On April 9, I wrote about the Maryland legislature, which had for the 14th consecutive year killed a bill to require truckers to cover loose loads.
Mr. George Woolverton of Chevy Chase and Mrs. Amelia B. Billups of Riverdale noted our news columns for that same day carried a dispatch from Taylor, Mich., about a truck on Interstate 94 that was carrying steel shavings.
As the truck sped along the highway, the steel shavings flew off the top of the uncovered truck and fell to the roadway. "For more than a mile, tiny steel shards slashed tires on hundreds of cars," the news story said. "At some points, the expressway shoulders were solid with stranded motorists."
Most civilized jurisdictions have laws that prohibit the operation of any vehicle from which cargo can "drop, spill, leak or otherwise escape." Unfortunately for all who drive on its highways, Maryland does not.
Trucking interests lobby against a bill requiring loose cargo to be covered.
The legislators obey the lobby's orders.
When Rae Ellyn Day of Silver Spring learned of the bill's defeat, she wrote me a letter that said: "I was in total support of the bill, but did not write my support state repesentative because the bill seemed so logical I was sure it would pass. Now I'm hopping mad.
"Just the other day, I was driving my 2-week-old Plymouth Champ along the Beltway. A gravel truck passed me and bing! there was a nick in my windshield. Try as I might, I couldn't catch up with that big diesel to get his tag number. The truck lobbyists say it would be too expensive to cover the loads. Well, I'm sure if they took their foot off the pedal they would save enough in fuel to pay for a few load covers."
I'm with you, Rae Ellyn.I think a man who can afford to spend $10,000 or $20,000 for a truck can afford to buy a tarpaulin to cover loose cargo hauled in that truck. Or has OPEC cornered the market and raised the price of a tarp to 100 ounces of gold?
A letter from a man who doesn't want his name in the paper says, "I, too, have had my car window broken by rocks flying off trucks and have seen the resulting litter on the highways. But there's one thing I haven't seen mentioned.
"Look at the grass, trees and homes covered by the dust from rocks hauled by uncovered trucks. Some of this dust is of the asbestos type suspected of causing cancer. Schoolyard areas have been paved over to eliminate this dangerous dust, but we have done nothing about the dust that flows from these uncovered trucks. A tarp would help tremendously.
"Pick any stone quarry. Follow the road out and not the dust-covered vegetation and homes. Your column asked, 'What's the payoff?' Political pull and big money? And a big fist for the little guy that tries to get something done. The trucking industry is a vicious lot and that is why I don't want my name in the paper."
Me, either. I'm going to ask The Post to put somebody else's name on today's column. POSTSCRIPT
For the record: It is a mistake to lump everybody who drives a truck or owns a truck into the same category and describe the industry with sweeping generalities. "Trucking industry" is sometimes used to describe the large companies that employ many drivers, and it is sometimes used to describe independent owner-operators whose financial interests and legislative goals may be quite different. The one thing all truckers have in common is the very real danger that public opinion will turn against them if some of them continue to intimidate legislatures. LABOR NEWS
If you left a phone message for me in the past few days and have not yet gotten a callback it's because I have been getting many calls and letters from people who had to pay for phantom parking tickets -- tickets they never saw. Checking out all the facts is going to take time.
One of these letters, incidentally, crries the postscript: "I make deliveries to government offices and have never seen more than 2 to 3 percent of the people actually working. Many of them spend hours yakking on the phone in personal conversations."
If you take a look at our newsroom during certain hours, the percentage of workers might appear to be even lower. But we writers spend a lot of time thinking, and this sometimes causes tour groups to assume we're just staring out the window. DON'T PUT IT OFF
It doesn't pay to let things go until the last minute. Get started on your income tax this morning. Or at least by this afternoon. Or early evening. ADD DEFINITIONS
Joe Crow in the Indianapolis Star: "Prejudice is weighing the facts with your thumb on the scale."