Friday, July 11, 2008

Preventive maintenance

I recently had some foot surgery that meant spending several weeks at home, with my foot in the air when I wasn’t hobbling around on crutches. Aside from getting a new handle – “Flat Tire” – from my editor, Jami Jones, and being asked if I had finally learned how to “double crutch,” the experience has given me time to ponder how many limping truckers I have seen. And sympathize with their discomfort and pain as they trek onward, getting the job done.

Why are so many drivers hobbled? Jumping – or falling – off rigs and trailers probably causes a lot of lameness. Over the years, it wears down the ankles and knees, and arthritis sets in. They’ve got torn or shredded tendons, ligaments and cartilage from falls and slips and overuse. Twisted ankles that never healed enough, even fractures that bore weight too soon.

Age and weight contribute their share of misery, as does lack of exercise. Can’t do much about age, but taking off pounds relieves the burden on joints, and even daily stretching can help limber up muscles and joints.

Not that it is ever easy to find a place to limber up, and I am not comfortable preaching to the contrary. Truck parking lots can be sketchy any time of the day, and especially at night and early mornings. Also, it’s hard to feel like you’re doing something healthy standing between two trailers with reefer exhaust blowing around you – and other truckers staring at you.

Still, if there’s room in your sleeper, try a few simple stretches, maybe some leg lifts in the rack. If you have to re-tarp or check a load, do a few leans and quarter-squats before you start to unkink muscles that have been sitting for hours. Knock off a few pounds and take a walk when you’re home.

Like they say, life’s a journey, so take it one step at a time.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

So DOT, you wanna play word games?

Word games and politics seem to go hand-in-hand anymore.

It’s become one of the favorite pastimes it seems since Bill Clinton uttered the words: “It all depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”

It’s frustrating, to say the least, to watch politicians bat around the meaning of words, trying to twist and turn them to their advantage.

The most recent word game haunting the trucking industry is the Department of Transportation’s attempt to keep the Mexican cross-border program going.

The program is still going on because the DOT’s crack legal team played word games with an amendment written by Sen. Byron Dorgan that cut off funding to the program. The legal eagles took the most narrow interpretation of the word “establish.”

The DOT attorneys contend that since the program was already going before the legislation cutting off the funding was approved, the program was “established” and the legislation was meaningless.

Dorgan wasn’t happy at all at this shenanigan. Hearings were held. Letters were fired off. But the DOT just kept right on moving. A court is sorting out that mess now.

Obviously Dorgan doesn’t easily forget, and it’s time for another transportation appropriations bill.

Guess what – Dorgan has another amendment in there that could cut off funding to the program if it’s signed into law. Only this time, if the DOT wants to play word games, they’re going to have their hands full.

Dorgan’s amendment says the DOT will not spend money to:

• establish,

• implement,

• continue,

• promote,

• or in any way permit a cross-border program.

Oh yeah, the end of the amendment also tells the DOT that if there is a program currently ongoing, it’s over, too.

Given the lengths that Congress is having to go to to put an end to this program makes me appreciate my ability as a mother to end debates like this. All I have to do is say: “Because I said so.”

Come to think of it, maybe that’s just what Dorgan was thinking when he wrote the amendment this time.