April 9, 2008 10:05 AM, EDT

Letters to the Editor: Driver Training; Crashes, Cell Phones; Fuel Prices

These letters appear in the April 7 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

Driver Training

As I understand the new driver-training rules, they indicate that a company cannot hire drivers if that company has a school for training those drivers (3-10, p. 4). This is in conflict with every training institution in the country — if not the world.

Followed to its logical conclusion, this would mean hospitals and medical schools could never employ their graduating doctors.

Law schools could never employ their graduating lawyers.

The City of New York could never employ its former students to become teachers after they have graduated from New York City public school education and/or city universities.

The airlines could never hire pilots trained in their commercial flying schools, which were set up for the specific purpose of hiring graduates directly into the corresponding airline. Air Force (Army Air Corps) pilots always have been selected from among the best students in the academy’s classes.

Something is wrong with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s thinking here.

Gil Wortsmann
River Auto School
Bartonsville, Pa.

Crashes, Cell Phones

I am responding to the letter about crash statistics for cars and trucks in which the writer says that in crashes involving a car and a truck, if the car’s driver was at fault 56% of the time, it means a truck driver was at fault 44% of the time (3-10, p. 7).

As a driver recruiter and part-time driver, I am seeing more and more drivers of cars on their cell phones for longer and longer periods of time. People used to answer their phones and talk for a short time while driving. Now, that’s not the case. I see drivers from my truck just talking away for miles, and I can tell that they are into their conversation (just watch them the next time you are out there).

So now I have to watch traffic, the load, the speed, the road, the type of weather that I am driving in and the person on the cell phone. Sorry, did I say the person? I mean, all the drivers that are on their cell phones; it’s never just one.

Now, let’s be honest — when you are on the phone, are you really paying attention? For a short period of time maybe; longer, no. I know truck drivers talk on the phone too, but not as long. All trucking companies tell their drivers to stay off their cell phones while driving.

And yes, we know that it doesn’t always happen, but here’s the catch: If a truck driver is involved in an accident, and it was his or her fault and the truck driver was talking on a cell phone, the likelihood of the trucker losing his or her job is greater than the person not in the big rig.

Think about it — how much space will it take a car to avoid an accident and how much space for a tractor-trailer? You make the call.

Rick Adams
Driver Recruiter
Volume Transportation
Lithonia, Ga.

Fuel Prices

Temperature control of fuel is certainly an issue; however, the bigger issue is fuel cost in general. The American public and the trucking industry are being price-gouged by the big oil corporations, and nobody is talking about a solution. Have we placed our democracy in the hands of “Corporate America” to do as it wishes? If so, it may abuse the power.

There should be a focus on what is severely damaging our industry and the American consumer. Fuel surcharges are passed on to consumers, so not only do fuel prices escalate, so does everything else. And owner-operators are exiting the industry at an alarming rate.

So instead of telling me about some fringe issue that has, in comparison, a minor effect on the big picture, tell me what efforts are being made to remedy the real problem. The next time you read about a CEO resigning his position and receiving a $400 million severance and that same company short-funding its retirement plan, you need to ask yourself what is really the root problem with the American economy.

William Harmeyer
Safety & Recruiting Manager
PAC Inc.
Tampa, Fla.

In the article, “ATA Calls on Feds to Help Solve Fuel-Price ‘Crisis’ ” (click here for previous article), I notice that two extremely relevant points have been left out.

No. 1: The refineries (as reported) are selling the distillates needed for the manufacture of diesel fuel in Europe rather than in our own country because, even after the cost of shipping, they can make a larger profit by doing so. I am all for the basic principles of a free market, but when companies take the chance of flushing our economy down the toilet to maximize profit, I feel this is an act of treason. I believe that Congress should step in and end this process immediately!

No. 2: When American Trucking Associations calls for a reduction of the speed limit and limiters on all commercial vehicles, I realize that again, those who fail to study the past are doomed to repeat it. If memory serves me, this action was tried back in the ’70s, and the only thing that it accomplished was an increase in revenue for various state agencies in the form of tickets.

A much simpler solution is to get some people in Congress who are not feeding at the oil company banquet to pursue alternate fuel sources already available for implementation.

I was a driver back in the ’70s when the last shutdown was tried. I realize that major companies are not going to join in an effort to force action but merely use the opportunity to acquire more freight accounts from the smaller companies that are unable to compete because they do not have “fuel contracts” that allow them to purchase fuel well below market prices.

However, I offer the following: There is only one group of drivers/companies who need to shut down, and if they shut down for a five-day period, they would bring the economy to a standstill. That group is, of course, gas and diesel tankers. Why? Because as soon as the tanks at the truck stops, company fuel depots and gas stations run out, I assure you someone will take notice and action.

Michael Brown
Operations Manager
Company Name Withheld
Lawton, Okla.

Here is a solution for the high price of diesel and a way to entice automobile drivers to use car pooling or mass transit. Why not put a cap on diesel fuel of $1.15 a gallon, which is the base rate the Department of Energy uses? This price would apply to commercial vehicles that owners can prove are used for business purposes only. Allow the oil companies to raise the price on gasoline to whatever it takes to continue to make the exorbitant profits they feel they are entitled to.

This suggestion may sound farfetched, and some will say it will be too harmful to the poor. However, as diesel prices rise, we pass along the cost to the shippers who in turn add it to the price of all consumer goods, thereby placing a burden on the poor for everything they buy.

By keeping the fuel price at the DOE level, the price of everyday household needs would not be inflated by the fuel surcharges being passed to the shippers. The general public then could decide if they really need to ride to work alone at $5 to $6 a gallon for gasoline.

This proposal should stop overall inflation (provided the shippers and manufacturers don’t pull an oil company trick on us), and it would give the motoring public an incentive to use car pools and/or mass transit. Also, by keeping the price of diesel at the DOE “standard” level, the mass transit fees could be lowered, which would be an additional benefit to the poor.

Tom Eaton
Operations Manager
Konan Express Inc.
Woodland, Calif.

I am writing this letter in reference to the article “ATA Calls on Feds to Help Solve Fuel-Price ‘Crisis’”. I just wanted to say that setting a speed limiter at 65 miles per hour or 68 mph versus 70 mph does not save fuel! Been there, done that.

I have consistently checked it at all three speeds, and 70 mph is always more efficient in fuel consumption for big trucks.

Jerry Kraus
Dugan Truck Line
Wichita, Kan.