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TD136: The Emotions Of Changing Truck Driving Jobs

I haven’t felt this way since 1997. My emotions are all over the map more than the 18-wheeler I drive. Joy… Fear… Doubt… Anticipation… and perhaps most of all… Uncertainty.

What’s so significant about both 1997 and February 2019? Both are major shifts in my work history. 1997 was when The Evil Overlord (wife and ex co-driver) and I started driving a truck for a living. Not only was this a profound shift in the type of job I was doing, but it was also a major lifestyle change for us. And now I‘m facing that again as I’m getting ready to change truck driving jobs.

But wait; how is switching from one truck driving job to another trucking driving job such a big deal? For all I know, maybe it won’t be. That’s part of the uncertainty I was talking about.

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Changing truck driving jobs is not a new thing for me.

While I’m not a job-hopper by any means, I’m also no stranger to switching trucking companies. I’ve worked for six different carriers over my 21-year career. Yes, I realize that’s not a lot, especially compared to how often truck drivers job-hop nowadays.

So what makes this current job change so different?

As I’ve mentioned before, The Evil Overlord and I were a team operation for nine years of my career. The entire time we pulled dry vans for large carriers. Now one might think that going from a team operation to a solo driver was a huge change, but I had no anxiety about that whatsoever.

First, an Over-The-Road (OTR) dry van driver job is an OTR dry van driver job. There are subtle differences, but not much.

Even more important was the fact that I knew my marriage to the evil wench was strong enough to survive being apart 3–4 weeks at a time. And proof of that is that I can call her an evil wench and not only am I still married, but I haven’t been murdered in my sleep yet… yet.

I also knew that the only thing that was really going to change about my job was that I would be sleeping a lot better in a truck that wasn’t bouncing down I-95.

Well that, and I wouldn’t have to listen to her nagging me to slow to a crawl on perfectly fine snow-covered roads. Even today if I’m on the phone with her and mention that it’s snowing, she tells me to slow down. She think she knows me so well. ? Hammer down!

The differences between my current job and the new one.

  • More home time
  • Less money (initially)
  • Type of runs
  • Kind of truck
  • Food situation
  • Sleeping situation
  • Working for a union

I’ll explain more about each of these as I run through the list of emotions I’ve been going through. Everyone grab your mood rings and let’s get moving.

Jumping for joy

When I first saw this job advertised, I jumped for joy. It looked like it was the shining gold trophy job I’ve been waiting on for what seemed like an eternity. The job that would finally get me away from having to be away from home for two to four weeks at a time and even more importantly, do so without such a massive pay cut that I’d have to buy my clothes at rummage sales for the rest of my life.

Ultimately, my goal is to be home every night and this new company provides a transition to that eventually. But for now, this is a nice stop-gap. You see, I’ll still be out on the road all week, but I’ll be home every weekend. And this isn’t one of those “trucker weekends” that really means you’ll get home for 34 hours on a Tuesday.

Nope, this is home every Friday night or Saturday morning and I’ll leave back out again Sunday night or Monday morning. Naturally, there will be times when the weekend will be shorter, but for the most part I’ll get a full 48 hours or more off each weekend. Hallelujah!

For years, I’ve seen plenty of other jobs blip onto my radar screen, but none of them could even come close to matching this home time or the money I’m making as an OTR driver. Most of the more local jobs I’ve seen would’ve had me taking a 30-50% pay cut. Literally.

As I’ve mentioned here many times before, you almost always have to take a pay cut when you are home more often. I get that. And that’s why I waited patiently until an opportunity like this arose.

Then came the anticipation…

Like I said, I was very patient waiting for this job. From the time I called about it the first time to the time I was hired was probably about a year. I thought this was the right job, but jumping on it right away would destroy all our plans.

If you’re a regular Trucker Dump listener, you’ll know that The Evil Overlord is in school right now. Our plan has been for me to stay out here on the road long enough to get her through school… no matter how long it takes. Once she has a better paying job, then I’ll be able to quit driving OTR and take the inevitable pay cut to work local.

Well, this job is a slight pay cut the first year, so I waited. I called the guy who would be my local terminal manager every few months just to keep in touch. I asked a different set of questions each time and we chatted about the job and the job market in general. When would be the best time to apply? When is your busy time of the year? How does this “home every weekend” thing work in real life?

Every time the job came up in my email, I’d text The Evil Overlord; “The job is up again.” We’d talk about it, but each time we decided to stick with the original plan.

Finally, after months of talking to the terminal manager and learning more about the pay package from both him and some of their drivers, the job popped up again I sent the text message. This time she texted, “Go ahead and apply. If I have to, I’ll get a part-time job while I’m in school to make ends meet.”

The main reason we decided to make the jump earlier than expected is because this new company quoted a higher annual pay than I expected. It’s still a pay cut, but only a slight one for the first year.

According to them, in the second year I’ll get a mileage pay bump so I’ll be making the same money I am now. Even better, by year three I’ll be making more than I am now (not CPM, but overall)!

So you can see my joy had me jumping up and down like an Oprah audience member after she’s won a lifetime subscription to Oprah Magazine.

I filled out an online application on a Friday and got a text message on Monday requesting a phone interview. I set one for the following day.

Then the fear set in…

I think my fear set in the day I was officially offered the job. Up until then it had only been a dream and a hope that things would work out. But as soon as I was told the job was mine if I wanted it, my first thought was, “Oh, crap. What have I done?”

The Evil Overlord and I had made this plan and now we’re deviating from it. I know how much money I make at my current job. I only know what I’m told at this new company. Is my eagerness to spend more time at home getting the best of me?

Here’s where the doubt kicked in…

What if the pay wasn’t as much as they claimed? They wouldn’t be the first trucking company in history to exaggerate their pay package, now would they? Could The Evil Overlord and I cinch up our money belts and make it work if the pay wasn’t as much as advertised?

Believe me, I’ve done my due diligence. I better have, since as @Mark in the Trucker Dump Slack Group said, “you actually wrote the book” on the subject (How to Find a Great Truck Driving Job). I’ve talked to the terminal manager for a total of 2.5-3 hours over the course of three or four phone calls. I’ve talked to eight of their drivers at length. And I spoke with a recruiter for another 45 minutes during the job interview and the road tester for another 30 minutes.

They all backed up the advertised pay amount. I would expect that from the terminal manager and the recruiter, but the drivers backed it up too. Every driver I spoke with said I could actually make more than the stated amount in my first year if I was any kind of decent driver. And I like to think I am or else they wouldn’t have hired me, right?

Even better, every driver I talked to said it was the best job they’d ever had! They’d made more money and had more home time than any other driving job in their past! Sweet!

Now naturally, I was waiting for every one of them to give me their name so I would list them as a referral, but not one did. I suppose that could be because they might not get referral bonus pay? I don’t know. Either way, they weren’t blowing diesel smoke up my caboose just to earn some extra cash; so that was comforting.

Now I can hear some of you saying, “Hey, you just said you wrote the book on How to Find a Great Truck Driving Job. You even brag about your full list of questions offered in the book. How could you not know if they paid for driver referrals after speaking with them so much?!”

As I’ve said all along about the Trucking Company Questionnaire (which you’ll find in How to Find a Great Truck Driving Job or here separately); you don’t have to ask every question on the list; you only have to ask about the things you care about. I’ve never recruited a driver before so whether they have driver referral pay or not is inconsequential to me. So there, smarty pants.

The fact is, everyone knows when you go through a job change that things can get tight financially as you get comfortable with the new job. The first week usually pays less while you’re going through orientation and training. Then your first week out by yourself you’re often about efficient as a snowplow on a Smart car.

So my biggest fear comes from the financial side of it. Unsurprising, since you all know I’m always in the running for the National Cheapskate of the Month Award. Hard to believe I haven’t won yet. Oh well, just being nominated is an honor.

So back to my doubt…

If I did the research on sites like PayScale.com and talked to multiple drivers, a recruiter, and a manager, then why the doubt? Because I’m leaving a known quantity for an unknown one.

As you’ve heard/read throughout the years here on the Trucker Dump podcast/blog, I know my current company inside and out. I know the things I hate. I know the things I love. I know how their freight runs and where I might be able to find that nearly extinct species known as an empty trailer.

I know every detail of their pay package and how much I’m going to make each year. I understand how the safety department will react to a log infraction. Basically, I know how the system works and I know how to use it to my advantage. I know the world of an OTR dry van trucker.

It’s like I had everything written down on a huge, black chalkboard and then this new job walked up with a big eraser and left nothing behind except smears of chalk dust. Wow. I really dated myself with that metaphor.

What’s so different about this Less-Than-Truckload (LTL) job? Why all the doubt and fear?

The biggest difference I’m facing is that I’ve always driven over the road and my new job is LTL. This means that the freight lanes will be different since I’ll be running primarily between their terminals. But how do they manage to get their drivers home every weekend without shorting us on miles?

Every time I’ve headed home in the last 21 years, I’ve always known I was going to have a bad paycheck coming out from the house. This LTL company has been operating like this for years, so I’m sure they know what they’re doing. But I don’t! And that causes doubt.

I also know I’ll be making significantly less money per mile, but supposedly I’ll only make slightly less money overall the first year because I’ll also be paid hourly for all On-Duty time. Other than detention pay after one hour at a shipper/receiver, I’ve never dealt with hourly pay within the trucking industry.

How does it work? How do they track the time? What counts as On-Duty time? How do we track it to keep them honest? Again, I’m sure they know what they’re doing and I’ll know soon enough. But until then, I’m clueless. And being clueless causes lots of fear and doubt in this dude. Especially after working in a job for so long where you are totally comfortable and totally in-the-know. Totally.

Another big unknown is working for a union.

The only other time I’ve had a union job was in my late 20’s when I loaded trucks part-time for UPS. Talk about a difficult job! Kudos to everyone who does it. It’s super-fast paced and there’s no room for error, (which they will purposely test you for quality assurance purposes). Hey! It’s only one digit off in the zip code! It’ll get there eventually!

Back then, I didn’t much like the union. I had to pay a union fee every week for no visual benefit. It didn’t help that my paychecks were so small already, which made the union dues a healthy percentage of my gross pay. Grrrr.

But now it’s different. I still have to pay union dues, but now I can see the benefits in the form of company-paid health insurance. Yes, you heard that right. Also, I can see that the union negotiated to get us paid for On-Duty work. How many other carriers are doing that?

All-in-all, this health insurance is one of the reasons why I can afford to make this jump earlier than expected, because the union dues I’ll be paying are about $100 less per week than what I’m currently paying for health insurance. That makes up over $5000 in pay differential right there!

Yet still, I’m leery. Can the union be all it’s cracked up to be? Am I comfortable letting a group of people I’ll probably never meet make career decisions for me? What’s up with this process of bidding for jobs? What if they call for a strike? That’s some real fear stuff right there, folks.

Another fear I have is the equipment.

One of the questions I asked every driver I talked to was, “What is the worst thing about this job?” Without hesitation, every last one replied, “Crappy equipment.” Great. Unanimously crappy equipment.

This is another major fear. My current company prides itself on it’s fleet. Most of the trucks are less than 3 years old and both tractors and trailers are well-maintained. Y’all have heard me belly ache, whine, and moan when I have to sit in an inspection bay line for two hours or take the truck in for a lube job every 2-3 weeks and an oil change every month or so. It’s a pain in my arse and a “waste” of my working hours.

But it’s also the reason I’m rarely broken down on the shoulder of an interstate or limping to the tire shop with a flat tire. It’s also why the weigh stations don’t look twice at me, unless of course a DOT officer needs an easy inspection at the end of their shift (yes, this has happened to me twice).

So now I’m going to be driving older equipment that is clearly not as well-maintained as I’m accustomed. Their drivers all say it’s not as bad as it sounds because they get paid a good hourly On-Duty wage, which starts the second they call in the breakdown.

But in the realm of doubt, I’d like to note that two (count ‘em – TWO) of the eight drivers I’ve spoken to were broken down at the time. To be fair, neither of them seemed even remotely pissed or stressed by their situation. So maybe there is something to that hourly breakdown pay? Heck, at my current company I don’t get breakdown pay unless I’m shut down for 24 hours. 22 hours down? Sorry, that doesn’t qualify. Ugh.

Another thing about the equipment is it’s a day cab (a truck without a bunk area behind the driver’s seat), and I may be driving multiple trucks. From what I’ve gathered, they’ll try to leave you in the same truck, but if it breaks down or someone else needs it while you’re at home, that sucker will vanish like Siegfried & Roy threw a shiny red curtain over it. Seriously, the driver who gave me my road test told me to always clean everything out of the truck on the weekends. He stressed the word always. So that’s going to suck.

That might also mean that I’m having to drive trucks that smell like cigarette smoke. Now in the past, I’ve always fought hard and long to get a smoke-free truck. I didn’t stop badgering them until I got one. I know I’ve talked about that on the podcast before.

While I’m still going to pursue the cleanest, smoke-free truck I can get, I’m not going to get all anal about it this time. My big argument has always been that I don’t want to live in a smoky environment, which is what I’m doing in a sleeper cab. You’re huffing those third-hand smoke cancer fumes 24/7 for weeks at a time. Not so in a day cab. Yes, I’ll still be driving it for 11 hours per day, but I won’t have to sleep in it throughout the week.

And that leads me to another doubt… I’ll be sleeping in hotel rooms every night.

First, let me just say that I don’t understand the economics behind this decision. Yes, these day cabs are stripped down like Will Ferrell in every movie he’s ever made, but are they saving so much money not buying sleeper cabs that they can afford to pay for thousands of drivers to stay in hotels every night? Granted, we’re not staying at the Marriott or anything, but still… But I digress.

The hotel room does have me freaked out though. At first I though it sounded awesome. I’ll get a shower every day and I’ll never have to worry about finding truck parking again. Those are two BIG positives.

But then I realized that I’ve never really slept all that great in hotels. Will I get accustomed to it? Honestly, I’m going to miss the bunk in my sleeper. Heck, I spend more nights in it than I do in my King-sized pillow top at home. Not to mention that lots of milestones in my life have happened in the sleeper of my trucks; mainly both of my books and this podcast.

But the day cab causes other issues too. First, I’m used to having everything I’ll ever need with me. My beloved freezer will have to stay at home because I refuse to leave a $600 fridge inside the truck every night, nor are day cabs designed to accommodate that.

And because I’m lazy and the thing weighs a ton, I’m not going to lug it inside every day either. Nor will I have my microwave oven. Maybe the hotel will have one; maybe not. Again, I’m uncertain so I’m fearful.

Right now I’ve got extra winter supplies, two pair of shoes and a pair of boots, all my audio gear, my drone, extra clothes and bedding, and my own pillows. Everything has it’s place.

No more. I’ll be going the minimalist route from now on. My goal is to fit everything into one bag; food, clothes, and electronics. We’ll see how that goes. Stay tuned.

Basically, as I’m spending my last few days inside this big truck, every time I stand up and walk into the bunk, I now think to myself, “Enjoy it while you can, bucko. Before too long you won’t even be able to stand up inside your truck, let alone take a few steps and fall into bed.”

So basically, this all this comes down fear, doubt, and uncertainty caused by the unknown; mixed in with anticipation of learning something new and having the joy of being home every weekend.

Who knows? Maybe everything will be exactly as it was presented to me. Maybe it won’t live up to hype. Even then, maybe it’ll still be a great job for me. Worst case scenario, my current bosses say they’ll be glad to rehire me if things don’t work out. You know, It’s always good to have a safety net when you’re taking a leap, so there is that to be thankful for.

In the end, I just have to trust that I’ve done everything I can to make a wise decision and then rear back and make that jump into the unknown. Christopher Columbus wasn’t afraid to jump and I shouldn’t be either. After all, we do have that first name in common. Well, that and we both look sexy in tights.

One thing’s for certain, I better put on my big boy tights and get ready to jump quick because my last day with this company is Friday and I’ll be starting the new job on March 4. So I guess there’s just one word left to say…

GERONIMOOOOoooo!!!!!!!!

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Podcast show notes:

Man, we’ve got a colossal show today, headlined by me sharing the emotional rollercoaster I’ve been on lately as I prepare to change truck driving jobs.

But before that, we’ve got interesting stuff like Dustin’s Trucker Grub segment on some good BBQ and some long lost listener feedback from Keith, who talks about hourly pay and has a military analogy to truck training, Scot has comments on the podcast and a question about driver suicide, and Mark sent in a audio clip about why there’s so much confrontation between drivers.

But of course, we’ll start out with a bajillion news stories regarding such things as truck idling regulations, concealed carry in a truck, speed limit changes, updates on the truck parking situation, and what changes our benevolent regulators would like to focus on within the trucking industry.

And speaking of things that don’t work, we’ll also be discussing electric truck technologies, truck tolls, autonomous trucks, 1099 drivers, and trucker protests.

And to round out the news and bring it all back around to emotions, we have two stories, one of lost love and money and the other on found satisfaction in mentoring others. And of course, I’ll be announcing the winner of the Trucker Dump tee shirt for filling out the Listener Survey.

Please fill out the Trucker Dump Podcast listener survey!

Listen to the podcast version or read the full article and the podcast show notes on AboutTruckDriving.com.

This episode of Trucker Dump is sponsored by:

  • VolvoTrucks – Check out the new VNL series and all it’s awesome features

Links mentioned in the podcast:

Trucking Law: Can you refuse to drive in poor weather? from OverdriveOnline.com

As per diem benefit sunsets for company drivers, carriers find a work-around and OOIDA asks Congress to act from OverdriveOnline.com

Volvo Group invests in wireless battery charging from OverdriveOnline.com

Report finds trust in autonomous technologies falling from FleetOwner.com

Test drive: Freightliner’s autonomous-capable 2020 Cascade from Commercial Carrier Journal

Collision avoidance systems, sleep apnea testing among NTSB’s Most Wanted safety improvements from OverdriveOnline.com

Eight-state truck parking information initiative nears full launch from OverdriveOnline.com

Pilot Flying J looks to add new locations, enhance existing stores in 2019 from OverdriveOnline.com

ATRI updates list of idling regulations from OverdriveOnline.com

Compendium of Idling Regulations from ATRI

Virginia legislators back off of I-81 tolls – for now from OverdriveOnline.com

Senate bill would expand concealed carry reciprocity from OverdriveOnline.com

Eight states consider raising speed limits, eliminating speed differentials from LandLineMag.com

Minnesota raises speed limits to 60 on over 5,000 miles of highways from OverdriveOnline.com

Truckers gear up for another ‘slow roll’ protest this week from CDLLife.com

Exec Ordered To Pay Truckers Millions For Misclassifying Them As Contractors from TheTruckersReport.com

Here Are The Top 10 Worst Traffic Bottlenecks For Trucks In The Country from TheTruckersReport.com

Account of ‘catfishes’ trucker a grave reminder to be leery of online romance scams from OverdriveOnline.com

Show info:

You can email your comments, suggestions, questions, or insults to TruckerDump@gmail.com

Join the Trucker Dump Podcast Facebook Group

Join the Trucker Dump Slack Group by emailing me at TruckerDump@gmail.com

Join the iTruckers Slack Group if you’re a trucker who loves your Apple tech toys by emailing TheiTruckers@gmail.com

Got a second to Rate and/or Review the podcast?

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TD129: 4 Ways To Become A More Efficient Trucker

Experienced truckers know that there are many things in the trucking industry that are out of your control. If you’re a newbie who has not figured this out yet, you soon will. But this does not mean that everything is completely out of your control either. Here are some ways you can become a more efficient trucker.

This episode of Trucker Dump is sponsored by:

  • Citadel Fleet Safety– Call 800-269-5905 or click the link for a special discount for Trucker Dump listeners. Click on [Customer Login] in the upper-right corner, click on the Trucker Dump logo, and use password: truckerdump.
  • Classic Truck Insurance Group– Call 888-498-0255 for your free quote today.
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Efficient trucker tip #1: Always ask about early delivery or a drop

This is a big mistake I see too many truckers making. Drivers often assume that just because their company is “forced dispatch” that they have to take whatever load is given to them. This is simply wrong. Forced dispatch only means that you have to take the load if you can’t supply a good reason not to. So if you want to become a more efficient trucker, you need to start thinking differently.

Never accept the status quo.

Every time I get a new dispatch, the first thing I do is look to see when the load picks up and delivers. Ideally, you’ve got just enough time to drive the empty miles to pick up the load and get it to its delivery on time, but not arrive there too early. Great. Accept the load, drive safe, and stay out of my way! 🙂 (That’s my tagline at the end of each podcast.)

But all too often when they’re asking you to drive 50 miles to pick up a load, it doesn’t pick up for five hours; meaning you are going to get there about four hours early! And then when you look at the delivery time, you figure you’re going to be there a whopping 10 hours earlier than your appointment time! What now? If you’ve got the customer’s phone number, use it. But as you well know, many of us company drivers don’t have access to it. If that’s the case, contact your dispatcher.

Sure, you could use the extra time on these loads to stop in some quaint town along the way and go sightseeing. Or you could use the time to polish your chrome or head into the casino for some blackjack. But this article is about being a more efficient trucker. None of these things are efficient. In fact, they’re all going to cost you time and money!

Call your dispatcher

I don’t keep stats on this sort of thing, but if I had to guess I would say I am calling or messaging my dispatcher on about half my loads; possibly more. Whichever wait time (pick up or delivery) is the longest is what I ask about first.

“Hey Gina, I can be at the shipper at 1:00 PM, but the load doesn’t show to pick up until 5:00 PM. Will they load me early?”

Sometimes it’s a set appointment and there’s nothing you can do about it. Other times they will have notes about the customer saying that you can pick up anytime and that the time listed is just a “suggested” appointment time. Honestly, that doesn’t seem very efficient to me, but unfortunately I can’t change their company polices.

Other times I’ll notice the pick up time is something crazy like 24 hours away, even though I’m only 80 miles out. Again I’m immediately asking dispatch what the deal is. Maybe freight is just slow in the area so your options are limited. But it’s also a possibility that somebody in the office screwed up and thought you didn’t have driving hours available or they just looked at the shipping date wrong! You might be surprised how often this happens.

If you’re going to arrive at your delivery extra-early, ask if they will accept the load early

This happened to me again just the other day. The load delivered at 9:00 PM, but I could get there about 9:00 AM. The comments section for this load specifically said, “Do not attempt to deliver earlier than appointment time.” Now usually when the load comments are that specific, I know they are set in stone. Therefore I was resigned to it. But I still put on my efficient trucker hat to figure out how to make the best use of my time.

I was low on hours that day anyway, so my plan was to come off a 10-hour break and drive the remaining three hours to get as close to the delivery location as I could. I’d then take yet another 10-hour break and then deliver the load 9:00 PM. My thought was that by the time I was unloaded, I would be getting hours back at midnight and be ready to roll again. Of course, this sucks for your sleep because I had just come off a 10-hour break. How I’m expecting myself to sleep again that soon is a different issue that we don’t have time to go into.

Obviously, I didn’t really want to do this, so I thought to myself “What can it hurt to ask about an early delivery?” So I did (see screenshot). You can see the happy result. As I always tell my dispatcher, “He who does not ask, does not receive.” You might remember that the next time you’re in a similar situation.

One thing I forgot to mention was that due to my low hours, I only had 2.5 hours left to drive that day after my delivery. I’m sure many drivers would’ve just accepted this fact and stuck with the original plan. Not this super-efficient trucker!

As you can no doubt already see, I’m very aware of my available hours. But I’m even more anal about this the closer it gets to home time. This instance happened about a week before my scheduled home time.

I’m sure you’ve probably been in this scenario before.

You’re just shy of having enough driving hours to get home without taking another 10-hour break first; or you’re waiting around until midnight to get hours back before you can finish the drive home.

Either that or you turn outlaw and drive the few hours home illegally. You naughty little pet. Good luck with that now that elogs are mandatory. My point is, that 2.5 hours extra that I could utilize today might be the 2.5 hours that I need to get home this coming weekend! This is yet another reason why it’s so important to be as efficient as you can be.

If you can’t deliver early, ask if you can drop the loaded trailer somewhere

If your dispatch says the customer won’t let you deliver early, ask them if there is somewhere along your route that you can drop the load; for instance, if you have a terminal or a drop yard en route. As a driver, you probably know your route better than the dispatcher, so make a suggestion. “Hey; since I can’t deliver this early, can I drop at the Columbus or St. Louis yard? I’m going right past both on the way to delivery.” If they’ve got other freight in the area that needs to move, they’ll usually hook you right up.

Yes, it might suck to turn a 600 mile trip into a puny 350 mile run, but at least you’re not going to be sitting outside a customer for 24 hours waiting to unload. You can use that time to be running a different load to make up those lost miles. Trust me, it usually pays off in the end.

Probably the reason I make the call to dispatch so often is because it works to my advantage most of the time. If I can point out how the load isn’t very efficient, they will often toss it back into the pile of loads and come out with something better. But other times I’m just stuck with the load and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. That’s when you reach into your medicine cabinet, pop a chill pill, and accept it as part of trucking. At least you tried to be the most efficient trucker you can be.

Now I can hear some of you thinking, “My dispatcher isn’t going to want to go to all this trouble for me.” Well tough noogies. That’s their job. Besides, dealing with the driver is often the dispatcher’s only job at most of these large carriers. There are usually different groups of people who plan the loads and deal with customer service issues. Not always the case at smaller carriers, but it’s still their job.

In my personal experience, I can tell that my dispatcher does sometimes get annoyed with me questioning these loads so frequently. But that’s usually when she is especially busy trying to get drivers home for the weekend or something is going horribly wrong with another driver on their fleet.

Remember; part of a dispatcher’s performance review is based on how efficient their fleet is. So it actually benefits them if you ask this question and become a more efficient trucker. You just might have to remind them of this fact until they get used to you asking about getting rid of these loads early.

Now let’s say that despite your best effort, you’re still stuck with this load and you’re going to get to your delivery 10 hours before your appointment time. How can you still be an efficient trucker?

Efficient trucker tip #2: Sleep at the customer

One reason I’m glad that I was on the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) bandwagon earlier than most (2010) is because it forced my company to start adding one new bit of information to our load information; whether there is overnight parking at the shipper or receiver. This used to be another phone call or message to dispatch, but now the information is right there in the load comments. Thank God, because this makes me a much more efficient trucker! How so?

Unless I am 100% positive that my load is a drop & hook trailer, I will always try to sleep at the customer overnight if it is allowed. I know this is not a popular choice among truckers, but I’m convinced it makes me a more efficient trucker. Even if it is drop and hook, I will still often sleep there anyway. Why?

It saves my 14 hour clock

I’ve talked to many truckers over the years who simply refuse to sleep at a customer unless it is their only option. The argument is always that they want access to food and bathrooms. Fair enough. But if you want to be the most efficient trucker you can be, you really need to get over this.

Sleeping at the customer honestly wasn’t as necessary back in the days when we had paper logs. We could often fudge the timeline so that we didn’t lose much driving time. But since the inflexible ELDs have been mandatory since December 18, 2017, sleeping at a customer’s facility is really the #1 way I’ve found to maximize my 70-hour workweek.

First off, it’s not hard to work around the bathroom and food issue

If at all possible, you should always find out ahead of time what the bathroom situation is. Some of the customers I visit have 24-hour restrooms for drivers. Sometimes, it might be a porta-potty, but it’s better than nothing.

Even if they don’t have restrooms available overnight, simply stop at the nearest truck stop before you get there and take your giant trucker dump. Even if you don’t think you need to, you might ought to pull in and try. In the #1 department, even us older guys with smaller bladders can get through the night since the vast majority of truckers have some sort of piss bottle in the truck. Don’t deny it. Even if you don’t, you can always go water some of the local shrubbery. Serves the customer right for not keeping the restroom open for you.

As for access to food, if you’re one of those moneybags who eats in restaurants all the time, you can check into apps like Yelp or Google Maps to see if there’s any little eateries within walking distance. You never know. You might find a gem! Or you can always go the easy route and grab an extra sandwich at the ever-present Subway shoppe. Honestly, all drivers should be keeping a little bit of food on hand anyway. Peanut butter and cans of soup have a seemingly endless shelf life, you know. One of the perks of me being such a cheapskate is that I always have food in my truck, so this is never an issue.

Now when I say “sleeping at a customer,” that’s exactly what I mean. I’m not talking about hanging out there for 24 hours or anything. Although this super-efficient trucker has done exactly that many times if that’s what it takes to squeeze in a 34-hour break.

Even if you’ve only got six hours before you deliver, you should still park onsite if you can. Again we’re trying to save your clock here. I see two major benefits in doing this:

1. You might get into the dock early.

Let’s say you arrive at 2:00 AM and your appointment is not till 10:00 AM. But they open at 7:00 AM. If you don’t mind interrupting your beauty sleep, it never hurts to check in at 7:00 AM to see if they will take you early. You’re probably thinking “Why the heck do I want to get in the dock at 7:00 AM if my 10-hour break isn’t over until noon anyway?” That’s reason number two.

2. Because you never know how long it’s going to take to load or unload.

If I were to take a poll of truckers on the biggest problems in the trucking industry, I’d be willing to bet that one of the top five answers would be shipper/receivers wasting our driving hours. Not a day goes by when you don’t hear some trucker whining about how the shippers/receivers don’t value our time. Well this is one way to mitigate it. If they want to take six hours to get me unloaded, then at least they’re doing it while my ELD shows me Off-Duty or Sleeper Berth. If it only takes two hours, great! Stay up and get started planning your next load. Or you can always try to go back to bed to finish that sweet dream you were having about Farrah Fawcett.

Now let’s look at you drivers who refuse to sleep at a customer overnight

You have a 10:00 AM appointment so you wake up full of piss and vinegar, eager to utilize the 11 hours of driving you have available. You start your pre-trip inspection at 9:00 AM, roll into the customer at 9:30 AM, and bump the dock at 10:00 AM. I love it when a plan comes together! Uh huh. You silly little optimistic trucker.

In reality, six hours later you’re finally ready to roll, but thanks to the cursed 14-hour rule you only have 7 hours left to drive. Who’s to blame; you or the customer? Well both, but you could’ve prevented this if you had slept at the customer overnight. So those 4 hours of driving you lost are ultimately on your head. Remember, we can’t control everything, so we have to control the things we can.

But hey, let’s be realistic. Not every customer takes six hours to unload. Even if it only takes two hours, you’ve left yourself very little extra time to do anything else except for drive like a madman all day. You can kiss that workout and shower goodbye. Yeah, right! Like truckers exercise or bathe.

Now I know this “sleeping at a customer” thing is an unpopular choice that many of you will refuse to budge on

So be it. If you want to continue to be an inefficient trucker, that’s up to you. I would just suggest that you try it for a while and see if you don’t notice that you’re making better use of your hours of service. And that usually transfers to better paychecks.

Oh, and there’s one other benefit from sleeping at customer locations. You have less chance of sleeping with your head right next to someone’s screaming reefer unit. Unless of course you are pulling a reefer, which in that case you’re just screwed.

Efficient trucker tip #3: Keep your ETA/PTA updated

But first, you need to make sure you know what the terms ETA and PTA means to your company. At most of the carriers I’ve worked for, ETA means Estimated Time of Arrival and PTA stands for Projected Time of Availability. But I have also worked for a couple of companies who used ETA as Estimated Time of Availability instead of PTA. Yes, it was just as confusing then as it is now. These two versions of ETA (or ETA and PTA) are vastly different things. Let me explain.

My Estimated Time of Arrival might be 9:00 AM, but if I know the customer usually takes two hours to unload, that would make my Estimated Time of Availability at 11:00 AM. This could be even worse. Take for example our earlier scenario where my Estimated Time of Arrival was 2:00 AM because I was going to get there early, but my appointment was not until 10:00 AM. So figure 1 hour to unload and my Estimated Time of Availability is actually 11:00 AM. That’s nine hours difference between an ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival) and an ETA (Estimated Time of Availability)!

Keep your dispatcher as up-to-date as possible about your available working hours

While it’s true that most modern dispatching software will keep track of that, I’ve never had a dispatcher who didn’t appreciate not having to look it up. As an added bonus, I believe that staying on top of your available working hours makes you look a bit more professional than your fellow drivers.

My last suggestion to be the most efficient trucker you can be is…

Efficient trucker tip #4: Don’t keep a steady schedule

I fully accept that with the way your particular circadian rhythms work, some of you simply cannot physically do what I’m about to ask, but if you can, or even if you think you can, you should try it for a while.

We all know those drivers who get up at 7:00 AM and drive their 11 hours. Worst case scenario the 14 hour clock is up at 9:00 PM. They’re back up and rolling at 7:00 AM. They do this every day. Obviously, the start time can vary. I suppose there is nothing wrong with this if you know exactly what your freight is every day and you have complete control over it. More power to you if that’s your situation. If that is the case, I have to admit that I kind of hate your guts.

But for the vast majority of over-the-road drivers, we have no idea when or even if we are going to get a load to run on any given day. So by not keeping a steady schedule, you’re working as hard and as fast as you can when you have freight so that when those inevitable down times come along, they don’t hurt nearly as much.

Let’s do a little math. To keep things simple, let’s assume two things that aren’t exactly true unless you’ve entered the land of fairy dust and unicorn farts. First, that it’s possible to run 11 hours straight, take a 10-hour break, and then run your 11 hours again for multiple days in a row. And secondly, let’s assume that we have competing truckers; one loosey-goosey driver who likes to run hard and one steady schedule driver who likes to start his day at midnight. Probably not very realistic, but for the sake of easy math, you’ll see what I mean.

The case for not driving a steady schedule

In this magical world where everything always runs smoothly, let’s say both drivers start their day at midnight and are done driving by 11:00 AM. They both take a mandatory 10-hour break. When the break is over, the loosey-goosey driver starts running again at 9:00 PM, while the steady schedule guy is waiting around for midnight to start his day like he does every day.

You can see that the loosey-goosey driver has 14 hours of driving already finished in that first 24 hours (11 on the first driving shift + 3 on the second), while the steady schedule driver only has 11 hours under his belt.

Come midnight, the steady schedule guy runs another 11 hours for 22 hours total driving over the two days. But loosey-goosy driver drove from 9:00 PM the night before to 8:00 AM the next morning, took another 10 hour break, and started driving again at 6:00 PM, meaning he now has 28 hours of driving in the same time frame. That’s six more hours over two days!

I will spare you the math, but at the end of three days, the loosey-goosey driver has driven nine more hours than the steady driver!

Now I can hear some of you saying, “Yeah, but that ain’t the way trucking works in the real world!” You’re correct. There will be days when you don’t get a full 11 hours of running. There might even be days that you don’t get to run at all. And that’s my point.

Run it when you got it

Here’s my philosophy. When you have freight, run it as hard and as fast as you legally can, utilizing all three previous tips to make the use best use of your hours. That way when you do have the inevitable downtime, then at least you have been as efficient as you can possibly be up until that point where things are out now out of your control.

A side benefit is doing a 34-hour break

Often times, these steady drivers don’t even run a full 11 hours. Their idea is that if they work 8.75 hours maximum per day (both Driving and On-Duty time combined) for 8 days (70 hours in 8 days rule), that they will never run out of their 70 working hours. Okay. Good theory. That means you will get a maximum of 70 working hours under perfect conditions.

Now let’s look at loosey-goosey driver who hammers down. Again, I won’t bore you with the math, but if this driver runs as soon as possible after each 10-hour break, they can easily hit their 70 hours maximum in 5 days. If they then take a 34-hour break to restart their 70-hours, they can now expand their available working hours to over 80 hours in the same amount of time that the steady driver has only worked 70 hours. That could add up to about 10% more money!

Be a more efficient trucker

To sum up, my belief is that to be the most efficient trucker you can be, you need to work as hard as you can while you have loads to run so you can maximize your potential.

Every hour of your available 70 counts in trucking, so be conscience of every one of them. If a customer will take a load as soon as you can get it there, don’t screw around. Deliver it ASAP!

You could have mechanical problems that cause delays.You could be delayed by a lazy loader. You could hit a patch of bad weather. If you’ve dilly-dallied when you could’ve been running hard, you may even find yourself delivering late if something unexpected happens.

I always run as hard as I can to get where I’m going, even if I can’t deliver early. I can’t count how many times I’ve been able to rescue a load from a driver who’s low on hours while he sits under my load to get those hours back. That’s a win-win-win situation. The company is getting their rescued load delivered on time. The other driver is in no rush now so he’s getting back the hours he needs while he’s sitting under may old load. And best of all, I’m making more miles!

So my advice is to step out of your comfort zone and try some of these tips

Don’t automatically accept loads that don’t make good use of your time. Argue your point with a cool head. If nothing can be done about the delivery time, ask if you can drop the load someplace to keep moving.

Try sleeping at the customer to maximize your driving hours. You’ll be surprised how less-stressed you’ll be when that slow forklift dude isn’t eating into your driving hours.

Get off your steady schedule and run hard when you have freight. Save your loafing time for those times when you’re stuck without a load. And if you can do a 70-hour reset, do it.

And lastly, keep your ETA/PTA updated so your dispatcher can find your next good load that maximizes your earning potential. And if that load sucks, get on the phone and start the process all over again. Ain’t truckin’ fun?

Podcast show notes:

In today’s podcast, I present four ideas that could help you become a more efficient trucker. I also cover a crapload of news stories, ranging from new ways to tackle truck parking, new proposed hours-of-service legislation, Electronic Logging Devices (ELD), a lost trucker, some surprises about driver pay, and possibly one of the most insane verdicts I’ve ever heard. I also tell you how social media can help you in a way that you might not have thought of before.

In the Feedback section, we hear from from Goat Bob, Driver Dave, DriverChrisMc, and Dan on subjects such as trucking podcasts, to axle weights, to cancer, to beef liver, and finally being pissed off at truckers.

View the article and show notes on AboutTruckDriving.com.

Get free audio and text samples of Trucking Life and a text sample of How to Find a Great Truck Driving Job.

Check out new Trucker Dump merchandise at TeePublic.com, including tee shirts, hoodies, mugs, stickers, tote bags, and even kid’s clothes!

This episode of Trucker Dump is sponsored by:

  • Citadel Fleet Safety– Call 800-269-5905 or click the link for a special discount for Trucker Dump listeners. Click on [Customer Login] in the upper-right corner, click on the Trucker Dump logo, and use password: truckerdump.
  • Classic Truck Insurance– Call 888-498-0255 for your free quote today.

Links mentioned in the podcast:

TD128: Interview With Make-A-Wish Mother’s Day Truck Convoy

International Roadcheck safety blitz is June 5-7, 2018

“Top 3 Trucker Podcasts” from Hot Shot Warriors

My guest spot on the Systematic Podcast with Brett Terpstra

New bill tries to exempt small trucking companies from ELDs

Push to reform the FMCSA Hours-Of-Service

Midwest States Team Up For Truck Parking

Truck Driver Goes Missing For 4 Days After Putting Wrong Address In GPS

TD54: The Do’s And Don’ts Of Giving Directions

Maximum Commercial Trailer Length – State By State from Verduyn Tarps

Comchek Mobile App

OverdriveOnline.com Driver Compensation Preference Poll
Survey Says Driver Pay Is Going Up!

Werner will appeal $90 verdict in crash lawsuit

Trucker Grub features Ted’s Montana Grill in Northwest Indianapolis.

Links in the feedback section:

Talk CDL Podcast

TD127: Why Podcasts Are The Perfect Media For Truckers

Patreon

Apple Podcasts app

Podcast Addict app for Android

TD97: A Trucker’s Worst Nemisis – Complacency

TD104: Complacency Strikes

Show info:

You can email your comments, suggestions, questions, or insults to TruckerDump@gmail.com

Join the Trucker Dump Podcast Facebook Group

Join the Trucker Dump Slack Group by emailing me at TruckerDump@gmail.com

Got a second to Rate and/or Review the podcast?

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TD113: The Feedback Show #2

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Well, I managed to come up with jack squat for a topic this time, but that turns out to be a good thing since I’ve been behind on my feedback from listeners for quite some time. So I’m turning my writer’s block into a positive thing by catching up on feedback. Lemons to lemonade, man.

In other words, there’s no legitimate blog post today. But if you’re interested in what we talked about in the podcast version, check out the links below.

Links mentioned in the podcast version:

I was a guest on The Trucking Podcast. We had a blast talking about all kinds of stuff, so please check it out. Look for episode 108.

Who doesn’t like to hear about another person’s aches and pains? No one… right? Right? Tough noogies. I open the show with my kidney stone woes. Good times.

More in the complaint department, I whine a bit about the crappy Internet at my new home.

Of course, everyone loves to hear a trucker bitch about trying to get home. Well I don’t disappoint with the story of my emotional rollercoaster ride trying to get home for Christmas.

I’m also looking for listener’s input on whether being called a “Trucker Dumper” is insulting or just plain funny. I ask because Buck and Don over at The Trucking Podcast are having a heck of time finding a name for their audience that doesn’t piss someone off.

Listener Trucker Bob and I recently announced a new Slack community called iTruckers. It’s basically a place for Apple fanboys (or fangirls) to get together online to talk about their love of Apple gear and services.

So if you’re a trucker who owns an iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Mac, iPod, or maybe you want to own one or have questions about them, please click the link to read about joining the iTruckers Slack group. Or you can email Trucker Bob directly at iTruckers@iCloud.com to receive an invite. Truckers or related fields only please!

I mention current iTruckers members @holden657, @darkstaff, and @driverchrismc.

In the Feedback section:

Greg @riverratwa57 sends another audio comment about how he stays safe in the truck. He mentions his wife carries a lipstick body guard and a flashlight stun gun with spikes. Ouch!

If you’re interested, I shared my thoughts about carrying weapons in the truck back in TD110: Jabbering With Jared.

Lester @amishtrucker shares a quick thought about the stuff I talk about on the podcast.

Long Duck @longduck71 listened to TD108: 4 Reasons Truckers Get The Hazmat Endorsement and disagrees.

Denver left a comment on my Jobshadow.com interview asking for some general advice on getting into trucking. If you don’t want to read the article, I turned it into a podcast in TD102: What’s It Like To Be A Trucker?

Another audio comment from Greg @riverratwa57 discusses technology in trucking and I out The Evil Overlord as being horrible with location awareness. I also share my skepticism about dash cameras. What’s your experience with dash cams? Write in or send an audio comment on the subject to TruckerDump@gmail.com.

An anonymous emailer read TD57: Really? A Good Dispatcher? and leaves a smart aleck remark. Because that’s what annoying people do.

Chib is a non-trucker who listened to TD95: 4 Reasons That Trucker Might Be Tailgating You and had a few thoughts to share about why I’m wrong. I also point him to TD66: Truckers Go Turtle Racing to prove to him I’m not part of the problem with slow truckers trying to pass other slow trucks.

Vic writes in to try to enter the Trucker Country CD giveaway courtesy of Eric McMann @erichmcmann, but he was a bit too late. He did suggest some future topics and according to his email, he’s probably a trucker by now. Yeah!

Ken listened to TD109: Coping With Rookie Truckers, but it was talking about electronic logs in the feedback section that prompted him to weave a tale about a trucker and big brother.

Long Duck @longduck71 tells a tale of his truck breaking down and he talks about blind side backing.

Isaac works for an insurance company and read either TD97: A Trucker’s Worst Nemesis: Complacency or TD104: Complacency Strikes and asked three questions to get a better understanding of the trucking world.

The R & J Trucker Blog was kind enough to include Trucker Dump in their list of 10 Trucking Blogs Every New Trucker Should Read.

Roger hops on board with his pet peeve about 4-wheelers.

Lastly, J went for a new world record for shortest Trucker Dump comment. He wins.

TD109: Coping With Rookie Truckers

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There are approximately 3.5 million truckers in the US, so naturally that means we can’t all be seasoned veterans. We drivers probably encounter at least one trucker per week doing something that would only be done by a rookie. We shake our head in disgust, but what do we do about it? From what I’ve seen, the vast majority of us do absolutely nothing… or worse.

As is typical with the Trucker Dump blog, most of my ideas come from things that have recently happened to me, which begs the question how long I’ll be able to continue doing this blog if I can ever escape the trucking industry like I’ve been trying to do for the last decade. But I guess we’ll cross that crusty, old, underfunded bridge when we get to it. But for now, let’s continue with the story that prompted this post.

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in Fort Smith, Arkansas wondering how my company was going to get me home. I’ve been working for this company long enough to know that they didn’t have much freight moving north from there, so things were looking about as good as a naked 80-year old. Luckily, this was a Thursday and I wasn’t due home until the weekend, so at least they had some time to work up a miracle.

Still, I was flabbergasted when I got a message telling me to pick up a load in Joplin, Missouri, some 140 miles away. The sucky thing about it was that I would be driving right past my house in order to go pick up the load. Isn’t it funny how trucking companies don’t have a problem eating the costs of 140 unloaded miles to pick up a load, but they’d rather put live kittens in a blender than to deadhead a driver home at half the distance. Well, at least that’s the way my company is anyway. Quick! New subject before I get pissed.

The other annoying thing about it was that the load didn’t pick up until the next afternoon and the guy who would be relaying it from me wouldn’t come off his 10-hour break until late that night. Oh well. This happens sometimes, so I’m used to it. Yes, it blows chunks to sit at a truck stop less than 50 miles from your house for half a day when you should be home, but it’s the price you pay for living out in the boonies. Well that, and the whole lack of indoor plumbing thing.

So anyway, I picked up the load and nabbed a spot at the Flying J in Joplin. After a quick call to The Evil Overlord, she had grudgingly decided to get out of bed and meet me in Joplin so we could hang out in town instead of me spending all day in the truck. Luckily, she didn’t need to after all.

The relay driver called me shortly after and told me he’d be there within a few hours. This made The Evil Overlord especially happy because she wouldn’t have to crawl out of bed in the middle of the afternoon; heaven forbid. Apparently the driver’s satellite hadn’t updated in quite a while, which lead my dispatcher to believe that the driver was in the middle of a 10-hour break, when in fact it was almost over. Sweet!

Actually though, the relay driver said “I think my break is almost over.” You think? You think? How does a trucker not know when their break is over? This was my first indication that I might be dealing with a rookie. But I let it slide and asked him to get there ASAP.

Well, he showed up about two hours later than what he said he would so apparently he had figured something wrong, which is odd considering my company uses e-logs. I’m guessing he must have been doing an eight-hour split sleeper berth, because otherwise the e-logs are very good at telling you when your break is over. Ours still suck at splitting though. Still, I wasn’t going to complain about his tardiness since I really hadn’t expected him to get there until late that night.

Further evidence pointing to him being a rookie came almost immediately. He rounded the corner and stopped when he saw me. I waved to let him know it was me he was looking for. He then started to do a blindside back directly across from me! What the…?!

Now had this been late at night I might have thought he didn’t want to risk losing the parking spot by driving around the lot to set up a proper driver-side back. But the lot was only about three quarters full! There were lots of places where he could’ve found an easier backing job, including one just a few spaces past me. I honestly don’t understand this. When I was a rookie, I’d have rather licked a leper’s sores than do a blindside back! I simply cannot imagine anyone doing one unless they had no other choice. And there is almost always a choice not to.

But instead he went ahead and got himself all jammed up between me and the spot he wanted. He got to the point where he could barely move. It reminded me a lot of Austin Powers trying to turn around in that little cart. LOL As soon as I had enough room to escape, I went ahead and pulled out from my dropped trailer so he’d have some extra room to maneuver, which was exactly what he needed to get back into the spot. By the way, I’ve done this for experienced drivers too. It takes less than a minute for an experienced driver to drop a trailer and the gesture will always be appreciated.

Now I will admit during this whole time I was sitting in my driver’s seat watching this train wreck happen. What I should have done was get out and help this poor guy. But how exactly do you help in this situation?

Personally, I have never been a fan of getting out and helping a driver back into a spot.

I have been known to be an extra set of eyes if I see someone really struggling, but I’m really not a fan of the type of driver who stands there and tells the driver which way to turn his wheels. This is mainly because there are more than one way to do a proper backing job. And I have no idea what this guy is going for. More on that in a bit.

As a side note, if you’re a driver trainer, don’t do this to your student. I’ve watched countless times where a student is looking at the trainer while backing instead of watching what the truck and trailer are doing. You aren’t teaching them anything! Except how to watch you maybe. We learn best by trial-and-getting-stopped-by-trainer-just-before-error, you know.

Well all said and done, this whole backing and swapping process took about 20 minutes. While he was unhooking from his trailer, I walked the paperwork over to him and told him I had expected him to get there a couple of hours ago. No, I’m not a jerk (well, not in this case anyway), I said this all in a teasing manner. He looked at me sheepishly as I asked, “Are you new?” “Yep.” “New to this company, or new to trucking?” “I’ve been out of driving school for one month. My trainer just dropped me off and I just got my truck.” Wow. If you’re anything like me, it’s hard to remember what that’s like, isn’t it?

He then started fumbling about as to what satellite messages he was supposed to send after doing a relay and asking what paperwork he needed to send into the company. I explained all the procedures to him as quick as I could since I was eager to get home. I then hooked up to the empty trailer, got back in the truck, and looked over at the guy awkwardly hooking up his gladhands. Remember when gladhands were hard, drivers? Now I think we can do them in our sleep, which is something I’m pretty sure I’ve done before when The Evil Overlord used to wake me up to do that kind of stuff. Frankly, I’m surprised we didn’t regularly drop trailers to the ground with the landing gear still up!

I think God must’ve spoken to me at that moment, because although I was itching to get moving, I felt a bit more compassion for this guy than I normally have in my cold, dead heart. I sighed and stepped out of the truck. I walked over, and with a friendly smile said, “Hey, man. I’m not trying to be a know-it-all, but can I give you a couple pieces of advice?” I’m sure some arrogant rookies would have passed, but to this guy’s credit, he smiled and said, “Please.”

I began, “First, don’t EVER EVER EVER do a blindside back unless you have absolutely no choice. At a truck stop, always drive around the lot until you can line up a driver-side back. And if you’re trying to get to a customer’s dock off a street or something, circle a couple of blocks if you need to. Listen; you will have to blindside back sometime in the future, but it’s always dangerous (even for experienced drivers) and the more you do it unnecessarily, the more chances you have of hitting something. You really don’t need that this early in your career, do you?” He replied with a truly grateful, “Thanks. I’ll remember that.”

I went on. “Now see that Werner truck up there between those other two trucks? (Picture back-to-back  parking where the two trucks facing us are one spot apart and when you look between them you can see the back of the Werner truck facing the other direction.) Don’t EVER try to nose in between two trucks like that to park where Werner is right now.”

I went on to explain that no matter how far he got over, he would be extremely lucky if he could pull that maneuver off. It can be done, but it fails more often than not. I explained to him that I had been delayed for a whole hour one night at that very location watching a guy who got himself all jammed up trying to do that. In that particular instance I had actually broken my normal practice by getting out and telling the flustered driver which way to turn his wheels to escape the situation. To be quite honest though, it had less to do with me being a super nice guy and more to do with him blocking the way out for me and about five other trucks. And again, I was trying to get home, so I was pretty motivated that time too.

In the end I had to wake up the driver next door and ask him if he’d mind dropping his trailer and moving his tractor so the guy could go ahead and pull through. At first he was acting like he wasn’t going to do it, but he changed his mind after I said, “Listen man. This guy is freaking out over here. He’s been stuck like this for an hour. You can either drop your trailer or you can have your fender ripped off. Your choice.” I even told him that if he would pull his trailer brakes I’d be happy to unhook everything for him. He took me up on it, so the lazy bum never even had to leave his cab. So that is eventually how we got out of that Lindsay Lohan-sized mess.

So anyway, back to our current rookie. Before I left I made sure that he understood that he could rescale the load for $2 with the weigh ticket I had given him, as long as it was within 24 hours and it was the exact same location. I assured him that they never check to see if the truck number matches. All they need is the reweigh number on the ticket. I thought he probably knew this already, but I was wrong. He was grateful for the advice (and saving him $8.50) and I pulled out ready to head for home. In hindsight, had I chosen to keep my advice to myself, I wouldn’t have a second half to this story. Oh well. Nice guys finish last.

Just as soon as I pulled out feeling all good about myself, another driver down the way had just started to back into a spot. It was two spaces wide so I figured it would go pretty quick. As The Evil Overlord likes to tell me so often, “You’re wrong.” And just as often, she’s right. Just as I was this time.

Well, I watched that driver trying to back in for 10 minutes. Forward. Reverse. Forward. Reverse. Often with very little change in what he had done before. He started with a wide-open driver-side back and kept going until he eventually ended up in a blindside back. I’m still not really sure how he managed that. Every time he’d try to back in, the driver next to him would lay on his horn, which naturally brought him to an abrupt stop. I could see this was going nowhere good and traffic was backing up behind me, so I hopped out, signaled the other waiting drivers what I was doing, and walked over to scope out the situation.

The guy had gotten himself into a 45° blindside back. His trailer tires were already between the lines and the doors had already cleared the mirror, but he was crooked. I could see that he could probably make it with one little correction. I walked over and told the honker dude I thought the guy could make it if he would quit honking at him. The guy yelled at me, “He’s going to hit me!” I said, “Well I don’t think so, but if you’re convinced of it why don’t you go over and pull your mirror in so he won’t.” The hothead shot back, “I shouldn’t have to do that! He should pull out of the spot and go find someplace else to park!”

Well, I confessed to him that he was probably right about that, but I also explained that at this juncture it wasn’t really an option with all of us blocking him in. He had nowhere to go. I’ll have to admit that the stuck driver (which I found out later was in his first year of driving) wasn’t letting Sir Screams-A-Lot affect him. He was smiling at the whole situation, even though he probably shouldn’t have been. I kinda respected the guy for not letting old weiner head get to him. Still, he was stuck and he knew it. That’s when he pointed at me and then to his tractor. In broken English he said, “You do?”

Okay. Now before you old-timers tell me how stupid this is, let me say that I’m well aware. If I hit someone, he could blame me. And I’m sure the little green lizard’s employers would have a field day with it too. But hey, I wanted to get home. Besides, Captain Crabby Pants had finally gotten out of his truck to make darn sure no one was going to hit his precious mirror. So into the cab I climbed. Thankfully, I’m not a germaphobe, else I’d have been freaking the heck out. That truck was nastier than a Nicki Minaj video!

Anyway, He-Who-Must-Be-Paranoid seemed a bit more confident when I got behind the wheel. Still, he insisted on directing my every move. He had me turning my wheels this way and that with about 4 pull-up adjustments. At that point I stopped, looked at him, and said, “Oh come on, man. I can’t even see that side, and I can tell I’m nowhere close to your truck!” I knew that if he’d just hold his tongue for a second, I could swing the tractor back under and finish the job. But I admit that it would’ve meant that the front of the trailer wouldn’t crossed into his “no-zone” for a brief moment. So instead I chose to let Mr. Alpha have his way. We did get the job done, but thanks to him being a complete anus, it took about three moves longer than it should have. Oh well. Like my trainer taught me, “A good back is one where you don’t hit anything. Doesn’t matter how long it takes.” Wise words. So naturally, you know they didn’t come from me.

So here’s the thing, drivers. You have experience. Great. But let me take a second here to remind you that there was a time when you were a rookie too. We all were. Not one us had a grip on the air-powered umbilical cord as we floated from 4th to 6th gear into this world. Even if you did learn to drive on the farm when you were twelve, I’d be willing to bet you screwed up a time or two… or fourteen. And before you make that claim, give me your dad’s phone number. I’ll get the real story.

So what say we remember that the next time we’re confronted with a rookie who is having a really crappy day? The last thing they need is some irate driver screaming at them or belittling them. Nor do they need to hear your snide remarks on the CB. What they need is tolerance. What they need is a helping hand. What they need is an extra set of eyes. What they need is a driver who’s willing to offer some friendly advice. And if you’re not willing to give these rookies what they need, then what those rookies really need is a set of brass knuckles to punch you right in the kisser. Now let’s see you try to scream at him with a mouthful of broken teeth.

*So how do you treat rookie drivers? Why? Got any good stories about it? Please share your thoughts below.

Additional links from the podcast version:

Check out fiverr.com for all your little needs. I’m betting someone over there can help you for $5.

The Trucker Country CD by Erich McMann winners are SFC Sapper, Kevin I., and Eric M. Check out the 5:25 min video showing how I chose the winners using Random.org, a random number generator.

If you didn’t win you can always find out more about the Trucker Country CD on Facebook, the iTunes Store, or Google Play. And don’t forget to follow him on Twitter.

Short clip of Austin Powers in his cart. LOL

In the feedback section:

Brian from Australia chews me out about being lazy

Long Duck is back after listening to TD96: The Feedback Show, but before that he totally grosses us all out.

Finally, Justin shares his thoughts on TD106: How Will Amnesty Affect The Trucking Industry. And he does it in our favorite form; a rant.

You can email your comments, suggestions, questions, or insults to TruckerDump@gmail.com

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TD106: How Will Amnesty Affect The Trucking Industry?

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Well, it looks like America is inching ever closer to giving amnesty to illegal immigrants. If that’s so, how is this going to affect the trucking industry as a whole? How will this affect us truckers? What do we need to do to prepare for it? Or is there anything we can do? Well, today I’m going to step out of my comfort zone and tackle this subject. But first, a moment of prayer:

Dear Lord,

Please help me not to look like too much of an idiot today… or any other day for that matter.

Amen. 🙂

Amnesty for illegal immigrants is a loaded topic. Some folks are for it. Some are passionately against it. The rest of us lie somewhere between uncertain and confused. I count myself as covering the spectrum of the latter. I’m uncertain how I feel about it and I’m generally confused about the whole legislative process and it’s ramifications.

So with that, I’m going to embark on a journey to share my thoughts about it. I’m also just as positive that I will prove to you how ignorant I really am about all things political. So take this with a grain of salt… which is hopefully attached to a McDonald’s french fry. And please keep this disclaimer in mind before you write me an angry email telling me how stupid I am. I can get that from The Evil Overlord by just existing.

Okay, first let me say that the reason I’m so torn on this subject is because of the people involved. I’ve got nothing against immigrants. The way I see it, immigrants in general tend to be very motivated and I respect that. Every day we see truckers of all ethnic backgrounds driving trucks. You know one for sure when you see those little fuzzy balls hanging all around the windshield. Heck, some of them can’t even speak English. How often have you heard this conversation?

Cashier: What company do you drive for, hun?

Trucker: *smiles, shakes head, and says,* “Yes”

Cashier: *takes a deep breath* What’s your truck number?

Trucker: *looks confused and says,* “Yes”

Cashier: *looks with disgust at trucker* 

Everyone in line: *shakes head slowly*

Outside of trucking, we see hard-working Mexicans working their tails off in the fields, on construction sites, or starting yet another Mexican restaurant. We also see lots of Indians who own convenience stores (and yes, I’m aware that’s a stereotype – I blame The Simpson’s). By and large, these people realize that they’re blessed to be living in the good old US of A and they’re motivated to make the most of the opportunity. Kudos to them!

So are illegal immigrants any different?

Well, we’ve all heard the stories of gangbangers coming from Mexico and committing crimes. It’s also almost certain that there are radical Islamic terrorists in our country right now planning their next big thing. But is that the norm? I honestly doubt it.

In our society in general, we tend to only hear stories about the bad and not the good. The nightly news is happy to report on the twice-deported thug who comes back a third time and kills a soccer mom. But how often do you hear about the father who leaves his wife and kids for weeks, just to provide a moderate living for them?

Here is where I’m most conflicted. I know that the vast majority of illegal immigrants are good, hard-working people who just want to earn a decent wage so their families don’t have to go dumpster diving for their supper. Their countries can’t supply that for whatever reason, so they do what they feel is necessary.

The problem is, what they’re doing is illegal! Anyone who argues the term “illegal immigrant” is an idiot. It is what it is. If they’re here without proper documentation, then they’re here illegally. If I was in Ireland without permission, I’d be an illegal immigrant too. It has nothing to do with what’s ethically right or wrong. It’s the law.

Another thing that makes me grumpy about the whole situation is that the US isn’t doing anything that any other country wouldn’t do, yet we’re the ones who are most often labeled biased against foreigners. Other countries usually enforce their immigration laws with far more vigor than we do. For example, let’s pick on our brothers to the south since they tend to be the biggest point of contention right now.

If you enter Mexico illegally, you can be charged with a felony and be imprisoned for 2 years. If the Mexican government deems you to be “not physically or mentally healthy,” they can boot you out. Furthermore, if you are found to be an economic burden on society, they’ll stick you in a catapult and launch your butt back across the Rio Grande.

Seriously? An economic burden? Did I hear that right? If our 11 million (estimated) non-tax paying illegal immigrants aren’t a burden on the US economy, then what is? In Texas alone, they estimated that it cost $12.1 billion to support illegal immigrants. And that was just for 2013! Now I’m not real bright, but I’m pretty sure that qualifies as an “economic burden.” Heck, we’ve all heard about the pregnant illegals who sneak into the States just to have their baby born a US citizen. How is that not being an intentional economic burden?

Now I’d be willing to bet that if you asked these border-jumpers, 95% (not counting the criminals) would choose to become legal citizens if the process wasn’t so stinkin’ convoluted. They’d happily become fat and sassy Americans and begrudgingly pay their taxes like everyone else. Much of the economic burden would be relieved. But the fact is, that currently isn’t an option. But is amnesty the way to go?

Well, one thing’s for sure. I can see amnesty having an ENORMOUS effect on the trucking industry.

First off, we’ve suddenly got 11 million new citizens. Okay, to be fair they’re talking about providing amnesty over the course of many years, but still. Work with me here. Now keep in mind that this doesn’t mean we truckers will have more freight to haul to support these new Americans. These people are already here, so nothing to be gained there.

No, I honestly can’t see one good thing for truckers coming out of this situation. Think about it. We now have 11 million new people looking for jobs… real jobs. For the most part, these illegal immigrants couldn’t obtain a Commercial Driver’s License before amnesty because there is so much scrutiny on truckers, especially when it comes to getting your Hazardous Materials endorsement. Therefore, they had to settle for low-paying jobs where they could get paid under the table and not bring too much attention to themselves. But once they’re here legally, what’s holding them back from becoming truckers? Nothing!

If you take a second, you’ll realize that these folks are prime candidates for the trucking industry. Most of them are already used to low wages, so getting their CDL will likely be a pay raise for them. They’re also already used to being away from home for long periods of time, so being away from family is just par for the course. Heck, when you hear the stories of 15 people living in one small apartment, they’d probably enjoy the expanse of a 60″ sleeper cab!

Also, let’s think about time. It takes two years to get an Associates degree in nursing. It takes two WEEKS to become a trucker! And as many of you know, there are plenty of ways to get your driving school paid for if you’re unable to pay. But hey, let’s not think for a second that there won’t be all kinds of government assistance for these people to be retrained for new jobs. I think that’s a given, considering our current administration feels the US has bottomless pockets. Ugh. Don’t get me started.

But let’s remember that not everyone in the trucking industry is dreading this widespread amnesty.

Who stands to benefit from this sudden tsunami of new CDL holders? The trucking companies, that’s who. You can bet that every trucking company in America is drooling like one of Pavlov’s dogs. Why? Because these new citizens are going to be working for beans. I mean, there are already truckers out here who have proven that they’ll work for a measly 25¢ per mile. How much lower are these new truckers willing to settle for? And what do you think that will do to overall wages?

Overall though, I suppose this amnesty thing might be good for the trucking industry as a whole. The trucking companies can finally quit talking about the driver shortage. And because they’re paying the driver less, they can afford to charge the customers less. And because the customers aren’t getting charged as much, they could (I repeat, could) lower the prices we consumers pay. So that’s a good thing, right?

Well, it is for everyone except the good ol’ American trucker. Imagine that? Once again, everyone’s happy except for the trucker, who can be found hobbling into the truck stop with a Peterbilt driveshaft hanging from his bunghole.

Additional links from the podcast version:

I’m pleased to announce that Erich McMann agreed to let me give away three copies of his new CD called Trucker Country. Just email me at TruckerDump@gmail.com and put the words “Trucker Music” in the Subject field. I’ll do a random drawing and announce the winners on a future show. And be sure to Like him on Facebook and check out his music video on YouTube.

BigTruckGuide.com when you need to know axle weights in a particular state.

Monogahela Misfit talks about an app/web service that helps truckers called Loading Spot.

A new iPhone app called StayAtHand can help truckers find hotels with truck parking.

If you haven’t heard what’s going on with the new amnesty laws, check out this New York Times article.

An article on other country’s immigration laws.

If you’re unfamiliar with Pavlov’s dogs, check this out.

In the feedback section:

Ken writes in with a funny one-liner.

David writes in with an idea about how to let drivers drive a little bit over their legal driving time. I’m mean and slash it apart. 😉

Toby (@truck_writer) points us to a hilarious list called, 15 Dumbest Patients Ever.

Simon writes in from Ireland with some pictures of the tiny roads he drives on everyday. I throw a couple of pictures of America’s back roads in for comparison. See the pictures here.

TD103: 6 Causes Of Tired Truckers

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DroolingWell that’s just dandy. The entire non-trucking world is already convinced we truckers are all driving around with those gross eye boogers and now we get a high-profile story in the media that confirms their fear of tired truckers.

Now the only way you wouldn’t know what I’m talking about is if you’ve been doing missionary work in the jungles of Uganda. So here’s the basics: a Walmart driver recently slammed his truck into the back of a vehicle carrying comedian/actor Tracy Morgan (30 Rock) and some of his friends. One of them was killed, while Morgan and the others were critically injured. Apparently, sometime before the crash, the truck driver had bragged on Twitter about being awake for at least 24 hours. Brilliant. Juuuuuuust brilliant. Just what the trucking industry needs. Sheez Louise, driver. Why don’t you just tattoo a giant red target on your forehead?

So is it true? Are all truckers driving tired? For the most part, the answer is no. Most of us know when to get off the road before it’s too late. Although clearly, this case proves that there is at least some truth behind the allegations.

Now I haven’t spoken to this particular Walmart driver, but I have spoken to a few others. They assure me that if there is a procedure or a safety device available, Walmart has implemented or installed it. Walmart even made a statement that their electronic logs show the driver was legal at the time of the accident. How can that be? How can a driver be awake for over 24 hours and still be legal to drive?

First off, let me say I totally believe that the driver was “officially” legal to drive. I have an electronic log system in my truck similar to the one Walmart has. Most of the large trucking companies do nowadays.

And for the record, I don’t care what some obnoxious truckers say; if the carrier wants to make their e-logs tamper-proof, they can do it. I can’t edit diddly-squat on my e-logs and according to the Walmart drivers I’ve talked to, they can’t either. So if this guy’s logs say he was running legal, I buy it. But that doesn’t mean he should have been driving. I’ll explain as I go through the…

6 Causes of Tired Truckers (in no particular order)

#1 Cause of Tired Truckers: The 14-hour rule

All truckers must adhere to HOS (Hours-of-Service) rules set forth by the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration), which is under the DOT (Department or Transportation). For the record, we drivers pretty much hate everything about all three of those abbreviations. 🙂

If you want a full, detailed description of the HOS rules, please check out TD94: Understanding the New Hours-Of-Service Rules. That was one looooong blog post and we don’t have time for it here. The rule that is the biggest culprit in making tired truckers is the 14-hour rule.

  • The 14-hour rule says that a driver cannot drive past the 14-hour mark from when they started their day. For example, if a driver started at 8 AM, they must not get behind the wheel after 10 PM without first taking a legal 10-hour break. They can, however, work after the 14-hour mark. So they could fuel, unload a trailer, or replace a tail light, but the trucker cannot drive again without getting that 10-hour break first.

I hate the 14-hour rule primarily because I now feel pressured to drive even if I’m tired. If we truckers want to maximize our time, we often don’t have time to stop and take a nap if we need one. Nor can we pull over and wait out rush hour. Now that’s really stupid. I don’t know about you, but I’m guessing most of the public would appreciate fewer big trucks clogging the highways at peak hours. Derrr.

But you know what? There is a way to extend the 14-hour work day. That’s good for us truckers, right? Well, here’s where we can get into some sleepy-time trouble.

#2 Cause of Tired Truckers: Long load/unload times

There is one exception to the 14-hour rule. If a driver logs a continuous 8-hours in the Sleeper Berth at any time after they start their day, the 14-hour day can be extended.

When a driver uses this 8-hour break to extend his day, we call it “splitting” because we now have to get our mandatory 10-hour break by splitting it into two segments, one of 8 hours and the other of 2 or more. Splitting sleeper berth time sucks for everyone. It’s meant to give us drivers flexibility, but all it does for most of us is confuse us to the point that we have to stop into the nearest Costco for a bulk pack of Extra Strength Excedrin. Bonus! It’s got caffeine!

The even sadder thing about being able to extend the 14-hour period is that is usually doesn’t accomplish it’s goal. The rule makers are willing to let you extend the time because they think you’re sleeping the whole time. Well, they’d be as wrong as a Hindu inhaling a Big Mac. As a matter of fact, here’s how it worked for me when this happened just the other day.

I had slept a full 8 hours of my 10-hour break and I eagerly headed out to pick up my load, which was supposed to be ready any time after 3:30 PM. I did my 15-minute pre-trip inspection and drove 45 minutes to the shipper, arriving at 8:00 PM. Sadly, my good mood is instantly squashed when the security guard said the load wouldn’t be ready until 4:00 AM. Okay. So now what?

Well, I immediately put my stupid electronic log onto Line 3 Sleeper Berth since extending your 14-hour day can only be done if the entire 8-hour break is logged as Sleeper Berth time. Okay. So I immediately go straight back to bed and sleep for 8 hours, right? Uhhh…NO! I just slept eight hours! I’ve got a better chance of becoming the next Pope than falling asleep again.

So instead, I procrastinate writing a blog post by watching some movies and playing QuizUp on my iPhone. By the way, my QuizUp username is ToddMcCann if you’re feeling macho enough to challenge me. So anyway, the time finally passes and I restart my day. So how many hours can I still drive?

Well, I only used 45 minutes of my 11 hours drive time earlier, so I still have 10 hours 15 minutes to drive. But the 14-hour rule also still applies to my new starting time. So I used 45 minutes of drive time and 15 minutes of On-Duty time. That’s 1 full hour of “working time” against my 14 hours, so I have to get the 10.25 hours of driving done within 13 hours.

That all sounds fine, but remember, I’ve already been awake since aproximately 7:00 PM. It is now 4:00 AM, so that’s 9 hours I’ve been awake already. But my logs tell me I have 10.25 hours to drive, meaning I could “legally” be behind the wheel until 5:00 PM if I wind up needing the whole 13 hours available on my 14-hour rule. Since that sentence was about as confusing as a fur coat-wearing PETA member, let me make it easy by saying that by the end of my shift I could have possibly been awake for 22 hours.

So what do you think most truckers do? We load up on caffeine and hit the road, that’s what we do. Remember, most OTR truckers only get paid when we’re moving. Now the smart ones know to pull over when they get too sleepy, but I’ll not lie and say that all truckers know when to call it quits. Clearly Mr. Roper thought his load was more important than his life. Or in this case, someone else’s life. Sad.

Extending the 14-hour rule is a great idea that in practice works about as well as booger-flavored candy. Okay. Bad example there. While grown-ups would hate that, kids would probably make it a best-seller. How about broccoli-flavored candy? Yea. That works much better. Even adults wouldn’t want that; unless of course, you’re a weird adult. And since you’re reading this, I’d say that’s a good possibility.

#3 Cause of Tired Truckers: Uncertainty of our next load

Most trucking companies try to let their drivers know what their next load is before they deliver their current one. These are called “Preplans.” They preplan us for two reasons:

  1. To stay ahead of the game to keep you moving. And…
  2. So that we can truckers can schedule our day to get sufficient sleep.

If you’re still going to have hours to drive when you get unloaded, naturally they’ll try to give you a load that picks up near you ASAP. If you’re nearly out of time, they’ll try to preplan your next load so that it gives you just enough time to take a legal 10-hour break and hit the road again. But it doesn’t always work out that way.

To explain how this can make truckers tired, let’s say you’ve slept all night and you get up and drive two hours to get unloaded. You still haven’t got your preplan yet. Maybe there just isn’t much freight moving. Or maybe your dispatcher or the much-hated planners just dropped the ball. Who knows? Finally, your satellite beeps. You say a silent prayer for a decent load and then mumble a naughty word when you see that it picks up 10 hours from now. Ugh.

Again, you’ve only driven for 2 hours, so you still have 9 hours left to drive. Now what? You can’t sleep because you just slept all night. And by the time you’re getting sleepy, it’s time to go pick up that load that needs to keep moving all night in order to deliver on time. So you won’t have time to get a nap, either. Even if you do have time on the delivery you might not have time due to the retarded 14-hour rule.

Often times, there just isn’t a whole lot us company drivers can do about this. After all, we don’t control what loads we get. But maybe if we had seen the preplan the day before, we could have adjusted our sleep.

For instance, if you knew you only had 2 hours to drive the next morning and then you had a 10-hour wait to pick up your next load, you might have decided not to sleep for 8 full hours. Maybe you would’ve only slept for 4 hours and then gotten up 4 hours earlier than when you needed to start driving. So now after you add your 2-hour drive time, you’ve been awake for 6 hours. Stay up 3-4 more hours and maybe, just maybe you can lay down and sleep for 6 hours or so. While not ideal, that’s usually enough to get us through.

No matter how you slice it though, you can see it will never be ideal, even if we do know what our next day’s schedule is. Now I can imagine what all you non-truckers are saying, “Don’t take the load if you need some sleep.” Yeah. That leads into the…

#4 Cause of Tired Truckers: We get paid by the mile, not by the hour

Unlike our hourly-paid brothers in Europe, we lowly US drivers get paid by the mile. While this is great for incentivizing drivers to work harder, it’s also the very thing that makes us less safe. We truckers don’t get paid big money to do worthless work, unlike so many of the high-level executives who got bonuses for mismanaging their companies to the point of needing bailout money… part of what went for more bonuses. Grrrr.

No, when we truckers get a load that we can legally run, we usually do it. Granted, most of us are smart enough drivers to know when we’re about to see polka-dot pandas floating across our vision. That’s when it’s time to pull over before we ass-end a celebrity’s vehicle and yell for the spotlight operator to shine the light on us.

It’s my firm belief that the vast majority of the problems in the American trucking industry would slowly work themselves out if we were switched to an hourly wage. If the trucking companies had to pay drivers to sit for five or six hours to be loaded, they’d start cracking down on the shippers/receivers. If they didn’t pay attention, the carriers would raise their rates to force them to pull their head out. And if they get their act together, then truckers aren’t in a rush to deliver. Nor are they needing to try to sleep during an unneeded 8-hour break.

The problem with the idea of going hourly is that I’m also just as certain that the hourly rate the carriers would come up with would be so low that it would drive even more truckers away from the industry than are already leaving. But that’s another issue altogether. Basically, we truckers have to move down the road to make money. And that’s what we do. But our friendly Walmart driver has an even bigger problem. Actually two.

#5 Cause of Tired Truckers: Minimal home time

There are all kinds of schedules for OTR (Over-The-Road) truckers, but the vast majority of us stay out for two to four weeks (or even longer) and then only get two or three days at home before we head back out to keep all you fine Americans stocked up on Budweiser and Cheetos.

What this means is that we have to try to get as much out of our home time as we can. You’re only home for so many hours and you’ve got to find time to spend with the spouse and the ankle-biters, fix the shower faucet (again), take the car in for service, and get your laundry done. And oh yeah. You might want to sleep some too… if there’s time.

I don’t know about you, but sleep is not usually my top priority when I’m home. It falls somewhere between fixing that stinkin’ repeat-offender faucet and spending time watching movies with The Evil Overlord or getting killed by the nephews (and every other online player for that matter) in Black Ops II.

The way it works at my house is that I have to conform to everyone else’s schedule. The Evil Overlord and our wallet-sucking nephews stay up really late on the weekends and basically all summer long. But even if they had normal, non-vampirish tendencies, it still wouldn’t matter. If I’ve driven 8-10 hours to get home and they’re all getting ready to go to bed, great; I can hit the sack too. But if they’re just getting up, what do you think I do? Go to bed for 8 hours? No! I stay up so I can be awake when they’re awake.

So maybe I’m shorted on sleep as soon as I get home. Maybe not. But now it’s time to hit the road again. Again, I’m on their schedule. If they’re getting up at 1 PM (not uncommon at all) and I need to leave about that time, everything is peachy. That happens about half the time. But say I need to leave at 6 AM in order to deliver my load on time. That’s about when they’re heading to Snoozville. So what now?

Well, for me that depends on the load. If I’ve got a long 8-11 hours of driving ahead of me, I’ll try to lay down and take a 3-4 hour nap before it’s time to go. But if I’ve only got 3-5 hours to drive, I’ll just stay awake and grab a giant mug of coffee on the way out the door.

It’s possible that this Walmart driver being awake for over 24 hours had something to do with this. He may have wanted to hang out with his family for as long as possible before leaving the house. Can’t fault him there I guess. But you do have to be smart about it and get some sleep even when you don’t want to.

It’s a good possibility he overestimated his machoness. We men tend to do that, you know. At least I think that’s what The Evil Overlord is implying when she calls me an Omega Male. (If you don’t get that joke, tweet me @ToddMcCann and I’ll explain. LOL) But wait. It’s possible that this driver had an even bigger problem.

#6 Cause Of Tired Truckers: Commuting

I’ll admit that for the most part, commuting isn’t a huge deal for truckers. Most trucking companies allow their OTR drivers to take their trucks home, so when they leave their house their logbook starts counting down. But some drivers don’t have that option. Like I said earlier, while Walmart is probably correct in saying the driver was driving “legal,” they may have neglected to mention that Mr. Roper had a commute that makes the Indy 500 look like a go-cart track.

That's one heck of a commute!

That’s one heck of a commute!

Apparently, Mr. Roper lived in Jonesboro, Georgia but worked out of a Walmart Distribution Center in Smyrna, Delaware. As you can see from the map, Google says that’s a 750-mile commute that will take 11 hours and 23 minutes! And from what I hear, most Walmart OTR drivers get home every 6-7 days! So it’s possible that this guy was making this commute each week. And remember, that 750 miles is one-way!

According to the Walmart drivers I’ve talked to, this is a somewhat common practice for Walmart drivers. Granted, the drivers I’ve spoken with had never heard of a driver living this far from his home terminal. Over a Steak-n-Shake sundae, one Walmart driver told me that it’s so hard to get hired that many drivers will take any driving job Walmart has available just to get their foot in the door. Then after a position opens at a terminal closer to them, they transfer locations to lessen their commute.

This probably doesn’t come as a surprise to most drivers. We’ve all heard the stories about how much money Walmart drivers make. Another driver said he lived 3 hours from his terminal. He said he always got to the yard early enough to get some sleep before he had to leave, but I’ll bet that’s not completely true 100% of the time.

Now we don’t know Mr. Roper’s situation. Maybe he had just moved to Georgia and he hadn’t been able to transfer to a closer terminal yet. Or maybe he was tolerating a 750-mile commute just to “get his foot in the door.” We just don’t know. Just like I don’t know if my summary of this tragic accident has a shred of truth. But here goes.

To sum up…

If I had $100 to spare, I’d be willing to bet you that the accused Walmart driver left the house, drove over 11 hours to work, hopped in his truck, and did a full 11-hour shift. That would put him awake for 22 hours. Figure in some pee breaks and moving his crap from car to truck and you could easily see him being awake over 24 hours. Worst case scenario is that he didn’t sleep a full 8 hours before he left the house either. And that’s also a possibility I could easily see happening.

So how could this particular accident have been avoided? Well, I’m guessing like so many trucking companies who punish all their drivers for the stupidity of a few, I’d be willing to toss out another $100 that Walmart will be changing their policy about how far a driver can live from a terminal. There doesn’t seem to be a limit as of now, but expect one in the future.

But this incident is a specific case. So what can be done to stop tired truckers from driving? Nothing really, barring a switch to hourly pay for all CDL holders. That would certainly limit the wasted time at shippers/receivers. But that ain’t-a-gonna-happen anytime soon, if ever.

As bad as I hate to admit it, electronic logs help some, but they can’t control how much we sleep we get before we get behind the wheel either. The HOS rules definitely need some tweaking to add more flexibility too. After all, a driver knows when they need to sleep more than the beaurocrats at the FMCSA.

So it basically boils down to this. Drivers need to know their limits and get off the road before those adorable polka-dot pandas attack. Wow. If I had just said that one line at the beginning, I could’ve saved 3,368 words. Oh well. You know me…

TD102: What’s It Like To Be A Trucker?

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Snowy RoadWell, I’m doing something a bit different today. I’m not writing anything here. I’m simply linking you to another bit of writing I did a while back. This was an interview I did for JobShadow.com. It has produced a lot of good comments from the readers so I’d thought I’d share it with those of you who are just too stinking lazy to go over there on your own. So if you want to know what it’s like to be a trucker, click here and enjoy. Or if you’d rather listen to the podcast version, which includes a lot of the comments and the answers I’ve given, just click that big ol’ Play button in that big black bar at the top of this post.

Click here to go to the JobShadow.com interview.

TD98: 5 Stresses Of Trucking Through The Holidays

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Everyone knows that the months of November and December are probably the two most stressful months of the year. Unless of course you’re Canadian. In that case it’s October and December. Honestly though. What kind of weirdos have Thanksgiving in October? 😉 This extra stress is freely available to both truckers and non-truckers. Now I know this may come off as whining, but honestly, we truckers have a lot to deal with around the holidays that normal folks don’t. So strap on your whine-filtering headphones and let’s get on with this.

Stress #1: Scheduling

Yeah, yeah. I know you non-truckers have this problem too. But scheduling is one of the biggest differences between us truckers and you non-truckers; you cats already know what days you’re going to have available. Truckers don’t. Heck, we rarely know what we’re doing tomorrow, let alone three or four weeks from now. One of the earliest articles I wrote was called, No Guarantees in Trucking. In much the same way The Evil Overlord complains about my inability to actually look under stuff to find something I’ve misplaced, that article title was actually a bit of an exaggeration. Okay. At least part of that statement is true anyway. Seriously though, guarantees are hard to come by in the trucking industry, especially when it comes to home time.

As I mentioned in the article, the only home time “guarantee” I’ve ever received was for Christmas. And actually it was more of a company policy than it was a guarantee. And keep in mind, this policy was not for New Year’s Day or New Year’s Eve. It wasn’t for Independence Day. Not even Thanksgiving Day gets this policy. Just Christmas. Notice I didn’t say the Christmas “season.” Just the day. The 25th of December. This policy does not extend to Christmas Eve, nor is there a guarantee on how many days you’ll have off. As pathetic as this Christmas home time policy is, at least it exists. Not all the carriers I’ve worked for have been so kind.

So there’s where the stress comes in. You’re trying to schedule things with family, but there are always a lot more of them than there are of you. And as much as we’d all like to think that the world revolves around us, it just doesn’t. Take my recent Thanksgiving. The Evil Overlord was going to be working out-of-town the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday after Thanksgiving Day. The Evil Overlord’s sister had to work Thanksgiving Day, but was available later that night. My sister, Angi, was having Thanksgiving with her husband’s side of the family on Thanksgiving day, and she had to leave immediately afterwards for some kind of roller derby camp thing. Yes, seriously. Here’s a couple of short videos of me tormenting her at one of her matches. Hey, what are big brothers for?

Okay. Obviously, the weekend after Thanksgiving wasn’t an option and doing it the weekend before, well, that just doesn’t have the same vibe, does it? So I took a deep breath, cringed, and asked for Wednesday and Thursday off. I asked to be home by Tuesday night just to be sure I’d get there for my mom’s dinner on Wednesday. I should also mention that I put in for this home time two weeks in advance. So everything is set, right? Well, perhaps now I should explain why I was cringing when I asked for Wednesday and Thursday off.

Stress #2: Logistics

Okay. Due to the way my company’s freight moves, it’s extremely hard to get home in the middle of the week. Well, I was sitting right close to home on Tuesday, but I was under a two-stop load that had to be delivered on Wednesday. If they couldn’t find a relay close to home, I was going to have to go 150 miles away to deliver the first stop and then hope they could find someone to take it on from there. Well, to go completely again my blow-hard nature, I’ll give you the short version. Consider that an early Christmas present.

Basically, they couldn’t find anyone to take my load and I was sitting 300 miles away from home on Wednesday evening. Remember, I was supposed to be home the night before. I used the rest of my hours to pick up my load home. But guess what? It had been double-booked and another company had already picked it up. Wouldn’t you know it? Thankfully, they had another load going to the same place that was ready seven days early. Yea. Who says miracles don’t exist?

Anyway, by then I was out of hours and I didn’t get home until Thursday afternoon. So I totally missed Wednesday’s dinner with my side of the family and I barely made it home in time to eat with The Evil Overlord’s side. Then the wench left for work the following morning, so I got to see her for about 20 whole hours. Seven hours of that we were sleeping and the other 13 she was busy shooing me and the nephews out of the kitchen. Now seems like a good time to say, “That’s trucking.” Ugh. Someone hit me with a shovel.

So you can see, even when you have everything worked out, that doesn’t mean your company does. Sometimes they just don’t have people where they need them to be. But say they do. That’s where we run into our next problem.

Stress #3: Weather

Unfortunately, the holiday season falls in winter. And unless you have white hair and your name is Storm, I doubt you have any control over the weather. Now I can hear some of you weather nerds out there, *in my best nasally voice* “Well if you just watch The Weather Channel, you’ll be safe.” Seriously? The last time I checked, most meteorologists are about as accurate as Stevie Wonder shooting a free throw. But for the sake of argument, let’s say the pretty weather girl does get tomorrow’s weather correct.

So now if your dispatcher tries to send you into a blizzard two days before you’re due home, you know to tell him to take the pencil he’s holding and pretend it’s a suppository… in the nicest possible way, of course. But what about a full week before you’re supposed to be home? The weather is fine where you’re currently heading and you should have plenty of time to get back home; right? Well, at a week out even the best of meteorologists…, well, let’s just say old Stevie may as well be shooting from half court. So now you’re facing bad weather on your way back home.

Or maybe you didn’t even come back the same route. Maybe you thought you’d be coming straight back, but instead freight had you jumping 150 miles north and now that storm you figured you’d miss is coming at you like a bull chasing little red riding hood. And suppose this time when you tell your dispatcher to insert his pencil, he tells you that it’s the only load moving towards home. Heading any other direction at this point would guarantee you won’t get home in time. Hey look! I was wrong! There is a guarantee in trucking! That is precisely what happened to me at Thanksgiving.

I was sitting in Dallas on Monday when I got the news. Nothing heading towards home today, but there was a load going that way tomorrow morning (Tuesday-the day I was due home). That load was my only choice. I knew it ran straight up through my house, but I also knew it had two stops that had to be delivered 150 and 300 miles away at the same time I was supposed to be stuffing pumpkin pie down my pumpkin pie hole at my sister’s house. What to do? Well, like I said, that was my only option. And before any of you drivers say anything, I’d like to take a second to address something here.

Some of you drivers are just too freakin’ paranoid. The Evil Overlord was certainly one of you. She always had the idea that everyone at our trucking company was out to screw us. I’ve talked with lots of dispatchers over the years, and trust me; they don’t want to listen to you complain about not getting home. They aren’t sitting at their desk yearning for you to call and ask them if there’s any freight moving towards home… for the eighth time. No; if they had a load that would get you out of their hair, they’d give it to you. So lighten up, guys and gals. Sure, your dispatcher is trying to get the most work out of you that they can, but I think most of them would just rather get you home on time to keep you from whining for the next two weeks. If you’ve got stories that prove me wrong, well that’s what TruckerDump@gmail.com is for. Write in and tell me about ’em.

Okay. I’m done with my rant. Now on to the next stress-causing problem.

Stress #4: Laws

When was the last you non-truckers were told you couldn’t drive to Grandma’s house because you’d be breaking the law? Truckers deal with this all the time, not just during the holidays. But it’s extra stressful during the holidays. Truckers have set time limits we can drive per day and per week. If we break those rules and get caught by the fuzz, it’s a stiff fine. If our company is the only one to catch it, then we can face penalties including suspension for a few days, or worse, having to watch safety videos. Yeesh!

Under normal circumstances, we truckers know how many hours we have and we’ll wield this information when dispatch tries to get us too far from home. But as any trucker will tell you, trucking is anything but normal. There are so many things out of our control. What happens when a shipper takes 4 hours longer to load you than you expected? Happens all the time. What if you needed those 4 hours to get home? Instead, you find yourself taking a mandatory 10-hour break 4 hours from the house. And what are the chances someone who is already busy with holiday festivities is going to drive 500 miles round trip to come get you and take you home? Probably about as good as Stevie making that half-court shot. Poor Stevie. I just keep banging on you. 😉

Anyone got a magnifying glass?

Anyone got a magnifying glass?

How about equipment issues? Take a look at the picture. Can you see a cut in the air line? Yea. I could barely see it too. But the Missouri DOT officer at the chicken coop found it. She shut me down until a repair truck came out and replaced it. If that had happened this Thanksgiving, I would’ve missed both my family gatherings.

Mechanical issues pop up all the time with big rigs. Now if your heater goes out or your oil pressure gauge quits working during the holidays, you’re likely to push on through and get home. But what happens when you have a flat tire? If you’re lucky enough to limp to a truck stop, your wait time could be 5 minutes or it could be 5 hours. And what about more serious issues? My truck lost all power on I-494 in St. Paul not too long ago. I waited on the side of the road for 5-6 hours for a tow truck. Then I spent the next two days in a hotel room and the next two days after that rescuing another truck so I’d have something to drive. What are the chances The Evil Overlord would have time to drive 9 hours to get me and 9 hours back. Poor old Stevie’s had enough. I won’t go there again, but you get the idea.

Yes, you non-truckers could have automobile issues or have a plane grounded, but how often does that really happen? I’ll rest my case on this one.

Stress #5: Shopping

Okay. I’m going to give it to you that the Internet has made this a heck of a lot easier than it used to be. I remember a time when you had to cram all your Christmas shopping into your limited home time. Thankfully, those days are over. But there’s still the problem of what to buy for people. We truckers are on the road so much that it’s hard to know anyone well enough to know what they might like for Christmas.

I love my nephews, but I’ll be the first to admit that I’d don’t have a clue what they want for Christmas. Thankfully, The Evil Overlord knows and she’s in her element when she’s got a debit card in her hand. I’d say she needs a debit card holster strapped to her hip, but it seems unnecessary. Her arms move faster than a hummingbird’s wings when she goes to whip that thing out of her purse. I’m looking forward to the day I’ll have an iPhone with slow-motion capture so I can analyze her technique.

There’s only one thing worse than not knowing what the people in your life want for Christmas; not caring. Here’s something that boggles my mind. Yes, it’s another mini-rant. I’ve talked to a few different truck stop cashiers that tell me that some drivers save up their rewards points all year long and buy all their Christmas presents at the truck stop. Say what? Listen, I know my taste is horrendous, but even I know not to buy Christmas gifts at a truck stop. For one, everything is more expensive there. Secondly, most of the stuff is crap; especially the electronics and elcheapo stuffed toys. Thirdly, I’d be shocked if anyone really enjoyed those presents. And lastly, it screams “I couldn’t bother to go anywhere out of my way to get you something you might actually like.”

Listen, I’m sure we’ve all been guilty of this at some point. I remember when The Evil Overlord and I first started trucking, we bought some toy trucks with our company logo on them and gave them to some of the kids in our life. Some kids like toy trucks so that’s probably fine. But I know that we also got other company-logoed merchandise for other relatives. Not good. I remember one Christmas when my sister had started a new job. She bought everyone in the family clothing with the company logo. Now this wasn’t a fashionable company like Coca-Cola or anything. It was a friggin’ financial institution. Talk about plastering on a fake smile.

My sister meant well. We meant well. Maybe you mean well. But do you really or are you just being lazy? Kid’s love toy trucks. Fine. But trust me. If you’ve given Christmas gifts with your company logo on it for more than one year, the people in your life are dreading your gift this year. Don’t believe me? Get them something good for a change of pace and you’ll see the difference on their face Christmas morning. *steps off soapbox* I’m sure someone is going to disagree with me here. Tell me how wrong I am at TruckerDump@gmail.com.

Well, there you have it; the 5 Stresses of Trucking Through the Holidays. The next time you non-truckers feel the urge to whine about how stressful the holiday season is, just be glad you aren’t trying to do it all from the cab of a big rig. As you can now see, we truckers are already stressed out during the holidays, so please remember that as you’re driving around this season. And also a quick reminder that the crap we’re hauling is the crap you’re buying. So please save your middle finger for that soccer mom who just took the last Big Hugs Elmo.

TD96: The Feedback Show

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Photo by L.Bö via Flickr

Photo by L.Bö via Flickr

Long time, no talk, folks. Yes, I realize that it’s entirely my fault that it’s been… wow… has it really been over 2.5 months since my last post? Ouch. Well, my excuses are lame, but I’ll give it a shot anyway. I’ve been extremely lazy lately. There you have it.

First off, I had the worst 3 weeks of my 16 years of trucking. I had more than enough down time to do a podcast, but I just couldn’t bring myself out of the funk I was in long enough to record anything. I’ve been considering doing another “Hell Week”-style post, but it’d probably be so long that I’d have to split it into a trilogy. LOL If you’re interested in hearing about it, maybe I’ll write something up. Shoot me an email at TruckerDump@gmail.com or holler at me on Twitter. I’m @ToddMcCann over there.

As for the rest of the time, I’ve been busy with a couple of other projects, but if I’m completely honest, I’ve had enough time to squeeze in a podcast. But I didn’t. Sorry about that. I actually almost did it once, but it was like 500 degrees when I turned off the truck, so my good intentions quickly got tossed out the window. So enough with the lame excuses.

Today’s shows will hopefully get me back into the swing of things. And it will also solve a problem too. Do you remember when I first announced this podcast that I said I was going to hold back some of blog comments in anticipation that you peeps might not write in enough? Well, I was wrong. REALLY wrong. I’ve been swamped with it and I’m waaaaay behind now. So today’s show is going to be nothing but feedback.

Now don’t think this lets you off the hook. Remember when @DriverChrisMc corrected me on some of the answers I’d given? Well just think how much correction is going to be needed after a whole episode of feedback? LOL So get out your pen and paper and get ready to jot down my errors.

As for my readers, sorry, but you’re crap-out-of-luck this time around. This one is only available in podcast form. So if you’ve never heard the podcast before, maybe today is a good day to try it out. Just click on the PLAY button above and have a listen… and then subscribe (it’s free). You know you want to. And for the record, most of my podcasts are under 30 minutes long. This long john is an oddity.

TD94: Understanding The New Hours-Of-Service (HOS) Rules

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Confused over the Hours-of-Service rules

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Unless you’ve just beamed in from another planet (or you’re a non-trucker), you’re probably aware of the new Hours-of-Service rules that are looming. But do you understand them fully? From some of the feedback I’ve been getting on Twitter and the blog, I’d say there’s still some confusion out there. The Bible flat-out says that all Christians will be persecuted. Well, I’m pretty sure some Bible-thumper at my company has been Skyping with God on my behalf. You see, my company recently decided that I would be one of the lucky ones who got put on the new Hours-of-Service rules a few weeks early. You know, just to try it out. *sigh* Well, I guess this kind of persecution is better than being around when Nero was kabob-ing Christians to light his garden parties. So thanks for that, God.

But before we get into it, let me issue a warning to my non-trucking peeps. This post will likely only be understood by truckers, so feel free to beam yourself back up to your planet if you don’t mind missing out on my exquisite writing style and tasteful wit. And to the rest of you, like I said, the length of this couldn’t be avoided. When it comes to this technical stuff, if you don’t explain everything in full, you actually raise more questions than you answer.

So my first question was, “Is this even legal?” I mean, how could my employer make me adhere to rules that hadn’t even gone into effect yet? So of course, I called my safety department. I wound up talking to my least favorite safety person. For starters, she’s in charge of e-log training and new implementations such as this most recent one. So there’s strike one against her. Strike two, three, and four came at different times when I called in to question how the e-logs were set up. Each time, the conversation started fine, but ended badly after she basically said, “Well, this is how things are. If you don’t like them, I guess that’s too bad.” You can imagine how well this went over with me. It got to the point where the safety director told us not to speak anymore. If I called in and got her, I was to give her my name and she was to immediately transfer me to someone else. That worked fine up until this latest thing, because like I said, she’s the one who was implementing this new program.

Thankfully, she didn’t get snotty with me this time, even though I did question the legality of making me follow rules that weren’t even in effect yet. Well come to find out, all these new Hours-of-Service rules have actually been in effect since the beginning of the year. They just aren’t going to be enforced until July 1. She said there are quite a few small trucking companies that have been following the new rules since the beginning of the year. So there goes that beef with her. So for now, let’s get on with understanding these new rules. We’ll come back to Hitler’s granddaughter at the end where she’ll answer a few more questions I had.

First, what Hours-of-Service rules are not changing?

The 11-hour rule – You’re still allowed to drive a maximum of 11 hours before you’re required to take a 10-hour break. Be thankful for this one. The proposed rule was to take us back down to 10 hours of driving like it used to be. Whew! Dodged that roadkill!

The 14-hour rule – You still have a 14-hour window to work after the start of your day. Thank God they didn’t get the hard 14 passed that would’ve kept us from extending the work day with an 8-hour sleeper berth period. I don’t use this extension much, but it’s come in handy a few times. Any rule that takes away flexibility is a bad thing for a trucker.

The 70-hour rule – You can still work up to 70 hours in an 8 day period. I wish they’d raise this limit, but quite frankly, I’d have better luck getting my nephews to quit “nutting” each other. Yes, that’s precisely what you think it is.

10-hour breaks – You still need to get a minimum 10 hours of off-duty and/or sleeper berth time to reset your 11 and 14-hour rule. This can be all off-duty, all sleeper berth, or a combination of the two.

Split breaks – Although I hate having to do split breaks, it’s sometimes necessary to deliver your load on time. In order to split, you have to have a minimum of 8 hours in the sleeper berth. The other 2 hours can be all sleeper berth, all off-duty, or a combination of the two.

Over all, I’m happy that none of these rules changed. These five rules are the ones we deal with every day and are thereby, the most important. While I’m not entirely pleased with the new rules changes, at least the biggest changes aren’t something that will affect us every day. Well, one will, but it’s not too bad.

So what are the new changes/additions to the Hours-of-Service rules?

There are three new rules changes that will start being enforced on July 1, 2013. Let’s start with the easiest of the three.

The 30-minute rest break – This new rule states that a driver may only drive when less than 8 hours has passed since the end of your last off-duty and/or sleeper period of at least 30 minutes. My company even says that you cannot use personal conveyance during this 30-minute break. After all, the whole idea is for you to be taking a break from behind the wheel. As many of you know, my company has a reputation for being super-strict on this kind of stuff, so I’d be sure to ask your company about it. Luckily, my e-log unit is set up to warn me when my 30-minute break is due. It will warn you 1 hour before and then again 30 minutes before. Once the legal break is logged, it’ll start the count over. You can also find this countdown in the Driver Log section of the e-logs. Check out the picture below to see how this looks on my system.

A picture of how the PeopleNet e-log unit keeps track of the 30-minute rest break.

The PeopleNet e-log system keeps track of when your next 30-minute break is due. It issues a warning 1 hour and 30 minutes before.

So anyway… I have to admit that this rule is a bit more complicated than I originally thought. I thought, “8 hours of driving, take a 30-minute break, then finish your day.” Easy squeezy, right? Not so fast, Hot Rod. First, the 8-hour thing includes any on-duty, off-duty, or sleeper berth time under 30 minutes. So if you fueled for 15 minutes, that on-duty time counts towards the 8 hours. But what if you pull into a rest area and show 15 minutes in the sleeper berth while you make your cup of ramen? Yep. That counts towards the 8 hours too. But if you extend that for 15 more minutes, it counts as the 30-minute rest break. That’s great, right? Well, maybe. That all depends on when you took the break.

Did you know that if you aren’t careful as to when you take your 30-minute rest break, you may actually have to take two 30-minute breaks in one 14-hour day? This will be most likely to happen if you take your break before the 6th hour. Let’s walk through an example. Say you start your day at 10 AM and you take a 30-minute lunch break 6 hours later at 2 PM. This break qualifies as your 30-minute rest break. But it also restarts the 8-hour clock. So you go back to driving at 2:30 PM. At 10:30 PM (eight hours later and still within your 14-hour day), you need to take another rest break. So if you want to avoid wasting an extra 30 minutes per day, try to remember not to break the first 6 hours of your day!

1 AM to 5 AM requirements on 70-hour resets – This is exactly what it sounds like. In order to restart your 70-hour work week, your 34-hour break has to include two periods of 1 AM to 5 AM (home terminal time). For full details on how this rule has been affecting me, check out my blog post called, TD91: Bungling the 34-Hour Rule. And for the record, I’m aware that I got the time wrong in the article. I’ve gone back and fixed it, so don’t be buggin’ me. Anywho, the worst part about this specific time-of-day requirement is that we drivers usually can’t control when we start these breaks nor when we have to come off them. For instance, one of my breaks that I talk about in Bungling the 34-Hour Rule was 44 hours and it still didn’t count as a legal restart. I was so stunned I had to triple-check it to make sure I wasn’t mistaken. But it’s actually worse than that. If you start your break at 2 AM (just one hour after the 1 AM requirement), your break will have to be 51 hours to count. Yea. I see a lot of dispatchers working with us that. Not. But it gets even worse. Yes, another level of worse.

Only 1 restart per week (168 hours)- Self-explanatory, right? When I first heard this, I thought, “Well who cares? No one is going to be getting even one 34-hour restart; let alone two in one week.” I even said as much in TD82: Are All These Changes Good for the Trucking Industry? Once again, I was as wrong as a loogie milkshake. This new rule puts even more time restrictions on the already nearly-impossible new 34-hour rule. And I think it’s going to affect the regional drivers who are home every weekend even more than us peons who are stuck out here for weeks on end. How so?

Because the one restart per week is based on when you started your last 34-hour break. This is most easily explained in an example. Say you get home at 7 AM on Saturday morning and you get a legal 34-hour break in. Now say the following weekend you get home at 11 PM on Friday. Under the new rule, you can’t start counting your 34 hours until 168 hours after the start of your previous 34-hour break. So in this example, that would be last week at 7 AM on Saturday morning. So even though you got home the previous night at 11 PM, you can’t start counting until 7 AM the following morning. Screwy, huh? That’s 8 hours that can’t go towards a restart. And that 8 hours would’ve even met the 1 AM to 5 AM time restraints. Grrrrr.

Now if that isn’t already weirder than Lady Gaga’s wardrobe, there’s another aspect of this that seems even more bizarre. Now let me state right out front that I may be wrong about this. I spoke with my safety person about this, so if I get it wrong, blame her. And then write in and and tell me how this really works. Okay. Here we go.

So back to your situation. We’ve established that this week’s restart doesn’t start counting until 7 AM on Saturday. So if you get home next weekend at 2 AM on Saturday, you still have to wait 5 hours until you can start counting towards your 34 hours. But what if you get home after 7 AM on Saturday? Let’s say you have to stay out to do one more load and you don’t get home until 10 PM on Sunday night. Great! You can start your 34 hours immediately because you’re well past the 168-hour mark.

But what about next weekend when you get home on Friday night again? Your last restart started at 10 PM on Sunday night, so now your 34 hours isn’t up until some time on Tuesday morning. So do you see what’s happening here? It seems to me that if you ever want to get another 34-hour break, you’re going to have to get home on Sunday night again. So much for the weekend. And what if dispatch is shooting to have you home Sunday night but you’re delayed until Monday morning?

I’m really hoping someone will tell me how wrong I am here. But the way I see it is that you can never move the 34-hour start time backward; it can only be moved forward. I don’t see how that can possibly be a good thing for you drivers who are supposed to get home on the weekends. Does that mean you’ll have to stay out for two weeks in order to set yourself up for weekend home time again? Some of you regional drivers write in and tell me how you think this will work in your situation. I’d love nothing more than for you to tell me I’m a moron.

A picture of how the PeopleNet e-log unit keeps track of the 34-hour break.

This shot was taken the morning of June 14. The 34-hour break start time shows a later time because my last 34-hour break started at 15:56 on June 7 (168 hours prior).

Again, thankfully those of us on e-logs don’t have to figure a lot of this stuff out. As you can see from the photos, the e-log system keeps track of all this for you. In the first photo, you can see it lists the earliest time I can start my 34-hour break and the time it will end. In this example, I took this snapshot the morning of the June 14. But notice the start time is listed as 15:56. That’s because the last 34-hour break I started was at 15:56 on June 7 (that’s 168 hours prior). Notice also that the end time is for the 16th at 0500. That’s because of the new 1 AM to 5 AM time constraints. So in this case, if I wanted to start my 34-hour break, I’d have to be down for just over 37 hours.

A picture of how the PeopleNet e-log unit keeps track of the 34-hour break.

This was taken at 22:30. Notice how the 34-hour break start time is the present time. Also the end time has changed from the previous picture.

This next shot was taken at 22:30, which just so happens to be the exact time the 34-hour start time shows. That’s because I’m now past the 168-hour window. This start time now moves with me as time passes. Notice the end time now shows 08:30. So if I were to start my 34-hour break right then, I’d only have to be down for 34-hours to get a legal restart. Sweet!

Time to wrap this puppy up. When I had Fräulein Hitler on the phone, I asked how she thought these new rules would affect drivers. She said there was actually some poor sods at our company who’ve been using the new rules since April. And I thought I was on the crap list! She said about half of the 34-hour attempts were registering as legal 70-hour resets. What she didn’t say is how many of those 34-hour restarts took longer than 34 hours. According to my unscientific tests, the number of acceptable restarts is more like 1/3, and remember, I wasn’t even taking into account the 168-hour limitations when I did my study.

Well, at least there is one ray of hope in all this. History has taught us that Nazis always think they’re right, but it’s been proven that they’re often wrong; big time. So maybe my safety lady and her fellow FMCSA Nazis will accept defeat and back the heck off. Then again, Hitler didn’t really give up did he? He more or less self-destructed. Great. That sounds like a lot of fun for our immediate future.

*Are you dreading the new HOS rules or do you think they won’t affect you much? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below. Yes, I realize you’ll have to do a little math to complete the task, but that’s what calculators are for, right? ;-)*