Thursday, February 19, 2009

Phat times for TWIC workers

News that a Transportation Worker Identification Credential enrollment office in Mobile, AL, was closing its doors for Fat Tuesday raised a few eyebrows in our morning news budget meeting today.

Everyone associates Mardi Gras with New Orleans. Mobile, apparently, is even more serious about their pre-Ash Wednesday revelry.

The idea of TWIC workers enjoying the last moments before Ash Wednesday isn’t very funny to drivers who budget work and personal time in order to travel and enroll, and later travel and pick up their TWIC.

The TWIC program’s fees, multiple required appointments, delays and other factors have cost many truck drivers a minimum of hundreds of dollars.

Some drivers have had to travel hundreds of miles because of the TWIC program’s strict requirement that applications and pickups be at one location, and a power outage in the fall caused the government to lose computer records and enrollment information for many enrollees.

The Mobile TWIC office’s closing isn’t too big a deal for Uncle Sam and Lockheed Martin, the contractor handling TWIC. They estimate 100 port workers or truckers enroll at the office each day – a drop in the bucket compared with the 1.5 million workers required to have a TWIC card nationally.

During uncertain times, however, closing up shop for Fat Tuesday makes those truckers and Americans holding our economy together scratch their heads.

So make sure and tune in for the news footage of those costumed crazies on Tuesday. If they’re showing Mobile, you may see your tax dollars among the confetti, beads and untold drinks raised in the air.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Paul Abelson honored at TMC

I got a proud call this past week from a good friend and OOIDA member Darrell Hicks, aka “Uncle Darrell.” He was in the Atlanta airport after attending the spring meeting of The Technology & Maintenance Council of the American Trucking Associations in Orlando, FL.

Uncle Darrell was headed home to California and had to share the good news that another OOIDA Life Member and Land Line Senior Technical Editor Paul Abelson had just been named the 2009 winner of a prestigious TMC award.

Paul called later, but he was still in the speechless, humbled mode that happens when one is surprised by such recognition. I will share this from Uncle Darrell’s perspective for that reason.

Darrell explained: It was the Gerri Murphy Membership Award. Gerri Murphy was the executive assistant to the director of TMC. She worked for TMC for many years and was the inspiration of, and very good detailer of, the myriad of things required to run a council with about 3,000 members. One of her duties was to work with us as members to encourage recruiting new members to TMC, basically “a hands-on graduate school in the truck maintenance community.”

Gerri died of cancer about 10 or 11 years ago. In 2000, the Gerri Murphy Award was announced at TMC in memory of her outstanding work.

Uncle Darrell tells me that the first recipient was Murrey Alderfer of Alderfer and Associates of Pennsylvania, who won it in 2000. According to Darrell, Murrey had started as a driver at the age of 16, hauling hogs from Indiana, Illinois and Iowa to eastern Pennsylvania. Eventually, Murrey became an industry salesman selling items related to operation and maintenance of heavy trucks. Murrey is also the recipient of the Silver Spark Plug award and the Recognized Associate award.

“Truly, he was ‘Mr. TMC’ – an independent operator in the in the same vein as OOIDA members,” says Darrell.

In 2003, Darrell himself was awarded the Gerri Murphy Award for contributions to TMC, encouraging new members, answering questions, etc. plus his work with Trucker Buddy International. Earlier in his career in the ’80s and ’90s, Darrell became a recipient of the Recognized Associate Award and also the Silver Spark Plug Award.

“It is hard to believe that a farm boy who started trucking in 1963 would ever receive something like this,” he recalls. “The Gerri Murphy Award was a ‘goose bump’ of all goose bumps.”

In 2006, Jim Winsor of Newport Communications, was awarded the Gerri Murphy Award for his efforts and TMC advocacy. Jim is also a Silver Spark Plug recipient.

On Feb. 12, Paul Abelson was awarded the Gerri Murphy Award for all that he has done for TMC and also for the trucking industry. Paul has been a TMC member since the 1980s.

Darrell says: “Paul works tirelessly with TMC and is the father of the idea to have a special owner-operator classification of membership in TMC. He, through this program, has helped many, many OOIDA members in addition to owner-operators everywhere.”

There are only four Gerri Murphy Awardees in the whole world. It is truly a special group. What is even more special is that two of the four are OOIDA life members.