Anyone who has heard me speak of trucking knows that I always recommend the large national carriers to new drivers. I’ve got many reasons for doing so, but that still doesn’t mean that they’re perfect. Sometimes they leave me shaking my head like a bobblehead doll in a monster truck.
Take this morning as an example. I delivered a load in St. James, Missouri and received my load information to pick up a load in Jonesboro, Arkansas. As sometimes happens, the load was going to have to be picked up late. It wasn’t my fault. They just didn’t have another driver that was closer, so it was up to me to pick it up as soon as possible.[box]Listen to the audio version above and subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.
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Anyway, in their infinite wisdom, my company (and many other large carriers) always sends us routing information so that we know what route to take. Company policy states that we must not deviate from the supplied routing. Unfortunately, it’s not always the best route to take.
Today, it was sending me on every little back woods, twisty-turvy, hilly, state highway to get to Jonesboro. I’ve had previous experience with these particular roads and knew it would be slow going. In the past, if I saw that the route was not practical for whatever reason, I just sent a satellite message to my boss informing her of the route that I was going to take. She always deferred to my judgement and experience. But today was different.
Today, I have a new boss (more on that in the next post). I sent a message as usual stating that it would be much faster, not to mention safer, to go a little out of route over to Rolla and take US63 instead of the back roads. It couldn’t have been more than 20-30 miles out of route, if it was even that far. No dice. I get a message back saying that it’s against company policy to deviate from the routing. Of course, I already know this. But sometimes you’ve got to use your brain too.
What’s going to waste more fuel?
- Going 20-30 miles out of route, but maintaining a fairly steady speed for the entire route? Or. . .
- Taking curvy roads with huge hills, causing massive speed fluctuations and gear shifting.
I don’t really know the scientific answer, but my gut tells me that the nice, steady, fairly flat, bigger road would save fuel. Maybe I’m wrong. But what about safety issues?
Large companies are always saying that their #1 priority is safety. Really? Let’s look at that.
Which route would be safer?
- A US highway that is partially four-lane, fairly flat, and mostly straight? Or. . .
- Numerous tiny two lane highways with no shoulders, narrow bridges, small towns with tight corners, and long sections of tight 30-35 mph curves that sometimes requires my tractor or trailer to be in the oncoming traffic’s lane? Not to mention the fact that if you are a team operation, your co-driver is not sleeping well because of all the curves, speed changes, and rollercoaster hills. And they have to drive later on that day.
I trust that my point is made. A smaller company might be able to bend certain company policies if it will benefit both the company and the driver. But a large company can’t afford to, or won’t make exceptions as easily, even if it’s the smart thing to do. And in that regard, this round goes to the smaller company.
As for my trip this morning, I was right about two things:
- It was as curvy and hilly as I remembered, so it took me 1.5 hours longer to make the trip than if I had taken US63.
- The Evil Overlord (wife/co-driver) didn’t sleep well so it’s gonna be a bad day. Too bad my new boss can’t trade me places just for today. I bet he would trust my judgement next time I offered it. Company policy or not!
Dang. I love it when I’m right.