The trucking industry is full of opportunities to fudge things. But the question is; should we? Where do we draw the line between fact and fiction; between right and wrong? In other words, how much should truckers bend the rules?
The trucking industry is full of opportunities to fudge things. But the question is; should we? Where do we draw the line between fact and fiction; between right and wrong? In other words, how much should truckers bend the rules?[box]Listen to the audio version above and subscribe to the podcast in iTunes or Google Play. Or search for Trucker Dump in your favorite podcast app.
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This was the topic of a conversation I had in the Trucker Dump Slack group after a friend called me out about something I mentioned doing. He was basically questioning whether what I was doing was moral or not. For the record, this is one of the things that I love about the Trucker Dump Slack group. We can always have a lively, yet civil conversation without anyone get bent out of shape and resorting to personal insults. So anyway, I don’t fault this guy at all for questioning my morals. In fact, I welcome it.
You see, this guy is a friend of mine and a fellow Christian. Stick with me here. The religious stuff will be over in a minute. I just need to set the stage so you can see where we are both coming from.
Even non-Christians know the verse in the Bible about not judging other people. Heck, they quote it all the time to justify some of their behaviors. This makes sense when you’re talking about unbelievers. Why should a Christian judge them against something that this person doesn’t even believe? On a side note, people who disagree with Christians should remember this works in reverse. Anywho…
But far too often Christians use this rule amongst themselves too. And that is not what the Bible says. There are many verses saying that we are supposed to hold our fellow Christians accountable; that we are to call them out and try to help bring them back if they are going down a slippery slope. So with that explained, let’s move on to what my friend was calling me out on. Sunday school class is dismissed. 😉
The Evil Overlord (wife and ex-codriver) and I are planning to go on a little trip to her aunt and uncle’s lake house this weekend. We’ll be doing some skiing, some canoeing, some fishing, some jet skiing, and possibly some golf if we can squeeze in a few extra hours to look for my golf ball in the weeds. We haven’t done anything like this in ages, so we’re both really looking forward to it.
Now here’s the problem. To enjoy a mini vacation, you need money, right? My week was looking like I was going to have a measly 2000 miles. However, if I could deliver my 700-mile load by Friday midnight, I would jump from a bad paycheck to an excellent paycheck. Only problem was I needed to go 616 miles in 11 hours… in a 64 mph truck… on a Friday… around Atlanta and down to the Orlando area.
No problem since I’m a super-trucker and all. This friend of mine didn’t think I could do it. I told him he should go ahead and wash his feet so they would taste better when I proved him wrong.
Well, I am awesome, so I arrived at 11:30 PM with about 40 minutes left on my 11-hour driving clock. I went into the office, only to find out there wasn’t going to be anyone who could sign for delivery until 4 AM. The dock guy refused to sign the bill.
The questionable choice
Here’s where the dilemma comes in. In order to get paid for a load, my company has to receive my Arrived at Consignee (fancy word for Receiver) and Empty computer messages by Friday midnight. So now what? I reeeeally needed those miles for a good paycheck.
For starters, I had run all the miles, but I had not “officially” delivered the load yet; not without that signature and dropping the trailer. Here’s some other things that factored into my decision. I had been to this place before and knew it was a drop and hook. I could see at least 5 empty trailers from my cab so I knew it wouldn’t wind up being a live unload.
I also knew that a product count was not necessary at the time of delivery. Furthermore, this warehouse opens the trailer doors from the inside, so you can’t even break the seal (that verifies the trailer has not been opened in transit) before backing into the dock. So basically, I knew this drop was happening no matter what. There was absolutely no reason to reject the load.
So I sent the Arrived and Empty messages and told the gang in the Trucker Dump Slack group about it. For the record, I would not have made this choice if I had been even 10 miles from the delivery.
That’s when my friend rightly questioned my honesty. His point was that if my company’s policy considered a load to be delivered only after the bills were signed, then it is a lie to turn in that message before that process is complete. Officially, he is 100% correct. He’s also only been driving for a little over a year. I truly believe that just like The Evil Overlord and me, his sense of things will change the further along his trucking career goes.
He was also concerned that it might screw up my dispatcher if they thought I had already dropped the load, when in reality I hadn’t. He thought they might go ahead and dispatch me on another load. He’s also 100% right about that. But I had that problem licked too. I already had my next two loads planned out, so that wasn’t going to be an issue unless dispatch changed something on their end (which I admit is totally possible).
The question of right and wrong
I remember back when The Evil Overlord and I first starting trucking. We went in determined to follow the rules to the letter of the law. We were going to obey all company policies and we were going to run our logbook completely legal. No hot dogging it for us! Oh, the naïvety of the newbie!
The insanity of the paid-by-the-mile standards
It wasn’t long before we realized that the trucking industry is full of stupid rules. For instance, we discovered right away that we NEVER got paid for all the miles we ran. We were even paid Practical miles at our first company and it still shorted us! It only got worse at subsequent companies when we discovered the Household Mover’s Guide method of figuring paid miles. What a joke!
For you non-truckers, this method pays Post Office to Post Office, not actual addresses, which we all know is totally doable with today’s GPS technology. Yet most carriers still calculate with this method. Why? Because it generally pays the driver about 10% fewer miles than they’ve actually driven… and because they can get away with it.
Getting your loads turned in on time
Another example is getting paid for loads. Back when we started, our paychecks were determined by what loads we could get turned in by noon on Tuesday. These were the days when many companies still had you mail in your paperwork before you could get paid! Seriously! Snail mail! Like a caveman!
So we might deliver a load Friday night, but the mail system wouldn’t get it to the payroll department until Wednesday night. How fair is that? That often translated in not being able to make your mortgage payment one week and getting raped by the IRS on the following week’s paycheck.
Eventually, carriers started using electronic methods like Transflo to send in your paperwork. While this was better, it still required you to be at a truck stop with a Transflo kiosk by a set deadline. If you didn’t have a load going toward one in time, you were screwed! Thankfully, Transflo now has a mobile phone app so I can actually send in my paperwork minutes after I deliver. Not that I need to anymore since as I said before, all they need is my Arrived and Empty messages to be sent in on the truck’s communication device. Please keep in mind that each carrier handles this differently. I’m sure there are many that still require paperwork in hand to pay you for the load.
The fudging of log books
And of course, there’s the trucker’s logbook. For you non-truckers, we drivers have to keep a record of every moment of our day. Nowadays it’s all done electronically, making it harder to cheat the system. But back in the day, we used paper logs.
It was a fairly common practice to fudge paper logs. The Evil Overlord and I never really abused it (possibly because we were a team operation that didn’t really need to), but many drivers used to run two log books. One of the log books would look legal because they would leave out entire trips after the fact so they could log more hours in a week. The other book was so they could keep track of their lies.
In all honesty, we never did that. The most I was ever off was about 3 hours. I don’t even remember the circumstances, but as luck would have it I got pulled into a Kansas weigh station for a paperwork check. The trooper briefly examined my log book and handed it back. How he didn’t notice that I shouldn’t have been standing there for another three hours is beyond me, but I was obviously overjoyed! I never got that far out of sync again.
But the trucking industry isn’t a perfect world. There were times when you couldn’t find parking and you had to drive a little over your time. We just drove however many minutes less the next day to make up for it.
Or maybe there was a traffic jam due construction or a wreck that would delay us 3 hours. We’d log those three hours like we took them at a truck stop. According to my paper logs, I don’t think I ever had a delay due to traffic. See how lucky paper logs are?!
The nickel and diming
The point is, trucking companies don’t succeed by throwing their money away. By and large, the trucking industry works on a small profit margin. Any penny saved is a penny earned.
Think of all the extra little things that most of us drivers don’t get paid for. Fueling, truck inspections, minor mechanical breakdowns, waiting in line at a customer’s guard shack, getting your truck washed, sweeping out a filthy trailer, sliding your tandems to get your weights legal, sitting around waiting on a load or a message from dispatch, listening to horrible hold music on the phone, and in my case, sitting in an inspection bay line at my company terminal for 2 hours.
Now as another Trucker Dump Slack member (Kris a.k.a. @Gravy) once pointed out, most of that stuff is figured into your mileage pay. He should know since he owns a small fleet of trucks. I guess I can see his point about sweeping a trailer, fueling, inspections, and common tasks we have to do on a regular basis.
However, I’m not convinced that waiting for 2 hours to get a tire fixed or waiting an hour for a message from dispatch is included in the mileage pay. Heck, I once had a company tell me they didn’t pay vacation pay because it was figured into the mileage! What the heck!? While the pay-per-mile rate was good, it wasn’t THAT good! Yeesh!
The technicalities of trucking
In my point of view, so many of these moral choices we have to make are based on the “spirit of the law” rather than the “letter of the law.” I think we all just have to judge what we’re doing and decide if we’re okay with it or not.
For example, I’m a Christian who believes in the Bible. It flat-out says that you shouldn’t lie. So was I lying by submitting my load as delivered when it wasn’t officially delivered yet? I honestly don’t know.
To me, this is a technicality. My company has to set a deadline for their company policies. So by the letter of the law, I was wrong to say I had delivered already. On the other hand, I get paid by the mile and I had run all the miles by midnight. I was sitting on their property and there was no chance they weren’t going to accept the load. My conscience is clear on the latter choice. That’s the spirit of the law.
Let’s look at another example of a technicality. My company will only pay detention time (time spend waiting to load/unload) if I send in a detention request before I send my final Empty message. If I send it even 30 seconds before that Empty message, I’m good. But if I forget and send it 30 seconds after the Empty message, they won’t pay my detention time unless I call and pitch a big baby fit.
This drives me up a freakin’ wall. Why? Because they know when I arrived at the customer and when I left. I always remember to send those messages. Heck, the Arrived call usually pops up automatically when I stop thanks to the magic of GPS! It’s simply a technicality!
And here’s another thing to prove my point. This company policy can be overridden easily if someone decides to do a little computer fixing. It literally takes a few minutes at most. So if they can fudge the system, why can’t I?
Two wrongs don’t make a right
Now as I was justifying my actions to my friend, he pointed out that two wrongs don’t make a right and that we can only control our actions and choices. Again, wise words that are 100% accurate. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to do it that way.
As a Christian, I know I’m supposed to “turn the other cheek.” But even Jesus himself didn’t always do that when he was justified in his actions. And if Jesus was doing it, there’s no question in my mind that it was justified. Case in point; he cleared out the temple with a whip and overturned all the tables when people had turned the holy place into a marketplace! I take that to mean that just because you’re a Christian, doesn’t mean you have to get walked on and abused.
Work the system, man (or woman)
Again, all these trucking companies have systems in place so that everyone who works there has a guideline to go by. Sometimes these systems work for you; sometimes they work against you.
Let me explain one more situation that happened on the same weekend to explain how this system can work on your behalf or against you.
After my Friday night delivery, I picked up a 190-mile load Saturday morning that delivered the following morning. I drove straight through and got parked by 5 PM Saturday. My delivery was set for 10 AM on Sunday. If you do the math, that’s 17 hours down already.
My next load was scheduled to pick up anytime after midnight on Sunday. So basically, by the time I could pick up my load, I would have been sitting for 31 hours. Might as well stick around for another few hours and get my 70 hours back. You know how I like to do resets instead of working against my recap everyday, right?
So I deliver Sunday morning and I receive my new load information. I thought it was a live load, but apparently it is a preloaded trailer. An important point is that I still had 12 hours available to run that day, but I didn’t pick up any hours after midnight, which is why I was trying to do a 34-hour break. The big key here is that the load comments did not say the load was ready. It still showed a pick up time of anytime after midnight.
Now according to my last podcast/blog, TD129: 4 Ways To Become A More Efficient Trucker, I normally would call and ask if this preloaded trailer was ready early. But I didn’t. Why?
First, because I didn’t want to screw up a 34-hour break. But the main reason is because my company has a policy that I get $75 if I have fewer than 500 miles over the weekend.
Here’s where things get morally sticky
I had only run 190 miles so far for the weekend and I wasn’t planning to drive until the early AM hours of Monday. That means I would only be getting 190 miles over the weekend, which makes me eligible for the $75.
Now I could’ve called dispatch and they might’ve told me the load was ready to go. I did have hours to run after all. But if I grabbed the load, I then miss they chance of the $75 extra and I also screw up my 34-hour break.
However, if I uncharacteristically act like most truckers do and just accept their stated appointment time as gospel, I can get both the weekend pay and the 70-hour restart.
So there’s the choice I had to make. Play dumb and reap the benefits (like most truckers would in this situation) or by being my normal efficient self, I might wind up screwing myself out of $75 and in the long run being less efficient by not getting my 70-hour reset?
I thought about it for about two seconds and went with playing dumb. I did this for two reasons:
- My dispatcher may look at the situation on Monday and decide not to pay me anyway. There won’t be anything I can do about that.
- I’ve gotten screwed by this “less than 500 miles” rule many, many times. In fact, they did it to me again in this example.
Here’s how they squeeze out of paying weekend pay. By the way, I generally like the company I work for or else I wouldn’t have spent 12 years of life with them, but every company has their stupid rules. This is just one of those.
For easy math, let’s say I have a 501 mile load and that’s all the miles I’ve got until Monday morning. I pick it up on Friday afternoon. I run 495 miles on Friday night and I drive 6 more miles after midnight to arrive at my delivery at 12:06 AM Saturday morning. Guess what? All 501 miles are counted as weekend miles because I “officially” delivered on Saturday, despite the fact that the vast majority of the miles were run on Friday.
This can work against me on the opposite end too. Say I’ve been sitting at a truck stop since Friday at 11 PM. I finally receive a 600-mile load at 11 PM on Sunday. You can see where this is going. Yep, all 600 miles counts as weekend miles, even though I may only be able to knock off 60 miles at most.
This is the method they used to screw me this time. I delivered the 190-mile load on Sunday morning and they immediately dispatched me on a 325-mile load, even though the pickup time was set for anytime on Monday. Those two loads totaled 515 miles, as my dispatcher matter-of-factly pointed out when I requested the $75 weekend pay. In my book, those 325 miles shouldn’t count towards the weekend, but they do. It’s just another example of how these companies work the system to their advantage.
Seriously, receiving weekend pay at my company is about as rare as a porcelain doll that actually doesn’t look creepy after the lights are turned out. So when I have an opportunity to make it work to my advantage, I do. Or in this case, I tried.
Is that morally wrong? I suppose it might be. But again, my conscience is clear about this. All I’m doing is trying to make the system work for me, just like they are doing for themselves. Two wrongs don’t make a right, but it does help me feel like I’m getting just a tad bit of the money I’ve been screwed out of over the years. Too bad it didn’t work this time.
One final argument
Let me present one bit of math to put the nail in the coffin here. Let’s jump back to the Household Mover’s Guide that usually pays 10% fewer miles than I actually run.
I’ve driven for 21 years. Let’s say I averaged 120,000 miles per year (this is a low estimate). Total: 2,520,000 miles. Let’s round down to 2.5 million miles. I got screwed out of ten percent of those miles, so that’s 250,000 miles I’ve never been paid for! I’m guessing I averaged about 45¢ per mile over that 21-year span. Multiply that and now I’m really depressed. Apparently I’ve been screwed out of $112,500.
Wow. Just wow. I think it’s safe to say that no matter how many times I manage to work the system to my advantage, I’m never going to break even. My conscience is clear. Is yours?[box]What are your thoughts on this subject. Do you work the system to your advantage? How far do you go? Leave your comments below.[/box]