parking

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.

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

TD125: Reserved Truck Parking: Convenience or Exploitation?

We’ve all heard that there is a shortage of truck parking. Truckers deal with it every day. The public can see it as we’re lined up on interstate on and off ramps and crammed into Walmart parking lots. The government has done the research to prove the problem is real.

And of course, the truck stop owners know it. So what’s their answer to the problem? Hey, I have an idea! Let’s charge truckers money for these coveted parking spaces! Enter; reserved truck parking.

For you non-truckers out there, some of the large truck stop chains have decided to block off some of their premium spots for those willing to pay. As a world-class cheapskate, you can imagine how I feel about it.

The idea behind reserved truck parking is that you can call ahead or go online and reserve your parking space early in the day so you know you’ll have a safe place to park for the night. Sounds like a great idea, right? We’ll come back to whether this works or not here in a bit.

My first (and only) experience with reserved truck parking

I had accepted a load from dispatch with the understanding that it was going to be really tight. The issue wasn’t my available hours; the issue was time. While that might sound like the same thing to you non-trucking folk, all you truckers know what I’m talking about.

I had an 8 AM delivery at the Costco warehouse in Morris, Illinois. I was going to get there about 11 PM, but the receiver didn’t have overnight parking available on site (despite their humongous, always half-full parking lot ?). Luckily there are two truck stops within a couple blocks of my delivery. This was important because if I had to park for the night even 5 miles away, I couldn’t have delivered on time.

You see, if I started my mandatory 10-hour break when I got there at 11 PM, my break would be up at 9 AM. Problems is, I’d be late for my 8 AM appointment. But if I could find parking within 1 mile of Costco, I could drive over to the delivery in the morning while I was still officially on break, thanks to the very little bit of leniency my e-logs afford where it doesn’t register me driving until I drive over one mile. So by the time they finished unloading me, my legal break would be over and I’d have another 11 hours to run that day. That’s what I’m talkin’ about!

Now I know some of you truckers out there are screaming at your phones right now, so let me explain to the non-truckers why you’re losing your ever-loving mind right now. Officially, I could have delivered the load on time in a legal way by utilizing the God-awful 8-hour split sleeper berth.

Again, let me explain to the non-truckers out there. Normally after driving 11 hours, we are required to take a 10-hour break. But there is also an option to only take an 8-hour break if you haven’t driven your full 11 yet. So if I had used 9 hours getting to the customer, I could take an 8-hour break (it must be all in the sleeper berth) and still have my other 2 hours to run (9 hours driving before break and 2 hours after equals 11 total). After that, I’d need to take a full 10-hour break before I could drive again. Correction: I was corrected by a reader. Check out the explanation below.

Yes, the 8/2 split sleeper berth is as complicated as it sounds, which I why I avoid doing it like a meth head shuns toothpaste. And it almost always screws up your day somehow. In this situation, I was pulling in at 11 PM, so I could move again at 7 AM (after 8 hours in the sleeper). So as long as I was parked within two hours of the delivery location, I would’ve been on time for delivery. You’re right, trucker. But you also know why I didn’t go this route. Let’s look at the bigger picture, non-truckers.

Being in the sleeper from 11 PM to 7 AM is 8 hours. I would then drive for 2 hours, deliver and then go back on break for another 10 hours before I could drive again. Do a little math and you can see that my mandatory 10-hour break has effectively turned into an 18-hour break! No thanks. If I want to screw myself, I’ll just sign up for a marathon or something. Correction: Reader Jeff Hardy wrote in to correctly state that I only needed to take a 2 hour break after my 8 hours of sleeper berth time. Oops. Told you the split sleeper berth is confusing!

This is why it was so important to me to get close to Costco. The issue was going to be finding parking at either of those truck stops. The Pilot is smaller than the TA, but they both fill up pretty fast because they’re some of the last truck stops on I-80 eastbound if you’re staging to head into Chicago the following morning.

Honestly, I wasn’t worried about finding parking. Obviously, I was hoping to find a free parking spot, but if all else failed I knew both locations had reserved truck parking. I drove through the Pilot lot. All full. No surprise.

I thought about parking along the side street, but the only thing worse than paying for parking is a police officer knocking on your door in the middle of your break and telling you to move your truck. Not only does it suck getting woken up, but depending on how far you have to drive, it also might screw up your break, effectively putting you right back with the possibility of doing that 18-hour break like I was trying to avoid in the first place. I saw a reserved parking space, but I didn’t give up just yet. I’m ever-hopeful when it comes to saving a buck.

Not only were the employees tired of hearing truckers gripe about it, but it was also a pain to monitor the area to see if someone was trying to park there without paying. They also had to deal with the reservations, which they said was a major pain-in-the-tookus.

I drove over to the TA and they were just as jam-packed. No place to even park illegally that wouldn’t have blocked another driver in. There are drivers who would do this, but I’m not one of them.

Reserved truck parking at nightGuess what? There was plenty of reserved truck parking at the TA. This is my point. There often is. Take a look at this photo I took at the TA in Greencastle, Pennsylvania the night of TD124: The Overweight Axle Debacle. The rest of the lot was packed like a Casper mattress in it’s shipping box! Some drivers were even parked outside of legal spaces to avoid paying for a spot! Although honestly, that’s just par-for-the-course.

So anywho, since the Pilot was closer to Costco, I quickly drove back over, backed into a reserved parking space (with no pull-ups I might add – yes, I’m that awesome) and walked inside to pay. As I paid the $12, I told the cashier how much I hated it. Much to my surprise, the cashier and one of the managers told me they hated paid parking too!

Reserved parking receiptNot only were the employees tired of hearing truckers gripe about it, but it was also a pain to monitor the area to see if someone was trying to park there without paying. They also had to deal with the reservations, which they said was a major pain-in-the-tookus.

So to bring this seemingly never-ending story to a close, I stuck the receipt in the window so no one would bother me, grabbed some shuteye, and I delivered on time without my e-log screwing me over. Yeah! I win! Go me! Other than the fact that I had to pay to be victorious, which disturbs the innermost part of my being.

The problem with reserved truck parking

Listen, I’m all for capitalism. If the truck stops think they can make some extra money by having reserved truck parking, then who am I to say they shouldn’t do it? So with that, let me just say:

YOU SHOULDN’T DO IT!

I guess these truck stops have forgotten that there used to be paid parking at lots of their locations. And I’m not talking about some of the parking spots. I’m talking about paying for parking anywhere in their parking lot! But for some reason (that I honestly don’t understand), they decided to quit charging for parking.

There are still a few holdouts near big cities, like the Greater Chicago Truck Plaza in Bolingbrook, Illinois or a couple of TA’s near Baltimore, just to name a few. I haven’t been out west in quite a while, but I’d bet a full-nekid body massage from The Evil Overlord (wife and ex co-driver) that both the TA’s in Ontario, California still charge to park too. (I later found out one of them is a Petro now, but they both still charge for parking – good thing, because she’d have killed me dead if I’d lost that bet.)

Still, the vast majority of the paid parking truck stops have gone to a totally free model. You’ll recognize them when you see the long-abandoned little booth that guards the parking lot from the outside world. Why is this?

Perhaps because truckers were avoiding them to find free parking elsewhere? I’ll bet if we could examine their books, we’d noticed an uptick in gross revenue when they axed the paid parking. I mean, if more drivers are parking there for free every night, they’re probably also buying fuel, eating in the restaurant, filling up their coffee thermos, and buying horrifically overpriced, decade-old DVDs. Just a guess, but why else would they quit charging for parking?

Give it up. It doesn’t work

I was talking to my friend @driverchrismc the other day and somehow reserved truck parking was brought up. He said he used to reserve spots when he thought there wouldn’t be any free parking by the time he got there, but he quit reserving in advance because he’d often arrive at the truck stop and still find free parking available. He now waits until he arrives before he pays.

So doesn’t that defeat the purpose of reserved truck parking? At that point, I feel like it’s more exploitation of drivers than it is convenience. Yes, I know exploitation is a pretty strong word, but look how the Google dictionary defines it.

ex·ploi·ta·tion

ˌekˌsploiˈtāSH(ə)n

  1. The action or fact of treating someone unfairly in order to benefit from their work.
  2. The action of making use of and benefiting from resources.
  3. The fact of making use of a situation to gain unfair advantage for oneself.

Okay, Definition 1 might be a stretch. Definition 2 is getting warmer though. The truck stop has a resource (a parking spot) and they’re charging for the privilege of using it. Definition 3 nails it right on the head though. They are making use of a situation (truckers not being able to find parking) to gain unfair advantage.

Whether all this is “unfair” or not is up for debate. But in my eyes it’s similar to that argument of “just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.”

Again, saying the act of charging for parking is “unfair” might be pushing it a tad. But in a sense, it is unfair because you have to pay for it simply because other drivers got there before you did. And if you paid in advance like Chris did, only to find there was still free parking available, now you’ve paid for a parking spot that you no longer need. That’s kind of unfair too, isn’t it?

I looked on the Pilot/FlyingJ website and apparently you can’t ask for a refund once you show up either. You have to do it 4 hours before your reservation starts. So there’s no backing out there. You’re just out the $12.

Whether all this is “unfair” or not is up for debate. But in my eyes it’s similar to that argument of “just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.”

Trucking companies and truckers keep these truck stops alive and kicking. And to thank us for that, they take advantage of us when we least need to take their crap; after a long day of driving when we just need  a warm meal, a hot shower, and a place to lay down and recharge so we can do it all again the next day. Is that so much to ask?

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful that truck stops exist. Without them there’d be even fewer places to park and we’d probably start seeing truckers squatting behind bushes on the side of the highway. God, help us. But do they really need to charge us for the last few parking places when we’re at our most desperate? I mean, they’re already charging $8 for a tiny bottle of Pepto-Bismol. Isn’t that exploitation enough?

What are your thoughts on reserved truck parking? Please leave your comments below.

Podcast Show Notes:

As you can tell from the title, today’s show is about this reserved truck parking that is popping up at all the truck stops.

But before we get to that, listener Kevin wrote in to tell me I screwed up the Meritor jacket contest from the last podcast. He was right! We also have some gift ideas for truckers, which is handy right before Christmas. We also discuss Telsa’s fancy new electric truck and I share a mechanical tip I learned from listener Mike. But that’s not all! Connor Smith from the Big Rig Banter podcast shares his article on the Top 5 Issues In Commercial Driving.

In the feedback section, Renae shares her experience with her training and being a trainer herself, Tim points out a problem with one of my books, and Ryan thinks he couldn’t solved my overweight issue from the last podcast. And to wrap things up, Shannon lost a bet with me and had to send in an audio comment telling me how awesome I am!

Links mentioned in the intro:

The School of Podcasting podcast with host Dave Jackson

The Hindenburg Journalist Pro audio editing software that I want to purchase. Feel free to buy it for me. It’s pretty cheap. ?

The Audio-Technica ATR2005USB Cardioid Dynamic USB/XLR Microphone I’m hoping to buy. (not an affiliate link)

You should buy my books so I can afford the two previous products! Free text samples available! (not affiliate links)

Trucking Life: An Entertaining, Yet Informative Guide To Becoming And Being A Truck Driver
Free audiobook sample of Trucking Life
How to Find a Great Truck Driving Job

The good folks from Factor Finders supplied a handy-dandy article and infographic called Gift Ideas For Truckers. Just in time for the holidays!

This article from TheTruckersReport.com called Tesla Semi Promises 500 Mile Range, Safety, and More prompted me to talk about it on the show.

Links in Connor Smith’s article:

Connor Smith from the Big Rig Banter podcast and AllTruckJobs.com shares his article called 5 Top Issues in Commercial Truck Driving and mentions the following articles:

5 Benefits of ELDs
ATA Driver Shortage Report
Nikola One: Driving the Future of Trucking
MIT Technology Review article about Self-Driving Trucks

Links in the blog post section:

The Federal Highway Administration, or FHWA, Study of Adequacy of Commercial Truck Parking Facilities

Late night photo I took of the reserved parking area at the TA in Greencastle, PA. NEED LINK

TD124: The Overweight Axle Debacle

Unboxing of a Casper Mattress

Pilot/Flying J refund policy for reserved truck parking

Links mentioned in the feedback section:

Renae Savage talks about her training and her experience as a trainer at CR England.

Tim Rife tells me all the hyperlinks to the Trucking Company Questionnaire in my book How to Find a Great Truck Driving Job are broken. He’s right. So if you’ve had the same problem, try downloading the book again. They should be fixed by the time you’re listening to this.

Ryan Moede thinks he could’ve easily solved the overweight problem I talked about in TD124: The Overweight Axle Debacle. Is he right? Guess you’ll have to listen to find out. I mention a free PDF called How To Axle Out A Load.

Shannon Holden lost a bet with me and had to send in an audio comment telling me how awesome I am. No way this wasn’t going to make it onto the podcast!

Horrid Genius left an awesome review of the podcast over on iTunes. Thanks, Mr. Genius!

Please consider joining the Trucker Dump Podcast Facebook Group and take the poll.

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

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

TD118: Truck Safety: Constant Vigilance or Fate?

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

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

The accident happened back in February.

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

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

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

february-accident

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

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

Okay. So who’s fault was this accident?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So how do these million milers stay accident-free?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Knowing the difference between a preventable and a nonpreventable accident can be confusing. In driving school, we were told this scenario and asked if it would be considered preventable or nonpreventable. You give it a try. Pay attention. There may be a quiz afterward.

Say you’re coming up on a red traffic light at a busy intersection. Just as you start to slow down, the light changes to green and you proceed.

Suddenly, to your left you see a car that isn’t slowing down. You hit the brakes, but it’s too late. The car ran the red light and hit your truck.

As for your part, is it preventable or nonpreventable? This is where the Jeopardy music would be playing if it weren’t copyrighted. Be sure to answer in the form of a question.

Everyone in my class agreed that since the other guy ran the red light, the truck driver would be cited with a non-preventable accident. What do you think?

If you agreed with us, you’d be wrong. You, the super-trucker, would be charged with a preventable accident. Say what? Yeah, our sentiments exactly.

What you’ve got to remember is that when they’re determining whether an accident was preventable or non-preventable, they’re not trying to determine who’s at fault. They’re simply trying to figure out if the accident could have been avoided.

In this case, it was clearly the automobile’s fault because it ran a red light. Certainly, your green light meant that you had the right-of-way, but having a green light isn’t enough. Everyone knows that you’re supposed to check both ways before you enter an intersection. What most drivers don’t think about is that this also applies to traffic lights.

Because the trucker didn’t look both ways and entered the intersection when someone was coming, that accident could have (supposedly) been avoided. That’s insane! Yeah, we thought so too. We argued with the instructor about it forever, but lost in the end. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Podcast Show Notes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AeroPress store locator and authorized seller list.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the feedback section:

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

Show info:

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

You can find me on Twitter @ToddMcCann.

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

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

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

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

TD109: Coping With Rookie Truckers

[box]Listen to the audio version above and subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.
Or enter http://5nl9r.hosts.cx/truckerdump.xml into your favorite podcast app.
Download the intro/outro songs for free! courtesy of Walking On Einstein.
Mystery Feedback Song – Only a cheater would click this before listening to the podcast! You aren’t a cheater, are you?[/box]

There are approximately 3.5 million truckers in the US, so naturally that means we can’t all be seasoned veterans. We drivers probably encounter at least one trucker per week doing something that would only be done by a rookie. We shake our head in disgust, but what do we do about it? From what I’ve seen, the vast majority of us do absolutely nothing… or worse.

As is typical with the Trucker Dump blog, most of my ideas come from things that have recently happened to me, which begs the question how long I’ll be able to continue doing this blog if I can ever escape the trucking industry like I’ve been trying to do for the last decade. But I guess we’ll cross that crusty, old, underfunded bridge when we get to it. But for now, let’s continue with the story that prompted this post.

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in Fort Smith, Arkansas wondering how my company was going to get me home. I’ve been working for this company long enough to know that they didn’t have much freight moving north from there, so things were looking about as good as a naked 80-year old. Luckily, this was a Thursday and I wasn’t due home until the weekend, so at least they had some time to work up a miracle.

Still, I was flabbergasted when I got a message telling me to pick up a load in Joplin, Missouri, some 140 miles away. The sucky thing about it was that I would be driving right past my house in order to go pick up the load. Isn’t it funny how trucking companies don’t have a problem eating the costs of 140 unloaded miles to pick up a load, but they’d rather put live kittens in a blender than to deadhead a driver home at half the distance. Well, at least that’s the way my company is anyway. Quick! New subject before I get pissed.

The other annoying thing about it was that the load didn’t pick up until the next afternoon and the guy who would be relaying it from me wouldn’t come off his 10-hour break until late that night. Oh well. This happens sometimes, so I’m used to it. Yes, it blows chunks to sit at a truck stop less than 50 miles from your house for half a day when you should be home, but it’s the price you pay for living out in the boonies. Well that, and the whole lack of indoor plumbing thing.

So anyway, I picked up the load and nabbed a spot at the Flying J in Joplin. After a quick call to The Evil Overlord, she had grudgingly decided to get out of bed and meet me in Joplin so we could hang out in town instead of me spending all day in the truck. Luckily, she didn’t need to after all.

The relay driver called me shortly after and told me he’d be there within a few hours. This made The Evil Overlord especially happy because she wouldn’t have to crawl out of bed in the middle of the afternoon; heaven forbid. Apparently the driver’s satellite hadn’t updated in quite a while, which lead my dispatcher to believe that the driver was in the middle of a 10-hour break, when in fact it was almost over. Sweet!

Actually though, the relay driver said “I think my break is almost over.” You think? You think? How does a trucker not know when their break is over? This was my first indication that I might be dealing with a rookie. But I let it slide and asked him to get there ASAP.

Well, he showed up about two hours later than what he said he would so apparently he had figured something wrong, which is odd considering my company uses e-logs. I’m guessing he must have been doing an eight-hour split sleeper berth, because otherwise the e-logs are very good at telling you when your break is over. Ours still suck at splitting though. Still, I wasn’t going to complain about his tardiness since I really hadn’t expected him to get there until late that night.

Further evidence pointing to him being a rookie came almost immediately. He rounded the corner and stopped when he saw me. I waved to let him know it was me he was looking for. He then started to do a blindside back directly across from me! What the…?!

Now had this been late at night I might have thought he didn’t want to risk losing the parking spot by driving around the lot to set up a proper driver-side back. But the lot was only about three quarters full! There were lots of places where he could’ve found an easier backing job, including one just a few spaces past me. I honestly don’t understand this. When I was a rookie, I’d have rather licked a leper’s sores than do a blindside back! I simply cannot imagine anyone doing one unless they had no other choice. And there is almost always a choice not to.

But instead he went ahead and got himself all jammed up between me and the spot he wanted. He got to the point where he could barely move. It reminded me a lot of Austin Powers trying to turn around in that little cart. LOL As soon as I had enough room to escape, I went ahead and pulled out from my dropped trailer so he’d have some extra room to maneuver, which was exactly what he needed to get back into the spot. By the way, I’ve done this for experienced drivers too. It takes less than a minute for an experienced driver to drop a trailer and the gesture will always be appreciated.

Now I will admit during this whole time I was sitting in my driver’s seat watching this train wreck happen. What I should have done was get out and help this poor guy. But how exactly do you help in this situation?

Personally, I have never been a fan of getting out and helping a driver back into a spot.

I have been known to be an extra set of eyes if I see someone really struggling, but I’m really not a fan of the type of driver who stands there and tells the driver which way to turn his wheels. This is mainly because there are more than one way to do a proper backing job. And I have no idea what this guy is going for. More on that in a bit.

As a side note, if you’re a driver trainer, don’t do this to your student. I’ve watched countless times where a student is looking at the trainer while backing instead of watching what the truck and trailer are doing. You aren’t teaching them anything! Except how to watch you maybe. We learn best by trial-and-getting-stopped-by-trainer-just-before-error, you know.

Well all said and done, this whole backing and swapping process took about 20 minutes. While he was unhooking from his trailer, I walked the paperwork over to him and told him I had expected him to get there a couple of hours ago. No, I’m not a jerk (well, not in this case anyway), I said this all in a teasing manner. He looked at me sheepishly as I asked, “Are you new?” “Yep.” “New to this company, or new to trucking?” “I’ve been out of driving school for one month. My trainer just dropped me off and I just got my truck.” Wow. If you’re anything like me, it’s hard to remember what that’s like, isn’t it?

He then started fumbling about as to what satellite messages he was supposed to send after doing a relay and asking what paperwork he needed to send into the company. I explained all the procedures to him as quick as I could since I was eager to get home. I then hooked up to the empty trailer, got back in the truck, and looked over at the guy awkwardly hooking up his gladhands. Remember when gladhands were hard, drivers? Now I think we can do them in our sleep, which is something I’m pretty sure I’ve done before when The Evil Overlord used to wake me up to do that kind of stuff. Frankly, I’m surprised we didn’t regularly drop trailers to the ground with the landing gear still up!

I think God must’ve spoken to me at that moment, because although I was itching to get moving, I felt a bit more compassion for this guy than I normally have in my cold, dead heart. I sighed and stepped out of the truck. I walked over, and with a friendly smile said, “Hey, man. I’m not trying to be a know-it-all, but can I give you a couple pieces of advice?” I’m sure some arrogant rookies would have passed, but to this guy’s credit, he smiled and said, “Please.”

I began, “First, don’t EVER EVER EVER do a blindside back unless you have absolutely no choice. At a truck stop, always drive around the lot until you can line up a driver-side back. And if you’re trying to get to a customer’s dock off a street or something, circle a couple of blocks if you need to. Listen; you will have to blindside back sometime in the future, but it’s always dangerous (even for experienced drivers) and the more you do it unnecessarily, the more chances you have of hitting something. You really don’t need that this early in your career, do you?” He replied with a truly grateful, “Thanks. I’ll remember that.”

I went on. “Now see that Werner truck up there between those other two trucks? (Picture back-to-back  parking where the two trucks facing us are one spot apart and when you look between them you can see the back of the Werner truck facing the other direction.) Don’t EVER try to nose in between two trucks like that to park where Werner is right now.”

I went on to explain that no matter how far he got over, he would be extremely lucky if he could pull that maneuver off. It can be done, but it fails more often than not. I explained to him that I had been delayed for a whole hour one night at that very location watching a guy who got himself all jammed up trying to do that. In that particular instance I had actually broken my normal practice by getting out and telling the flustered driver which way to turn his wheels to escape the situation. To be quite honest though, it had less to do with me being a super nice guy and more to do with him blocking the way out for me and about five other trucks. And again, I was trying to get home, so I was pretty motivated that time too.

In the end I had to wake up the driver next door and ask him if he’d mind dropping his trailer and moving his tractor so the guy could go ahead and pull through. At first he was acting like he wasn’t going to do it, but he changed his mind after I said, “Listen man. This guy is freaking out over here. He’s been stuck like this for an hour. You can either drop your trailer or you can have your fender ripped off. Your choice.” I even told him that if he would pull his trailer brakes I’d be happy to unhook everything for him. He took me up on it, so the lazy bum never even had to leave his cab. So that is eventually how we got out of that Lindsay Lohan-sized mess.

So anyway, back to our current rookie. Before I left I made sure that he understood that he could rescale the load for $2 with the weigh ticket I had given him, as long as it was within 24 hours and it was the exact same location. I assured him that they never check to see if the truck number matches. All they need is the reweigh number on the ticket. I thought he probably knew this already, but I was wrong. He was grateful for the advice (and saving him $8.50) and I pulled out ready to head for home. In hindsight, had I chosen to keep my advice to myself, I wouldn’t have a second half to this story. Oh well. Nice guys finish last.

Just as soon as I pulled out feeling all good about myself, another driver down the way had just started to back into a spot. It was two spaces wide so I figured it would go pretty quick. As The Evil Overlord likes to tell me so often, “You’re wrong.” And just as often, she’s right. Just as I was this time.

Well, I watched that driver trying to back in for 10 minutes. Forward. Reverse. Forward. Reverse. Often with very little change in what he had done before. He started with a wide-open driver-side back and kept going until he eventually ended up in a blindside back. I’m still not really sure how he managed that. Every time he’d try to back in, the driver next to him would lay on his horn, which naturally brought him to an abrupt stop. I could see this was going nowhere good and traffic was backing up behind me, so I hopped out, signaled the other waiting drivers what I was doing, and walked over to scope out the situation.

The guy had gotten himself into a 45° blindside back. His trailer tires were already between the lines and the doors had already cleared the mirror, but he was crooked. I could see that he could probably make it with one little correction. I walked over and told the honker dude I thought the guy could make it if he would quit honking at him. The guy yelled at me, “He’s going to hit me!” I said, “Well I don’t think so, but if you’re convinced of it why don’t you go over and pull your mirror in so he won’t.” The hothead shot back, “I shouldn’t have to do that! He should pull out of the spot and go find someplace else to park!”

Well, I confessed to him that he was probably right about that, but I also explained that at this juncture it wasn’t really an option with all of us blocking him in. He had nowhere to go. I’ll have to admit that the stuck driver (which I found out later was in his first year of driving) wasn’t letting Sir Screams-A-Lot affect him. He was smiling at the whole situation, even though he probably shouldn’t have been. I kinda respected the guy for not letting old weiner head get to him. Still, he was stuck and he knew it. That’s when he pointed at me and then to his tractor. In broken English he said, “You do?”

Okay. Now before you old-timers tell me how stupid this is, let me say that I’m well aware. If I hit someone, he could blame me. And I’m sure the little green lizard’s employers would have a field day with it too. But hey, I wanted to get home. Besides, Captain Crabby Pants had finally gotten out of his truck to make darn sure no one was going to hit his precious mirror. So into the cab I climbed. Thankfully, I’m not a germaphobe, else I’d have been freaking the heck out. That truck was nastier than a Nicki Minaj video!

Anyway, He-Who-Must-Be-Paranoid seemed a bit more confident when I got behind the wheel. Still, he insisted on directing my every move. He had me turning my wheels this way and that with about 4 pull-up adjustments. At that point I stopped, looked at him, and said, “Oh come on, man. I can’t even see that side, and I can tell I’m nowhere close to your truck!” I knew that if he’d just hold his tongue for a second, I could swing the tractor back under and finish the job. But I admit that it would’ve meant that the front of the trailer wouldn’t crossed into his “no-zone” for a brief moment. So instead I chose to let Mr. Alpha have his way. We did get the job done, but thanks to him being a complete anus, it took about three moves longer than it should have. Oh well. Like my trainer taught me, “A good back is one where you don’t hit anything. Doesn’t matter how long it takes.” Wise words. So naturally, you know they didn’t come from me.

So here’s the thing, drivers. You have experience. Great. But let me take a second here to remind you that there was a time when you were a rookie too. We all were. Not one us had a grip on the air-powered umbilical cord as we floated from 4th to 6th gear into this world. Even if you did learn to drive on the farm when you were twelve, I’d be willing to bet you screwed up a time or two… or fourteen. And before you make that claim, give me your dad’s phone number. I’ll get the real story.

So what say we remember that the next time we’re confronted with a rookie who is having a really crappy day? The last thing they need is some irate driver screaming at them or belittling them. Nor do they need to hear your snide remarks on the CB. What they need is tolerance. What they need is a helping hand. What they need is an extra set of eyes. What they need is a driver who’s willing to offer some friendly advice. And if you’re not willing to give these rookies what they need, then what those rookies really need is a set of brass knuckles to punch you right in the kisser. Now let’s see you try to scream at him with a mouthful of broken teeth.

*So how do you treat rookie drivers? Why? Got any good stories about it? Please share your thoughts below.

Additional links from the podcast version:

Check out fiverr.com for all your little needs. I’m betting someone over there can help you for $5.

The Trucker Country CD by Erich McMann winners are SFC Sapper, Kevin I., and Eric M. Check out the 5:25 min video showing how I chose the winners using Random.org, a random number generator.

If you didn’t win you can always find out more about the Trucker Country CD on Facebook, the iTunes Store, or Google Play. And don’t forget to follow him on Twitter.

Short clip of Austin Powers in his cart. LOL

In the feedback section:

Brian from Australia chews me out about being lazy

Long Duck is back after listening to TD96: The Feedback Show, but before that he totally grosses us all out.

Finally, Justin shares his thoughts on TD106: How Will Amnesty Affect The Trucking Industry. And he does it in our favorite form; a rant.

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

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

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

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

TD107: The Fuel Bay Golden Rule

[box]Listen to the audio version above and subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.
Or enter http://5nl9r.hosts.cx/truckerdump.xml into your favorite podcast app.
Download the intro/outro songs for free! courtesy of Walking On Einstein.
Mystery Feedback Song – Only a cheater would click this before listening to the podcast! You aren’t a cheater, are you?[/box]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional links from the podcast version:

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

I did a short interview over at TruckersTraining.com

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

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

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

In the feedback section we hear from:

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

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

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

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

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

 

TD99: 4 Ways To Be An Awesome Trucker

[box]Listen to the audio version above and subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.
Or enter http://5nl9r.hosts.cx/truckerdump.xml into your favorite podcast app.
Download the intro/outro songs for free! courtesy of Walking On Einstein.
Mystery Feedback Song – Only a cheater would click this before listening to the podcast! You aren’t a cheater, are you?[/box]

Used with permission by Bruce Outridge Productions

Used with permission by Bruce Outridge Productions

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

Awesome Trucker Goal #1: Get healthier

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

Reduce your portions

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

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

Lay off the soda

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

Replace your snacks or cut them altogether

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

Get some exercise

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

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

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

Awesome Trucker Goal #2: Truck stop etiquette

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

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

Awesome Trucker Goal #3: Conservation

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

Water consumption

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

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

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

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

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

Paper towels

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

Littering

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

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

Fuel

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

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

Awesome Trucker Goal #4: Take a chill pill

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

At customers

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

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

With other drivers

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

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

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

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

To sum up…

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

TD93: The Driver’s Seat Phenomenon

[box]Listen to the audio version above and subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.
Or enter http://abouttruckdriving.com/truckerdump.xml into your favorite podcast app.
Mystery Feedback Song – Only a cheater would click this before listening to the podcast! You aren’t a cheater, are you?[/box]

The truck driver's seat

Look at them butt-prints!

If you’ll remember from the last podcast called Honor Among Truckers, I mentioned that if you were to drive around a truck stop parking lot, you’d see lots of drivers sitting in their driver’s seat whiling away the hours. They’re talking on their phones, doing paperwork, people watching, playing with their laptops, turned around at an awkward angle watching their TV, or even weirder, staring off into space with a blank expression. I just don’t get it. And since the word “phenomenon” makes anything sound more mysterious than it actually is, I’ve chosen to call this one “The Driver’s Seat Phenomenon.”

Here’s the thing I just don’t get. The average solo trucker drives approximately 120,000 miles each year. I actually ran about 127,000 last year. All of those miles are done while sitting in the driver’s seat. Yes, the driver’s seats in these trucks are highly adjustable to make the long hours of driving tolerable. Yes, they have air-ride suspension to keep you from feeling like Superman punched you in the tailbone every time your load takes you on US69 near Stringtown, Oklahoma. But even with all that, why in the name of Zeus’ hemorrhoids would you want to spend even one more second in that seat when you don’t have to?

Now sure, I understand that team drivers have more of an excuse to be welded to the driver’s seat.

Maybe your co-driver is getting out of bed and you don’t want to see his great-hairy-chasm-of-a-butt-crack sticking out of his tidy-whities. Can’t say as I blame you there. Or maybe your co-driver is your wife and you actually do want to see her backside, but she’s meaner than a giraffe with strep throat when she first wakes up; meaning you’d have a better chance of getting lucky with said giraffe than with her. Not that I have any experience in this whatsoever. *clears throat* Anywho…

Another scenario when you might need to occupy the driver’s seat is when you’re shut down and your co-driver is trying to sleep. Since The Evil Overlord and I always tried to keep on a set schedule, this used to happen to us a lot, especially when the economy took a kamikaze-worthy nose-dive in 2008. I used to put my TV in the passenger seat and sit sideways in the driver’s seat for hours while playing video games on my Playstation 3. After all, the giraffe… errrr, wife needed her sleep if I were to keep her from waking up tired and smiting the world with her mighty hand. I tried to be super quiet up there, but even with the curtain closed The Evil Overlord would often wake up when she’d hear me cussing under my breath or feel the truck moving as I shook my controller in frustration. LOL Hey, what can I say? Some of those games are friggin’ hard! Still, I didn’t sit in the driver’s seat because I wanted to. Like I said, I had the fate of the world in my hands.

Now that I’m a solo driver, I’ve got absolutely no good reason to sit in the driver’s seat when I’m shut down… therefore, I don’t.

When I start my day, I do my 3 B’s (breakfast, Bible, and bended knee) in the bunk area, where I’ve got a nice little desk to eat and read on. The bed makes an excellent place for the bended knee part, too. If I stop for lunch, I hop in the bunk area and eat back there if I have time. If not, I make my traditional peanut butter and jelly sammich and then eat on the run. If I’m picking up or delivering a load, I vacate the driver’s seat and go lounge on the bed with my feet propped up. At the end of my driving shift, I’m required to log a 5-minute post-trip inspection. A walk-around inspection only takes about 2 minutes, so I just do paperwork or hop on Twitter for a few minutes. But once that 5 minutes is up and hit the button on my retarded e-log unit, I’m outta the driver’s seat and sitting on the nice soft bunk while I make yet another bowl of soup while watching a DVD and ignoring the fact that I have a podcast due.

The fact is, I spend waaaaaay too much time in the driver’s seat already. If you want a really good look at the shape of my butt (and who wouldn’t), just look at the driver’s seat, because there are some super-lifelike butt-prints there. Good thing butt-prints aren’t like fingerprints, else there’d be a heck-of-a-lot of identity theft in the trucking industry. LOL And by the way, if you’re sniff-testing your newly-assigned truck for hidden cigarette smoke, I’d advise against putting your nose right up against the driver’s seat. Anywhere but the driver’s seat. You have been warned.

So what’s up with this obsession of the driver’s seat?

Why do so many of you drivers choose to spend your off-duty hours sitting in a seat where you already spend so much time? And why the heck are you all staring into space? These are serious questions that I really want to know the answer to. I think about it every time I walk into the truck stop and see drivers sitting there and watching the world go by. What is so stinkin’ fascinating about seeing me walk into the truck stop or watching the guy down the way back into a parking spot? I just don’t get it. And lastly, why on earth would you spend even one extra second in a seat that’s been farted in more times than OMG has been texted by teenagers?

*Please help to ease my troubled mind. Leave your excuses for living in the driver’s seat below.*

TD92: Honor Among Truckers

[box]Listen to the audio version and subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.
Or enter http://5nl9r.hosts.cx/truckerdump.xml into your favorite podcast app.
Download the intro/outro songs for free! courtesy of Walking On Einstein
Mystery Feedback Song– Only a cheater would click this before listening to the podcast! You aren’t a cheater, are you? [/box]

Truckers have to trust each other every day

Truckers have to trust each other every day

Have you ever watched a movie and heard the bad guys talking about the concept of “Honor Among Thieves?” Every time I hear it, I think, “What the heck is up with that crap?” I mean, clearly if you’re a thief, your moral compass must’ve fallen out of your pocket while you were hiking out in the woods. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Honor Among Thieves concept, it’s basically saying that there is an unwritten code that even an untrustworthy group of people can abide by to get along. I’ve know for quite some time that there was something similar in the trucking industry. An Honor Among Truckers if you will.

Now let me get one thing straight here. I’m not saying truckers in general are an untrustworthy lot, but let’s face facts. Some of the characters out here don’t exactly look like you could trust them any more than you could trust a pit bull while wearing a meat scarf. The odd thing is, for the most part, we drivers do it all the time. Trust, that is; not wear meat scarves. We smell bad enough as is. Today, we’re going to discuss three of these situations:

Honor Among Truckers Scenario #1: Parking

Truckers have to park every night in cramped spaces. Whether it’s a truck stop, a rest area, or a crowded exit ramp, we’re constantly leaving ourselves to the mercy of other drivers. Nearly every night at the truck stops, you’ll see drivers sitting behind the wheel and staring off into space. You’d think that we’d all be paranoid that someone is going to hit our truck while backing into the parking spot next to us. Yet we aren’t. Under normal situations, most of us just sit there and let the other driver do their thing. We trust that he or she is capable of doing the job without taking out our front fender. That’s Honor Among Truckers. Granted, this doesn’t mean we trust everyone equally.

Even a non-experienced driver can see when a fellow trucker is having trouble backing into a parking spot.

I've got $100 that says that ain't Gatorade

100 bucks that says that ain’t Gatorade

That’s when we toss our trusting nature into the trash bin along with all the piss-filled milk jugs (photo). We all know that there are times when it’s not only wiser to get out and guide the other driver, but it’s also the friendly thing to do. That being said, I think many times these well-meaning guiders are doing more harm than good. Listen dudes and dudettes; unless this troubled backer is a total rookie, they really don’t need you to tell them which way to turn the wheel by making giant circular motions with your arms. Seriously, you look like you’re having a conniption fit, so just knock it off. No, what most drivers need in this situation is for you to simply stand by the parking space and give a shout if they’re about to hit something. But again, the point is; if they don’t need help, we just sit there and trust that they’ll accomplish the task without smashing one of our mirrors.

Then again, this Honor Among Truckers can sometimes jump up and sock you in the Adam’s apple.

Case in point. A few weeks back, I parked at a Flying J in Missouri to run in and grab a shower. I did so for two reasons. One, because I’d been wearing a meat scarf, and two, I was trying to avoid the torture that is the inspection bays at our company shops. You see, I was heading home and the last thing I needed was for some overly zealous mechanic to find something wrong with my truck that would inevitably keep me there overnight. Been there. Done that. Wasn’t gonna risk it.

So I needed to kill a couple of hours. An extra-long shower took care of most of that time. I killed the rest of the time watching NCIS in the trucker’s lounge. But when it was finally safe to roll toward the yard, I found a surprise waiting for me by my truck. There was debris all along the driver’s side of my trailer and there was a 6-foot section of the lower side rail that was totally demolished. After I picked my jaw up off the peelot, I went back to look at the rig that was parked beside me. There wasn’t any damage on the rear of their trailer, so I went up to see if I could find a note on my truck somewhere. Nope. It was a hit-and-run. Probably some owner-operator who didn’t want his insurance rates to skyrocket. I asked around, but just like in NYC, no one claimed to have seen anything. Didn’t matter much, as my company just asked a few questions and never said another word about it. Guess it happens more often than we might think. Makes you think about trusting other drivers so much, huh?

Honor Among Truckers Scenario #2: Driving

Professional truckers are called that for a reason; we’re trained to drive defensively. Rarely do you see a trucker do something completely unexpected. Like the parking scenario, we just trust that the other driver knows what they’re doing. When a trucker switches lanes beside you, you just assume he knows you’re there. For the most part, you don’t feel the need to honk, flash your headlights, or swerve like a slalom skier to get away from them. You sure can’t say that about 4-wheelers. They’re always freaking out like we’re going to come into their lane and reenact the opening scene from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Likewise, we just assume a trucker entering a freeway on-ramp knows what to do. Again, not so much when it comes to 4-wheelers and their cell phones.

But just like the parking, sometimes driving trust can backfire too. Early in our careers, The Evil Overlord and I were tooling along on I-10 near Ontario, California. As any trucker knows, those lanes aren’t all that wide. We were cruising along at 60 mph in the second lane when we felt a jolt and saw pieces of our passenger-side mirror go flying. Another trucker had clipped our mirror as he flew by us at about 70 mph. Before we could get pulled over to the side of the road, the other driver took the next exit ramp and vanished through a truck-sized wormhole. Now had that been a shiny orange truck, we could’ve reported it and my company would’ve given Schneider a call. But this was an indistinguishable owner-operator. I’m sure this was a quickly-realized factor when the driver made his split-second decision to do the right thing or hit the exit ramp. So yes, trusting others truckers can suck sometimes, but what are you gonna do? Just like the hit-and-run, this was a freak accident. That didn’t mean that I didn’t trust the next driver who passed me. I did, albeit looking in my one good mirror a bit more often.

Honor Among Truckers Scenario #3: Thievery

Honor among truckers in action

Honor among truckers in action

Any time you see trucks in a truck stop, you’ll also see lots of empty trucks. Every trucker out there knows that these trucks have all sorts of valuable stuff in them; computers, TV’s, iPods, GPS units, video and photo cameras, and even game consoles like Playstation and XBox. So any trucker could have a field day out here. Most of us know that trucks aren’t all that hard to break into either. We know this because many of us have locked our keys in our trucks at some point in our careers. With a coat hanger in hand, we could’ve been back in our trucks in 10 minutes if we hadn’t spent those minutes cussing and questioning our intelligence level. So what’s to stop a driver from cashing in? Honor Among Truckers.

Personally, I’m kind of amazed at the amount of trust we have. Now I’m a trusting person by nature, but being married to The Evil Overlord for almost 20 years has caused some of her paranoia to rub off on me. She was raised near a big city, so she doesn’t trust anyone. While I’m content to lock and deadbolt our apartment door, she goes even further by locking our bedroom door and keeping a loaded .44 Special on her nightstand.

So that means that I’m possibly a bit more cautious than the average trucker. For example, here again we come into all the truckers sitting in their driver’s seat at the truck stop. Many drivers sit there with their laptops propped up on their steering wheel as they busy themselves with email, watching movies, surfing the web, or, as most of us can attest to; watching porn. Everyone can see this. That’s just waaaay more trust than I can muster.

My thief magnet

My thief magnet

Any time I’m on my computer, I’m always in the bunk area. Now during the daytime, I do leave the front curtains wide open to let some light in. But at night, I shut them tighter than a frog’s bunghole. Why? Take a look at that picture. That’s why. As many of you know, I gush on-and-on about my beloved MacBook Pro. God is #1 in my life. The Evil Overlord and my Mac are fighting it out for the #2 spot. Anyway, I’m not about to prop my glowing-like-the-full-moon Apple up on my steering wheel where everyone can see. That’s because even Apple-haters know that Macs are more valuable than the average PC. This is not Apple fanboyism. This is fact. At some point, I’m going to have to get out of the truck for something. And some trucker who is watching is going to know it. I faced something similar to this the other morning.

I was at the Flying J just north of Houston, TX and I was jonesing for a shower. I pulled my front curtain closed, packed my shower bag with fresh duds, and headed towards the truck stop. As usual I could see truckers who saw me vacating the truck. Some were in their trucks while others were walking about. That’s when the crazy-eyed guy approached me.

He was a thin black man in his late 50’s. He was dressed kind of ratty and he had that eye condition where you couldn’t tell what he was looking at. His left eye appeared to be fascinated with the cloud structure over my right shoulder, while his right eye appeared to be checking to see if my shirt had pit-stains under my left arm. He pointed at my truck and said, “Did you just come out of that truck?” Since I knew he just saw me get out of it, I warily said, “Uhhhh… yeah.” He went on, “Do you need any help today? I can help unload trucks and stuff.” My thought was, “Yeah, I’ll bet you’ll unload my truck.” I politely declined the offer and we went our separate ways. Just as Journey had. sings – How we touched and went our Separate Ways.

Well, like I said, The Evil Overlord has rubbed her non-trusting mojo onto me. Normally, I like it when she rubs on me, but not in this case. 😉 I soon paused, hidden by the nose of a Peterbilt. It wasn’t hard to remain unseen, as you could hide a moose behind one of those friggin’ hoods. I watched him as he walked off. He kept glancing backward and all around. Was he looking for someone else to help, or was he remembering where my truck was? He finally vanished around the end of the line of trucks. I started to walk on in to the truck stop, but I paused. Something was nagging me. I couldn’t get over the thought of having all my crap stolen when I could have prevented it. What if this were the time that I was too trusting? So I did something I rarely do. I went back and packed up all my valuable crap. And since my fully-crammed shower and computer bags weigh about 90 tons and I was parked in the back of the parking lot, I’m counting that as a daily workout. I have gone to this extreme a few other times when some seedy-looking character was walking around the parking lot. I like to say; trust, but don’t be naïve.

Well, in the end, I should have trusted old crazy-eyed Joe. I later saw him approaching other drivers outside the doors of the truck stop. If he had broken into my truck, at least he was nice enough to lock it back up and leave my clothes and my ratty old tennis shoes behind. That was very thoughtful of him.

Personally, I’m kinda baffled about this whole Honor Among Truckers thing. On one hand, it gives me the warm pink fuzzies to know that we truckers trust each other so much, especially considering the circumstances that we’re in. It shows a trust in our fellow man that doesn’t exist in this world much nowadays. But that still doesn’t mean I’m going to trust anyone that might even remotely be eyeballing my MacBook Pro. You can have The Evil Overlord though. There. Priorities set. 😉

TD88: Guest Post: You Can’t See America From The Trucker’s Lounge. By Kevin McKague

Hey there, folks. Todd here piping in with a few words before we get started with today’s guest post. As many of you already know, I use my blog as a venue to share my thoughts about things related to trucking. I save the deep, insightful, well-researched articles for those other Web sites. But every once in a while, I want to cover a subject that I know precisely diddly-squat about. This is one of those times.

[box]Listen to the audio version above and subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.
Or enter http://abouttruckdriving.com/truckerdump.xml into your favorite podcast app.
Download the intro/outro songs for free! courtesy of Walking On Einstein
Mystery Feedback Song – Only a cheater would click this before listening to the podcast! You aren’t a cheater, are you?[/box]

After following the adventures of Kevin McKague on his Twitter account, I approached him for the job of covering for my ignorance of exploring as a trucker. He rose to the challenge. Not only did he turn out a heck of a blog post, but he’s also one of those nice guys on Twitter who can make you laugh, even if you totally disagree with the subject of the tweet. That’s a rare thing, so if you all aren’t following @KevinofMI on Twitter, you should start cutting yourself in shame right now. Or you could just click the link and avoid the inevitable pain. I hear blood stains are a bear to get out of clothing.

Since I’m a lazy bum who rarely goes exploring, I doubt I’ll be back after his post with any of my own thoughts. After reading this post, I will say that I felt more of a desire to see what I’ve been missing all these years. I’m not sure if I’ll follow up with any action, but hey, at least it tempted me. Maybe one day I’ll go out on a limb and try something I’ve heard about in the past. I think they call it “taking a walk” or something like that. I trust that y’all will enjoy this guest post as much as I did. So with that, I’ll shut my turkey-hole. Take it away, Kevin.

You Can’t See America from the Trucker’s Lounge

By Kevin McKague

I became a truck driver in my mid-thirties, after years of hating my career in retail management. I wanted a job that offered more security, that could withstand the ups and downs of economic tides, and that couldn’t be outsourced. Most of all, I wanted more adventure. I had always loved to travel, but I didn’t enjoy the kind of travel arranged by travel agents and tour guides. I love spontaneity, and the serendipitous moments of finding things you didn’t know existed. I love getting on a highway and literally taking the road you’ve never taken, just to see where it went.

I often run into drivers who believe that it is impossible to really enjoy a spontaneous travel experience while behind the wheel of an 18-wheeler. While it’s true that many places are off limits to us, (you won’t find truck parking or any truck routes to the Grand Canyon or the Statue of Liberty) you can find plenty of adventure if you are willing to walk a few blocks from the truck stop Subway shop. These opportunities are not hard to find, if you want to find them. In the days before smart phones, I would simply consult my Rand-McNally truck atlas, and start walking towards the closest interesting looking town or neighborhood whenever I was stuck in a truck stop for 34 hours. Today, there are apps for that! By the way, the Google Maps mobile apps include a lot of trails, and the “directions for bikers/pedestrians button” can point you towards them. Or if you don’t have a mobile device, AllTrails.com is an excellent way to find places to explore.

Western Maryland Rail Trail
Photo by Kevin McKague

One of my favorite stops along my current dedicated run is the Western Maryland Rail Trail in Hancock, Maryland; just off of exit 3 on I-70. Park at the Liberty Truck Stop, and walk across the street to the C+0 park entrance. You can also access the trail at exit 12. Look for the brown traffic signs by the side of the freeway stating “Rail-Trail access”. There you will find over 20 beautiful miles of paved trails built on a former rail line that travels along the Potomac River. I carry an inexpensive bike in the passenger seat of my truck for such a location (see the picture at the top of the post). The trail has plenty of wild life, in fact, twice while riding I’ve been joined by deer that have come right up to me when I wasn’t looking. One fawn ran alongside me for a few yards and then sped off into the woods as soon as I looked directly at him.

Casinos offer another opportunity for side trips. Even if you don’t like gambling, many casinos offer truck parking and shuttle buses. The drivers of these busses, by the way, don’t know or care if you don’t actually stay in the casino. Once during an extended layover in Moline, Illinois, I took advantage of a shuttle offered by the Rhythm City Casino in Davenport, Iowa, just across the Mississippi River. There I found walking and biking trails that followed the river, and crossed over in two spots allowing you to shop and eat in two states. The Davenport casino is also within walking distance of Modern Woodmen Park, the home of Minor League Baseball’s Quad Cities River Bandits, an affiliate of the Houston Astros.

The Ameristar Casino in St. Charles, Missouri offers truck parking, and while walking nearby I noticed that the parking lot is right next to the Katy Trail, another rail-trail that runs across nearly the entire width of Missouri. To the south of the casino is a nice wooded area with smaller dirt pedestrian trails that remind me of something Huck Finn would’ve found comfortable. Just to the north about a block is the historic city of St. Charles, with some good food and interesting architecture. Next to the Missouri River in town is a sign marking the location of an early campsite of the Lewis and Clark expedition. I don’t normally gamble, but the casino offers free fountain drinks inside (DIET COKE? Yes, please), and a cool Dean Martin themed slot machine that plays “Ain’t that a kick in the head” when you win.

In 2011, just a few days after we killed Bin Laden, I visited the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The official memorial site had not been built yet, but was completed in time for the 10 year anniversary of 9/11, and I’ve been told that trucks are still allowed in on weekdays. As always, I would recommend that you call first to make sure this policy hasn’t changed before making the trip in. The roads to the site from the Pennsylvania Turnpike are legal for trucks, but depending on which way you come in, some are very hilly and challenging for those with heavy loads. If you’re comfortable with dropping your trailer, there is a truck stop with a big lot in Somerset, at exit 110, (look for the National Memorial signs off of the turnpike) so you can bobtail in. Somerset also has plenty of good restaurants and some nice architecture. I recommend the Summit Diner, on 791 North Center Avenue, just a short walk away from the truck stop. If you feel comfortable approaching the subject with strangers, most of the people in Somerset and the surrounding areas have stories about what they saw the day when the world almost literally fell on them; 9/11.

Don’t forget to consider using mass transit when you can. Los Angeles offers a $5 pass which allows you to travel any city bus or subway (yes, LA has subways, who knew?) for the entire day. Early in my driving career, while stuck near Commerce City, a simple call to the LA Metro office got me all of the info I needed to get a map and make my way down to Long Beach. There I found plenty of nice restaurants, shopping, and beautiful boats to look at down by the docks. The beach there is sandy and clean, and it’s a good spot to have a picnic lunch while watching boats and tourists. From Long Beach I went up to Hollywood to look at the Walk of Fame. Like the casinos, Hollywood was never on any of my lists of things to do or places to visit, but once I got there I had a blast.

Now that the T/A Travel Center in Nashville, Tennessee has been re-built after that devastating flood in 2010, you can park there, walk across the pedestrian bridge, and visit one of the nicest, most entertaining cities in America. Even if you’re like me and don’t like Country music, it’s quite a different thing to see an up-and-coming artist live. By all means, just walk into the first bar that has live music drifting out of the door. Many of these shows are free. (Stick to the Diet Coke, you have to drive in the morning.) The library has a nice art display and will allow non-residents to use their computers and Internet. The State Capitol allowed me to roam freely when I was there. I wandered onto the House floor and into the Supreme Court Library. Ask the guard about the marble staircase handrail with the bullet hole. I won’t ruin the story for you, but let’s just say there is more than one way to stop a filibuster.

The key here is to expect the unexpected, and look for adventure each and every time an opportunity presents itself. Use your smart phone apps, and maybe keep an extra fully charged battery with you in case you get lost. The older I get, the more I have come to understand that the sayings that sounded like silly clichés when we were young are true. You truly only live once. While you’re sitting in a truck stop listening to drivers complain about the same things you heard drivers complain about in the last truck stop, eating yet another Subway sandwich and watching another repeat of Law and Order, you could be discovering something.

By the way, what is it with Law and Order? Is there a 24/7 Law and Order channel? Does the Department of Transportation actually require that Law and Order play non-stop in every single truck stop in America? But I digress.

This is a beautiful country we live in, my friends, it would be a shame to only see it from the freeways.

Kevin McKague is a father of three and a truck driver, and is probably somewhere between Flint, Michigan and Baltimore, Maryland at this very moment. He is a recovering elected official, having briefly served on the Davison, Michigan, city council. He is a media junkie, a social-media addict, avid reader, traveler, and optimist. He does not want to buy anything from you. He can be found online at Twitter.com/KevinofMI, at Flickr (http://flic.kr/ps/wg49J), and his Instagram ID is Kevin_McKague.

Photo by Kevin McKague

TD83: A Trucker Visits Carhenge

As a trucker for nearly 15 years, I’ve traveled all across the United States and parts of Canada. Along the way I’ve had the opportunity to explore many things. Yet, for the most part, I haven’t. Why not? Well, it basically comes down to one thing: I can be a lazy tightwad when I put my mind to it.

[box]Listen to the audio version above and subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.
Or enter http://abouttruckdriving.com/truckerdump.xml into your favorite podcast app.
Download the intro/outro songs for free! courtesy of Walking On Einstein
Mystery Feedback Song – Only a cheater would click this before listening to the podcast! You aren’t a cheater, are you?[/box]

You see, I drive a truck to earn a living, not to have fun. Every time I’ve tried to go exploring, it ended up costing me a fortune. Like that time The Evil Overlord (the wife and ex-codriver) and I went into Portland, Oregon when our company couldn’t find us a load. The cab fare to and from downtown was almost $40. The meal we had at Jake’s Famous Crawfish was unbelievably awesome, but it set us back over $100. By the way, The Evil Overlord and I both highly recommend the Halibut stuffed with Brie.

Another time, we were stuck in Salt Lake City for five days due to the combination of a broken air conditioner, a holiday weekend, and a bonehead who ordered a wrong part. Long story there. There’s another venue for that. Again, The Evil Overlord wanted to go sight-seeing. Another expensive meal or two (not so great this time), a car rental, and a trip to the zoo, aquarium, and lots of other places I have no recollection of, and we spent nearly as much as we would have made if we’d have been driving all week. Had The Evil Overlord not been there, I’d have ordered a couple of pizzas and glued the remote control to my hand. That’s just how I roll.

Again, my point is that I spend 2-4 weeks on the road to make money, not spend it. And that’s what I choose to do. If you choose otherwise, you could see a lot of cool junk as a truck driver. You’ve just got to be motivated enough to do it and be willing to spend the dough. Your call.

Now having said all that, sometimes an opportunity just presents itself. That’s what happened when I found myself out in the middle of freakin’ nowhere in Nebraska. As if Nebraska itself isn’t in the middle of freakin’ nowhere. Anyway, I saw the signs for Carhenge long before I got there. Somewhere in the back of my amoeba-sized brain, I recalled the name and remembered reading about it somewhere. So what to do? Should I stop or not? For a change of pace, I had plenty of time on the load. Hmmmm. . .

Ultimately, I decided that I wasn’t going to go out of my way to see it. Yea, I know; surprise, surprise. If it wasn’t within viewing distance of the road, or it was, but the parking looked tight, I’d drive right on by. In other words, if I had to put any effort whatsoever into this little endeavor, I was going to pass. As fate would have it, the parking lot was empty and it was right on the main thoroughfare.

I ended up being there for 45 minutes. Not because the place was so interesting, but because I thought I’d finally reach into the depths of my soul and explore my artsy-fartsy side. This is something that @darkstaff, @alanqbristol, and @DriverChrisMc have been trying to get me to do for a long time. I don’t really have an eye for that sort of thing, but I figured I’d give it a shot. Here’s what I came up with.

The video was shot with a Flip Mino HD and all the pictures were taken with my iPhone 3GS (the one with the older, crappier camera). The pictures were all taken and edited using the Camera+ app, which totally rocks, by the way.

The music is a song called “Segue Jazz” from the band Walking On Einstein. You can find it on the “Commoners Among The Masses” album. They are from the Joplin, MO area and I went to high school with the drummer and bass player. Although the band is no longer playing, I love ’em and still listen to their stuff all the time. Let me know what you think.