common sense

TD132: Should We Call Out Bad Truckers?

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

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

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

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.   

(c) Can Stock Photo / Forewer

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.

Podcast Show Notes:

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

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

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

Listen to the podcast version or read the full article and the podcast show notes on AboutTruckDriving.com.

This episode of Trucker Dump is sponsored by:

Links mentioned in the podcast:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good News For Some Diabetic Drivers! from TheTruckersReport.com

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

The Trucking Podcast with Buck Ballard and Don the Beer Guy

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

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

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

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

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

Payroll Podcast from Truck Driver Power discussing dash cams.

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to nominate the Best Fleets to Drive For

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

TD107: The Fuel Bay Golden Rule

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

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

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

Links mentioned in the feedback section:

TD95: 4 Reasons That Trucker Might Be Tailgating You

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

Show info:

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

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

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TD130: How Much Should Truckers Bend The Rules?

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

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

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

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

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

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

The setup

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

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

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

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

The questionable choice

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

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

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

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

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

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

The question of right and wrong

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

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

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

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

Getting your loads turned in on time

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

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

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

The fudging of log books

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

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

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

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

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

The nickel and diming

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

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

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

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

The technicalities of trucking

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two wrongs don’t make a right

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

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

Work the system, man (or woman)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s where things get morally sticky

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One final argument 

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

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

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

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

Podcast show notes:

TD118: Truck Safety: Constant Vigilance or Fate?

I’ve been thinking a lot about truck safety lately. More specifically, I’ve been wondering about how much control the driver has when it comes to having a safe driving record. Is it simply a matter of constant vigilance or does fate have a part in it?

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

For those of you who listen to the podcast version, in the last few episodes you’ve heard me hinting about an accident I had recently. Well today is the day I spill the beans.

The accident happened back in February.

It was early afternoon and I was nearly out of driving hours. Since both the DOT and my company tend to frown on log violations, I was hoping to find a spot at the Pilot in Hammond, Louisiana. I pulled into the lot behind and perpendicular to the fuel bays and stopped to check out the situation. There were a couple of trucks backing in and the lot was already jam-packed.

Just then, I saw a driver pulling out of a spot. What luck! The thing is, I would need to back up just a tad to turn left and go through the fuel bays to get lined up for it. Being in a hurry, I glanced in my mirror and started backing up. I heard a quick honk and I jammed on the brakes. Whew! That was close! I started turning left to go through the fuel bays when I saw the driver jump out of his truck and wave me down. Uh oh.

I had only pulled up about 5 feet, so I yanked the brake, and walked back to meet him. Sure enough, I had barely tapped him. When I say barely, I mean barely. Check out the picture so you don’t think I’m exaggerating. That right there folks is $1100 worth of damage, which ironically was how much my safety bonus check was short this year. Grrrr.

february-accident

I suggested we both park before we take care of the paperwork. For one thing, I didn’t want to lose that spot I had seen and for another we were blocking the fuel bays. Thankfully, he agreed. I got my spot and lucky for him, he was bobtailing so he had no problems finding parking.

We both called our respective companies and swapped information. I said, “I can’t believe I hit you. I didn’t feel a thing and I had barely started backing up.” He said, “Yeah. I was pretty close to your bumper.”

Okay. So who’s fault was this accident?

Clearly it was mine. Despite the situation, I’m pretty sure any insurance company is going to lay the blame on the person who’s backing up. That’s probably accurate about 95% of the time. But what happens if someone were to dart behind you as you’re backing and there’s no way you could’ve seen them? This happens to me all the time when I’m delivering to a customer like Walmart or Lowes. Is it still the backer’s fault? What about if some moron pulls up five feet from your rear bumper? Who’s fault is it then?

Okay. I admit in this scenario it’s still my fault. I checked one mirror, but I did not check both mirrors like I know I’m supposed. I was in a hurry and I let my guard down for an instant. Again, I’m not exaggerating when I say an instant.

After I had pulled in and stopped, it honestly only took me about five seconds before I saw the guy pull out of that spot. Literally… five seconds. I barely had time to stop before I was grabbing for reverse. That means within that five second time frame the other truck must have pulled up within five feet of my bumper and stopped. I’d like to call him an idiot, but how do I know he didn’t have a five-second lapse of attention too?

I’ve learned two lessons about truck safety from this encounter.

One, always leave plenty of space between you and the truck in front of you. Obviously I already knew this, but this was just another really crappy way of reminding me again. This goes for parking lots and stoplights. You never know what the moron in front of you (me in this case) is going to do.

The second lesson I learned is that sometimes bad luck and fate are just going to get you. Here’s the skinny. As many of you know, I have written two blog posts about drivers being complacent when it comes to truck safety. The first was TD97: A Trucker’s Worst Nemesis: Complacency and the second being TD104: Complacency Strikes. For those of you who listen to the podcast, you probably know that I get more feedback from these two blog posts than about anything else.

Truck safety has been on my mind more than it ever has.

Because of these articles, I have been more cautious in almost everything I do. When I’m turning a corner, even if I’m 100% positive I have plenty of room, I always pay close attention to my mirror so I can guarantee my trailer is making it around whatever I’m trying to avoid.

When I’m driving through a busy parking lot, I’m always looking from side-to-side to make sure no one darts out in front of me or some moron car has decided to use the truck stop parking lot as a trial for the Indy 500 (I’m looking at you, Evil Overlord).

For quite a few years now, I think I’ve been better than the average driver when it comes to truck safety. Helping both cars and trucks get onto highways, letting drivers change lanes, waving vehicles out from busy driveways, and slowing down when a slightly faster truck is passing, are just a few of the things I’ve practiced for many years. But I have been even more diligent about this ever since I wrote those two blog posts. I better be. I’ve gotta walk the walk, you know.

Up until February I hadn’t had an accident in ages. Now this. One five-second lapse of attention and I’ve got a backing accident on my record with the CSA points to match. I’m pissed at myself and I’m even more pissed when the other driver calls the cops out about 30 minutes later. At least it wasn’t a lot lizard pounding on my door, I guess.

I’m sure many of you are thinking that I need to just face the fact that I screwed up. I do. I completely admit it. Trust me. When you’re married to The Evil Overlord for 23 years, you get good at admitting you’re wrong about stuff. Largely because you are. Or I am. Wait. Oh for Pete’s sake, you know what I mean. So here’s the question.

Was my accident because of my lack of vigilance or just because it was my time?

I would argue that a driver cannot pay attention 100% of the time. They can try their best, but no one is perfect, right? Ah, you say. But what about the million milers? For you non-truckers out there, million milers are drivers who have driven 1 million miles or more continuously without an accident or incident of any kind. Or are they?

I’m going to go ahead and just admit this. I get distracted while I’m driving.

I am not a freaking robot. I cannot stare at the road for a constant 11 hours (well, actually eight with the stupid 30-minute break) with a brow-furrowing concentration on all things truck safety. Anyone who says they can is either some sort of idiot driving savant or a Pinocchio wanna be.

There are times when your mind just wanders because you’re listening to a good audiobook, your favorite podcast (obviously Trucker Dump), or that wicked riff you just heard Megadeth play. Am I alone here? Don’t leave me hangin’ like a trucker’s 3-piece suit.

Granted, my mind only wanders away from truck safety whenever I’m on the open road. I’m not one of these guys who is listening to music or talking on the phone while he is backing the trailer, trying to maneuver around a tight spot, or barreling down an onramp. Yet a measly five seconds of inattention and here I am.

So how do these million milers stay accident-free?

Are they just super focused on truck safety? Have they practiced some Jedi concentration method that enables them to tap into the Force? How did they drive 1 million miles without a single screw-up? Well in my experience, they didn’t.

Over the years I’ve been able to talk to a handful of million mile drivers. I asked them all the same question; did they really drive 1 million miles without anything bad happening? Not one single driver told me that this is the case. None of them were all they’re cracked up to be.

One of them said he backed into another driver’s mirror at a truck stop. It only caused minor damage so the safety director kept it off his record. That is an accident in my book. Just because it’s not in the books, doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a lapse of judgment. Been there, done that.

Another million miler told me he was doing a tight back into a dock when he turned a little too sharply, causing his fairing wing to bend slightly when it hit the trailer. Oops. Again, he was getting close to the 1 million mile mark and the safety director didn’t want to ruin it for him over one tiny mistake. While that was really cool of the safety director, that’s still an accident by truck safety standards.

Yet another “perfect” driver told me that he was going down a residential street towards a shipper when he clipped a low-hanging electrical line. In this particular case, he had to argue with the safety department, but eventually got it overturned because he was following directions that were given him by his company to get to that particular customer. So in other words, he had an accident but still retains his million mile status.

So my question is this: Is there anyone out there who is truly accident-free? Have you never let your guard down for even one second? Or are you just the luckiest trucker on the planet? If you are, I’d love to hear from you about how you accomplished this super-human feat. Email me at TruckerDump@gmail.com.

It seems to me that when it is your time, it’s your time.

You can do everything you can to avoid accidents, but when your number is called you’ve got no choice but to step up to the meat counter and accept your nasty slab of beef liver. I tell a story in my book, Trucking Life: An Entertaining, Yet Informative Guide To Becoming And Being A Truck Driver, about a question that was asked at my truck driving school way back in 1997.

By the way, sorry for the long paragraph. It’s a combination of WordPress limitations and my lack of programming skills. I assure you the book isn’t one long run-on sentence. Anyway, here is an excerpt from Trucking Life:

[quote]Knowing the difference between a preventable and a nonpreventable accident can be confusing. In driving school, we were told this scenario and asked if it would be considered preventable or nonpreventable. You give it a try. Pay attention. There may be a quiz afterward. Say you’re coming up on a red traffic light at a busy intersection. Just as you start to slow down, the light changes to green and you proceed. Suddenly, to your left you see a car that isn’t slowing down. You hit the brakes, but it’s too late. The car ran the red light and hit your truck. As for your part, is it preventable or nonpreventable? This is where the Jeopardy music would be playing if it weren’t copyrighted. Be sure to answer in the form of a question. Everyone in my class agreed that since the other guy ran the red light, the truck driver would be cited with a nonpreventable accident. What do you think? If you agreed with us, you’d be wrong. You, the super-trucker, would be charged with a preventable accident. Say what? Yeah, our sentiments exactly. What you’ve got to remember is that when they’re determining whether an accident was preventable or nonpreventable, they’re not trying to determine who’s at fault. They’re simply trying to figure out if the accident could have been avoided. In this case, it was clearly the automobile’s fault because it ran a red light. Certainly, your green light meant that you had the right-of-way, but having a green light isn’t enough. Everyone knows that you’re supposed to check both ways before you enter an intersection. What most drivers don’t think about is that this also applies to traffic lights. Because the trucker didn’t look both ways and entered the intersection when someone was coming, that accident could have (supposedly) been avoided. That’s insane! Yeah, we thought so too. We argued with the instructor about it forever, but lost in the end. [/quote]

Do you see what I mean? You could be tooling along, minding your own business and making the truck safety gods happy, when all of a sudden something happens that you have no control over. Maybe you’re cruising along a Wyoming highway and a gust of wind blasts you off the road. What are you supposed to do about that?

What about black ice? It’s called that because you can’t freaking see it! Some may argue that you shouldn’t be on the road if conditions are icy. But I bet you there isn’t a single driver reading this who hasn’t been surprised by an icy spot on the road before. And if you haven’t yet… well, good times are coming, my friend. Just you wait. That’ll put a whole new meaning to the term Trucker Dump.

What about if you’re pulling into a truck stop and you stop for five seconds and then some moron stops right behind you and you back into him? Okay, okay. Still a bad example.

So I guess the point is this. All we can do as drivers is try our best.

We can try not to let our phones distract us and we can choose to watch the road instead of looking for attractive seat covers as they drive by. We can try not to drive in bad weather. We can get out and look every single time we back in… multiple times. And we should do all these things.

But ultimately, none of us can control every single thing around us. So in the end we just have to face the fact that when it’s our time for a boo-boo, it’s our time. One thing’s for certain, the safest place you can be right now is five feet behind my truck, cuz there ain’t no way I’m making that mistake again… until I quit concentrating for five seconds again. Ugh. I’m screwed.

[box]Am I nuts? How much do you think luck plays in your ability to stay accident-free? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.[/box]

Links mentioned in the podcast version:

TD78: A Trucker’s Thanksgiving was my last Thanksgiving-themed podcast. It is also one of my favorite podcast episodes. The snark meter goes off the charts!

I reluctantly discuss the 2016 presidential election and the results. Yeesh. What a mess.

Since the election was so depressing in general, I went over to Singsnap.com and recorded a few songs. Have at it if you want to hear me butcher some perfectly good songs.

I came across another idiot truck driver recently. I tell the story and mention TD66: Trucker’s Go Turtle Racing.

Scalebuster is a new app that tells you if the scales are open. You can also report any surprise inspections you run across.

The new myPilot app has has a couple of cool features but one of them doesn’t always work.

I did a review of the AeroPress coffee maker. It will probably help if you watch the short AeroPress video first.

AeroPress store locator and authorized seller list.

I asked you guys to weigh in on me starting a Facebook page. I share the results and mention Buck from The Trucking Podcast along the way.

I started a new Slack group for Trucker Dump listeners! Request an invite by emailing me at TruckerDump@gmail.com with the subject line: Slack.

Of course, the iTruckers Slack group is still as active as ever too. It’s more for truckers who are Apple enthusiasts. Request an invite by emailing Trucker Bob at iTruckers@iCloud.com. And thanks to Shannon who is @holden657 on Twitter for drawing in a few more members by promoting the iTruckers Slack group on the Today in iOS podcast.

See a photo of the minor damage I caused to another truck.

I mention my two podcasts about truck driver complacency, TD97: A Trucker’s Worst Nemesis: Complacency and TD104: Complacency Strikes.

The Evil Overlord gets another mention. This time it’s because of the way she drives in parking lots.

If you’ve truly never had a driving accident or incident of any kind, I’d love to hear from you. Email me at TruckerDump@gmail.com.

I tell a story from my book, Trucking Life: An Entertaining, Yet Informative Guide To Becoming And Being A Truck Driver, about preventable/nonpreventable accidents. I include an excerpt from the book.

In the feedback section:

Jagdeep Singh asks about starting a trucking career and Chad Case asks whether he should keep driving local or go over-the-road.

Show info:

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

You can find me on Twitter @ToddMcCann.

Join the Trucker Dump Slack group! Download the free Slack app and email me for an invite at TruckerDump@gmail.com.

Got a second to Rate and/or Review the podcast in iTunes?

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

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

TD112: Truckers Can’t Read

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According to the FMCSA website, “You must be able t speak and read English to drive trucks in the United States (I had linked to the goof, but they apparently fixed it).” You know, I think this is one of those times where the word “ironic” actually works. Notice anything about this sentence? Yep. Our brilliant overseers somehow managed to misspell a two-letter word. Seriously. I copy/pasted it. Click the link if you don’t believe me. Man, I hope they don’t fix it now. You know, it’s time like these that I’m glad my blog is about as popular as a reality show about corporate accountants.

Quite honestly, I didn’t trust my own eyes the first time I saw it; kinda like that time when I was 12 years old and my best friend and I spotted a discarded Playboy in the alley behind our small-town public library. Of course, now this Christian would just keep walking, but I WAS FREAKIN’ 12, MAN!!! AND THEY WERE NEKID!!!!

Okay, let’s come off Memory Lane (or Memory Alley in this case) and get to the point. What the heck is wrong with truckers today? Can y’all not read or what? At least the 11 million or more illegal immigrants (depending who you ask) who come here every year have a legitimate excuse. But I see a crap-ton of cases every day where CDL-holding drivers apparently can’t read. Case in point…

Anyone who has been on I-65 in Kentucky recently knows that pretty much the whole stinkin’ 137-mile stretch is plagued by bright orange Daleks. I’ve been there quite a lot lately and I can tell you firsthand that most truckers can’t read. Either that or they’re just blatantly ignoring traffic signs. But that can’t be right, can it? Truckers would never do that, would they? Apparently, they would.

A big chunk of that road has signs that clearly read, TRUCKS MUST USE LEFT LANE. There are a bunch of them. I wasn’t keeping track, but I bet there’s a sign every 4-5 miles for at least 60-70 miles. I was in the left lane going 55 mph, because that’s how fast the other non-readable signs said to go. That’s when I realized I was the last remaining literate trucker.

I had truckers screaming by me on my right side. Now since I also seem to be the last trucker on the planet that actually obeys the speed limit (Prime drivers don’t count – ooooo, burrrrrrn @DriverChrisMc), I wasn’t surprised in the least that everyone was passing me. What did surprise me is that no one… I mean NO ONE was getting back in the left lane after they had passed. They just stayed out in the right lane! So actually, they were even closer to those LEFT LANE signs than I was! And they still couldn’t read them!

I simply don’t understand why. Like I said, I was the only one in the left lane that was within eyeshot, so it’s not like they had to stay out there to get around other trucks. And of course, the cars weren’t in the way because they were all going faster than the speeding trucks. Can someone please explain the rationale here?

Now you all know how much I loathe the CB, but this is one time I couldn’t resist. I keyed up the mic and asked, “Am I the only one who can read? Or do y’all know something that I don’t?” Crickets. Now normally I’m on Team Trucker, but I couldn’t help but think to myself, “Where’s a cop when you need one?” Yes, I know what most of you are thinking, “You drive your truck and I’ll drive mine.” I hear you. Now shut up. It’s my blog.

This all happened when I was southbound. When I headed back north a couple of days later, I thought to myself, “Surely that was a fluke. I’m sure it won’t be that bad on the way back up.” Well, I was kinda right. I had two other trucks who were content to fall in behind me and go 55 mph in the left lane. I saw a couple of law-abiding south-bounders too, but still, the vast majority of truckers were hammer down in the right lane again.

I thought, “Maybe it’s just a Kentucky thing? Maybe there’s just so much whiskey in this state that everyone is blurry-eyed?” Nope. A couple days later I was on I-94 heading down into Chicago from Wisconsin. The signs there read, TRUCKS USE 2 RIGHT LANES. There were four lanes in my directions and I was in the far right lane like a good little boy. I get a cookie, right? Sure as shootin’, some hot dog trucker comes up in the third lane. He wasn’t going that fast, so why was he one lane left of legal? It was 4 AM, so it wasn’t heavy traffic. There weren’t even any vehicles in the second lane.

Even more mind boggling, when another lane opened up so there were now five lanes, he scooted over one more to where he was now two lanes beyond legal. What the heck?

Okay, fine. I get it. Trucking is hard. Being paid by the mile bites harder than a rabid crocodile. I also understand that you get dispatched on loads that couldn’t deliver on time even if you had a jumbo-sized Tardis. Also, your company’s E-logs give you less and less wiggle room. And of course, you need to speed to make up for the fact that your company’s routing software screws you out of at least 10% of the mileage on every trip.

But maybe the problem is both the carriers and the driver. You say your mileage pay is lower than a snail’s bellybutton? Find a carrier who pays more. Can’t deliver that load on time without speeding? How about telling your dispatcher that their poor planning doesn’t necessitate you risking your CSA points, your CDL, and a handful of cash that your Evil Overlord would rather spend on pedicures than give to some small town Barney Fife. E-logs forcing you to drive faster? Well, get used to it. They’re coming to us all. And perhaps if you don’t like how you get shorted on mileage pay because you can’t fly like a crow, well…  well with that you’re pretty much screwed. Join the crowd.

I just wish that so many drivers out here weren’t hell-bent on giving all us truckers a bad rep. I mean, I know that auto drivers are often as alphabet-challenged as all you truckers, but I can’t help but think that at least some of those Kentucky-bred 4-wheelers saw those signs and were wondering why all the trucks were in the right lane. Or were they? For all I know, they didn’t pass Reading class either and they thought I was the feminine wash bag who was blocking the fast lane. Who knows with them.

The fact remains that you truckers are naughty little lads and lasses. And you know what that means… you’re going to have to wash your stocking the day after Christmas. I hear those lumps of coal can cause quite a mess. Merry Christmas, everyone!

Links mentioned in the podcast version:

A photo of my new house!

Shaun from PowerTrainHorns.com made an infographic out of TD95: 4 Reasons That Trucker Might Be Tailgating You

The folks at Fleetmover.com put the Trucker Dump podcast on their “Best Trucking (and Non-Trucking Podcasts To Listen To On The Road.” Sweet!

I list some of the articles that are in the TruckerMagazine.com that I have been writing for. Check it out.

Buck and Don from The Trucking Podcast have been riding me pretty hard (in good fun) about me wearing sweat pants at work. Buck wrote an article called 5 Acceptable Places To Wear Sweat Pants. Have a read and let me know what you think about truckers and sweats.

Erich McMann has a new Christmas song called, Santa Was A Trucker. Check out the video here.

The FMCSA misspelled the word “to” on their website (broken link). What makes it ironic is the misspelled word is on the page about truckers being required to be able to read and speak English. LOL

I don’t mention this on the podcast, but I link to TD67: The Road To Smutville in the blog post.

I bring out all the stops with two Dr. Who references in one podcast: Daleks and the Tardis. Look at me go!

As so often happens, I mention three listeners today; Greg @RiverRatWA57, Long Duck @LongDuck71, and Chris @DriverChrisMc.

Electronic logs are being forced on all truckers

TD111: Improving Our Reputation As Truckers

[box]Listen to the audio version above and subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.
Or enter http://abouttruckdriving.com/truckerdump.xml into your favorite podcast app.
Download the intro/outro songs for free! courtesy of Walking On Einstein.
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Photo by Tom Brandt via Flickr Creative Commons

Photo by Tom Brandt via Flickr Creative Commons

Sorry to do this to my handful of faithful readers again, but I’ve got a second post in a row that is largely audio. In the previous episode of Trucker Dump, I interviewed my nephew Jared about the time he spent in my truck.

In this show, I was able to take it to the next level when listener Steven Gorman joined me in my truck to co-host the podcast. So please have a listen by clicking the Play button at the top of the page. Also, be sure to let me know what you think and tell us how you try to improve trucker’s reputations by sharing your thoughts in the comments section below or by emailing me at TruckerDump@gmail.com.

Additional links from the podcast version:

@MikeTheDriver got me started on a rant with a tweet about a slow driver.

Stevens Transport

Steven mentions the Smith System, which is a driving safety method for truckers.

Correction from last week, Clive Hammett’s Twitter name is @Clive_Hammett.

Steven showed me a photo of his “Apple” watch. LOL

We discuss the Slushbuster product again that Greg introduced us to on the last episode. Greg is @RiverRatWA57 on Twitter.

Pat Smith @PatSmithF1 wrote me to point out another windshield wiper device called the Wiper Shaker. Here is a video about it.

I mention the podcast/blog post called, “TD95: 4 Reasons That Trucker Might Be Tailgating You.”

I was interviewed by Noah Davis for an article on Road & Track called “A Trucker Explains Your Worst Driving Habits.”

I have been writing articles for TruckerMagazine.com.

In the feedback section:

Greg @RiverRatWA57 sends an audio comment about yet another fuel bay incident.

Long Duck tell us about a fuel bay showdown with another driver.

Shannon @Holden657 gives his audio feedback about the podcast in general.

 

TD107: The Fuel Bay Golden Rule

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Fuel baysWe all know the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you (or some variant thereof). This rule applies to every aspect of your life. Anyone who says otherwise should be forced to eat my fresh loogies from a spoon. The trucking industry is a part of your life, so it applies here as well.

If everyone out here followed the Golden Rule, we truckers would have a lot less frustration in our lives. Yeah. Wishful thinking. I know. While there are plenty of opportunities to put the Golden Rule into affect, today we’re going to focus on one specific place… the fuel bays.

The way I see it, once we truckers finally escape the time-suck that are the loading docks, there are only two major slowdowns for us once we hit the road. The obvious first one is traffic. Whether it’s rush hour, bad weather, construction zones (with no actual construction taking place), or 4-wheelers being driven by what appears to be armless blindfolded people afflicted by ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), traffic is a trucker’s biggest time-waster. But there is another one too.

The fuel bays at the truckstop are a major bottleneck for truckers. Every minute we spend at the fuel bays is wasted (albeit necessary) time. And when you get paid by the mile, time is money. For starters, every trucker has to go there at least every other day, perhaps more if you’re team driving. And the last time I checked, diesel engines still require fuel to keep churning. Now if some budding genius could figure out a way to harness all the gas stored in a trucker’s seat cushion, well, they’d be richer than a Cadbury Creme Egg.

Secondly, there are only so many fuel bays. If you go to any of the major truckstop chains during the day, there is a decent chance you’ll have to wait in line to get fuel. Even if you are lucky enough to pull right into a bay, that’s still no guarantee you’re getting out of there quickly. And that brings us to the subject at hand.

What should and shouldn’t you do when at a fuel bay?

Prepare before you get there – Okay. To be clear, I’m not saying you should put on your shoes, jacket, and gloves while you’re flying down the exit ramp. Let’s leave the whacked-out exit ramp tactics to the 4-wheeler nut jobs, shall we? But if you need to call your company to approve the purchase, please do that before you pull into the fuel bay.

I can’t count how many times I’ve watched a driver pull his brakes, then get out his cell phone and make a call. Hello????? McFly????? This is NOT the place to do that! You knew you were going to need fuel before you got there, right? Why haven’t you already taken care of this? And if that’s a personal call you’re making, well, then you deserve to eat my loogies too. And this time I’m hoping there’s a little blood mixed in for good measure. But let’s face it…

There are times when your fuel card just hates you – Listen, we all have fuel card issues now and then. The thing is, you usually don’t know how long it’s going to take to sort it out until you’re already well into the process. Here’s the way I handle this.

If the card reader is giving you fits, head into the fuel desk. Nine times out of ten, the cashier can get the pump turned on by manually entering your information. And hey, Einstein, this means you should remember to bring all the relevant information with you. Don’t make everyone wait on you while you run out to get the mileage off your truck. I’ll have to admit that most truckers are good up until this point.

But now the cashier says, “There’s something wrong with the card. I’m going to have to call Comdata (or whoever your card belongs to).” Okay, here’s where most drivers break the Golden Rule. Most drivers will stand there and stare at the cashier while she listens to hold music for 5 minutes, which is fine for the drivers in line because the cashier will likely keep helping other customers.

But what about the driver who’s sitting behind your truck? He’s already stood out on his running board and looked up at your truck shaking his head with disgust… twice. They may have even walked up to your door to see what the hold-up is. But you aren’t there! You’re inside watching someone hold a phone! Unacceptable driver!

What you should do is go back out to your truck the instant that cashier picks up the phone. Even if they were to get through right away, you have no way of knowing if they will be able to fix the problem quickly or not. Sometimes you’ll wait for 10 minutes while they try to fix it, only for them to hang up and tell you that the problem is on your company’s end. Ugh.

Now if nobody is behind your truck when you go out to check, you can do one of two things. 1. Assume the worst and go park your truck until the mess is sorted out, or… 2. Run out and check on it periodically to make sure you aren’t holding anyone up. I prefer the first method, but I’m sure most of you will do the second.

And if you’ve decided to ignore me altogether and block the fuel bay, at least go back and tell the driver behind you that you’re having fuel card issues. He’ll still be pissed that you’re blocking the fuel bay, but at least he’ll be able to move to another line with a less jerky driver. Speaking of holding up other drivers…

Always pull forward after fueling – The fuel bay is NOT a parking spot. I’ve seen drivers do this more often than I’d like. You’re done fueling and you’re now being blocked by the previous driver. You impatiently wait for a bit, but then decide to leave your truck in the fuel bay and run into the truckstop. You’ll be in and out in a jiffy, right?

Well, inevitably, the other driver gets back to his truck just a minute or two after you vacate yours. Now your truck is keeping another driver from fueling. So now you’re wasting his time, which was the very thing you were pissed off about five minutes ago when the the other driver was in front of you. Ya bonehead.

The one time it is acceptable to run in real quick is if you’re going in to find the driver or ask the cashier to use the intercom to get him moving. Oh, and I suppose I’ll give you one other reason. I’d much rather wait on you for a couple of minutes than see you take a whiz in the fuel bay. C’mon, man. Drivers have to walk there!

The fuel bays are not parking spots – This goes for the spaces in front of the bays too. Now if you just need a cup of Joe and a doughnut, then by all means go for it. Although perhaps you should take a look at your waistline before you make that particular choice. But if you’re going in to grab some grub at Subway, Wendy’s, or the ever-so-delicious Taco Hell, then please have a look at the line before you step up.

If there is more than one or two people in line, I’m going to go back out and look to see if I’m blocking anyone. If not, I head back in. If yes, I either go park my truck and walk back in, or I take that opportunity to instead hit the road again with yet another peanut butter and jelly sammich in hand, which does wonders for my cheapskate ego. And hey, if you have to wait on fresh fries or something, go out and check on your truck. Pretty please?

Now I know the chances of most drivers doing any of this is Karen Carpenter to none, but hey, we can always hope.

Hey man! Watch where you’re hosing! – How many times have you been fueling away when you’re suddenly shocked into a surprised-kitten-like-jump by a splash of water from the next bay over? Now I’m not a confrontational kinda guy, but I always let out a “HEYYYYY!” to let the offender know that they need some hose control snicker.

Sure, the hose is there for us to use, so have it. Just follow the Golden Rule. You want the next guy over to look where he’s hosing, so you do it too! I will say that this isn’t always a bad thing on a hot summer day, but the last thing you want during the winter is some ice water running down your shirt. The simple remedy is to look and if you see someone, warn him you’re about to whip the hose out snicker. Yes, I’m 13 years old.

It’s called a fuel bay, not a wash bay – I approve of squeegees. Squeegees are good. By all means, use the squeegees. And the more times you can say the word “squeegee,” the better. It’s a fun word, you know! But here’s the thing with squeegees. If it’s glass or plastic, squeegee away. If it’s not, please refrain.

We’ve all seen the guy who’s trying to save the $40 run to Blue Beacon by squeegeeing his entire truck cab, which, of course, is followed by drenching the driver in the next bay with an errant water hose. So you say, “What do you care? Ain’t no one behind me! I’m ain’t blockin’ no one!” Perhaps thats true. But I still don’t like it, so knock it off. Thanks.

NO SHOWERS! – No, my caps lock isn’t on. I’m getting more and more irate the further I go into this. Seriously folks. If you’ve ever parked on the fuel bay and gone in to take a shower, then I think your children should have to eat my spoon loogies.

I have seen a driver ask to park in front of a broken fuel bay to take a quick shower though. I’ve got no problem with this guy. First, he asked the cashier. And second, he wasn’t blocking anyone. I once parked in a similar spot when I was waiting on a driver to relay my load. Again, it was late at night, the parking lot was full, I asked the cashier, and it was a broken fuel pump with a barrel in front of it. No harm, no foul I say!

NO 30-MINUTE BREAKS! – If that 8-hour mark is creeping up on you, please find a parking space to take your mandatory 30-minute Twitter break. The only caveat here is if there are no parking spaces to be had. Now I’m sure most of you have been in this situation at one time or another. But how did you handle it?

When it’s late and I need to do a 30-minute Clash of Clans break, I’ll pull through a fuel bay and park. If someone pulls up behind me to fuel, I watch in my mirror until I see them hang up the hose. With that, I drive back around and pull into another empty bay. Rinse and repeat until my 30-minute Crossy Road break is over. Even better, if you see a broken pump, use that lane.

I’ve seen a driver do a full 30-minute break in the fuel bays at the Flying J in Waco. It was in the evening and there were lots of trucks pulling in. He was already sitting next to the pump when I pulled into line behind the truck in the bay next to him, so I got to see the whole thing. When I finally got up to the pump, he was just sitting there looking at a magazine. He was still sitting there when when I pulled off some 20 minutes later.

Now you might be saying, “Maybe his co-driver was inside!” Well, maybe that’s true. But does that change anything? He was still blocking other drivers from fueling, right? Don’t mess with the bull son, you’ll get the horns. 😉

In short… DON’T BLOCK THE FRIGGIN’ FUEL BAYS! – There is no excuse that you can give me that will relax my views on this. Even religion won’t work on this kid. Believe it or not, I once saw a Muslim man who had laid down a carpet in front of his truck and he was saying his prayers while he was in front of a fuel bay. Seriously! Hand on the Bible! While he wasn’t keeping anyone from fueling, he did cause the driver behind him to have to back out of the fuel bay to get back on the road. Again I say, UNACCEPTABLE, DRIVER!

Once again, here is the rule of thumb: If there’s even a remote chance of you holding someone up for more than a few minutes, go find a parking space. End of discussion.

Now I know there are some of you out there who don’t believe that I take this much care about “Doing unto others as I would have them do to me,” but it’s the God’s honest truth. I talked about the concept of putting yourself in someone’s shoes all the way back in TD3: What Has Happened To Common Courtesy? and I drove it home big time in TD66: Truckers Go Turtle Racing.

So here’s my offer to you. If any of you ever see me waltzing back to my fuel bay-blocking truck after you’ve been waiting more than 3 minutes, feel free to walk up, Judo chop me in the throat, and call me a hypocrite. Just please ask me to put down my Taco Hell bag first. No one likes crushed Mexican Pizza, you know.

Additional links from the podcast version:

LoadingSpot.com is a free website and app that can help truckers find information about shippers/receivers.

I did a short interview over at TruckersTraining.com

Need to get a quick DOT physical? Check out CVS’s Minute Clinic

Check out this Kickstarter for Advicy Drive, which is a new device to keep drivers from falling asleep at the wheel.

Enter to win a free CD of Trucker Country by Erich McMann or simply send an email to TruckerDump@gmail.com with the subject line: Trucker Music

In the feedback section we hear from:

Dave is binge listening to all the past episodes and has comments on multiple episodes. He also mentions Dan Miller and his 48days program.

Steven says my voice reminds him of someone. I’m not exactly flattered. Here’s YouTube clips of the guy in Wreck-It-Ralph and Talladega Nights.

The Trucking Podcast is a great weekly podcast for truckers. Sometimes twice each week!

A guy calling himself Long Duck (yes, really) writes in with his comments about the two episodes on driver complacency; TD97: A Trucker’s Worst Nemesis: Complacency and TD104: Complacency Strikes.

Jed the Safety Guy, writes in to ask a question about TD101: Stupid Rules That Truckers Tolerate.

 

TD104: Complacency Strikes

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Oops

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Complacency. I know. You’re thinking that word sounds familiar. Where have you heard it recently? Right here, ya big dummy! Back in TD97: A Trucker’s Worst Nemisis: Complacency!

To recap; something really bad had almost happened, so I wrote about how a trucker needs to keep their guard up when it comes to driving safely. I also told you how we experienced drivers can struggle with complacency. And since I was clueless how to keep complacency at bay, I asked you good folks to write in and tell me how you did it, especially you drivers with those snazzy 3-million mile safety stickers on your trucks.

Well, no one wrote in except @DriverChrisMC, who wrote a blog post of his own about it. So the complacency incidents I’m going to tell you about today, I blame entirely on all of you who didn’t write in with your tips. And Obama. Because that’s just what Republicans do. 😉 And before you Democrats say anything about that, let me say one word: Bush. How soon we forget.

Okay. Now that I’ve pissed off at least half my readers, let’s move on to the part where complacency strikes… twice.

Let’s set the stage. This one happened back in October. After finding out my upcoming Halloween home time was only going to be 34 hours long, I was grumpier than a ballerina with bunions. Now 34 hours off wouldn’t be too bad if I had been out one week instead of 3.5 weeks. So yes, that’s a whole crock of crap my company was dumping on me. I’m totally aware of that. I’m also aware that I know this is part of what I signed up for. It’s also part of the reason why I probably make more money than you do.

About 90% of the time, I get 2-3 full days off, but every once in a while I get the Washington Monument-sized shaft. That’s just the way my company works. We get however much home time our load allows. That’s why I always hope to go home empty. Even when I don’t, there’s usually plenty of time to get sufficient home time. But it wasn’t looking good this time. I don’t much like this about my company, but clearly I’ve decided that money is my priority.

So anyway, I wasn’t in a great mood, but I hadn’t lost hope. If my next load was ready early, I might be able to get home early. Luck was not on my side, so I parked for the night and focused on I Thessalonians 5:18, which says, “In every thing give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” Yeah. I pretty much failed at that. Hey! We Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven!

The load was ready the next afternoon as scheduled. When I pulled the trailer from the dock, I couldn’t get the doors closed because some long metal rails were sticking out past the end of the trailer. Now I won’t say the name of the shipper, but they are the overhead door company that everyone’s heard of *wink, wink*. I had to back up to the door again and get a loader to rework some stuff. This shouldn’t been my first clue, but I’m often about as bright as a Bic lighter in a cave. Forty-five minutes later, I was finally ready to go.

As I said, the freight was all the way to the rear of the trailer, but nothing looked particularly heavy. Just some of those light railings and some cardboard boxes that were haphazardly thrown on. The way they were stacked, they looked fairly light. The paperwork said the load weighed 38,000 pounds. Now I regularly haul loads of pallets with similar weights without a problem, so I knew exactly where to slide my tandems. Or so I thought. This is where the complacency set in.

There was a public scale at a little trucking company just a couple of blocks away. Oblivious to my complacency, I drove right past it, as I did the CAT scales at Love’s in Aurora, Nebraska and the Petro in York. The weigh station just east of Lincoln was open, so I rolled onto the scale and stopped as instructed. I then got the green light to continue, but just as I started to roll off, the red light came back on. I sat there for 30 seconds wondering what I should do. No one was giving me verbal instructions. No one was coming out either, but the light remained red. Finally, I was told to pull over and bring my paperwork in.

Now this is odd for my company to get pulled into a weigh station, so I didn’t have a clue what was coming. You see, my company has a great safety reputation and the DOT knows we run electronic logs. Usually when I get pulled in, it’s because an officer needs to do one more inspection to meet his daily quota and he wants to do it on a truck and driver he’s fairly confident will pass with flying colors. Seriously. I’ve been told that more than once.

For what happened next, I wish I had video footage. I went inside with a friendly smile and asked what the officer needed. He asked to see all the normal stuff (registration, insurance card, and IFTA, or International Fuel Tax Agreement) and then dropped the bombshell, “You’re 5,000 pounds over on your trailer tandems.” I was stunned into silence. I don’t know how long I stood there before I realized my jaw was hanging open. That’s why I’d like to see the video. I must’ve looked like I’d just seen my mom naked.

When I could finally speak again, I asked if he’d let me try to get legal. He said he would, but I’d still have to pay the $373 ticket. Nuts. I’d just had my life insurance renewed and the $670 premium was due any day. Now this. Unfortunately, I was so perturbed that I dropped an F-bomb on the cop, which is something coming from a guy who’s nephews call him out when he says “dadgummit.” To his credit, and my luck, the cop took it in stride. Good thing, cuz he could’ve pulled off a Lurch costume on Halloween. This guy was a monster. As in HUGE!

I called my company and thankfully they paid the ticket. Well, sort of. They agreed to deduct it in installments out of my next four paychecks. Fair enough (although I didn’t think so at the time, but that’s another story altogether). I slid the tandems all the way to the rear, rolled across the scale, and got pulled in again. Still 1600 pounds over! Ugh. Feeling guilty, I apologized to Lurch for my pissy attitude and he accepted, saying he’d be pissed too if the shipper had loaded it that poorly. He then called the weigh station on the other side of the highway to let them know I’d be heading back to the shipper for reloading.

Back at the shipper, the loader wasn’t surprised to see me. He said the guy who loaded my trailer earlier that day loaded them wrong all the time. The guy was lazy and since they hand-loaded everything, he saved all the heavy stuff for the back so he didn’t have to carry it so far. I asked why he didn’t bother to mention that fact earlier when I had him moving some stuff around to get the trailer doors closed. Amazingly, I did it without getting snotty, even though he would’ve had it coming. He had no answer.

He went on to say that the bad loader used to be a night shift supervisor, so no one had the nerve to tell him a lot of his trailers were being returned for reloading. Fabulous. You know, sometimes I forget how awesome it can be to have a job where I don’t have to deal with co-worker’s incompetence. There. I found something to be thankful for in this whole mess. Now that’s how you practice that I Thessolonians passage!

I told the guy to take at least 1700 pounds off the rear, preferably more. He pulled off about 1500 pounds of those cardboard boxes, which turned out to be about 50 pounds each. Another wrong assumption! I told him 1500 pounds wouldn’t be enough but I didn’t argue much since I new there was a scale nearby. I drove over to the scale and grabbed my jar of coins for the self-serve scale. Great. It didn’t take coins and I didn’t have enough cash. Out came the debit card. I was still 200 pounds over, so back to the shipper I went. He sheepishly took off some more freight as I smugly watched. Back to the scale and I was finally legal with the tandems all the way to the rear. Thankfully Nebraska and Iowa don’t have bridge laws to speak of.

Okay. So how was I complacent in this? Well, I acted as if all 38,000 pound loads are the same when I know they aren’t. A full load of pallets that all weigh the same is different from a load of mix-and-match loaded pallets, boxes, crates, railings, and assorted crap thrown on. I know this. I truly do. But I was in a rush and I was too confident in myself.

To add insult to injury, I realized the next day that I’d left my jar of coins on the top of the money machine at the scale. I had about $20 of change in it, but by the time I realized it I was too far away to go back. Even more frustrating, I’d left it there on my first trip to the scale and didn’t see it sitting there when I returned less than an hour later. Grrrr.

Now on to part two of this complacency saga.

I needed a haircut and I went to Walmart. Okay. That’s a lie. That wouldn’t be complacency anyway. That would be called stupidity. Well, at least if you’re a metrosexual like me. I didn’t use to be this way, but The Evil Overlord has changed me so much that I actually used the words “my hair stylist” the other day. She found that hysterical, the heartless wench. I’m quite disgusted with myself really. Anyway, part two seriously did happen because I needed a haircut.

Guys, if you haven’t been to Sport Clips yet, give it a try. The place looks like a locker room and there are TVs everywhere. Thankfully, it doesn’t smell like a locker room. The ladies there specialize in men’s haircuts and I’ve never had a bad haircut yet *knock on wood*. You can get the MVP package that includes a hot towel, a head massage, and a back massage (with an electric massager), all for about $20! The Evil Overlord and I made the mistake of taking the nephews there and now they won’t go anywhere else. The brats. If anyone knows of a good place to dig shallow graves, let me know.

Anywho, I was in Abilene, Texas and found a Sport Clips nearby with my iPhone. Using Google Maps, I used the Satellite view to see if there was a place to park a full-size big rig. Sure enough, there was a hotel right next door with a large dirt lot around the back. Man; how did we ever survive without smartphones? The only problem with Google Maps is that you’re looking down from above, so you can’t truly know what you face until you get there.

As I was turning into the parking lot, I noticed that it had a large hump at the entrance. I paused for a minute and thought, “I just went over some railroad tracks that were steeper than this. I shouldn’t have any problems.” Well guess what? I didn’t. I pulled right in, parked, asked the manager if it was okay to park there briefly, and ran over to Sport Clips for my free MVP.

That’s one more cool thing for OTR truckers. Every time you go to a Sport Clips for the first time, you get the MVP (hot towel, etc) for free. I get them free all the time because I stop in so many different cities. One more thing, Sport Clips will give you free neck trims between haircuts. And trust me guys, some of you dudes really need this. Too bad they don’t do ear and nose hair. They could make a fortune off truckers.

So I wasn’t complacent, right? Not so fast. As I pulled out of the parking lot, I didn’t give it a second thought. If I had gone over that hump once, surely I’d roll right over it again, right? Wrong. I high-centered the trailer on the landing gear (see photo above). I hit it just hard enough to wedge it in there good. And before you ask, yes, I had the landing gear all the way up. I may be complacent sometimes, but I’m not an idiot.

For the record, I see this particular bit of compacency all the time. As I sit here writing this, I can see three trailers with the landing gear only partially jacked up. Bad plan guys and gals. You may know your route well and know there aren’t any steep railroad tracks or driveways along the way, but what happens if you hit a detour that puts you on the back roads? Sure, if you’re just moving a trailer a few hundred feet, you might not bother being so thorough, but you’ve got to be careful with that too. Before I got smart, I almost high-centered a trailer pulling one out of a steep dock area. Better safe than sorry. Jack that sucker up!

Well, I tried putting stuff under the tires, but I couldn’t get enough traction. I turned on traction control. No dice. I turned on my differential locker thingamabob. Noper. A guy in a 4-wheel drive pickup even hooked up a chain to the rear bumper, but quickly gave up when he had all four tires squalling without budging it an inch. Even the heavy-duty tow truck had to hook up both cables to pry it off that stinkin’ hump. I’m guessing that $250 tow truck bill will be coming out of my safety bonus. I won’t be mentioning that to The Evil Overlord. And now I’m grateful that she doesn’t read the blog.

Yep. Complacency. And I’ve got no excuse either. I know that you can hit the same bump at different angles with different results. I learned this in my ’68 Firebird way back when I was 17 years old. You see, our local McDonald’s had a wicked-steep driveway. If I hit it one way, I’d strape the crap out of my traction bars and look like a dork. But if I rolled in at a different angle, I’d remain the cool dude that I am.

So I ask again, how do you drivers out there keep from getting complacent? Or do you?

First off, let me say that I don’t think it’s possible to keep complacency at bay 100% of the time. I’ve spoken with two 3-million milers and both admitted that they’d had things happen that should’ve been counted as a safety incident, but neither were. Both of their safety directors said the same thing, “Let’s not ruin a perfect record over something so trivial.” To be fair, neither incident was any big deal, but still, average drivers like you and me wouldn’t have gotten away with it.

In @DriverChrisMC’s blog post, he said that he wakes up every day and assumes he doesn’t know everything about trucking and that helps keep him alert. The thing is, I’m well aware that I don’t know everything either, yet I still fall back into complacency when things are going well.

He says he also keeps the Smith System’s 5 Keys in mind as he drives, but exactly how does that happen? When I’m driving, I’m listening to podcasts, music, or thinking about how I’m going to spend my Mega Millions winnings. And no, I wouldn’t be safer in silence because I’d be asleep and drooling on my steering wheel. Sure, I think more about safety when I’m in heavy traffic, but what about when I’m not? Neither of my recent incidents involved heavy traffic, nor was I listening to anything to distract me. I was just doing routine stuff every trucker does.

Chris is undoubtedly better at warding off complacency than me, but even he admits in his post that the main reason he doesn’t get as complacent as some of the rest of us is because he’s a trainer who usually has a student in the truck. I can totally see that. But quite honestly, I’d rather go back to that Nebraska weigh station and kick Lurch in the nads than put my life in the hands of a student driver. Ya know what I mean, Vern?

*Okay. I’m asking again: How do you keep complacency at bay? Got any tips or tricks? Or maybe you’ve failed in the complacency department too. Please write in a tell your story so we can all learn from it… and perhaps laugh at you a bit.*

Additional links from the podcast version:

The Evil Overlord (wife and ex-codriver) recently had neck surgery. Check out the photo of her neck scar.

The Trucker Dump podcast is now part of the lineup on BigRigRadio.com, an Australian-based 24/7 Internet radio station that focuses on the transportation and mining industries. Check it out!

@DriverChrisMC and his blog post about complacency

My failure in regards to I Thessalonians 5:18

My podcast/blog post about Sliding trailer tandems and bridge laws

The first of many podcast/blog post about electronic logbooks

IFTA (International Fuel Tax Agreement)

If you don’t know who Lurch is, check out this video clip

My podcast/blog post called What Makes The Evil Overlord, Evil?

Dudes; check out Sport Clips for your next haircut

Photo of my trailer high-centered

Smith System 5 Keys to Safe Driving

Know what I mean, Vern?

Listener Buck writes in to comment about his love of flatbedding and I wonder why. His latest podcast is called The Trucking Podcast.

New listener Dave listened to TD41: Trucking In The Northeast and tells us a similar story.

Check out BigTruckGuide.com for a help figuring out stuff about truck weights, including each state’s bridge laws.

New listener Paul writes in and tells us that big rigs didn’t used to have front brakes and he points us to a cool video with a two-stroke diesel at a tractor pull. Saaaa-weeeeeet!

Got a second to Rate and/or Review the podcast?

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

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

TD101: Stupid Rules That Truckers Tolerate

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Oops. I guess I pulled from the dock too early.

Oops. I guess I pulled from the dock too early.

Any trucker who’s driven for more than a week will tell you that there are stupid rules everywhere in the trucking industry. Naturally, if you’re one of those truckers, your thoughts immediately flew to the well-meaning, but ignorant rule-makers at the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration, or FMCSA for short. But today is not the day to rail against the FMCSA. I’ve done plenty of venting about them in the past. Just type “FMCSA” into the search bar if you don’t believe me. We also won’t be discussing bad trucking company policies. I did touch on that way back in TD10: When Company Policy Overrides Common Sense. No, today we’re talking about stupid rules that are put into place by the shippers and receivers we truckers deal with every day.

Stupid rules caused by stupid truckers

You know, if there’s one thing I’m certain of, it’s that people are often idiots. I think we can all agree on that just by watching one short episode of America’s Funniest Home Videos. Or if you’re a trucker, you can simply look out your windshield for the next three seconds. Now it wouldn’t be so bad if all these idiots could be stupid in a vacuum, but unfortunately their stupidity oozes out onto the rest of us like a jelly donut inevitably squirts raspberry goo onto your new white shirt. What I’m trying to say is that all too often the stupid rules we truckers have to follow can be traced back to some crap-for-brains trucker screwing it up for everyone.

Dock accidents

At some time or another, some trucker has tried to pull away from the dock before they were supposed to. Whether this was an impatient trucker, a simple lack of communication, or possibly a bit of both, it really doesn’t matter; the trucker will likely take the blame. The shippers/receivers have come up with all sorts of ways to keep dock accidents from happening. Before we get into the stupid rules, we should discuss the things that shippers/receivers have done to prevent dock accidents.

  • Photo by Eric Blacker; darkstaff on Flickr,  @darkstaff on Twitter

    Photo by Eric Blacker; darkstaff on Flickr, a.k.a. @darkstaff

    Dock lights – Every modern dock is equipped with these lights. They are always on the outside of the building on the driver’s side of the dock so the driver can see them from the driver’s seat. If the light is green, that means the trucker can back in or pull away from the dock safely. If it’s red, you should keep your stinking hands off the gear shift. These lights are reversed on the dock side, so when the driver has the green, the forklift driver gets a red light, meaning they shouldn’t go onto the trailer. Likewise, when the driver sees the red light, that means it should be safe for the lift driver to go on and off the trailer.

  • Photo by Eric Blacker; darkstaff on Flickr, a.k.a @darkstaff

    Photo by Eric Blacker; darkstaff on Flickr, a.k.a @darkstaff

    Dock restraint systems – These restraint systems are designed to lock the trailer against the dock. There are many manufacturers, but they all pretty much do the same thing. A giant hook comes out and latches onto the bumper of the trailer. These restraints work on all trailers because every trailer since the early 80s is required to have a DOT (Department of Transportation) regulated rear bumper installed for safety reasons.

It’s important to note that both of these safety devices can only be controlled from inside the building. And more often than not, there’s a sign stating that the driver is not allowed to touch the controls. Okay, so you’d think that would be enough, right? Well, apparently not because many shippers/receivers have implemented additional guidelines that can be characterized as nothing less than overkill. Oh boy, if my brother knew I just said “Overkill,” he’d be wigging out. He does love his 80s metal bands. So now we get to the stupid rules ranting. Let’s go.

Overkill dock safety practices

Chocking a tire – (see picture) Most companies have chock blocks sitting out and there are signs stating that you won’t get loaded until you stick one under your trailer tire. Sometimes the loader checks this visually, other times not. Now these chock blocks won’t keep a torque monster like a semi from pulling away from the dock if you’ve got a mind to, but they will provide enough resistance to hopefully wake you up out of your stupor. Okay. So now we have something stuck under one tire. Fine. Combined with the dock lights and the restraint system, that should be enough, right? Well, that depends how anal the shipper/receiver is.

Chocking two tires – Okay, now we’re getting into overkill land. Some customers will have you use two chock blocks, one for each side of the trailer. Does this make any sense? Sure, it might double the resistance factor, but it seems a bit excessive. Or does it? Maybe not. Cuz some companies go even further.

Blue is service line. Red is supply (emergency) line.

Blue is service line. Red is supply (emergency) line.

Air line locks – The braking system on a tractor-trailer is controlled by air. The blue line you see in the photo is the service line. It regulates air to the brakes. If you press hard on the brake pedal, it forces more air to apply the brakes harder. The red line is the supply line (or emergency line). It’s job is to supply a steady stream of air to the air tanks on the trailer. If the pressure drops too low, the trailer brakes will lock up. This is the loud pop and whooshing sound you hear when we are parking.

Photo by Hy Ryan

Photo by Hy Ryan

An air line lock is used to make sure the trailer brakes stay locked. This small device is attached to the glad hand by an employee of the customer. Since the red air line can’t be attached at the same time, this really does a good job of keeping the trailer in place. Even if a trucker wanted to, they probably couldn’t move the trailer. With those trailer brakes locked, even a torqued-out diesel engine usually can’t drag a loaded trailer with the air brakes locked.Okay.

So now if I want to move this trailer before I’m supposed to, I’ll have to ignore the red light, rip the restraint system off the wall, and run over two chock blocks. But that’s only after I take a sledge-hammer to the air line lock. Yeesh. Is this step really necessary? But wait! There’s more!

Disconnect from the trailer – We’re not talking about just the red air line here. We’re talking unhooking both air lines, the electrical line, the fifth wheel, lowering the landing gear, and pulling out from under the trailer. Sometimes they’ll let you sit in front of the trailer. Other times they’ll have you go park in another area. So now I’m not even hooked to the trailer. Finally! Safety has been assured, yes? You would think, wouldn’t you?

Take your keys inside – Believe it or not, there are still some customers who take it one step further: you have to take your keys inside and hang them on a board or give them to the shipping clerk. Sometimes they’ll let you go back out to your truck, but there are just as many who require you to stay in the building. So now we’re completely safe. No chance of pulling away from the dock. But just to be safe…

Lock your keys in a locker – Okay. Let me go ahead and say that this has only happened to me a few times in my 17-year career. Still, it has happened. I’ve done all the aforementioned stuff and when I went inside they actually take my keys and lock them in a locker. Only after they’ve finished loading/unloading and I have my paperwork in hand do they hand me the key to the padlock. Hellooooo? Have we reached Paranoiaville yet?

Other miscellaneous stupid customer rules

One of many stupid customer rules

One of many stupid customer rules

No idling – I’ve already covered this topic in far greater detail way back in TD11: The Insanity of Truck Idling Laws. As a matter of fact, that whole article was brought about by this very situation. I was sitting at a customer who wouldn’t allow trucks to idle while being loaded. Other customers go so far as to say there is no idling whatsoever allowed on their property; sitting in a dock or not. Okay; let me be brief. Here are 3 reasons no-idling rules aren’t cool:

  1. A co-driver could be trying to sleep.
  2. I could be either colder than Eskimo snot or hotter than Daisy Duke in a jacuzzi.
  3. I might need to idle to power all my electrical crap. Enough said.

Both drivers must exit the truck – The Evil Overlord and I have dealt with this in two scenarios. One; they don’t want either driver in the truck while they’re loading/unloading. Again, 9 times out of 10 this disrupts one of the driver’s sleep. That’s just so uncool, man. And secondly, they’ve needed us both to check in at the shipping/receiving office.

Honestly, this latter situation hasn’t happened a lot, but it really hacked me off every time it did. And if was peeved, you can imagine how pleased The Evil Overlord was. Especially when she was the one having to get out of bed. Seriously, if it’s a security issue (like a high-value load), what’s the point of dragging both of us inside? If the truck or any of its product gets stolen, the company I drive for knows everything about both of us, including our social security numbers. And if they know what truck number picked up the load (and how could they not if they sent me to get it), they know who is driving the truck. And let’s not forget that most trucks have satellite systems that can be tracked too. Overkillllll!

Unreasonable speed limits – Why is it that a customer can post a 10 mph sign and every driver is expected to do it, except of course, all the yard jockeys… who are apparently trying to run down The Flash? Listen, I understand the need to not have every truck flying around the parking lot, but if I’ve got to go to the far side of that huge warehouse, I’d like to get there sometime before tomorrow afternoon. Lighten up already!

Shipper load/driver count – I covered all this junk back in TD32: SLC to CYA, but I’ll touch on this particular one again. Sometimes the shipper will claim responsibility for the correct count of the product. That’s called a Shipper Load and Count, or SLC.

Other times, they pass it off onto the driver. We call this Shipper Load/Driver Count, or SLDC. In this situation, we drivers have to stand by the dock door and count the product as it’s loaded. Here’s the problem with this; we don’t know the product. Now if the loader tells us that each pallet has 30 cases of prune juice, then that’s easy enough to count; 6 boxes on each row, 5 rows, equals 30 cases… and lots of pooping. But if it gets any more confusing than that, how are we to really know what we’re signing for?If they tell me there’s 200 boxes per pallet, how easy is it to know for sure? How do I know the loader hasn’t taken 10 cases out of the middle of the stack and hidden them in the trunk of his car? And if the pallets are double-stacked… well, then I’m really clueless about what’s on that bottom pallet.

My point is, why should it be the driver’s responsibility to make sure the trailer is loaded with the right amount and correct type of product? Loaders should be responsible for loading. I mean, I don’t ask the receiver to back my truck into the dock, do I? That’s my job. What the heck is his if it’s not loading trucks?

Cleanliness of trailers – I haul sugar quite a bit. These loads are known as “food grade” loads. Not only are these loads a pain because they’re heavier than Jared before Subway, but these customers also require you to get on your hands and knees to lick your trailer floor clean. Okay, maybe it’s not quite that bad. But I have had trailers rejected for what seems like ridiculous reasons.

Listen, I understand the concept of “food grade.” As one annoying sugar plant supervisor once told me, “How would you like to find metal shavings in your food?” Well I wouldn’t. But still… I have been rejected due to a few (and I mean less than a dozen) teeny, tiny, little metal shavings before. We’re talking smaller than a grain of rice here.

Again, I understand “food grade.” But can you tell me exactly how a rice-sized metal shaving is going to jump off the floor, over a wooden pallet, rip through some plastic shrink-wrap and the heavy paper packaging for each bag of sugar, and somehow manage to embed itself into the sugar? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Oh. And did I mention these tiny specks of hellish impurity are usually only still there because they’re down in a crack in the floor of the trailer? Yeah…

So there you have it. These are just a few of the stupid rules that we truckers have to deal with every day. Now I know we truckers aren’t alone here. I’m sure every non-trucker has their own set of stupid rules they’re required to follow too. Heck, just look right here inside our own industry for a great example: The members of the FMCSA are a bunch of non-truckers who have to make up rules for those of us who are truckers. Talk about stupid. Now where’s that Daisy Duke link again? 😀

[hr]

So what have I missed? What’s the most customer overkill you’ve witnessed? Leave your thoughts in the comments below and I’ll share them on a future podcast too!

TD99: 4 Ways To Be An Awesome Trucker

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Used with permission by Bruce Outridge Productions

Used with permission by Bruce Outridge Productions

In case you haven’t noticed, it’s January of a new year. For some odd reason, we puny humans associate this with being able to make a new start in life. As if we couldn’t do it at any other time of the year. But for a change of pace this year, why don’t we aspire to something that we can actually do. I mean really, what are the odds that you’re actually going to learn Mandarin Chinese? Face it. When the Chinese take over the world, they really aren’t going to care whether you know how to ask them where the toilet is. So instead, let’s lower our standards and work on 4 ways to be an awesome trucker.

Awesome Trucker Goal #1: Get healthier

Okay. I decided to do this one first because I’m expecting about 95% of you to skip on down to the next topic. But before you do, hear me out. I’m not saying that you should set some lofty goal that you’ll never be able to reach. Let’s start out with something simple; your food.

Reduce your portions

I was in a Hardee’s not too long ago when they asked me if I wanted to upsize my meal. I said, “No thanks. I don’t want to look like the rest of these truckers out here.” That got two of the employees talking about how disgusted they are with some truckers. One of the ladies said, “I just don’t get it. These huge guys walk up and lean over the counter, completely out of breath. Wheezing they say, “Give me a Monster Burger meal, and upsize it to a large.” They usually get a dessert too! Some of these guys have black and blue legs from diabetes! What are they thinking?”

The fact is, no matter how big your gut is, the human stomach is only about the size of your fist. When I eat fast food, I almost always stick with the small fries and drink. We don’t need more than that, we want more than that. And when you’re ordering that value meal, be sure to do this next thing.

Lay off the soda

Experts say that cutting soda from your diet can cut 24-35 pounds per year. So go with water or unsweetened tea if you’ve got the option. If you just can’t handle unsweet tea, make a compromise and mix a little bit of sweetened into it. It doesn’t take much to give it a hint of sweetness and it’s a heck of a lot better than going with full sweet tea. That crap is too sweet anyway! No wonder you southerners don’t have any teeth! 😉

Replace your snacks or cut them altogether

The only time I have snack foods in my truck is right after Christmas. I blame my mother entirely. Thankfully she went lighter this year and stuffed my stocking with more healthy stuff than candy. Despite this, I’ve put on 5 pounds since after Christmas. That’s why I don’t keep any snacks in my truck. But if you’re a snacker, just replace your Cheetos with almonds and your M&Ms with raisins. And toss in some apples and bananas while you’re at it. You’ll be surprised how good you’ll feel when you cut the junk food.

Get some exercise

Once again, I’m not suggesting you start training for a marathon. Start with something like walking around the truck stop parking lot a few times. If that’s all you can manage, well you’re still better off than you were before.

If you want to move up a step, take a look at a free app I’ve been using on my iPhone called the Gorilla Workout app (also available on Android). Now I’m far from being in shape, but I look like Olive Oyl compared to most of you guys. Now don’t be afraid that it’s going to be too hard. The Level 1 workout starts out with really easy workouts like 1 wall push-up, a few sit-ups, and a few squats. For the most part, it builds slowly so you can keep up. All of these exercises use your own body weight, so you don’t have to buy a lot of equipment either. These workouts don’t take very long either, so that’s always a plus.

If you’re ready to move up from there, check out my workout videos called, How To Do a Full-Body Workout Inside the Cab of a Semi. Of course, you can do most of these exercises outside if you choose. I just like to do them inside so no one bugs me. Another great resource for all things trucker fitness is The Healthy Trucker Web site. Remember, anything you do to make yourself healthier is making you more awesome. Even the smallest of things.

Awesome Trucker Goal #2: Truck stop etiquette

Oh my. This is a long one. I’ll make this as brief as possible. Cue the bullet points.

  • When you’re driving through a truck stop parking lot, go a moderate speed. I’ve heard people say 5 mph, but that’s just too stinking so unless there’s a chance of a pedestrian or another truck popping out suddenly. But hang on, speed demon. 30 mph is too fast even in a wide open lot. There’s a happy medium in there. Find it.
  • Before you pull up to back into a parking spot, let other truckers go around before you block the whole isle. Actually, this rule is in affect everywhere. I had a driver do this to me last night. At a shipper, he made like he was going to back into a spot but instead got out and opened the trailer doors, effectively blocking me from my trailer. Now I realize some places force you to do this due to limited space. This was not one of those places. Uncool, man. Uncool.
  • When you do get parked, make sure you’re between the lines. If I have to explain why this is a good thing, do me a favor and smash your fingers in your cab door the next time you get a chance. Thanks.
  • The fuel bay is not your drive-thru window. If you can get your food without delaying the driver behind you more than a couple of minutes, have at it. However, if when you go inside you see that the line at Subway is longer than the shower wait at a Love’s truck stop, go back out and park your truck. Or if you’re one of those finicky people who insist on fresh fries every time, please oh please just go park it first.
  • When in the fuel bay, actually give a damn where you’re squirting the water hose. That is all.
  • Be considerate of other drivers when parked. Just because you’re awake, doesn’t mean everyone is. I once had a trucker wake me up with his loud music when he pulled in. It was around noon, but I had driven all night. I had to get out of bed and go pound on his door. He peeked out and promptly ignored me. I stood there pounding for another 2-3 minutes before he finally turned it down. By the way, if this happened to you at the Flying J in Walton, KY, I’m the guy who called your company and reported your inconsideration. Cheers!
  • Control your mutt. I typically hate dogs for a variety of reasons. The first of which is dodging dog poop as I walk into the truck stop. Here’s a rule to live by. If there is a direct line between any truck and the truck stop, don’t let your dog poop there. I’m pretty sure even dog-lovers don’t like picking dog crap out of their Adidas treads with a plastic spoon. Secondly, if your dog barks all night, I officially hate your guts. Make him shut up for Pete’s sake. And if not, please leave Fido tied up outside so I can “accidentally” run over him when I pull out in the morning.
  • Stop flirting with the staff. This one is for the dudes. Not only are you holding up progress with your lame attempts at humor, but you’re also more likely to develop a super-power than you are to impress any of these ladies. Let it go, man. Accept that they don’t think you’re the least bit funny… or cute… or even remotely interesting for that matter.
  • If a driver looks occupied, don’t talk to him. It’s amazing how many drivers will interrupt me while I have a movie playing on my computer and I have earbuds in. Call me stupid, but I just can’t remember the last time I stuck in my earbuds thinking, “Man, I sure hope all these truckers don’t think I’m being unsociable.” I AM BEING UNSOCIABLE! GO AWAY, JERKFACE! And for the record, I’ve tried the ginormous headphones that make me look like Princess Leia too. It didn’t help a bit.
  • If there is a shower wait, hurry the heck up! As I said earlier, I’ve been doing the Gorilla Workout lately. I usually do this in the shower room before I shower. But here’s the rule. If there is a shower wait, I skip my workout. Not only is it the considerate thing to do, but it’s also an awesome excuse to skip a workout. It’s a win-win! So that’s it. If people are waiting, do what you have to do and get the heck out.
  • Ah, the truck stop bathrooms. I have four simple rules that will make the truck stop bathrooms a better place for all humanity: 1) No grunting, wheezing, heavy breathing, or groaning. Unless you’re crapping up one of those giant worm things that invade your intestines, there is no need to make noises while you’re doing your business. 2) All poop and poop-related accessories go in the toilet. 3) Flush. Need I say more? 4) Don’t make or leave a mess. Actually, this leads nicely into our next topic.

Awesome Trucker Goal #3: Conservation

Bet you weren’t expecting that, were you? So exactly what does conservation have to do with leaving a mess? Well, it starts off with a pet peeve of mine.

Water consumption

Folks, water is a valuable resource. Why are you wasting it?

It happens all the time, on various levels. The worst offender is the driver who walks in and the first thing he does is turn on the water full-blast. Then, with the water going full-bore, he gets some paper towels, wipes down the counter a bit, sets his manly-man grooming kit down, forages for his toothbrush and toothpaste, and finally starts brushing his teeth. When he’s done brushing, the water stays running while he shaves, washes his face, fixes his hair, and generally admires himself in the mirror. About 90% of that 5-10 minutes he wasn’t even using the water. Grrr. The only guys who make me madder is the germaphobes who leave the water running and walk out of the restroom. Sheesh. If you’re OCD about germs, just say so and I’d be happy to turn it off with my tongue.

Now I may not be awesome at lots of things, but I do excel at water conservation. Whoever you are, I encourage you to examine your morning ritual practices. I’ll bet you a peanut butter and jelly sammich that you’ll see ways you can conserve more water. Here’s my ritual. Observe my awesomeness!

  1. Don’t turn on the water until you need it. Get the toothpaste on the brush and then give the spigot a quick turn on and off. Ta-dah! Your brush is wet!
  2. Brush until you need to spit. Well… spit already. Give the spigot another quick turn on and off to wash your nastiness down before it has a chance to stick to the sink. Oh, come on! It isn’t that hard to turn it back off. Your hand is already on the handle for crying out loud!
  3. Repeat until your teeth are pearly white. Okay, I guess a dull yellow will have to suffice. Turn on the water only long enough to clean your brush and the sink afterwards.
  4. To finish up your ritual, if your hands, face, or comb isn’t requiring water at that precise moment, turn it off.

I often find myself wanting to say something to these water-abusers, but I never do. Why not? Stay tuned for Awesome Trucker Goal #4. But first, let’s finish up with conservation.

Paper towels

If they’ve got an air dryer, opt for it instead. If you aren’t a fan of those you can still take it easy on the paper. I saw a TED talk video (only 4:32 long) about paper towel usage last year and I’ve been doing it ever since. It’s a simple method of shaking your hands (in a controlled manner) and folding the paper towel to maximize its absorbency. Yes, I realize that sounds like a hokey Bounty commercial, but it seriously works. I kind of make a game out of it to see how little paper towel I can get by with. You’d be surprised how little it takes. So no more excuses for you guys who rip off 5 or 6 paper towels and barely use it!

Littering

Not much to say here except to knock it off. I once watched a guy at a fuel bay crawl up onto his running board, grab his little trash can, and dump it on the ground by his truck. It all fell at his kid’s feet, which just so happened to be about 3 feet from a trash can. It stayed there when he left the fuel bay. Nice parenting, dill-munch.

Really folks, do we have to go over this? Trash goes in the trash can, preferably without full bottles of piss. And if you dog owners want to pick up your dog’s poo, well I’m sure the trash bin will accept that too. Man, I may as well wish for Warren Buffett to adopt me while I’m at it.

Fuel

Okay folks, if you need to idle your truck to stay cool or warm, buy all means do so. But if you’re going to be out of your truck, why does your truck need to idle? Granted, I know there are exceptions to the rule, such as faulty starters, a sleeping co-driver, and cold temperatures that cause fuel to gel. But if you’re running in for a shower, why leave it running? Not only is it spewing fumes into the air, but it’s also sucking fuel at a rate of about 1 gallon per hour. So not only are you saving money for yourself or your company, but you’re also helping to stick it to the man.

So that’s it for conservation. Trust me here. I love trees, but you’ll never seeing me hugging one. I just see that God gave us this great planet and he told us to subdue it and use it. I can only assume he meant to use it wisely. And being wise makes you awesome.

Awesome Trucker Goal #4: Take a chill pill

Chill pills are great for your well-being. They take stress from your life. They cause you to relax. And, as I’ve already mentioned, they keep you from confronting water abusers. (Side affects may include: dizzyness, nausea, crazy bone tweaks, shin splints, cooties, and bleeding from the ears, rectum, and peehole.)

At customers

Ask yourself this? When was the last time yelling at a shipping or receiving clerk accomplished anything? Any experience trucker will tell you that the louder you bark, the slower they move. I listened to a guy cuss out a forklift driver the other morning. Guess who got finished first? Him or me? Righty-o. So not only are you not being professional, you also aren’t helping your cause any. Time to pop a chill pill, man.

If another driver takes your dock, try to assume someone made a mistake. With a calm voice and a smile on your face, ask the offending driver if he was told to take that dock. Better to assume that than to accuse him of cutting the line only to find out he was just following the confused directions of an overworked shipping clerk. Now if he’s one of those jerks who is well aware that he’s cutting the line, take it up with the shipping clerk, again, with a pleasant tone. If neither refuse to correct the issue, take another chill pill and overdose on calmness. It’s really not worth the stress of an intense argument, or in a worst-case scenario, a beating and/or an all-expenses paid trip to the hoosegow.

With other drivers

Once again, when another driver does something stupid or just plain mean, pop a chill pill. Getting your blood pressure boiling is going to accomplish jack squat. Here’s an example of both right and wrong behavior.

I was in the fuel bay at the Pilot in Marion, IL. The team drivers in front of me took forever to fuel (even with two of them), but they had finally pulled up. I pumped my fuel and waited for them to move. They weren’t in their truck, so I went back to my cab and waited. A few more minutes and I took a chill pill. I thought, “I’ll just run in and leave the toilet a big present while I’m waiting.” I did. Afterward, I came out and they still hadn’t moved. I went in and had them paged. Finally they come walking out at a leisurely pace. But they still weren’t moving. That’s when I saw them walking to the McDonald’s next door. I ran toward them hollering that they were f*$%ing jerks, which is pretty harsh for a guy who doesn’t normally cuss. Well, clearly my chill pill had worn off. But what good did it do for me to get my panties in a wad about it? If they heard me, they did a good job of pretending they didn’t. I was all wound up and they couldn’t care less. This was a giant failure on my part. Granted, they were jerks.

But a couple of nights ago, I made up for it. I was at a shipper with limited space. I saw a local driver unhooking from a trailer, so I crowded him a bit so I could scoot up and let another trucker get off the street. Well, when he pulled out, the poor guy had to do a three-point turn in order to get out… in a bobtail. The horror of it! Well, he just so happened to catch me walking alongside my trailer when he drove by. He laid on the air horn, which was deafening right beside my head. I’m sure he expected me to react, but I didn’t. I actually had a smile on my face while he blasted away. Win for me! Now could I have flipped him the bird or yelled at him? Yes, I could. Did he deserve it? Yep, he sure did. But again I ask, what good would it have done? I forgot about the whole ordeal in a few minutes while I bet he was steaming out the ears for a good half-hour. HA! Who got the last laugh, punk?!

In short, jerks will be jerks. And unfortunately there really isn’t anything we can say or do that will change them. Old Solomon summed it up pretty well in Proverbs 15:1, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” The Bible says Solomon was the wisest man in the world. Hard to disagree with that here. Have you ever tried to argue with someone who refuses to argue? It just takes the wind out of your sails. And when you can be the bigger man (or woman), that’s awesomeness personified.

To sum up…

Well, I hope you find a way to implement at least some of these things into your daily life. If you’re an underachiever, just make getting a prescription of chill pills your priority. Once you start letting other people’s meanness and stupidity roll off your back, you’re on your way to having a better year. And if you’re going to remain a fat, grunting, water-wasting trucker who lets his dog poop in my path, well, you’re going to need all the relaxing you can get to ease your guilty mind. 😉

TD97: A Trucker’s Worst Nemesis: Complacency

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I Love MeSo… I got a new truck the other day. And of course, that means I’m all out-of-sorts. Even though my new ProStar looks exactly like my old one on the outside, the interior is slightly different. Just different enough in fact that I still bump my head on something or other at least once per day, usually more. I have the tender skull to prove it. But what am I rambling on about? Well, my new truck just about got me in a heap of trouble the first day I had it.

First, let me say that there is only one particular day that I don’t miss The Evil Overlord (the wife and ex-codriver) out here on the road. That day is any day I’m switching trucks. You see, when it’s just me I can get all my junk swapped over and put away within an hour or two. But toss the wench into the mix and you’re looking at a four or five-hour job and a couple of butt-chewings because I never could resist a few jabs about how much crap she always brought. Why I inflict this torture on myself, I have no idea.

So anyway, I’d already had a long day when I got to the yard to pick up my new truck. So after I got everything sitch-ee-ated, I was pooped. After a long, hot shower and some potato ham chowder, I was itching for the bunk. The load I was picking up was on the yard, so I went on over and backed under the trailer.

Now every driver will tell you that there is a ritualistic aspect of hooking up a trailer. Most drivers do it the exact same way every time. One of the worst things that can happen to me is when someone starts talking to me during this routine. Due to my complete inability to multitask, I inevitably screw something up and have to double-check everything. But this time, I got no such interruptions.

Green is electrical Red supplies air to trailer Blue provides air from brake pedal

Green is electrical
Red supplies air to trailer
Blue controls air from brake pedal

I followed my ritual to the letter. First, I hooked up the pigtail (the electrical cord) and then my air lines. Next, I stooped down to see if the fifth wheel pin was flush against the fifth wheel (see photos below). The next step is to jack up the landing gear on the trailer. Hopefully the previous driver wasn’t an idiot who had cranked it high enough for Babe the Big Blue Ox to get his big blue butt under it. The ritual is completed after I do my walk-around inspection, which involves checking all the lights and thumping all 18 tires to make sure they’re all aired up (the thump sounds different if the tire is low or flat).

Now normally, the last thing I do before I hit the road is a pull test to make sure the fifth wheel is latched. You do this by leaving your trailer brakes locked and releasing your tractor brakes. A quick tug will tell you whether your trailer is secured to the tractor. But I was tired that night and I went to bed since I wasn’t going anywhere until morning anyway. I’m sure you all can see where this is going.

Well, I slept like crap that night. Despite having a new truck with a bunk heater in it, I couldn’t use it that first night. The shop guy said the truck had been sitting for quite a while and the batteries wouldn’t likely be up to snuff until I ran the truck for a full day. It was going to get into the 30’s that night, so it was cold enough to idle the engine. But there was a problem with that too. You see, my company bases our governed speed on our idle time. Since I just got the truck, if I’d have idled the truck for 8 hours I would’ve been at 100% idle time and it would’ve taken me a heck of a lot longer than 8 hours of driving to get my idle time back down to an acceptable amount. I was having no part of that. I don’t like going even 2 mph slower than I can.

So out came the cowboy long johns. Yep; bright red and complete with buttons up the front and an escape hatch in the rear. Cuz you never know when you might need a surprise “escape.” I love the warmth of these things, but I’m awfully glad these trucks don’t come equipped with a full-length mirror. It couldn’t have been very pretty. Still, even with wool socks and an extra comforter, I felt like a popsicle and therefore, tossed and turned all night. Funny; the cold didn’t seem to bother me as much last year. I think I’m beginning to understand why old people’s houses always feel like a friggin’ sauna.

When I woke the next morning, I was colder than a skinny-dipping Eskimo. That prompted a couple of snooze buttons and deeper burrowing into the covers. When I was starting to push my delivery time, I finally crawled out of bed. The only thing worse than crawling out of warm blankets (well, semi-warm) is the half-a-second that comes between your long johns coming off and your fit-for-public-viewing clothes going on. I then realized I had forgotten to fuel the night before. So now I’m in a hurry. I start the truck, release both brakes, and slowly pull out. Just as I started to put my foot into the accelerator, something feels… off. And then, BAM! I was too late. Well, not completely. It could have been much worse.

Yep. Just like you suspected, the trailer wasn’t latched and I nearly dropped the trailer to the ground with the landing gear up. Luckily, my reflexes were sufficiently awake to stop soon enough that it only landed on my truck’s frame. After 10 minutes of hard cranking that had me breathing so hard I tasted blood (seriously), I noticed that the fifth wheel pin was still flush to the fifth wheel. Ahhhh… so that’s the problem. Apparently, new trucks come with the fifth wheel jaws closed (see photos below). Since the jaws normally stay open when not attached to a trailer, I hadn’t thought to check it before I backed under the trailer. And there it is, a trucker’s worst nemesis: complacency.

[box]complacency: |kəmˈplāsənsē | noun: a feeling of smug or uncritical satisfaction with oneself or one’s achievements[/box]

When you’ve been driving a truck for as long as I have, it’s bound to happen. You get cocky. You don’t watch the rear of your trailer during turns as much as you should. You don’t get out and look when you’re backing into a tight parking spot. After all, you’re “pretty sure” you’re going to miss that other truck’s mirror. You glance at the Twitter stream on your phone while driving more than you should. You might even find yourself thinking, “Yea, I’m driving, but that apple didn’t roll that far back into the bunk area. I’m pretty sure I can reach it without pulling over.” And obviously, you don’t check your fifth wheel properly.

C’mon now drivers, don’t leave me hanging like a married lady’s lingerie. Let’s be honest. How often have you had an accident or even a little mirror-tap oopsie right after you had a close call with another incident? Rarely, if ever. You’re on high alert after a close call. No, bad things happen when everything is going swell. When you’re feeling confident in your driving skills. When you’re feeling a tad bit holier-than-thou. When you’re feeling complacent.

I remember the first time I felt completely confident in my trucking skills. I don’t remember the exact day or even where I was, but I do remember the feeling. I was about 10 years into my career at the time. I pulled into a shipper and everything was tight. Really tight. I saw all the trucks that were already docked and I saw the one dock space left. Then I looked at the banged-up chain-link fence that had obviously taken it’s fair share of truck paint. I saw how tight it was going to be and for the first time I thought, “I got this. If those drivers can get in those docks, I know I can too.”

I remember that striking me as odd that it was the first time I’d felt that way in my driving career. In the past, I’d always break into a light sweat and think, “I’m never going to get into that spot!”  So much so that to this day The Evil Overlord always teases me about saying stuff like, “I’m never going to get onto this busy road.” Or my most-used phrase ever, “We’re never going to find a parking space in here.” Somehow, I always managed to get the job done despite her constant ribbing, but it was never without much weeping and gnashing of teeth. Okay, maybe I didn’t weep, but I know I lost a lot of fingernails in the process and I may or may not have squirted in my shorts a few times.

So what can we drivers do to keep from getting complacent? Well, I hope you didn’t read all this hoping I’d solved the problem, because I haven’t. I’m clueless. If I knew how to keep complacency from creeping up me, I’d tell you. So instead I’m going to ask you. What do you do to keep from becoming complacent? Or do you not have it figured out either? The only way I seem to keep complacency at bay is for something bad to happen or at best, a near miss. Frankly, those are both crappy options.

Surely there is someone out there who has an answer. Every time I see a driver with a “3 million safe miles” sticker on his truck, I think, “How did they manage that? Are they just lucky or do they really stay focused on safety all day, every day, without any lapses in judgment?” I just don’t know how they do it. Maybe they’re robots. Or at the very least, cyborgs. Whatever they are, I’m not one of them. I guess I’m just too easily distra… SQUIRREL!

So what about it guys and gals? How do you stay focused on the job? Or do you? How do you keep from getting complacent? You’re welcome to write in and admit you get distracted too. Even if you don’t, saying you do will help me feel better about myself. Leave your comments below.