Truckers Need to Band Together

The hours-of-service issue is a big joke. There are some drivers who push themselves too far, but the company and dispatchers should be held responsible for giving them loads that were supposed to be there yesterday.

I also think the know-it-all rule makers should spend about a month with drivers to see how stressful our job really is. We have to worry about out-of-control four-wheelers, who can’t stand to be behind a big truck and pass at 100 mph only to get in front to slam their brakes
I think it’s time for all of the truckers to get together and fight for our rights as tax-paying, licensed professionals.

David Lankford
Williamsburg, Ky.

Freedom of the Road is the Key

I was recently chatting with a neighbor of mine, and he asked me why I drive a truck for a living. Much to my surprise, I didn’t have an immediate response. After 21 years of shifting gears, you would think I could give him a good answer.

I pondered over that question the following week during my runs and came to the following conclusions. Shifting gears through a transmission is still a thrill to me.

Making that perfect shift at a critical time is comparable to a fine opera. Nothing can beat a long curve on a lonely interstate with the sound of your engine brakes piercing the silence, and as you exit the curve, the sound of your diesel accelerating as you apply steady pressure to the throttle. And then there is the self-gratification of knowing when to shut your unit down for some well deserved rest.

Picture yourself in a remote rest area in upstate Maine lying in the bunk with the aroma of fresh pine whispering through your cab. The driver who rolls into a small town anywhere in the United Sates with the paint on his truck gleaming in the store front windows is truly a one-truck parade. The bystanders are school-aged children prompting you to blow your air horns with their one armed gestures. When you respond to their gestures with a mild blast of air through the two chrome tubes atop your cab, it takes you back to your own youth.

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It’s 2 a.m. on Interstate 80 with the all-night radio on, when suddenly your external speaker is jumping off the dashboard warning you of a wreck ahead. As you pass the remains of what once was a sophisticated machine, you wonder if the driver had a family. Was he a husband, father or grandfather? You dwell on the family you left at home and how blessed you are. There is a long silence on the CB. It must be that every driver is concentrating on operating safely.

It was a brisk Sunday morning as I chatted with that same neighbor, and I answered his question. It’s the freedom, I told him, the many memories of miles gone by and the adventures that are still to come. That is why I keep moving on, for it is what I choose to do, not what I have to do.

Mark R. Sager
Bethlehem, Pa.

Oversize Help

This letter goes out to some of my fellow drivers. I pull oversized, heavy haul. I have noticed an increase in drivers who have no idea how to act around it.

If we are coming to a narrow stretch of road, and I am in front of you, please do not try to pass at the last minute. I am sorry if I hold you up for a minute, but I am trying to control a load that is up to 16 feet wide, and I need extra room. As soon as we get to the other side, I will give you room to pass.

I have had drivers push my escorts out of the way to pass on a bridge. All I ask is that you use some common sense. If I am 16 feet wide, you are 8 1/2 feet wide, and the bridge is 22 feet wide, then something has to give.

To all the drivers who have backed out of it or blocked traffic to help me through a tight spot, thank you. To all the drivers who have sped up and cut me off in a tight spot, I only hope you wise up before you hurt someone or yourself.

And, finally, please give some respect to the oversize escorts. They are just as professional as we are. They run up to 100,000 miles a year in a thankless, dangerous job. Would you want to put yourself in a pickup truck and try to hold back traffic?

Tom Dawson
Edison, NJ

Column Tells It Like It Is

I really appreciate the “First Person” column written by Tim Barton. He tells it like it is. We need more veteran truckers speaking out and telling the truth about the industry. I say this as a relatively new driver. I’ve only been driving for four years, but I’ve been around long enough to understand the difficulties that are currently plaguing the industry.

I think Mr. Barton’s column should be placed toward the front of your magazine, and I think you need more columns like his. His column is the main reason I read your magazine. It is far more important than coverage of glamorous truck shows or fiction writing that seems to take more importance in your magazine.

Real trucking isn’t about shiny trucks polished by wealthy people or fictional situations worthy of country songs. It’s about average people trying to make a buck and avoid the wrath of law enforcement. The trucks aren’t shiny, and the people don’t always smell nice. A sad country song can’t compare to the depression of an unfair road side inspection ticket or waiting eight hours or more to get unloaded. Let’s get real.

I appreciate the courage it takes to publish a column that tells the truth in today’s world. I hope you decide to focus more on this aspect of our industry.

Tobin Swafford
West Carrollton, Ohio

Setting the Record Straight

This letter is in response to the Letter to the Editor written by Joe Schwenz of Clarksville, Tenn. (See March Truckers News). Former President George Bush initially pushed for the NAFTA agreement, but was voted out of office prior to being approved. Former President Clinton signed the agreement, but, at the urging of various trucking associations, he would not let Mexican truckers outside a buffer zone because of the poor safety conditions of the Mexican trucks.

This buffer zone has been challenged by Mexican President Fox, and the United States was held in contempt for not allowing Mexican trucks in. President Bush has a plan to allow Mexican trucks outside the buffer zone, only if they can pass our safety inspections.

Get your facts straight before you engage gears.

John F. Strout
Lake Worth, Fla.