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I’ve had some secondhand second thoughts about those 18-year-old drivers

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In my last column, I mentioned something about looking at online reader comments, and how truckers tend to do a better job of staying on topic and making actual contributions to whatever the story is about compared to what you find on the internet in general.

I also said something about regularly checking our reader comments to see what drivers have to say about whichever topic is taking its turn as one of the “hot” ones of the moment.

These days, the question of whether 18-year-olds should be allowed to drive commercial vehicles interstate has been getting a lot of attention, in part because the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has announced it is seeking comments about a proposed pilot program that would qualify 18- to 20-year-olds to drive interstate.

By the way, if it seems the FMCSA has been doing a lot of this “public comment” stuff lately, they have. And reading between the lines of what the people at FMCSA have been saying, it’s clear they are paying attention to the feedback they’re getting on this and other topics. But this time I am disappointed by the method by which they’re taking comments. It’s the kind of governmental, designed-by-a-bureaucrat, user-unfriendly online method that practically guarantees a low response and almost makes you wonder if that’s on purpose.

I don’t have room to even try to explain the process, which is why you won’t find an explanation in any of the articles about how they want your comments.

That’s too bad, because if the feedback to the story we ran on the pilot program is any indication, there are a lot of strong opinions out there waiting to be shared.

In the past, I’ve written in favor of letting younger drivers drive interstate, or at least for it to be an option. But having read some of the comments on our site, I’m going to attempt to do something here that’s so rare in today’s media, heck, in our entire society, some might consider it un-American — with a few prompts by the audience, I’m going to make a case for the other side.

If our small sampling is any indication, people who are already OTR drivers aren’t too keen on lowering the age of eligibility. In fact, a few suggested it should be raised. We know that’s not going to happen, just like we know the big motivation behind the push for younger drivers is to ease the driver shortage in the OTR truckload sector. Aside from the immediate potential relief, the argument has been made that this will allow young people into trucking before they are lost to other professions.

“You realize 18- to 20-year-olds already can drive intrastate?” reader Nathaniel McComb wrote.

I’m not sure whether Nathaniel was pointing out that that the profession is already open to 18-year-olds if they are interested, or the fact that our highways aren’t strewn with the carnage left in the wake of the young intrastate drivers who are already out there. Or maybe both.

In any case, there’s a good point to be found there. And it’s a point that reader Rachel Booth expanded on:

“I think intrastate driving from 18 to 20 is a good idea,” she wrote. “It gives them experience and more of an idea of what the job involves physically. Interstate driving should remain at 21. Leave it alone.”

Now, that’s reasonable thinking, Rachel. OTR driving is some of the most demanding, not to mention highest-paying, driving there is. What profession starts kids at the most demanding, highest paying level?

What’s wrong with letting them earn their chops for a few years? At that age, even when they make big life decisions, most of those decisions don’t stick. Nothing does. The ages of 18 to 25 is “grownup orientation” for most people. Most of them struggle with the concept of having to work, period, especially at a job that’s, like, hard.

“Would the 18- to 20-year-old people even be interested in being drivers?” reader Andy Schmitz asks. “Our government loves spending money on research & polling — have they actually visited high school seniors or anyone 18-20 to ask if they would be interested in a job that would put them on the road 300 days a year?”

Those pushing for opening up interstate driving to younger drivers claim that the industry loses too many young people to other professions because they make them wait until they are 21. Really? Are high school seniors looking out the window, noses pressed up against the glass, staring at big rigs as they go by and whispering to themselves, “If only …”?

No, they aren’t. In fact, nobody is. That’s the problem. The long-haul truckload trucking segment has long had a problem attracting new talent. And now, just as the demand is greatest, the industry finds itself competing to draw from the tightest labor pool in 50 years.

Trucking knows it’s the ugly duckling in that competition. They’ve been making efforts to gussy up its image. They’ve even raised mileage rates. But money isn’t everything. And they’ve tried to let women and other minorities know the door of opportunity is open to them.

Now they are trying to create a new door, not because it’s the right thing to do, but out a growing sense of desperation.

The benefits would be minimal, and it hardly seems worth the risk. Veteran drivers bristle at the idea, and who would know better?

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Great Dane’s Laura Roan Hays chosen chairwoman for Women In Trucking

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Laura Roan Hays began her career in 1989 as an administrative assistant and worked her way up to branch manager, leading the Great Dane Tampa and Miami branches. She has been a member of WIT since early 2012. (Courtesy: WOMEN IN TRUCKING)

PLOVER, Wis. — Laura Roan Hays, branch manager for the Tampa and Miami branch locations for Great Dane, is the new chairwoman of the board of Women In Trucking (WIT).

Hays was chosen at the organization’s annual meeting where the association votes on term renewals and officers.

The board provides guidance for the non-profit association that works to elevate the issue of gender diversity in the transportation and logistics industry.

Roan Hays succeeds Mary Aufdemberg, director, acquisitions and operations, Daimler Trucks North America and Daimler Trucks Remarketing, who reached the end of her term.

“It has been a pleasure to serve as chairwoman of the WIT board of directors the past four years,” Aufdemberg said. “During that time, we have accomplished tremendous membership growth and expanded our reach and influence across ten countries. We also created the Accelerate! Conference focused on gender diversity and watched it more than double in attendance over the last four years. I look forward to seeing WIT continue to grow in its mission.”

Rachel Christensen, director of intermodal, operations, J.B. Hunt Transport, will continue on the board as vice chair. Leah Shaver, COO of Newsal Transportation Institute, will continue as secretary. Bryan Most, vice president, Walmart Transportation, will continue serving as treasurer.

New directors voted to the board in the recent board meeting also include Delores Lail, senior vice president, sales, East region, Ryder Systems, Inc.; Michele Rodgers, director of program management, Peterbilt Motors Co.; Tracci Schultz, senior vice president, strategic planning, engineering, operations solutions, FedEx;  Kary Shaefer, general manager of product marketing and strategy, Daimler Trucks North America; Lori Taylor, carrier services manager, C. H. Robinson; and Heather Wilson, chief commercial officer, BMO Transportation Finance.

Roan Hays has been in the transportation industry for more than 30 years.

She began her career in 1989 as an administrative assistant and worked her way up to branch manager, leading the Great Dane Tampa and Miami branches. She has been a member of WIT since early 2012.

“From the beginning of my career, I have strived to bridge the gender gap in our industry. Let’s face it, 30 years ago there weren’t many females in sales/operation management roles for commercial truck trailers manufacturers. It takes a lot of determination and courage to commit to a non-traditional career,” Hays said. “I am honored to be a part of an organization like Women In Trucking whose mission is to encourage the employment of women in the trucking industry, promote their accomplishments, and minimize the obstacles they face.”

Women In Trucking Association is a nonprofit association established to encourage the employment of women in the trucking industry, promote their accomplishments and minimize obstacles faced by women working in the trucking industry. Membership is not limited to women, as 17 percent of its members are men who support the mission.

For more information, visit or call 888-464-9482.

Truckers, loggers push back on Oregon’s climate proposals

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Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney addresses a group of loggers and truckers outside the Oregon state Capitol Wednesday, June 12, 2019, in Salem, Oregon.  Truckers are protesting two Oregon climate bills that they say will raise fuel and equipment costs, putting them out of business. (Associated Press: SARAH ZIMMERMAN)

SALEM, Ore. — Dozens of industrial trucks drove laps around the Oregon state Capitol Wednesday, blaring their horns and releasing plumes of diesel into the air as part of a demonstration against Oregon’s climate policies that loggers and truckers say will devastate their business.

It comes as a key legislative panel approved a cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, setting up the ambitious climate proposal for a full floor vote. The bill, along with another addressing diesel emissions from heavy-duty trucks, are meant to reduce the emissions behind global warming and stem the tide of climate change.

Some employers have welcomed the changes, saying cap and trade has been carefully negotiated for over a decade and will actually bring new, high paying jobs to some of the most remote parts of Oregon.

“This actually opens the door to an incredible amount of high paying jobs,” said Matt Swanson with the Northwest Carpenters Union, which represents carpenters and construction workers. “As we transition to cleaner technology, we will need more construction workers on the ground, including in rural areas, to build new infrastructure.”

The program sets aside $10 million every two years for investments in transitioning displaced workers to clean energy jobs, providing unemployment benefits plus career and technical training. There are also wage and labor standards built in to ensure these new jobs offer fair pay and other worker benefits.

But truckers and loggers say that there’s no reason for the state to move forward with such an ambitious climate platform since Oregon’s emissions make up far less than one percent of the global problem.  Workers add that such emissions changes would put them out of business, raising fuel and equipment costs.

“It’s the height of conceit and arrogance to say that we are responsible for this issue or that we could even do anything to fix it,” said Gregg Budge, who owns his own trucking company in Vernonia, northwest of Portland. “If their concept of climate change is a real thing, Oregon is such a minuscule part of this world that this legislation would do nothing.”

Under a cap-and-trade program, the state puts an overall limit on emissions and auctions off pollution permits or “allowances” for each ton of carbon industries plan to emit. Only the largest polluters are targeted, and the idea is that as the emissions limit becomes stricter over time, it will be in industries’ financial interest to switch to green technology. The state ultimately aims to reduce emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.

The change is expected to raise gas prices by about 22 cents a gallon for the first year, with gas rising above $3 dollars a gallon by 2050, according to the Legislative Revenue Office. Some of those costs would be returned to low-income drivers under a fuel rebate program written into the bill.

The trucking industry is also likely to experience a reduction in tax rates, which state economists say will lower some of the financial impacts of the program.

But truckers maintain that even with those caveats, the proposals only showcase how little lawmakers understand industry in rural Oregon. Truckers have to buy their own trucks and in many cases aren’t reimbursed by employers for the price of fuel.

They say that they’re being punished double by lawmakers: cap and trade would raise fuel prices, while a proposed clean diesel bill would require some truckers to buy new engines or vehicles, upgrades that can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The diesel measure aims to phase out diesel engines produced before 2007, and the proposal only applies Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties, which are primarily urban areas.

Senate President Peter Courtney addressed a crowd of protesters outside the Capitol, acknowledging their frustrations with the proposals.

“I see you glaring at me and I get that,” he told a crowd, adding that he wouldn’t “celebrate” the passage of either proposal.

Love’s launches company’s first snack line with bagged candies

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A company official said the Love’s Travel Snacks line launch represents Love’s entrepreneurial culture of pushing for new products and services. (Courtesy: LOVE'S TRAVEL STOPS)

OKLAHOMA CITY —  Drivers can now enjoy new candy offerings at Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores, thanks to the launch of the company’s snack line.

Love’s Travel Snacks, which launched June 12 with the candy line, pays tribute to Love’s heritage by including sour cherries in the shape of hearts.

Customers can also find gummy bears, gummy worms, sour gummy worms, fruity orange slices, starlight mints, French burnt peanuts, flavorful peach rings, cherry sours and assorted fruit slices, just in time for summer road trips.

Each bag sells for $1.69. Beginning June 25, the bags will go to an everyday low price of two bags for $3.

“Stopping at Love’s has become even sweeter for drivers across the country,” said Wade Hollis, senior manager of category buyers for merchandise at Love’s. “This line provides our customers good value, innovative flavors and offers they can’t find anywhere else. These products further define our commitment to highway hospitality and being the one-stop shop for travel needs.”

Hollis said the Love’s Travel Snacks line launch represents Love’s entrepreneurial culture of pushing for new products and services.

Distributing its own candy allows Love’s to better ensure store aisles remain stocked for customers who need to quickly get back on the road. Additional snacks will be launched down the road, he said.

Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores has a network of more than 480 locations in 41 states. Founded in 1964 and headquartered in Oklahoma City, the company remains family-owned and operated and employs more than 24,000 people.

To learn more, visit .

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