Letters from old issues

Separate but unequal
November 1963

I do not seek socialization in truck stops but I do feel as a truckman I am entitled to the same facilities as any other driver. I don’t care if it’s across the road or on the premises as long as I have the same decent and modern facilities as the white driver.

You would be surprised to know how many white drivers abhor this treatment of their fellow Negro drivers.

Many of our good truck stops are guilty of no clean and decent eating facilities. No bunks, or if they have them, they are filthy and unclean. No driver lounge for colored, etc. We do not insist on being in the same place if they don’t want us there. But we do insist on identical facilities and modern comfort.

My hat is off to the Transit Truck Stop on Route 301 in Maryland. They have shown that many truck stop operators consider a driver a driver regardless of color.

While we do not eat at the same place, our restaurant and rest rooms are modern and well-kept. We also have use of many other facilities there.

There are others, but they number one out of every 10.

John J. Harris
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Hello from a searching man
March 1965

I think truckers, more than any other occupational group I have come in contact with, are the closest to the searching man. I think they are the descendants of the American cowboy of the last century and of the wilderness man before that, the mariner and perhaps somewhat akin to everyman.

I’m not trucking anymore, and I don’t think I’ll go back. It is a good occupation in a way, an especially good one during one’s wandering years. However, after a while, one hotel looks like another, and that is bad. When one leaves Brownsville and starts to think how it will be in Seattle, he’d best get off or he might not get down Soldier’s Summit. For the past year I have been a librarian for the state of Iowa. I’m going to stay here another year, looking up books for people and talking to high school kids. Then I guess I’ll pack up one wife, two kids, two dogs and one cat and go somewhere else.

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John Ray
Ventura, Iowa

What say, Jimmy?
November 1966

I don’t think it would be fair for you [Overdrive Publisher Mike Parkhurst] to take Jimmy Hoffa on a cross-country run with you. There would be too much advertisement, and everyone on the road knows you. Therefore, I don’t think Mr. Hoffa could get a true picture of what is going on.

Now comes the pitch. I own a 1966 F model Mack and run 48 states. I have been with Russell Trading for about four years and have a perfect driving record. I am not as well known as you, and if Mr. Hoffa will make a run with me, I think he will get a better idea of what our work is and the kind of people we are. Also, I will foot the bill for Mr. Hoffa’s road expenses.

I am on the road now, parked at Fleming’s Highway Services at Carlisle, Pa. Thermo King just ran out of propane, so I guess I better go fuel it now. I’ve got a load of frozen shrimp on.

Melvin M. Miller
Harlingen, Texas

The president writes
October 1976
In response to your inquiry concerning regulatory reform in the trucking industry, I would like to outline my administration’s policy goals and comment on the proposed legislation intended to help achieve these goals.

As you know, there are three bills pending in the Congress that address the issue of trucking industry regulation reform. These include S.2271, H.R. 12386 and the Motor Carrier Reform Act (H.R. 10909 and S.2929), which was introduced at my request. While the bills differ somewhat in content, they each attempt to encourage more competition in the industry and to eliminate unnecessary regulatory restrictions. Under each bill truckers would be able to offer consumers a wider choice of prices and services and would be subject to fewer dictates from Washington as to what transportation services can be offered, what routes can be served and what rates can be charged. In each instance efforts to increase competition in the trucking industry would include removal of restrictions that would allow the independent trucker, as a small businessman, to compete more effectively with the larger trucking concerns.

I fully support the goal of more competition and less government regulation in the trucking industry and believe that this kind of regulatory reform and legislation will help to keep your vital trucking industry strong and prosperous.

As the same time, I am encouraged by Interstate Commerce Commission’s efforts to allow more competition in the industry by changing those archaic and restrictive rules and regulations that are anticompetitive. As you are aware, there are several items pending on the ICC docket that would help to make the trucking industry more competitive, thereby giving the small, independent trucker a more equal basis from which to compete with the large firms.

I hope this effectively answers the important questions you raised concerning my administration’s regulatory reform policy in the trucking industry.

Gerald R. Ford
The White House

Interstate a minefield
March 1979

I have been trucking through Pennsylvania for a short time. I’ve heard other truckers talk about I-80, and now I’ve driven it for myself.

The chuck holes are so bad on this highway that truckers have broken axles, cracked windshields and blown tires right off the steering axle. Some have been killed. All this on I-80 between New Jersey and the Ohio/Pennsylvania line. We truckers and the four-wheelers who have to use this interstate have come to know it as a minefield.

I-80 has been patched more than once, but it is never done so it will hold. If a safe speed were to be posted, it would have to be around 25 miles per hour. I think truckers have the right to operate on safe highways.

Leonard Bugert
Northwood, Ohio

Picket lines
June 1980

I’m totally against the state shutdown idea. What I propose is a picket line set up on every major road leading into Washington, D.C., not letting any trucks enter. That picket should be kept up until they pass some laws that would help us. If you shut down say, just Iowa, most senators, congressmen and Mr. Peanut wouldn’t know anything was going on.

David Foster
Lovington, Ill.

No fun anymore
September 1983

When I got into trucking about 15 years ago it was fun. Truckers helped one another, companies and brokers seemed nicer, and state and federal officials were friendlier. You made friends quickly, and it was nothing to lend a guy money, stop and help out a trucker broke down on the side of the road or even help a guy get a load.

It is not that way now, and I guess it hasn’t been for a number of years. Nowadays, it is every man for himself and everything he can get for himself.

I can’t remember the last time a trucker stopped to help me out. Forget about finding a good broker. I’m sure there must be at least one, but he has probably been kidnapped by the unscrupulous ones who are holding him.

What has happened? Have truckers really changed as much as the rest of the world?

Burt Lewis
Neshoba, Miss.

CDL and bad drivers
May 1991

I’ve been driving all types of trucks for more than 50 years and as an owner-operator since 1968. I’ve trained at least 20 drivers. I’ve driven most of the United States, Canada and Alaska. I’ve taken many driving tests over the years and had no trouble passing them.

Now a bunch of idiots get together and come up with this CDL test. Have they ever driven a truck? They say it will get rid of the bad drivers. The bad drivers are coming from the driving schools and the big trucking companies that are supposed to be training them.

My present driver came from one of these schools. He had his commercial license from Washington state, but he could not drive. I taught him. Another kid I know in Missouri went to Arkansas, went to a school and was on the road in one month. When I first started driving you had to have three to five years in town driving before they let you drive over the road.

The ones I see in the ditch, spun out on the hills, don’t know how to back up, how to drive in bad weather or in traffic. I’ve taken the CDL test two times and failed. I studied and had my wife test me, and I did fine, but I can’t pass the test. They word the questions differently than in the book. Why? It seems they want you to fail.

I will take the test one more time. If I don’t pass, Washington state will have another family on welfare, and the Department of Transportation will have weeded out another good driver.

Mike Laws
Olympia, Wash.

Solidarity requires commitment
February 1994

I empathize with truckers for the reasons they initiated the recent strike; however, I didn’t sympathize with it.

1. Absolute lack of organization, especially at the local level. Without local organization, there cannot be a focused effort to a strike.

2. Total lack of authorized spokesmen to address the defined issues of the shutdown through the media.

3. Absence of a short, clearly defined set of issues to be addressed by the shutdown. Economic issues and working conditions tend to garner public support. Faster speed limits, radar detectors, etc., will lose support. Without public support, there is no chance of winning some gains to our cause.

4. A failure to learn from the mistakes of previous shutdowns. Violence during a strike is always a loser, yet this mistake is repeated.

I have been a driver for 18 years. I have enjoyed good years and bad as an owner-operator. Most of the success or failures I had were at least as much due to my work and spending habits as they were to the economic cycle we were in.

Most of the issues of a shutdown require a political solution. We should join together and pay dues to hire a lobbyist to represent us on Capitol Hill.

Patrick D. Flynn
Bloomer, Wis.

Beware the silent killer
March 1998

My husband died senselessly and unnecessarily while sleeping in his bunk. He was killed by the silent killer: carbon monoxide poisoning. It got into the cab through a hole in the back of the cab where the muffler had rubbed against the sleeper.

My husband left behind two grown children and a 13-year-old. He will not see his daughter married, his son grow up or his 10-month-old granddaughter play. He was only 42.

Trucks need carbon monoxide detectors. The coroner told me he sees at least four of these deaths a year – that’s four too many. These are deaths that are rarely heard about. Truckers don’t think about the silent killer because you can’t taste or smell it. They need to be informed. They need to know they could be next.

Mrs. Dennis W. Wyatt Sr.
Hampstead, Md.

Well-dressed trucker
December 1998

As a professional driver for the last 15 years and an owner-operator for the last two, I’d like to offer my views on the so-called “image” of truckers. One of my heroes, World War II Gen. George Patton, liked to say, “Pride in self starts with pride in appearance.” This was not an ego thing, but rather, that if you dress and keep your appearance in accord with the highest standards, you will perform better.

Every day, I see truckers wearing filthy jeans or cut-off shorts, tank tops, sandals, etc. It’s no wonder so many people think of drivers as slobs. Airline pilots and bus drivers always look sharp. The bottom line is that dressing up in clean uniforms would do wonders for the overall image of drivers. I wear clean, pressed pants and uniform shirts every day and keep my truck spotless inside and out. That reflects well on me and the company I’m leased to. Appearance and image do matter, especially in the public eye.

John Browning
Scranton, Pa.

The fight for fuel
April 2000

I am an over-the-road truck driver for a small trucking company in Pennsylvania, where fuel prices jumped almost 40 cents in a month. Many small companies are finding it increasingly difficult to operate with soaring fuel prices – a result of the oil companies raising prices to increase profits. It is almost like the so-called fuel shortage of 1973, when we rationed gas because of the claim of dwindling oil reserves and the increased cost of purchasing oil from Arab nations.

Prices will go up, but to go up as quickly as fuel prices have is crazy. It will force many companies and independent truck drivers out of business. Also, the price of goods will go up.

The ones who hold out the longest will be the larger trucking companies, which buy fuel at a reduced rate than smaller companies.

What is going to happen to the small companies? What will happen to manufacturing companies that may go out of business when they can’t afford freight charges levied as a result of skyrocketing diesel fuel prices?

Presidential hopeful John McCain seems oblivious to this. Why should he care for the needs of the American public? Because he happens to be chairman of the Transportation Committee? As such, we know that he is aware of this crisis and seems content to do nothing.

Wayne Bibicoff
Clearfield, Pa.

A lifesaver
December 1971

This morning, about 3:15 a.m., my family and I were awakened by a pounding on our door. We found a man running around the house shouting “Fire!” Just then the house next door burst into flames. I immediately called the fire department.

No one was home next door, so they were lucky in that respect. Buy what I really want to tell you about is Buzz McKay, the trucker who was driving along I-394 when he saw the smoke. He stopped his truck and tried to flag down a passing motorist who could call the fire department, but the motorist almost ran him down. Therefore, he jumped the fence and tried to awaken our neighbors. As I mentioned, they were not at home, so he came to our house to wake us up.

Had it not been for the alertness of this trucker, my family and I might not be alive. Buzz McKay drives for Yellow Transit.

Henry C. Worch
Justice, Ill.

Happy 25th!
August 1986

You have my congratulations on this silver anniversary of Overdrive.

One thing I know about truckers is that you believe in this country and want it on the road again, and in Overdrive. You were willing to work for it and stand by it. I always knew that truckers were red-blooded, but I learned that your blood runs red, white and blue.

That 18 wheeler has become a symbol of America on the move. It’s the workhorse of a $190 billion industry, keeping 7 million Americans hard at work and leaving no corner of America untouched. Trucking is one of America’s greatest assets, absolutely essential to our economy, and you have every right to be as proud as you are of what you do for this country.

I’m sure that over the coming years we’ll keep working together for simpler and more uniform and more reasonable regulation and to make the roads safer for everybody.

Ronald Reagan
The White House