truck

$20 For Your Thoughts, Truckers

You’ve heard the saying “a penny for your thoughts.” Well, I say screw that. But how about 20 bucks for your thoughts?! Count me in! Well all you have to do is take an online survey where you answer some questions about your life as a trucker. This offer is available to all truckers; whether you’re an owner-operator, lease-purchaser, or company driver.

Yeah, yeah, another survey. I hear ya. But trust me; I just took it and I can tell you it’s painless. Better hurry though. Once their quota is filled, your chance at the $20 is gone forever.

This online survey from L.E.K. Consulting will take you about 25 minutes to complete. At the end, you’ll enter your contact info and they’ll send you a Visa gift card worth $20. It’s that easy. Oh and none of your answers will be associated with you personally. They’ll take all the data gathered from everyone and lump it all together into what I can only assume resembles a giant lump of monkey bread.

So what kinds of questions do you need to answer?

Beyond the basic demographic stuff (gender, age, income, etc.), they’re wanting to know what type of trucking you do and what expenses you have as a trucker, compared to what is covered by your employer (if you have one). They want to know what products or services are important to you and which ones you currently use or plan to use in the future. And they also want to know what types of products/services you might be interested in purchasing in the future.

So like I said, this survey is a quick and easy way to make $20 that your spouse will never know about. Feel free to spend it all on Mountain Dew and Cheetos if that’s your thing.

You know, it just dawned on me that $20 for a 25-minute survey is over $40 per hour! Sadly, that’s almost 4x what I make for an hour of detention time sitting at a grocery warehouse waiting to be unloaded.

So what are you waiting for? Take the survey now!

[box] (c) Can Stock Photo / devon[/box]

 

TD133: A Trucker Gives Thanks

We truckers often feel under-appreciated; and rightly so. We deliver virtually every product that everyone owns, yet we’re still considered a nuisance to the road. But every once in a while, we truckers do get some recognition. Not everyone in the trucking industry is so lucky.

[box]Listen to the audio version above and subscribe to the podcast in Apple Podcasts or Google Podcasts. Or search for Trucker Dump in your favorite podcast app.
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[/box] The most obvious example of driver’s being appreciated is the aptly named National Truck Driver Appreciation Week, which takes place each September. But many carriers also have Driver Appreciation Days throughout the year where they give away prizes and grill burgers and brats for their drivers. I attended one of these recently and had the opportunity to chat with the CEO of my company. Discussing how things could improve with the head honcho while eating french toast and bacon! How can you beat that?

Additionally, shippers and receivers sometimes give us products for no apparent reason. I got full access to a rack of packaged cookies not too long ago and my friend DriverChrisMc gets a free pint of Ben & Jerry’s every time he picks up a load there. Hey, I just discovered something good about pulling a reefer! And I just found one more reason to curse his name. ?

The forgotten people

So clearly we truckers get more accolades than our whiny little selves let on. But what about all the forgotten people who keep the trucking industry rolling? Last time I checked, there wasn’t a National Shower Cleaners Week. So let’s start there. Here’s a list of unsung heroes who keep the trucking industry rolling.

Thank you to the truck stop maintenance people

These jack of all trades do everything from cleaning showers, to mopping up a kid’s puke, to power washing the fuel bays, to trying to keep up with the onslaught of the restrooms. Now I know many of you are thinking, “What’s this idiot talking about? Why would we thank these people? The truck stops are always filthy!” 

Okay. I’ll admit that truck stops often aren’t as clean as we’d like. But think about how nasty they’d be without these good folks? Here’s an idea; if we truckers want cleaner facilities, how about we quit being such slobs?

There is absolutely no reasons to spray water all over the sink area. I brush my teeth and knock down my Alfalfa cowlick every single day without soaking the countertop and the floor. And if a little water does splash out of the sink, it’s super easy to grab a paper towel and wipe up your mess before you leave.

Another little tip to help with the cleanliness. I know this is going to come as a complete surprise to some of you, but human waste belongs IN a toilet, not somewhere in the vicinity of a toilet. First off, toilet paper goes INTO the toilet as does your poop. Unless you’ve had an emergency Hershey squirt, there is absolutely no reason for it to be on the floor or the walls. 

As for #2, you women sit down for crying out loud, so why is it that The Evil Overlord could write a novel called “Horrors of the Ladies’ Room”? And men, well, if you can aim a pea shooter or a squirt gun, then why can’t you hit your friggin’ target in the john? It is kinda shaped like a gun barrel, ya know. Any hey, if you’re not going to use a urinal, lift the toilet seat. I know there’s not women coming into the men’s room, but we guys still have to sit on those seats.

Now for the parking lots. Who do you think puts all that trash in the parking lot? And speaking of pee lots, do you really think the truck stop employees are the ones pissing in the parking lot? Nope. It’s us truckers! But these good maintenance people have to clean it all up.

Basically, if we truckers didn’t act like our mom was following us around and cleaning up after us, the maintenance people would not only have an easier job, but they’d also be able to keep things cleaner. Besides, I’m pretty sure your mom would kick you square in the ass if you left her bathroom sink covered in water and shaving stubble. Let alone what your wife would do to you.

So why do it to the maintenance crew? If that’s not convincing enough, look at it this way. If you were doing that job, how would you feel about your sloppiness? If you said you wouldn’t care; then you’re a liar-liar and I kinda hope your pants do catch on fire.

So thank you to the maintenance crew. We know you have a thankless job, but we’re lucky to have you and we appreciate the job you do. Obviously, we’ll appreciate you even more if we don’t find wads of hair in the shower drain or poop streaks in the toilet. Thanks.

Thank you to the truck stop service workers and managers

We all know how big of jerks some truckers can be. Now imagine your job is interacting with them all… day… long. They listen to us bitch and moan about our screwed up fuel card, despite the fact that it’s not their fault. They give us cash advances and they even still send faxes for drivers who are still living in the 80’s. They dish up deli goods, brew our coffee and make the Pilot/Flying J’s smell like someone had a early morning cinna-gasm. 

The ones I feel most sorry for are the young pretty female cashiers. We’ve all heard truckers flirting with them. News flash, truckers; no attractive young woman wants to flirt with a middle-aged, smelly trucker wearing grease-stained clothes and exhaling a toxic mixture of cigarettes and coffee. Just assume if she wanted to flirt with older guys all day long, she’d be working at Hooter’s or twirling around a pole for a living.

In short, truck stop cashiers and managers do whatever it takes to keep us truckers fed and caffeinated so we can keep those big wheels rolling. So please take it easy on them. And thank you folks for all the things you do to keep the truck stops running smoothly.

P.S. Drivers: Your coffee stirrer and empty creamer packets belong in the trash, not on the countertop. Again, your mother doesn’t work here. 

Thank you to all the restaurant staff

Whether it’s the ever-present Subway, a tantalizing Taco Hell, or a full-service restaurant like Denny’s or Iron Skillet, we truckers should appreciate the job these folks are doing. 

Many of these eateries are open 24/7, which means someone is always working the graveyard shift so you can get some grub when you’re pulling an all-night drive.

Or maybe you just want to get out of the truck to relax for a while. Lord knows it’s hard to chill out in the driver’s lounge when you’ve got a bunch of drivers screaming over each other about the bad call the referee just made. Or worse, a discussion of politics breaks out. God help us. If only we could elect one of these guys as our President. They all seem to think they’ve got it all figured out. Uh huh. 

As you regular listeners/readers know, I eat most of my meals in my truck. But every once in a while, even cheapskates like me need to escape the cab for a while. It’s nice to go inside and have a seat at a real table instead eating off that crusty old road atlas that doubles as a TV tray. Sometimes I forget how comforting it is to have a friendly waiter or waitress plop a plate of food in front of you and keep your glass of iced tea filled.     

And of course, they couldn’t serve up the food at all if someone wasn’t standing over that hot stove back in the kitchen. Maybe I appreciate these cooks a bit more than the average Joe because I can’t cook to save my life. If I can’t pop the top off a package and stick it in a microwave, ain’t no one getting fed around me. 

So thanks to all the restaurant personnel who keep us truckers fed and for providing us with the closest thing to home we can have without actually being there. 

Thank you to the mechanics

No one likes going to the shop. I get that. But what’s worse? Taking a shower or sitting in a driver’s lounge while your truck is being worked on; or you crawling underneath your truck in the pee lot to diagnose and fix the problem yourself? I have the mechanical aptitude of a toothbrush, so I probably appreciate these hard-working folks far more than those of you who could fix your trucks if you wanted to. 

The times I appreciate these mechanics the most is when I’m broken down on the side of the highway. I get to sit in my nice, safe cab while the mechanic proceeds to remove a tire with one eye, while the other one is keeping tabs on all the passing cars.

These road calls are extremely dangerous, drivers. Try to remember that and get to an exit ramp or somewhere completely off the road if possible. I don’t know how much these guys are getting paid, but I’m sure it’s not enough to dodge traffic and fix your flat tire in the pouring rain. 

So when you see a broken down vehicle on the road, try to move over a lane to give them some breathing room. I’m amazed at how many truckers I see blow by without changing lanes or even easing off the throttle. I know traffic doesn’t always allow a lane change, but that shouldn’t keep you from backing out of the throttle a bit, now should it? 

So thanks to the mechanics who fix our flats, replace our alternators, and troubleshoot intermittent electronic problems that drive us battier than Batman driving the Batmobile into the Batcave. 

Yes, you sometimes take longer than I’d like to fix my truck, but from now on I’m going to try to think of it like this. If I had to fix my own truck, it would take me ten times longer than it will for you to do it. And that’s assuming I’m capable of doing anything more complicated than changing a headlight bulb. Hmmmm… better make that 20x faster.

Thanks to the dispatchers… yes, I really did just say that

Personally, I can’t see why anyone would voluntarily become a trucking dispatcher, but I’m thankful that there are enough insane people out there to fill the positions. 

First, you’re talking to truck drivers all day. There are three types of calls dispatchers take.

  1. The informational request – Stuff happens throughout a trucker’s day. We sometimes find ourselves with an incorrect pickup or delivery number. We have questions about a load or a customer. Perhaps we have a question about company policy. Or maybe we need some out-of-route fuel set up. These calls are usually the easiest part of their day.
  2. The friendly blabbermouth – There is a school of thought that you should call your dispatcher fairly often to form a good relationship with them. I’m just going to come out and say that this is flat-out wrong. I’ve had a lot of dispatchers over the years and not one has ever told me they like it when a driver calls just to chat. Dispatchers have a lot to do, so it makes it awkward for them because they need to get off the phone to help other drivers, but they don’t want to offend the blabbermouth either.
  3. The disgruntled driver – I’ve never had a dispatcher who didn’t appreciate the fact that I only call when I need something. Furthermore, if it’s just information I need, usually I can get an answer with a quick computer message. Dispatchers truly love that. But when I do have a serious problem, it often warrants a phone call. And I’m usually not in a good mood. Maybe it’s looking like they’re going to have trouble getting me home on time. Or perhaps they’re expecting me to be ready to drive an 11-hour shift, twelve hours from now after I’ve just woken up from 8 hours of sleep. Whatever the situation, these are not fun phone conversations for either party involved.

As you can see, only one of these types of driver interactions are pleasant. And we drivers don’t really even know what goes on when they’re not on the phone with us. They’re busy screening our loads before they send them to us (at least the good ones do) to make sure we have the hours to run them. They’re pushing through detention pay and handling lumper transactions. And you know there’s some office politics going on too. 

It’s a fact. Dispatchers are pretty much universally despised by drivers. That rivalry is as old as the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s. I don’t think that way though. I think dispatchers have a tough job that I wouldn’t want to do. And that makes me appreciate them more. Well, as long as they’re a good dispatcher http://abouttruckdriving.com/2009/05/05/truck-dispatchers/ who actually treats you with respect and has a cool enough head to know when you just need to blow off some steam. 

Now if you’re a bad dispatcher, all bets are off. Might I advise a different job? I hear the truck stops are hiring shower cleaners.

Thank you to the planners

Dispatchers for small carriers may actually handle the planning duties too, but most large trucking companies have stand-alone planners nowadays. Their sole purpose is to look at the loads available and assign it to the truck that is best-suited to cover it. Maybe that’s because you’re closest to the load. Or maybe you’re not, but it’s the best load to get you home for your proctologist appointment on Friday. 

My dislike of planners http://abouttruckdriving.com/2010/03/18/when-planners-dont/ is well-documented way back from my early days of blogging/podcasting. But the more I think about the complexity of their job, the more I have an appreciation for what they do. Not only are they usually handling large zones of the country and planning hundreds of trucks per day, but they’re often thinking two or three steps ahead.

One of the few times I’m truly pissed at my company is when it looks like I might not be getting home after my typical three weeks out. Yet in all my years with this company, I’ve probably not gotten home only three or four times. Not bad for 12 years. Now if you compare that number to how many times I’d given up hope that I was going to be able to get home, well, that’s a much bigger number. 

There have been many times when I’m calling dispatch and complaining about my situation, whether that’s getting home late or possibly not at all. It’s the day before I’m due home and still no plans come. Just as I resign myself to my fate, the planner usually comes through at 4:45 PM with some crazy series of loads that will have me home on time. 

Maybe I pick up a load headed the wrong direction, but I’m relaying with another driver who has a load going my way. I remember one time there was a combination of four loads/relays lined up just to get me home! That couldn’t have been easy, especially considering I’m just one of thousands of drivers they’re trying to get home. It’s truly impressive when you think about it. I often refer to what they do as “magic.”

So as I preach so often on this blog/podcast, I’m trying to look at the situation with a new set of eyes. Therefore, I’d like to thank all the planners for the miracles they pull off every day to keep us rolling.  

Thank you to the other office employees

There are numerous other jobs that make my driving job possible, but we don’t have time to go into great detail for everyone. 

Without the recruiter deciding I’m an awesome candidate, I would’t even have this job. Without Sales People, there would be no customers with freight. Without Customer Service Reps, the loads wouldn’t get booked and my load information would be wrong waaaaay more than the 99% that’s it’s correct. Without the Payroll department, I wouldn’t get paid, which would make The Evil Overlord slightly grumpy.

Obviously, there are the executives who keep everything running smoothly and who provide the job and the equipment to do it. I can honestly say that if I had to buy my own truck, I probably would’ve never been a truck driver. There’s also the Tech department that keep all the computers running so I can send messages from my truck instead of calling and bugging my dispatcher. And lest we forget, accessing Netflix over the company Wi-Fi.

Now one department that’s harder to thank, let alone love, is the Safety department. They’re pretty good at what they do, but obviously I wish we truckers were allowed to police ourselves. Unfortunately, there are too many of you outlaws out there who ruined it for the rest of us. Old time trucker, I’m looking at you. At least I can always count on the Safety department to walk me though the 8-hour split sleeper berth when I have to do it. You’d think I’d have it licked after 21 years, but it is what it is. 

So basically, a big thanks to everyone who works in the office to keep my truck moving and the money rolling in. I appreciate it almost as much as The Evil Overlord does. 

Another group that’s hard to thank is the shippers/receivers

I’m going to do my best here. After all, without their products, we truckers would have anything to haul. But I’ve got a qualifier before I go thanking them. 

If you’re a well-organized shipper/receiver who gets their trucks loaded or unloaded in a timely manner, then I’m truly thankful for you. To all you forklift drivers who drive that lift like it’s an extension of your body; thank you for doing your job so well. There are few things I love more than getting loaded in 15 minutes. Yes, it happens, but it’s very rare. 30 minutes is pretty awesome too. 

Now I do understand that some products simply take more time to load, but I would argue that if you can’t load a truck in less than 1-2 hours, you need to revamp your system. Maybe quit trying to save a buck or two by floor stacking everything? Or maybe you should face the realization that you’re not quite as efficient as you think you are. Maybe you could remedy that by setting your appointment times further apart because you’re always running behind schedule?

To sum up, if you’re an efficient shipper/receiver, thank you for respecting the driver’s time. But if you set unrealistic appointment times and have slow loaders that make a sloth look like Speedy Gonzales, then you can go suck eggs. And I’m not talking about those delicious Cadbury eggs. I’m talking about some eggs covered with chicken poop and full of blood clots. Bon appetit!     

Last but not least, I’d like to thank the 4-wheeler drivers

Yes, you heard me right. You can pick your jaw up off the floor now. You know, it’s common knowledge that we humans tend to focus on the bad things in life. I don’t know why that is and I wish that wasn’t the case, but there’s no denying it. 

We over-the-road truckers can be on the roads for up to 11 hours per day. We encounter thousands, possibly 10’s or even 100’s of thousands of cars per day depending where we are. 

Most of the day goes smoothly. The vast majority of these interactions between cars are trucks are handled perfectly by everyone involved. But if one 4-wheeler driver does something stupid or flat-out dangerous around us, that’s the thing that will stick in our craw all day long. Heck, we might even carry it into the next day.

But again, this takes a mind shift on our part. Yes, I’ve been guilty of bashing 4-wheelers numerous times in the Trucker Dump archives. And many times, rightly so. But it’s also important that we remember how many good 4-wheeler drivers there are out there. 

We encounter them every single day:

  • The utility worker in the Ford pickup that stayed back from the light so we could make that tight right turn. Much obliged, man. 
  • That soccer mom in the Honda minivan who ducked in behind us before the exit ramp instead of speeding up and cutting across three lanes of traffic in front of us. Thank you for not making me change my boxers today. We all know you can wear underwear for three or four days, right? ?
  • To the many cars and pickups that refrain from giving us the ol’ one-finger salute when they finally get around us after we found ourselves in a turtle race http://abouttruckdriving.com/2011/04/16/truckers-go-turtle-racing/. Thank you for your patience.
  • Remember that nice old guy in the Corvette who left a gap at the busy intersection so you could get onto the street from the side road? Much appreciated, old rich dude that I’m not at all jealous of. 
  • How about all the smart drivers who pass your big rig quickly so they aren’t riding alongside you for the next three miles? Thank you for not giving me a crick in my neck from constantly monitoring my mirror until you’ve passed. 
  • You know how you turn on your turn signal when you’re trying to change lanes and that 4-wheeler driver actually slowed down a bit instead of gassing on it for a change of pace? Not only do I thank you, but I think I may love you a little bit too.
  • What about all those freeway on-ramps where the driver is actually paying attention and they either slow down or speed up to merge properly? Thank you for not being one of those butt-munches that hasn’t figured out how to merge yet.
  • Or what about when you scooted into the center lane to help that Toyota SUV merge onto the freeway? Thank you for speeding up quickly so we can get back into the right lane as soon as possible. 

Yes, I’m certain that most of us encountered a bad 4-wheeler driver sometime today. But think of all the ones who passed by without incident. Do the numbers. 10 thousand, 100 thousand or more good drivers compared to the one or two bad ones that we’re focusing on.

So for my final thank you, I’d like to give a shout out to the group of people who are usually cited as being the trucker’s #1 enemy; 4-wheeler drivers. To all of you who do the little things to help us truckers navigate traffic; thank you. Even to those of you who simply don’t do anything stupid enough to draw our attention in the first place; I sincerely thank you.

For the rest of you selfish, knuckle-headed 4-wheeler drivers who cause us truckers daily torment, well, as far as I’m concerned, you can go play chicken with a friggin’ telephone pole. And I’m hoping you don’t have collision warning.

 

   

   

TD130: How Much Should Truckers Bend The Rules?

The trucking industry is full of opportunities to fudge things. But the question is; should we? Where do we draw the line between fact and fiction; between right and wrong? In other words, how much should truckers bend the rules?

The trucking industry is full of opportunities to fudge things. But the question is; should we? Where do we draw the line between fact and fiction; between right and wrong? In other words, how much should truckers bend the rules?

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[/box]

This was the topic of a conversation I had in the Trucker Dump Slack group after a friend called me out about something I mentioned doing. He was basically questioning whether what I was doing was moral or not. For the record, this is one of the things that I love about the Trucker Dump Slack group. We can always have a lively, yet civil conversation without anyone get bent out of shape and resorting to personal insults. So anyway, I don’t fault this guy at all for questioning my morals. In fact, I welcome it. 

You see, this guy is a friend of mine and a fellow Christian. Stick with me here. The religious stuff will be over in a minute. I just need to set the stage so you can see where we are both coming from. 

Even non-Christians know the verse in the Bible about not judging other people. Heck, they quote it all the time to justify some of their behaviors. This makes sense when you’re talking about unbelievers. Why should a Christian judge them against something that this person doesn’t even believe? On a side note, people who disagree with Christians should remember this works in reverse. Anywho…

But far too often Christians use this rule amongst themselves too. And that is not what the Bible says. There are many verses saying that we are supposed to hold our fellow Christians accountable; that we are to call them out and try to help bring them back if they are going down a slippery slope. So with that explained, let’s move on to what my friend was calling me out on. Sunday school class is dismissed. 😉

The setup

The Evil Overlord (wife and ex-codriver) and I are planning to go on a little trip to her aunt and uncle’s lake house this weekend. We’ll be doing some skiing, some canoeing, some fishing, some jet skiing, and possibly some golf if we can squeeze in a few extra hours to look for my golf ball in the weeds. We haven’t done anything like this in ages, so we’re both really looking forward to it. 

Now here’s the problem. To enjoy a mini vacation, you need money, right? My week was looking like I was going to have a measly 2000 miles. However, if I could deliver my 700-mile load by Friday midnight, I would jump from a bad paycheck to an excellent paycheck. Only problem was I needed to go 616 miles in 11 hours… in a 64 mph truck… on a Friday… around Atlanta and down to the Orlando area.

No problem since I’m a super-trucker and all. This friend of mine didn’t think I could do it. I told him he should go ahead and wash his feet so they would taste better when I proved him wrong.

Well, I am awesome, so I arrived at 11:30 PM with about 40 minutes left on my 11-hour driving clock. I went into the office, only to find out there wasn’t going to be anyone who could sign for delivery until 4 AM. The dock guy refused to sign the bill.

The questionable choice

Here’s where the dilemma comes in. In order to get paid for a load, my company has to receive my Arrived at Consignee (fancy word for Receiver) and Empty computer messages by Friday midnight. So now what? I reeeeally needed those miles for a good paycheck.

For starters, I had run all the miles, but I had not “officially” delivered the load yet; not without that signature and dropping the trailer. Here’s some other things that factored into my decision. I had been to this place before and knew it was a drop and hook. I could see at least 5 empty trailers from my cab so I knew it wouldn’t wind up being a live unload.

I also knew that a product count was not necessary at the time of delivery. Furthermore, this warehouse opens the trailer doors from the inside, so you can’t even break the seal (that verifies the trailer has not been opened in transit) before backing into the dock. So basically, I knew this drop was happening no matter what. There was absolutely no reason to reject the load. 

So I sent the Arrived and Empty messages and told the gang in the Trucker Dump Slack group about it. For the record, I would not have made this choice if I had been even 10 miles from the delivery. 

That’s when my friend rightly questioned my honesty. His point was that if my company’s policy considered a load to be delivered only after the bills were signed, then it is a lie to turn in that message before that process is complete. Officially, he is 100% correct. He’s also only been driving for a little over a year. I truly believe that just like The Evil Overlord and me, his sense of things will change the further along his trucking career goes.

He was also concerned that it might screw up my dispatcher if they thought I had already dropped the load, when in reality I hadn’t. He thought they might go ahead and dispatch me on another load. He’s also 100% right about that. But I had that problem licked too. I already had my next two loads planned out, so that wasn’t going to be an issue unless dispatch changed something on their end (which I admit is totally possible).

The question of right and wrong

I remember back when The Evil Overlord and I first starting trucking. We went in determined to follow the rules to the letter of the law. We were going to obey all company policies and we were going to run our logbook completely legal. No hot dogging it for us! Oh, the naïvety of the newbie! 

The insanity of the paid-by-the-mile standards

It wasn’t long before we realized that the trucking industry is full of stupid rules. For instance, we discovered right away that we NEVER got paid for all the miles we ran. We were even paid Practical miles at our first company and it still shorted us! It only got worse at subsequent companies when we discovered the Household Mover’s Guide method of figuring paid miles. What a joke! 

For you non-truckers, this method pays Post Office to Post Office, not actual addresses, which we all know is totally doable with today’s GPS technology. Yet most carriers still calculate with this method. Why? Because it generally pays the driver about 10% fewer miles than they’ve actually driven… and because they can get away with it. 

Getting your loads turned in on time

Another example is getting paid for loads. Back when we started, our paychecks were determined by what loads we could get turned in by noon on Tuesday. These were the days when many companies still had you mail in your paperwork before you could get paid! Seriously! Snail mail! Like a caveman!

So we might deliver a load Friday night, but the mail system wouldn’t get it to the payroll department until Wednesday night. How fair is that? That often translated in not being able to make your mortgage payment one week and getting raped by the IRS on the following week’s paycheck.

Eventually, carriers started using electronic methods like Transflo to send in your paperwork. While this was better, it still required you to be at a truck stop with a Transflo kiosk by a set deadline. If you didn’t have a load going toward one in time, you were screwed! Thankfully, Transflo now has a mobile phone app so I can actually send in my paperwork minutes after I deliver. Not that I need to anymore since as I said before, all they need is my Arrived and Empty messages to be sent in on the truck’s communication device. Please keep in mind that each carrier handles this differently. I’m sure there are many that still require paperwork in hand to pay you for the load.

The fudging of log books

And of course, there’s the trucker’s logbook. For you non-truckers, we drivers have to keep a record of every moment of our day. Nowadays it’s all done electronically, making it harder to cheat the system.  But back in the day, we used paper logs.

It was a fairly common practice to fudge paper logs. The Evil Overlord and I never really abused it (possibly because we were a team operation that didn’t really need to), but many drivers used to run two log books. One of the log books would look legal because they would leave out entire trips after the fact so they could log more hours in a week. The other book was so they could keep track of their lies.

In all honesty, we never did that. The most I was ever off was about 3 hours. I don’t even remember the circumstances, but as luck would have it I got pulled into a Kansas weigh station for a paperwork check. The trooper briefly examined my log book and handed it back. How he didn’t notice that I shouldn’t have been standing there for another three hours is beyond me, but I was obviously overjoyed! I never got that far out of sync again. 

But the trucking industry isn’t a perfect world. There were times when you couldn’t find parking and you had to drive a little over your time. We just drove however many minutes less the next day to make up for it. 

Or maybe there was a traffic jam due construction or a wreck that would delay us 3 hours. We’d log those three hours like we took them at a truck stop. According to my paper logs, I don’t think I ever had a delay due to traffic. See how lucky paper logs are?! 

The nickel and diming

The point is, trucking companies don’t succeed by throwing their money away. By and large, the trucking industry works on a small profit margin. Any penny saved is a penny earned. 

Think of all the extra little things that most of us drivers don’t get paid for. Fueling, truck inspections, minor mechanical breakdowns, waiting in line at a customer’s guard shack, getting your truck washed, sweeping out a filthy trailer, sliding your tandems to get your weights legal, sitting around waiting on a load or a message from dispatch, listening to horrible hold music on the phone, and in my case, sitting in an inspection bay line at my company terminal for 2 hours. 

Now as another Trucker Dump Slack member (Kris a.k.a. @Gravy) once pointed out, most of that stuff is figured into your mileage pay. He should know since he owns a small fleet of trucks. I guess I can see his point about sweeping a trailer, fueling, inspections, and common tasks we have to do on a regular basis.

However, I’m not convinced that waiting for 2 hours to get a tire fixed or waiting an hour for a message from dispatch is included in the mileage pay. Heck, I once had a company tell me they didn’t pay vacation pay because it was figured into the mileage! What the heck!? While the pay-per-mile rate was good, it wasn’t THAT good! Yeesh!

The technicalities of trucking

In my point of view, so many of these moral choices we have to make are based on the “spirit of the law” rather than the “letter of the law.” I think we all just have to judge what we’re doing and decide if we’re okay with it or not. 

For example, I’m a Christian who believes in the Bible. It flat-out says that you shouldn’t lie. So was I lying by submitting my load as delivered when it wasn’t officially delivered yet? I honestly don’t know.

To me, this is a technicality. My company has to set a deadline for their company policies. So by the letter of the law, I was wrong to say I had delivered already. On the other hand, I get paid by the mile and I had run all the miles by midnight. I was sitting on their property and there was no chance they weren’t going to accept the load. My conscience is clear on the latter choice. That’s the spirit of the law.

Let’s look at another example of a technicality. My company will only pay detention time (time spend waiting to load/unload) if I send in a detention request before I send my final Empty message. If I send it even 30 seconds before that Empty message, I’m good. But if I forget and send it 30 seconds after the Empty message, they won’t pay my detention time unless I call and pitch a big baby fit. 

This drives me up a freakin’ wall. Why? Because they know when I arrived at the customer and when I left. I always remember to send those messages. Heck, the Arrived call usually pops up automatically when I stop thanks to the magic of GPS! It’s simply a technicality!

And here’s another thing to prove my point. This company policy can be overridden easily if someone decides to do a little computer fixing. It literally takes a few minutes at most. So if they can fudge the system, why can’t I? 

Two wrongs don’t make a right

Now as I was justifying my actions to my friend, he pointed out that two wrongs don’t make a right and that we can only control our actions and choices. Again, wise words that are 100% accurate. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to do it that way.

As a Christian, I know I’m supposed to “turn the other cheek.” But even Jesus himself didn’t always do that when he was justified in his actions. And if Jesus was doing it, there’s no question in my mind that it was justified. Case in point; he cleared out the temple with a whip and overturned all the tables when people had turned the holy place into a marketplace! I take that to mean that just because you’re a Christian, doesn’t mean you have to get walked on and abused.

Work the system, man (or woman)

Again, all these trucking companies have systems in place so that everyone who works there has a guideline to go by. Sometimes these systems work for you; sometimes they work against you. 

Let me explain one more situation that happened on the same weekend to explain how this system can work on your behalf or against you. 

After my Friday night delivery, I picked up a 190-mile load Saturday morning that delivered the following morning. I drove straight through and got parked by 5 PM Saturday. My delivery was set for 10 AM on Sunday. If you do the math, that’s 17 hours down already. 

My next load was scheduled to pick up anytime after midnight on Sunday. So basically, by the time I could pick up my load, I would have been sitting for 31 hours. Might as well stick around for another few hours and get my 70 hours back. You know how I like to do resets instead of working against my recap everyday, right? 

So I deliver Sunday morning and I receive my new load information. I thought it was a live load, but apparently it is a preloaded trailer. An important point is that I still had 12 hours available to run that day, but I didn’t pick up any hours after midnight, which is why I was trying to do a 34-hour break. The big key here is that the load comments did not say the load was ready. It still showed a pick up time of anytime after midnight. 

Now according to my last podcast/blog, TD129: 4 Ways To Become A More Efficient Trucker, I normally would call and ask if this preloaded trailer was ready early. But I didn’t. Why?

First, because I didn’t want to screw up a 34-hour break. But the main reason is because my company has a policy that I get $75 if I have fewer than 500 miles over the weekend.

Here’s where things get morally sticky

I had only run 190 miles so far for the weekend and I wasn’t planning to drive until the early AM hours of Monday. That means I would only be getting 190 miles over the weekend, which makes me eligible for the $75. 

Now I could’ve called dispatch and they might’ve told me the load was ready to go. I did have hours to run after all. But if I grabbed the load, I then miss they chance of the $75 extra and I also screw up my 34-hour break.

However, if I uncharacteristically act like most truckers do and just accept their stated appointment time as gospel, I can get both the weekend pay and the 70-hour restart.

So there’s the choice I had to make. Play dumb and reap the benefits (like most truckers would in this situation) or by being my normal efficient self, I might wind up screwing myself out of $75 and in the long run being less efficient by not getting my 70-hour reset?

I thought about it for about two seconds and went with playing dumb. I did this for two reasons:

  1. My dispatcher may look at the situation on Monday and decide not to pay me anyway. There won’t be anything I can do about that.
  2. I’ve gotten screwed by this “less than 500 miles” rule many, many times. In fact, they did it to me again in this example. 

Here’s how they squeeze out of paying weekend pay. By the way, I generally like the company I work for or else I wouldn’t have spent 12 years of life with them, but every company has their stupid rules. This is just one of those.

For easy math, let’s say I have a 501 mile load and that’s all the miles I’ve got until Monday morning. I pick it up on Friday afternoon. I run 495 miles on Friday night and I drive 6 more miles after midnight to arrive at my delivery at 12:06 AM Saturday morning. Guess what? All 501 miles are counted as weekend miles because I “officially” delivered on Saturday, despite the fact that the vast majority of the miles were run on Friday.

This can work against me on the opposite end too. Say I’ve been sitting at a truck stop since Friday at 11 PM. I finally receive a 600-mile load at 11 PM on Sunday. You can see where this is going. Yep, all 600 miles counts as weekend miles, even though I may only be able to knock off 60 miles at most.

This is the method they used to screw me this time. I delivered the 190-mile load on Sunday morning and they immediately dispatched me on a 325-mile load, even though the pickup time was set for anytime on Monday. Those two loads totaled 515 miles, as my dispatcher matter-of-factly pointed out when I requested the $75 weekend pay. In my book, those 325 miles shouldn’t count towards the weekend, but they do. It’s just another example of how these companies work the system to their advantage. 

Seriously, receiving weekend pay at my company is about as rare as a porcelain doll that actually doesn’t look creepy after the lights are turned out. So when I have an opportunity to make it work to my advantage, I do. Or in this case, I tried.

Is that morally wrong? I suppose it might be. But again, my conscience is clear about this. All I’m doing is trying to make the system work for me, just like they are doing for themselves. Two wrongs don’t make a right, but it does help me feel like I’m getting just a tad bit of the money I’ve been screwed out of over the years. Too bad it didn’t work this time.

One final argument 

Let me present one bit of math to put the nail in the coffin here. Let’s jump back to the Household Mover’s Guide that usually pays 10% fewer miles than I actually run.

I’ve driven for 21 years. Let’s say I averaged 120,000 miles per year (this is a low estimate). Total: 2,520,000 miles. Let’s round down to 2.5 million miles. I got screwed out of ten percent of those miles, so that’s 250,000 miles I’ve never been paid for! I’m guessing I averaged about 45¢ per mile over that 21-year span. Multiply that and now I’m really depressed. Apparently I’ve been screwed out of $112,500. 

Wow. Just wow. I think it’s safe to say that no matter how many times I manage to work the system to my advantage, I’m never going to break even. My conscience is clear. Is yours?

[box]What are your thoughts on this subject. Do you work the system to your advantage? How far do you go? Leave your comments below.[/box]

Podcast show notes:

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

Thanks to the mass media covering every truck wreck like it’s the most horrific thing since the BP oil spill and lots of websites that love to post videos of stupid things that truckers do; we truckers have a pretty bad reputation with the general public. That’s why I am so glad to be able to tell you about the 29th Annual Make-A-Wish Mother’s Day Truck Convoy.

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.
    East Insurance Group – Call (443)304-9927 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.
[/box]

Every year since 1990, truckers participate in this awesome event to help raise money for the Make-A-Wish foundation. The Mother’s Day Truck Convoy even made it into the Guinness World Records in 2016 as the world’s longest truck convoy, boasting 590 trucks! Take that, Pig Pen and Rubber Duck! 

This mega-convoy runs across 26 miles of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where thousands of spectators line the route to cheer on the long line of trucks filled with Make-A-Wish kids and truckers blasting their air horns. Check out the video.

The Mother’s Day Truck Convoy is the number one fundraiser for the Lancaster County branch every year. How about that? For once we truckers are actually #1 instead of just being told we are #1 by impatient auto drivers.

To learn more about the convoy, have a listen to the podcast version above where I had a chance to interview Ben Lee, Regional Director for Philadelphia, Delaware, & Susquehanna Valley or click here to visit the Convoy website.

So even if you can’t make it to this year‘s event, there’s no reason why you can’t help. Just follow this link to donate whatever you can for this worthy cause. (If you don’t have a specific company or team to support, simply click Donate, then TEAM, and then type “make” into the search bar. You can them donate under the Lancaster branch office team.)

And before you click away without donating, I double-dog dare you to watch the video below. If you don’t tear up a bit, your heart is as black as motor oil.

 

Podcast Show Notes

In this episode we talk to Ben Lee, president of Make-A-Wish for the Susquehanna Valley, who tells us about the awesome, Guiness World Record holding, Mother’s Day Truck Convoy event. But before that, I talk about a few articles I saw involving California emissions, a new Hours-of-Service bill, and a horrible truck crash. I also point you to a cool gift for a trucker. I also have a nice, long chat with Dave Meltzer, a Principal at one of our sponsors, East Insurance Group. Believe it or not, we have a non-boring chat about truck insurance. And in Trucker Grub, Driverchrismc is back with another excellent restaurant.

In the feedback section, Aaron and Greg have comments about C.R. England, while Jeff, Steven, Trucker Bob, and @thebesttruckeralive (yes, really) want to talk about reserved paid truck parking.

View the article and show notes on AboutTruckDriving.com

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.
    East Insurance Group – Call (443)304-9927 for your free quote today.

Links mentioned in the podcast:

John H. Martin Company makes Unique Awards and Gifts for Truckers

Trucker Sentenced to 55 Years For Crash That Killed Six from TruckersReport.com

CARB To Update Its Emissions Requirements from TruckersReport.com

New HOS Bill Would Give Drivers A ‘Pause’ Button from TruckersReport.com
East Insurance Group contacts:
David Meltzer 443-255-0697 david@eastinsurancegroup.com
Mike Sydell 443-629-4111 mike@eastinsurancegroup.com
Driverchrismc contributes to Trucker Grub again by suggesting Max’s Thunder Road Grill in Grand Island, NE. Please send in an audio submission with your favorite trucker-accessible restaurant to TruckerDump@gmail.com.

Donate to the Mother’s Day Truck Convoy

Find out more information about the Mother’s Day Truck Convoy

Make-A-Wish for Philadelphia, Delaware, & Susquehanna Valley

Make-A-Wish Mother’s Day Truck Convoy 2016 video

Video of Make-A-Wish Philadelphia, Delaware, Susquehanna Valley fulfilling their 6000th wish! Very touching.

Links in the Feedback section:

TD93: The Driver’s Seat Phenomenon

TD124: The Overweight Axle Debacle

TD125: Reserved Truck Parking: Convenience Or Exploitation?

5 Top Issues In Commercial Driving by Connor Smith of the Big Rig Banter podcast

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

TD127: Why Podcasts Are The Best Media For Truckers

We truckers spend the majority of our workday alone. Some consider this a curse, but in my opinion it’s one of the little-known perks of being a truck driver. We literally have up to 11 hours of driving time to kill each day. This is time that we can listen to anything we want. Today I’m going to point you to some free audio content for truckers that you may not know about.

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.
  • East Insurance Group – Call (443)304-9927 for your free quote today.

[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]

But first, let’s discuss how most truckers occupy themselves on these long stretches of road.

Talking on the phone

I’ve never been a big phone-talker, but in recent years I’ve made some pretty good friends through social media and the Trucker Dump podcast/blog that I can talk to for hours on end. Just be sure you’re talking hands-free. The fine for truckers using a handset is up to $2,750.

  • Pros: Phone time flies by and it’s basically free with the unlimited call plans most carriers provide now. It also makes you feel less alone when you talk to friends and family on a regular basis.
  • Cons: If you’re somehow still stuck using a pre-paid phone, you’ll run through your minutes quicker than truck stop chili dogs shoots past your colon. Talking can also be distracting, so make sure you aren’t doing it when you’re in heavy traffic. For me, the biggest con is that I lose my voice if I talk for that long. Seriously. When you’re alone as much as most truckers are, your vocal chords just don’t get that much use. And when they do, you pay for it.

Music Players

There are few things I love more than jamming to some excellent tunes and singing at the top of my lungs while I’m all alone. Heck, I even said that all the way back in TD6: Life Is Good.

Believe it or not, there are still drivers out here rockin’ flip phones. Thankfully, truck manufacturers are still installing CD players in their factory-installed radios. It’s still a bit weird for me to see a guy with a bunch of CDs on his sun visor. Even crazier, I still see truckers with cassette tapes. What.. the… heck?

Many drivers now use some sort of digital media player like their smartphone or an old iPod Touch to store and play their music. Internet-based subscription services like Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, and iHeartRadio are all the rage now too.

  • Pros: Music can make the time go by quick and it can make it more fun too!
  • Cons: It can be distracting if you’re driver’s seat dancing to “Boogie Nights” by Heatwave or playing air drums to Lenny Kravitz’s “Are You Gonna Go My Way,” not that I would know anything about that. And even worse than talking on the phone, you’re gonna lose your voice if you’re wailing “Separate Ways” by Journey or worse, attempting to sing in the same octave as Sharon den Adel in Within Temptation’s “Stand My Ground,” not that I would know anything about that either. Music can also get expensive if you buy a lot of it, whether you’re buying digital music from iTunes or Amazon, buying CDs, or subscribing to one of the music streaming services. You need to watch your data usage with these streaming services too. Unlike unlimited talk time, not everyone has unlimited data plans. Those suckers are pricey! I might add that if you’re one of those people who download free music from the Internet because “it should be free,” ? then do yourself a favor and run a virus check on your computer, because you undoubtedly need it. And also ask your company if it’s okay for you to work for free for the next year, because clearly you think it’s okay for a person to work hard at something without getting paid for it. Wow. I didn’t even see that person lift me up and prop that soap box underneath me! Glad they did though.

Audiobooks

The Evil Overlord (my wife and ex-codriver) was really into audiobooks, so by proxy I was too. When we were on the road together we used to rent lots of audiobooks on cassette tapes or CDs from truck stops. While it was pretty cool that we could rent at one truck stop and return at a different one, we really don’t need those kiosks anymore, which is good because they’ve gone the way of parachute pants.

  • Pros: Audiobooks will make your driving time fly by faster than any other thing I’ve tried; especially fiction. Let’s face it, talking to your wife on the phone while she tells you about her latest trip to the hair salon can get a tad bit boring. But getting wrapped up in a fictional world, well there’s something special about that. Another great thing is that you can sometimes get audiobooks for free at your local library. Just be sure you can return them on time. The last thing you need is an old hag librarian chasing you around with a yardstick.
  • Cons: If you’re not getting audiobooks from your library, they can be costly. This is especially true if you’re picky. Libraries don’t often have the best selection, but services like Audible.com do. Isn’t that convenient? For $14.95 per month, you get one credit (usually one book) per month. The problem with this is, it only wets your appetite and you want another one. A trucker could easily go through an average-size audiobook in one day. What now? You’ve used your monthly quota in one day. So you buy more books from Audible until your next credit arrives. Cha-Ching!

The CB radio

Personally, I’d rather get a Brazilian bikini wax from a guy named Ivan than talk on the CB for any length of time, but that’s just me.

  • Pros: One of the first things every trucker buys is a CB radio, so it’s basically free at this point. Secondly… nope. Sorry, that’s all I’ve got.
  • Cons: Yeesh. Where do I start? I guess we start with the signal. Most CBs aren’t going to reach out further than 3-5 miles. You might get 10-15 if you had a high-end radio and direct line of sight. My CB is an out-of-tune piece of junk, so I can maybe get one mile out if I’m having a good day. Secondly, fewer drivers are on the CB radio nowadays, so if you do find someone interesting you’d better hope they’re heading the same direction as you or else you’re going to quickly go out of range. And thirdly, there is a lot of immaturity on the CB, especially in traffic backups. If you want to hear grown men calling each other “stupid,” racial slurs, cursing, perverts calling out to lady truckers, and for some strange reason, guys whispering “I ain’t got no panties on,” then the CB is your new home. Weirdo.

Terrestrial radio

Pretty much every truck on the planet has an AM/FM radio installed. Yet it sometimes appears to me that the manufacturer forgets to install an antenna.

  • Pros: It’s free and you can almost always find a radio station, even out in the boonies. There is a decent variety of musical genres available on FM and you can find some interesting talk radio programs on the AM side.
  • Cons: First, the commercials are neverending. FM repeats the same songs in a seemingly never-ending loop. Also, the signal is short range. AM has longer range, but it focuses more on talk radio. If that’s not your thing, well tough noogies. Even with the longer range of AM, you’ll often find that signal becomes a problem. Anyone who has listened to overnight AM knows that just as soon as that paranoid weirdo starts explaining to the overnight host how the anal probe process went; that’s when your signal goes to crap. Bummer. I mean, who doesn’t like to hear about a good anal probe, right? The last thing I’d like to point out is that you’re stuck with whatever they dish up, at whatever time they wish to serve it up. Like The Bob & Tom Show? If you’re driving at night or sitting in rush hour in the wrong city, you’re flat out of luck. And even if you do catch the show, there’s no way to fast forward or rewind if you need to quit listening for a bit.

Satellite Radio

SiriusXM Radio is really the only option here, so no need to look further. Let’s jump right to the pros and cons.

  • Pros: Unlike terrestrial radio, the signal only goes away when you have something like a tunnel or a building overhead. There is also lots of listening options, with over 140 channels of sports, talk, comedy, entertainment, news, and all kinds of music genres, including some you probably didn’t know existed. Many of them are commercial-free too. You can even get the official channels of all the big sports leagues. Pretty cool. Believe it or not, I used to listen to 6 hours of PGA golf coverage every day from Thursday to Sunday. Yes, I’m well aware my cool factor just plummeted. Not that it was ever really soaring in the first place.
  • Cons: The service isn’t free. The packages start at $11 per month for their Mostly Music plan and go all the way up to $21 for all the channels. The receiver and antenna may not be free either. Some of the newer trucks have SiriusXM built into the truck’s stereo, but if not you’re looking at a decent chunk of change just for the hardware. Lastly, much like terrestrial radio, you are in large part stuck with what they choose to air. You can change the channel if you don’t like what’s on, so I guess that’s something. But there is no fast forward or rewind. Unlike terrestrial radio, at least now you can catch some of your shows later if you miss them. For instance, The Howard Stern Show now airs a couple of times a day, and if you still miss it, SiriusXM has a cool app that you can stream the show over the Internet any time you want. Not all shows have this option though. And again, you have to remember this is going to use up your cell phone’s data plan, but it’s better than missing your favorite show altogether.

I was using XMRadio before they merged with Sirius. Back then, there was no such thing as “timeshifting,” which is the term used to describe consuming content at a different time than when it initally aired. If I wasn’t awake for my golf tournament, I just didn’t get to listen that day (yes, I know it’s a travesty). I got fed up with paying for a service that didn’t let me listen to programs I wanted to hear when I wanted to hear them. That’s when I found…

Free audio content for truckers

So what is this free audio content and how do you get it? Well, if you chose to click the shiny Play button at the top of this article instead of reading this, you already know the answer.

Podcasts are the best media for truckers

First, I should define what a podcast is. I know some of you out there are shaking your heads, but trust me this is needed. In a push to promote the Trucker Dump podcast, I’ve been walking up to truckers at truck stops and asking if they know what a podcast is. Most of them look at me like I’ve got a pink porcupine crawling out of my left nostril.

Seriously, out of approximately 100 drivers I’ve spoken to, a good 90 of them have no idea what a podcast is. Most of those have never even heard the term before. Maybe 7 out of 100 think they know what a podcast is, but they’re way off when I ask them to describe it. Only 3 truckers I’ve spoken to actively listen to podcasts. Three! But guess what, all three loved listening to podcasts. So what’s that tell you?

What is a podcast?

Podcast: a digital audio file made available on the Internet for downloading to a computer or mobile device, typically available as a series, new installments of which can be received by subscribers automatically.

Now in trucker terms. Podcasts are basically radio shows that you can download or stream from the internet. The vast majority of podcasts are FREE! There are some video podcasts available, but most of them are audio-only. Now I know some of you non-technical people are already freaking out, so let me show you how easy this is before you go curl up in a ball in the corner of a cold, wet, shower stall. Here’s how this works:

How do you download a podcast?

First, you need a smart phone or a computer. I highly recommend doing this on your smartphone to keep things simple. You can listen to podcasts directly from your computer simply by going to iTunes or Google Play, searching for podcasts, and clicking Play, but you’ll have better luck using a smartphone. Not to mention your phone is mobile. Your computer; not so much.

The iPhone comes with a podcast app pre-installed. In Apple’s ever so annoying fashion, they named it Podcasts. Vague much, Apple? L

For Android users, I’ve been recommending Podcast Addict. It’s a free app that has a small ad banner along the bottom. If you like the app but hate ads, you can purchase the brilliantly-named Podcast Addict – Donate (yes, really) for $2.99 to get an ad-free version. ????

You can also find podcasts on Stitcher and TuneInRadio, but they usually have limited features. My advice is to stick with a true podcast app for a better experience.

Finding a podcast to listen to

It’s really pretty simple. You know how you search for apps to install on your phone? It’s the same idea only you’re searching for podcasts from within your podcast app.

Open your podcast app. In it, you will see a way to search. In the Apple Podcasts app it’s a spyglass in the lower right corner. In Podcast Addict, there is a big box that says “Search.” In the search field, type anything you have an interest in; sports, travel, science, news, comedy, gaming, health, music, or heck, even trucking. Do the search and find a podcast that looks interesting. Tap it and then tap Subscribe. Find the podcast in your app and all the available episodes will show up. Find the Play symbol or the word Download and start listening.

To add more podcasts, you can repeat that process or you can find other ways to search, such as categories, genres, or popular podcasts. Tap the new podcast you found, subscribe, and listen. It’s really that easy.

Now I would like to quickly address the word “subscribe.” This freaks a lot of newbies out because usually when you subscribe to something, there is a monthly fee involved. Trust me here. If a very rare podcast is going to want money for you to subscribe, you’ll know it. So don’t worry about the word subscribe. 99.9% of podcasts are free.

Why are podcasts the perfect audio content for truckers?

First of all, they’re FREE! – Thought you might need me to say that again. FREE, FREE, FREE! But there are lots of other reasons why podcasts are the best media for truckers.

Podcasts let you listen when you want

For those of you hearing the term “podcast” for the first time, think of a podcast like a TV show you record on your Digital Video Recorder (DVR). When was the last time you missed your favorite TV show? Probably a long time, because you don’t have to be at a specific place at a specific time anymore. Even truckers gone for weeks at a time can record their TV shows and binge watch them when they get home.

Now that you have all these podcasts on your phone, you can play them whenever you want. What are you in the mood for today? Sports talks, technology, science, trivia? You can pick anything you’ve downloaded. No more are you the slave of a radio program director who tells you what you’re going to listen to and when you’re going to do it.

Podcasts let you download and save episodes whenever you want

Let’s go to back to our comparison of podcasts and DVRs. I’m guessing you’ve probably got your DVR set to automatically record The Walking Dead, right? Podcasts are like that too, only instead of recording the podcasts you’re interested in, you’re simply telling your podcast app to download new episodes.

This is where podcast apps prevail; most of them have a lot of settings. How do you want to automatically download new episodes? Do you want to wait for free WiFi? There’s a setting for that. As soon as the app sees you’re on WiFi, it will automatically download new episodes.

Or maybe you’ve got an unlimited cell data plan. In that case, you can tell it to automatically download new episodes as soon as they publish. A notification will let you know there’s a new episode available.

Or maybe you don’t want anything to automatically download. You can choose that option and download each one manually if that’s how you roll.

I actually do a combination of these. Because I don’t have unlimited data, my podcast app is set to only use WiFi. But Pocket Casts (my preferrred app – $3.99 on iOS or Android) will let me override that with just a couple of taps.

You see, a few of the podcasts I listen to are related to current events, so I choose to use my cell data to download or stream (listen without saving to your device) them immediately using cellular.

But the vast majority of the podcasts I listen to aren’t time sensitive at all. That means I can wait until I’m home where I can download a whole bunch of episodes from different podcasts.

Or if you’re on the road, you can also use free WiFi at places you might deliver like Home Depot or Sam’s Club, to stock up on new episodes. And of course, there’s always Starbucks if you can find a place to park a semi nearby.

I always seem to download way more episodes than I can possibly listen too, but that’s the beauty of podcasts. I always have a wide variety at my fingertips. And if I start one that doesn’t interest me, I can just delete it and move on. Who cares? I haven’t spent any money on them!

Podcasts let you have total playback control

Again, much like your DVR, you can skip forward or back in your podcast. Here are some scenarios where you might want to skip forward/back:

  • If you pull up to a toll booth, you can tap the Pause button and resume when you’re on your way again. You can even come back to the podcast in a week and your place will be saved.
  • If you don’t have an interest in the subject the host/hosts are talking about, you can tap a button to “Fast Forward 30 seconds”.
  • Got a long-winded host going on and on about a product you aren’t interested in? Tap that button quickly four times to fast forward 2 minutes!
  • Did you miss something important the guest said? Tap the “Rewind 15 seconds” button.
  • In some podcast apps, these fast forward/rewind times can be even be set to your preferred time interval.
  • Also, certain podcast apps will let you set a start time. For instance, if you know that a particular podcast doesn’t really get started until the 3-minute mark, you can have the episode to start 3 minutes in. And these settings can be different for each show you listen to. Cool, huh?
  • And obviously, just like your DVR, you can skip commercials too.

On the subject of skipping ads, let me say up front that the Trucker Dump having sponsors on the show now has nothing to do with what I’m about to say. I’ll be honest, I skip some advertisements too. But before you go skipping commercials, let me tell you something about podcast advertising. I actually enjoy most podcast advertising. Hard to believe, but it’s true.

Now hear me out. Podcast advertising isn’t always just listening to some bored podcaster read a script. Sure, some might read it, but the thing is, I will often learn something new with each new ad read. This is how I hope to implement advertising into the Trucker Dump so y’all will want to listen to all of them, buy their product or service, and keep both them and my wallet happy.

I think David Sparks and Katie Floyd from the Mac Power Users are the best at this. When they tell you about an app or a service they’re promoting, they will often teach you something new along the way. I’ve heard about a million ads for an app called TextExpander from Smile Software. I’ve owned it for years, but I still learn new tricks to use it when I hear their ads. That’s why I rarely skip a TextExpander app.

Now back to me skipping ads. I always listen to new advertisers for a while. Once I figure out it’s the same read every time or it’s simply not something I’m ever going to buy, that’s when I start skipping them. But every once in a while, I listen to another one to see if it’s changed. Sorry for the tangent. Back to it.

Unlike your DVR, you can even control how fast you listen…

  • Think the host talks too slow? You can set the playback speed to 1.5x or 2x speed if that’s your thing. Personally, I like to hear the hosts speak at normal speed. I think something is lost when you listen faster, but you do whatever floats your boat.
  • Or if the host talks too fast, you can run them at half speed.

Podcasts cover a wide range of topics

  • Like sports? Many of your favorite ESPN shows have podcast versions too, such as Pardon the Interruption, Golic and Wingo, and Around the Horn.
  • How about news? Choose from Fox News Flash, The Lead with Jake Tapper, or NPR News Now.
  • Maybe you’re a computer nerd. Check out MacBreak Weekly or This Week in Google.
  • Do shiny new cars make you happy? Check out The Car and Driver Podcast, Talking Cars from Consumer Reports, or NPR’s hilarious Car Talk.
  • Maybe you want to learn something new? Check out Ted Talks Daily or Stuff You Should Know.
  • Into documentary-type stuff, check out the Serial podcast from NPR
  • Maybe fiction is more your schtick? We’re Alive is a zombie story that brings you a new chapter in an ongoing tale each episode.
  • Fan of The Simpsons TV show? There’s enough of them to make you want to eat your shorts!
  • Have trouble sleeping? Fire up Sleep With Me – The podcast that puts you to sleep. Please do this after you’re done driving.
  • Are you into Chameleon breeding? Yep, there’s a podcast for that too called Chameleon Breeder. I’m not yanking your chain here.

If you have an obscure interest in something, it’s likely someone is doing a podcast about it. It might not be a great podcast, but it’ll be out there.

Podcasts can be good or bad

Some podcasts sound great, but have worthless content. Others have great content, but sound awful. The good thing is that you can make the decision. If you think the content is worthy enough, you can choose to tolerate less than stellar audio.

Podcasts don’t cover everything

I obviously love podcasts, but I do need to point out a few things podcasts aren’t good at.

  • Podcasts aren’t great for music – There are some shows that play clips of music, but as you probably know, it’s illegal to play copyrighted music. There used to be a trucking podcast that simply played an entire album in a continuous stream. Unsurprisingly, it’s not available anymore.
  • Podcasts aren’t great for live sports – There are lots of sports talk shows, but none of them cover live sporting events. Again, we’re dealing with copyright issues here. As much as it pains me to say it, if you want live sports, you need to keep your SiriusXM Radio.
  • Podcasts don’t cover every topic – It’s shocking how many podcasts cover oddball subjects, but you’re probably out of luck if you’re trying to find one based on your pantyhose fetish.

Podcasts are the best media for truckers

As you can tell, I’m a podcast junkie. Heck, I do one myself so that’s no surprise. I only wish I could explain to every trucker what they’re missing. I listen to podcasts approximately 75% of my driving time. The rest is spent singing along as loud as I can.

As soon as I got into podcasts, I ditched my XMRadio and the monthly bill that went along with it. I’ve never looked back. Everything I’ve learned since then has been from podcasts.

Podcast listeners unite!

So if you’ve never tried listening to a podcast before, please give it a shot. You can start by clicking the Play button near the top of this blog post. By doing so, you’ll quickly notice that we cover a lot more in the podcast version, such as commenting on stories, products, and services I find on the web. I also read listener comments and answer questions in the Feedback section. And more recently, I’ve added a new segment where a trucker highlights a favorite restaurant that is truck-accessible or within range of truck parking. Basically, we just have a lot more fun in there. I mean, who doesn’t want to hear me break into song every now and then, right?

I honestly feel bad that most truckers have no idea what they’re missing. Because of podcasts I’ve laughed out loud, I’ve learned new things, I’ve gotten mad, I’ve been entertained, and I’ve even wept quietly. When was the last time any type of radio did that?

If you’re already a podcast listener, please spread the word to your fellow truckers. Tell them about your favorite podcast and maybe go even further.

I have decided that I’m not going to be shy about this anymore. If someone shows even the slightest interest in podcasts, I’m going to ask them what interests they have and offer to set their phone up right there on the spot. What’s the worst that can happen? They’re already looking at me weird anyway.

[box]What has your experience been when you try to introduce other truckers to podcasts? Please let me know by sharing your stories in the comments below or by emailing me at TruckerDump@gmail.com .[/box]

Podcast show notes:

In today’s episode of the world famous Trucker Dump Podcast, we discuss why podcasts are so perfect for truckers. I also talk about losing my Kenworth and I share a funny quote from a million mile safe trucker I met. Driverchrismc tells us about a Mexican restaurant in the Trucker Grub segment and he also corrects me about Oregon speed limits. I point you to a couple of excellent health resources and fun little game I’ve been addicted to lately. I also discuss taking on sponsors for the show and we have an interview with one of them, Citadel Fleet Safety.

In the feedback section, we hear from not one, but two Jeffs. One clarifies the CRST CDL exemption and the other shares his thoughts on reaching truckers about how great podcasts are. Taylor asks about trucker seats, while I share one of our Slack group conversations that happened when Trucker Bob got screwed by buying a reserved truck parking space. And last, we hear from Roger, who thinks I’m a dick.

View the article on AboutTruckDriving.com

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.
  • East Insurance Group– Call (443)304-9927 for your free quote today.

Links mentioned in the podcast:

Sponsored blog post: The Citadel Escort Mobile Emergency Response System from Citadel Fleet Safety

First Aid app from American Red Cross for iOS
First Aid app from American Red Cross for Android

TruckBlox

Trucker Grub features El Arriero Mexican Bar & Grill in South Bend, IN. Please send in an audio submission with your favorite trucker-accessible restaurant to TruckerDump@gmail.com

Amazing Tips on How to Avoid the Most Dreaded Trucker’s Occupational Diseases

Ballz from Ketchup for iOS
Ballz from Ketchup for Android

FMCSA’s Mobile Phone Restrictions Fact Sheet

TD6: Life Is Good

Spotify
Apple Music
Pandora
iHeartRadio

“Boogie Nights” by Heatwave
“Are You Gonna Go My Way” by Lenny Kravitz
“Separate Ways” by Journey
“Stand My Ground” by Within Temptation

Audible.com for audiobooks

The Bob & Tom Show

SiriusXM Radio

The Howard Stern Show

Podcasts app for iOS from Apple

Podcast Addict app for Android from developer Xavier Guillemane
Podcast Addict – Donate
Stitcher Radio
TuneInRadio
Pocket Casts for iOS by developer Shifty Jelly
Pocket Casts for Android by developer Shifty Jelly

Textexpander from Smile Software

Below are all the podcasts mentioned in this episode. I have not included links because it makes more sense for you to search for the title in your specific podcast app (and I’m reeeeally lazy).

Mac Power Users
Pardon the Interruption
Golic and Wingo
Around the Horn
Fox News Flash
The Lead with Jake Tapper
NPR News Now
MacBreak Weekly
This Week in Google
The Car and Driver Podcast
Talking Cars from Consumer Reports
Car Talk from NPR
Ted Talks Daily
Stuff You Should Know
Serial from NPR
We’re Alive
The Simpsons
Sleep With Me
Chameleon Breeder
School of Podcasting

Links in the Feedback section:

TD93: The Driver’s Seat Phenomenon

Kab Performance Seating

TD125: Reserved Truck Parking: Convenience Or Exploitation?

TD95: 4 Reasons That Trucker Might Be Tailgating You

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?

TD125: Reserved Truck Parking: Convenience or Exploitation?

We’ve all heard that there is a shortage of truck parking. Truckers deal with it every day. The public can see it as we’re lined up on interstate on and off ramps and crammed into Walmart parking lots. The government has done the research to prove the problem is real.

And of course, the truck stop owners know it. So what’s their answer to the problem? Hey, I have an idea! Let’s charge truckers money for these coveted parking spaces! Enter; reserved truck parking.

[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]

For you non-truckers out there, some of the large truck stop chains have decided to block off some of their premium spots for those willing to pay. As a world-class cheapskate, you can imagine how I feel about it.

The idea behind reserved truck parking is that you can call ahead or go online and reserve your parking space early in the day so you know you’ll have a safe place to park for the night. Sounds like a great idea, right? We’ll come back to whether this works or not here in a bit.

My first (and only) experience with reserved truck parking

I had accepted a load from dispatch with the understanding that it was going to be really tight. The issue wasn’t my available hours; the issue was time. While that might sound like the same thing to you non-trucking folk, all you truckers know what I’m talking about.

I had an 8 AM delivery at the Costco warehouse in Morris, Illinois. I was going to get there about 11 PM, but the receiver didn’t have overnight parking available on site (despite their humongous, always half-full parking lot ?). Luckily there are two truck stops within a couple blocks of my delivery. This was important because if I had to park for the night even 5 miles away, I couldn’t have delivered on time.

You see, if I started my mandatory 10-hour break when I got there at 11 PM, my break would be up at 9 AM. Problems is, I’d be late for my 8 AM appointment. But if I could find parking within 1 mile of Costco, I could drive over to the delivery in the morning while I was still officially on break, thanks to the very little bit of leniency my e-logs afford where it doesn’t register me driving until I drive over one mile. So by the time they finished unloading me, my legal break would be over and I’d have another 11 hours to run that day. That’s what I’m talkin’ about!

Now I know some of you truckers out there are screaming at your phones right now, so let me explain to the non-truckers why you’re losing your ever-loving mind right now. Officially, I could have delivered the load on time in a legal way by utilizing the God-awful 8-hour split sleeper berth.

Again, let me explain to the non-truckers out there. Normally after driving 11 hours, we are required to take a 10-hour break. But there is also an option to only take an 8-hour break if you haven’t driven your full 11 yet. So if I had used 9 hours getting to the customer, I could take an 8-hour break (it must be all in the sleeper berth) and still have my other 2 hours to run (9 hours driving before break and 2 hours after equals 11 total). After that, I’d need to take a full 10-hour break before I could drive again. Correction: I was corrected by a reader. Check out the explanation below.

Yes, the 8/2 split sleeper berth is as complicated as it sounds, which I why I avoid doing it like a meth head shuns toothpaste. And it almost always screws up your day somehow. In this situation, I was pulling in at 11 PM, so I could move again at 7 AM (after 8 hours in the sleeper). So as long as I was parked within two hours of the delivery location, I would’ve been on time for delivery. You’re right, trucker. But you also know why I didn’t go this route. Let’s look at the bigger picture, non-truckers.

Being in the sleeper from 11 PM to 7 AM is 8 hours. I would then drive for 2 hours, deliver and then go back on break for another 10 hours before I could drive again. Do a little math and you can see that my mandatory 10-hour break has effectively turned into an 18-hour break! No thanks. If I want to screw myself, I’ll just sign up for a marathon or something. Correction: Reader Jeff Hardy wrote in to correctly state that I only needed to take a 2 hour break after my 8 hours of sleeper berth time. Oops. Told you the split sleeper berth is confusing!

This is why it was so important to me to get close to Costco. The issue was going to be finding parking at either of those truck stops. The Pilot is smaller than the TA, but they both fill up pretty fast because they’re some of the last truck stops on I-80 eastbound if you’re staging to head into Chicago the following morning.

Honestly, I wasn’t worried about finding parking. Obviously, I was hoping to find a free parking spot, but if all else failed I knew both locations had reserved truck parking. I drove through the Pilot lot. All full. No surprise.

I thought about parking along the side street, but the only thing worse than paying for parking is a police officer knocking on your door in the middle of your break and telling you to move your truck. Not only does it suck getting woken up, but depending on how far you have to drive, it also might screw up your break, effectively putting you right back with the possibility of doing that 18-hour break like I was trying to avoid in the first place. I saw a reserved parking space, but I didn’t give up just yet. I’m ever-hopeful when it comes to saving a buck.

Not only were the employees tired of hearing truckers gripe about it, but it was also a pain to monitor the area to see if someone was trying to park there without paying. They also had to deal with the reservations, which they said was a major pain-in-the-tookus.

I drove over to the TA and they were just as jam-packed. No place to even park illegally that wouldn’t have blocked another driver in. There are drivers who would do this, but I’m not one of them.

Reserved truck parking at nightGuess what? There was plenty of reserved truck parking at the TA. This is my point. There often is. Take a look at this photo I took at the TA in Greencastle, Pennsylvania the night of TD124: The Overweight Axle Debacle. The rest of the lot was packed like a Casper mattress in it’s shipping box! Some drivers were even parked outside of legal spaces to avoid paying for a spot! Although honestly, that’s just par-for-the-course.

So anywho, since the Pilot was closer to Costco, I quickly drove back over, backed into a reserved parking space (with no pull-ups I might add – yes, I’m that awesome) and walked inside to pay. As I paid the $12, I told the cashier how much I hated it. Much to my surprise, the cashier and one of the managers told me they hated paid parking too!

Reserved parking receiptNot only were the employees tired of hearing truckers gripe about it, but it was also a pain to monitor the area to see if someone was trying to park there without paying. They also had to deal with the reservations, which they said was a major pain-in-the-tookus.

So to bring this seemingly never-ending story to a close, I stuck the receipt in the window so no one would bother me, grabbed some shuteye, and I delivered on time without my e-log screwing me over. Yeah! I win! Go me! Other than the fact that I had to pay to be victorious, which disturbs the innermost part of my being.

The problem with reserved truck parking

Listen, I’m all for capitalism. If the truck stops think they can make some extra money by having reserved truck parking, then who am I to say they shouldn’t do it? So with that, let me just say:

YOU SHOULDN’T DO IT!

I guess these truck stops have forgotten that there used to be paid parking at lots of their locations. And I’m not talking about some of the parking spots. I’m talking about paying for parking anywhere in their parking lot! But for some reason (that I honestly don’t understand), they decided to quit charging for parking.

There are still a few holdouts near big cities, like the Greater Chicago Truck Plaza in Bolingbrook, Illinois or a couple of TA’s near Baltimore, just to name a few. I haven’t been out west in quite a while, but I’d bet a full-nekid body massage from The Evil Overlord (wife and ex co-driver) that both the TA’s in Ontario, California still charge to park too. (I later found out one of them is a Petro now, but they both still charge for parking – good thing, because she’d have killed me dead if I’d lost that bet.)

Still, the vast majority of the paid parking truck stops have gone to a totally free model. You’ll recognize them when you see the long-abandoned little booth that guards the parking lot from the outside world. Why is this?

Perhaps because truckers were avoiding them to find free parking elsewhere? I’ll bet if we could examine their books, we’d noticed an uptick in gross revenue when they axed the paid parking. I mean, if more drivers are parking there for free every night, they’re probably also buying fuel, eating in the restaurant, filling up their coffee thermos, and buying horrifically overpriced, decade-old DVDs. Just a guess, but why else would they quit charging for parking?

Give it up. It doesn’t work

I was talking to my friend @driverchrismc the other day and somehow reserved truck parking was brought up. He said he used to reserve spots when he thought there wouldn’t be any free parking by the time he got there, but he quit reserving in advance because he’d often arrive at the truck stop and still find free parking available. He now waits until he arrives before he pays.

So doesn’t that defeat the purpose of reserved truck parking? At that point, I feel like it’s more exploitation of drivers than it is convenience. Yes, I know exploitation is a pretty strong word, but look how the Google dictionary defines it.

ex·ploi·ta·tion

ˌekˌsploiˈtāSH(ə)n

  1. The action or fact of treating someone unfairly in order to benefit from their work.
  2. The action of making use of and benefiting from resources.
  3. The fact of making use of a situation to gain unfair advantage for oneself.

Okay, Definition 1 might be a stretch. Definition 2 is getting warmer though. The truck stop has a resource (a parking spot) and they’re charging for the privilege of using it. Definition 3 nails it right on the head though. They are making use of a situation (truckers not being able to find parking) to gain unfair advantage.

Whether all this is “unfair” or not is up for debate. But in my eyes it’s similar to that argument of “just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.”

Again, saying the act of charging for parking is “unfair” might be pushing it a tad. But in a sense, it is unfair because you have to pay for it simply because other drivers got there before you did. And if you paid in advance like Chris did, only to find there was still free parking available, now you’ve paid for a parking spot that you no longer need. That’s kind of unfair too, isn’t it?

I looked on the Pilot/FlyingJ website and apparently you can’t ask for a refund once you show up either. You have to do it 4 hours before your reservation starts. So there’s no backing out there. You’re just out the $12.

Whether all this is “unfair” or not is up for debate. But in my eyes it’s similar to that argument of “just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.”

Trucking companies and truckers keep these truck stops alive and kicking. And to thank us for that, they take advantage of us when we least need to take their crap; after a long day of driving when we just need  a warm meal, a hot shower, and a place to lay down and recharge so we can do it all again the next day. Is that so much to ask?

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful that truck stops exist. Without them there’d be even fewer places to park and we’d probably start seeing truckers squatting behind bushes on the side of the highway. God, help us. But do they really need to charge us for the last few parking places when we’re at our most desperate? I mean, they’re already charging $8 for a tiny bottle of Pepto-Bismol. Isn’t that exploitation enough?

[box]What are your thoughts on reserved truck parking? Please leave your comments below.[/box]

Podcast show notes:

As you can tell from the title, today’s show is about this reserved truck parking that is popping up at all the truck stops. But before we get to that, listener Kevin wrote in to tell me I screwed up the Meritor jacket contest from the last podcast. He was right! We also have some gift ideas for truckers, which is handy right before Christmas. We also discuss Telsa’s fancy new electric truck and I share a mechanical tip I learned from listener Mike. But that’s not all! Connor Smith from the Big Rig Banter podcast shares his article on the Top 5 Issues In Commercial Driving.

In the feedback section, Renae shares her experience with her training and being a trainer herself, Tim points out a problem with one of my books, and Ryan thinks he couldn’t solved my overweight issue from the last podcast. And to wrap things up, Shannon lost a bet with me and had to send in an audio comment telling me how awesome I am!

Links mentioned in the intro:

The School of Podcasting podcast with host Dave Jackson

The Hindenburg Journalist Pro audio editing software that I want to purchase. Feel free to buy it for me. It’s pretty cheap. ?

The Audio-Technica ATR2005USB Cardioid Dynamic USB/XLR Microphone I’m hoping to buy. (not an affiliate link)

You should buy my books so I can afford the two previous products! Free text samples available! (not affiliate links)

Trucking Life: An Entertaining, Yet Informative Guide To Becoming And Being A Truck Driver
Free audiobook sample of Trucking Life
How to Find a Great Truck Driving Job

The good folks from Factor Finders supplied a handy-dandy article and infographic called Gift Ideas For Truckers. Just in time for the holidays!

This article from TheTruckersReport.com called Tesla Semi Promises 500 Mile Range, Safety, and More prompted me to talk about it on the show.

Links in Connor Smith’s article:

Connor Smith from the Big Rig Banter podcast and AllTruckJobs.com shares his article called 5 Top Issues in Commercial Truck Driving and mentions the following articles:

5 Benefits of ELDs
ATA Driver Shortage Report
Nikola One: Driving the Future of Trucking
MIT Technology Review article about Self-Driving Trucks

Links in the blog post section:

The Federal Highway Administration, or FHWA, Study of Adequacy of Commercial Truck Parking Facilities

Late night photo I took of the reserved parking area at the TA in Greencastle, PA. NEED LINK

TD124: The Overweight Axle Debacle

Unboxing of a Casper Mattress

Pilot/Flying J refund policy for reserved truck parking

Links mentioned in the feedback section:

Renae Savage talks about her training and her experience as a trainer at CR England.

Tim Rife tells me all the hyperlinks to the Trucking Company Questionnaire in my book How to Find a Great Truck Driving Job are broken. He’s right. So if you’ve had the same problem, try downloading the book again. They should be fixed by the time you’re listening to this.

Ryan Moede thinks he could’ve easily solved the overweight problem I talked about in TD124: The Overweight Axle Debacle. Is he right? Guess you’ll have to listen to find out. I mention a free PDF called How To Axle Out A Load.

Shannon Holden lost a bet with me and had to send in an audio comment telling me how awesome I am. No way this wasn’t going to make it onto the podcast!

Horrid Genius left an awesome review of the podcast over on iTunes. Thanks, Mr. Genius!

Please consider joining the Trucker Dump Podcast Facebook Group and take the poll.

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?

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

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?

TD123: Advice For New Truckers: Part 2

There are many things new truckers have to learn over time. The goal of this two-part article is to help you learn those things now instead of having to wait. Hopefully this will make your life as a new trucker easier. And in doing so, you’ll make everyone else’s lives better too.

In Part 1, we covered some of the fears new truckers have when they’re first getting started. We also discussed health and fitness issues truckers face.

In Part 2, we’ll be covering more “hands on” trucking stuff. If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, you might want to jump back and do that. But for now, let’s carry on with my advice for new truckers.

*The podcast version below covers Part 1 and Part 2*

[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]

Don’t get in a hurry

In trucking, few good things ever come from getting in a rush. Here are some common situations where you’re going to be tempted to hurry. Don’t.

Chill out when loading or unloading

One of the biggest mistakes I see that even veteran truckers make is getting impatient at customers. When I first started, I’d constantly be worrying if I wasn’t getting loaded or unloaded promptly. Sometimes I’d even get pissy with the customer. I can tell you from personal experience, that never works out the way you think it will.

I still see this happen all the time. A driver comes in screaming and cussing at a receiving clerk because they’re taking too long. Quite frankly, the trucker may be right. But it only seems to make the
customer move slower. I’ve been in multiple situations when they’ve bumped me up in line and I’ve gotten finished quicker than Mr. Impatient, all because I have a calm, friendly attitude while they’ve got steam coming out of their ears like Yosemite Sam when he’s hopping mad at Bugs.

It took me far too many years, but I’ve learned to stay calm in these situations. There’s simply nothing you can do to speed up the process. You can ask what the issue is, but you need to do it in a
non-threatening way.

Just a few days before I recorded this episode, I went into a shipper late because I had been held up in construction traffic. When I walked in, he was printing up a flyer he was planning to leave on the door telling me that I arrived too late and that I would have to wait until the next morning to be loaded. A hot-head would’ve raved about why it wasn’t his fault and that the shipping clerk was screwing him.

Instead, I chuckled and said, “Well that sucks. I’ve still got 6 hours of driving available, but it is what it is. I know you don’t make the rules.” I stuck around and chatted about the bad construction (which he drove through every day to get to work) and had a few laughs. By the time I was backing into the dock, a loader stuck his head out
and said they were going to stay late and load me. You think that would’ve happened if I’d copped an attitude? Heck, I’ve got a better chance of waking up with a nipple growing out of my forehead.

I might add that this is good for any situation where you find yourself waiting. Whether you just found out there’s a three-hour wait to fix a flat tire, your company can’t find a load for you, or you’re standing in a long line at the fuel desk, just take a chill pill. Getting impatient won’t help the situation. It will only raise your blood pressure and your overall hatred of the human race.

Don’t be pressured into driving in bad weather

NEVER let someone convince you to drive in bad weather if
you aren’t comfortable doing so! NEVER! You have to be the judge! In the beginning you’ll start freaking out as soon as you see the first few snowflakes. But over time you’ll continue to learn more and more about what you and your truck are capable of.

Your dispatcher isn’t driving your truck, are they? Yes, they may have the Weather Channel playing in the background, but they have no idea what the actual current conditions are outside your windshield. I repeat, you have to be the judge.

Sometimes you are your own worst enemy

Here’s an excerpt from Trucking Life that illustrates this perfectly.

[box]One winter, Donner Pass, which is between Reno, Nevada, and Sacramento, California, was shut down due to impassable roads. Yes, this is the same infamous Donner Pass you’ve heard horror stories about. The one where people decided that old Carl’s butt looked a lot like a ribeye. Anyway, the following afternoon, they opened the roads for travel but only to vehicles with tire chains installed.

Now my company wasn’t pressuring me and I didn’t much feel like lying in two feet of snow to chain up, so two days later, we were still sitting there.

As I tend to do, I was eventually feeling the itch to get rolling. After all, I only get paid when the truck is moving. Against The Evil Overlord’s advice, I finally broke down, installed the chains, and left Reno in my mirrors.

About ten hours later, we got to Sacramento. The thing is, it was only a 135-mile trip… but it took ten hours. So was it worth chaining up? Probably not.

That particular night was one of the most miserable times we’ve ever spent in a truck. There’s nothing quite like listening to “I told you so, Dumbass” for ten straight hours. I hate it when she’s right, largely because it happens so often. [/box]

As this story illustrates, trucking is not a race. Best case scenario here, I wasted about 7 hours of driving time due to my impatience. Worst case, I could’ve wrecked and had my butt eaten like ol’ Carl. Although now that I think about it, there’s actually no chance of that happening. The Evil Overlord has shared a bathroom with me
for over 20 years and there’s no way she’d go anywhere near my butt with a steak knife. However, a good possibility is that I could’ve easily slid into a ditch and racked up some points on my CSA score (explained in a minute).

The point is, just because you can run in bad weather, doesn’t mean you should.

Always remember: No load is worth your life!

Let up off the accelerator

Listen, depending on your school, you’re probably spending anywhere from 2 to 12 weeks right now learning how to drive a truck so you can earn your commercial driver’s license. So protect it already!

I don’t know if you’ve discussed the CSA in class yet, so forgive me if this is rehash. The CSA, which stands for Compliance, Safety, Accountability, is a fairly new program where they are using points to rate both truck drivers and carriers. This way a driver can use the carrier’s CSA score to see how safe their fleet is and the carriers use the score to decide who is a good driver for hiring purposes. So basically, both drivers and carriers get a score based on their safety record.

So why would you risk losing your newly acquired license by speeding? Besides, tickets for traffic violations in trucks usually cost about twice as much and as when you get one in your personal vehicle.

I say it again, you need to protect your CDL! Without it, you can’t earn any money. And how can you buy Cheetos without money? Now I can hear some of you thinking, “But I may have to speed to deliver my load on time!” If that’s truly the case, then I say your company is crappy at dispatching.

The way I see it, a carrier’s inability to plan loads properly has nothing to do with me. It’s truly not my problem if they assign me a load that simply cannot be delivered legally. I’m not going to drive more hours than I have available because of their incompetence, nor am I going to go over the speed limit to deliver on time.

Here’s a great tactic. If a dispatcher ever tries to make you run illegal or belittles you because you aren’t willing to run in bad weather, tell him to transfer you to the safety department. That will end that conflict quicker than a squirrel all hopped up on Red Bull.

Keeping with the subject of speeding, if you take nothing else out of this entire blog post please listen closely to this next topic. This one little thing will save you lots of frustration and it will pretty much give everyone in the world one less reason to hate truck
drivers. (honk)

Don’t be a turtle racer

Turtle racing is when two speed-limited trucks are trying to pass each other on the interstate. In case your driving instructor hasn’t mentioned this yet, many carriers have installed speed-limiters on their trucks. Most of them set it somewhere between 63–65 mph. That can make it really hard to pass other trucks when you can only go slightly faster than the other driver.

Since the vast majority of governed fleets are set a 65 mph, me and my lightning-fast 64 mph truck deal with this a lot. You can see that I am always having slightly faster trucks trying to get around me. Now back when I was a rookie, I was stubborn just like you are going to tend to be. My thought was always, “If you can’t pass me faster than that, then that’s your problem.”

This is precisely the wrong attitude to have. And it’s something I still
hear quite a bit on the CB when I’m trying to pass some donkey head who stubbornly refuses to let me around. I went into a lot of detail about turtle racing and how to avoid it in TD 66: Truckers Go Turtle Racing, but I’ll try to sum it up quickly for you.

Everything I do in my life, I always try to run it through the golden rule. In case you had horrible parents who never taught you this rule, it basically states that you should treat others as you would like them to treat you. Now let’s put this in the context of turtle racing.

If you were an automobile driver or even another trucker being held up by these two jerk faces blocking both lanes, how happy would you be? Wouldn’t you wish they got out of the friggin’ way so
you could go about your business!? Golden rule, folks.

Now put yourself in the place of the slightly faster big rig trying to get around the slightly slower trucker. It’s taking you forever because the slower guy is being stubborn. Wouldn’t that piss you off? Of course it would! And yes, I understand the word “forever” is a bit
of an exaggeration. But trust me, when you’re out in the fast lane holding up traffic for 3 to 5 minutes, it feels like forever.

Here’s my logic on this. Why should a faster trucker have to go slower than he is capable of, simply because some stubborn turd-flinger won’t let him pass quickly?

I am probably in this scenario at least five times a day. Trust me when I say that your load is not going to be late if you tap the brakes to let someone slightly faster get around you a bit quicker. To be fair, your delivery probably won’t be late either if you ease off the throttle and stay behind the slower truck for the next 9 hours, but why should you have to do that? It literally takes 10 to 15 seconds
to let the other driver pass and then you are back at full speed as they’re slowly pulling away from you.

There are two things wrong with you being a stubborn bungmunch. First, you’ve got a semi with an irritated trucker riding alongside you for a long time. And mark my words, the second he gets past you here’s going to nearly take your front bumper off by pulling back in
front of you too soon. Second, you are actively pissing off all of the
automobile drivers and the other truckers who are you holding up. Please don’t be a turtle racing bonehead. Simply tap your brakes and let the other truck around.

Sitting there being stubborn about “winning the race” only makes you madder about the situation. You feel it’s the other guy’s fault for blocking all the traffic, when in reality you can put a stop to it by one little tap of your brakes.

Trucker Etiquette

I’m going to finish up with some trucker etiquette that every new driver should start doing to make this industry a better place to work.

Truck stop parking lot etiquette

This “don’t hold up traffic” thing even extends into the truck stop parking lot. One of these situations involves something you newbies are probably scared spitless of right now; backing into a parking spot at a packed truck stop… at night… with other drivers watching. Don’t worry, you will get better at backing. But for now, your goal is to minimize the reasons more experienced drivers have to complain about you.

Parking

When you’re setting up for the backing job, look around you. Is there another truck behind you that you could let around before you start? Simply stop in front of the spot so they can’t steal it from you and
turn on your 4-way flashers. They’ll get the hint that you’re letting them around and they’ll always be thankful for your thoughtfulness.

It never ceases to amaze me how many times I see a driver whip out into a 45° position when they’ve got four or five other trucks behind them who simply need to get out of the parking lot and back onto the road. You may be a rookie, but you don’t have to be stupid.

Be courteous

Remember the Golden Rule! Here are 4 rules to live by when parking at a truck stop.

  1. Don’t let your pets piss or
    crap where other drivers have to walk.
  2. You should follow this rule
    too. If you don’t believe me, email me at TruckerDump@gmail.com and I’ll be happy to send you
    a photo. Ugh.
  3. Keep your pets quiet. I once was awakened by a yapping dog. I tried to go back to sleep, but couldn’t. I looked out at the truck next to me where a dog was barking at absolutely
    nothing. I got dressed and grumpily knocked on their door. A woman answered and I asked if she could keep her dog quiet so I could sleep. She said one word to the dog and it shut up. No apology whatsoever. So basically, just remember that while you may be deaf to your best friend’s barking at the wind, other drivers aren’t. Put a muzzle on that mutt.
  4. Keep in mind that truckers sleep at odd hours. Just because it’s 2:00 in the afternoon doesn’t mean you can back into a spot and crank up your Milli Vaniili. This has happened to me a
    few times and each time I had to get dressed and go knock on their door. One of those times, the driver peeked out at me and refused to acknowledge me standing there. I stood there and steadily pounded on his door for a whole minute until he finally rolled down the window. He actually had the nerve to get pissed at me when I asked him to turn the music down!

I have no shame in saying I called his company to report him. Yes, I’m a big fat tattle-tell. And an unrepentant one in this case. Similar to loud music, don’t carry on long, loud conversations outside your truck with another driver. You may be talking right beside someone’s head while they’re trying to sleep.

Fuel island Etiquette

Another situation where you need to be mindful of other drivers is at the fuel island. I know this is going to come as a shock, but fuel bays are meant for fueling. They are not meant as a parking spots for people who want to go in and shower. They are not places to take your 30-minute mandatory breaks. And they are definitely not places to wash your entire truck with a tiny windshield squeegee. Trust me, I’ve seen all of these things numerous times over the years.

Time is money in this industry, especially with the advent of electronic logs. When you pull into a fuel bay, you need to do your fueling and then immediately pull up so the driver behind you can get started. After you pull up, there is about enough time to run inside to grab your Mountain Dew and Cheetos (obviously), but that’s about it.

Pull up when finished fueling

One of the most frequent things that happens is drivers pull up and park in front of the bay like they’re supposed to, but instead of making a quick trip in and out, they go order food at Wendy’s or stand in line at the ever-present Subway. Next thing you know,
you’re standing in line being picky about how much mustard the sandwich artist is using, while the driver who was fueling behind you is forced to do one of four things.

  1. They sit there and impatiently wait for you to return. Don’t be surprised if you get a dirty look when you get back. You deserve it.
  2. They risk backing out of the fuel island, which is never a good thing. I’m sure your instructor has already taught you that you don’t back up unless you absolutely have to. Backing is one of the leading causes of accidents, you know.
  3. They want to back up, but another driver has cued up in line behind them, which now means you’re pissing off two drivers. You are now officially a pinhead.
  4. They decide to go into the truck stop and take care of their own business instead of waiting on you to move. Now they’re keeping someone else from fueling. When they finally come back out, you’re already gone but the driver behind them is now pissed at them. Nice going starting a chain reaction there, D-bag.

Now it is possible to get your food and get back to your truck before the other driver is done fueling, but you need to use the Golden Rule here. Would you want to be held up? Nope. So if you’re demanding fresh curly fries, go back out and move your friggin’ truck or at least make sure no one has pulled in behind you. Yes, I’m serious. I know it’s inconvenient. But inconvenience yourself, not someone else you selfish jerk. Golden rule, man. Live it.

Taking a 30-minute break on the fuel island

As for taking your mandatory 30-minute break on the fuel islands. The only time I consider that acceptable is if it’s late at night and you can’t find anywhere else to park. Even then, be mindful of the other drivers. Here’s how you do this properly:

  1. Pull through the fuel bay so you aren’t keeping someone from fueling.
  2. If someone pulls in to fuel behind you, wait until they are done and then pull around and go back through another open fuel bay.
  3. If your elogs won’t allow any movement whatsoever without ruining your 30-minute break, then it’s quite simple: DON’T PARK ON THE FRIGGIN’ FUEL BAY IN THE FIRST PLACE!!!!

For more detailed information about all
this, check out TD107: The Fuel Bay Golden Rule.

So there we have it. I hope these things will help you jump start your career with the right kind of attitude. I would like to leave you with a personal request.

Don’t tarnish the reputation of truckers

Trust me, it’s bad enough as is. You can pretty much accomplish this by keeping the Golden Rule in mind. If you wouldn’t want another driver keeping you awake, not letting you pass, blocking you at a fuel bay, stepping out of your truck into a puddle of icky urine or stinky cigarette butts, then don’t do those things that will put another driver in that position.

I hope you have a great trucking career ahead of you and if you have any questions, please feel free to holler at me on Twitter where I’m @ToddMcCann or reach out to me at TruckerDump@gmail.com. Or you can join the Trucker Dump Slack group by emailing an invitation request to that same email address.

Now get back to out there and learn to drive that stinkin’ truck. Grind some gears. Take 30 painstaking minutes to back into a wide open parking spot (while only mowing down a couple of orange cones.. HEY, THEY WERE CONES!). Whatever works to give your instructors heart palpitations. After all, every doctor says that raising your heart rate on a regular basis will increase your life, right? Well, if that’s the case, I guess your instructor will never live forever. They should be thanking you, right?

[box]Please share your advice to new truckers by leaving a comment below.[/box]

Links mentioned in the podcast version:

TD110: Jabbering With Jared includes an interview I did with nephew Jared after he rode in the truck with me. Some good laughs here!

Jewel Jones is @JewelJonesIRL on Twitter

Check out the videos from trucker BukWildTrucking on YouTube

Australian country artist Jayne Denham performed at the TA/Petro truck parking community at GATS. She sang her #1 hit, Addicted To The Diesel as well as her new release called Stacks. Check out the links for the YouTube videos.

I was interviewed at GATS by Rachel Folkenroth from AllTruckJobs.com.

The interview aired on Episode 7 of a new podcast called Big Rig Banter, hosted by Troy Diffenderfer and Connor Smith. It’s a fun podcast from AllTruckJobs.com that is informative and very well produced. Check it out by following the links above.

AllTruckJobs.com put out a funny 80s-style workout video for truckers. You don’t want to miss Troy Thunder BRING THE THUNDER!!!

Check out this story from The TruckersReport.com of a 23-year-old trucker who wiped out a 6-ton historic bridge.

Check out the photos and read the story of a trucker who destroyed a 3-ton bridge in his 30-ton truck.

TheTruckersReport.com story of mandatory speed limiters being scrapped. Thank God!

@OhTruckThat tweeted this excellent video from OOIDA (Owner-Operator’s Independent Driver’s Association) about the effects of speed limiters

FleetOwner.com did a story on platooning.

Ice Cold Justice is a story from TheTruckersReport.com about a thief who was locked inside a refrigerated trailer. Serves him right!

Check out my YouTube video rant about an anal retentive customer.

It’s not too late to enter the drawing for the Meritor jacket!

TD100: What Makes The Evil Overlord Evil? explains how my wife got her nickname.

TD66: Truckers Go Turtle Racing goes into great detail about how you can keep from impeding traffic out on the interstate. It’s one of my favorite episodes and something that every trucker should hear.

TD107: The Fuel Bay Golden Rule covers the proper etiquette for the fuel bay area.

Links in the feedback section:

An anonymous ex Over-The-Road trucker (email said Bluegrass Cellular) writes in to thank me for producing the podcast. You’re welcome, man!

Fullofit (Steve) has been binge listening and comments on a range of topics. So you can blame him for the next few links.
TD74: Doing Dallas
TD67: The Road To Smutville
TD31: Is Forced Dispatch Forced?
TD66: Truckers Go Turtle Racing

Renae Savage is one of the newest members of the Trucker Dump Slack group. She has comments on
TD93: The Driver’s Seat Phenomenon, but she’s also started her own blog at Truck Driving Woman. She finishes up by asking me why I write books, blog, and podcast if I’ve been trying to get out of trucking forever. I answer as best as I can.

My singing isn’t as good as it used to be, but I still have fun on Singsnap.com.

Show info:

You can email your comments, suggestions, questions, or insults to 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?

TD123: Advice For New Truckers: Part 1

Today’s post is dedicated to you new truckers out there. Perhaps you’ve been driving for a few months already or maybe you’re sitting at a desk at a truck driving school right now. If that’s the case then WAKE UP! Sorry about that. Just wanted to make sure you were awake in case you just got done watching one of those action-packed HazMat safety videos. If you’ve seen it already, then you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, be sure to stock up on some Kleenex before it starts. You’ll need them to wipe the drool off your table when it’s over.

*The podcast version below covers Part 1 and Part 2*

[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]

This advice is not the stuff your instructor is teaching you right now. These are all things I wish I would’ve known when I started out; lessons you will undoubtedly learn over time. The problem is, you’re just going to make yours and everyone elses lives miserable until you learn it. And honestly, since Im going to be sharing a road with you soon, I’m thinking you can save me some hair-pulling by you having an open mind for a few minutes. Besides, the transmission in your training truck could probably use a break from all that incessant grinding. Don’t deny it. I heard it two states away. LOL So let’s get started.

But since I’m getting ready to impart some old dude trucker wisdom on you, perhaps I should tell you where I’m coming from first. That way you don’t think I’ve only been driving for six months or that
I’m some pencil-pushing, desk-jockey blowhard. Man, that’s a mouthful.

About the author

My name is Todd McCann was sitting in a driving school just like you are now in the summer of 1997. I’ve been a company driver the entire time, meaning I have never, nor have I desired to, own my own truck. My wife of over 20 years, who my listeners fondly know as The Evil Overlord, was my co-driver for nine years, but I have been doing the solo thing ever since. For the record, not only does she know I call her The Evil Overlord, but she highly approves, largely because she knows it’s true. For just a small sample of how she’s earned that nickname, check out TD 100: What Makes The Evil Overlord Evil?

I’m also the author of two ebooks; How To Find a Great Truck Driving Job and Trucking Life: An Entertaining, Yet Informative Guide To Becoming And Being A Truck Driver, which I’m well aware probably sets a new Guiness World’s record for “longest tagline used in the title of a book.” I’ve also been blogging and podcasting since 2009.

Thank you for becoming a trucker

First off, let me just say thank you for entering the trucking industry. The job can be as frustrating as a getting behind an old lady in the Walmart checkout line who is writing a check for $7 worth of cat food, but it can also be as rewarding as the feeling you get when you punch that old lady in the face. Okay, seriously. Punching old ladies is uncool. An old man, however, is fair game. What? 😉

Take a look around you right now and think about this. Every product in this room has likely been hauled on a truck at one point or
another. It’s an important job that largely goes unthanked. So let me be among the first to thank you for becoming a key part in America’s economy. Now don’t you feel proud? Tell you what; after class today, head to your nearest Dairy Queen and treat yourself to a Banana Split Blizzard, which, I might add, is only made possible by a trucker who delivered fresh fruit and delicious ice cream. And by the way, that “turning it upside down” thing they do with the Blizzard is complete magic. We truckers have nothing to do with that. Although
I can’t count how many times I wish I could Expelliarmus the steering wheel out of some annoying soccer mom’s hands. Grrr. Anywho…

New Trucker Concerns

Let me first address a few concerns I know I had as a rookie trucker.

Quit sweating the road test at your first company

Trust me here; any trucking company that is willing to hire you straight out of school, doesn’t expect you to be perfect. In fact, they’d be outright shocked if you didn’t hunt for and grind few gears. And you’ll have to pick their jaw up off the floor if you nail the backing test with only one pull-up.

And if it makes you feel any better, I’ve been driving for over 20 years and I still grind a few gears here and there and I often have to pull up more than once to back straight into a dock. Let’s keep that between us. My company things I’m perfect. Pssssshhhhht!!!

Weirded out about the training process at your first company

Stand up for yourself

No matter how confident of a person you normally are, that all seems to go out the window when you get in the truck with your trainer at your first company. I know from my own personal experience that I felt I was going to let down my trainer if I didn’t do exactly as he said. I also felt I had no input in how things were done. I was wrong. Again, this can lead even the most confident person to humble themselves and get walked all over.

For example, I talked to one young man who had recently finished training, who said that his trainer would tell him to pull over on an exit ramp where he would proceed to go into the bunk area and make himself a sandwich or a bowl of soup or something. Never once did the trainer offer him any space in his cooler or suggest where there might be a truck stop with food nearby. Basically, this rookie would go entire days without eating, all because he thought he would look weak for speaking up. Uncool.

In another case, a female driver told me that her trainer only allowed her to take one shower during her three-week training period. Ewwww. I asked her why she tolerated that and she said she
just thought that’s how it was done and she didn’t want to disappoint him.

I should point out that things like these won’t happen all the time with every trainer. My trainer was awesome, while The Evil Overlord nicknamed her trainer, “She-Devil.” So you can imagine how well that went. For full details on that story, check out the Training chapter of Trucking Life. It’s really all luck-of-the-draw.

There’s just no getting around it. Being stuck in a truck with a complete stranger for a few weeks sucks harder than a kid with a milkshake and one of those Krazy Straws. Just remember, it’s only a few weeks.

Avoid being used as a money-making machine

There is one thing that happens in training way more often than it should. Trainers often get paid by the mile for all miles run, so quite often they’ll use their trainee as a team driver instead of teaching them how to drive, which, of course they are supposed to be doing. Again, the trainee feels like they are not getting trained properly, yet they are afraid to say anything to the trainer or the company about it.

I should point out that it is standard practice to eventually work into a team-operation during the training process. The problem is when you start out that way. In the beginning, your trainer should be in the front seat next you, talking you through rough situations, and just generally being a second pair of eyes. As each day goes by, you should be driving a bit more until eventually you’re driving while your trainer is sleeping (and vice versa). It’s a good way to build up your driving stamina.

Lady drivers beware

Here’s something to be aware of, ladies. There have been documented cases where male trainers have convinced female trainees that they are not going to give them a passing grade unless they sleep with them. And it has worked! Yes, I know that sounds totally bizarre in this day and age of lady power and all, but there was a highly-publicized story about this atrocity a few years back when this was happening regularly at a particular trucking company. Someone eventually had the hutzpah (hoot-spuh) to report them, thank God. Once again, there’s just something about the intimacy of sharing truck space with someone that leads trainees to accept conditions they shouldn’t.

Address the issues

So here’s my advice to all of you. Overcome your fears of looking weak and stand up for yourself. As my 8-year old nephew once boldy proclaimed as he smacked his tiny little chest, “I’m a MAN, baby!”
The company is not going to fire you for requesting the things you need. If you’re hungry, ask your trainer where you can stop to eat. You may not get a shower every day (welcome to trucking), but there have honestly only been a handful of times in my 20+ year career that I haven’t been able to manage a shower at least every other day.

Basically, if you have any problem with the way you are being trained, tell your trainer. If you want them to sit in front to help you more, tell them. And for Pete’s sake ladies, if your male trainer barrages you with sexual innuendo, outright flirting, or worse, tell them you don’t appreciate it and not to do it again. If any problems persist, call your company’s training department and tell them what’s going on. If they
don’t do anything about it, call your recruiter back and tell them to put you in touch with someone who will. Either that or quit and find a new job. Seriously, if they don’t respond to your concerns, you don’t want to work for these sphincter-holes anyway.

Health and fitness

Get some exercise

The trucking lifestyle is not a healthy one. You’re sitting on your keister most of the day and are often working wonky schedules that don’t always allow a lot of time for exercising. Not to mention that after driving 11 hours, the last thing you’re thinking is, “Hmmm, what
strenuous activity can I do that will lift my heart rate and wear me out?” I don’t know about you, but my thoughts in that situation lean more towards wanting to curl up next to a chicken fried steak and passing out with some of that yummy dried gravy still stuck to my cheek.

Do yourself a favor and instead of squeezing into those skinny jeans that clearly don’t fit, try squeezing in a few minutes of exercise at least three times a week. I don’t always manage it either, but at least I have the consciousness to feel guilty about it when I fail. And make sure you do this from the very beginnning, or else you’ll never get started.

Eat healthy and save money

Speaking of chicken fried steak, your eating habits are the other half of this health issue. My advice to you is to stock up on food at a grocery store and eat in your truck as much as possible. This will help in two ways: you can eat healthier and you can save a lot of money.

In my ever-so-humble (but always correct) opinion, one of the best things you can do early in your career is buy an ice chest, a thermocooler, or if you can afford one, a refrigerator/freezer unit for your truck. Sure, you can find healthy options at most any restaurant, but let’s be honest; the unhealthy options almost always look more appealing than a chicken breast or a salad. Why tempt yourself? Go to the grocery store, stock up on healthier options, and stay out of the restaurants.

The other aspect I mentioned is that doing this will save you a lot of money, which should make you and the rest of your family happy. Lots of truckers eat at restaurants for every meal. With the average meal (including tip) being $12-15, these drivers are spending up to $300 on food each week! I simply don’t know how these truckers do that and still have any money left to send home. Hmmmm… maybe that’s why the divorce rate is so high among truckers?

Now let’s compare that to eating in the truck. For breakfast, I typically have instant oatmeal or a frozen burrito. Well, it’s not frozen after I microwave it. Lunch might consist of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and some Cheetos, and dinner involves a can of soup
or a frozen dinner. Total cost? Probably about $10 per day. That’s less than a third of the cost of eating in restaurants! Sure you might spend a bit less if you eat fast food instead of sit-down restaurants for every meal, but I’m still always shocked how easy it is to drop $9-10 at Arby’s.

What’s that? I can hear what you thinking, “Wait just a cotton-pickin’
minute! Since when are Cheetos healthy?!”
You’re right, but at least
I can control my portion size this way. If I order a big meal in a restaurant I know I’m going to eat it all (and possibly lick the plate clean), mostly because I’m the world’s biggest cheapskate and I’m bound and determined to enjoy last calorie of the money I just spent.

Road munchies

One last thing about eating right. Do not, I repeat DO NOT keep unhealthy foods in your truck! And if you do, definitely don’t keep them in reach of the driver’s seat. I keep fresh fruit, raisins, yogurt, or cheese sticks at hand for the road munchies. I admit it,
I’m weaker than Popeye the Sailor Man before he eats his spinach. If I look in the passenger seat and see an apple and my beloved bag of Cheetos, I’m going to have those yummy, cheesy, suckable fingertips every time.

To be continued…

This article was well over 5000 words so I decided to split it into two parts. Lord knows we all have the attention span of a meth addict nowadays. Part two takes a more “hands on trucking” approach, so check it out if you’ve got some more time to kill.

[box]Please share your advice to new truckers by leaving a comment below.[/box]

Links mentioned in the podcast version:

TD110: Jabbering With Jared includes an interview I did with nephew Jared after he rode in the truck with me. Some good laughs here!

Jewel Jones is @JewelJonesIRL on Twitter

Check out the videos from trucker BukWildTrucking on YouTube

Australian country artist Jayne Denham performed at the TA/Petro truck parking community at GATS. She sang her #1 hit, Addicted To The Diesel as well as her new release called Stacks. Check out the links for the YouTube videos.

I was interviewed at GATS by Rachel Folkenroth from AllTruckJobs.com.

The interview aired on Episode 7 of a new podcast called Big Rig Banter, hosted by Troy Diffenderfer and Connor Smith. It’s a fun podcast from AllTruckJobs.com that is informative and very well produced. Check it out by following the links above.

AllTruckJobs.com put out a funny 80s-style workout video for truckers. You don’t want to miss Troy Thunder BRING THE THUNDER!!!

Check out this story from The TruckersReport.com of a 23-year-old trucker who wiped out a 6-ton historic bridge.

Check out the photos and read the story of a trucker who destroyed a 3-ton bridge in his 30-ton truck.

TheTruckersReport.com story of mandatory speed limiters being scrapped. Thank God!

@OhTruckThat tweeted this excellent video from OOIDA (Owner-Operator’s Independent Driver’s Association) about the effects of speed limiters

FleetOwner.com did a story on platooning.

Ice Cold Justice is a story from TheTruckersReport.com about a thief who was locked inside a refrigerated trailer. Serves him right!

Check out my YouTube video rant about an anal retentive customer.

It’s not too late to enter the drawing for the Meritor jacket!

TD100: What Makes The Evil Overlord Evil? explains how my wife got her nickname.

TD66: Truckers Go Turtle Racing goes into great detail about how you can keep from impeding traffic out on the interstate. It’s one of my favorite episodes and something that every trucker should hear.

TD107: The Fuel Bay Golden Rule covers the proper etiquette for the fuel bay area.

Links in the feedback section:

An anonymous ex Over-The-Road trucker (email said Bluegrass Cellular) writes in to thank me for producing the podcast. You’re welcome, man!

Fullofit (Steve) has been binge listening and comments on a range of topics. So you can blame him for the next few links.
TD74: Doing Dallas
TD67: The Road To Smutville
TD31: Is Forced Dispatch Forced?
TD66: Truckers Go Turtle Racing

Renae Savage is one of the newest members of the Trucker Dump Slack group. She has comments on
TD93: The Driver’s Seat Phenomenon, but she’s also started her own blog at Truck Driving Woman. She finishes up by asking me why I write books, blog, and podcast if I’ve been trying to get out of trucking forever. I answer as best as I can.

My singing isn’t as good as it used to be, but I still have fun on Singsnap.com.

Show info:

You can email your comments, suggestions, questions, or insults to 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?

TD122: 4 Awesome Trucker Workouts

Back in TD120: Truckers and Exercise, I ran out of time before I could talk about some good workouts for truckers. That’s where we pick up today. First off, let me say that most of the truckers I see every day should start by simply taking a freakin’ walk. And I don’t mean lumbering into the truck stop to breathlessly order a mega-gargantuan value meal at King Hardee Jack in the McCarls, Jr. Sorry man. That doesn’t count. But if you’re ready to move up, or you just think walking is as monotonous as a Ben Stein lecture on VooDoo Economics, read on.

[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]

What makes a good workout for truckers?

First and foremost, it needs to be able to be accomplished with either minimal equipment or no equipment at all. I’ve seen a couple of truckers who brought along a weight bench and an entire set of free weights, but you could clearly see that these massive guys took it waaaaay more seriously than you or I ever will.

Secondly, we truckers are often in a hurry, so the workout needs to be something that doesn’t take too long. With these guidelines in mind, let’s take a look at some of the exercise programs I’ve enjoyed. Okay, perhaps enjoyed is a bit of an exaggeration.

Gorilla Workout App

The Gorilla Workout is a free app on both Android and iOS. It comes with one workout program that should keep the average trucker busy for quite a while. If you’re a real go-getter, there are 40 additional exercise programs that can be purchased for $.99 each or you can buy the whole shebang for an in-app purchase of $9.99. That’s cheaper than one month of a gym membership! These additional workouts have appropriate names such as, Cardio Builder; which focuses on aerobic exercises, or the awesomely-named Quad Crusher; which will make your thighs scream like Fred Figglehorn. I’m still using the free app at this point, so that may be enough for you too.

All of these exercises are body-weight only, which is perfect for the trucker who doesn’t want to spend a lot of money on exercise equipment. The app apparently has a sense of humor because it will eventually throw pull-ups into the mix (yeah right!). Since we truckers really have no place to mount a pull-up bar, it says you can simulate them with a resistance strap hooked over the top of a door. I’ve also improvised by getting under the trailer and doing modified pull-ups by sticking my legs out in front of me, grabbing onto whatever I could find, and lifting my chest toward the trailer.

As you can see from this screenshot (right), you choose your starting level based on how many push-ups you can do. As an example, if you can’t do 10 push-ups, the first workout for level 1 consists of 4 sets of 8 squats, 4 lunges, and 10 modified push-ups (on knees). There are text and video demonstrations of over 40 exercises, which I definitely needed having never heard of bird dogs or dead bugs. Oh wait… yes I have. A Golden Retriever and any cockroach that dares to approach me.

The Gorilla Workout app is great for beginners because you can do the exercises at your own pace and rest as long as needed between exercises and sets. However, it’s probably best if you set a timer for a specific amount of time and gradually reduce the rest periods as you get more fit. This was the first workout app I used. If memory serves, I started on level 2 with one minute of rest between exercises and two minutes between sets, but choose whatever level and however much time you need. Just try to keep your heart rate up as much as possible without having to dial 911.

Each workout will take between 15-30 minutes, largely depending on how much time you rest. The next day’s workout focuses more on core exercises for your abs. That way you aren’t working the same set of muscles two days in a row. These alternate every other day.

There are 20 workouts in Level 1 and when you’re finished you can move up to Level 2 and eventually advance all the way up to Level 4 if you’re the macho type. The Gorilla Workout app progresses nicely for the most part. I do remember one instance when it suddenly jumped me to some ungodly amount of squats and lunges compared to the workout before. I remember thinking it must be a software bug, but I just did what I could and went on to the next level. By and large a really good app for beginners.

Quick Fit – 7 Minute Workout, Abs, And Yoga

Quick Fit by Tiny Hearts Limited is an iOS and watchOS app I’ve been testing lately. It is free and includes three other workouts, Quick Yoga, Quick Abs, and Quick 4 (4-minute version). There isn’t an Android version, but there are about a million of these 7-minute workout apps, so just just search the Google Play store and try a few of them out. I can’t imagine there’s much difference considering what these apps do.

Now I know what you’re thinking, “A 7-minute workout is stupid! No way it works!” I admit I went in with skepticism too. After my first workout, I used the in-app share button to tweet my success, which prompted this reply:

Honestly this came as a surprise to me because while I had found the workout to be challenging, I was able to recover my breath faster afterward than the previous workout I had been doing (discussed next). Clive went on to explain that he was really out of shape.

Well that makes perfect sense. Most truckers are. Shame on me for not putting on the shoes of the average trucker. Not that I would actually wear another trucker’s stinky footwear! Yuck! Little did I know that I would soon feel what Clive felt. But not before I had one more wave of smugness set in. Settle in kids; it’s story time.

I have a confession to make; I have only recently started working out again.

Like I mentioned in TD120: Truckers and Exercise, I’m not nearly as consistent as I’d like to be. But I vowed to do better this year and so I started out with a bang. I use an app called Today (iOS only) to track my workouts. Successful days are marked in green (trust me, this is a great month for this slacker). As you can see, I was ripping along until I got home on February 3.

I hadn’t done a workout for a few days so I was pleased when my 18-year old nephew Jake came home from school and started to do some push-ups (story of him living with us in the feedback section of the podcast version). Thinking this would be a great opportunity to boost his oft-wavering confidence level, I asked if he wanted to join me in my 7-minute workout. Sensing fresh meat, he gave me an evil grin and said he thought it sounded too easy; so I explained to him how it worked just like I will for you. Trust me, there’s a point to this story.

The 7-minute workout is structured for you to do 12 different body weight exercises with only 10 seconds of rest in-between. For example, the first exercise is jumping jacks. The app speaks to you as you go along so you know what exercise to prepare for next. And there is a video onscreen to show you what the exercise should look like. A countdown starts and you go as hard as you can for 30 seconds, then the voice tells you to rest for 10 seconds, which is just about enough time to set up for the next exercise. You repeat this for 11 more exercises, such as squats, push-ups, crunches, planks, etc. It takes exactly 7 minutes normally, but you can always tap the pause button if you need to catch your breath.

Now believe me when I say that I was expecting Jake to wipe the floor with me. He had been exercising more lately and I’ve got about 30 years on him; 20 of those sitting on my sunken arse in the driver’s seat. So you can imagine how shocked I was when he dropped out on the ninth exercise! Who knew I had more stamina than a 18-year-old punk? Granted, now that he’s living with us he doesn’t do much of anything except make the social media rounds and play video games on the PS4 I bought and never get to use (I’m not bitter, really). Now hang tight if you want to see my swelling head shrink like a guy’s junk after jumping into a cold lake. So cheer up Clive! You’re as fit as at least one 18 year old!

The cocky old man

It’s now February 5 and all three nephews and I have decided to walk to the park near our house and shoot some hoops. We played a couple games of HORSE before Jared suggested we play 2-on-2. Feeling overconfident, I suggesting we go full court. My defense was excellent, but I couldn’t have made a basket if the goal were the size of a friggin’ hula hoop. All of us gasping for air after a short game, Jared challenged me to some half court 1-on-1.

I was losing horribly when it happened. I put on a quick burst of speed to go for a layup and something hit me in the back of my left calf. Limping, I turned to the other two dorks and said, “Alright, what’d you throw at me?” They looked at me dumbfounded. Since they share blood with The Evil Overlord, naturally I didn’t believe them. But after looking at my calf, it appeared they were uncharacteristically telling the truth.

I whipped out my trusty iPhone and guess what the Internet said? That having a torn or sprained calf muscle usually feels like someone has hit you with a baseball bat. So I didn’t feel too guilty about accusing the brats of throwing rocks at me. To add insult to injury (pun intended), the website even said that torn calf muscles are most commonly found in athletes and 40-something men who think they’re more fit than they are. I may be one of those things.

The Evil Overlord was none too happy to drive over and pick us up, especially since she had felt guilty earlier about asking me not to skate at youngest nephew Joel’s skating party for fear I would get injured; despite my constant assurance that I wouldn’t. For the record, I’d rather not skate than listen to her say “I told you so” for a month. Surprisingly, she didn’t rub it in as much as I anticipated. She must be dying of a brain tumor or something.

Now to the point of this War and Peace-sized story. It took about six weeks for my calf to fully heal. I didn’t need crutches, but I had a wicked limp because I couldn’t let my left heel touch the ground without whimpering like a lost puppy. My first workout back was at the end of March. Being sedentary for so long, I now understood where Clive was coming from. I got to the end of it, but there were a few times when I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it. And it took far longer to recover my breath this time.

Please don’t let this scare you off the 7-minute workout. You can take it at your own pace by judicious use of the pause button. The only thing you need for this workout is a chair for the tricep dips and step-ups (the bench in the shower room or the truck running board works great). You can use an exercise mat or rug if you’re gross enough to do this workout in the truck stop parking lot or ask for an extra towel if you’re doing it in a shower room.

The Tabata Workout

Tabata is another one of these HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) workouts that are so popular these days. This is the workout I spoke of earlier. The one that I find much more challenging than the 7-minute workout.

The basic Tabata method is very similar to the 7-minute workout except that you go hard for 20 seconds instead of 30 and then rest for 10 seconds, Another difference is there are only 8 exercise sessions of the same exercise instead of 12 sets of varying exercises. That means you finish in 4 minutes. Well that’s easier, right? Officially yes. One round of tabata is four minutes. Problem is, usually they call for you to do four of these rounds (called cycles).

So a typical workout looks like this. I pick four exercises; usually push-ups, squats, crunches, and mountain climbers (can’t managed burpees yet). That works my upper body, lower body, abs, and aerobic. I use an app called Tabata Timer Pro on iOS, but they’re pretty much all the same. Just find one that has a lot of settings because you will need to adjust the times unless you’re more fit than me (not hard to be).

I would be dead on a floor somewhere if I tried to do four cycles with 8 sets consisting of the standard 20 seconds exercise and 10 seconds of rest. Trust me, I’ve tried it. I totally pulled a Jacob about five minutes in. This is why I like the tabata method. You can adjust the times to your fitness level. It’s been a while since I’ve done this workout, but I recall having it set completely upside-down. So I would do push-ups for 20 seconds and rest for 30 seconds.

At first it feels easy. I can whip out 15-20 push-ups the first couple of rounds, but by the eighth round I can only manage 5 or 6. But it’s not over. I now rest for a couple of minutes (keep that heart rate up!) and repeat the process doing squats and then again for crunches. I save the mountain climbers for last because cardio is my weakest area. If I did them first, I’d never be able to finish the other exercises. But that means that I’m already breathing hard when I start them and by the fourth or fifth round I’m gasping for air like a fish out of water. I can usually complete all 8 rounds, but my heart is beating out my chest like a cartoon character.

Sounds miserable, doesn’t it? It is, but that’s the beauty of the timer. Set it to exercise for 20 seconds and rest for one minute… or two minutes for that matter. Granted, it will take you much longer to finish so don’t be attempting a tabata workout in the shower room if there are other drivers waiting for your shower! If you stick close to my times, you should be able to finish a workout in 25 minutes.

The Dumbbell Workout

I’m not going to go into a lot of detail here because I’ve already done so when I produced the two workout videos for TD81: How To Do  A Full-Body Workout Inside The Cab Of A Semi. I haven’t done this workout in ages, but it is by far the most thorough workout I’ve ever done. It’s also the only one I’ve done that actually built visible muscle. And I’m not being delusional here; The Evil Overlord noticed the difference as well.

So why don’t I do it anymore? For two reasons; first because it takes longer than the other three. When you’re first starting out with low reps and lighter weights, it can be done in 30-35 minutes, but once you start doing more reps, it can easily stretch into an hour when you’re following both videos. And secondly, because I know that my heart is my weakest muscle (other than my brain obviously) and ultimately it’s the one that is going to help keep me alive. Both HIIT workouts make me breathe way harder than my dumbbell workout.

So you might ask; why is the dumbbell workout on your list if it doesn’t meet the criteria of taking less time and buying less equipment? Well, because I worked hard and long on those videos and I want people to see them. Duhhhhhhh.

So which workout am I currently doing?

Like I said, I’m just getting back into the swing of things. I’ve been fully recovered since mid-March but I’ve only done 7 lousy workouts in all of March and April. Chock it up to laziness and lack of motivation, something I’m guessing you’re all too familiar with. But I’m kicking it back in now. Please feel free to hold me to that.

So for now I’ve been doing the shorter 7-minute workout. It’s already starting to get easier for me so ultimately I’m going to transition back into the torture of the tabata workout, where I’m sure I will be extremely generous with the use of the timer settings. Hopefully I can be consistent enough to eventually bring it back down to the recommended 20 seconds of hellish exercise and 10 seconds of the slightly more pleasant, albeit short rest periods known as purgatory.

Having said that, I’m going to keep the 7-minute workout app in my repertoire for those times when there is a wait for showers. Yes, I realize in TD120 that I emphatically stated you should always skip your workout if you will be holding up other drivers. I’m altering that stance because we truckers don’t need more excuses to be unhealthy. So I’m going to save my 7-minute workout for those occasions when there is a shower wait and just try to hurry through the rest of my shower routine. I figure if other drivers can stay in the shower for an hour doing God knows what, I can take 7 minutes to better myself.

Here’s the dealio, Emilio. I hate working out. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if I had a workout partner. Maybe it would still suck. I’m guessing it would.

There are two things I do know for certain:

  1. The only person who can make me healthier is me. And the only one that can help you, is you.
  2. I always feel better after a workout.

Granted, it’s not an immediate good feeling. When I step straight into the shower after a hard workout, I often feel like my arms are too tired to wash the stank off of my sexy bod. There have even been times when I’ve decided to skip shaving because I didn’t want to hold my arms up that long. Yes, seriously. How pathetic is that? And when I’m walking back to my truck, my legs often feel like I’m walking on a couple of Twizzlers.

But not too far down the road I always start to notice that I’m more alert. I’m sitting up straighter instead of slumping down in the seat. I just feel better. And I think a big part of that is knowing I’ve forced myself to do what so few truckers manage to do; take a shower. What? What did you think I was going to say? 😉

[box]So what do you say? Are you with me? What say we all get off our chunky trucker butts and do something to improve your health. Do it today. I promise I’ll help you stay motivated if you’ll help me. Please leave your thoughts or suggestions in the comments section below.[/box]

Links mentioned in the podcast:

I read about two separate road rage incidents recently on TheTruckersReport.com, prompting me to me promote a podcast I did called TD66: Truckers Go Turtle Racing.

Here are the stories:
This Trucker Was Shot Because His Attacker Couldn’t Pass Him
Road Rage: Shooter Gets 26 Years For Shooting Trucker

I warn drivers about Uber Freight by pointing to a Business Insider article that shows a timeline of Uber’s many scandals.

You could win a Run with the Bulls Meritor jacket by emailing me at TruckerDump@gmail.com Also be sure to check out their funny video and their super-cool virtual reality app while you’re there.

Short YouTube clip of Ben Stein’s VooDoo economics lecture in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Great movie!

The Gorilla Workout App

Short YouTube video of Fred Figglehorn screaming.

QuickFit by Tiny Hearts Limited

The Today app is a habit-tracking app that can help you track your workout success (or failure in my case). It’s iOS only, but I’m sure there’s a similar app on Android.

Tabata Timer Pro on iOS or search for any Tabata app. They’re pretty much all the same.

TD81: How To Do A Full-Body Workout Inside The Cab Of A Semi shows two workout videos I produced a while back. No need to wear eye protection. I’m wearing a shirt.

In the feedback section:

Mike and Chris talk about truck driving simulators.

Kyle writes in to share his thoughts on why Walmart drivers might be getting all this extra pay that other OTR drivers aren’t.

Greg gives us a link to the Zodi Outback Gear Extreme Shower, which his wife uses at her Renaissance fairs.

Brian the Aussie sent an audio comment that covers a variety of topics, including the US DOT physical rules and Personal Conveyance time, which prompts me to talk about go on a mini rant. He also shows some appreciation for the podcast having a “Clean” tag, which lets him listen with his daughter around. Cool! He also wonders about my situation with my nephews since I talk about them so much. I happily explain. Lastly, he asks me to elaborate as to why I ask listeners who are submitting audio comments to keep them under three minutes. I’m happy to do so.

Show info:

You can email your comments, suggestions, questions, or insults to 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?