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6/4/2008 10:20:00 AM Write a Letter to the Editor Write a letter to the Editor

Letters to the Editor: Fuel-Protests, Fuel-Intermodal, Fuel-Surcharges, Troopers in Trucks, Border Pilot Program

These letters appear in the June 2 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

Fuel: Protests

The only way fuel prices will ever come back down to reasonable levels is for our nation’s truckers to park their rigs for three to seven days. Even drivers for major companies would need to park and refuse to drive.

Grocery stores would start running out of food, and gas stations would run out of gas and school systems wouldn’t get fuel for buses to transport students, so school would have to be canceled. Police forces would have to walk on patrol, and judges would have to walk to court. Senators and congressmen would have to stay at their offices — and our oil-rich president would not be able to fly all over the world on a whim. Then we might see some action from our government.

They preach that price-gouging is illegal — so how do they explain why fuel prices rose three times in one day when the product being sold still costs the same as before it rose the first time?

I realize this probably will never happen; we are a doomed nation with rich oil-company owners like our president selling out our way of life to the rich Middle Eastern countries.

Our only other hope is for the farmers, ranchers and produce growers to step in. If they refuse to sell their crops, they, too, could put a stop to this robbery.

Ira Hosey
Clifton Forge, Va.

I was an owner-operator in the 1970s, when we were up in arms over the speed limit being reduced to 55 mph and the lack of fuel. At that time, we were supposedly realizing a gasoline/diesel fuel shortage.

The fuel-shortage scenario never made any real sense to me. How could we have a fuel shortage when fuel tankers were anchored off every major U.S. port, unable to unload their cargo? Why were tank trucks dumping fuel into the underground storage tanks of gas stations that were closed down?

From what I saw, it was not a fuel shortage; it was just an attempt to drive fuel prices up.

Lowering the speed limit was the best thing that ever happened to the trucking industry, which soon realized what real profits were. We were getting maximum fuel economy, extended drivetrain life and extended engine life — not to mention extended tire wear.

But nothing was accomplished through the shutdowns, except for probably bankrupting the majority of owner-operators who participated.

The point I am trying to make here is that nothing good will come out of a trucking shutdown, and as tight and difficult as it is now to make ends meet, some revenue is a lot better than no revenue. If you stop, you lose.

Lawrence Hartung
Director of Safety

deBoer Transportation Inc.
Blenker, Wis.

Fuel: Intermodal

I keep reading that intermodal traffic is down from the same time the previous year. Yet, I see ads on television where the railroads claim to achieve about twice the “ton-miles per gallon” as commercial truck transport.

Meanwhile, just about everybody claims they cannot continue to operate with the increasingly higher fuel prices.

If rail transport really is twice as fuel-efficient as truck transport, we ought to be looking for ways to provide both railroads and truckers incentives to make better use of intermodal transport.

Is there a price disadvantage for intermodal transport?

Dennis Taylor
Columbus, Ind.

Fuel: Surcharges

When is someone going to step up and say, “Enough.”?

I think it is time for the government to make a fuel surcharge mandatory for brokers and vendors, or regulate freight rates. They still are paying the same as they did more than 40 years ago. Everything else has gone up.

If something doesn’t happen, there will be no more independent trucking companies or owner-

operators, because if you aren’t a big dog, you are out of the fight.

Vanessa Hales
Vice President
Expeditors Express Inc.
Madison, Tenn.

Troopers in Trucks

Thank you for finally putting troopers in trucks. (Click here for previous story.) I have been pushing for this activity from police and the Department of Transportation for years. Several states have done this and been stunned at what cars are doing to trucks. In fact, I was just speaking with a local trooper who is doing the same thing in Charlotte, N.C., and he said seriously that he had increased his life insurance policy because it was more dangerous than doing regular police work.

You have the federal DOT reporting annually that 70% of car/truck wrecks are the fault of the car. I believe it is even higher than that, because pickup trucks, vans and sport utility vehicles are counted in with the large-truck numbers.

Let’s have someone do the numbers with only Class 8 trucks and see what they are.

I believe that in Oregon you also have an aggravating factor — split speed limits — which have been documented by numbers of studies as increasing accident rates. Contact the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, and they will give you the complete list.

The split speed limit causes drivers of cars to take extreme chances just to get in front of us so they aren’t delayed.

Joe Shaddinger
Landstar Ranger
Indian Trail, N.C.

Border Pilot Program

Job loss is a legitimate concern when discussing what we have to lose if the border is opened to Mexican truck drivers: What those who favor the program really want is a cheap source of labor. However, what they will accomplish is the complete denigration of trucking — an occupation that has taken many years to attain its current levels of professionalism and reward.

There is no driver shortage. There is, however, a shortage of company owners and managers who can see beyond their own egos to help their industry evolve into a more functional occupation that is attractive to new entrants.

Don’t look to other countries: You need to value the drivers you have now and persuade them not to defect from an industry that for too many years has been unwilling to change and face its problems head-on.

There are plenty of people in this country who want to work. Start making the trucking industry more accessible, friendly and rewarding — with fewer dictates from on high — and you will find that your so-called driver shortage never really happened.

You can have the fanciest trucks, most expensive trailers, software and sales budgets, but you cannot take away the fact that this is and always has been a people business.

When you view your people only as a means to an end, and not as the caring professionals they truly are, then you have what our industry has today — high turnover and lack of respect on both sides of the fence.

We continually put the onus on the driver:

We blame the late load on him.

The government makes him get an expensive commercial driver license.

We tell him that he has a greater degree of responsibility than anyone else on the highway and keep raising the bar higher and higher.

And when a driver reaches the point he or she feels like an automaton and balks, we run ads and look for someone else’s drivers — with whom we’ll have no problems for at least a couple of weeks.

Let’s fix this thing while we still can. It’s been a great industry, and I’d just as soon not outsource it to cheap help from down south.

Rick French
Cherokee Transport
Morganton, N.C.

If Mexico wants to pursue this lawsuit for “NAFTA damages” through arbitration, that’s fine (5-12, p. 1; click here for previous Premium Content story). The United States should start a lawsuit against Mexico for losses because of illegal border crossings.

Illegal crossings have cost the United States an amount that is beyond belief. I have read that if California alone deported all illegal aliens in that state, it would save about $12 billion in just one year.

I wonder what the amount would be if all our states added up all their costs from the illegal aliens?

The next president should get us out of NAFTA or renegotiate it so Mexican trucks would not be allowed to travel throughout the United States.

I know everyone asks, “Who will pick the crops?” But that’s easy — nonviolent prisoners. The jails are full, so put them to work.

Rick Crosby
Tykatie Transport
Ramsey, Minn.

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