Sunday, October 20, 2013

Little victories

I stood waiting with a small group for the “unofficial” kickoff on truck show eve. The setting was the Kansas Speedway infield, where show vendors, OOIDA staffers, board members and families were gathering for some barbecue and blues on the eve of the Association’s big 40th anniversary event.

Cars and shuttles were rolling in, and the handshakes and welcomes were genuine.

Just as dusk began to set in, someone in our group had a great idea.

“Let’s go check out Victory Lane.”

That sounded like fun, so nine of us made the short hundred-yard stroll. We had Randy Schwartzenburg, K.C. Brau, Randy Boswell, Elizabeth Young and Mark Lowthrop, all from Trucker Buddy International, along with Terry Nicholson and Phil Nenadov from Available Trailers and Russ Cramer from Overbye Transport in the group.

From left to right: Randy Schwartzenburg, Elizabeth Young, Mark Lowthorp, Randy Boswell, Terry Nicholson, Phil Nenadov, Russ Cramer, K.C. Brau (Photo by David Tanner)
 We were marveling about the size of the race track from our perspective and about the big truck show weekend ahead.

There was so much more than a photo op waiting for us when we arrived at Victory Lane. There was an epiphany.

Here we were, at a place reserved for winners, whose dreams and hopes and countless hours of hard work are validated.

Nothing could be more fitting on this particular evening and on this particular weekend.

From humble beginnings, what started as a small group of “mad truckers” fighting for the rights of professional truckers was now on the eve of its 40th anniversary celebration.

OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer introduces
OOIDA President and CEO Jim Johnston,
crediting Jim with the reason OOIDA
still thrives today. (Photo by Nikohle Ellis)
Little victories. That was the epiphany. This whole thing, all of the people here, all of us associated with OOIDA and the truck show, all of the members, the guests, the families, the staff, the hard-working men and women who move this country and make it great.

The moment was not lost on the group, and we talked about it. I really felt it when we went inside, and OOIDA Vice President Todd Spencer introduced President and CEO Jim Johnston to the enthusiastic crowd.

“This Association is here today because of this man, Jim Johnston,” he said.

All of those years and all of those victories, the one-on-one battles in D.C. and in the courts, standing up for truckers. The fact that OOIDA has more than 150,000 members.

Life Member Gary Carr (Photo by David Tanner)
“Nice to see you, Gary,” I said to one of them the following morning. OOIDA Life Member Gary Carr was among those receiving an OOIDA Safe Driving Award on the truck show’s festival stage.

“It’s nice to see anybody,” Gary responded. He truly meant it. Not too long ago, Gary had a heart attack while walking to his truck. Quick timing and excellent medical care likely saved his life.

And here he was, on stage at the truck show, receiving an award for 19 years of safe driving from OOIDA and from guest presenter Anne Ferro of the FMCSA. That stage was Victory Lane for Gary and the others, and another one for the Association.

“Fifteen years ago we had 40,000 members. Now we have 150,000,” said Life Member Ken Becker, when I asked him about his little victories. “I am proud of that and I’m proud of all the things we have worked for. We are a good team and we tackle problems as they come along. It’s not about the problems you face; it’s how you overcome them.”

Truckers are constantly faced with the odds. They must abide by rules and regulations that people far removed from trucking make for them in D.C.

Delivering a load safely, professionally and on time can be a struggle, and many truckers look at each day and each load seriously. Each load delivered and each safe mile traveled are a victory.

How about all of those truckers who fight causes of their own? Whether it involves health care, pets, charities or locating missing truckers, someone has to fight the fight, and they deserve recognition.

People were deadheading to the truck show, some of them hundreds of miles, just to make sure they got the opportunity to celebrate together, whether in small groups or at the keystone events. Some were just fine hanging out in the parking lot with their show trucks – each one of them a work of art and a product of extra effort.

If getting there is half the battle, we got there. For one great, fulfilling weekend, we got there.

Victory Lane is more than just a physical place. It is a validation. Celebrations there are real.

'Too stubborn to quit'

A surprise gift for OOIDA President Jim Johnston. OOIDA
officers Todd Spencer and Bob Esler on the left.
(Photo by Nikohle Ellis)

OOIDA President and CEO Jim Johnston got a surprise during the VIP barbecue event on the Kansas Speedway infield Oct. 17. He was presented a portrait by the OOIDA Board of Directors and Association employees.

OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer set up the surprise.

“There are years in the past where we never thought anything like this would have happened and we are thrilled you are all here to share our 40th anniversary,” Spencer told attendees.

“I’ve been around for a long time, but this guy standing beside me – Jim Johnston – started this thing. … I can say tenacity and things like that, and those words are appropriate. But the truth is, he just a lot like other truck drivers. He’s so damned hardheaded.

“He decided to start something to represent truckers. He stuck with it. … When virtually everyone else was gone, he was there alone and could not admit defeat. He built an organization. People say all the time truckers can’t get together. Hell yes, truckers can get together and they can represent themselves in a business-like manner.

“We may be kind of a strange family at times, but when we stick together, it works better for all of us.”

At that point, Jim was still thinking it was a welcome speech to guests. Truckers cheered as Board Members Gary Green and Robert Esler edged up on the left with the portrait, a token of recognition, appreciation, for the many years Jim has dedicated to truckers.

Jim’s smile said it all, but he did get in the last words.

“Todd had it partway right,” he said. “Actually, I was too dumb to know I couldn’t do it and too stubborn to quit.”

Richard Petty Driving Experience: ‘Flippin’ awesome!’

Margo Elrod -- let's go racin', boys!
That’s how OOIDA Member Margo Elrod of Peru, Ind., described her ride-along Saturday on the big track at the Kansas Speedway.

Margo grew up with racing. Her father was a racer and she’s a big fan. Margo says when she came to the Heart of America Trucking Show at the Speedway, it was foremost in her mind to do the Richard Petty Driving Experience.

Strapped down in a Clint Bowyer 600 hp NASCAR race car, Margo and her expert driver peeled off three laps at nearly 160 mph Saturday at the Speedway.

She wasn’t the only OOIDA member to take the opportunity to do something they’ve always wanted. Life Members Mark Elrod – Margo’s husband -- and Kenneth Becker, from Montgomery, Texas, also experienced the thrill of the Richard Petty Experience on the Kansas Speedway’s 1.5-mile tri-oval track.

“It’s not scary. It’s fun, it’s amazing, and I’ve always wanted to do it,” she said afterwards. “I knew when I got here I just had to do it. … It was just flippin’ awesome.”

Speed Demons: Attendees battle each other, the clock for ‘Creeper Pull’ victory

Records were falling left and right on Saturday afternoon at the inaugural Creeper Pull race, held during OOIDA’s Heart of America Truck Show.

You may be saying to yourself, “Just what, pray tell, is a Creeper Pull race?” Probably best to just explain with a photo: 

Joey Cowick, a permits and licensing agent with OOIDA, demonstrates proper form and technique in
the Creeper Pull race on Saturday at the Heart of America Truck Show.
(Photo by Greg Grisolano)

Basically what you have here is a competitor on a mechanic’s creeper, whose only means of forward propulsion is a plunger. Competitors lined up side-by-side and raced about 10 yards to the finish line.

Hunter Briggs, 12 and Austin Briggs, 11, sorted out some
sibling rivalry on the creeper race course. They are the
sons of Randy and Heather Briggs of Macomb, Ill.
(Photo by Jami Jones
OOIDA employees served as time keepers, logging the fastest times of the participants and setting up heats for the top finishers. About 50 people had tried their hands at creeper racing by Saturday afternoon.

One of those speed demons on Saturday was Ryan Davidson, the son of OOIDA member Randall Davidson, of Savannah, Mo.

While some competitors favored a high-mounted style, sitting on their knees and propelling the creeper forward with a kayaking or canoe-paddling motion, Ryan Davidson used a head-first approach. By lying on his belly and driving the plunger directly in front of him, he was able to scorch his competition and finish the race in a little over six seconds.

“I’d never mounted a creeper that direction before,” the younger Davidson said of his head-first approach to the race.

Believe me, it was even more impressive in person.

“I just wanted to go as fast as I could,” the humble Davidson said when asked if he had any thought he might set a record when he started his race. “The hardest part is keeping it straight on those dolly wheels.”

In addition to the creeper pull, OOIDA members were treated to other games of skill, including Lugnut Toss, Conventional Concentration (a close-up photo contest) and Trucking Trivia.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Jim Johnston's speech

It arrived a day later than initially planned due to weather, but OOIDA President Jim Johnston addressed the truck show crowd on Saturday evening.

Introduced by Executive Vice President Todd Spencer on the truck show’s main stage, Jim spoke about the need for truckers to take their concerns to Washington, D.C., all those years ago. There were some real eye-openers for the truckers once they arrived and saw what they were up against.

“We decided the only way to deal with this was to start an organization capable of giving truckers a strong voice,” Jim said. And that’s precisely what they did.

Jim and Todd were joined on stage by OOIDA Chief Operations Officer Rod Nofziger, who led the crowd in singing “Happy Birthday” to OOIDA – 40 years strong.

We captured the speech in a video, and I must make a personal apology for the shaky camera in a few places. I was juggling two cameras and a backpack. But the important stuff is here, which is of course the speech, the thank-yous to members and OOIDA staff.

Rod summed it up for the crowd: “This celebration has been all about you, it’s been all for you.”

Fun and games

You could feel the truck show energy everywhere you looked on Saturday. This was especially true in the games area and in the pet oasis.

Pets, games and fun are the theme of a video captured and edited by truck show volunteer and friend of the LL staff, Glori Berkel.

You’ve got your small dogs, and one very large white poodle. There’s even a cat on a leash.

The kids in the play area had a lot of fun with the beanbag toss and face painting.

Those youngsters racing to the finish line are making that “creeper race” look easy. We tested those things out at headquarters, and we’ve got to say it was tough. Good job, guys.

Now, who’s that piloting the mini-truck and trailer near the end of the video? That must have been a fun way to get around the truck show.

Thanks for the video, Glori.

OOIDA members show off hard-working, eye-catching trucks

Winners of the OOIDA Heart of America Trucking Show Truck Beauty Competition.
What a great 40th Birthday celebration. Forty fabulous show trucks parked, thousands of watts of candle power. And members with numbers so low, many have been part of OOIDA since the beginning (or darn close to it). The power of the passion that you bring to our association was never more evident than it was at Kansas Speedway. Chilly temps and freezing sleet didn’t deter the drivers or the judges from delivering the goods and their decisions.

Senior Member Jerry Mies of Mies and Sons Trucking based
in Colwich, Kan.;won  Best of Show Working Combo 

with his2013 teal and white Peterbilt 389 and 2010 Walker 
tanker called “Lactose Limousine.”
On a hot streak that shows no signs of cooling off, Senior Member Jerry Mies of Colwich, Kan., brought out his Lactose Limousine – a 2013 teal and white Peterbilt 389, pulling a 2010 Walker tanker. Mies and his family racked up six trophies, including Best of Show Working Combo.

“I knew I wanted to be here as soon as I heard about this show,” Mies said. “I’m a member and I know how hard everyone works at the Association. I’ve just started doing truck shows, and this was great. I had the chance to talk with so many people who have similar goals. I hope you do it again next year.”

Member Scott Rud of Byron, Minn., won Best of Show 
Working Bobtail with his 2000 silver and red Peterbilt 379.
OOIDA Member Scott Rud of Byron, Minn., knew he’d be at the party. He hauls the booth display for Minimizer – a company that makes sturdy, lightweight truck fenders, bracket kits and accessories. His truck, a sparkling red and silver 2000 Peterbilt 379, has become a familiar sight at truck and trade shows across the country. Until now, Best of Show had eluded him.

Shawn Helt of Helt’s Turf Farms out of Pleasant Hill, Mo.,
won Best of Show Limited Mileage Bobtail with his 1965
Jade Green Peterbilt 351 named “Helt Up.”
“I was never sure about even entering my truck. To me, it’s a nice truck, but I look around and see trucks that are that nice or better.” Well, this time the judges thought his truck was better than nice. They liked it all the way to a Best of Show Working Bobtail win, along with several class trophies.

Best Limited Mileage Bobtail went to Shawn Helt of Helt’s Turf Farms, Pleasant Hill, Mo. Their 1965 jade green Peterbilt 351 runs like a champ and looks like a dream of days gone by. The needle nose and butterfly hood drew newcomers and old-timers to share stories and appreciate the artistry of this restored beauty.

Best Limited Mileage Combo honors were given to Life Member Leonard Eads of Timberline Trading, Lathrop, Mo. His 1998 burgundy Peterbilt 379X and Savannah logging trailer did
Life Member Leonard Eads of Timberline Trading, Lathrop,
Mo., won Best of Show Limited Mileage Combo with his
1998 burgundy Peterbilt 379X and 2000 Savannah trailer.
much more than turn heads. His trailer unfolds and telescopes to accommodate trees of all sizes. What a great opportunity to learn about another segment of our trucking industry.

Wash ‘N’ Shine is a type of class designed for trucks that look good, but maybe haven’t cleaned up quite as detailed as some others. It’s a strictly hands-off visual examination of the truck, along with a presentation from the driver. Some folks just never quit wiping their trucks down – outside, inside, front to back and underneath – until rags down is called. It’s just how they’re wired.

Peter Burrows of Buhler, Kan., and his sparkling white Kenworth T600 was awarded Best Wash N Shine Bobtail, while Jan Huey of LB Trucking out of Greensburg, Ind., took a happy walk to the stage to receive recognition for her 2010 metallic gray International ProStar pulling a 2004 Utility Reefer. As company truck drivers, Jan and husband Ron are preparing to get into a brand-new International ProStar when they get back home. And I’m sure they’ll make that one a force to be reckoned with.

The trophies just kept getting bigger and better. Provided by Rockwood Products and proudly made in the USA; Carl Carstens and his team delivered the rosewood and acrylic trophies just a couple of hours before they were awarded. This was just-in-time delivery at its finest.

People’s Choice award went to Senior Members Howard and
Cindi Bohn out of Odessa, Mo., and their 2013 Tahitian green
International LoneStar, “Tahitian Treat.”
A true highlight of the show was the recognition for People’s Choice. This award was voted on by the thousands of attendees, and selecting their favorite truck was not an easy job. When the tallying was done, the clear favorite was a 2013 Tahitian green International LoneStar, named Tahitian Treat by OOIDA Senior Members Howard and Cindi Bohn from Odessa, Mo. Sparkling inside and out and decorated in a Tahitian Tiki bar theme, this truck wowed from daylight to dark and earned three class trophies, including one for their lights at night.

One of the hardest choices was the one made by OOIDA President Jim Johnston. Jim visited with the owners and drivers who proudly displayed their trucks and shared stories of life on the road. Senior Member Richard Hanning of Shawnee, Kan., decorated his 1985 blue Peterbilt 359 with his membership certificate from 1992 along with decals reflecting OOIDA’s history.

Life Member Richard Seyfang’s trailer proclaims his feelings on the back doors of his trailer – “If You Don’t Think OOIDA Works For You, You Must Be Wearing Socks and Sandals.” OOIDA Member Al Becker of North Lima, Ohio, spoke about how much he values being part of the OOIDA family.

Life Member Victor Holthaus from Axtell, Kan., impressed 
OOIDA President Jim Johnston with his 1978 white 
and black Peterbilt 359 and 1996 Timpte grain trailer. 
Holthaus has 4 million miles on the truck – 
most of which he put on it himself. That clinched the 
President’s Choice award from Johnston, pictured at right.
The President’s Choice Award was given to Life Member Victor Holthaus of Axtell, Kan., and his 1978 gray, white and black Peterbilt 359 pulling a 1996 Timpte Grain Trailer. With more than 4 million hard-run miles, that truck and its owner are a pretty solid reflection of where we came from to get where we are today. Looking great, overhauled some, but still standing tall getting down the road.

The Heart of America Truck Beauty Contest showcased trucks from all the major manufacturers: Peterbilt, Kenworth, Freightliner, Mack, Western Star and Volvo. From California to New York, Florida to Washington and everywhere in between. From hauling logs to delivering milk, these are some of the best representatives our trucking industry has to offer – yesterday, today and into the future.

Event sponsors included OOIDA, Rockwood Products, Minimizer, Lincoln Chrome and PrePass.

The life you save ...

OOIDA Life Member Rick Ash mouthed numbers while counting each person that walked by him in Health Walk.

As OOIDA members Penny and Kelly Thigpen of Logan, Utah, walked by, Penny playfully distracted Ash's count.

"Seventy-three ... seventy-four ... seventy-five."

Ash, chairman of Trucking Solutions Group, laughed even as he continued counting. And for good reason.

Saturday's Health Walk, hosted by Trucking Solutions Group and sponsored by OOIDA Medical Benefits Group and Inter-Americas Insurance Corp., had more than 200 truck drivers signed up  a new record, Ash said.

"We've been doing this since 2010, and this is the highest turnout we've ever had for a health walk," Ash told the crowd. "We're really excited!"

The Health Walk proceeded for the length of the grandstand at the Kansas Speedway  three-quarters of a mile  and back to total 1.5 miles.

Ash said the Health Walk has become an annual event at the Mid-America Trucking Show and the Great American Trucking Show.

But the program isn't merely about building numbers.

"Thank you for participating," Ash told the crowd of mostly drivers and spouses.

"The whole idea behind this is to be healthy," Ash said, adding that being healthy can help drivers be safer.

"The life you save might just be mine."

Who is going to give you your next DOT physical? Truckers want to know

“Now truckers will have to get DOT physicals from a certified specialist … specializing in WHAT? That sounds really stupid to me.”  That was one of the comments fielded by FMCSA Medical Programs Nurse Practitioner Pam Perry Saturday morning at a seminar on the new medical registration requirements.

FMCSA's Pam Perry arrived at OOIDA's Heart of America
Trucking Show ready for truckers' questions. And she
got plenty of them at Saturday's seminar.
John Taylor, owner-operator and OOIDA life member, wanted to know why FMCSA is requiring all 4 million CDL holders to have their DOT physicals done by doctors and other medical practitioners who are "certified" and members of a special registry. He wanted to know why (as of May 21 of next year) it could no longer be done by truckers' personal doctors, doctors who know them best. And he and others wanted to know how all this came about.

“Who asked for this?” said one trucker.

Perry said Congress mandated it and told FMCSA to “get it done.” She said the mandate was the result of safety lobbyists reacting to a 1999 bus crash in New Orleans that killed 22 people. It was discovered that the bus driver was not medically qualified to have a CDL. In fact, Perry said he had been in the ER for serious conditions only 10 hours prior and had been hospitalized at least 10 times for various problems that should have prevented him from passing a physical.

One trucker asked if "it could go back on the doctor who passed the bus driver?” When Perry confirmed that, yes, it did – it prompted questions about the doctors involved in accidents where drivers were found to be medically unqualified. Perry said such doctors would not be allowed to do DOT physicals anymore.

Another trucker was quick to predict that this new medical requirement would result in skyrocketing liability insurance for doctors.

“What about carriers then?” was another question from the trucker audience. “What if they put a driver on the road whose DOT physical was not done by a certified, registered ME?”

“It’s the carriers’ responsibility, too," Perry said.

With the clock ticking toward the May 21, 2014, compliance date, another question addressed the number of certified medical examiners that would be needed and how many are certified at this time. Perry said 20,000 would be needed by May and, as the program rolled out, it would be about 40,000. She said the current number of doctors registered was 14,000, but not all were trained and certified yet.

She stressed that if you got your DOT physical before the compliance date, it would be good for two years.

“You won’t have to get a physical again until it expires,” she said. “Even if you get it the day before May 21.”

Miles Verhoef, a trucker and OOIDA member from Saco, Mont., expressed his concern with the size and rurality of his rural state and how many doctors in Montana would hesitate to pay to be certified and go through the training to be registered. Verhoef wasn't happy with how far he’d have to drive to get a physical.

Perry said getting enough certified medical examiners in the larger rural states is one of FMCSA’s biggest concerns, but they’ve taken steps to stay ahead of it.

Affordable Care Act & You

With open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act underway, many truckers are still looking for answers about what effect the new law will have on their own health care, their families and their bottom lines. To help truckers find the answers, the OOIDA Foundation brought in Rick Welsh, an insurance consultant with Welsh and Associates in Kansas City. He conducted a seminar Saturday morning to discuss a "tree-top level" overview of the changes facing individuals.

Welsh said the biggest change for both individuals and insurance providers is that insurance can no longer be denied to anybody based on health status. The ACA also bans lifetime and annual coverage limits; mandates enhanced emphasis on preventive care; and places a maximum 90-day waiting period on enrolling new employees in employer-provided plans.

As far as the new rates, Welsh said he's seen an impact for both older and younger clients.

"What I've seen so far is rates have come down a little bit for older folks," he said. "Younger folks are paying two to three times what they used to."

Welsh noted that the law has also changed the types of plans insurance companies are legally obligated to offer. All plans must now provide "Essential Health Benefits"  a series of 10 criteria that will make all insurance policies much more comprehensive.

About 80 truck show attendees listened to Rick Welsh's
presentation Saturday morning on the Affordable Care Act
and its impact on individuals and small business owners.
Those essential benefits include coverage for outpatient care, hospitalization, prescription drug coverage, emergency room care, mental health services, preventive care, rehabilitative care, laboratory services, pediatric care, and maternity and newborn care.

The caveat with having more comprehensive insurance, according to Welsh, is that comprehensive coverage costs more.

"There's not going to be any shell game anymore," he said. "If you see a policy for $300 a month, that's what you're going to pay. ... It's going to be a lot easier to figure out. You won't have to worry about something hidden in the fine print."

Under the new law, rates will be determined by four factors: age, area, marital status, and tobacco use. With age, rates are capped at a three-to-one ratio, where the most expensive policies can only be up to three times the rate of the least expensive.

Welsh also pointed out the ACA implementation will bring changes to Flexible Spending Accounts, which will now be capped at $2,500 annually.

Annual deductibles will also be capped at $6,350.

The Individual Mandate for Affordable Care Act takes effect on Jan. 1, 2014. Individuals who do not have a health care plan through their employer or those who don't qualify for veterans benefits or Medicare and Medicaid will be required to purchase a qualified health care plan or face a tax penalty.

Penalties will be 1 percent of the individual's adjusted gross income in 2014. For an individual making $40,000 per year, that amounts to a $400 tax hit. Penalty rates will increase to 2 percent in 2015 and 2.5 percent in 2016 before being chained to inflation index in subsequent years.

Open enrollment for this year runs from Oct. 1 to March 31, 2014. This is the only year for the extended open enrollment. Subsequent years will be from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, the same time period as open-enrollment for Medicare.

OOIDA is currently working to set up a pilot program of private health insurance exchanges in six states. For more information about ACA, contact the Medical Benefits Department at OOIDA.


My wing man, "Mini Me," judge-in-training, and daughter, Samantha Jones goes with me to lots of truck shows. She tends to lurk around long enough that I wind up putting her to work.

The past couple of years we've taken to calling her judge-in-training at Shell Rotella SuperRigs. She keeps me and the other judges in line and has taken to pointing out the finer points of trucks.

Her training paid off. Here at the Heart of America Trucking Show, she judged her first truck. I will say she nailed it.

OTR Tax Service offers truckers tax tips

Carmen Grunsten’s message for truckers is simple: Knowledge is power when it comes to tax preparation.

“If you know where you stand with your deductions, you have the power,” she said.

Grunsten, of OTR Driver Tax Services in Vinton, Texas, has spent the past 12 years specializing in tax preparation for self-employed owner-operators and small-business trucking companies.

During a seminar at OOIDA’s Heart of America Truck Show on Friday afternoon, she encouraged drivers  to find their “lowest legal tax liability.”

In order to do that, Grunsten said drivers need to be aware of more than 25 deductions that are available to claim when filing yearly income tax returns  on everything from depreciation of equipment like tractors and trailers to repairs and maintenance, home office, advertising, even truck washes and waxes.

One of the newest deductions available to drivers is a $500,000 deduction on new and used equipment purchased in 2012 or 2013. The deduction can be applied on equipment purchases of up to $2 million.
Another potential tax savings can be realized by organizing into a specific type of business entity, such as a sole proprietorship, limited liability corporation, a C Corporation or an S Corporation.

Each designation has its own benefits and disadvantages, depending on the goals and circumstances of the prospective owner. Grunsten advised consulting with a tax professional before making a decision. A sole proprietorship, for example, is one in which the owner receives all profits but assumes all liabilities.

In addition to tax services and incorporation, Grunsten offers bookkeeping services, payroll processing and legal representation for IRS issues and audits on referral. More information about her company and services can be found at her website here.

Light up the night

The clouds and rain won't be considered ideal conditions for much, but it really was the perfect backdrop for the lights at night competition.

The super dark night sky with the wet pavement offered a canvas for the truck lights to sparkle and dance off the pavement and into the night sky.

LL's ace photog Nikohle Ellis and I didn't want our blog readers to miss out on the amazing light show, so we braved the cold just to bring you these.

'I'm still alive'

The old Pearl Jam song could be the official song of a number of truckers who've survived an injury or illness and benefited from a not-for-profit organization known as TransAlive USA.

OOIDA Member David Gilland and TransAlive USA's
President and founder Bob Hataway
OOIDA Member David Gilland had a stroke a couple of years ago and found himself far from home and unable to get home. 

“No one but my family really knew where I was, but you know how it is in trucking. They tracked me down,” he told me today. David, aka “Bullwinkle,” got a call in his hospital bed from Lance Wood, a friend (and OOIDA member).

“After a stroke, you can’t just get back behind the wheel, or even take a plane,” says David. “You’ve got to have a way home that is specially equipped.”

The next thing he knew, he was hooked up with Bob Hataway and TransAlive USA’s AmCoach and headed home.

Bob and his wife Carol started the national ministry in 1984 to help injured or sick truckers get home. The effort has been such as success, it’s earned itself some great operational sponsors. Fuel, for example, is provided by Pilot Travel Centers, lube services by Speedco, and tires from Bridgestone Bandag. J.B. Hunt, Great Dane and Alcoa provide operational financial services.
TransAlive USA is here at the Heart of America Trucking Show at the Kansas Speedway. And I got a chance today to visit with Bob, who is at the truck show promoting TransAlive’s new deal. It is partnering with Air Ambulance Card from Birmingham, Ala., to provide air service for critical medical issues with drivers.

I was curious about the program so I checked out some quick facts. The Air Ambulance Program transports drivers from medical facilities by ground ambulance to local airports. Drivers are loaded on aircraft and flown to their destination in a matter of hours as opposed to days with the AmCoach. They are taken to the nearest destination airport and transported by ground ambulance to a medical facility of their choice. Medical staff, as needed, accompany the driver, and family members are allowed to travel as well. All services are free to members of Air Ambulance Card.

What about the trusty AmCoach? Bob says the AmCoach service will still be available as before; however, it will be replaced with the air service over the next two years.