Thursday, September 9, 2010

Where were you on September 11, 2001?

My only visit to the World Trade Center was June 10, 2001. It was a Sunday, and I dropped a trailer at the Cirque De Soleil site at Liberty National Monument Park in Jersey City, NJ, that morning. Then I stayed over until Monday and picked up a loaded trailer for the Cirque going to Chicago.

It was a day off with a great site seeing opportunity, so I took a water taxi over to Manhattan. From there it was a short walk to the twin towers. I didn’t go inside or do a formal tour or anything, more like a tourist munching on an ice cream cone looking up at these magnificent buildings. I walked around the neighborhood, checked out a few shops, took a break at a Borders Bookstore, and headed back to my truck.

Next morning – June 11 – I took a picture of my truck with twin towers in the background, got my trailer and headed out.

Who could imagine what would happen three months almost to the hour later.

On Sept. 11, 2001, my wife Geri and I had picked up a new tank trailer in Montreal going to Signal Hill, CA. We were on our way first thing that morning, a beautiful day, a nice long ride with an empty tank. What could go wrong?

I was driving at the time, and Geri went back to the sleeper for something and flipped on the TV. She said, “Stop. You better get back here and see this.” I pulled into a service plaza, and we watched what the whole world was watching.

We were still nearly 500 miles from the border – which was shut down. We got into the last truck stop about 20 miles out, camped out for the night, and then got in line at 5 a.m. Fifteen hours later we cleared the border. It could have been worse. The police would keep us stopped for two or three; then we moved ahead a couple of miles.

A radio or TV station in Sarnia, Ontario, sent out chicken dinners and pizzas. We had our TV, and we were glued to that so our inconvenience was a mere bag of shells compared to so many people’s grief and misery.

When we rolled off the Blue Water Bridge, that ‘Welcome to the USA” sign meant quite a bit more to us. As Dan Rather said early on, “The world will never be the same.”

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Part 3: Know your governors

With the calendar flipping to September we are nearing the home stretch for the November election. For the next two months we will hear, see or read so many political ads we’ll be able to recite most of the messages.

In some instances, candidates for various offices on your ballot will be complete unknowns. Others you will be quite familiar with.

Maryland and Oregon voters are certainly familiar with their candidates. The governors’ races in both states include sitting governors seeking reelection and a former governor once again vying for the votes of truckers and others. The lead-up to Election Day seems like the perfect time to take a look back at some significant actions taken by these candidates.

In Maryland, Gov. Martin O’Malley is pursuing another term. One of the changes he has made during his time in Annapolis is bringing camera enforcement to portions of highway. Dating back to 2007 O’Malley sought the use of cameras to enforce speed limits in work zones. Two years later he signed into law a bill that authorizes cameras in work zones on expressways and controlled-access highways where the speed limit is at least 45 mph.

In a move that eases some concern about the law simply being a revenue generator, it limits to 10 percent any profit that a jurisdiction receives from ticket cameras. The rest goes to the state.

The Maryland ballot also includes a blast from the not-so-distant past. Former Gov. Robert Ehrlich is trying to reclaim his seat.

Among the bills signed by Ehrlich during his 2003-2007 stint in office was legislation to reclaim funding for transportation. A 2004 law provided for the repayment of $315 million to the Transportation Trust Fund. It also addressed future efforts to charge highway users. Legislative approval is required by the Maryland DOT for any new toll projects.

Oregon voters will also see a familiar face on their ballot for governor. It’s not Gov. Ted Kulongoski. He is term limited and cannot run again. But former Gov. John Kitzhaber can run, and he wants his seat back.

Vetoes were a regular occurrence during Kitzhaber’s 1995-2003 term in office. His propensity to strike down bills earned him the nickname “Dr. No.”

One such occurrence frustrated many truckers. Kitzhaber vetoed a 2001 bill that would have increased the state’s speed limit. It sought to authorize ODOT to raise the speed limit from 55 mph to 65 mph for trucks and from 65 mph to 70 mph for cars on rural stretches of Interstates 5 and 84.

A former doctor, Kitzhaber said at the time he was concerned the speed increase would encourage drivers to drive even faster, making the roads more dangerous.

Time will tell if the actions of these current and former governors will spur voters to take action at the polls. As the election draws closer, be on the lookout for more blogs about certain governors on fall ballots and their actions on truck-related issues.