Be Careful What You Wish For…

Be Careful What You Wish For…

By Sandy Long

We are hearing more and more that laws are being considered that enter into how one lives one’s private life. Starting with helmet and seatbelt laws, these commonly called ‘nanny laws’ have gone on to including smoking, guns, obesity and sugar containing foods among others.

Everyone has their own reasons for supporting or not supporting nanny laws. Perhaps someone has quit smoking or lost a loved one to lung cancer, so they firmly support non smoking laws. On the other hand, perhaps someone else doesn’t support non smoking bans because they are a smoker, which is after all still legal to do, and feel that it infringes on their rights to participate in a legal activity.

Many of these types of laws are supported by scientific data that is skewed to support what ever agency or focus group that pays for the data. People who are against ownership of guns have studies that say that guns kill X amount of people a day. In the studies supporting their claims they do not show how many are killed due to suicide, police actions or other types of shooting deaths; they put them all together.

Anti smoking groups took scientific studies about second hand smoke that were based on mice kept in a totally enclosed space with constant tobacco smoke 24/7 and extrapolated that out to show that second hand smoke affects people adversely. Smoking supporters have shown that, through their own studies, that people who inhale second hand smoke say for as long as it takes for them to eat a meal in a café then go outside are not affected by second hand smoke.

Many people are supporting laws governing obesity such as BMI and mandatory sleep apnea testing for commercial drivers. One person states, “I was tired all of the time. I spoke to my doctor and was sleep tested. Now that I use a C-PAP machine, I feel great. Therefore everyone should be sleep tested and the government should make them do so.”

Another person states that, “My taxes shouldn’t go to pay for people who are obese and have disabilities so cannot work due to being obese. I wish the government would set standards for people’s sizes.”

California’s actions show how supporting one cause can come back and bite the supporter. In California where pollution is high due to overpopulation in most of the state’s larger cities and due to topographic ways the land lays, the California CARB has instituted harsh laws enforcing clean air acts. While many supported these laws initially, it has since been found that the scientist who worked with CARB was not properly educated and cannot back up his so called studies with any data.

Yet, the people who initially supported CARB now are being required to go as far as having three way controlled thermostats put into their new buildings both private and public so that CARB can control how hot or cold one keeps one’s building along with many other prohibitive laws to the enjoyment of life by the people.

While it is normal to support causes or laws about one thing, where does one draw the line? Everyone has something they like or enjoy doing that someone else might object to. Gambling at casinos throughout the country is one example. Many enjoy going to the casino near them to play the games; some thinking that they are going to make their fortune. Many are on fixed incomes and cannot really afford to spend money foolishly to some and end up broke sooner in the month thereby perhaps needing more financial assistance from the taxpayers.

Yet little is heard about these folks from supporters of obesity laws perhaps because the supporter of obesity laws likes to go to the casino while both tap into the taxpayer’s money. If one supports the giving up of a freedom for one group of people, does it not follow that at some point it will affect another group of people as more and more nanny laws are put in place?

If one supports laws governing how fat one person is, how long before laws are passed that govern how warm you keep your house or how often you can go to the casino and then whether you can drive your car to the store or have to walk? When one discriminates against any person for their lifestyle, health, spending habits, mental capacity or whatever for any reason, it will eventually backfire in their faces at some point in the future when someone else takes issue with what the original person is doing and supports laws against it.

It is a viscous cycle of governmental control of the citizens of this country so be careful of what you wish for; you just might get it.

Debating the Issues

Debating the Issues

By Sandy Long

Debating various issues with people who have a differing opinion has always been a favorite hobby of mine; it is how I learn and grow as a person. While some might say that I am very opinionated and set in my ways, I always at some point consider the other person’s perspective and at times adjust my thinking on a subject. To say that I have learned many things from these types of debates is an understatement.

Many people like to debate issues; politics, religion, policy within a company, family matters and social situations come to mind. Everyone had an opinion on these types of things and most do not hesitate to state those opinions; some times heatedly. If a debate gets heated, does it mean that the people have no respect for each other? Not in most cases, it just means that they care deeply about a subject or are worried, in the case of just plain wrong thinking on the other person’s part that the wrong thinking person is being misled or does not understand the situation clearly perhaps due to inexperience or lack of knowledge.

At times, in debate, personalities enter in and this is where a very real problem comes in. When a debate gets heated, some quit debating the issue and attack the other debater personally or instead of debating the issue at all, just attacks. The flip side of this coin is when a person who is just stating their opinion is thought to be attacking the other personally when in reality they just want to debate the issue. This can lead to misunderstandings, hurt feelings and anger which is all counter productive.

Some people take this misconception to high levels and begins to attack other people, who may have a differing opinion, beyond personal and go after that person’s reputation, career or even in some extreme instances, life. This is the negative side to debate and totally unnecessary. If continued, the person who is the attacker loses credibility at the very least and in extreme cases can face criminal charges for slander and libel.

Debating is really very simple; here is an example:

Person A thinks that God is female. Person B thinks that God is male. Person A, who is a student of history states that the original creator was female in prehistoric times up to about 5,000 years ago when a more patriarchal society developed due to war and invasion. Person B quotes the Bible which always says that God is male. Both have valid points from their viewpoint. After the debate, where each states their arguments clearly, both agree that: 1. it doesn’t really matter what God’s gender is. 2. That God could be both genders or androgynous….or they both still think the same way, but respect the other’s opinion.

Debates on religion can become very heated at times; look at all the wars that have been waged in the name of religion and the debate of whose religion is best or right. Those are the clearly negative aspects of debating topics like religion.

A person’s experiences shape their opinions on various subjects. Here is an example of that type of debate:

Person A has been a respiratory therapist for over 20 years and is required by her/his job to take continuing education to stay up with current treatments. Person B has just graduated respiratory therapy school and is starting her/his first job. Person A thinks that person B doesn’t know anything because of lack of experience, while person B thinks that person A is not up on current procedures and treatments or is not fast enough due to age in doing her/his job.

Person A and B have to work together on a patient and afterwards talk about the treatment getting into a debate because person A did something that she/he had learned to do years ago and had found worked due to experience. Person B, after the discussion, thought about what person A had said and started using the technique her/his self making them a better therapist.

The dark side of this type of debate is when person B might think that person A was disrespecting her for her lack of experience and instead of debating the situation or knowledge, starts screaming at person A and starts running to the supervisor over everything person A does rightly or wrongly trying to cause person A trouble.

The internet world of today offers many possibilities for debate of issues in forums and groups. Much information is shared in this fashion, but the net offers people forums who would not necessarily find anyone to listen in times gone by. It also provides anonymity to users and posters who can use the net either in a positive way to exchange opinions and ideas/problems and find solutions; or in negative ways to try to damage other people who just have a different way of looking at things or who asks questions someone cannot answer due to lack of experience or knowledge.

One must remember that just because someone posts a differing opinion on a forum, it does not mean that they are saying that the other person is wrong, they just think about an issue differently and perhaps are trying to educate the other forum members to a different way of looking at things. As we saw in the first example about God’s gender, issues do not matter one way or another and are not worth shedding blood over or getting angry. As we saw in the second example, if one listens to someone else’s opinion, one can learn how to do something better or think of something differently due to the other’s experience if one does not take debate personally.

Debate remains one of my favorite things to do and I am sure that some will disagree with my assessment of it; that is fine with me. You are entitled to your opinion same as me, let’s debate the issue and perhaps one or both of us will modify our opinion at some point, just do not take anything I state as my opinion personally; I will still respect you as a person if not a friend even if we agree to disagree.

 

Junk Science

Junk Science

By Sandy Long

The definition of Junk Science is simple, from junk science.com; “Junk science” is faulty scientific data and analysis used to advance special and, often, hidden agendas. The people who might use junk science are:

 The MEDIA may use junk science for sensational headlines and programming. Some members of the media use junk science to advance their and their employers’ social and political agendas.

PERSONAL INJURY LAWYERS may use junk science to bamboozle juries into awarding huge verdicts. Large verdicts may then be used to extort even greater sums from deep-pocket businesses fearful of future jury verdicts.

SOCIAL ACTIVISTS, such as the “food police,” environmental extremists, and gun-control advocates, may use junk science to achieve social and political change.

GOVERNMENT REGULATORS may use junk science to expand their authority and to increase their budgets.

BUSINESSES may use junk science to bad-mouth competitors’ products or to make bogus claims about their own products.

POLITICIANS may use junk science to curry favor with special interest groups or to be “politically correct.”

INDIVIDUAL SCIENTISTS may use junk science to achieve fame and fortune.

INDIVIDUALS who are ill (real or imagined) may use junk science to blame others for causing their illness.

I remember when, as a rookie driver, someone did a big slanted study on drug use by truckers because of some major wreck at the time where the driver was either drunk or doped up. Because of this, the TV show 20/20 went out to Colton California to the old Waterman Street truck stop and did interviews of the drivers laid over there for the weekend.

Of course, truckers being truckers, many who were interviewed took advantage of being possibly on TV and told ‘trucker’s tales’ of how drivers all were handed big handfuls of speed when dispatched. Then the TV crew went over to Colorado Kids, a bar next to the truck stop, on Saturday night and filmed truckers who were partying. The TV show producer then edited this into the infamous “20/20 Killer Truck Driver” segment showing that truckers were all pill popping, drinking while driving killers of innocent people. Talk about sensationalism!

It does not stop there. Shortly after this segment and study, the government decided that seeing as how truckers were such dopers, that they should be pulled over for random roadside drug testing; yes, the pee in the bottle whenever told to law. Some companies even had these test kits in the trucks for the tests. OOIDA jumped into this fray and got it stopped, but this faulty science thought keeps sneaking into the government’s head. Within the last few years, there was talk about drawing blood during routine stops to check for drugs and alcohol.

Another media tactic using ‘junk science’ that is still fall out from that ‘20/20 segment’ is that of starting to call any accident concerning any size of truck; for instance, “Drunk Truck Driver Kills Five”. It is only in the last paragraph that one finds that it was a pick up truck involved in the wreck.

Accident statistics are another area that are often misquoted by the media and others who benefit from ‘junk science’. The number of fatalities involving semi trucks per year is around 5,000 people. Approximately 80% of those accidents were not caused by the truck driver, but were the fault of the other vehicle. The media rarely mentions the ‘who’s at fault’ part of the statistics, only concentrating on the semi trucks kill 5,000 people annually slant.

The above led, along with being given the right to advertise, to lawyers who started specializing in personal injury cases involving truckers. Billboards abound, the yellow pages are full, the web is covered with lawyers who’s main goal is to promote fear of truckers that are going to ’run over you’ but it is ok, the lawyer can get you millions of dollars in settlements if you hire them to take your case.

Another media focus is on prostitution at truck stops that further defames truckers. Some crime happens at a truck stop concerning a prostitute, the local media jumps in, has someone do some sort of statistical analysis about how many hookers are at truck stops (though I have no idea how they would come up with that figure), then write big stories about it. Of course, this only happens in big city truck stops and nothing is mentioned about how many hookers are working on the street corners down town. Next thing you know, the major media are covering undercover ‘sting’ operations to catch those nasty truck drivers who avail themselves of a prostitutes services making it seem that every trucker does this.

All of this ‘junk science’ has led to truckers being viewed not as the important part of the economy or as the public servants they are, but as terrible people who are only out to party, do drugs, chase lot lizards and kill you and your family in your car. The general public follows along believing in everything they read or hear from the media, not realizing that sensationalism sells and newspapers and TV shows are there to make money in one way or another. Add to that the fact that when an accident happens involving a semi truck, it is usually quite spectacular and you have the perfect start for more ‘junk science’ against trucks and truckers to be used by more groups for their benefit; surely not the trucker’s.

Border Patrol/Opening the Border?

Border Patrol/Opening the Border?

By Sandy Long

There is still a huge push to open our southern border with Mexico to unlimited crossings by Mexican trucks. The initial border program was stopped earlier this year, but Ray LaHood, Secretary of Transportation wants to open the border fully and thought to have this done by June. This did not come to pass as of yet, but it is still on the burner.

All of us who run along the borders have encountered border patrol check points and seen their vehicles running everywhere in the Border States. What are they doing one might ask and how would fully opening the border affect them and us?

A sampling of the news releases from the Customs and Border Patrol website for July:

July 23, 2009 A Border Patrol canine team working at the checkpoint on Highway 77 alerted to drugs at in a gray Chevy Silverado. An inspection of the vehicle revealed 59 bundles of marijuana, concealed behind lead sheets. 115.8 pounds of marijuana.

 Calexico, Calif. – U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers foiled three narcotics smuggling attempts worth close to $1 million during a 2-1/2-hour period yesterday afternoon at the Calexico downtown port of entry, officials announced.

July 20, 2009 Hidalgo, Texas – U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers working at Hidalgo/Reynosa International Bridge seized close to 207 pounds of cocaine with an estimated street value of close to $6.6 million, early Friday morning. July 17, 2009 Laredo, Texas –

On July 16, Border Patrol agents had a busy day with rescue efforts and narcotic seizures as the driving forces. Agents manning the Interstate 35 checkpoint performed an immigration inspection of the driver of a tractor-trailer. During the inspection, a Border Patrol canine team detected the possible presence of hidden people or contraband in the trailer. Agents searched the trailer and discovered a total of 32 undocumented migrants from El Salvador, Brazil, and Mexico locked inside. The driver of the tractor trailer was arrested for human smuggling charges and $12,500 was seized.

In moving from rescues to intercepting narcotics, agents assigned to the Laredo North Station made a large Marijuana seizure at the immigration checkpoint located on Interstate 35 north of Laredo. As they performed an immigration inspection on the driver of a tractor-trailer, a Border Patrol canine team detected the possible presence of hidden contraband or people. Agents searched the trailer and found 31 cellophane-wrapped bundles. The bundles contained marijuana with a total weight of 842.7 pounds.

July 16, 2009 Calexico, Calif. – U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Calexico cargo facility yesterday seized about 125 pounds of powder and crystal methamphetamine, worth an estimated $1,350,000. At approximately 10 a.m. July 15, a 24-year-old male Mexican citizen, and resident of Mexicali, drove an empty, refrigerated tractor-trailer up to the Calexico East port of entry, seeking to enter the United States.

CBP officers referred the truck for a gamma ray inspection, which revealed anomalies in the trailer’s front wall. When CBP officers screened the truck with a human/narcotics detection dog, the dog alerted to the same area of the truck. CBP officers searched the front wall of the trailer, and removed the coverings for the cooling unit. Underneath, they discovered a specially built compartment containing wrapped plastic packages. There were 26 packages containing almost 120 pounds of powdered methamphetamine and three packages containing about four and a half pounds of crystal methamphetamine, also known as “ice.”

During July alone, there were well over 20 incidences of the Border Patrol seizing drugs being smuggled into the USA. Along with those drug related busts, the Border Patrol also caught endangered species smugglers, weapons smugglers, sex offenders, identity thieves, counterfeiters of both materials and money, murder suspects and other criminals.

Opening the border fully to Mexican trucks will not only intensify the smuggling of people, drugs and other illegal things into the USA, but will stretch our Border Patrol too thin to continue to do their job as well as they have been doing. Allowing Mexican trucks to run freely in the USA is much more than about safety or even the possibility of lowering already low freight rates, if passed it is going to increase the ability for smuggling and this cannot be good for our economy or our families.

Contact your representatives in Washington D.C. and voice your concerns and also your appreciation of the good job the Border Patrol officers are doing.

For Senate members The Honorable (senator’s full name here) U.S. Senate Washington, DC 20510

For House of Representative members The Honorable (representative’s full name here) U.S. House of Representatives Washington, DC 20515

Phone number for Congress (202) 224-3121

More Than Just the Blues

More Than Just the Blues

By Sandy Long

The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) has added testing for depression to its medical survey of truck drivers. This follows along with the recent recommendation of the FMCSA Medical Review Board (MRB) that suggests American truck drivers be screened for depression and other mental illnesses as part of the medical qualification physicals. While the FMCSA has yet to act on the Board’s recommendations, it is most likely to do so sooner rather than later.

While everyone suffers from some level of occasional depression in their lives, perhaps a loved one dies, or a relationship is in trouble, these ‘blue’ days are not what are being talked about. What the ATA and the MRB is referring to is the debilitating type of depression caused by mental illness such as one being diagnosed as bi-polar or suffering from major depression that can radically affect ones job performance and safety. What is bi-polar or major depression?

From About.com: “Bipolar disorder causes dramatic mood swings—from overly “high” and/or irritable to sad and hopeless, and then back again, often with periods of normal mood in between. Severe changes in energy and behavior go along with these changes in mood. The periods of highs and lows are called episodes of mania and depression.” “Major depressive disorder is a mood disorder characterized by a depressed mood, a lack of interest in activities normally enjoyed, changes in weight and sleep, fatigue, feelings of worthlessness and guilt, difficulty concentrating and thoughts of death and suicide. If a person experiences the majority of these symptoms for longer than a two-week period, they may be diagnosed with major depressive disorder.”

Other types of mental illness can affect ones job and safety also. Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, often found in combat veterans or survivors of wrecks, crime or abuse, Panic Disorder, Anxiety Disorder and some Phobias to name the most common ones.

As recently as 30 years ago, having a mental illness carried a social stigma and many people would not go for treatment. Since then however, with the development of new treatment protocols and medications, this stigma has almost totally disappeared.

Most depressive disorders and stress disorders can be treated with medication and perhaps some talk therapy with a psychologist, psychiatrist, therapist or councilor. Many councilors will work with patients over the phone after an initial face to face visit and there are mental health clinics in most medium sized towns and hot lines available too.

Medication for mental illness is slightly more difficult to deal with as drivers. Many have side effects such as drowsiness and can cause stomach upset and a lessening of alertness. Also, some medications require adjusting as the time taking them lengthens so repeat visits to doctors are mandatory at specified times. Some side effects go away as medicine levels increase in ones body.

Because of the above, the ATA suggests, and I am sure that the FMCSA will, if they make checking for depression part of the physical, require a period of time where the driver is considered unfit to drive until the effects of the medication is known.

Many famous people suffer from mental illness; Van Gogh, Mozart, John F Kennedy to name a couple along with millions of other just plain folk who, with treatment, go on to lead normal productive lives. Truck drivers can function quite well having some mental illnesses such as bi-polarism or major depression; with treatment.

If you think you might be suffering some on-going depression in your life, or if you have major mood swings, get a jump on the regulations and talk to your family doctor first and if he/she agrees that you might have a mental illness, have them refer you to a mental health professional to start treatment before the regulations force you to do so.

Always remember, there is no shame in being mentally ill, only shame in today’s world for not getting treatment for it.

American Counseling Association 800-347-6647 www.counseling.org

National Mental Health Association 800-969-NMHA (6642)

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800-273-TALK (8255)

Is the Trucking Industry Set up to Fail?

Is the Trucking Industry set up to Fail?

By Sandy Long

Listening and reading about the Arrow fiasco and what caused it got me thinking about how the trucking industry does business these days. Is it set up to self destruct? While poor business practices and poorer moral choices led to the Arrow fiasco, just how much of it came from the way trucking has evolved in recent years.

Looking at trucking, it should be simple; a shipper has freight to move, they contract with a trucking company or owner operator who moves it, either the shipper or the receiver pays for the freight shipment costs; simple right? No, not these days.

Trucking companies use fuel cards that for the most part are like secured credit cards; they have to maintain enough money on those fuel cards each day to pay right then for the fuel they buy. That could be almost a million dollars a week for the largest companies with fuel prices high.

The larger shippers rarely contract directly to a trucking company, instead using brokers from in-house or outside brokerages. Freight rates have been stagnant for the last 20 years and in the last decade have actually fallen as competition for the little freight available has increased. Those rates are further lessened as brokers double and triple broker loads within, at times, their own companies or affiliates to retain as much money as possible for themselves. Then, instead of being paid when the freight is delivered or in a timely manner, freight bills are not paid on for up to 120+ days by the brokers, who have to wait to be paid by the shipper, leaving trucking companies in cash flow problems and making them rely on credit for cost of business monies.

With little or no regulations covering brokerages and brokers, it only takes one fraudulent one to really mess up the cash flow issues of a trucking company. Several years ago, at the small company I worked for then, one of my pay checks bounced. Calling the boss when I found out, I found that a check from a broker for $10,000.00 had bounced causing a domino effect thru the company. My company had no recourse because the brokerage had gone out of business and there were too many others in line for the $10,000 bond. The same people from the brokerage reopened under a new corporate name and it was business as usual until they did it again to their trucking companies.

If a 1500 truck company has cash flow problems due to non payment or timely payment of freight charges for the loads they hauled, where do they come up with the $250,000 needed for their weekly fuel bills much less payroll and other costs such as insurance and taxes? The banks have cut back on giving credit to companies who might have some issues facing them of monies already owed. Trucking companies do not print money and cannot spend money they do not have.

Looking at things logically, I wonder just how much of the way trucking has evolved has been done on purpose. According to Transport Topics, 450 fleets and/or small companies went out of business just in the 3rd quarter of 2009. Extrapolating that out over the year, that would be 1800 companies in the whole year; that is a lot of companies to close. Where did their contracts go? Perhaps to larger companies who swooped in to pick over the leavings I would think. Can you see the trend as I can?

A caller to a satellite radio show suggested that soon, there would only be a few major carriers and a few small companies to haul the higher risk freight. The caller’s comment fell in line with what I have thought for a decade or so. That we would soon all be working for mega carriers that would be under governmental control and most of the freight would ship by rail. In my opinion, trucking as we know it has been set up since deregulation to fail.

My thoughts are supported by current and recent events within the industry, the systematic destruction of trucking and truck driver’s images, the increase in overwhelming regulations and the continuing effort to open the southern border to allow foreign truckers to haul goods we use. While many might think me a conspiracy nut living on the fringe, people should take a look outside of the box and think about what and why things are happening the way they are; the writing is on the wall.