team trucking

TD123: Advice For New Truckers: Part 1

The podcast version (at the top) covers both Part 1 and Part 2.

Today’s post is dedicated to you new truckers out there. Perhaps you’ve been driving for a few months already or maybe you’re sitting at a desk at a truck driving school right now.

If that’s the case then WAKE UP! Sorry about that. Just wanted to make sure you were awake in case you just got done watching one of those action-packed HazMat safety videos. If you’ve seen it already, then you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, be sure to stock up on some Kleenex before it starts. You’ll need them to wipe the drool off your table when it’s over.

This advice is not the stuff your instructor is teaching you right now. These are all things I wish I would’ve known when I started out; lessons you will undoubtedly learn over time. The problem is, you’re just going to make yours and everyone else’s lives miserable until you learn it. And honestly, since Im going to be sharing a road with you soon, I’m thinking you can save me some hair-pulling by you having an open mind for a few minutes.

Besides, the transmission in your training truck could probably use a break from all that incessant grinding. Don’t deny it. I heard it two states away. LOL So let’s get started.

But since I’m getting ready to impart some old dude trucker wisdom on you, perhaps I should tell you where I’m coming from first. That way you don’t think I’ve only been driving for six months or that I’m some pencil-pushing, desk-jockey blowhard. Man, that’s a mouthful.

About the author

My name is Todd McCann was sitting in a driving school just like you are now in the summer of 1997. I’ve been a company driver the entire time, meaning I have never, nor have I desired to, own my own truck. My wife of over 20 years, who my listeners fondly know as The Evil Overlord, was my co-driver for nine years, but I have been doing the solo thing ever since.

For the record, not only does she know I call her The Evil Overlord, but she highly approves, largely because she knows it’s true. For just a small sample of how she’s earned that nickname, check out TD 100: What Makes The Evil Overlord Evil?

I’m also the author of two ebooks; How To Find a Great Truck Driving Job and Trucking Life: An Entertaining, Yet Informative Guide To Becoming And Being A Truck Driver, which I’m well aware probably sets a new Guiness World’s record for “longest tagline used in the title of a book.” I’ve also been blogging and podcasting since 2009.

Thank you for becoming a trucker

First off, let me just say thank you for entering the trucking industry. The job can be as frustrating as a getting behind an old lady in the Walmart checkout line who is writing a check for $7 worth of cat food; but it can also be as rewarding as the feeling you get when you punch that old lady in the face. Okay, seriously. Punching old ladies is uncool. An old man, however, is fair game. What? 😉

Take a look around you right now and think about this. Every product in this room has likely been hauled on a truck at one point or
another. It’s an important job that largely goes unthanked. So let me be among the first to thank you for becoming a key part in America’s economy. Now don’t you feel proud?

Tell you what; after class today, head to your nearest Dairy Queen and treat yourself to a Banana Split Blizzard, which, I might add, is only made possible by a trucker who delivered fresh fruit and delicious ice cream.

And by the way, that “turning it upside down” thing they do with the Blizzard is complete magic. We truckers have nothing to do with that. Although I can’t count how many times I wish I could Expelliarmus the steering wheel out of some annoying soccer mom’s hands. Grrr. Anywho…

New Trucker Concerns

Let me first address a few concerns I know I had as a rookie trucker.

Quit sweating the road test at your first company

Trust me here; any trucking company that is willing to hire you straight out of school, doesn’t expect you to be perfect. In fact, they’d be outright shocked if you didn’t hunt for and grind few gears. And you’ll have to pick their jaw up off the floor if you nail the backing test with only one pull-up.

And if it makes you feel any better, I’ve been driving for over 20 years and I still grind a few gears here and there and I often have to pull up more than once to back straight into a dock. Let’s keep that between us. My company things I’m perfect. Pssssshhhhht!!!

Don’t weird out about the training process at your first company

Nearly every modern trucker has to go through this process. Yes, it sucks worse than bringing armed with a pea shooter during a zombie apocalype, but you aren’t the first to go through it and you won’t be the last. Here are a few tips to help you get the most of your training.

Stand up for yourself

No matter how confident of a person you normally are, that all seems to go out the window when you get in the truck with your trainer at your first company. I know from my own personal experience that I felt I was going to let down my trainer if I didn’t do exactly as he said.

I also felt I had no input in how things were done. I was wrong. Again, this can lead even the most confident person to humble themselves and get walked all over.

For example, I talked to one young man who had recently finished training, who said that his trainer would tell him to pull over on an exit ramp where he would proceed to go into the bunk area and make himself a sandwich or a bowl of soup or something.

Never once did the trainer offer him any space in his cooler or suggest where there might be a truck stop with food nearby. Basically, this rookie would go entire days without eating, all because he thought he would look weak for speaking up. Uncool.

In another case, a female driver told me that her trainer only allowed her to take one shower during her three-week training period. Ewwww. I asked her why she tolerated that and she said she
just thought that’s how it was done and she didn’t want to disappoint him.

I should point out that things like these won’t happen all the time with every trainer. My trainer was awesome, while The Evil Overlord nicknamed her trainer, “She-Devil.” So you can imagine how well that went. For full details on that story, check out the Training chapter of Trucking Life. It’s really all luck-of-the-draw.

There’s just no getting around it. Being stuck in a truck with a complete stranger for a few weeks sucks harder than a kid with a milkshake and one of those Krazy Straws. Just remember, it’s only a few weeks.

Avoid being used as a money-making machine

There is one thing that happens in training way more often than it should. Trainers often get paid by the mile for all miles run, so quite often they’ll use their trainee as a team driver instead of teaching them how to drive, which, of course they are supposed to be doing.

Again, the trainee feels like they are not getting trained properly, yet they are afraid to say anything to the trainer or the company about it.

I should point out that it is standard practice to eventually work into a team-operation during the training process. The problem is when you start out that way.

In the beginning, your trainer should be in the front seat next you, talking you through rough situations, and just generally being a second pair of eyes. As each day goes by, you should be driving a bit more until eventually you’re driving while your trainer is sleeping (and vice versa). It’s a good way to build up your driving stamina.

Lady drivers beware

Here’s something to be aware of, ladies. There have been documented cases where male trainers have convinced female trainees that they are not going to give them a passing grade unless they sleep with them. And it has worked!

Yes, I know that sounds totally bizarre in this day and age of lady power and all, but there was a highly-publicized story about this atrocity a few years back when this was happening regularly at a particular trucking company. Someone eventually had the hutzpah (hoot-spuh) to report them, thank God. Once again, there’s just something about the intimacy of sharing truck space with someone that leads trainees to accept conditions they shouldn’t.

Address the issues

So here’s my advice to all of you. Overcome your fears of looking weak and stand up for yourself. As my 8-year old nephew once boldy proclaimed as he smacked his tiny little chest, “I’m a MAN, baby!” The company is not going to fire you for requesting the things you need.

If you’re hungry, ask your trainer where you can stop to eat. You may not get a shower every day (welcome to trucking), but there have honestly only been a handful of times in my 20+ year career that I haven’t been able to manage a shower at least every other day.

Basically, if you have any problem with the way you are being trained, tell your trainer. If you want them to sit in front to help you more, tell them. And for Pete’s sake ladies, if your male trainer barrages you with sexual innuendo, outright flirting, or worse, tell them you don’t appreciate it and not to do it again. If any problems persist, call your company’s training department and tell them what’s going on.

If they don’t do anything about it, call your recruiter back and tell them to put you in touch with someone who will. Either that or quit and find a new job. Seriously, if they don’t respond to your concerns, you don’t want to work for these sphincter-holes anyway.

Health and fitness

This is such an important, yet often ignored by truckers. Start out right by following these guidelines.

Get some exercise

The trucking lifestyle is not a healthy one. You’re sitting on your keister most of the day and are often working wonky schedules that don’t always allow a lot of time for exercising.

Not to mention that after driving 11 hours, the last thing you’re thinking is, “Hmmm, what strenuous activity can I do that will lift my heart rate and wear me out?” I don’t know about you, but my thoughts in that situation lean more towards wanting to curl up next to a chicken fried steak and passing out with some of that yummy dried gravy still stuck to my cheek.

Do yourself a favor and instead of squeezing into those skinny jeans that clearly don’t fit, try squeezing in a few minutes of exercise at least three times a week. I don’t always manage it either, but at least I have the consciousness to feel guilty about it when I fail. And make sure you do this from the very beginnning of your trucking career, or else you’ll never get started.

Eat healthy and save money

Speaking of chicken fried steak, your eating habits are the other half of this health issue. My advice to you is to stock up on food at a grocery store and eat in your truck as much as possible. This will help in two ways: you can eat healthier and you can save a lot of money.

In my ever-so-humble (but always correct) opinion, one of the best things you can do early in your career is buy an ice chest, a thermocooler, or if you can afford one, a refrigerator/freezer unit for your truck.

Sure, you can find healthy options at most any restaurant, but let’s be honest; the unhealthy options almost always look more appealing than a chicken breast or a salad. Why tempt yourself? Go to the grocery store, stock up on healthier options, and stay out of the restaurants.

The other aspect I mentioned is that doing this will save you a lot of money, which should make you and the rest of your family happy. Lots of truckers eat at restaurants for every meal. With the average meal (including tip) being $12-15, these drivers are spending up to $300 on food each week!

I simply don’t know how these truckers do that and still have any money left to send home. Hmmmm… maybe that’s why the divorce rate is so high among truckers?

Now let’s compare that to eating in the truck. For breakfast, I typically have instant oatmeal or a frozen burrito. Well, it’s not frozen after I microwave it.

Lunch might consist of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and some Cheetos, and dinner involves a can of soup or a frozen dinner. Total cost? Probably about $10 per day. That’s less than a third of the cost of eating in restaurants! Sure you might spend a bit less if you eat fast food instead of sit-down restaurants for every meal, but I’m still always shocked how easy it is to drop $9-10 at Arby’s.

What’s that? I can hear what you thinking, “Wait just a cotton-pickin’ minute! Since when are Cheetos healthy?!” You’re right, but at least
I can control my portion size this way. If I order a big meal in a restaurant I know I’m going to eat it all (and possibly lick the plate clean), mostly because I’m the world’s biggest cheapskate and I’m bound and determined to enjoy last calorie of the money I just spent.

Road munchies

One last thing about eating right. Do not, I repeat DO NOT keep unhealthy foods in your truck! And if you do, definitely don’t keep them in reach of the driver’s seat. I keep fresh fruit, raisins, yogurt, or cheese sticks at hand for the road munchies.

I admit it, I’m weaker than Popeye the Sailor Man before he eats his spinach. If I look in the passenger seat and see an apple and my beloved bag of Cheetos, I’m going to have those yummy, cheesy, suckable fingertips every time.

To be continued…

This article was well over 5000 words so I decided to split it into two parts. Lord knows we all have the attention span of a meth addict nowadays. Part two takes a more “hands on trucking” approach, so go check it out if you’ve got some more time to kill.

Please share your advice to new truckers by leaving a comment below.

Podcast Show Notes:

TD110: Jabbering With Jared includes an interview I did with nephew Jared after he rode in the truck with me. Some good laughs here!

Jewel Jones is @JewelJonesIRL on Twitter

Check out the videos from trucker BukWildTrucking on YouTube

Australian country artist Jayne Denham performed at the TA/Petro truck parking community at GATS. She sang her #1 hit, Addicted To The Diesel as well as her new release called Stacks. Check out the links for the YouTube videos.

I was interviewed at GATS by Rachel Folkenroth from AllTruckJobs.com.

The interview aired on Episode 7 of a new podcast called Big Rig Banter, hosted by Troy Diffenderfer and Connor Smith. It’s a fun podcast from AllTruckJobs.com that is informative and very well produced. Check it out by following the links above.

AllTruckJobs.com put out a funny 80s-style workout video for truckers. You don’t want to miss Troy Thunder BRING THE THUNDER!!!

Check out this story from The TruckersReport.com of a 23-year-old trucker who wiped out a 6-ton historic bridge.

Check out the photos and read the story of a trucker who destroyed a 3-ton bridge in his 30-ton truck.

TheTruckersReport.com story of mandatory speed limiters being scrapped. Thank God!

@OhTruckThat tweeted this excellent video from OOIDA (Owner-Operator’s Independent Driver’s Association) about the effects of speed limiters

FleetOwner.com did a story on platooning.

Ice Cold Justice is a story from TheTruckersReport.com about a thief who was locked inside a refrigerated trailer. Serves him right!

Check out my YouTube video rant about an anal retentive customer.

It’s not too late to enter the drawing for the Meritor jacket!

TD100: What Makes The Evil Overlord Evil? explains how my wife got her nickname.

TD66: Truckers Go Turtle Racing goes into great detail about how you can keep from impeding traffic out on the interstate. It’s one of my favorite episodes and something that every trucker should hear.

TD107: The Fuel Bay Golden Rule covers the proper etiquette for the fuel bay area.

Links in the feedback section:

An anonymous ex Over-The-Road trucker (email said Bluegrass Cellular) writes in to thank me for producing the podcast. You’re welcome, man!

Fullofit (Steve) has been binge listening and comments on a range of topics. So you can blame him for the next few links.
TD74: Doing Dallas
TD67: The Road To Smutville
TD31: Is Forced Dispatch Forced?
TD66: Truckers Go Turtle Racing

Renae Savage is one of the newest members of the Trucker Dump Slack group. She has comments on
TD93: The Driver’s Seat Phenomenon, but she’s also started her own blog at Truck Driving Woman. She finishes up by asking me why I write books, blog, and podcast if I’ve been trying to get out of trucking forever. I answer as best as I can.

My singing isn’t as good as it used to be, but I still have fun on Singsnap.com.

Show info:

You can email your comments, suggestions, questions, or insults to 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?

TD110: Jabbering With Jared

[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]

Jared New Mexico 1Well, it’s been over three months since my last post. If you want to hear my excuses, click the Play button above. If you don’t want to hear it, then be thankful that you’re a reader instead of a podcast listener. 🙂

On the down side, I’m giving you very little to read here today. This is an interview I did with my nephew Jared after he spent two weeks in July trapped in my truck. There isn’t a whole lot of trucking content in this post, but we had a lot of fun recording it none-the-less.

The audio below contains the interview alone. The audio at the top of the page is the full Trucker Dump podcast with the interview, my other ramblings, and reader/listener feedback. So if you’ve ever considered giving the podcast a try, now might be the time to do it (if you want a hint at what you’re missing, look at the podcast show notes listed at the bottom of this page). Your choice though.

I’ve also posted all of my video from the Segway tour we took in Denver. Peruse at your leisure. I’ve also posted some of the photos from the trip over on Flickr if you’ve got nothing better to do.

Have a listen and tell me what you think of the first ever interview on the Trucker Dump.

Additional links from the podcast version:

Erich McMann’s new video for the song Trucker Country

I’ve been doing some writing for TruckerMagazine.com for the last few months. Check it out!

Check out the new AboutTruckDriving.com header and the new Trucker Dump logo and header

A much younger Jared shows off his Gangnam Style dance moves while The Evil Overlord and I guffaw in the background. We really lose it around the 3:00 mark.

Pictures from being on the road with Jared

In the Feedback section:

Clive @Clive_Hammett gives us an Apple Watch tip

Ken has a comment about TD107: The Fuel Bay Golden Rule

I mention my Google+ page, which I’m rarely on.

Greg sends an audio comment about his fuel bay experiences and tells us about a cool product called the Slushbuster. He also asks my opinion about carrying weapons in the truck.

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.

 

TD102: What’s It Like To Be A Trucker?

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Snowy RoadWell, I’m doing something a bit different today. I’m not writing anything here. I’m simply linking you to another bit of writing I did a while back. This was an interview I did for JobShadow.com. It has produced a lot of good comments from the readers so I’d thought I’d share it with those of you who are just too stinking lazy to go over there on your own. So if you want to know what it’s like to be a trucker, click here and enjoy. Or if you’d rather listen to the podcast version, which includes a lot of the comments and the answers I’ve given, just click that big ol’ Play button in that big black bar at the top of this post.

Click here to go to the JobShadow.com interview.

TD101: Stupid Rules That Truckers Tolerate

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

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

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

Stupid rules caused by stupid truckers

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

Dock accidents

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overkill dock safety practices

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Hy Ryan

Photo by Hy Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

Other miscellaneous stupid customer rules

One of many stupid customer rules

One of many stupid customer rules

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[hr]

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

TD100: What Makes The Evil Overlord… Evil?

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The Evil Overlord having lunch on a typical day

The Evil Overlord having lunch on a typical day

Y’all aren’t fooling me, you know. I’ve known it all along. The fact is, you don’t come to the Trucker Dump blog to hear my “…insights and sometimes humorous views of truck driving and the trucking industry.” You come hoping to hear some little morsel about the mysterious life of The Evil Overlord. Now I’ve tried to tell you she’s evil, but there are always doubters who assume I’m exaggerating. Well, I’m devoting my 100th blog post to satisfy us both. You will finally get to learn more about The Evil Overlord and I will once and for all prove that The Evil Overlord is in fact… evil.

For those of you new to the blog, The Evil Overlord is my wife of 20 years and my co-driver for 9 of those. Her real name is Lorinda, but this presents a problem. Having an odd name like Lorinda lends itself to people screwing it up. She’s been called Loren, Loranda, Lorinna, Loreena, LaManda, LaLinda, Dorinda, and every other name you can imagine that sounds even remotely close. People even say it wrong when they’re reading her name from a sheet of paper, for Pete’s sake. I just can’t fathom what’s so hard about it, but there you have it. I guess I’ll just chock it up to the fact that people can be dumber than a head of lettuce.

Perhaps a bigger problem is for kids. I first recognized this back when we were dating (before I realized she actually was The Evil Overlord… had I known at the time… hmmm). Our best friends at the time had a little girl who adored her. She’d sit in her lap for hours and stroke Lorinda’s hair, but she never could say her name right. No matter how hard we tried, it always came out as Ralinda. It was so cute though, we eventually just went with it.

Years later, after The Evil Overlord’s title was spawned, our nephews couldn’t pronounce it either. The first one, Jake, called her LaLeigh and it stuck with Jared and Joel too. I guess it’s just way easier to say with a mouthful of slobber. But now that the brats are 14, 12, and 8, and have graduated to actual human speech filled with what they perceive to be quick wit, they have taken to calling her LaFawndah (although she prefers to spell it LaFonda), which for those of you chained up in a basement, is a character in the movie, Napoleon Dynamite, which, by the way, is a hilarious quirky little movie. And for the record, The Evil Overlord is neither tall nor black, but apparently she is attracted to nerds.

There are only three categories of people who manage to call The Evil Overlord, Lorinda. One group are the peeps who know her casually. The second is the three lonely people she’s met in her 29 years cough who share the same name. The other, even smaller group did the nasty once and hatched her. Although her dad still insists that her real dad is in prison.

So enough about her name. She knows I call her The Evil Overlord and she embraces it wholeheartedly. It’s especially satisfying to her when the nephews call her that after she’s done something particularly evil. Which leads us nicely into the subject of today’s topic.

What exactly makes The Evil Overlord…evil?

Let’s start with the origin of the name.

When The Evil Overlord first wakes up, she can be as cranky as a centipede with bunions

I knew this by the time we were married. But I didn’t know the extent of it until she became my co-driver. Almost every afternoon when I’d holler back to her that it was time to get up, I’d hear a loud “NOOOOO!!!” Or perhaps I might be told to go someplace that is a lot hotter than heaven. The amount of curse words associated with this refusal to get up usually corresponded to the quality of the highways I’d driven that day. She usually stayed grumpy until she got a shower, which meant that the days we had to skip showers were never much fun. To this day, no one wants to wake her up… ever. And if you don’t believe how vicious she can be in the morning, just come over to my house and look at my three nephews sitting quietly on the couch until The Evil Overlord gets out of bed. Trust me. The only time they aren’t loud and obnoxious is when LaFonda is still asleep. Speaking of being in the truck…

I once woke up with a pillow on my face

Seriously, she was laughing maniacally as she held me down. She’s tried to convince me it was all in fun, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be alive if I weren’t just a tad bit stronger than her. 😉 Come to think of it, that might have been right around the time I bought that life insurance policy. And speaking of my head…

The Evil Overlord likes to drop stuff on my face while I’m sleeping 

The cooler lid that "accidentally" fell on me

The cooler lid that “accidentally” fell on me

It started innocently enough. When we were shut down for the day in the truck, I often went up on the top bunk to sleep so we could keep our driving schedule intact. Now being a woman, she always brought a bunch of crap that filled up the top bunk. We had a portable freezer/refrigerator (see photo for the exact model) up there along with a couple of large duffle bags, a dirty laundry bag, and I’m pretty sure I saw a fireplace up there once. Anyway, being a typical lazy man, I moved only enough stuff so I could lay down in a space as wide as my shoulders. That meant my head was right by the cooler. One day when she was trying to get something out of it without waking me up, the cooler lid came off its hinges and bonked me right on the forehead. She tried to apologize, but it was kind of hard while she was laughing her butt off. Apparently, my sleepy reaction when hit had been hilarious… at least to some people it was. From then on she would drop stuff on my face every now and then to see how I would react. Granted, I was thankful that it usually consisted of rolls of paper towels, toilet paper, clothing, or the occasional slightly heavier object, like a claw hammer. 😉 Keep in mind, this all comes from someone who hates to be woken up herself. Which brings me to…

She wakes me up for her amusement

If I had a quarter for all the times she’s done this to me, well, let’s just say my retirement fund would be a lot further along than it is. Here’s why she does it. I fall asleep quick. Real quick. She doesn’t. Yes, that is the full reason. If I get in bed five minutes before her, I’m usually snoring like a misfiring chainsaw by the time she walks into the room. She’ll walk over to my side of the bed, smack me on the forehead, and walk away as I’m hazily wondering what the heck just happened. Or if she’s already in bed, she prefers to give me an open-handed slap on the the chest.

She also loves it when she catches me sleeping with my mouth wide open. She thinks it’s fascinating to stick stuff down my throat and try to touch that flappy thingy that hangs down in the back. Naturally, this isn’t a very pleasant way to wake up. If I woke her up like this I’d be picking my teeth out of that little hangy-down flappy thingy.

At one rough period in our lives I was working 1 1/2 jobs and going to school. Because of this I had to sleep in two short shifts. When the mood would strike her, she’d anxiously wake me up and tell me I was late for either work or school, even when I wasn’t. I’d either panic and stumble out of bed or I’d wake up and start talking gibberish about something that wouldn’t even make sense to a mental patient. In the latter case, she would often ask me questions to keep the amusement going. Now if that isn’t evil, what is?

She willfully puts me in danger

Nearly every day in the truck she would make hot tea for one or both of us. She always put it in these styrofoam cups and lids we got by the megabox at Sam’s Club. To test the integrity of the lid’s holding power, she used to tilt the full cup of hot tea over my body while I sat in the driver’s seat. And this wasn’t a slight tilt either. I’d say a 45-degree angle was about par for the course. Thankfully, those lids never gave way. I’d like to take this opportunity to personally thank WinCup for their quality products.

She sics our cat on me

Meet Hammy; our demented, incest cat

Meet Hammy; our demented, incest cat

I’ll admit it. Our cat is a little crazy. Seriously. As in incest crazy. So the cat iiiiiiisn’t quite… right. Hammy is pretty big for a cat, too. And since he’s an outside cat most of the time, he’s super-powerful. The Evil Overlord once watched him jump from the patio railing up onto the roof of the house. It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s SuperCat! But since he’s usually outdoors, he also still has his front claws. One thing The Evil Overlord likes to do is to get him all hopped up on catnip and then put the laser pointer on my junk while I’m not looking. Needless to say, pandemonium ensues.

Now like I said said before, no one still wants to wake her up, even though she doesn’t seem to have a problem doing it to me and my nephews.

More torture while people sleep 

When kids get older, they want to watch scary movies or TV shows. The Evil Overlord is very selective, but she doesn’t mind letting them get a bit spooked. Nothing too gory or anything. Of course, it’s sometimes hard to get them to sleep in a dark room after they’ve been screaming like a bunch of little nieces. Often, just as she gets them calmed down, she starts to close the door and she’ll say something sweet like, “I love you guys… and never mind that werewolf that’s been creeping around outside.” More squeals ensue as the calmness utterly vanishes. Once they’re calmed down again, she’s been known to wait until they’re asleep and then she’ll go back for more jollies. Sometimes, she’ll bust the door open and start yelling through the megaphone the nephews got her for Christmas. I think it’s her favorite Christmas present ever. Other times she’ll just creep in quietly, lie on the floor, and reach up to one of their legs with a hairy, glow-in-the-dark glove with giant claws. Mind you, if you did this to her, you’d think a werewolf actually was in the house.

She just loves to scare kids 

We live waaaaay out in the stix. I mean the road to our house has tree branches over the top of the road and there are trees and bushes on both sides. At night, there isn’t a light in sight. It’s quite creepy really. One time she was in the car with her aunt and 7 year-old cousin. Kyle, who just so happened to be terrified of clowns. Last I heard, he still was and he’s in his twenties now. Well, she stopped suddenly and turned the ignition and lights off, pretending like the car had died. Then she jumped and yelled, “Did you see that clown?!!” Naturally, Kyle started wigging out. The Evil Overlord was sure her aunt would swoop in and stop her child from being tortured, but to her shock, she went right along with it. Needless to say, that kid was scared sh… well, let’s just say he probably didn’t have to poop for a while. As with most kids though, Kyle loved it. The Evil Overlord would often jump out and scare him. After he quit shaking and managed to pull himself off the floor, he’d yell, “DO IT AGAIN!!!!” Kids are weird. When Kyle was a teenager, she bought him an Insane Clown Posse T-shirt to rub the whole thing in.

Another thing she likes to do is wait until all the nephews are in the back of the house with Nanny (their grandma). Now by this time they were used to her jumping out at them and scaring them. So she started turning off the lights. They’ll all creep into the room and she’d always manage to be hiding exactly where they didn’t look. She’d scare the crap out of them and they’d all hate her for the next two minutes, including Nanny. Eventually, they learned to turn on the lights as they entered a room. But since she’s evil, she’s graduated to killing the power on the fuse box. I fully expect this to escalate to the boys carrying flashlights in holstered belts, 24/7.

The Evil Overlord alters the rules at her leisure

She plays the slug bug game, but we can’t punch her any more. She always spouts some nonsense about “boys shouldn’t ever hit girls.” What a crock. 😉 The rules are, she can either punch one of us or give her punches away. Naturally, having the power to issue extra punches tends to get her just about anything she wants. But I’m sure she’s never thought of that before. Pshhhht.

She also determines who can and cannot play the “Infinity” game. And if you try to argue with her verdict, she says, “You can’t play the Infinity game… Infinity.” After she wins a round (and she somehow always manages to win), she pinches the loser HARD. Usually right on the back of the arm. No fair! She’s the only one who’s got fingernails!

Not too long ago, she waited until the little punks were all in bed and under the covers, and then she busted in and unloaded on them with a fully-automatic AirSoft rifle, screaming, “Say hello to my leeeettle friend!” (And for the record, she did make sure they had their head under the blankets.) By the way, did I mention that shooting AirSoft guns in the house is strictly forbidden? Uh-huh. She does all this and we just accept it. And when I say “we,” I’m including myself in this nonsense. I have no clue why we allow this abuse. I think I need to see a shrink.

She tortures the nephews

After taking the boys past an old abandoned house down the road, she told them stories of the werewolves that live in our area. The youngest, who was 5 or 6 at the time, didn’t want to get eaten so The Evil Overlord convinced him he needed to do the wolf dance to appease them. This involved him getting naked, going outside, and running around in a circle three times while howling at the moon. It was a bit chilly outside, but I have video with full frontal to prove he did it. I’d love to post the hysterical video, but I hear the other inmates don’t treat you very well in prison if you post pictures of naked kids online. 😉

Another thing she does happens at Christmas. Ever since the boys were old enough to do it, she has set up a scavenger hunt to find the last of their presents. This is one of their favorite parts, not only because they get to run all over the place, but also because they have to answer a trivia question before they can proceed. Although this year, each member of the family silently acted out a room in the house where their next clue was. As you might expect, my pantomime involved squatting and grunting. Hey, this is called Trucker Dump you know! In the few Christmases that they were all at the right age, they would inevitably have to strip down to their boxers and go outside in the freezing cold (and sometimes snow) to rummage through someone’s car. Hey! It wasn’t our fault if they forgot to take the keys to the locked cars! I’m really not sure why these boys still like Christmas. I guess they’re just weird. Well, scratch that. I know they’re weird.

One of her latest tortures came when our oldest nephew, Jake, had his best friend over. We all got in the car and his friend said, “Play some good music!” Normally this is fine because The Evil Overlord calls herself the Magic DJ, as in, she has a knack for playing the right song for the mood. But in this instance, “All Out Of Love” by Air Supply came on at full blast. As we both sang at full volume, they all covered their ears and screamed like someone was ripping their toenails out. After it was over, they were all groaning about how horrible it was. But they were soon drowned out by the Bee Gees doing “Tragedy.” I have to admit, it was pretty awesome.

Another time, she caught Jake’s friend sleeping with his hand down his pants. She’s holding that picture as blackmail along with the many compromising snapshots of our nephews. By the way, every friend Jake has brought out to the house so far is now totally in love with The Evil Overlord. At least that’s what Jake says. From the embarrassed look on their faces when I ask them if it’s true, I’d say Jake is right.

She’s an intstigator

Any time there are shinannigans in our family, you can bet your little brother’s life that The Evil Overlord is behind it. In the intro to the last podcast, TD99: 4 Ways to Be an Awesome Trucker, you may remember that when I got home on New Year’s Eve, I was attacked by four masked men with AirSoft rifles. Yea. My nephews and their friends didn’t think of that. That was The Evil Overlord’s idea, which, of course was enthustically embraced. And for those you who only read the blog, well, see what you’re missing by not listening to the podcast version? 😉 Hey, it’s not too late. That PLAY button is still hanging out up there at the top of this post.

Another thing she likes to instigate is bathroom cruelty. Now you’d think that me and my three nephews would already be doing this, but oddly enough we never remember to. Never fear though, The Evil Overlord is always happy to remind us that “so-and-so” is in the shower and there is lots of cold water in the kitchen sink. She usually plans well enough in advance to have enough time to suggest ice in the water too. Such a planner, she is. Last time I was home, I doused Joel (the youngest) while he was showering. He was quite pissed at his Nanny for letting me sneak up on him. But as you might have guessed, it’s usually me who’s the victim of these frozen showers. And of course, she’s exempt from this because she’s a girl. The thought of seeing The Evil Overlord naked is petrifying to the boys. And as for me doing the honors, well, personally I like having a sex life.

She preys on people’s stupidity

Any time we step out of the car for any reason, we always have trouble getting back in. We all know this, but we continue to do it. Recently, Jared asked The Evil Overlord to pull over because he left his iPod in the trunk. As soon as he got to the opened truck, she pulled up a few feet. And again. And again. Hey, he knew better. Sometimes she’ll be nice and wait to pull forward until we open the door to get back in. Oddly enough, they all still want her to drive everywhere. Although that could possibly have something to do with me needing to protect my CDL (Commercial Driver’s License), while The Evil Overlord tries to launch the car into outer space on a hilly road or does surprise “brake checks” that test the tensile strength of their seat belts.

But undoubtedly, the best example of her preying on human stupidity happened to yours truly. This story is told at every family gathering and it never fails to bring everyone to hysterics. She’ll actually tell anyone who will listen. Here’s the situation. The Evil Overlord, her dad, and her mom, were waiting for me out in the driveway. Now it’s important to note that they were in her parent’s car. More on why that’s important in a bit.

You know how you do that thing where you hit the interior garage door opener and walk out of the garage before the door closes? Yea. I was gonna do that. Of course, we all know you have to step over the laser beam safety feature so the door doesn’t go back up. Well, I did that like I always did, but the door started going back up. I looked over at them, shrugged, and went back to do it again. This time I ran faster and jumped higher. I was sure I had cleared it, but the door starting rising again. I looked over at them again and this time all of them were looking at me with puzzled faces.

What I didn’t know, was that as soon as The Evil Overlord had seen what I was going to do, she quietly chuckled, turned to her parents and said, “Watch this.” Her dad said, “Watch what?”  She pointed to the garage door opener she held in her lap. Apparently, this brought on fits of laughter from all of them. Now if you know The Evil Overlord’s family, there isn’t a quiet laugher in the bunch. They all laugh with loud guffaws and their heads tossed back, which makes this story even more amazing. Somehow they all managed to subdue their laughter and put on straight faces by the time I made my first jump. But every time I walked back into the garage, they busted up, only to miraculously recover by the time I looked over again.

I just couldn’t understand how I could keep hitting the laser because each time I ran faster and jumped higher, all while ducking low enough to avoid hitting my head on the descending garage door. Well, after the 4th or 5th jump, I eventually smelled a rat. I looked at her with disgust and yelled, “Do you have the garage door opener?!!” The Evil Overlord and her evil parents all looked at me with confusion and then she shook her head “no.”

Now here’s where the stupidity kicks in. I should have known better, but they all looked so serious and concerned that I assumed they were telling the truth. I mean, they weren’t in my pickup truck after all. They were in her parent’s car. Why would they have our garage door opener? And while I could see The Evil Overlord or her dad pulling this kind of prank, I could not see her mom going along with it. I mean, she’s always been on my side before. I still call her a traitor for this incident, which of course, only makes her head toss back with more guffaws of laughter. Traitor.

Well, I’d say my stupidity lasted another 4 or 5 jumps. By the time it was all over, I was trying all sorts of jumping, from curling up in a cannonball position to doing a scissor kick jump like I was trying to clear a high jump pole in a face-down position. I swear at one time my body was completely parallel to the ground, yet that blasted door just kept raising. And I was getting pissed. They somehow managed to keep their composure until the very end when I walked up to the car. Then they busted out. I somehow find this funny now, but I don’t recall thinking that way at the time.

This past Christmas, this fiasco was being told again. Yes, amongst the same people who always hear the story. The nephews were getting a kick out of it too. I tried to play it off when I said, “Yea. That was pretty funny.”
The Evil Overlord said, “You didn’t think it was funny at the time. You called me a mean bitch.” To which I calmly responded, “Well… you are a mean bitch.” More guffaws. For some reason, this struck Jake as particularly funny. He just couldn’t stop laughing, even after everyone else had stopped. I guess that’s what happens when a non-cusser suddenly drops the B-word. I still consider this incident to be the pinnacle of her evil career. Well, there might be one other incident, but it’s far from print-worthy. Even the Trucker Dump won’t go there.

The Evil Overlord is obsessed with people’s butts 

I’ll warn you now. There is something wrong with The Evil Overlord’s family. Every time anyone bends over in front of her, you hear the words “CREDIT CARD SWIPE” as you feel a straight-fingered hand swipe up your butt crack. Trust me, while the credit card swipe sucks, it’s much better than the old-style “jab your finger straight at it” move. The woman always had a surprising ability to hit the “sweet spot” on the first jab. I always felt like I needed to file a police report after each instance. Apparently, she learned this violation of personal space from her mother and is merely passing on a tradition. And for the record, I don’t think anyone is exempt from the credit card swipe. She’s done it to the boys, her cousin, her aunt and uncle, me, my sister, my brother, and even my mom, who was quite surprised when it happened. Frankly, I don’t know why that shocked her since she’s known The Evil Overlord for over 20 years. About the only one who isn’t subjected to the dreaded credit card swipe is her dad, because, well, let’s face it… no one wants to get any where near his butt. Speaking of butts…

She doesn’t allow farting around her

Believe it or not; she is actually evil enough to be able to enforce this rule… with three boys in the house (four if you count the 45 year-old boy). Whenever one of us has to let one fly, we always go into another room. And we’re also careful to make sure it doesn’t follow us back into the room either. Sure, there’s more methane in the air than on a cattle farm when she’s not around (boys will be boys), but we’re also always careful not to do it when we know she’s almost home. That’s because she can smell a 5-minute-old air biscuit as soon as she walks into a room. Seriously. Now in her defense, she doesn’t have this rule just to be cruel. She just so happens to be one of those “super-smeller” people who’s sniffer is about 10 times as strong as the average bloodhound. And of course, this rule doesn’t apply to her either. She’s more than happy to bust one in our faces when none of us are expecting it.

Now if all of this hasn’t convinced you of The Evil Overlord’s evilness, perhaps you’ll believe it coming straight from the horse’s mouth. I’ll rest my case with this text message exchange. But you know; despite all her evil tendencies, I think the nephews and I will keep her. If for nothing else, for the challenge of one of us taking her down in the Infinity game.

Proof of evil

Proof of evil

TD98.5: Casting Call For New TV Show About Team Trucking

[box]Sorry, but there is no podcast version of this blog post. It’s a shorty, so I will be covering this topic in the introduction of the next Trucker Dump podcast.[/box]

Are you a team trucker? Want to see your mug on TV? Well here’s your chance. The same company that brought you American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance is now accepting applications for a new show about team truck driving. Here’s how you can toss your name in the hat (press release):

NOW CASTING NATIONWIDE: TRUCKING COUPLES!

Do you work together to make sure your load arrives on time and in one piece? Do the challenges on the open road test the strength of your relationship? Are you one of those lucky truckers who gets to spend hours on the open road with the person you love?

A major cable network and major production company are searching for trucking couples for a new documentary television show that follows them as they navigate the road and their relationship. Most people enjoy road trips, but the challenges facing truck drivers can put a strain on anyone – especially when your significant other is along for the ride!

We are searching for all types of couples (married or dating; young or old; all ethnicities / sexual orientations) who will show us the reality of life when partnered on the great American road! No matter how long you’ve been together, as long as you’re with your significant other and on the road, we want to hear from you!

Please submit the following to TruckerCouplesCasting@gmail.com

1.    Name

2.    Contact Info (Phone and Email)

3.    Home Location

4.    Recent photos of you and your partner

5.    A brief paragraph describing yourself, your partner and life on the road (routes driven, time spent away from home, common challenges, etc.)

**Once you submit your information, a casting producer may contact you with more information (production company, casting process, etc.)**

Okay folks, Todd here again. Here’s the thing. If you want to be on this show, you need to act fast. Applications will be received through the end of January, but they would prefer to get them sooner. So in other words, don’t procrastinate like I did posting this sweet opportunity. Hop on it now and nip it in the bud!

TD97: A Trucker’s Worst Nemesis: Complacency

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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]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TD93: The Driver’s Seat Phenomenon

[box]Listen to the audio version above and subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.
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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.*

TD87: Guest Post: Five Tips For Sleeping Near A Busy Road. By Sam Fisher

Hey folks. It’s been a little over a month since the last blog post, so I figured, “Yeah, I guess I should put something up. Gotta stop the crybabies from whining, you know.” Yes, I’m referring to me, Todd. You know, I’ve really been feeling the itch to get some new blog posts out, but I’m still busy getting the new Web site finished. Although I suppose that itch could just be dandruff.

Anyway, I’m going to put myself out there by saying that I’m shooting for a late November/early December time frame. I’ve just gotta say that after I’ve busted my hump on this, if you people don’t mob the site like a pack of cavemen on a Zippo salesman, I’m going to officially disown all of you. I might even make my protest last a whole day if you don’t watch yourselves.

[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[/box]

So anywho, I’ve got another guest blog post for you today. This one is written by a British fella named Sam Fisher. Now I’m pretty sure this isn’t the same guy that’s in all the Splinter Cell video games, but just in case, no one piss him off. This guy could sneak up on you easier than a pair of too-small panties and make your life just as uncomfortable. And for the record, I plead the fifth on that analogy.

Seriously, the real Sam Fisher seems like a very nice guy. He discovered the blog and wrote me a nice email asking if I accepted guest blog posts. It just so happens, I was looking for one. He suggested he could write one called, “ways to fall asleep near busty roads.” I mean, how could I refuse that? LOL He was a good sport when I pointed out the spelling goof and we had a laugh about the trouble I get into when my auto-correct changes a sentence that is supposed to read, “I had trouble backing into the dock.” 😀 So now we get to the main course; spelled correctly and everything. And of course, I’ll be back afterward to blab some more.

Five Tips for Sleeping Near a Busy Road

By Sam Fisher

For many, a quiet night’s sleep in familiar surroundings is the norm; however for a trucker the complete opposite is true. Many nights will have you pulling up at the side of a busy road with the roar of traffic and the honks of horns to contend with. However, fear not sleepy heads. Here are five sure tips to let you drop off into a deep, natural sleep and help you wake up feeling refreshed and ready to drive.

1. Sleep Cycles

A little known fact is that as you sleep you drift through various sleep cycles. Waking up in the middle of a sleep cycle can leave you feeling tired and like you still need a few more hours sleep. In some cases, waking up half-an-hour earlier can actually be better than sleeping a bit longer. It is best to try and sleep for 9, 7.5 or 6 hours, as that will mean you will usually wake up in between sleep cycles. It normally takes around fifteen minutes for the average adult to fall asleep, so plan accordingly.

2. White Noise

The mysterious late night sounds of the road can wake even the most tired of drivers from a heavy slumber. Interrupted sleep can stop rest and often leave you struggling to try and drift back off. One great technique for combating unexpected noise is a technique called white noise. White noise is usually something such as classical music that after listening to it for a while your mind blocks out. This can then dull your sense of hearing when played at night while sleeping. This can work with all types of music but just make sure it’s nothing that will get you excited and have an adverse effect on sleeping.

3. Avoid Sugar and Caffeine

It might seem an obvious suggestion but many people forget and end up staring at their truck’s roof with their mind buzzing and sleep far out of reach. Try to avoid drinking coffee, energy drinks or other things with lots of caffeine or sugar for at least four hours before you plan on falling asleep. Stimulants are not only bad for your sleep, but for your health in general; so try to get some proper sleep and eat better, more natural foods that have long-lasting energy release. In doing so, you may be able to reduce the habit and leave you feeling much better in the long run.

4. Make Yourself Comfortable

I know it’s easier said than done, especially while you’re in the confines of your truck, but getting comfy is a must if you have trouble sleeping. Mattress toppers and the right pillows are a great way to improve your comfort within the limited space you have to work with. Pillows come in all shapes and types from firm to soft, including some special ones such a memory foam and orthopaedic. Try some out and see which works best for you.

5. A Good Book

I know reading isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but with the massive variety of literature, there is bound to be a book or magazine for you. Reading helps you sleep in several ways. Firstly, it helps remove from your mind the worries and stress of the day which usually jump on you as you try and sleep. Reading also helps calm the mind and gets your brain in the right mode for sleep. Not only does a good book help with your sleep but it can get you through boring patches while you’re waiting around for your truck to be loaded or when you’re in the middle of nowhere and have some time to kill.

Good luck and I hope this helps you get a better night’s sleep on the road.

This is a guest post by Sam Fisher on behalf of Teletrac a company specialising in fleet tracking technology.

Well Sam, I’m sure it will. Thanks for the fine article. Now you people know me. I can’t let a post go by without adding my 2 cents. First up is about white noise. I know Sam’s right about this one. I keep a small, 12-volt fan running while I’m sleeping. The steady drone really helps me zonk out. When it’s super cold outside and I can’t run the fan, I usually don’t sleep as well. That’s when I pray for a reefer by my head. That would be a refrigerated trailer, not the other kind of reefer (although I bet that would knock me out too). 😀 However, reefers can be a mixed blessing if the thing keeps starting and stopping all night. You drivers know what I mean. Those hard starts can sometimes scare the pee out of you!

My first experience using music as white noise was back when The Evil Overlord and I were just dating. She was telling me how awesome The Cure was, but me being a metalhead, I was having none of it. Then the guitar player in our band got into The Cure and suddenly it was okay. The Evil Overlord still gets pissed about that. And by the way, the same thing happened with The Cult. Anywho, she eventually got me listening to The Cure’s “Disintegration” album when I went to bed. It even says in the liner notes that it was mixed to give two different experiences, depending on whether you played it loud or soft. It’s true. It’s powerful when it’s loud, but it makes me sleep like a drunk, 18-year-old cat when the volume is low. It’s weird how that works.

Next up is making yourself comfortable. Boy, do I know about this one. When The Evil Overlord was on the road with me, I always accused her of bringing too much crap. Much of that was bedding. I’m telling you folks, we had a lot of bedding. She usually brought 3-4 sets of sheets and blankets, 3 or 4 mattress pads, 5 or 6 pillows, 2 body pillows (if you team drivers don’t have one yet, go out and buy one (or two) — you can kiss my feet later), and a couple of sheets of that egg crate-looking padding. And this was for only 3 weeks on the road.

Luckily, this padding stayed in the truck. As for the rest of it, she changed the sheets once per week and using the pillows, packed herself into bed like a vase being shipped from Nicaragua via Jeep. I’m pretty sure if anyone made little fluffy packing peanuts, we’d have bought them too. But you know what? All of that made sleeping a joy. Well, as much of a joy as it could be when you’re bouncing down the road.

Now that the wicked one is out of the truck and back with the normal humans, I’ve stuck with the plan… well, to some extent anyway. I don’t use the egg crate stuff because I don’t need the extra cushion as a solo driver. But I’ve stuck with the sheets, extra pillows and mattress pads. I’ve got three pillows, one soft, one firm, and one body. I normally use the soft one, but the firm one comes in handy when you’re in one of those parking spots where it feels like you’re trying to sleep while standing on your head. And of course, it’s always nice having extra pillows when you’re leaning up against the wall in your bunk.

Now I can hear some of you masculine guys out there saying, “All a man needs is a sleeping bag.” I’ve got a correction there. “All a macho man needs is a sleeping bag.” Seriously, get over yourself and buy some freakin’ sheets! You sleep in your bunk more than you do your bed at home! Make it comfortable! I keep two sets of sheets with me now. I rarely change them in my 3 weeks out (I am a man, after all —  and I always smell fresh — really), but it’s nice to have a backup for when you spill milk all over them. Been there, done that. And a final word on sheets: cotton in the summer, flannel in the winter. Spend the money on flannel and I’ll let you kiss my hand when you’re done with my feet.

And lastly, The Evil Overlord will vouch for reading before you go to bed because the Sandman typically taunts her at night. Personally, I don’t need a book to fall asleep. Unless I’ve got something stressing me out, I’m usually dreaming about swimming pools full of banana split ice cream in less than five minutes. And that’s a good thing, because when The Evil Overlord gets pissed at me for falling asleep so quickly, it’s always nice to be snoring again not long after she purposely nudges me, slaps me on the chest, makes a loud noise, or drops something on my head. You people never believe me, but I’m telling you folks; she’s evil personified.

Let’s hear from you drivers out there. Give us some tips that help you sleep when you’re in the truck. And do it now. You heard me. No back-talk.

Photo by landlessness via Flickr