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We’re all just passing through, and it’s easy to be more than just a face in the crowd



A couple of Saturdays ago, I had nothing to do and all day to do it, so I decided to go out to the nearby truck stop where we look for people to interview.

Usually, when I go to the truck stop the trip is very purposeful. I show up with my camera around my neck, notepad and digital recorder in hand, and try to find a truck driver who’s in the right frame of mind to chew the fat for a few minutes – and that’s not a dig at truck stop food. We talk, I snap a couple of photos, and I’m off.

This time, I thought, I’m going to do something I’ve always thought about doing. I want to take my time, just hang out, spend a couple of hours and just observe. I mean, who spends that much time at a truck stop, other than truckers or the people who work there?

So, I plopped myself down at a centrally located small table near the restrooms and doodled in my notepad while watching the people go by.

As I sat for a while watching the free-form parade pass left and right, the prevailing impression that came over me was what an anonymous experience the truck stop can be. People come through, do whatever they are there to do and pay little attention to anything or anyone else. I’d sat there for a couple hours, hadn’t spoken to anyone and no one had spoken to me. I noticed that a couple of the employees had noticed me, but I got the impression that my just sitting there might be a little confusing, a little unusual, but since I wasn’t causing any trouble, they had figured, “OK, let him sit.”

I started to play a game – guess who’s a trucker and who’s a four-wheeler. Some were obvious. The white-haired little old lady in the shiny purple Disney jacket making a beeline for the restroom, I’m pretty sure she’s travelling by car.

Truck drivers come on all shapes, sizes, and styles, but I have picked up some pretty certain tip-offs. Anybody at the truck stop wearing a headset, even if it’s around their neck – almost for sure a trucker. If they’re lugging a duffel bag full of laundry, that’s another safe bet.

I’ve also noticed more often, anyone wearing flip-flops or Crocs in the dead of winter – for some reason that seems to be a fashion trend among drivers, stretched-out socks optional. Why do I see more and more drivers at the truck stop not wearing grownup shoes? I must look into that sometime.

Let’s look at the bright side, at least they haven’t adopted the pajamas-in-public look. Clomping around in sweats is bad enough. Seinfeld said it best, that’s a look that says, “I give up; I might as well be comfortable.”

Eventually, an employee parked a utility cart outside the men’s room, temporarily closing it for maintenance. A minute later, a would-be patron decided to wait it out and to put the time to good use helping his fellow man.

Every few moments, another guy would approach, and when stopped by the utility cart barricade, his body language would express mild panic and confusion, as though the realization the men’s room was closed had snapped them out of a trance.

Every time, the man who was waiting would say, “it’s closed,” as though his soothing words were there to help ease the others on their jolting transition back into reality. Some would simply sink back into their comfortable private stupor and trudge off in a different direction. A few acted as though they were personally offended by the inconvenience.

Finally, one guy saw the cart, and when the first guy offered the complimentary, “it’s closed” confirmation, just smiled and decided to wait it out, too. The two immediately started comparing their trips. One of them had started in Joplin and was headed to Charleston. The other was on his way to Houston from Indiana. They talked about the weather they’d encountered. The driver from Indiana won; his weather had been worse.

The two men chatted and chuckled for two or three minutes. Then the restroom reopened, and the conversation ended as quickly as it had started. The second man headed into the facilities. Oddly, the man who’d been waiting longer did not. He went off in a different direction.

I didn’t even notice that until I replayed it in my head. Come to think of it, the two guys never introduced themselves to one another, and there was nothing in their clothes or their conversation that indicated whether either of them was a truck driver or just a guy on a road trip. Plainly, they’d never met, and I’d be willing to bet by the time this is published, they might not be able to pick each other out of a lineup if they were asked to. But for a couple minutes, they made their trips and each other’s trips a little more enjoyable.

Maybe it was just the setting that lent to the symbolism I was reading into it, there at the truck stop, a place designed for people’s paths to intersect but not necessarily connect.  it was such a perfect example of how easily it is to pass through life anonymously, and how easy it is not to.

I decided I wasn’t going to snag any interviews just sitting there, so I got up and started pulling out my equipment. Just then a woman walked by. I noticed the blinking headset draped around her neck.

“Excuse me, are you a truck driver?”

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Minnesota legislative panel debates Walz 70 percent gas tax hike plan



Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz says the gas tax increase is needed to provide a stable, long-term revenue stream for transportation projects. (©2019 FOTOSEARCH)

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota Legislature began work in earnest Thursday on Gov. Tim Walz’s transportation plan, including his hotly disputed proposal to raise the state’s gasoline tax by 70 percent.

A House transportation committee gave the Democratic governor’s plan its first hearing. Supporters then rallied in the Capitol rotunda, where they heard key lawmakers and Walz urge the Legislature to approve the package. Altogether it calls for $77 million in new spending on roads, bridges and public transit for the two-year budget that takes effect July 1.

“There is no reason that Minnesota can’t have nice things,” Walz said. “And those nice things improve lives.”

Walz said the only obstacle “is the political will inside this building,” a reference to the strong Republican opposition to raising the gas tax by 20 cents a gallon from its current 28.6 cents per gallon. GOP leaders say there’s no need given the state’s $1 billion budget surplus.

Rep. Paul Torkelson, of St. James, the lead Republican on the transportation committee, said during the hearing that they all understand the need for increased investments in transportation — their differences are on what resources to tap for those investments.

But Walz says the gas tax increase is needed to provide a stable, long-term revenue stream for transportation projects.

“This is not a choice between raising the gas tax or not raising the gas tax,” the governor told the rally, which was heavy on public transit supporters. “This is a choice about having a robust, multi-modal, safe transportation system or having potholes that your children can drown in.”

Walz has been targeting Senate Republicans who represent districts he carried in the November elections. He touted his plan at a railroad crossing in Anoka on Tuesday that’s been dubbed the most dangerous in the state but made a political misstep in the process.

The senator who represents the area, Jim Abeler, didn’t get an invitation until shortly before the event. Abeler has sent mixed signals since then about whether he would support even a smaller gas tax increase. Given that Abeler broke ranks with fellow Republicans to override GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s veto of the state’s last gas tax increase in 2008, he’s the kind of Republican that Walz needs to cultivate.

The governor told reporters he’s going to keep reaching out to Republicans.

“I’m going out to try to make the case to them, come to the table and talk to me about this,” he said. Let’s start to have the conversation.”


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Ohio Senate proposes 6-cent increase to state gas tax



Republican Gov. Mike DeWine proposes raising Ohio's current tax of 28 cents per gallon on gas by 18 cents beginning July 1, and adjusting it annually for inflation. The tax on diesel fuel under his plan also would go up by 18 cents. (The Trucker file photo)

COLUMBUS, Ohio  — The Ohio Senate on Thursday voted in favor of a proposal to increase the state’s gas tax by 6 cents a gallon, down from the House’s planned increase of 10.7 cents a gallon and well below the governor’s proposed 18-cents a gallon to maintain roads and bridges.

The Senate’s transportation committee unveiled its tax plan Thursday for an increase of 6 cents a gallon for gas and for diesel fuel in a substitute version of Ohio’s transportation budget that passed the committee 6-5. The full Senate voted 24-to-6 later in the day to approve the bill. It now heads back to the House for almost certain rejection, which would call for a House-Senate conference committee to convene for an attempt at a compromise.

Republican Gov. Mike DeWine proposes raising Ohio’s current tax of 28 cents per gallon on gas by 18 cents beginning July 1, and adjusting it annually for inflation. The tax on diesel fuel under his plan also would go up by 18 cents.

The House proposes an increase of 10.7 cents a gallon over three years beginning Oct. 1. The House proposal would increase the current 28-cents-per-gallon diesel-fuel tax by 20 cents a gallon, with that increase also phased in over a three-year period.

The House plan, which would not index the increase to inflation, would raise about $872 million per year, compared with about $1.2 billion from DeWine’s plan. The Senate proposal, which also does not set the tax to automatically rise with inflation, would raise about $400 million per year.

DeWine, who has already said that the increase proposed by the House wasn’t enough, said again Wednesday that his proposal was the “bare minimum” to keep up with needed repairs of poorly rated bridges, dangerous intersections and some new construction. A message seeking comment on Thursday’s vote was left with a spokesman for DeWine.

House GOP members had indicated their plan would lessen the impact of a tax increase on consumers while still meeting road-maintenance needs. Republican Rep. Scott Oelslager, chairman of the House Finance Committee, has described the House plan as a “more equitable” distribution of the tax burden.

Senate Transportation Chairman Rob McColley voted against the Senate version Thursday because it doesn’t contain a corresponding tax cut to off-set the 6-cent increase. McColley said, however, that he was comfortable after an “extensive analysis” that the 6-cent proposal is enough to fund existing road maintenance with some extra construction on top.

“Our policy, number one, should be taking care of existing roads and bridges, and this budget definitely does that,” said McColley, a Republican from Napoleon in northwestern Ohio.

The Senate committee’s proposed transportation budget also would reinstate the requirement for Ohioans to have both front and back license plates on their vehicles. The House has proposed eliminating the front license.

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L.A. tops list of metro areas with most aggressive drivers



Cars and trucks choke the San Diego Freeway in both directions during the afternoon rush hour in Los Angeles near an interchange. Los Angeles has the most aggressive drivers in the United States, according to a study published by GasBuddy. (©2019 FOTOSEARCH)

BOSTON — Honking, squeaking brakes and bumper-to-bumper traffic are common problems in many of America’s congested cities.

Frustrated drivers can get agitated quickly, and their aggressive driving habits like speeding, rapid acceleration and braking can lower gas mileage by as much as 40 percent, costing them as much as $477 per year in additional fuel consumption.

GasBuddy has revealed the major metropolitan areas in the United States with the most aggressive drivers, causing them to pay more for gasoline by making more frequent trips to the pump.

GasBuddy compiled data from its Drives feature in the GasBuddy app, examining the top 30        metropolitan areas by population as defined by the United States Census Bureau from November 2018-February 2019, noting the frequency of an aggressive event while driving, whether it be speeding, hard braking or accelerating.

The top 10 cities with the most aggressive drivers included:

  1. Los Angeles
  2. Philadelphia
  3. Sacramento, California
  4. Atlanta
  5. San Francisco
  6. San Diego
  7. Orlando, Florida.
  8. Detroit
  9. Austin, Texas
  10. Las Vegas

Los Angeles consistently tops the list of having some of the most expensive gas prices in the nation, currently averaging $3.35 per gallon. Combined with traffic and congestion, the GasBuddy Aggressive Driving study revealed that the way Los Angeles motorists are driving is also contributing to a larger gasoline budget. And it doesn’t stop with Los Angeles: four of the top 10 cities with the most aggressive drivers are in California, including Sacramento, San Francisco and San Diego.

“Frustration while driving in densely populated cities with high levels of congestion leads motorists to drive more aggressively and with more urgency. Interestingly, these are areas that typically see some of the highest gas prices in their respective states,” said Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy. “With drivers in Los Angeles, Philadelphia,

Sacramento and Atlanta being 20 percent more aggressive than the average driver in America, it’s particularly important for commuters and rideshare drivers in these areas to work on shedding their lead foot and relax more to keep money from flying out the window each time they hit the road.”

Last year GasBuddy’s Aggressive Driving Study examined the states with the most aggressive drivers. Seven of the top 10 cities with the most aggressive drivers from this year’s study are within the top 10 states with the most aggressive drivers, including California, Georgia, Texas and Florida.

Additional findings include:

  • Frustrating Fridays. Motorists are 1.2 times more likely to encounter aggressive driving on Friday than on Wednesday. The most aggressive day on the road is Friday, with 14 percent more aggressive driving events occurring compared to the average across the United States. The least aggressive day on the road is Wednesday, with 6 percent fewer aggressive driving events occurring compared to the average across the United States.
  • Wearing Out the Brakes (All Week). The most frequent aggressive driving habit on weekdays is hard braking, followed by rapid acceleration and speeding. On weekends, the most frequent aggressive driving habit continues to be hard braking, followed by speeding and rapid acceleration.

San Diego’s Need for Speed. While cities like Los Angeles and Philadelphia take the top spots in regards to hard braking and rapid acceleration, San Diego, Orlando and Detroit take the top three spots for cities with the most speeding incidents.

GasBuddy is a company that connects drivers with the company’s Perfect Pit Stop. As a source for crowdsourced, real-time fuel prices at more than 150,000 gas station convenience stores in the U.S., Canada and Australia, millions of drivers use the GasBuddy app and website every day to find gas station convenience stores based on fuel prices, location and ratings/reviews.

For more information, visit .



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