Speak Out: ‘Environmental Shutdown’ would work

The recent national truckers’ shutdown or slowdown is providing the same results as with previous strikes: bad publicity for the trucker. Maybe we should take a lesson from the world’s leader on getting attention, liberal environmentalists.

On March 30, there were reports on “Earth Hour,” when a few of the world’s large cities turned off all nonessential lights between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. to “save” one hour’s worth of energy and its related pollution.

Wow, what an idea! And no one complained. All you heard was the good it did. So, maybe it’s time to have a nationwide Truckers Environmental Shutdown for two days to give the good Earth two days of relief from all that diesel use. There might even be some four-wheelers who will shut down with us. Who in their right mind is going to criticize us? And if all goes well, we can extend it to one week in 2009.

On a more serious note, let’s understand the real problem. The United States is no longer the No. 1 consumer of diesel. China has that honor now, and we could lose the No. 2 spot to India. For the most part, those countries’ factories are diesel-powered, and if you go to the leading U.S. retailer and look at where the majority of its goods are made, you know who is to blame. More and more, American manufacturers are going out of business or are moving their plants offshore.

We already have lost much of the textile industry, and are in danger of losing our few remaining furniture makers. We need to address this problem today in order to ensure our success tomorrow.
Rockford, Ala.

Where’s the outcry?
It amazes me that there is no outrage from the trucking industry concerning the price of diesel. Where is the unity of the industry? If this were back in the 1980s, we would have been circling the White House in protest. This just proves that the trucking industry is in sad shape. Instead of the horse pulling the cart, it is the cart pulling the horse.
Thompson, Conn.

Purchasing groups could buy fuel cheaper
Trucking advocacy groups should be doing what the farmer cooperatives did to help farmers years ago. They united and started group purchases of ethanol plants in order to help farmers.

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We need to start local groups that unite to pool their resources and start biodiesel plants. There is a large untapped resource out there if all the truckers in the country united to buy biodiesel. We could help create the supply, as well as the demand for the fuel. If farmers can do it with ethanol, then truckers can do it with biodiesel.
Hebron, Ind.

Skyrocketing costs killing small businesses
I have read that 90 percent of the trucking industry consists of small businesses. Yet it seems that no one is speaking up about freight rates not keeping up with the fuel increase, and how some small businesses are going under.

Adding to the problem of expensive fuel are the increasing repairs and operating costs. In February 2007, we paid $2.20 per gallon for 7,400 gallons of bulk fuel. In February 2008, that same bulk amount of fuel costs $3.38 per gallon. That is an increase of $8,732 for just one load. The freight rates have not increased like that. All the news media talk about is how much it costs to fill up your car or heating bills. No one mentions what it will do to the economy when there are not enough trucks to haul freight.
Marion, Texas

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Overdrive, P.O. Box 3187, Tuscaloosa, AL 35403, or fax to (205) 750-8070, or e-mail [email protected].

“My way of fighting back is just not hauling the cheap freight. I won’t put a load on my truck anymore that I’m going to lose money on. ”
– Tom Harris of Davidsville, Pa., addressing high fuel costs and the struggle to remain profitable in the Christian Science Monitor.

JERRY DAVIS’ first haul was in 1949, behind the wheel of a ’38 BM Mack tractor on a two-day round trip to New York from Boston. “I had to tie my overnight bag to the right-hand seat because the right side of the floorboard was missing and the bag could fall out on the roadway,” Davis says. “I had a heater switch, but no heater. There was only a left-hand windshield wiper that was operated by an air motor, only that didn’t work, and I had to use the manual crank to clear the glass.” When he arrived in New York, Davis requested a heater. His trip back wasn’t much improved. “When I reported to go out that night, the shop guy told me I had heat in the cab. When I looked, I found a box of candles and some matches. They claimed the wiper was OK unless the handle broke.” Davis now lives in Jacksonville, Fla., but still runs the Northeast.

RUSTY ALLEN recalls a stopover at a Union 76 truck stop/lodge in North Carolina while driving for United Van Lines in 1978. “I spoke to the fellow at the counter, and he assured me that our delivery address was just around the corner,” the Monroe Township, N.J., resident says. “I told him we would need a room for the night and he said, ‘I’ll be happy to set you boys up.'” However, Allen and his driving partner soon found themselves in a raw deal. “The room, for the same price as local motels, was a closet with two army cots. The room light was an old beat up desk lamp nailed to the wall.” Allen went to complain, but the manager was gone. “He set us up, all right,” he says.

Canton, Ill., resident BOB WALTER remembers his first load, behind the wheel of a 1977 White cabover that featured then-innovative power steering. “I was scared to death,” he says. It was a 250-mile haul that began in Illinois and finished in rural Iowa, with five stops. A veteran driver was sent as a supervisor. “He could tell from my manner that I really did not know what I was doing, but he never said a word,” Walter says. The young Walter dreaded backing the truck, but was saved by the shifting diagram sticker displayed on the dashboard.
“I did not have a clue,” he adds.

Share your Memories

Trucking’s changed a lot during the past few decades. Tell Overdrive about your early days behind the wheel, whether it’s heartwarming, funny or horrific.

Send your recollection and contact information to Steven Mackay, Overdrive, P.O. Box 3187, Tuscaloosa AL 35403, or e-mail them to [email protected]. Include a print or digital photo of yourself, if possible; prints will be returned.

Published submitters will receive a keychain pocketknife and an Overdrive hat, license plate and T-shirt.

Are trucker strikes and slowdowns effective?
“You’re not going to find two truckers who agree on anything. There won’t be a strike. We’ll just sit back and take the abuse like we always do. If truckers would come together, it would be effective, like in Italy. ”
Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Dana Suttles

“No. Not unless they’re well planned. The last one they tried to do [in Washington, D.C.], they didn’t let enough people know. If they want it to work, they’ll have to organize it better.”
Portsmith, Ark.
C. Bean Transport

“There aren’t enough companies to back it up. There aren’t enough owner-operators, and the big companies that buy fuel in bulk won’t support it.”
Orlando, Fla.
Southern Refrigerated Transport

” I guarantee if all the companies got together and said, ‘Enough is enough,’ then it would work. We need to shut America down for one day, that’s all it would take. And if they wouldn’t give after one day, then do it another day. ”
Medina, N.Y.
L&J Transportation

“In some ways it is. This last one [in Washington, D.C.], it’s getting attention. A lot of people in the public and government are paying attention.”
Canton, Ga.Landstar

“I can’t say it has had any effect. My pay and fuel costs are the same now as they were before the strike. Not enough people stay out for long enough.”
Hal Harris
Aliceville, Ala.
Landstar System

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