Off the Clock and Free?

| April 07, 2005

This is an answer to the article “Court Dismisses Cross-Dressing Trucker’s Case” in the November 2002 issue of your magazine. Peter Oiler, a 21-year employee of Winn-Dixie, was fired because he admitted he was a cross-dresser while being off duty and non-paid. Mr. Oiler’s attorneys say the U.S. District judge’s decision, if it stands, should give all truck drivers pause. Anything a trucker does while off duty and non-paid could be used in a negative way, affecting his or her employment.

Since the definition of off duty is “pertaining to or during a period when a person is not at work,” and assuming he or she is not being paid, is it safe to assume they can pursue activities of their own choosing?

If a truck driver does not have a scheduled starting and quitting time, the motor carrier, with the help of the Department of Transportation, can control the entire life, liberty and pursuit of happiness of an off-duty, non-paid truck driver. This can be done by disciplinary actions or discharge of drivers because of all the loopholes and doubletalk in the DOT’s safety rules and regulations.

The real question here: Would Winn-Dixie have fired Mr. Oiler and the federal judge’s decision been different had he been a lumberjack during his off-duty, non-paid time?

David P. Gaibis Sr.
New Castle, Pa.

Stop the Tailgating

I would like to address an issue of great importance. But first I would like to state I am a retired trucker of 35 years of over-the-road driving. My safety record of over 3 million miles without a chargeable accident is my credential. The issue I wish to address is tailgating. I have personally witnessed several accidents resulting in both death and severe injury. This is one of the easiest accidents to avoid. All that is necessary is to follow at a safe distance. This distance will vary with existing road, weather and traffic conditions.

Tailgating is not only stupid, irresponsible, inconsiderate and uncaring; it is dangerous, too many times resulting in severe and painful injuries – too often death – because of a “bully truck driver.” There is no excuse for tailgating a four-wheeler inches off their bumper. There is no way a truck driver can stop a loaded semi without hitting the four-wheeler if he (or she) must suddenly hit the brakes. There isn’t a load out there worth injuring or crippling or killing the occupants. To me, it does not make any sense. I cannot justify any act of tailgating.

Samuel R. Weaver
Reddick, Fla.

Comfort Zone

I’m writing in response to Madonna Brock’s letter in your January 2003 issue.
After running a 70-hour week with 10 hours on and eight off, moving products for the comfort and use in the public and private sectors, Madonna says we should “expand” our comfort zone with blankets below 30 degrees and fans above 70 degrees so as not to offend or increase fuel costs by idling. We are OTR across America, where temperatures range from sub-zero to 118 degrees plus high humidity.

I have a great idea – let’s all be patriotic. Let’s ask everyone driving to or from work to turn off their heaters or air conditioning in their vehicles. Also, keep the heat and air conditioning off in their homes. When everyone gets cold, grab a blanket. When they’re hot, only use a fan. How many patriotic Americans would we have then?

I believe everyone needs to remember that in a trucker’s eight hours off, our comfort zone is our home. I’d rather be driving down the road beside a trucker that had a comfortable night’s sleep than a trucker that was hot or frozen and had to get back OTR and do it all over again.

Sher Lefeuer
Mesa, Ariz.

Honorable Labor

Is there any honor in labor? I do not believe there is. We see labor paid the least, receiving the least respect.

My granddad was a coal miner, his father a clerk in a telegraph office, his father a dirt farmer and itinerant preacher. My father was a 20-year Navy man, sales and union labor. So here am I, the genetic product of a long line of laborers.

Did they suffer the same prejudice? A feeling of unease when told what I do? Do I have a degree? When am I going to retire?

I am a truck driver, 13 years. Prior to that I was an office worker, waitress, window cleaner, house cleaner, maid, typist, sales proofreader, babysitter and on and on. I do not have a degree. I received my GED in 1966. I have taken three college courses. I read voraciously and respect education. I will probably retire when I draw my last breath.
There are multiple millions of people like me in this country.

I taught my son to labor and always keep another trade in his back pocket. Get extra training and classes when he could. Always look ahead. Develop a good work ethic, a day’s work for a day’s pay.

I try to teach by example. Not being perfect by any means, taking the worst in my life, reshape it and attempt to create better conditions for the next generation. Caring about the whole earth and all people and loving God.

I deserve respect. We all do. Labor is honest, honorable work.

Something I read once, “Work like you don’t need the money, love like you’ve never been hurt, dance like nobody is watching.” Words of inspiration to me.

My best to all who labor!

Bonita Roper
Victorville, Calif.

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