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: