Channel 19

Todd Dills

Skydiving to the ark: A Channel 19 2010 ‘Year in Review’

| December 31, 2010

It’s been a banner year for dramatic, contentious, weird and/or humorous trucking news here on the Channel 19 blog. I can’t possibly predict how 2010 will be remembered years down the line, but read through the lens of this blog, well, it was nothing short of tumultuous, containing the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. (Readers, an informal poll, if I may: what is the most memorable among the Channel 19 posts or coverage threads of 2010? Put them in the comments section here.)

Looking back, it’s clear to me, too, that a shift in how I think about the blog, from just an extension of the old Channel 19 humor column in Overdrive (whose last formal edition was in this month’s mag — wait till you see the new “Roadside Attractions” front-of-the-mag section coming out in January) to an integration and extension of and side-road detour from all the more in-depth work I do for the magazines, took full effect and has boosted whatever vitality it may have offered before. I hope you agree. And if not, hey, let me know!

Now, indulge me in a run back down memory lane…

January
Back when FMCSA still seemed to be confused about whether it was going to rate individual drivers or not with CSA 2010 (not, it turned out, though others were already getting into that game with motor carriers), Con-way Truckload’s Randy Cornell was jumping out of planes for driver safety, and, more seriously, the driver community was still reeling from the abrupt, pre-Christmas 2009 closing of Arrow Trucking. We told the story here of one stranded driver and the good samaritan hauler who got him home. Threads to extend throughout the rest of the year you see forming here, too, from Alaskan hauler Singin’ Sam Little’s gubernatorial campaign launch (ultimately unsuccessful) to the lasers of U.S. DOT attention to in-cab distractions. With a nationwide texting ban in the offing (ultimately successful), Will they ban eating while driving, too? we asked, in a post about a hauler’s unfortunate accident in Oregon, sustained after choking on his lunch. Perhaps an example of the need for more flexibility in the hours of service?

February
Speaking of the hours of service, many drivers were heartened in February after DOT listening sessions conducted in part at truckstops took stock of driver points of view on the subject. How that continued to turn out is recent history in motion, but way back when, it really seemed FMCSA may finally have been listening to drivers. Yellow Freight driver Karl Krueger (pictured), who once won the Democratic Party nomination for his U.S. congressional district seat in Wisconsin and famously ran for president in 2008, was tragically killed in an on-highway crash, and the first two stories of the year (here and here) having anything to do with ice road trucking did not mention Lisa Kelly.

Also in February, my first bit of local, trucking-related reporting from Nashville, where I moved in August of 2009, appeared, presaging more to come…

March
The month that marks the beginning of what might be one of those “highest of highs” I noted above — at the tail end of the month, I ran through Donelson and Hermitage, into Mt. Juliet, west of Nashville with a young woman on her way on an on-foot trek across the country to highlight driver-health and health-care needs. Jazzy Jordan needs no introduction, but of course, and it wouldn’t be the last time our paths crossed, as she was the subject of my June Truckers News feature, the month she finished her run, amazingly, in New York City. We ran again briefly in Dallas on the occasion of the Great American Trucking Show, and all in all, writing about her achievement was a rare 2010 treat for this trucking journalist.

Related, the burgeoning driver-led movement for better health gained momentum with a health walk at the Mid-America Trucking Show, to be repeated at events later in the year and eventually gaining the undivided attention of the DOT secretary.

Trucking bluesman Watermelon Slim played a dynamic show solo in Nashville on tour with his “Escape from the Chicken Coop” album, while Women in Trucking tried to break a Guinness World Record and one infamous Maine log-hauling family played a high-profile prank on the other. It was a busy month — CSA 2010 began to become clearer, though questions remained, for FMCSA and for the rest of us.

April
Hours of service month on the Channel 19 blog — drivers Tom Balaz and Jeff Clark proposed novel ideas for incentivizing safety with hours flexibility, and the American Trucking Associations came out in support of added sleeper berth flexibility, ideas that, if recent history bears fruit, would ultimately bear no fruit themselves, unfortunately.

Singin’ Sam Little came to Nashville and sang us his campaign song, and truckers scored a grassroots victory over a proposed ban of traffic on a particular New York state road just as the feds finally struck down (for the third time) Pennsylvania’s long-running attempt to toll I-80. After meeting cyclist/owner-operator Scott Grenerth (pictured) on my run with Jazzy, I biked with him along the Shelby Greenway in my East Nashville neighborhood, talking trucking and cycling along the way. I saw Grenerth in town a few weeks back and, says the proprietor of TruckerCycler.com, he’s been at work on a Google Maps-tooled program to allow haulers to more effectively search out places to ride, run and walk near truckstops. Keep an eye out for more on this in the new year. 

May
Oh water. Sometimes, the story laps right up into your basement. I sat through two days and more of torrential downpours over the weekend of May 1-2 in my Nashville home with plenty of cabin fever, no doubt, but by end of day Sunday, as the sun peeked out for a brief period and I shop-vacced out the inch or so of water at the center of my basement, the enormity of what had happened in the region still wasn’t clear. That clarity would come the next morning, when I talked to Jeff Clark, who was just finishing up a jog in the median on I-40 west of town, part of a legion of haulers force-parked by the flooding of the Harpeth River west of town, leaving the bridge over said river impassable. There were several points of such on area interstates, trapping drivers in the city with nowhere to go. I got on my bike and rode to the TA downtown, where I was greeted with the unthinkable around the Cumberland.

The Nashville flooding dominated the blog throughout the month, from an owner-operator assessing options for his rig, caught in the deluge at the TA, the efforts of fleets to pail out, and the sinkhole that opened up on I-24 in the weeks following, diverting traffic for days, to Grascals tour-bus driver — and former trucker — Stuart Myrick’s dramatic story.

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