Friday, September 7, 2012

Mercy sakes alive …. A Route 66 convoy

OOIDA Life Member Barry Chesler and his wife, Gigi
(Photo by Paul Abelson)

Land Line Senior Technical Editor Paul Abelson was in Morris, IL, this week to see trucking “step back in time.” Here’s Paul’s report from the scene:

For years, members of the American Truck Historical Society (ATHS) have been gathering to show their classic and vintage iron. The major event is at their convention and meeting each year, held at different locations around the country. Regional gatherings are also held, often at industry events like the Iowa-80 Truckers Jamboree. But all the events are static, with trucks just on display. At least that’s how it was until now.

This year, ATHS Regional VP-Ohio Mark Schroyer, Coldwater, OH, had an idea. He grew up in trucking. His father started as an owner-operator and built a successful, family-operated fleet. Mark chairs the ATHS membership committee. He came upon the idea of taking trucking's history on the road in a convoy, and what better road for the first ATHS Convoy than “The Mother Road,” Route 66.

Due to the age and condition of the trucks, the group decided not to actually travel in convoy, but to depart each morning from the gathering point and, after traveling separately, reassemble at the next scheduled destination.

In connection with their 40th anniversary celebration, Travel Centers of America agreed to sponsor the convoy at nine T/A and Petro truckstops, starting with yesterday's assembly and this morning's departure at the Morris Il T/A. The Convoy will finish Sept. 15 at the Route 66 Rendezvous in San Bernardino CA. Route 66 was selected because so many major fleets, some still with us and many now gone, were located along the old route.

“We were hoping to attract 10 to 15 trucks for the initial convoy,” Schroyer said. “But by late afternoon, we had almost 40 registered for one or more legs.”

Several retired OOIDA members were ready to go from the start at Morris. OOIDA Life Member Barry Chesler, Rochester NY was there with the two loves of his life: Gigi, his wife, and “Halfpete,” his ’83 Peterbilt cab on an ’87 GMC pickup chassis. Power is from a ’94 Cummins taken from a Dodge pickup. “I’ve always been an owner-operator,” Barry said. “No one would hire me because I had no experience, so I bought my own truck.

“I’ve always been into cars and light trucks. I had show cars and show trucks. That's why I built Halfpete.”

OOIDA Life Member Ron Williams, East Berlin PA, has been driving more than 42 years, but is now semi-retired. He works a 2000 International leased to Trailer Transit. But his pride and joy is his ’76 Kenworth W900A with a 475 Cummins and an Eaton-Fuller 15 speed.

“I had it in a garage for 12 years. Then I restored it to take it to shows. It was a tandem drive, but to save fuel and make things easier, I converted it to a 4-by-2,” Ron said.

The assemblage of trucks drew a few bystanders, too. Aaron Stoudt, an OOIDA member known as Paladin (Have truck, will travel) from Fairmount IL, was passing through the T/A. He had heard about the convoy, and wandered away from his 2006 T600 to see the assembled trucks.

“I've always liked trucks, new or old,” Aaron told Land Line. "I heard about the convoy and was happy to see it was on my route. Some of these are treasures. It’s good to know that people keep them running.”

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Speed trap poll a reminder that work needs to be done

A nationwide poll reveals the top speed traps in the U.S. and Canada. The results show that Ontario is on drivers’ radars for having ramped up enforcement efforts.

Photo courtesy of stock.xchang
The National Motorist Association released the revealing numbers in recent days from its own online polling conducted at The driver’s rights group used feedback from the past five years about chronic speed traps in Ontario and 52 other states and provinces.

What they found is that travelers in Ontario, Nova Scotia and Washington D.C. were more likely to report what they believed to be overexuberant enforcement of traffic rules. In fact, responses from drivers in Ontario were nearly double the next two highest locations.

In contrast, the locations deemed most favorable for travel without fear of overeager enforcement are New Hampshire, Quebec and Minnesota.

Speed traps are nothing new to truckers and others who spend time traveling. It’s safe to say that far too many cash-strapped communities rely on the revenue enhancer to bolster local coffers.

In recent years some state legislatures have taken steps to discourage such activities in cities and towns that are known as trouble spots for travelers.

Idaho is one of a half-dozen states not included in NMA’s rankings, but lawmakers there addressed speed trap concerns this spring. They approved a rule to remove the authority from towns to set speed limits on state highways.

A three-year-old law in Missouri is also intended to rein in speed traps. The rule reduced from 45 percent to 35 percent the amount of total revenue small towns can receive from traffic violation fines. Anything more goes to the state.

The Show-Me State ranks 44th on the speed trap exchange poll.

Louisiana (No. 13) also has taken steps to put a stop to speed traps. A 2009 law requires that in areas where tickets are issued for driving less than 10 mph over the speed limit, revenues from tickets must go to the state.

States that have moved in the wrong direction on the issue in recent years include Oklahoma (No. 20) and California (No. 36).

Spurred by concerned truckers, a newspaper investigation nearly 10 years ago found excessive ticketing in certain towns. Oklahoma lawmakers soon thereafter barred towns such as Caney, Big Cabin and Stringtown from enforcing speed limits on highways within their city limits.

Citing a desire to remove the speed trap label from communities affected by the law, the state eventually reversed course, thus allowing small town police departments to get their ticket books back out.

A new rule that took effect the first of this year in California gives communities leeway on setting speed limits and, as a result, reduces yellow light intervals.

NMA says that “a speed trap exists wherever traffic enforcement is focused on extracting revenue from drivers instead of improving safety.”

It is a safety issue that requires more attention at statehouses across the country. Protections are needed to dissuade towns from relying on traffic tickets to bolster coffers. In addition to safety concerns, such activities discourage travel and commerce.