Thursday, September 3, 2015

#TBT: Spitballin’ with Cowpoke

Editor’s note: “Throwback Thursday” has become a popular way to share past pics or stories on the Internet. Bob Martin’s award-winning “Spitballin’ with Cowpoke” column in Land Line was a reader favorite from 2009-2011. Bob passed away in 2011. Here’s one from the November 2009 issue.

Remember the nicknames truckers used back in the day? Some of my favorites were GMCs and Internationals. In the 1950s, GMC made a bubble-nosed kinda cabover-looking job that everybody called the Cannonball. The name seemed to fit although I don’t think it came from the brute power of these trucks as a lot of them were powered by a 4-banger Detroit. GM followed that up in the ’60s with one we labeled the Crackerbox.
Bob "Cowpoke" Martin (Photo courtesy of Peterbilt)

Then in the ’70s, GM built a truck that actually came from the factory with an official model name: The Astro. That didn’t stop us. We renamed this astronomical GMC a West Virginia Peterbilt with a Sunporch. Anyone who has ever driven one would understand why.

I drove all three, and if I were to rate them, it would be in this order: (1) Neat Old Truck, (2) Man, it’s Cold in Here and (3) I Think I Might Throw Up.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

‘Don’t quit when you’re tired. Quit when you’re done!’

Today I got a copy of a Qualcomm message sent out to a trucking fleet. In signing off of the message, the company representative included a well-used sports motivational quote: “Don’t quit when you’re tired. Quit when you’re done!”

I knew the phrase well, but it didn’t stop my jaw from dropping. I grew up playing sports, went to college on a basketball scholarship. My kids are all driven. Sports motivational sayings are a common occurrence on the fridge or bathroom mirror around our house.

Give it all you’ve got. And then do it again.

Leave it all on the field.

Bust your a@# to beat theirs.

Winners never quit and quitters never win.

There are a million of them, and it’s hard to have not heard at least some incarnation of a sports motivational quote applied to “regular” life. Be it your job, your relationships, your …

Sports imitate life. Until they don’t.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Caltrans audit has legislators crying ‘fore’

For decades an axiom for business is that deals get done while playing golf. However, a California state auditor’s report shows that business can also be neglected at the golf course while on the taxpayer’s dime.

California state lawmakers are playing a game of beat the clock on transportation funding. They have until mid-September to reach agreement on a plan to address some of the $59 billion in state transportation needs over the next decade.

All options are said to be on the table as the Democratic majority is pursuing plans to raise about $4.3 billion annually for infrastructure largely through higher fuel taxes. Meanwhile, their Republican counterparts are advocating for reform measures before more costs are applied to taxpayers.

As discussions continue, the state auditor has released the findings of an audit of the California Department of Transportation. The finding is right in the wheelhouse of those demanding accountability at Caltrans before signing off for any tax and/or fee increases.

The audit released last week shows that Caltrans approved the times sheets of an engineer who played golf for 55 workdays over a 19-month period that ended in spring 2014.

According to the auditor’s report, “a senior transportation engineer for Caltrans neglected his duty to ensure that a subordinate engineer’s time sheets were accurate.”

“Although the subordinate’s time sheets indicated that he worked the day shift from August 2012 through March 2014, he actually was playing golf for part of 55 workdays during those months,” the audit states.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Building your brand or business in 140 characters or less

Over the past several years, social media has gone from being a place to stay in touch with friends and family to being the way we interact with everyone from complete strangers to multinational corporations. We make friends, maintain friends, and conduct business on social media.

Conversely, social media has ruined relationships, torn down businesses, and destroyed the lives of people that we have never met who live thousands of miles away. Often the reason that led to the dismantling of a person or entity was nothing more than a harmless joke.

Social media can make or break a business (including small-business trucking). In the 21st century, a presence on Facebook and (to a lesser degree) Twitter is necessary to stay relevant and competitive. There really is no reason to not embrace the new medium. After all, it’s free marketing and advertising.

Corporations all over the globe are using Twitter as a customer service platform. Have an issue with a product or service, but don’t want to wait on hold on the phone or go to the actual place of business? No problem. You can send questions, comments and complaints to companies such as Sprint, and they will take care of you via direct messages (DM). Here’s a screenshot of a DM I received from Sprint:

Friday, August 28, 2015

Limited edition

Our OOIDA Board of Directors meets twice a year here in Grain Valley. I serve on that board as the employee director. When I walked into our OOIDA Board Room in April and took my seat at the large oval table, I really wasn’t surprised to see one of our board members with a .22 rifle lying on the table in front of him.

It’s the OOIDA Board, after all. Nothing really surprises me.

Photo by Nikohle Ellis
It was a Henry “Golden Boy” model, special American Trucker Limited Edition, a carbine rifle presented by Historical Armory as a tribute to truckers. Through the generous donation by an OOIDA Board Member, the Association’s Foundation is currently making this rifle available to win in a sweepstakes drawing.

At the spring board meeting, we had the chance to look at one and handle it. Lewie Pugh passed it over to Terry Button. And on to Gary Carr. And on it went. The Henry is a lever-action, breech-loading, tubular magazine rifle with a long service history in this country, especially in the settling of the Wild West.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

#TBT: How Katrina ‘Shattered’ the lives of one member and his family

Editor’s note: For this installment of “Throwback Thursday” we’re bringing you an incredible story from our March/April 2006 issue by Field Editor Suzanne Stempinski. Suzanne interviewed OOIDA Life Member Jay Hosty and his wife, Katt, who lived in the Gulf Coast area of Mississippi when Hurricane Katrina made landfall. Like so many victims of Katrina, the Hosty family lost everything but each other and put their lives back together, one piece at a time. Check back tomorrow when we will have an updated story about the Hostys and the region 10 years after one of the worst natural disasters in our history.

Katt Hosty starts her day quietly. Her husband, Jay, is on the road. Their three daughters are sleeping peacefully in their beds. She looks around her FEMA-provided trailer and wonders how much longer it will be before they will live in a home of their own.

She wonders if she'll ever really feel safe again.

It has been more than six months since Hurricane Katrina blew into the Gulf and tore their world apart. For the most part, the rest of the country has moved on to other events topping the news.

But for the Hostys and thousands of others like them, there has been nowhere else to go. Every day is another step in the process of rebuilding and redefining their lives – lives that they had no desire to change.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Rules are (sometimes) meant to be broken

A few days ago a friend asked “What say you, Elizabeth?” on my Facebook page. She had shared an article titled “Dear Pedants: Your Fave Grammar Rule Is Probably Fake” and knew I would probably have an opinion or two because I’m a copy editor. In fact, my profile on Facebook says: “Copy Editor. I read the dictionary for fun.” As I told a new acquaintance once, “I’m the funniest copy editor you’ll ever meet. Of course it’s a very low bar.”

For the past eight years I have been the copy editor for Land Line Magazine and “Land Line Now” at OOIDA.

I finally had a chance to sit down with this article, read, and reflect. Rules vary according to usage and the style in a given field. In the first sentence of this paragraph, I used the Oxford comma, but The Associated Press, or AP, style (which we use here at Land Line) dictates that I remove the final comma in a simple series. Also, immediately above, I used a comma after “In the first sentence” although some would say a short introductory phrase does not require a comma.

When I edit, I keep the reader in mind and prize clarity above all. I agree with this sentence in the article: “It is indeed important to learn the accepted linguistic conventions of the standard dialect for reasons of communication, clarity and even persuasive style.” As author Dorothy Allison so eloquently put it at a literary convention last month, you should know the rules. Then f*** ’em (her language, not mine).

Monday, August 24, 2015

Bulldogs, bikes and Jackasses: Not your typical Hollywood movie premiere

I recently had the honor and privilege of attending an exclusive movie premiere in Hollywood, Calif. Yes, it was a work trip, technically. And even though I’d never been to a premiere before, I can say without a doubt that it was anything but typical.

A glance at the motley cast of characters reveals all. We had Mack Trucks and their iconic Bulldog, stunt performers from the “Jackass” movie and TV show empire, and genuine motorcycles, leathers and other memorabilia used by none other than the iconic Evel Knievel, all in the same place.

All of these and more were in Tinseltown to promote a new documentary, “Being Evel,” a no-holds-barred look into the “brash, bold and daring” life of Evel Knievel, the King of the Daredevils. The movie is produced by Johnny Knoxville of “Jackass” fame and “Jackass 3D” director Jeff Tremaine, and directed by Daniel Junge.

“Big Red,” a 1974 Mack and custom trailers, fully restored to its original glory. 
Photo by Ryan Cavanaugh, courtesy of Mack Trucks
The trucking press, at the invitation of Mack Trucks, was on site to report from the red carpet on a fully restored “Big Red” – the very 1974 Mack FS786LST and trailer that Knievel used to transported his Evel Empire around to stunts to act as his personal dressing room.

Mack featured prominently in the documentary as well, as “Big Red” was Knievel’s homebase during the infamous Snake River Canyon jump. The Mack Bulldog logo appears on the tailpiece of the rocket built for that controversial stunt. You’ll have to see the film to get the true essence of the controversy and the fallout from it.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Engineers say to ‘zip it’ when approaching work zones

It’s always interesting to see what kind of new “safe” road configurations road engineers come up with. Anytime we stumble onto a new one, the Land Line crew immediately wonders how our readers – the men and women who literally live their lives on the road – are going to react to some desk-generated idea.

We haven’t been surprised that traffic circles or roundabouts aren’t exactly popular. The diverging diamonds are confusing and have left more than one trucker scratching their heads wondering if it really is safer.

Earlier this week, a Missouri Department of Transportation newsletter winged its way into my inbox. In it was a reminder about the “zipper” merging concept that state DOTs are urging motorists to use when approaching lane closures.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

A truckin’ flashback to 1984

OOIDA Member Frank Arpino of Waterloo, N.Y., was cleaning out his attic when he found an old Parade Magazine dated April 29, 1984. It’s obvious why Frank kept it. The 30-year-old cover says it all.

Here's a photo of the 1984 Parade sent to us by
a member. It features trucker Arnold Arrick
(dang, he's not a member) ready to roll.
For the article, writer Sally Sommer set out to see what the trucking life was “really about.” Her report is a positive and colorful read as she describes her 2,600-mile road trip through 12 states with several real truckers. Frank isn’t featured in the story (or anyone we know), but it’s a fun article and pretty fair depiction of what professional truckers were like in 1984 and what they were not

In 1984, Frank was in his seventh year of driving. He says he’s only worked for two companies his whole driving carrier. Earlier, he drove for a regional outfit in central New York. He now drives for a long haul company out of Wisconsin. This year marks his 38th year of continuous driving.

He says the job used to be fun, challenging and always something to look forward to. Even though he still likes being a trucker, things have changed. He thinks that electronic logs “took all the pleasure out of the job and doubled the stress.”

Frank also is no fan of the outside/inside cameras, too, and finds them insulting.