not for U.S. citizens only
Re: "endangered species" (June 2008)
It is not correct to say that only U.S. citizens are eligible for Transportation Worker Identification Credentials (TWICs). Per 49 CFR section 1572.105, lawful permanent residents, refugees, persons granted asylum, and a host of other immigration statuses (most of which, I admit, aren't likely to be relevant to drayage truckers) are also eligible. That said, the cost and the necessity of interfacing with the government (Transportation Security Administration) remain as impediments in any event.
John C.W. Bennett, Maritime Protective Services Inc.
a different hybrid model
Re: "we're over a barrel here!" FastLane (June 2008)
Hybrid trucks as the answer to our energy shortages? I think not! The problem goes much deeper than increasing the efficiency (a little) of our existing method of goods transportation.
Years of relatively cheap oil have created an infrastructure based on convenience rather than fuel efficiency. Tractor-trailers are a wonderful way to place small quantities of goods wherever, whenever needed—but at the cost of efficient energy use. One tractor, one engine, one trailer is not very fuel efficient. Rail transportation, on the other hand, makes incredibly efficient use of fuel, but at the cost of convenience. One locomotive, one engine, what—200 trailers?
I'm no expert, but it seems pretty clear that even doubling or tripling the fuel efficiency of an inefficient method (tractor-trailer delivery) is not going to fundamentally change much. The "hybrid" model needed is not a different engine on an existing truck. Rather, what we need is a hybrid transportation model that gives us the fuel efficiency of the rails with the convenience of tractor-trailer delivery.
James P. Ryan, Sentry Protection Products Inc.
Re: "fill 'er up ... with biodiesel" (April 2008)
While I agree with the need to improve fuel economy, I am having a problem with biofuels.
Take ethanol, for example. How much corn have we taken out of the food chain to produce this product? Food prices around the world have gone up and will continue to do so. South America is cutting down rainforests to plant corn. We as taxpayers are paying to help produce a product that costs more to make than it sells for.
As I understand from your story, soybeans are a major part of biodiesel. Soybeans have been a good cash crop for several years with ever-expanding markets for them. I have to believe that their price will also go up drastically as the fuel market expands. It will be more profitable for the farmers to sell soy and corn products to nonfood customers. What happens to our food prices? A billion gallons uses a lot of beans.
We used to help feed the world, but higher prices will end that. What will we and the world's poor do?
I feel that using food products for nonpeople fuel is a really bad way to go. The unintended consequences are just too great to justify it. Bio is a bad short-term fix. There must be another way, and we need to find it.
David Kirkpatrick, Franklin, Tenn.
Re: "a bridge too far gone: interview with Barry LePatner" (June 2008)
Part of the problem with the I-35W bridge collapse in Minnesota, which was downplayed but is a key factor in the collapse, is pigeon droppings. Pigeons?! These pests roosted underneath the bridge on its steel and concrete beams. Their feces contain acid that, over time, erodes steel, concrete, wood, you name it. And the piles of excrement got so thick that the inspectors and cleaning crews decided not to clean up the mess; they just let it stay. The part that really gets me is that had they removed the mess, they might have been able to see what kind of structural damage was hidden behind these pigeon nests. It's disturbing. And this goes on underneath every bridge in the nation—heck, even around the world.
All it takes to rid the area of these pest birds are some simple proactive solutions such as ultrasonic sound waves to annoy them and make them leave, or sonic devices utilizing sounds of real alert and alarm calls of pigeons and predator birds. There are physical barriers such as spikes, nets, and tacky gel-like substances that create the sensation of stepping in bubble gum. And there are visual scares that include owls and blow-ups with scarylooking eyes. Even spraying a hose up into the bridge's beams once in awhile can act as a deterrent. It's scary to know that the Department of Transportation would rather let pigeon excrement pile up than take the time to conduct thorough safety inspections of the nation's bridges.
Dave Kogan, Bird-X Inc.
Editor's note: The writer's company, Bird-X Inc., is a leading specialist in bird control and bird repellent products.