Friday, March 14, 2008

Why doesn’t OOIDA call for a strike?

It’s a trucking nightmare – 16 states averaging above $4 fuel. Calls for a shutdown are common, and here at OOIDA we are slammed with phone calls and e-mails from truckers whose businesses are suffering. This week, 90 percent of the thousands of calls we’ve received are about the cost of fuel. Many are asking why OOIDA does not call for our members to strike.

As a trade association, it is not possible for OOIDA to organize a shutdown because it would be a violation of federal anti-trust laws. Criminal penalties could be imposed, those businesses and individuals who claim to be adversely affected by a strike action could initiate civil lawsuits, and the existence of the Association could be jeopardized.

I know many of you feel you are at the end of your rope; however, a strike is not the answer. Here’s why: Most small business truckers will not support a strike and will not shut down for the period of time it would take to be successful.

The reason for this is that the current fuel crisis does not affect all truckers in the same way. Many truckers have asked for and received fuel surcharges from their companies. Others have not. Many truckers have the cash reserves to cope with the bad times, and many do not. In addition, fuel prices are markedly higher in some regions of the country than in others, thereby making it more difficult for some truckers than for others who are less affected.

Calling for a strike without the support of the majority would show weakness rather than strength, and the result would be increased economic hardship to the small percentage of truckers who do participate in the shutdown with no gains to justify their sacrifice.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Blacklist days behind us?

The good news is, after six months, it seems we are off the FMCSA’s blacklist.

Thank you all for e-mails, phone calls and “shame on the FMCSA” messages to your lawmakers in DC and to FMCSA’s Office of Public Affairs. We have been overwhelmed with the support of truckers, friends in Congress and comrades in the press who have expressed their outrage at the agency’s decision to “close the door” on Land Line’s print and radio reporters.

It appears that the order to blacklist our media staff came primarily at the behest of the communications chief at the agency and, simply, she’s off to work directly for Mary Peters now.

We’ve been notified that FMCSA’s Director of the Office of Communications Melissa Delaney has now moved to a new position in Office of Public Affairs in the Office of the Secretary of Transportation. It’s not likely we’ll be successful in our requests to that office, but at least we’ll be back in business with the FMCSA.

Delaney will continue to handle press inquiries regarding the Mexican truck cross-border pilot, or should I say firestorm.

For all other areas, as of March 10, Deputy Director Duane DeBruyne is Acting Director of the Office of Communications for FMCSA. Duane is a good guy and has been in public service for a long time. Not a political appointee, he has always tried hard to honestly answer our questions and hook us up with the right people and promptly provide us with the info we need.

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.

Monday, March 10, 2008

And my thanks to the makers of Red Bull

Talk about life in the fast lane, our candidates who are making their way to the top for the impending presidential contest – are they even human? The campaign trail of today is not just a contest of issues, wit and rhetoric, but of physical strength and super-power endurance. That and who’s got the fastest jet.

It’s like one of those crazy “Great Race” movies.

John McCain and devoted people have been swept along a nearly non-stop path of campaigning for months. He’s on “The Tonight Show” and at dawn the next morning he’s speaking at some place like the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Eagle Hangar.

Meanwhile, it seems Barack Obama is speaking at a campus in one city and an hour later he is scheduled to appear at the Kolf Sports Center in Oshkosh. An hour later, he’s in another state and Michelle Obama’s on “The View.”

And Hillary Clinton, voice hoarse, must never rest. She’s everywhere. She’s on “Saturday Night Live.” She’s on David Letterman’s show. She’s at the 26th Annual Jefferson-Jackson-Hamer Day Dinner in Canton, MS.

Do you think, in their heart of hearts, that Mike Huckabee and his gallant family are all totally devastated that it’s over? I think in some ways, it’s gotta be a kind of relief. Now they can go home, put on their casual clothes, sleep in their own beds and watch re-runs of “Walker, Texas Ranger.”

Seriously, I admire these people for the obvious reasons, but more, I am astounded at their stamina. What is it that pushes these people to keep shaking hands and saying brilliant stuff and memorizing speeches and looking terrific and presidential? I watch Hillary and I can’t help but think, do they do her hair on the plane? Who is responsible for keeping all those pant suits dry-cleaned?

Has Michelle Obama ever said “That’s it, baby. I am putting on my jammies and staying at the hotel.”

I keep waiting for them to say, when they thank their family and staff and voters and all, “and thanks to the makers of Red Bull, without whom I would not be here.”