Friday, March 19, 2010

Dee Dee’s big adventure

A lot of truckers travel with pets, and understandably so. They’re great companions on long trips. Dogs never criticize your driving, and they rarely complain if the truck stop restrooms are untidy or the buffet is subpar.

Unfortunately, sometimes pets get separated from their owners. This happened recently to OOIDA Member Doug Coldiron and his Jack Russell terrier, Dee Dee. Luckily, Doug and Dee Dee’s story has a happy ending. Here’s an account of what happened in Doug’s own words:

I am leased to Schneider National Carriers and have been driving for more than 20 years. As an owner-operator, I am allowed to have pets in the truck.

I have a Jack Russell named Dee Dee. She has been with me on every run since I got her. She has traveled as many miles as the truck has – almost 1 million. She is a real traveling companion and friend.

Sunday, Feb. 21

It was a beautiful day in Atlanta, sunny, about 65. We spent the night at my company’s operating center, a large facility completely surrounded by a chain-link electric fence for security.

About noon, Dee Dee and I were playing with her tennis ball, running and fetching. I was talking with a fellow driver and watching her run around.

Dee Dee was sniffing around and moved a little too close to the electric security fence. She got a shock on her nose. It scared her so that she ran into a wooded area with heavy briar thickets.

The other driver and I walked over to where she went in and could not see or hear any trace of her. I said she would come back out after she shook it off and be ready to play again.

Not the case. We waited, but no sign of her. We yelled her name and walked the property all through the afternoon.

Now I was really worried, because this was not like her. Other drivers came around to help me look, but to no avail. One suggested the shock from the fence might have triggered a heart attack, and she might be in those woods dead.

It was dark now and I was distraught. Also, I was under a load that had to deliver 350 miles away, in Abington, VA.

It was now Sunday at midnight with no sign. I couldn’t sleep, and hadn’t eaten since the morning. I was hoping she would make her way back to my truck. During the night, a severe thunderstorm occurred. I was devastated just knowing she was out there somewhere.

Monday morning, Feb. 22

Almost 24 hours had passed and I had to get on the road by 10 a.m. in order to make my appointment at 5 p.m.

I went into the offices and made copies of a missing poster with all the info on it. I posted them all around the facility. I also notified the DeKalb County Animal Control and posted on

I knew I wasn’t the first one to lose a pet, but it sure is heart-breaking. One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do was leave without my dog, not knowing where or how she was.

Monday evening

I made it to Abingdon. I still didn’t have an appetite. I was sitting in my truck in the unloading dock at Mid-Mountain Foods, looking at my Facebook page.

My wife posted earlier about what had happened and everyone had sympathy. The prayer warriors were in action. I had been praying all day, too. My wife kept telling me, “Don’t worry, you’ll get her back. Just have faith.” I told her that it would take a miracle if I ever got her back.

I get the loads I haul from my company’s Web site. I pick and choose where I want to go to. While I was talking to her on the phone, I looked on the site to see what loads were coming out of my area the next day. The first load I saw was a pickup in Bristol, TN, going to Atlanta, GA.

I couldn’t believe it! Thus began a series of events that just seemed to fall into place.

About 10 p.m., my cell rang. A voice said, “I saw your dog awhile ago. She was crawling under the front gate, going in and out of the OC.” I couldn’t believe it. She was still alive and nearby down there. He said they tried to catch her, but she was very shy and scared.

Later, another call came in from Cindy Kirkland, the driver services representative, who is also a dog owner. She saw her about 11:30 p.m. and couldn’t catch her either. Now I had hope.

Tuesday, Feb. 23

I picked up my load, and headed out of Bristol nonstop for Atlanta. Another call came in from Russ Transue, the building maintenance supervisor at the OC, and also a dog owner with sympathy for my ordeal. He said, “I saw that dog on my way to work about 7:30 this morning over a couple of blocks from the yard.”

As I approached the center, I blew the air horn, because she knows the sound of it. I wanted her to know I was near.

At the yard I was met by Russ. We drove around in his car, got out and called her name, drove some more asking folks. Nothing. After about an hour, he had to get back to work.

I went to driver services to get a company car provided for drivers to use to get supplies.

I scoured the streets, stopping to get out and call her name, over and over. Still not a trace. It was starting to get colder and windy and would be dark soon. I feared she had been hit by a car or picked up by someone.

It had been more than two days since I last saw my dog. I had decided I would not leave Atlanta again until I had answers.

I continued to drive and saw this Baptist church that I had driven by several times. I stopped the car, walked to the woods in the back, and called her name. I just stood there listening to the silence, looked up into the sky and said, “Lord, just show her to me, please just show her to me.”

I got back into the car, looked over my shoulder for traffic, and glanced across the street. There was a small brick house, and on the front doorstep was my dog.

I sped immediately across the road into the driveway. I got out slowly so as not to startle her, and said quietly, “Dee Dee, let’s go home.”

Her tail started wagging, and she trotted over to me and licked my hand. I picked her up, put her in the car, and cried like a baby. “I found you, you’re here! Praise the Lord, Dee Dee!”

She was in good condition, except for the Georgia clay she was wearing. I immediately called my wife to tell her the good news.

After returning the car and thanking Cindy for letting me use it, I put Dee Dee in the shower and cleaned her up. She ate and drank a lot of water. Soon she was asleep on the floor under the heater, back where she belongs. I just sat and stared at her for a while. A person can really become attached to these little animals.

We stayed there on the yard that night, because I hadn’t slept well in two nights and needed the rest. Wednesday morning I took down the posters and let Dee Dee meet some of the folks who were looking for her.

I picked up my next load and headed back up toward home, this time with my dog beside me. All I have thought about since is what I went through.

At the lowest point, I prayed for the Lord to show her to me and, in less than a minute, I was looking at her.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Highway bill should not shortchange highways

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood acknowledges that a multiyear surface transportation bill is on the administration’s radar, but – with an estimated cost of $400 billion to $500 billion – he says funding just does not exist right now.

The Highway Trust Fund has been surviving on a series of temporary extensions of the status quo as Congress continues to work on long-term legislation that we refer to as a “highway bill.”

It must be noted that LaHood isn’t necessarily calling the pending overhaul a “highway bill” per se.

The Secretary and others, including House and Senate transportation leaders, are touting the next authorization bill as a multi-modal approach to moving people and freight. One troubling thing for truckers – who happen to fund 36 percent of all surface transportation programs with their highway user fees – is that transportation leaders are promising to increase funding levels for rail, transit and livable communities.

That means more of your fuel taxes, HVUT, and federal excise taxes on tires, trucks and trailers paying for other modes. If that bothers you, you should get involved.

LaHood recently told the American Public Transportation Association that President Obama wants a multiyear surface transportation bill to be bipartisan and fully paid for. Just how long that will take, and what the bill will say, is up to Congress. You have a say in the matter, too, as these lawmakers are just a phone call or letter away.

Lots of transportation projects are popular with voters, including passenger rail and bus services, and the good ones make sense to us. But remember, highway users are the only ones paying in, while most others are simply taking out. If this status quo continues, the system will crash. Yes, other projects are worthwhile, but those things should be funded with money other than highway user fees.

Beyond a push for new toll roads, we haven’t seen a lot of talk about highway construction or expansion so far in the discussion.

It would be a great idea to turn the discussion of a new highway bill back to highways and bridges.

Keep in mind that lobbyists and groups from every corner of transportation are getting in line with their hands out for a chunk of the pie. Just remember that it’s a pie you helped bake, and you deserve the biggest piece.

Photo by David Tanner, Land Line Magazine.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Citizen’s arrayest!

In one of my favorite episodes of “The Andy Griffith Show,” Gomer is ticketed by the always overzealous Mayberry Sheriff’s Deputy Barney Fife.

Upset about it, Gomer follows Barney around, waiting for him to break the law.

Inevitably, the end of the show includes Gomer chasing Barney’s patrol car after an illegal U-turn, with Gomer shouting “Citizen’s arrest!” as only Gomer could.

Fortunately, a trucker used a handy smartphone this week to document a very interesting encounter in California. The clip illustrates the disconnect between enforcement against trucks and enforcement of RVs, cars and especially the long arm of the law.

This week, Bernard Downes was ticketed by a uniformed enforcement officer of the California Air Resources Board.

Downes had just started his truck up at a fast food restaurant near the idling enforcement hotbed of Ontario, CA. After a few hours off, his air tanks were empty so he wanted full pressure before leaving.

The next thing Bernard knew, what appeared to be a uniformed police officer knocked on the truck window, and the officer told him he’d been violating the state’s five-minute idling restriction.

After taking Bernard’s truck information and CDL, the officer retired back to his state-owned vehicle (a Lone Sheriff hue of white, naturally), and filled out a citation. With the windows up and air conditioning blasting, Bernard said the officer was idling his car the entire time.

Downes is a company driver originally from Australia who now lives in Amarillo, TX. I’ll let the video do the talking.

Downes was issued a $300 ticket for idling for nine minutes.

“How did he feel he has the right to break his own damn law?” Downes told me Wednesday. “He was strutting around like he was Rambo. He said, ‘How are you going to talk to me?’”

Ironically, his company truck even features an APU.

“I was just idling to get some air in my truck,” he said.

Bernard is considering challenging the citation in court.

“I’m just trying to make the point that this is a double standard you’ve got going on here,” Bernard said. “You have this car, emitting carbons in the air, and writing tickets to somebody who allegedly broke the law by four minutes. If you’re really serious about pollution, no vehicle should be idling and emitting carbon into the air – including CARB officer vehicles.”