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Jon Osburn and OOIDA’s Tour Truck, the Spirit of the American Trucker, are at the ATHS National Convention and Antique Truck Show. That takes place at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, Iowa. Stop in, say hi to Jon, and join OOIDA for a $10 discount. See the full Spirit Schedule. Air date: May 25, 2017.

Land Line Now Blog

Remember who made you what you are

Sometimes, you just don’t know what will make people upset. And you never know who’s going to have some interesting insight to set the record straight.

A while back, we ran a story about how Love’s Truck Stops are adding hotels to some of their locations.

That report raised some ire among some truckers, who said that if the company had land available, it should add truck parking.

Scott Sargent, an OOIDA life member from Holmen, Wis., took a different view.

“One thing that we all need to remember is that trucks are not the only vehicles out here on the highway,” Scott said. “While we have a unique set of needs and circumstances that have to be filled for hours of service, many of these places, if you look at them, are not all truck stops, but travel centers.

“Recreational vehicles and just four-wheelers who happen to be traveling from one destination to another use these travel centers,” Scott continued. “If they were strictly truck stops, there would be no gas pumps at them – it would just be diesel islands.”

Scott’s point of view is valid, but a lot kinder than many in trucking toward other users of truck stops, or truck stops that cater too much to that crowd.

I cannot count the number of times that I’ve heard from people upset because an RV has taken up truck parking spaces, leaving truckers to the entrance ramps, shoulders, or wherever else they can find a place to just pull over.

But in the end, Scott has a point. This is a private business that is serving more than one group of customers. And just as truckers don’t like people telling them how to run their business, well, fair is fair.

“We need to remember that others of the motoring public are using these areas for refueling, for food,” Scott said. “And if there’s a hotel next to it, (those motorists) would be using the motel.”

We do need to give Love’s credit, however, for one important thing. They have added more truck parking in more locations this past year or two than virtually any other company.

Would I like to see more? Sure. But credit where credit is due.

What’s more, the Love’s locations often are more numerous while also being more geographically dispersed.

In plain English, I mean that they add a little parking and a stop here, another one up the road, another up the road from that. None amounts to a massive amount of parking, but it gives truckers more parking in more places, and therefore more chances to find a spot where they actually are.

While Love’s and other truck stops expand, however, they should also remember who the customers are who made their businesses possible.

Hint: It’s not RVers. It’s truckers.

Yes, they have every right to serve those RVs and cars, but if it weren’t for truckers, they’d be a completely different type of operation; I believe it’s called a “convenience store.”

I suspect those are not as profitable, or these companies would not continue to build truck stops.

Many of them do remember, and do their best by their customers. Many more need to do a better job.

Sweet dreams are (not) made of these …

Apnea, if you aren’t familiar with the term, is a Greek word that literally means “without breath.”

A week ago, I went to an area hospital to have a sleep study done. I went kicking and screaming. It wasn’t that I didn’t think I might have a sleep disorder; it had more to do with the thought of strapping some terrible mask to my face every night at bedtime.

Sleep apnea is not just a trucker’s issue. It occurs in all age groups and both sexes. I didn’t think I fit the profile. I work out with weights and I run. I’m not super skinny, but I’m certainly not overweight, and I don’t have a large neck. Unfortunately, doctors and clinics in the past have used those criteria alone to order testing for truck drivers.

The tests can be pricey without insurance, but you can do a self-evaluation to assess the possibility that you might have a problem. The Harvard School of Medicine makes one available online.

I have always enjoyed my sleep. I have listed it as a hobby on questionnaires. Twelve hours on a Friday or a Saturday was not uncommon. I was in bed by 10 p.m. and up by 9 a.m., and this was usually followed by a midday two-hour nap. I told myself I was catching up from the week. I was formerly a morning radio personality who was at work by 4 a.m. (I don’t miss that schedule).

Yeah, I knew something was wrong, but the prospect of that damn mask and machine made me ignore the obvious symptoms: excessive daytime sleepiness, memory and concentration problems, morning headaches, etc.

My husband had been nagging me to be tested, but I ignored his pleas. It was my stupid Fitbit that sold me out.

My new Fitbit that I received at Christmas, the thing that counted my steps each day also tracked my sleep. Instead of showing periods of deep restorative sleep, it showed quite the opposite. I was getting little to no deep sleep but experienced a night of restlessness and being awake. No wonder I struggled to keep my eyes open during the day.

I checked into the sleep center at 8 o’clock on a Sunday night and – after signing a few papers – in came the nurse with all these wires. She proceeded to glue these things to my legs, my arms my face and chest and all over the top of my head. The question I asked her was, “You really expect me to sleep tethered to all this”?

Well, yes they did, and yes I did – I slept, or at least I thought I was sleeping.

Sleep apnea is measured by the number of “events,” as they call them, that happen in an hour. Anything under five is considered none or minimal, and anything over 30 is considered severe.

 Lucky me – I had more than 30 events where I wasn’t getting enough oxygen.

So sometime around 1 a.m., in walked Nurse Ratched. Actually, she was a wonderful woman named Sheila, but she carried with her a variety of contraptions for me to try on. She told me the next morning that if looks could kill she’d have been dead when she walked into the room with those masks and tubes.

I tried on two masks. Neither was a full-face mask, but I settled on the second one with nasal pillows. When she first put it on my face, I thought there was no way in Hell I was going to be able to sleep like this. But not only did I sleep, it was the best sleep I had had since – well, since I can’t remember.

They told me I suffered from a combination of sleep apnea and hypopnea. Hypopnea isn’t so much not breathing, but breathing that is so shallow that you’re still not getting enough oxygen.

I forgot how good I could feel after a good night’s sleep. I wish I hadn’t ignored my husband’s insistence all these years. But let’s keep that between us.

Just because it’s true doesn’t mean you’re right

Not long ago I posted a link on the ROSES & RAZZBERRIES Facebook page featuring a lawyer – yes, another one – who created a video that I thought was rather disparaging to the trucking industry. In case you missed it, here was the headline alone:

“Trucking Companies Leave a Blood Trail in their Wake”

Classy, huh?

I wasn’t surprised at all when the post generated a ton of conversation in the comments. What I was surprised by was the number of truckers who were defending this guy, or at least were not offended by what he had to say. “How can this be?” I thought. “The guy writes about truckers and a trail of blood, and truckers are OK with this?”

Well, the truth is that almost all of the folks who responded were most decidedly NOT okay with the way this guy presented his message. It was one-sided, biased and misleading, to say the least. However, as many folks pointed out, there was some truth to what he was saying.

He was flat out wrong, of course, when he implied that all trucks were rolling down the highways “at speeds of 80 miles per hour or more.” Come on. Most trucks operate in areas where the traffic alone is enough to prevent that from happening.  He also misrepresents driver fatigue as being a much bigger problem than it really is.

And of course he made the classic mistake that everyone who isn’t in trucking makes in failing to account for the fact that in the majority of accidents involving trucks, it’s not the truck driver who’s at fault. Never mentioned that once. So for those things and the sensationalist tone the RAZZBERRIES were more than warranted.

As for the truth in his rant, well, he did point out that “many employers are encouraging drivers to work beyond the legally-set time limits, or to forgo their 10-hour restart period in exchange for financial rewards.” In other words, driver coercion. Something those in the trucking industry know all too well, which is seldom mentioned by those on the outside. Good on him for recognizing that. And good for everyone in the comments who pointed that out.

That having been said, his message wasn’t a very effective one, at least as far as truckers are concerned. I’m sure it scared the bejeezus out of enough other drivers, though, that he’ll get a phone call or two and maybe a fat settlement out of the deal. And after all, for guys like this isn’t that what it’s really all about?

Falling on deaf ears

“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” - Ernest Hemingway

The FMCSA seems to have a hearing problem. Or, more to the point, a listening problem.

Take, for example, the May 9th public forum on Electronic Logging Devices. It’s already booked to capacity. No room at the inn. There are so many people wanting to speak at this thing you’d think the remaining Beatles were reuniting.

The last time FMCSA officials appeared in public to talk about ELDs was at MATS. And again they were overwhelmed with truck drivers who wanted to speak their minds and talk about how bad this ELD mandate will be for their businesses.

Drivers aren’t the only ones who are concerned. We’ve been hearing from law enforcement officials across the country (most recently at the spring CVSA conference) that they are in no way ready to enforce this mandate. They have been given little – if any – guidance from the FMCSA on exactly how to enforce it, how the technology works, how they are supposed to use it, etc.

And yet in spite of this concern from the two groups who will see the most direct impact from this disaster waiting to happen, the FMCSA has shown little interest in listening to anyone outside of the people manufacturing the ELDs themselves.

Think about it. The MATS event was designed not to listen, but to tell. Ostensibly it was created to educate truck drivers on what they need to know to be compliant with the mandate – not to get driver feedback on whether or not the mandate was any good (hint: it isn’t). The May 9 event is designed to hear from manufacturers of ELDs about the technical specifications of these amazing devices that will surely save us all.

But the fact is there are so many lingering questions that nobody has bothered to answer just months away from the deadline – even though that deadline has been known since the mandate went into effect in December of 2015. That’s two whole years to answer all of these questions and yet here we are closing in on 7 months out and nobody is ready. Not law enforcement. Not truckers. Maybe not even the manufacturers.

So remind me again – why are we moving ahead with this thing? I know it was a mandate from Congress and not the FMCSA. And it may just be my imagination but judging by their lackluster response it almost seems to me as if the FMCSA isn’t all that excited about carrying it out either. But carry it out they must, and that means at the very least they need to open their collective ears and listen.

Those voices are getting too loud to ignore any longer.

Remembering when manufacturers put the driver first

Few things matter to truckers quite as much as their seats.

It’s not as much of an issue these days. For years now, advanced seat technology has made them far more comfortable and better for backs.

But back in the day, as one trucker once said, seats were little better than “leather stretched over a peach crate,” and with the shaking common in those older trucks, the backs of many a driver were in very bad shape.

Murry Syfert isn’t quite old enough to remember the truly bad seats. But truckers his age have seen a lot of changes. And the OOIDA life member of Coweta, Okla., values having a good place to drive from.

Specifically, four years ago, Murry bought one of the new Bose seats.

If the name Bose is familiar, then you’re probably an audiophile. In fact, it is the same company renowned for producing some of the best speakers in the business.

Their truck seat uses the famed audio company’s noise-cancellation technology to attack and counteract the vibrations in a truck, so the driver has an incredibly smooth ride.

Syfert, who does heavy haul, says he’s “very pleased” with the seat and also pleased with the company, including the service they provided.

“Any problems I’ve had, they’ve been willing to take care of it no charge,” Murray added.

The Bose system came out several years ago, and it was part of a wave of driver comfort improvements that sprang up around the same time.

Over the space of a few years, we had seen massive improvements in sleeper berths; better seats; APU systems to provide the same climate control and comfort key off that you have key on; shore power expanding its reach; and even better suspensions designed to make the ride easier for the driver.

The trend was encouraging, because it recognized the special place the driver should have – and so often isn’t credited for – in trucking.

This past year, I saw far less of that.

Suddenly, everyone isn’t talking about cab comfort. Instead, the talk is mostly about automation – a system ultimately designed to eliminate the driver. Not right away, mind you, but in the end that is the goal.

I heard a lot more talk about what fleets need, and less about what drivers need. As I heard more and more of that talk, I began to feel that something was lost.

In a day when everyone seems against the truck drivers, it’s nice to know that someone, or some company, puts them first.

I remember the demonstrations of the Bose seats at the Mid-America Trucking Show, which they offered over several years. Our own Reed Black sat on a Bose seat while they put it on a giant vibrating platform. He hardly moved at all.

I remember walking into sleepers so large that they really qualified as an RV – complete with shower and working toilet, and a real, adult-size bed.

I hope that what I observed this past year was an aberration, a one-year phenomenon that will pass, giving way to new innovations benefiting the drivers.

I’m not holding my breath, but you can hope. Because the Murry Syferts of the world – the people moving everything our country needs – deserve all the comfort they can get.

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