Friday, June 17, 2016

What’s in a name?

Beyond Compliance. It sounds so innocent. It sounds so good. It’s one of those phrases like “apple pie” that just seems nice when you hear it. If compliance is good, beyond compliance must be terrific.

Yet the actual phrase “beyond compliance” is being used in a way that is, simply put, inaccurate.

I’m referring, of course, to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s proposal to allow carriers to add certain technology to their trucks and, as a result, have their safety scores improve.

I’m a language guy, and the use of language here flat out stinks.

I start with “beyond.” The word actually has several related definitions. But in this case, the FMCSA clearly intends this definition:

“Superior to; surpassing; more than; in excess of; over and above.”

The fact is, the types of technologies – and even the safety programs FMCSA says should be attached to them – are already in use. Based on the results from carriers who use ELDs, speed limiters and other new truck tech, these do not ensure compliance that is “superior to” or “surpassing” the compliance of others.

Let’s take ELDs as an example.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

How to stay safe when the heat’s got you beat

Editor’s Note: The National Weather Service has issued excessive heat warnings and advisories for the central and southern Plains states as well as southern California, Arizona, and portions of western Colorado and central New Mexico. Extremely high temperatures can lead to serious illness and injury, as evidenced by this story from July 21, 2015. A trucker delivering a load to a chemical plant in Virginia suffered a dangerous heat-related illness after the facility refused to allow him to leave his truck or idle while it was being loaded. Be sure to read through for tips on what to do to treat heat exhaustion or heat stroke, and check out all of Land Line’s heat-wave coverage here.)

It’s the dog days of summer, and you find yourself stuck in place where you can’t idle. Maybe it’s a loading dock where you’re waiting for a hazmat load, or maybe a high-security facility where visitors aren’t allowed to leave their cabs. Temperatures outside are pushing triple-digits, but behind all that glass in the cab the air temperature is getting even hotter. How long can you just sit there sweating before an inconvenience becomes a serious risk to your health?

The National Weather Service has issued heat advisories throughout the southern and eastern U.S., with heat index values as high as 100 to 110 degrees. Health experts agree that heat illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heatstroke should not be taken lightly. As the temperatures rise, the amount of exposure you can take to extreme heat lessens. Susceptibility to heat-related illness can also be increased by factors such as age, obesity and certain medications.

 If the above scenario sounds a little far-fetched, consider the recent plight of a tanker truck driver who suffered a heatstroke and had to be hospitalized for days. He had parked his rig at a loading area of a chemical plant in Virginia, where the temperatures outside were 98 degrees. The customer has a strict “no-idle” policy, due to the hazardous materials that were being loaded into the tanker. The driver said he spent over two hours in the cab of his truck, where temperatures soared to 140 degrees. Some plant workers noticed the driver slumped over his steering wheel, pulled him out of the cab and called 911. Paramedics took him to a local hospital.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Leadership, family the driving forces behind Bill Underwood

Bill Underwood’s Citizen Driver renaming ceremony on June 1 at the TA in Greenwood, La., turned into a family affair.

Bill Underwood and family - From left, son Draven
Underwood, 16; wife Lorie; Bill Underwood; sons
Caymen, 6 and Aiden, 9; and daughter Candy
Fowler and her husband, Mark.
Flanked by his wife and four of his eight children, Underwood, an OOIDA member from Alta Vista, Kan., was also surrounded by numerous members of his late mother, Nelda (Huckaby) Underwood’s extended family as well, who reside in nearby towns and parishes.

“It was a family reunion, is what it was,” Underwood said in a phone interview with Land Line. “One of the reasons I chose that truck stop is my mother’s family is from that part of Louisiana. I’m related to about half the people down there.”

Even some passers-by who were road-tripping from Ohio to Texas and stopped at the TA for fuel saw the tent, heard the music, and decided to crash the party.

“I didn’t know whether they were cousins or what, but when I started talking to them, they said ‘No, we saw the party going on and decided to join it,” he said. “They got food, they got everything. They were treated like royalty. … I was glad they stopped.”

A trucker for the better part of the last 54 years, Underwood also served for 21 years in the U.S. Army as a helicopter pilot, seeing active duty in Vietnam. A decorated veteran, his commendations include the Distinguished Flying Cross. He also served as the pilot for numerous dignitaries, including Walter Mondale, Margaret Thatcher and Golda Meir.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

‘Gone fishin’

OOIDA Life Member Tom Trotter sent us a link today to a story from Oklahoma City’s News 9 about the recent International Roadcheck 2016. Apparently, a Texas attorney made the news when he said that the highways are “more dangerous” after the three-day inspection blitz. That’s right. A lawyer named Steve Laird says the worst offenders with the most unsafe trucks intentionally stay off the road for what he says truckers call “Roadcheck Vacation.”

It’s Laird’s opinion that the safety scofflaws stay parked at home for the 72 hours and then hit the road like bats out of hell to “make up for lost time.” His perceptive epiphany even appeared in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram as a special editorial.

In all fairness, the News 9 reporter asked safety inspectors for their opinion – which was they did not think large numbers of truckers take part in “Roadcheck Vacation.”

Monday, June 13, 2016

Bill Ater Jr. ‘shares’ award with late father

OOIDA Life Member Bill Ater Jr. says his Citizen Driver Award ceremony on Saturday, June 11 in Carl’s Corner, Texas, was almost perfect.

Bill Ater Jr. and Kathi Ater pose in front of
the Bill Ater Jr. Stopping Center on June 11
in Carl's Corner, Texas. (Submitted photo)
The only thing that could have made it better was if Bill Ater Sr., who also made a career as a truck driver, could have been there to see the Petro in Carl’s Corner officially renamed the Bill Ater Jr. Stopping Center.

“My only regret I have is that my dad died four years ago,” he said. “I knew dad was proud of me, but I would have loved him to see our name on the truck stop. If dad was still alive, I would have left the Jr. off, so that he could share.”

Ater, a resident of Arlington, Texas, used his time to speak at the ceremony to honor his dad, who was still trucking at age 85.

“I thanked my dad for raising me right,” he said.

Ater said his father’s influence helped him decide what he wanted to do for a career when he was a teenager.

Bill Ater Jr. was joined by several family
members and friends at the Citizen Driver
Award ceremony on June 11. (Submitted photo)
“I didn’t have good grades in school,” he said. “I already knew what I was going to do. Actually the day after we got let out as seniors even before the graduation ceremony, I was delivering a load of gravel to my government teacher’s house. I knew what I was going to do. I was going into the trucking business.”

Ater has been a truck driver for more than 40 years. Ater earned the Citizen Driver Award for being an ambassador of the trucking industry and for his work during natural disasters. Ater has delivered supplies to devastated areas hit by storms, including Hurricane Katrina and tornadoes in Oklahoma.

Again, Ater credits his parents for teaching him to help others in need.

“It’s just helping people,” Ater said. “You’re just supposed to help people. My dad always helped people. You see a need. You fill a need.”

In addition to the Citizen Driver Award, Ater achieved Landstar’s Million Miler award this year and will be one of 10 to receive Landstar’s Roadstar award at a July ceremony in Orlando, Fla.

“My dad and I used to always say that if you do something you love, then you never have to work a day in your life. I just love my job.”