Friday, December 28, 2007

Bio-fewwwwwl

In August 2004, I penned a column humorously suggesting that biodiesel should be made with various kinds of aromas, since the sense of smell is a powerful one that can affect mood and attitude.

Now there is news that makes me hope they won’t take my automotive aromatherapy idea too far. In Canada, scientists have proposed turning used diapers into synthetic fuel.

On the face of it, so to speak, the diaper proposal makes sense,

and appears to work much as do other suggestions for sources of biodiesel. You take the organic material – no pun intended here; I mean stuff made of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen – heat it up without any air until it starts to break down into those elements, and then refine it. They crack crude petroleum like that, so why not crude Pampers?

And there is no lack of raw material. I’ve seen estimates that Americans alone go through around 18 billion disposable diapers a year. And as we boomers get older, that number is likely to climb. Heck, just collecting the used diapers from all the Wal-Mart parking lots would probably yield a million barrels of fuel a year.

Folks, we’re talking a “Dependsable” source of energy, and a second use of petroleum and wood products. (I wonder if the Vaseline on those diapers would create an octane boost?) While one can think of other castoffs that could also be turned into motor vehicle fuel, apparently there can be problems with, uh, contaminants, if you can believe that.

“If we try to take municipal waste and run it through a system like this, it would be too variable and you’d get all sorts of nasty surprises you’d have to deal with,” one of the researchers said. So liquefying plastic bags and other such materials is probably not going to happen right away.

But with hospitals all around Montreal, there is a continuous supply of dirty nappies. The idea might catch on among young parents concerned about greenness (environmentally, that is). A collection system has been proposed (somehow the image of the peasant collecting bodies in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” comes to mind: “Bring out yer dirties!” “Eh, I’m not full yet!”). As one of the researchers was quoted as saying: “One of the beauties of the diaper is that it is going to be a very consistent input.”

No kidding.

Meanwhile, a bloke in New Zealand is preparing to try to take an experimental craft around the world using alternative fuels, including some biofuel made from his own body fat, collected by liposuction.

Pete Bethune and two pals collectively rendered up enough lovehandles and beer belly to make about 7 liters of biofuel. In many nations whose citizens are developing ever larger waistlines, this rather drastic commitment to the environment might be underwritten as a public health measure. And if the trend toward superhuge portions continues, it could certainly be a renewable resource, as well.

For that matter, instead of converting us all to Soylent Green, maybe we should all be converted into biofuel.

Ewwww.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

’Twas the night before ...

I was talking to veteran owner-operator Howard Hart not long ago about a topic on which I was, frankly, idealistic. Until Christmas Eve. The topic was helping strangers and the quandary that presents: When do you let yourself be guided by the “goodness of your heart” and when do you listen to the voice that says “the dude could have a gun and shoot you dead.”

Howard said he used to always help strangers – on the side of the road, in a rest area, in the truck stop parking lot – but it’s too much of a risk these days. I said, “Isn’t it hard to turn the other cheek on somebody down on their luck?” He said something like “Wise up. You simply cannot know if that person has another motive. Heckuva world.”

I think I said something like I had never been one to be “standoffish” if someone needed help. Howard, who has some law enforcement background, laughed and said, “These days, you gotta use your powers of observation.” He reminded me that every once in a while, an incident forces you to sharpen those powers.

The night before Christmas, I got one of those sharpening lessons.

With me in my jammies and husband in jeans, no shirt, we had just settled down to watch the news at 10.

The doorbell rang, followed by an insistent kind of knock. My husband reacted with the “who in the hell could that be” growl and we both proceeded to the front room to peer out the window. My old neighborhood is not the ritziest in town and if I were a drug addict, I probably would not have to leave the block to score whatever I wanted. So caution in my ’hood is always warranted, no matter what time of day.

We could see from the front window that under our porch light, a tall head-shaved teenager in a big parka, obviously half-frozen, was hopping from one foot to the other, blowing on his cupped hands.

I stood close to the door and called out “who’s there?” He yelled, “Neighbor.”

I had never seen the kid before.

I opened the door and he said “Can I ask you a weird favor, man? My car broke down (he pointed down my street) and I need to, um, call for, um, help. Man, umm.” That was followed by some “I am freezing to death” talk and more umms. It was about 18 degrees and yeah, he probably was miserable, but he acted way too edgy and I didn’t ask him in.

I handed the phone out the door to him and he appeared to call someone, begging for this other guy to come and get him. From the one-sided conversation I could hear, I guess the guy said no. Odd, but the kid never told the guy on phone where he was. No location, no details, nothing. Then he told the person on the phone he would walk to some undisclosed place and he could pick him up there. Again, no details.

Based on that weird info, I suspected it might be a ruse.

My husband stepped to the door and talked to him briefly, got the phone back. As the door opened, the kid, with piercings and scruffy half mustache, looked at us from under the hood. Part of me was thinking: This is where he pulls the gun and shoots us dead. My dyed-in-the-wool good Samaritan half was thinking of Mary and Joseph trying desperately trying to find shelter for an impending birth of their child. Sappy, maybe. But it was Christmas Eve and maybe God was putting me to the test.

Then the kid mumbled something, turned and left. I quickly locked the door.

Temps were dropping, lights in the homes along the street were going out, and it was a very long walk to the nearest convenience store.

We watched him from the window as he walked up the street. Then he did an odd thing: he turned around and walked back to our corner. He approached the house across the street and lurked around the bushes by their porch. We watched him curiously. He did not go to their door, but after about 20 minutes or so he stepped back into the light, wandered back up the street, shoulders hunkered, hood over his shaved head.

He was either up to something or was a really dumb, stoned kid in a tight spot. Either way, I made a decision to get involved indirectly. I called our local emergency number and recounted the incident. Soon, a cop car was slowly cruising the street. If the kid was casing the neighborhood, it sent a message. If he needed help, here was someone willing to assist.

Howard Hart was right. It’s a heckuva world.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Where valor sleeps

They shall grow not old As we that are left grow old, Age shall not weary them ... Nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun, And in the morning, We will remember them!
– Lawrence Binyon

Have you ever seen Arlington National Cemetery? It’s an eye-blinking, jaw-clenching, throat-closing place to experience.

Early last week, an OOIDA member from Maine sent me an article that proved to be one of the best Christmas news stories I’ve heard this month. It involved an effort to truck thousands of wreaths to Arlington.

The Kennebunk Journal described a 40-vehicle convoy – two semis and dozens of other escort vehicles – rolling down U.S. Route 1. When that newspaper’s reporter did his story on Dec. 9, the convoy was south of Wiscasset. The convoy was carrying donated surplus wreaths to the cemetery to lay on the headstones of those patriots who rest there for eternity.

It was a weeklong mission in which veterans, truck drivers and other “Wreaths Across America” volunteers took thousands of wreaths to Arlington County, VA, from a warehouse in Maine.

Our XM Satellite Radio show, “Land Line Now,” found it riveting, too. News Anchor Reed Black called the man in Maine who began the project 16 years ago.

Worcester Wreath Co. President Morrill Worcester said it all started when his company had a surplus of wreaths back in 1992, and it was late in the season, too late to expect them to be sold. They were too beautiful to waste, and he decided they should go to Arlington to honor the veterans.

One really neat thing about this story: The convoy did not just zoom down the interstates. It took U.S. Route 1, so it could stop at places like veterans homes and people could line up along the road and wave. As The Kennebunk Journal reports, it was “slow but highly visible.”

The wreath convoy took a full week to work its way down U.S. Highway 1 from Maine to Arlington. As Worcester talked with Reed, the convoy was passing through Darien, CT.

Meanwhile, we found out the company doubled the greenery headed to Arlington, from 5,000 to 10,000. And for the first time in 2007, ceremonial wreaths were donated to 24 veterans’ cemeteries on foreign soil, and aboard U.S. ships sailing in all seven seas.

The wreath placement ceremonies took place Saturday, Dec. 15.

The charity now has a Web site, click here to see it. where you can see stunning photos and video of the red-bowed wreaths being placed up against the pristine white stone markers. You can even sponsor a wreath – something you might keep in mind for next year.

Reed’s radio piece aired Dec. 14. If you missed it, you can catch the repeat on Dec. 24. The story will also appear on our Land Line Magazine’s holiday Web news edition.

Is greed good for the green movement?

I saw an interesting story the other day regarding the launch of a new investment opportunity based on the green movement.

According to Reuters, Evolution Markets is working with the New York Mercantile Exchange to offer trade in global carbon credits beginning next year.

Heavy-hitting financial institutions such as Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan, Merrill Lynch Constellation and several others will join to be partners in Green Exchange – setting up trading for futures of carbon credits tied to the “cap and trade system.”

It will work like this. Companies throughout the world are allowed certain credits for emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases through the Kyoto Treaty. Those firms that don’t meet the limit have leftover credits, which they can sell to companies that need them.

NYMEX and the host of banks associated with the green exchange apparently see global warming as the next hot futures market, supplanting past futures stalwarts like farm produce and interest rates.

California Air Resources Board Chairman Mary Nichols has been a vocal proponent of cap and trade systems.

Theoretically, CARB could set carbon emission limits per truck or company, and your right to purchase surplus credits from another company could be intercepted by investors who already bought futures in green credits.

Of course, the green movement is everywhere these days, which is nothing new for truckers to hear.

Culturally, going green and global warming seems to be on the tips of almost all of our tongues.

Just this week I’ve heard Denny Crane (William Shatner taking on environmentalists on “Boston Legal” (“Deep down, everyone hates the environment”) to the folks here in the office giving “Land Line Now” Host Mark Reddig a hard time for his house’s “festival of incandescence” Christmas light display.

It seems everywhere we’re urged to examine our lives and how they may be affecting global warming.

To calculate your own carbon footprint, click here.

But back to my original point.

So we’ll continue to change light bulbs over to CFLs, recycle printer paper and reduce use of bottled water. Let’s just hope the environmental movement moves its way into our lives in a way that’s a little less seamlessly profit-driven.

Otherwise, I can already picture the Times Square marquee buzzing with fast changing prices for carbon credits. Maybe the green exchange price on the electric board will be accompanied by a cute little green logo.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Tough crowd there in Scranton

In what could be a redefinition of the phrase “Potty Mouth,” Scranton, PA, resident Dawn Herb escaped a jail term and a hefty fine. Her crime was swearing at an overflowing toilet.

Off-duty police officer Patrick Gilman overheard Herb shouting profanities and yelled “Watch your mouth.” Herb replied: “F... Off.”

On-duty Patrolman Gerald Tallo was called in, and after Herb admitted to cursing her toilet she was charged with disorderly conduct. A conviction could have cost her 90 days in jail and a hefty fine.

District Judge Terrence Gallagher has now ruled she did nothing wrong, reports the Scranton Times-Tribune. The language she used “may be considered by some to be offensive, vulgar and imprudent” but she was entitled to use it under the First Amendment, the judge ruled.

We can all breathe easier knowing that our First Amendment rights have been upheld in Scranton. But, I have several things that bother me about this case. My original question was, why was the offended Officer Gilman so close to Ms Herb’s bathroom to be able to hear the naughty language? It turns out that Officer Gilman and Ms Herb are neighbors. Have Officers Gilman and Tallo led such sheltered lives that they have never had contact with the F-bomb? Perhaps neither have been to the movies lately. That doesn’t make it right, but hardly an offense worthy of jail time.

It would seem that we are rapidly losing our individual freedoms, even the potential to cuss out the errant toilet in our own homes. Next, it will be the thought police.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Put the hammer down

Too many government people are carrying hammers around these days and nary a piggy bank is safe.

Intent on spending our fuel tax dollars on things like museums, pet projects, mass transit, landscaping and just about anything but highway repairs, these hammering fools have shattered just about every porcelain piggy within reach.

Something’s got to change.

The solution is not creating more ways to fill more piggy banks with taxpayer dollars. That’s just what the people with hammers want. They have the hammers, after all.

Taxpayers should exercise their rights to air grievances with lawmakers and take their hammers away.

A great many truckers and highway users are running short on nickels and dimes to put in their own banks these days.

It’s time our state and federal elected officials exercised more fiscal responsibility with the highway dollars we send them. Otherwise, the federal Highway Trust Fund will be broke by 2009.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Taking aim at Big Brother

Despite the risk to public safety, I have to admit to feeling guilty pleasure at a recent incident in Knoxville, TN, where a guy was charged with shooting a red-light camera three times. With a gun, not with the bird. To read the story, click here.

It seems one Clifford Clark III, for reasons unknown – who has never gotten a ticket from one of the cameras – was accused of blasting away at the camera with a deer rifle. He was stopped because he was acting “suspiciously” and the officers backtracked from the rifle in his car to the slain camera.

The article in the Daily Telegraph noted that, “In Britain there are many examples of speed cameras being beaten, burned and hacked down by angry motorists,” but no reported shootings. Obviously the British have more time on their hands; here in America, we like our justice swift and certain.

Our town, Gallatin, TN, installed three red-light cameras this year and thus joined the expanding social experiment in police surveillance of our daily activities. The cams are on a main drag, several miles apart, and I pass at least one of them every day. Each of these intersections had seen numerous crashes as drivers raced through the red or executed right turns into legally oncoming traffic.

I used to live just down the street from one location, and was amazed at the number of red-light runners, from Kias to Kenworths. It still happens, of course. I recently saw an armored truck driver slap the steering wheel after he saw the camera flash in his rearview mirror. I laughed with the pleasure of one who wasn’t caught.

I have issues with these cameras. There’s the question of verifying who was driving – cars don’t run red lights, people do. (Note to self: Maybe that’s a slogan for a new association – the NRA: National Redlightrunners Association. I wonder if Mr. Clark belongs to that other NRA bunch?)

There have also been some studies indicating that, while these cameras can reduce T-bone wrecks, they don’t reduce rear-end collisions. If anything, those collisions often increase as drivers suddenly slow or stop. The cameras are supposed to click only after the light is red, but why take chances of being caught in the middle of the intersection? Slam, BAM! You got insurance, ma’am?

The police chief, with whom I exchanged a number of e-mails opposing the installation of these lights, says it has made the roads safer. The net result for me has been increased anxiety as I approach these intersections. I check for traffic waiting on the cross street and wonder how many seconds I have before the light goes amber. Will I be close enough to get through or have to jam on the brakes – the legal speed limit at our lights ranges from 30 to 50 – and hope all the drivers behind me do likewise?

Often as not, I accelerate as the seconds tick away on the green and I get closer to the light. This is not, I suspect, what Gallatin’s finest would like to happen. But so far, no gotchas on my end, although my wife got dinged by not quite stopping before turning right at a red light.

And I’m worried. She owns a rifle and used to be a pretty good shot. Maybe I better hide the ammo.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Carload of teens: precious, dangerous cargo

I saw a scary sight this morning. Here in Missouri, we’re iced in at the present. Streets in my neighborhood are wretched. Not fit for the best four-wheel drive. But, there was my neighbor’s teenager, climbing in a car with a bunch of pals, iced-over windows, snow still all over the back windshield. Off they flew on the glazed rink that was my street.

What concerned me the most was that there were at least seven kids in that car. I am not one to spout off “there should be a law against that” but there SHOULD be a law against this. And in many states, there is. Sort of.

Frequently, you will read in our Web news or hear on “Land Line Now” on XM Satellite Radio Channel 171 about driving laws restricting teens as they learn to drive. State Legislative Editor Keith Goble reports frequently on graduated licensing.

Most states now have that kind of law, and many include passenger limitations as the kids are learning. Some states have good laws, and some are weak. None are really great. A great law in my opinion would be one in which seven kids in a car with a teen driver is a primary violation. That means the police can pull a kid over who appears to have more than three other teens in the car.

Like a sensible person would really need a study to tell them a load of kids and a loud radio blasting the new Korn CD is not distracting – but there’s a number of excellent studies that support a limited passenger law for teens.

In 2004, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety published one, declaring that a little more than half of all crash deaths involving 16-year-old drivers occurred when they had teen passengers in their vehicles.

There’s a new study out that pinpoints behavior. It’s no surprise that when teenagers drive with other kids in the car, they drive faster and basically engage in riskier stuff, like that crazy lane-switching thing. All while everyone in the car is talking or texting on their cell phones.

I’ve always been an advocate of primary passenger restriction for teen drivers. I did it with my own kid some years back. The graduated licensing laws are good, but not tough enough. Police can’t and won’t enforce them, and many kids simply ignore the restrictions. Their parents ignore the rules, too. It’s never YOUR kid who is a bad driver.

What is a typical graduated licensing law? Let’s look at Alabama. There, teens can get a learner’s permit at age 15, must hold it for six months and complete 30 hours of supervised driving before moving on to the restricted license. Teens must be at least 16 to get that restricted license, during which they cannot drive with more than three passengers (not including a parent) and must have adult supervision between midnight and 6 a.m. Teens can get a regular license at 17 and then restrictions go bye-bye.

I am zeroing in on Alabama because earlier this month in Hayden, AL, three of Hayden High School’s cheerleaders were killed in a single-car crash, a devastating accident that has shocked the whole state. The media reported that the three dead girls were in the car with four other teens, “… when the car left a two-lane highway, went over an embankment and landed upside down.”

My heart breaks for the families and these girls. What caused the 17-year-old driver to lose control of a car carrying such precious cargo? Reports say the kids were “apparently laughing and singing as they headed back from a cheerleading clinic.”

What a horrible Christmas for those friends and families.

This “no more than three passenger” rule needs enforcement – in every state, in every county, in every town – and by every law enforcement officer and every parent.

Maybe it even needs to be extended to age 20, or until the driver has safely owned a full license for two years.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Youth poems are both ‘Pooh’ perfect and grittily realistic

As the new copy editor for Land Line Magazine, I have read some fascinating magazine articles, columns, Web news, radio scripts, and blogs in the past few months. Few pieces, however, have been as sincerely written and poignant as the poems written by Land Line’s youth readers.

The youth entries were divided into the following categories: age 10 and under, ages 11 to 14, and ages 15 to 17. You can read the top winners for all three age categories in the February issue of Land Line Magazine.

As readers will probably recall, the poems written by adults were featured in the November issue, which was the first Land Line issue I worked on. The quality (and quantity) of entries were so impressive that I agreed to help read the poems in the 18 and younger division.

One reason I volunteered was that I’ve taught poetry to college composition students and have often been impressed by the writing ability of 18-year-olds. Sometimes, though, I have been disappointed by an exquisitely written sonnet or brilliant free verse – because what is lacking is heart and authenticity.

Our youngest poets, age 10 and under, are all about heart and authenticity. Their poems may not always display a perfect command of meter, but they bring a smile to the face and a chuckle of recognition. As that great critic Winnie the Pooh (known to all his very best friends as Pooh) said, “Poetry and Hums aren’t things which you get, they’re things which get you. And all you can do is go where they can find you.”

Here for your enjoyment is such a poem, which earned “Honorable Mention” status.

“Trucking”

By Ecko, Age 10

T – Trucks, flat face, big nose any kind, all different trucks.

R – Rest stops, coffee, soda, snacks take a break before you get back in your truck.

U – U-hauls anywhere, everybody has to drive for something somewhere.

C – Cars you have to watch for and even motorcycles, walkers, and bike riders.

K – Kids from bus stops you have to be careful they even might go honk, honk.

I – It’s getting late so you might want to get some sleep to be new tomorrow.

N – Near, far you still miss your family, everybody always misses someone.

G – Grant Trucking is my family business!

Ecko is from Maine. Her father is an owner-operator truck driver and OOIDA member.

Another “Honorable Mention” entry takes us along for a ride, giving us specific details and vivid imagery. As Samuel Clemens (better known as Mark Twain) wrote in a letter to a friend: “Prose wanders around with a lantern and laboriously schedules and verifies the details and particulars of a valley and its frame of crags and peaks, then Poetry comes, and lays bare the whole landscape with a single splendid flash.”

This young poet does just that.

“The Trucker”

By Jason, Age 14

Sitting alone in the cab of a Pete,

A long way to go ‘til I find my way,

Traveling the roads on an air-ride seat,

To reach my next stop the following day.

I’m backed in early, offloading the flour,

Got the freight off quick and loaded again,

I’m shifting to tenth at half past the hour,

Heading for PA, blasting down I-10.

Called up ahead and the roads are all clear,

I’ll be home soon if I keep at this pace,

Popping the clutch and splitting eighteenth gear,

Into town to deliver to the place.

Now I’m back at home for just a few days,

I’m not home a lot, but boy this job pays!

Jason lives in Pennsylvania. His dad has been driving long haul for 30-some years.

Friday, December 7, 2007

All dogs go to heaven, but lawyers and billboard writers aren’t dogs

It’s not unusual for the OOIDA switchboard operators to field 2,500 calls every day, and it’s not unusual for a number of those callers to have suggestions for the “Roses & Razzberries” column in Land Line.

It is also not unusual for the “Razzberry” suggestions to include law firms that have advertisements portraying truckers as wild-eyed speed demons or sleepy-eyed accidents waiting to happen. It seems that there is an entire subclass of ambulance chasers who prey on professional truckers, partly because they think trucking companies have deep pockets and partly because they believe all truckers are easy targets who break the law every day just for the fun of it.

So I wasn’t surprised recently when I took a call from an OOIDA member who was irked by yet another television commercial that was hawking legal services for people who had been in wrecks involving big trucks. The trucker who called in drives team with her husband. After they saw the commercial, she called the lawyers’ office in an attempt to raise their awareness about the realities of truckers and trucking.

Not too surprisingly, she was told that no one had time to talk to her.

Still steaming from that treatment, the OOIDA member hit the boiling point while driving through Utah on Interstate 15. Near the communities of Nephi and Fillmore she saw billboards that were apparently directed at speeding and sleepy truckers:

“Truck drivers go to heaven faster” “18 wheels and 40 winks don’t mix”

Needless to say, the messages outraged the OOIDA member and her husband, as well as those of us here at Land Line.

Unfortunately, the team drivers were not able to snap a photo of either billboard as they were driving southbound on I-15. They speculated that the Utah DOT was behind the messages, but as of press time Friday, Dec. 7, Land Line’s phone calls to the state DOT’s public information staff had not been returned.

Regardless who is responsible for the messages on those billboards, I’ve got a couple messages for them:

“Speeders go to heaven faster” “No number of wheels mixes well with 40 winks”

Truckers aren’t the problem on our highways. Bad drivers are the problem, and they drive everything from mopeds to 18-wheelers. We need driver training for all drivers, and we need it now.

We also need a photo of those billboards in Utah, so if you happen to see one, snap a shot and send it to me via e-mail or snail mail.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Shame to waste good doughnuts

Anybody that works with me here in Land Line knows of my love for sweets – especially doughnuts.

So you can imagine my sadness upon hearing the news that a truckload of Krispy Kreme doughnuts was wasted – scattered along the highway following a high-speed chase in Madison, WI.

Warren G. Whitelightning – yes, that’s his last name – of Crandon, allegedly led police on a high-speed chase through Madison after stealing a Krispy Kreme Donut truck from the Open Pantry store parking lot after he was asked to leave the business.

He then headed to the parking lot where he hopped in the doughnut truck – and after doing two laps around the parking lot – he took to the open road, where he led officers on a chase with speeds clocked as high as 80 mph.

Whitelighting then reportedly rammed a University of Wisconsin police car by backing into him when the police car stopped behind the doughnut truck.

That’s when the doughnuts started flying.

The suspect then fled to a parking lot – doughnuts scattering everywhere – where he stopped the truck, got out and gave up by lying down on the parking lot.

Whitelightning has officially been charged with shoplifting eight giant, red-hot pickled sausages from the Open Pantry on University Avenue, stealing the doughnut truck, ramming a University of Wisconsin police car, attempting to elude pursing offices, operating after revocation (his fourth time drunk driving) and a hit and run.

His bail has been set at $2,100.

The entire police chase was captured on video cameras by pursing squad cars. You can see it here.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

From an American soldier: a letter home

This week OOIDA is doing something neat. The Association’s membership gang has teamed up with Mark Reddig and the “Land Line Now” radio crew and is now conducting its first ever membership radio telethon. Ten percent of the membership fees will be matched by the Association and go toward care packages to be sent to U.S. troops stationed overseas. The response has been spectacular.

In the spirit of this radio telethon, I have to share a letter “from an American soldier” sent to me from an OOIDA member. It’s an e-mail that has no doubt circulated around the world many times. I’ve seen it posted on several military blogs and sometimes, it changes a bit or has a different signature.

I have no idea of its origin or authenticity, but it should still put a smile on some faces.

Dear Ma and Pa:

I am well. Hope you are. Tell brother Walt and brother Elmer that the Marine Corps beats working for “Old Man Minch” by a mile. Tell them to join up quick before all of the places are filled. I was restless at first because you got to stay in bed til nearly 6 a.m., but am getting so I like to sleep late.

Tell Walt and Elmer all you do before breakfast is smooth up your cot and shine some things. No hogs to slop, feed to pitch, mash to mix, wood to split, fire to lay. Practically nothing. Men got to shave but it is not so bad, there’s warm water.

Breakfast is strong on trimmings like fruit juice, cereal, eggs, bacon, etc., but kind of weak on chops, potatoes, ham, steak, fried eggplant, pie and other regular food. But tell Walt and Elmer you can always sit by the city boys that just about live on coffee. Their food plus yours holds you til noon when you get fed again. It’s no wonder these city boys can’t walk much.

We go on “route” marches, which the platoon sergeant says are long walks to harden us. If he thinks so, it is not my place to tell him different. A route march is about as far as out to our mailbox. Then the city guys get sore feet and we all ride back in trucks. This country is nice, but awful flat.

The sergeant is like a schoolteacher. He nags some. The captain is like Old Man Minch. Majors and colonels just ride around and frown. They don’t bother you none.

This next will kill Walt and Elmer with laughing. I keep getting medals for shooting. I don’t know why. The bull’s eye is near as big as a chipmunk head and it don’t move. And it ain't shooting at you, like the Higgett boys do. All you got to do is lie there all comfortable and hit it. You don’t even load your own cartridges. They come in boxes.

Then we have what they call hand-to-hand combat training. You get to wrestle with them city boys. I have to be real careful though, they break real easy. It ain’t like fighting with that ole bull at home. I’m about the best they got in this except for Tug Jordan from over in Silver Creek. He joined up the same time as me. But I’m only 5’6” and 130 pounds and if you remember he’s 6’8” and weighs near 300 pounds dry.

Be sure to tell Walt and Elmer to hurry and join before other fellers get onto this setup and come stampeding in.

Your loving daughter,

Emily

Monday, December 3, 2007

Yo California, the ships are pulling in

Land Line readers may start to see some familiar articles making their way into daily newspapers and local newscasts from coast to coast.

That’s right, the battle to clean the air in California statewide and specifically in the twin ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles is now being watched by mainstream media sources such as the New York Times. The Times, aka “the old gray lady,” chimed in with a story from the twin ports and how truckers will be affected. The Times story is available here.

The Long Beach Mayor has a gem in the Times story. In one fell swoop, hizzoner encapsulates both America’s thirst for Asian goods and just how the truck replacement program will be paid for.

“We’re not going to have kids in Long Beach contract asthma so someone in Kansas can get a cheaper television set,” said Mayor Bob Foster.

The Associated Press had a story here regarding California’s greenhouse gas law.

The California Air Resources Board has nearly tripled its greenhouse gas staff to 300, and last week the agency continued its work in defining six separate groups it plans to regulate. One such group, transportation, will focus on trucking and Land Line will keep a close watch to see what announcements CARB makes at its Dec. 14 meeting when staffers discuss their strategies for achieving 1990 emissions levels by 2020.

But before that, CARB meets on Thursday, Dec. 6, to decide whether a state port truck rule will go into effect.

OOIDA Regulatory Affairs Specialist Joe Rajkovacz will be there and will address the board with the Association’s concerns.

The meeting will be Webcast here.

Stay tuned.

Friday, November 30, 2007

’Tis the season

An effort in Washington state expected to draw consideration during the 2008 regular legislative session could lead to truckers and other drivers reaching into their wallets more often while traveling in the state.

Key legislators at the statehouse say charging a fee to highway users isn’t too far down the road. They want to advance legislation to the governor that would create a framework for collecting tolls.

The new Tacoma Narrows Bridge already is tolled. A new Highway 520 floating bridge between Seattle and Bellevue would also be tolled.

Transportation leaders at the capitol predict tolling to be more widespread in the state’s not-to-distant future. They cite Puget Sound voters’ rejection on Election Day for a massive roads and transit funding measure.

Senate Transportation chairwoman Mary Margaret Haugen and House Transportation chairwoman Judy Clibborn are drafting legislation for consideration during the session that begins Jan. 14 that would give the state Legislature authority to impose tolls on unspecified roads and bridges. An appointed panel would set the rates that could continue to be collected after a project is paid off.

This should be a reminder for voters everywhere that it is never a bad time to pick up a phone, pen a letter, or type on your keyboard a message to your elected officials about your thoughts on issues of importance to you.

It is a good idea to spend a few moments now chatting with your lawmakers before the hustle and bustle that accompanies the new legislative year when legislators have different things thrown their way all day every day. Give them something to think about now so they can remember it when discussion at the capitol turns to the topic.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

What happens in your Vega …

Because we are a car-oriented culture, the line between home and car continues to blur.

We’re already seeing cars wired up for Web surfing and plumbed for portable toilets; our mobile sound systems are often better than what we have at home; and, with vans and SUV models whose rear seats fold down, it’s not inconceivable that some Los Angelinos may soon be power napping while stuck in cross-state traffic. (Which proves everything old is new again – The 1946 Nash Rambler offered newly demobilized soldiers a mobile bunk on wheels.

Of course, many parents will tell you that the advent of DVD players in automobiles has been a godsend for those traveling with children. This week, though, an Irving, TX, man allegedly was using his car’s DVD for a less than godly purpose.

Police say he was watching porn, had a beer in his car, and carried no driver’s license. Although he did pull over for at least part of the film, when he started up again, an alert officer whose suspicions were aroused by the driver’s behavior pulled him over. The details are here.

I don’t have to tell you that this was just a lucky collar. You see this kind of behavior and far more bizarre stuff every day. It’s not even new; authorities have been worried about it since at least 2004, as another in the growing list of ABD (Anything But Drive) activities that distract drivers and put us all in peril. Instead of bumper stickers that say “Shut Up and Drive,” maybe our bumper stickers should just say … “Zip It.”

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A double standard?

By now, you may have heard about the journalists in Quebec, Canada, who witnessed provincial Transportation Minister Julie Boulet’s limo driver breaking various speed laws following their departure from a press conference concerning speed.

If Boulet is going to target speeders – you gotta love the irony – the transportation minister needs to be held to a high standard.

She has apologized and has “reassigned” her driver to other duties, and I am pretty sure the people will accept her apology. After all, she claims to have slept through the one-hour ride.

Bravo to the Journal de Montreal for some gutsy frontline work in reporting the story.

I believe the media have a right to be skeptical of Boulet’s proposed legislation to crack down on speeding, which includes a proposal for mandatory speed limiters on heavy trucks.

Is her speed proposal well-advised? We have our doubts. Will it cut down on speeders? It might, but journalists have a free pass to question it at this point.

The French media have Boulet on the run, and we are anxious to see what happens next.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Read this before heading out into the holiday fray

For many consumers, the Friday after Thanksgiving is the day to start shopping for the loved ones on their Christmas lists. And, of course, just about everyone has to make a trip or two down the toy aisle.

Toys are big selling items in truck stops. For truckers far from home, who can resist buying a toy while you are waiting to pay for fuel?

However, you might want to do some research to make sure the toys on your list haven’t been involved in a product recall.

It might surprise you to know that some of the names you love and trust, including Fisher-Price, Mattel and Spin Master have been involved in some of the biggest toy recalls in recent history. In all, more than 20 million toys have been recalled so far in 2007 – 10 million toys have been recalled because of lead paint contamination from toys manufactured in China.

This past week, I spoke to Don Mays of Consumer Reports Magazine and he provided me with some helpful, yet scary, information I wasn’t aware of before our conversation.

Even though a product has been voluntarily recalled because of a safety issue– that doesn’t mean retailers have to stop selling the product or that it has to be removed from store shelves.

While many retailers choose to remove products voluntarily recalled products, which they no longer sell in the U.S., May said that many times those same products will be shipped off and sold overseas to countries with less stringent or no safety standards.

Recently, 4.2 million Aqua Dots bead craft kits, manufactured in China, were voluntarily recalled because the coating on the beads contained the toxic “date rape” drug GHB, or gamma-hydroxy butyrate. This problem was found after children ingested the beads and ended up hospitalized because of their reactions linked back to the beads after testing was done on them.

While most retailers have pulled Aqua Dots from their store shelves, the scary part is that since this was a voluntary recall this product could still wind up on store shelves for parents to unknowingly buy for their children in other countries.

So, before you head out to do your holiday shopping, you might want to click here to find out which products are on the “naughty” list in 2007.

Hot fuel report right on the money

This is a tip of the hat to television reporter Bob Segall and WTHR-TV Channel 13 in Indianapolis.

Segall recently presented a report on how the temperature of fuel affects the amount of fuel consumers receive at the pump. If you’ve been playing along at home, you know the issue as “hot fuel” and that consumer groups have filed lawsuits against oil companies and retailers to get it corrected.

Hot fuel is what consumers receive when the fuel temperature is above 60 degrees. That’s a century-old standard used by oil refiners and retailers when they trade fuel above the rack. At the consumer pumps, there is no such standard, so whether it’s on purpose or not, retailers are charging for fuel that consumers never see when it’s above 60 degrees.

Segall showed the state weights and measure director doing something that the reporter said the official has never done before: measuring the temperature of fuel being dispensed. Segall got readings from 66 degrees up to 71 degrees, even though the ambient air temperature was 52 degrees.

We tip the hat to Segall because he took the time to talk to truckers who routinely spend $600 or more to fill up their tanks.

Segall presented a fair piece, interviewing people from the oil industry to tell their side – that installing temperature compensation equipment on all fuel pumps is cost-prohibitive.

Segall interviewed motorists who had no idea that fuel temperature affected their purchase. They were surprised when the reporter informed them that hot fuel costs consumers about $1 per fill-up on a passenger vehicle.

“It seems like a scam,” one motorist said.

The story is easy to follow, filled with good camera shots and interviews, and is overall one of the best we’ve found to date on this important consumer issue. Click here to view it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Don’t tase me bro

Most everyone’s seen the video of a University of Florida student being tasered during an address by John Kerry. It’s synonymous with the phrase, “don’t tase me bro,” which Andrew Meyer yelled before screaming in agony as electric current flowed through his body.

One clip of the scene is available on YouTube.

Tasers, stun-guns and the like have attracted much media attention in recent years. According to Wikipedia, Amnesty International has attributed 245 deaths to persons shot by tasers.

We’ve been following the story of driver Larry Works here at Land Line. Larry and his wife Chris are team drivers from Tennessee who regularly stop at the Petro truck stop on I-44 in Joplin, MO.

In July 2006, Larry and Chris were told by an off-duty Newton County, MO, sheriff’s deputy to move their truck, and then were told to get out of the truck. The Newton County Sheriff later told me the deputy was part of a hired security detail working for a motor carrier at the truck stop.

Later, Larry was shot seven times by deputies with Taser guns, enough to require him to be hospitalized, in a scene that was probably much less comical than the one involving Mr. Meyer.

We’ve got a story on Larry’s plight on the Land Line Magazine Web site.

But the story brings up some important questions: who hires security guards at truck stops, are off-duty police or for-hire security guards armed? What are they authorized to do?

When a police officer is working for a private company, but wearing their sworn officer clothing and armed with a gun or stun-gun, what authority do they have to tell a driver not to park in a particular space?

If they’re hired by the truck stop it’s one issue, but do larger companies specifically compete with other companies or independent drivers at truck stop spaces as well?

If you’re a trucker or used to drive truck, have you ever encountered off-duty police or security guards giving a driver a hard time at a truck stop?

Please e-mail me at charlie_morasch@landlinemag.com, I want to hear your stories.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Gauged your molecules today?

I’ve been reading a fascinating book called “The World Without Us,” in which author Alan Weisman addresses the question: What would happen to the world if all us humans suddenly vanished?

Answering that question requires considerable examination of what the world is like today. In a chapter that makes truck emissions seems like baby’s breath, Weisman explores the changes that about 50 years of widespread, massive and growing production of plastics have made. You can read it online here, click on Chapter 9: Polymers Are Forever. Chapter 10 continues the exploration, in even more depressing detail.

One detail, however, caught my attention: A brief overview of how Charles Goodyear accidentally discovered how to vulcanize rubber. Weisman makes the startling declaration that a rubber tire, essentially, acts like one giant molecule.

Even if, like me, you spent most of chemistry class dreaming about fishing, you probably recall that molecules are supposed to be really tiny things. Not rubber he says. When all the ingredients are mixed together into – let’s call it tire dough – and the dough is poured into the form and heated, all those atoms link up and form one big long chain: one molecule.

Yeah, right. I think the man is stretching the definition of molecule here to cover an entire truck rim. From reading other descriptions of what happens in vulcanization, it sounds like a lot of molecules all lined up in long chains, kinda like the world’s largest conga line.

Whatever. There aren’t any little bacteria that eat rubber, so, no matter how tiny it shreds, it doesn’t biodegrade. In landfills, Weisman say, tires do what we bought them for: they trap air and, over time, tend to float to the surface. So, if we’re all Raptured or virused away, old tires will be rising to the top of landfills for centuries to come, where they will perform their secondary function of providing habitat for breeding mosquitoes.

All of which is a really long way of getting to a point that relates to trucking. To keep your “molecules” from giving out too soon, check their pressure with a gauge, not a bat. And when asked, “Paper or plastic,” go the paper route.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Forrest Lucas, self-made man

If you’re a motorsports fan – drag racing, dirt track, off-road, boat racing, tractor pulling – you’ve noticed the Lucas Oil logos plastered everywhere.

If you surf the speed and sport channels, you might think they are the Lucas Oil Channels.

If you’re an NFL fan, you’ll soon be hearing about Lucas Oil Stadium, the new home of the Indianapolis Colts, now under construction.

The Lucas in Lucas Oil is Forrest Lucas and you’ll be reading about him and his wife Charlotte in the upcoming issue of Land Line.

Forrest is an OOIDA member who started out as a trucker years ago. He has been an acquaintance of mine since I was a pea-green trucking reporter. He has been an expert advisor in all things fuel, additives, etc., and a loyal advertiser in Land Line Magazine.

How he got to be a self-made millionaire is quite a story. He still has his CDL and owns 30 trucks that make up the Lucas Oil private fleet.

When a good opportunity came along to interview Forrest and Charlotte in October – they were planning on spending a few days in Missouri – Staff Writer Clarissa Kell-Holland drew the assignment.

We drafted one of OOIDA’s best photographers – Natasha Smith from OOIDA’s Marketing Department – and she and Clarissa spent the day with the Lucases at their ranch in Cross Timbers, MO.

With Forrest and Charlotte as their guides, Clarissa and Natasha also toured the state-of-the art Lucas Oil Speedway dirt track in Wheatland, which is only about 20 minutes from their 13,000-acre ranch, the Circle-L.

Clarissa said it was the only reporting assignment she ever walked away from carrying her notebook and a couple of packages of ground beef – Lucas-raised ground beef from Forrest and Charlotte’s freezer.

Another big highlight of the trip, Clarissa bragged later, was getting to try on a bona-fide Colts’ Super Bowl ring, owned by Forrest and Charlotte.

Watch for the exclusive feature in the December/January issue of Land Line Magazine.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Lesson learned

Don’t let skepticism get in the way of finding the truth.

I admit I was a little skeptical – and I think others in the newsroom were as well – when I pitched a story in our morning meeting based on a phone call I received from a member who wanted to get a special “message out” to fellow drivers about helping a boy with cancer who wanted to set a Guinness World Record for receiving the most get-well cards.

After all, the Web site, Snopes.com, which researches Urban Legends, has disproved many such “claims” in the past.

However, the sincere tone in OOIDA member Doug McCauley’ voice convinced me to pitch the story, and our managing editor, Sandi Soendker, urged me to check out and verify whether the story was true.

After reading about a 13-year-old boy, Josh Adkins’ wish to set the world record for the most get-well cards, Doug called Land Line wanting our help to get the message out to our readers either through the magazine or on our daily Web news to send cards to help Josh achieve his goal. He had already mailed his card and had sent a message by Qualcomm to other drivers, urging them to do the same.

After doing a little digging around, I confirmed that this rumor was indeed true. At first, I was excited because this is the type of thing I know our members would wrap their arms around, helping others, but my mood went from high to low rather quickly after finding out that Josh lost his battle with cancer a few weeks ago.

On the city of Stanford’s Web site, there was this message: “Many of you throughout the community have been showing your support and sending cards for 13-year-old Josh Adkins. He battled cancer and was taken off of life support on Oct. 24, 2007. Josh died Oct. 25, 2007.”

Although there was a sad ending to this story, I plan to check with the Guinness people to see how close Josh got to achieving his goal – I’ll bet he got real close.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Coming home to roost

As part of my job here at Land Line, I check different government Web sites to find stories tied to trucking. Occasionally the straight-laced headlines on news released here or here are comical, whether they’re meant to be or not.

When I searched this morning and found this story, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud.

Five workers at the Richard Bolling Federal Building in downtown Kansas City were indicted for using false Social Security numbers. Yes, it’s the very same 18-story building that houses 4,000 federal employees who are everything from

human resources to the Department of Commerce to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

It seems five employees of the building’s cafeteria used Social Security numbers that weren’t their own, and each was charged with Social Security number fraud, identity theft and making false statements to the government.

The federal government’s refusal to formally address how to handle illegal immigration has come back to embarrass Uncle Sam.

Another headline at the ICE news release site showed that 23 workers were recently arrested at O’Hare Airport in Chicago. A temporary employment agency apparently helped the 23 workers get unauthorized access to secure areas at the airport including the tarmac. That story is available here.

When U.S. companies and apparently the U.S. government profited from cheap labor while looking the other way, the demand for illegal labor and competition between firms artificially deflated services and salaries immeasurably.

We can only hope that the congressional repudiation of Mary Peters’ bid to implement cross-border trucking between Mexico and the U.S. will prevent similar deflation to hurt trucking.

Mom and pop trucking operations are counting on it.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Veterans Day

My dad was in the Navy. During World War II, he was in the South Pacific arena. In my life, I have a million stories about Wake Island and, of course, the Battle of Midway.

Mom’s brothers were all in the service and her folks put their foot down about her going in, so she moved to Washington, DC, and worked in the Pentagon, processing papers for the Air Force. Her parents owned a truck stop outside Springfield, IL. Mom had never worked anywhere but the truck stop.

Honoring our veterans and days like Veterans Day has always been a big deal in my family. Family picnics and all the men telling war stories and women telling “Rosie the Riveter” stories. Those stories are ones I need to keep safe in the part of my brain that holds parts of my life in fine focus. When I took my 89-year-old mom to the cemetery yesterday to put a flag on Dad’s grave, I was reminded of this.

It wasn’t unlike other Veterans Days in one way. Mom always relates some fond memory of Dad, like how he kept his Navy uniform in a duffle bag in the basement for 30 years, how many flight hours he logged on Christmas Day 1941 and more. I always find myself gritting my teeth and saying, “I hope to God I never forget any detail of these stories.”

The thing that was sadly different is that it was just us two. It seems everyone else in the family was too busy to honor the long-gone sailor in our family and all others like him.

No carload of family headed to the cemetery, strolling the leafy paths, and pointing out familiar names on tombstones. No Sunday dinner with family, looking through scrapbooks.

I was surprised that there were not many cars at the cemetery and the place was not full of flags. I heard on the news last night that some Vietnam vets decorated a memorial over on the Kansas side and some jerk tore all the flags down during the night. I wanted to go over there and sit all night to make sure the bums didn’t do it again.

I hope we don’t ever lose the spirit of Veterans Day. It’s a valiant spirit and one that I am glad is alive in my soul. But yesterday – just me and Mom planting a little flag in the ground – I wondered how many young Americans even know the words to George M. Cohan’s songs or who Rosie the Riveter was.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Who’s watching the watchers?

A news story last week in the San Francisco Chronicle highlights an interesting question of ethics and a potential conflict of interest.

The University of California is considering signing a $500 million research contract paid for by BP, one of several big oil companies that continue to force you to make decisions like “should I take my kids to see grandma and grandpa this week or take them to the library?” because I can’t afford gas to both places.

I know this blog and Land Line Magazine’s Web site have seemed to harp on environmental issues in recent months, but there’s a reason.

The fight to keep trucking from being overgrown by duplicitous, overreaching regulations and to keep an even playing field for small businesses is being waged on a new front: the Green scheme.

Because the federal government hasn’t moved forward with emissions restrictions that help poor air quality areas like Los Angeles, Allegheny County, PA, and New York City, cities, counties and states are taking the bull by the horns and creating their own limits on everything from truck idling to access to ports to running reefer engines.

Just yesterday, Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter announced Colorado will “fight global warming by adopting clean-car standards and tailpipe emissions among other standards similar to California’s plan by 2011. You’ve gotta believe trucking will be among the “devils in the details” when Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission sets the rules aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent below current levels by 2050 or so, according to the Denver Post.

California – which has established itself as the leader in cutting diesel truck emissions – has repeatedly commissioned studies by the University of California and other state institutions as the foundation for regulations such as next year’s statewide five-minute limit on idling, and a plan to aggressively cut emissions from trucks that stop in California ports.

Daniel Sperling, a CARB board member, is a professor at UC-Davis, and worked extensively on a research project that is now being used to develop a low-carbon fuel standard. (At last check, CARB had not decided whether diesel fuel will be included in the new standard.)

To my original point – the contract calls for the formation of the Energy Biosciences Institute for research on biofuels and energy initiatives.

Groups such as Greenpeace USA and the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights have publicly criticized the University for considering the research contract.

“The prospect of giant carbon polluters directing research related to and gaining control of key energy technologies is very troubling – especially when the research is conducted at, and the technologies are developed in collaboration with, public institutions,” the groups wrote in a letter to UC President Robert Dynes, according to the Chronicle.

You have to wonder what would motivate BP to shell out $500 million, and just what advantage they’ll have when new technologies and energy sources are mandated.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Semper Fi!

As a contributor to Land Line, I also have a regular day job as an editor and writer at a publishing company. For the past 18 months or so, a large part of my duties there have involved editing Semper Fi, a bimonthly magazine for the 70,000 members of the Marine Corps League. You can find here.

I’m betting that some of you are Marines (there being no such thing as a former Marine), and you’ll be celebrating someplace, too.

In that capacity, several of my colleagues and I are going to Washington this weekend to participate in celebrating the Corps’ 232 Birthday. The weekend officially starts with a ceremony at the Marine Corps War Memorial, often called the Iwo Jima Memorial, click here or here. There, the Commandant of the Marine Corps and its two major marching bands, The President’s Own and The Commandant’s Own, as well as the world-famous Silent Drill Team, will perform for assembled Marines and friends.

That night, as has been tradition for much of the last 100 years, Marine units, bases and veterans around the world will have a party – known as a Birthday Ball. At some point in the festivities, the cooks will wheel out a big cake that will be cut with a Marine saber. The first two pieces go to the oldest and youngest Marines present – another tradition.

On Sunday, Veterans’ Day, the League will take its turn as the official hosting veterans organization at the national Veterans’ Day Observance at Arlington National Cemetery (you can see what last year’s observance looked like here).

The League members will be readily identifiable because of the scarlet jackets they wear. I’m not a Marine, so I will be in a suit and sunglasses, looking a lot like a Secret Service agent.

Seriously, I am very humble to be afforded the opportunity to participate in this. Some years ago, I participated in the Memorial Day event known as Rolling Thunder, remembering MIAs and KIAs and, as part of that, laid a wreath at the Vietnam War Memorial on behalf of truckers who served in that conflict.

When I return, I’ll post an account as well as some photos and maybe a link to some video. To all you Marines out there, Happy Birthday and Semper Fideles!

Beatles connection to trucking

OK. This is too good. I have to blog about this.

Paul McCartney was recently photographed smooching with a lovely woman by the name of Nancy Shevell in New York.

Before we go running off into the land of catchy Beatle headlines and song lyrics, we’ll tell you that Ms. Shevell’s family owns the Shevell Group, a company that includes LTL carriers and logistics firms such as New England Motor Freight, Eastern Freight Ways, Carrier Industries and Apex Logistics.

So there is a Beatle connection to trucking after all besides Paul’s “yellow lorry slow” reference – a seemingly non sequitur lyric about a truck – in “You Never Give Me Your Money.”

Shevell is a connected woman in trucking and transportation.

New England Motor Freight boasts that it is one of the largest LTL carriers in the Northeast with 30 terminals, according to its Web site.

Shevell, 47, is vice president of the company. In 2004, she was named as a board member of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

And now she’s reportedly seeing McCartney, tirelessly active surviving Beatle. I refuse to call Paul an ex-Beatle for reasons of endearment.

I will also refrain from the tabloid-style attacks about Paul and his ex-wife, Heather Mills. They can work it out and get it straight or say goodnight.

It’s time to keep things light with a little trucking Beatle medley:

She was a day tripper, Sunday driver yeah. But everyone knew her as Nancy. She’s got a ticket to ride, and she don’t care. Get back. Get back. Get back to where you once belonged. Why don’t we do it in the road? Baby, you can drive my car.

Or in this case, a truck. OK. That’s enough. Good luck, Sir Paul.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

It’s a good thing they can’t talk

Anybody with kids knows the panic of your child ratting you out at the worst possible moment.

I learned this lesson years ago when I took my niece, Meg, with me to pick up fair results at the county fairground. She was 3 years old at the time and quite the talker.

I was driving around the access road – which was restricted to press and fair workers – and some toothless carnie started yelling at me to get off the road. I muttered under my breath, “Hide and watch, b$@#%,” and kept driving.

The carnie saw me muttering and started tapping on my window demanding to know what I said.

Meg reached over, rolled down her window and proceeded to proclaim: “She said, ‘hide and watch, b$@#%.’ ”

Mortified, I rolled up the window and crept off to the fairgrounds office to pick up the results and get the heck out of Dodge.

Now researchers are saying my dog might be able to read my mind. I am so screwed. Check out the story.

Even though my chocolate lab “Mocha” and I have a lot of deep conversations, there’re still things I really don’t want even her to know.

I would guess a lot of you with dogs in the truck have some of those deep and meaningful conversations with your dogs. And, I'd bet you know what I mean that there's even some things you're not going to tell your dog. Now researchers are saying our dog's are just going to know what we're thinking.

I guess it’s a darn good thing they can’t talk. Otherwise, you know about the time Barney Fife asks you if you know why he pulled you over – well, Fido just might spill the beans.

Going mean and green

The green wave continues to pound mainstream America.

NBC’s The Today Show opened with anchors at both poles and the equator this morning to kick off that network’s “Green Week.” Sportscaster Bob Costas, of all people, mentioned the network’s effort to focus attention on global warming during the Sunday Night Football broadcast that was done partially in the dark to save electricity powering the studio.

And so the widespread corporate manipulation of “greening” begins, leaving Americans to separate for themselves the difference between symbolic fluff like painting the NBC Peacock’s logo green and substantive changes meant to lead an environmental revolution.

Of course, there are real benefits for any company to make changes aimed at reducing use of power through electricity or other sources. Wal-Mart has publicized its efforts to become fuel efficient, which gives them green street cred and will save them millions in fuel and other costs.

Many local and state governments are taking environmental initiatives very seriously, enacting strict idling limits (3 to 5 minutes seems to be the norm in many East Coast and West Coast cities and states) and even considering things like a tax on carbon.

Denver’s City Council recently approved an initiative to limit truck idling, and investigate carbon taxes.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger himself has taken on a role of representing the U.S. abroad when it comes to environmental initiatives, presumably carrying the stick of California’s perceived leadership role in green efforts.

“Just because you don't see Washington leading this issue, don't be thinking that America is shirking its responsibilities,” Schwarzenegger told a crowd in Lisbon in late October, according to AFP News.

Land Line has heard from many drivers concerned by increases in regulations by states like California. They’re not picking a fight with global warming, nor with the politics that produce a Nobel Peace Prize for Al Gore just one decade after Yasser Arafat won the prize.

Truck drivers want clean air as much as anyone, and as OOIDA Member Charles Brodie told me in an e-mail, “if it’s true that one in five young L.A. school kids suffer from asthma and carry an inhaler, perhaps we should be talking about driver health also.”

The green fad will come and go – at least the fad that includes green logos and feel-good commercials from oil companies. But as NBC and others urge us to use CFL light bulbs and buy fuel-efficient cars, I hope we’re taking real steps to cut wasteful emissions and not merely seeing the latest round of “Must-See TV.”

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Scripts ‘R’ Us

With TV and film writers on strike, the networks are looking desperately for new reality shows to fill the potential void – reality being less expensive than fiction out there in LaLaLand.

A couple years ago, my friend and ace gearjammer Rufus Sideswipe envisioned a trucking reality show outlined in the March-April issue of Land Line Magazine. He’d just like to let the networks know the concept is available, that a bunch of Land Line readers loved the idea and wondered when it would air, and that the network people should call his people.

Meanwhile, though, maybe the moguls should take a page from the late Ronald Reagan, who as president fired striking air traffic controllers. Let the writers strike, let ’em hang, and let the viewers submit story ideas. That way the people can decide what they want to watch in living rooms, bars, truckers’ lounges and sleepers.

I’ve got a few ideas myself, building on the premise that the only new concepts that fly in Hollywood – or New York – are ones that have already succeeded. And what’s better than two or more concepts mashed up into one show? “CSI” and “Without a Trace” are already doing that this week.

Examples:

“Ocean’s 300” – A stalwart group of hip, abdominally over-fit con artists make a desperate last stand in Las Vegas as thousands of winter-sick Midwestern senior citizen tours mount tour buses and seek to ravage the nickel slots and free buffets.

“Fox and Ugly Betty” – “Fox and Friends,” the early morning gabfest that pretends to be news, remains popular because the producers keep babes with great legs and short skirts dead-center in the screen. Let’s see sparks fly with a less-attractive but far more intelligent gal in there!

“CSI-Rachel Ray” – Every week, Rache kills off an audience member with some mysterious ingredient in her recipes. The CSI team (here that would stand for Cooking School Investigators) must race to identify the ingredient before the entire audience is forced to sample the deadly dish.

“Friday Night Lost” – A group of high school football players, their girlfriends and coaches are marooned in a remote, falling-down football stadium after their school bus runs off the road and onto the field as they are returning from a game. Stalked by mysterious beings known as The Other Side, they must use their wits to survive and ultimately, to find the showers.

“Late Night with Grey’s Anatomy ER” – Bending rules and catheters, this manic-depressive bunch of neurotic surgeons and comely nurses will keep you in stitches as they fall in and out of love, favor and their scrubs while sewing up members of the urban Knife and Gun Club.

“Dirty Sexy Cavemen” – Guys, I think we all know that women like us best with some stubble and that subtly aromatic hint of having worked all day. I know my women love a whiff of diesel and some fifth-wheel grease under my nails. And that slightly piney hint of air freshener. That’s why we get such great attention at home, right? Right? Hello …?

“Without a Trace and Cold Case” – This idea never got off the ground. They thought about combining titles into one show, but “Without a Cold” sounded like a medical drama, while “Trace Case” could be either a show about trying to find a lost shipment or about some cheesy private detective.

“Extreme Makeover – The Bionic Woman Edition” – Oh, wait – That IS the concept, isn’t it?

“Saturday Night Dancing with Desperate Housewives” – I think you can guess the plotline on this one.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Carey's at it again

I just caught the second edition of Drew Carey’s Reason TV online videos, and I’m apparently not the only one watching. The video took some time to download, with Carey’s Reason TV series drumming up considerable interest (here’s a link to a recent Associated Press article that appeared in the Washington Post).

This installment centers on the Reason Foundation’s goal of legalizing medical marijuana.

Yes, the guy that replaced Bob Barker is taking on an issue that’s been as divisive as and therefore avoided as much as illegal immigration.

Without getting into particulars over whether marijuana should be legalized, I’m fascinated by these videos being backed by the Reason Foundation, a group that has backed privatization of publicly owned highways and has ties to oil interests.

According to the AP story that appeared in the Post, Carey will host 20 such Reason TV spots that will address issues such as eminent domain, school choice and immigration.

I’m curious as to just who unites the Reason Foundation. Is there some silent majority of Americans or residents abroad who invest with Macquarie and who want to buy up public infrastructure, who also have ailments treated partially with pot and who want to send their offspring to private schools?

A few weeks ago I brought up Carey’s argument for privatizing U.S. highways to ease traffic jams.

Much of the second episode hosted by Carey is filmed inside a Brentwood, CA, building called “The Farmacy,” which sells marijuana in various forms including everything from brownies to a blend called “Friday Night Special” to customers with prescriptions.

Carey talks to a Vietnam vet who began smoking during the war and now buys pot legally to ease back pains.

Within a few minutes, confident that Reason TV has won its tightly framed argument, Carey exclaims, “It’s clear by now the federal government needs to reclassify medical marijuana.”

OK, another problem solved by people behind Reason Foundation and its public cheerleader.

Friday, November 2, 2007

The tour comes at you fast

A few posts back, I mentioned the “Life Comes at You Fast” campaign sponsored by Nationwide Insurance. It seems that, when they’re not sitting around calculating the odds of bowling balls dropping out of windows onto sloped lawns, heading downhill until they bowl over an old lady on a walker, whose mobility aid flies through the air and hits a guy in a convertible so that he spins out into a crowded hot dog stand – those fun-loving actuaries are thinking about semis and golf.

The Nationwide Tour – surely one of the better names to come along for a series of games in the second-most boring sport in the world – includes one of those tricked out trailers designed to coddle and comfort athletes and their posses. What, they don’t get enough good treatment in the hotels?

EPSN.com goes inside the Nationwide Tour Trailer for a look at what a trailer can be when it’s not stacked with pallets of cold, dead naked chickens.

I especially like the idea that Nationwide – an insurance company – keeps a cooler stocked with beer for all those who drop by. Aside from betting on each hole, beer is probably the only reason a lot of folks play golf in the first place. I mean, most places you have to go get your beer, but on a golf course, it’ll come to you – most guys can’t get that kind of service at home.

I mean, it doesn’t take as much imagination as Nationwide’s ad writers have to picture a golfer who’s downed a couple of frosty ones in the trailer sallying forth with 3-iron in hand and teeing off in the general direction of Bangladesh. The ball sails off and connects with something unexpected and before you know it, life is coming at him fast.

One also has to wonder whether some bored trooper who shoots 123 on the front nine on weekends would pull the Tour Truck over just to have a look-see. The beer’s not in the tractor, but does it qualify as cargo if it’s in the trailer?

Anyway, it’s worth clicking over to find out the scoop on this mobile mulligan machine. And oh by the way, it doesn’t sound like they are hiring.

Hijacked

Unfortunately, truckers are far more familiar with law enforcement inspection blitzes, all in the name of improving highway safety, than four-wheelers.

Aside from the Friday and Saturday night DWI checkpoints, you really don’t run into concerted efforts to rein in poor driving of passenger vehicles.

There was supposed to be just that in the last week of October – a concerted effort nationally to enforce highway safety laws and educate both CMV drivers and their four-wheeler counterparts.

The program was organized and set up by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance. Members of CVSA and their state, county and local partners were to spend a week cracking down on violations and educating drivers on the consequences of their mistakes.

Commendable idea. Terrible execution.

Judging from news reports from all over the country, the state, county and local law enforcement agencies participating targeted truckers, once again. There are states like Washington, Kansas and Kentucky to name a few who know the value of partnering with truckers to spot violations committed by four-wheelers. They were the exception.

Any benefit, any good that could have been achieved nationally out of this program was lost. Why these states chose to ignore passenger vehicles in their enforcement is beyond me. Chasing the all mighty dollar? Buying into the cliché that truckers are the big, bad, evil, reckless maniacs of the road? Who knows. Bottom line is they blew it.

Some good can come out of the program. A brochure was supposed to be handed out to anyone stopped during the enforcement blitz. It has some great information in it for four-wheelers.

You can click here to see the PDF.

A lot of you have teens in school. Talk to the driver’s ed teacher and offer to send them a copy of the brochure. Maybe your spouse at home has connections within the community or through various social groups.

It’s good info. If we can’t count on law enforcement to educate as they enforce, maybe we can all pick up the slack.