If someone were to ask a non-trucker where the largest truckstop in the world was located, I’ll bet most would guess somewhere near a major US city, such as New York City or Los Angeles. But any experienced trucker could tell you that the World’s Largest Truckstop is the Iowa 80 in Walcott, Iowa. If you’ve haven’t visited this trucker heaven yet, you need to put it on your bucket list.
The Iowa 80 has been serving truckers 24/7 continuously since 1964 and it has grown and expanded to become everything a trucker could need (and let’s be honest, some things we just want!).
Your truck will think it’s in heaven too…
Believe it or not, the Iowa 80 truck stop has 900 parking spots to choose from. Yes, you heard that right; 900. If your truck requires service or needs repairs you can call on the Truck Service Center and their roadside assistance 24/7.
Once you’ve got Big Mama back up and running, make her happy by topping off the tanks in one of 15 fuel bays and then give her a good scrubbing at the 24/7 Truckomat truck wash. While you’re there, be sure to take Brutus the Mighty Warrior Chihuahua to the Dogomat pet wash so both your babies will be squeaky clean.
You could always use the CAT scale while you’re there, but you might want to be careful about that. Anything named Big Mama might be a bit sensitive about her weight. 😉
Once you get parked in one of the 900 parking spots, head on into the Iowa 80 main building to get some new bling for your big metal baby. The first thing you’ll likely notice when coming into the driver’s entrance is that there’s a full size tractor-trailer in there! And what’s that? Two more bobtails towards the back of the Super Truck Showroom! Wow!
Have you ever coveted a cool accessory on another driver’s truck? Well, you’ll likely be able to find whatever you’re looking for in the Iowa 80 semi truck accessories area. Truck vent visors? Yep, and plenty to choose from. There is a huge selection of everything from gear shift knobs to mud flaps to chrome parts and accessories. And be sure to throw some chrome axle covers into the cart to make Big Mama look super-sexy! How about some of those fancy money-saving led marker lights? The Super Truck Showroom has so many LED light displays that I momentarily thought I was at a Motley Crue concert!
Point is, you’ll never see a more complete set of chrome parts, accessories, and cool stuff for your truck than you will at the Iowa 80 Super Truck Showroom.
Look at all those driver amenities!
Now it’s time to baby ourselves. Priorities first; let’s get that pesky exercising out of the way in the 24/7 fitness room. Ouch! I threw my back out on the weight machine because I think I’m tougher than I really am (something every aging trucker could admit to if they only would). Good thing there’s a licensed chiropractor at the Iowa 80! May as well get that nearly expired DOT physical done while you’re there.
Now obviously you have to go back to the fitness room to finish up your workout, right. UGH! Now I slipped on the elliptical machine and chipped a tooth! What to do? Easy, just head down the hallway to Interstate Dental. Yes seriously. A dentist in a truck stop. How cool is that?
Now that you’ve finally finished your workout, go knock the funk off your bod in one of 24 immaculate shower rooms. Next, toss your sweaty workout clothes in one of 13 washers and 16 dryers.
While you’re waiting for your clothes to finish, take advantage of the barber shop and then go chat with some drivers in the Driver Den, watch a movie in the large Movie Theater, or check out the Gift Shop to pick up some souvenirs for the spouse and kiddies. Or stop in at the Custom Shop and have some spiffy new DOT numbers for Big Mama or have a custom embroidered shirt or hat made for yourself. So many things for a driver to do!
But of course, a trucker’s favorite thing to do is eat. And hey, you did already do a quick workout so you deserve it, right?
So many food choices, you’ll have a hard time deciding!
Let’s start with the Iowa 80 Kitchen, which is open 24/7 and features breakfast, lunch, and dinner buffets. If you’re in a hurry late at night, the Wendy’s restaurant is also open 24/7.
Your choices really open up if you get there during normal hours. In the food court you’ll find Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Blimpie, Dairy Queen/Orange Julius, and Caribou Coffee/Einstein Bros. Bagels, where you’d be a fool not to order a Campfire Mocha (S’mores flavored)!
Notice anything odd about that list? NO SUBWAY! HOORAY!
Other fun things to do at Iowa 80…
If you’re a fan of old trucks, be sure to stop into the Iowa 80 Trucking Museum located adjacent to the the truck stop. They’ve got some really cool trucks in there. After seeing what truckers in the past used to drive, you might think twice before complaining about your air ride seat not having enough lumbar support!
Another cool thing Iowa 80 does is host the Truckers Jamboree for three days every summer. You’ll find antique truck shows, the Super Trucks Beauty Contest, the Iowa Pork Chop Cookout, carnival games, live country music, Trucker Olympics, fireworks, and over 175 exhibits. Even cooler, admission and parking is free.
The next Trucker Jamboree is July 11-13, 2019 so be sure to mark your calendar and get Big Mama pointed toward Iowa.
Something for every trucker…
So you can now see why I call the Iowa 80 truck stop a “trucker heaven.” It’s got everything your average trucker could need or want and it’s all in one place. If you haven’t been there to experience it yet, well, what are you waiting for? Jump on I-80 in Iowa and get off at at exit 284.
If you don’t see the Iowa 80 from the exit ramp, please turn your truck keys in cuz you’re friggin’ blind as bat.
The title of this article specifically mentions bad truckers because well, this is a trucking blog ya know. But it’s really something even non-truckers need to think about.
We all see people doing stupid, rude, selfish, or just plain thoughtless things. For you non-truckers, it might be someone cutting in front of you at the grocery store checkout line or a neighbor who lets his St. Bernard do it’s squats in your yard. For truckers, it’s drivers who take a 30-minute break while sitting beside a fuel pump or one who pours out a gallon of piss in the parking lot right where another trucker is going to be walking soon.
So the question is, what should we do about this? Do we ignore it or do we confront these bad truckers?
Personally, I am one of the most non-confrontational people you’ll ever meet. When The Evil Overlord (wife and ex co-driver) is itching for a good argument, she often gets even more frustrated because it’s hard to get a rise out of me. Yet when I encounter another trucker doing something stupid, I often feel compelled to go straighten them out.
Who’s a naughty driver?
A couple months back, my friend and fellow Trucker Dump Slack member Aaron, was at one of his company terminals when he noticed that a lease driver had pulled into the fuel bay backwards. He approached the driver to let him know and this guy immediately got bent out of shape and starting trying to pick a fight. Thankfully, Aaron just walked away. A couple months down the road, Aaron ran into Mr. Fisticuffs again, only this time the guy actually tried to recruit him to drive one of his leased trucks! Is this dude schizophrenic, or what?
Almost every day I see someone on Facebook or Twitter talking about some bad trucker sitting in a fuel bay for what appears to be a mandatory 30-minute break. Man, I hope the FMCSA gets rid of this rule soon. The two instances I remember the most were at the Love’s in Toms Brook, Virginia and at the Flying J in Waco, Texas. Both times I was fueling right next to a driver who was sitting in the driver’s seat reading. And both times neither was fueling when I pulled up and they still hadn’t budged as I pulled away.
At least there wasn’t anyone behind the driver in Virginia, but all of the other fuel bays were full, therefore the next trucker that pulled in was going to be waiting to fuel. Uncool. The driver in Waco was really screwing things up though. Trucks were two deep waiting on a fuel bay and this guy just did not care. This latter instance took place in the afternoon, so there were parking places available out in the parking lot. I guess this worthless excuse of a trucker felt it was too inconvenient. Bless his heart.
It’s times like these that even mild-mannered dudes like myself want to say something. If only I were Clark Kent. He’s as mild-mannered as they get, but if I could just step into my truck, into my leotards, and take off my glasses, I’d go pick up the guy’s rig and walk it over to a parking spot. I might even set it down just a tad bit too hard… accidentally of course. But since I don’t possess super-human strength (let alone own any leotards), I settled for stopping to look up at him a few times with a look of disgust. Unsurprisingly, he was too busy reading his magazine to notice me. Ultimately, I kept my mouth shut and did my job. All I can say is that he better be glad bad thoughts can’t make someone crap their drawers. Dang it! I want super-powers!
Now I’m not going to go into detail as to why parking in the fuel bay is so annoying. Truckers already know, but for you non-truckers you can go check out TD107: The Fuel Bay Golden Rule. http://abouttruckdriving.com/2015/04/26/td107-the-fuel-bay-golden-rule/. Suffice it to say, it really gums things up.
The real pisser
I got annoyed again recently while at the Flying J in Albuquerque, New Mexico for a 34-hour break. I was sitting on my bunk looking out the windshield when I saw a Styline Logistics driver stand on his top running board and pour out what appeared to be about 1/2 gallon of piss. He poured it right on the pavement where the next driver was going to step out. And in total view of all the truckers in the vicinity. To make things even more unexcusable, there was a grassy area about 100 feet from his dump site and a trash can was even closer.
Again, my first reaction was to approach him and give him a stern lecture about how disrespectful that is to other drivers. Instead I waited until he left and walked over to verify it was in fact human whiz (one whiff told me it was). Once verified, I promptly Googled his company and called to report him. I only got a voice mail, so I honestly don’t know if anyone confronted him about it. I would hope so. I can’t imagine any trucking company being happy about one of their drivers doing anything like this. It certainly doesn’t reflect well on them.
The line cutter
Just a few weeks ago, I had yet another incident. I was waiting for the CAT scale to clear at the Flying J in Pontoon Beach, Illinois. For any of you drivers familiar while the place, you’ll know that if you pull right up behind the driver on the scale, you’re effectively blocking the exit path for any drivers trying to leave the fuel area. I’m a considerate dude, so I was hanging back a bit.
Just as the trucker was pulling off the scale, another truck comes flying in front of me and drives onto the scale! Well there was no stopping me this time. I got on the CB, but of course there was no response. So I jump out of the truck and go storming up to the guy who is now standing on his running board talking to the cashier.
With my arms outstretched I yell (and I do mean yell), “Dude, what the heck!” (yes, seriously – I didn’t curse even then – very proud of myself) He looks at me with utter bewilderment, but I continue, “I was waiting in line and you just butt right in front of me.” He immediately apologizes and said he didn’t see me. Well, I guess that’s possible if you’re a bad trucker who isn’t paying attention to his surroundings.
Why do we feel the need to correct others?
I will be the first to admit that the less noble side of me wants to correct these people just so I can make them feel like the selfish pigs they are. Mission accomplished in this case. But another part of me wants to scold them simply because it makes me mad; almost as mad as The Evil Overlord gets when I leave the hallway light on for no apparent reason… for the third time in 15 minutes. Again, successful in this situation. I felt vindicated after my outburst, even though it didn’t better my situation in the least.
But my deeper reason for wanting to correct these bad truckers is that I just want the trucking industry to be a better place to work for everyone. Basically, I want to shame them into doing the right thing.
Bad truckers aren’t helping with the driver shortage
Trucking companies are already having enough problems keeping their trucks full. A bunch of jerk face drivers with “me first“ attitudes are not going to help things any. Most of what keeps newcomers away from truck driving is simply being away from home, family, and friends. If it weren’t for that, I’m sure these carriers wouldn’t have such a hard time keeping some enormous trucker butts in their seats.
But let’s say the trucking companies could figure this out and provide a way for drivers to get home more often. Even then, why would an outsider want to come into an industry where so many drivers are disrespecting their fellow truckers? And even if they are naïve enough to enter the industry without knowing what it’s truly like, how long do we expect them to stick around if these bad truckers keep making their job more frustrating than it has to be? We already know that there is a huge portion of new truckers who don’t make it past the six-month mark. Hey, let’s give them yet another reason to abandon the industry! ?
Should we call out bad truckers?
Okay. Now that we’ve discussed the satisfaction we sometimes feel after jumping down someone’s esophagus, let’s ponder whether we should be calling out these bad truckers.
Despite the fact that I just did this a couple of weeks ago myself, I’m thinking I should stop confronting these people. Even though it’s very rare when I do lose my cool, I should still get my emotions in check and not confront the driver.
Here’s the problem. People are freaking crazy nowadays. You just never know how they’re going to take your correction.
I’m sure most of you heard about the shooting incident at the Pilot in Walton, Kentucky, when one driver cut in front of a truck that was waiting for the next available fuel bay. The offended driver approached the bad trucker and words were exchanged. The bad trucker then shot the guy in the arm and proceeded to turn the gun on himself in a successful suicide. Now if you change the words “fuel pump” to “CAT scale,” that could’ve been me getting shot at.
Another shooting incident took place at the Love’s in Jackson, Georgia. Apparently a truck had been sitting in a fuel bay for a long time. The waiting driver got impatient and approached the other driver. Naturally an argument resumed. The waiting driver returned to his truck and brandished a gun. Apparently he was unaware that the other driver was packing too, because at this point, the jerk in the fuel bay opened fire. Luckily, the driver survived the shooting and the shooter was released after it was determined to be self-defense.
Okay. So this time we’re dealing with two bad truckers. One was unnecessarily blocking a fuel bay; the other decided that producing a weapon was the answer to the problem. Both are bad choices. But would this incident have ever taken place if the waiting driver hadn’t approached the fuel bay hog? Nope.
All this has lead me to the following conclusion. My life is not worth the satisfaction I get from straightening out a bad trucker. Even if I’m “only” shot in the arm, I’m still out of work for a while. Even if the altercation escalates to blows, what did we solve by pummeling each other?
Calling out bad truckers doesn’t work
But perhaps a bigger reason is that it just doesn’t work. Think about it. If a bad trucker is such a self-centered A-hole that they clearly don’t care that they’re offending, delaying, or inconveniencing everyone else, what makes you think they’re going to give a frog’s fart about your opinion? They aren’t!
What can we do about it?
So does this mean that all us good drivers have to take this crap from bad truckers? No. But we do have to be careful about it.
When we feel we’re not being respected, our natural reactions are to fly off the handle, or at the very least, confront the issue with a bit of an attitude. This is not the smart thing to do. The Bible says, “A soft answer turns away wrath.” I know for a fact that this works for initiating a confrontation too. Despite my blow-up at the scale hopper a while back, I’m usually pretty level-headed.
We all get stuck behind drivers who clearly aren’t fueling. Just the other day I was sitting behind a truck at the fuel bay. I could see the guy topping off his tanks so I knew he was almost done. When he finally finished he stepped back into the truck. I waited for the inevitable brake lights and then a pull-up to let me at the pumps. Nothing happened. I gave him enough time to get situated. Maybe do something to his log book, put something away, or change into some driving clothes. Still no movement. Now was the time for action.
I walked up and tapped on the driver’s door. He rolled down the window and I could see he had a co-driver and they were having a good laugh about something. His expression changed as soon as he saw me. He looked like he was expecting an attitude. Instead he got a smile and a “Hey man. You got something going on up here? I’d kinda like to get at the fuel bay.” He moved up, although I don’t think he was all that happy about it. But what could he do to a guy who was smiling and asking nicely? Now if I had walked up there with a scowl on my face and an attitude, how well do you think that would have gone?
Besides, sometimes there are legitimate reasons. Maybe he’s having trouble with his fuel card? Maybe his truck won’t start? Or maybe they spilled their coffee all over the place while getting into the truck? Sure, most of the time it’s just a selfish jerk who thinks the world revolves around him. For all I know, his head might be so big that it caused it’s own orbit. It works for the sun, after all.
But let’s say he did cop attitude with me. What then? Well, ideally I walk away without a word. Sure, it sucks worse than a 12-volt vacuum cleaner to have to swallow your attitude, especially when you know you’re in the right. But remember, if this bad trucker doesn’t mind blocking the fuel bay when he could see that I was behind him, he’s probably not going to care about my opinion (or anyone else for that matter).
The smart approach
So here’s how I’m going to try to handle these situations in the future. I will approach nicely. If the guy who butted in front of me at the CAT scale clearly didn’t see me (which I truly believe he didn’t), he’ll apologize and everyone will feel better about the situation. If the jerk in the fuel bay decides to ignore me, I’ll back off off and try to find a different fuel bay.
And then I’m going to go tell on them like a third-grade girl who narcs on the boy who keeps wiping boogers on her. Seriously.
If a driver is clearly taking a break in the fuel bay, go tell the fuel desk. Sure, there’s only a small chance of them doing something about it other than making an announcement over the intercom to “be courteous to other drivers and pull up when finished fueling,” but it’s better than getting a Colt .45 pointed at your face. Then call their company (if they’re a company driver obviously) and report them. Maybe the bad trucker doesn’t care what you or the truck stop cashier has to say, but maybe they’ll listen if it’s coming from the company that is paying their wages every week.
Now I know some of you macho drivers are thinking, “I’m not going to be a narc.” That’s a wussy’s way out. I’ll take care of this myself.” Well, in the words of another scuzbucket, Bobby Brown, I guess “that’s myyyyyy prerogative.” Personally, it doesn’t bother me one iota to be a tattle-tell.
I’ve reported drivers for refusing to turn down their rap music when I’m trying to sleep, even after I’ve asked nicely. I’ve reported bad truckers who are driving waaaaay too aggressively. And obviously I’ve reported drivers who use the truck stop parking lot as their personal port-a-potty. All of these acts (including a whole bunch we haven’t even mentioned in this article) are either disrespectful or downright dangerous to others.
So call me a narc. Call me a tattle-tell. Call me a snitch. You can even call me a squealer. Just don’t ever call me a bad trucker.
What are your thoughts about confronting bad drivers? Do you do it? Are you still going to do it after reading this article? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Podcast Show Notes:
We all see people doing stupid, inconsiderate, or just plain rude things every day. What do we do it about? Should we call these people out or should we bite our tongues? We’ll discuss that in today’s main topic.
But the show is also jam-packed with news stories, including some recalls, some autonomous truck stuff, some good news for diabetic truckers, and more thoughts about dash cams. We’ll also talk about naughty booters and some even naughtier truckers. And I’ll tell you a couple of ways you can get your voice heard to make trucking driving a better job. We’ll also talk about what makes a good trucking company and of course, the death of a trucking icon.
Driver Dave sent in a unique Trucker Grub segment and in the feedback section we hear from Ali, who has a tailgating tale, Tim is considering a switch from IT to trucking, and Anthony’s “oddest question I’ve ever received” leads to a discussion of truck driving schools.
Citadel Fleet Safety – Call (800)269-5905 or click the link for a special discount for Trucker Dump listeners. Click on [Customer Login] in the upper-right corner, click on the Trucker Dump logo, and use password: trucker dump.
25% off the regular price when you order the ebook combo pack which includes “Trucking Life: An Entertaining, Yet Informative Guide To Becoming And Being A Truck Driver” and “How to Find a Great Truck Driving Job.” Only $14.98! And don’t forget there’s a free 9.25-hour audiobook version of “Trucking Life” included!
Experienced truckers know that there are many things in the trucking industry that are out of your control. If you’re a newbie who has not figured this out yet, you soon will. But this does not mean that everything is completely out of your control either. Here are some ways you can become a more efficient trucker.
This episode of Trucker Dump is sponsored by:
Citadel Fleet Safety– Call 800-269-5905 or click the link for a special discount for Trucker Dump listeners. Click on [Customer Login] in the upper-right corner, click on the Trucker Dump logo, and use password: truckerdump.
Efficient trucker tip #1: Always ask about early delivery or a drop
This is a big mistake I see too many truckers making. Drivers often assume that just because their company is “forced dispatch” that they have to take whatever load is given to them. This is simply wrong. Forced dispatch only means that you have to take the load if you can’t supply a good reason not to. So if you want to become a more efficient trucker, you need to start thinking differently.
Never accept the status quo.
Every time I get a new dispatch, the first thing I do is look to see when the load picks up and delivers. Ideally, you’ve got just enough time to drive the empty miles to pick up the load and get it to its delivery on time, but not arrive there too early. Great. Accept the load, drive safe, and stay out of my way! 🙂 (That’s my tagline at the end of each podcast.)
But all too often when they’re asking you to drive 50 miles to pick up a load, it doesn’t pick up for five hours; meaning you are going to get there about four hours early! And then when you look at the delivery time, you figure you’re going to be there a whopping 10 hours earlier than your appointment time! What now? If you’ve got the customer’s phone number, use it. But as you well know, many of us company drivers don’t have access to it. If that’s the case, contact your dispatcher.
Sure, you could use the extra time on these loads to stop in some quaint town along the way and go sightseeing. Or you could use the time to polish your chrome or head into the casino for some blackjack. But this article is about being a more efficient trucker. None of these things are efficient. In fact, they’re all going to cost you time and money!
Call your dispatcher
I don’t keep stats on this sort of thing, but if I had to guess I would say I am calling or messaging my dispatcher on about half my loads; possibly more. Whichever wait time (pick up or delivery) is the longest is what I ask about first.
“Hey Gina, I can be at the shipper at 1:00 PM, but the load doesn’t show to pick up until 5:00 PM. Will they load me early?”
Sometimes it’s a set appointment and there’s nothing you can do about it. Other times they will have notes about the customer saying that you can pick up anytime and that the time listed is just a “suggested” appointment time. Honestly, that doesn’t seem very efficient to me, but unfortunately I can’t change their company polices.
Other times I’ll notice the pick up time is something crazy like 24 hours away, even though I’m only 80 miles out. Again I’m immediately asking dispatch what the deal is. Maybe freight is just slow in the area so your options are limited. But it’s also a possibility that somebody in the office screwed up and thought you didn’t have driving hours available or they just looked at the shipping date wrong! You might be surprised how often this happens.
If you’re going to arrive at your delivery extra-early, ask if they will accept the load early
This happened to me again just the other day. The load delivered at 9:00 PM, but I could get there about 9:00 AM. The comments section for this load specifically said, “Do not attempt to deliver earlier than appointment time.” Now usually when the load comments are that specific, I know they are set in stone. Therefore I was resigned to it. But I still put on my efficient trucker hat to figure out how to make the best use of my time.
I was low on hours that day anyway, so my plan was to come off a 10-hour break and drive the remaining three hours to get as close to the delivery location as I could. I’d then take yet another 10-hour break and then deliver the load 9:00 PM. My thought was that by the time I was unloaded, I would be getting hours back at midnight and be ready to roll again. Of course, this sucks for your sleep because I had just come off a 10-hour break. How I’m expecting myself to sleep again that soon is a different issue that we don’t have time to go into.
Obviously, I didn’t really want to do this, so I thought to myself “What can it hurt to ask about an early delivery?” So I did (see screenshot). You can see the happy result. As I always tell my dispatcher, “He who does not ask, does not receive.” You might remember that the next time you’re in a similar situation.
One thing I forgot to mention was that due to my low hours, I only had 2.5 hours left to drive that day after my delivery. I’m sure many drivers would’ve just accepted this fact and stuck with the original plan. Not this super-efficient trucker!
As you can no doubt already see, I’m very aware of my available hours. But I’m even more anal about this the closer it gets to home time. This instance happened about a week before my scheduled home time.
I’m sure you’ve probably been in this scenario before.
You’re just shy of having enough driving hours to get home without taking another 10-hour break first; or you’re waiting around until midnight to get hours back before you can finish the drive home.
Either that or you turn outlaw and drive the few hours home illegally. You naughty little pet. Good luck with that now that elogs are mandatory. My point is, that 2.5 hours extra that I could utilize today might be the 2.5 hours that I need to get home this coming weekend! This is yet another reason why it’s so important to be as efficient as you can be.
If you can’t deliver early, ask if you can drop the loaded trailer somewhere
If your dispatch says the customer won’t let you deliver early, ask them if there is somewhere along your route that you can drop the load; for instance, if you have a terminal or a drop yard en route. As a driver, you probably know your route better than the dispatcher, so make a suggestion. “Hey; since I can’t deliver this early, can I drop at the Columbus or St. Louis yard? I’m going right past both on the way to delivery.” If they’ve got other freight in the area that needs to move, they’ll usually hook you right up.
Yes, it might suck to turn a 600 mile trip into a puny 350 mile run, but at least you’re not going to be sitting outside a customer for 24 hours waiting to unload. You can use that time to be running a different load to make up those lost miles. Trust me, it usually pays off in the end.
Probably the reason I make the call to dispatch so often is because it works to my advantage most of the time. If I can point out how the load isn’t very efficient, they will often toss it back into the pile of loads and come out with something better. But other times I’m just stuck with the load and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. That’s when you reach into your medicine cabinet, pop a chill pill, and accept it as part of trucking. At least you tried to be the most efficient trucker you can be.
Now I can hear some of you thinking, “My dispatcher isn’t going to want to go to all this trouble for me.” Well tough noogies. That’s their job. Besides, dealing with the driver is often the dispatcher’s only job at most of these large carriers. There are usually different groups of people who plan the loads and deal with customer service issues. Not always the case at smaller carriers, but it’s still their job.
In my personal experience, I can tell that my dispatcher does sometimes get annoyed with me questioning these loads so frequently. But that’s usually when she is especially busy trying to get drivers home for the weekend or something is going horribly wrong with another driver on their fleet.
Remember; part of a dispatcher’s performance review is based on how efficient their fleet is. So it actually benefits them if you ask this question and become a more efficient trucker. You just might have to remind them of this fact until they get used to you asking about getting rid of these loads early.
Now let’s say that despite your best effort, you’re still stuck with this load and you’re going to get to your delivery 10 hours before your appointment time. How can you still be an efficient trucker?
Efficient trucker tip #2: Sleep at the customer
One reason I’m glad that I was on the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) bandwagon earlier than most (2010) is because it forced my company to start adding one new bit of information to our load information; whether there is overnight parking at the shipper or receiver. This used to be another phone call or message to dispatch, but now the information is right there in the load comments. Thank God, because this makes me a much more efficient trucker! How so?
Unless I am 100% positive that my load is a drop & hook trailer, I will always try to sleep at the customer overnight if it is allowed. I know this is not a popular choice among truckers, but I’m convinced it makes me a more efficient trucker. Even if it is drop and hook, I will still often sleep there anyway. Why?
It saves my 14 hour clock
I’ve talked to many truckers over the years who simply refuse to sleep at a customer unless it is their only option. The argument is always that they want access to food and bathrooms. Fair enough. But if you want to be the most efficient trucker you can be, you really need to get over this.
Sleeping at the customer honestly wasn’t as necessary back in the days when we had paper logs. We could often fudge the timeline so that we didn’t lose much driving time. But since the inflexible ELDs have been mandatory since December 18, 2017, sleeping at a customer’s facility is really the #1 way I’ve found to maximize my 70-hour workweek.
First off, it’s not hard to work around the bathroom and food issue
If at all possible, you should always find out ahead of time what the bathroom situation is. Some of the customers I visit have 24-hour restrooms for drivers. Sometimes, it might be a porta-potty, but it’s better than nothing.
Even if they don’t have restrooms available overnight, simply stop at the nearest truck stop before you get there and take your giant trucker dump. Even if you don’t think you need to, you might ought to pull in and try. In the #1 department, even us older guys with smaller bladders can get through the night since the vast majority of truckers have some sort of piss bottle in the truck. Don’t deny it. Even if you don’t, you can always go water some of the local shrubbery. Serves the customer right for not keeping the restroom open for you.
As for access to food, if you’re one of those moneybags who eats in restaurants all the time, you can check into apps like Yelp or Google Maps to see if there’s any little eateries within walking distance. You never know. You might find a gem! Or you can always go the easy route and grab an extra sandwich at the ever-present Subway shoppe. Honestly, all drivers should be keeping a little bit of food on hand anyway. Peanut butter and cans of soup have a seemingly endless shelf life, you know. One of the perks of me being such a cheapskate is that I always have food in my truck, so this is never an issue.
Now when I say “sleeping at a customer,” that’s exactly what I mean. I’m not talking about hanging out there for 24 hours or anything. Although this super-efficient trucker has done exactly that many times if that’s what it takes to squeeze in a 34-hour break.
Even if you’ve only got six hours before you deliver, you should still park onsite if you can. Again we’re trying to save your clock here. I see two major benefits in doing this:
1. You might get into the dock early.
Let’s say you arrive at 2:00 AM and your appointment is not till 10:00 AM. But they open at 7:00 AM. If you don’t mind interrupting your beauty sleep, it never hurts to check in at 7:00 AM to see if they will take you early. You’re probably thinking “Why the heck do I want to get in the dock at 7:00 AM if my 10-hour break isn’t over until noon anyway?” That’s reason number two.
2. Because you never know how long it’s going to take to load or unload.
If I were to take a poll of truckers on the biggest problems in the trucking industry, I’d be willing to bet that one of the top five answers would be shipper/receivers wasting our driving hours. Not a day goes by when you don’t hear some trucker whining about how the shippers/receivers don’t value our time. Well this is one way to mitigate it. If they want to take six hours to get me unloaded, then at least they’re doing it while my ELD shows me Off-Duty or Sleeper Berth. If it only takes two hours, great! Stay up and get started planning your next load. Or you can always try to go back to bed to finish that sweet dream you were having about Farrah Fawcett.
Now let’s look at you drivers who refuse to sleep at a customer overnight
You have a 10:00 AM appointment so you wake up full of piss and vinegar, eager to utilize the 11 hours of driving you have available. You start your pre-trip inspection at 9:00 AM, roll into the customer at 9:30 AM, and bump the dock at 10:00 AM. I love it when a plan comes together! Uh huh. You silly little optimistic trucker.
In reality, six hours later you’re finally ready to roll, but thanks to the cursed 14-hour rule you only have 7 hours left to drive. Who’s to blame; you or the customer? Well both, but you could’ve prevented this if you had slept at the customer overnight. So those 4 hours of driving you lost are ultimately on your head. Remember, we can’t control everything, so we have to control the things we can.
But hey, let’s be realistic. Not every customer takes six hours to unload. Even if it only takes two hours, you’ve left yourself very little extra time to do anything else except for drive like a madman all day. You can kiss that workout and shower goodbye. Yeah, right! Like truckers exercise or bathe.
Now I know this “sleeping at a customer” thing is an unpopular choice that many of you will refuse to budge on
So be it. If you want to continue to be an inefficient trucker, that’s up to you. I would just suggest that you try it for a while and see if you don’t notice that you’re making better use of your hours of service. And that usually transfers to better paychecks.
Oh, and there’s one other benefit from sleeping at customer locations. You have less chance of sleeping with your head right next to someone’s screaming reefer unit. Unless of course you are pulling a reefer, which in that case you’re just screwed.
Efficient trucker tip #3: Keep your ETA/PTA updated
But first, you need to make sure you know what the terms ETA and PTA means to your company. At most of the carriers I’ve worked for, ETA means Estimated Time of Arrival and PTA stands for Projected Time of Availability. But I have also worked for a couple of companies who used ETA as Estimated Time of Availability instead of PTA. Yes, it was just as confusing then as it is now. These two versions of ETA (or ETA and PTA) are vastly different things. Let me explain.
My Estimated Time of Arrival might be 9:00 AM, but if I know the customer usually takes two hours to unload, that would make my Estimated Time of Availability at 11:00 AM. This could be even worse. Take for example our earlier scenario where my Estimated Time of Arrival was 2:00 AM because I was going to get there early, but my appointment was not until 10:00 AM. So figure 1 hour to unload and my Estimated Time of Availability is actually 11:00 AM. That’s nine hours difference between an ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival) and an ETA (Estimated Time of Availability)!
Keep your dispatcher as up-to-date as possible about your available working hours
While it’s true that most modern dispatching software will keep track of that, I’ve never had a dispatcher who didn’t appreciate not having to look it up. As an added bonus, I believe that staying on top of your available working hours makes you look a bit more professional than your fellow drivers.
My last suggestion to be the most efficient trucker you can be is…
Efficient trucker tip #4: Don’t keep a steady schedule
I fully accept that with the way your particular circadian rhythms work, some of you simply cannot physically do what I’m about to ask, but if you can, or even if you think you can, you should try it for a while.
We all know those drivers who get up at 7:00 AM and drive their 11 hours. Worst case scenario the 14 hour clock is up at 9:00 PM. They’re back up and rolling at 7:00 AM. They do this every day. Obviously, the start time can vary. I suppose there is nothing wrong with this if you know exactly what your freight is every day and you have complete control over it. More power to you if that’s your situation. If that is the case, I have to admit that I kind of hate your guts.
But for the vast majority of over-the-road drivers, we have no idea when or even if we are going to get a load to run on any given day. So by not keeping a steady schedule, you’re working as hard and as fast as you can when you have freight so that when those inevitable down times come along, they don’t hurt nearly as much.
Let’s do a little math. To keep things simple, let’s assume two things that aren’t exactly true unless you’ve entered the land of fairy dust and unicorn farts. First, that it’s possible to run 11 hours straight, take a 10-hour break, and then run your 11 hours again for multiple days in a row. And secondly, let’s assume that we have competing truckers; one loosey-goosey driver who likes to run hard and one steady schedule driver who likes to start his day at midnight. Probably not very realistic, but for the sake of easy math, you’ll see what I mean.
The case for not driving a steady schedule
In this magical world where everything always runs smoothly, let’s say both drivers start their day at midnight and are done driving by 11:00 AM. They both take a mandatory 10-hour break. When the break is over, the loosey-goosey driver starts running again at 9:00 PM, while the steady schedule guy is waiting around for midnight to start his day like he does every day.
You can see that the loosey-goosey driver has 14 hours of driving already finished in that first 24 hours (11 on the first driving shift + 3 on the second), while the steady schedule driver only has 11 hours under his belt.
Come midnight, the steady schedule guy runs another 11 hours for 22 hours total driving over the two days. But loosey-goosy driver drove from 9:00 PM the night before to 8:00 AM the next morning, took another 10 hour break, and started driving again at 6:00 PM, meaning he now has 28 hours of driving in the same time frame. That’s six more hours over two days!
I will spare you the math, but at the end of three days, the loosey-goosey driver has driven nine more hours than the steady driver!
Now I can hear some of you saying, “Yeah, but that ain’t the way trucking works in the real world!” You’re correct. There will be days when you don’t get a full 11 hours of running. There might even be days that you don’t get to run at all. And that’s my point.
Run it when you got it
Here’s my philosophy. When you have freight, run it as hard and as fast as you legally can, utilizing all three previous tips to make the use best use of your hours. That way when you do have the inevitable downtime, then at least you have been as efficient as you can possibly be up until that point where things are out now out of your control.
A side benefit is doing a 34-hour break
Often times, these steady drivers don’t even run a full 11 hours. Their idea is that if they work 8.75 hours maximum per day (both Driving and On-Duty time combined) for 8 days (70 hours in 8 days rule), that they will never run out of their 70 working hours. Okay. Good theory. That means you will get a maximum of 70 working hours under perfect conditions.
Now let’s look at loosey-goosey driver who hammers down. Again, I won’t bore you with the math, but if this driver runs as soon as possible after each 10-hour break, they can easily hit their 70 hours maximum in 5 days. If they then take a 34-hour break to restart their 70-hours, they can now expand their available working hours to over 80 hours in the same amount of time that the steady driver has only worked 70 hours. That could add up to about 10% more money!
Be a more efficient trucker
To sum up, my belief is that to be the most efficient trucker you can be, you need to work as hard as you can while you have loads to run so you can maximize your potential.
Every hour of your available 70 counts in trucking, so be conscience of every one of them. If a customer will take a load as soon as you can get it there, don’t screw around. Deliver it ASAP!
You could have mechanical problems that cause delays.You could be delayed by a lazy loader. You could hit a patch of bad weather. If you’ve dilly-dallied when you could’ve been running hard, you may even find yourself delivering late if something unexpected happens.
I always run as hard as I can to get where I’m going, even if I can’t deliver early. I can’t count how many times I’ve been able to rescue a load from a driver who’s low on hours while he sits under my load to get those hours back. That’s a win-win-win situation. The company is getting their rescued load delivered on time. The other driver is in no rush now so he’s getting back the hours he needs while he’s sitting under may old load. And best of all, I’m making more miles!
So my advice is to step out of your comfort zone and try some of these tips
Don’t automatically accept loads that don’t make good use of your time. Argue your point with a cool head. If nothing can be done about the delivery time, ask if you can drop the load someplace to keep moving.
Try sleeping at the customer to maximize your driving hours. You’ll be surprised how less-stressed you’ll be when that slow forklift dude isn’t eating into your driving hours.
Get off your steady schedule and run hard when you have freight. Save your loafing time for those times when you’re stuck without a load. And if you can do a 70-hour reset, do it.
And lastly, keep your ETA/PTA updated so your dispatcher can find your next good load that maximizes your earning potential. And if that load sucks, get on the phone and start the process all over again. Ain’t truckin’ fun?
Podcast show notes:
In today’s podcast, I present four ideas that could help you become a more efficient trucker. I also cover a crapload of news stories, ranging from new ways to tackle truck parking, new proposed hours-of-service legislation, Electronic Logging Devices (ELD), a lost trucker, some surprises about driver pay, and possibly one of the most insane verdicts I’ve ever heard. I also tell you how social media can help you in a way that you might not have thought of before.
In the Feedback section, we hear from from Goat Bob, Driver Dave, DriverChrisMc, and Dan on subjects such as trucking podcasts, to axle weights, to cancer, to beef liver, and finally being pissed off at truckers.
Check out new Trucker Dump merchandise at TeePublic.com, including tee shirts, hoodies, mugs, stickers, tote bags, and even kid’s clothes!
This episode of Trucker Dump is sponsored by:
Citadel Fleet Safety– Call 800-269-5905 or click the link for a special discount for Trucker Dump listeners. Click on [Customer Login] in the upper-right corner, click on the Trucker Dump logo, and use password: truckerdump.
I’ve been thinking a lot about truck safety lately. More specifically, I’ve been wondering about how much control the driver has when it comes to having a safe driving record. Is it simply a matter of constant vigilance or does fate have a part in it?
For those of you who listen to the podcast version, in the last few episodes you’ve heard me hinting about an accident I had recently. Well today is the day I spill the beans.
The accident happened back in February.
It was early afternoon and I was nearly out of driving hours. Since both the DOT and my company tend to frown on log violations, I was hoping to find a spot at the Pilot in Hammond, Louisiana. I pulled into the lot behind and perpendicular to the fuel bays and stopped to check out the situation. There were a couple of trucks backing in and the lot was already jam-packed.
Just then, I saw a driver pulling out of a spot. What luck! The thing is, I would need to back up just a tad to turn left and go through the fuel bays to get lined up for it. Being in a hurry, I glanced in my mirror and started backing up. I heard a quick honk and I jammed on the brakes. Whew! That was close! I started turning left to go through the fuel bays when I saw the driver jump out of his truck and wave me down. Uh oh.
I had only pulled up about 5 feet, so I yanked the brake, and walked back to meet him. Sure enough, I had barely tapped him. When I say barely, I mean barely. Check out the picture so you don’t think I’m exaggerating. That right there folks is $1100 worth of damage, which ironically was how much my safety bonus check was short this year. Grrrr.
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.
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 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.
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.
You know, I’ll have to admit that I’ve had some pretty lame titles over the course of the Trucker Dump podcast/blog, but this, my friends, ain’t one of ’em. You’ve got to admit that your first thought was, “What the… (choose your intensity of potty word here)??” But now that you’ve had a chance to pull yourself together, I’m sure you know where this is going. But first, let’s discuss butts in general, because, you know, that’s the kind of thing we do here.
Butts are great. You know why? Well, for one thing everyone’s got one. I mean, there are people born without arms and legs, but even they’ve got butts. Some people have great butts. Heck, 70 years ago the hilarious comedian/actor Carl Reiner liked a girl’s butt so much that he wrote a poem entitled, “Ode To the Buttocks Bountiful.”
Other people’s butts aren’t so great. My sister Angi has told me for years that I have a “cracker butt.” She’s right and I know it. My butt is so flat, it’s almost concave. It’s also appropriately white like a cracker; just as it should be. Sorry. Guess I should have issued a TMI warning there. Oh well. No taking it back now. And for the record, my sister is allowed to use the word “cracker” because she’s a white girl. Kinda like black folks can use the “N-word,” but no one else can. Funny how that rule isn’t reciprocal. One of these days, that whole “racist” thing is going to have to work equally both ways. Well now. That was a little tangent I didn’t expect. So anyway…
The Evil Overlord agrees with my sister’s assessment of my less-than-stellar tush. She says it’s a cute heart-shape, but I just don’t see it when I’m checking myself out in the mirror. Wait… I’m not the only guy to do that, right? 😉 I know she’s just being nice, which is a real stretch for someone with the word “evil” in her title. I don’t know. Maybe she does like it? Why else would she smack it so hard every time I bend over to put down the shower mat? Seriously, the last time she did it, a neighbor came over to ask if we got a look at the plane that caused the sonic boom. I swear that if a CSI guy came by right then, they could get a full set of her fingerprints from the red mark she leaves. TMI again?
Anyway, my butt has been nonexistent as long as I can remember. I had a few friends in high school who had fabulous butts. Yes… guys. I know because whoever my girlfriend was at the time never failed to notice. I didn’t mind. They were just speaking the truth. Having a flawed butt isn’t great, but it’s better than having a hairy butt. Even worse, a dude with a hairy, flat butt. I feel sorry for you dudes the most… or ladies I suppose. 😉
But you know what? Even if I had been born with a fabulous derrière, I wouldn’t still have it today. Why? Because I’ve been a trucker for 17 years, that’s why. Here are 4 Reasons Truckers Don’t Have Butts. Pay attention here. This is life-altering stuff.
Truckers freeze their butts off
A couple of weeks ago I was in Grand Forks, North Dakota when it was colder than a Slushie brain freeze. My company has a rule that the truck must be left running if the temperature is below 20 degrees. They do this to keep the fluids from gelling up and causing starting issues. I had checked the weather when I went to bed and it was in the mid-20s, but I knew it would be dipping below 20 around 4 AM. My plan was to use the bunk heater until then, get up and start the truck, and go back to bed. I’ve done this countless times to save idle time (my top speed is based on idle time).
Unfortunately, my Weather Channel app got it wrong this time. By the time my alarm went off, it was already 14 degrees. Thankfully the truck started, but just about the time I fell back asleep, what must have been the most annoying sound known to man started screaming at me. The display on the dash said I had low coolant levels and the bright red “stop engine” light was on. Now usually that means the truck is about to shut the engine down to protect itself, so I bundled up as quick as I could, hopped out, and was immediately chilled to the bone thanks to the -33 degree wind chill.
The wind was blowing so stinkin’ hard that the hood slammed down on me while I was checking the oil! Thankfully, those puppies are made of fiberglass and not lead. Not that it would’ve mattered since I’m a tough-as-nails, macho kinda guy. I wound up having to turn the truck in the opposite direction to keep the stinkin’ hood open!
The oil level was fine, but the antifreeze was a bit low. I filled ‘er up, but sadly the mind-piercing alarm didn’t go off. Thankfully the truck kept running despite the “stop engine” light. The maintenance guy I had on the phone had me do some troubleshooting, but if I was out in that wind for more than five minutes at a time, I couldn’t feel my fingers or toes for about 15 minutes. So basically, if I’d had a butt, it would’ve detached itself right there and scooted across the icy parking lot.
To make a long story short, I sat in a hotel all weekend until the local International dealer opened on Monday. I should’ve taken advantage of the down time and the quiet hotel room to put together a podcast/blog, but I honestly have a hard time staying off Netflix and Amazon Prime when I have free wifi. Turns out, a DEF injector had gotten clogged, probably due to getting too cold. Oops.
Another time, my truck broke down on I-494 near St. Paul, Minnesota in the dead of winter. That time, the motor died and I didn’t have a bunk heater in the truck. Due to the nasty weather and some nastier construction, it took the tow truck six hours to get to me. Despite me wearing my old cowboy-style, red long johns (complete with escape hatch) under my clothes and a coat, I was frozen to the core by the time I got rescued.
But we don’t need to have mechanical problems for truckers to freeze their butts off. We solo drivers have to fuel at least every other day. Team drivers probably do it every day. That means standing out in the cold for anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes, depending on the size of your fuel tanks. It could be even longer if you have to pump DEF. What’s up with those DEF pumps anyway? I could play a whole game of Monopoly before they’re done pumping!
Then there are the drivers who work outside. Flatbedders often have to freeze their buns off while they tarp or untarp loads. Tanker yankers usually have to walk around their trailer monitoring the off-load process. Even reefer drivers find themselves sweeping out a trailer that has been preset to freezing temperatures. Although to be honest, this is probably welcomed in the next reason truckers don’t have butts.
Truckers sweat their butts off
First, let’s take all those scenarios we just discussed; only during the summer months. Tanker drivers are now sweat-soaked while hooking up hoses or walking around their trailers hitting it with a rubber mallet. As for the flatbedders, The Evil Overlord and I once watched a guy sweating all over his tarps as he folded and stored them in 101-degree weather. No thanks.
As for fueling in the summer, you’ve also got the added time involved with scraping all those bug guts off your windshield. Even worse, if the truckstop doesn’t have long poles on their squeegees, you find yourself with the hood up and standing over a hot engine. Good times. Good times indeed.
Another reason a trucker might sweat their butt off is lack of air conditioning. Modern trucks are generally quite reliable, but still, one of the most common mechanical failures is a malfunctioning air conditioner.
Last summer I was asked to go rescue an abandoned truck from a truckstop. When I showed up, I discovered that the air conditioner was broken. The maintenance department swore they knew nothing about it. Since it wasn’t my truck, I wasn’t about to take it to an International dealer where I probably would’ve been sitting for 2-3 days.
It took three days to get back to the yard. The first night it was cool enough to sleep in the truck, but the second and third nights I had to get a hotel room, which the company gratefully paid for. After all, I was rescuing their stupid truck.
Another situation where a trucker might sweat their butt off is when you’re at a loading dock that doesn’t allow idling. Your company is too stinking cheap to install APUs, so you’re sweating like a mob boss on the witness stand, and as usual, the loader seems to be moving slower than a snail with a cane. Thanks buddy. May all your lugnuts fall off on your way home from work.
Or say you’re trying to sleep in a no-idling jurisdiction, but instead you’re tossing and turning in a pool of your own sweat. Or maybe you have to go sweep out your trailer after it’s been cooking in the sun all day. It’s like an oven filled with dirt, without the fun of mud pies.
Still, truckers not having butts doesn’t always have to do with the temperature.
Truckers work their butts off
Truckers are allowed by law to work 70 hours in 8 days, so that is exactly what most of them do. That 70 hours includes a combination of duties like; loading/unloading, vehicle inspections, fueling, and obviously, driving. How quickly your butt falls off depends on the type of work you do. Lazy bum OTR (Over-The-Road) van drivers like me have it easy most of the time. I rarely have to hand-unload anything any more (knock on wood).
LTL and local drivers likely aren’t that lucky. Beer, soda, or local food haulers are getting out of the truck multiple times a day, each time loading heavy cases of Budweiser or chicken fried steaks onto 2-wheel dollies, and into stores or restaurants. Maxing out a trucker’s 14-hour legal work limit per day is fairly common with local work too.
As we mentioned before, tanker pullers usually have to be present during the unload process and flatbedders are lugging heavy tarps up ladders and crawling around 15 feet in the air to make sure their freight is protected from the weather.
And then there is the regular wear-and-tear of driving for 11 hours per day. Non-truckers may be thinking, “They’re just driving. It’s not like they’re working hard.” Let me ask you; do you get tired when you take a long car ride? Well try doing that every day for 17 years. You’re right, it’s not physically hard; it’s mentally hard. Neither is much fun.
But you know what? Truckers don’t even have to be working to lose their butts.
Truckers talk your butt off
The image of the strong, silent trucker is a fallacy. We truckers love us some talking, as you can no doubt tell if you’re counting these words right now. It doesn’t take much to get us started either. Personally, I’ve been working on this.
I may have mentioned this before, but I used to talk waaaaay too much in social situations. I still don’t mind hearing my own voice, but I’m much more mindful of it after The Evil Overlord so graciously told me several times that I had monopolized a conversation earlier that evening. Actually, she’s not usually that nice. She’s more apt to say something loving like, “You should try shutting the f*** up every once in a while.” Who was the idiot that said truth in relationships is good? 😉
The truth is, truckers just often don’t know when to shut up. The Evil Overlord and I quickly learned not to say anything to truckers seating near us at truckstop restaurants. If you say one word to them, they take it as license to talk to you throughout your entire meal, even if we’re in the middle of a conversation ourselves.
Most talkative truckers that I’ve encountered just don’t seem to comprehend when someone is trying to escape. After a while, I’ll turn away from the blabbermouth like I’ve got somewhere to be, usually because I do. I’ve even taken a few steps away as he’s talking. Unfortunately, this rarely prevents a determined talker from closing the distance and continuing on with whatever boring topic he’s decided to enlighten you about. There have even been a few times when I’ve walked away with the guy still talking. I hate to be rude, but if he can’t pick up the cues that I’ve got crap to do, then so be it. It’s not like I’m ever going to run into Mr. Waggletongue again anyway.
I do understand that truckers are alone most of the time and therefore feel the need to connect with people. I truly do. I would just ask that you start paying attention to how interested your target seems to be and reign it in if his eyes start to glaze over. Trust me; it can be done. At least that what I keep telling myself.
And by the way, if you didn’t catch the drift, you don’t have to have your butt talked off by another driver, you can also talk your butt off to another driver. You’re one or the other, so either way your butt is vanishing as we speak.
So there you have it: 4 reasons truckers don’t have butts.
Now maybe you’re thinking that you’re the last living trucker to keep his/her butt intact; that somehow you’ve managed to avoid freezing, sweating, working, or having your butt talked off. Fine. But I wouldn’t get too cocky there, SuperTrucker. I guarantee you that if you keep at this trucking thing, you’ll eventually sit on your butt long enough to smash it in so much that it may as well have fallen off. If you don’t believe me, just check out my pooper the next time we meet.
So what did I miss? Are there other ways to lose your butt out here? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below. I trust you passed elementary math, yes?
Well, I’m doing something a bit different today. I’m not writing anything here. I’m simply linking you to another bit of writing I did a while back. This was an interview I did for JobShadow.com. It has produced a lot of good comments from the readers so I’d thought I’d share it with those of you who are just too stinking lazy to go over there on your own. So if you want to know what it’s like to be a trucker, click here and enjoy. Or if you’d rather listen to the podcast version, which includes a lot of the comments and the answers I’ve given, just click that big ol’ Play button in that big black bar at the top of this post.
[box]Listen to the audio version above and subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.
Or enter http://abouttruckdriving.com/truckerdump.xml into your favorite podcast app. Mystery Feedback Song – Only a cheater would click this before listening to the podcast! You aren’t a cheater, are you?[/box]
Look at them butt-prints!
If you’ll remember from the last podcast called Honor Among Truckers, I mentioned that if you were to drive around a truck stop parking lot, you’d see lots of drivers sitting in their driver’s seat whiling away the hours. They’re talking on their phones, doing paperwork, people watching, playing with their laptops, turned around at an awkward angle watching their TV, or even weirder, staring off into space with a blank expression. I just don’t get it. And since the word “phenomenon” makes anything sound more mysterious than it actually is, I’ve chosen to call this one “The Driver’s Seat Phenomenon.”
Here’s the thing I just don’t get. The average solo trucker drives approximately 120,000 miles each year. I actually ran about 127,000 last year. All of those miles are done while sitting in the driver’s seat. Yes, the driver’s seats in these trucks are highly adjustable to make the long hours of driving tolerable. Yes, they have air-ride suspension to keep you from feeling like Superman punched you in the tailbone every time your load takes you on US69 near Stringtown, Oklahoma. But even with all that, why in the name of Zeus’ hemorrhoids would you want to spend even one more second in that seat when you don’t have to?
Now sure, I understand that team drivers have more of an excuse to be welded to the driver’s seat.
Maybe your co-driver is getting out of bed and you don’t want to see his great-hairy-chasm-of-a-butt-crack sticking out of his tidy-whities. Can’t say as I blame you there. Or maybe your co-driver is your wife and you actually do want to see her backside, but she’s meaner than a giraffe with strep throat when she first wakes up; meaning you’d have a better chance of getting lucky with said giraffe than with her. Not that I have any experience in this whatsoever. *clears throat* Anywho…
Another scenario when you might need to occupy the driver’s seat is when you’re shut down and your co-driver is trying to sleep. Since The Evil Overlord and I always tried to keep on a set schedule, this used to happen to us a lot, especially when the economy took a kamikaze-worthy nose-dive in 2008. I used to put my TV in the passenger seat and sit sideways in the driver’s seat for hours while playing video games on my Playstation 3. After all, the giraffe… errrr, wife needed her sleep if I were to keep her from waking up tired and smiting the world with her mighty hand. I tried to be super quiet up there, but even with the curtain closed The Evil Overlord would often wake up when she’d hear me cussing under my breath or feel the truck moving as I shook my controller in frustration. LOL Hey, what can I say? Some of those games are friggin’ hard! Still, I didn’t sit in the driver’s seat because I wanted to. Like I said, I had the fate of the world in my hands.
Now that I’m a solo driver, I’ve got absolutely no good reason to sit in the driver’s seat when I’m shut down… therefore, I don’t.
When I start my day, I do my 3 B’s (breakfast, Bible, and bended knee) in the bunk area, where I’ve got a nice little desk to eat and read on. The bed makes an excellent place for the bended knee part, too. If I stop for lunch, I hop in the bunk area and eat back there if I have time. If not, I make my traditional peanut butter and jelly sammich and then eat on the run. If I’m picking up or delivering a load, I vacate the driver’s seat and go lounge on the bed with my feet propped up. At the end of my driving shift, I’m required to log a 5-minute post-trip inspection. A walk-around inspection only takes about 2 minutes, so I just do paperwork or hop on Twitter for a few minutes. But once that 5 minutes is up and hit the button on my retarded e-log unit, I’m outta the driver’s seat and sitting on the nice soft bunk while I make yet another bowl of soup while watching a DVD and ignoring the fact that I have a podcast due.
The fact is, I spend waaaaaay too much time in the driver’s seat already. If you want a really good look at the shape of my butt (and who wouldn’t), just look at the driver’s seat, because there are some super-lifelike butt-prints there. Good thing butt-prints aren’t like fingerprints, else there’d be a heck-of-a-lot of identity theft in the trucking industry. LOL And by the way, if you’re sniff-testing your newly-assigned truck for hidden cigarette smoke, I’d advise against putting your nose right up against the driver’s seat. Anywhere but the driver’s seat. You have been warned.
So what’s up with this obsession of the driver’s seat?
Why do so many of you drivers choose to spend your off-duty hours sitting in a seat where you already spend so much time? And why the heck are you all staring into space? These are serious questions that I really want to know the answer to. I think about it every time I walk into the truck stop and see drivers sitting there and watching the world go by. What is so stinkin’ fascinating about seeing me walk into the truck stop or watching the guy down the way back into a parking spot? I just don’t get it. And lastly, why on earth would you spend even one extra second in a seat that’s been farted in more times than OMG has been texted by teenagers?
*Please help to ease my troubled mind. Leave your excuses for living in the driver’s seat below.*
Have you ever watched a movie and heard the bad guys talking about the concept of “Honor Among Thieves?” Every time I hear it, I think, “What the heck is up with that crap?” I mean, clearly if you’re a thief, your moral compass must’ve fallen out of your pocket while you were hiking out in the woods. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Honor Among Thieves concept, it’s basically saying that there is an unwritten code that even an untrustworthy group of people can abide by to get along. I’ve know for quite some time that there was something similar in the trucking industry. An Honor Among Truckers if you will.
Now let me get one thing straight here. I’m not saying truckers in general are an untrustworthy lot, but let’s face facts. Some of the characters out here don’t exactly look like you could trust them any more than you could trust a pit bull while wearing a meat scarf. The odd thing is, for the most part, we drivers do it all the time. Trust, that is; not wear meat scarves. We smell bad enough as is. Today, we’re going to discuss three of these situations:
Honor Among Truckers Scenario #1: Parking
Truckers have to park every night in cramped spaces. Whether it’s a truck stop, a rest area, or a crowded exit ramp, we’re constantly leaving ourselves to the mercy of other drivers. Nearly every night at the truck stops, you’ll see drivers sitting behind the wheel and staring off into space. You’d think that we’d all be paranoid that someone is going to hit our truck while backing into the parking spot next to us. Yet we aren’t. Under normal situations, most of us just sit there and let the other driver do their thing. We trust that he or she is capable of doing the job without taking out our front fender. That’s Honor Among Truckers. Granted, this doesn’t mean we trust everyone equally.
Even a non-experienced driver can see when a fellow trucker is having trouble backing into a parking spot.
100 bucks that says that ain’t Gatorade
That’s when we toss our trusting nature into the trash bin along with all the piss-filled milk jugs (photo). We all know that there are times when it’s not only wiser to get out and guide the other driver, but it’s also the friendly thing to do. That being said, I think many times these well-meaning guiders are doing more harm than good. Listen dudes and dudettes; unless this troubled backer is a total rookie, they really don’t need you to tell them which way to turn the wheel by making giant circular motions with your arms. Seriously, you look like you’re having a conniption fit, so just knock it off. No, what most drivers need in this situation is for you to simply stand by the parking space and give a shout if they’re about to hit something. But again, the point is; if they don’t need help, we just sit there and trust that they’ll accomplish the task without smashing one of our mirrors.
Then again, this Honor Among Truckers can sometimes jump up and sock you in the Adam’s apple.
Case in point. A few weeks back, I parked at a Flying J in Missouri to run in and grab a shower. I did so for two reasons. One, because I’d been wearing a meat scarf, and two, I was trying to avoid the torture that is the inspection bays at our company shops. You see, I was heading home and the last thing I needed was for some overly zealous mechanic to find something wrong with my truck that would inevitably keep me there overnight. Been there. Done that. Wasn’t gonna risk it.
So I needed to kill a couple of hours. An extra-long shower took care of most of that time. I killed the rest of the time watching NCIS in the trucker’s lounge. But when it was finally safe to roll toward the yard, I found a surprise waiting for me by my truck. There was debris all along the driver’s side of my trailer and there was a 6-foot section of the lower side rail that was totally demolished. After I picked my jaw up off the peelot, I went back to look at the rig that was parked beside me. There wasn’t any damage on the rear of their trailer, so I went up to see if I could find a note on my truck somewhere. Nope. It was a hit-and-run. Probably some owner-operator who didn’t want his insurance rates to skyrocket. I asked around, but just like in NYC, no one claimed to have seen anything. Didn’t matter much, as my company just asked a few questions and never said another word about it. Guess it happens more often than we might think. Makes you think about trusting other drivers so much, huh?
Honor Among Truckers Scenario #2: Driving
Professional truckers are called that for a reason; we’re trained to drive defensively. Rarely do you see a trucker do something completely unexpected. Like the parking scenario, we just trust that the other driver knows what they’re doing. When a trucker switches lanes beside you, you just assume he knows you’re there. For the most part, you don’t feel the need to honk, flash your headlights, or swerve like a slalom skier to get away from them. You sure can’t say that about 4-wheelers. They’re always freaking out like we’re going to come into their lane and reenact the opening scene from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Likewise, we just assume a trucker entering a freeway on-ramp knows what to do. Again, not so much when it comes to 4-wheelers and their cell phones.
But just like the parking, sometimes driving trust can backfire too. Early in our careers, The Evil Overlord and I were tooling along on I-10 near Ontario, California. As any trucker knows, those lanes aren’t all that wide. We were cruising along at 60 mph in the second lane when we felt a jolt and saw pieces of our passenger-side mirror go flying. Another trucker had clipped our mirror as he flew by us at about 70 mph. Before we could get pulled over to the side of the road, the other driver took the next exit ramp and vanished through a truck-sized wormhole. Now had that been a shiny orange truck, we could’ve reported it and my company would’ve given Schneider a call. But this was an indistinguishable owner-operator. I’m sure this was a quickly-realized factor when the driver made his split-second decision to do the right thing or hit the exit ramp. So yes, trusting others truckers can suck sometimes, but what are you gonna do? Just like the hit-and-run, this was a freak accident. That didn’t mean that I didn’t trust the next driver who passed me. I did, albeit looking in my one good mirror a bit more often.
Honor Among Truckers Scenario #3: Thievery
Honor among truckers in action
Any time you see trucks in a truck stop, you’ll also see lots of empty trucks. Every trucker out there knows that these trucks have all sorts of valuable stuff in them; computers, TV’s, iPods, GPS units, video and photo cameras, and even game consoles like Playstation and XBox. So any trucker could have a field day out here. Most of us know that trucks aren’t all that hard to break into either. We know this because many of us have locked our keys in our trucks at some point in our careers. With a coat hanger in hand, we could’ve been back in our trucks in 10 minutes if we hadn’t spent those minutes cussing and questioning our intelligence level. So what’s to stop a driver from cashing in? Honor Among Truckers.
Personally, I’m kind of amazed at the amount of trust we have. Now I’m a trusting person by nature, but being married to The Evil Overlord for almost 20 years has caused some of her paranoia to rub off on me. She was raised near a big city, so she doesn’t trust anyone. While I’m content to lock and deadbolt our apartment door, she goes even further by locking our bedroom door and keeping a loaded .44 Special on her nightstand.
So that means that I’m possibly a bit more cautious than the average trucker. For example, here again we come into all the truckers sitting in their driver’s seat at the truck stop. Many drivers sit there with their laptops propped up on their steering wheel as they busy themselves with email, watching movies, surfing the web, or, as most of us can attest to; watching porn. Everyone can see this. That’s just waaaay more trust than I can muster.
My thief magnet
Any time I’m on my computer, I’m always in the bunk area. Now during the daytime, I do leave the front curtains wide open to let some light in. But at night, I shut them tighter than a frog’s bunghole. Why? Take a look at that picture. That’s why. As many of you know, I gush on-and-on about my beloved MacBook Pro. God is #1 in my life. The Evil Overlord and my Mac are fighting it out for the #2 spot. Anyway, I’m not about to prop my glowing-like-the-full-moon Apple up on my steering wheel where everyone can see. That’s because even Apple-haters know that Macs are more valuable than the average PC. This is not Apple fanboyism. This is fact. At some point, I’m going to have to get out of the truck for something. And some trucker who is watching is going to know it. I faced something similar to this the other morning.
I was at the Flying J just north of Houston, TX and I was jonesing for a shower. I pulled my front curtain closed, packed my shower bag with fresh duds, and headed towards the truck stop. As usual I could see truckers who saw me vacating the truck. Some were in their trucks while others were walking about. That’s when the crazy-eyed guy approached me.
He was a thin black man in his late 50’s. He was dressed kind of ratty and he had that eye condition where you couldn’t tell what he was looking at. His left eye appeared to be fascinated with the cloud structure over my right shoulder, while his right eye appeared to be checking to see if my shirt had pit-stains under my left arm. He pointed at my truck and said, “Did you just come out of that truck?” Since I knew he just saw me get out of it, I warily said, “Uhhhh… yeah.” He went on, “Do you need any help today? I can help unload trucks and stuff.” My thought was, “Yeah, I’ll bet you’ll unload my truck.” I politely declined the offer and we went our separate ways. Just as Journey had. sings – How we touched and went our Separate Ways.
Well, like I said, The Evil Overlord has rubbed her non-trusting mojo onto me. Normally, I like it when she rubs on me, but not in this case. 😉 I soon paused, hidden by the nose of a Peterbilt. It wasn’t hard to remain unseen, as you could hide a moose behind one of those friggin’ hoods. I watched him as he walked off. He kept glancing backward and all around. Was he looking for someone else to help, or was he remembering where my truck was? He finally vanished around the end of the line of trucks. I started to walk on in to the truck stop, but I paused. Something was nagging me. I couldn’t get over the thought of having all my crap stolen when I could have prevented it. What if this were the time that I was too trusting? So I did something I rarely do. I went back and packed up all my valuable crap. And since my fully-crammed shower and computer bags weigh about 90 tons and I was parked in the back of the parking lot, I’m counting that as a daily workout. I have gone to this extreme a few other times when some seedy-looking character was walking around the parking lot. I like to say; trust, but don’t be naïve.
Well, in the end, I should have trusted old crazy-eyed Joe. I later saw him approaching other drivers outside the doors of the truck stop. If he had broken into my truck, at least he was nice enough to lock it back up and leave my clothes and my ratty old tennis shoes behind. That was very thoughtful of him.
Personally, I’m kinda baffled about this whole Honor Among Truckers thing. On one hand, it gives me the warm pink fuzzies to know that we truckers trust each other so much, especially considering the circumstances that we’re in. It shows a trust in our fellow man that doesn’t exist in this world much nowadays. But that still doesn’t mean I’m going to trust anyone that might even remotely be eyeballing my MacBook Pro. You can have The Evil Overlord though. There. Priorities set. 😉
I totally goofed yesterday. While waiting for my truck’s air-conditioning to be fixed, I spoke a couple of words to a old trucker who was sitting in the trucker’s lounge. Although my beloved MacBook Pro was desperately crying for me to come back to her, I never escaped. What’s the matter with me? I know better than that! Well, I’m actually glad we chatted because it brought on this blog post. How so? By mentioning that he was on a 34-hour break and wondering how the new 34-hour rule would effect us come July.
For those of you who haven’t heard about the coming changes, I guess I’ll just have to assume that some idiot lumper accidentally locked you in a trailer for two years. I sure am glad the receiver didn’t accept that damaged pallet of Campbell’s soup. And I’m even gladder that your company finally realized you were actually missing.
Okay, I’m going to presume that y’all were too stinkin’ lazy to click on the above link to see what the new 34-hour rule involves. Basically, the current rule says that if a trucker can shut down for 34 continuous hours (either Off-Duty, in the Sleeper Berth, or a combination of the two), they can restart their 70-hour workweek. So doing a 34-hour restart means that we can actually work 82 hours in a week.
The new 34-hour rule that starts in July states that this 34 hours now has to consist of two periods of midnight 1 a.m to 5 a.m. Another new twist is that you can only do one 34-restart per week.
So back to the story. When the old trucker wondered outloud how the new rule would affect us, I had an answer for him. You see, of the past three weekends I did two 34-hour restarts, and I could have done one the last weekend. Why I chose not to really isn’t all that important for this story, so I’ll spare you all the gory details. You know, I think that just earned me an extra reward in heaven. Hope it’s a Klondike bar.
34-hour rule FAIL #1
The first weekend, I was at the Flying J in Beloit, Wisconsin. I got there at 4:30 p.m. on a Saturday and started my break immediately. That meant my 34-hour break would be over at 2:30 a.m on Monday. Good thing, because I had to be up near St. Paul, Minnesota by 8 a.m. After my mandatory 15-minute pre-trip inspection, that left 5.25 hours to go 316 miles. Yes, I knew it was going to be tight. Averaging 60 mph in a 64 mph truck isn’t easy, especially when I figured I’d be hitting St. Paul rush hour. Well, I’m happy to say that I pulled it off. And I got my 34-hour restart to boot. But guess what? Come July that restart wouldn’t have counted because I didn’t meet the requirement of two periods of midnight 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. And there’s nothing I could do about it. I got to the truck stop as fast as I could and I left as late as I could. I couldn’t wait around until 5 a.m. unless I wanted to deliver late. From some reason, trucking companies tend to frown on that kinda stuff.
The case of the mysterious bus ride
Onward to the next weekend. This was the mysterious weekend where I was tweeting as I was walking toward a city bus. Yes me. As @DriverChrisMc tweeted,
Wow @toddmccann is out of the truck walking. Shocker wonder what could be so important to him
Yeah, I’m pretty pathetic, but there you have it. Honestly, I wasn’t trying to be cryptic; I was just trying to be sneaky. You see, The Evil Overlord has been working for Talent on Parade for the past few months, which is a dance competition that is owned by her aunt and uncle. Since they travel to a new city every weekend, I was happy to learn she was in Des Moines, Iowa, which by dumb luck just so happened to be on my route. I also had plenty of time on the load and had planned on getting in a 34-hour break somewhere along the way.
I got online and saw that there was a city bus stop 1.2 miles from the Flying J in Altoona, Iowa and it had a route going directly to the convention center. Well, as directly as a city bus goes anyway. That’s when I launched my plan. And that’s why all the secrecy. While The Evil Overlord isn’t on Twitter, her uncle Eric and her cousin Kyle do follow me. I figured they’d be too busy to be watching my Twitter stream, but I played it safe just to be sure. Well, I’m happy to say: mission accomplished. I surprised the heck out of the wench and everyone else.
Since The Evil Overlord is extremely busy and sometimes works up to 16 hours a day, my plan was simply to surprise her, hang out for a few hours, and catch the last bus back to the truck stop. But once her aunt Kim found out I was going to be hanging out at the truck stop for 34 hours, she surprised us with a separate hotel room. So basically, for the rest of the day and part of Sunday, I hung out with The Evil Overlord as she tabulated the scores for what seemed like a million dance acts involving 10 million girls. Adorable little girls, awkward pre-teen girls, a few lone boys who had the foresight to get involved in an activity where they’d be surrounded by scantily-clad girls, and older, clothing-challenged girls, a few of which I have no doubt will be manning the poles of America in the near future. I just looked away during most of these. The Evil Overlord had warned me that “wardrobe malfunctions” happened more often than they probably should. I don’t want or need to see that kinda stuff. Seriously, some of the clogging and traditional dancing is kinda cool, but the hip-hop numbers were… well, let’s just say I’m surprised there’s so many dads that let their little girls take dance lessons. So anyway, back to the trucking side of things.
34-hour rule FAIL #2
I got to the truck stop at 4:15 a.m. early Saturday morning, amazingly found a parking spot on the front row, and hit my bunk so I could jump out of my foxhole and launch my surprise attack around noon. My load didn’t have to deliver near St. Cloud, Minnesota until 6 a.m. Monday morning. With 309 miles to go, I figured I’d leave by midnight to give me plenty of time to get there. That is until I got my preplan on Sunday afternoon. To keep from losing the 1300-mile preplan, I now needed to leave around 4 p.m. on Sunday so I could get to the receiver and get a 10-hour break in before I picked up the preplan. Problem was, The Evil Overlord couldn’t break free to get me back to the truck until almost 6 p.m. Luckily, I’m a moron who can’t tell time. After getting under way in a freaked-out panic, I soon realized that my appointment was for 8 a.m., not 6 a.m. Whew! Disaster avoided. Sometimes it’s good to be the town moron.
So now to the 34-hour stuff. By the time I left at 6 p.m. on Sunday, I had just under 38 hours of down time. But once again, it didn’t meet the idiotic two periods of midnight 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. that the new rule requires. So come July, that break wouldn’t reset my 70-hour workweek either. Even worse, if I’d been able to leave at midnight on Sunday night like I’d originally planned, I would’ve had almost 44 continuous hours off-duty and I still wouldn’t have gotten to reset my 70! Utterly. Friggin’. Ridiculous.
34-hour rule FAIL #3
Now for this past weekend. I used every last hour I had to get to the Pilot in Priceville, Alabama. At that point, I had a choice to make. Dang it! I just had my Klondike bar ripped from me! Oh well, may as well proceed now that it’s gone. So anyway, I had to deliver the load 496 miles away in Columbus, Ohio by midnight on Monday. That meant I had just enough time to squeeze in a 34-hour break. But if I went that option, I wouldn’t have been able to get my air conditioner fixed at our Columbus shop until Tuesday morning.
But I did have one more option. I had 5 hours to run after my break and 5.5 hours available on Sunday. If I used these hours, I’d be at the shop first thing Monday morning. Now normally, that’s a no-brainer. But not only would I be missing a chance to do a 34, I also didn’t have full hours the rest of the week… the week that I’d be trying to get home. Well, to make a long Klondike story short, I opted to skip the 34. But of course, this decision would’ve been a breeze if it had happened in July, ‘cuz yep, you guess it, it wouldn’t have counted either.
So here’s the thing. Unlike some drivers, I’m not totally convinced that the rule makers at the FMCSA are out to get us. I truly believe they’re trying to make things safer for us and the public. That they think the new 34-hour rule is doing us a favor by getting us two “nights” of sleep. Well, as you can see from my last three weekends, this rule just isn’t going to work. And without that 70-hour reset, we’ll no longer have the potential to work 82 hours. Well that was weird. I just felt my right butt cheek raise up. That’d be the one that holds my wallet. But for toots-and-giggles, let’s say all three 34-hour restarts had counted. Well, even then only two of those restarts would’ve qualified since the new rule also states we can’t do two restarts in the same week. Ugh.
Listen up, Hours-Of-Service rule makers
I already wrote you once, but apparently you didn’t listen. So pull those rose-colored earplugs out and I’ll tell you again, “The rule is useful as it stands. Change it and you may as well get rid of it altogether.” Now normally I’d be pounding on my chest and doing the Tarzan yell to prove my awesomeness in being right. But in this case, I’m just shaking my head slowly as I try to figure out how the heck these people’s heads got so full of bat crap.
*So, has anyone else been keeping track of how the new 34-hour rule will affect you? Please leave a comment and share your thoughts on the matter. If for nothing else, so I won’t have to wallow in this misery alone.*
This is the dumping ground for my thoughts on truck driving, trucking jobs, and the trucking industry. My goal is to entertain and inform both new and seasoned truck drivers on how to become better truckers while entertaining them as they keep America moving.