Despite what truckers (including myself) say, most automobile drivers are good drivers. Despite what the media says, most truck drivers are extremely safety conscious. It’s true what The Osmond’s sang, “One bad apple don’t spoil the whole bunch, girl.” Or guy, whichever you may be. The same goes for the subject of today’s blog: Security Guards.[box]Listen to the audio version above and subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.
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Truckers deal with security guards on a daily basis. The “guard shack” is the first thing we usually see when we pull into a shipper or receiver. The guard will take down your truck and trailer information, check your seal if you’re delivering a load, get any other pertinent junk that the company deems important, and point you to the shipping or receiving office.
When you’re leaving a shipper, their job is to verify that the trailer and the seal numbers on the bill of lading (shipping papers) matches the trailer you’re attached to. If it’s a receiver, once you’re unloaded they may have you open the trailer doors to make sure you’re not hauling out a load of plasma TV’s you’re not supposed to have (dang it!). Other times they simply glance up from their New York Times best-selling novel long enough to give you a casual wave.
Some facilities are locked up tighter than Ft. Knox. Just try hauling Red Bull. Yes, that Red Bull. Apparently that nasty-tasting crap has an extremely high street value. When signing in at the shipping office, I was required to produce a driver’s license and a cell phone number. That’s pretty standard for high-value loads, but when they asked me to give them a thumbprint, I admit I balked. I gave in after a couple of questions, but still… IT’S RED BULL, for cryin’ out loud.
Other places are extremely lax. I’ve had many a security guard wave me past as they wrote down my truck number. Same thing on the way out. I could have kidnapped the boss and stuck him in the trailer and they would have never known. Then again, maybe they knew and let me go anyway. By the way, whenever you’re ready to get him back, just leave the ransom in the previously discussed bus station locker.
The security guard’s responsibility also varies from place to place. One place they’re just there to check you in. Another place might have them run a wand over your body and walk a mirror around and under your truck and trailer. Some have set procedures. Others wing it.
Herein lies the problem. As a trucker, I may or may not have been to this particular place before. Even if I had, it might have been a year ago. There’s no possible way that I can remember every single customer’s check-in procedures. Maybe the Rain Man could do it, but not this kid. Heck, I have a hard enough time remembering what The Evil Overlord asked me to do five minutes ago. I guess it would help if I’d put down my iPhone and listen for a change of pace. Nah.
Most of the security guards will ask you if you’ve ever been there before. If you have, and you remember the drill; great. Off you go. If you can’t remember or have never been there, most of them are friendly and patient as they run you through the drill. But as The Osmond’s knew well, there’s always that one bad apple. This guy or gal has been infused with the Power of the Patch.
These wannabe superheroes take their jobs way too seriously. No smile. No eye contact. The Sergeant Friday “Just the facts, ma’am” approach. Now that’s not my style, but to each his own. I can deal with these people. They’re on the good side of the Power of the Patch. It’s those who let the Power of the Patch influence their dark side that get me riled up. Take this morning for instance.
I pulled onto a street that was lined with trucks. A truck sat at the gate beside the guard shack. I could see the trailer doors opening and closing. No problem. I’ll sit here and wait my turn. Then the truck pulls off. I wait for the line to move up and the next driver to pull into the gate, but nobody moves. I wait longer. Still nothing.
After waiting a few minutes, I pulled out and around the other drivers. I thought maybe they were all live unloads who were waiting on an open dock. I knew that I was supposed to drop my trailer and skedaddle on out of there. Just as I rounded the corner into the gate, the guard came out waving his arms like he was trying to catch up with the rest of the ducks that were headed north for the spring.
Halfway into the gate, I stopped. I hopped out and the guard commenced to berate me for not reading the sign and following procedures. I said, “What sign?” “That sign!” he exclaimed as he pointed to the sign. The sign that was just INSIDE the gate. The sign that wasn’t visible from the street.
My reply was something to the effect of, “Don’t you think that sign would be better served out on the street where we could see it BEFORE we were at the gate?” I don’t know. Maybe there a few harsher words thrown in there somewhere.
He went on to say in a condescending tone, “There is always a line of trucks here. Everyone is supposed to stay in line until it’s their turn.” Dumbfounded, I replied, “This is my first time here. How am I supposed to know what the procedure is if it’s not posted where I can see it?” Again, give or take a choice word or two.
By this time the full Power of the Patch had kicked in and his only response was, “You have to get back in line.” I told him I was just supposed to drop the trailer, and asked if the rest of the trucks were drops or live unloads. He again answered me with, “Get back in line.”
Of course, by this time I had a stack of cars behind my trailer, which was still sticking out in the road. So there would be no getting back in line. I had to go down the street, do a u-turn, and park on the opposite side of the street. Two minutes later, Captain Power Patch came out with his cape between his legs and waved me in… in front of all the other trucks. It seems that I was to drop my trailer and bobtail out. Gee, I wish I had mentioned that… oh wait.
This is just one of many times that I’ve been expected to miraculously know the procedures of a company that I’ve never visited before. Nearly every time, there wasn’t a sign that could be seen before approaching the gate. If there was one, it was either blocked by a parked truck or a tree branch, or I was expected to use my kitty-vision to see it in the freakin’ dark. Oh wait… silly me. Why didn’t I think to grab my night-vision goggles that I keep handy for just such situations? My bad.
Summing up: It would be so easy to say that all security guards are influenced by the Power of the Patch. It’d be easy to say that the media thinks all truckers are reckless. And it’s especially easy to say that we truckers think you automobile drivers are all idiots with a death wish.
The truth is, the majority of security guards are nice folks who do a job that’s underappreciated; that the media is horribly wrong about truckers; and… well, no. That’s about it. 🙂
Photo by Ethan Prater via Flickr