Rising costs and stagnant freight rates are driving some truckers off the road. As fuel costs rise, Independent truckers are suffering.

Trucker Robert Griffith is on the road three weeks out of four, pulling oversize loads like crane booms, railroad ties and air conditioning ducts. One of his biggest worries: How he’ll find the money to buy his daughter a prom dress.

My Comment: Excuse me, but this attitude is exactly what’s wrong. When someone’s biggest biggest worry is over prom dresses, priorities are not set quite straight.

“I had to learn to live totally different,” said Griffith, 41, of Lebanon, Tenn.

No more $150 family outings to Shogun sushi. No more weekly washes for his Western Star 4900 EX truck. No more health insurance for him and his family.

“It hurts,” he said. “I’m a man who’s trying to make a living for my family and I’m not succeeding.”

My Comment: If you were saving instead of spending $150 on family outings to Shogun Sushi, then perhaps you could have afforded to buy your daughter a prom dress. In fact, had you saved all those weekly truck washes and Shogun Sushis, perhaps you would not see a need to cancel health insurance for your family. Talk about skewed priorities.

About nine percent of the nation’s 3.4 million truck drivers are independent owner-operators, according to the Department of Labor. Without the independents, trucking will turn into a group of “regional and national oligopolies” that would send shipping prices higher when the economy improves, said John Saldanha, who teaches logistics at Ohio State University.

My Comment: John Saldanha needs to consider timeframes when the economy improves and how low things get in the meantime.

Rumors of a nationwide truck strike are a nearly annual occurrence — but this year an effort in January generated more talk than usual on MySpace and the Sirius Satellite Radio show “Freewheelin”.

My Comment: Let them strike. Those who do will suffer. The economy is slowing in case “Freewheelin” did not notice. The time to strike (if indeed there is such a time at all) is when things are going well and you are needed, not when things are sour and people are clamoring for jobs to stay alive.

Nanette Jenkins Rudd, 40, a third-generation trucker based in Mapleton, Ill., kept her five trucks off the road the week of the strike.

“I pray that this strike is successful, so that we only have to stop rolling for a week — and not forever,” she said.

Like other truckers, she’s hoping for government help. “The government stepped in and helped the farmers when they were in trouble,” she said. “Why? Because the farmers feed America, the farmers put food on the table. But who do you think delivers that food?”

My Comment: Truckers deserve as much government “help” as anyone else. That is to say none. Government “help” is exactly what has destroyed this economy. The government needs to get the hell out of the way.

Truckers say they want caps on diesel prices, or tax credits for truckers, as well as increased regulation for the middlemen who broker truck loads.

My Comment: Price caps do not work. If they did Zimbabwe would be an economic success. How many times do we have to prove price caps do not work?

Does anyone remember Nixon’s wage and price controls? There has never been wage or price controls in history that have worked. Price controls are nonsense.

Michael Bloomberg Loses Mind

If the haulin’ business did not have enough problems already Michael Bloomberg just added to them with this announcement: New York City to make hybrid private hire limos mandatory from 2009.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced yesterday that the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) will require ‘black cars’ that service corporate clients to increase fuel efficiency standards to levels currently achievable only by using hybrid technology, though these (25 mpg by 2009, 30 mpg by 2010) could be met by some European diesel cars if they were permitted.

Black cars currently release 272,000 tons of CO2 equivalents annually, which make up 2% of the City’s transport-related emissions. Under the new standards, emissions from black cars will be cut in half.

My Comment: To cure 2% of the “problem” all black car limo drivers will need new vehicles. Does this make any sense anywhere but Bizarro World?

To help drivers finance the down payment associated with buying a new car, the City has worked with partners in the financial sector, dealers, and black car fleets to develop a range of solutions that will finance the higher down payment.

My Question: How much did black car fleets, dealers of hybrids, etc., contribute to the campaigns of those sponsoring this fiasco?

After consultation with users, fleets, and drivers – including demonstrations of the new vehicle types – the Mayor’s Office of Long-term Planning and Sustainability and the TLC have identified several models that will have widespread acceptance, including: Toyota Camry Hybrid, 33mpg (city); Toyota Highlander Hybrid, 27mpg (city); Nissan Altima Hybrid, 35 mpg (city); and Mercury Mariner Hybrid FWD, 34 mpg (city). Other models may include: Lexus Rx400h AWD, Ford Escape Hybrid AWD, and Toyota Prius.

My Comment: It appears GM was not a proud sponsor of this campaign. If GM was included in the list, it would have been a proud sponsor of the campaign. If for some reason GM is a sponsor of this campaign, then I am overlooking an angle that involves GM. It’s as simple as that.

If government would simply stop micro-managing the problem, the free market would find a solution, sooner, rather than later. It’s Getting Harder (and more expensive) To Keep On Truckin’, and government is the primary reason. Misguided ethanol policies, the war in Iraq, and debasement of the US dollar all contribute. It’s disappointing to see this non-solution from Michael Bloomberg.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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