Friday, November 2, 2007

The tour comes at you fast

A few posts back, I mentioned the “Life Comes at You Fast” campaign sponsored by Nationwide Insurance. It seems that, when they’re not sitting around calculating the odds of bowling balls dropping out of windows onto sloped lawns, heading downhill until they bowl over an old lady on a walker, whose mobility aid flies through the air and hits a guy in a convertible so that he spins out into a crowded hot dog stand – those fun-loving actuaries are thinking about semis and golf.

The Nationwide Tour – surely one of the better names to come along for a series of games in the second-most boring sport in the world – includes one of those tricked out trailers designed to coddle and comfort athletes and their posses. What, they don’t get enough good treatment in the hotels?

EPSN.com goes inside the Nationwide Tour Trailer for a look at what a trailer can be when it’s not stacked with pallets of cold, dead naked chickens.

I especially like the idea that Nationwide – an insurance company – keeps a cooler stocked with beer for all those who drop by. Aside from betting on each hole, beer is probably the only reason a lot of folks play golf in the first place. I mean, most places you have to go get your beer, but on a golf course, it’ll come to you – most guys can’t get that kind of service at home.

I mean, it doesn’t take as much imagination as Nationwide’s ad writers have to picture a golfer who’s downed a couple of frosty ones in the trailer sallying forth with 3-iron in hand and teeing off in the general direction of Bangladesh. The ball sails off and connects with something unexpected and before you know it, life is coming at him fast.

One also has to wonder whether some bored trooper who shoots 123 on the front nine on weekends would pull the Tour Truck over just to have a look-see. The beer’s not in the tractor, but does it qualify as cargo if it’s in the trailer?

Anyway, it’s worth clicking over to find out the scoop on this mobile mulligan machine. And oh by the way, it doesn’t sound like they are hiring.

Hijacked

Unfortunately, truckers are far more familiar with law enforcement inspection blitzes, all in the name of improving highway safety, than four-wheelers.

Aside from the Friday and Saturday night DWI checkpoints, you really don’t run into concerted efforts to rein in poor driving of passenger vehicles.

There was supposed to be just that in the last week of October – a concerted effort nationally to enforce highway safety laws and educate both CMV drivers and their four-wheeler counterparts.

The program was organized and set up by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance. Members of CVSA and their state, county and local partners were to spend a week cracking down on violations and educating drivers on the consequences of their mistakes.

Commendable idea. Terrible execution.

Judging from news reports from all over the country, the state, county and local law enforcement agencies participating targeted truckers, once again. There are states like Washington, Kansas and Kentucky to name a few who know the value of partnering with truckers to spot violations committed by four-wheelers. They were the exception.

Any benefit, any good that could have been achieved nationally out of this program was lost. Why these states chose to ignore passenger vehicles in their enforcement is beyond me. Chasing the all mighty dollar? Buying into the cliché that truckers are the big, bad, evil, reckless maniacs of the road? Who knows. Bottom line is they blew it.

Some good can come out of the program. A brochure was supposed to be handed out to anyone stopped during the enforcement blitz. It has some great information in it for four-wheelers.

You can click here to see the PDF.

A lot of you have teens in school. Talk to the driver’s ed teacher and offer to send them a copy of the brochure. Maybe your spouse at home has connections within the community or through various social groups.

It’s good info. If we can’t count on law enforcement to educate as they enforce, maybe we can all pick up the slack.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween deadheading

Just in time for Spooky Day comes a story out of Dallas that puts a new twist on the term “deadheading.”

The Dallas Morning News reported on Oct. 30 that a Royse City, TX, police had pulled a trucker over for speeding on I-30 around 2:30 a.m. and, since the driver seemed a bit shifty, they checked the trailer.

In a scene that must have reminded them of some horror flick sequel, their flashlight beams fell upon 24 severed, embalmed human heads, neatly stored in plastic bags and other containers.

The driver’s paperwork didn’t include a manifest, so they held him until the company could fax it to them. According to the news report, police said the heads were bound for Little Rock after being used in medical training – he was on the last leg of the run, so to speak. The paperwork was in order – did they do a headcount? – so the police let the driver go and the heads rolled.

The story goes on to discuss the legal and ethical points of handling bodies and body parts that have been willed to science – including a great comment about shipping lettuce. We can’t reproduce it here because of copyright issues, but it’s worth clicking on the newspaper’s link above to read it.

I’m all for organ donation, and hope that stories like this don’t discourage people from passing on usable organs when they no longer need them. But when I was making that decision, I declined the opportunity to be some medical student’s special friend for a semester. This article makes me glad I did – if you’re in the trailer, the view never changes.

Continued learning is a privilege

It’s nice to work for people who value continuing education.

I had the distinct pleasure recently of sitting in on a three-day business seminar conducted by the OOIDA Foundation.

Land Line sent me to write a story and I am following through with that in the magazine, but I also got to participate, listen to the speakers, meet people and learn the course material.

Instructor Tom Weakley, the OOIDA Foundation’s director of operations, covered topics geared toward the owner-operator or small company wishing to gain independence and make more money in the trucking industry.

A team of experts from various OOIDA departments shared their insight and experience as well during the three-day seminar, Oct. 23-25 at Blue River Community College in Independence, MO.

I found myself hanging on every word of Tom’s colorful anecdotes and real-life trucking experience. I know a lot more than I did before, and that will be good for my writing.

Tom didn’t sugarcoat anything about the good, bad or the ugly in the trucking industry, and I think all of the students appreciated that.

I met and interacted with a number of owner-operators in the process, too, and many agreed to stay in touch.

While I don’t foresee myself becoming an owner-op anytime soon – I’ll stick to writing – I will value my classroom experience because the education will provide me with some more common ground with OOIDA members and Land Line readers.

I was glad for the opportunity and the experience.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Ten years: casting an ever-wider Net

Ten years ago, OOIDA had 39,000 dues-paying members, and our surveys told us way less than half had access to a computer and a few still thought a mouse was something you caught in a trap. But in the fall of 1997, OOIDA and Land Line Magazine made a major leap into the electronic communications era by launching two new sites on the World Wide Web.

We saw it as an investment in our future and something that would become an around-the-clock opportunity to communicate with truckers, both members and prospective members.

The project was assigned to John Siebert of the OOIDA Foundation. The news content of the Land Line Web site was my charge. I remember OOIDA’s Rick Craig, Siebert and I speculating ambitiously that maybe we could get 1,000 visitors a month. That was our goal.

We got the domain name for ooida.com but could not get landline.com. Some other dude had bought a bunch of magazine names anticipating they would eventually go online. He wanted a lot of money to sell us the site name. We told him to shove it and registered as landlinemag.com.

Our plan for ooida.com was to provide news, information, resources, tools, legislative updates, info on OOIDA’s benefit programs and even an online membership application form. For landlinemag.com, we kicked off with breaking news as it occurred in between issues of Land Line Magazine. At first, we provided only a few stories each week. Land Line’s daily news is now one of the best trucking news sites on the Internet, giving you your trucking “front page” every business day.

Right off the bat, a steady stream of truckers tapped in. Our Call-to-Action posts began to prompt overnight action from truckers, action we could not make happen by snail mail.

Siebert designed the first OOIDA Web site. Debbie Johnson, Land Line Magazine’s art director, designed the first Land Line Web site. Within the first two years, Rex Rains, who began with OOIDA as a PC tech, took over as Webmaster and he’s been at it ever since. Rex is part of the OOIDA Communications Department, headed up by Donna Ryun, who writes regularly for Land Line Magazine.

Ten years later, the success of these Web sites is astounding. Our LL Online Editor Aaron Ladage reports that landlinemag.com gets about 10,000 visitors a day, mostly there for the daily news and special reports written by the Land Line Magazine’s news staff. This summer, we had more than 300,000 visitors in July alone.

OOIDA.com has big traffic, too, bringing in more than 6,000 visitors a day. Still manned by Rex and Donna, they have help now from Jill Sheeks. Donna reports that currently, the “most viewed” Web pages at ooida.com are the State Legislative Watch pages, produced and updated daily by State Legislative Editor Keith Goble. It’s good to know that trucking readers are so keen on what their state lawmakers are doing.

We now have other Web sites, too. “Land Line Now,” OOIDA’s radio show on XM Satellite Radio’s Channel 171, also carries the daily news. The radio show’s Web site at landlinenow.com includes a “Heard on the Air” index that is updated daily by Mark Reddig and the radio gang. Ever listened to the show and heard a Web site mentioned or phone numbers and can’t write them down? Go to “Heard on the Air.” You’ll find that info and much more.

OOIDA also has several specialty Web sites like ooidapac.com and a Web site called turndownhotfuel.com. Truckvote.com is another, and we are getting ready to market another exciting Web site featuring your photos and videos of life on the road.

Happy tenth.