Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015’s best of the blogs

It’s time to turn the ignition off and put another year in park.

So let’s reflect on 2015 by looking at Land Line’s most-read blogs of the year. The stories are everything from informative, interesting, jaw-dropping and frustrating to entertaining and inspiring. Click the links to read each original blog post in its entirety.

1.                  Lease-purchase: Sounds like a good deal, right?

Lease-purchase contracts with large motor carriers continue to be common, but our experience in reviewing these contracts and receiving numerous complaints over the years tells us these programs almost never benefit anyone except the motor carriers and should be avoided.

Land Line editor-in-chief Sandi Soendker and the OOIDA staff team up for truths, including actual complaints like the truck needing repairs, no paycheck, miles cut and more.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

‘Beyond compliance’ is like being a ‘little pregnant’

In life, there really are some all or nothing situations. Truly black and white.

That’s a fundamental truth that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and Congress need to get their heads around. When it comes to complying with the regulations, it really is like being pregnant. Either you are or you aren’t. There is no “sort of” or gray area.

Mega fleets have concocted this grand scheme to improve their Compliance, Safety, Accountability safety measurement scores – and Congress has directed FMCSA to pursue the idea.

The whole premise of the plan is that motor carriers might not be able to have the best scores in CSA based on their compliance. But if they add a bunch of gadgetry and wizardry to their trucks, they are now going above and beyond what’s mandated so that magically makes them safer and apparently deserving of a better score.

Throw on the blinkers and back up the truck.

Rather than fix the compliance problems within their fleets, these motor carrier execs would rather just throw more (expensive) bells and whistles on their trucks. They are accepting noncompliance within their own fleets. And now they are asking FMCSA to accept that same noncompliance with a lick and a promise that technology is somehow overcoming that.

I’m mystified here.

It’s this kind of cockeyed logic that has brought you an electronic log mandate (currently being challenged in court by OOIDA) and maybe even speed limiters. You know, the same electronic logs and speed limiters that have done nothing to improve compliance of the large motor carriers using them.

An OOIDA Foundation white paper revealed that several large motor carriers using electronic logs and speed limiters actually had more speeding violations and crashes – yes speeding and crashes – than motor carriers that do not use the technology.

This whole “beyond compliance” proposal is a ploy to make people feel better about the fact that mega fleets are not compliant or safer, as they want you to believe. They just want to look that way on paper.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

‘Cracked Carols’ – It’s the most wonderful time of the year

Our old friend and contributing writer Bill Hudgins could give “Weird Al” Yankovic a run for his money when it comes to writing parody tunes. At least when it comes to putting a truck-centric spin on everyone’s favorite holiday songs with his (in)famous Cracked Carols.

We here at Land Line and OOIDA HQ have gotten such a kick out of Hudge’s jingles that they’re as much a part of our holiday tradition as eggnog or making Clark Griswold jokes at Mark Reddig’s expense. Over the years we’ve even recorded a few of them in our studio.

This year’s Cracked Carols feature a tune called “Yuletide Freight” to the tune of “The Holly and the Ivy.”

I am hauling Christmas presents and I hope I won't be late.
I am stacked on up to full cube, with this special Yuletide Freight.
On a sleigh with 18 wheels, as the Santa I do roam.
I just hope I'm done by Christmas and this truck will bring me home.

Listen for yourself here.

And just for fun, we dusted off a couple of our other favorites.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Truckers deliver holiday joy

’Tis the season for giving.

Many groups within the trucking community are making that motto a reality.

The Elves and More of Northeast Ohio, as well as XPO
Logistics, helped provide nearly 1,600 bikes to children in the
Akron area this month. (Contributed photo)
The Truckers Christmas Group is dedicated to helping truckers give the gift of Christmas. As of Tuesday afternoon, Dec. 22, the group had generated almost $6,000 to help 12 trucking families have a better Christmas.

This is the seventh year of the Truckers Christmas Group fund drive to benefit trucking families in need. During the seven years, the group has helped 112 families with about $66,000 raised. Donations are still being accepted this year to at truckerchristmasgroup.org.

In Akron, Ohio, a nonprofit group called Elves and More of Northeast Ohio provided nearly 1,600 bikes to kids in need living in the Akron area.

For the 10th year in a row, the elves – in the form of 16 tractor-trailers and more than 100 volunteers – pulled into the neighborhoods this past weekend to surprise children with bicycles, tricycles and toddler gifts.

The annual bike delivery is supported by XPO Logistics, which provides logistical support, in-kind transportation and many volunteers. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Video: Nebraska deputy’s daring leap onto moving tractor

A Nebraska sheriff’s department has released dashcam video of a deputy’s dramatic attempt to aid a trucker who was having a diabetic episode while behind the wheel of his moving truck.

The deputy, Sgt. Todd Volk of the Madison County Sheriff’s Department, was one of several officers who responded to a 911 call on Dec. 2 about a reckless tractor trailer heading northbound on Highway 81 near the Platte County line.



Thursday, December 17, 2015

Rearview: Big dreams, adrenaline and sore knuckles

Editor’s note: We’re looking “in our rearview” to bring you some of our favorite stories, columns and items from Land Line’s 40-year-history. The lifting of the 40-year-old oil export ban has some significance for truckers. Looking in our rearview mirror – here’s a story from October 2010 about trucking in the early days, during the Arab oil embargo and just before the export ban was initiated.

After the Christmas of 1973, a trucker named Al Hannah skipped two truck payments, bought a 1973 Mercury, and equipped it with a CB. Along with another trucker named Jim Johnston, he hit the road to get something started.

In the 37-year history of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, the organization has been steered by only three presidents. In July, two of them got together at OOIDA’s Missouri headquarters for the first time in more than three decades. The conversation quickly turned to a story with details that can only be told by Al Hannah and Jim Johnston.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

FAST Act: What didn’t make it into the highway bill

One of the provisions that came close, but didn’t make it into the highway bill – now the FAST Act – was an amendment from U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) that would have packed a huge wallop to trucking operations. The amendment would have essentially stepped in and established federal law over a number of states (California being one) that have very old state laws that require meal and rest breaks for workers. 

Denham’s amendment would have assured that federal law in this situation pre-empted state law. But Denham’s amendment went even further. It also would have introduced language that would limit compensation for truck drivers to mileage pay only. No detention, no hourly, no other kind of pay. Mileage pay only. Naturally, OOIDA opposed this amendment quicker than David chunked that rock at Goliath, issuing a massive member call to action.

It was good news, and gratifying, to find out the final FAST Act did not include Denham’s language.

In addition, as OOIDA reviews the ins and outs of the new appropriations bill – not to be confused with FAST Act – I am advised that nothing has been slipped into the T-HUD (Transportation, Housing and Urban Development) either.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Cheating on logs, not just for paper anymore

What does an eggshell “baby” have to do with cheating on electronic logs? A high school “adult living” project is just another example that technology is not failsafe.

The buzz over the weekend, and I’m sure that will continue in weeks to come, is the debate over the ability of electronic logs to prevent falsifying logs. Technology, those in favor of electronic logs say, will put an end to the cheating. Forgive me if you must, but it’s pretty naïve to think that way.

My daughter brought home my grand “egg baby” last week. It’s a low-cost high school project to show kids that parenting isn’t easy. Students hollow out, decorate and name an egg that they must carry around and care for in the following week or two.

We won’t talk about Princess Jones crushing her first “baby” during the decorating phase the very first day; the teacher gave her a free pass and another egg.

But I will move on to the family introductions and the ensuing quizzing of her obligations as an egg baby parent. The proof of her parenting does not end with presenting an intact egg baby at the end of the project. The students must take selfies with the egg at four-hour intervals over the course of the project.

Immediately, her older brothers pointed out that time stamps can be faked on both her phone and camera, and she should take a whole bunch at once.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Mirror, mirror on the truck

A Michigan company wanted to replace truck mirrors on its 15-vehicle fleet with a camera-based system. But FMCSA rules require that “every bus, truck, and truck tractor” be equipped with rearview mirrors.

So in April of 2013, the fleet operated by Atwood Forest Products of Big Rapids, Mich., applied to the FMCSA for an exemption. The FMCSA ruling came down this month. The answer was “no.”

Is this a setback for the march of progress?

Doesn’t look like it. Cameras are coming on, if not quickly, at least steadily. Last year the National Highway Traffic Administration mandated that all cars built after May 1, 2018, be equipped with rearview cameras – backup cameras like those already standard on some car models.

No mandate yet for trucks, but Daimler Trucks North America last year applied to NHTSA for an exemption from current mirror requirements. Daimler wants to use a camera-based system instead of mirrors for the on-highway Super Truck it featured at the Mid-America Truck Show earlier this year. Daimler says the camera system will reduce wind drag and provide greater safety benefits.

Well, maybe.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

NIMBY in the ‘Wild, Wild West’ of Elwood, Ill.

Our family once owned a house that sat one well-launched football away from an Arkansas state highway.

As the area developed from cow pasture to cookie-cutter subdivision, our town did the usual dance and jig – signs posted restricting Jake brakes within city limits, followed by the attorney-prompted sign editing to “engine exhaust brakes banned.”

But we’d hear many an engine brake (nice try, lawyers) rumble through the night as trucks entered the area and were met by hundreds of passenger cars clogging the two-lane highway.

Neighbors complained to the city, but police were as busy with local accidents and evolving gang threats at the high school as they were with noise complaints.

But with each new subdivision came increased wrecks, slower traffic and more engine braking. The highway’s eventual expansion helped traffic – though I hear complaints still pour in.

Most professional truck drivers have likely seen some form of NIMBY – which stands for not in my backyard. One Illinois town with a history of high interactions between police and drivers is taking NIMBY to another level.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Rearview: From Independence (Mo.) to Kaneohe Bay

Editor’s note: We’re looking “in our rearview” to bring you some of our favorite stories, columns and items from Land Line’s 40-year-history. In honor of the 74th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, we’re sharing a piece from Dec. 7, 2010, by Editor-in-Chief Sandi Soendker, whose father was a Navy veteran and among those dispatched to Hawaii following the attack. 

The day that Pearl Harbor was attacked, my dad was a 19-year-old air combat crewman in the U.S. Navy, stationed in San Diego. He had enlisted in May 1941 and was in training as a bombardier. On Dec. 7, 1941, the training ended. The real deal was on.

Dad grew up in Independence, Mo., a town that has gotten plenty of national attention, thanks to Harry S. Truman. Harry would, of course, become vice-president for President Franklin D. Roosevelt and then president when FDR died in April 1945. But that’s another war story.

The boy from Independence soon found himself on the way to Kaneohe Bay, on the east coast of Oahu. Kaneohe was the site of a major Navy patrol seaplane base and home to three Patrol Squadrons. Dad was a bombardier for Patrol Squadron 102.

His attachment to the squadron ran deep. He told us how Kaneohe had been heavily damaged when Pearl Harbor was attacked. Dad said dozens of PBYs were on the ground (or in the water just offshore) when the Japanese planes came. The raid destroyed most of them.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Rearview: Our own ‘Happy Hamster’ hauls the Capitol Christmas Tree

Editor’s note: We’re looking “in our rearview” to bring you some of our favorite stories, column and items from Land Line’s 40-year-history. In honor of last night’s lighting of the Capitol Christmas Tree, we bring you a 2014 dispatch from Field Editor Suzanne Stempinski (aka “Red the Happy Hamster”) about her experience hauling last year’s tree for one leg of the journey.

The Capitol Christmas Tree moves across the country under the watchful eyes of the U.S. Forest Service, state and local law enforcement and the public. The journey, which began in north central Minnesota in late October, spans about three weeks and more than 17 stops as communities across the country share in the joy and fellowship of the season. For this truck driving reporter, it was a dream sandwiched between two celebrations.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Rearview: Rufus Sideswipe counts his blessings

Editor’s note: We’re looking “in our rearview” to bring you some of our favorite stories, columns and items from Land Line’s 40-year-history. This week, we bring you a 2010 report from columnist Bill Hudgins, who reports that his old friend Rufus Sideswipe has found the true meaning of Thanksgiving.

It was the Saturday before Thanksgiving, and my friend and ace gearjammer Rufus Sideswipe had just parked his vintage Corn Binder for a week at home when Mrs. Rufus came bustling out of the house, carrying a suitcase.

“I’ve got to go to my sister’s,” she called to Rufus, who was relieved to hear he wasn’t being ditched again. “Her house is getting a makeover on that new TV show ‘Clutter Decontam’ – you know the one sponsored by Clorox bleach and the EPA? Anyway, she needs moral support.

“And you need to get the house ready for Thanksgiving, because it’s your family coming over. I’ll be back Thursday morning. Your list is on the kitchen counter. Bye!”

Her car was already in the street before Rufus could choke out,

"Huh?” When he finally processed what Mrs. R had said, he thought,

"What could be so hard? She never seems that busy.”

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

So, about that trucker in Oklahoma

Perhaps you’ve seen the story floating around on social media about how an unknown trucker used his rig to force a man suspected of driving under the influence off the road, and then allegedly used a gun to keep the man from fleeing the scene on foot.

According to a report from News On 6, 33-year-old Tyson Schunk, of Tulsa, was arrested at 2:15 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 20, by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. Schunk was booked on charges of aggravated driving under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident.

The initial report raised more questions than answers, so we decided to reach out to OHP for some clarification, like how exactly did the trucker force Schunk off the road, and why the heck did he pull a gun on him?

According to Lt. Mark Roach of the Will Rogers Turnpike Division, OHP received a 911 phone call from another motorist who was traveling behind Schunk’s car, and reported him driving erratically down the turnpike near Catoosa.

From there, Roach says some of the details are fuzzy at best. For starters, the trucker was nowhere to be found when law enforcement showed up to arrest Schunk, although the motorist who made the initial 911 call was still on the scene. The motorist was the one who informed police about the trucker’s role in getting the vehicle off the road.

He also said the witness gave no indication as to why the trucker pulled a gun on Schunk, and that Schunk himself was reportedly too drunk to know what was happening and told police he had no memory of the events.

“At this point, we don’t know if the driver said something belligerent that made the trucker pull his firearm or what,” he said.

Depending on the circumstances, the trucker could have potentially faced criminal charges himself. For starters, Oklahoma is technically an “open-carry” state for firearms, but only if the person carrying the handgun is licensed under state laws. In order to be licensed under state law, among other things you must be a resident of the state, pass a background check and an eight-hour training course.

“We want people to participate in getting drunk drivers off the road,” Roach said. “But we don’t necessarily want them (physically) running people off the road. Your assistance is reporting, and staying a safe distance away while we execute the stop.”

Friday, November 20, 2015

A unique look at relieving stress

In the October issue of Land Line, we ran a special column written for us by TruckerTherapy.com’s Buck Black, LCSW, LCAC. A licensed therapist, I knew who he was before I got to know him through the St. Christopher Fund. We are both on the Board of Directors. I asked him to write something for us on stress and by the response from our readers – it was a topic that hit a nerve. 

Here’s Buck on stress in the lives of truckers.

Stress is something that cannot be avoided. We all know that feeling of having too much to do or simply feeling like we cannot relax. Some stress can be positive, because it helps us to wake up on time, to respond to important tasks, and to better ourselves and our families. When stress becomes overwhelming, it slows us down, increases the rate at which we make mistakes, and even makes us sick and unproductive.

It is my fear that truckers will develop stress-related problems at a greater rate as more and more regulations are imposed upon them. It is understandable there is a need for regulation in the trucking profession. However, when rules and regulations go too far, this causes stress, which becomes counter-productive.

It is important to point out that feeling powerless is also a stressor. Many of my clients are describing the feeling of powerlessness and high levels of stress as they worry about current and future regulations.

Change = Stress is the equation.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Rearview: On the trail of the Capitol Christmas Tree

Editor’s note: We’re looking “in our rearview” to bring you some of our favorite stories, columns and items from Land Line’s 40-year-history. This week we bring you a 2012 story by Editor-in-Chief Sandi Soendker about the Capitol Christmas Tree’s stop in her hometown of Independence. Find out about the details about this year’s Capitol Tree with our coverage here.

So I am on assignment Saturday night in my hometown of Independence, Mo., on the town square for the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree whistlestop event, on the tree’s way to D.C. The drivers of the Mack trucks pulling the Christmas tree really wanted to see the Truman Home.
Land Line Editor-in-Chief Sandi Soendker
and U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree drivers,
OOIDA Life Member and former U.S. Sen.
Ben Nighthorse Campbell (left), and Duane
Brusseau (right) at the Truman Home in 2012


Independence is my hometown, and I live there still. I knew it was too far for a quick walk, so I thumbed at my car, parked just across the street. They accepted, and I drove them to a place I know well.

The big white home at 219 Delaware St. is timeless and unpretentious yet elegant. It’s kept spotless and looks like Harry and Bess just walked out. It’s tended to and guarded by the National Park Service. It was about 4 p.m., the gates were locked, and the park rangers were closing for the day. We parked and got out anyway.

Me to the rangers: “Locked? Oh man. Can’t you make an exception? These guys are the drivers of the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree; they are parked up on the square for tonight’s event.”

We asked if we could just get a photo of them on the porch.

Ranger looks at the truck drivers: “Sorry.”

Me to rangers: “Would it make a difference if I said this guy is a former United States Senator?”

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Rearview: OOIDA salutes its veterans

Editor’s note: We’re looking “in our rearview” to bring you some of our favorite stories, columns and items from Land Line’s 40-year-history. This week, in honor of both Veterans Day and the OOIDA Truckers for Troops telethon, we bring you a collection of stories and photos from staff and contributors about their time in the U.S. Military. Come for the awesome throwback pictures; stay for the moving stories.

You would be hard pressed to find a group any more loyal to the military or more respectful to veterans than truckers. And it’s real respect. It’s not buttons or T-shirts with placating statements – it’s genuine, sincere and deep.

The pride and earnest admiration for those who have served in the military is awe-inspiring – so much so it’s hard to describe or even comprehend at times.

It shouldn’t come as any surprise, however, that truckers and veterans are so connected. Estimates vary, but some reports anywhere between 30 to 40 percent of active truckers are veterans of the U.S. armed forces.

Monday, November 9, 2015

OOIDA Member ‘88 Mike’ takes top honors in first ChampTruck racing series

The road that led OOIDA Member Mike Morgan to the points championship of the inaugural Meritor ChampTruck racing series had more twists and turns than the typical racetrack.

A diesel technician at the Mack of Nashville dealership by day, the Wartrace, Tenn., native spent his off time spec’ing and racing his very own “big, black Mack” during the Meritor-sponsored Class 8 diesel truck race series. His handle, “88 Mike” is a nod to the military term for truck driver, which he chose in tribute to his family members and friends who have served in the armed forces, and for his favorite NASCAR driver, Dale Jarrett, now retired.
Mike Morgan poses with his son Mikey alongside his
ChampTruck "Mackvader," a 1999 Mack with an MP7 engine.
Morgan, an OOIDA member from Wartrace, Tenn., won the
points championship of the inaugural Meritor ChampTrucks
World Series Class 8 truck racing.

The championship race was held at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Oct. 30-Nov. 1. Going into the final weekend, Morgan was in a three-way battle for championship with small fleet owner Allen Boles’ Jupiter Motorsports and Hungarian racer Krisztian Szabo’s Truck Race Team USA for first place.

“The points race was up for grabs for sure, but we went out with a game plan to get pole position,” he said. “I figured if we could get pole position, we could get out front and we could hold it. We had a fast truck and we just wanted to keep it there (in front).”

Morgan won the first race of the season in April at New Jersey Motorsports Park, and consistently finished around the top five throughout the season’s other eight races. In addition to winning the series on driver points, his team, Power Shift Racing, finished first on the team leaderboard.

Friday, November 6, 2015

If truckers were as rich as everyone thought

I’ve seen my fair share of ways all levels of government have tried to get into the pocket of truck drivers. While this one is not a new gimmick, I just couldn’t get over how obtuse at least part of one city government’s leadership appears to be.

Let me set the stage.

There’s a California city, which like most cities, has some abandoned lots inside its borders. And, like a lot of cities, if the property isn’t posted, truckers park their trucks there while at home or maybe even when waiting to deliver the next morning.

Suisun City, Calif., doesn’t have a parking ordinance prohibiting trucks from parking at home. The city has the typical sampling of weight restrictions on some roads, no parking for more than two hours in posted zones, basically the usual stuff.

But, according to the Daily Republic, there have been a few truck drivers who have taken to parking overnight behind the post office on an abandoned lot.

Behind the post office. On city-owned, undeveloped land. That’s not posted. Overnight.

Now, like a lot of cities, Suisun City is looking for ways to raise money to make ends meet. Hard times, yo.

Here’s where it a takes a turn to dull-witted.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Finding ‘hidden treasures’ gets trucker moving

We hadn’t quite walked all the way to the green dot on the GPS display when veteran geocacher Jason Fostier spotted the small “treasure” chest fastened to the trunk of a tree. Inside, we found some modest trinkets like a cigar wrapped in cellophane and a small notebook, which he signed his name in and dated, before leaving a package of Halloween candy inside for the next intrepid explorer.

What’s a geocacher? Someone who participates in a “real-world outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices” according to the official explanation from the website geocaching.com.

Fostier, an OOIDA member from Somersworth, N.H., stopped by OOIDA headquarters in Grain Valley, Mo., on Oct. 30, intent on hitting the geocache hidden at the nearby park. We walked out there together Friday afternoon, while he explained his hobby, which is basically a never-ending scavenger hunt.

Fostier says he likes having a reason to get out of his cab and walk around. When not behind the wheel, he said he enjoys hiking and biking. He said a dispatcher at a company he used to work for introduced him to the game.

“We were just walking, and she said have you ever heard of geocaching?” he said. “You go out and look for things. The first one I found was right outside my mom’s house.”

Monday, November 2, 2015

Trucking Ubers keep coming

Move over. Here come two more Ubers for trucking.

One is called Convoy, the other Next Trucking. They both do pretty much the same thing as Truckerpath, Transfix, 10-4, you name it. There are differences among them, but all are built around the Uber idea of smartphone apps for drivers. Uber connects auto drivers with fares. The trucking Ubers connect truck drivers with loads. 

Of the two new entries, by far the biggest splash is being made by Convoy. Like all the others, it was born more of technology than transportation. But its backers are making headlines.

According to Bloomberg Business they include some of the most prominent names in the world of tech: Jeff Bezos of Amazon; Marc Benioff of Salesforce.com; Pierre Omidyar of eBay; Drew Houston of Dropbox; Howard Behar, former president of Starbucks; and even a co-founder of Uber, Garrett Camp.

Wow.

Friday, October 30, 2015

How I got behind the wheel

For me it was simple, like a light coming on. There was actually a job that wouldn’t make me hate getting up in the morning. I discovered it about a year after high school. I remember the moment.

My first job in 1960 was at Marty G’s Donut Shop where I cleaned toilets and filled jelly donuts -- not necessarily in that order. I also washed windows with ammonia and crumpled up newspaper. This is not something you want to do full time. Marty was a nice guy, but I developed a permanent aversion to donuts.

So I left Marty for the Huffman & Boyle warehouse where the work was monotonous and the days endless. I wheeled pieces of crated furniture on a hand truck from the warehouse to the delivery platform or from a railroad car into the warehouse where shafts of light from tiny windows illuminated the floating dust. Back and forth, back and forth. Every once in a while there would be nothing left to hand truck, and I was handed a broom to excite the dust on the floor back into the air.

Is it break time yet? Can I sneak a cigarette in the boiler room? I’ll be an old man before it’s time for lunch. My ‘47 Ford will turn to rust in the parking lot before quitting time. Five o’clock Friday felt like repatriation from a prison camp. Every single day was its own eternity.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Rearview: Take a gander at the bright lights from Turn One

Editor's note: We're looking "in our rearview" to bring you some of our favorite stories, columns and items from Land Line's 40-year history. This week, we thought we'd share some of our favorite eye candy from OOIDA's Heart of America Truck Show in 2013. Tip o' the cap to managing editor Jami Jones and staff photographer Nikohle (Ellis) Barnes for their great work. 

The clouds and rain won't be considered ideal conditions for much, but it really was the perfect backdrop for the lights at night competition.

The super dark night sky with the wet pavement offered a canvas for the truck lights to sparkle and dance off the pavement and into the night sky.

LL's ace photog Nikohle Ellis and I didn't want our blog readers to miss out on the amazing light show, so we braved the cold just to bring you these.
















Thursday, October 22, 2015

About that Minnesota lady who got pulled over for drinking coffee

So we had a pretty good cuss-n-discuss over the story about a St. Paul woman who says a cop pulled her over for drinking coffee and gave her a ticket when the incident was brought up during our morning news meeting. There was probably a bit more cussing than discussing, frankly.

We didn’t quite have all the facts at our fingertips in that initial meeting, and if you’ve only seen the headlines, chances are you may be feeling a little heated about it yourself. I mean, that sort of thing takes “drinking and driving” enforcement to a whole different level.

If you missed it, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune has a nice write-up here. Per the report, the joe-sipping driver, 36-year-old Lindsay Krieger, says she was pulled over on eastbound Interstate 94 during the Wednesday morning rush hour by a state trooper whom she says gave her a dressing down on the dangers of drinking anything while driving.

“She kept asking, ‘Why did I pull you over?’ ” Krieger told the newspaper. “And I really, honestly had no idea. ‘It’s the coffee. Drinking coffee and driving is against the law.’ I was not doing anything wrong.”

Friday, October 16, 2015

The DOT in the Digital Age

Here’s a challenge. What do the following numbers mean/represent?

0101010001110010011101010110001101101011011010010110111001100111
54 72 75 63 6b 69 6e 67

To most people, the above numbers are nothing more than a series of 1s and 0s and random numbers and letters. To a hacker, that is the binary and hexadecimal code translation for “Trucking.” Binary and hexadecimal codes are two of several types of codes used to write computer programs. They are as unique as the series of words used in a novel to tell a story. Like a novel, codes are protected by copyright laws. Unlike works of fiction, they are meant to be kept a secret.

In the 21st century, nearly every vehicle function is propelled via computer systems. Those systems are driven by various codes that tell them what to do. If anyone discovers what the codes are for a particular function, that person could manipulate said function. One can see why these scripts that look like hieroglyphics to us need to be protected.

Currently, the U.S. Copyright Office is in the middle of a rulemaking that exempts computer programs in vehicles from copyright laws. This is nothing new as such exemptions are revisited every three years. The latest rulemaking just extends the exemption. However, the U.S. Department of Transportation is now opposing the extended exemption for the next three years.

In a letter dated Sept. 9, 2015, the DOT expressed concern over two classes of security software that the proposed rulemaking would allow owners of a vehicle to circumvent. Those two classes are:

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Rearview: The legacy of Arrow Trucking’s “Nightmare before Christmas”

Editor’s note: We’re looking “in our rearview” to bring you some of our favorite stories, columns and items from Land Line’s 40-year history. With the recent sentencing of former Arrow Trucking CEO Doug Pielsticker, we take a look back at some of the heroes and villains who emerged following “The Nightmare before Christmas” in 2009, with blog post by Managing Editor Jami Jones. If you have a chance, click here, here and here to read the original posts along with additional coverage of the Arrow collapse.

The journey for truckers through 2009 was a bumpy one to say the least. Just as the year wound down and Arrow Trucking slammed its doors shut and stranded 1,400 some odd drivers around the country – it felt like we were careening down the mountain.

That was until a small effort started on Facebook to coordinate offers for help with the Arrow drivers needing the help. Sure, we launched it here from OOIDA and babied it through its infancy, but that’s just a minute piece of the miracle that unfolded.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Professor Paul

He’s known in the trucking industry by many names. Hot Air, Dah Godfaddah, Professor Paul.

Illustration by Mo Paul
We also call him Senior Technical Editor, and since 1998 Paul Abelson has written technical and equipment articles for Land Line.

He’s also a life member of OOIDA. During the years we’ve known Paul, he’s been a loyal member of the Association and solid part of our Land Line family. He’s been a mentor, an industry connection, and a traveling companion. He has represented Land Line at hundreds of press events and plant tours. 

Paul knows everybody. He’s been involved in everything. Half the people I know in trucking were first introduced to me by Paul. He has a huge resource list that he calls his “brain trust,” and if he doesn’t know the answer to a technical question – he knows how to find out.

For more than 20 years, I have relied on Paul. He has been a critical part of my education in the trucking industry.

In my early days here, some of my questions were pretty dumb.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A ‘Chrome Shop’ wedding

Jim Langton and his wife, Tani, had kicked around a couple of different venues for hosting their nuptials. They say they considered getting hitched at a Renaissance festival, or in Las Vegas, before settling on tying the knot last Saturday afternoon at the Guilty By Association Truck Show in Joplin, Mo.

Photo by George Parker III
“A lot of our friends are truck drivers,” Jim, an OOIDA life member from Moran, Kan., said in a phone interview. “We just thought that’d be a good place to gather. … We talked about the Renaissance festival, or Las Vegas, but the logistics of getting everybody there on a certain day (would’ve been too difficult).”

Tani agreed.

“The most important people in our lives are fellow truck drivers,” she said. “We had talked about getting married, maybe going to Vegas, just because I didn’t want to have to put a wedding together. And then we worried about how are we going to get everybody there? Because the people we love the most are all drivers, and you can’t guarantee everybody a load out of Las Vegas.”

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Heavier wagons take their toll

Those in Congress who want heavier trucks on our highways are clearly unaware of historical precedent. We now return to those ancient times. We join King Tony the Pugnacious of New Jersey whose Lord Chancellor has come to him most reluctantly with news.

“What is it, Lord Chancellor Eddie?”

“I bring bad tidings, my lord.”

“What is it?”

“First I must inform you of the wagon driver shortage, sire. It is bad and growing worse.”

“My kingdom is out of drivers? How can that be? Can’t women drive wagons? Can't children drive wagons? Have we used up all those Pennsylvania prisoners of war? Why are you bothering me with this?”

“There’s more, your highness. The boulder carriers have run out of oxen...”

“Let them barter with Delaware! They have lots of oxen down there. Why do you bring these troubles to me?”

“... and then there are the bridges ...”

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Rearview: Heart of a champion

Editor’s note: We’re looking “in our rearview” to bring you some of our favorite stories, columns and items from Land Line’s 40-year history. Here’s a story from the August/September 2010 issue by Contributing Writer Charlie Morasch about the final leg of Jazzy Jordan’s run across America to raise awareness and money for the St. Christopher Fund.

 She’d prepared for every moment except the finish.

Running into the heart of New York City at Times Square, tears streamed down Jasmine Jordan’s face, already pink from the midday sun and the pain of 3,161 miles in nine months.

In an instant, the city’s iconic Yellow cabs stood still. Police stopped all traffic at the intersection of 43rd and Broadway as a crowd gathered to welcome her.

Flanked by mom Paulette, dad Lee and brother Levi, Jazzy raised her arms and crossed a pink finish line.

She turned and took off the black jacket she wore as a tribute to the late Sheila Grothe, a family friend whose 2009 death from cancer spurred Jazzy to run from California to New York.

Handing the jacket to Randy Grothe, Sheila’s husband, the two hugged and cried. She was handed flowers and Gatorade.

In a New York minute, Jazzy’s “Run Across America” was over.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Nonprofit gives ‘Second Wind’ to retired trucker’s dream

Make sure you’ve got your windows rolled up if you’re reading this in the cab because it may get a little dusty in here.

A not-for-profit that aims to help seniors who live in long-term care facilities realize their dreams made a retired Tennessee truck driver’s wish come true, getting him a ride in tractor-trailer.

The retired driver, 72-year-old Ralph Pennycuff, spent 40 years behind the wheel, primarily for Roadway Express, according to a report in the Lebanon Democrat. The paper interviewed Ralph’s wife, Mary Jane, and one of their two sons.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Judge rules profane rant on ticket free speech

“Sometimes there’s a man, I won’t say ‘hero’ ‘cause what’s a hero? But sometimes there’s a man… well he’s the man for his time and place.” – The Big Lebowski

If you’ve ever had a speeding ticket or other municipal citation you thought was a load of B.S., chances are you’ve wanted to do something pretty similar to what college kid Willian Barboza did a couple years ago when he had to shell out $175 to municipal court in Liberty, N.Y.

OK, so maybe some of you wouldn’t go as far as he did, but surely you can appreciate the impulse. The at-the-time 21-year-old scrawled an obscene message on the ticket form. In polite company, it might be translated as “(Go fornicate with) your (excrement-filled) town (female dogs).”

You can click here if you want to see a copy of the actual ticket form, but if you’re the sort of person who’s easily offended, don’t bother.

Friday, September 18, 2015

After truck stop hit and run, show truck competitors rally

Some days you’re the fire hydrant. Other days you’re the dog. But that swing of the pendulum can sure give you whiplash. Just ask OOIDA Senior Member Shane Boullion or his wife, Crystal.

Photo courtesy of  Shane and Crystal Boullion.
They were on their way to GATS. Their truck, a 2001 rose gray Peterbilt 379 was looking fantastic. It always looks good, but the Boullions, along with some friends, had spent the better part of the previous three weeks cleaning, polishing fluffing and buffing the truck to get it ready for the Pride and Polish competition.

They were less than 30 minutes away from the convention center when they decided to stop for breakfast. Woulda, coulda, shoulda kept going. They came out to find their bumper yanked at a 90 degree angle, the fender bashed and the hood tweaked. And the SOB who did the damage was nowhere to be found. Fortunately, there were witnesses who had seen the driver, got his information and provided it. Crystal called the police and the driver’s company, and took pictures. Shane was sick and disgusted. Bad enough to wreck a man’s truck. But to run off like a rotten coward was insulting.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Rearview: Remembering ‘road dog’ Bette Garber

Editor’s note: We’re looking back “in our rearview” to bring you some of our favorite stories, columns and items from Land Line’s 40-year history. Here’s a “Dashboard Confidential” column from our February 2009 issue by columnist Dave Sweetman, who shared his remembrances of photojournalist and OOIDA Member Bette Graber.

“I can’t make you rich, but I can make you famous.”

Those were the first words I heard Bette Garber speak almost 25 years ago, and I heard her repeat them many times when a truck and its driver caught her eye. It was the start of a wonderful friendship and learning process.


In 1984 I was perfectly happy in my cabover Kenworth, doing the meat and produce routes for a New York-based carrier. I was driving down U.S. 202 in eastern Pennsylvania when a voice came on the CB commanding me to “STOP that truck! I need pictures of that truck.”

A van pulled a U-turn across the median and chased me down. The voice explained that she worked for American Trucker magazine. We stopped, exchanged phone numbers and handshakes. Not long after, I was featured in a magazine article and photo spread by the same crazy woman.

Over the years, our paths crossed many times when I was a competitor at truck show beauty contests in Louisville, Walcott, Englishtown or anywhere there were show trucks.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

A chance to test drive an autonomous truck? Sure, why not

First things, first. Write this down. Tattoo it on your forehead if you must:

OOIDA will never advocate for anything that puts well-trained, highly professional and skilled truck drivers out of a job. Period. No rulemaking. No technology. Nothing.

There’s quite the buzz out on the roads right now about “driverless” trucks.

Freightliner Inspiration (Photo by Suzanne Stempinski)
There’s a second point that needs to be made very clear right now. The technology being promoted by Daimler Trucks is not “driverless.” It is autonomous. Some of you may feel like this is just playing with words. But it’s not.

Autonomous trucks are not driverless trucks. At this point the technology is only capable of driving in one lane. It cannot perform evasive maneuvers or change lanes. It also requires two people be in the truck. So it’s actually requiring more drivers than the normal trucks out there.

Land Line and OOIDA are keeping a close eye on the development of this technology. So much so that Suzanne Stempinski, Land Line’s field editor and test-driving editor, is the first non-Daimler engineer to receive autonomous certification. That means she can drive these trucks so we get a “hands off the wheel” perspective of what these trucks really can and cannot do.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Gentlemen, stop your engines!

Hi, truckers. We’re California and we love you guys and gals. We really do. After all, you bring us all the stuff we don’t make here. Like everything.

So please don’t get mad, but we have some new rules.

As the Golden State, we’re very creative, especially when it comes to air. After all we invented smog in Compton in 1956. It really put us on the map. California Smog was quite the rage for a while. But our patent application was denied, so everyone began copying us.

Just as the same sleek dress doesn’t flatter every woman, the smog that was charming in L.A. made New York look lumpy. So in the 1970s with all those eastern cities bulging in their smog dresses, the feds declared war on smog.

It was time for us, California, to come up with another even bigger idea. And as you well know, we did. It’s called Clean Air, and it was a big hit. Sure, we lost the minerals and entertaining skin coatings we used to get from our old air, but breathing was fun again. You truckers played an essential part in that coup for California.

We’re sorry you had to buy new trucks and pay so much for fuel and we appreciate your effort. But as we mentioned before, we have a new problem. Due to the prevailing westerlies, California inherits air from Asia.

Friday, September 11, 2015

OOIDA member takes journalist on ride-along, makes big impact

We here at Land Line give the mainstream press a hard time when they get a story wrong that involves truckers or truck driving. It’s only fair then that we give them an “atta boy” when they get it right.

Last week, reporter Dennis Yohnke of The Daily Journal in Kankakee, Ill., wrote a pair of stories about trucking. They’re both good, but we particularly enjoyed this one about Yohnke’s experiences during a ride-along with a trucker from Hoekstra Transportation, LLC. He writes an “unofficial trucker’s log” that starts at 4:30 a.m. and ends at 6:30 p.m.

Along the way, the reporter and the trucker make about five scheduled pickups along the route, a visit to the truck stop for coffee, and a lengthy detour around I-65 in Indiana.

The driver who gave the reporter an inside-the-cab look at a day on the road is OOIDA Life Member Steve Collins of Urbana, Ill. A 43-year veteran of the trucking industry, Collins said he enjoyed having the reporter along for the ride.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

#TBT – Remembering Pennsylvania’s ‘Turnpike Phantom’ of 1953

Editor’s note: It’s “Throwback Thursday” and we’re breaking into the Land Line digital archive to bring you a November 2009 story from State Legislative Editor Keith Goble, who talked to OOIDA Life Member John Taylor, a 65-year veteran of the trucking industry, about his recollections of a highway shooter who terrorized truckers in Pennsylvania.

In 1953, a roving sniper was on the loose terrorizing communities, shooting people to death at random. All the shots allegedly were fired from the same weapon. Detectives frantically pursued the killer, questioned suspects, analyzed clues, and followed countless leads.

The story dominated the national media, which called the shootings “an unprecedented wave of fear.” The story sounds a lot like the D.C. sniper story, but it happened about 56 years ago in Pennsylvania.

On July 25, 1953, trucker Lester Woodward, 30, was fatally shot while sleeping in his truck’s cab near the Irwin Interchange of the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Western Pennsylvania.

Three days later and 30 miles farther east on the turnpike, near Donegal, trucker Harry Pitts, 28, was slain by the same “phantom killer.”

Three days after that, trucker John Shepherd, 36, was shot and wounded as he slept in his truck’s cab near Lisbon, Ohio – 18 miles from the western end of the turnpike.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Trooper, ‘good Samaritan’ honored for pulling trucker from flaming wreck

Our abbreviated deadline for the holiday weekend left us unable to cover this as it was happening, but if you haven’t seen the video of a Minnesota good Samaritan being recognized for helping a state trooper pull a trucker from a fiery crash, well, take 15 minutes out of your day and check it out.

Seriously, gang. This is an incredible story of heroism, on the parts of both the state trooper, and Paul Langseth, who owns a tree-trimming and nursery business in Worthington, Minn. The story of the patrol’s efforts to locate Langseth in the days after the crash is almost but not quite as exciting as the actual rescue itself. Take a look.



Friday, September 4, 2015

Congress still has a highway bill to consider

Midsummer saw a flurry of activity and congressional debates about transportation policy and funding. Transportation remains a priority as House and Senate lawmakers return to Capitol Hill after Labor Day weekend.

OOIDA remains active to ensure the interests of small-business truckers are protected in any emerging legislation.

Before the August recess, the U.S. Senate approved a six-year bill – funded for the first three years only – but the House chose a different route and pushed through a short-term extension of current programs. The Senate chose to pass the short-term extension at the 11th hour. That left the multiyear bill hanging in limbo as the House did not take it up.

With December not far away on the legislative calendar, the debate over long-term transportation funding is likely to heat up again.

The short-term extension wasn’t the worst outcome in this case, at least from a trucker perspective. While it did not solve the funding shortfall or do anything to change the current regulatory climate, it did have at least one advantage.

What it did was, it provided more time for lawmakers and stakeholders to read and comprehend the Senate’s multiyear bill, which sits at about 1,000 pages.

And, as OOIDA found, it contained some provisions that could do more harm than good to trucking’s small-businesses.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

#TBT: Spitballin’ with Cowpoke

Editor’s note: “Throwback Thursday” has become a popular way to share past pics or stories on the Internet. Bob Martin’s award-winning “Spitballin’ with Cowpoke” column in Land Line was a reader favorite from 2009-2011. Bob passed away in 2011. Here’s one from the November 2009 issue.

Remember the nicknames truckers used back in the day? Some of my favorites were GMCs and Internationals. In the 1950s, GMC made a bubble-nosed kinda cabover-looking job that everybody called the Cannonball. The name seemed to fit although I don’t think it came from the brute power of these trucks as a lot of them were powered by a 4-banger Detroit. GM followed that up in the ’60s with one we labeled the Crackerbox.
Bob "Cowpoke" Martin (Photo courtesy of Peterbilt)

Then in the ’70s, GM built a truck that actually came from the factory with an official model name: The Astro. That didn’t stop us. We renamed this astronomical GMC a West Virginia Peterbilt with a Sunporch. Anyone who has ever driven one would understand why.

I drove all three, and if I were to rate them, it would be in this order: (1) Neat Old Truck, (2) Man, it’s Cold in Here and (3) I Think I Might Throw Up.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

‘Don’t quit when you’re tired. Quit when you’re done!’

Today I got a copy of a Qualcomm message sent out to a trucking fleet. In signing off of the message, the company representative included a well-used sports motivational quote: “Don’t quit when you’re tired. Quit when you’re done!”

I knew the phrase well, but it didn’t stop my jaw from dropping. I grew up playing sports, went to college on a basketball scholarship. My kids are all driven. Sports motivational sayings are a common occurrence on the fridge or bathroom mirror around our house.

Give it all you’ve got. And then do it again.

Leave it all on the field.

Bust your a@# to beat theirs.

Winners never quit and quitters never win.

There are a million of them, and it’s hard to have not heard at least some incarnation of a sports motivational quote applied to “regular” life. Be it your job, your relationships, your …

Sports imitate life. Until they don’t.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Caltrans audit has legislators crying ‘fore’

For decades an axiom for business is that deals get done while playing golf. However, a California state auditor’s report shows that business can also be neglected at the golf course while on the taxpayer’s dime.

California state lawmakers are playing a game of beat the clock on transportation funding. They have until mid-September to reach agreement on a plan to address some of the $59 billion in state transportation needs over the next decade.


All options are said to be on the table as the Democratic majority is pursuing plans to raise about $4.3 billion annually for infrastructure largely through higher fuel taxes. Meanwhile, their Republican counterparts are advocating for reform measures before more costs are applied to taxpayers.

As discussions continue, the state auditor has released the findings of an audit of the California Department of Transportation. The finding is right in the wheelhouse of those demanding accountability at Caltrans before signing off for any tax and/or fee increases.

The audit released last week shows that Caltrans approved the times sheets of an engineer who played golf for 55 workdays over a 19-month period that ended in spring 2014.

According to the auditor’s report, “a senior transportation engineer for Caltrans neglected his duty to ensure that a subordinate engineer’s time sheets were accurate.”

“Although the subordinate’s time sheets indicated that he worked the day shift from August 2012 through March 2014, he actually was playing golf for part of 55 workdays during those months,” the audit states.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Building your brand or business in 140 characters or less

Over the past several years, social media has gone from being a place to stay in touch with friends and family to being the way we interact with everyone from complete strangers to multinational corporations. We make friends, maintain friends, and conduct business on social media.

Conversely, social media has ruined relationships, torn down businesses, and destroyed the lives of people that we have never met who live thousands of miles away. Often the reason that led to the dismantling of a person or entity was nothing more than a harmless joke.

Social media can make or break a business (including small-business trucking). In the 21st century, a presence on Facebook and (to a lesser degree) Twitter is necessary to stay relevant and competitive. There really is no reason to not embrace the new medium. After all, it’s free marketing and advertising.

Corporations all over the globe are using Twitter as a customer service platform. Have an issue with a product or service, but don’t want to wait on hold on the phone or go to the actual place of business? No problem. You can send questions, comments and complaints to companies such as Sprint, and they will take care of you via direct messages (DM). Here’s a screenshot of a DM I received from Sprint: