Stiff wind to pay the toll: The 2011 Channel 19 year in review
What better way to start the new year than with a look back on the previous? I did it last year, after all, so let’s make it a tradition, how bout?
The Chinese Year of the Rabbit saw all manner of issues hopping in and out of the national on-highway spotlight, bookended by a proposed hours-of-service rule and its ultimate issuance, slightly reducing potential weekly work hours. Bound up in the discussion was, as any regular reader will remember, the notion of a “driver shortage,” as carriers competed hard for the best drivers and owner-operators with sign-on bonuses, pay hikes and other perks as the economy slowly chugged back to life and CSA made carriers ever more wary of drivers with marks on their records.
But lots happened along the way, of course. Indulge me — and yourselves — in this trip down memory lane…
The year started with an inauspicious boom.
Oil and, hence, diesel prices were headed up quickly again, and of course commodity futures markets continued to be open for business to what some were calling the investment banks’ “long con.” In other quarters, a wireless roadside inspection technology pilot program was wrapping up on the very day that the FMCSA proposed to mandate EOBR technology for virtually all interstate truckers – which would be necessary for the inspection technology to work, it just so turns out. Convenient? Conveniently, we were at the scale house the day it came down.
After the FMCSA’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability program went live in December, its potential effects on driver pay were being debated by a large swath of the industry. A driver-led effort to benefit wounded soldiers at Fort Sam Houston in Texas got off the ground as a Chinese ag hauler was sentenced to life in prison for hopping quite rabbit-like $560,000 U.S. worth in tolls by running two trucks with fake military license plates, load services were poking fun at Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg (and themselves), and Overdrive 2010 Trucker of the Year Mike “Mustang” Crawford got his own authority.
A new TV show debuted chronicling the lives and businesses of drivers, custom truck shops, trucking companies and more — in another, a truck manufacturer CEO pledged to his workers that the company would not “off-shore” its U.S. facilities to Mexico.
CSA driver scorecards became available for some individual haulers outside the purview of company staff, and Old Man Winter showed his grizzled white head in more ways than one — each involving early-month blizzards across large swaths of the nation. One owner-operator emerged from adverse conditions to be trumpeted for his heroic rescue of a trapped, freezing couple in a car, and the year of the smartphone trucking app got under way.
At once, a 2010 story — the closing of the Nashville downtown TA after flooding — wrapped up with the stop’s triumphant reopening and remodel. Far east of the United States, a South African truck driver strike turned violent, and haulers into and out of Egypt as the later-dubbed “Arab Spring” got under way were having all sorts of problems.
I saw a couple infamously familiar faces at a Starbucks on I-24 in Manchester, Tenn., owner-operator Dan Heister was named Overdrive‘s Trucker of the Year, and the famous Willie’s Place truck stop in Carl’s Corner, Texas, shut its doors for good.
One trucker wanted to talk to President Obama.