truck safety

TD132: Should We Call Out Bad Truckers?

The title of this article specifically mentions bad truckers because well, this is a trucking blog ya know. But it’s really something even non-truckers need to think about. 

We all see people doing stupid, rude, selfish, or just plain thoughtless things. For you non-truckers, it might be someone cutting in front of you at the grocery store checkout line or a neighbor who lets his St. Bernard do it’s squats in your yard. For truckers, it’s drivers who take a 30-minute break while sitting beside a fuel pump or one who pours out a gallon of piss in the parking lot right where another trucker is going to be walking soon. 

So the question is, what should we do about this? Do we ignore it or do we confront these bad truckers?

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Personally, I am one of the most non-confrontational people you’ll ever meet. When The Evil Overlord (wife and ex co-driver) is itching for a good argument, she often gets even more frustrated because it’s hard to get a rise out of me. Yet when I encounter another trucker doing something stupid, I often feel compelled to go straighten them out.

Who’s a naughty driver?

A couple months back, my friend and fellow Trucker Dump Slack member Aaron, was at one of his company terminals when he noticed that a lease driver had pulled into the fuel bay backwards. He approached the driver to let him know and this guy immediately got bent out of shape and starting trying to pick a fight. Thankfully, Aaron just walked away. A couple months down the road, Aaron ran into Mr. Fisticuffs again, only this time the guy actually tried to recruit him to drive one of his leased trucks! Is this dude schizophrenic, or what?

Almost every day I see someone on Facebook or Twitter talking about some bad trucker sitting in a fuel bay for what appears to be a mandatory 30-minute break. Man, I hope the FMCSA gets rid of this rule soon. The two instances I remember the most were at the Love’s in Toms Brook, Virginia and at the Flying J in Waco, Texas. Both times I was fueling right next to a driver who was sitting in the driver’s seat reading. And both times neither was fueling when I pulled up and they still hadn’t budged as I pulled away.

At least there wasn’t anyone behind the driver in Virginia, but all of the other fuel bays were full, therefore the next trucker that pulled in was going to be waiting to fuel. Uncool. The driver in Waco was really screwing things up though. Trucks were two deep waiting on a fuel bay and this guy just did not care. This latter instance took place in the afternoon, so there were parking places available out in the parking lot. I guess this worthless excuse of a trucker felt it was too inconvenient. Bless his heart.

It’s times like these that even mild-mannered dudes like myself want to say something. If only I were Clark Kent. He’s as mild-mannered as they get, but if I could just step into my truck, into my leotards, and take off my glasses, I’d go pick up the guy’s rig and walk it over to a parking spot. I might even set it down just a tad bit too hard… accidentally of course. But since I don’t possess super-human strength (let alone own any leotards), I settled for stopping to look up at him a few times with a look of disgust. Unsurprisingly, he was too busy reading his magazine to notice me. Ultimately, I kept my mouth shut and did my job. All I can say is that he better be glad bad thoughts can’t make someone crap their drawers. Dang it! I want super-powers!

Now I’m not going to go into detail as to why parking in the fuel bay is so annoying. Truckers already know, but for you non-truckers you can go check out   TD107: The Fuel Bay Golden Rule. http://abouttruckdriving.com/2015/04/26/td107-the-fuel-bay-golden-rule/. Suffice it to say, it really gums things up.

The real pisser

I got annoyed again recently while at the Flying J in Albuquerque, New Mexico for a 34-hour break. I was sitting on my bunk looking out the windshield when I saw a Styline Logistics driver stand on his top running board and pour out what appeared to be about 1/2 gallon of piss. He poured it right on the pavement where the next driver was going to step out. And in total view of all the truckers in the vicinity. To make things even more unexcusable, there was a grassy area about 100 feet from his dump site and a trash can was even closer. 

Again, my first reaction was to approach him and give him a stern lecture about how disrespectful that is to other drivers. Instead I waited until he left and walked over to verify it was in fact human whiz (one whiff told me it was). Once verified, I promptly Googled his company and called to report him. I only got a voice mail, so I honestly don’t know if anyone confronted him about it. I would hope so. I can’t imagine any trucking company being happy about one of their drivers doing anything like this. It certainly doesn’t reflect well on them.

The line cutter

Just a few weeks ago, I had yet another incident. I was waiting for the CAT scale to clear at the Flying J in Pontoon Beach, Illinois. For any of you drivers familiar while the place, you’ll know that if you pull right up behind the driver on the scale, you’re effectively blocking the exit path for any drivers trying to leave the fuel area. I’m a considerate dude, so I was hanging back a bit. 

Just as the trucker was pulling off the scale, another truck comes flying in front of me and drives onto the scale! Well there was no stopping me this time. I got on the CB, but of course there was no response. So I jump out of the truck and go storming up to the guy who is now standing on his running board talking to the cashier.

With my arms outstretched I yell (and I do mean yell), “Dude, what the heck!” (yes, seriously – I didn’t curse even then – very proud of myself) He looks at me with utter bewilderment, but I continue, “I was waiting in line and you just butt right in front of me.” He immediately apologizes and said he didn’t see me. Well, I guess that’s possible if you’re a bad trucker who isn’t paying attention to his surroundings.  

Why do we feel the need to correct others?

I will be the first to admit that the less noble side of me wants to correct these people just so I can make them feel like the selfish pigs they are. Mission accomplished in this case. But another part of me wants to scold them simply because it makes me mad; almost as mad as The Evil Overlord gets when I leave the hallway light on for no apparent reason… for the third time in 15 minutes. Again, successful in this situation. I felt vindicated after my outburst, even though it didn’t better my situation in the least. 

But my deeper reason for wanting to correct these bad truckers is that I just want the trucking industry to be a better place to work for everyone. Basically, I want to shame them into doing the right thing. 

Bad truckers aren’t helping with the driver shortage

Trucking companies are already having enough problems keeping their trucks full. A bunch of jerk face drivers with “me first“ attitudes are not going to help things any. Most of what keeps newcomers away from truck driving is simply being away from home, family, and friends. If it weren’t for that, I’m sure these carriers wouldn’t have such a hard time keeping some enormous trucker butts in their seats.

But let’s say the trucking companies could figure this out and provide a way for drivers to get home more often. Even then, why would an outsider want to come into an industry where so many drivers are disrespecting their fellow truckers? And even if they are naïve enough to enter the industry without knowing what it’s truly like, how long do we expect them to stick around if these bad truckers keep making their job more frustrating than it has to be? We already know that there is a huge portion of new truckers who don’t make it past the six-month mark. Hey, let’s give them yet another reason to abandon the industry! ?

Should we call out bad truckers?

Okay. Now that we’ve discussed the satisfaction we sometimes feel after jumping down someone’s esophagus, let’s ponder whether we should be calling out these bad truckers.

Despite the fact that I just did this a couple of weeks ago myself, I’m thinking I should stop confronting these people. Even though it’s very rare when I do lose my cool, I should still get my emotions in check and not confront the driver. 

Here’s the problem. People are freaking crazy nowadays. You just never know how they’re going to take your correction.

I’m sure most of you heard about the shooting incident at the Pilot in Walton, Kentucky, when one driver cut in front of a truck that was waiting for the next available fuel bay. The offended driver approached the bad trucker and words were exchanged. The bad trucker then shot the guy in the arm and proceeded to turn the gun on himself in a successful suicide. Now if you change the words “fuel pump” to “CAT scale,” that could’ve been me getting shot at.

Another shooting incident took place at the Love’s in Jackson, Georgia. Apparently a truck had been sitting in a fuel bay for a long time. The waiting driver got impatient and approached the other driver. Naturally an argument resumed. The waiting driver returned to his truck and brandished a gun. Apparently he was unaware that the other driver was packing too, because at this point, the jerk in the fuel bay opened fire. Luckily, the driver survived the shooting and the shooter was released after it was determined to be self-defense.

Okay. So this time we’re dealing with two bad truckers. One was unnecessarily blocking a fuel bay; the other decided that producing a weapon was the answer to the problem. Both are bad choices. But would this incident have ever taken place if the waiting driver hadn’t approached the fuel bay hog? Nope. 

All this has lead me to the following conclusion. My life is not worth the satisfaction I get from straightening out a bad trucker. Even if I’m “only” shot in the arm, I’m still out of work for a while. Even if the altercation escalates to blows, what did we solve by pummeling each other?

 Calling out bad truckers doesn’t work

But perhaps a bigger reason is that it just doesn’t work. Think about it. If a bad trucker is such a self-centered A-hole that they clearly don’t care that they’re offending, delaying, or inconveniencing everyone else, what makes you think they’re going to give a frog’s fart about your opinion? They aren’t!

What can we do about it?

So does this mean that all us good drivers have to take this crap from bad truckers? No. But we do have to be careful about it. 

When we feel we’re not being respected, our natural reactions are to fly off the handle, or at the very least, confront the issue with a bit of an attitude. This is not the smart thing to do. The Bible says, “A soft answer turns away wrath.” I know for a fact that this works for initiating a confrontation too. Despite my blow-up at the scale hopper a while back, I’m usually pretty level-headed.

We all get stuck behind drivers who clearly aren’t fueling. Just the other day I was sitting behind a truck at the fuel bay. I could see the guy topping off his tanks so I knew he was almost done. When he finally finished he stepped back into the truck. I waited for the inevitable brake lights and then a pull-up to let me at the pumps. Nothing happened. I gave him enough time to get situated. Maybe do something to his log book, put something away, or change into some driving clothes. Still no movement. Now was the time for action.

I walked up and tapped on the driver’s door. He rolled down the window and I could see he had a co-driver and they were having a good laugh about something. His expression changed as soon as he saw me. He looked like he was expecting an attitude. Instead he got a smile and a “Hey man. You got something going on up here? I’d kinda like to get at the fuel bay.” He moved up, although I don’t think he was all that happy about it. But what could he do to a guy who was smiling and asking nicely? Now if I had walked up there with a scowl on my face and an attitude, how well do you think that would have gone? 

Besides, sometimes there are legitimate reasons. Maybe he’s having trouble with his fuel card? Maybe his truck won’t start? Or maybe they spilled their coffee all over the place while getting into the truck? Sure, most of the time it’s just a selfish jerk who thinks the world revolves around him. For all I know, his head might be so big that it caused it’s own orbit. It works for the sun, after all.  

But let’s say he did cop attitude with me. What then? Well, ideally I walk away without a word. Sure, it sucks worse than a 12-volt vacuum cleaner to have to swallow your attitude, especially when you know you’re in the right. But remember, if this bad trucker doesn’t mind blocking the fuel bay when he could see that I was behind him, he’s probably not going to care about my opinion (or anyone else for that matter).

The smart approach

So here’s how I’m going to try to handle these situations in the future. I will approach nicely. If the guy who butted in front of me at the CAT scale clearly didn’t see me (which I truly believe he didn’t), he’ll apologize and everyone will feel better about the situation. If the jerk in the fuel bay decides to ignore me, I’ll back off off and try to find a different fuel bay. 

And then I’m going to go tell on them like a third-grade girl who narcs on the boy who keeps wiping boogers on her. Seriously.

If a driver is clearly taking a break in the fuel bay, go tell the fuel desk. Sure, there’s only a small chance of them doing something about it other than making an announcement over the intercom to “be courteous to other drivers and pull up when finished fueling,” but it’s better than getting a Colt .45 pointed at your face. Then call their company (if they’re a company driver obviously) and report them. Maybe the bad trucker doesn’t care what you or the truck stop cashier has to say, but maybe they’ll listen if it’s coming from the company that is paying their wages every week.

Now I know some of you macho drivers are thinking, “I’m not going to be a narc.” That’s a wussy’s way out. I’ll take care of this myself.” Well, in the words of another scuzbucket, Bobby Brown, I guess “that’s myyyyyy prerogative.” Personally, it doesn’t bother me one iota to be a tattle-tell. 

I’ve reported drivers for refusing to turn down their rap music when I’m trying to sleep, even after I’ve asked nicely. I’ve reported bad truckers who are driving waaaaay too aggressively. And obviously I’ve reported drivers who use the truck stop parking lot as their personal port-a-potty. All of these acts (including a whole bunch we haven’t even mentioned in this article) are either disrespectful or downright dangerous to others. 

So call me a narc. Call me a tattle-tell. Call me a snitch. You can even call me a squealer. Just don’t ever call me a bad trucker.   

[box]What are your thoughts about confronting bad drivers? Do you do it? Are you still going to do it after reading this article? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.[/box]

Podcast Show Notes:

We all see people doing stupid, inconsiderate, or just plain rude things every day. What do we do it about? Should we call these people out or should we bite our tongues? We’ll discuss that in today’s main topic.

But the show is also jam-packed with news stories, including some recalls, some autonomous truck stuff, some good news for diabetic truckers, and more thoughts about dash cams. We’ll also talk about naughty booters and some even naughtier truckers. And I’ll tell you a couple of ways you can get your voice heard to make trucking driving a better job. We’ll also talk about what makes a good trucking company and of course, the death of a trucking icon.

Driver Dave sent in a unique Trucker Grub segment and in the feedback section we hear from Ali, who has a tailgating tale, Tim is considering a switch from IT to trucking, and Anthony’s “oddest question I’ve ever received” leads to a discussion of truck driving schools.

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:

Links mentioned in the podcast:

Burt Reynolds, an icon in trucking film lore, dies at 82 from OverdriveOnline.com

More than 4,000 Freightliner trucks affected by two separate recalls from OverdriveOnline.com

Engine harness issue prompts recall of 11,000 Kenworth tractors from OverdriveOnline.com

I-5 in Washington, Oregon Best Route to Deploy Self-Driving Semis, Report Says from Transport Topics

Volvo Trucks developing autonomous, electric concept tractor-trailer from OverdriveOnline.com

Self-Driving Trucks May Replace 300k Truckers, But It’ll Be “Fun” from TheTruckersReport.com

Good News For Some Diabetic Drivers! from TheTruckersReport.com

Hopeful and careful-what-you-wish-for dynamics in reader commentary in wake of FMCSA’s hours moves from OverdriveOnline.com

The Trucking Podcast with Buck Ballard and Don the Beer Guy

2,700 Comments Submitted On HOS Reform, Comment Period Extended from OverdriveOnline.com

Click here to share your thoughts with the FMCSA about the hours of service. And do it by October 10, 2018!

Another lot bites the dust, unleashing booters in the wee hours from OverdriveOnline.com

Three truckers busted smuggling immigrants across U.S.- Mexico border from OverdriveOnline.com

NTSB touts benefits of driver-, road-facing dash cams from OverdriveOnline.com

Payroll Podcast from Truck Driver Power discussing dash cams.

Detention Time Impacts on Safety, Productivity and Compliance – Driver Survey from the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI)

Survey: Parking Is #1 Stress For Drivers, Made Worse By ELDs from TheTruckersReport.com

Modest proposal: Outlining a federal, graduated CDL from OverdriveOnline.com

Goodyear seeking nominations for annual Highway Hero award from OverdriveOnline.com

Nominations open for ‘Best Fleets to Drive For’ contest from OverdriveOnline.com

Click here to nominate the Best Fleets to Drive For

Carrier Owner Fakes Kidnapping To Avoid Paying Truckers $9,000 from TheTruckersReport.com

TD107: The Fuel Bay Golden Rule

Witnesses: Rudeness at fuel pumps triggered truck stop shooting/suicide from CDL Life

No charges to be filed in Georgia fuel pump shooting from CDL Life

Trucker Grub features Daniel’s Truck Stop in Windsor, Ontario and the Ten Acre Truck Stop in Belleville,

Links mentioned in the feedback section:

TD95: 4 Reasons That Trucker Might Be Tailgating You

25% off the regular price when you order the ebook combo pack which includes “Trucking Life: An Entertaining, Yet Informative Guide To Becoming And Being A Truck Driver” and “How to Find a Great Truck Driving Job.” Only $14.98! And don’t forget there’s a free 9.25-hour audiobook version of “Trucking Life” included!

Show info:

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

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

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TD131: Review Of The FleetUp Trace ELD

I’ll never forget this. It was December 17, 2017 and I was walking out of the shower room at the Flying J in Fargo, ND. That’s when I saw the trucker sitting alone in the driver’s lounge. He was opening a box. What was that look on his face? Horror? Disgust? Fear? 

My guess is it was probably a little of each. You see, he was opening a new Electronic Logging Device, or ELD. Nothing like waiting until the last second. As we all know, the ELD mandate started the next day. I’m sure many of you went through the same emotional trauma. 

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Those of you new to ELDs have had them in your trucks for over 8 months now. By now you’ve had plenty of time to figure out what you like and dislike about your current setup. Is it hard to use? Is the software confusing? Does the hardware feel cheap and flimsy? 

Well perhaps you should have a look at the Trace by FleetUp. FleetUp sent me a unit for testing and I’ve been using it for about three months. Well, sort of. You see, I learned a valuable lesson. I’m NEVER going to test another ELD unit! But before you go thinking that’s a slight against the Trace, let me explain.

Disclaimer

No one likes disclaimers, but I feel I need to for this review. You see, in order to truly put an ELD through its paces, you need to have both the software and the hardware plug-in device. Without the plug-in device, the software can’t tell when the truck is moving. And since that’s the very purpose of ELDs, well, you see the problem.  

So as you’ve probably already guessed, I did not have the plug-in device. FleetUp wanted to send one to me, but unfortunately I wouldn’t be able to install it because I’m a company driver. My safety department said that I couldn’t install it for two reasons:

  1. Another elog device would mean I was running two log books. Last time I checked, that was still illegal. 
  2. My company doesn’t even allow me to put stickers on the windows, let alone install an electronic device that hooks into the truck’s computer! 

To remedy this problem, Kimberli (one of my contacts at FleetUp) installed it on her personal vehicle. This obviously wasn’t ideal, but we did what we had to do and worked around the issues as best as possible. So now that you have a frame of reference, let’s move on.

The Trace Tablet

The Trace device itself is impressive. It is a 7” tablet with a bright orange case, surrounded by a thick, black bumper. I couldn’t believe how heavy the unit was when I first picked it up! It feels like a tank could run over it and the Trace would taunt it with a “neener neener” as it rolled away with its turret between its legs. Second disclaimer: If you’re lucky enough to own a tank, please don’t actually try this. But please DO invite me for a ride-along! Please God, let there be live ammo.

Not only is the Trace case (hey, I’m a poet!) incredibly thick, but part of the weight comes from the metal strip on the back that sticks to the magnets on the mount. The design works perfectly, despite its heft. The first time I used it, I didn’t get the mounting bracket’s suction cup attached to the windshield sufficiently and it popped off in transit. The whole thing, tablet and mount, went crashing to the floor. When I picked it up, they were still connected! The magnet on the RAM mount is so powerful that I’m pretty sure I saw a 747 lose some altitude when it flew overhead. What? It could happen! 

The screen on the Trace is super bright. Only in the harshest of direct sunlight did I have any problems seeing what was onscreen. That’s par for the course with mobile devices. It is both dust and water resistant and can be submerged in up to three feet of water for 30 minutes, not that I can see any scenario where you’d want to do that. As heavy as the Trace is, it would drop you like an anchor if you tried to snorkel with it. 

There is a 13 Megapixel camera with Flash LED on the back, a power button, volume buttons, a headphone jack, a return button, a SIM card slot, a Micro SD card slot, a USB-C port for charging and data transfer, and a cool SOS button that will automatically dial a preprogrammed phone number. And there’s one more button that for the life of me I couldn’t figure out what it does. All these ports and buttons have covers over them to promote the dust and water resistance claims. Battery life will last a couple of days if you don’t have the screen on the whole time. But honestly, if you’re using it on the mount you may as well leave it plugged in.

The Trace comes with a hand strap, a really nice carry case, a 64GB Micro SD card and SD card adapter, an AT&T SIM card, and a USB-C cable for charging and computer transfer with both AC and DC plugs. You can include one of two different length of RAM mounts with magnets when you order. 

If you’ve never heard of RAM mounts, they are some of the sturdiest you can buy. They also have interchangeable heads to suit your ever-changing mobile device needs. The only thing I didn’t like about it was that the suction cup requires an extremely smooth surface like glass. I wanted to install it on the face of my dashboard, but even though none of the surfaces on my dash are very course, the RAM mount was having none of it. Once you get good suction on the windshield though, The Hulk would have a hard time ripping it off.  

The FleetUp Software

I’ve always been a huge fan of the color orange, so I was tickled orange (you see what I did there?) when I powered up the Trace to discover a bright orange screen appear. A quick swipe up (on screen directions) reveals four app icons: FleetUp HOS, FleetUp Camera, CamScanner, and TeamViewer QuickSupport. We’ll get back to these apps in a second.

Another nice touch is that it includes the Tech Support email address and phone number right on the main screen. No more plummeting the depths of a website to find out how to get help! Woo-hoo!  

The software seems plenty snappy too. When it comes to software, there are few things more frustrating than slow, laggy software. I should know. The PeopleNet elogs my company uses are on a Samsung Galaxy tablet and it sometimes takes a 3-4 seconds for anything to happen after you touch the screen. That causes a lot of miss clicks and that’s just gross. Not so with the Trace. You touch and it responds immediately.

One thing I really like is that the Trace is literally just a tablet running Android. While the FleetUp apps are front and center, just behind the scenes you can install whatever apps you want on the device. For instance, FleetUp is working on a navigation solution, but for now you can download Google Maps or any of the truck-specific GPS apps you favor and it will run it just fine. 

You can even install games and social media apps. It’s basically a multi-use device that you can use for both business and pleasure. Just don’t nod off while reading in bed with the Trace held above your head. As heavy as it is, you might wind up with a concussion.  

FleetUp HOS App

FleetUp HOS is the elog app. It is FMCSA compliant and can even do IFTA fuel tax automation and reporting. Nice! 

It also claims to be the only elog system with a voice assistant. I have to say that while the voice is way more robotic than Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa, it’s still extremely helpful when you’re first getting started with the app. 

Not only will the voice assistant walk you through the setup process, but it will also warn you when you’re running out of hours. One thing I was especially grateful for was how it kept reminding me to fill out my Daily Vehicle Inspection Report (DVIR) each day. In my defense, it was easy to forget when the DVIR was due based on how Kimberli was driving, not me. 

And remember, the voice assistant will only speak up if you’re about to screw up. It’s also good to know that you can disable the voice once you feel comfortable that you know what you’re doing. By and large, I give the voice assistant a big thumbs up. 

There are two main sections in the FleetUp HOS app: Status and Logs.

Logs Screen

The Logs screen is where you’ll find your typical elog graph like our old beloved paper logs. You can also select a calendar to see previous days and one tap will show your 8-day recap. 

There is a green line that takes the place of your ink pen, indicating what you’ve been up to and there is also a vertical red line that indicates where you need to stop driving. First, you’ll see the red line where you need to take your 30-minute break after 8 hours of working. After that, it will readjust to your 11 or 14, depending how crappy your day has been. I never got to the 70-hour warning, but I’m sure the red line would warn you when it’s drawing near too. 

I did see some goofs in both the red line and the green duty line every now and then. At one point I had a diagonal green line going backwards from the Sleeper Berth line to the Driving line (see photo). Maybe I’m a time traveler and just never knew it? 

I also had some instances where the red line wasn’t placed correctly. Honestly, I chock both of these malfunctions up to trying to share a vehicle with Kimberli. I’ll explain here in a second.

 

Status screen

The Status screen is what you see when you’re driving. You’ll see four different colored circles that count down the time available on your 8, 11, 14 and 70-hour clocks. Again, I had some goofs with these too, but I wouldn’t worry about it too much. You’ll also see where you can log a Yard Move or Personal Conveyance.

Here’s what was happening. As with most electronic logs, you tap a button to indicate whether you want to go to the Off-Duty, Sleeper, or On-Duty status, but the Driving line can only be controlled by the hardware plug-in that was installed on Kimberli’s car. So you can imagine how many violations I was getting without knowing her every move. 

Since I couldn’t place myself on the Driving line, I would often put myself on the On-Duty line while I was driving. Since there was no way Kimberli was going to drive anywhere close to 11 hours per day, it was really my only option if I wanted to test the warnings and the logging system. Many times, I’d wake up to a violation because she drove to work without allowing 8-10 hours after I showed going into the Sleeper. Again, nothing she could have foreseen. 

Same with the red line. I might’ve went On-Duty at 10 AM and expected to see the 8-hour red line at 6 PM, but I’d see it at a different time because Kimberli started her day before I did. So as I said, unique circumstances here, so nothing I’d worry about. But now you can see why I’ll never do another ELD review, right?

FleetUp Camera App

FleetUp Camera is basically a dash cam app. Like any dash cam, it will constantly record and erase video as it needs. In the event of a crash, it will save the last bit of video. You can also tap the screen to save a chunk of video. This is great for those times when another driver does something stupid in camera view, but you’re lucky enough to not be involved. Here we come, YouTube! You can also save photos on the fly. Just touch a button and keep on truckin’.  

The dash cam has different settings depending on what time of day, weather conditions, etc. To be honest, the only time I could tell a major difference was switching from day to night mode.

The Trace shines in it’s ability to multitask. You can run the dash cam in the background while the elogs are still doing their thing, or you can put the dash cam on screen the whole time. And if you want to save battery life, you can kill the screen and both apps will continue to work in the background. 

The only problem I had with the FleetUp Camera app was finding a good position for the tablet on my dash. I really hate to have anything on my dash that blocks my view of the road. That was a problem with the shorter RAM mount they sent me. 

As I mentioned earlier, the suction cup wouldn’t stick to the vertical face of my dashboard so I had to mount it on the windshield on my far left (where the glass was closest to the edge of the dash). Due to the location of the camera on the back of the device, the only way I could get the camera to “peek” over the dash without obstructing my view was to put it in portrait mode (vertical) with most of the device below my dash. It was actually nice to have the device out of my way, but it was awkward to use the elogs with my left hand.  

Again, none of this would be an issue if you don’t mind mounting it on top of your dash. Or perhaps the longer RAM mount might do the trick. All in all, it’s not a deal breaker.

Listeners of the Trucker Dump Podcast might be thinking, “Hey, Todd doesn’t like dash cams, so why is he promoting one.” Well, you’re correct that I not a fan (that’s a whole other topic), but if you are, the Trace makes a good one. 

Cam Scanner App

This app is great for scanning your documents, such as bills of lading and receipts, electronically. Perfect for the slob who uses his dash as a filing cabinet! Get rid of all that paper!

You can take a photo with the camera and it will automatically recognize the borders of the document and resize everything. If it’s off a bit, you can easily adjust the edges. It will then process it to make the text clearer and show you the results. If you don’t like those results, you can alter the contrast with some additional settings. 

Now that it’s too your liking, you can easily share the document (or multiple documents) via email, messaging apps like Whats App, or social media apps like Facebook and Twitter. You can even annotate the document if you have an app called InNote installed. With this, you can draw lines, circles, arrows, and make handwritten notes to bring attention to something on the page. Nifty, huh?

Another cool feature is the Recognize button. Tap that and it will automatically OCR the document. Yes, that’s a fancy term. It stands for Optical Character Recognition. In simple terms, it recognizes words in a photo and saves them. This makes it easy to search for a document later. 

Maybe you can’t remember where you saved a scanned document, but if you know you’re looking for the inspection form you got from the Oklahoma State Trooper, all you have to do is search for one of the words you know will be on the document, such as Oklahoma. Viola! Found it!

There is also a Note button, which enables you to type a message that will be attached to the document. For instance, if a paper receipt you scanned only says “Miscellaneous $15,” you can type a note saying the fee is for parking. Before we move on, let’s all have a moment of silence to curse the truck stop owners who charge for parking.

TeamViewer Quick Support App

TeamViewer is a nice app to have if you’re having issues with your Trace. When you start a TeamViewer session, someone from tech support can remotely access your device. They can either control the device themselves or they can watch what you’re doing. 

Either way, you can feel comfortable about it because you can still see everything that is happening onscreen. Let’s hope you never have any problems with the Trace or the FleetUp apps, but this is technology after all. If you do, at least you know TeamViewer Quick Support is just a tap away.

So what is the cost?

The price of the Trace is $683, which honestly seemed a bit steep to me at first. But then I remembered that this is a multi-use device. 

You can use it as a log book. It’s also a dash cam. It also makes for a great large screen GPS navigation device. You can read ebooks or listen to audiobooks and podcasts. You can even play games on it! Basically, you can download any Android app as long as you’ve got the space on the micro SD card (although there are monthly data allowances to watch – stay tuned for pricing).  

And let’s not forget that the Trace is a highly ruggedized device. In the event of a nuclear holocaust, I’m guessing that the Trace would probably still be humming right along while you’re being vaporized.

So can you buy a 7” Android tablet, a GPS navigation device, and a dash cam for $683? Possibly, but why not have one device instead of three?

The RAM mounts are $70 for the longer model and $60 for the short one.

There is a monthly fee of $25 for using the FleetUp software on the Trace. This includes 500 megabytes of data usage (the website says 1 GB now so this may have changed). There are additional plans with more bandwidth if you’re a data hog.

No hardware needed?

One thing I should point out is that you can use the FleetUp apps without spending $683 for the Trace. If you already have an iPhone, iPad, or Android device, you can download the FleetUp apps for free and only pay the $25 per month, per device. 

For instance, if you had three drivers with three devices, the cost would be $75 per month ($25 x 3). But if you were running three team trucks, you’d have 6 drivers instead of three. Each additional person is $10 per month, so in that case, your monthly bill would be $75 (three drivers with devices) plus $30 ($10 for each surplus driver), for a total of $105 per month. Not bad for covering 6 drivers!

The summary

We all heard about the ONE20 ELD going away. My guess is this is just the first of many companies that won’t make the cut. I’m no fortune teller, but I don’t think FleetUp will be one of those companies. I could be wrong, but they just seem to have their crap together. Have a look at the FleetUp website and you’ll see that they have their hand in more baskets than just the Trace. 

The FleetUp Trace ELD is a solid piece of hardware with the ability to take the place of multiple trucking-related devices and it’s easy to use, thanks in part to the voice assistant. The monthly cost is in range with other ELDs and FleetUp is actively developing and supporting their products and services. And remember, the software is free to download if you already have a mobile device to put it on. 

So in the end, the only thing you really have to worry about is dropping the Trace on your foot while wearing flip-flops! 

 

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.
[box]Listen to the podcast version above and subscribe to the podcast in iTunes or Google Play. Or search for Trucker Dump in your favorite podcast app.
Download the intro/outro songs for free! courtesy of Walking On Einstein.
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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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Maximum Commercial Trailer Lengths — State By State

[box]↑WordPress lies!!↑ This is actually a guest post by Larry Labelle, Marketing Manager for Verduyn Tarps, an international leader in the tarp system industry. Labelle utilizes his creativity and background in sales to deliver solutions for the company’s branding, message and marketing strategy.[/box]

Hauling anything cross-country means truckers have to pass multiple jurisdictions. What’s allowed in one state may not be allowed in another. Carriers and drivers who don’t pay attention to the differences between the laws in which they drive put themselves at risk. Being in violation of the law increases the chances that a driver will be pulled over. Yet it also means potential fines and citations could negatively impact a carrier’s ability to do business, as well as the driver’s ability to continue to do his or her job.

For instance, before hauling across state lines, carriers and drivers should know the maximum allowable length for commercial trailers in each of the states they’ll enter. Depending on the regulations in each state, drivers may or may not be able to bring their trailers across state lines and still be in compliance with the law. Without even knowing it, drivers may be in violation of the law in one state — even though he or she was in compliance a few miles on the other side of the state line.

In Arizona, for example, commercial trailers can be a maximum of 57 feet, 6 inches in length. If a driver hauling a trailer of that length were to cross the border into California, however, he or she could be cited because the maximum commercial trailer length there is 53 feet. Even within one state, there may be different requirements — depending on the classification of the road being used. Because knowing all of these various regulations can be difficult for carriers and drivers, the following guide provides a handy reminder of the laws in each state. No matter how long a commercial trailer is, a custom tarp system can cover it and keep cargo protected from the elements. Read on to learn more about commercial trailer length regulations — state by state.

Sponsored Post: The Citadel Escort Mobile Emergency Response System

Citadel Fleet Safety (see below for a special discount) is all about truck driver safety. How so? By showing you some boring safety videos that makes you want to yawn so wide that you nearly swallow your tongue? Nope. By supplying truck drivers with a fast, reliable, affordable way to deal with emergencies.

[box]Listen to an interview with Jim Rennie, SVP Director of Sales & Strategic Partnerships for Citadel Fleet Safety[/box]

The Citadel Escort Mobile Emergency Response System is for all kinds of emergencies

The Citadel Escort Mobile Emergency Response System is a nifty unit. It’s a small, key FOB-sized device with a prominent button, that when pushed for three seconds will contact emergency services quicker than you can say, “I don’t want to die today” three times fast. Before you know it, you’ll be talking to a trained emergency advisor who will send the appropriate services to you ASAP.

What’s that? Can’t talk because you’re choking on a Whopper with cheese? No worries. The advisor won’t take your silence lightly. They’ll assume the worst and dispatch an ambulance to you STAT! Feel like an elephant is sitting on your chest? An ambulance is on the way. Do the unintelligible words you’re speaking sound like you’re having a stroke? You are! And your emergency advisor will know that and send help. The Citadel Escort isn’t just for your personal medical emergencies though.

Come across a vehicle accident? Citadel can be dispatching emergency services while you’re running to the scene. Or maybe you see a couple of shady dudes hanging around your truck or approaching you as you walk across a dark parking lot? Press that button and the fuzz are on the way. False alarm? No big deal. They’ll call the cops off as soon as you know it’s safe.

Listen, it’s a dangerous world out there. It seems like every other day you’re reading about some trucker who got mugged, shot, or worst of all, killed on the job. You also know that truckers aren’t the healthiest bunch of folks out there. Something about the combo of chicken fried steak and sitting on your tookus 11 hours every day doesn’t add up to a healthy lifestyle. Who knew? Truckers are also alone for long stretches of time, so wouldn’t it be nice know someone will be there for you when you most need them? Trust me, even if your dog’s name is Lassie, she’s not going to run for help… unless perhaps your name is Timmy.

The Citadel Escort Mobile Emergency Response System is easy to use

The beauty of the Escort Mobile Emergency Response System is that it works right out of the box. There is no complicated setup that requires a Computer Science degree here. Just unbox it and it’s ready to use.

When an emergency is happening, all you have to do is press the activation button for three seconds. Once that’s done, you’re totally hands-free to do whatever you need to do; whether that be saving a person from a burning car, fighting off those muggers, or putting on some pants before the ambulance arrives. Seriously, I’d be willing to bet it takes longer than you might think to squeeze into your jeans when you’re in agonizing pain.

The Citadel Escort Mobile Emergency Response System is always with you

How many times have you wanted to do something as unimportant as taking a photo of a bumper sticker, only to realize you left your phone in the truck? Yeah, weell that’s really going to suck when you slip and fall on the ice while you’re doing your walk-around inspection. That won’t happen with the Escort because it can always be attached to you.

The device is worn one of three ways; a lanyard around your neck, on a belt clip, or on a wrist strap.

The Citadel Escort Mobile Emergency Response System is rugged

The Escort is made of rugged materials. It has been tested to both extremes of heat and cold. Let’s just say that if your Escort won’t work because of the ambient temperature, you’ll already be dead so it really won’t matter at that point. ?

It is tough enough to withstand the trucker’s lifestyle, so there’s no need to worry about banging it around or dropping it on the pavement. As long as you don’t take a sledge hammer after it or run it over with your tractor for a YouTube video, it’s going to keep on ticking.

The device is also water-resistant so you can wear it in the shower if you choose. Or if that’s seems unnecessary, you can at least hang it from a hook in the shower stall so it will be in easy reach. And in a worst case scenario, it will also survive a quick dive into the goldfish bowl, provided you fish it out quickly (cheesy pun intended). It’s not a SCUBA device, you know.

The Citadel Escort Mobile Emergency Response System is reliable

What good is an emergency device if you can’t rely on it to work 24/7? That would be as pointless as playing badminton with a bowling ball! The Escort is always ready to go and the Citadel emergency advisors are trained to deal with any issue. There are three call centers strategically located across the US, so you never have to worry about your cry for help going unanswered.

Speaking of location, your location is one of the most important things when it comes to an emergency. The Escort has you covered with a built-in GPS chip. That means that you don’t have to try to verbally relay your location when you may be least able to do so. The advisor will know exactly where you are.

About the only time the Citadel Escort isn’t reliable is if you’re a big dummy and let the battery run dry. The problem is, it’s really hard to do that. Depending on usage, the battery will last 4-6 days. When it starts getting low, an LED will blink to warn you. And if you’re still too stinkin’ forgetful to charge it, someone from Citadel will call you to let you know your battery needs charging. How cool is that!?

Citadel Fleet Safety was using their noggin’s when they decided to put the Escort on the AT&T 3G network. That might sound like an antiquated technology, but it’s really quite brilliant. As any trucker can tell you, the 4G and LTE networks aren’t available as much as we’d like, but you can get a 3G signal pretty much anywhere in the continental United States. And since the Escort doesn’t need a high-speed data network to have two-way voice communication, the 3G network makes far more sense. Not only is there better cell coverage with 3G, but it also makes the device cheaper for you.

The Citadel Escort Mobile Emergency Response System is affordable

There is no charge for the Escort device itself. Instead, you pay a monthly fee for the service. I also love the fact that there are no contracts to sign. Citadel Fleet Safety wants to earn your business every month. I just love that.

The Escort usually retails for $29.95 per month, but for a limited time, the good folks at Citadel Fleet Safety are giving all Trucker Dump readers/listeners a special rate of just $22 per month! And that’s not just an introductory rate. That’s $22 per month for as long as you own the device! How awesome is that?

[box]To claim your discount or learn more about the Citadel Escort Mobile Emergency Response System (including some videos), go to CitadelFleet.com, click on [Customer Login] in the upper-right corner, click on the Trucker Dump Podcast logo, and enter the password (all lowercase): truckerdump
You can also call Citadel Fleet Safety at 800-269-5905.[/box]

Trucker Comments Requested For New Personal Conveyance Rules

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or FMCSA, has announced that it is changing the Personal Conveyance (PC) rules and they have extended the original 30-day comment period to February 20, 2018. This means we truckers need to do something we may not like to do… think about the issue and submit our feedback.

If you remember, a few years back the FMCSA was taking driver feedback about the insane new 1 AM to 5 AM requirement on the 34-hour break part of the 70-hour restart rule. The FMCSA got the research and combined with a lot of complaining drivers, they changed the rule. So yes, I guess it is possible that they are capable of seeing reason. Who knew?

We drivers need to pull together and get these changes implemented

As it stands, each carrier can change certain parameters within the rule and my company always errs on the side of caution. Because of this, the current Personal Conveyance rules are virtually useless to me. I can literally use PC about 20% of the time when I’d like to. Makes me mad enough to twist the ears off a baby bunny rabbit.

What has changed about the new Personal Conveyance rule?

The biggest change for the better is their plan to let truckers use Personal Conveyance while under a load. Current rules say you have to drop a loaded trailer to use PC, which is just plain nuts in my opinion. What’s it make any difference if we’re loaded or bobtail? If we get to a delivery and the customer won’t have a dock for 3 hours, what’s the difference if I bobtail to a truck stop under PC time, or if I’m pulling a loaded trailer? I just don’t get it. Imagine that? A trucker not understanding the logic behind an FMCSA rule.

So here’s the call to action. Unless you’re saving a baby from a burning minivan right now, stop what you’re doing and go submit your comments. I’m going right now.

TD126: Interview With Right Weigh Load Scales

In today’s podcast, I speak with Ryan Backstrand, Product Engineer and Korina Velasco, Marketing Manager for Right Weigh Load Scales. If you haven’t heard of Right Weigh, it is a system of weighing your truck without having to drive to the nearest CAT Scale. How cool is that?! 

You’ll learn how this product works, how much it costs, and how to install it, just to name a few. After you’ve listened to the podcast, jump on over to the Right Weigh website to watch their video and learn more about the product. You can also call them at (888)818-2058.

They’re also on all the social media sites. Just search “Right Weigh” and they pop right up. This was a really fun interview and we had some good laughs, so be sure to stick around for the bloopers and outtakes at the end.

[box]Listen to the audio version above and subscribe to the podcast in iTunes or Google Play. Or search for Trucker Dump in your favorite podcast app.
Download the intro/outro songs for free! courtesy of Walking On Einstein.
Mystery Feedback Song – Only a cheater would click this before listening to the podcast! You aren’t a cheater, are you? [/box]

Podcast show notes and links:

In today’s podcast, I speak with Ryan Backstrand, Product Engineer and Korina Velasco, Marketing Manager for Right Weigh Load Scales. If you haven’t heard of Right Weigh, it is a system of weighing your truck without having to drive to the nearest CAT Scale. How cool is that?! You’ll learn how this product works, how much it costs, and how to install it, just to name a few.

Additionally, Troy from the Big Rig Banter podcast dissects trucker pay, I point you to an awesome FAQ about Electronic Logging Devices (ELD) and a short book explaining truck weights, and I introduce a new segment that I think you truckers are really gonna dig. And obviously, I do some shameless self-promotion of a couple of podcasts I’ve been a guest on recently. I also talk about a service called Teledoc that seems custom-made for truckers.

In the feedback section, Aaron shares why he’s always sitting in the driver’s seat (even when off-duty), Greg and I dodge Winter Storm Grayson, Danielle shares health tips she’s learned on the road as a ride-along to her trucker hubby Robert, and Trevor writes in to ask about how getting jiggy in the truck works. Yeah. You’ll definitely want to stick around for that one. Be sure to persist to the bloopers and outtakes at the very end too!

This episode of Trucker Dump is sponsored by:

Links mentioned in the podcast:

Audio-Technica AT2005USB microphone

Teledoc

FAQ on Electronic Logging Devices courtesy of FleetComplete.com

Quora.com

Video of Tesla Electric truck spotted

Join the Trucker Dump Slack group

My interview on Payload podcast

Understanding Semi Truck Weight and Dimension Regulations by Paul Jakubicek

Top Podcasts Every Type Of Trucker Can Enjoy

My interview on the Big Rig Banter Podcast

5 Top Issues In Commercial Truck Driving by Connor Smith

Dissecting The Pay Issue For Truckers by Troy Diffenderfer

AllTruckJobs.com

Overtime Pay For Truckers at AskTheTrucker.com

Schmidt/OFC Trucking company at LiquidTrucking.com

Jimmy’s Famous Seafood in Baltimore, MD

Directions to Jimmy’s Famous Seafood

Right Weigh Load Scales Infographic

TD93: The Driver’s Seat Phenomenon

TD124: The Overweight Axle Debacle

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?

Download the intro/outro songs for free! courtesy of Walking On Einstein

Mystery Feedback Song – Only a cheater would click this before listening to the podcast! You aren’t a cheater, are you?

Dissecting The Pay Issue For Truckers

[box]↑WordPress lies!!↑ This is actually a guest post by Troy Diffenderfer of the Big Rig Banter Podcast and AllTruckJobs.com[/box]

It’s no secret that one of the most hotly debated topics in the trucking industry deals with the amount of compensation that truckers are getting for his or her services. Let’s face it, we all want to make more money, but the real question is whether or not we deserve it, and whether the trucking company can increase wages without compromising the quality of service.

This issue has left many divided over whether or not an increase in pay would be beneficial for the trucking industry as a whole. When dissecting the pay issue for truckers, it’s important to look at the benefits of the industry as a whole and not just the benefits of each individual driver. Below we’ve broken things down.

Already Getting Paid

While many assume that truckers are looking for their first raise in a long while, this is actually not true. In fact, a study done by Glassdoor found that trucker wages have been steadily increasing over the last few years, with the biggest month-to-month increase coming in at almost 8% last year. With a driver shortage forcing trucking companies to present a more attractive career and improving the economic landscape, trucking companies have, in fact, been increasing wages for their truckers over the years.

Pay For All Of Their Time

Despite an increase in wages, many truckers feel that it’s unfair to not be paid for all of the time that they spend on the road. The system of compensating only by mileage is antiquated because some carriers just pay the drivers when the wheels are moving, not for their time when they are filling out paperwork, fueling their trucks or waiting to be loaded or unloaded. Many truckers feel that this is unfair because, despite their rig not being in motion, they are still performing tasks that are part of the job requirements.

Many truckers feel like these companies are essentially getting free labor, while the companies themselves are pointing to the already increased wages as an answer. In fact, here are just a few things that truckers are not paid for:

The ELD Solution

One piece of technology might just solve the pay issue for many truckers. Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) have the ability to track truckers via GPS as well as monitor fuel usage, mileage, and many other aspects of trucking, leading many companies to believe that they will be able to properly calculate the appropriate wages for each trip. However, many truckers still feel like this technology overlooks all of the little things that they do and the time they spend stuck on the road. These truckers are encouraging companies to switch from a per-mile pay scale to an hourly one that will compensate truckers for all of their time.

Final Thoughts

While it’s unlikely that there’s a full-proof way to make everyone happy, it’s still important that both truckers and trucking companies work together for a compromise. If trucking companies have data that shows that a pay increase will actually hurt the quality of the industry, then show it. If truckers can make a case that these steady pay increases simply aren’t enough, then they should present why they think that they deserve an increase in wages. Either way, communication will be key when coming to a final solution to the pay issue for truckers.

[box]Photo courtesy of 401(K) 2012 on Flickr. Their website is http://401kcalculator.org.[/box]

5 Top Issues In Commercial Driving

[box]↑WordPress lies!!↑ This is actually a guest post by Conner Smith of the Big Rig Banter Podcast and AllTruckJobs.com[/box]

Despite being one of the most ubiquitous industries in the United States, there are a diverse range of pressing issues facing just about everyone in the commercial driving business. Honestly, it’s hard to just sit back and let things take their course because, as many people in the industry will tell you, this isn’t exactly a profession where you can kick back and coast for most of your career. Beyond hiring quality drivers, it takes hard work from each link in the supply chain to keep the flow of goods, services, drivers, and logistics running smoothly.

So what top issues in commercial driving are still alive and well? Here we’ll take a look at what many people, both recruiters and drivers, are facing on a daily basis and some potential ways to move the industry forward for years to come.

1. ELDs and the Supreme Court

As a move that still has many owner-operators voicing their resistance, the Supreme Court’s decision to leave in place the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) rule makes it clear that these devices are here to stay. Essentially, this rule calls for the Secretary of Transportation to adopt the proper regulations requiring ELD use in commercial vehicles driving interstate. After a rejected appeal by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), companies must be compliant by December 18th, 2017. This means installing the appropriate ELDs in all commercial vehicles made after the year 2000.

Despite some obvious benefits to having ELDs in all commercial vehicles, critics have made voiced concerns over constant surveillance, strict hours of service tracking, and the initial concerns of installing hundreds of devices in a relatively short amount of time. In any case, the industry is poised to comply to this new law of the land whether they want to or not.

2. Hours of Service

Trailing behind the recent ELD ruling is perhaps one of the true underlying issues for commercial drivers in the industry — the hours of service regulations themselves. Now with mandatory compliance meaning an ELD in every commercial vehicle, drivers are no longer able to “fudge” their paper logs for very good reasons. It used to be that if drivers were just 30 minutes away from home after getting caught in traffic that they could just “adjust” their hours of service. With ELDs such things are nearly impossible.

Although, many argue that the issue is not with ELDs themselves but with these stringent regulations on hours of service and their corresponding rest times. It’s understood now that fighting the ELD rule is really just a veiled attempt to get adjustments made to laws regarding hours of service, which is sure to continue on as in issue at least for now.

3. CSA Scores

Launched by the FMCSA in December of 2010, the Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA) initiative was introduced as a way to improve the overall safety of commercial motor vehicles on the road. The intention was that the CSA program would put a more intense focus on companies that pose higher safety risks on the road than others. Still, many industry interests contend that the factors integrated into CSA scores are not always reliable predictors of safety.

Critics say that inconsistencies in the process of collecting CSA data in addition to issues about the accountability of crashes make it difficult to fully assess the commercial driving abilities of individuals. Even though the intention is to restrict lesser qualified drivers from being hired by companies that demand the highest degree of safety (which is most of them) CSA can haunt drivers for years to come for a variety of reasons they may or may not have had control over.

4. The Driver Shortage

Characterized by many as a matter of the quality of drivers rather than the quantity of people applying for jobs, the driver shortage continues to worsen with little sign of slowing based on reports from the ATA.

For almost two decades now, this shortage of drivers has made itself known to carriers struggling to find quality drivers to fill their trucks. At the time of the first report in 2005, the shortage was roughly 20,000 drivers but had since grown to a staggering 48,000 by the end of 2015. Should these trends hold, the shortage is projected to reach almost 175,000 by 2024.

As it stands, the driver shortage may actually feel much worse to motor carriers considering all of the previously mentioned issues — increasingly constrictive CSA scores, ELD mandates, and hours of services regulations. Pair this with high turnover rates and it’s as difficult as ever to get the quality drivers needed for the increasing volume of jobs out there — 890,000 over the next decade to be exact.

Now, many companies are looking to targeted demographics such as millennial drivers, female drivers, and drivers with military experience to pick up the torch!

5. The Autonomous Vehicle Revolution

Although it’s not quite the dawn of autonomous vehicles, these highly tech-laden trucks are just about to breach the horizon of the industry. Whether it’s Uber, Tesla, Google, or Nikola Motors, it’s quite obvious that we’re in for a heavily automated transportation industry as these vehicles clear their final hurdles to market. Just like many people were skeptical there’d ever be personal computers in every home, many companies are quietly bracing themselves for what seems like an impending disruption of incredible scale.

With a current 1.7 million trucking jobs in the U.S., it’s still unclear just how many people could be out of work once these self-driving vehicles hit the roads. Predictions by MIT’s Technology Review place this technology at 5-10 years before it’s fully available, however, it’s certain that it will forever alter the nature of the commercial driving industry.

Throw alternative energy sources like natural gas and hydrogen fuel cells into the mix and we’re bound to see a gigantic shift in the types of vehicles — and drivers — making their way across the United States and many countries throughout the world.

TD124: The Overweight Axle Debacle

? (To the tune of Gilligan’s Island) Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale… A tale of a fateful trip… That started from this Northeast town… Aboard this great big truck. ? Wait a second! That’s not how the song goes! But it is the way this story starts.

As with most of my blog posts, I like to tell a story about something that happened to me and somehow I manage to stick a “moral of the story” onto it. Just like every old sitcom now that I think about it!

[box]Listen to the audio version above and subscribe to the podcast in iTunes or Google Play. Or search for Trucker Dump in your favorite podcast app.
Download the intro/outro songs for free! courtesy of Walking On Einstein.
Mystery Feedback Song – Only a cheater would click this before listening to the podcast! You aren’t a cheater, are you? [/box]

So this story (or rant, depending how look at it) began with a long run from Elkhart, Indiana to Newville, Pennsylvania, which is just south of Carlisle on I-81. I got the load on a Friday and it needed to deliver by Friday midnight to get the 560 miles on my next paycheck. But thanks to the awesome Household Mover’s Guide most truckers get paid by, the trip was actually well over 600 miles. In the end, I needed to average 58 mph to pull it off, which is a real feat in a 64 mph truck even in the best of conditions.

My dispatcher said it couldn’t be done. Especially since the customer hadn’t authorized any toll roads and my rarely does on their own either. I’m pretty sure my company big wigs think the Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania turnpikes are all hunting grounds of a flock of giant, truck-eating pterodactyls. Anyway, I thought I could pull it off.

Turns out we were both right. I could have delivered the load by midnight, but I didn’t have enough hours to get off the receivers property and they didn’t allow overnight parking on site. So I have elogs to thank for my crappy next paycheck. ?

Anywho, I parked at our yard about 15 miles from the delivery because I had an oil change due on the new Kenworth. I got about 6 hours of sleep and was planning on going back to bed after the service, but instead I went to the driver’s lounge and watched a few episodes of Law and Order and then got caught up in back-to-back showings of all three The Expendables movies. What a waste of 6 hours.

The movies were entertaining enough, but the best parts were always when they were subtly poking fun at the 80s movies they’re playing off of, such as Commando and Rambo. The “in” jokes always cracked me up. The best one was when Chuck Norris’ character Lone Wolf shows up out of the blue to save the day. Sly says they heard he got bitten by a King Cobra, to which Chuck replies, “Yeah I was. But after 5 days of agonizing pain, the cobra died.” As did I from laughter. Chuck Norris jokes rock!

So I tell you all this to set the stage that I was already strapped for sleep. I’d been up since 9:00 AM and I was planning on delivering and picking up my next load (same location) by 6 PM and delivering in North Carolina around 3:00 AM. Long day, sure; but nothing I couldn’t handle.

I adjusted my tandems (trailer axles) to the 41-foot mark (kingpin to center of rear trailer axle) which is the bridge law in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina. I pulled out of the shipper at 6:30 PM with 41,000 pounds on board… or so the paperwork said. More on that in a bit.

Now I don’t normally call out customers, but I’m going to this time because, quite frankly, this rarely happens with this company. The customer was Unilever. Many non-truckers have probably never heard the name, but I guarantee you have many of their products in your home right now. Axe, Dove, Hellman’s, and Lipton are just a few. My company hauls a lot of freight for them and I’ve rarely had a problem with overweight issues. So I’m naming names to let you know that even reputable companies like Unilever sometimes have their heads up their butts. It happens.

So back to the story. Because these loads are often heavy, most of their facilities have scales on site. But not this one. The security guard told me they were leasing the building and the owner of the property wouldn’t allow them to install a scale.

Okay, first; how does a major company like Unilever not lease a space that meets their minimum needs? No clue. And second, why wouldn’t the leasor allow it? Seems like it would be a bonus feature if they ever needed to lease it again. Oh well. I tell you all this because the lack of an on site scale plays into the story.

The first weigh

The closest scale was 15 miles away in Carlisle, but it was the wrong direction, so I drove 32 miles south to Greencastle, PA and weighed the load there. That’s when the dread set in.

For you non-drivers, what you’re looking at is a screenshot from the excellent Weigh My Truck app from CAT Scale. Truckers, if you don’t have it installed yet and you ever need to scale a load, you’re an idiot. Or possibly you just don’t have a smartphone yet, which as a tech-junkie, still has me wondering about you. 😉 I’ll be reviewing the Weigh My Truck app at a later date.

To keep you non-trucking peeps in the loop, the weight limits for standard tractor-trailers without special permits are:

  • Steer axle: 12,000 pounds (although I’ve never been hassled with more)
  • Drive axle: 34,000 pounds
  • Trailer axle: 34,000 pounds
  • Gross: 80,000 pounds

As you can see, my trailer axle is over by 1,540 pounds, meaning they’ve got too much heavy crap on the back-end of my trailer. This happens every now and then with heavier loads, so I took it in stride. I drove 32 miles back to the shipper and showed the security guard my weigh ticket. 20 minutes later I was sitting in a dock and someone started rearranging the load.

When finished, I looked at the load before I closed the door. I couldn’t do this the first time because the trailer was preloaded and already sealed. Just like before, the last two pallets were still heavy stuff. The only thing that changed was that before it had been Dove products and now it was Axe body wash. To me, it didn’t look like much had changed.

I checked out at the security gate and they put a new seal on. I reported the new seal number to my company and headed out. So do I go to the closer scale in Carlisle this time? Nope, for two reasons.

  1. I trusted they reloaded it right. These things usually get resolved the first rework so I gave them the benefit of the doubt. Besides, my perception of a load has been fooled before.

  2. Reweighs are cheaper. I can remember a time when a CAT scale was $8, but like everything (except driver pay it seems), the fee has increased to $11. But if you need to reweigh the load, every reweigh for the next 24 hours are only $2 each. Provided of course, you go back to the exact same scale you weighed at initially.

So another 32 miles later, I’m back at the TA in Greencastle. That’s when I see this.

Reweigh #1

As you can see, my instinct had been correct. In the hour it took to reload me, they managed to move a whopping 80 pounds forward! I was less than thrilled. Another 32 miles later, I’m back talking to the disbelieving security guard. Another 20 minutes and I’m sitting back in dock 291, which is where they do all their reworks. Ask me in a year and I bet I still remember that dock number after this debacle.

One thing I would like to mention here is that this “20 minutes to get a dock” thing is a reoccurring theme in this story. I have no idea why it took that long each time. After the guard closed the window, I saw her doing paperwork and computer stuff for about 10 minutes and then she’d be on the phone with someone for another five. Then five minutes to drive to the far side of the building, open the doors, and dock the trailer. Oh, I almost forgot. I had to drop the trailer each time and pull a few feet in front of the trailer. More stupid rules truckers have to follow sometimes.

Another hour later and the load looks better, but not great. I briefly considered going north this time to save about 17 miles, but if everything axled out this time, I would have gone out of route 34 miles to reweigh the load. And I would’ve had to pay a full $11 again being a new scale location and all. Well, really it’s my company that pays with the Weigh My Truck app, but you get the gist. I was also thinking, “who screws up a load three times in a row?” So I chalk up another 32 miles. The one bright thing in all this is I do get paid for all these extra miles. Wow. Talk about making lemonade.

Reweigh #2

Keep in mind that although this is only the second reweigh, this is the third chance they’ve had at getting the load right (don’t forget the initial loading). As you can see, they did much better this time, but they’re still 540 pounds over on the trailer axle.

I have no doubt in my mind that some driver is reading this and screaming, “Run with it!” Maybe I would’ve under other circumstances, but I was going through Virginia, and any experienced trucker knows that their weigh stations rarely close. You just don’t mess with the big VA when it comes to weight. A driver once told me he got a $1000 ticket for being 300 pounds over gross! Ouch! Sorry, but if I got a $1000 ticket due to my impatience, The Evil Overlord would slit my throat while I slept. After I mowed the lawn, obviously.

It was at this time that I noticed something weird. You experienced truckers may have already spotted it. Why exactly does a load that supposedly only weighs 41,000 pounds, gross out at 78,680 pounds? Earlier that week, I had hauled a 46,350-pound load of sugar and it only grossed 20 pounds more than this load, yet it supposedly had over 5,000 pounds less freight! And FYI: I had 1/2 fuel tanks for both loads.

Back to the shipper I go. The guard is shaking her head as I approach. I explained that they were a lot closer than the time before but that there was still too much heavy crap on the rear. For the record, the last two pallets were sitting at about the 48-foot mark. I also pointed out that I thought the listed weight of 41,000 pounds was incorrect. I also gently, but firmly demanded to talk to a supervisor before they reworked the load again.

The guard said someone would come out and talk to me once I got backed into my old friend, dock 291. I backed in, but no one came. Then I heard a giant thump on the trailer and knew they were starting without me. I went back and pounded on the side of the trailer and I had a conversation with the supervisor about my theory of the load being heavier than 41,000 pound. I could tell she didn’t take me serious.

I said, “I’m only 540 pounds over. If you can just cut one pallet, I’ll be out of your hair forever.” She said that their contract with Walmart didn’t allow cutting pallets unless the load was over gross weight. This didn’t surprise me.

First, Walmart always gets what they ask for because they’re Walmart. And second, I knew my company signed contracts like this too. Those sugar loads I mentioned earlier are always 46,350 pounds and dispatch doesn’t send us in to pick it up if we can’t pull that much due to too much fuel or having a heavier brand of truck. If we load it and can’t run it legal, we have to sit around and wait for a relay driver. Anyway, Mrs. Supervisor told me she was reworking the load herself and that it would for sure be legal when she was done. She was a supervisor. Surely she’ll get this sorted out, right?

Well, when I got the green dock light (clear to pull out) I went back to close the trailer doors and saw the load was now sitting even further back at the 50-foot mark! And there was still heavy body wash on the last two pallets. I pounded on the dock door but she was long gone. I drove back out the guard shack and told them I’d be back in a bit. They thought that was kinda funny. I didn’t.

Reweigh #3

At this point, I had no faith in this load, the loaders, or the supervisors. Heck, my faith in Chuck Norris was even waning. This time, I never even considered going to Carlisle for reweighing. Good thing, because as you can see from the screenshot, we were back where we started at 1540 pounds over again. I knew it!

At this point, I was getting really grumpy. Not only was I back to square one, but I was also running low on driving hours now. I raced back to the shipper (if my 64 mph top speed can be considered racing) to discover a new set of guards. Lovely.

I explained how many times I’d already been there that day and that I didn’t have enough time to rework the load again and still get off property to find parking for the night. Or should I say “day.” At this point it was morning and I had been awake for about 21 hours.

I told the new guy I wanted to drop the trailer so they could work on it while I took a break. He called inside and the lady supervisor would not let me drop the trailer and leave because the load “wasn’t her responsibility since I had signed for the load.” Say what? That might be the case if it was a legal load, but it wasn’t!

I called night dispatch and asked to drop the trailer on our yard and let another driver deal with it the next day since I’d been messing with it for 12 hours. He implied that was a crappy thing to do to another driver and selfishly I said, “It sure is. And it’s something every other driver would’ve tried to do to me if they were in my shoes.”

He didn’t argue, but I also didn’t win the argument. He didn’t have anyone else to cover the load and I believed him since I’d been at the yard the day before and the place looked like a ghost town. I think I actually saw a tumbleweed. I accepted my fate and parked at a rest area a couple of miles away. I heated up a frozen lasagna to try to lighten my mood. It didn’t work.

I woke up the next morning with a fresh confidence in a new day. Okay, that’s a lie. I woke up grumpy and doubtful that this problem would ever get resolved.

When I got back to the guard shack, the young lady from the day before was there again. I just smiled as I approached the window. She chuckled and got the 20 minute process started again with barely a word.

When the dock door finally opened up, a different loader was standing there. He said he’d been informed of my situation and he’d been called in on his day off to rectify the problem. I was just happy to see that Unilever was finally acknowledging the insanity of the situation.

I explained to him how I thought there was more than 41,000 pounds on board and of course he doubted it. At least he was nice about it. Naturally, I asked about cutting a couple of those back pallets, but he confirmed that Walmart wouldn’t have any of those shenanigans. ?

At least I didn’t have to explain that I couldn’t have that heavy product on the tail of the trailer; he’d already pointed that out. He said he’d been loading trucks there for 5 years and he would get it right the first time. My response was, “No offense, but that’s what the lady said last night.” He laughed and said he wasn’t surprised because that supervisor was a horrible loader. Apparently everyone knew it except for her… and me obviously. His cockiness restored my hopeful attitude just a tad.

When he finished, he had managed to get all the freight forward of the 45-foot mark. Impressive! This time, I had as much confidence as he did about it being loaded right. The last two side-by-side pallets were still that heavy Axe body wash, but with everything that far forward I thought this saga might finally be over.

He gave me the office number and said he’d be awaiting my call to confirm his awesomeness. On the way out, I told the guards it was nice talking to them the last two days, but I hope I never saw either of their faces again. *sigh* My wishes so rarely come true.

Reweigh #4

This time, I drove to the Flying J in Carlisle because my 24-hour reweigh limit was close to expiring. The Weigh My Truck app charged me $11 again and I didn’t care in the least. Nor did I care that I was out of route. When the weights popped up on my iPhone screen, I’m pretty sure my chin actually sank to my chest. I was soooooo disappointed. I shot a message off to my company and then I called the loader. I could literally hear the cockiness fade from his voice when I told him I was still 540 pounds over.

When he found out my fuel was only at 1/2 tank, he asked me to put on as much fuel as I could. His reasoning was that if the load was close to 80,000 pounds he’d have an excuse to cut a pallet off the load. Sounds reasonable to me.

I called dispatch to authorize some fuel and as the dispatcher was getting ready to set it up, I heard another dispatcher in the background say with a firm tone, “He’s not adding any fuel if you guys can’t get him legal. You’ll either call Walmart and get them to approve cutting a pallet or we’re leaving the load on your property. That’s your choices.” ‘Bout friggin’ time. I headed back to the shipper without adding fuel.

When I got back, the guard said she’d have just taken the load and avoided the scales. Without a too-sweet smile on my face I said, “I shouldn’t have to risk a ticket because your loaders are incompetent.” She had to agee with the logic, especially when I told her how strict Virginia was on weight issues.

Back at the dock (yes, 20 minutes later), I saw a different loader when the dock door rolled up. I thought I had been passed off again, but my mind was eased when the once-cocky dude showed up again as we spoke. I asked what the plan was and he said he’d both called and emailed Walmart with no response. No surprise since it was a Sunday. Despite that he was going to cut a pallet anyway and take the consequences on Monday. Thank God for a guy with a set of gonads the size (and possibly weight) of bowling balls.

He yanked a 1,065-pound pallet of mayonnaise off, but when I looked at the load, it hadn’t moved forward any. I was concerned that the pallet he pulled had been too far forward so that it wouldn’t affect the back axles by 540 pounds. Was I right? God, I hoped not. I barely spoke to the guards on the way out.

Reweigh #5

I headed back to Carlisle for my $2 reweigh and when I saw the weights I could literally feel my body relax. It was finally over. Final tally was:

  • Steer axle: 11,440
  • Drive axle: 32,360
  • Trailer axle: 33,620

So all said and done, 28 hours of my life was gone; 10 of it on a mandatory DOT break and the other 18 driving from shipper to scale and back a jillion times and sitting in dock 291.

To make me feel better about this whole thing, I ran into Flying J and grabbed some classic comfort food in the form of a couple of corn dogs. They were two of the worst things I’d ever eaten, but of course I waxed them off anyway. Overweight axle debacle or not, I’ll always be a cheapskate. And thanks to Flying J for capping off my perfectly crappy two days.

So like I said in the beginning, I like to try to learn something from these ordeals and pass it along to you. In this case, I’m going to reiterate a situation I talked about in the last episode.

The moral of the story

If you’ve got an extra day-and-a-half to go back and read this article, you’ll notice that I often said I was unhappy… or grumpy… or outright angry. But never once did I lose my cool on anyone. I did explain my situation and boldly state what I wanted to happen, but I did so without raising my voice or cursing at anyone. Would it have helped if I had?

I’m sure the drivers who flip out on people think it helps. But far too often I’ve seen what happens when people get screamed at. They simply have no incentive to help you. You’ve already yelled at them so how much worse could it get? But the driver being nice when being wronged, that’s the trucker who’s problem they want to help solve.

I’m going to go back to the principle where I always tend to wind up…

The Golden Rule: Treat others as you’d like to be treated.

If someone else screwed up a load that you’re trying to fix, would you want to be yelled at about it? Nope.

Even if you’re the one who screwed up, do you want to see spittle coming from an irate trucker’s lips? Nada.

And if you’re the guard up front who has absolutely nothing to do with the loading or the insane 20-minute procedure put in place to check in an overweight truck, would you want a pissed-off trucker charging up to your window with paperwork flying while being called a son-of-a-douchebag and every other vile name in the book? I dare say you wouldn’t.

People screw up. Companies screw up. Heck, once every 20 years or so, even I screw up. When it happens pull your panties out of your arse and take a chill pill. Trucker dumps happen, you know.

[box]What’s the longest time you’ve spent trying to get a load axled out? Leave your own long, drawn-out story in the comments section.[/box]

[box]Feature photo by Gavin Bell via Flickr Creative Commons[/box]

Podcast Show Notes:

Ever had one of those crappy days that just seems to drag on forever… and in fact, it actually does drag into the next day? Well, that’s what happened to me recently when a shipper just couldn’t get me loaded legally. I share the story with mind-numbing detail. Lucky you.

I also interview Bill Busbice from HWY Pro, an app that helps owner-operators find, accept, and plan loads more efficiently than current methods.

If you signed up to win the Meritor jacket, you’ll want to stay tuned to see if you won. I also talk about some new audio editing software I’m going to buy. Yes, this cheapskate.

In the feedback section, we hear from Renae, Emily, Garry, David, and Andrew.

Links mentioned in the intro:

I’m planning on reviewing the My ONE20 app soon, but you can go ahead and check it out now.

I’ve started a Trucker Dump Podcast Facebook page. Yes, I finally broke down.

Along with that is a Facebook Group called Trucker Dump Podcast. Since I buckled from the pressure, I expect all of you to join and participate. So get on it.

I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to promote my books. Yes, I’m shameless.
Trucking Life: An Entertaining, Yet Informative Guide To Becoming And Being A Truck Driver
How to Find a Great Truck Driving Job

Links mentioned in the blog post section:

Gilligan’s Island theme song

Chuck Norris’ best line in The Expendables 2

TD28: Please, Oh Please Give Me The Bypass is about weight distribution and the bridge laws.

Weigh My Truck app from CAT Scale

Go to TD124: The Overweight Axle Debacle ??? to see all the screenshot of my weigh tickets

TD32: SLC To CYA talks all about seals and load security

TD101: Stupid Rules That Truckers Tolerate is pretty self-explanitory

The moral of the story is a reiteration of a topic covered in TD123: Advice For New Truckers

In the feedback section:

Renae mentions the Trucking Nation podcast and she talks about health issues for truckers and the general lack of respect truckers receive.

Emily listened to TD119: Winter Truck Driving Tips From An Alaskan Trucker and wanted to share a related article called Winter Survival Kit: 10 Things To Keep In Your Truck.

An old high school friend named Garry wrote in just to say hi. Hi Garry!

David writes in to let me know he was the author of the mysterious “Bluegrass Cellular” email I read on the previous podcast.

Andrew asks why the heck I’m not on Podbean and I do my best to explain. He also has some constructive criticism about the previous podcast, which I love getting. He also asks about talkative truckers, which is something I obviously know a lot about.

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

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Mystery Feedback Song – Only a cheater would click this before listening to the podcast! You aren’t a cheater, are you?