Friday, December 19, 2014

So a reporter wants to ride along or interview you …

There is an article circulating around that details the ride-along of a Bloomberg reporter for a week. It’s stirred up quite the hubbub and reviews are mixed, with most feeling that trucking took a slap to the face.

I’m not going to get into dissecting the piece here, right now anyway. Because when there is one
reporter who does an expose type article, others think it’s a great idea and decide to do the same – on the same topic.

So there’s a bigger issue at stake here, and that’s how to deal with the press. I bashed on mainstream earlier this week, and I couldn’t be more serious when I say that you have to be careful when you are being interviewed.

Jokes are rarely a good idea. Tongue-in-cheek statements are even worse.

Typically, a reporter interviewing someone doesn’t know just a whole lot about what they are writing about. Hence, the need for the interview. The interview is intended to educate the reporter, who in turn will write an article that (fingers crossed) will educate the readers.

There are reporters who will ignore the mundane and skip straight to the profane for the shock value and popularity of the piece – leaving the educational aspect in the dust with tire tracks on its back. There are those who just won’t “get it.”

While it may not be popular to our counterparts in mainstream, the Land Line staff put together the how-to guide on dealing with the press. Along with our advice, we interviewed Todd Spencer (in-house we even proclaim him the sound-bite machine) and Norita Taylor who is the spokesperson for OOIDA.

The advice is valuable. I can’t implore you enough to read it and take it to heart. You may have the best of intentions, but a misstep can turn a feel-good piece into a hatchet job.

You’ve been warned.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

From the “You Had One Job” file

One of the folks in OOIDA’s Business Services department passed along this story that we thought was too funny not to share.

About a week ago, one of the staffers in the compliance department was exploring the FMCSA’s Hotline Complaint website, and used “Concentra” as a stand-in for the company he was complaining about.

Concentra, as you probably know, is one of the largest providers of DOT physicals, performing more than 750,000 a year from nearly 600 locations in 40 states, according to the company’s website. In 2012, the company began working with FMCSA to develop the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners (which took effect in May) and changed the eligibility requirements for physicians who perform DOT physicals.

But did you also know that Concentra has its own “fleet” of nine commercial vehicles? Based out of Houston, the company hauls mobile medical equipment and boasts 10 drivers.

According to FMCSA, on May 27, 2013, one of those drivers received a Driver Fitness Violation 391.41A-F, otherwise known as “operating a property-carrying vehicle without possessing a valid medical card certificate.” See for yourself here.

Read that again, then join me in doing your best Nelson Muntz impression. Because it’s pretty hilarious that the company literally responsible for the new DOT physical rules would have a driver get popped for not having a valid med card.

When reached for comment, Anne-Marie Puricelli, Concentra’s chairman of the transportation committee, said the company “took immediate action in 2013 to correct this isolated incident.”

No word on whether or not the driver in question failed Concentra’s sleep test. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Paging journalistic integrity, STAT

I’m just sick of it. Plain tired.

Trucking gets a bad rap. Far, far too often. And it’s largely at the hands of my so-called colleagues in the media. These lazy hacks are an insult to any of us with work ethics and downright plain, unadulterated ethics.

This fight over the changes to the 34-hour restart has provided an abundance of write-and-rip copy (that’s journo talk for just slamming out a story without any effort). The trucking critics have preyed on the laziness of the mainstream media with scare tactics and wrong information.

And far too many writers buy all of it. Hook. Line. And sinker.

This is how the article that set me off this morning starts:

For the second time in three years, the trucking industry has found a friend in Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.

Collins got a rider attached to the spending bill approved over the weekend so truckers will no longer have to get two nights sleep in a row before starting a work week.

For the love of all things exhausting. Please.

This sounds like truck drivers never sleep. Never. They stay up for days on end. Eyeballs on stems.

And this isn’t isolated. Since the 34-hour restart changes were introduced, reporters have been glomming on to the “tired trucker” mantra. I Googled the term and there were 35 news stories from just this week. I assure you that term did not turn up any results from Land Line.

These reporters need to turn off the cliché trucker movies and put down the press releases and actually pick up the freaking phone and ask some questions. I don’t know, actually, ask someone who knows?

Journalism 101 tells you one thing. If it’s coming to you in the form of a press release, there is a reason it was sent. The reasons aren’t always nefarious. But, there is a reason that it was sent. You better know good and well what that agenda is before you dare waste the ink to put it out to those who should trust that your reporter BS filter is fully engaged.

Writers (I can’t even bring myself to call them journalists), before you sit down at your keyboard again, I suggest you take a long hard look in the mirror and remember what drew you to this profession. If it wasn’t to seek the truth and to make things better, it’s time you find another career. And, yeah, take trucking off the table of potential jobs. You don’t have the stomach for that. It’s actual, hard work.

Laziness in the journalism profession is rampant, and I for one am sorry for the damage that’s its doing to you, my readers.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Just in time for Christmas, it’s the ‘Truck-Eating Bridge’ calendar

If you or someone you know has had a literal run-in with one of the low-clearance bridges of Davenport, Iowa, let’s just be clear off the top that Land Line is in no way attempting to point and laugh at anybody’s misfortunes.

We just want to call attention to the Quad City Times for a fun, albeit tongue-firmly-in-cheek fundraiser to support the local affiliate of Literacy Leadership Inc., a nonprofit that uses newspapers to help promote literacy and critical thinking skills in K-12 students.

That said, copies of the 2015 edition of the “Truck-Eating Bridge” calendar are hanging side-by-side with the 2015 SuperRigs calendar in a place of honor at both Land Line and “Land Line Now” HQ.

The calendars, which sell for about $21 after taxes and shipping, can be purchased here. With the paper providing the photos and absorbing the printing costs, 100 percent of the proceeds go directly to services provided by the program, which include educational materials and lesson plans for teachers and students. The program distributes more than 25,000 newspapers to area students per week.

Jennifer Praet, Literacy Leadership coordinator for the Quad City area, said the calendars started about four years ago, in response to the tremendous amount of website traffic for photos of the aftermath of both straight trucks and tractor trailers getting their tops cropped by the notorious bridges (clearance on one of the bridges is only 11 feet, 8 inches).

“We have two bridges in Davenport that tend to be a problem,” Praet said. “The bridge over the Mississippi (River) is called the Arsenal Bridge, and then down Brady Street we have a bridge on there that also has very low clearance.

“About four years ago, (The Times) decided if people really want to see these pictures, let’s go ahead and put them out there,” she said. “They started a calendar and it has been a great fundraiser for our nonprofit.”

Bridge strikes in that area are so common, Praet said the calendar has been able to feature new and unique images every year.

“They are all current pictures; we don’t recycle any of them,” she said. “We have so many of them that happen in a year’s time, we can pull them from the last year or so. We’ve never recycled a picture.”

Like any good calendar, this one includes plenty of holidays, including Everything You Do Is Right Day (March 16), National Flip Flop Day (June 15), and World Pasta Day (Oct. 25). Of course, there’s also Truck Day (July 20).

Praet says all the holidays listed are the real deal.

“We’re a newspaper so we checked our facts and cross-referenced them,” she said. “They are actually all holidays. Who doesn’t want to know when it’s National Skip-Housework Day, or Eat Chocolate For Breakfast Day?”

The calendars can be purchased throughout the year, and there is no limited number of copies printed.

Praet stressed that the calendars are “absolutely meant to be in good fun,” and said that the owner of at least one local company that was “featured” in the calendar “thought it was a hoot, and he ended up buying them for that employee as a Christmas present.”

“We have had a huge response from truck drivers themselves and the companies thinking it’s great,” she said. “Obviously it’s an unfortunate thing, and you don’t want to see anybody go through that, but you know it happens. The response we’ve had is this is just great fun, and a neat way to support the charity.”