November 2 may not have been a happy night for Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi, but those who make their living in the trucking and transportation industries were almost as happy as Republicans when the votes where tallied.
Why? Because several state transportation-related initiatives were up for public consideration, and most of them were decided in favor of the industry.
The results were not particularly surprising, given the mood of the electorate.
Initiatives proposing new legislation to regulate the trucking industry? Not this time, said voters who believe companies should have fewer hindrances to expanding and hiring new workers in this stagnant economy.
A vehicle license fee increase? Rejected. While large trucks would have been excluded from this California proposition, no one in the cash-strapped Golden State was in any mood for paying more for anything. Voters also allowed the Anaheim City Council to pass legislation prohibiting red light cameras or any automated traffic enforcement system. Similar propositions also passed in Ohio and Houston, Texas. Take that, Big Brother!
However, transportation issues did not achieve a GOP-like sweep. Read the details of how voters decided on more than a dozen propositions and initiatives.
Overall, however, the results can be summed up this way – if it cost more money, it was probably going to be voted down. Increases of as little as one penny on state taxes received a chilly reception from the electorate, even when the funds would be spent on such non-partisan objectives as improving education and building parks. But people who are looking for work, or who are struggling to balance their own budget while the nation’s debt spirals out of control, had little patience for any government entity asking them for more money.
Every year, enormous decorated trees are unveiled in places like the White House and New York’s Rockefeller Center. To casual observers their appearance is just another part of the Christmas magic associated with the season. But behind the scenes it takes more than elves to get these mighty spruces to their destination.
The tree at the U.S. Capitol, like all of the nation’s most prominent Christmas trees, is delivered by truck. The 67-foot tall Englemann Spruce, weighing more than three tons, traveled to D.C. from Jackson Hole, Wyoming in the trailer of a semi owned by Jeff Underwood Trucking Inc.
The tree was chosen back in July – that much time was needed to make the necessary preparations for its transport. These included the building and graveling of roads to allow heavy equipment to reach the site, and the widening of roads so the Underwood truck could travel safely from Bridger-Teton National Forest. Initial loading was accomplished by driving the truck under the tree so it could be gently lowered, horizontally, into its bed, along with a sophisticated watering system that kept its needles green during the 21-day trip. Facebook and Twitter updates allowed people to follow the journey online.
The U.S. Capitol tree was officially lit on December 7. Meanwhile, back in Wyoming, 500 seedlings were planted as part of a carbon neutral program. And every part of the journey, from the fuel for the truck to the heavy equipment needed to cut down and transport the tree, was donated by various public and private organizations. Apparently, even Christmas trees are not immune from political scrutiny. If only Washington had watched the budget this closely when all that bailout money was being distributed.
Once again, the government has set its sights on the heavy-duty trucking industry, with the goal to make transportation more efficient, and reduce its impact on the environment.
This time the objective is new fuel-efficiency standards, set to become law by 2014 at the earliest. Before then, several details must be worked out, not the least of which is whether miles to the gallon is the most accurate way of measuring a truck’s efficiency.
For example, equipping a truck with a hybrid electric system would be beneficial in stop-and-go traffic or over rolling terrain, but would add useless weight to a tractor-trailer that cruises at 65 m.p.h. on flat terrain. Maximizing fuel economy could also mean equipping a full-size tractor-trailer differently, depending on whether it was hauling its maximum weight or a cargo limited by volume.
But sooner or later these issues will settled, and companies may have to start preparing themselves to improve on the 5-6 miles per gallon that many heavy trucks now average. For more information on these issues, in our article New Fuel Economy Standards by 2014? And if you print out a copy, make sure it’s on recycled paper.
This September, the United States honors truckers with National Truck Driver Appreciation Week (September 19-25). Canada has its own variation on the same theme with National Trucking Week (September 5-12).
The Canadian event pre-dates the one in the lower 48, and seems to be a more distinctive tribute to those who make their living in the trucking business. There are large newspaper stories promoting the event and special events across the country. Even the nation’s Prime Minister wrote a letter expressing his appreciation.
In America, Truck Driver Appreciation Week gets no more attention in the media than National Toad Hollow Week, National Bubble Blowers Week and Root Canal Awareness Week. Somehow, that doesn’t seem right.
How seriously do they take their trucker tributes in Canada? The event’s official website offers no less than 43 suggestions for “how companies can show their appreciation to drivers and other employees.”
Before reading our article on the two-nation celebration of the trucking industry, here are some of the ways in which they salute our brethren in the Great White North.
- Inviting employees to dinner at the home of an owner, manager or president.
- Putting all the drivers’ signatures on the side of a truck with a special message of thanks from the company.
- Having a company truck rodeo to showcase driver skills.
- Taking out an ad in the local newspaper to thank drivers for a job well done.
- Holding a car wash for employees’/drivers’ personal vehicles.
- Providing gift certificates for complimentary dinner for drivers on the road.
- Writing a letter to the editor of the local newspaper outlining the important contribution the trucking industry makes to the economy and community life.
- Giving a driver the chance to represent the company at an industry event.
- Creating a “Hall of Fame” for outstanding employees and drivers.
Arranging for flowers to be given to the spouses of drivers.