Friday, June 19, 2009

From Steve in Iraq

Our member Steve Gallavan calls California his home, but for now he’s trucking in Iraq. In the June issue of Land Line, I wrote a bit about him and slipped a photo into “Chicken dinner news.” Steve keeps in touch with Holly in our membership department, and she just got a new letter from him.

OK, Sunday is the first day of summer here. Wonder how hot it is in Iraq? You can’t read Steve’s latest letter without feeling that scorching sand.

Steve writes: “Hot as heck now ... about 118F to 120F when I walk out. ... The secret is ice cold water all the time, and when it cools to 98F in the evening you think it is nice.”

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Looking beyond

The next prospective head of the Federal Highway Administration isn’t a stranger to trucking.

Victor Mendez, appointed to be FHWA Administrator, is expected to soon be in charge of the agency responsible for maintaining and building our interstate highway system.

A few quick Web searches don’t turn up a lot of information on Mendez. He worked at the Arizona DOT for more than 20 years, working his way up and following in the footsteps of former Transportation Secretary Mary Peters and making a name for himself by implementing the Phoenix area’s multibillion-dollar freeway system.

According to, he also was responsible for the rollout of one of the nation’s most comprehensive freeway speed camera systems.

In 2007 he served as president of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

But let’s look beyond the resume you might find online at

Mendez’s resume also tells you, I think, a little about the man, personally. Before his public service, Mendez worked as a park ranger. Aside from the engineering background, Mendez worked in a role that required people skills.

It’s not hard to imagine he had to think outside the box to deal with the convergence of tourists, wild animals and unpredictable weather.

Mendez headed up the Arizona Department of Transportation in 2008 – when the state department navigated some controversial waters that affect many truckers.

Land Line readers will remember Arizona state commercial enforcement officers ticketing one trucker for having a laptop in his cab and within view of his driver’s seat. Click here to read the story.

OOIDA Member Gerald Cook, who uses his laptop for mapping and logbook maintenance, was told he was being fined more than $400 for violating a federal regulation banning TV viewing from behind the wheel.

The story prompted outrage from truckers nationally, including nearly 100 who wrote to Land Line with numerous complaints, including pointing out the contradiction of law enforcement officers having laptops, CBs and scanners in squad cars.

Arizona DOT initially supported the law enforcement officer before a judge tossed the case out. You can read about it here.

By last fall, Arizona DOT issued a statement saying it would no longer enforce the TV regulation on laptops.

Mendez’s decisions during the coming years will affect truckers, highway users and all taxpayers. He’ll have the power to decide where many resources go, and will shape policy and influence decisions for issues like highway privatization.

Let’s hope that, as in the laptop case, fairness will prevail.