This episode of Trucker Dump is sponsored by Volvo Trucks. Learn more at volvotrucks.us.
In today’s episode, I’m starting a new series where I talk to truckers who have a speciality. Every now and then I’ll interview a driver who does something different than the average trucker. Today, you’ll hear from my good friend and fellow Trucker Dump Slack Group member, Shannon Holden about his job as a rental equipment hauler.
But before that we’ve got lots of news to cover including more truck recalls, lots of new legislation, ELD privacy issues, and some stupid things truckers do, which means I’m pissed off through half the news segment. But we lighten the mood every now and then with an odd quarantine, seven of the best companies to work for (according to Forbes), a couple of cool new products, and a chance for a free trip to Nashville.
I didn’t think we’d have a Trucker Grub segment, but an old acquaintance stops in to talk about Nancy’s Pizza in Litchfield, Illinois. You’ll never guess who it is in a million years.
In the listener feedback section we’ll discuss the sleep drug Ambien, refresher courses, the importance of asking questions, and I’ll have my sanity questioned. ‘Bout friggin’ time.
Links mentioned in the podcast:
I got a chance to co-host the May 29 episode of The Trucking Podcast with Buck Ballard when Don the Beer Guy couldn’t make it. Lots of stories and laughs in this one!
If you’re a regular listener/reader, you’ll know that I recently made a job change. For this episode, I thought about just talking about my new Less-Than-Load (LTL) job, but instead I’ve decided to tell you about the new job while also comparing it to my old Over-The-Road (OTR) job. So let’s get to it.
But first, let’s define what LTL and OTR means so all the newbies and non-truckers can follow along.
OTR stands for Over-The-Road. This type of trucking is typically (but not always) freight picked up at one or two customers at most and delivered to one or two receivers. There are OTR carriers that deal with multiple pickups or stops on one trailer, but the vast majority of large national trucking companies like JB Hunt, Prime, and US Xpress, pick up a load at one location and deliver it to a single location about 99% of the time. Also, unless you’re on some sort of dedicated account, you’re probably not running the same routes every day. Pretty straightforward really.
LTL stands for Less-Than-Load (or Truckload), meaning they pick up freight from lots of different customers throughout the day who have “less than a full load.” Each customer might only have one pallet, tote, tub, barrel, or crate to ship. All that freight is collected by local drivers who bring it back to local terminals where it is sorted based on which direction it is headed. From there it will keep moving to other terminals and branching out until it reaches it’s final destination.
Think of LTL like a tree.
There are many roots (shipping customers) on a tree. All those roots converge into the tree trunk.
The tree trunk is the local LTL terminal where all the day’s freight is collected. Freight is then sorted according to the direction of it’s destination and loaded onto many trailers. From there, each branch (or load) forks off in a different direction until you finally get to the leaf (the freight’s final destination in this weird analogy).
UPS and Fedex are probably the LTL carriers you’re most familiar with. They would have many more branches than most LTL carriers because they are often delivering to individual homes, whereas companies like YRC and Old Dominion are doing more business-to-business freight, meaning there are less branches before it reaches it’s final destination.
I hope I didn’t confuse you with that analogy so much that you leaf this blog post. Sorry, I realize that’s an inexcusably lame pun, but I’m cheesy enough that I just couldn’t pass it up.
Here’s the nitty-gritty of how LTL driving works.
Freight is picked up by many city drivers throughout the day. One local driver might deliver and pick up freight from 10 or more different customers each day. Some terminals have dozens of local drivers that are each doing that. They then bring it back to their local terminal where either they or a dock worker separates it and loads it onto outbound trailers.
Then the line-haul drivers like me come in and take it to it’s final destination or some point along the way toward it’s final destination. If a few pallets of freight needs to be kicked off (unloaded) at another terminal along the way, either the driver will do it or a dock worker will.
For instance, I might be pulling a trailer from Joplin that has freight going to Des Moines, Chicago, and Minneapolis (all north of Joplin). Des Moines is the place where this route splits. From there, some of it is staying in Iowa, some is going on north to Minneapolis, and the rest needs to get moving eastbound and down towards Chicago.
If there’s only a few pallets of Des Moines and Chicago freight, they may have me kick off that freight in Des Moines and keep on trucking up to Minnesota. But if most of the freight is staying in Des Moines, they will likely have me drop the trailer there and head somewhere else if I still have driving hours. As I’m moving on, the Des Moines dock workers are splitting that Chicago and Minneapolis freight onto the appropriate trailers, which will be picked up later by other line-haul drivers.
Sometimes this routing has already been planned in advance, but sometimes it’s a spur-of-the-moment decision based on what has come into Des Moines recently. Basically, it boils down to us line-haul drivers doing whatever dispatch tells us to do.
Okay, now that has been explained, let me issue a disclaimer:
My only experience working LTL is with this new job, so please keep in mind that I’m only speaking from my limited experience I’ve gained in the first month or so. Not all LTL carriers are alike, so please take my thoughts on this subject with a grain of salt and always do your own research before you make any job switch.
The job transition
I have to say that the job transition wasn’t as smooth as I’d hoped. Things just seemed confused throughout. When I asked why things were so messed up, I was told this company had just set up a new hiring process. Okay, I’ll give them that. But that still didn’t make it any easier.
For example, there was such a long interval between my initial drug screen and my start date, that I had to go back in to do another drug screen. Although I guess part of that falls on my old job still needing me to be out a minimum of two weeks.
Let me take a second here to give a shout out to my old employer. Since my new company had called them early on, they knew I was in the running for a new job. They routed me to headquarters where I sat down with my dispatcher and her boss. When they heard my perspective new job involved similar pay and considerably more home time, instead of coping an attitude, they wished me the best and told me I always had a job there if it didn’t work out. They also promised to work with me to get me home whenever I needed throughout the hiring process. They held up their promise until the end, so kudos to them.
On my first home time since I was found out, I did the drug screen and the physical fitness test, which I’m happy to say I passed with flying colors. Then I went back out for three more weeks while the new company processed the test results and scheduled my road test.
After the road test, I went back out for my final three weeks. I could’ve made it two weeks, but the new employer wasn’t in any particular rush and it just so happened The Evil Overlord was going to be traveling to the city where I needed to drop off my truck. How’s that for luck?
My first week on the job
Again, my first week started with confusion. I had been told to show up for work Monday night, March 4. I was told I’d be riding with a driver to St. Louis and back all week, but about two hours before I was scheduled to head out, I got a call saying that plans had changed and I’d now be riding with a guy to Kansas City and back every night for the first week.
The bad thing was that I was getting paid for all miles, whether I was driving or my mentor (trainer) was. St. Louis and back is 604 miles round trip, while KC and back is only 310. That’s a tad more than half the miles I was expecting. Yucky.
Even worse, the dispatcher called me back just an hour before I was due at work to warn me to wear warm clothes because I’d be working the outside dock for a couple of hours. Well, I didn’t have time to find my heavy coveralls, so I threw on some long johns and my coat, dug out my insulated boots, and scrambled to find some heavy gloves and a beanie.
We got to KC about 12:30 AM where it was a balmy 12 degrees with a wind chill of about 2 degrees. By the end of the two hours dock work, I couldn’t feel my feet. They thawed out about the time we got home three hours later.
I’m convinced that first night was the cause of the sickness that haunted me for the next three weeks. Not only was this wussy OTR trucker not accustomed to working in the cold every night, but I also wasn’t used to being around other people in tight quarters like our driver’s room. I found out later that all the other drivers at our terminal had been passing trucker cooties around for a while. And of course, I had shaken the hands of every single one of them the first night as I was introduced to everyone.
So there’s the first big difference I noticed between OTR trucking and LTL trucking; the trucker cooties.
As an OTR trucker, I didn’t talk to anyone face-to-face regularly. I was in my truck most of the day; a place where I came into contact with only my own cooties.
I think of my new situation kind of like a 3rd grade class. When one person gets sick, everyone gets sick. Even worse, think what it would be like if that 3rd grade class interacted every day with other 3rd graders from all across the USA. That’s what you’re dealing with in LTL.
We all touch the same computer keys to sign in and out. We handle the same pieces of paper to punch in/out on the time clock. We all hang out in a driver’s room while we wait on our loads. We handle a different handheld ELD each day that some other driver has probably been sneezing on without covering his mouth. We all cram into a shuttle van to go to the hotel every morning. And perhaps worst of all, we all share trucks where truckers are spreading their cooties over every surface they touch.
I mentioned in the last podcast, TD136: The emotions of changing truck driving jobs, that we have assigned trucks at my LTL job… sort of. Well, that was accurate. When we come back to work each night, we get the same truck. But that doesn’t mean it sits there unused all day.
When I’m in bed at the hotel, some city worker is usually driving it around to make deliveries. So what I’m saying is that if you want to be a millionaire when you retire, you should be buying lots of stock in Lysol disinfecting wipes, cuz I’m stocking up on ‘em big time.
Now I do realize that a lot of this trucker cootie stuff is true about OTR truckers too, but not to the same extent in my opinion. My OTR truck was mine. The only time anyone else was in it was for maintenance. I used my own writing pen whenever possible and I’m still going to do that. But I can’t wipe down every door handle to the driver’s room and shuttle van, nor can I put on rubber gloves to handle every log in/out sheet. Well I could, but people already think I’m weird as it is.
I’ve always had a strong immune system, but I think it’s just out of practice from 21 years of OTR trucking. So I’m guessing I’ll be suffering with more bouts of sickness until get my body gets used to fighting off trucker cooties again. Heck, I even got food poisoning in my first full week of solo driving with them. Not a fun trip. Let’s just say that my liquid assets were expeditiously exporting from all ports. Yeah.
Speaking of other drivers, that’s another thing that’s different between OTR and LTL driving; the driver relationships.
I worked for my former employer for a total of 13 years. I knew a handful of office employees and a few big wigs by name, but oddly enough, I can’t recall the first names of even two of my fellow company drivers. We were just rarely in the same place at the same time. Not so with LTL.
Since we’re all home over the weekend, most of us are coming back to work at the same time on Monday. Not only do drivers based in the same terminal chat in the driver’s room before we head out, but we also often talk on the phone.
I have truly never experienced a driving job like this. Never have I worked a job where so many drivers were willing to help each other. There is a lot to learn coming from OTR trucking to LTL trucking and it’s hard to keep it all straight in my tiny little Brussels sprout-sized brain. Good Lord, why would I use that horrific vegetable as an example? They taste like tiny little dirty cabbages! Yuck!
Here are just a few of the questions I’ve asked multiple times (hey – it’s a lot to take in!):
When can I claim layover pay and how do I figure it?
How much time do I claim for drop/hooking?
How do I make sure I get paid for breakdown?
What’s the best way to get your truck serviced without someone stealing your assigned truck?
Where do I park and check-in when I get to a terminal I’ve never been to?
Is that little state highway okay to run between these two terminals?
Where do I put this freight I was told to unload?
How do I get to the hotel; bobtail, taxi, or shuttle van (the answer of which depends on where and when you arrive)?
How does this job bidding thing work?
And what the heck is “notching” a driver?
Just to get it out of the way, let me try to explain notching to you. I think “notching” is a union thing, but it could also be non-union LTL for all I know. Remember my disclaimer.
With OTR, you’re often preplanned on loads, and that doesn’t always translate to first come, first served. But in LTL, the first driver to their destination gets the next best outbound load.
But the union is all about seniority too. That means it’s important that you don’t screw someone with more seniority by leaving earlier (notching) than they do if you’re both headed to the same place.
So for instance, I’m the low man at my home terminal until some poor sap is hired on behind me. So if the driver right above me and I are both heading to Nashville and we’re both set to depart at the same time, I need to make sure I don’t punch out (notch) and leave before he does. That puts him in a position to arrive first and get the better load back out.
Part of me thinks that sounds fair, but another side of brain says that if I’m eager enough to leave out a bit early, then I should be able to do that. But then again, the union has been doing it this way for years, and frankly, I value my kneecaps. 😉
But once we’re both out on the road, all bets are off. If he’s the type of driver that likes to stop and get coffee every couple of hours or pull off for an hour-long nap, then that’s his problem if I beat him to Nashville. You snooze, you lose, buddy.
So back to all my questions…
As you know, I’m a naturally-inquisitive guy, but even I’ve asked a heck-of-a-lot more questions than normal within the last month or so. God bless Ronnie (my mentor) for being willing to answer the constant barrage during my first week. I feel sorry for him, but he was a real trooper.
For the record, getting less miles (and money) in my first week and going with Ronnie to KC for dock work proved to be a lot more useful than riding back and forth to St. Louis for a turn-and-burn.
I got some experience on a forklift (it’d been about 25 years since I’d been on one), but more importantly I learned how to read the freight bills to figure out where freight was moving and how much of it there was.
I also got some basics on how to load such mismatched freight (no such thing as 22 pallets of identical freight in the LTL world) to reduce damage and maximize the space available. I still have a lot to learn in that department, but that one week of low-paying dock training gave me a leg up on other new drivers I’ve talked to.
Back to this driver relationship thing…
That first night at work, I got the phone numbers of four or five of our drivers and I’ve since added a handful more to my Contacts app. Everyone says to call if I have any questions. I have… many times. If I can’t reach one guy, there’s always another driver to call on. That’s largely because everyone is driving at night. I’ve even got phone numbers from guys who drive out of other terminals!
When I was driving back from orientation in Indianapolis (yes, I drove a truck to orientation the second week – first time that’s ever happened), I had to stop and kick off some freight in St. Louis before I could head home. This would be my first time doing it without Ronnie’s help.
I grabbed a forklift and headed out. I walked up to a guy on the dock and said, “Hey man, I’m new. I think I know what I’m doing, but I don’t know whether to put the freight on the dock or in one of the outbound trailers.” He just said, “You read the bills and I’ll move the freight.” Everywhere I’ve gone, I’ve always had drivers willing to help when I ask. Very cool.
Driving at night is another huge difference between OTR and LTL.
When I was an OTR driver, I did my share of overnight driving. That’s actually one of the things I like about OTR; the variety of driving hours. One day you’re up driving during daylight and the next night, you’re waking up at 10 PM to drive all night to deliver a load in the morning. Variety is the spice of life, right? Well, for some people it is and for some people it isn’t.
Seriously, if you’re a solar driver (can’t stay awake at night), LTL is NOT for you. Literally, 85-90% of our driving is in the dark. I typically start between 8-10 PM. If the miles are there and everything goes smoothly, I’m parked at the terminal and heading to the hotel by 8-10 AM, which is always my goal because you know this cheapskate wants a free breakfast. C’mon, you beautiful waffle maker!
Another major difference is preplanning.
For you newbies and non-truckers, preplans are just what they sound like. Before you’re finished with your current load, your dispatcher is already planning out your next load. As soon as they know for sure, they tell you so you can manage your hours of service better.
The best thing about preplanning is that you almost always knew what you’d be doing next. And the closer your home time got, the more important it seemed. Thanks to preplans, I could often give The Evil Overlord a rough estimate of when I’d be home two days before I got there. Not so with my LTL job.
Like I said earlier, my new company does everything on a first come, first served basis. Whoever gets to the delivery terminal first gets the best load back out. So obviously dispatch can’t preplan you because they never know who is going to show up first.
The only exception to this first come, first served rule is leaving out from home after the weekend off. In this scenario, the driver with the most seniority gets the best load (usually the longest mileage). That seems fair, right? But again, there are exceptions.
Some drivers have bid runs.
These are runs that are consistent enough to warrant the same person doing them every night. This can be great if you’re a top dog, but it can really backfire on you if you’re a lowly peon like me.
You see, there are good bids and there are bad bids.
That driver I was supposed to go with the first week has the #1 seniority spot at our terminal. His bid is St. Louis, drop/hook, and straight back every night. That’s over 3,000 miles per week in 5 days. If you could see me right now, I’m approximately the color of Shrek.
But there are bad bids too.
Right now, my favorite person in the whole wide world isn’t The Evil Overlord; it’s my mentor, Ronnie. I’m pretty sure he’s her favorite person too, and she hasn’t even met him yet! Why?
Because Ronnie chooses to do that Kansas City bid that only pays 1550 miles plus some dock time each week. He’s in his 60’s and he’s really only doing this job for the insurance and to keep active. Unlike me, he’s been smart with his money and doesn’t need more miles. He can usually even finish his run before he needs to take a stupid 30-minute break. And did I mention it’s only 5 days per week?
I actually kind of like that KC bid. It’s got a little bit of driving, a little bit of dock work, and lots of home time. If I was in Ronnie’s boat, I’d love to do that bid run. But I’m not in Ronnie’s boat; I’m in my crappy little dinghy with a leaky hull. If I was forced to do Ronnie’s bid, I honestly don’t think I could work here. I’d have to find another LTL job or go back to OTR. It’s just not enough money.
Sure, I would love to have a good bid and be back home every day, but I’m a long ways off from taking that #1 St. Louis bid due to my low seniority. Besides, all the good bids are taken. But there is one more bid that nobody wants and since I’m the low guy, it’s going to fall to me until we can get someone new hired.
This bid is Joplin to Memphis 3 times one week and twice the next on a continual loop. That’s only 380 miles per day and a lot of sitting at the hotel between loads. Great for the podcast; horrible for my wallet. Normally that would force me to find another job, but everyone tells me that I’ll be able to pick up additional runs to make it worth my while.
For instance, if I get to Memphis early enough and there is freight running to Nashville that they need to move, I could actually turn a 380 mile day into a 600+ mile day. Then I’d swing back through Memphis to get back on my bid run before heading back to Joplin. On my short week, I’ll be able to ask for extra freight on Friday night, but again, this is all dependent on having enough freight to keep us all busy.
You see, being the low man on the totem pole has another downside. If there is additional freight to run, those drivers with higher seniority get first dibs. If they don’t want it, it might fall down to me. In the busy time of the year, there’s enough freight for everyone. The slow time is a different story.
I can really only hope and pray my fellow drivers are right about this bid and these extra runs, because I like this job a lot and really don’t want to have to move on. I see the potential if I can get off this bid and back onto the open board (out all week and back on weekends) and I’m just praying for someone to come along who would enjoy lower miles and more home time. If you know anyone like that in Southwest Missouri, send them my way! Enough about that!
Not sleeping in the truck is another major difference between LTL and OTR.
Turns out, it’s not so bad. I’ve had a few rough times trying to sleep during daylight (usually due to have coffee and then getting shut down earlier than expected), but for the most part I’m snoring like a chainsaw. It’s great getting a shower every day too.
I am still getting used to the food. Most of the hotels have microwaves so I’m back to packing cans of soup again. And of course, there’s peanut butter. There’s allllllllways peanut butter.
No parking woes in LTL!
But just as I suspected, the best thing about LTL and day cabs is that I don’t have to find truck parking every day. The only thing I have to worry about is finding someplace to stop for my 30-minute break. And you’ll be happy to know that I haven’t gone all hypocrite on you and blocked the fuel bays. Can’t say that for some of my fellow drivers, but at least I haven’t stooped that low.
Perhaps the biggest difference I see between OTR and LTL is being paid for your time.
As an OTR driver, there is this common thought of “I’m only getting paid if the wheels are turning.” I accepted the fact that I didn’t get paid to fuel, drop/hook trailers, do pre-trip/post trip inspections, sweep a trailer, get a flat fixed, wait for a load to be ready or unloaded, or take a random drug test. It’s all just part of the job, right? I’ve said that to so many drivers in the past.
As an example, I didn’t get paid any detention time until 2013. That’s 16 years if you’re counting! When I finally did, it was only $12 per hour after one hour detention, with a daily cap of $75. I also used to get $75 layover pay or $75 breakdown, but only after 24 hours of continuous downtime.
LTL pays you for your time.
Again, disclaimer here. All LTL companies may not pay for your time, but mine sure does.
With LTL, I get paid for waiting, which is the way it should be. I do give them some time initially, but now I get paid a lot more per hour if I have to wait on a load. And there is no cap!
The other day, I made $100 before I even left the hotel room! I’m not saying that to brag. It’s just that I was being delayed because my load wasn’t ready yet. I was available and ready to go, so I should be getting paid, right? SO SHOULD OTR DRIVERS! But they’re not.
Guess what? For the first time in my career, I got paid for a tire blowout from the minute I called breakdown to the time I pulled out of the shop. Later that week another one blew out and I got paid hourly again. And for the record, this is a decent hourly wage.
In case you didn’t notice, everything I just mentioned involved getting paid for my time. I wasn’t working, but that wasn’t my choice, was it? I prefer to drive because I can make more money than sitting around with my thumb up my keister, but if someone is wasting my time while I’m out on the road, why shouldn’t we drivers get paid for that?
It’s something we OTR drivers have been disgruntled about for decades, but it never changed and likely never will until some drastic steps take place. All I can tell you is it’s amazing how less-stressed you are when you’re being paid fairly for your down time.
So it only stands to reason that I get paid for my work too, right? Yep.
I got paid for fueling for the first time in 21 years. I got paid for dropping and/or hooking a trailer. I got paid for working on the dock. I even get paid a minimum pay if I don’t get a set amount of miles each day.
How much of this is the union?
Now I’m honestly not sure how much of this has to do with LTL and how much it has to do with being a part of the union. After all, they were responsible for lots of labor laws that many people enjoy today.
Now please don’t think the Trucker Dump podcast/blog is going to turn into a platform to promote unions. That’s really not my goal. It’s just that I believe in giving credit where credit is due.
The last major difference I see between OTR and LTL is home time.
Honestly, I was a bit mislead about this. I was told I would be home Friday night or Saturday by noon, when in fact as an open board driver (before and hopefully after this Memphis bid) I’m usually pulling into my home terminal sometime Saturday evening or early AM on Sunday.
That still works for me because I’m still getting adequate home time. Our normal start time is Monday 8-10 PM so I’m still getting close to 48 hours off every weekend. I might get shorted a bit more during the busy season, but I’m kind of a hammer dog anyway so I’m going to take the freight when it’s there and smile all the way to the bank.
And speaking of banks, I’ve already deposited the biggest paycheck I’ve ever gotten in my 21 year career. And that’s with making 11 cents less per mile than my last job. This, my friends, is the power of getting paid for ALL the work you do, not just driving.
Again, not to brag… oh who am I kidding? I’m totally bragging!! LOL
For many years I’ve heard drivers talking up LTL trucking.
I’d always heard they made more money than the average OTR trucker, but I just never took it seriously. Why didn’t I ever take the time to see if there was any merit to it? Dunno.
Listen, I have never been one to tell another driver who to work for. I’ve said it as long as I’ve been blogging; I don’t know your situation and I don’t know what your priorities are, so I’m not going to recommend any particular trucking companies to you. Or types of trucking for that matter.
So if you’re happy with your OTR job, by all means keep it up. But if you’re fed up with not being paid for the work you do or the time you’re being forced to waste out on the road, then LTL driving might be for you.
If you can drive at night without careening off into a river and if you can handle putting in your dues on the bottom rung of the seniority ladder for a while, then I would highly recommend at least looking into an LTL job in your area. What can it hurt?
I can honestly say that I wish I’d made this move about 10 years ago. Then again, if this forced bid thing doesn’t work out for me, I may have to delete this post altogether and disavow any knowledge of it… which would really suck because this sucker took me about 10 hours to write. Yes… seriously.
Podcast show notes:
Well, there’s been a 2-month hiatus while I switched jobs, but it brought up a good main topic for today’s show; comparing OTR to LTL trucking.
We’ve got not one, but two good places to eat for the Trucker Grub segment.
Plenty of listener feedback too, including more information on the facial recognition system being used at the Canadian border, an audio comment with an oopsie from a driver (and one from myself), and of course I’m going to include some listener comments saying nice things about the podcast. Why wouldn’t I?
And obviously, there’s been lots of news over the past couple of months. I couldn’t hit everything, but it might seem like it. We cover the April 12 slow roll protest, more equipment recalls, and some past and upcoming safety blitzes.
Speaking of upcoming things, how about new Hours of Service, new emissions standards (oh boy), 18 year old interstate truckers, a drug & alcohol clearinghouse, and a couple of studies on ELD usage, truck parking, and the Eisenhower Tunnel in the Colorado mountains.
We also have some good news for diabetic truckers, an attorney’s advice on things you should do after accident, and imagine this; contradicting articles on the driver shortage issue. Who knew?
I haven’t felt this way since 1997. My emotions are all over the map more than the 18-wheeler I drive. Joy… Fear… Doubt… Anticipation… and perhaps most of all… Uncertainty.
What’s so significant about both 1997 and February 2019? Both are major shifts in my work history. 1997 was when The Evil Overlord (wife and ex co-driver) and I started driving a truck for a living. Not only was this a profound shift in the type of job I was doing, but it was also a major lifestyle change for us. And now I‘m facing that again as I’m getting ready to change truck driving jobs.
But wait; how is switching from one truck driving job to another trucking driving job such a big deal? For all I know, maybe it won’t be. That’s part of the uncertainty I was talking about.
Changing truck driving jobs is not a new thing for me.
While I’m not a job-hopper by any means, I’m also no stranger to switching trucking companies. I’ve worked for six different carriers over my 21-year career. Yes, I realize that’s not a lot, especially compared to how often truck drivers job-hop nowadays.
So what makes this current job change so different?
As I’ve mentioned before, The Evil Overlord and I were a team operation for nine years of my career. The entire time we pulled dry vans for large carriers. Now one might think that going from a team operation to a solo driver was a huge change, but I had no anxiety about that whatsoever.
First, an Over-The-Road (OTR) dry van driver job is an OTR dry van driver job. There are subtle differences, but not much.
Even more important was the fact that I knew my marriage to the evil wench was strong enough to survive being apart 3–4 weeks at a time. And proof of that is that I can call her an evil wench and not only am I still married, but I haven’t been murdered in my sleep yet… yet.
I also knew that the only thing that was really going to change about my job was that I would be sleeping a lot better in a truck that wasn’t bouncing down I-95.
Well that, and I wouldn’t have to listen to her nagging me to slow to a crawl on perfectly fine snow-covered roads. Even today if I’m on the phone with her and mention that it’s snowing, she tells me to slow down. She think she knows me so well. ? Hammer down!
The differences between my current job and the new one.
More home time
Less money (initially)
Type of runs
Kind of truck
Working for a union
I’ll explain more about each of these as I run through the list of emotions I’ve been going through. Everyone grab your mood rings and let’s get moving.
Jumping for joy
When I first saw this job advertised, I jumped for joy. It looked like it was the shining gold trophy job I’ve been waiting on for what seemed like an eternity. The job that would finally get me away from having to be away from home for two to four weeks at a time and even more importantly, do so without such a massive pay cut that I’d have to buy my clothes at rummage sales for the rest of my life.
Ultimately, my goal is to be home every night and this new company provides a transition to that eventually. But for now, this is a nice stop-gap. You see, I’ll still be out on the road all week, but I’ll be home every weekend. And this isn’t one of those “trucker weekends” that really means you’ll get home for 34 hours on a Tuesday.
Nope, this is home every Friday night or Saturday morning and I’ll leave back out again Sunday night or Monday morning. Naturally, there will be times when the weekend will be shorter, but for the most part I’ll get a full 48 hours or more off each weekend. Hallelujah!
For years, I’ve seen plenty of other jobs blip onto my radar screen, but none of them could even come close to matching this home time or the money I’m making as an OTR driver. Most of the more local jobs I’ve seen would’ve had me taking a 30-50% pay cut. Literally.
As I’ve mentioned here many times before, you almost always have to take a pay cut when you are home more often. I get that. And that’s why I waited patiently until an opportunity like this arose.￼
Then came the anticipation…
Like I said, I was very patient waiting for this job. From the time I called about it the first time to the time I was hired was probably about a year. I thought this was the right job, but jumping on it right away would destroy all our plans.
If you’re a regular Trucker Dump listener, you’ll know that The Evil Overlord is in school right now. Our plan has been for me to stay out here on the road long enough to get her through school… no matter how long it takes. Once she has a better paying job, then I’ll be able to quit driving OTR and take the inevitable pay cut to work local.
Well, this job is a slight pay cut the first year, so I waited. I called the guy who would be my local terminal manager every few months just to keep in touch. I asked a different set of questions each time and we chatted about the job and the job market in general. When would be the best time to apply? When is your busy time of the year? How does this “home every weekend” thing work in real life?
Every time the job came up in my email, I’d text The Evil Overlord; “The job is up again.” We’d talk about it, but each time we decided to stick with the original plan.
Finally, after months of talking to the terminal manager and learning more about the pay package from both him and some of their drivers, the job popped up again I sent the text message. This time she texted, “Go ahead and apply. If I have to, I’ll get a part-time job while I’m in school to make ends meet.”
The main reason we decided to make the jump earlier than expected is because this new company quoted a higher annual pay than I expected. It’s still a pay cut, but only a slight one for the first year.
According to them, in the second year I’ll get a mileage pay bump so I’ll be making the same money I am now. Even better, by year three I’ll be making more than I am now (not CPM, but overall)!
So you can see my joy had me jumping up and down like an Oprah audience member after she’s won a lifetime subscription to Oprah Magazine.
I filled out an online application on a Friday and got a text message on Monday requesting a phone interview. I set one for the following day.
Then the fear set in…
I think my fear set in the day I was officially offered the job. Up until then it had only been a dream and a hope that things would work out. But as soon as I was told the job was mine if I wanted it, my first thought was, “Oh, crap. What have I done?”
The Evil Overlord and I had made this plan and now we’re deviating from it. I know how much money I make at my current job. I only know what I’m told at this new company. Is my eagerness to spend more time at home getting the best of me?
Here’s where the doubt kicked in…
What if the pay wasn’t as much as they claimed? They wouldn’t be the first trucking company in history to exaggerate their pay package, now would they? Could The Evil Overlord and I cinch up our money belts and make it work if the pay wasn’t as much as advertised?
Believe me, I’ve done my due diligence. I better have, since as @Mark in the Trucker Dump Slack Group said, “you actually wrote the book” on the subject (How to Find a Great Truck Driving Job). I’ve talked to the terminal manager for a total of 2.5-3 hours over the course of three or four phone calls. I’ve talked to eight of their drivers at length. And I spoke with a recruiter for another 45 minutes during the job interview and the road tester for another 30 minutes.
They all backed up the advertised pay amount. I would expect that from the terminal manager and the recruiter, but the drivers backed it up too. Every driver I spoke with said I could actually make more than the stated amount in my first year if I was any kind of decent driver. And I like to think I am or else they wouldn’t have hired me, right?
Even better, every driver I talked to said it was the best job they’d ever had! They’d made more money and had more home time than any other driving job in their past! Sweet!
Now naturally, I was waiting for every one of them to give me their name so I would list them as a referral, but not one did. I suppose that could be because they might not get referral bonus pay? I don’t know. Either way, they weren’t blowing diesel smoke up my caboose just to earn some extra cash; so that was comforting.
Now I can hear some of you saying, “Hey, you just said you wrote the book on How to Find a Great Truck Driving Job. You even brag about your full list of questions offered in the book. How could you not know if they paid for driver referrals after speaking with them so much?!”
As I’ve said all along about the Trucking Company Questionnaire (which you’ll find in How to Find a Great Truck Driving Job or here separately); you don’t have to ask every question on the list; you only have to ask about the things you care about. I’ve never recruited a driver before so whether they have driver referral pay or not is inconsequential to me. So there, smarty pants.
The fact is, everyone knows when you go through a job change that things can get tight financially as you get comfortable with the new job. The first week usually pays less while you’re going through orientation and training. Then your first week out by yourself you’re often about efficient as a snowplow on a Smart car.
So my biggest fear comes from the financial side of it. Unsurprising, since you all know I’m always in the running for the National Cheapskate of the Month Award. Hard to believe I haven’t won yet. Oh well, just being nominated is an honor.
So back to my doubt…
If I did the research on sites like PayScale.com and talked to multiple drivers, a recruiter, and a manager, then why the doubt? Because I’m leaving a known quantity for an unknown one.
As you’ve heard/read throughout the years here on the Trucker Dump podcast/blog, I know my current company inside and out. I know the things I hate. I know the things I love. I know how their freight runs and where I might be able to find that nearly extinct species known as an empty trailer.
I know every detail of their pay package and how much I’m going to make each year. I understand how the safety department will react to a log infraction. Basically, I know how the system works and I know how to use it to my advantage. I know the world of an OTR dry van trucker.
It’s like I had everything written down on a huge, black chalkboard and then this new job walked up with a big eraser and left nothing behind except smears of chalk dust. Wow. I really dated myself with that metaphor.
What’s so different about this Less-Than-Truckload (LTL) job? Why all the doubt and fear?
The biggest difference I’m facing is that I’ve always driven over the road and my new job is LTL. This means that the freight lanes will be different since I’ll be running primarily between their terminals. But how do they manage to get their drivers home every weekend without shorting us on miles?
Every time I’ve headed home in the last 21 years, I’ve always known I was going to have a bad paycheck coming out from the house. This LTL company has been operating like this for years, so I’m sure they know what they’re doing. But I don’t! And that causes doubt.
I also know I’ll be making significantly less money per mile, but supposedly I’ll only make slightly less money overall the first year because I’ll also be paid hourly for all On-Duty time. Other than detention pay after one hour at a shipper/receiver, I’ve never dealt with hourly pay within the trucking industry.
How does it work? How do they track the time? What counts as On-Duty time? How do we track it to keep them honest? Again, I’m sure they know what they’re doing and I’ll know soon enough. But until then, I’m clueless. And being clueless causes lots of fear and doubt in this dude. Especially after working in a job for so long where you are totally comfortable and totally in-the-know. Totally.
Another big unknown is working for a union.
The only other time I’ve had a union job was in my late 20’s when I loaded trucks part-time for UPS. Talk about a difficult job! Kudos to everyone who does it. It’s super-fast paced and there’s no room for error, (which they will purposely test you for quality assurance purposes). Hey! It’s only one digit off in the zip code! It’ll get there eventually!
Back then, I didn’t much like the union. I had to pay a union fee every week for no visual benefit. It didn’t help that my paychecks were so small already, which made the union dues a healthy percentage of my gross pay. Grrrr.
But now it’s different. I still have to pay union dues, but now I can see the benefits in the form of company-paid health insurance. Yes, you heard that right. Also, I can see that the union negotiated to get us paid for On-Duty work. How many other carriers are doing that?
All-in-all, this health insurance is one of the reasons why I can afford to make this jump earlier than expected, because the union dues I’ll be paying are about $100 less per week than what I’m currently paying for health insurance. That makes up over $5000 in pay differential right there!
Yet still, I’m leery. Can the union be all it’s cracked up to be? Am I comfortable letting a group of people I’ll probably never meet make career decisions for me? What’s up with this process of bidding for jobs? What if they call for a strike? That’s some real fear stuff right there, folks.
Another fear I have is the equipment.
One of the questions I asked every driver I talked to was, “What is the worst thing about this job?” Without hesitation, every last one replied, “Crappy equipment.” Great. Unanimously crappy equipment.
This is another major fear. My current company prides itself on it’s fleet. Most of the trucks are less than 3 years old and both tractors and trailers are well-maintained. Y’all have heard me belly ache, whine, and moan when I have to sit in an inspection bay line for two hours or take the truck in for a lube job every 2-3 weeks and an oil change every month or so. It’s a pain in my arse and a “waste” of my working hours.
But it’s also the reason I’m rarely broken down on the shoulder of an interstate or limping to the tire shop with a flat tire. It’s also why the weigh stations don’t look twice at me, unless of course a DOT officer needs an easy inspection at the end of their shift (yes, this has happened to me twice).
So now I’m going to be driving older equipment that is clearly not as well-maintained as I’m accustomed. Their drivers all say it’s not as bad as it sounds because they get paid a good hourly On-Duty wage, which starts the second they call in the breakdown.
But in the realm of doubt, I’d like to note that two (count ‘em – TWO) of the eight drivers I’ve spoken to were broken down at the time. To be fair, neither of them seemed even remotely pissed or stressed by their situation. So maybe there is something to that hourly breakdown pay? Heck, at my current company I don’t get breakdown pay unless I’m shut down for 24 hours. 22 hours down? Sorry, that doesn’t qualify. Ugh.
Another thing about the equipment is it’s a day cab (a truck without a bunk area behind the driver’s seat), and I may be driving multiple trucks. From what I’ve gathered, they’ll try to leave you in the same truck, but if it breaks down or someone else needs it while you’re at home, that sucker will vanish like Siegfried & Roy threw a shiny red curtain over it. Seriously, the driver who gave me my road test told me to always clean everything out of the truck on the weekends. He stressed the word always. So that’s going to suck.
That might also mean that I’m having to drive trucks that smell like cigarette smoke. Now in the past, I’ve always fought hard and long to get a smoke-free truck. I didn’t stop badgering them until I got one. I know I’ve talked about that on the podcast before.
While I’m still going to pursue the cleanest, smoke-free truck I can get, I’m not going to get all anal about it this time. My big argument has always been that I don’t want to live in a smoky environment, which is what I’m doing in a sleeper cab. You’re huffing those third-hand smoke cancer fumes 24/7 for weeks at a time. Not so in a day cab. Yes, I’ll still be driving it for 11 hours per day, but I won’t have to sleep in it throughout the week.
And that leads me to another doubt… I’ll be sleeping in hotel rooms every night.
First, let me just say that I don’t understand the economics behind this decision. Yes, these day cabs are stripped down like Will Ferrell in every movie he’s ever made, but are they saving so much money not buying sleeper cabs that they can afford to pay for thousands of drivers to stay in hotels every night? Granted, we’re not staying at the Marriott or anything, but still… But I digress.
The hotel room does have me freaked out though. At first I though it sounded awesome. I’ll get a shower every day and I’ll never have to worry about finding truck parking again. Those are two BIG positives.
But then I realized that I’ve never really slept all that great in hotels. Will I get accustomed to it? Honestly, I’m going to miss the bunk in my sleeper. Heck, I spend more nights in it than I do in my King-sized pillow top at home. Not to mention that lots of milestones in my life have happened in the sleeper of my trucks; mainly both of my books and this podcast.
But the day cab causes other issues too. First, I’m used to having everything I’ll ever need with me. My beloved freezer will have to stay at home because I refuse to leave a $600 fridge inside the truck every night, nor are day cabs designed to accommodate that.
And because I’m lazy and the thing weighs a ton, I’m not going to lug it inside every day either. Nor will I have my microwave oven. Maybe the hotel will have one; maybe not. Again, I’m uncertain so I’m fearful.
Right now I’ve got extra winter supplies, two pair of shoes and a pair of boots, all my audio gear, my drone, extra clothes and bedding, and my own pillows. Everything has it’s place.
No more. I’ll be going the minimalist route from now on. My goal is to fit everything into one bag; food, clothes, and electronics. We’ll see how that goes. Stay tuned.
Basically, as I’m spending my last few days inside this big truck, every time I stand up and walk into the bunk, I now think to myself, “Enjoy it while you can, bucko. Before too long you won’t even be able to stand up inside your truck, let alone take a few steps and fall into bed.”
So basically, this all this comes down fear, doubt, and uncertainty caused by the unknown; mixed in with anticipation of learning something new and having the joy of being home every weekend.
Who knows? Maybe everything will be exactly as it was presented to me. Maybe it won’t live up to hype. Even then, maybe it’ll still be a great job for me. Worst case scenario, my current bosses say they’ll be glad to rehire me if things don’t work out. You know, It’s always good to have a safety net when you’re taking a leap, so there is that to be thankful for.
In the end, I just have to trust that I’ve done everything I can to make a wise decision and then rear back and make that jump into the unknown. Christopher Columbus wasn’t afraid to jump and I shouldn’t be either. After all, we do have that first name in common. Well, that and we both look sexy in tights.
One thing’s for certain, I better put on my big boy tights and get ready to jump quick because my last day with this company is Friday and I’ll be starting the new job on March 4. So I guess there’s just one word left to say…
Podcast show notes:
Man, we’ve got a colossal show today, headlined by me sharing the emotional rollercoaster I’ve been on lately as I prepare to change truck driving jobs.
But before that, we’ve got interesting stuff like Dustin’s Trucker Grub segment on some good BBQ and some long lost listener feedback from Keith, who talks about hourly pay and has a military analogy to truck training, Scot has comments on the podcast and a question about driver suicide, and Mark sent in a audio clip about why there’s so much confrontation between drivers.
But of course, we’ll start out with a bajillion news stories regarding such things as truck idling regulations, concealed carry in a truck, speed limit changes, updates on the truck parking situation, and what changes our benevolent regulators would like to focus on within the trucking industry.
And speaking of things that don’t work, we’ll also be discussing electric truck technologies, truck tolls, autonomous trucks, 1099 drivers, and trucker protests.
And to round out the news and bring it all back around to emotions, we have two stories, one of lost love and money and the other on found satisfaction in mentoring others. And of course, I’ll be announcing the winner of the Trucker Dump tee shirt for filling out the Listener Survey.
Recruiters have an especially bad rap within the trucking community. Most truck drivers think all recruiters are big fat liars with flaming pants. But what if that wasn’t always the case? Today I’m going to give you a different spin on this line of thinking.
This post is an excerpt (actually an entire chapter) from my book, How to Find a Great Truck Driving Job. Now I don’t want to turn this into a promo for the book, but it seems as pointless as a cock-fight with furry little ducklings to not reuse something I’ve already written. So let’s get on with it.
An old joke: How can you tell if a lawyer is lying? His lips are moving.
You could replace the word “lawyer” with many occupations. With the 2016 presidential election fresh in our minds, naturally politicians come to mind. But for the purposes of truckers, “recruiters” would fit the bill. But do they deserve that reputation? Let’s discuss that and more.
Recruiters are the gatekeepers of trucking companies.
They are the people who are responsible for “recruiting” drivers to work for their company. As a driver, if you have an interest in working for a particular company, you’ll probably call an 800 number and talk to a recruiter.
After talking to many different recruiters from different companies, you’ll narrow down your choices. Once you make your decision, your recruiter is the person that will guide you through the rest of the hiring process. Unfortunately, you may never meet your recruiter face-to-face.
Larger trucking companies usually have to hire from all over the United States to get enough drivers to fill their trucks. That’s just the nature of the beast.
Unfortunately, that means that most of the hiring is done over the phone. And it’s a lot easier for someone to lie to you over the phone than it is to your face. That certainly explains why that varsity cheerleader always had plans when you called to ask her out on a date. So however unlikely it is, if you can talk face-to-face, by all means do so.
Before we go any further, let me clarify where my job-hunting experience lies.
I have never worked for a small company (1000 trucks or less) and probably never will. I have my reasons, which I discuss in detail in Trucking Life, but for now let’s talk about my experience with recruiters for smaller companies.
I openly admit that I haven’t dealt with very many. Of those that I have, I have mixed feelings. Being a smaller company tends to promote an “I’m your buddy” type of attitude,but I’ve talked to some really nice guys and gals that I didn’t entirely trust.
One particular recruiter was super nice on the phone. As fate would have it, I found myself stranded without a load in their town one day and I went to talk with him face-to-face.
I still thought he was a nice guy as he gave me the tour and introduced me to everyone in the office, which consisted of five whole people. All of them were ultra-friendly and I started to get an “at home” kind of feeling.
Then I was introduced to the owner himself, who was also very nice. I’m telling you, there was so much niceness in that building, it could almost make a man want to puke up his McGriddles. I talked with him for about two hours and was feeling so good about the whole ordeal that I filled out an application and did a pre-employment drug screen right there on the spot.
He suggested that I stick around and talk to some of the drivers after-hours, so I did. He was a moron for suggesting that, but man I’m glad he did. I found out that once you were an employee, the owner transformed into a controlling, tightwad-of-a-jerk with slave master tendencies.
Despite this, the drivers were generally happy with their jobs because of the money they were making. When I related all the information I had been told by the owner and recruiter, they gave me a knowing smile and said, “Yea, sure. We heard all that too.”
What neither the owner or the recruiter bothered to tell me was how I was going to have to run illegal log books nearly every day and get very little sleep just to get the job done and make all that money. No thanks. The money was good, but not that good. And trust me when I say that I need my beauty sleep.
So you can see that niceness can be very misleading. That’s not to say that large company recruiters can’t kill you with kindness also. They can, and sometimes do. So beware either way.
And when possible, you should always compare what the recruiters say to what the drivers are saying. I give you some tips on getting information from drivers in Trucking Life if you need some help with that.
Now that I’ve sat here and told you that “recruiters” are synonymous with “liars,” let me clarify that a bit.
Among truckers, recruiters certainly have a reputation for lying, but in my experience that’s not entirely true. Sure, I’ve run into a handful of bald-faced liars over the years, but by-and-large I’m convinced that most recruiters get a bad rap because of a simple lack of communication between the driver and the recruiter.
For instance, most recruiters have a list of things that they’re supposed to discuss with drivers,but drivers don’t usually bother making up their own list of questions to ask the recruiter. Ta-dahhhh! Now you’ve got a list! Well you should have by now anyway. I’ve only linked to it about 457 times already. If not, download the questionnaire now!
You’ve got to remember that when you’re speaking with a recruiter, it’sbasically a substitution for the typical job interview.
Most people think of a job interview as a one-sided affair; where an interviewer asks all the questions while you sit and dutifully answer them. I beg to differ.
I once took a career class where the teacher told me that a job interview should be a two-way street. In other words, you should ask your share of questions too. You can’t expect them to anticipate your every question.You’ve got to be prepared to ask the questions that they haven’t covered. As a matter of fact, maybe there’s a reason they aren’t covering certain topics.
Here’s a classic example of this:The Evil Overlord and I had gone through the entire recruiting process at a trucking company, attended orientation, and started team driving for them. Everything was going well until the first time a holiday rolled around and we didn’t get paid for it, even though we had worked on that particular day. After a quick call to the payroll department, we learned that this particular company didn’t even have holiday pay. No wonder our paychecks were light!
You see, we had always received holiday pay from our previous employers and had just assumed that this company would pay it also. If you’ve ever seen the movie The Long Kiss Goodnight, you know what Samuel L. Jackson’s character says about making assumptions. You make an “ass” out of “u” and “mption.”
Think the recruiter lied to me? Well, I hadn’t asked about holiday pay and they hadn’t bothered to mention it. Does that make them a liar? I don’t think so. Look at it this way.
Say I’m trying to sell a 4X4 Jeep. When a buyer approaches me, do I start out by telling him about all its flaws? “Dude. This thing is awesome. I’ve mowed down some trees with this thing! And I can tell ya it’s been through its fair share of mud pits in its day too! But look! There’s hardly any rust on it yet! I’m kinda surprised it’s still got plenty of power, considering all the miles it’s got on it and all the abuse I’ve put it through! And I only got it stuck in the river once.”Good luck selling it like that.
Likewise, a recruiter is not going to brag about the company’s flaws. I can hear it now. “Our pay is on par with the rest of the industry, but we don’t pay holiday pay like some companies do. Oh, and by the way, like most other trucking companies, we don’t pay you for every mile you run either. And did I mention that those bonuses I told you about are completely unattainable?”Why would they focus on their negatives? Now all of these things may be true,but they aren’t going to tell you about it. . . unless you ask.
Like I said, it’s partly the interviewee’s responsibility to ask the right questions. Getting back to our Jeep scenario, if the buyer asks me if it’s been used off-road much, I’m obligated to tell the truth. If I lie and the buyer later finds out, I can be held liable.
The same goes with your recruiter. If you ask them if the company has holiday pay, they’re obligated to tell you. If they tell you that you’ll be paid for holidays, then later you find out you were lied to, then you’ve got good reason to complain.
Also, asking the right questions puts you in the best position to make a wise decision. If you were the buyer in that Jeep scenario, you’d want to take the Jeep to your mechanic so you can get as much information as possible. That way you can make an educated decision as to whether you still want to buy it. If you know what’s wrong with it, you’re likely to get a better deal on it, too.
Here again, if you ask your recruiter all the right questions, you can decide if that particular company is going to be a good fit for you or not. If it’s not, keep looking. There are gobs of trucking jobs to choose from. Gobs… Good Lord. Am I a vocabulary giant or what?
All recruiters are not created equal.
There’s no doubt; if recruiters had Pinocchio noses, some of them could be hands-free pole-vaulting champions. Unfortunately, it’s really hard to tell whether someone is lying over the phone. Other times, you get a prickly feeling in your ear. Watch out! It’s that nose coming through the phone line!
Want the first step to figuring out if your recruiter might be tempted to lie to you?
Find out what is motivating them by asking one simple question: “Are you paid by commission?” Sure, they might think you’re rude, but you have the right to know what is motivating them. And if you word this question correctly, they won’t be able to get offended.
Here’s how: When you pop the question, just immediately tell them that you want to make sure they get paid for talking to you. If they work on salary, they won’t care either way. If they’re on commission, it will look good that you want to make sure that they’re getting paid for helping you.
Keep in mind that this only applies if the recruiter is actually being helpful. If they aren’t, call back at another time and hope you get a different person. If you get the same person again, ask for someone else or call back until you get a different one. Most of the larger carriers have more than one recruiter, so you’ll get lucky eventually. You may be screwed if it’s a small company though.
Either way, the recruiter knows what you are hinting at: that salaried employees are more likely to be honest than those paid by commission. But at least you’ve said it nicely!
Is it true? Are commission-based recruiters more likely to lie?
Common sense tells me yes, but I have absolutely no solid proof to support that statement. What I do have is tons of phone time with recruiters.“How so? You’ve only worked for six companies.” Yes, but just because I’ve only worked for six different trucking companies doesn’t mean that I’ve only talked to six recruiters. For each job search, I talked to dozens of recruiters in the process of finding the best job available at the time.
Generally, what I’ve discovered is that salaried recruiters tend to be more forthright about their company.
They still aren’t going to actively promote the negative aspects of their company, but they tend to be less eager than their commissioned counterparts. I’ve gotten some surprisingly truthful responses to some tough questions from salaried recruiters.
For example, I asked one salaried recruiter if he had heard what the drivers’ biggest complaints were about the company. He actually told me that he had heard a lot of complaining about a particular division within the company and he suggested I avoid it at all costs.
When I told him I was a little surprised he would tell me that, he said, “I’ve got no reason to lie. I get paid whether you come to work for us or not. Besides, if I’m dishonest you’ll call me out on it later, so why lie?” So,maybe I do have some proof for my accusation.
And that’s my point. Salaried recruiters have less reason to lie. They get paid no matter what. Commissioned recruiters, however, only get paid if they “make the sale,” so their motivation factor is high.
Another thing I’ve noticed is that salaried recruiters tend to be better informed than those paid on commission.
That’s not to say that they’re smarter, it’s just that there seems to be a higher turnover rate on commissioned recruiters. That’s just common sense. The less time spent on a job, the less you know about it.
For example, I have one large national trucking company (a former employer) that calls me every now and then to ask if I’m ready to come back. This particular company not only puts their recruiters on commission, but they’re independent contractors to boot.
What this means is that nearly every time I get a call from them, I’m speaking to a different person. When I tell them that I’ve been talking to Recruiter X, they usually say, “Recruiter X is no longer with the company. I’ve taken over her list of drivers.”What’s worse, sometimes the pay rates and other quoted information are completely different from what the last recruiter said.
This can cause countless problems. I tell a story in Trucking Life about how a bunch of drivers in our orientation group were told by their recruiters that they would be making 38 cents per mile. Once in class, they were surprised when the class instructor told them they had been misinformed and they’d actually be making less money per mile than what their recruiters had quoted them.
Later on, we found out that most of them had different recruiters, which meant that there had been a major miscommunication somewhere along the line. Does that mean that those drivers were lied to? In this case it sounded like the recruiters were simply misinformed, not forked-tongue liars.
On the other hand, when The Evil Overlord left me as a solo driver, I went looking for a more solo-friendly company. I’ve already mentioned how much we liked the first company we ever worked for.
Even way back then, they were better suited for solo drivers than for their teams, which you may recall prompted us to leave for more pay with a team-oriented company. So,when I became a solo driver, that company immediately came to mind.
I called them again and guess who answered? No, it wasn’t the recruiter that hired us in 1997 (that would be too good of a story), but it was a guy we had met way back then. This was 2005, so eight years later, this (salaried) guy was still working as a recruiter for the same company.
And let me tell you, this guy had an answer for everything I tossed at him. It didn’t work out for me in the end, but it does illustrate how salary can equal longevity and superior knowledge when it comes to recruiters.
One last word on recruiters: If it sounds too good to be true. . .
A good indicator of an honest recruiter is a willingness to tell you that their company isn’t perfect. Then again, they know this. So maybe it’s a tactic. Until we can equip all recruiters with Pinocchio noses and videophones, you’re going to have to depend largely on your instincts. And that tickle in your ear. Good luck!
So let’s find your perfect job!
Okay, I admit it. There is no such thing as a perfect job. If you find one, let me know. Did you notice the title of this book? It’s How to Find a Great Truck Driving Job. Notice it says a greatjob, not a perfectjob.
It is said in trucking that your goal is to “Find a recruiter whose lies suit you best.” I’ve addressed the whole “lying recruiter” thing, but that mantra could also say, “Your goal is to find a company whose negatives you can live with.”Or perhaps more bluntly, “Find a company that you don’t completely hate.”
Your goal is not to find a perfect job. It doesn’t exist. I’ll bet even taste testers for Ben & Jerry’s complain about brain freezes. And those poor Victoria’s Secret photographers probably whine about sand getting everywhere on a beach bikini shoot.
Your duty is to find the best truck driving job that you can for what you want out of the job. Keep this in mind as you talk to recruiters, fill out the questionnaires, and compare trucking companies.
That’s the end of the chapter. So I know there has to be someone (probably many) who still think all recruiters and filthy lowlifes. Please share your bad (or good) experiences that are guiding these feelings. Leave a comment below or email me at TruckerDump@gmail.com.
Podcast show notes:
In today’s main topic, we discuss whether trucking recruiters are friend or foe? My views on the subject might surprise you.
But before that we’ve a tribute to a friend, a couple of funny videos, and DriverChrisMc will point you to some good Mexican food in the Trucker Grub segment.
We’ll discuss fancy pants new trucks from Volvo and Freightliner and what’s this about a truck with no mirrors?
Lots of other topics including trucker fatalities stats, a truck parking update, facial recognition for truckers, and a major construction warning in the south.
And of course, we’ll talk about the trucker who got beaten by security guards and we’ll talk about what qualifies as “adverse weather conditions” when it comes to log books.
We’ll also look at some length-of-haul stats and what that means, and we’re going to figure out if it’s true that truckers are considered unskilled labor.
In the feedback section, David will clarify something from the last podcast about hourly pay, BSHarlan1971 leaves an iTunes review, and screaminbob weighs in on the Weight My Truck app (see what I did there) and the Trucker Path app that we talked about in the last podcast.
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: trucker dump.
Volvo Trucks– Check out the new VNL series and all it’s awesome features.
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. Download the intro/outro songs for free! courtesy of Walking On Einstein.
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.
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.
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.
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? ?
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.
The title of this article specifically mentions bad truckers because well, this is a trucking blog ya know. But it’s really something even non-truckers need to think about.
We all see people doing stupid, rude, selfish, or just plain thoughtless things. For you non-truckers, it might be someone cutting in front of you at the grocery store checkout line or a neighbor who lets his St. Bernard do it’s squats in your yard. For truckers, it’s drivers who take a 30-minute break while sitting beside a fuel pump or one who pours out a gallon of piss in the parking lot right where another trucker is going to be walking soon.
So the question is, what should we do about this? Do we ignore it or do we confront these bad truckers?
Personally, I am one of the most non-confrontational people you’ll ever meet. When The Evil Overlord (wife and ex co-driver) is itching for a good argument, she often gets even more frustrated because it’s hard to get a rise out of me. Yet when I encounter another trucker doing something stupid, I often feel compelled to go straighten them out.
Who’s a naughty driver?
A couple months back, my friend and fellow Trucker Dump Slack member Aaron, was at one of his company terminals when he noticed that a lease driver had pulled into the fuel bay backwards. He approached the driver to let him know and this guy immediately got bent out of shape and starting trying to pick a fight. Thankfully, Aaron just walked away. A couple months down the road, Aaron ran into Mr. Fisticuffs again, only this time the guy actually tried to recruit him to drive one of his leased trucks! Is this dude schizophrenic, or what?
Almost every day I see someone on Facebook or Twitter talking about some bad trucker sitting in a fuel bay for what appears to be a mandatory 30-minute break. Man, I hope the FMCSA gets rid of this rule soon. The two instances I remember the most were at the Love’s in Toms Brook, Virginia and at the Flying J in Waco, Texas. Both times I was fueling right next to a driver who was sitting in the driver’s seat reading. And both times neither was fueling when I pulled up and they still hadn’t budged as I pulled away.
At least there wasn’t anyone behind the driver in Virginia, but all of the other fuel bays were full, therefore the next trucker that pulled in was going to be waiting to fuel. Uncool. The driver in Waco was really screwing things up though. Trucks were two deep waiting on a fuel bay and this guy just did not care. This latter instance took place in the afternoon, so there were parking places available out in the parking lot. I guess this worthless excuse of a trucker felt it was too inconvenient. Bless his heart.
It’s times like these that even mild-mannered dudes like myself want to say something. If only I were Clark Kent. He’s as mild-mannered as they get, but if I could just step into my truck, into my leotards, and take off my glasses, I’d go pick up the guy’s rig and walk it over to a parking spot. I might even set it down just a tad bit too hard… accidentally of course. But since I don’t possess super-human strength (let alone own any leotards), I settled for stopping to look up at him a few times with a look of disgust. Unsurprisingly, he was too busy reading his magazine to notice me. Ultimately, I kept my mouth shut and did my job. All I can say is that he better be glad bad thoughts can’t make someone crap their drawers. Dang it! I want super-powers!
Now I’m not going to go into detail as to why parking in the fuel bay is so annoying. Truckers already know, but for you non-truckers you can go check out TD107: The Fuel Bay Golden Rule. http://abouttruckdriving.com/2015/04/26/td107-the-fuel-bay-golden-rule/. Suffice it to say, it really gums things up.
The real pisser
I got annoyed again recently while at the Flying J in Albuquerque, New Mexico for a 34-hour break. I was sitting on my bunk looking out the windshield when I saw a Styline Logistics driver stand on his top running board and pour out what appeared to be about 1/2 gallon of piss. He poured it right on the pavement where the next driver was going to step out. And in total view of all the truckers in the vicinity. To make things even more unexcusable, there was a grassy area about 100 feet from his dump site and a trash can was even closer.
Again, my first reaction was to approach him and give him a stern lecture about how disrespectful that is to other drivers. Instead I waited until he left and walked over to verify it was in fact human whiz (one whiff told me it was). Once verified, I promptly Googled his company and called to report him. I only got a voice mail, so I honestly don’t know if anyone confronted him about it. I would hope so. I can’t imagine any trucking company being happy about one of their drivers doing anything like this. It certainly doesn’t reflect well on them.
The line cutter
Just a few weeks ago, I had yet another incident. I was waiting for the CAT scale to clear at the Flying J in Pontoon Beach, Illinois. For any of you drivers familiar while the place, you’ll know that if you pull right up behind the driver on the scale, you’re effectively blocking the exit path for any drivers trying to leave the fuel area. I’m a considerate dude, so I was hanging back a bit.
Just as the trucker was pulling off the scale, another truck comes flying in front of me and drives onto the scale! Well there was no stopping me this time. I got on the CB, but of course there was no response. So I jump out of the truck and go storming up to the guy who is now standing on his running board talking to the cashier.
With my arms outstretched I yell (and I do mean yell), “Dude, what the heck!” (yes, seriously – I didn’t curse even then – very proud of myself) He looks at me with utter bewilderment, but I continue, “I was waiting in line and you just butt right in front of me.” He immediately apologizes and said he didn’t see me. Well, I guess that’s possible if you’re a bad trucker who isn’t paying attention to his surroundings.
Why do we feel the need to correct others?
I will be the first to admit that the less noble side of me wants to correct these people just so I can make them feel like the selfish pigs they are. Mission accomplished in this case. But another part of me wants to scold them simply because it makes me mad; almost as mad as The Evil Overlord gets when I leave the hallway light on for no apparent reason… for the third time in 15 minutes. Again, successful in this situation. I felt vindicated after my outburst, even though it didn’t better my situation in the least.
But my deeper reason for wanting to correct these bad truckers is that I just want the trucking industry to be a better place to work for everyone. Basically, I want to shame them into doing the right thing.
Bad truckers aren’t helping with the driver shortage
Trucking companies are already having enough problems keeping their trucks full. A bunch of jerk face drivers with “me first“ attitudes are not going to help things any. Most of what keeps newcomers away from truck driving is simply being away from home, family, and friends. If it weren’t for that, I’m sure these carriers wouldn’t have such a hard time keeping some enormous trucker butts in their seats.
But let’s say the trucking companies could figure this out and provide a way for drivers to get home more often. Even then, why would an outsider want to come into an industry where so many drivers are disrespecting their fellow truckers? And even if they are naïve enough to enter the industry without knowing what it’s truly like, how long do we expect them to stick around if these bad truckers keep making their job more frustrating than it has to be? We already know that there is a huge portion of new truckers who don’t make it past the six-month mark. Hey, let’s give them yet another reason to abandon the industry! ?
Should we call out bad truckers?
Okay. Now that we’ve discussed the satisfaction we sometimes feel after jumping down someone’s esophagus, let’s ponder whether we should be calling out these bad truckers.
Despite the fact that I just did this a couple of weeks ago myself, I’m thinking I should stop confronting these people. Even though it’s very rare when I do lose my cool, I should still get my emotions in check and not confront the driver.
Here’s the problem. People are freaking crazy nowadays. You just never know how they’re going to take your correction.
I’m sure most of you heard about the shooting incident at the Pilot in Walton, Kentucky, when one driver cut in front of a truck that was waiting for the next available fuel bay. The offended driver approached the bad trucker and words were exchanged. The bad trucker then shot the guy in the arm and proceeded to turn the gun on himself in a successful suicide. Now if you change the words “fuel pump” to “CAT scale,” that could’ve been me getting shot at.
Another shooting incident took place at the Love’s in Jackson, Georgia. Apparently a truck had been sitting in a fuel bay for a long time. The waiting driver got impatient and approached the other driver. Naturally an argument resumed. The waiting driver returned to his truck and brandished a gun. Apparently he was unaware that the other driver was packing too, because at this point, the jerk in the fuel bay opened fire. Luckily, the driver survived the shooting and the shooter was released after it was determined to be self-defense.
Okay. So this time we’re dealing with two bad truckers. One was unnecessarily blocking a fuel bay; the other decided that producing a weapon was the answer to the problem. Both are bad choices. But would this incident have ever taken place if the waiting driver hadn’t approached the fuel bay hog? Nope.
All this has lead me to the following conclusion. My life is not worth the satisfaction I get from straightening out a bad trucker. Even if I’m “only” shot in the arm, I’m still out of work for a while. Even if the altercation escalates to blows, what did we solve by pummeling each other?
Calling out bad truckers doesn’t work
But perhaps a bigger reason is that it just doesn’t work. Think about it. If a bad trucker is such a self-centered A-hole that they clearly don’t care that they’re offending, delaying, or inconveniencing everyone else, what makes you think they’re going to give a frog’s fart about your opinion? They aren’t!
What can we do about it?
So does this mean that all us good drivers have to take this crap from bad truckers? No. But we do have to be careful about it.
When we feel we’re not being respected, our natural reactions are to fly off the handle, or at the very least, confront the issue with a bit of an attitude. This is not the smart thing to do. The Bible says, “A soft answer turns away wrath.” I know for a fact that this works for initiating a confrontation too. Despite my blow-up at the scale hopper a while back, I’m usually pretty level-headed.
We all get stuck behind drivers who clearly aren’t fueling. Just the other day I was sitting behind a truck at the fuel bay. I could see the guy topping off his tanks so I knew he was almost done. When he finally finished he stepped back into the truck. I waited for the inevitable brake lights and then a pull-up to let me at the pumps. Nothing happened. I gave him enough time to get situated. Maybe do something to his log book, put something away, or change into some driving clothes. Still no movement. Now was the time for action.
I walked up and tapped on the driver’s door. He rolled down the window and I could see he had a co-driver and they were having a good laugh about something. His expression changed as soon as he saw me. He looked like he was expecting an attitude. Instead he got a smile and a “Hey man. You got something going on up here? I’d kinda like to get at the fuel bay.” He moved up, although I don’t think he was all that happy about it. But what could he do to a guy who was smiling and asking nicely? Now if I had walked up there with a scowl on my face and an attitude, how well do you think that would have gone?
Besides, sometimes there are legitimate reasons. Maybe he’s having trouble with his fuel card? Maybe his truck won’t start? Or maybe they spilled their coffee all over the place while getting into the truck? Sure, most of the time it’s just a selfish jerk who thinks the world revolves around him. For all I know, his head might be so big that it caused it’s own orbit. It works for the sun, after all.
But let’s say he did cop attitude with me. What then? Well, ideally I walk away without a word. Sure, it sucks worse than a 12-volt vacuum cleaner to have to swallow your attitude, especially when you know you’re in the right. But remember, if this bad trucker doesn’t mind blocking the fuel bay when he could see that I was behind him, he’s probably not going to care about my opinion (or anyone else for that matter).
The smart approach
So here’s how I’m going to try to handle these situations in the future. I will approach nicely. If the guy who butted in front of me at the CAT scale clearly didn’t see me (which I truly believe he didn’t), he’ll apologize and everyone will feel better about the situation. If the jerk in the fuel bay decides to ignore me, I’ll back off off and try to find a different fuel bay.
And then I’m going to go tell on them like a third-grade girl who narcs on the boy who keeps wiping boogers on her. Seriously.
If a driver is clearly taking a break in the fuel bay, go tell the fuel desk. Sure, there’s only a small chance of them doing something about it other than making an announcement over the intercom to “be courteous to other drivers and pull up when finished fueling,” but it’s better than getting a Colt .45 pointed at your face. Then call their company (if they’re a company driver obviously) and report them. Maybe the bad trucker doesn’t care what you or the truck stop cashier has to say, but maybe they’ll listen if it’s coming from the company that is paying their wages every week.
Now I know some of you macho drivers are thinking, “I’m not going to be a narc.” That’s a wussy’s way out. I’ll take care of this myself.” Well, in the words of another scuzbucket, Bobby Brown, I guess “that’s myyyyyy prerogative.” Personally, it doesn’t bother me one iota to be a tattle-tell.
I’ve reported drivers for refusing to turn down their rap music when I’m trying to sleep, even after I’ve asked nicely. I’ve reported bad truckers who are driving waaaaay too aggressively. And obviously I’ve reported drivers who use the truck stop parking lot as their personal port-a-potty. All of these acts (including a whole bunch we haven’t even mentioned in this article) are either disrespectful or downright dangerous to others.
So call me a narc. Call me a tattle-tell. Call me a snitch. You can even call me a squealer. Just don’t ever call me a bad trucker.
[box]What are your thoughts about confronting bad drivers? Do you do it? Are you still going to do it after reading this article? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.[/box]
Podcast Show Notes:
We all see people doing stupid, inconsiderate, or just plain rude things every day. What do we do it about? Should we call these people out or should we bite our tongues? We’ll discuss that in today’s main topic.
But the show is also jam-packed with news stories, including some recalls, some autonomous truck stuff, some good news for diabetic truckers, and more thoughts about dash cams. We’ll also talk about naughty booters and some even naughtier truckers. And I’ll tell you a couple of ways you can get your voice heard to make trucking driving a better job. We’ll also talk about what makes a good trucking company and of course, the death of a trucking icon.
Driver Dave sent in a unique Trucker Grub segment and in the feedback section we hear from Ali, who has a tailgating tale, Tim is considering a switch from IT to trucking, and Anthony’s “oddest question I’ve ever received” leads to a discussion of truck driving schools.
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: trucker dump.
25% off the regular price when you order the ebook combo pack which includes “Trucking Life: An Entertaining, Yet Informative Guide To Becoming And Being A Truck Driver” and “How to Find a Great Truck Driving Job.” Only $14.98! And don’t forget there’s a free 9.25-hour audiobook version of “Trucking Life” included!
I’ll never forget this. It was December 17, 2017 and I was walking out of the shower room at the Flying J in Fargo, ND. That’s when I saw the trucker sitting alone in the driver’s lounge. He was opening a box. What was that look on his face? Horror? Disgust? Fear?
My guess is it was probably a little of each. You see, he was opening a new Electronic Logging Device, or ELD. Nothing like waiting until the last second. As we all know, the ELD mandate started the next day. I’m sure many of you went through the same emotional trauma.
Those of you new to ELDs have had them in your trucks for over 8 months now. By now you’ve had plenty of time to figure out what you like and dislike about your current setup. Is it hard to use? Is the software confusing? Does the hardware feel cheap and flimsy?
Well perhaps you should have a look at the Trace by FleetUp. FleetUp sent me a unit for testing and I’ve been using it for about three months. Well, sort of. You see, I learned a valuable lesson. I’m NEVER going to test another ELD unit! But before you go thinking that’s a slight against the Trace, let me explain.
No one likes disclaimers, but I feel I need to for this review. You see, in order to truly put an ELD through its paces, you need to have both the software and the hardware plug-in device. Without the plug-in device, the software can’t tell when the truck is moving. And since that’s the very purpose of ELDs, well, you see the problem.
So as you’ve probably already guessed, I did not have the plug-in device. FleetUp wanted to send one to me, but unfortunately I wouldn’t be able to install it because I’m a company driver. My safety department said that I couldn’t install it for two reasons:
Another elog device would mean I was running two log books. Last time I checked, that was still illegal.
My company doesn’t even allow me to put stickers on the windows, let alone install an electronic device that hooks into the truck’s computer!
To remedy this problem, Kimberli (one of my contacts at FleetUp) installed it on her personal vehicle. This obviously wasn’t ideal, but we did what we had to do and worked around the issues as best as possible. So now that you have a frame of reference, let’s move on.
The Trace Tablet
The Trace device itself is impressive. It is a 7” tablet with a bright orange case, surrounded by a thick, black bumper. I couldn’t believe how heavy the unit was when I first picked it up! It feels like a tank could run over it and the Trace would taunt it with a “neener neener” as it rolled away with its turret between its legs. Second disclaimer: If you’re lucky enough to own a tank, please don’t actually try this. But please DO invite me for a ride-along! Please God, let there be live ammo.
Not only is the Trace case (hey, I’m a poet!) incredibly thick, but part of the weight comes from the metal strip on the back that sticks to the magnets on the mount. The design works perfectly, despite its heft. The first time I used it, I didn’t get the mounting bracket’s suction cup attached to the windshield sufficiently and it popped off in transit. The whole thing, tablet and mount, went crashing to the floor. When I picked it up, they were still connected! The magnet on the RAM mount is so powerful that I’m pretty sure I saw a 747 lose some altitude when it flew overhead. What? It could happen!
The screen on the Trace is super bright. Only in the harshest of direct sunlight did I have any problems seeing what was onscreen. That’s par for the course with mobile devices. It is both dust and water resistant and can be submerged in up to three feet of water for 30 minutes, not that I can see any scenario where you’d want to do that. As heavy as the Trace is, it would drop you like an anchor if you tried to snorkel with it.
There is a 13 Megapixel camera with Flash LED on the back, a power button, volume buttons, a headphone jack, a return button, a SIM card slot, a Micro SD card slot, a USB-C port for charging and data transfer, and a cool SOS button that will automatically dial a preprogrammed phone number. And there’s one more button that for the life of me I couldn’t figure out what it does. All these ports and buttons have covers over them to promote the dust and water resistance claims. Battery life will last a couple of days if you don’t have the screen on the whole time. But honestly, if you’re using it on the mount you may as well leave it plugged in.
The Trace comes with a hand strap, a really nice carry case, a 64GB Micro SD card and SD card adapter, an AT&T SIM card, and a USB-C cable for charging and computer transfer with both AC and DC plugs. You can include one of two different length of RAM mounts with magnets when you order.
If you’ve never heard of RAM mounts, they are some of the sturdiest you can buy. They also have interchangeable heads to suit your ever-changing mobile device needs. The only thing I didn’t like about it was that the suction cup requires an extremely smooth surface like glass. I wanted to install it on the face of my dashboard, but even though none of the surfaces on my dash are very course, the RAM mount was having none of it. Once you get good suction on the windshield though, The Hulk would have a hard time ripping it off.
The FleetUp Software
I’ve always been a huge fan of the color orange, so I was tickled orange (you see what I did there?) when I powered up the Trace to discover a bright orange screen appear. A quick swipe up (on screen directions) reveals four app icons: FleetUp HOS, FleetUp Camera, CamScanner, and TeamViewer QuickSupport. We’ll get back to these apps in a second.
Another nice touch is that it includes the Tech Support email address and phone number right on the main screen. No more plummeting the depths of a website to find out how to get help! Woo-hoo!
The software seems plenty snappy too. When it comes to software, there are few things more frustrating than slow, laggy software. I should know. The PeopleNet elogs my company uses are on a Samsung Galaxy tablet and it sometimes takes a 3-4 seconds for anything to happen after you touch the screen. That causes a lot of miss clicks and that’s just gross. Not so with the Trace. You touch and it responds immediately.
One thing I really like is that the Trace is literally just a tablet running Android. While the FleetUp apps are front and center, just behind the scenes you can install whatever apps you want on the device. For instance, FleetUp is working on a navigation solution, but for now you can download Google Maps or any of the truck-specific GPS apps you favor and it will run it just fine.
You can even install games and social media apps. It’s basically a multi-use device that you can use for both business and pleasure. Just don’t nod off while reading in bed with the Trace held above your head. As heavy as it is, you might wind up with a concussion.
FleetUp HOS App
FleetUp HOS is the elog app. It is FMCSA compliant and can even do IFTA fuel tax automation and reporting. Nice!
It also claims to be the only elog system with a voice assistant. I have to say that while the voice is way more robotic than Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa, it’s still extremely helpful when you’re first getting started with the app.
Not only will the voice assistant walk you through the setup process, but it will also warn you when you’re running out of hours. One thing I was especially grateful for was how it kept reminding me to fill out my Daily Vehicle Inspection Report (DVIR) each day. In my defense, it was easy to forget when the DVIR was due based on how Kimberli was driving, not me.
And remember, the voice assistant will only speak up if you’re about to screw up. It’s also good to know that you can disable the voice once you feel comfortable that you know what you’re doing. By and large, I give the voice assistant a big thumbs up.
There are two main sections in the FleetUp HOS app: Status and Logs.
The Logs screen is where you’ll find your typical elog graph like our old beloved paper logs. You can also select a calendar to see previous days and one tap will show your 8-day recap.
There is a green line that takes the place of your ink pen, indicating what you’ve been up to and there is also a vertical red line that indicates where you need to stop driving. First, you’ll see the red line where you need to take your 30-minute break after 8 hours of working. After that, it will readjust to your 11 or 14, depending how crappy your day has been. I never got to the 70-hour warning, but I’m sure the red line would warn you when it’s drawing near too.
I did see some goofs in both the red line and the green duty line every now and then. At one point I had a diagonal green line going backwards from the Sleeper Berth line to the Driving line (see photo). Maybe I’m a time traveler and just never knew it?
I also had some instances where the red line wasn’t placed correctly. Honestly, I chock both of these malfunctions up to trying to share a vehicle with Kimberli. I’ll explain here in a second.
The Status screen is what you see when you’re driving. You’ll see four different colored circles that count down the time available on your 8, 11, 14 and 70-hour clocks. Again, I had some goofs with these too, but I wouldn’t worry about it too much. You’ll also see where you can log a Yard Move or Personal Conveyance.
Here’s what was happening. As with most electronic logs, you tap a button to indicate whether you want to go to the Off-Duty, Sleeper, or On-Duty status, but the Driving line can only be controlled by the hardware plug-in that was installed on Kimberli’s car. So you can imagine how many violations I was getting without knowing her every move.
Since I couldn’t place myself on the Driving line, I would often put myself on the On-Duty line while I was driving. Since there was no way Kimberli was going to drive anywhere close to 11 hours per day, it was really my only option if I wanted to test the warnings and the logging system. Many times, I’d wake up to a violation because she drove to work without allowing 8-10 hours after I showed going into the Sleeper. Again, nothing she could have foreseen.
Same with the red line. I might’ve went On-Duty at 10 AM and expected to see the 8-hour red line at 6 PM, but I’d see it at a different time because Kimberli started her day before I did. So as I said, unique circumstances here, so nothing I’d worry about. But now you can see why I’ll never do another ELD review, right?
FleetUp Camera App
FleetUp Camera is basically a dash cam app. Like any dash cam, it will constantly record and erase video as it needs. In the event of a crash, it will save the last bit of video. You can also tap the screen to save a chunk of video. This is great for those times when another driver does something stupid in camera view, but you’re lucky enough to not be involved. Here we come, YouTube! You can also save photos on the fly. Just touch a button and keep on truckin’.
The dash cam has different settings depending on what time of day, weather conditions, etc. To be honest, the only time I could tell a major difference was switching from day to night mode.
The Trace shines in it’s ability to multitask. You can run the dash cam in the background while the elogs are still doing their thing, or you can put the dash cam on screen the whole time. And if you want to save battery life, you can kill the screen and both apps will continue to work in the background.
The only problem I had with the FleetUp Camera app was finding a good position for the tablet on my dash. I really hate to have anything on my dash that blocks my view of the road. That was a problem with the shorter RAM mount they sent me.
As I mentioned earlier, the suction cup wouldn’t stick to the vertical face of my dashboard so I had to mount it on the windshield on my far left (where the glass was closest to the edge of the dash). Due to the location of the camera on the back of the device, the only way I could get the camera to “peek” over the dash without obstructing my view was to put it in portrait mode (vertical) with most of the device below my dash. It was actually nice to have the device out of my way, but it was awkward to use the elogs with my left hand.
Again, none of this would be an issue if you don’t mind mounting it on top of your dash. Or perhaps the longer RAM mount might do the trick. All in all, it’s not a deal breaker.
Listeners of the Trucker Dump Podcast might be thinking, “Hey, Todd doesn’t like dash cams, so why is he promoting one.” Well, you’re correct that I not a fan (that’s a whole other topic), but if you are, the Trace makes a good one.
Cam Scanner App
This app is great for scanning your documents, such as bills of lading and receipts, electronically. Perfect for the slob who uses his dash as a filing cabinet! Get rid of all that paper!
You can take a photo with the camera and it will automatically recognize the borders of the document and resize everything. If it’s off a bit, you can easily adjust the edges. It will then process it to make the text clearer and show you the results. If you don’t like those results, you can alter the contrast with some additional settings.
Now that it’s too your liking, you can easily share the document (or multiple documents) via email, messaging apps like Whats App, or social media apps like Facebook and Twitter. You can even annotate the document if you have an app called InNote installed. With this, you can draw lines, circles, arrows, and make handwritten notes to bring attention to something on the page. Nifty, huh?
Another cool feature is the Recognize button. Tap that and it will automatically OCR the document. Yes, that’s a fancy term. It stands for Optical Character Recognition. In simple terms, it recognizes words in a photo and saves them. This makes it easy to search for a document later.
Maybe you can’t remember where you saved a scanned document, but if you know you’re looking for the inspection form you got from the Oklahoma State Trooper, all you have to do is search for one of the words you know will be on the document, such as Oklahoma. Viola! Found it!
There is also a Note button, which enables you to type a message that will be attached to the document. For instance, if a paper receipt you scanned only says “Miscellaneous $15,” you can type a note saying the fee is for parking. Before we move on, let’s all have a moment of silence to curse the truck stop owners who charge for parking.
TeamViewer Quick Support App
TeamViewer is a nice app to have if you’re having issues with your Trace. When you start a TeamViewer session, someone from tech support can remotely access your device. They can either control the device themselves or they can watch what you’re doing.
Either way, you can feel comfortable about it because you can still see everything that is happening onscreen. Let’s hope you never have any problems with the Trace or the FleetUp apps, but this is technology after all. If you do, at least you know TeamViewer Quick Support is just a tap away.
So what is the cost?
The price of the Trace is $683, which honestly seemed a bit steep to me at first. But then I remembered that this is a multi-use device.
You can use it as a log book. It’s also a dash cam. It also makes for a great large screen GPS navigation device. You can read ebooks or listen to audiobooks and podcasts. You can even play games on it! Basically, you can download any Android app as long as you’ve got the space on the micro SD card (although there are monthly data allowances to watch – stay tuned for pricing).
And let’s not forget that the Trace is a highly ruggedized device. In the event of a nuclear holocaust, I’m guessing that the Trace would probably still be humming right along while you’re being vaporized.
So can you buy a 7” Android tablet, a GPS navigation device, and a dash cam for $683? Possibly, but why not have one device instead of three?
The RAM mounts are $70 for the longer model and $60 for the short one.
There is a monthly fee of $25 for using the FleetUp software on the Trace. This includes 500 megabytes of data usage (the website says 1 GB now so this may have changed). There are additional plans with more bandwidth if you’re a data hog.
No hardware needed?
One thing I should point out is that you can use the FleetUp apps without spending $683 for the Trace. If you already have an iPhone, iPad, or Android device, you can download the FleetUp apps for free and only pay the $25 per month, per device.
For instance, if you had three drivers with three devices, the cost would be $75 per month ($25 x 3). But if you were running three team trucks, you’d have 6 drivers instead of three. Each additional person is $10 per month, so in that case, your monthly bill would be $75 (three drivers with devices) plus $30 ($10 for each surplus driver), for a total of $105 per month. Not bad for covering 6 drivers!
We all heard about the ONE20 ELD going away. My guess is this is just the first of many companies that won’t make the cut. I’m no fortune teller, but I don’t think FleetUp will be one of those companies. I could be wrong, but they just seem to have their crap together. Have a look at the FleetUp website and you’ll see that they have their hand in more baskets than just the Trace.
The FleetUp Trace ELD is a solid piece of hardware with the ability to take the place of multiple trucking-related devices and it’s easy to use, thanks in part to the voice assistant. The monthly cost is in range with other ELDs and FleetUp is actively developing and supporting their products and services. And remember, the software is free to download if you already have a mobile device to put it on.
So in the end, the only thing you really have to worry about is dropping the Trace on your foot while wearing flip-flops!
Experienced truckers know that there are many things in the trucking industry that are out of your control. If you’re a newbie who has not figured this out yet, you soon will. But this does not mean that everything is completely out of your control either. Here are some ways you can become a more efficient trucker.
This episode of Trucker Dump is sponsored by:
Citadel Fleet Safety– Call 800-269-5905 or click the link for a special discount for Trucker Dump listeners. Click on [Customer Login] in the upper-right corner, click on the Trucker Dump logo, and use password: truckerdump.
Efficient trucker tip #1: Always ask about early delivery or a drop
This is a big mistake I see too many truckers making. Drivers often assume that just because their company is “forced dispatch” that they have to take whatever load is given to them. This is simply wrong. Forced dispatch only means that you have to take the load if you can’t supply a good reason not to. So if you want to become a more efficient trucker, you need to start thinking differently.
Never accept the status quo.
Every time I get a new dispatch, the first thing I do is look to see when the load picks up and delivers. Ideally, you’ve got just enough time to drive the empty miles to pick up the load and get it to its delivery on time, but not arrive there too early. Great. Accept the load, drive safe, and stay out of my way! 🙂 (That’s my tagline at the end of each podcast.)
But all too often when they’re asking you to drive 50 miles to pick up a load, it doesn’t pick up for five hours; meaning you are going to get there about four hours early! And then when you look at the delivery time, you figure you’re going to be there a whopping 10 hours earlier than your appointment time! What now? If you’ve got the customer’s phone number, use it. But as you well know, many of us company drivers don’t have access to it. If that’s the case, contact your dispatcher.
Sure, you could use the extra time on these loads to stop in some quaint town along the way and go sightseeing. Or you could use the time to polish your chrome or head into the casino for some blackjack. But this article is about being a more efficient trucker. None of these things are efficient. In fact, they’re all going to cost you time and money!
Call your dispatcher
I don’t keep stats on this sort of thing, but if I had to guess I would say I am calling or messaging my dispatcher on about half my loads; possibly more. Whichever wait time (pick up or delivery) is the longest is what I ask about first.
“Hey Gina, I can be at the shipper at 1:00 PM, but the load doesn’t show to pick up until 5:00 PM. Will they load me early?”
Sometimes it’s a set appointment and there’s nothing you can do about it. Other times they will have notes about the customer saying that you can pick up anytime and that the time listed is just a “suggested” appointment time. Honestly, that doesn’t seem very efficient to me, but unfortunately I can’t change their company polices.
Other times I’ll notice the pick up time is something crazy like 24 hours away, even though I’m only 80 miles out. Again I’m immediately asking dispatch what the deal is. Maybe freight is just slow in the area so your options are limited. But it’s also a possibility that somebody in the office screwed up and thought you didn’t have driving hours available or they just looked at the shipping date wrong! You might be surprised how often this happens.
If you’re going to arrive at your delivery extra-early, ask if they will accept the load early
This happened to me again just the other day. The load delivered at 9:00 PM, but I could get there about 9:00 AM. The comments section for this load specifically said, “Do not attempt to deliver earlier than appointment time.” Now usually when the load comments are that specific, I know they are set in stone. Therefore I was resigned to it. But I still put on my efficient trucker hat to figure out how to make the best use of my time.
I was low on hours that day anyway, so my plan was to come off a 10-hour break and drive the remaining three hours to get as close to the delivery location as I could. I’d then take yet another 10-hour break and then deliver the load 9:00 PM. My thought was that by the time I was unloaded, I would be getting hours back at midnight and be ready to roll again. Of course, this sucks for your sleep because I had just come off a 10-hour break. How I’m expecting myself to sleep again that soon is a different issue that we don’t have time to go into.
Obviously, I didn’t really want to do this, so I thought to myself “What can it hurt to ask about an early delivery?” So I did (see screenshot). You can see the happy result. As I always tell my dispatcher, “He who does not ask, does not receive.” You might remember that the next time you’re in a similar situation.
One thing I forgot to mention was that due to my low hours, I only had 2.5 hours left to drive that day after my delivery. I’m sure many drivers would’ve just accepted this fact and stuck with the original plan. Not this super-efficient trucker!
As you can no doubt already see, I’m very aware of my available hours. But I’m even more anal about this the closer it gets to home time. This instance happened about a week before my scheduled home time.
I’m sure you’ve probably been in this scenario before.
You’re just shy of having enough driving hours to get home without taking another 10-hour break first; or you’re waiting around until midnight to get hours back before you can finish the drive home.
Either that or you turn outlaw and drive the few hours home illegally. You naughty little pet. Good luck with that now that elogs are mandatory. My point is, that 2.5 hours extra that I could utilize today might be the 2.5 hours that I need to get home this coming weekend! This is yet another reason why it’s so important to be as efficient as you can be.
If you can’t deliver early, ask if you can drop the loaded trailer somewhere
If your dispatch says the customer won’t let you deliver early, ask them if there is somewhere along your route that you can drop the load; for instance, if you have a terminal or a drop yard en route. As a driver, you probably know your route better than the dispatcher, so make a suggestion. “Hey; since I can’t deliver this early, can I drop at the Columbus or St. Louis yard? I’m going right past both on the way to delivery.” If they’ve got other freight in the area that needs to move, they’ll usually hook you right up.
Yes, it might suck to turn a 600 mile trip into a puny 350 mile run, but at least you’re not going to be sitting outside a customer for 24 hours waiting to unload. You can use that time to be running a different load to make up those lost miles. Trust me, it usually pays off in the end.
Probably the reason I make the call to dispatch so often is because it works to my advantage most of the time. If I can point out how the load isn’t very efficient, they will often toss it back into the pile of loads and come out with something better. But other times I’m just stuck with the load and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. That’s when you reach into your medicine cabinet, pop a chill pill, and accept it as part of trucking. At least you tried to be the most efficient trucker you can be.
Now I can hear some of you thinking, “My dispatcher isn’t going to want to go to all this trouble for me.” Well tough noogies. That’s their job. Besides, dealing with the driver is often the dispatcher’s only job at most of these large carriers. There are usually different groups of people who plan the loads and deal with customer service issues. Not always the case at smaller carriers, but it’s still their job.
In my personal experience, I can tell that my dispatcher does sometimes get annoyed with me questioning these loads so frequently. But that’s usually when she is especially busy trying to get drivers home for the weekend or something is going horribly wrong with another driver on their fleet.
Remember; part of a dispatcher’s performance review is based on how efficient their fleet is. So it actually benefits them if you ask this question and become a more efficient trucker. You just might have to remind them of this fact until they get used to you asking about getting rid of these loads early.
Now let’s say that despite your best effort, you’re still stuck with this load and you’re going to get to your delivery 10 hours before your appointment time. How can you still be an efficient trucker?
Efficient trucker tip #2: Sleep at the customer
One reason I’m glad that I was on the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) bandwagon earlier than most (2010) is because it forced my company to start adding one new bit of information to our load information; whether there is overnight parking at the shipper or receiver. This used to be another phone call or message to dispatch, but now the information is right there in the load comments. Thank God, because this makes me a much more efficient trucker! How so?
Unless I am 100% positive that my load is a drop & hook trailer, I will always try to sleep at the customer overnight if it is allowed. I know this is not a popular choice among truckers, but I’m convinced it makes me a more efficient trucker. Even if it is drop and hook, I will still often sleep there anyway. Why?
It saves my 14 hour clock
I’ve talked to many truckers over the years who simply refuse to sleep at a customer unless it is their only option. The argument is always that they want access to food and bathrooms. Fair enough. But if you want to be the most efficient trucker you can be, you really need to get over this.
Sleeping at the customer honestly wasn’t as necessary back in the days when we had paper logs. We could often fudge the timeline so that we didn’t lose much driving time. But since the inflexible ELDs have been mandatory since December 18, 2017, sleeping at a customer’s facility is really the #1 way I’ve found to maximize my 70-hour workweek.
First off, it’s not hard to work around the bathroom and food issue
If at all possible, you should always find out ahead of time what the bathroom situation is. Some of the customers I visit have 24-hour restrooms for drivers. Sometimes, it might be a porta-potty, but it’s better than nothing.
Even if they don’t have restrooms available overnight, simply stop at the nearest truck stop before you get there and take your giant trucker dump. Even if you don’t think you need to, you might ought to pull in and try. In the #1 department, even us older guys with smaller bladders can get through the night since the vast majority of truckers have some sort of piss bottle in the truck. Don’t deny it. Even if you don’t, you can always go water some of the local shrubbery. Serves the customer right for not keeping the restroom open for you.
As for access to food, if you’re one of those moneybags who eats in restaurants all the time, you can check into apps like Yelp or Google Maps to see if there’s any little eateries within walking distance. You never know. You might find a gem! Or you can always go the easy route and grab an extra sandwich at the ever-present Subway shoppe. Honestly, all drivers should be keeping a little bit of food on hand anyway. Peanut butter and cans of soup have a seemingly endless shelf life, you know. One of the perks of me being such a cheapskate is that I always have food in my truck, so this is never an issue.
Now when I say “sleeping at a customer,” that’s exactly what I mean. I’m not talking about hanging out there for 24 hours or anything. Although this super-efficient trucker has done exactly that many times if that’s what it takes to squeeze in a 34-hour break.
Even if you’ve only got six hours before you deliver, you should still park onsite if you can. Again we’re trying to save your clock here. I see two major benefits in doing this:
1. You might get into the dock early.
Let’s say you arrive at 2:00 AM and your appointment is not till 10:00 AM. But they open at 7:00 AM. If you don’t mind interrupting your beauty sleep, it never hurts to check in at 7:00 AM to see if they will take you early. You’re probably thinking “Why the heck do I want to get in the dock at 7:00 AM if my 10-hour break isn’t over until noon anyway?” That’s reason number two.
2. Because you never know how long it’s going to take to load or unload.
If I were to take a poll of truckers on the biggest problems in the trucking industry, I’d be willing to bet that one of the top five answers would be shipper/receivers wasting our driving hours. Not a day goes by when you don’t hear some trucker whining about how the shippers/receivers don’t value our time. Well this is one way to mitigate it. If they want to take six hours to get me unloaded, then at least they’re doing it while my ELD shows me Off-Duty or Sleeper Berth. If it only takes two hours, great! Stay up and get started planning your next load. Or you can always try to go back to bed to finish that sweet dream you were having about Farrah Fawcett.
Now let’s look at you drivers who refuse to sleep at a customer overnight
You have a 10:00 AM appointment so you wake up full of piss and vinegar, eager to utilize the 11 hours of driving you have available. You start your pre-trip inspection at 9:00 AM, roll into the customer at 9:30 AM, and bump the dock at 10:00 AM. I love it when a plan comes together! Uh huh. You silly little optimistic trucker.
In reality, six hours later you’re finally ready to roll, but thanks to the cursed 14-hour rule you only have 7 hours left to drive. Who’s to blame; you or the customer? Well both, but you could’ve prevented this if you had slept at the customer overnight. So those 4 hours of driving you lost are ultimately on your head. Remember, we can’t control everything, so we have to control the things we can.
But hey, let’s be realistic. Not every customer takes six hours to unload. Even if it only takes two hours, you’ve left yourself very little extra time to do anything else except for drive like a madman all day. You can kiss that workout and shower goodbye. Yeah, right! Like truckers exercise or bathe.
Now I know this “sleeping at a customer” thing is an unpopular choice that many of you will refuse to budge on
So be it. If you want to continue to be an inefficient trucker, that’s up to you. I would just suggest that you try it for a while and see if you don’t notice that you’re making better use of your hours of service. And that usually transfers to better paychecks.
Oh, and there’s one other benefit from sleeping at customer locations. You have less chance of sleeping with your head right next to someone’s screaming reefer unit. Unless of course you are pulling a reefer, which in that case you’re just screwed.
Efficient trucker tip #3: Keep your ETA/PTA updated
But first, you need to make sure you know what the terms ETA and PTA means to your company. At most of the carriers I’ve worked for, ETA means Estimated Time of Arrival and PTA stands for Projected Time of Availability. But I have also worked for a couple of companies who used ETA as Estimated Time of Availability instead of PTA. Yes, it was just as confusing then as it is now. These two versions of ETA (or ETA and PTA) are vastly different things. Let me explain.
My Estimated Time of Arrival might be 9:00 AM, but if I know the customer usually takes two hours to unload, that would make my Estimated Time of Availability at 11:00 AM. This could be even worse. Take for example our earlier scenario where my Estimated Time of Arrival was 2:00 AM because I was going to get there early, but my appointment was not until 10:00 AM. So figure 1 hour to unload and my Estimated Time of Availability is actually 11:00 AM. That’s nine hours difference between an ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival) and an ETA (Estimated Time of Availability)!
Keep your dispatcher as up-to-date as possible about your available working hours
While it’s true that most modern dispatching software will keep track of that, I’ve never had a dispatcher who didn’t appreciate not having to look it up. As an added bonus, I believe that staying on top of your available working hours makes you look a bit more professional than your fellow drivers.
My last suggestion to be the most efficient trucker you can be is…
Efficient trucker tip #4: Don’t keep a steady schedule
I fully accept that with the way your particular circadian rhythms work, some of you simply cannot physically do what I’m about to ask, but if you can, or even if you think you can, you should try it for a while.
We all know those drivers who get up at 7:00 AM and drive their 11 hours. Worst case scenario the 14 hour clock is up at 9:00 PM. They’re back up and rolling at 7:00 AM. They do this every day. Obviously, the start time can vary. I suppose there is nothing wrong with this if you know exactly what your freight is every day and you have complete control over it. More power to you if that’s your situation. If that is the case, I have to admit that I kind of hate your guts.
But for the vast majority of over-the-road drivers, we have no idea when or even if we are going to get a load to run on any given day. So by not keeping a steady schedule, you’re working as hard and as fast as you can when you have freight so that when those inevitable down times come along, they don’t hurt nearly as much.
Let’s do a little math. To keep things simple, let’s assume two things that aren’t exactly true unless you’ve entered the land of fairy dust and unicorn farts. First, that it’s possible to run 11 hours straight, take a 10-hour break, and then run your 11 hours again for multiple days in a row. And secondly, let’s assume that we have competing truckers; one loosey-goosey driver who likes to run hard and one steady schedule driver who likes to start his day at midnight. Probably not very realistic, but for the sake of easy math, you’ll see what I mean.
The case for not driving a steady schedule
In this magical world where everything always runs smoothly, let’s say both drivers start their day at midnight and are done driving by 11:00 AM. They both take a mandatory 10-hour break. When the break is over, the loosey-goosey driver starts running again at 9:00 PM, while the steady schedule guy is waiting around for midnight to start his day like he does every day.
You can see that the loosey-goosey driver has 14 hours of driving already finished in that first 24 hours (11 on the first driving shift + 3 on the second), while the steady schedule driver only has 11 hours under his belt.
Come midnight, the steady schedule guy runs another 11 hours for 22 hours total driving over the two days. But loosey-goosy driver drove from 9:00 PM the night before to 8:00 AM the next morning, took another 10 hour break, and started driving again at 6:00 PM, meaning he now has 28 hours of driving in the same time frame. That’s six more hours over two days!
I will spare you the math, but at the end of three days, the loosey-goosey driver has driven nine more hours than the steady driver!
Now I can hear some of you saying, “Yeah, but that ain’t the way trucking works in the real world!” You’re correct. There will be days when you don’t get a full 11 hours of running. There might even be days that you don’t get to run at all. And that’s my point.
Run it when you got it
Here’s my philosophy. When you have freight, run it as hard and as fast as you legally can, utilizing all three previous tips to make the use best use of your hours. That way when you do have the inevitable downtime, then at least you have been as efficient as you can possibly be up until that point where things are out now out of your control.
A side benefit is doing a 34-hour break
Often times, these steady drivers don’t even run a full 11 hours. Their idea is that if they work 8.75 hours maximum per day (both Driving and On-Duty time combined) for 8 days (70 hours in 8 days rule), that they will never run out of their 70 working hours. Okay. Good theory. That means you will get a maximum of 70 working hours under perfect conditions.
Now let’s look at loosey-goosey driver who hammers down. Again, I won’t bore you with the math, but if this driver runs as soon as possible after each 10-hour break, they can easily hit their 70 hours maximum in 5 days. If they then take a 34-hour break to restart their 70-hours, they can now expand their available working hours to over 80 hours in the same amount of time that the steady driver has only worked 70 hours. That could add up to about 10% more money!
Be a more efficient trucker
To sum up, my belief is that to be the most efficient trucker you can be, you need to work as hard as you can while you have loads to run so you can maximize your potential.
Every hour of your available 70 counts in trucking, so be conscience of every one of them. If a customer will take a load as soon as you can get it there, don’t screw around. Deliver it ASAP!
You could have mechanical problems that cause delays.You could be delayed by a lazy loader. You could hit a patch of bad weather. If you’ve dilly-dallied when you could’ve been running hard, you may even find yourself delivering late if something unexpected happens.
I always run as hard as I can to get where I’m going, even if I can’t deliver early. I can’t count how many times I’ve been able to rescue a load from a driver who’s low on hours while he sits under my load to get those hours back. That’s a win-win-win situation. The company is getting their rescued load delivered on time. The other driver is in no rush now so he’s getting back the hours he needs while he’s sitting under may old load. And best of all, I’m making more miles!
So my advice is to step out of your comfort zone and try some of these tips
Don’t automatically accept loads that don’t make good use of your time. Argue your point with a cool head. If nothing can be done about the delivery time, ask if you can drop the load someplace to keep moving.
Try sleeping at the customer to maximize your driving hours. You’ll be surprised how less-stressed you’ll be when that slow forklift dude isn’t eating into your driving hours.
Get off your steady schedule and run hard when you have freight. Save your loafing time for those times when you’re stuck without a load. And if you can do a 70-hour reset, do it.
And lastly, keep your ETA/PTA updated so your dispatcher can find your next good load that maximizes your earning potential. And if that load sucks, get on the phone and start the process all over again. Ain’t truckin’ fun?
Podcast show notes:
In today’s podcast, I present four ideas that could help you become a more efficient trucker. I also cover a crapload of news stories, ranging from new ways to tackle truck parking, new proposed hours-of-service legislation, Electronic Logging Devices (ELD), a lost trucker, some surprises about driver pay, and possibly one of the most insane verdicts I’ve ever heard. I also tell you how social media can help you in a way that you might not have thought of before.
In the Feedback section, we hear from from Goat Bob, Driver Dave, DriverChrisMc, and Dan on subjects such as trucking podcasts, to axle weights, to cancer, to beef liver, and finally being pissed off at truckers.
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.
[box]↑WordPress lies!!↑ This is actually a guest post by Larry Labelle, Marketing Manager for Verduyn Tarps, an international leader in the tarp system industry. Labelle utilizes his creativity and background in sales to deliver solutions for the company’s branding, message and marketing strategy.[/box]
Hauling anything cross-country means truckers have to pass multiple jurisdictions. What’s allowed in one state may not be allowed in another. Carriers and drivers who don’t pay attention to the differences between the laws in which they drive put themselves at risk. Being in violation of the law increases the chances that a driver will be pulled over. Yet it also means potential fines and citations could negatively impact a carrier’s ability to do business, as well as the driver’s ability to continue to do his or her job.
For instance, before hauling across state lines, carriers and drivers should know the maximum allowable length for commercial trailers in each of the states they’ll enter. Depending on the regulations in each state, drivers may or may not be able to bring their trailers across state lines and still be in compliance with the law. Without even knowing it, drivers may be in violation of the law in one state — even though he or she was in compliance a few miles on the other side of the state line.
In Arizona, for example, commercial trailers can be a maximum of 57 feet, 6 inches in length. If a driver hauling a trailer of that length were to cross the border into California, however, he or she could be cited because the maximum commercial trailer length there is 53 feet. Even within one state, there may be different requirements — depending on the classification of the road being used. Because knowing all of these various regulations can be difficult for carriers and drivers, the following guide provides a handy reminder of the laws in each state. No matter how long a commercial trailer is, a custom tarp system can cover it and keep cargo protected from the elements. Read on to learn more about commercial trailer length regulations — state by state.
RoadPro Family of Brands recently announced the Road King Me Sweepstakes. The contest started on May 1, 2018 and they will be giving away one RoadKing Bluetooth headset every day. And on July 1, they’ll be announcing the grand prize winner of $2500 in RoadPro Rewards points, which can be redeemed for digital entertainment, magazines, gift cards and more.
I’m especially pumped about this because I actually won a $500 Pilot Flying J gift card in their last contest. And because I’m a dumbass, I accidentally left the card at home when I was there last. ?
All you need to do is click here to enter and fill out the form. RoadPro will notify you by email if you win. I feel obligated to point out that when you enter the sweepstakes, you’re also joining the RoadPro Rewards program. From their press release:
Entry into the sweepstakes also includes membership into the RoadPro Rewards program, a passionate on-the-go lifestyle loyalty community that rewards truckers for engaging with content and purchasing qualifying products. Members have the opportunity to earn points, receive preferred status, shared insider insights, advance product news, and special offers. Points earned can then be redeemed for digital entertainment, magazines, gift cards and more.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t mind having a chance to earn points and get special offers. Not when there’s goodies on the line!
This is the dumping ground for my thoughts on truck driving, trucking jobs, and the trucking industry. My goal is to entertain and inform both new and seasoned truck drivers on how to become better truckers while entertaining them as they keep America moving.