Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Making common sense, well, more common

I am constantly amazed by the seeming lack of common sense I run into every day. Ignorance seems to run amuck everywhere from grocery store lines, to the interstates, to – unfortunately – even our government.

I have pondered why this is openly in many conversations. Generally, I throw my hands up in the air in disgust because there doesn’t seem to be an easy answer. That was, until the other night.

Sitting at dinner, pushing ice around in my glass, I openly posed my question to those I was eating with – why is it so hard to use common sense?

The waiter who apparently had been tuned into my rant politely leaned over and said:

“Common sense isn’t so common, is it?”

Boy, did that make me think.

Every day here at the Association it seems like we turn up yet another bonehead city ordinance, an insane statewide proposal or ridiculous regulation being kicked around on the federal level. There just doesn’t seem to be a shortage of them.

So, if common sense isn’t common, what do we do?

We educate. It’s that simple.

One of the easiest ways to stay on top of big issues affecting your life and your business is through the OOIDA Call to Action team. You’ll receive updates on both the national level and on issues in the state you live in.

Your calls to lawmakers make a big difference. Just look at the headway we’ve made in the U.S. House of Representatives in reining in the cross-border program in Mexico. It’s members like you who are responsible for educating lawmakers and getting their support in opposing this program.

Signing up to receive the calls to action is quick and easy. Just click here and sign up.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Produce and poetry – what a combination

What do produce and poetry have in common? Me. I am kind of the “whatever” gal at Land Line

– besides covering the produce industry and the complicated issues affecting the truck drivers who haul it, I also am the point-person for this year’s poetry contest, which, to say the least, has been quite entertaining.

Oh, what you must see while out on the road. For those of you who have already submitted poems – thanks. Your words have given me insight into what you must face and the sacrifices you make on a daily basis.

For those of you who haven’t submitted poems, there’s still time. So hurry up and get your “rhyme” on and send us your poems. The deadline is Aug. 1 and I truly believe there is a poet in all of us.

I also spend a lot of my time on the phone talking to OOIDA members who have news tips or story ideas for Land Line to follow up on. Your news tips have led to some interesting stories for the magazine.

For example, a call I took from a produce hauler back in Sept. 2006 when E. coli was traced back to bagged spinach, has led the magazine and the Association on an almost year-long quest to get some “best practices” changed in the industry after produce haulers got stuck with potentially contaminated product on their trailers and nowhere to take it. That one may take some time.

Because of my leafy green beat, my coworkers now call me “the leafy green queen” or the “rotten vegetable lady.” I think I prefer the first nickname – what about you?

Until next time, be safe out there.

Paying the piper

For the past three decades, our living colonies have continued to spread out to form suburbs. And, with that shift has come increased numbers of commuters and bottlenecked rush hours, a price we may or may not have agreed to pay when we moved into our suburban homes.

One significant price to pay for living in the ’burbs is fuel cost. It’s time to pay the piper.

Even in Missouri, a historically low-cost state to live in, gasoline was at $3.10 earlier this week at my neighborhood stop.

I have been cursing the trend every time I turn the ignition to drive 19.6 miles to the office. Yes, I have calculated it to an exact figure, something I would never likely have done just a few years ago.

Curbing a lead foot is tough, but I have become superbly alert behind the wheel as of late. I do my best to anticipate where I can coast without using the accelerator or brake. Not only that, but I would say I drive an average of 5 mph slower than I did just two years ago.

I opt for fewer miles on city streets as opposed to going a mile out of my way to catch the faster-paced interstate. Shorter distance is better for mileage in my case. I’ve even taken to shutting off the ignition when I get held up by a lengthy stoplight or a train crossing.

Occasionally, I see some people trying to draft big trucks to gain an advantage, but I do my best to give the truckers some space. A few pennies are not worth the safety risk, so I would suggest dodging that type of draft.

It’s not just about being pro-environment; it’s about being pro-pocketbook.

In my recent travails, I have come to truly appreciate what truckers go through to get from point A to point B, because fuel costs are a real pain in the bottom line.

Trucks on film

Does it seem like big trucks have played a pretty big part in some of this summer’s biggest movies?

Obviously, I work for a trucking magazine, so I’m probably just watching for it more – kind of like how you start noticing all the different car models when you’re in the market for a new one.

I’ve also seen an unusually high number of films this summer – by my standards, at least – so the chances of spotting a truck are probably just that much higher.

But two of the year’s biggest films – “Live Free or Die Hard” and “Transformers” – both give some major screen time to big rigs.

In the case of “Die Hard,” it’s a Freightliner Classic XL, and it’s the headquarters for the film’s team of ultra-bad bad guys. The truck itself looks cool, but the mobile command center of a trailer is the real show-stopper for fans of so-called “truck porn.” Too bad it takes such a beating by the time the credits roll!

In “Transformers,” it’s the exact opposite. The leader of the good guys, Optimus Prime, is portrayed by a beefed-up Peterbilt 379 with a pretty sweet blue and red flame paint scheme. Even if you or your kids never watched the old cartoon series, this is a big-budget action film worth checking out, for the truck shots if nothing else.

I think every movie should have a good truck scene – so long as it doesn’t give a bad name to the industry of course. Luckily, neither of these films seems to do that.

Monday, July 23, 2007

You say potato…

I’ve got a question for you.

Who uses the phrase, “driven truck?” In a news story I wrote last week concerning hazmat and Ed Thompson, an OOIDA member from Salem, OR, we used the phrase “driven truck” in listing Ed’s career history.

One reader e-mailed me and said he disagreed with the usage, and though he acknowledged its prevalence among truck drivers, said it reminded him only of “gomers” he felt left an uneducated impression of drivers.

What do you think?

Also, if anyone out there ever worked with or knew this Bruce Mendenhall fellow, drop me a line.

Mendenhall, from Albion, IL, was accused two weeks ago by Nashville police of being a serial killer with ties to women found dead at truck stops throughout the Midwest and South.

By the way, Mendenhall’s preliminary criminal court hearing isn’t until Aug. 2. Keep checking our Web site to follow that story.

Who is this guy?

Ahoy there. I boarded this ship shortly after the world realized the Y2K bug was nothing more than a colossal waste of worry. Around the office I seem to get most of the blame for pranks and other shenanigans but it’s important to point out that the folks pointing the finger tend to be the actual guilty ones. I’m just saying.

In my early days of employment here I took the label of support staff. Essentially, I was charged with doing things that no one else had time to do or wanted to do. Not too long after that Sandi Soendker, the managing editor, decided I should do some writing to see if I was worth keeping around.

I was soon contributing daily news to our still burgeoning Web site. Shortly thereafter she allowed some of my stories to be printed in the magazine. A couple years later it was decided to stick me with covering any and all matters that relate to state legislation.

I’ve since allowed covering legislative matters to take up way to much of my time in and out of the office. Each January when most state legislatures get cranking it is as much like Christmas for me when uncovering issues of importance to trucking as it is a practice in futility for trying to keep up with it all.

So, there you have it; a little bit about me when you didn’t even ask. Until next time, take care out there.