Friday, February 1, 2008

Let the games begin

Election season is upon us, and a few flicks through the cable news channels later, it seems like it’s forced on us much like wall-to-wall Britney Spears coverage.

But beyond the shallow 24-hour coverage of one candidate snubbing another, the multitude of debates is allowing for real issues to make their way into this year’s presidential campaign – the kind of issues that don’t always make it into mainstream debates held in the final weeks before elections.

Never was that more apparent than during this week’s Republican debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on Jan. 30. After Sen. John McCain, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul fended off the first few questions from CNN’s Anderson Cooper, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee didn’t take long to bring trucking into the fold.

“If you talk to people who are driving trucks across America today, their fuel prices are significantly higher than they were a year ago,” Huckabee said. “They’re hurting because they’re not making a lot more money to haul something, but they’re spending a lot more money to get it done.”

Another landmark statement followed questions from a Los Angeles Times reporter, who asked the GOP candidates whether they would support California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s implementation of a state greenhouse gas emission standard for cars.

Each candidate brought up global warming, with Romney, widely regarded as Wall Street’s candidate, acknowledging that our nation’s dependence on oil is “probably warming our environment.”

The trucking community is following global warming and greenhouse gas emission politics pretty closely, as those issues seem to be sparking idling and truck emission regulations like wildfire.

During the next day’s Democratic debates in Los Angeles, Clinton and Obama were asked about another issue that’s of consequence to truckers: immigration and the issuance of driver’s licenses to illegal aliens.

Hillary Clinton spoke of tightening U.S. borders, and cracking down “on employers who exploit workers, both those who are undocumented and those who are here as citizens, or legal.” Certainly truckers will be interested in following a series of federal busts of corrupt trucking schools and commercial driver’s license scams with ties to motor carriers.

Come November we’ll all be tired of the candidates and their messages. But if we pay attention and cast our ballots, we’ll be part of the solution and not the problem.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Bull balls, fangs, what’s next?

In “The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress,” the late sci-fi writer Robert Heinlein has a scene in which his human hero is trying to teach a computer about jokes, especially practical jokes. Most practical jokes, he says, are at best a “once funny.” Repeat performances not only lose whatever humor they held, but also tend to make the target a tad irked.

“Once funny” is what I think about fangs on truck grills. They were funny, even several times. As they caught on, they ceased to be funny. At best, they were funny the way that jumping out from behind a door in a dark room is funny – and the intent on the motoring public was very much the same.

Oh sure, a lot of folks thought hanging those fangs on their trucks’ snouts said, “Lookee here, I’m a rough and tough truckin’ dude, the last of the real individualists.” Not so unique, though, seeing as how those tusks became as common as Beatle hairdos did.

Anyway, I digress. The fang thing seems to have run its course; it became so widespread that people quit paying attention to it. But the other day, I saw what could be the start of another trend, although this one will be expensive to mimic and thus, one hopes, less widespread.

I was cruising down the highway when a truck approaching on the other side caught my eye. It was dark, but it was obvious he had a pretty sizable sun shade over his windshield. The marker lights – a double row on each side – were set in about a 30-degree angle, creating a shallow V.

The effect was of glowing, glaring yellow eyebrows over the darkened windshield. Combined with the other lights on the rig, it composed a kind of angry face. My thoughts went like this: “Wow, cool, I’ve never seen that before.” “Wow, that’s like, a face.” “Whoa, that would scare the bygosh out of me if it was coming up behind late at night.”

Within the limits imposed by the DOT, I could easily see a new generation of truck show folks breaking away from the vertical-horizontal orientation of lights to create some really interesting patterns on bright metal and elsewhere. Bob and Shelley Brinker a few years back made a step in this direction with decorative yellow eyes on their “Dragon On” truck. But folks, let’s keep it somewhat upbeat, OK? There are enough Godzillas behind America’s wheels as it is – and I mean all kinds of wheels. Don’t try to tell the motoring public that truckers are monsters.

Follow-up to my post:

A Virginia legislator has the balls to say vehicles shouldn't. Read it here.

The lawmaker says they are not only obscene but also distracting to other drivers, and thus a safety hazard. If his bill becomes law, it would impost a $250 fine for ball baring.