Thursday, July 31, 2014

Call it the celebrity effect

Mainstream media have clamped down on trucking in the wake of the wreck on the New Jersey Turnpike that involved a tractor-trailer and a limo van carrying celebrity comedian Tracy Morgan.

Our media counterparts out there in the “mainstream” are having a field day and those of us here at Land Line are simply ill. And you, our readers, have to feel sucker punched every time you open Facebook or click on a news website.

That alone is bad enough. It’s tragic in the minds of the reporters here at Land Line. We work hard to understand the facts, the actual statistics, the databases the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration uses … I could go on. But you get the picture. We like to have things, well, right.

Mainstream is now a pawn in a bigger battle being waged in Congress and by FMCSA.

The spin cycle on the D.C. Beltway is using the mainstream media’s current infatuation with “if it bleeds, it leads” truck wreck coverage.

Lawmakers and bureaucrats alike are using half-truths and half-baked statistics along with outright misrepresentation of facts to justify ever more and more regulations on trucking.

The swell of criticism of trucking cannot be quelled with one swing of the axe. Putting a stop to this is a lot like eating an elephant. The only way to do it is one bite at a time.

That means writing letters to the editor. Writing the networks – hint, hint, NBC, cough, cough. Pushing back every time you see another one of these so-called investigative reports that simply regurgitate whatever they are being fed by the agency and lawmakers and in press releases.

That communication has to come from everyone. Not just us.

So, to help you out, here are some dandy facts you can use to counter the crap “news” out there.

The most recent year of complete crash data released was 2012. Here are some key points:
  • There were 3,464 fatal crashes involving large trucks.
  • 3,921 people died crashes involving large trucks (not 10,000).
  • Research shows that of those 3,464 wrecks involving large trucks, 75 to 80 percent of those wrecks were not the fault of the trucker.
What the media should be focused on is how most people on the road are dying.
  • There were 26,540 fatal crashes that did not involve large trucks.
  • 29,156 people died in crashes that did not involve large trucks.
Every life is precious. That can never be forgotten. But there’s a bigger picture out there and this easy grab of vilifying large trucks is diverting the time and attention away from the bigger problem: personal vehicle drivers.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

OOIDA member’s dashcam video paints unflattering picture of Colorado repair shop

A funny thing happened to OOIDA Member Nick Richards the last time he took his truck to the shop, and not of the “funny ha-ha” variety.

Richards, a company driver for a small outfit in Montana, used his dashcam to record a bizarre scene in the repair shop of LKQ Western Truck Parts in suburban Denver earlier this month. Along with the dashcam footage, the video has footage Richards shot with his cellphone.

An OOIDA member from Livingston, Mont., Richards said he began having problems with the new transmission immediately after it was installed in his truck He said the temperature spiked all the way to 300 degrees. At that point, Richards brought the truck into the LKQ Western Parts shop.

“I had moved exactly four loads with the transmission,” he said. “We knew it was bad right away.”

Richards posted two versions of the video on YouTube, which have combined to receive over 1,000 hits in the past week. The dashcam video purportedly shows at least two members of the service department discussing using a screwdriver to poke a hole in the transmission cooler.

Richards and his boss, Jerry Peters of Jerry L. Peters Trucking in Conrad, Mont., said they believe the video shows the shop trying to come up with a reason to void the warranty on the transmission.

The video shows two men standing near the hood of Richards’ 1994 Kenworth W9, while a third man outside of the frame suggests hammering a screwdriver into the cooler. The shop also told Richards the reason his transmission was overheating and growling was because of a faulty carrier bearing.

“They told me the carrier bearing was bad, and that’s what’s causing the transmission to go bad,” he said. “They told me before we went any further we’d have to get that driveline replaced. It sounded really wrong to me, so just to make sure I was on point, I called both Kenworth in Spokane (Wash.) and Kenworth in Billings (Mont.) and talked to their transmission guys. And they both told me there’s no way in hell a transmission would run hot because of a bad carrier bearing.”

Richards said he refused to sign documents that would have voided the warranty on the transmission, and opted to leave the shop instead.

“What they told me is if they were going to give the truck back to me, I was going to have to sign a piece of paper voiding the warranty,” he said. “I refused to sign. I told them I was going to call my boss … I got in the truck and left.”

A spokesperson for LKQ said the company is reviewing “the context of this video and the customer service issue at hand.” A message left with the service department of the Denver shop was not returned.

Both Richards and his boss, Jerry Peters, said the transmission was sent to them by LKQ as a replacement for another faulty transmission Peters purchased from the company in April.

“At this point to be completely honest, I’m kind of done with them,” Peters said. “I don’t have time to sit around here and fart with transmissions. We’re almost at the end of July and I’m still screwing around with this.”

Peters estimated he had spent approximately $20,000 on the transmission snafu, and “I still don’t have one that works.”

Both men said they found the dashcam footage to be upsetting.

“I mean, when they were talking about punching a hole in the tranny cooler … or when they started on the carrier bearing … they’re looking for a back door way out,” Peters said.

Richards said the footage made him “angry as hell.”

“When you hand your truck over to someone, you’re handing your livelihood over to someone. You don’t do that to someone’s livelihood. This is how I take care of myself. This is how I pay my bills. … You’re cutting people’s throats doing things like that.”

There can be only one

What a week this is shaping up to be on Capitol Hill.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate had a choice to make – adopt a House-approved bill that would shore up the Highway Trust Fund through May 2015 or change things up and force another one of those all-too-familiar showdowns we’ve come to expect in Washington.

Long story short, the Senate made changes, opting to shorten the duration of the “patch” until December 2014.

In a day or so, we’ll have a better handle on which version of the patch will emerge and head for the president’s desk to be signed into law.

Senate transportation leaders say they prefer a shorter extension so that Congress can get back to doing what they should be doing for transportation – passing a four-, five- or six-year highway bill.

Forcing another vote on transportation before the end of the year could prove to be tough with this being a midterm election year.

The Senate action this week puts pressure on the House of Representatives right before both chambers are scheduled to break for a month-long recess at the close of the workday on Thursday.

House Speaker John Boehner has said his chamber will reject a portion of the Senate’s version that pays for the extension through pension tax reforms. That would shift responsibility back to the senate to vote on House changes with just hours to go before recess.

While we’re on the subject of timing, the U.S. Department of Transportation says it will begin limiting the money it pays out to states for infrastructure projects starting Friday, Aug. 1, due to shortfalls in the Highway Trust Fund.

If the patch does not get full approval, states will still be able to operate their transportation departments, but not at 100 percent.

Eventually, the winner in this game of chicken will cross the road. Let’s hope it doesn’t fall into a deep pothole on the way across.