Thursday, March 17, 2011

TWIC: Where’s the pot of gold?

After the distress truckers and the more than 1 million other workers have endured, is TWIC going to be the next federal program deemed inefficient and ineffective?

More than 300,000 truckers have enrolled in the Transportation Worker Identification Credential program.

Many, including OOIDA Life Member Gary Carr, signed up at a port several states away from home. That means they scheduled an application appointment, gathered important documents like passports and birth certificates, traveled to an enrollment center that most likely offered zero truck parking spaces, and waited in line to be interviewed and processed.

Then they came back weeks or months later to pick up the card at the same enrollment center.

It appears that for all their efforts, TWIC may not be all that effective. Recent reports at the Port of Baltimore revealed that about one fourth of the nearly 1,000 longshoremen at the port have been convicted of a crime in Maryland.

The Baltimore Sun has highlighted findings that 21 longshoremen had been convicted of serious crimes such as armed robbery, possession with the intent to distribute drugs, drug dealing, firearms, sex offense, theft and assault. One worker had 10 convictions including drug dealing, firearms, robbery and car theft.

Land Line Magazine and Land Line Now followed the implementation of TWIC for years in order to give drivers a heads up on the new ID card’s rollout. We’ve also reported concerns by truckers and members of the United States House of Representatives about the program, which has racked up hundreds of millions of dollars in costs.

Some OOIDA members, including Carr have said they’re not asked to show their TWIC as close as 10 feet to port water.

In January, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the ending of a multi-million dollar border security initiative launched years ago by the last White House administration. Will TWIC, like all too many federal visions, follow a rainbow to no pot of gold?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Concern for Mr. Kato

Of the millions of people in Japan, I have one Japanese trucking friend there. I met him years ago at MATS, and naturally I’m concerned about his well-being. He sent me an e-mail about 30 hours after the earthquake and tsunami hit the island of Japan. He let me know that he and his family were OK.

His message, after going through an e-mail translator, was typical for him. He actually apologized for causing me great anxiety. Can you believe it? It must seem the world is caving in around him, and he has concerns about my feelings.

Actually, I had looked up his town in Japan, which was no easy task as his address looks like one of those computer links that stretch across a whole page. Anyway, I felt he was out of harm’s way living in southern Japan. From what I could tell watching this disaster unfold on TV, nearly from the start the worst of the damage was far to the north.

I met Mr. Takashi Kato at the 1995 Mid America Trucking Show. As most people know, MATS is an event that prides itself in attracting visitors from many foreign countries. My wife Geri and I were showing our truck for the first time at MATS.

It seemed like Mr. Kato along with his interpreter spent most of the three days going back and forth between our truck and a truck belonging to another OOIDA life member, Ron Baird. Ron’s truck was a best-of-show category truck; ours was more like a field filler. What our trucks did have in common that had Mr. Kato’s interest was they were both Peterbilts (Kato has a Peterbilt in Japan) and they both had western theme murals (good-looking Indians and ugly Cowboys).

On the Peterbilt website is a good article and photo of Kato. Click here to see it.

This led to an exchange of addresses, and we started to stay in touch – at first by faxes and then the Internet. When we made the Shell SuperRigs calendar for 1997, I sent him a copy. He replied immediately that he had to have 15 more. That really started it. From then on he was always asking where he could get parts and pieces for his American show truck and his business, BigRigCustom.com. I hooked him up with several chrome shops, suppliers, even my own Peterbilt dealer. I guess he drives the parts guy crazy. He showed me a fax once, and it said “Send me fifth wheel for my 378 Peterbilt, thank you very much,” signed Kato.

One time when he inquired about aluminum polish and waxes, I sent him Roger Fayman’s business card, the owner of California Custom Products. That simple act led to an ongoing business relationship that continues today.

Kato and I have met at MATS several times. He and a friend and translator were with us for three days last summer when they were on a 10-day trip here, taking in truck shows and visiting vendors and suppliers of custom truck stuff.

We hooked up at Las Vegas shows twice. At the time he and California Custom Products were so excited about their business plans they were talking about flying me and Geri to Japan. About then the Japanese economy hiccupped and I never heard any more.

Mr. Kato doesn’t like American food, and when we meet it’s always a Japanese steak house. I wonder if we had gone over there would he have been offended if I wanted to get a Whopper or some Colonel Sanders?

Now we are over three days into this disaster. I’ve been watching CNN and other news networks probably 10 hours a day. I gather that the worst is in the northern part of Japan, and a nuclear meltdown is the greatest current threat as I write this. I’m guessing the unaffected power plants are up and running and sending power to the stricken areas, hopefully getting some relief to all those people who are in dire need.

One thing I come away with is the Japanese people’s calmness, an acceptance of what’s happening to them. I haven’t seen any panic, craziness or looting. Ain’t that a new twist? Our hearts along with the rest of the world goes out to these people.