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Truckers News Senior Editor Todd Dills blogs daily from Nashville, Tenn., via www.overdriveonline.com/channel19. Follow him at http://twitter.com/channel19todd. To read Todd’s blog on your smartphone, scan this QR code using a decoder, which can be found in your phone’s app store.

Renewed Vigilance

Keep situational awareness high for stowaways along the border

Desperate people sometimes take desperate measures. That maxim was never more evident than in mid-November when owner-operator Henry Albert was fueling his Freightliner at a Pilot Flying J location in Laredo, Texas, and was approached by one of his fellow haulers. The driver urgently asked Albert questions in an attempt to determine the whereabouts of a U.S. Xpress driver parked in the fuel line adjacent to Albert.

Unbeknownst to the U.S. Xpress driver, a young man and woman were crouched on top of his sleeper in the small cavity behind the tractor’s high roof fairing (see Albert’s picture here) in an attempt to stow away on the U.S. interior-bound rig. A testament to the value of drivers looking out for each other, Albert posted the story to his blog after one of his regular runs from the Charlotte, N.C., area, where he lives, to the border zone and back.

I can’t imagine a more uncomfortable spot anywhere else on a tractor but straddled atop the trailer landing gear, as unrealistic as that might be. (Though the circumstances are very different, the whole episode does bring to mind the hauler who, in an effort to foil a theft of his tractor, running bobtail, ended up on its deckplate during a dramatic hour-long police-chase ride outside Atlanta I wrote about in 2009.)

Stopping to fuel in Laredo anytime soon? Look up – there may be a stowaway in the space behind your roof fairing, atop your cab, as in this photo captured at the Flying J there by owner-operator Henry Albert.

The truck’s driver, Albert said, did the smart thing and decided to let the authorities handle the situation, calling police. “Also, he contacted his company to make them aware of what was happening,” Albert wrote in his blog post about it. And as he and other drivers went about their business waiting for the cops to show up, “the two individuals realized the truck was sitting for too long and they climbed out and ran away.” When police came, they gathered details of the incident from Albert and other witnesses before beginning their search.

If you’re hauling regularly to the border zone, best to keep extra-vigilant awareness about you during stops, Albert says. Miss something like this happening and you’d have quite a problem on your hands at the checkpoints at the end of the border commercial zone.


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‘Real Steel’ rig auctioned

Joyce Smith, co-owner of Ron Smith Trucking of Breckenridge, Mich., shuttered the company about a year ago, a month after her husband passed away. At press time, the small fleet’s equipment was set to be auctioned Dec. 8. Among the 17 tractors on offer (among livestock, flatbed and other trailers as well as other equipment) was the pictured 1994 Freightliner cabover, which holds the distinction of not only being a fine-looking, long-running piece of iron from a long-lived livestock hauling operation — it was an extra in the opening scene of “Real Steel,” this summer’s blockbuster about a boxer (Hugh Jackman) turned robot-fight promoter.

To film the scene, says Smith, they took “five of our trailers and three of our tractors” to Detroit, where the film was made. In the scene in the finished film, she adds, “the trucks are set up as an arena around some wrestling robots.”

Separate, not equal

That separation could be diminishing when it comes to U.S. and Mexican trucking, now that a new pilot program for cross-border long haul is under way.  In the wake of the Oct. 21 border ceremony at Laredo, when the first Mexican truck crossed as part of the new cross-border pilot program, J.E. Dyer wrote at the Hot Air Green Room website that the job-creation rhetoric so prominent in Washington these days has been revealed for what it is. Namely, that is, bunk that has no basis in the way we all think about jobs, as ultimately an active culmination of individual skill, need and desire. The politicians view jobs as constituency-building opportunities, as tools in an arsenal of favor-influencing widgets, Dyer says. And just as expensive emissions regulations keep coming from California — and D.C., with the announcements of new fuel-mileage standards for heavy trucks within the last year — the cross-border trucking pilot program, take two (“copilot program,” anyone?), revives. Dyer likens it to a sort of piling on to the backs of the independents. Regulations, in general (and these in particular), Dyer notes, “tilt the playing field on behalf of favored constituencies … Regulations inherently create artificial advantages and disadvantages.” 

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