Friday, October 22, 2010

Now that was a convoy

Of all the good times we’ve had trucking, participating in the Share America Convoy in ’97 is a standout. The convoy was bookended by the Truckers Jamboree in Waupun, WI, and the Knights of the Road Jamboree in Reno, NV.

Held during Trucker Appreciation month, it was to promote Trucker Buddy. It sounded like a fun deal to Geri and me. We had been showing our truck for a couple years, and we couldn’t wait.

The way it all shook out if memory serves, several of us did the Waupun show, which ended on Saturday night. The convoy formed at the T/A in Madison, WI, on Sunday, and we headed out for Reno, doing little shows at truck stops across the country. We did Rochelle, IL; Walcott and Des Moines, IA; Omaha, Grand Island, North Platte and Hershey, NE; Cheyenne, WY; Salt Lake City, UT; Wendover and Battle Mountain, NV, ending at Reno.

Joey Holiday provided the entertainment. Joey and Vicky hadn’t hit their stride yet and were traveling in an old motorhome. I never asked Joey but I suspect his plan might have been to run it as far as it would go and leave it – been there, done that. We passed the hat a couple times for gas and duct tape.

The convoy was led by Gary and Carol King. Gary was the founder of Trucker Buddy. Some of the other players were Darien Stevens, Dave Sweetman, Phil Lanum, Russ and Debbie Brown, Curt and Sharon Smith – and of course Geri and myself. There were others who made the entire trip, but I can’t recall their names.

Roger Fayman of California Custom Products acted as our scout, running ahead and giving people a heads up, making arrangements, promoting some free meals and some fuel or gas for those that needed it.

Other truckers joined the convoy along the way to ride a day or two then get on with their business. All told, we took five and a half days going 1,850 miles – my kind of truckin’ – ending up in Reno at the Alamo Truck Stop for the Knights of the Road Jamboree. We knew it was gonna be special when the Crash Test Dummies waved us in to the show lot.

There was a brand-new motel on the property, and we had a room reserved. The folks that brought the lions didn’t and needed to be close, so they offered Geri and me a room at the Nugget for our Super 8 room. We had our cocker spaniel with us and had to turn them down. That was OK by me. I wanted to stay right in the middle of this anyway.

Dave Sweetman, a longtime OOIDA member, columnist for this magazine and others, won a laptop computer (his first I think) in a drawing and learned how to use it. The world hasn’t been the same since.

Reno was fun. Bob Cashell, former lieutenant governor of Nevada, owned the truck stop at the time. One afternoon, he sent a coach and invited everybody to his home for a cookout. What a spread. Everything was out on the decks and patios, three or four free bars, no tips allowed and a designated coach driver to get us home. There was this huge multicolored parrot sitting on his perch. He looked me right in the eye and said, “I can talk, can you fly?” It was a fun evening for sure.

Who was that hanging off that overpass with three cameras around her neck? Bette Garber, of course. Bette was there, beginning to the end with her red, white and blue van. Her job was to cover it all and she did. It was a treat for Geri and me to spend quality time with Bette over the 12 days or so. Normally at the shows, she was always on the run. R.I.P., Bette.

Colorado gubernatorial candidates focus on transportation issues

In about 10 days, Colorado voters will cast their ballots on some significant issues and races. In addition to questions on the statewide ballot that address transportation funding, voters will elect a new governor. The three leading candidates vying to fill the seat being vacated by Gov. Bill Ritter have addressed transportation issues.

The candidates are Democratic Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, Republican nominee Dan Maes, and American Constitution Party candidate Tom Tancredo.

One of the most substantive transportation discussions during the governor’s race has focused on congestion caused by skier traffic between Denver and mountain resorts along I-70. Much ado has been made about the entanglement of weekend vacationers and large trucks on high-country highways.

Hickenlooper told the Colorado Independent that the weekend skier rush is “what makes Colorado Colorado. That’s what makes us different.” He recommended that CDOT ban westbound trucks on Friday afternoons and eastbound trucks on Sunday afternoons.

The mayor has done a dandy job of playing up to the desires of many voters he is courting, but he’s shown quite a bit of shortsightedness in dismissing the greater good of the state, the region and the nation.

Hickenlooper’s idea could have various economic impacts. On-time deliveries would be affected not only locally but regionally and nationally. Truckers and the businesses they serve would also be burdened with additional costs.

Obviously something needs to be done about the traffic dilemmas in the area but delaying commerce doesn’t appear to be a bright idea.

Another topic that candidates have addressed is the FASTER legislation approved during the 2009 session. The transportation spending bill includes the option of charging tolls to access existing free routes and new transit-funding initiatives. It also green-lighted the raising of funds through an increase in vehicle registration fees.

On his website, Maes says there was no need to approve FASTER because federal bailout funds coming into the state “are more than enough” to immediately address about half of the road and bridge needs.

“If government downsized, and kept the spending limit in place the transportation industry would have the revenue it needs to conduct its business. Now we see the state spending so-called stimulus money for roads and bridge repair on bike paths!” Maes wrote.

Hickenlooper refers to the FASTER legislation as “pioneering.” On his website, he says it has allowed “many of Colorado’s immediate needs, such as repairs and replacements of structurally deficient bridges and roads” to be addressed.

Tancredo has made a point of emphasizing that Colorado needs to change its status as a “donor” state. His website shows that the state gets less than $1 back on every dollar sent to Washington, while others get as much as $1.50 or $2 on every dollar contributed.

“I believe that Congress should work to address this inequity in the multi-year surface transportation bill scheduled for action this year,” Tancredo wrote. “This will help guarantee more funds for Colorado highway projects without raising the federal gas tax.”

He also wrote that fuel taxes shouldn’t be diverted for other purposes.

“Excise taxes and special fees collected by the federal government ought to be spent to benefit those who pay the tax. That means taxes on gasoline should be utilized to build highways.”

It’s good to hear talk from candidates about greater responsibility with revenue already available to government. Voters are not interested in seeing their taxes and fees raised every time government is in a pinch. Elected officials need to prove they can better manage what is already coming into coffers.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

California gubernatorial candidates on Prop 23

California is among the 37 states where a race for the governor’s office is on the Nov. 2 ballot. Also on the statewide ballot there is a question about whether to suspend a greenhouse gas emission rule. Fortunately for voters, the candidates for governor have weighed in on this important issue.

Approved in 2006, the greenhouse gas law allows the California Air Resources Board to create many new regulations. Specific to trucking, authority was given to formulate several trucking regulations aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions, including the state’s drayage rule, and truck retrofit rule.

The law, known as AB32, is intended to cap greenhouse gas emissions at 1990 levels by 2020.

Proposition 23 on next month’s ballot would tie implementation of the four-year old law to California’s unemployment rate. If approved, the emissions requirement would be suspended until the unemployment rate is 5.5 percent or less for a full year.

Currently, the state’s unemployment rate for the first two quarters of 2010 was above 12 percent.

Democratic candidate Jerry Brown has denounced Prop 23. On his website, Brown proclaims that “shelving the state’s program would stunt the rapid growth of California’s burgeoning green economy, threaten hundreds of clean tech jobs and roll back our clean air and energy standards.”

Republican nominee Meg Whitman says she opposes Prop 23. On her website, she reiterates her support for a one-year moratorium on AB32.

“As I’ve said for more than a year, AB32 as it stands today is a job killer. We must fix it. My plan is to suspend AB32 for at least one year while we develop the sensible improvements the law badly needs to protect the jobs of hard working Californians while improving our environment,” Whitman says.

One important thing to keep in mind about Prop 23 is it would not halt all the provisions covered in AB23. It would prevent the state from moving forward on greenhouse gas-related measures until the unemployment rate improves. It does not call for shelving the program as Brown claims.

Also, passage of Prop 23 would not stop some of the current CARB rulemakings from going into effect, such as the TRU regulation and the truck and bus rule. But it would put a lock and chain on CARB and prevent them from moving forward on some of their more onerous regulations that are being discussed, including a requirement for reformulated diesel.

Truckers and others who vote in California have every reason to support Prop 23 on Election Day.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A deft toast to the Left Coast

This year the Truck Show Latino got a new name: Golden State Trucking Expo. It was a change intended to send an invite to all truckers to attend this annual Southern California event. It worked.

The event took place Oct. 16-17 in Pomona at the Fairplex. The Latino truckers, family and friends remained loyal attendees, and a diverse stream of others showed up to enjoyed the event as well.

At the First Observer booth, OOIDA’s Director of Regulatory Affairs Joe Rajkovacz and I were on hand to introduce truckers who were not familiar with First Observer to the TSA security program for truckers.

Next door at the OOIDA booth, Mike Schermoly and Land Line Now Host Mark Reddig met hundreds of truckers and signed up a good bunch of new members. Mark dived headfirst into the festive ambiance of this show, showed off his dusty-but-not-bad Spanish, and discovered California-style chili cheese fries with jalapenos could have consequences.

The place was packed with OOIDA members. California Members Jose and Maria Escott joined the crew at the OOIDA booth to help, along with their daughter, Helen.

Senior Member Jon Osburn of Boise, ID, was there with the St. Christopher Fund “MeRV.” The Harley momma seen on the back of Osburn’s Harley Saturday night may or may not have been been me.

OOIDA Life Members Roger and Heather Hogeland of Yucaipa worked the Women In Trucking booth, along with OOIDA Support Member Antoinette Martinez, truck attorney with the American Defense Lawyers Association.

With aisles of exhibitors like Arrow Truck Sales, Centramatics, R.J. Taylor’s Ol’ Blue and Internet Truckstop, the joint was pretty much jumpin’. Even the California Air Resources Board had a booth there. And from what members told us, they were getting an earful from truckers.

The Truckin’ for Kids posse was there, headed up by OOIDA Life Member Frank Pangburn and wife Diana, Priest River, ID. The 30th annual Truckin’ for Kids Drags is scheduled Oct. 24 at the Toyota Speedway in Irwindale.

OOIDA members who pilot some of the top show trucks in North America showed up to participate and to compete in the Best of the West show truck contest. Show producer Roger Sherrard told Mark that it’s clear that the show is “on the grow” and that the Fairplex has “plenty of room for us to do that.”

When our OOIDA crew arrived Friday to do a little pre-opening snoop, we found OOIDA Member Randy Rebillard and wife Jona of Pembina, ND, hard at work cleaning up “Tired Iron.” Rebillard’s truck has a stained glass rear window crafted by Jona that’s a knockout. The Rebillards think way outside the box with the stunning features on this truck. They don’t overwhelm you with all the design elements, but the ones they have incorporated into this working truck are spectacularly clever. The pewter-toned molded tin tiles that make up the ceiling of the truck’s cab? Who does that? Randy and Jona didn’t come to California to compete; they were helping Best of the West competition organizer Bud Farquhar with the show.

OOIDA Member Michael Most, Peoria, AZ, sent his popular truck “Legends and Heroes” to California with driver Nick Mitchell. Aside from being a big fave with the kids, Nick picked up a best award for Paint and Body in the working division and a best award for Interior. The yellow 1998 Freightliner Classic also won a new award called the Overall Extra Special Award.

OOIDA Members Bob and Shelley Brinker rolled in from Grayling, MI, with the “Legend of the Black Pearl,” a 2000 Freightliner Classic XL. The judges scored this truck high, awarding Brinkers the “best” working truck in the Aluminum/Chrome/Stainless class; best in Engine class. The points accumulated in these classes earned them the Best of Show working division trophy – a knockout showpiece that is the signature work of Carl Carstens, Rockwood Products.

OOIDA Member Jerry Kissinger of Cottage Grove, WI, showed off the 1991 Mack SuperLiner he calls “Thumper,” and won the Driver Award, an award that is a driver presentation award. This is a cool award. It gives kudos to the driver who best presents the truck to the judges and as far as I know has nothing to do with how much candy you give the judges.

All day Saturday, attendees voted on their favorite truck. Jerry earned 36 percent of the People’s Choice votes, making Thumper the crowd favorite and trophy winner.

In the limited mileage categories, Isaac Aguilar and the 1992 burgundy Peterbilt 379 known as “Still Deliriouz” captured five Best awards for Sandvik Trucking and Bill Sandvik and wife Marie from Valley Center, CA. Points earned with these top scores earned Isaac the Best of Show limited mileage division. The Sandviks are cool people. Bill has been an OOIDA member since ’03.

On Saturday night, Sandvik Trucking treated show truck contestants, exhibitors and others to a Mexican food buffet on the fairgrounds, which was prepared by Bill and Marie’s drivers and their families.

Sandviks have more than two dozen trucks, more than a dozen now working, and their drivers – who become part of the Sandvik family – are Hispanic. Those drivers, including show winner Isaac Aguilar, put on a buffet of chopped honey pollo, beans, rice with everything from guacamole, fresh salsa, chopped cilantro and freshly cut limes. Even Isaac’s mom, Annie, helped with the feast. With the serapes and table settings, they get five stars for presentation.

For me, it could not have said “California hospitality” better.