dispatchers

TD133: A Trucker Gives Thanks

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

The most obvious example of driver’s being appreciated is the aptly named National Truck Driver Appreciation Week, which takes place each September. But many carriers also have Driver Appreciation Days throughout the year where they give away prizes and grill burgers and brats for their drivers. I attended one of these recently and had the opportunity to chat with the CEO of my company. Discussing how things could improve with the head honcho while eating french toast and bacon! How can you beat that?

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

The forgotten people

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

Thank you to the truck stop maintenance people

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you to the truck stop service workers and managers

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

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

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

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

Thank you to all the restaurant staff

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you to the mechanics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you to the planners

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you to the other office employees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We encounter them every single day:

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

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

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

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

 

   

   

TD129: 4 Ways To Become A More Efficient Trucker

Experienced truckers know that there are many things in the trucking industry that are out of your control. If you’re a newbie who has not figured this out yet, you soon will. But this does not mean that everything is completely out of your control either. Here are some ways you can become a more efficient trucker.

This episode of Trucker Dump is sponsored by:

  • Citadel Fleet Safety– Call 800-269-5905 or click the link for a special discount for Trucker Dump listeners. Click on [Customer Login] in the upper-right corner, click on the Trucker Dump logo, and use password: truckerdump.
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Efficient trucker tip #1: Always ask about early delivery or a drop

This is a big mistake I see too many truckers making. Drivers often assume that just because their company is “forced dispatch” that they have to take whatever load is given to them. This is simply wrong. Forced dispatch only means that you have to take the load if you can’t supply a good reason not to. So if you want to become a more efficient trucker, you need to start thinking differently.

Never accept the status quo.

Every time I get a new dispatch, the first thing I do is look to see when the load picks up and delivers. Ideally, you’ve got just enough time to drive the empty miles to pick up the load and get it to its delivery on time, but not arrive there too early. Great. Accept the load, drive safe, and stay out of my way! 🙂 (That’s my tagline at the end of each podcast.)

But all too often when they’re asking you to drive 50 miles to pick up a load, it doesn’t pick up for five hours; meaning you are going to get there about four hours early! And then when you look at the delivery time, you figure you’re going to be there a whopping 10 hours earlier than your appointment time! What now? If you’ve got the customer’s phone number, use it. But as you well know, many of us company drivers don’t have access to it. If that’s the case, contact your dispatcher.

Sure, you could use the extra time on these loads to stop in some quaint town along the way and go sightseeing. Or you could use the time to polish your chrome or head into the casino for some blackjack. But this article is about being a more efficient trucker. None of these things are efficient. In fact, they’re all going to cost you time and money!

Call your dispatcher

I don’t keep stats on this sort of thing, but if I had to guess I would say I am calling or messaging my dispatcher on about half my loads; possibly more. Whichever wait time (pick up or delivery) is the longest is what I ask about first.

“Hey Gina, I can be at the shipper at 1:00 PM, but the load doesn’t show to pick up until 5:00 PM. Will they load me early?”

Sometimes it’s a set appointment and there’s nothing you can do about it. Other times they will have notes about the customer saying that you can pick up anytime and that the time listed is just a “suggested” appointment time. Honestly, that doesn’t seem very efficient to me, but unfortunately I can’t change their company polices.

Other times I’ll notice the pick up time is something crazy like 24 hours away, even though I’m only 80 miles out. Again I’m immediately asking dispatch what the deal is. Maybe freight is just slow in the area so your options are limited. But it’s also a possibility that somebody in the office screwed up and thought you didn’t have driving hours available or they just looked at the shipping date wrong! You might be surprised how often this happens.

If you’re going to arrive at your delivery extra-early, ask if they will accept the load early

This happened to me again just the other day. The load delivered at 9:00 PM, but I could get there about 9:00 AM. The comments section for this load specifically said, “Do not attempt to deliver earlier than appointment time.” Now usually when the load comments are that specific, I know they are set in stone. Therefore I was resigned to it. But I still put on my efficient trucker hat to figure out how to make the best use of my time.

I was low on hours that day anyway, so my plan was to come off a 10-hour break and drive the remaining three hours to get as close to the delivery location as I could. I’d then take yet another 10-hour break and then deliver the load 9:00 PM. My thought was that by the time I was unloaded, I would be getting hours back at midnight and be ready to roll again. Of course, this sucks for your sleep because I had just come off a 10-hour break. How I’m expecting myself to sleep again that soon is a different issue that we don’t have time to go into.

Obviously, I didn’t really want to do this, so I thought to myself “What can it hurt to ask about an early delivery?” So I did (see screenshot). You can see the happy result. As I always tell my dispatcher, “He who does not ask, does not receive.” You might remember that the next time you’re in a similar situation.

One thing I forgot to mention was that due to my low hours, I only had 2.5 hours left to drive that day after my delivery. I’m sure many drivers would’ve just accepted this fact and stuck with the original plan. Not this super-efficient trucker!

As you can no doubt already see, I’m very aware of my available hours. But I’m even more anal about this the closer it gets to home time. This instance happened about a week before my scheduled home time.

I’m sure you’ve probably been in this scenario before.

You’re just shy of having enough driving hours to get home without taking another 10-hour break first; or you’re waiting around until midnight to get hours back before you can finish the drive home.

Either that or you turn outlaw and drive the few hours home illegally. You naughty little pet. Good luck with that now that elogs are mandatory. My point is, that 2.5 hours extra that I could utilize today might be the 2.5 hours that I need to get home this coming weekend! This is yet another reason why it’s so important to be as efficient as you can be.

If you can’t deliver early, ask if you can drop the loaded trailer somewhere

If your dispatch says the customer won’t let you deliver early, ask them if there is somewhere along your route that you can drop the load; for instance, if you have a terminal or a drop yard en route. As a driver, you probably know your route better than the dispatcher, so make a suggestion. “Hey; since I can’t deliver this early, can I drop at the Columbus or St. Louis yard? I’m going right past both on the way to delivery.” If they’ve got other freight in the area that needs to move, they’ll usually hook you right up.

Yes, it might suck to turn a 600 mile trip into a puny 350 mile run, but at least you’re not going to be sitting outside a customer for 24 hours waiting to unload. You can use that time to be running a different load to make up those lost miles. Trust me, it usually pays off in the end.

Probably the reason I make the call to dispatch so often is because it works to my advantage most of the time. If I can point out how the load isn’t very efficient, they will often toss it back into the pile of loads and come out with something better. But other times I’m just stuck with the load and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. That’s when you reach into your medicine cabinet, pop a chill pill, and accept it as part of trucking. At least you tried to be the most efficient trucker you can be.

Now I can hear some of you thinking, “My dispatcher isn’t going to want to go to all this trouble for me.” Well tough noogies. That’s their job. Besides, dealing with the driver is often the dispatcher’s only job at most of these large carriers. There are usually different groups of people who plan the loads and deal with customer service issues. Not always the case at smaller carriers, but it’s still their job.

In my personal experience, I can tell that my dispatcher does sometimes get annoyed with me questioning these loads so frequently. But that’s usually when she is especially busy trying to get drivers home for the weekend or something is going horribly wrong with another driver on their fleet.

Remember; part of a dispatcher’s performance review is based on how efficient their fleet is. So it actually benefits them if you ask this question and become a more efficient trucker. You just might have to remind them of this fact until they get used to you asking about getting rid of these loads early.

Now let’s say that despite your best effort, you’re still stuck with this load and you’re going to get to your delivery 10 hours before your appointment time. How can you still be an efficient trucker?

Efficient trucker tip #2: Sleep at the customer

One reason I’m glad that I was on the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) bandwagon earlier than most (2010) is because it forced my company to start adding one new bit of information to our load information; whether there is overnight parking at the shipper or receiver. This used to be another phone call or message to dispatch, but now the information is right there in the load comments. Thank God, because this makes me a much more efficient trucker! How so?

Unless I am 100% positive that my load is a drop & hook trailer, I will always try to sleep at the customer overnight if it is allowed. I know this is not a popular choice among truckers, but I’m convinced it makes me a more efficient trucker. Even if it is drop and hook, I will still often sleep there anyway. Why?

It saves my 14 hour clock

I’ve talked to many truckers over the years who simply refuse to sleep at a customer unless it is their only option. The argument is always that they want access to food and bathrooms. Fair enough. But if you want to be the most efficient trucker you can be, you really need to get over this.

Sleeping at the customer honestly wasn’t as necessary back in the days when we had paper logs. We could often fudge the timeline so that we didn’t lose much driving time. But since the inflexible ELDs have been mandatory since December 18, 2017, sleeping at a customer’s facility is really the #1 way I’ve found to maximize my 70-hour workweek.

First off, it’s not hard to work around the bathroom and food issue

If at all possible, you should always find out ahead of time what the bathroom situation is. Some of the customers I visit have 24-hour restrooms for drivers. Sometimes, it might be a porta-potty, but it’s better than nothing.

Even if they don’t have restrooms available overnight, simply stop at the nearest truck stop before you get there and take your giant trucker dump. Even if you don’t think you need to, you might ought to pull in and try. In the #1 department, even us older guys with smaller bladders can get through the night since the vast majority of truckers have some sort of piss bottle in the truck. Don’t deny it. Even if you don’t, you can always go water some of the local shrubbery. Serves the customer right for not keeping the restroom open for you.

As for access to food, if you’re one of those moneybags who eats in restaurants all the time, you can check into apps like Yelp or Google Maps to see if there’s any little eateries within walking distance. You never know. You might find a gem! Or you can always go the easy route and grab an extra sandwich at the ever-present Subway shoppe. Honestly, all drivers should be keeping a little bit of food on hand anyway. Peanut butter and cans of soup have a seemingly endless shelf life, you know. One of the perks of me being such a cheapskate is that I always have food in my truck, so this is never an issue.

Now when I say “sleeping at a customer,” that’s exactly what I mean. I’m not talking about hanging out there for 24 hours or anything. Although this super-efficient trucker has done exactly that many times if that’s what it takes to squeeze in a 34-hour break.

Even if you’ve only got six hours before you deliver, you should still park onsite if you can. Again we’re trying to save your clock here. I see two major benefits in doing this:

1. You might get into the dock early.

Let’s say you arrive at 2:00 AM and your appointment is not till 10:00 AM. But they open at 7:00 AM. If you don’t mind interrupting your beauty sleep, it never hurts to check in at 7:00 AM to see if they will take you early. You’re probably thinking “Why the heck do I want to get in the dock at 7:00 AM if my 10-hour break isn’t over until noon anyway?” That’s reason number two.

2. Because you never know how long it’s going to take to load or unload.

If I were to take a poll of truckers on the biggest problems in the trucking industry, I’d be willing to bet that one of the top five answers would be shipper/receivers wasting our driving hours. Not a day goes by when you don’t hear some trucker whining about how the shippers/receivers don’t value our time. Well this is one way to mitigate it. If they want to take six hours to get me unloaded, then at least they’re doing it while my ELD shows me Off-Duty or Sleeper Berth. If it only takes two hours, great! Stay up and get started planning your next load. Or you can always try to go back to bed to finish that sweet dream you were having about Farrah Fawcett.

Now let’s look at you drivers who refuse to sleep at a customer overnight

You have a 10:00 AM appointment so you wake up full of piss and vinegar, eager to utilize the 11 hours of driving you have available. You start your pre-trip inspection at 9:00 AM, roll into the customer at 9:30 AM, and bump the dock at 10:00 AM. I love it when a plan comes together! Uh huh. You silly little optimistic trucker.

In reality, six hours later you’re finally ready to roll, but thanks to the cursed 14-hour rule you only have 7 hours left to drive. Who’s to blame; you or the customer? Well both, but you could’ve prevented this if you had slept at the customer overnight. So those 4 hours of driving you lost are ultimately on your head. Remember, we can’t control everything, so we have to control the things we can.

But hey, let’s be realistic. Not every customer takes six hours to unload. Even if it only takes two hours, you’ve left yourself very little extra time to do anything else except for drive like a madman all day. You can kiss that workout and shower goodbye. Yeah, right! Like truckers exercise or bathe.

Now I know this “sleeping at a customer” thing is an unpopular choice that many of you will refuse to budge on

So be it. If you want to continue to be an inefficient trucker, that’s up to you. I would just suggest that you try it for a while and see if you don’t notice that you’re making better use of your hours of service. And that usually transfers to better paychecks.

Oh, and there’s one other benefit from sleeping at customer locations. You have less chance of sleeping with your head right next to someone’s screaming reefer unit. Unless of course you are pulling a reefer, which in that case you’re just screwed.

Efficient trucker tip #3: Keep your ETA/PTA updated

But first, you need to make sure you know what the terms ETA and PTA means to your company. At most of the carriers I’ve worked for, ETA means Estimated Time of Arrival and PTA stands for Projected Time of Availability. But I have also worked for a couple of companies who used ETA as Estimated Time of Availability instead of PTA. Yes, it was just as confusing then as it is now. These two versions of ETA (or ETA and PTA) are vastly different things. Let me explain.

My Estimated Time of Arrival might be 9:00 AM, but if I know the customer usually takes two hours to unload, that would make my Estimated Time of Availability at 11:00 AM. This could be even worse. Take for example our earlier scenario where my Estimated Time of Arrival was 2:00 AM because I was going to get there early, but my appointment was not until 10:00 AM. So figure 1 hour to unload and my Estimated Time of Availability is actually 11:00 AM. That’s nine hours difference between an ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival) and an ETA (Estimated Time of Availability)!

Keep your dispatcher as up-to-date as possible about your available working hours

While it’s true that most modern dispatching software will keep track of that, I’ve never had a dispatcher who didn’t appreciate not having to look it up. As an added bonus, I believe that staying on top of your available working hours makes you look a bit more professional than your fellow drivers.

My last suggestion to be the most efficient trucker you can be is…

Efficient trucker tip #4: Don’t keep a steady schedule

I fully accept that with the way your particular circadian rhythms work, some of you simply cannot physically do what I’m about to ask, but if you can, or even if you think you can, you should try it for a while.

We all know those drivers who get up at 7:00 AM and drive their 11 hours. Worst case scenario the 14 hour clock is up at 9:00 PM. They’re back up and rolling at 7:00 AM. They do this every day. Obviously, the start time can vary. I suppose there is nothing wrong with this if you know exactly what your freight is every day and you have complete control over it. More power to you if that’s your situation. If that is the case, I have to admit that I kind of hate your guts.

But for the vast majority of over-the-road drivers, we have no idea when or even if we are going to get a load to run on any given day. So by not keeping a steady schedule, you’re working as hard and as fast as you can when you have freight so that when those inevitable down times come along, they don’t hurt nearly as much.

Let’s do a little math. To keep things simple, let’s assume two things that aren’t exactly true unless you’ve entered the land of fairy dust and unicorn farts. First, that it’s possible to run 11 hours straight, take a 10-hour break, and then run your 11 hours again for multiple days in a row. And secondly, let’s assume that we have competing truckers; one loosey-goosey driver who likes to run hard and one steady schedule driver who likes to start his day at midnight. Probably not very realistic, but for the sake of easy math, you’ll see what I mean.

The case for not driving a steady schedule

In this magical world where everything always runs smoothly, let’s say both drivers start their day at midnight and are done driving by 11:00 AM. They both take a mandatory 10-hour break. When the break is over, the loosey-goosey driver starts running again at 9:00 PM, while the steady schedule guy is waiting around for midnight to start his day like he does every day.

You can see that the loosey-goosey driver has 14 hours of driving already finished in that first 24 hours (11 on the first driving shift + 3 on the second), while the steady schedule driver only has 11 hours under his belt.

Come midnight, the steady schedule guy runs another 11 hours for 22 hours total driving over the two days. But loosey-goosy driver drove from 9:00 PM the night before to 8:00 AM the next morning, took another 10 hour break, and started driving again at 6:00 PM, meaning he now has 28 hours of driving in the same time frame. That’s six more hours over two days!

I will spare you the math, but at the end of three days, the loosey-goosey driver has driven nine more hours than the steady driver!

Now I can hear some of you saying, “Yeah, but that ain’t the way trucking works in the real world!” You’re correct. There will be days when you don’t get a full 11 hours of running. There might even be days that you don’t get to run at all. And that’s my point.

Run it when you got it

Here’s my philosophy. When you have freight, run it as hard and as fast as you legally can, utilizing all three previous tips to make the use best use of your hours. That way when you do have the inevitable downtime, then at least you have been as efficient as you can possibly be up until that point where things are out now out of your control.

A side benefit is doing a 34-hour break

Often times, these steady drivers don’t even run a full 11 hours. Their idea is that if they work 8.75 hours maximum per day (both Driving and On-Duty time combined) for 8 days (70 hours in 8 days rule), that they will never run out of their 70 working hours. Okay. Good theory. That means you will get a maximum of 70 working hours under perfect conditions.

Now let’s look at loosey-goosey driver who hammers down. Again, I won’t bore you with the math, but if this driver runs as soon as possible after each 10-hour break, they can easily hit their 70 hours maximum in 5 days. If they then take a 34-hour break to restart their 70-hours, they can now expand their available working hours to over 80 hours in the same amount of time that the steady driver has only worked 70 hours. That could add up to about 10% more money!

Be a more efficient trucker

To sum up, my belief is that to be the most efficient trucker you can be, you need to work as hard as you can while you have loads to run so you can maximize your potential.

Every hour of your available 70 counts in trucking, so be conscience of every one of them. If a customer will take a load as soon as you can get it there, don’t screw around. Deliver it ASAP!

You could have mechanical problems that cause delays.You could be delayed by a lazy loader. You could hit a patch of bad weather. If you’ve dilly-dallied when you could’ve been running hard, you may even find yourself delivering late if something unexpected happens.

I always run as hard as I can to get where I’m going, even if I can’t deliver early. I can’t count how many times I’ve been able to rescue a load from a driver who’s low on hours while he sits under my load to get those hours back. That’s a win-win-win situation. The company is getting their rescued load delivered on time. The other driver is in no rush now so he’s getting back the hours he needs while he’s sitting under may old load. And best of all, I’m making more miles!

So my advice is to step out of your comfort zone and try some of these tips

Don’t automatically accept loads that don’t make good use of your time. Argue your point with a cool head. If nothing can be done about the delivery time, ask if you can drop the load someplace to keep moving.

Try sleeping at the customer to maximize your driving hours. You’ll be surprised how less-stressed you’ll be when that slow forklift dude isn’t eating into your driving hours.

Get off your steady schedule and run hard when you have freight. Save your loafing time for those times when you’re stuck without a load. And if you can do a 70-hour reset, do it.

And lastly, keep your ETA/PTA updated so your dispatcher can find your next good load that maximizes your earning potential. And if that load sucks, get on the phone and start the process all over again. Ain’t truckin’ fun?

Podcast show notes:

In today’s podcast, I present four ideas that could help you become a more efficient trucker. I also cover a crapload of news stories, ranging from new ways to tackle truck parking, new proposed hours-of-service legislation, Electronic Logging Devices (ELD), a lost trucker, some surprises about driver pay, and possibly one of the most insane verdicts I’ve ever heard. I also tell you how social media can help you in a way that you might not have thought of before.

In the Feedback section, we hear from from Goat Bob, Driver Dave, DriverChrisMc, and Dan on subjects such as trucking podcasts, to axle weights, to cancer, to beef liver, and finally being pissed off at truckers.

View the article and show notes on AboutTruckDriving.com.

Get free audio and text samples of Trucking Life and a text sample of How to Find a Great Truck Driving Job.

Check out new Trucker Dump merchandise at TeePublic.com, including tee shirts, hoodies, mugs, stickers, tote bags, and even kid’s clothes!

This episode of Trucker Dump is sponsored by:

  • Citadel Fleet Safety– Call 800-269-5905 or click the link for a special discount for Trucker Dump listeners. Click on [Customer Login] in the upper-right corner, click on the Trucker Dump logo, and use password: truckerdump.
  • Classic Truck Insurance– Call 888-498-0255 for your free quote today.

Links mentioned in the podcast:

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

International Roadcheck safety blitz is June 5-7, 2018

“Top 3 Trucker Podcasts” from Hot Shot Warriors

My guest spot on the Systematic Podcast with Brett Terpstra

New bill tries to exempt small trucking companies from ELDs

Push to reform the FMCSA Hours-Of-Service

Midwest States Team Up For Truck Parking

Truck Driver Goes Missing For 4 Days After Putting Wrong Address In GPS

TD54: The Do’s And Don’ts Of Giving Directions

Maximum Commercial Trailer Length – State By State from Verduyn Tarps

Comchek Mobile App

OverdriveOnline.com Driver Compensation Preference Poll
Survey Says Driver Pay Is Going Up!

Werner will appeal $90 verdict in crash lawsuit

Trucker Grub features Ted’s Montana Grill in Northwest Indianapolis.

Links in the feedback section:

Talk CDL Podcast

TD127: Why Podcasts Are The Perfect Media For Truckers

Patreon

Apple Podcasts app

Podcast Addict app for Android

TD97: A Trucker’s Worst Nemisis – Complacency

TD104: Complacency Strikes

Show info:

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

Join the Trucker Dump Podcast Facebook Group

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

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

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

TD113: The Feedback Show #2

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Well, I managed to come up with jack squat for a topic this time, but that turns out to be a good thing since I’ve been behind on my feedback from listeners for quite some time. So I’m turning my writer’s block into a positive thing by catching up on feedback. Lemons to lemonade, man.

In other words, there’s no legitimate blog post today. But if you’re interested in what we talked about in the podcast version, check out the links below.

Links mentioned in the podcast version:

I was a guest on The Trucking Podcast. We had a blast talking about all kinds of stuff, so please check it out. Look for episode 108.

Who doesn’t like to hear about another person’s aches and pains? No one… right? Right? Tough noogies. I open the show with my kidney stone woes. Good times.

More in the complaint department, I whine a bit about the crappy Internet at my new home.

Of course, everyone loves to hear a trucker bitch about trying to get home. Well I don’t disappoint with the story of my emotional rollercoaster ride trying to get home for Christmas.

I’m also looking for listener’s input on whether being called a “Trucker Dumper” is insulting or just plain funny. I ask because Buck and Don over at The Trucking Podcast are having a heck of time finding a name for their audience that doesn’t piss someone off.

Listener Trucker Bob and I recently announced a new Slack community called iTruckers. It’s basically a place for Apple fanboys (or fangirls) to get together online to talk about their love of Apple gear and services.

So if you’re a trucker who owns an iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Mac, iPod, or maybe you want to own one or have questions about them, please click the link to read about joining the iTruckers Slack group. Or you can email Trucker Bob directly at iTruckers@iCloud.com to receive an invite. Truckers or related fields only please!

I mention current iTruckers members @holden657, @darkstaff, and @driverchrismc.

In the Feedback section:

Greg @riverratwa57 sends another audio comment about how he stays safe in the truck. He mentions his wife carries a lipstick body guard and a flashlight stun gun with spikes. Ouch!

If you’re interested, I shared my thoughts about carrying weapons in the truck back in TD110: Jabbering With Jared.

Lester @amishtrucker shares a quick thought about the stuff I talk about on the podcast.

Long Duck @longduck71 listened to TD108: 4 Reasons Truckers Get The Hazmat Endorsement and disagrees.

Denver left a comment on my Jobshadow.com interview asking for some general advice on getting into trucking. If you don’t want to read the article, I turned it into a podcast in TD102: What’s It Like To Be A Trucker?

Another audio comment from Greg @riverratwa57 discusses technology in trucking and I out The Evil Overlord as being horrible with location awareness. I also share my skepticism about dash cameras. What’s your experience with dash cams? Write in or send an audio comment on the subject to TruckerDump@gmail.com.

An anonymous emailer read TD57: Really? A Good Dispatcher? and leaves a smart aleck remark. Because that’s what annoying people do.

Chib is a non-trucker who listened to TD95: 4 Reasons That Trucker Might Be Tailgating You and had a few thoughts to share about why I’m wrong. I also point him to TD66: Truckers Go Turtle Racing to prove to him I’m not part of the problem with slow truckers trying to pass other slow trucks.

Vic writes in to try to enter the Trucker Country CD giveaway courtesy of Eric McMann @erichmcmann, but he was a bit too late. He did suggest some future topics and according to his email, he’s probably a trucker by now. Yeah!

Ken listened to TD109: Coping With Rookie Truckers, but it was talking about electronic logs in the feedback section that prompted him to weave a tale about a trucker and big brother.

Long Duck @longduck71 tells a tale of his truck breaking down and he talks about blind side backing.

Isaac works for an insurance company and read either TD97: A Trucker’s Worst Nemesis: Complacency or TD104: Complacency Strikes and asked three questions to get a better understanding of the trucking world.

The R & J Trucker Blog was kind enough to include Trucker Dump in their list of 10 Trucking Blogs Every New Trucker Should Read.

Roger hops on board with his pet peeve about 4-wheelers.

Lastly, J went for a new world record for shortest Trucker Dump comment. He wins.

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

TD98: 5 Stresses Of Trucking Through The Holidays

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Everyone knows that the months of November and December are probably the two most stressful months of the year. Unless of course you’re Canadian. In that case it’s October and December. Honestly though. What kind of weirdos have Thanksgiving in October? 😉 This extra stress is freely available to both truckers and non-truckers. Now I know this may come off as whining, but honestly, we truckers have a lot to deal with around the holidays that normal folks don’t. So strap on your whine-filtering headphones and let’s get on with this.

Stress #1: Scheduling

Yeah, yeah. I know you non-truckers have this problem too. But scheduling is one of the biggest differences between us truckers and you non-truckers; you cats already know what days you’re going to have available. Truckers don’t. Heck, we rarely know what we’re doing tomorrow, let alone three or four weeks from now. One of the earliest articles I wrote was called, No Guarantees in Trucking. In much the same way The Evil Overlord complains about my inability to actually look under stuff to find something I’ve misplaced, that article title was actually a bit of an exaggeration. Okay. At least part of that statement is true anyway. Seriously though, guarantees are hard to come by in the trucking industry, especially when it comes to home time.

As I mentioned in the article, the only home time “guarantee” I’ve ever received was for Christmas. And actually it was more of a company policy than it was a guarantee. And keep in mind, this policy was not for New Year’s Day or New Year’s Eve. It wasn’t for Independence Day. Not even Thanksgiving Day gets this policy. Just Christmas. Notice I didn’t say the Christmas “season.” Just the day. The 25th of December. This policy does not extend to Christmas Eve, nor is there a guarantee on how many days you’ll have off. As pathetic as this Christmas home time policy is, at least it exists. Not all the carriers I’ve worked for have been so kind.

So there’s where the stress comes in. You’re trying to schedule things with family, but there are always a lot more of them than there are of you. And as much as we’d all like to think that the world revolves around us, it just doesn’t. Take my recent Thanksgiving. The Evil Overlord was going to be working out-of-town the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday after Thanksgiving Day. The Evil Overlord’s sister had to work Thanksgiving Day, but was available later that night. My sister, Angi, was having Thanksgiving with her husband’s side of the family on Thanksgiving day, and she had to leave immediately afterwards for some kind of roller derby camp thing. Yes, seriously. Here’s a couple of short videos of me tormenting her at one of her matches. Hey, what are big brothers for?

Okay. Obviously, the weekend after Thanksgiving wasn’t an option and doing it the weekend before, well, that just doesn’t have the same vibe, does it? So I took a deep breath, cringed, and asked for Wednesday and Thursday off. I asked to be home by Tuesday night just to be sure I’d get there for my mom’s dinner on Wednesday. I should also mention that I put in for this home time two weeks in advance. So everything is set, right? Well, perhaps now I should explain why I was cringing when I asked for Wednesday and Thursday off.

Stress #2: Logistics

Okay. Due to the way my company’s freight moves, it’s extremely hard to get home in the middle of the week. Well, I was sitting right close to home on Tuesday, but I was under a two-stop load that had to be delivered on Wednesday. If they couldn’t find a relay close to home, I was going to have to go 150 miles away to deliver the first stop and then hope they could find someone to take it on from there. Well, to go completely again my blow-hard nature, I’ll give you the short version. Consider that an early Christmas present.

Basically, they couldn’t find anyone to take my load and I was sitting 300 miles away from home on Wednesday evening. Remember, I was supposed to be home the night before. I used the rest of my hours to pick up my load home. But guess what? It had been double-booked and another company had already picked it up. Wouldn’t you know it? Thankfully, they had another load going to the same place that was ready seven days early. Yea. Who says miracles don’t exist?

Anyway, by then I was out of hours and I didn’t get home until Thursday afternoon. So I totally missed Wednesday’s dinner with my side of the family and I barely made it home in time to eat with The Evil Overlord’s side. Then the wench left for work the following morning, so I got to see her for about 20 whole hours. Seven hours of that we were sleeping and the other 13 she was busy shooing me and the nephews out of the kitchen. Now seems like a good time to say, “That’s trucking.” Ugh. Someone hit me with a shovel.

So you can see, even when you have everything worked out, that doesn’t mean your company does. Sometimes they just don’t have people where they need them to be. But say they do. That’s where we run into our next problem.

Stress #3: Weather

Unfortunately, the holiday season falls in winter. And unless you have white hair and your name is Storm, I doubt you have any control over the weather. Now I can hear some of you weather nerds out there, *in my best nasally voice* “Well if you just watch The Weather Channel, you’ll be safe.” Seriously? The last time I checked, most meteorologists are about as accurate as Stevie Wonder shooting a free throw. But for the sake of argument, let’s say the pretty weather girl does get tomorrow’s weather correct.

So now if your dispatcher tries to send you into a blizzard two days before you’re due home, you know to tell him to take the pencil he’s holding and pretend it’s a suppository… in the nicest possible way, of course. But what about a full week before you’re supposed to be home? The weather is fine where you’re currently heading and you should have plenty of time to get back home; right? Well, at a week out even the best of meteorologists…, well, let’s just say old Stevie may as well be shooting from half court. So now you’re facing bad weather on your way back home.

Or maybe you didn’t even come back the same route. Maybe you thought you’d be coming straight back, but instead freight had you jumping 150 miles north and now that storm you figured you’d miss is coming at you like a bull chasing little red riding hood. And suppose this time when you tell your dispatcher to insert his pencil, he tells you that it’s the only load moving towards home. Heading any other direction at this point would guarantee you won’t get home in time. Hey look! I was wrong! There is a guarantee in trucking! That is precisely what happened to me at Thanksgiving.

I was sitting in Dallas on Monday when I got the news. Nothing heading towards home today, but there was a load going that way tomorrow morning (Tuesday-the day I was due home). That load was my only choice. I knew it ran straight up through my house, but I also knew it had two stops that had to be delivered 150 and 300 miles away at the same time I was supposed to be stuffing pumpkin pie down my pumpkin pie hole at my sister’s house. What to do? Well, like I said, that was my only option. And before any of you drivers say anything, I’d like to take a second to address something here.

Some of you drivers are just too freakin’ paranoid. The Evil Overlord was certainly one of you. She always had the idea that everyone at our trucking company was out to screw us. I’ve talked with lots of dispatchers over the years, and trust me; they don’t want to listen to you complain about not getting home. They aren’t sitting at their desk yearning for you to call and ask them if there’s any freight moving towards home… for the eighth time. No; if they had a load that would get you out of their hair, they’d give it to you. So lighten up, guys and gals. Sure, your dispatcher is trying to get the most work out of you that they can, but I think most of them would just rather get you home on time to keep you from whining for the next two weeks. If you’ve got stories that prove me wrong, well that’s what TruckerDump@gmail.com is for. Write in and tell me about ’em.

Okay. I’m done with my rant. Now on to the next stress-causing problem.

Stress #4: Laws

When was the last you non-truckers were told you couldn’t drive to Grandma’s house because you’d be breaking the law? Truckers deal with this all the time, not just during the holidays. But it’s extra stressful during the holidays. Truckers have set time limits we can drive per day and per week. If we break those rules and get caught by the fuzz, it’s a stiff fine. If our company is the only one to catch it, then we can face penalties including suspension for a few days, or worse, having to watch safety videos. Yeesh!

Under normal circumstances, we truckers know how many hours we have and we’ll wield this information when dispatch tries to get us too far from home. But as any trucker will tell you, trucking is anything but normal. There are so many things out of our control. What happens when a shipper takes 4 hours longer to load you than you expected? Happens all the time. What if you needed those 4 hours to get home? Instead, you find yourself taking a mandatory 10-hour break 4 hours from the house. And what are the chances someone who is already busy with holiday festivities is going to drive 500 miles round trip to come get you and take you home? Probably about as good as Stevie making that half-court shot. Poor Stevie. I just keep banging on you. 😉

Anyone got a magnifying glass?

Anyone got a magnifying glass?

How about equipment issues? Take a look at the picture. Can you see a cut in the air line? Yea. I could barely see it too. But the Missouri DOT officer at the chicken coop found it. She shut me down until a repair truck came out and replaced it. If that had happened this Thanksgiving, I would’ve missed both my family gatherings.

Mechanical issues pop up all the time with big rigs. Now if your heater goes out or your oil pressure gauge quits working during the holidays, you’re likely to push on through and get home. But what happens when you have a flat tire? If you’re lucky enough to limp to a truck stop, your wait time could be 5 minutes or it could be 5 hours. And what about more serious issues? My truck lost all power on I-494 in St. Paul not too long ago. I waited on the side of the road for 5-6 hours for a tow truck. Then I spent the next two days in a hotel room and the next two days after that rescuing another truck so I’d have something to drive. What are the chances The Evil Overlord would have time to drive 9 hours to get me and 9 hours back. Poor old Stevie’s had enough. I won’t go there again, but you get the idea.

Yes, you non-truckers could have automobile issues or have a plane grounded, but how often does that really happen? I’ll rest my case on this one.

Stress #5: Shopping

Okay. I’m going to give it to you that the Internet has made this a heck of a lot easier than it used to be. I remember a time when you had to cram all your Christmas shopping into your limited home time. Thankfully, those days are over. But there’s still the problem of what to buy for people. We truckers are on the road so much that it’s hard to know anyone well enough to know what they might like for Christmas.

I love my nephews, but I’ll be the first to admit that I’d don’t have a clue what they want for Christmas. Thankfully, The Evil Overlord knows and she’s in her element when she’s got a debit card in her hand. I’d say she needs a debit card holster strapped to her hip, but it seems unnecessary. Her arms move faster than a hummingbird’s wings when she goes to whip that thing out of her purse. I’m looking forward to the day I’ll have an iPhone with slow-motion capture so I can analyze her technique.

There’s only one thing worse than not knowing what the people in your life want for Christmas; not caring. Here’s something that boggles my mind. Yes, it’s another mini-rant. I’ve talked to a few different truck stop cashiers that tell me that some drivers save up their rewards points all year long and buy all their Christmas presents at the truck stop. Say what? Listen, I know my taste is horrendous, but even I know not to buy Christmas gifts at a truck stop. For one, everything is more expensive there. Secondly, most of the stuff is crap; especially the electronics and elcheapo stuffed toys. Thirdly, I’d be shocked if anyone really enjoyed those presents. And lastly, it screams “I couldn’t bother to go anywhere out of my way to get you something you might actually like.”

Listen, I’m sure we’ve all been guilty of this at some point. I remember when The Evil Overlord and I first started trucking, we bought some toy trucks with our company logo on them and gave them to some of the kids in our life. Some kids like toy trucks so that’s probably fine. But I know that we also got other company-logoed merchandise for other relatives. Not good. I remember one Christmas when my sister had started a new job. She bought everyone in the family clothing with the company logo. Now this wasn’t a fashionable company like Coca-Cola or anything. It was a friggin’ financial institution. Talk about plastering on a fake smile.

My sister meant well. We meant well. Maybe you mean well. But do you really or are you just being lazy? Kid’s love toy trucks. Fine. But trust me. If you’ve given Christmas gifts with your company logo on it for more than one year, the people in your life are dreading your gift this year. Don’t believe me? Get them something good for a change of pace and you’ll see the difference on their face Christmas morning. *steps off soapbox* I’m sure someone is going to disagree with me here. Tell me how wrong I am at TruckerDump@gmail.com.

Well, there you have it; the 5 Stresses of Trucking Through the Holidays. The next time you non-truckers feel the urge to whine about how stressful the holiday season is, just be glad you aren’t trying to do it all from the cab of a big rig. As you can now see, we truckers are already stressed out during the holidays, so please remember that as you’re driving around this season. And also a quick reminder that the crap we’re hauling is the crap you’re buying. So please save your middle finger for that soccer mom who just took the last Big Hugs Elmo.

TD86: Guest Post: Benefits Of Semi Truck Weight Compliance. By Noble McIntyre

Hello, one and all. First, a quick update on the status of the new Web site. Things are coming along slowly, but surely. I recently fixed a major problem I’ve been having; so that’s good. But I’m still missing a major component, so you’re gonna have to control your giddiness. I’m sure you’ll manage somehow. Still, I have a feeling that I’m eventually going to have to crack this sucker open to the public with a few lingering quirks. It’s like choosing someone to marry. If you’re waiting for perfection, you’re never going to do it. The Evil Overlord is the exception to the rule. She really hit the jackpot there.

So what’s this about a guest post? Well, if you remember correctly, I told you in our last visit that I was working on providing a couple of guest posts to fill the Sandra Bernhard-sized tooth gap between the posts I’ve written.

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Today’s treat is brought to you by a gentleman named Noble McIntyre. Now I’m not positive, but I think Noble may be a bit clairvoyant. A while back, I began playing with the idea of asking for submissions for a couple of guest posts to fill in the gaping hole that the blog was becoming. Not long after, I received an email from Noble asking if I accepted guest posts. I’m telling you people… clairvoyant. I’m guessing that skill comes in handy with his day job. You see, Noble is an attorney. That’s gotta be pretty darn handy to get into the minds of the opposing counsel. And before you say it, yes, I know it’s hard to believe a lawyer was perusing my blog, but that’s just further proof that I rock. I’ve been telling people that for years, but no one ever listens.

So let’s get on with today’s submission. Afterward, I’ll be back to share my thoughts on the subject. Here we go. And oh yea. You ladies may want to check out Noble’s picture at the bottom of the post. He’s a handsome devil, he is. Hands off though, ladies. He’s already been snagged off the market. Sorry to disappoint.

Benefits of Semi Truck Weight Compliance

By Noble McIntyre

It’s human nature to want the most benefit for the lowest cost. It may seem more efficient to load a semi truck to maximum capacity—or more—in order to transport more merchandise in fewer trips. That works in theory, but not always in practice. I’ve taken on semi truck cases that came about when someone was injured due to some sort of negligence on the part of a truck driver or a trucking company like, for example, overloading a truck. And accidents involving a semi have the potential to do much more damage when the truck is heavier than is legally allowed.

Surpassing truck weight limits can also cost more in fees and fines when trucks don’t pass inspection at highway weigh stations. But additional costs in fuel, maintenance, and safety must be considered as well. Here are a few of the ways ignoring trucking weigh limits can increase costs, and affect the safety of not just the truckers, but passenger vehicle drivers.

Road Fatigue

Highways are built to withstand a lot of wear—vehicles driving over them, harsh weather, heat, cold. They’re also constructed with certain weight limits in mind. When those limits are surpassed, the road suffers and begins to wear down more quickly than planned. This not only makes for uncomfortable driving, it increases road maintenance costs for the states the highways run through, and those costs are passed on to the taxpayers. By complying with weight limits, truckers and trucking companies can help roads last longer, and reduce maintenance costs, thereby saving states money that can be put toward other public needs.

Wasted Fuel and Time

It comes down to simple power-to-weight ratio—the heavier a truck is, the more power required to propel it. When a truck is loaded over its maximum weight, it will require more fuel to travel the same distance at the same speeds as a lighter truck. In addition to wasting fuel, this will also translate to higher costs for the trucking company because of the need to buy fuel more often. It also means lost time to stop for those fueling needs. Those costs are most likely passed on to the consumer. By adhering to weight limits, truckers can save time and money both for the trucking company, and for the people who buy the products being transported. For those of us concerned about the effect high food costs have on our communities, it’s frustrating to know that some of those costs could be more reasonable if weight limit regulations were strictly followed.

Safety

When loaded to maximum weight, the stopping distance for semi trucks is roughly 40 percent greater than that of regular passenger vehicles. This is assuming fair weather and road conditions. That distance will increase when roads are wet, for example, or when the truck is traveling above the speed limit. Now imagine how the stopping distance is affected when a truck is carrying more than the allowed maximum weight. Even in good weather, the distance is increased, not to mention, a heavier truck will do more damage to other vehicles and to property should an accident occur. Weight compliance promotes safety for the truck, its driver, and other drivers on the road. I would be more than happy to accept a reduction in the number of clients I have if it meant fewer people were being injured in trucking accidents due to poor practices.

The trucking industry remains the most effective tool in transporting goods from one location to another. There is plenty of room for improvement, to be sure. But until technological and mechanical advances come about that improve efficiency, current safety standards must be maintained. The benefits simply outweigh the costs.

Noble McIntyre is the senior partner and owner of McIntyre Law, a firm staffed by experienced Oklahoma City truck accident lawyers.

 

 

Good stuff, Noble. Thanks for entertaining and informing the peeps. Now from a trucker’s view, let me add a few thoughts of my own.

For quite a while now, my company has been sending out a satellite message about once a week reminding us to route around the Pawtucket River Bridge on I-95 in Rhode Island. It seems that about once a week one of my highly intelligent co-workers gets a ticket for crossing the bridge. You know, the bridge that has been marked as truck restricted since 2007. The one marked by those bright orange signs that are really hard to see. Yea, those. I just don’t get it. If a bridge is clearly marked as illegal, why would anyone cross it? Why not take the marked route? It’s not that far out of the way. Yet the coppers in Rhode Island have been picking trucker’s pockets clean for years. These fines aren’t cheap either. We’re talking maximums of $2000 plus. Ouch-a-mundo! But then there are times when things aren’t quite so clear-cut.

Now there isn’t a trucker out there who hasn’t come across a situation that can’t be avoided. Sometimes by the time you see the weight restriction signs on the bridge, you’re already crossing it. Oops. But hey, when you looked at the trucker’s atlas during your trip planning, the road was clearly marked in orange! For you non-truckers; roads highlighted in orange are supposed to be open to trucks. Most of the time, they’re right. But some of the time they neglect to mention that it’s okay to run the road, providing you’re under the weight limit. That would be the weight limit that isn’t posted anywhere in the atlas.

Other times, you find yourself stuck between an FMCSA rule-maker’s head and a hard place. There you sit, staring at a weight-restricted bridge in the dead of night. You followed your company-supplied directions to the letter. Yet there you are. You’ve got no place to turn around. What now? I wrote about this exact scenario in a blog post called Trucking in the Northeast. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. I find that prayer helps.

But what about running with an overweight load? Truck drivers do it all the time. But why do we do it? Because your dispatcher says to do it? Sorry dudes and dudettes, but that crap ain’t gonna fly here. Drivers, you’ve gotta think about this. It’s your license. It’s your ticket. It’s your money that’s gonna pay the fine. It’s not a point of pride to say, “I can find my way around any scale.” Okay great.

What good does it do? It takes more fuel to go around the scales. The back roads always take longer too. So why do we do it? Yeah, it’s a pain to take the load back to the shipper for reloading. Yes, it’s annoying to stop five times to fuel in a 600 mile trip just to keep your load legal.

But notice I kept saying “we” truckers. Yes, @DriverChrisMc, I just called myself a trucker again. Mark it on the calendar. The thing is, I’ve done all this myself. I routed around all the weigh stations once a long time ago. I found it stressful and never did it again. Sort of. What I will still do is route around ONE scale if I know I can burn off enough fuel before I get to the rest of the chicken coops (weight stations–a little trucker-speak there). But why even do that?

Well, I know why I do it. Because the places where I load, you either take that load or you sit and idle your truck until you burn off enough fuel to run the load. I’ve asked the company to cut the load. They won’t. I’ve asked to deadhead to get another load. Nothing else in the area. That’s not hard to believe when you’re in the wasteland known as North Dakota. And this is why I NEVER fill my fuel tanks any more. 3/4 max for me. Less if I’m anywhere in the vicinity of one of our 46,350 pound sugar loads.

I guess if you’re an owner/operator, I can maybe see the point of dodging all the scales on an entire trip. Maybe it was “take the load or don’t get paid.” That’s your choice I guess. Just remember that not only are we all breaking the law, but we’re also defying every reason that Noble just laid out. And shame on us all for dissing the Noble.

Photo by Linda N. via Flickr

TD71: Hell Week 2: The Sequel

Those of you who follow me on Twitter may as well admit you knew this was coming. Heck, @darkstaff said as much in a Tweet. Even stranger, that weirdo even said he was looking forward to it. 😉 So now it’s time to spread the joy in a blog post. Something that future generations can read and marvel at the intelligence of the writer. Oh hush.

As I typed “Hell Week” as the title, I had a sense of deja vu. Sure enough, a search of my blog confirmed that I had already done a “Hell Week” back in September of 2009. So I took my cue from the extremely creative Hollywood movie studios and created a wonderful new title. Hope you appreciate all the thought I put into it.

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As I mentioned in my last post, “Post-Hell. Pre-Hell.”, I had a good time the last time I was home. When I hit the road again, I was totally kickin’ butt in the miles department. I had delivered in Dallas and immediately grabbed a load heading to Denver. Now at that point, I should have known to expect the worst. The only good thing that’s ever happened to me in Denver is meeting @alanqbristol and getting treated to some excellent pizza. Denver just so happens to be the city that hosted my only two preventable accidents. And they both happened on the same day. That story is reserved for another day. And that’s what lead up to the doom that loomed.

So, finally on to Hell Week. As Glenn Frey said on the “Hell Freezes Over” album, “And here’s how it all started…”

Friday

I was sitting in Denver, CO waiting for a load when the hell started. I received the load info for a run that picked up immediately. Or so I was told. I started my day on my *&$#ing e-logs and drove .8 miles to my shipper. I dropped my trailer as instructed and checked in. They proceeded to look at me like I was from Neptune and told me the load wouldn’t be ready until Saturday. I called my safety department to ask if they could ignore me starting my day since I’d only done a pre-trip inspection and drove .8 miles. That’s POINT 8. Not even a full mile! I don’t even know why I asked. I knew the answer.

What’s worse is by the time I went to go pick up my empty trailer, the yard jockeys had already grabbed it and stuck it in a dock. I asked to get it back, but they had already begun to load it with product that another driver was taking. Grrr.

Surprisingly enough, I got another load about 3 hours later. I was shocked to see it picked up 538 miles away in Omaha, NE. Hey, it doesn’t matter us company drivers. We get paid for every mile, whether loaded or empty. So ff I went.

Saturday

It was just after midnight on Saturday morning when the attack came. A deer came out of nowhere and we collided with both of us at full speed. I pulled to the shoulder to assess the damage. The grill was gone. My left headlight and signal lights were out. My bumper was cracked and was stuffed with deer hair. Or is it fur? Heck, I’m no outdoorsmen. I checked the rest of the truck and didn’t see a drop of blood anywhere, but I knew the deer was history. I could see where the antlers hit the radiator. It was pretty hard to miss with the coolant gushing out.

Okay, now I’m in a hurry. No time to go back to check on the deer. Besides, that’s a few weeks of supper for some redneck family. Don’t thank me. I just like to do my part to help society. I’m very giving like that. Anyway, it’s too bad my truck is speed-limited. I had about 8 miles to get to the next truck stop; about 20 to get to one with a shop. After calling my maintenance department, my goal was the shop. I got about 4 miles before the engine overheated and shut itself off. I coasted to the shoulder shaking my head in disgust.

My plan was to let the engine cool and run again until I got to the shop. I went to open the hood to help the motor cool, but it felt like it was going to come off the hinges. I rethought that strategy and left it in place. The last thing I needed was a hood lying on the highway. Unfortunately, I had to readjust my plan when it took an hour to cool down enough to run again. Now my goal was the first truck stop. I had gone 4 miles the first time, so I figured I could make it with one last 4-mile sprint. I had gone 3 miles when I saw the flames. Yes, I said flames.

Wouldn’t you know it? 2 A.M. in the middle of Nebraska and this is where a big rig catches on fire? I pulled to side of the road again, watching my e-log count down. If the road didn’t clear soon, I’d have a log violation on my hands. Then again, at least I wasn’t roasting marshmallows on my truck. I finally pulled into the truck stop about 10 minutes after my log ran out. Of  course, there wasn’t any parking so I had to go across the street and park in a hotel parking lot.

I called maintenance again and they asked if I wanted to get a hotel room there. Since the weather was nice and cool, I passed. I think me not wanting to go to hotels is a remnant from days past when The Evil Overlord was out here with me. I HATED having to pack all her crap and lug it to the hotel. I will go to a hotel if the weather sucks, but only then.

The next morning I found a spot at the truck stop and called in again. I was informed no one would be towing me until Monday morning, mainly because the local International dealer was closed on the weekends. While that wasn’t exactly happy news, at least I had access to a shower and a microwave so I wouldn’t starve or smell any worse than I normally do. I didn’t even ask for a hotel room. Why doesn’t my company love me more?

Sunday

To my surprise, the tow truck driver showed up on Sunday afternoon. Apparently he’d been having Sunday lunch at his mother’s house, which was close to me. I sat in my truck the rest of the day outside International dealer. Thankfully, there was a convenience store right across the street. I worked on my new Web site all day and got a lot accomplished for once. Had a lot of good Twitter time too. Thanks to everyone for keeping me in a good mood that day.

Monday

I checked in at the shop as soon as the door opened. By noon they had evaluated the damage. Apparently, there are only two styles of radiators used in that year of truck. They had one in stock. Of course, it wasn’t the one I needed. This is Hell Week, you know. It was going to be Thursday before they got the part. And that decided that.

I had been planning to stick with the truck, but with that bit of bad news I elected to hitch a ride from another company driver to the nearest company terminal. Then the plans changed. I’m quite convinced I would’ve had a Half Hell Week if that hadn’t happened. Instead they sent a different driver to haul me back to the Denver area to pick up an abandoned truck. My first thought was,“Great. If a driver is a big enough jerk to abandon a truck, I wonder how nasty it’s gonna be.” My fears would soon be realized.

A driver named Danny picked me up and we were both grateful neither of us smoked. He was funny and just as talkative as me, possibly more so. Ha, ha. Very funny. I know what you’re thinking. Anyway, after a quick stop for coffee, we were on our way.

Tuesday

We arrived at the Flying J in Aurora, CO about 3 A.M. and I went inside to get the keys from the cashier. Supposedly, they had been left there, but the cashier couldn’t find them. Well, that’s just fabulous. We began looking for the truck. We found it and the door was locked. Grrrr. But then I noticed the windows were rolled down. I told Danny, “This guy must’ve been a real jerk to leave the windows down.” He agreed. I stood on the running board and reached inside to unlock the door. That’s when the face popped out from the bunk area. Holy crap! I wasn’t prepared for that! The driver was still in it. What the heck? I thought it was abandoned?

Okay. First off, I could smell the cigarette smoke when I was standing on the running board, but didn’t notice the butt funk until I was throwing all my stuff in the bunk area. This truck smelled horrible. I mentioned the smoke to the driver, but didn’t mention the B.O. issue. Aren’t I sweet? Like all smokers, he didn’t think it was all that bad because he smoked with the windows roll down. Oh boy. I won’t get started down that path.

Now here’s a reminder to everyone that there are always two sides to a story. The driver’s girlfriend would be there to pick him up in a few hours. Since I wasn’t going to sleep while he was in there and he didn’t appear to have any intention to get out of the truck, we chatted. Naturally, I asked him why he was quitting. He told me he got another job and had put in a two-week notice. That was three weeks ago and his dispatcher had just given him another load to Wyoming. Problem was, he lived in Joplin, MO. That’s near my home and the opposite direction from Wyoming. Small world, huh? And that’s why he was “abandoning” the truck. Two sides, folks. Two sides.

Turns out his apartment building was one of the many lost in the recent tornado. I felt sorry for him… but not for long. The job he got was my dream trucking job (if there is such a thing). FedEx had hired him to drive from Joplin to St. Louis and back 5 days a week. Home every day. I’ve been looking for something like for years, so I asked him how he landed a sweet gig like that. He said, “Every single time I was home for the last 4 years, I went into the FedEx terminal and asked ’em for a job.” Okay. Clearly this guy deserved it more than me. Kudos to him… and curses.

The driver’s ride finally arrived and I rolled out my sleeping bag. I wasn’t going to get any of my real bedding out as I had no intention of staying in that truck. Having a kick-butt dispatcher, she called me first thing that morning and asked me about the condition of the truck. When I told her what a pig sty it was she said, “Okay. I’ve already started looking for a load to the yard.” No argument at all. I really wasn’t expecting that.

I got a load and as I was loading it I talked to another driver. Would you believe it? His family was from Joplin and his mom was in the hospital at the time when St. John’s Hospital was hit. The world keeps getting smaller and smaller.

When I took off, I discovered that Mr. B.O. liked to idle his truck… a lot. As some of you know, our truck’s speed is determined by idle time. This truck was at 54% idle time. Any trucker will tell you that going 60 mph sucks. However, it’s amplified to the tenth power if you’re going 60 mph across the flat lands that is I-70 in Eastern Colorado and nearly all of Kansas.

The load delivered near St. Louis, but my goal for the day was Kansas City. Since my company doesn’t allow certain toll roads, I had to bypass the Kansas Turnpike between Topeka and KC. The first leg of US-40 is lined with trees and is as dark as Satan’s closet. I was only going 45 mph when I came within 20 feet of hitting another deer. Had I not hit the brakes HARD, Rudolph would’ve been toast. About five miles further, I came about 50 feet from taking out all of Rudolph’s relatives.

Wednesday

It was just after midnight and time was ticking down on the ol’ e-logs as I was pushing it to get to KC. I was planning on pulling into a Quik Trip I knew of and grabbing some hot water for some ramen noodles, then booking it to a little parking area just west of KC before my time ran out. Being the bonehead that I am, I was thinking the QT was on I-435, when it was actually on I-635, so no hot meal for me.

After my mandatory 10-hour bunk time, I finally caught a break. My dispatcher had been looking for a relay that would get me near our yard and she found one going directly there. So by Wednesday night, I was waiting at the yard for the shop to open Thursday morning.

Thursday

I was waiting with bells on Thursday morning. I asked for a new truck and of course, was told there weren’t any available. They offered to clean the smoky B.O. truck. I told them I’d give it a shot, but I wasn’t holding my breath. I mean really, I’d already been holding it for a couple of days.

I was right. After the cleaning, it simply smelled like an orangy, smoky, B.O. truck. Time to go see the boss. She said the same thing. The only trucks available were reserved for the new hires. Okay. That’s when I got a bit hot.  I said, “So basically, the new hires are more important than someone who’s been with the company for a year?” She went back and talked to the guy in charge of tractors. After a long time, she came back and told me to hang out and they’d find something for me. They finally did.

This truck didn’t smell at all like smoke when I got in it the first time. And since it’d been sitting in the hot sun all day, I thought I had a good one. However, the longer I’m in it the more I notice I can smell it sometimes. It’s very faint and it comes and goes, so I’m not going to pitch a fit about it… for once in my life. HA! Beat you to it.

I got a load to the Texas Panhandle and after picking it up, I noticed that my e-logs where acting funky. I called and to my delight I discovered that my new truck was one of a handful of trucks that was testing a new version of software. Oh boy. It was still buggy and required me to call the Safety Department for corrections nearly every time I picked up or delivered a load. The bugs are still there. And that really “bugs” me.

Friday

Just before I got to Amarillo, I blew a trailer tire. I had planned on delivering the load by midnight since that was the end of the pay period, but now that wasn’t going to happen. With the Hell Week I was having, I needed it. Alas! Another ray of light! I called night dispatch and asked them to include the load on that pay period. Amazingly, they agreed. I’d asked them numerous times before, but this was the first time they actually did it. I knew those jerks were always lying in the past when they told me they system wouldn’t let them. Grrrr.

And for good measure… an extra day: Saturday

I was on my way back from Texas when I noticed a lump on a trailer tire. That’s not all that strange, except it was night and I was moving at the time. The lump was that big. I stopped to check it out and I was shocked. It looked like a cantaloupe was trying to bust out of the sidewall! I considered letting some air out to alleviate some of the pressure, but quite frankly, I was scared to get any closer to it than I already was. By the time I got to Joplin to get the tire fixed, the bulge had actually gone back down. There was a rip in the sidewall, but miraculously, the tire was still inflated.

Anywho, a mere 5 hour wait for the tire to be fixed and I was on my way again. And thus ends Hell Week 2. Got a Hell Week of your own? Or how about a Hell Day? Click on the comment button and let’s hear about it. I’ll bet you can do it in waaaaaaay less than 2882 words. Heck. You could probably start a new country and write your own Constitution in fewer words.

Photo by designshard via Flickr

TD69: The CSA (Crappy Sucky Administration)

As if the title didn’t tell you all you needed to know, I’m not a big fan of the new CSA rules that the trucking industry is dealing with. In fact, I’d rather jump in the cage with one of those MMA fighters. Being the wuss that I am, it’d be almost as painful as dealing with the CSA, but at least I’d be unconscious in a matter of seconds instead of enduring the never-ending torture that the CSA promises the truck driver.

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Okay, so what is the CSA really? CSA stands for “Compliance, Safety, Accountability.” Now that’s about as technical as this article is going to get. You see, for a change of pace I actually went and tried to do a little research into the CSA before I started writing this article. I gotta tell you, if someone told me my job for the rest of my life was going to involve researching subjects that I care nothing about, I might just join a terrorist group and sign up to wear a bomb vest. Only once I was suited up, I’d walk up and give the head terrorist a big hug, step back, grin, and hit the trigger.

In a nutshell, here’s what the CSA is designed to do. It’s goal is to identify unsafe drivers and carriers. They mean to accomplish this by assigning a “safety value” to both. Basically, anything that a driver can get ticketed for has a value assigned to it. Speeding tickets, parking tickets, driving without your license, equipment violations, preventable accidents, etc.

The carriers get their scores from the drivers who work for them. Any CSA points that a driver receives goes against the carrier too. Now if a driver had collected points while working for another carrier, they don’t transfer to the new carrier when the driver switches jobs. So that’s at least one thing that the CSA got right. The CSA points do stick with the driver through the job change though. They’re like herpes, meaning you’re just stuck with them.

What this means is that drivers are going to be scrutinized even harder when they’re being considered for a job. As if the DAC report wasn’t enough (it shows the history of the driver), now you’ll also have to maintain a good CSA score to be worthy of hiring.

I really don’t have any issues with “grading” a driver, but they should only be graded on things that are under their control. If a driver is speeding, feel free to nail him or her with some points. That makes sense. Clearly if a trucker is intoxicated while driving, they deserve some points… and perhaps a few kicks in the ribs. But what about things that you have little or no control over?

In my 14 years of driving, I can’t honestly remember one time that I went to bed with all my lights working and woke up with a burned out light. There are three situations when I’ll discover a burned out light. One is during my pre-trip inspection when I’m picking up a different trailer. The second is when I’m driving and another driver tells me over the cursed CB radio that I’m “missing an eyeball” (one headlight is out). The third is at the end of a leg of my journey. Maybe I’ve stopped to take a whiz and noticed a dead tail light. Or maybe it’s at the end of my driving shift when I’m doing my walk around.

The point is, lights burn out. Wiring goes bad. Heck, sometimes they just fall out. When does this happen? When you’re driving. So how am I supposed to know exactly when a light burns out? I could do a pre-trip inspection and have a light burn out as I’m driving out of the truck stop parking lot. A cop pulls me over and says I should have done a pre-trip inspection. I did, but how can I prove it? The light was good 3 minutes ago. Am I expected to pull over every minute and check my lights? Uhhhh… no. And that’s just the lights. I haven’t even mentioned air hose leaks and tires with slow leaks. My company has suggested that I should pull over and do an inspection any time I’m getting ready to drive through a weigh station. Really? That’s getting a bit ridiculous, isn’t it? Still, every point I get goes against my record and my future job prospects.

Now some of you may be saying, “Well, usually a cop will let you go get it fixed.” Okay, I’ll give you that. I have been released to get a light fixed, but I’ve also been told to call a repair vehicle to get it fixed. And this leads to another point. What if the cop is trying to be nice by letting you go with a warning? That’s good, right? Well… maybe. It all depends. Those of you who follow me on Twitter know where this is going.

I was cruising around the I-495 loop east of Washington DC and trying to figure out if the FMCSA’s building was within hand gernade distance when I got pulled over by a couple of Maryland State Troopers. Seriously though, I had seen the smokey sitting in the median as soon as I topped the hill. I glanced at my speedometer and saw I was doing 60 mph. Unlike some of you idiots out there who feel the need to mash the brakes every time you see a cop (even if you aren’t speeding), I just kept tooling along. I knew the speed limit was 55 mph, but I also knew a cop rarely looked at a truck going 5 mph over the limit. That logic is fine, but it kinda gets tossed out the window when his laser gun says I was going 67 mph.

Okay, first of all, I’ve never claimed to be any smarter than a trained cockatoo, but I am smart enough to avoid going 12 mph over the speed limit around the DC loop. I told the cop as much and he said the laser didn’t make those kind of errors. I implied that maybe the operator did. After all, there were plenty of cars screaming around me at 65 and 70 mph. I was expecting to catch attitude then, but I didn’t. Both officers were surprisingly calm at my insinuation.

I went on to explain that my truck was speed-limited at 62 mph at the moment. He said I was going slightly down hill. That’s when I told him that after 14 years of driving, I’m pretty sure I wasn’t dumb enough to let myself go 12 mph over the speed limit. I told him he could tell me I was going 67 mph all he wanted, but I would never believe him. I admitted I had my cruise control set on 60 mph and if he wanted to give me a ticket for that, then I’d accept it without a word.

Maybe he thought I’d fight the ticket, or maybe he just wanted to be nice. Who knows? But after a Level I inspection (that’s just a walk-around and driver credentials inspection), he handed me a clean inspection report and a written warning for the “speeding.” I thanked him and went on my way. Maybe I shouldn’t have thanked him. Here’s why.

I later found out that the CSA gives the same amount of points for a warning as they do a violation. As if that weren’t bad enough, here’s where it gets screwier than a screw-driving contest. The thing is, you can fight a ticket. If you win, you can petition the CSA to remove the points from your record. Great! But how exactly can you fight a warning? You can’t. So in essence, getting a written warning is worse than getting a violation. Will there come a day when we drivers are begging the officer to give us a ticket instead of a warning? Lord, I hope not.

Other than the CSA points themselves, what bugs me most about this is that it goes against the officer’s intention. They wanted to be nice by giving you a warning. They’re saying, “Hey, I could’ve nailed you, but I’m going to give you a pass this time. Be sure to watch yourself in the future.” So what has to happen to fix this? Do you think cops will someday realize that they’re screwing us worse by giving us a written warning? Will they eventually learn that they need to give us a VERBAL warning to be nice to us? I doubt it. Most of the cops wouldn’t know a log book violation if it reached up out of the log book and socked them in the kisser. How are they supposed to follow all the regulations of the CSA?

There is possibly some hope for the CSA. They have already shown to retract things that weren’t working or didn’t make sense. So they’ve scrapped the whole system and started over. Kidding. Wish I wasn’t. For example, earlier this year they retracted all points having to do with overweight tickets. I’m not sure what they didn’t like about the criteria, but whatever it was, it was enough to make them give it a second look.

The way it was explained to me was that the entire incident came off the CSA record, but @MightyDeno proved me wrong when he told me that his points had been removed, but the violation was still listed on his record. As another Twitter friend (whom I can’t remember) pointed out, that left it wide open to add the points back in later when they worked out the bugs in the system. Looks like they could eventually get you either way.

So what does this mean for the truck driver as we go forward with the CSA program? Well, for one, I’d say we’ll lose some experienced drivers over this. Whether it’s by their own choice or by bogus CSA points from things out of their control is left to be seen. For those who remain, we can plan on being in the dark for quite some time. Very little is explained to us and not many of us want to dive into research and figure it out. Heck, most drivers I talk to still don’t understand the 14-hour rule correctly. And that rule was issued in 2003. The CSA rules are just as confusing, possibly more so. And you can bet they’ll be changing them on and off to confuse everyone even more.

Recently, another driver and I were looking at the latest statistics issued by the CSA and realized that neither of us knew what the criteria for the results were. We asked dispatch and they didn’t know either. The safety department might have known, but they were gone for the day.

One thing is for sure, my safety director will be getting yet another call from me soon. The latest CSA stats showed that we’ve been surpassed by some companies in the HOS (Hours of Service) category. That category just so happens to be the one that has to do with the cursed e-logs. I’ll be asking him to explain why our company, which doesn’t let their drivers edit their e-logs, has been passed by some companies that I know for a fact have editable e-logs. This is going to be fun.

Please give this post a rating and share it with your weirdo friends. Also, leave a comment with your thoughts about the CSA. May as well make up your own name for them too.

TD61: E-logs: My First Impression

Despite the fact that I’ve been driving for 13 years, I made a bonehead rookie mistake yesterday. It was especially unfortunate since it probably would have been covered if it didn’t coincide with my first day running with e-logs. But first… what are e-logs?

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E-logs are electronic logs. For more details, you may want to jump on over to a previous blog of mine before you read on. I gave it the appropriate name of, “Fear and loathing of electronic logs.”

As my truck was getting e-logs installed, I was taking a class on how to use them. I went in grumpy and hating them. Four hours later, I came out with a slightly less grumpy disposition and a lower hate factor, but I’m still not doing round-off-double-back-handsprings. And thank God for that. I wouldn’t want you to see my cheerleading panties.

One thing I knew going in was that each company can set up e-logs according to their own guidelines. This is something that @DeanAllen2006 had informed me of in the blog post mentioned above. Knowing my company, this was what I was most worried about. My worries weren’t unfounded.

For example, Dean’s company has their e-logs set up where he can creep along (7 mph or less) in rush hour traffic and still be on the “On-Duty, Not Driving” line. My company has it set to go to the Driving line after a half-mile, no matter what your speed is. It used to be set at 1 mile, but they decided that was waaaay too long. Grrr. Keep this under your hat, but I think mine is still set at 1 mile. Shhhhhh.

When they mentioned this in class, all three of us drivers started talking at once. Our concern was this. Many times we’ll be parked at a shipper/receiver waiting for a dock. Or maybe we got there the night before. Either way, if it’s going to be a while, we’ll start our 10-hour break. At some point, we’re going to have to wake up and back into a dock. Now there are a lot of massive warehouses out there. Some of them even have off-site buildings. Many of them will require us to drive over .5 mile to get to the dock. That will effectively break our mandatory 10-hour rest period.

The company is aware of this and is looking into it. For now the fix is to call in to the Safety Department and let them know what happened. If they can verify you never left the property, they’ll fix it. While it’s good that they’ll do that, it’s a big fail in my book. Still stranger, I’m thinking they wouldn’t even have this problem if they’d just left the 1 mile limit in effect. Although that still wouldn’t fix the off-site problem…

Next, I asked about a situation that happened to me not long ago. I had enough hours to get to my delivery location, but they didn’t have any parking. My plan was to park at a nearby Lowe’s that I had been parking at for years. Since I didn’t have enough time to fit in a 10-hour break before my delivery appointment, I was just going to drive the 5 miles from Lowe’s to the customer and show on my paper logs that I had been at the delivery point all night. Illegal? Technically, yes. Done frequently by truckers? Definitely yes. Able to do on e-logs? Nope.

That was my plan anyway. What actually happened is a tow truck driver knocked on my door and told me he was instructed to tow any truck that wouldn’t leave the Lowe’s parking lot. Naturally, I left. Here’s the thing though. I was about 7.5 hours into my break. If I had been down 8 hours I could have used it as part of a split sleeper berth, moved, and gotten my other 2 hours somewhere else. Since it wasn’t, I moved, pretended I didn’t, and delivered my load on time.

But that was only possible because I was on paper logs. I asked the trainer about this scenario and was told that since I didn’t have any hours available, and I had to move before my 10-hour break was completed, I would be charged with a log violation. She did say that the company would note the situation along with the violation so that it could be seen that I had no choice in the matter. While this sucks more than a dehydrated mosquito, that’s not the worst of it.

Since I had moved before completing my 10-hour break and I hadn’t even gotten 8 hours in to set up a possible split sleeper berth, I would now have to start my break over. So now my mandatory 10-hour break has just turned into a mandatory 17.5 hour break (that’s my wasted 7.5 hours that didn’t count, plus my new 10-hour break). Furthermore, I’m sitting 5 miles from my delivery point, but I now can’t deliver because I don’t have any driving time. In this situation, another driver would have to come and deliver my load.

The trainer said the fix for this problem was to plan ahead. If you know that a receiver doesn’t have parking, tell your dispatcher how close you can get and they’ll find another driver to relay the load. This is going to lead to a LOT of relays, especially since my company doesn’t always know which customers allow parking, and which don’t. Even crappier is that many times you can get within the same city as the receiver, you just can’t park at their facility. Since my company doesn’t pay a dime for local runs (within the same city), many of these runs won’t pay anything except for the miles it takes you to get to the relay point.

While all this sounds easy enough, what about those situations like the one I was in? I’d been parking at that Lowe’s for years. How was I to know they’d change the rules all of a sudden? Or how about those times when you park somewhere questionable because you’ve run out of driving time? Truckers are forced to move all the time for reasons such as this. Who gets stuck with the log violation, the ticket if we get caught, and possibly a service failure if the load can’t be delivered on time? Once again, it all comes back to the driver.

Here’s the next thing that didn’t make sense. Any calls to breakdown must be done during On-Duty time. So say you pull into a truck stop, do your walk-around, and notice a flat tire. You call into breakdown while you’re still On-Duty, then you check into the shop at the truck stop. They say it’ll be about 3 hours before they can fit you in. That’s fine, I’ll just go to sleep until then, get my 2 hours of my split sleeper berth in, and finish the other 8 hours after I’m out of the shop. Right? Wrong. The new e-log rules say that when you are awaiting repairs, you have to log it as On-Duty time. So not only are you wasting time that could be going toward your 10-hour break, you’re also using up your hours on your 70-hour work week. Can someone please explain to me how this is any different from moving on a customer’s property to bump a dock? Cuz my e-log trainer couldn’t.

One thing I was anticipating was for them to say how much time e-logs would save me. It came as expected. She said, “Using paper logs, you have to log 15 minutes for fueling, even if it only takes you 5 minutes. Now, if it takes you 5 minutes, it saves you 10 full minutes of driving time!” To which I responded: “But isn’t logging 15 minutes for fueling a company policy?” It was. “Federal guidelines say that anything under 7 minutes doesn’t have to be logged, other than flagging it. So, in essence, we’re losing 15 minutes, because under DOT rules, we wouldn’t even have to show fueling if it only took 5 minutes.” No good answer followed.

Next was the mandatory Pre-Trip Inspection. 15 minutes minimum is the standard for both carriers and the DOT. As I happily pointed out, “Here’s another 15 minutes lost. Before, I could log my PTI when I fueled, no matter what time of day it was. Now you’re telling me I have to do it at the beginning of the day, and it can’t be combined with any other activity.” Again. No explanation.

Now back to my rookie mistake. I got my load information and wrote it all down. For some reason, my brain decided that my delivery time of 1300 (1 p.m.) was actually 3 p.m. I don’t know how that happened. I’m guessing the “3” in 1300 stuck in my demented brain. Anyway, here’s how e-logs affected this situation.

Since I got this load information the day before and I didn’t want to sit around and wait, I had already asked if I could deliver early. No one would respond to my dispatcher, so I never got an answer. Now if I had been on paper logs, I no doubt would’ve taken off extra early and tried to deliver before my appointment time. If the customer would’ve taken me early, all would be well. If they wouldn’t take me until my appointment time, I would’ve simply showed taking off a couple of hours later on my logs. Again, illegal? Yep. Done by truckers every day? No doubt.

Instead, I waited until the very last minute to take off. I knew that the second I rolled out, my 14-hour clock started ticking. If I rolled out too early and couldn’t deliver, I’d have burned all that time while I sat waiting on my appointment. I wasn’t going to do that. The problem was, I only left in time to deliver by 3 p.m. When my dispatcher called to ask me why I wasn’t heading toward my delivery, I knew I had screwed the pooch. I had planned on rolling in by 3 p.m. Now I was going to be 2 hours late.

Luckily, I have a cool dispatcher who knows I don’t make rookie mistakes like that very often. It was also lucky that there was heavy fog out that she could blame my lateness on. I’m telling you folks, I’ve got the coolest dispatcher. Still, if everyone on e-logs is trying to maximize their time, it seems to me that it will put a whole lot of truckers in a race against time. Does anyone think that’s a good idea?

So now that my first day with e-logs is completed, here’s my initial impression. They are fairly easy to learn and use. It has some cool features that I didn’t have before, such as a running total of my hours, always knowing what city/state I’m in, and it automatically knowing when I arrive at a customer.

While all of that is great, the ability to search and read messages while I’m driving is my favorite feature. My old Qualcomm unit wouldn’t let me read a message unless I was at a complete stop. They say that I still can’t type while I’m going down the road, which is to be expected. Again, I think they forgot to disable this feature in my unit, because I’ve tried typing while going down the road and it works just dandy. Of course, I’m not planning to abuse this, but still… shhhhhhh. Check out the videos to see how these things work.

I’m convinced that the trucking industry is going to have to change if e-logs are going to work. Shippers and Receivers in particular are going to have to start caring about a trucker’s time. And if some of the new proposed rules, such as the hard 14-hour workday take hold, it will be even more necessary. I just don’t think e-logs are quite ready for the weird situations that truckers find themselves in every day.

To sum up, I think the key isn’t the e-logs themselves. The key is how they’re set up. E-logs can be as flexible as a double-jointed gymnast or as rigid as an Eskimo’s clothesline laundry. Here’s to hoping that trucking companies prefer leotards over stiff boxer shorts.

Please leave a rating and post a comment with your concerns or experiences with e-logs.

TD60: Truckers vs. Cops vs. DOT vs. Carriers

There is a constant unseen battle going on in the trucking industry. It’s like the movie “Alien vs. Predator,” only with two more factions that rear back their ugly heads and roar. Perhaps someone should make a massive online video game about it.

It could be called Truckers vs. Cops vs. DOT vs. Carriers. I’d ask all the geeks to play as the Trucker faction. That way the proper groups would receive the bloody slaughter that they deserve. Let me explain what brought this blog post to fruition.

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I was sitting at a truck stop in Birmingham, Alabama when it all started. I had arrived there on a Saturday night and was still 150 miles away from my delivery location. The load didn’t have to be there until Monday at midnight.

I could have had the load to the receiver by 9 AM on Sunday, but I was planning on delivering it by 9 AM on Monday. Now why would I do that? My trucking readers already know the answer, so let’s get the unwashed masses of non-truckers up to speed.

Truckers can only work 70 hours within a 6 day period. This is called the 70-hour rule. This includes driving, loading or unloading, fueling, inspections, dropping and hooking trailers, etc. Anything that takes up time to do your job goes against the 70 hours. Enter the 34-hour rule.

The 34-hour rule says that if a trucker is down for 34 straight hours (either off-duty, in the sleeper berth, or an uninterrupted combination of the two), they can reset their 70-hour work week. But why is this a good thing? Because after 7 days of driving, we only get back the hours that we ran a week ago. So if I only ran 3 hours last Wednesday, that’s exactly how many hours I would have available to work this Wednesday (providing I max out my hours every day). It’s a bit more complicated than that, but you get the gist of it.

Every trucker and dispatcher knows that the week before Christmas is busier than a Las Vegas pimp. There are lots of dropped loads, relaying with other drivers, and cancelling or switching of loads, all in the name of getting the driver home for Christmas. Seeing as how this all happened the week before Christmas, I wanted to be able to run as hard as possible that week. And that’s why I elected to do my 34-hour restart instead of delivering ASAP.

That’s when my Qualcomm beeped at me (that’s the satellite communication thingy-ma-bop). Weekend dispatch had a preplan for me and needed me to call in. First I figured up my logs and realized that I couldn’t finish my 34 hours and still deliver my current load and pick up the preplan on time. I’d have to leave at about the 32 hour mark to do it legally.

I called in and asked if I could finish the 34 hours and pick up the preplan 1-2 hours late. Some customers allow late pick ups, but of course, this wasn’t one of them. I was told that the 34-hour restart is a luxury, not something that is required. He was right and I knew it. Still, most dispatchers would work with you. He said I was the only one in the area that could do the load. Yea, I know drivers, we’ve all heard that a million and one times.

I accepted my fate and figured I’d go ahead and deliver ASAP instead of waiting. That way I could deliver, drive to the pick up point, and get in a 10-hour break before my appointment time. Once loaded, I’d have a full 11 hours to run. That was my plan anyway.

After driving 3 hours to deliver the load, I heard another beep. Assuming it was my load information for this all-important, cancer-curing, God-ordained load, I eagerly read the message, only to find out the load had cancelled. I mumbled something not print-worthy, took a few deep breaths, and called in.

I was told that the load had been double-booked. This means that two drivers had somehow managed to be issued the same load. When I expressed my frustration of being pulled off a 34-hour restart to cover the load, all I got was, “Sorry.” Being the completely unselfish guy that I am, I asked why I was pulled off the load instead of the other driver, to which I got the intellectually-stimulating answer of, “I don’t know.” Good answer, Crap-for-brains.

Now to find a parking spot. Only one tiny truck stop with no real parking, yet it was jammed with trucks. I pulled out of the lot, hit my flashers, and pulled onto the edge of the road. Seeing as how my Qualcomm doesn’t work when the truck is moving, I had to stop to send a message relaying my intention to drive to the next town to look for parking.

I had been there for approximately one minute (no exaggeration) when a car pulled up with it’s headlights pointing at me. As I hadn’t blocked the driveway, I figured the guy was just being a jerk. I went about typing my message. When he continued to sit there I began to wonder if it was a cop. No lights or any decals were visible, but just in case, I held up my keyboard to show him what I was doing. He continued to sit there.

Just as I was ready to get out to see if it was a cop, he pulled around to the driver’s side, got out of the car and yelled, yes, yelled at me, “You’re parked in the street!” I said, “My keyboard doesn’t work when the truck is moving. I was just sending a quick message and I was just getting ready to leave. I’ve been here less than a minute. My brake isn’t even pulled.” He yelled yet again, “Why didn’t you move when I was sitting there?” I said, “You were pointed straight at me with your headlights on, you’ve got no lights on the hood or on your dash, and no visible decals. How was I supposed to know you were a cop?”

That’s when he got the look. It reminded me of Martin Lawrence as he’s about to go into his, “Is this because I’m a black man?” tirade that is present in everything he does. I don’t mean this to be racist, but that’s exactly what it reminded me of. Again, a yell. “Give me your license!” I was waiting for a “boy” to finish out the sentence, but it didn’t come.

I handed it to him and he got back in his car. He immediately got back out and yelled again, “Get out of the street!” “Where am I supposed to go!” “I don’t care! Just get out of the street!” I pulled around to the fuel bay and within 10 minutes he was back with me with a ticket in hand. Once I figured out I was getting a ticket, I figured, what the heck Todd; give him a piece of your mind.

In a calm voice I said, “You know, I have a lot of appreciation for the job you guys do, but clearly you don’t have any appreciation for what truckers put up with. I’ve got all these guidelines to follow and no one cares as long as I’m following theirs at the moment. My load unexpectedly cancelled and I was looking for a place to park. As you can see, there aren’t any spots here. Since I can’t drive around without telling my company what I’m doing, and I can’t use my satellite unless I’m sitting still, I pulled to the side of the road. Yes, I know I should’ve pulled back into the fuel bay, but I was just going to be there for a minute or two.”

He said, “That’s not my concern and as far as the rest of these truckers, I’m fixin’ to go move them too.” What a set-up he had just provided. I said, “There’s another thing. DOT has regulations too. If you wake those drivers up and make them move, most of them will be violating the DOT rules. But why would you care about that? If they get caught driving illegally, it’s their license and money that’s in jeopardy. But again, that’s not your problem, is it?”

By this time, he was getting quieter, but he managed to say, “That doesn’t change the fact that you were still breaking the law.” I responded, “Yes, I admit that. But you could have just as easily considered that I was only there for a minute and let me off with a warning. But no…”

He handed me my ticket and told me there was a small place to park about a mile up the road. Being the snarky kinda guy that I am, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to say, “Gee. Would’ve been nice if you’d told me that BEFORE giving me a ticket. I would’ve been happy to move.” I was overjoyed when I managed to kick up a bunch of dust as I left.

So that’s the battle. The Cops, the DOT, and Carriers all have guidelines that Truckers need to follow. Each thinks theirs is the most important. As long as the driver is complying with their rules, the world is a happy land of fluffy bunnies and chocolate streams. And why not? The driver is the only one taking the risk. Things are just as they should be.

To end this on a somewhat happy note, I called the Chief of Police the following morning. I explained that the officer hadn’t identified himself until he pulled around. I then relayed the rest of the story and asked if I was supposed to be able to read the officer’s mind. He chuckled. The chief realized that I had a good point. He apologized for the incident and asked if I would mind paying court costs if he could have the ticket reduced to a non-point violation. Of course, I agreed. Nevermind that the court costs on a $30 ticket are $101.50. Sheez Louise. Are these people cops or robbers?

Please leave your stories of your battles with inconsiderate Cops, DOT, and Carriers in the comments for all to enjoy. And don’t forget to give a star rating at the top of the post.

Photo by davidsonscott15 via Flickr