Friday, September 28, 2007

Spreading the wealth

Regular Land Line readers may be tiring of the magazine Web site’s repeated coverage lately of new truck emissions restrictions launched by the California Air Resources Board. We swear, we’re only trying to keep readers informed about upcoming rules and provide access to public comment opportunities.

Next year will offer the first in a new wave of restrictive rules that won’t allow most drivers to idle for more than five minutes, run reefers for more than 30 minutes at warehouses and will require retrofitting of all trucks to meet 2007 emissions standards by 2014.

Pretty heady stuff, and that’s just the beginning.

A Web site, www.lacitybeat.com, that appears to be an alternative publication in the L.A. area, has an interesting column about reefers piling up in the twin L.A./Long Beach ports and what CARB is doing about them.

But the trucking industry isn’t the only one dealing with new measures.

The Los Angeles Times has an interesting story this week regarding ozone generating air purifiers. CARB is banning the use of in-home air purifiers that emit certain levels of ozone.

The home indoor air cleaning industry, and its patrons, as you can imagine, aren’t happy.

"God gave humans these air purifiers, and you should not take away that gift,” said Debra Perkins of Corona, weeping as she told how she felt the product had improved her mother's breathing, according to The Times.

CARB is also moving to require reduced emissions of aerosol from cans of silly string, and considering adding a requirement for “cool paint” schemes that would retain less heat, therefore requiring drivers to use less air conditioning.

The drum keeps beating.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

From classical to free verse, sonnets to haiku

When we announced our poetry contest months ago, we thought we might receive a hundred or so entries. Imagine our surprise when the Aug. 1 entry deadline rolled around and we had more than 500 poems to judge.

Not only did the sheer number of entries catch us off guard, but the remarkable sincerity of the verse and free-form prose we received caused our judges to insist on an “Honorable Mention” category so that we could share more than just the top winners with our readers.

Also, after an initial review of the entries, the judges asked Managing Editor Sandi Soendker for permission to create a separate division for entries from youngsters. Soendker agreed, so be sure to watch upcoming editions of Land Line Magazine to find out who won top honors in our 18 and younger division.

While there were common themes in most of the entries – long hours and short pay, homesickness and lonely spouses waiting for trucking loved ones to return home – there was also a wide variety of personal expression.

Some included a touch of humor and some were bittersweet. Some said the glass is half empty and some praised their good fortune that it is half full. All of them were heartfelt.

Be sure to read your November issue of Land Line Magazine to find out who won the top nod from the judges. In the meantime, here are a couple of the poems that earned “Honorable Mention” status.

Watch the “Land Line Media Blog” in the coming days and we’ll share additional poetry contest entries as we drum roll toward the top winners in our November magazine.

“Truckers’ Prayer”
By Larry Palmer

Well, I was born and raised to be half-crazed,
to live life as a trucker and travel the highways.
Now there ain’t noth’n known that can slow me down,
not the lights of a city or the wealth of a town.
Gold couldn’t hold me and luck wouldn’t stay,
I’m on a highway that seems to go just one way.

There ain’t no detours, there’s no turning back.
There’s just one destination and who knows where that’s at?
Some tried to warn me when it all first began,
but I clutched, then I shifted, and spun the wheel in my hands.
It’s been my destiny since day number one,
to spend the rest of my life just making one more run.

But I was born and raised to do it,
so I’ll keep hang’n in there, I’m work’n my way through it.
There’s no job too big or a hill too tall,
I take pride in my work and I’m always on call.
I can work all day and drive all night,
burning the midnight oil til the predawn light.

Some say I’m crazy, others have no doubt.
But I’m just an American, day in and day out.
So lord, when I make my last run and collect that final pay,
and join those other drivers that drive your golden highways.
I ask but one thing Lord and I know I ask in vain,
but Lord, I hope the bears up there ain’t allowed to fly airplanes!

Give ’em rubber ticket pads and pencils without lead.
Take away those cruisers and put ’em on mopeds.
Let us truckers rule the road on those highways in the skies.
Give us all big diesel power and watch us truckers fly,
cause we were born and raised to drive golden highways!

– Larry Palmer of Lewiston, ID, drove truck until he was injured and could no longer drive.


“Greek to Me”
By Richard Hobvrg

You’ve been a trucker for years, he said.
I’ve been at the university.
I can’t seem to get it through my head
what you say on the old CB.

Bedbug haulers and cannon-ballers
seat covers that look real good.
I’d like to know all about these terms,
so tell me if you would.

They talk about greasy Jifflox and tattle-tale clocks,
K wobbles that just can’t work,
conventional Petes and Bostrom seats.
I tell ya it makes my eardrums hurt.

Runnin’ the rack on a 440 cat,
hammer down and runnin’ late,
about cheater bars and Peter cars
and what did Jacob break?

Possum-belly vans and hot glad-hands,
runnin’ easy with swingin’ meat,
iced down loads and super-slab roads
and smokey puttin’ on the heat.

A new cornbinder with a come-along
and a double sticker four by four
wound up tight with a big porchlight
just blew off my back door.

You truckers got a language all your own
when I listen to the CB on my way home.
I know it’s truckers talkin’ on the old CB
but it sounds like Greek to me!

– Richard Hobvrg of Cheyenne, WY, has been an owner-operator and flatbed driver for 37 years.

Mind your own business?

Last week, we reported a story on truck driver Rick Tower and how he saved an 82-year-old woman’s life. He was hauling a load of wood chips on Highway 96 near his hometown of Yreka, CA, when he saw a car fishtail out of control. It careened off the road and into the nearby Klamath River.

Tower slammed on his brakes, ran down to the river, swam out to the car and with the help of another driver, pulled Dorothy Knudsen to safety.

OK, so last night I fueled up on the way home. I paid the $50 for about a half tank of gas, bought a snack, and was leaving the place when I overheard another customer talking to the cashier about an accident that must have happened locally. From their discussion, I gathered it was a deal where a guy jumped from his car and ran into a flaming wreck to pull a 90-year-old passenger free.

The customer lounging at the counter said: “I don’t know if I’da ran into a fire to save some old guy I did not know. With my luck, the car would explode just as I opened the door to pull him out.”

The cashier came back with: “At 90, it mighta been that the guy’s time was up, who knows? It might have been God’s wishes. I think a person should mind his own business.”

I nearly dropped my Klondike bar.

I hope to God if I ever need rescued, neither of those two doofers are first on the scene.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Dole makes house calls

Even huge corporations like Dole Foods have to make house calls every once in a while to keep their customers happy.

After Dole Foods recently announced it was recalling bags of their “Hearts Delight” salad mix because of possible E.coli contamination, Marty Ordman, vice president of marketing and communications, said some of their customers who had the affected product called in asking company officials to pick up the recalled bags from their homes.

And Ordman said they were more than happy to comply.

“We’ve picked up some product that people had of that particular code from people’s homes,” he said. “If people have a bag of that product, but would like for us to pick it up, we’re more than happy to pick it up.”

Dole wasn’t so willing to deal with truckers who were left “holding the bag” with potentially contaminated product a year ago. Some OOIDA members and produce haulers had nowhere to go with the bagged spinach after it was rejected by receivers and were forced to find a place to dump their pallets of affected product so they could get back on the road.

That E.coli outbreak left three dead and more than 200 sickened after eating Dole bagged spinach, packed by Natural Selections Foods.

But to quote famed singer and songwriter Bob Dylan, maybe the times, they are a-changing for produce haulers.

Ordman told Land Line last week that truckers shouldn’t be caught in the middle when a recall on product is issued. This is good news coming from one of the world’s largest producers of fresh and fruits and vegetables.

“I guess my comment to you is that truckers should get compensated and they should have clear direction from either the receiver or the shipper so they know what to do with it,” Ordman said. “If a product was identified and it was on somebody’s truck, we would certainly get a hold of that person and instruct them to either bring it back to our warehouse or to bring it to the proper place.”

We haven’t heard from any truckers who have been hurt financially in these past two recalls on bagged leafy greens in less than a month.

Still, in order to ensure food is safe from “farm to fork,” written communication is vital for produce haulers to have in hand, especially when they are in transit with potentially contaminated product on its way to the marketplace.

Macquarie makes a Fortune

There is nothing more satisfying as a writer than seeing the big picture come together.

That’s why the staff here at Land Line was ecstatic to receive the Oct. 1 issue of Fortune magazine.

To say the piece about “The Real Macquarie” is in-depth would be as big of an understatement as saying Macquarie has a few bucks lying around.

Fortune Editor-at-large Bethany McLean really dives into what makes the Australian bank and tolling giant tick. Sometimes, that giant is an ogre.

Australians either love or hate the “millionaire factory” and its controversial methods for profiting on everything from toll roads, parking lots, airports and electric utilities.

Macquarie is a name you will know, she says.

But Land Line readers have been getting a steady dose of Macquarie news since 2005, when the firm partnered with Cintra of Spain to lease the Chicago Skyway – the first time a public toll road was leased or “sold” by the government to private investors.

And, as you know, the company partnered with Cintra in 2006 to bid a whopping $3.85 billion for the right to collect the tolls on the Indiana Toll Road for 75 years.

Macquarie was a big part of our inspiration for the “Toll Hogs” issue of Land Line in July 2006 – the one with the piggy bank on the cover. And, not to outdo ourselves too much, we reprised the issue of big-toll finance in March/April 2007 with our “Pass GO, collect billions” cover story.

It is positive reassurance for us to see such a popular magazine as Fortune hit the nail on the head and affirm our early findings that, yes, the toll hogs are coming – and they’ve got their checkbooks out.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Land Line Web site: A guided tour

Have you ever been flipping through the channels and gotten caught up in one of those weekend marathons on the VH1 or E! television networks that tells the story behind the story of some famous band or actor?

If not, take heed – they’re completely addicting, and watching one hour-long episode is virtually impossible. Pretty soon, you’ll be spending a sunny afternoon at home learning about Blue Oyster Cult’s tumultuous early years when you should be out working on the truck or mowing the lawn.

I feel like this blog is Land Line’s “Behind the Music” or “E! True Hollywood Story.” It gives us the chance to tell you about the details you’re not going to read or hear anywhere else.

Take the Land Line Web site itself, for example. As online editor, it’s my job not only to make sure you’re able to read the day’s top news and information, but also to make sure you’re getting the maximum amount of news and information in the fastest and most convenient way possible. I guess you could say I try to make the news a little newsier.

The problem is – especially for casual readers who might not take a good look around – there are a lot of hidden gems that go largely unnoticed.

Did you know, for example, that you can read the Land Line daily headlines from your Web-enabled mobile phone here? It’s essentially a low-bandwidth, reformatted list of our daily news and Special Reports, which means it also works well for people who are out on the road or have slow Internet connections. We’re still working out a way to make mobile versions of the stories themselves, but for now, you can at least read the headlines.

Have you experimented with RSS? If not, it’s another service on our site that can make your life easier. If you read a lot of news from a lot of different Web sites, RSS feeds can gather all that information and display it for you on one page. For more information on how to do this with Land Line’s news, click here.

Ever read a story on the site and wished you could keep a copy to read later? With the “Save” button found on every story page of the site, you can. When you click it, the site will automatically create a PDF of the page you were reading and save it to your hard drive.

Next to the “Save” button are several other helpful buttons, like the “Print,” “Size” and “E-mail” buttons. By the way, if you haven’t printed a story from the Land Line site before, give it a try. If you’ve ever printed something from the Internet and been totally frustrated by how terrible it looks on paper, I think you’ll be impressed.

By far, my favorite feature on the site is the “Bookmark” button on the bottom of every story. It’s a great way to share stories with friends, family, and complete strangers, and to spread OOIDA’s message far beyond the trucking industry. I could fill pages explaining how useful this really is, but to learn more about social bookmarking, click here.

There’s a lot more going on “under the hood” of the Land Line Web site, but these are a few of my favorites. If you get a few minutes, take a look around – you’re likely to find a few that will help improve the way you get your trucking news and information.

That is, if you can pry yourself away from that documentary on Britney Spears’ hair extensions.

Chilly wind, hot lights

When folks in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula complain about the cold, you know it’s doggone chilly. And they were chillin’ in St. Ignace over the weekend of Sept. 14-16, as a record-setting cold front greeted the 12th Annual Richard Crane Truck Show competitors.

The cold snap, which produced record-low high temps deep into the Midwest, also brought squally waves of showers that had truck polishers rending their shop rags in frustration on Friday.

But by late Friday afternoon, intermittent showers gave way to intermittent sunshine and, as the trucks parked along the town’s waterfront State Street, their owners had reason to hope they could at last complete their tasks.

Saturday – judgment day – saw increasing sunshine and a brisk, gusty wind that chilled fingers tired from hours of polishing. Some hearty souls looked miserable as they braved the day in shorts and T-shirts; most of the natives wore hoodies and jackets. I’ve been to the show often enough to pack for most conditions, and carried fingerless wool gloves so I could stay sorta warm while shooting photos (you can check them out by clicking here).

Still, I kept thinking about my red down parka, safe and warm in the air-conditioned closet at home in Tennessee.

Enough whining about the weather – like football, truck show folks push ahead in most any conditions. The show was a smashing success, no pun intended, with 116 trucks registered. That was the second-highest number ever. The most registered trucks was about 140 back in the go-go ’90s before the economy went south and diesel prices headed north. You can see some of those rigs by clicking here.

The turnout for this year’s show was a real testament to the attraction of this special place at the north end of the Mackinac Straits Bridge. The Saturday night Parade of Lights over the bridge was the highlight of the show, and by then the breeze had abated enough so the tall combos didn’t weave in the wind. To see the glow in the night, click here.

For more about this show, see the November issue of Land Line Magazine, and also browse the promoter’s site and the National Association of Show Trucks’ site.