Thursday, August 15, 2013

Is it hilarious or just stupid that CARB regulates hair gel?

Businesses in California must have deep pockets. How else could they survive, with the California Air Resources Board shaking them down with the threat of fines or penalties just to operate?

Before I expand on this, I must clarify that I am a huge fan of the Earth. I love clean air and clean water. I love animals and natural habitats, and I think we should all do our part to keep this planet, the air and the oceans clean and sustainable.

But CARB has so much power that it does what it wants, and I think it’s gotten out of hand.

In recent weeks, CARB has laid big fines on a scent shop ($138,000), a motorcycle parts dealer ($500,000), and makers of anti-idling equipment ($213,000) in addition to truckers and ship lines the agency considers “polluters.”

CARB even fined a company $213,000 for having too many volatile compounds in a hair product known as “Gorilla Snot.” Yep, that happened, and it’s the price of doing business in California these days.

On the other side of the coin is the Golden State’s pay-to-play system of environmental credits. Basically, this system allows so-called “polluters” to buy credits ahead of time so that CARB will look the other way. As long as you pay the piper, you can get away with things that others cannot.

CARB exists today because it existed prior to the federal Clean Air Act, which prohibits states from setting their own environmental standards. The law allows other states to follow what CARB does, but prohibits states from designing their own version of an air resources board.

The agency has made a lot of things more expensive through the years, including trucks and many of the products they deliver.

A trucker attempting to meet California standards is looking at some serious bucks in new vehicle or retrofit costs.

We hear regularly from folks who bag on California because of the hassle and expense of meeting CARB standards.

But, as with almost anything, there’s always someone else waiting in line for the job that many experienced professionals will not or cannot afford to do. The new ones don’t have to be smarter or better; they just have to comply.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

‘Killer Truckers’ on TV: So how bad was it?

Last night a few of our Land Line magazine and radio crew watched “Killer Truckers” – an Investigation Discovery Channel special on serial killer truckers. From the promotional material, we expected it to be a gruesome hour.  

As Land Line writer Greg Grisolano asked in his blog earlier this week: Would “Killer Truckers” take the low road? Because seriously, have you ever seen an article or show on serial killer truckers do anything but paint the long-haul truckers as a segment full of dangerous deviants? A dark festering nest of sickos, here today, gone tomorrow to hunt and kill again?

Terry Scruton, our senior correspondent on “Land Line Now” satellite radio, thought the ominous music awful and the narration, bloody reenactments and graphic descriptions of horrible crimes committed by truckers cheesy.

One of their major sources was Ginger Strand, who wrote that “Killers on The Road” book a couple of years ago. We don’t know what her background is, but they treated her like an expert on all things trucking, which she clearly wasn’t. At one point she said “If you’re a predator, trucking is kind of ideal …”

Our managing editor Jami Jones was tuned in, too. She believes that if the producers had been able to – minus a couple of operative interviews with truckers – it would have been a start-to- finish smear campaign on the trucking industry. Any story or show that talks trash on the entire truck driving community bugs Jami, and like Terry she found some of it rearing its ugly head in this show.  

We all agreed a really low moment in the show was in the first few minutes, when the show started off asking “are predators drawn to trucking or does trucking create predators?” Nice, huh?

The show was produced by a film company called Creative Differences. Our Land Line crew attended a social media convention last fall in Kansas City, hosted by Allen and Donna Smith, OOIDA members from Citrus Springs, Fla. Several people from Creative Differences were there talking to truckers about their film project.

So what we really wanted to know is whether the interviews they scored last fall at the social media conference for truckers in Kansas City would be fairly represented.

We were skeptical how those interviews might be presented and maybe twisted and totally jerked out of context. We all concur, though, that several real trucking people successfully injected some sensible commentary into the grisly script – even though those comments at times seemed tacked on.

Desiree Wood, a trucker and blogger, pointed out it is an industry full of hard-working good people.

This message was repeated in the show’s interview with Hope Rivenburg, widow of Jason Rivenburg. Jason was murdered in his truck four years ago and robbed of $7. Hope has since picked up the gauntlet for truckers who need a safe place to park to rest and her efforts are well known among truck drivers. Her message was short, but poignant, as always.

Kudos to Allen Smith, blogger, host of the KC social convention, and host of “Ask the Trucker” Internet radio show. He got the opportunity to speak his piece, too, pointing out how important truckers are to the nation and how many fine individuals make up the trucking work force. We were glad to see that Allen’s perspective made it to the air.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

OOIDA’s D.C. office: small staff, big job

I recently got a good letter from OOIDA Life Member Steve Bixler, an owner-operator from Valley View, Penn. I’ve come to know Steve as we both serve on the OOIDA Board of Directors. His brain is always at work to make trucking a better place to work, and that’s clearly where his mind was when he banged out these thoughts. Here’s Steve on having a voice in Washington, D.C.

I know we have all heard the phrase: “What does OOIDA do for me?”

In addition to providing support and services to every member, OOIDA also has a team in Washington, D.C. Our Washington staff continues to prove why they are there – to not only keep Washington aware of us, but also to keep us aware of them. Through the staff’s hard work and diligence, we get the jump on what is being voted on.

This gives us the opportunity to contact our lawmakers and discuss these issues before the vote happens. With the fall break happening and the Congressmen back home, we need to push not only each other, but all of our 150,000 members to use this break to make our collective voices heard by those that make the rules we have to follow. Our U.S. lawmakers will be home the whole month of August and head back to work in D.C. the first week of September.

Just take the insurance issue. In case you haven’t heard, U.S. Rep. Matthew Cartwright has introduced a bill to up the truck insurance minimum requirements from $750,000 to $4.42 million. Yes, I said “MILLION.” Cartwright is a U.S. Member of Congress from my home state.

This is obviously being pushed by people who expect to profit from it. I recently read an article stating that less than 1 percent of all truck accidents reach the 1 million dollar mark in damages. So why do we need $4 million in coverage? So the lawyers can ask for more in settlements! For the victims? I think not! For themselves? Absolutely.

The Trucking Alliance – which is managed by Arkansas Trucking Association’s Lane Kidd and made up of large carriers like J.B. Hunt, Knight, Schneider and others – are supporting this bill. Why? Because they are mostly self-insured, so this costs them nothing, while small carriers will be hit in the wallet once more. Enough hits, we go under, leaving them to monopolize the market. Watch the rates go up then!

Obviously, we need to vigorously fight this one. This is just one of many new proposals being talked about that concern truckers. With the help of the D.C. Staff, we will be notified in time to fight them before they get voted on.

Ryan and Ben, keep up the good work in Washington. Everyone else, keep on truckin’ and keep on fightin’.