Letters: Archives, Retaining Drivers, Road Funds Leadership

These Letters to the Editor  appears in the Jan. 19  print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

TT Archives and Lessons Learned

Your article about the Transport Topics archives project included a picture of Ted Rodgers that brought back memories you may find of interest.

I don’t know how many of you living today worked with or for Mr. Rodgers, but I was one.

I began working at Rodgers Motor Lines in 1955 as a traffic clerk and left — before the company was sold to Branch Motor Express — in 1959, after working as assistant operations manager under Executive Vice President Jake Silverman.

It was a great hands-on education. Mr. Rodgers previously had turned the company over to John Barrett, who was what would be called a visionary today. Long before the company was sold to BME, Mr. Barrett took RML forward at a pace that was unbelievable at the time.

Mr. Rodgers had no association then with RML. He ran Eschenbach Rodgers, a carrier dedicated to the A&P grocery chain. His Autocars were power personified. However, his appearances at the company that bore his name were rare.

Pennsylvania recently had changed its truck-trailer regulations to allow 35-foot trailers. Company executives and Rodgers bought the new trailers. They also converted our road fleet to White diesels from the gasoline tractors that were in use until that time.

The first winter with the new fuel systems, probably 1956-1957 or 1957-1958, was a terror whose memory gives me chills even today. But our company’s learning to use the power driving those new trucks was another great — and costly — education. While I never drove those or any other truck tractors, I continue to drive diesel automobiles to this day.

Rodgers Motor Lines then built a state-of-the-art 100-door drag-line terminal at the Scranton, Pennsylvania, headquarters. My job was to help break it in. When we saw how well that went, we built a smaller version in Lackawanna, New York, which was opened in the winter — when it was terribly cold.

At the time, I was young and fascinated with the business, the smell of diesel smoke, the whine of forklifts and drag lines. I had no understanding of capital costs and debt, but reality was setting in. Consolidated Freightways came looking to see if the RML network — which included New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey — fit their needs.

Although that didn’t work out, it appeared to me that if one carrier had been invited

to bid for us, another would follow, and it might be there were other companies where my skill levels would work to protect a wife and three small children. So I moved on.

But Mr. Rodgers’ company, including John Barrett, Mr. Silverman, Ed Taylor (Traffic), Connie (Traffic), Clarence (Finance), Angie (Operations), and numerous drivers and dockworkers, gave me an education that lasted throughout my 50-year transportation career.

In fact, what I learned at RML encouraged me to start what turned out to be a successful intermodal drayage company called All Points Transport, which I sold in 1999.

There’s an old saying: “The way of the pioneer is hard.” So it seemed at the time. But today, it generates fond memories and provided an excellent education.

Malcolm Newbourne


Marco Island, Florida

1951 Graduate,

Syracuse University

Transportation School

Retaining Drivers

It was a joy to read Mr. Schnautz’s letter on drivers, electronic logging devices and corporate logic. But this letter has to do more with retaining drivers than ELDs.

Plenty of great drivers out here will work hard for a decent wage, and they take pride in their jobs and equipment.

I never could figure how the cost of bringing in new drivers and the orientation required before putting them on the road were more profitable than retaining good help that already is on the payroll.

I guess corporate America has yet to figure out that you get what you pay for.

William Colfelt

Retired Owner-Operator

Salt Springs, Florida

Road Funds Leadership

How can a responsible leader such as Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) take options concerning the Highway Trust Fund off the table without presenting any viable alternatives?

While I would tend to agree that the new Congress has no stomach for new taxes, I recall that President Reagan actually led the nation and raised the gas tax back in the early 1980s because it was the right thing to do.

While I agree the gas tax is a dinosaur that needs to be replaced, I don’t think we are quite ready to do so. Given our current transportation funding shortfalls and the obvious need for more congestion relief in all of our major urban areas, to stand on a soapbox and proclaim no new taxes is fairly disingenuous.

Why not educate yourself on the options and come to the table with a solution? Leaders do what needs to be done, not what is easy, popular or expedient.

Gilmer Gaston


San Antonio


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