Wednesday, December 23, 2009

You can’t make this stuff up

What started out Tuesday as a script-ready sequel to “The Nightmare Before Christmas” was quickly rewritten to something closer to “Miracle on Interstate 40.”

Arrow Trucking left its drivers in a lurch all around the country when it ceased operations early Tuesday – with no warning.

Loyal drivers were left holding the bag. Some had fueled, but the company’s card wouldn’t pay the bill – leaving the drivers criminally on the hook for the bill. Other drivers were on fumes with no way to get home.

The insanity of the inhuman treatment left everyone connected to the industry outraged.

That lasted only minutes, though.

The offers for support, rides, meals, etc., began to flood into OOIDA HQ. The Land Line Magazine Facebook Fan Page started getting offers to help posted to it. The Twitter accounts of OOIDA, Land Line Magazine and Land Line Now employees were receiving offers.

In an effort to centralize these offers of generosity, we created the Support for Stranded Arrow Trucking Drivers - Coordinate Efforts Here page on Facebook.

That’s when the miracle started.

In less than 20 hours, more than 1,000 people had joined the page. The offers for everything from warm blankets to a ride home poured in. Drivers’ families jumped in. Dispatchers, mechanics, other companies – the list of people wanting to help is without end.

One stranded Arrow driver put up a request for help early Wednesday morning.

“im an arrow driver and dont know what to do im about 100mi in checotah,ok but dont know if ill have the fuel to get home any help would be great,” Joseph Marfia posted.

In less than an hour, Louis Long responded that he was only an hour away from Joseph and would be happy to pick him up.

The former Arrow trucker, who is now with Maverick, gave Joseph his phone number and that’s all it took.

“He was only 70 miles away from me. I wouldn’t have been a good person if I didn’t help him,” Louis said. “He put in that he needed help and he got help.”

That help came in the form of a ride, a hot breakfast, help cleaning out the truck and a ride to the bus terminal.

And that’s just one of literally thousands of examples of the giving, generous nature of the trucking industry.

In the days and hours that followed the announcement that these drivers were left high and dry, truckers, their families and pretty much anyone with a soul were combing the ends of the country looking for any Arrow driver in need.

What started out as a tragic situation has turned and given us all a sense pride and happiness to be a part of such an amazing bunch of people who refused to let Arrow trucking do this to our own.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Christmas Letter

Christmas 2009

Dear All:

Well, there’s no use not coming right out and saying it: This was one lean year. I guess that if this trucking thing was easy, anyone could do it. We had to run as hard as we could and watch every penny like a cat eyes a mouse just to stay even. We were lucky that the price of diesel didn’t do a rerun of last year, but still shake our head at the idea that $2.50 seems like a good deal. Maybe they should bring back the Georgia overdrive?

It was a good thing, too, that we’ve always been careful and tried to put money back when the freight was flowing and times were better. So we had some reserves and didn’t have to go to the bank for money when the transmission went wacky. Whoever said banks were built to lock up the money was right. I don’t think a single one of those trillions of dollars they kept tossing around in Washington came our way. It sure doesn’t look like it went into fixing any potholes!

In some ways, 2009 seemed like a rerun of 1999. We’re still fighting over on-board recorders, Mexican truck safety, hours of service, fatigue, more and safer places to sleep, letting trucks be longer and heavier, idling and CARB regs. Still, I guess I am glad we’re still arguing about those things, because it shows that we can stop some of the bad and get some of the good when we run together and push for a place at the table instead of fighting over scraps.

There’s a lot more talk about toll roads, too – though why that is puzzles me. Seems like the politicians now are anything but shy about voting new taxes, and if people haven’t figured out that a toll is a tax, then maybe we should have an intelligence test for voting. Say, that’s not a bad idea!

We had to run around Orlando for the first time in a long time the other day, and got on that SR 528, the one due east that goes to the beach? I don’t know what we were paying for – it wasn’t the view, because most of the countryside was half swamp and scrub. What a Mickey Mouse road.

But, though of course you know I’m gonna complain, still we’ve got some things to be thankful for. The kids are doing OK, and I think the youngest may decide to spend some years behind the wheel when she’s old enough. Our friends have got some cute grandbabies, and they always have new photos whenever we meet up on the road. Our little dog rides with us and is he ever one good watch-puppy!

We’ve been watching our health, and trying to eat better and get some exercise. It’s helped get the old blood pressure down and the sugar, too. Less snoring and we sleep better. I sure hope they figure out this health care mess without breaking the bank; us truckers need it.

Mostly, we’ve just tried to enjoy what we do a little more. We’re not getting rich, but we didn’t ever expect to. All we’ve ever really asked for is to be treated fairly, to make a decent living, and to run our road the way we’d like to, with as little bossing as possible. You might not know it from the bottom line this year, but I think we’re getting better at it as we get older. Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment, you know!

Though I wish sometimes that these rookies’ heads were like a radiator – I’d like to unscrew their caps and pour in some sense! Still in some ways they aren’t entirely to blame. They get rushed through those so-called schools and shoved out on the road thinking they just got it all figured out in three weeks. The smart ones soon learn how ignorant they are, and actually begin to learn something useful.

Well, I’m going to have to wrap this up. I know you’re busy and berth time is over, so it’s back to the job. Hope all of you are well and that 2010 is a better year for all of us. As that fella who writes for Land Line says, Be safe, make money and get home often.

Yours for a better 2010,

Ima Truckin

Monday, December 21, 2009

More cracked Christmas carols

I recently encountered a toll road – first time in a long while. It being Christmas and all, I immediately grabbed my guitar, set the cruise control, got my knees under the wheel, and started composing another one of my Cracked Christmas Carols (More of them are in the current issue of Land Line, and on the Web here.)

This one’s to the tune of “Sleigh Ride,” and is dedicated to all those states and cities thinking they can slap some toll booths over the red ink leaking out of their coffers and balance their budgets on the tandems of truckers.

***

Just hear those toll booths jingling, ching-ching-chingling away. Come on, let’s put more tolls on those big rig truckers to pay. The economy sucks and taxes are falling away. Come on, let's put more tolls on those big rig truckers to pay.

Ante-up, ante-up, ante-up, your dough You pay as you go. You’re losing more every mile you go. Ante-up, ante-up, ante-up, that’s fine On our bottom line. We’re taking the bucks earned by your big trucks – it’s a veritable silver mine!

Our debts are briefly covered by money from far away. We’ve convinced the citizens a tax called a toll would be OK. Let’s toll more roads before they catch on at the end of the day. Come on, let’s put more tolls on those big rig truckers to pay.