Thursday, December 11, 2008

Heroes in the flesh

Cartoon heroes are as much a part of childhood as grilled cheese sandwiches and crayons. But real, live heroes in this day and age seem to be hard to come by. Unless you look at life through the eyes of a child.

It wasn’t that long ago I was on yet another road trip with my kids. They are hardy travelers; 400-500 miles hardly fazes them. On stops for gas and such, they mobilize like a military unit on assault. They hit the restroom, grab their snacks and drinks, and are waiting for me to pay before I’m even done pumping the gas.

On this most recent trip, we ran into several members of a National Guard Unit who were heading home on leave. They had stopped off at the same truck stop we were taking a break at.

I noticed three of the young men pause at the door to let my kids in first, and they fell into step behind.

I finished topping off the gas and headed inside to pay when I saw my three kiddos peeking around the aisle eyeballing the three Guardsmen. The mother in me became irritated because I didn’t like the “sneaky” way they were staring.

Just about the time I was ready to jerk a knot in three tail ends, they started walking toward the Guardsmen. My oldest son, Kade, led the pack right up to the threesome and stuck out his hand.

“You guys are so cool,” I heard Kade say with a lopsided grin as he shook the first one’s hand. “I want to be a fighter pilot when I grow up and serve my country like you guys do.”

Jake and Samantha nodded their heads enthusiastically.

They were face to face with their heroes – in the flesh.

I stood there and watched the six of them chat for a minute. They were all smiling. I was, too. But I was also fighting back tears.

I knew that when Kade, Jake and Sam worked up the nerve to approach the Guardsmen, it was a genuine effort to engage their “heroes” – men they truthfully admire and want to be like. What mother wouldn’t be proud?

My kids draw cards and write letters for the care packages made possible by the Truckers for Troops telethon. Their admiration for the men and women serving our country is obvious in every one that they do. And those cards and letter make a big impact.

But, this isn’t something for just my kids to do. Your kids – and you for that matter – can make cards and write letters of support to be included in the care packages. You’ll enjoy seeing the pride your children have in their country and the men and women who serve. And it will brighten the day of troops receiving the care packages.

If you want to participate, just send the cards and letters to:

Attn. Norita Taylor
OOIDA
P.O. Box 1000
Grain Valley, MO 64029

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Thanks a billion (five actually)

Land Line subscribers have been reading about California’s proposed on-road in-use rule for more than a year and, believe it or not, the proposed rule’s time is approaching.

The first public vote is scheduled for this Thursday, Dec. 11.

The rule would essentially require trucks to meet 2007 and 2010 emissions standards between 2012 and 2022, though it allows for a series of compliance options. The regulation addresses both diesel particulate matter and oxides of nitrogen.

You can read about what some truckers plan to do during Thursday’s CARB meeting, and read about an OOIDA member profiled in this news story.

It’s estimated to cost trucking companies $4 billion to $5 billion, give or take a few billion, so yeah it’s a big deal.

Should you want to put on your emissions geek hat and join us, a link should be available at www.arb.ca.gov on Thursday to follow.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

EPA to tax farm animal ‘exhaust’

It is most likely a sign of noxious things to come: The Environmental Protection Agency is moving toward taxing cows, hogs and possibly other gas-emitting barnyard critters.

The EPA is proposing to impose levies on farms or ranches with more than 25 dairy cows, 50 beef cattle or 200 hogs at the rate of about $175 for each dairy cow, $87.50 per head of beef, and $20 per hog.

It’s a plan farmers say stinks to high heaven, and one has to wonder what it will do to the cost of food. The Supreme Court opened the way to this in 2007 by ruling that all those barnyard burps and farts were legally air pollution and could be taxed – fined, really – accordingly.

The U.S. has an awful lot of cows and pigs, but even more people – and while our contributions to methane and other greenhouse gases may be individually small (spouses’ assertions notwithstanding), I can see a day when the EPA will decide we have to pay twice for last night’s chili dinner.

Seriously, it’s another example of bureaucracy and “science” running amok. As diesel engine emissions are being trimmed down to practically nothing, don’t be surprised if the EPA desk drivers start looking around for something else to hammer us with. Maybe to reduce tire wear so invisible particles of rubber don’t litter the landscape? I could dig a floating truck.

Better yet, all those livestock haulers could hook their cargo up to gas collectors and use it to power their rigs. That would be a practical use for the methane the EPA is putting out …

Eye in the sky

After the recent terrorist attack in Mumbai, India, investigators said the assailants used Google Earth maps to plot and carry out their attack. Here’s a link to an article on the terrorists’ use of technology.

You can read Land Line’s previous reporting on intelligence vehicle systems – and the concerns truckers have about the technology – here.

As you can tell from the article, many truckers are already knee-deep in technology.

Check out a few personal entries from drivers on networking sites like Twitter or facebook.com sites, and it seems very apparent that firing up the Web and checking text messages may be second only to grabbing morning coffee for many over-the-road professionals.

What level of detail and variety of satellite images will be downloaded from any Web-capable electronic device five years from now? Such technology could help truckers avoid traffic snags or provide better weather information.

We won’t know until then, however, if the little black boxes that digitally track every second of a trucker’s day combined with the latest gizmos of the day prove to be as dangerous as they are convenient.