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Thursday, October 18, 2018

Longtime Truck Driver Reflects on Being a Woman on the Road

Article thanks to Deborah Lockridge and Links provided: 
Aug 27, 2018:  When Stephanie Klang’s then-husband taught her to drive a truck in 1980, allowing her to escape the poverty she grew up in, she never expected that one day her likeness would be one of four women drivers featured on a special CFI tractor.
This month, Joplin, Missouri-based truckload carrier CFI unveiled several custom-designed, large-format truck wraps. While four recognized the company’s military veterans, one was a “She Drives CFI” theme, honoring four of the company’s longest-tenured women drivers. The “She Drives CFI” truck will be a working rig, but will also attend events where it may especially resonate, such as a “Run Like a Girl” 5k race or a Girl Scouts or Women in Trucking event.  
The four professional CFI women drivers pictured on the “She Drives CFI” truck wrap are Stephanie Klang, Joplin, Missouri; Alisha Slaughter, El Paso, Texas; Tanya Lateyice, Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Jemcia Turner, Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Klang may be the most well known, having been one of the few women to be an America’s Road Team captain for the American Trucking Associations as well as through her work with the Women in Trucking organization. When Scott Darling was administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Administration, WIT organized an educational ride-along with Klang at the wheel.
With 3 million safe miles under her belt, Klang retired earlier this year to spend more time with her second husband and her cats, enjoying Zumba and yoga classes at the Y and some part-time work doing community outreach with CFI.

Trucking out of Poverty

“We have a happy home,” Klang said in an interview with HDT. “One of the reasons I got on the truck in the first place, I did not have a happy home life growing up – I wanted away. I was raised by a single mother on a welfare check, and she worked so hard to make ends meet. Back then in ‘70s, the welfare system just beat you down. I got a job as a high school student making $30 a month, and when social services found out about it, they reduced my mother’s check by $30.”
So she started driving team with her husband in 1980. The two changed jobs about every two years, until in 1987, “we came to CFI and I said, this was it.” Eventually she and her husband parted ways, and in 1995, he took his truck and left, while Klang stayed on and hit the road with her tomcat as a solo driver for CFI. “I traded my husband for a job,” she said, laughing in a CFI video. “It was a good choice.”
The best part about the transition? “I got to do everything my way,” she told HDT. “I loved the fact that I could sleep sitting still. Of course, if anything had to be done, I had to do it, but that was no trouble, if a trailer had to be cleaned up and boards pulled, I could do that. I did learn a lot more about pre trips and inspecting equipment. I chained up a few times. It was a small price to pay for getting to do everything my way.”
In 2006, she married another CFI driver, but they stayed in separate trucks, coordinating their time off at home. “People assumed we would drive team, and I was like, are you kidding me? I’m not sharing this living space!”
 Facing Sexual Harassment as a Female Truck Driver
As a woman driver, Klang admitted, she did face some sexual harassment, especially when she was younger.
“Some of it was bad, but it never crossed over to physical harassment; it was just words,” she said. “The way I dealt with it was I just acted like I didn’t hear them. They got no reaction.”
Klang recalls in her early 20s walking through warehouses to get to the shipping office to sign papers and enduring catcalls from the warehouse workers. “Then I’d go out to the truck and cry. But you get a tougher skin. I’ve never felt threatened physically. There’s been some stupid men out there. But I think you find stupid men in every field.”
Sometimes she’s had a smart comeback. Klang recalled the time she was driving down I-44 a few miles from home and heard some chatter on the CB as two trucks passed her, along the lines of, “I’d sure like to spend some time with that gal.”
“I couldn’t help it, sometimes I’m witty, and I got on the CB and said, ‘Just get off here and park at my house – I have a whole bunch of yard work to do and we’ll spend some time together!’ And they ran off like scalded dogs. The last thing I heard was, ‘Oh no, that sounds like living in mom’s house, no way.’”
When we asked Klang what about CFI makes it a good fit for women drivers, why she’s stayed with the company for so long, she talked about the same types of things that make fleets appealing to any driver. Back in 1987 when she started, they ran legal – no forcing drivers to falsify their logbooks. Reliable equipment keeps you rolling and earning. If you were doing a drop and hook and the trailer had a mechanical issue, she said, they would fix it right away. Good communication. She’s never had a paycheck screw-up in 31 years. “It’s a trucking company, so the miles go up and down, but there was a good average. And when you hit Joplin [CFI headquarters], the people are friendly.”
And, Clang said, CFI is a big supporter of the Women in Trucking association.
They must be doing something right, because out of CFI’s 2,000-driver workforce, 14% are women, which is well above the industry average. WIT/National Transportation Institute research found that women made up 7.89% of over-the-road drivers at the end of 2017.
Trucking has given Klang confidence and independence, helped her discover herself, gotten her out of poverty, paid for her home, and allowed her to help her family. In fact, she told HDT, she finds it pretty ironic that the little girl raised on a welfare check now has a financial advisor to help her invest her money wisely.
“The advice I would tell my younger self is not to sell yourself short,” Klang said. “To believe in myself more, to believe I’m more capable than I thought I was ... because I am.”
For more information about CFI career opportunities for women, visit here.

Friday, October 12, 2018

QOTD: The State of a Scarlet Letter?

Article thanks to Corey Lewis and Links provided:

Aug 22, 2018  The plate in question is the mustard yellow one seen above. It looks nothing like the other license plates of Ohio, and that’s because it’s only available to a particular type of criminal offender. Introduced back in 1967, Ohio’s OVI (Operating a Vehicle Impaired) plates were designed as a scarlet letter for those convicted of OVI offenses.
Though they create a way to identify offenders in everyday traffic, use of the plates remained fairly limited for decades. Plates were assigned individually, and only at the discretion of a judge. The state of Ohio took notice, deciding it wanted to see expanded use of the special plates, and on January 1st, 2014, it altered the OVI legislation. Plates became mandatory for OVI offenders on their second occurrence, and also in instances where an offender’s BAC was over two times the legal driving limit.
After the OVI conviction, a driver can apply for a restricted driver’s license that requires use of the yellow OVI plate, commonly called “party plates,” within the state. The standard time requirement for carrying the plates is six months to a year. Ohio is unique in this special plate usage. While two other states (Georgia and Minnesota) can add an additional letter to an OVI offender’s plate, Ohio is the only one with an entirely different OVI plate design.
Those in favor of the special plate argue the pressure and embarrassment achieved by its usage is a good deterrent for OVI offenders, who are very inclined to become repeat offenders. The plates identify drivers who need to be watched in traffic by other motorists and police.
Those against the plate argue they unfairly shame offenders for past crimes, make them a target for police on the road, and an outcast in the employee parking lot. The plate punishes repeat offenders the same as severe first-time offenders. There’s also some collateral damage, in the shaming of passengers in a car wearing OVI plates.
As mentioned, Ohio is out there on their own on this one — no other states have followed Ohio’s example in over 50 years. As a resident of Ohio, I’ve seen these plates in use on many occasions. They’re pretty noticeable. Are these special OVI plates something other states would do well to mimic, or is Ohio off the rails on this one?
Off to you, B&B.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Apology issued for Chicago bait truck

Article thanks to Tom Quimby and Links provided:
Score one for justice? Really?
Aug 19, 2018  Sting operations in Chicago designed to curtail rising cargo thefts took a big hit recently as Norfolk Southern Railway buckled under pressure, apologized for leading an undercover bait truck operation and vowed never to use the same tactic again.
That’s great news for cargo thieves including three men who were facing felony charges for breaking into the trailer of a truck that Norfolk had parked in Englewood, an impoverished suburb of the city where cargo heists have been an ongoing problem.
Theft charges for all three men were dropped following outcries of injustice from some notable mouthpieces including the American Civil Liberties Union and former head of the Chicago Police Board, Lori Lightfood, who’s currently running for mayor against embattled Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
When pressed for an explanation as to why the charges were dropped, a representative with the Cook County State Attorney’s Office told the Chicago Tribune that “it was in the interest of justice.”
The interest of justice? That’s an interesting take on justice. How about justice for all the victims that have been robbed and shot by criminals that gained access to dozens of firearms that were stolen last October from a rail car in Chicago? How about justice for truck drivers and companies that fall victim to cargo theft?
As it turns out, Chicago police were hoping that ‘Operation Trailer Trap’ would lead to more information concerning that theft of 104 firearms. After all, it didn’t take long for those guns to show up at crime scenes around the city which continues to generate more and more headlines reporting on deadly violence. Less than a dozen of those guns have been recovered.
But apparently politics trumps property rights and public safety. Between Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning, 23 people were shot, two fatally including a 26-year-old man in Englewood. The tragic irony here is that Chicago has some of the toughest anti-gun laws in the nation.
And it’s also soft on criminals at a time when people need tougher law enforcement the most.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Q&A: Finn Murphy, Truck Owner-Operator and Author of 'The Long Haul'

Article thanks to Jack Roberts and Links provided:
Aug 16, 2018  Finn Murphy has been around trucking and the moving van business since he was a teenager in Greenwich, Connecticut, in the 1970s. As soon as he was able, he was behind the wheel of a tractor-trailer relocating families all across the United States. He’s seen a lot of changes in his three decades behind the wheel. And a few years back, he decided to write a book about his experiences.
The Long Haul is the result of that decision, a gritty look at trucking and “bed bugging” that earned positive reviews from the New York Times and USA Today, among other publications. The book is partly a nostalgic memoir, partly a honest look at the hard lives truckers lead, and partly a commentary on a society and economy that either marginalize or ostracize the men and women that literally keep America rolling.
HDT recently caught up with Murphy in between trips to talk about his book, technology, and the state of trucking in the modern age.
HDT: What made you decide to write a book about your experiences as a trucker?
Murphy: It all started back in the 1980s. I carried this little cassette tape recorder around with me, and I started relaying interesting things that happened to me during the day as a kind of stress reliever. And then I started talking into it while I was driving. And eventually I was recording my interactions with shippers and my helpers. And one winter, I took a break and had all of these recordings transcribed. And I ended up with about 700 pages of stuff. And I started looking through it and realized I had a lot of good material for a book about life on the road. So I started writing.
HDT: When it was done and time to shop it around, was there interest in a mainstream book on trucking?
Murphy: I got an agent, and initially, he wasn’t interested. But after a lot of back and forth, I finally convinced him to shop it around. He pitched it to six different publishers – and they all wanted it! So that was nice. We finally went with Norton in New York. They put their top editor on the manuscript. Plus, they paid me in advance and set me up on a book tour. So it was nice.
HDT: What’s a book tour for a trucking book like?
Murphy: It was actually two book tours. We did the first one like you’d expect: Flying around the country, doing radio interviews and signing books. But then I had an idea: We covered my trailer with a vinyl wrap of my book cover and I went on a driving tour across the country for three months promoting the book in the usual way and at truck stops. And that was great because I got to talk to a lot of different people – but also more truck drivers.
HDT: After 30-plus years in this industry, what are your thoughts on where trucking has come from, and where it is today?
Murphy: Ah, man – that’s a huge question that we could talk about all day! But, the first thing I’d say is that trucking used to be a middle-class profession. That was the case when I started in 1980. And the industry was generally populated by men from the South and the Midwest who either grew up in towns with manufacturing jobs that didn’t pay very well, or on farms. In many cases, they grew up in trucking families. But they knew they didn’t want to work on a farm or in a factory and they saw trucking as a good way to support their families.
That’s one part of it. Then, things kind of get mythologized a bit. You had a two-tier industry in those days – regulated freight haulers, and unregulated ag haulers. And most of the ag haulers were owner-operators. So this trucking culture grew up based on those guys and the wildcat drivers in the 1940s and 1950s. They created this “Cowboy” myth of the American trucker. They hit the road, made decent money, supported their families and got to see the country.
Today, the average age of a long-haul driver is 55 years old. Very few young people want into trucking. To them, it just looks like a bad job. And the problem is, they’re right. Most truckers today make between $36,000 and $42,000 a year. Which is nothing. Moreover, most of them get paid by the mile. So they’re not getting paid waiting around truck stops for a load, waiting around a loading dock for freight, or when they’re sitting in traffic. All told, you’ve got drivers today who really work something like 3,000 to 4,000 hours a year. And when you break it down, that’s not even $15 an hour.
HDT: You’ve driven a lot of trucks in your career. What do you drive these days?
Murphy: I’m driving a new, 2018 Freightliner Cascadia Evolution with a 436-cubic-inch Detroit under the hood. I’ve got a double-loft sleeper, ‘fridge, microwave oven, Bluetooth – lots of little tweaks to make my life as comfortable as possible while I’m out. The Cascadia is a nice workhorse of a truck. If you’re a driver in business for yourself, it’s a great truck. Other companies build great trucks – they all do. But I’m not interested in paying for chrome and lights and things like that. I run household goods. So I’m usually running about 70,000 lbs. So I’m not super heavy. I do a lot of mountain driving, and that Detroit will take me right up those steep mountain grades at 55 mph without any trouble. I don’t speed. I don’t get paid by the mile, so I don’t need to. I haven’t had a ticket in 30 years.
HDT: What about fuel economy and safety features?
Murphy: I buy my own fuel. So fuel economy is important to me. My last truck got about 5.5 mpg. This Cascadia gets 7.7 mpg. So that’s a nice break. And I like all the safety features on the truck. Drivers don’t talk much about safety. But to tell the truth, I get scared out there a lot between sudden rainstorms, mountain grades, other cars and so forth. When I was on my book tour, I met this retired Walmart driver. He had 5 million accident-free miles. I asked him how he accomplished that. He said he always went slow and tried to anticipate what was going to happen around him, and what could go wrong if it did. I think that’s good advice for any driver.
HDT: What do you think about all the technology that’s coming into trucking now?
Murphy: I was talking to the safety director at the company I’m contracted to now, and he said that when the first GPS navigation systems came along, his drivers got lost three times more often than they did using a road atlas. And they got into more trouble too, going down one-way streets or getting caught in low overpasses – because they weren’t internalizing routes or really even paying attention. They were just following instructions. So technology can cut both ways, if you’re not careful. For me, those systems are incredibly valuable, because I go to private residences, and not just terminal to terminal.
HDT: What about autonomous vehicles – self-driving trucks?
Murphy: I talk to guys all the time who tell me it’ll never happen – or it’s 20 years down the way, or something. But I see Apple, Tesla, GM, Ford, Toyota and all these other companies spending billions of dollars and racing each other to be first with autonomous technology – there’s no it’s not going to happen. People don’t know it, but they’ve logged more than 22 million road miles on Class 8 trucks under autonomous control in this country already. So I think it’s imminent. I think we’ll start seeing the first models in under three years. I mean, we have 41,000 people killed in road accidents every year. And doesn’t include injuries and property damage. I think my grandkids will look back on us in amazement that we were allowed to drive automobiles and trucks. They will probably live in a world where it’s illegal to drive an automobile because they’re so dangerous. They’ll look at driving a car the way we look at driving a horse and buggy, or something.
HDT: What about electric trucks?
Murphy: I thought the Tesla Semi launch was pretty amusing. [Elon] Musk said he was directing that truck at owner-operators. And that’s hilarious: First, off they aren’t any owner-operators left. And among those that are still out there, who’s got $380,000 to buy a truck? And if you don’t have a fleet terminal to go to every night, where are you going to plug the thing in?
HDT: In your book I found your description of the little cliques and hierarchy that drivers have to be pretty interesting. For example, you’re a “bed bugger…”
Murphy: I was having a bit of fun with that. It’s not serious. But I get ribbed for being a “bed bugger,” and I’ll say that freight haulers just sit in truck stops and drink coffee all day. It’s fun. Humans in general have always sort of established hierarchies in groups. But if it’s 3 a.m. in the mountains and we’re on the side of the road thawing our brakes out with flares or trying to get chains on our tires, we’re all brothers.
HDT: Truck driver is the number one job in many states today. So many families depend on trucking for their livelihood, and the country depends on trucking to keep the economy going. And yet, truckers get no respect. Why do you think that is?
Murphy: Somebody said something the other day that really resonated with me: If you don’t like all these trucks crowding around you on the road, stop buying stuff! But you know, I wish people were more thoughtful about truck drivers. Every one of us represents the driving community out there. So if there’s a cowboy running loose out there, it reflects on all of us. But most of us aren’t like that. We’re just Americans with family lives, emotional lives and aspirations, just like anyone else. We want to be part of the economy. We’re not a bunch of crazy cowboys. We’re hard-working Americans doing a tough job – and many of us are making shit money for doing it.
HDT: What’s next for you?
Murphy: I’m writing another book. So that’s interesting. And I’m at home today in Colorado – but I’m out the door tomorrow; back out on the road on another trip.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Waste oil truck driver arrested for illegal dumping says he was following company orders
Article thanks to Tom Quimby and Links provided:
Aug, 2018  No one questions the arrest of used cooking oil truck driver Peter Rodriguez for illegal dumping.
The problem now is in determining what it was that he actually left behind on a vacant, tree-filled lot in Central Florida last week and if he was following company orders as he attests.
Last Tuesday, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office reported that Rodriguez, 50, was arrested for dumping 10,000 gallons of used cooking oil onto a corner lot in Davenport owned by Walgreens and Duke Energy, according to the Miami Herald.
Rodriguez, who was charged with two counts of felony commercial dumping, later told authorities that he didn’t dump cooking oil, but rather a worthless sludge-like substance that’s produced from processing used cooking oil.
He says that material came from his employer, Brownie’s Septic & Plumbing, which runs a used cooking oil refining plant in Orlando about 25 miles northeast of Davenport. Rodriguez said he was following company orders when he dumped the substance.
“The suspect stated that he knew it was wrong, but had to do it to keep his job and feed his family,” a Polk County Sheriff’s Office arrest report reads.
Representatives from Brownie’s visited the lot and told authorities that the substance there resembled used cooking oil.
“The representatives stated that it does not make sense because that’s how they make their money and referred to it as ‘liquid gold,’” the arrest report states.
Depending on how it’s processed, used cooking oil is used to produce biodiesel and renewable diesel. Rodriguez told authorities that he was paid to deliver used cooking oil to Brownie’s processing plant in Orlando. However, this time he said he had orders to dispose sludge from the plant. Rodriguez lives about two-and-a-half miles away from the lot.
Whatever the substance is, ACT Environmental is calling it Polk County’s largest waste spill. Polk’s Fire Rescue Hazmat team and the Florida Department of Environment Protection also responded to the scene which is across the street from a CVS pharmacy and a Publix supermarket.