Friday, October 26, 2007

If you build it, they will go

Truckers are used to seeing just about everything happen in passing cars, having the high ground from which to look down on smaller vehicles. Now comes word of a cardboard-and-plastic potty built for cars.

Created in Japan – somehow this is not surprising – the transportable throne has a curtain that can be drawn around the user, and a plastic waste collector bag. The toilet folds up when not in use and, according to manufacturer Kaneko Sangyo Co., is small enough to fit inside a suitcase (try explaining that one to the TSA). You can see for yourself here.

The manufacturer says it is ideal for emergencies, such as earthquakes, which plague the island nation. To me, it sounds like a solution to many of those yellow bottles left littering highways and parking lots in America.

Actually, there are already some similar products on the market. I saw one of these at a trade show a few months back. I saw the version designed for the military and immediately thought of it as an alternative to hunting for a semi-clean bathroom.

If a fleet had a real sense of humor, they’d order logoed kits for all their drivers – talk about a morale builder! Instead of letting frustration build up until you quit, you just, well, get it out of your system.

Surviving acronym boot camp

Three weeks ago I came to work at Land Line as a copy editor. Having spent the past two years as a medical editor, grappling with acronyms and technical copy, I was relieved to enter the world of trucking. It would be so much easier to read and understand. Oh, how wrong I was.

My first clue was the staff meeting where my new colleagues were talking all about CARB regs. Of course, I thought, carbohydrate regimens are very important. Then we moved on to the DOE, and I was wondering, “Date of Examination for what?” Next someone brought up MVR problems. Which staff member or loved one had needed a Mitral Valve Replacement, and why hadn’t the surgery gone well?

What really threw me was the APU discussion. I quietly asked my boss what Active Peptic Ulceration had to do with anything, but she just looked puzzled and said we were talking about Auxiliary Power Units. And ATC is not Activated T cells. And axles sound like axions, but they’re not at all the same.

As for CB lingo, I was familiar with calcium blockers, but had forgotten the other CBs. I should have known because I lived in Oklahoma from ’76 to ’80. One of the hardest acronyms to learn will be SSRS for Single State Registration System because I have read entire chapters on SSRIs, for Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, better known as Prozac or Zoloft. But wait – just now I’ve learned that SSRS has become UCR, which does not involve screening for urinary creatinine concentrations. Sigh.

It’s not just acronyms either. The office talk is throwing me. “Hot shots” are apparently not illegally obtained flu shots. Who knew? And “pull the pin” is not the same as “pull the plug,” thank goodness. And when they were talking about bed buggers, I mentioned that I’d heard New York City hotels were having a real problem with them.

They think I’m strange. I have no idea why, but I’ve been asked to read the “Glossary of Trucking Terms” and not write another blog until I’ve been tested on it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Spy-Eyes

Late last week, there were several hours of concern after a diesel fuel tank truck went missing in the Baltimore area. The tanker was found a few hours after it was hijacked, and simple theft, not terrorism, was given as the reason for the crime.

Diesel fuel and a few other fairly common ingredients are used every day to make deadly vehicle bombs in various parts of the world. So the disappearance of a tanker – this one carried more than 7,000 gallons of fuel – is cause for concern.

In Iraq, our troops have been using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), for surveillance of pipelines and other facilities. Not long ago, a Marines UAV “ScanEagle” spotted a whole herd of tanker trucks tapping directly into an oil pipeline.

A Marine unit immediately rolled to the spot and captured the freelance tanker yankers. The Army and the Marines are using more and more of these relatively inexpensive, easy-to-deploy birds to give them extra information about potential battlefields and the whereabouts of bad guys. Some of them are barely bigger than your hand and look more like something you got caught folding and throwing at your buddy in fifth grade than a sophisticated war machine.

That’s the good news – what you may not want to hear is that the Department of Homeland Security and law enforcement are very interested in the many potential uses of UAVs at home. Some months back at the end of the Walcott Truckers Jamboree, I was driving east away from Iowa 80 when a UAV flew right across the highway in front of me, headed back to the nearby airbase. Eerie, to say the least.

Pete would’ve liked these poems

Truckers lost a champion this weekend and Land Line staff lost a pal. Peter “The Silver Fox” Rigney died Sunday, Oct. 21, 2007.

I never met Pete face-to-face, but I knew his voice well. For the past couple of years I have been Pete’s contact editor at Land Line Magazine – no, I didn’t coach him on his corrective lenses; I communicated with him about deadlines, column topics, etc. Every few weeks we would chat and then like clockwork, his column would appear in my e-mail in box.

Pete always had a story to tell. Pete usually had a joke to tell. Pete never failed to have a kind word to pass along to someone here before we hung up.

In recent months, he had been ribbing me about the Land Line poetry contest. Having been in the publishing business longer than I have been alive, Pete knew what a huge undertaking the management of such a contest was.

When I got the word yesterday morning of his passing, I thought of two of the “honorable mention” winners from our contest. I know Pete would appreciate the humor in “Letter to a Trucker’s Wife,” and I have no doubt that he has gone home just like the driver in “The Logbook” did.

Below are the two poems. After you read them, think of Pete and give The Silver Fox a nod the next time you are driving, as he would say, from Point A to Point B. (To read Sandi Soendker’s tribute to Pete in Land Line’s daily news, click here.)

“Letter to a Trucker’s Wife”
By David R. Madill

It’s time we had a little talk about the one you call your man
I know how much you love him but I’ll steal him if I can
You know even when he’s with you thoughts of me are in his head
But then I’ve heard him call your name when he is in my bed

He calls me his baby and he holds me oh so tight
He whispers secrets to me as we travel through the night
He buys me lots of little things he loves to see me shine
I take him places that you can’t in my bid to make him mine
Don’t try to use your children, you see they like me too
But even when they are with me I know they are missing you
I realize you love him and I wish you lots of luck
Just remember he is also mine, sincerely signed, The Truck

David R. Madill is an owner-operator and long-haul trucker from Westbank, British Columbia, Canada.


“The Logbook”
By David R. Madill

His logbook’s on the table,
his keys are in the drawer,
His truck is parked on the lot,
he won’t need these things no more.
He left us just the other day on a trip we all must make,
To stand before the final court, their judgment he must take.
He will not stand and bow his head, he will hold his head up high,
He will face the final judge and he’ll look him in the eye.
He will not make excuses, he’s not that type of man.
Through his trials and tribulations, he always made a stand.
Yes he made a few mistakes, and for those he will pay the price.
One thing always sustained him, his faith in Jesus Christ.
Someday I hope to join him, how much he loved to drive.
Remember when you judge him, how much he loved to drive.
His logbook is on the table, his keys are in the drawer.
The driver has gone home, he won’t need them any more.

David R. Madill is an owner-operator and long-haul trucker from Westbank, British Columbia, Canada.

Monday, October 22, 2007

How does a jetway get to the airport?

By truck, of course.

I was on my way to work the other day and saw an oversize with escort car merging from I-24 south onto I-65. I got on the CB and asked if he needed to pull in ahead of me.

He didn’t, and was going my way, so we rode along a few miles together. I thought it looked like a jetway and asked, and he confirmed it. I think he said it was bound for Memphis.

Where’s Mimi?

One of the latest videos making its way across the Web is called “Gridlock: Hell on Wheels,” produced by reason.tv and hosted by comedian Drew Carey.

Reason.tv is affiliated with the Reason Foundation, a nonprofit group notorious for wholeheartedly supporting privatization and tolling of infrastructure throughout the U.S.

On the video, Carey – famous for being the funny guy from Cleveland – talks to Los Angeles residents about their city’s traffic and asks what can be done to solve the problems.

Then, ever-so-smoothly (that’s sarcasm), the filmmakers offer the solution of privatization.

The video shows that highways in Australia, Paris and Tampa, and even in Orange County, CA, were built by special tolls certain drivers pay. It’s called congestion pricing.

“The private sector paid for all these,” Carey exclaims.

Take a gander at the video here.

You’ll notice that very few of the wheels crammed along L.A.’s freeways in the video belong to semi trucks, and nearly every commuter is driving alone in the same direction.

Land Line’s own David Tanner has written several magazine and Web stories about Macquarie and other foreign banks making power plays to buy or lease U.S. highways.

Do you think the next reason.tv clip will show Drew researching how highway trust funds are raided state to state? Kind of makes you wonder who else supports the Reason Foundation.

At the end, Drew takes one L.A. commuter for a nine-minute ride from work to home that normally takes 90 minutes.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could eliminate traffic jams? Carey asks, with his family-friendly mug.

“Taxpayers wouldn’t even have to pay for it,” he says.