
Tellico Plains, TN

Truck accidents = $ signs for attorneys
I would like to take a moment to comment on the recent article providing factual data that semi-trucks involved in accidents are at fault less than 30 percent of the time. This just proves once again this industry is bad-mouthed more than any other industry. More often than not when an accident occurs with a semi, the semi is always assumed to be at fault. It’s these assumptions that cause big jury judgments and our insurance premiums to double and almost triple in the last couple of years. How often do you hear of a trucking company found 0 percent liable in an auto accident trial, never? Until it is, every lawyer in the country will continue to see dollar signs when a truck is involved. Insurance companies will continue to settle claims because it is easier to settle than to fight these claims in front of sympathetic jurors.

In the last year, our company has walked away from two courtrooms with a zero negligent verdict. However, our insurance premium has more than doubled this past renewal year. The reason is due to industry average loss. I find this hard to believe in an industry that is already too heavily regulated, for American-owned semis maybe the fault lays elsewhere. Maybe it has not been such a good idea to open the borders to ill-inspected trucks and untrained drivers. Maybe it is about time the average car driver carries as much insurance as is demanded by the semi-owner. Once they realize what premiums are, I can almost guarantee some change would take place. Maybe the average car driver should only be able to sue for the amount that they personally are insured for. If they want to sue for $1 million dollars, let them know the cost of the premium for this. If they only want to be insured for $35,000, let them only be able to sue for this. I guarantee it would cut out the lawyer and cut down on the automatic payment of large settlements to auto drivers.

If something is not done soon about the insurance companies, lawyers and the small-time crooks, there will be many mom and pop trucking companies going out of business. Part of America’s pride has always been the truckdriver. The appreciation for this type of attitude is what has made this country so great. But with higher premiums and the cost to stay in compliance and the cut in freight, it is getting harder and harder for the mom and pop trucking companies to keep afloat. It will not be long before the American trucker is like so many other traditions — a thing of the past.

Marvin Figgins
Grand Rapids, MN

Genuine appreciation
I just finished reading the letter from Linda Melin, skewering Ray Kasicki’s column on Driver Appreciation Week. Melin Truck Service may, indeed, have an enlightened attitude about the worth of their drivers. For many of the rest of us it goes something like this: In July of 2001, I was working for GSW in central Florida. This was a local job — home each night. The drivers at this location had not had a raise in four years. Extra delivery drops were paid at the rate of $10 regardless of the added miles involved. At a monthly drivers meeting (attendance required but uncompensated) our traffic manager, Mr. Tony L, announced the company was considering taking (transportation not included) us and our spouses to a dinner theatre venue about 60 miles

away, for Driver Appreciation Week. When a couple of the drivers wondered out loud, “why not someplace closer?” Mr. L went into a controlled tirade about how much time he had invested into trying to do something ‘special’ for us and how unappreciative we were. That ended the discussion and plans were completed.

At the next meeting, drivers were polled concerning their intention to attend the event. Twenty-five percent of us said we did not plan to attend. It was fortunate the meeting was over at this point, as Tony’s pouting was embarrassing for all concerned. He was really hoping for 100 percent, and again mentioned our apparent lack of appreciation of his efforts.

The month following the event was uneventful with the following exceptions: We learned those that went to the dinner received a cooler as a ‘thank you’ from our Traffic Manager. Those who did not go, would get nothing. Mr. L cornered me in the yard to, once again, voiced his disappointment at the apparent unappreciative nature of some of his drivers. I told him it had nothing to do with that and I appreciated his offer, but had other plans for that particular Saturday night.

A fellow driver warned me to ‘watch my back’. It seems Mr. L had said, while complaining to him about the 25 percent who did not attend, “That’s OK, what goes around, comes around.” One month later, I returned from my ‘A’ load, which equired a 2 a.m. departure. At 9 a.m., I was told my ‘B’ load was ready and I was to deliver it, pick up a load going North, which I would deliver in the morning, and continue North to Alabama. I would be gone at least one night. So much for my local, home every night job. I was also told to “expect more of this.” If this was not acceptable, then I “should find other employment.” I parked and cleaned out the tractor, and turned in the keys.

I have not stepped into another truck and have had no encounters with arrogant bosses. For this I am appreciative. I’m with Mr. Kasicki. I guess I’m a complainer too.

Harry Shafer
Lake Panasoffkee, FL