The transporting of raw forest products (logs, pulpwood, chips, and biomass) from the woods to the mill has been a challenge for the forest products industry for many decades. Congressman Gallagher’s (WI-8-R) Safe Routes Act (HR 2453) aims to make transporting raw forest products safer and more efficient. The Safe Routes Act would allow log trucks access to the interstate system at legal state vehicle weights for a short distant. While back in his district, Congressman Gallagher had a ride along with trucker Adam Pallex, to see firsthand the increased accident risk a log truck has while traveling on secondary roads compared to when on an interstate. The attention this issue has received through FRA’s and Congressman Gallagher’s efforts is something the forest products industry should recognize as a success in our efforts to get the Safe Routes Act passed into law.
Joe Young, a longtime FRA Executive Committee and Board leader, recently shared a similar success from 1977 when he was elected to represent his district in Georgetown, SC. Joe started logging in 1958, handloading short wood to bobtail trucks for his dad. He was the owner of Low Country Forest Products, Inc. and quickly known within the legislature as the go-to resource on all issues dealing with forestry, especially logging.
When Joe learned of Congressman Gallagher’s ride along, he shared an experience on how a ride along made a difference in South Carolina:
“In 1977, I had a colleague who drove to Columbia every week on Interstate 26 which is loaded with trucks of every kind almost bumper to bumper. This colleague was very negative about all the trucks on the interstate and felt very unsafe having to share the road with them and a number of the House Members agreed with her.
Being a member of our South Carolina Trucking Association (SCTA), which was very active in supporting the trucking industry, Rick Todd, the President and CEO of SCTA, talked with one of the over-the-road trucking companies and asked them if they would be willing to take a legislator for a ride along with one of their best drivers on a local haul including a ride on the interstate. Rick and I then met with our truck-fearing friend to invite her to take a ride with one of our truck drivers. She leaped at the opportunity to ride with a tractor trailer driver on a minimum haul.
Once she experienced this side of trucking from the passenger seat, she was completely pro-trucking, including pro-trucking on the interstates. Not long after, she purchased and had installed a CB radio in her car and began chatting with truckers on the interstate and became one of our biggest advocates for fair trucking legislation in the House. After that ride, we had many legislators that wanted the same opportunity. It was a win-win for trucking in South Carolina.
When I attended the first FRA Fly-In with Deb Hawkinson as President of FRA, I wrote a suggestion about this experience and shared it at our board meeting but there was a concern about how many congressmen would participate and that it probably wouldn’t work. So we tabled the idea. I am excited Congressman Mike Gallagher agreed to arrange for a ride.”
Joe went on to suggest that “more rides need to be organized for legislators with knowledgeable truck drivers that can answer the tough questions and have an excellent driving record. We stand to lose the whole ballgame if we fail to educate and inform our elected officials on issues important to our industry.”This is why FRA’s presence in DC – affording us the opportunity to share our messages and views with elected officials - is so critical to our industry.