Thursday, July 3, 2008

The BS with BMI measurements

There’s something about an automatic fitness judge that doesn’t sit right with me.

How can humans put together in a variety of shapes, sizes with varying amounts of bone and muscle density be classified by a standard measuring only total height and weight?

Most truckers probably have heard by now that FMCSA’s Medical Review Board recommended that all commercial truck drivers with a body mass index of 30 or greater be subjected to one or two night sleep studies – a process that costs thousands of dollars and would mandate billions in revenue for sleep study labs.

Aside from recycled research used to justify the recommendation, the Medical Review Board relied on a BMI standard that fails to consider many things.

A colleague recently let me borrow her Nintendo Wii game console, and an accompanying game called Wii Fit, which uses a balance board to weigh your weight, balance, fitness and general competence as a human.

OK, that last part may be a bit of a stretch, but you get the point.

I logged in to check my fitness, and after entering some height and age information, was put in my place by a cartoonish avatar.

“You’re overweight,” the high-pitched voice chirped out.

I’d feign surprise here, but the truth is I’ve been skeptical of the height/weight standard for some time. I’ve run my numbers on multiple online BMI calculators and haven’t yet made it down to a BMI of 25, even though I run 20 to 25 miles a week and have completed some distance races, including a marathon.

But maybe there’s a way to make this BMI thing work for the general public.

Jazz fans may be familiar with the tale of Bennie Moten, a Kansas City bandleader who died the day after he went carousing with his surgeon. Moten died the next morning during surgery after the still-staggering surgeon friend accidentally cut him and caused Moten to lose large amounts of blood.

Maybe one day the American Medical Association will endorse a new standard to benefit patients. They’ll hold surgeons, who we trust with scalpels and our bodies, to a BMI limit of 30.

That way, we’ll know they are less likely to have apnea, and probably have slept excellently the night before.

Therefore, they’re much less likely to sleepily nick an artery or leave a pair of scissors near your ribcage.

Because we’re all about safety, right?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Easy isn’t always cheap

Land Line keeps a close eye on tolling and so should you, especially if you have a transponder and an account to pay your tolls electronically.

News stories continue to surface about customers being overcharged or penalized because of a glitch, an expired account or some other problem related to technology or an electronic account.

Penalties and fines are in place to prevent people from cheating the system but sometimes those penalties are wrongly assessed or exorbitant. It pays to check your books to make sure you’re not being overcharged.

I recently touched base with a California attorney, Anat Levy, who filed a lawsuit in early 2007 against the Orange County Transportation Authority. A group of motorists suing the Authority say they were charged exorbitant penalties for racking up so-called violations on the 91 Express Lanes toll road.

One family involved in the case was assessed $43,638 in penalties after incurring just $140.68 in unpaid tolls on an expired transponder account. They had been using the toll road to drive their daughter to cancer treatments in 2005. The case is ongoing with a hearing scheduled for later this summer, Levy says.

Electronic tolling continues to gain in popularity as a way for a roadway operator to cut costs.

Take some time to balance your books and keep your electronic accounts paid up to avoid getting in a mess. In most cases we’ve read about in recent months, tolling authorities will work with customers at resolving issues. If that doesn’t work, there’s a legal system in place.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The good, the bad and the obvious

Business practices in the broker industry are a hot topic of conversation in the industry right now – largely thanks to the recently introduced TRUCC Acts in Congress.

While it’s not hard to get truckers to bristle at the mere mention of the word “broker,” it’s painfully obvious that it’s not just the truckers who get a little peeved when bad broker practices are highlighted.

I have been inundated with letters and calls from brokers – ones who say they stick to honest, upfront business dealings and don’t appreciate the brokers who drag their industry down.

It’s apparent that I must state the obvious:

Truckers know the pain of being painted with the negative stereotypical broad brush every time one of the less-than-stellar steering wheel holders make the front page after killing a family of four on their way to vacation. It’s no fun, and it feels like an uphill battle to ever get any respect.

It’s not so different for the good brokers out there. Brokering, just like any other profession, includes the consummate professionals, the shady characters, and the rogues who don’t even bother to get bonded and licensed but make money off the trade, usually to the detriment of the truckers and their clients.

Perhaps the bigger point to all of this is, choose who you do business with.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: You can’t sling a dead cat without hitting a broker.

Loosely translated out of Arkansas-speak: There are so many out there that you can pick and choose who you want to work with.

Check their credit ratings. Get references. Talk to them upfront about disclosure of paperwork and pass-through of fuel surcharges. Put your agreements in writing for crying out loud. Have an attorney specializing in transportation (or the Association) take a look at it to make sure you’re not setting yourself up to get the short end of the stick.

Smart business – it’s what this has to come down to for both truckers and the hard-working honest brokers out there. In an honest, open business relationship that shares the wealth in an equitable manner, everyone wins.