Did you know there is an event called Truck Driver Appreciation Week, which was observed last month by the transportation industry? Started in 1998, this is the industry’s program to honor the 3.5 million men and women who safely transport nearly 75% of all freight moved across the US.
Most trucking companies plan a week of events for their drivers, including bonuses, gifts, drawings and food. They even make dispatchers talk nicely to them. Major truckstop chains pitch in with promotions, as do some customers. This is all done in an effort to let the trucker know how much they are appreciated.
Over-the-road trucking can be a thankless occupation so their own week is much deserved. In addition to regularly working 70 hours per week, the driver must be constantly aware of road hazards, such as guiding 72’ of machinery around a city like New York or down a snow-covered Donner Pass. There is also the constant threat of 4-wheelers doing something “dangerous” around them. A truck needs 40% more stop time than a car. Did you know that 80% of the car-truck crashes are determined to be the fault of the auto driver? Or that truck accidents have dropped 40% since 2005?
The life can be lonely – long stretches of driving and being away from home. Consider the logistics of something as simple as just finding a shower daily. Think about how your back felt after your last long trip and then consider that truckers do it every day.
A common truism in the transportation industry is termed “hurry up and wait.” With a limited number of daily hours to drive, and scheduled delivery times, there are traffic jams and long lines everywhere - toll booths, shipper’s gates, fuel islands, and even a place to park for the evening. You read that correctly, truckers even have issues finding a safe place to park for the evening.
Here’s something else I bet you didn’t know – the average age of a truck driver is now about 57. And truckers live, on average, 10 years less than the average American. If you think about that, you will understand, there is a problem looming. And it will affect you, as everything you purchase was hauled by a trucker. Somebody has to “drive them old trucks,” and as of now, it certainly isn’t the millennials doing it. By 2024 the shortage is estimated to be around 174,000 drivers.
Some other information about “Truckin’:
Women comprise 6% of the driving force. The first woman trucker was Luella Bates of Wisconsin, who drove from 1918-1922 for the Four Wheel Drive Auto Co during WWI. The first woman to earn a commercial driver’s license was Lillie Drennan of Texas in 1929. She and her husband started their own trucking company - she drove for 24 years without an accident!
Alexander Winton invented the first semi-truck-trailer in Cleveland in 1898. Well, technically, he invented a trailer he could hitch to one of his cars. He was a car manufacturer competing with Henry Ford, and needed a vehicle to deliver cars without putting miles on them. His first trailer carried one car.
Kenworth trucks was started in 1912 by Frederick Kent and Edgar Worthington when they bought the Gerlinger Motor Car Company, combined their names and introduced the Kenworth brand in 1923. Peterbilt was named after T.A. Peterman, a lumber industrialist who needed a way to move logs to lumber mills in 1939. Today both brands are owned by the Paccar Company of Renton WA.
By 1914 there were 25,000 trucks on the road. In 1915 registrations shot up to 99,000. By 1920 it had risen to 1,108,000. Roads were so bad or non-existent that trucks were limited to 15 miles per hour and mostly confined to city streets.
The largest trucking company in the world is UPS. The largest tractor-trailer over-the-road trucking company is Swift of Phoenix AZ. One out of every 10 people in the US work in the trucking industry.
Sean Connery, Elvis Presley, Charles Bronson, Chevy Chase, and Rock Hudson all were truckers before they became famous.
Trucking leads the way in environmental friendliness too. Since 1996, exhaust emissions of heavy trucks have plummeted 95 percent. It would take 60 of today’s clean-diesel trucks to generate the exhaust emissions of one truck from 1988!
And here is a mind-blower - the total yearly freight transported by trains can be moved by trucks in just 9 days!
Next time you see a trucker…give ‘em a hug!
I had the “opportunity” to stand in line to go through yet another security check at the airport the other day. I can’t help it, but I seethe during the entire process – I’d rather have a boil lanced from a sensitive spot on my body. Is there a more absurd procedure in life than wasting what time you have left on Earth standing in line to be searched, fondled, and yelled at by people who really would prefer you were not bothering them?
As we approached the checkpoint, a 20-something young man looked up from his podium with an unpleasant look on his face shouting for the approaching people to stay to the left of the wall. There was no sense of civility to the request – just a bellow by a kid towards a group of adults who pay his salary. After his outburst, he ducked his head down without further comment, retreating back into whatever miasma he wallows in. He deserved a spanking.
At the checkpoint, I was made to remove everything from my pockets, then my shoes and belt, while a rather ample young man shouted orders similar to a drill sergeant in boot camp. To date, I have been courteous enough to the general public not to just remove my pants and throw them in the tub in an effort to save us all time. It does require me to hold up my britches while traversing the metal detector though. What’s next, cavity searches?
Later, I started looking into a few facts concerning our TSA. It didn’t help my anger issues.
Formed in November of 2001 in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the TSA employs 60,000 security officers to annoy us, and we them, at a cost of $5.3 billion of tax money. (The total expenditure for TSA is over $7.3 billion.) This amounts to $88,333 per security worker, yet the people annoying us are paid a salary between $25,000 - $38,000. How does that math work? Seems like a ton of money for us to all be irritated, particularly after the horse had already left the barn on 9/11.
President Obama, who hasn’t walked through security in ages, magnanimously proposed tripling your $2.50 tax on your plane ticket to be earmarked for the TSA, as they believe they are overworked and need more money. Morale is evidently low. My experience has been that for every officer actually working, there are three more standing around with their finger in their ear. And, in spite of all this money being spent, last year, Security Director, Kelly Hoggan, was paid $181,500 - $91,000 of which was for bonuses (in $10,000 increments!) – to oversee this madhouse. Somebody had the good sense to fire the man so that he is now free to pursue a career in Congress.
Further proving the world has been turned upside down, in this age of political correctness that demands we not profile people, your 80-year-old grandmother in a wheel-chair and your 5-year old daughter holding a Minnie Mouse doll can, and has been, searched by a security guard wearing a hijab. I’ll leave that comment right there and let you think about it.
By the way ladies, your “junk” does appear on those full body scanners. It can, and has been saved for some folks to ogle. If you should overhear the phrase, “hotel papa” they are probably collectively focusing on your person. Oddly, I’ve never heard it mentioned around me!
CNN reported between 2010 and 2014 there were 30,621 cases of missing valuables for passengers going through a TSA check. I searched the internet for a more updated report on theft and was unable to find any numbers past 2014. Somehow, I doubt the theft ended in 2014.
Keep in mind, this process only applies to us, the great unwashed. Those “above” us, such as our elected officials, pro sports players, or Hollywood elites, fly privately where there are no security lines. At least the Hollywood bunch pays for their own fare, rather than on our dime like our government.
And finally, get this - Homeland Security revealed in 2015 that undercover investigators were able to smuggle banned items through checkpoints 95% of the time. Even if that preposterous number is over-inflated by 50%, how safe does that make you feel? It surely begs the question – why do we need to pay for the TSA so we hassle each other? Perhaps it is time to consider doing away with the TSA and privatizing this quagmire.
After all, aren’t WE the customer.
French historian Alexis De Tocqueville purportedly said, “"The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money."
My research was unable to prove definitively he actually said those words, although there is plenty of online liberal commentary that claims he didn’t say it and that the crux of the statement is incorrect.
For the purpose of my commentary today, surmise somebody said it and there is a large population in this country, me included, that believes it is happening right before our eyes…because we are paying for it. It’s done by directly using our tax money and/or driving up the price of products due to the governmental mishandling of money.
Seems like in society today, so many able-bodied people have a hand out. Nowhere, it seems, does self-reliance enter into some heads. Somebody or something did them wrong and they need to be compensated for their troubles. Below, I will list just a few examples out of the multitudes:
Let's look at natural disasters, i.e. hurricanes, flooding, mudslides, etc. According to NOAH, between 1980 and 2017, the US sustained 218 weather and climate disasters where overall costs exceeded $1 billion. The cost of these 218 events surpasses $1.2 trillion, and does not include the costs for Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. Much of that money is spent on first rescue and then for grants given to people who were not insured properly, or at all, so that they can rebuild or try to replace their property – mostly right in the same spot that was destroyed. And…it will be vulnerable next time around.
So, let’s walk through this. I live on the edge of an Illinois town next to a cornfield whereas Beau has a home on an ocean. (For the record, I don't know anybody named Beau) My view from the backyard is of a cornfield. Beau’s view for many years is of a tranquil ocean tide. Imagine the sunrises. He can also swim, boat, and fish in it – try that in a cornfield. Then, a hurricane hits, sending lots of rain my way. Now my view is of a wet, muddy cornfield. Beau’s home however is knocked down. FEMA races in to help and he then applies to the government for a grant for replacement because he bought so much house he didn’t have enough money for proper insurance. The government then uses money we all paid in taxes to help out Beau, who promptly rebuilds in the same place, but with a nicer, newer abode to watch the ocean tides. This goes on for every natural disaster. Think of the views for some of those California homes that slid to the bottom of the bluff. I can understand Beau (and us) getting burned (or flooded) once, and am all for helping people out in times of trouble and need, but to subsidize this situation repeatedly, or allow people to be under-insured, makes no sense.
As for an even more terrible tragedy, I’m sorry, but why did the relatives of the poor souls snuffed out at the World Trade Center receive money from the government? People tragically lose loved ones every day for a host of different reasons, and most do not receive, nor expect, government money. Seven billion dollars of our tax money was gifted to the relatives of those people who perished on 9/11. The average was $1.8 million per family - certainly not enough to replace a loved one, but still a sizable chunk of money. The theory was to keep people from suing the airlines. I don’t mean to be insensitive, just pragmatic. Had proper laws and/or sensible tort reform been in place, we taxpayers might not have been on the hook just to keep people from unfairly suing the airlines. What did the airlines or taxpayers do to cause the tragedy that we must now pay for? Are the families of the Las Vegas shootings eligible for government money, or does the fact they were country-western listeners preclude them from assistance?
Finally, let’s look at medical insurance. Frankly, my question is not whether we should replace Obamacare and/or with what. My question is, why is the government involved in healthcare at all? Where in the Bill of Rights was healthcare mentioned? May seem heartless, but this country went 234 years without universal healthcare. Now that this Socialist concept has been unleashed, the government will pay $42.6 billion for it this year, and it will only get more expensive. Perhaps Nancy should have read it before she pushed down our throats.
What about the money squandered on illegal aliens, civil unrest, or even unemployment insurance? The newspapers are full of companies looking for good, qualified people, and yet, the country has 4.2% unemployment. Most of those companies looking for employees offer health insurance too.
And yet, our roads and bridges are crumbling. We are $20 trillion in debt. (OK, I rounded…down!) That’s $168,861 per taxpayer. The clock does have a number for all US citizens, but the other 47% isn’t paying taxes anyway. In fact, the government pays them!
To quote President Reagan, “the problem is not that people are taxed too little, the problem is that government spends too much.”
A few weeks ago, some buddies and I got together for a motorcycle trip over to Starved Rock State Park. We had the time of our lives so I am sharing it with you.
Pictured left to right, is Gene Pope, Tracy Alvey, Todd Widholm, myself, Gary Markert, and Glenn Pope. This trip started out between myself, Tracy, and Gary. We had been talking about this ride for years, but since Tracy and Gary both live up near the Great Cheddar Curtain, the logistics of the ride could never be settled. Finally, we set a date to meet on a Saturday morning in Morris Illinois.
A few days before the ride, I asked Todd and Gene if they wanted to join, and Gene thought of his brother, Glenn. All of us were coming from different directions. Gene, Todd, and I agreed to meet at McDonald’s in Braidwood.
About 8:30 I took off from my house on my baby, a beautiful black Indian Chief Vintage. The route was northwest up Route 113. If you have never traveled this road, it’s a beautiful trek along the river. The critter-filled road winds along with the curves of the river and trees have grown up and over on both sides, shading the road along the way.
“Shading” was the focal word in that last paragraph. It was about 55 degrees at that time of the morning and the trees were actually hogging up the sun, making for a rather cool ride. When I got to McDonald’s there was one lone white Harley in the parking lot. Now, I have known Gene for 42 years, but would have never recognized him underneath all that leather…until he took his helmet off and grinned. Ten minutes later Todd showed up on his black Harley, dressed pretty much the same way, sans the chaps. Yes, Gene wore chaps. Jokes and giggles were exchanged.
We headed up to the truckstop just north of Interstate 80, which took us right through the old river town of Morris. There must have been 20 other bikes there, but we managed to find Tracy and Glenn’s Harley’s, as well as Gary’s BMW. And with that, the Ibuprofen Chapter of the Sons of Anarchy Motor Cycle Club (MC) were off.
We traveled south, making our second trip over the Morris Bridge on the Illinois River. Gene and I recalled as truck drivers back in the late ‘70’s the original bridge, built in 1934, had been arching, narrow, rough, and somewhat harrowing, particularly in a semi-truck. About 25 years too late, the bridge was replaced in 2002 with a 1,456-foot concrete span that was much safer, but had lost all its charm.
Just south of the bridge we turned west on DuPont Road. If you have lived in Illinois all your life and have never been on DuPont Road, you never would have guessed that such a road could exist in Illinois. Much like route 113, DuPont Road follows the river, but the curves are sharper, the trees are denser over the road, and there are actually hills – in Illinois! I swear during one particular hairpin curve I saw the rear end of my own bike - it seemed that sharp! The trees allow sunlight but only to lightly sprinkle on the road, making the road visually problematic at times.
Having never been to Starved Rock, I had no idea what to expect. The weather had turned spectacularly to a bright, crisp, warm autumn day. The park was busy but clean and well organized. We parked in the public lot and made our way up towards the main lodge. This would be a good time to point out the comedy of bones cracking and the back stretches going on by our little MC. In retrospect, somebody should have passed around an aspirin bottle.
There is a quaint Irish pub located on the edge of a bluff that we decided to have lunch. The place was packed and the food was good. A very pleasant surprise for a beanery located within a state park. From our vantage point we could see the fabled “Starved Rock.”
Formed by glacial melt-water, Starved Rock is a bluff that is situated along the south bank of the Illinois River. Surprisingly, the park contains 18 caves. Louis Jolliet and Jacques Marquette were the first Europeans recorded as exploring the region, and by 1683, the French had established Fort St. Louis overlooking the river.
Later after the French had moved on, according to legend, sometime in the 1760’s, Chief Pontiac of the Ottawa tribe, attended a tribal council meeting of the Illinois and the Pottawatomie Indians. Evidently, Chief Kinebo of the Illinois tribe stabbed Chief Pontiac. You just know it had to be over a woman! The Illinois then scrambled to shelter on the tallest bluff, where they were promptly surrounded by the other tribes. Fearful to come back down and fight, the remaining Illinois stayed up there until they died of starvation. Hence the name – Starved Rock. (Somewhere in that story one would think there has to be a good Big Ten story.)
Daniel Hitt purchased and developed the land for vacationers in the 1890’s. He built a hotel and developed the area commercially. It was purchased by the State of Illinois in 1911 as the state’s first recreational park, which is now considered the number one vacation spot in the state.
Deciding a trek up the steep bluff of Starved Rock would just be too easy for the grizzled bunch from our MC, so we opted to lumber back down to our bikes. After all, we reasoned, this was a biking trip, not a climbing excursion. We next visited the Middle East Conflicts Memorial Wall in Marseilles. It was an especially poignant stop for the Pope brothers, both Viet Nam vets. Ten granite slabs with the names of the fallen from the ongoing wars in the Middle East, sits peacefully along the Illinois River. It is well worth the stop on the way to Starved Rock.
From there it was a short trip over to Boondocks, a “biker” bar and grille near Seneca IL, also along the Illinois River. The last time there I estimated 200 bikes lined up, so it was mildly disappointing to find about half as many there on this trip. The attraction to me is the secondary outdoor bar near the river where a band is always playing. I have to admit; a gal was singing a pretty good rendition of “Me and Bobby McGee” when the boys pulled me away from the band to hit the road again.
From there, our MC headed back to Morris, where we would split up to go our separate ways. I got home just about dusk, weary but delighted from the excursion. It’s hard to explain to the non-rider the exhilaration of being part of a group of fellow bikers. There is also a special bond between a rider and his bike. From riding a serenity washes over you from being out on the open road, just you and your motorcycle, the feel and rush of the raw power of the bike, the guttural sound of your engine, and the open-air atmosphere of nature that all coalesces to create a peacefulness in your soul not found in other ventures. The dangers of motorcycle riding are known, and bikers accept them as part of the price to pursue that biker equanimity.
To a man, we all agreed it was a great day. A fine memory.
The morning of the Las Vegas massacre, I awoke about 5:45. The wife was still snoozing so I dared not turn on the television. I opened an Ipad and it was then I learned of the carnage. Two thoughts came to me immediately – our son lives in Vegas and he is a Jason Aldean fan. I stumbled out of bed lunging for a phone. It seemed the phone rang forever until finally a groggy “hello.” He was safe! Relief poured though me – our family was one of the fortunate again.
At just about the exact same time all that was happening, Hillary Clinton was also up and tweeting. To quote her verbatim: “The crowd fled at the sound of gunshots. Imagine the deaths if the shooter had a silencer, which the NRA wants to make easier to get. Our grief isn’t enough. We can and must put politics aside, stand up to the NRA, and work together to try to stop this from happening again.
Put politics aside, eh, Hillary? Although I have never fired an AR-15, it is my understanding a silencer does little to squelch the sound of that gun, making her initial statement blatantly false. It was her last sentence that contained the “meat” of her real intent, and the one for which she really wanted to broadcast, all grief concern aside. This would be a good time to go back and read it again.
If the NRA is the problem and gun control was the answer, then why are innocent people getting mowed down on a regular basis on the south and west sides of Chicago? Chicago has long had the toughest gun control laws in the country, and still makes it near impossible to buy legally. Children are getting killed as they sit on their porches, or watching television in their living room! Does Hillary think if she passes tougher gun controls that somehow the gangs are going to start obeying the laws? And where is Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, BLM, or the NAACP on helping to clean up the streets for those unfortunate folks?
What is next, banning automobiles? – they kill more people per year than guns. After that are we going after knives? In 2014, the latest statistics, 1,567 people were stabbed to death. Another 658 were beat to death and 89 victims were strangled – what are we going to do about the use of hands? How about spoons – I’m digging my own grave with a spoon and a pint of ice cream regularly. Should we ban spoons too?
But Hillary is not alone – Liberals came out of the woodwork, again, after the Vegas shooting. You see, with the Left-Leaners, it is not about guns…it is about control. Hillary said something nearly identical on October 1, 2015 after the Umpqua Community College shootings, making political hay while the gun was still warm. Everything about the liberal elites is about control. Control banks, control healthcare, control guns, control education…the list goes on and on. They think they can do it better than us. All this control requires more bureaucracy to govern and pretty soon, the people that are supposed to be working for us now control us. Pretty much describes my interpretation of Socialism. Oh, you say, this country would never go for something like Socialism. Yeah, well explain Bernie Sanders voters.
The right to bear arms is a 2nd Amendment Right. It was put there to protect me and you from the government - both our own and foreign. One of the very first items on the agenda of any self-respecting dictator is to remove the guns from the citizenry. Stalin, Hitler, Mao, and Castro are just a few examples, and the Left is content to ignore this historical fact, thus dooming us to repeating it.
Just the licensed hunters in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia comprise the largest standing army in the world...and they haven’t shot anybody. There are 13.7 million registered hunters in the US and 5 times more registered gun owners than hunters. For the numerically-challenged, that would be 68.5 million of us. Is it any wonder no other country will attack us?
If the Left were to be successful with doing away with the 2nd Amendment, the criminal element and foreign dictators are not going to comply, leaving the rest of us unprotected. And the absolute hypocrisy of it all…Hillary has around-the-clock armed bodyguards.
As Clint Eastwood said in the movie Dirty Harry, “I have a very strict policy on gun control. If there is a gun around, I want to be the one controlling it.”