The Evil Overlord

TD130: 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?

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?

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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 setup

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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]

Podcast show notes:

TD125: Reserved Truck Parking: Convenience or Exploitation?

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

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

[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.
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]

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

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

My first (and only) experience with reserved truck parking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The problem with reserved truck parking

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

YOU SHOULDN’T DO IT!

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

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

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

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

Give it up. It doesn’t work

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

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

ex·ploi·ta·tion

ˌekˌsploiˈtāSH(ə)n

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[box]What are your thoughts on reserved truck parking? Please leave your comments below.[/box]

Podcast show notes:

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

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

Links mentioned in the intro:

The School of Podcasting podcast with host Dave Jackson

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

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

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

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

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

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

Links in Connor Smith’s article:

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

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

Links in the blog post section:

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

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

TD124: The Overweight Axle Debacle

Unboxing of a Casper Mattress

Pilot/Flying J refund policy for reserved truck parking

Links mentioned in the feedback section:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Show info:

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

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TD124: The Overweight Axle Debacle

? (To the tune of Gilligan’s Island) Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale… A tale of a fateful trip… That started from this Northeast town… Aboard this great big truck. ? Wait a second! That’s not how the song goes! But it is the way this story starts.

As with most of my blog posts, I like to tell a story about something that happened to me and somehow I manage to stick a “moral of the story” onto it. Just like every old sitcom now that I think about it!

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So this story (or rant, depending how look at it) began with a long run from Elkhart, Indiana to Newville, Pennsylvania, which is just south of Carlisle on I-81. I got the load on a Friday and it needed to deliver by Friday midnight to get the 560 miles on my next paycheck. But thanks to the awesome Household Mover’s Guide most truckers get paid by, the trip was actually well over 600 miles. In the end, I needed to average 58 mph to pull it off, which is a real feat in a 64 mph truck even in the best of conditions.

My dispatcher said it couldn’t be done. Especially since the customer hadn’t authorized any toll roads and my rarely does on their own either. I’m pretty sure my company big wigs think the Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania turnpikes are all hunting grounds of a flock of giant, truck-eating pterodactyls. Anyway, I thought I could pull it off.

Turns out we were both right. I could have delivered the load by midnight, but I didn’t have enough hours to get off the receivers property and they didn’t allow overnight parking on site. So I have elogs to thank for my crappy next paycheck. ?

Anywho, I parked at our yard about 15 miles from the delivery because I had an oil change due on the new Kenworth. I got about 6 hours of sleep and was planning on going back to bed after the service, but instead I went to the driver’s lounge and watched a few episodes of Law and Order and then got caught up in back-to-back showings of all three The Expendables movies. What a waste of 6 hours.

The movies were entertaining enough, but the best parts were always when they were subtly poking fun at the 80s movies they’re playing off of, such as Commando and Rambo. The “in” jokes always cracked me up. The best one was when Chuck Norris’ character Lone Wolf shows up out of the blue to save the day. Sly says they heard he got bitten by a King Cobra, to which Chuck replies, “Yeah I was. But after 5 days of agonizing pain, the cobra died.” As did I from laughter. Chuck Norris jokes rock!

So I tell you all this to set the stage that I was already strapped for sleep. I’d been up since 9:00 AM and I was planning on delivering and picking up my next load (same location) by 6 PM and delivering in North Carolina around 3:00 AM. Long day, sure; but nothing I couldn’t handle.

I adjusted my tandems (trailer axles) to the 41-foot mark (kingpin to center of rear trailer axle) which is the bridge law in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina. I pulled out of the shipper at 6:30 PM with 41,000 pounds on board… or so the paperwork said. More on that in a bit.

Now I don’t normally call out customers, but I’m going to this time because, quite frankly, this rarely happens with this company. The customer was Unilever. Many non-truckers have probably never heard the name, but I guarantee you have many of their products in your home right now. Axe, Dove, Hellman’s, and Lipton are just a few. My company hauls a lot of freight for them and I’ve rarely had a problem with overweight issues. So I’m naming names to let you know that even reputable companies like Unilever sometimes have their heads up their butts. It happens.

So back to the story. Because these loads are often heavy, most of their facilities have scales on site. But not this one. The security guard told me they were leasing the building and the owner of the property wouldn’t allow them to install a scale.

Okay, first; how does a major company like Unilever not lease a space that meets their minimum needs? No clue. And second, why wouldn’t the leasor allow it? Seems like it would be a bonus feature if they ever needed to lease it again. Oh well. I tell you all this because the lack of an on site scale plays into the story.

The first weigh

The closest scale was 15 miles away in Carlisle, but it was the wrong direction, so I drove 32 miles south to Greencastle, PA and weighed the load there. That’s when the dread set in.

For you non-drivers, what you’re looking at is a screenshot from the excellent Weigh My Truck app from CAT Scale. Truckers, if you don’t have it installed yet and you ever need to scale a load, you’re an idiot. Or possibly you just don’t have a smartphone yet, which as a tech-junkie, still has me wondering about you. 😉 I’ll be reviewing the Weigh My Truck app at a later date.

To keep you non-trucking peeps in the loop, the weight limits for standard tractor-trailers without special permits are:

  • Steer axle: 12,000 pounds (although I’ve never been hassled with more)
  • Drive axle: 34,000 pounds
  • Trailer axle: 34,000 pounds
  • Gross: 80,000 pounds

As you can see, my trailer axle is over by 1,540 pounds, meaning they’ve got too much heavy crap on the back-end of my trailer. This happens every now and then with heavier loads, so I took it in stride. I drove 32 miles back to the shipper and showed the security guard my weigh ticket. 20 minutes later I was sitting in a dock and someone started rearranging the load.

When finished, I looked at the load before I closed the door. I couldn’t do this the first time because the trailer was preloaded and already sealed. Just like before, the last two pallets were still heavy stuff. The only thing that changed was that before it had been Dove products and now it was Axe body wash. To me, it didn’t look like much had changed.

I checked out at the security gate and they put a new seal on. I reported the new seal number to my company and headed out. So do I go to the closer scale in Carlisle this time? Nope, for two reasons.

  1. I trusted they reloaded it right. These things usually get resolved the first rework so I gave them the benefit of the doubt. Besides, my perception of a load has been fooled before.

  2. Reweighs are cheaper. I can remember a time when a CAT scale was $8, but like everything (except driver pay it seems), the fee has increased to $11. But if you need to reweigh the load, every reweigh for the next 24 hours are only $2 each. Provided of course, you go back to the exact same scale you weighed at initially.

So another 32 miles later, I’m back at the TA in Greencastle. That’s when I see this.

Reweigh #1

As you can see, my instinct had been correct. In the hour it took to reload me, they managed to move a whopping 80 pounds forward! I was less than thrilled. Another 32 miles later, I’m back talking to the disbelieving security guard. Another 20 minutes and I’m sitting back in dock 291, which is where they do all their reworks. Ask me in a year and I bet I still remember that dock number after this debacle.

One thing I would like to mention here is that this “20 minutes to get a dock” thing is a reoccurring theme in this story. I have no idea why it took that long each time. After the guard closed the window, I saw her doing paperwork and computer stuff for about 10 minutes and then she’d be on the phone with someone for another five. Then five minutes to drive to the far side of the building, open the doors, and dock the trailer. Oh, I almost forgot. I had to drop the trailer each time and pull a few feet in front of the trailer. More stupid rules truckers have to follow sometimes.

Another hour later and the load looks better, but not great. I briefly considered going north this time to save about 17 miles, but if everything axled out this time, I would have gone out of route 34 miles to reweigh the load. And I would’ve had to pay a full $11 again being a new scale location and all. Well, really it’s my company that pays with the Weigh My Truck app, but you get the gist. I was also thinking, “who screws up a load three times in a row?” So I chalk up another 32 miles. The one bright thing in all this is I do get paid for all these extra miles. Wow. Talk about making lemonade.

Reweigh #2

Keep in mind that although this is only the second reweigh, this is the third chance they’ve had at getting the load right (don’t forget the initial loading). As you can see, they did much better this time, but they’re still 540 pounds over on the trailer axle.

I have no doubt in my mind that some driver is reading this and screaming, “Run with it!” Maybe I would’ve under other circumstances, but I was going through Virginia, and any experienced trucker knows that their weigh stations rarely close. You just don’t mess with the big VA when it comes to weight. A driver once told me he got a $1000 ticket for being 300 pounds over gross! Ouch! Sorry, but if I got a $1000 ticket due to my impatience, The Evil Overlord would slit my throat while I slept. After I mowed the lawn, obviously.

It was at this time that I noticed something weird. You experienced truckers may have already spotted it. Why exactly does a load that supposedly only weighs 41,000 pounds, gross out at 78,680 pounds? Earlier that week, I had hauled a 46,350-pound load of sugar and it only grossed 20 pounds more than this load, yet it supposedly had over 5,000 pounds less freight! And FYI: I had 1/2 fuel tanks for both loads.

Back to the shipper I go. The guard is shaking her head as I approach. I explained that they were a lot closer than the time before but that there was still too much heavy crap on the rear. For the record, the last two pallets were sitting at about the 48-foot mark. I also pointed out that I thought the listed weight of 41,000 pounds was incorrect. I also gently, but firmly demanded to talk to a supervisor before they reworked the load again.

The guard said someone would come out and talk to me once I got backed into my old friend, dock 291. I backed in, but no one came. Then I heard a giant thump on the trailer and knew they were starting without me. I went back and pounded on the side of the trailer and I had a conversation with the supervisor about my theory of the load being heavier than 41,000 pound. I could tell she didn’t take me serious.

I said, “I’m only 540 pounds over. If you can just cut one pallet, I’ll be out of your hair forever.” She said that their contract with Walmart didn’t allow cutting pallets unless the load was over gross weight. This didn’t surprise me.

First, Walmart always gets what they ask for because they’re Walmart. And second, I knew my company signed contracts like this too. Those sugar loads I mentioned earlier are always 46,350 pounds and dispatch doesn’t send us in to pick it up if we can’t pull that much due to too much fuel or having a heavier brand of truck. If we load it and can’t run it legal, we have to sit around and wait for a relay driver. Anyway, Mrs. Supervisor told me she was reworking the load herself and that it would for sure be legal when she was done. She was a supervisor. Surely she’ll get this sorted out, right?

Well, when I got the green dock light (clear to pull out) I went back to close the trailer doors and saw the load was now sitting even further back at the 50-foot mark! And there was still heavy body wash on the last two pallets. I pounded on the dock door but she was long gone. I drove back out the guard shack and told them I’d be back in a bit. They thought that was kinda funny. I didn’t.

Reweigh #3

At this point, I had no faith in this load, the loaders, or the supervisors. Heck, my faith in Chuck Norris was even waning. This time, I never even considered going to Carlisle for reweighing. Good thing, because as you can see from the screenshot, we were back where we started at 1540 pounds over again. I knew it!

At this point, I was getting really grumpy. Not only was I back to square one, but I was also running low on driving hours now. I raced back to the shipper (if my 64 mph top speed can be considered racing) to discover a new set of guards. Lovely.

I explained how many times I’d already been there that day and that I didn’t have enough time to rework the load again and still get off property to find parking for the night. Or should I say “day.” At this point it was morning and I had been awake for about 21 hours.

I told the new guy I wanted to drop the trailer so they could work on it while I took a break. He called inside and the lady supervisor would not let me drop the trailer and leave because the load “wasn’t her responsibility since I had signed for the load.” Say what? That might be the case if it was a legal load, but it wasn’t!

I called night dispatch and asked to drop the trailer on our yard and let another driver deal with it the next day since I’d been messing with it for 12 hours. He implied that was a crappy thing to do to another driver and selfishly I said, “It sure is. And it’s something every other driver would’ve tried to do to me if they were in my shoes.”

He didn’t argue, but I also didn’t win the argument. He didn’t have anyone else to cover the load and I believed him since I’d been at the yard the day before and the place looked like a ghost town. I think I actually saw a tumbleweed. I accepted my fate and parked at a rest area a couple of miles away. I heated up a frozen lasagna to try to lighten my mood. It didn’t work.

I woke up the next morning with a fresh confidence in a new day. Okay, that’s a lie. I woke up grumpy and doubtful that this problem would ever get resolved.

When I got back to the guard shack, the young lady from the day before was there again. I just smiled as I approached the window. She chuckled and got the 20 minute process started again with barely a word.

When the dock door finally opened up, a different loader was standing there. He said he’d been informed of my situation and he’d been called in on his day off to rectify the problem. I was just happy to see that Unilever was finally acknowledging the insanity of the situation.

I explained to him how I thought there was more than 41,000 pounds on board and of course he doubted it. At least he was nice about it. Naturally, I asked about cutting a couple of those back pallets, but he confirmed that Walmart wouldn’t have any of those shenanigans. ?

At least I didn’t have to explain that I couldn’t have that heavy product on the tail of the trailer; he’d already pointed that out. He said he’d been loading trucks there for 5 years and he would get it right the first time. My response was, “No offense, but that’s what the lady said last night.” He laughed and said he wasn’t surprised because that supervisor was a horrible loader. Apparently everyone knew it except for her… and me obviously. His cockiness restored my hopeful attitude just a tad.

When he finished, he had managed to get all the freight forward of the 45-foot mark. Impressive! This time, I had as much confidence as he did about it being loaded right. The last two side-by-side pallets were still that heavy Axe body wash, but with everything that far forward I thought this saga might finally be over.

He gave me the office number and said he’d be awaiting my call to confirm his awesomeness. On the way out, I told the guards it was nice talking to them the last two days, but I hope I never saw either of their faces again. *sigh* My wishes so rarely come true.

Reweigh #4

This time, I drove to the Flying J in Carlisle because my 24-hour reweigh limit was close to expiring. The Weigh My Truck app charged me $11 again and I didn’t care in the least. Nor did I care that I was out of route. When the weights popped up on my iPhone screen, I’m pretty sure my chin actually sank to my chest. I was soooooo disappointed. I shot a message off to my company and then I called the loader. I could literally hear the cockiness fade from his voice when I told him I was still 540 pounds over.

When he found out my fuel was only at 1/2 tank, he asked me to put on as much fuel as I could. His reasoning was that if the load was close to 80,000 pounds he’d have an excuse to cut a pallet off the load. Sounds reasonable to me.

I called dispatch to authorize some fuel and as the dispatcher was getting ready to set it up, I heard another dispatcher in the background say with a firm tone, “He’s not adding any fuel if you guys can’t get him legal. You’ll either call Walmart and get them to approve cutting a pallet or we’re leaving the load on your property. That’s your choices.” ‘Bout friggin’ time. I headed back to the shipper without adding fuel.

When I got back, the guard said she’d have just taken the load and avoided the scales. Without a too-sweet smile on my face I said, “I shouldn’t have to risk a ticket because your loaders are incompetent.” She had to agee with the logic, especially when I told her how strict Virginia was on weight issues.

Back at the dock (yes, 20 minutes later), I saw a different loader when the dock door rolled up. I thought I had been passed off again, but my mind was eased when the once-cocky dude showed up again as we spoke. I asked what the plan was and he said he’d both called and emailed Walmart with no response. No surprise since it was a Sunday. Despite that he was going to cut a pallet anyway and take the consequences on Monday. Thank God for a guy with a set of gonads the size (and possibly weight) of bowling balls.

He yanked a 1,065-pound pallet of mayonnaise off, but when I looked at the load, it hadn’t moved forward any. I was concerned that the pallet he pulled had been too far forward so that it wouldn’t affect the back axles by 540 pounds. Was I right? God, I hoped not. I barely spoke to the guards on the way out.

Reweigh #5

I headed back to Carlisle for my $2 reweigh and when I saw the weights I could literally feel my body relax. It was finally over. Final tally was:

  • Steer axle: 11,440
  • Drive axle: 32,360
  • Trailer axle: 33,620

So all said and done, 28 hours of my life was gone; 10 of it on a mandatory DOT break and the other 18 driving from shipper to scale and back a jillion times and sitting in dock 291.

To make me feel better about this whole thing, I ran into Flying J and grabbed some classic comfort food in the form of a couple of corn dogs. They were two of the worst things I’d ever eaten, but of course I waxed them off anyway. Overweight axle debacle or not, I’ll always be a cheapskate. And thanks to Flying J for capping off my perfectly crappy two days.

So like I said in the beginning, I like to try to learn something from these ordeals and pass it along to you. In this case, I’m going to reiterate a situation I talked about in the last episode.

The moral of the story

If you’ve got an extra day-and-a-half to go back and read this article, you’ll notice that I often said I was unhappy… or grumpy… or outright angry. But never once did I lose my cool on anyone. I did explain my situation and boldly state what I wanted to happen, but I did so without raising my voice or cursing at anyone. Would it have helped if I had?

I’m sure the drivers who flip out on people think it helps. But far too often I’ve seen what happens when people get screamed at. They simply have no incentive to help you. You’ve already yelled at them so how much worse could it get? But the driver being nice when being wronged, that’s the trucker who’s problem they want to help solve.

I’m going to go back to the principle where I always tend to wind up…

The Golden Rule: Treat others as you’d like to be treated.

If someone else screwed up a load that you’re trying to fix, would you want to be yelled at about it? Nope.

Even if you’re the one who screwed up, do you want to see spittle coming from an irate trucker’s lips? Nada.

And if you’re the guard up front who has absolutely nothing to do with the loading or the insane 20-minute procedure put in place to check in an overweight truck, would you want a pissed-off trucker charging up to your window with paperwork flying while being called a son-of-a-douchebag and every other vile name in the book? I dare say you wouldn’t.

People screw up. Companies screw up. Heck, once every 20 years or so, even I screw up. When it happens pull your panties out of your arse and take a chill pill. Trucker dumps happen, you know.

[box]What’s the longest time you’ve spent trying to get a load axled out? Leave your own long, drawn-out story in the comments section.[/box]

[box]Feature photo by Gavin Bell via Flickr Creative Commons[/box]

Podcast Show Notes:

Ever had one of those crappy days that just seems to drag on forever… and in fact, it actually does drag into the next day? Well, that’s what happened to me recently when a shipper just couldn’t get me loaded legally. I share the story with mind-numbing detail. Lucky you.

I also interview Bill Busbice from HWY Pro, an app that helps owner-operators find, accept, and plan loads more efficiently than current methods.

If you signed up to win the Meritor jacket, you’ll want to stay tuned to see if you won. I also talk about some new audio editing software I’m going to buy. Yes, this cheapskate.

In the feedback section, we hear from Renae, Emily, Garry, David, and Andrew.

Links mentioned in the intro:

I’m planning on reviewing the My ONE20 app soon, but you can go ahead and check it out now.

I’ve started a Trucker Dump Podcast Facebook page. Yes, I finally broke down.

Along with that is a Facebook Group called Trucker Dump Podcast. Since I buckled from the pressure, I expect all of you to join and participate. So get on it.

I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to promote my books. Yes, I’m shameless.
Trucking Life: An Entertaining, Yet Informative Guide To Becoming And Being A Truck Driver
How to Find a Great Truck Driving Job

Links mentioned in the blog post section:

Gilligan’s Island theme song

Chuck Norris’ best line in The Expendables 2

TD28: Please, Oh Please Give Me The Bypass is about weight distribution and the bridge laws.

Weigh My Truck app from CAT Scale

Go to TD124: The Overweight Axle Debacle ??? to see all the screenshot of my weigh tickets

TD32: SLC To CYA talks all about seals and load security

TD101: Stupid Rules That Truckers Tolerate is pretty self-explanitory

The moral of the story is a reiteration of a topic covered in TD123: Advice For New Truckers

In the feedback section:

Renae mentions the Trucking Nation podcast and she talks about health issues for truckers and the general lack of respect truckers receive.

Emily listened to TD119: Winter Truck Driving Tips From An Alaskan Trucker and wanted to share a related article called Winter Survival Kit: 10 Things To Keep In Your Truck.

An old high school friend named Garry wrote in just to say hi. Hi Garry!

David writes in to let me know he was the author of the mysterious “Bluegrass Cellular” email I read on the previous podcast.

Andrew asks why the heck I’m not on Podbean and I do my best to explain. He also has some constructive criticism about the previous podcast, which I love getting. He also asks about talkative truckers, which is something I obviously know a lot about.

Show info:

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

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

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TD118: Truck Safety: Constant Vigilance or Fate?

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

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

The accident happened back in February.

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

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

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

february-accident

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

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

Okay. So who’s fault was this accident?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So how do these million milers stay accident-free?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[quote]Knowing the difference between a preventable and a nonpreventable accident can be confusing. In driving school, we were told this scenario and asked if it would be considered preventable or nonpreventable. You give it a try. Pay attention. There may be a quiz afterward. Say you’re coming up on a red traffic light at a busy intersection. Just as you start to slow down, the light changes to green and you proceed. Suddenly, to your left you see a car that isn’t slowing down. You hit the brakes, but it’s too late. The car ran the red light and hit your truck. As for your part, is it preventable or nonpreventable? This is where the Jeopardy music would be playing if it weren’t copyrighted. Be sure to answer in the form of a question. Everyone in my class agreed that since the other guy ran the red light, the truck driver would be cited with a nonpreventable accident. What do you think? If you agreed with us, you’d be wrong. You, the super-trucker, would be charged with a preventable accident. Say what? Yeah, our sentiments exactly. What you’ve got to remember is that when they’re determining whether an accident was preventable or nonpreventable, they’re not trying to determine who’s at fault. They’re simply trying to figure out if the accident could have been avoided. In this case, it was clearly the automobile’s fault because it ran a red light. Certainly, your green light meant that you had the right-of-way, but having a green light isn’t enough. Everyone knows that you’re supposed to check both ways before you enter an intersection. What most drivers don’t think about is that this also applies to traffic lights. Because the trucker didn’t look both ways and entered the intersection when someone was coming, that accident could have (supposedly) been avoided. That’s insane! Yeah, we thought so too. We argued with the instructor about it forever, but lost in the end. [/quote]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Links mentioned in the podcast version:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AeroPress store locator and authorized seller list.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the feedback section:

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

Show info:

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

You can find me on Twitter @ToddMcCann.

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

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

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

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

TD114: Trucking Life: The New Ebook Is Finally Here!

[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]

Trucking Life: An Entertaining, Yet Informative Guide to Becoming and Being a Truck DriverYou remember that time I didn’t blog/podcast for six months straight? Well, I’d like to introduce you to the culprit, Trucking Life: An Entertaining, Yet Informative Guide to Becoming and Being a Truck Driver. Try saying that with a mouthful of mashed potatoes.

This just-released ebook has somehow managed to be both a labor of love and the bane of my existence for the past decade. But first, I guess I should explain what Trucking Life is about and who it’s for. Actually, let’s just give you the short version. (for the full description)

Obviously, Trucking Life was written for people interested in becoming truck drivers, but it was also designed for those who just have a passing interest in truckers and their lifestyle.

Naturally, I’ve written it to be informative, but also to be funny so you don’t nod off and drop your phone on your face while reading it, or worse, drive off a bridge while you’re listening to the audio version. Yes, you heard that right. I’ve turned this 208 printed page book into a 9.25 hour audiobook (there is a link to the free audiobook in the Appendix in the back of the text version).

If you’re already familiar with the Trucker Dump podcast/blog, you know what to expect. For those of you who aren’t, let me steal a phrase from the Trucking Life sales page.

Trucking Life has a conversational tone, using a light-hearted mix of stories from the road, opinions, facts, helpful tips, and some other random stuff that I like to call humor. You’ll have to be the judge of that. Just don’t ask The Evil Overlord’s opinion on the subject. As my wife of over 20 years and co-driver for nine, she’s already heard everything funny I’ve ever had to say and would just as soon stuff a dirty sock in my yapper than listen to me trying to crack another funny.

And for all you Evil Overlord fans, you’ll be happy to know that many of the stories involve the mean ol’ wench and her evil tendencies.

I’d like to explain one more thing here. I’ve often been asked who I work for and I’ve never told. I’ve always said that I want to be able to talk about my job without calling out my employer or getting myself into trouble. But another big reason is because I don’t want people coming to work where I do simply because they think, “If it’s good enough for Todd, it must be a good company.”

Now I know that sounds egotistical, but one thing that I’ve learned doing the Trucker Dump podcast/blog is that people assume you’re some kind of “expert,” despite the fact that I’ve repeatedly said I’m not.

So anyway, Trucking Life is another reason why I’ve always been so secretive. I knew going into this that I didn’t want the readers to think I was trying to influence them one way or the other. If I named my company and they chose to follow my footsteps, I’d stand to make money from driver recruiting bonuses. But since no one knows who I work for, there’s no chance of that. Quite honestly, I’m shocked that I had the foresight to realize this when I started the blog in 2009. My feeble brain usually can’t think past the next mile marker.

But enough about that. You can read all about the book on the Trucking Life sales page, as well as get a free sample of both audio and text versions. I’m writing this post for a different reason.

When you spend over 10 years toiling over a book, you kind of want to share your pain with others.

So that’s what I’m going to do. I hope you brought some cheese to go along with all the whine. I’m really digging Gouda lately. So how do I start?

When The Evil Overlord and I were considering becoming truck drivers way back in 1997 (full story in the book – TEASE!), I looked for information about it both online and in libraries. There really wasn’t anything. Sometime in 2005, I remembered this and rechecked the situation, thinking someone had surely filled that gap. There were a few options, but I thought I could do better.

To put this in context, I started writing Trucking Life in Word Perfect on my Dell Inspiron laptop running Windows XP, which kinda makes me cringe now that I’m a die-hard Apple junkie. But hey, I hadn’t entered the Steve Jobs reality distortion field yet. I worked on the book every time The Evil Overlord and I had time to sit somewhere. Being a team operation, that was rare, so fast forward three years to 2008 and my first draft was finally done.

At first, I thought I’d go the traditional route of signing with one of the big publishers.

I thought with my style of writing, a “Truck Driving for Dummies” type book would be perfect. But after learning the odds of being picked up, I started thinking more about self-publishing.

Well, let me tell you that it didn’t look easy. There was the ISBN (International Standard Book Number) to deal with, not to mention the process of converting it to an ebook format and dealing with distributors. That was enough to make me put it on a shelf. I think part of it was also that whole “fear of failure” thing.

I tinkered with it on and off for the next few years, but honestly I was just too lazy to put all that work into a book that probably wouldn’t sell very well. It is a niche market after all. Keep in mind this was all before I started blogging in 2009. Actually, I think being in the habit of writing was kind of what prompted me to start writing the Trucker Dump blog in the first place. Although back then, it was actually called the About Trucking Jobs blog. How catchy is that? Not.

I started getting serious about the book again somewhere around 2010, when I noticed websites like Smashwords popping up. They offered to do all the heavy lifting with converting the book, in addition to distributing it to Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and a bunch of other retailers. Sure, they all take a cut of the sales, but I’m not going to get rich off this book anyway, so why should I give a rip?

That’s when the perfectionist in me kicked in.

I’ve already told you that it can take me five or six hours to write a 2300 word blog post. Heck, it wound up taking about 8 hours to get this monster post just the way I wanted. Yes, seriously. Thankfully, this whole perfectionism thing is reserved for writing. I’m pretty laid-back about most other things. But what do you think I was like writing a full book? Yea. It wasn’t pretty. If I remember correctly, the first draft was around 120 printed pages.

When I went back and read it, I was disheartened to say the least. The book was okay, but I realized it was far from complete. For one thing, it was horribly out of date already, especially concerning anything having to do with technology. There was also the fact that The Evil Overlord was still my codriver when I started it, but she had quit driving by the time I got back to it. So I needed to add a bunch of stuff I learned being a solo driver.

Unbelievably, I had also left out some blatantly obvious topics (the list of topics covered here) so I went through and really flushed the book out. Again, The Evil Overlord was off the road so I had a bit more time to write, but like I said, when it comes to writing I’m slower than a sloth on Qualudes. After that first “flushing out” was finished, I decided to do one more pass (or so I thought) focusing only on adding as much humor as I could muster.

By now, 2012 is rolling around and I had decided to turn the Trucker Dump blog into a podcast.

And let’s not forget that I did a complete website design and platform change while all this was going on too! Well, here I was recording 90 blog posts and making them into podcasts. That took about a million years, but when it was all done I was quite happy with the results. You can see where this is going.

Yep. I thought “Well, I’ve got the recording process down. How hard could it be to turn Trucking Life into an audiobook?” Well, in theory, it wasn’t that hard. But again, my perfectionism kicked me in the junk.

You see, I accepted the fact that my podcast audio would have some background noise. If it didn’t, I’d never get a podcast recorded. But an audiobook is different. I’ve listened to lots of audiobooks and you really don’t want any distractions in the background. Not if you want to be taken seriously anyway.

That meant that I didn’t record any of the audiobook in my truck. Instead, I got approval from The Evil Overlord to spend much of my home time locked in a closet (keep your gay jokes to yourself please). And in case you’re wondering what that’s all about, you get better audio quality when you have materials on the wall that absorb sound, like clothes hanging in a closet. It’s a great poor man’s recording studio if you ever need one.

Anyway, keep in mind that by choice, I usually only go home every three weeks. So you can imagine how long the recording process took.

The good thing is that I only needed to do the recording at home. I could edit the audio in my down time on the road. So that’s what I’d do. I’d record a chapter or two each time I was home and then I’d edit them on the road. There are 21 chapters in the book, so you do the math. And of course, I didn’t get to record every time I was home.

The Evil Overlord had spent nine years on the road with me, so she could live without being with me the whole time I was home. Besides, she sleeps longer than I do, so I could usually get some recording done in the mornings before she got up. Honestly, I couldn’t record more than a few hours every day anyway. When you barely talk to anyone for three weeks you get hoarse easily. Who knew?

Granted, I didn’t notice this at first. I discovered during the editing process that if I had screwed something up, I’d need to rerecord a sentence or two the next time I was home. It’s amazing how blatant those edits were! If I was even the slightest bit hoarse, I could clearly hear the edit points. It drove me crazier than a hoarder at a flea market, so I learned to never record to the point where my voice was giving out.

I mentioned that I could work around The Evil Overlord’s schedule, but the nephews were a different story. They were still young so they were usually up before I was. And since they were so young and naive, they thought I was kinda cool. That meant they wanted to be around me from the second I woke up until we all went to bed. Can’t blame them I guess. I am pretty awesome and stuff. 😉 Funny how time has changed their enthusiasm about me.

So anyway, I finally got all 21 chapters e dited and I used an app called Audiobook Builder to make it into an 6-7 hour audiobook with chapter markers. I transferred it to my iPhone and listened to it while driving. That was both a mistake and a blessing.

It’s amazing how you notice things you didn’t before when you absorb the content in a different way.

It happens all the time with my blog posts. I proofread them in the WordPress Editor and everything looks great. Then I preview it the way you’ll see it on the website and I notice all sorts of errors. Having an audiobook version was no different. Actually, I think it was worse.

I’d hear myself talking along and then I’d think, “I should’ve said this right there.” Five minutes later I’d think, “Why didn’t I mention that other thing.” A couple minutes later, I’d think of something funnier to say about something. This went on and on. Kinda like this blog post. LOL I dictated all these changes into my phone. And that meant another rewrite… which of course, lead to more home recording sessions and road editing.

Well, I’m going to cut this off here.

Suffice it to say that I went a few more rounds of making things better and going through the whole process again. I even made another complete pass at adding more humor. They say that a writer is their own worst critic and that at some point you just have to let it go and release it. Since I’m far too cheap to pay for an editor, that choice had to be mine.

So that’s where I am today. I’m sure if I listened to the book again, I’d find something else to make it better, so I’m simply not going to listen to it anymore. At this point, I’m kinda sick of my own voice anyway.

I’m also just as sure that I will eventually get feedback from readers/listeners about stuff that I’ve missed. If it’s another one of those forehead-smacking stupidity moments, I may make changes to it eventually, but for now it is what it is.

So basically, the book started out as a 120 page, 6 hour audiobook, and turned into a 208 page, 9.25 hour gab fest. How’s that for “flushing out” a book?

So Trucking Life has finally been released. And it only took 11 years!

Now I know there are a few of you crabby pants out there thinking, Oh great. Another guy trying to sell something online. Well here’s what I have to say to you. Deal with it.

I’ve written this blog since 2009 and I’ve been recording the Trucker Dump podcasts since 2012. In that whole time I haven’t had advertising on the webpage or the podcast. I’ve never asked you for money for myself either. I will inform you that I have been looking at some sponsorship opportunities lately, but I won’t do anything  until I find a good fit.

So here’s the deal, if you don’t like the fact that I’m trying to earn a few extra bucks by helping potential truckers with their career decision, well, no one is forcing you to buy anything. And if my past podcast/blog promotion skills are any indication, I expect you’ll still be able to follow me on Twitter without being bombarded by promotions. You can expect some, but let’s just face the facts that I suck at self-promotion.

But for those of you who have enjoyed the content I’ve provided over the last several years, please consider ordering Trucking Life. If not, well, I’m okay with that too. I’ll continue to blog/podcast as much as I can manage until whatever time I lose interest in it or my life changes in a way that doesn’t make any sense for me to keep doing it. I doubt the money from this book will affect either of those things.

So you may be thinking, I’m already a truck driver. I don’t need your stupid book. 

That’s probably true, but I still think you’d enjoy reading or listening to it. I mean, lots of current truckers are reading/listening to Trucker Dump and I’m not telling them anything they don’t already know, but they’re still here. By the way, I really appreciate that. But don’t take my word for it. Check out free samples of the audio and text.

If you order from Amazon or Apple, they both have easy ways to get the text version onto your devices and I’m pretty sure Barnes & Noble does too. Smashwords takes a smaller royalty, but you’ll also have to manually transfer the file to your mobile device if that’s how you’re going to read it. Smashwords does have all the text formats though, including MOBI for Kindle devices and apps, and EPUB that will work pretty much everywhere else.

But by all means, please order however it’s easiest for you. If you already have an Apple ID or an Amazon or Nook account, that is by far the easiest method. And perhaps most important of all, please, please, please leave a review if you decide to read or listen to it. Books live or die on reviews nowadays and as a new release I have exactly zero reviews right now.

One more thing. You’ll probably notice that the $8.99 I’m asking for Trucking Life is more expensive than other similar books on the market. If you want to know why, check out the Trucking Life sales page where I go into more detail about what you’re getting and why I feel it’s better than its competitors. If you don’t need convincing, you can order below.

Well, I hope you enjoy Trucking Life. I’ve put a heck of a lot of work into it and I hope you get something out of it. Whether you do or don’t, please let me know what you think about it by emailing me at AboutTruckDriving@gmail.com or TruckerDump@gmail.com. And don’t forget those ever-important reviews wherever you buy it. Thanks a bunch.

[box]*FYI: All transactions are handled by the retailer. I do not have any access to your financial information. 

[button link=”http://www.amazon.com/Trucking-Life-Entertaining-Informative-Becoming-ebook/dp/B01DMYLUPY?ie=UTF8&keywords=trucking%20life&qid=1460931024&ref_=sr_1_1&s=digital-text&sr=1-1″ bg_color=”#5faf58″ window=”yes”]Buy from Amazon Kindle[/button][button link=”http://itunes.apple.com/us/book/trucking-life/id1104408169?ls=1&mt=11″ bg_color=”#5faf58″ window=”yes”]Buy from Apple iBooks[/button][button link=”http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/trucking-life-todd-mccann/1123521428?ean=2940158526879″ bg_color=”#5faf58″ window=”yes”]Buy from Barnes & Noble[/button][button link=”http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/620175″ bg_color=”#5faf58″ window=”yes”]Buy from Smashwords[/button]
If you don’t see your favorite retailer above, simply to go their website and search for “Trucking Life” to see if it’s available.[/box]

Links mentioned in the podcast version:

I mention the latest articles I wrote for TruckerMagazine.com.

If you’re a trucker who’s also an Apple-junkie, you should definitely join the iTruckers Slack group by requesting an invite at iTruckers@iCloud.com.

Jim Sweeney from the Adcom Group wrote in to tell us about the annual Make-A-Wish Mother’s Day Truck Convoy that takes place on May 8, 2016.

Jeff Bayless from The Successful Trucker website asked me for some help, but since I couldn’t really help him with what he wanted, I guess he’ll have to settle for this lame plug.

Get sick a lot on the road? Maybe you should check out this 24/7/365 Telemedicine service that Sheldon from Concierge Benefit Services brought to our attention. Or you can call him at 813-643-3630.

You know you want to check out the Trucking life sales page, where you can get free samples of both the text and audio versions.

What the heck is an ISBN?

Smashwords can help you publish your ebook.

I used a Mac app called Audiobook Builder to make my audiobook.

Buy the book from Amazon Kindle

Buy the book from Apple iBooks

Buy the book from Barnes & Noble

Buy the book from Smashwords

Be sure you READ THE WARNING about the size of the audiobook (in the book’s Appendix) before you try to download it on your phone.

In the feedback section:

Tommy writes in to thank me for the Trucker Dump podcast/blog, but it’s not for the reason you might be thinking…

He mentions my podcasts about driver complacency and tells us his own funny complacency story. TD97: A Trucker’s Worst Nemesis: Complacency or TD104: Complacency Strikes

Greg heard TD109: Coping With Rookie Truckers and sent an audio comment sharing one of his stories about dealing with a rookie driver.

Nath wrote in after reading TD33: Automatic Or Manual Truck Transmission and gives his opinion of automatic transmissions.

New listener George sent in an audio comment after hearing TD104: Complacency Strikes. He loves driving reefer and wants to know why I prefer dry vans. I give him the worst answer ever given to anyone.

TD113: The Feedback Show #2

[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]

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

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

Links mentioned in the podcast version:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the Feedback section:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TD112: Truckers Can’t Read

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According to the FMCSA website, “You must be able t speak and read English to drive trucks in the United States (I had linked to the goof, but they apparently fixed it).” You know, I think this is one of those times where the word “ironic” actually works. Notice anything about this sentence? Yep. Our brilliant overseers somehow managed to misspell a two-letter word. Seriously. I copy/pasted it. Click the link if you don’t believe me. Man, I hope they don’t fix it now. You know, it’s time like these that I’m glad my blog is about as popular as a reality show about corporate accountants.

Quite honestly, I didn’t trust my own eyes the first time I saw it; kinda like that time when I was 12 years old and my best friend and I spotted a discarded Playboy in the alley behind our small-town public library. Of course, now this Christian would just keep walking, but I WAS FREAKIN’ 12, MAN!!! AND THEY WERE NEKID!!!!

Okay, let’s come off Memory Lane (or Memory Alley in this case) and get to the point. What the heck is wrong with truckers today? Can y’all not read or what? At least the 11 million or more illegal immigrants (depending who you ask) who come here every year have a legitimate excuse. But I see a crap-ton of cases every day where CDL-holding drivers apparently can’t read. Case in point…

Anyone who has been on I-65 in Kentucky recently knows that pretty much the whole stinkin’ 137-mile stretch is plagued by bright orange Daleks. I’ve been there quite a lot lately and I can tell you firsthand that most truckers can’t read. Either that or they’re just blatantly ignoring traffic signs. But that can’t be right, can it? Truckers would never do that, would they? Apparently, they would.

A big chunk of that road has signs that clearly read, TRUCKS MUST USE LEFT LANE. There are a bunch of them. I wasn’t keeping track, but I bet there’s a sign every 4-5 miles for at least 60-70 miles. I was in the left lane going 55 mph, because that’s how fast the other non-readable signs said to go. That’s when I realized I was the last remaining literate trucker.

I had truckers screaming by me on my right side. Now since I also seem to be the last trucker on the planet that actually obeys the speed limit (Prime drivers don’t count – ooooo, burrrrrrn @DriverChrisMc), I wasn’t surprised in the least that everyone was passing me. What did surprise me is that no one… I mean NO ONE was getting back in the left lane after they had passed. They just stayed out in the right lane! So actually, they were even closer to those LEFT LANE signs than I was! And they still couldn’t read them!

I simply don’t understand why. Like I said, I was the only one in the left lane that was within eyeshot, so it’s not like they had to stay out there to get around other trucks. And of course, the cars weren’t in the way because they were all going faster than the speeding trucks. Can someone please explain the rationale here?

Now you all know how much I loathe the CB, but this is one time I couldn’t resist. I keyed up the mic and asked, “Am I the only one who can read? Or do y’all know something that I don’t?” Crickets. Now normally I’m on Team Trucker, but I couldn’t help but think to myself, “Where’s a cop when you need one?” Yes, I know what most of you are thinking, “You drive your truck and I’ll drive mine.” I hear you. Now shut up. It’s my blog.

This all happened when I was southbound. When I headed back north a couple of days later, I thought to myself, “Surely that was a fluke. I’m sure it won’t be that bad on the way back up.” Well, I was kinda right. I had two other trucks who were content to fall in behind me and go 55 mph in the left lane. I saw a couple of law-abiding south-bounders too, but still, the vast majority of truckers were hammer down in the right lane again.

I thought, “Maybe it’s just a Kentucky thing? Maybe there’s just so much whiskey in this state that everyone is blurry-eyed?” Nope. A couple days later I was on I-94 heading down into Chicago from Wisconsin. The signs there read, TRUCKS USE 2 RIGHT LANES. There were four lanes in my directions and I was in the far right lane like a good little boy. I get a cookie, right? Sure as shootin’, some hot dog trucker comes up in the third lane. He wasn’t going that fast, so why was he one lane left of legal? It was 4 AM, so it wasn’t heavy traffic. There weren’t even any vehicles in the second lane.

Even more mind boggling, when another lane opened up so there were now five lanes, he scooted over one more to where he was now two lanes beyond legal. What the heck?

Okay, fine. I get it. Trucking is hard. Being paid by the mile bites harder than a rabid crocodile. I also understand that you get dispatched on loads that couldn’t deliver on time even if you had a jumbo-sized Tardis. Also, your company’s E-logs give you less and less wiggle room. And of course, you need to speed to make up for the fact that your company’s routing software screws you out of at least 10% of the mileage on every trip.

But maybe the problem is both the carriers and the driver. You say your mileage pay is lower than a snail’s bellybutton? Find a carrier who pays more. Can’t deliver that load on time without speeding? How about telling your dispatcher that their poor planning doesn’t necessitate you risking your CSA points, your CDL, and a handful of cash that your Evil Overlord would rather spend on pedicures than give to some small town Barney Fife. E-logs forcing you to drive faster? Well, get used to it. They’re coming to us all. And perhaps if you don’t like how you get shorted on mileage pay because you can’t fly like a crow, well…  well with that you’re pretty much screwed. Join the crowd.

I just wish that so many drivers out here weren’t hell-bent on giving all us truckers a bad rep. I mean, I know that auto drivers are often as alphabet-challenged as all you truckers, but I can’t help but think that at least some of those Kentucky-bred 4-wheelers saw those signs and were wondering why all the trucks were in the right lane. Or were they? For all I know, they didn’t pass Reading class either and they thought I was the feminine wash bag who was blocking the fast lane. Who knows with them.

The fact remains that you truckers are naughty little lads and lasses. And you know what that means… you’re going to have to wash your stocking the day after Christmas. I hear those lumps of coal can cause quite a mess. Merry Christmas, everyone!

Links mentioned in the podcast version:

A photo of my new house!

Shaun from PowerTrainHorns.com made an infographic out of TD95: 4 Reasons That Trucker Might Be Tailgating You

The folks at Fleetmover.com put the Trucker Dump podcast on their “Best Trucking (and Non-Trucking Podcasts To Listen To On The Road.” Sweet!

I list some of the articles that are in the TruckerMagazine.com that I have been writing for. Check it out.

Buck and Don from The Trucking Podcast have been riding me pretty hard (in good fun) about me wearing sweat pants at work. Buck wrote an article called 5 Acceptable Places To Wear Sweat Pants. Have a read and let me know what you think about truckers and sweats.

Erich McMann has a new Christmas song called, Santa Was A Trucker. Check out the video here.

The FMCSA misspelled the word “to” on their website (broken link). What makes it ironic is the misspelled word is on the page about truckers being required to be able to read and speak English. LOL

I don’t mention this on the podcast, but I link to TD67: The Road To Smutville in the blog post.

I bring out all the stops with two Dr. Who references in one podcast: Daleks and the Tardis. Look at me go!

As so often happens, I mention three listeners today; Greg @RiverRatWA57, Long Duck @LongDuck71, and Chris @DriverChrisMc.

Electronic logs are being forced on all truckers

TD111: Improving Our Reputation As Truckers

[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]

Photo by Tom Brandt via Flickr Creative Commons

Photo by Tom Brandt via Flickr Creative Commons

Sorry to do this to my handful of faithful readers again, but I’ve got a second post in a row that is largely audio. In the previous episode of Trucker Dump, I interviewed my nephew Jared about the time he spent in my truck.

In this show, I was able to take it to the next level when listener Steven Gorman joined me in my truck to co-host the podcast. So please have a listen by clicking the Play button at the top of the page. Also, be sure to let me know what you think and tell us how you try to improve trucker’s reputations by sharing your thoughts in the comments section below or by emailing me at TruckerDump@gmail.com.

Additional links from the podcast version:

@MikeTheDriver got me started on a rant with a tweet about a slow driver.

Stevens Transport

Steven mentions the Smith System, which is a driving safety method for truckers.

Correction from last week, Clive Hammett’s Twitter name is @Clive_Hammett.

Steven showed me a photo of his “Apple” watch. LOL

We discuss the Slushbuster product again that Greg introduced us to on the last episode. Greg is @RiverRatWA57 on Twitter.

Pat Smith @PatSmithF1 wrote me to point out another windshield wiper device called the Wiper Shaker. Here is a video about it.

I mention the podcast/blog post called, “TD95: 4 Reasons That Trucker Might Be Tailgating You.”

I was interviewed by Noah Davis for an article on Road & Track called “A Trucker Explains Your Worst Driving Habits.”

I have been writing articles for TruckerMagazine.com.

In the feedback section:

Greg @RiverRatWA57 sends an audio comment about yet another fuel bay incident.

Long Duck tell us about a fuel bay showdown with another driver.

Shannon @Holden657 gives his audio feedback about the podcast in general.

 

TD110: Jabbering With Jared

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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.

TD109: Coping With Rookie Truckers

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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]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional links from the podcast version:

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

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

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

Short clip of Austin Powers in his cart. LOL

In the feedback section:

Brian from Australia chews me out about being lazy

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

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

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

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