Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Land Line Now Blog has moved

We have moved the Land Line Now Blog from BlogSpot onto our own Web site.

All our future posts will be placed there.

To view future postings on the Land Line Now Blog, go to http://www.landlinenow.com.


Mark H. Reddig
Land Line Now

Friday, October 24, 2008

Attitude Adjustment

I know the economy is bad. I know we’re all struggling to get by. I know sometimes it’s raining and sometimes your dog dies and sometimes you just have a really bad day. And that’s fine. It happens to all of us.

But I’m getting more and more suggestions for RAZZBERRIES these days, it seems, from folks complaining about the attitude that they’ve been getting at truck stops across the country.

I won’t say it’s reached epidemic proportions yet, but the monkey has definitely escaped from the lab and infected more than a few people. I had a couple of calls recently about one truck stop that blocked off the majority of its parking lot and told truckers those spots were reserved for a biker event that was coming to town.

That’s all well and good, but one caller told me he just wanted to park his truck and go take a shower. He was very rudely told by the manager of the establishment that he was not welcome there and that the spaces were reserved for bikers. Another caller told me he had a very similar experience at the same place.

Then there was the guy who went to buy fuel and couldn’t use his card because the pump wasn’t on, so he went to the fuel desk to ask for help and was confronted with a line of people buying everything in the store except fuel. He simply asked the woman at the fuel desk if she could turn the pump on and was very rudely told that he would have to wait in line. He finally had to go and get the manager just to get the pump turned on.

And then there’s Diesel Dave Sweetman’s latest column in Land Line Magazine, for another example.

I don’t know what’s going on out there, but it sounds like some of these folks could use a serious attitude adjustment. So for anyone reading this who happens to work at a truck stop, let me help clue you in on something.

You work at a truck stop. The key word there is “truck.” Truckers are your bread and butter, your lifeblood, your main reason for existing. There are plenty of truck stops out there. And trucks have these things on them called wheels that allow them to keep on rolling right past your truck stop and on to the next one.

You see, the other key word in your business is “stop.” If the trucks don’t stop, your money most definitely will.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

You been here four hours! You go now!

Truck parking is in short supply, and it’s a growing challenge faced by truckers nationwide.

But in some parts of the East and West Coasts, it’s at the crisis stage.

Take New Kent County, VA. An OOIDA member called us recently, saying a truck stop there posted signs that limit parking to four hours. The signs, and apparently some employees at the truck stop, say it’s a county ordinance.

I think anyone familiar with trucking knows that’s nuts. And this is representative of what’s happening in many locations on the East Coast.

A rule like this passed by a local government can only be based on one of two things: It’s either ignorance of the realities of trucking, or – worse – they just don’t want truckers hanging around.

Mind you, they certainly don’t mind eating, wearing or buying what the truckers bring. They just don’t want them around.

So which one is it? I’m betting on option No. 2.

So let’s think about solutions. And here’s where we start: How many of you live there in New Kent County, VA?

If you do live there, have you called your representative in the county government and explained this to them?

Have you explained that you pay taxes too? That truckers have no choice but to rest the amount required by the federal regulations?

Even if you don’t live there, if you just haul there, give them a call. Let them know this is having a detrimental effect on your ability to serve their citizens.

If you’re a citizen of Virginia, call your state lawmakers. Explain that putting a two-hour limit on parking in rest areas – which is also taking place in that state – prevents truckers, who have no other option, from parking in the state at all.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Get Out the Bubbly!

Let’s pop some champagne and lift our glasses to Rachele Champagne.

Rachele’s the trucker from Gatineau, Quebec, who decided in July to organize the first ever all-female truck convoy to raise money for breast cancer research.

A short three months later, on October 18th, it became a reality when 29 trucks convoyed down Highway 401 in Ontario with 29 women behind the wheels.

By Rachele’s estimate, the participants raised at least $15,000.

“For 29 trucks, I’d say that’s pretty good” Rachele says.

I’ll say!

Plus, Rachele got donors to give all sorts of items that the women could take home – from bags containing things like bracelets and coffee mugs; to jackets and a coffee maker; to $1,500 worth of fuel.

“I think everyone left with a smile,” she says.

Will Rachele and the other women stage another convoy next year?

“Absolutely!” she says – adding that she bets there’ll be twice as many trucks next time.

Personally, given the short amount of time Rachele had to organize this year’s convoy, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a hundred trucks in the next one.

So, ‘cheers!’ to Rachele Champagne or en francais, ‘Sante!’

Monday, October 20, 2008

Drill, baby, drill

You’ve heard the chants at rallies across the country: Drill, baby, drill.

Folks are ready to use our domestic oil reserves so we can escape the dependence on foreign oil.

But those folks may have forgotten something. And the sad part is, it’s obvious, and I don’t think anyone – or at least very few people – have figured it out.

We can have all the oil in the world, but what if we don’t do anything to increase our refining capacity?

You can have all the oil in the world, but without the refinery capacity, what you have is a nice reserve of unrefined lubricant. It’s certainly not something you would want to put in your vehicle.

I guess the politicians missed that. Not that I’m surprised.

But we have to think beyond the political slogans and easy solutions. We have to think about the entire process of providing energy to this nation, start to finish.

If we mess up this one, we could damage our nation in ways I don’t even want to think about.

Friday, October 17, 2008

OOIDA employees get TWIC'd

I recently talked to OOIDA’s Joe Rajkovacz and Rick Craig about the Transportation Worker Identification Credential, or TWIC, program. If you listen to the show at all, you probably already know all about it.

But just in case, here’s a quick recap: It’s the security card that all ports in the U.S. will be requiring by next spring. If you drive in and out of any ports in the U.S., you’ll need to have one.

One of the things Joe and Rick told me that surprised me was that you could use the TWIC card as an ID for airport security as well. I guess it makes sense. It’s a Transportation Security Administration thing, after all, and they run security at both ports and airports.

I had to laugh, though, when Rick flashed his card at Kansas City International Airport and was waived on through. Then Joe went next, only to have the security guy stop and wonder what kind of card it was supposed to be. At least the folks at the Los Angeles airport seemed to know what was going on.

It would be easy to dismiss this because Kansas City is a smaller airport. So what does it matter if they don’t know what’s going on, right?

But consider this: On September 11, 2001, a group of men made their way through sloopy airport security and managed to kill 3,000 people within a couple of hours.

The airport where they started? Portland International Jetport, Portland, ME. I’ve been to that airport many times. It makes Kansas City look like New York’s JFK Airport.

Okay, so the folks at the airports don’t know what’s going on, so what? This card is for ports, right? Surely the folks at the ports know what’s going on. Maybe they know, but for now, at least, they can’t do much with that knowledge. There are no card readers installed at the ports yet.

So does that mean you shouldn’t bother with a TWIC card? Well, that depends on whether or not you want to haul freight in and out of the ports. Flawed program or not, TWIC is here to stay.

Let’s just hope the TSA realizes that, too, and fixes those flaws before they become part of the permanent record.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

CARB enforcement, no holds barred

CARB has taken the kid gloves off.

The California Air Resources Board announced just last week that it was sending members of its staff into the field to begin strict enforcement of its idling rules – including the five-minute limit for commercial trucks.

Here’s how things work in a nut shell.

Trucks, even those with sleeper berths, are not allowed to idle more than 5 minutes in an hour.

The only exceptions for the vast majority of truckers are:

  • You are stuck in traffic;
  • Idling to service or inspect your vehicle;
  • You are using a power take-off device;
  • You cannot move because of mechanical failure, or bad weather;

If you violate the new truck idling rules, you could face a fine of $300. And if you do it again and again, you could face even higher fines, sometimes running $1,000 to $10,000.

The situation is dire for some truckers, who face forced confinement in their sleepers for rest periods.

The new enforcement effort has caused a lot of trucker reaction. One truck driver told us that the agency was stepping up enforcement in truck stop parking lots, something he questioned. Is it legal to go onto private property to enforce the rules?

It’s a good question.

I asked OOIDA’s Member Assistance Department about that. They concluded pretty much the same thing I did. There is nothing to stop CARB from doing that.

The truck stop is a public place, a business that welcomes members of the general public onto its property. And once CARB enforcers walk on that property, there’s nothing to stop them from ticketing any idling truck they see.

But that’s just another aspect of the situation – not the fundamental problem.

California has decided to single out truckers among all vehicle drivers as somehow responsible for the state’s air quality.

Admittedly, diesel fumes are worse than car fumes. But California has a heck of a lot more cars than it does trucks, and they’re all emitting tons upon tons of pollution.

Will state officials tell cars to shut the engines off and stop idling? I’d say no.

That’s because, first, so many cars run on the roads there, it would be impractical to try to shut them all down.

Second, trucks are an easy target. There aren’t nearly as many as cars, and with so many groups demonizing trucks, it’s easy to get lawmakers or agencies to pass a rule restricting them.

Of course, that leaves us with a number of problems that CARB hasn’t addressed. So let’s take a look at those.

First, this is inconsistent with other laws. Truckers are required to take their 10 hours off to get rest. How can the government expect truckers to get proper rest in a cab where the interior temperature may be well above 130 degrees?

Unfortunately, many of our laws contradict one another. And we the people pretty much have to live with it. Saying “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” won’t get you out of a ticket.

Second, while CARB could make an argument that owner-operators have the option of purchasing idle-reduction equipment such as APUs, no one can argue with any logic whatsoever that company drivers have that option.

So what should they do? Apparently, CARB’s answer is that they should roast out in the desert heat, which is plain bull.

So what can people like you and I do to help out those truckers?

The best thing is to get some useful information out there that can help those truckers.

We’ve spelled out the rules, which is a good step. But we plan to go much further. For truckers who don’t have an APU or other similar system, we’ll do some research and see if we can get some solid advice for you to follow.

But no matter what, be ready – those fines are high enough they could cause some real financial damage.