Sorry to do this to my handful of faithful readers again, but I’ve got a second post in a row that is largely audio. In the previous episode of Trucker Dump, I interviewed my nephew Jared about the time he spent in my truck.
In this show, I was able to take it to the next level when listener Steven Gorman joined me in my truck to co-host the podcast. So please have a listen by clicking the Play button at the top of the page. Also, be sure to let me know what you think and tell us how you try to improve trucker’s reputations by sharing your thoughts in the comments section below or by emailing me at TruckerDump@gmail.com.
You know, I’ll have to admit that I’ve had some pretty lame titles over the course of the Trucker Dump podcast/blog, but this, my friends, ain’t one of ’em. You’ve got to admit that your first thought was, “What the… (choose your intensity of potty word here)??” But now that you’ve had a chance to pull yourself together, I’m sure you know where this is going. But first, let’s discuss butts in general, because, you know, that’s the kind of thing we do here.
Butts are great. You know why? Well, for one thing everyone’s got one. I mean, there are people born without arms and legs, but even they’ve got butts. Some people have great butts. Heck, 70 years ago the hilarious comedian/actor Carl Reiner liked a girl’s butt so much that he wrote a poem entitled, “Ode To the Buttocks Bountiful.”
Other people’s butts aren’t so great. My sister Angi has told me for years that I have a “cracker butt.” She’s right and I know it. My butt is so flat, it’s almost concave. It’s also appropriately white like a cracker; just as it should be. Sorry. Guess I should have issued a TMI warning there. Oh well. No taking it back now. And for the record, my sister is allowed to use the word “cracker” because she’s a white girl. Kinda like black folks can use the “N-word,” but no one else can. Funny how that rule isn’t reciprocal. One of these days, that whole “racist” thing is going to have to work equally both ways. Well now. That was a little tangent I didn’t expect. So anyway…
The Evil Overlord agrees with my sister’s assessment of my less-than-stellar tush. She says it’s a cute heart-shape, but I just don’t see it when I’m checking myself out in the mirror. Wait… I’m not the only guy to do that, right? 😉 I know she’s just being nice, which is a real stretch for someone with the word “evil” in her title. I don’t know. Maybe she does like it? Why else would she smack it so hard every time I bend over to put down the shower mat? Seriously, the last time she did it, a neighbor came over to ask if we got a look at the plane that caused the sonic boom. I swear that if a CSI guy came by right then, they could get a full set of her fingerprints from the red mark she leaves. TMI again?
Anyway, my butt has been nonexistent as long as I can remember. I had a few friends in high school who had fabulous butts. Yes… guys. I know because whoever my girlfriend was at the time never failed to notice. I didn’t mind. They were just speaking the truth. Having a flawed butt isn’t great, but it’s better than having a hairy butt. Even worse, a dude with a hairy, flat butt. I feel sorry for you dudes the most… or ladies I suppose. 😉
But you know what? Even if I had been born with a fabulous derrière, I wouldn’t still have it today. Why? Because I’ve been a trucker for 17 years, that’s why. Here are 4 Reasons Truckers Don’t Have Butts. Pay attention here. This is life-altering stuff.
Truckers freeze their butts off
A couple of weeks ago I was in Grand Forks, North Dakota when it was colder than a Slushie brain freeze. My company has a rule that the truck must be left running if the temperature is below 20 degrees. They do this to keep the fluids from gelling up and causing starting issues. I had checked the weather when I went to bed and it was in the mid-20s, but I knew it would be dipping below 20 around 4 AM. My plan was to use the bunk heater until then, get up and start the truck, and go back to bed. I’ve done this countless times to save idle time (my top speed is based on idle time).
Unfortunately, my Weather Channel app got it wrong this time. By the time my alarm went off, it was already 14 degrees. Thankfully the truck started, but just about the time I fell back asleep, what must have been the most annoying sound known to man started screaming at me. The display on the dash said I had low coolant levels and the bright red “stop engine” light was on. Now usually that means the truck is about to shut the engine down to protect itself, so I bundled up as quick as I could, hopped out, and was immediately chilled to the bone thanks to the -33 degree wind chill.
The wind was blowing so stinkin’ hard that the hood slammed down on me while I was checking the oil! Thankfully, those puppies are made of fiberglass and not lead. Not that it would’ve mattered since I’m a tough-as-nails, macho kinda guy. I wound up having to turn the truck in the opposite direction to keep the stinkin’ hood open!
The oil level was fine, but the antifreeze was a bit low. I filled ‘er up, but sadly the mind-piercing alarm didn’t go off. Thankfully the truck kept running despite the “stop engine” light. The maintenance guy I had on the phone had me do some troubleshooting, but if I was out in that wind for more than five minutes at a time, I couldn’t feel my fingers or toes for about 15 minutes. So basically, if I’d had a butt, it would’ve detached itself right there and scooted across the icy parking lot.
To make a long story short, I sat in a hotel all weekend until the local International dealer opened on Monday. I should’ve taken advantage of the down time and the quiet hotel room to put together a podcast/blog, but I honestly have a hard time staying off Netflix and Amazon Prime when I have free wifi. Turns out, a DEF injector had gotten clogged, probably due to getting too cold. Oops.
Another time, my truck broke down on I-494 near St. Paul, Minnesota in the dead of winter. That time, the motor died and I didn’t have a bunk heater in the truck. Due to the nasty weather and some nastier construction, it took the tow truck six hours to get to me. Despite me wearing my old cowboy-style, red long johns (complete with escape hatch) under my clothes and a coat, I was frozen to the core by the time I got rescued.
But we don’t need to have mechanical problems for truckers to freeze their butts off. We solo drivers have to fuel at least every other day. Team drivers probably do it every day. That means standing out in the cold for anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes, depending on the size of your fuel tanks. It could be even longer if you have to pump DEF. What’s up with those DEF pumps anyway? I could play a whole game of Monopoly before they’re done pumping!
Then there are the drivers who work outside. Flatbedders often have to freeze their buns off while they tarp or untarp loads. Tanker yankers usually have to walk around their trailer monitoring the off-load process. Even reefer drivers find themselves sweeping out a trailer that has been preset to freezing temperatures. Although to be honest, this is probably welcomed in the next reason truckers don’t have butts.
Truckers sweat their butts off
First, let’s take all those scenarios we just discussed; only during the summer months. Tanker drivers are now sweat-soaked while hooking up hoses or walking around their trailers hitting it with a rubber mallet. As for the flatbedders, The Evil Overlord and I once watched a guy sweating all over his tarps as he folded and stored them in 101-degree weather. No thanks.
As for fueling in the summer, you’ve also got the added time involved with scraping all those bug guts off your windshield. Even worse, if the truckstop doesn’t have long poles on their squeegees, you find yourself with the hood up and standing over a hot engine. Good times. Good times indeed.
Another reason a trucker might sweat their butt off is lack of air conditioning. Modern trucks are generally quite reliable, but still, one of the most common mechanical failures is a malfunctioning air conditioner.
Last summer I was asked to go rescue an abandoned truck from a truckstop. When I showed up, I discovered that the air conditioner was broken. The maintenance department swore they knew nothing about it. Since it wasn’t my truck, I wasn’t about to take it to an International dealer where I probably would’ve been sitting for 2-3 days.
It took three days to get back to the yard. The first night it was cool enough to sleep in the truck, but the second and third nights I had to get a hotel room, which the company gratefully paid for. After all, I was rescuing their stupid truck.
Another situation where a trucker might sweat their butt off is when you’re at a loading dock that doesn’t allow idling. Your company is too stinking cheap to install APUs, so you’re sweating like a mob boss on the witness stand, and as usual, the loader seems to be moving slower than a snail with a cane. Thanks buddy. May all your lugnuts fall off on your way home from work.
Or say you’re trying to sleep in a no-idling jurisdiction, but instead you’re tossing and turning in a pool of your own sweat. Or maybe you have to go sweep out your trailer after it’s been cooking in the sun all day. It’s like an oven filled with dirt, without the fun of mud pies.
Still, truckers not having butts doesn’t always have to do with the temperature.
Truckers work their butts off
Truckers are allowed by law to work 70 hours in 8 days, so that is exactly what most of them do. That 70 hours includes a combination of duties like; loading/unloading, vehicle inspections, fueling, and obviously, driving. How quickly your butt falls off depends on the type of work you do. Lazy bum OTR (Over-The-Road) van drivers like me have it easy most of the time. I rarely have to hand-unload anything any more (knock on wood).
LTL and local drivers likely aren’t that lucky. Beer, soda, or local food haulers are getting out of the truck multiple times a day, each time loading heavy cases of Budweiser or chicken fried steaks onto 2-wheel dollies, and into stores or restaurants. Maxing out a trucker’s 14-hour legal work limit per day is fairly common with local work too.
As we mentioned before, tanker pullers usually have to be present during the unload process and flatbedders are lugging heavy tarps up ladders and crawling around 15 feet in the air to make sure their freight is protected from the weather.
And then there is the regular wear-and-tear of driving for 11 hours per day. Non-truckers may be thinking, “They’re just driving. It’s not like they’re working hard.” Let me ask you; do you get tired when you take a long car ride? Well try doing that every day for 17 years. You’re right, it’s not physically hard; it’s mentally hard. Neither is much fun.
But you know what? Truckers don’t even have to be working to lose their butts.
Truckers talk your butt off
The image of the strong, silent trucker is a fallacy. We truckers love us some talking, as you can no doubt tell if you’re counting these words right now. It doesn’t take much to get us started either. Personally, I’ve been working on this.
I may have mentioned this before, but I used to talk waaaaay too much in social situations. I still don’t mind hearing my own voice, but I’m much more mindful of it after The Evil Overlord so graciously told me several times that I had monopolized a conversation earlier that evening. Actually, she’s not usually that nice. She’s more apt to say something loving like, “You should try shutting the f*** up every once in a while.” Who was the idiot that said truth in relationships is good? 😉
The truth is, truckers just often don’t know when to shut up. The Evil Overlord and I quickly learned not to say anything to truckers seating near us at truckstop restaurants. If you say one word to them, they take it as license to talk to you throughout your entire meal, even if we’re in the middle of a conversation ourselves.
Most talkative truckers that I’ve encountered just don’t seem to comprehend when someone is trying to escape. After a while, I’ll turn away from the blabbermouth like I’ve got somewhere to be, usually because I do. I’ve even taken a few steps away as he’s talking. Unfortunately, this rarely prevents a determined talker from closing the distance and continuing on with whatever boring topic he’s decided to enlighten you about. There have even been a few times when I’ve walked away with the guy still talking. I hate to be rude, but if he can’t pick up the cues that I’ve got crap to do, then so be it. It’s not like I’m ever going to run into Mr. Waggletongue again anyway.
I do understand that truckers are alone most of the time and therefore feel the need to connect with people. I truly do. I would just ask that you start paying attention to how interested your target seems to be and reign it in if his eyes start to glaze over. Trust me; it can be done. At least that what I keep telling myself.
And by the way, if you didn’t catch the drift, you don’t have to have your butt talked off by another driver, you can also talk your butt off to another driver. You’re one or the other, so either way your butt is vanishing as we speak.
So there you have it: 4 reasons truckers don’t have butts.
Now maybe you’re thinking that you’re the last living trucker to keep his/her butt intact; that somehow you’ve managed to avoid freezing, sweating, working, or having your butt talked off. Fine. But I wouldn’t get too cocky there, SuperTrucker. I guarantee you that if you keep at this trucking thing, you’ll eventually sit on your butt long enough to smash it in so much that it may as well have fallen off. If you don’t believe me, just check out my pooper the next time we meet.
So what did I miss? Are there other ways to lose your butt out here? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below. I trust you passed elementary math, yes?
Well, I’m doing something a bit different today. I’m not writing anything here. I’m simply linking you to another bit of writing I did a while back. This was an interview I did for JobShadow.com. It has produced a lot of good comments from the readers so I’d thought I’d share it with those of you who are just too stinking lazy to go over there on your own. So if you want to know what it’s like to be a trucker, click here and enjoy. Or if you’d rather listen to the podcast version, which includes a lot of the comments and the answers I’ve given, just click that big ol’ Play button in that big black bar at the top of this post.
Any trucker who’s driven for more than a week will tell you that there are stupid rules everywhere in the trucking industry. Naturally, if you’re one of those truckers, your thoughts immediately flew to the well-meaning, but ignorant rule-makers at the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration, or FMCSA for short. But today is not the day to rail against the FMCSA. I’ve done plenty of venting about them in the past. Just type “FMCSA” into the search bar if you don’t believe me. We also won’t be discussing bad trucking company policies. I did touch on that way back in TD10: When Company Policy Overrides Common Sense. No, today we’re talking about stupid rules that are put into place by the shippers and receivers we truckers deal with every day.
Stupid rules caused by stupid truckers
You know, if there’s one thing I’m certain of, it’s that people are often idiots. I think we can all agree on that just by watching one short episode of America’s Funniest Home Videos. Or if you’re a trucker, you can simply look out your windshield for the next three seconds. Now it wouldn’t be so bad if all these idiots could be stupid in a vacuum, but unfortunately their stupidity oozes out onto the rest of us like a jelly donut inevitably squirts raspberry goo onto your new white shirt. What I’m trying to say is that all too often the stupid rules we truckers have to follow can be traced back to some crap-for-brains trucker screwing it up for everyone.
At some time or another, some trucker has tried to pull away from the dock before they were supposed to. Whether this was an impatient trucker, a simple lack of communication, or possibly a bit of both, it really doesn’t matter; the trucker will likely take the blame. The shippers/receivers have come up with all sorts of ways to keep dock accidents from happening. Before we get into the stupid rules, we should discuss the things that shippers/receivers have done to prevent dock accidents.
Dock lights – Every modern dock is equipped with these lights. They are always on the outside of the building on the driver’s side of the dock so the driver can see them from the driver’s seat. If the light is green, that means the trucker can back in or pull away from the dock safely. If it’s red, you should keep your stinking hands off the gear shift. These lights are reversed on the dock side, so when the driver has the green, the forklift driver gets a red light, meaning they shouldn’t go onto the trailer. Likewise, when the driver sees the red light, that means it should be safe for the lift driver to go on and off the trailer.
Dock restraint systems – These restraint systems are designed to lock the trailer against the dock. There are many manufacturers, but they all pretty much do the same thing. A giant hook comes out and latches onto the bumper of the trailer. These restraints work on all trailers because every trailer since the early 80s is required to have a DOT (Department of Transportation) regulated rear bumper installed for safety reasons.
It’s important to note that both of these safety devices can only be controlled from inside the building. And more often than not, there’s a sign stating that the driver is not allowed to touch the controls. Okay, so you’d think that would be enough, right? Well, apparently not because many shippers/receivers have implemented additional guidelines that can be characterized as nothing less than overkill. Oh boy, if my brother knew I just said “Overkill,” he’d be wigging out. He does love his 80s metal bands. So now we get to the stupid rules ranting. Let’s go.
Overkill dock safety practices
Chocking a tire – (see picture) Most companies have chock blocks sitting out and there are signs stating that you won’t get loaded until you stick one under your trailer tire. Sometimes the loader checks this visually, other times not. Now these chock blocks won’t keep a torque monster like a semi from pulling away from the dock if you’ve got a mind to, but they will provide enough resistance to hopefully wake you up out of your stupor. Okay. So now we have something stuck under one tire. Fine. Combined with the dock lights and the restraint system, that should be enough, right? Well, that depends how anal the shipper/receiver is.
Chocking two tires – Okay, now we’re getting into overkill land. Some customers will have you use two chock blocks, one for each side of the trailer. Does this make any sense? Sure, it might double the resistance factor, but it seems a bit excessive. Or does it? Maybe not. Cuz some companies go even further.
Blue is service line. Red is supply (emergency) line.
Air line locks – The braking system on a tractor-trailer is controlled by air. The blue line you see in the photo is the service line. It regulates air to the brakes. If you press hard on the brake pedal, it forces more air to apply the brakes harder. The red line is the supply line (or emergency line). It’s job is to supply a steady stream of air to the air tanks on the trailer. If the pressure drops too low, the trailer brakes will lock up. This is the loud pop and whooshing sound you hear when we are parking.
An air line lock is used to make sure the trailer brakes stay locked. This small device is attached to the glad hand by an employee of the customer. Since the red air line can’t be attached at the same time, this really does a good job of keeping the trailer in place. Even if a trucker wanted to, they probably couldn’t move the trailer. With those trailer brakes locked, even a torqued-out diesel engine usually can’t drag a loaded trailer with the air brakes locked.Okay.
So now if I want to move this trailer before I’m supposed to, I’ll have to ignore the red light, rip the restraint system off the wall, and run over two chock blocks. But that’s only after I take a sledge-hammer to the air line lock. Yeesh. Is this step really necessary? But wait! There’s more!
Disconnect from the trailer – We’re not talking about just the red air line here. We’re talking unhooking both air lines, the electrical line, the fifth wheel, lowering the landing gear, and pulling out from under the trailer. Sometimes they’ll let you sit in front of the trailer. Other times they’ll have you go park in another area. So now I’m not even hooked to the trailer. Finally! Safety has been assured, yes? You would think, wouldn’t you?
Take your keys inside – Believe it or not, there are still some customers who take it one step further: you have to take your keys inside and hang them on a board or give them to the shipping clerk. Sometimes they’ll let you go back out to your truck, but there are just as many who require you to stay in the building. So now we’re completely safe. No chance of pulling away from the dock. But just to be safe…
Lock your keys in a locker – Okay. Let me go ahead and say that this has only happened to me a few times in my 17-year career. Still, it has happened. I’ve done all the aforementioned stuff and when I went inside they actually take my keys and lock them in a locker. Only after they’ve finished loading/unloading and I have my paperwork in hand do they hand me the key to the padlock. Hellooooo? Have we reached Paranoiaville yet?
Other miscellaneous stupid customer rules
One of many stupid customer rules
No idling – I’ve already covered this topic in far greater detail way back in TD11: The Insanity of Truck Idling Laws. As a matter of fact, that whole article was brought about by this very situation. I was sitting at a customer who wouldn’t allow trucks to idle while being loaded. Other customers go so far as to say there is no idling whatsoever allowed on their property; sitting in a dock or not. Okay; let me be brief. Here are 3 reasons no-idling rules aren’t cool:
A co-driver could be trying to sleep.
I could be either colder than Eskimo snot or hotter than Daisy Duke in a jacuzzi.
I might need to idle to power all my electrical crap. Enough said.
Both drivers must exit the truck –The Evil Overlord and I have dealt with this in two scenarios. One; they don’t want either driver in the truck while they’re loading/unloading. Again, 9 times out of 10 this disrupts one of the driver’s sleep. That’s just so uncool, man. And secondly, they’ve needed us both to check in at the shipping/receiving office.
Honestly, this latter situation hasn’t happened a lot, but it really hacked me off every time it did. And if I was peeved, you can imagine how pleased The Evil Overlord was. Especially when she was the one having to get out of bed. Seriously, if it’s a security issue (like a high-value load), what’s the point of dragging both of us inside? If the truck or any of its product gets stolen, the company I drive for knows everything about both of us, including our social security numbers. And if they know what truck number picked up the load (and how could they not if they sent me to get it), they know who is driving the truck. And let’s not forget that most trucks have satellite systems that can be tracked too. Overkillllll!
Unreasonable speed limits – Why is it that a customer can post a 10 mph sign and every driver is expected to do it, except of course, all the yard jockeys… who are apparently trying to run down The Flash? Listen, I understand the need to not have every truck flying around the parking lot, but if I’ve got to go to the far side of that huge warehouse, I’d like to get there sometime before tomorrow afternoon. Lighten up already!
Shipper load/driver count – I covered all this junk back in TD32: SLC to CYA, but I’ll touch on this particular one again. Sometimes the shipper will claim responsibility for the correct count of the product. That’s called a Shipper Load and Count, or SLC.
Other times, they pass it off onto the driver. We call this Shipper Load/Driver Count, or SLDC. In this situation, we drivers have to stand by the dock door and count the product as it’s loaded. Here’s the problem with this; we don’t know the product. Now if the loader tells us that each pallet has 30 cases of prune juice, then that’s easy enough to count; 6 boxes on each row, 5 rows, equals 30 cases… and lots of pooping. But if it gets any more confusing than that, how are we to really know what we’re signing for?If they tell me there’s 200 boxes per pallet, how easy is it to know for sure? How do I know the loader hasn’t taken 10 cases out of the middle of the stack and hidden them in the trunk of his car? And if the pallets are double-stacked… well, then I’m really clueless about what’s on that bottom pallet.
My point is, why should it be the driver’s responsibility to make sure the trailer is loaded with the right amount and correct type of product? Loaders should be responsible for loading. I mean, I don’t ask the receiver to back my truck into the dock, do I? That’s my job. What the heck is his if it’s not loading trucks?
Cleanliness of trailers – I haul sugar quite a bit. These loads are known as “food grade” loads. Not only are these loads a pain because they’re heavier than Jared before Subway, but these customers also require you to get on your hands and knees to lick your trailer floor clean. Okay, maybe it’s not quite that bad. But I have had trailers rejected for what seems like ridiculous reasons.
Listen, I understand the concept of “food grade.” As one annoying sugar plant supervisor once told me, “How would you like to find metal shavings in your food?” Well I wouldn’t. But still… I have been rejected due to a few (and I mean less than a dozen) teeny, tiny, little metal shavings before. We’re talking smaller than a grain of rice here.
Again, I understand “food grade.” But can you tell me exactly how a rice-sized metal shaving is going to jump off the floor, over a wooden pallet, rip through some plastic shrink-wrap and the heavy paper packaging for each bag of sugar, and somehow manage to embed itself into the sugar? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Oh. And did I mention these tiny specks of hellish impurity are usually only still there because they’re down in a crack in the floor of the trailer? Yeah…
So there you have it. These are just a few of the stupid rules that we truckers have to deal with every day. Now I know we truckers aren’t alone here. I’m sure every non-trucker has their own set of stupid rules they’re required to follow too. Heck, just look right here inside our own industry for a great example: The members of the FMCSA are a bunch of non-truckers who have to make up rules for those of us who are truckers. Talk about stupid. Now where’s that Daisy Duke link again? 😀
So what have I missed? What’s the most customer overkill you’ve witnessed? Leave your thoughts in the comments below and I’ll share them on a future podcast too!
In case you haven’t noticed, it’s January of a new year. For some odd reason, we puny humans associate this with being able to make a new start in life. As if we couldn’t do it at any other time of the year. But for a change of pace this year, why don’t we aspire to something that we can actually do. I mean really, what are the odds that you’re actually going to learn Mandarin Chinese? Face it. When the Chinese take over the world, they really aren’t going to care whether you know how to ask them where the toilet is. So instead, let’s lower our standards and work on 4 ways to be an awesome trucker.
Awesome Trucker Goal #1: Get healthier
Okay. I decided to do this one first because I’m expecting about 95% of you to skip on down to the next topic. But before you do, hear me out. I’m not saying that you should set some lofty goal that you’ll never be able to reach. Let’s start out with something simple; your food.
Reduce your portions
I was in a Hardee’s not too long ago when they asked me if I wanted to upsize my meal. I said, “No thanks. I don’t want to look like the rest of these truckers out here.” That got two of the employees talking about how disgusted they are with some truckers. One of the ladies said, “I just don’t get it. These huge guys walk up and lean over the counter, completely out of breath. Wheezing they say, “Give me a Monster Burger meal, and upsize it to a large.” They usually get a dessert too! Some of these guys have black and blue legs from diabetes! What are they thinking?”
The fact is, no matter how big your gut is, the human stomach is only about the size of your fist. When I eat fast food, I almost always stick with the small fries and drink. We don’t need more than that, we want more than that. And when you’re ordering that value meal, be sure to do this next thing.
Lay off the soda
Experts say that cutting soda from your diet can cut 24-35 pounds per year. So go with water or unsweetened tea if you’ve got the option. If you just can’t handle unsweet tea, make a compromise and mix a little bit of sweetened into it. It doesn’t take much to give it a hint of sweetness and it’s a heck of a lot better than going with full sweet tea. That crap is too sweet anyway! No wonder you southerners don’t have any teeth! 😉
Replace your snacks or cut them altogether
The only time I have snack foods in my truck is right after Christmas. I blame my mother entirely. Thankfully she went lighter this year and stuffed my stocking with more healthy stuff than candy. Despite this, I’ve put on 5 pounds since after Christmas. That’s why I don’t keep any snacks in my truck. But if you’re a snacker, just replace your Cheetos with almonds and your M&Ms with raisins. And toss in some apples and bananas while you’re at it. You’ll be surprised how good you’ll feel when you cut the junk food.
Get some exercise
Once again, I’m not suggesting you start training for a marathon. Start with something like walking around the truck stop parking lot a few times. If that’s all you can manage, well you’re still better off than you were before.
If you want to move up a step, take a look at a free app I’ve been using on my iPhone called the Gorilla Workout app (also available on Android). Now I’m far from being in shape, but I look like Olive Oyl compared to most of you guys. Now don’t be afraid that it’s going to be too hard. The Level 1 workout starts out with really easy workouts like 1 wall push-up, a few sit-ups, and a few squats. For the most part, it builds slowly so you can keep up. All of these exercises use your own body weight, so you don’t have to buy a lot of equipment either. These workouts don’t take very long either, so that’s always a plus.
If you’re ready to move up from there, check out my workout videos called, How To Do a Full-Body Workout Inside the Cab of a Semi. Of course, you can do most of these exercises outside if you choose. I just like to do them inside so no one bugs me. Another great resource for all things trucker fitness is The Healthy Trucker Web site. Remember, anything you do to make yourself healthier is making you more awesome. Even the smallest of things.
Awesome Trucker Goal #2: Truck stop etiquette
Oh my. This is a long one. I’ll make this as brief as possible. Cue the bullet points.
When you’re driving through a truck stop parking lot, go a moderate speed. I’ve heard people say 5 mph, but that’s just too stinking so unless there’s a chance of a pedestrian or another truck popping out suddenly. But hang on, speed demon. 30 mph is too fast even in a wide open lot. There’s a happy medium in there. Find it.
Before you pull up to back into a parking spot, let other truckers go around before you block the whole isle.Actually, this rule is in affect everywhere. I had a driver do this to me last night. At a shipper, he made like he was going to back into a spot but instead got out and opened the trailer doors, effectively blocking me from my trailer. Now I realize some places force you to do this due to limited space. This was not one of those places. Uncool, man. Uncool.
When you do get parked, make sure you’re between the lines. If I have to explain why this is a good thing, do me a favor and smash your fingers in your cab door the next time you get a chance. Thanks.
The fuel bay is not your drive-thru window. If you can get your food without delaying the driver behind you more than a couple of minutes, have at it. However, if when you go inside you see that the line at Subway is longer than the shower wait at a Love’s truck stop, go back out and park your truck. Or if you’re one of those finicky people who insist on fresh fries every time, please oh please just go park it first.
When in the fuel bay, actually give a damn where you’re squirting the water hose. That is all.
Be considerate of other drivers when parked. Just because you’re awake, doesn’t mean everyone is. I once had a trucker wake me up with his loud music when he pulled in. It was around noon, but I had driven all night. I had to get out of bed and go pound on his door. He peeked out and promptly ignored me. I stood there pounding for another 2-3 minutes before he finally turned it down. By the way, if this happened to you at the Flying J in Walton, KY, I’m the guy who called your company and reported your inconsideration. Cheers!
Control your mutt. I typically hate dogs for a variety of reasons. The first of which is dodging dog poop as I walk into the truck stop. Here’s a rule to live by. If there is a direct line between any truck and the truck stop, don’t let your dog poop there. I’m pretty sure even dog-lovers don’t like picking dog crap out of their Adidas treads with a plastic spoon. Secondly, if your dog barks all night, I officially hate your guts. Make him shut up for Pete’s sake. And if not, please leave Fido tied up outside so I can “accidentally” run over him when I pull out in the morning.
Stop flirting with the staff. This one is for the dudes. Not only are you holding up progress with your lame attempts at humor, but you’re also more likely to develop a super-power than you are to impress any of these ladies. Let it go, man. Accept that they don’t think you’re the least bit funny… or cute… or even remotely interesting for that matter.
If a driver looks occupied, don’t talk to him. It’s amazing how many drivers will interrupt me while I have a movie playing on my computer and I have earbuds in. Call me stupid, but I just can’t remember the last time I stuck in my earbuds thinking, “Man, I sure hope all these truckers don’t think I’m being unsociable.” I AM BEING UNSOCIABLE! GO AWAY, JERKFACE! And for the record, I’ve tried the ginormous headphones that make me look like Princess Leia too. It didn’t help a bit.
If there is a shower wait, hurry the heck up! As I said earlier, I’ve been doing the Gorilla Workout lately. I usually do this in the shower room before I shower. But here’s the rule. If there is a shower wait, I skip my workout. Not only is it the considerate thing to do, but it’s also an awesome excuse to skip a workout. It’s a win-win! So that’s it. If people are waiting, do what you have to do and get the heck out.
Ah, the truck stop bathrooms. I have four simple rules that will make the truck stop bathrooms a better place for all humanity: 1) No grunting, wheezing, heavy breathing, or groaning. Unless you’re crapping up one of those giant worm things that invade your intestines, there is no need to make noises while you’re doing your business. 2) All poop and poop-related accessories go in the toilet. 3) Flush. Need I say more? 4) Don’t make or leave a mess. Actually, this leads nicely into our next topic.
Awesome Trucker Goal #3: Conservation
Bet you weren’t expecting that, were you? So exactly what does conservation have to do with leaving a mess? Well, it starts off with a pet peeve of mine.
Folks, water is a valuable resource. Why are you wasting it?
It happens all the time, on various levels. The worst offender is the driver who walks in and the first thing he does is turn on the water full-blast. Then, with the water going full-bore, he gets some paper towels, wipes down the counter a bit, sets his manly-man grooming kit down, forages for his toothbrush and toothpaste, and finally starts brushing his teeth. When he’s done brushing, the water stays running while he shaves, washes his face, fixes his hair, and generally admires himself in the mirror. About 90% of that 5-10 minutes he wasn’t even using the water. Grrr. The only guys who make me madder is the germaphobes who leave the water running and walk out of the restroom. Sheesh. If you’re OCD about germs, just say so and I’d be happy to turn it off with my tongue.
Now I may not be awesome at lots of things, but I do excel at water conservation. Whoever you are, I encourage you to examine your morning ritual practices. I’ll bet you a peanut butter and jelly sammich that you’ll see ways you can conserve more water. Here’s my ritual. Observe my awesomeness!
Don’t turn on the water until you need it. Get the toothpaste on the brush and then give the spigot a quick turn on and off. Ta-dah! Your brush is wet!
Brush until you need to spit. Well… spit already. Give the spigot another quick turn on and off to wash your nastiness down before it has a chance to stick to the sink. Oh, come on! It isn’t that hard to turn it back off. Your hand is already on the handle for crying out loud!
Repeat until your teeth are pearly white. Okay, I guess a dull yellow will have to suffice. Turn on the water only long enough to clean your brush and the sink afterwards.
To finish up your ritual, if your hands, face, or comb isn’t requiring water at that precise moment, turn it off.
I often find myself wanting to say something to these water-abusers, but I never do. Why not? Stay tuned for Awesome Trucker Goal #4. But first, let’s finish up with conservation.
If they’ve got an air dryer, opt for it instead. If you aren’t a fan of those you can still take it easy on the paper. I saw a TED talk video (only 4:32 long) about paper towel usage last year and I’ve been doing it ever since. It’s a simple method of shaking your hands (in a controlled manner) and folding the paper towel to maximize its absorbency. Yes, I realize that sounds like a hokey Bounty commercial, but it seriously works. I kind of make a game out of it to see how little paper towel I can get by with. You’d be surprised how little it takes. So no more excuses for you guys who rip off 5 or 6 paper towels and barely use it!
Not much to say here except to knock it off. I once watched a guy at a fuel bay crawl up onto his running board, grab his little trash can, and dump it on the ground by his truck. It all fell at his kid’s feet, which just so happened to be about 3 feet from a trash can. It stayed there when he left the fuel bay. Nice parenting, dill-munch.
Really folks, do we have to go over this? Trash goes in the trash can, preferably without full bottles of piss. And if you dog owners want to pick up your dog’s poo, well I’m sure the trash bin will accept that too. Man, I may as well wish for Warren Buffett to adopt me while I’m at it.
Okay folks, if you need to idle your truck to stay cool or warm, buy all means do so. But if you’re going to be out of your truck, why does your truck need to idle? Granted, I know there are exceptions to the rule, such as faulty starters, a sleeping co-driver, and cold temperatures that cause fuel to gel. But if you’re running in for a shower, why leave it running? Not only is it spewing fumes into the air, but it’s also sucking fuel at a rate of about 1 gallon per hour. So not only are you saving money for yourself or your company, but you’re also helping to stick it to the man.
So that’s it for conservation. Trust me here. I love trees, but you’ll never seeing me hugging one. I just see that God gave us this great planet and he told us to subdue it and use it. I can only assume he meant to use it wisely. And being wise makes you awesome.
Awesome Trucker Goal #4: Take a chill pill
Chill pills are great for your well-being. They take stress from your life. They cause you to relax. And, as I’ve already mentioned, they keep you from confronting water abusers. (Side affects may include: dizzyness, nausea, crazy bone tweaks, shin splints, cooties, and bleeding from the ears, rectum, and peehole.)
Ask yourself this? When was the last time yelling at a shipping or receiving clerk accomplished anything? Any experience trucker will tell you that the louder you bark, the slower they move. I listened to a guy cuss out a forklift driver the other morning. Guess who got finished first? Him or me? Righty-o. So not only are you not being professional, you also aren’t helping your cause any. Time to pop a chill pill, man.
If another driver takes your dock, try to assume someone made a mistake. With a calm voice and a smile on your face, ask the offending driver if he was told to take that dock. Better to assume that than to accuse him of cutting the line only to find out he was just following the confused directions of an overworked shipping clerk. Now if he’s one of those jerks who is well aware that he’s cutting the line, take it up with the shipping clerk, again, with a pleasant tone. If neither refuse to correct the issue, take another chill pill and overdose on calmness. It’s really not worth the stress of an intense argument, or in a worst-case scenario, a beating and/or an all-expenses paid trip to the hoosegow.
With other drivers
Once again, when another driver does something stupid or just plain mean, pop a chill pill. Getting your blood pressure boiling is going to accomplish jack squat. Here’s an example of both right and wrong behavior.
I was in the fuel bay at the Pilot in Marion, IL. The team drivers in front of me took forever to fuel (even with two of them), but they had finally pulled up. I pumped my fuel and waited for them to move. They weren’t in their truck, so I went back to my cab and waited. A few more minutes and I took a chill pill. I thought, “I’ll just run in and leave the toilet a big present while I’m waiting.” I did. Afterward, I came out and they still hadn’t moved. I went in and had them paged. Finally they come walking out at a leisurely pace. But they still weren’t moving. That’s when I saw them walking to the McDonald’s next door. I ran toward them hollering that they were f*$%ing jerks, which is pretty harsh for a guy who doesn’t normally cuss. Well, clearly my chill pill had worn off. But what good did it do for me to get my panties in a wad about it? If they heard me, they did a good job of pretending they didn’t. I was all wound up and they couldn’t care less. This was a giant failure on my part. Granted, they were jerks.
But a couple of nights ago, I made up for it. I was at a shipper with limited space. I saw a local driver unhooking from a trailer, so I crowded him a bit so I could scoot up and let another trucker get off the street. Well, when he pulled out, the poor guy had to do a three-point turn in order to get out… in a bobtail. The horror of it! Well, he just so happened to catch me walking alongside my trailer when he drove by. He laid on the air horn, which was deafening right beside my head. I’m sure he expected me to react, but I didn’t. I actually had a smile on my face while he blasted away. Win for me! Now could I have flipped him the bird or yelled at him? Yes, I could. Did he deserve it? Yep, he sure did. But again I ask, what good would it have done? I forgot about the whole ordeal in a few minutes while I bet he was steaming out the ears for a good half-hour. HA! Who got the last laugh, punk?!
In short, jerks will be jerks. And unfortunately there really isn’t anything we can say or do that will change them. Old Solomon summed it up pretty well in Proverbs 15:1, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” The Bible says Solomon was the wisest man in the world. Hard to disagree with that here. Have you ever tried to argue with someone who refuses to argue? It just takes the wind out of your sails. And when you can be the bigger man (or woman), that’s awesomeness personified.
To sum up…
Well, I hope you find a way to implement at least some of these things into your daily life. If you’re an underachiever, just make getting a prescription of chill pills your priority. Once you start letting other people’s meanness and stupidity roll off your back, you’re on your way to having a better year. And if you’re going to remain a fat, grunting, water-wasting trucker who lets his dog poop in my path, well, you’re going to need all the relaxing you can get to ease your guilty mind. 😉
So… I got a new truck the other day. And of course, that means I’m all out-of-sorts. Even though my new ProStar looks exactly like my old one on the outside, the interior is slightly different. Just different enough in fact that I still bump my head on something or other at least once per day, usually more. I have the tender skull to prove it. But what am I rambling on about? Well, my new truck just about got me in a heap of trouble the first day I had it.
First, let me say that there is only one particular day that I don’t miss The Evil Overlord (the wife and ex-codriver) out here on the road. That day is any day I’m switching trucks. You see, when it’s just me I can get all my junk swapped over and put away within an hour or two. But toss the wench into the mix and you’re looking at a four or five-hour job and a couple of butt-chewings because I never could resist a few jabs about how much crap she always brought. Why I inflict this torture on myself, I have no idea.
So anyway, I’d already had a long day when I got to the yard to pick up my new truck. So after I got everything sitch-ee-ated, I was pooped. After a long, hot shower and some potato ham chowder, I was itching for the bunk. The load I was picking up was on the yard, so I went on over and backed under the trailer.
Now every driver will tell you that there is a ritualistic aspect of hooking up a trailer. Most drivers do it the exact same way every time. One of the worst things that can happen to me is when someone starts talking to me during this routine. Due to my complete inability to multitask, I inevitably screw something up and have to double-check everything. But this time, I got no such interruptions.
Green is electrical Red supplies air to trailer Blue controls air from brake pedal
I followed my ritual to the letter. First, I hooked up the pigtail (the electrical cord) and then my air lines. Next, I stooped down to see if the fifth wheel pin was flush against the fifth wheel (see photos below). The next step is to jack up the landing gear on the trailer. Hopefully the previous driver wasn’t an idiot who had cranked it high enough for Babe the Big Blue Ox to get his big blue butt under it. The ritual is completed after I do my walk-around inspection, which involves checking all the lights and thumping all 18 tires to make sure they’re all aired up (the thump sounds different if the tire is low or flat).
When this pin is flush to the fifth wheel…
…these jaws should be closed, latching the trailer to the tractor
When this pin is open…
…these jaws will be open.
Now normally, the last thing I do before I hit the road is a pull test to make sure the fifth wheel is latched. You do this by leaving your trailer brakes locked and releasing your tractor brakes. A quick tug will tell you whether your trailer is secured to the tractor. But I was tired that night and I went to bed since I wasn’t going anywhere until morning anyway. I’m sure you all can see where this is going.
Well, I slept like crap that night. Despite having a new truck with a bunk heater in it, I couldn’t use it that first night. The shop guy said the truck had been sitting for quite a while and the batteries wouldn’t likely be up to snuff until I ran the truck for a full day. It was going to get into the 30’s that night, so it was cold enough to idle the engine. But there was a problem with that too. You see, my company bases our governed speed on our idle time. Since I just got the truck, if I’d have idled the truck for 8 hours I would’ve been at 100% idle time and it would’ve taken me a heck of a lot longer than 8 hours of driving to get my idle time back down to an acceptable amount. I was having no part of that. I don’t like going even 2 mph slower than I can.
So out came the cowboy long johns. Yep; bright red and complete with buttons up the front and an escape hatch in the rear. Cuz you never know when you might need a surprise “escape.” I love the warmth of these things, but I’m awfully glad these trucks don’t come equipped with a full-length mirror. It couldn’t have been very pretty. Still, even with wool socks and an extra comforter, I felt like a popsicle and therefore, tossed and turned all night. Funny; the cold didn’t seem to bother me as much last year. I think I’m beginning to understand why old people’s houses always feel like a friggin’ sauna.
When I woke the next morning, I was colder than a skinny-dipping Eskimo. That prompted a couple of snooze buttons and deeper burrowing into the covers. When I was starting to push my delivery time, I finally crawled out of bed. The only thing worse than crawling out of warm blankets (well, semi-warm) is the half-a-second that comes between your long johns coming off and your fit-for-public-viewing clothes going on. I then realized I had forgotten to fuel the night before. So now I’m in a hurry. I start the truck, release both brakes, and slowly pull out. Just as I started to put my foot into the accelerator, something feels… off. And then, BAM! I was too late. Well, not completely. It could have been much worse.
Yep. Just like you suspected, the trailer wasn’t latched and I nearly dropped the trailer to the ground with the landing gear up. Luckily, my reflexes were sufficiently awake to stop soon enough that it only landed on my truck’s frame. After 10 minutes of hard cranking that had me breathing so hard I tasted blood (seriously), I noticed that the fifth wheel pin was still flush to the fifth wheel. Ahhhh… so that’s the problem. Apparently, new trucks come with the fifth wheel jaws closed (see photos below). Since the jaws normally stay open when not attached to a trailer, I hadn’t thought to check it before I backed under the trailer. And there it is, a trucker’s worst nemesis: complacency.
[box]complacency: |kəmˈplāsənsē | noun: a feeling of smug or uncritical satisfaction with oneself or one’s achievements[/box]
When you’ve been driving a truck for as long as I have, it’s bound to happen. You get cocky. You don’t watch the rear of your trailer during turns as much as you should. You don’t get out and look when you’re backing into a tight parking spot. After all, you’re “pretty sure” you’re going to miss that other truck’s mirror. You glance at the Twitter stream on your phone while driving more than you should. You might even find yourself thinking, “Yea, I’m driving, but that apple didn’t roll that far back into the bunk area. I’m pretty sure I can reach it without pulling over.” And obviously, you don’t check your fifth wheel properly.
C’mon now drivers, don’t leave me hanging like a married lady’s lingerie. Let’s be honest. How often have you had an accident or even a little mirror-tap oopsie right after you had a close call with another incident? Rarely, if ever. You’re on high alert after a close call. No, bad things happen when everything is going swell. When you’re feeling confident in your driving skills. When you’re feeling a tad bit holier-than-thou. When you’re feeling complacent.
I remember the first time I felt completely confident in my trucking skills. I don’t remember the exact day or even where I was, but I do remember the feeling. I was about 10 years into my career at the time. I pulled into a shipper and everything was tight. Really tight. I saw all the trucks that were already docked and I saw the one dock space left. Then I looked at the banged-up chain-link fence that had obviously taken it’s fair share of truck paint. I saw how tight it was going to be and for the first time I thought, “I got this. If those drivers can get in those docks, I know I can too.”
I remember that striking me as odd that it was the first time I’d felt that way in my driving career. In the past, I’d always break into a light sweat and think, “I’m never going to get into that spot!” So much so that to this day The Evil Overlord always teases me about saying stuff like, “I’m never going to get onto this busy road.” Or my most-used phrase ever, “We’re never going to find a parking space in here.” Somehow, I always managed to get the job done despite her constant ribbing, but it was never without much weeping and gnashing of teeth. Okay, maybe I didn’t weep, but I know I lost a lot of fingernails in the process and I may or may not have squirted in my shorts a few times.
So what can we drivers do to keep from getting complacent? Well, I hope you didn’t read all this hoping I’d solved the problem, because I haven’t. I’m clueless. If I knew how to keep complacency from creeping up me, I’d tell you. So instead I’m going to ask you. What do you do to keep from becoming complacent? Or do you not have it figured out either? The only way I seem to keep complacency at bay is for something bad to happen or at best, a near miss. Frankly, those are both crappy options.
Surely there is someone out there who has an answer. Every time I see a driver with a “3 million safe miles” sticker on his truck, I think, “How did they manage that? Are they just lucky or do they really stay focused on safety all day, every day, without any lapses in judgment?” I just don’t know how they do it. Maybe they’re robots. Or at the very least, cyborgs. Whatever they are, I’m not one of them. I guess I’m just too easily distra… SQUIRREL!
So what about it guys and gals? How do you stay focused on the job? Or do you? How do you keep from getting complacent? You’re welcome to write in and admit you get distracted too. Even if you don’t, saying you do will help me feel better about myself. Leave your comments below.
Well, it’s that time of year again. It’s time to slap-fight your siblings for the drumstick and have spoon duels over the last dollop of Cool Whip, because we all know pumpkin pie just ain’t right until you can’t see the plate beneath the pie.
More importantly though, it’s time to look around us and give thanks for everything we have. For being blessed with an annoying brother who called dibs on the drumstick before you. For your superior health, which enables you to punch him hard enough to leave a giant bruise. For the job that you hate. You know, the job that put that turkey on the table. The job that paid your bills all year. The job that the dude in the unemployment line would kill for. Yes, I know I’m among the guiltiest in this regard. Thanks for pointing that out. Now shut your face.
So that’s what I’m here to do today: count my blessings. And since I’m such a ooey-gooey, touchy-feely, sentimental kinda guy, I’ll do so in my typical fashion. Here are the things that this trucker is thankful for. As expected, let’s start out with:
Thanks to the inventors of electronic logs for wasting my valuable time. As if my trips to the mall with The Evil Overlord weren’t enough torture for one man.
Thanks to the driver who insists on going the speed limit in the fast lane. I hadn’t realized it was your job to police me. Thanks for keeping me in line.
Thanks to all those drivers who slow down when you see a cop, even when you’re not speeding. I hear that if a cop sees you do this, he’ll pull you over and give you an ice cream cone.
Thanks to all you good folks who overspend your budgets. Your greed = my freight.
Thanks to all the credit card companies who promote this overspending. May your consciences be clear as you sleep on your $800 pillow lined with kitten fur.
Thank you to the medical profession for extending life expectancy. It’s going to take every last second of life to pay off these stinkin’ credit cards. Dang. My balance just went up again. Who knew there was such thing as a badmouthing fee?
Thanks to all the rubberneckers who bring traffic to a near standstill, even though whatever is happening is on the opposite side of the highway.
Thanks to that police officer who issues me a ticket for having a light out. You know, one of those three tiny, but extremely crucial clearance lights that are above my trailer doors. Whew! Did you see that? That airplane almost rear-ended me!
Thanks to all the drivers who try to close the gap when I flip my turn signal on to switch lanes. No worries. It’s not like I can’t take the spot after you pass. Aw crap. The next guy punched it too. And the next… And the next…
Thanks to all the truckers who tailgate 4-wheelers. Nothing says “professional” quite like a rear-view mirror full of grille.
Thanks to the woman who puts on her makeup in 65 mph rush hour traffic. We all know how important it is to look pretty when there’s an open casket.
Thanks to all those 4-wheelers who like to hang out in a trucker’s blind spots. Oh well. Out of sight, out of mind. Never you mind that pesky turn signal light that’s making the side of your face glow.
Thanks to the driver who locks up his brakes in front of me because he missed his turn. I’ve really been needing to check the integrity of my brakes. Too bad they work.
Thanks to the DOT, the FMCSA, the CSA, and all the other organizations who love truckers enough to regulate them. It’s nice to know that you can make me log it if it takes more than 7 minutes to pee, but you can’t make a receiver unload me in less than 3 hours.
Thanks to the trucker who parks in front of the fuel islands for extended periods of time. Yes, I know you had fuel card problems. I saw your fuel receipt through the Subway bag with toilet paper stuck to it.
Thanks to all the drivers who figure out where the gas pedal is after I start to pass you.
Thanks to all the 4-wheelers who go 5 mph under the speed limit on 2-lane highways. It’s a good thing I’m not driving this truck to make money or anything.
Thanks to the driver who writes SHOW YOUR HOOTERS in the dust on the back of the trailer. Public opinion: 1 Trucker’s reputation: 0
Thanks to the truck who parks crookeder than a homemade TV antenna. I hope you weren’t emotionally attached to that side-view mirror.
Thanks to the state of California for making us truckers stay in the far right lanes. It’s not like that’s where all the other vehicles are trying to enter the roadway or anything.
I’d also like to thank California for making trucks go 55 mph. We all know how dangerous those tumbleweeds can be.
Thanks to the driver who pulls out in front of me from a side street. I’ve been meaning to work on my slalom skills.
Thanks to my company for banning all cooking devices from my truck. There’s nothing quite like a cold bowl of Captain Crunch on a blustery winter’s night.
Thanks to the inattentive or unyielding trucker who won’t back out of it for two seconds so a slightly faster truck can get around him quicker. I’m sure all those drivers stuck behind you will be talking about the nice trucker when they get to work.
Thanks to the DOT for their hours-of-service rules. How would I know when I’m tired without your infinite wisdom?
Thanks to the drivers who feel the need to go 25 mph in a 45 mph construction zone. Good thing you’re clairvoyant. Those construction workers are always putting up the wrong speed limit signs.
Thanks to all the businesses who put up NO TRUCK PARKING signs. I nearly forgot that my money is less valuable than everyone else’s.
Thanks to all the worthless pile of dung truckers who use these parking lots as trash bins and toilets. I’m sure that has absolutely nothing to do with those NO TRUCK PARKING signs.
Thanks to all you 4-wheelers who are so kind as to allow me to hang out in the fast lane after I’ve scooted over to help you merge onto the highway. Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize you were on the phone.
Speaking of on-ramps and phones, thanks to the driver who can’t be bothered to put away his cell phone as he’s barreling down the on-ramp. I guess the two cars to the left of me forgot to use their X-ray vision to see you trying to push me over. I know, right? What a waste of super powers.
And yet again, thanks to all those wishy-washy 4-wheelers who can’t make a decision when they get to the end of the on-ramp. Yes, I know being 3 car-lengths ahead of me will make it an impossibly tight fit, but why don’t you try anyway.
Thanks to the Christians who write Bible verses on the bathroom walls. Nothing says “Jesus loves you” quite like vandalizing someone’s property.
Thanks to all the shippers and receivers who value my time so much. Everyone deserves a 5-hour nap in the middle of their workday. Right?
Thanks to the soccer mom who cuts across three lanes in front of me to get to her exit ramp. My doctor has been saying I need to increase my heart rate more often.
Thanks to the person who flips me the bird for riding out in the left-hand lane. Clearly I misread that sign that read, TRUCKS LEFT LANE ONLY. My bad.
Thanks to all the good citizens who vote for anti-idling laws for trucks. While you may not die from harmful gas inhalation, you’ve dramatically increased your shot at getting run over by a trucker who was unsuccessfully trying to sleep in a pool of his own sweat.
And finally, thanks to the truck stop owners who wants $37 for a small bottle of Pepto-Bismol. When you’re looking for your place of torment in hell, just follow the signs that say, EXPLOITED A DIARRHEA SUFFERER.
Well, there you have it; a list of things to be thankful for. Yes, I know. Heartfelt is my middle name. That’s just me.
So, what are you thankful for this Turkey Day? As soon as you get done clobbering your brother with that drumstick you stole, why don’t you pop on over to the comments section and leave your thoughts. I’d appreciate it if you’d wash your hands first. I don’t want you touching my comments sections with those greasy turkey fingers. I swear. We can’t have anything nice in this house.
I’ve got an odd relationship with the city of Dallas. In my pre-trucking days, I loved it… well, most of the time anyway. Now that I’m a trucker, I like being in Dallas almost as much as I like being in the middle of West Texas when I have a surprise attack from the Kingdom of Diarrhea.
My first trip to Dallas holds special meaning. It was November 19, 1993, and The Evil Overlord and I were standing in the courthouse sporting a lot of hair and a pair of rings that cost $50. Dudes, I gotta tell you. Getting married in jeans and flannel ROCKS! Yes, I eventually wound up in a penguin suit when we had another ceremony for the family and friends, but the first time was a lot more fun.
We were moving from Missouri to Dallas where I was going to be attending college. For The Evil Overlord, it was a return to where she lived during most of her wild teen years. These first few years are what every married couple considers “the good ole days.” Granted, at the time they sometimes didn’t feel like much fun. Although we both worked, we were usually broke and were sharing a crap-hole apartment with a large family of cockroaches. But when you look back, they were definitely good times. I know the cockroaches partied nearly every night.
Eventually, The Evil Overlord got a job as a leasing agent at an apartment complex and she started making more money. It seemed that she could sell hamburgers to cows when she put her mind to it. Once we had a little more money, we started enjoying some of the things that you can’t get in rural Missouri. Hockey games, sightseeing, museums, and lots and lots of nightlife.
In my opinion, Dallas also has one of the coolest skylines at night. Reunion tower is probably the most unusual. It looks like a giant microphone with a lighted ball on top. You can’t see it from the ground, but there’s a restaurant inside that spins 360 degrees. Pretty cool, but waaaaay out of our price range. We used to take visitors to the observation deck though. Check it out if you get a chance.
Another standout building is a skyscraper outlined in neon green lights. It looks wicked cool at night. Another building has a giant X on the side and a cool-looking tower on top. The Evil Overlord informed me that Metallica lived on the roof of that building. I’m thinking there might have been some funny smelling smoke coming out of her beat-up Honda Civic when that idea came to fruition. Ya think? Her and her friends were kinda naughty back then. Funny, now she can barely drink a glass of wine without turning beet red.
So you can see, Dallas holds a lot of “firsts” for me. My first hockey game. Ah yes. A little tip from your Uncle Todd: it’s not wise to wear a St. Louis Blues jersey to a Blues vs. Stars game, especially if you can’t fight your way out of a soggy paper bag. Luckily, the Blues lost. Whew!
Other firsts: I visited my first real museum. I went to my first piano bar. Funny stuff! I had my first Shiner Bock. Yummy! I went to my first gay bar. I went to my first Major League Baseball game at Rangers stadium. I had my first I-Max experience. Heck, I even got my first wife there. If I ever need another all depends on how long The Evil Overlord can tolerate me.
What? What are you stammering on about? One at a time please. I can’t understand when you’re all talking at once. There. That’s better. Oh… I guess I should explain that trip to the gay bar, huh?
The Evil Overlord had leased an apartment to a gay couple she nicknamed “The Homies.” Don’t worry, The Evil Overlord wasn’t being insensitive. She has a long history with gay guys and these guys loved it and her. One of her best friends in high school was a guy who turned out to be gay. Funny thing was, she knew he was gay long before he did. Anyway, these new friends of hers asked her to go to the bar with them. She asked me if it was okay if she went with them.
Now why wouldn’t she ask me to go along? Because she knew me… or she thought she did. You see, I grew up in a small town without a lot of diversity. We had a few exchange students, but most of the town was caucasian. NO ONE was outwardly gay. Heck, I found out a close high school friend of mine was gay about two years after graduation. I figured that out when he hit on me. Yikes!
So when it came time to go to a gay bar, The Evil Overlord naturally assumed I wouldn’t want to go. My initial reaction, was “HELL NO, I don’t wanna go,” but I started to think about it more. I was in a big city and knew I wouldn’t live there forever. I knew I wasn’t gay. I knew “The Homies” and they were okay. I was even getting used to their wolf whistles when they caught me walking down the hallway. And best of all, I had an experienced guide. The Evil Overlord was a veteran of gay bars because she attracts gay men like dogs are drawn to crotches. So what the heck? Life is about experiences. Right?
Well, it was an experience all right. Once at the club, our first stop was upstairs where there was a drag show complete with guys, errr, gals, errrr, whatever, lip-syncing to “Son of a Preacher Man” and every song ever sung by Whitney Houston. As we were walking back downstairs a guy coming up the stairs ran his hand down my chest. Now THAT gave me the heebee-jeebees, and The Evil Overlord and “The Homies” fits of laughter!
Really, a gay bar is pretty much like a regular bar, except there are mostly guys and they’re dancing with each other to lots of disco hits. They’re also doing pretty much everything else that goes on at a regular bar. Lots of grinding, fondling, and necking take place. The later it gets, the crazier it gets.
At first it was a little creepy, but like anything, I got used to it fairly quick. Although I have to say that I never really got used to the G-string clad guys that were paid to dance on a ledge around the edge of the dance floor. Especially since one of them clearly had a thing for me. I’m also pretty sure he had an elephant somewhere in his family tree. Perhaps the best thing about that night was that for the first time, uhhhh… ever, I got more attention than The Evil Overlord. Granted, it wasn’t exactly the setting I would’ve preferred. Hey, when you’re me, you’ve gotta settle for what you can get. And no, you pervs. I went home with The Evil Overlord.
So now that that’s explained. Let’s move on to the present. I really can’t stand Dallas now that I’m a trucker. I still have a few good memories as I drive by the glowing skyline at night, but they vanish quicker than a glass of milk at an Oreo convention as soon as I start looking for a parking spot.
Most of the large truck stops are all within a few miles of each other on a stretch of I-20, just south of Dallas. I wouldn’t exactly call this a “nice” neighborhood either. First you drive around in the parking lots hoping to find a spot while you dodge the NASCAR wannabe trucker that keeps doing laps in the parking lot at 30 mph. If you don’t find a spot there you move to the next truck stop. When (if) you finally find a parking spot, you can’t go through the night without at least one knock on your door. It’s either a beggar/junkie or a lot lizard… /junkie.
Take last night, I circled the Pilot parking lot three times looking for an empty space. Twice I had to hit my brakes hard as the Jeff Gordon wannabe came screaming around a corner. I finally gave up and headed out. As I passed a tiny truck stop about a block down the road, I noticed a couple of open parking spaces. I whipped in and nabbed one. Two hours later, the cashier comes out and asks for $7 for parking. I told him I hadn’t seen a sign. He pointed to it, but I still couldn’t see it since there weren’t any lights in the lot. I would have left, but if I had it would have broken up my 10-hour break and I couldn’t have delivered my load on time. Not to mention, the later it gets, the less chance of finding an empty spot. So I paid up.
Next, I wake up about 11 PM and hear someone yelling outside my window. “C’mon, back! C’mon! You got it! Bring it! You got it!” I guess the guide had to yell because the parking lot was as black as a bat’s bedroom. Still, that’s kinda rude for a driver to do that to another driver. He had to know there where drivers sleeping.
The next time I woke up was at 3 AM. This time it was a Latino lot lizard. Now I have to admit, she was kinda good-looking. She was thin, had make-up on, her hair was fixed, and she was nicely dressed. I waved her away and immediately heard another knock on the truck next door. Before I could crawl back into bed, she had crawled up into my neighbor’s cab and slammed the door. You know what came next. Yep. A driver who needs to spend a little time greasing his truck shocks better. Now see, if I were allowed to idle my truck without consequences, I wouldn’t have had to listen to all that.
Now it’s 5 AM and I hear another knock. I think, “Great, she’s forgotten that she’s already hit me up.” Nope. This time it was a woman who I can only describe as, “The human race is doomed if the apocalypse comes and it’s just me and her left.” Talk about nasty. She was a black woman who looked like she’d just crawled out of bed. Now that I think of it, she probably had. Great. Now I’ve got the heebee-jeebees again. Her hair was all messed up, she was overweight, her clothes were all tattered, and she had a gap between her two front teeth that I could’ve backed an over-sized trailer into. I waved her off and went back to bed. Not that it mattered. I’d been awake since Lady Latin knocked.
This isn’t just Dallas we’re talking about. When it comes to trucking, the names of big cities are interchangeable. Whether you’re talking about Vegas, Newark, the outskirts of L.A., or Dallas, your experience will probably be similar. Fight traffic, fight for a parking space, fight off lot lizards and beggars, and fight for your sleep.
And guess what? When I got up at 7 AM, I saw Miss Latin Lot Lizard 2011 and yet another lot lizard trotting across the parking lot and giggling. Well, I guess I wasn’t the only one who didn’t get any sleep.
Please rate this post and leave a comment about your worst night in a truck stop. Let all those non-truckers know I’m not full of it. Well, not about this anyway. 😉
I’m fixing to kill two birds with one stone. As if I could even hit one bird with a stone, let alone two. Heck. I once missed a squirrel from 20 feet with a 12-gauge shotgun. Seriously. I’ve got no hope with a freakin’ stone.
Any-who, for those of you who don’t know, the carrier I drive for has made a lot of changes to company policy lately. I’ve been rather vocal about these changes, both online and off. This prompted me to write a letter to the head of our safety department. Not an e-mail, an actual letter; with a stamp and everything. Perhaps I should address it with giant block letters, that way it will for sure get noticed. Nah. I don’t want to have the HazMat folks evacuating the building.
I’ve decided to post this letter on the blog because it speaks to a subject that every driver has to face. What exactly are you willing to give up in order to get something else? Maybe it’s a nicer truck or the opportunity to be home more often? In my case, it’s higher pay that causes me to make sacrifices. But where do you draw the line? How much is too much?
Also, this letter will show you hot-headed drivers how to write a respectful letter to an employer, a government official, or a retailer who has given you bad service. Not that I’m an expert on the subject, but I know that some of you psychotic drivers out there think everything can be solved by cramming your fist down someone’s esophagus. While that’s a temptation we all want to give in to, a little respect goes a long way. So here goes.
The names have been changed to protect the innocent. Also the company name, the address, and the pay rates. And before anyone asks, I’ll say it again. I DO NOT reveal the name of my company. This is to insure that my butt keeps it’s job. Also, the formatting of the address looks funky on here. I assure you that it looks beau-tee-ful on the actual letter.
November 24, 2010
Mr. Q.B. Cull
Dear Mr. Cull,
I trust that I have sent this to the appropriate party. If not, please pass it on to the correct individual or department.
In light of some of Turtle Trucking’s recent decisions (and some older ones), I felt the need to voice my opinion. According to many of the other company drivers that I’ve spoken with, I’m positive that I’m not the only one who is concerned.
We all know that Turtle Trucking charges its customers a premium price for excellent service. According to the company line, none of this is possible without top-of-the-line drivers. I fear that these policies are going to start affecting the quality of drivers that are attracted to Turtle Trucking.
I don’t actively recruit drivers, but I have plenty of them ask me about the company. The first thing they ask is if the 3 cents per mile is true. I have to tell them that pay rate was before the bad economy hit, and that it’s now 2 cents. Still, I assure them that the money and the miles are there to be had.
Next, they ask me how I like the company. I tell them that the company is efficient and the money is great, but that they will have to make some sacrifices for it. The first thing I mention is that no inverters are allowed in the truck. They always ask about the cigarette lighter kind, to which I say no. 9 times out of 10, they walk away.
If that didn’t scare them off, they usually say, “That’s okay, I’ve got one of those cooking devices that plugs into a cigarette lighter.” Now I have to tell them that they can’t have those either. I’d be willing to bet that they’ll walk off too. Every Turtle Trucking driver I’ve spoken with is livid about this new rule.
Drivers only have a few things that make their life on the road bearable: a paycheck on Friday, a hot shower, and a hot meal. Turtle Trucking pays more than most carriers, but now if I want a hot meal I have to spend that hard-earned money to eat in restaurants. If the health and efficiency of the driver is truly a concern for Turtle Trucking, this can’t be a good thing. Not to mention, hot meals cooked in the truck are $2-3, and the cheapest you can walk out of a truck stop restaurant is $10.
I spoke with a couple of 10+ year Turtle Trucking drivers and some maintenance personnel about the inverter issue. It seems that they were banned after a couple of drivers misused their inverters, which caused their trucks to catch fire. I can only assume that some drivers recently showed poor judgment using their cooking devices too.
It’s disturbing to me that a few drivers with poor judgment can affect company policy so much. If a driver is found to be an unsafe driver, you don’t put the truck out of commission; you get rid of the driver responsible for the behavior. Why punish all the drivers who still use common sense? Clearly, these devices couldn’t be sold if they were unsafe to operate. It’s the idiotic driver who is at fault.
Next up: idling. While I personally think the new idling policy is fair, I’ve had many-a-driver walk away when I mention it. Most say it wouldn’t be an issue if we had APU’s, but as you well know, Turtle Trucking hasn’t decided that they’re cost effective yet.
E-logs are another matter. I know every carrier will eventually convert to E-logs, but I also know from talking to drivers that most want to avoid them as long as possible. Therefore, many won’t even be considering Turtle Trucking.
Despite what the company posters say, all the Turtle Trucking drivers that I’ve spoken with don’t like them. At worst, one company driver was going to retire early because of them. At best, the remaining drivers say that they don’t like them, but that they are “tolerable.”
Lastly is the fact that you have to turn your truck in if you’re going to be out of it for more than 3 days. I know it used to be 4 days. One of those 10+ year Turtle Trucking veterans said that it was 5 days a while back. While this rule won’t affect drivers who live near a yard, it will certainly affect those of us who don’t.
In order to keep my truck, I used to be okay with the idea of taking only 4 days vacation instead of 5. Now, if I want a week’s vacation, I’ll have to drop my truck at the Honolulu yard and drive home 7.5 hours. When I’m ready to come back, it’s another 7.5 hours. That’s one full day of my vacation wasted driving to and from a yard. I understand that you need to utilize your trucks, but how can you expect to keep drivers long-term if they can’t make their vacation time worth their while?
To sum up, I, and every other Turtle Trucking driver I’ve spoken with know that we make sacrifices for the higher pay that Turtle Trucking offers. The question is this: In an industry where many carriers are striving to provide better conditions for drivers, how will Turtle Trucking fare when it comes to hiring and retaining quality drivers in the future? And how long before the extra pay isn’t worth it?
Christopher T. McCann
Okay. Don’t be laughing at the first name. Don’t force me to cram a fist down your esophagus.
I know what some of you are thinking, and you’re probably right. I don’t expect this letter to change any of our company policies, but hey, you never know. The engine with the low dipstick gets the oil. And since I’m so slick… uhhh, wait… or am I the dipstick? Oh, shut up and eat your turkey…Turkey.
Please leave a comment with your thoughts. And if you can stir up the energy to move your mouse to the top of the post, please give this post a rating.
As I’ve stated before in “Why I do this,” one of the main reasons I have an online presence is to inform non-truckers what it’s like to live as an Over-The-Road trucker. Sure, bad days can come off sounding a bit whiny sometimes, but the idea is not to gain sympathy. The plan is to help people stop and think when they’re around trucks. From what my non-trucker friends tell me, it’s been working.
Driving a truck isn’t the hard part of trucking. Living the life is. Once you learn how to drive the monster truck on steroids, the actual driving is usually a pleasure. Beautiful sunrises and sunsets over the desert, a hillside full of fall foliage in the Northeast, or a glimpse of Lake Coeur d’ Alene in Northern Idaho never gets old. It also helps not to have a boss who is constantly trying to catch you surfing the web instead of working.
Of course, there’s also the threat of crossing snow-covered Rocky Mountains, fighting rush hour traffic, and the very existence of New York City, which is about as much fun as a titty-twister from a professional arm wrestler. Still, the majority of time it beats staring at a cubicle wall and kissing some jerk’s buttocks day after day.
So what exactly is so hard about the trucking life? It’s the little things that most non-truckers rarely, if ever, think about. For instance,
When was the last time you:
had to wonder if your shower was going to have hot water?
had to worry about having good water pressure in that shower?
had to worry about even getting a shower?
had to get dressed in the middle of the night to take a leak, or worse?
had to blow a non-family member’s pubic hair off your toilet seat?
had to brush your teeth while smelling someone else’s butt funk or five someone else’s?
couldn’t easily get to a hospital when you were puking up something that resembles cottage cheese and hot dog chunks?
had to be a contortionist to make your bed?
were up all day and were then told you need to drive 500 miles?
got out of your vehicle and the parking lot smelled like boiling urine?
tried to pass a vehicle for 5 minutes before you gave up and got back behind the freak with the fickle right foot?
couldn’t find a place to park?
had to sleep in a pool of your own sweaty B.O.?
couldn’t sleep because your toes felt like they’d been dipped in liquid nitrogen?
got bad directions, cursed, missed your turn, cursed, and couldn’t turn around for 10 miles, cursing the whole time?
were woke up and solicited by a hooker? Sorry men. Dreams don’t count.
were separated from your spouse for over a week… and that happened every month?
were forced to have a marital spat over the phone?
missed your child’s big event because you were in another state delivering a load of really important ketchup packets?
had to post a “Beware of falling objects” sign in your vehicle to remind you every time you open a cabinet door?
couldn’t get to a Starbucks when you really, really, really needed a fix?
realized that your restaurant choices were limited to where you could park?
had to get out of your vehicle 10 times just to back into a parking space? And you weren’t 16-years-old.
had to drive up a painstakingly long 6-mile hill at 25 miles per hour?
had to drive down a painstakingly long 6-mile hill at 25 miles per hour?
were told you couldn’t drive any further until you got a nose-hair-sized crack in your windshield repaired?
had to account for every 15-minute period of your day?
had to sit for 10 hours just 15 miles from home because the Department of Transportation has deemed that it’s too dangerous to drive another 15 minutes?
had to live in a room the size of a walk-in closet, sometimes with another crabby person?
had to sleep in a bouncing bed? On second thought, don’t answer that.
had to pack a suitcase to go to work?
had to do 15 loads of laundry in 30 hours? I should have bought stock in April Fresh Tide years ago.
had to pay twice as much as another driver for the exact same traffic violation?
were issued a DUI after one beer? CDL holders can be; because we all know that the type of plastic card you hold makes all the difference in how your body handles booze.
had to fuel at a particular station, even if the lines were longer than an NBA star’s criminal record?
had to take a particular route to work, even if it took longer than the way you’d prefer to go?
had to cancel a vacation because your employer couldn’t get you home in time?
were told you could go home on Friday afternoon, but you didn’t actually get there until the following Thursday?
got a 30-hour weekend after working for 3 or 4 weeks?
said “TGIF” and it actually meant something?
had a friend that didn’t involve an Internet connection?
I rest my case for now. I urge my non-trucking readers to appreciate the normal lives that they lead. Your life may seem mundane at times, but please don’t take it for granted. When you’re on your way to your weekend golf game or a baby shower, remember the truckers that are en route to the docks at Golfsmith and Babies-R-Us. Hopefully, those thoughts carry over into the weekdays too.
To the folks out there who are considering driving a truck for a living, I’d like you to think long and hard about what you’re getting into. While it’s true that you’ll never really know if you’re cut out for the trucking life until you’re actually doing it, you can do everything in your power to be informed before you try to enter the industry.
Talk to truckers. Read about trucking. Ride along with a trucker for a week or more if you can manage it. Whatever you do, please don’t get into trucking without careful consideration. The last thing we need out here is another whiny trucker. Just follow me on Twitter if you don’t believe me. 🙂
So, what is it that I missed? What do you think people shouldn’t take for granted? Let us all know by leaving a comment. And please pass this post along to all your non-trucking friends. Who knows? Maybe they’ll started giving us truckers a bit more consideration out on the road. Thanks.