Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A tale of two realities

The first weekend of March arrived with lions and lambs for those of us who love trucking.

The snarling lion was this grim article by a writer from The Associated Press about the plight of many an independent trucker, small fleet and owner-operator. Read about it here.

It starts off with an interview with a trucker who lives in the next town over from me, which somehow makes his plight even more immediate and real to me. It seems only a few months ago that $2 diesel was shutting engines and parking rigs against countless fences, and the demise of the owner-operator and independent appeared imminent.

Those who survived that round have watched diesel flirt with slowly rising, then retreating prices until the past few months. Now there doesn’t seem to be a ceiling prices can’t crash through.

The AP’s article whacks on bloodsucking brokers, but doesn’t also take to task drivers who undercut others – and ultimately themselves – by taking cheap freight. Hello? – the brokers can undercut each other because somebody’s always willing to be played by them.

On the other side of the coin, and I do mean that literally, was this article in The New York Times no less on International’s New LoneStar 18 wheeler, sneak previewed a couple months back on Land Line blog and elsewhere thanks to an alert trucker with a camera.

People, it’s the Bat-Truck. They should have Bruce Wayne and his ward Dick Grayson showing it off.

It’s so ironic that The Times article leads off with a celebration of the independent-trucker-as-cowboy, out to see the country, when the reality is there are so many bleary eyed individuals sitting in traffic, listening to their money go up in smoke, pushing every minute to make an extra mile.

I take it back. It’s not ironic. It’s freakin’ deceptive, and The Times kicked off the story by falling back on the comfortable stereotype cherished by their mainly desk-bound readers. I’m sad that International Truck Group President Dee Kapur brought the stereotype up – or maybe the reporter got him to talk about it, so he’d have an easy lead?

Because although The Times notes later on that the stereotype is vanishing as aging boomers decide to drive truck as a second career, the impression remains – ah, to be a trucker, sightseeing in the Bat-Truck, without a care in the world.

Holy mislead, Batman.