We don’t have a main topic today, but we do have a mega crap ton of news, some listener feedback, and a fun contest that could win you $50.
So about this news; we’ve got a handful of truck recalls, Canadian ELDs, lots of driverless trucks being ordered, some useful tips for tax time, another reroute around a busted bridge, and yet another safety blitz (yes, really). But hey, all is not lost. We’ll also tell you what qualifies as an out-of-service violation when it comes to lights and hours-of-service. This one might surprise you. We’ll even discuss how some of these violations are actual crimes! Whaaaa?
We’ll address some myths around the COVID vaccine and if you’re still freaked out, how to clean your truck to reduce your chances of getting it. But hey, at least you won’t die from a truck rollover if this prototype fifth wheel makes it to market!
And once again, the powers that be are making truckers unhappy with talks of the new Vehicle Miles Traveled tax, the push for speed limiters and automatic emergency braking, and why DOT physicals still won’t go directly onto your CDL for years to come. Not to mention the courts ruling against lease operators and a survey showing not much faith in the Biden administration. But hey, at least a new FMCSA director has been nominated. So there’s that.
And to finish up, we’ll show you how to value your time more, how to extend the life of your DPF filter (yes, I realize that’s redundant), and I’ll tell you about a new addition to the Garmin dēzl™ OTR series of truck GPSs and a new feature they all have.
What? I told you there was a lot of news. Did you think I was lying?
At this point, the term COVID-19 has reached the level of being a curse word. Many have lost their jobs, lives are being lost, and many financial experts believe that another recession is on the horizon. But perhaps the most catastrophic dilemma of all; people are losing their ever-loving minds about what they are going to wipe their butts with. So this bring a question to mind…
Is truck driving a recession-proof job?
I Googled the term “recession-proof jobs” recently and the top result was an article called “Top 27 Recession-Proof Jobs & Careers – Do They Exist?” Surely this list would include truckers along with the obvious health care workers, law police officers, and morticians, right? Wrong! Believe it or not, the closest they got was with the #27-ranked Public Transit Workers, which to be fair, does include some Commercial Drivers License (CDL) holders. But still, bus drivers are a tiny portion of what constitutes truck drivers at large.
Even more flabbergasting was that this article listed Grocers at #21. Yes, grocers are important and recession-proof, but HELLOOOOOOOO… McFLYYYYYY, you can’t keep a grocery store stocked without truck drivers bringing the freight! You’d think that would’ve been made abundantly clear when even normal, non-prepper types started hoarding everything from soup, to dairy products, to frozen goods, to paper products, to cleaning supplies.
Perhaps I’m overreacting though? I thought, “Maybe this is just an old article?” Nope. It was written in March 2020; smack dab in the middle of what I’m sure will be eventually be written up in the history books as The Great TP Shortage of 2020. Like I said earlier, that’s flabbergasting considering that with all those empty shelves came a newly-found appreciation for the truckers of the world.
For the record, I shot off a stern email to this website, scolding them for their oversight. Hopefully they’ll either add Truck Drivers to their list or replace it with one of the other recession-proof jobs like #21 Librarian. Seriously… librarian? Ugh. To be fair, the rest of this list is spot-on. I just found it a farce that truck drivers were left off the list. Rant over.
So we’re back to the question; Is truck driving a recession-proof job?
A lot can be learned from history; which, by the way is something that should be considered by anyone who thinks America can make Socialism work where other countries have failed; e.g. Russia, Cuba, or Venezuela, just to name a few. But I suppose if you’d like to see which jobs are truly recession-proof, by all means proceed with your Socialism madness.
The most recent recession in the United States started in December 2007. The Great Recession, as it is now known, was primarily caused by greedy finance companies who would give home loans to people who couldn’t afford them. Much like a giant teenage zit, the economy expanded until one day it just popped, leaving a gooey mess of yuckiness.
Obviously that never happened and part of that can be blamed on The Great Recession. The event I speak of happened on a Friday, which was the last day of her orientation. I had been solo trucking for the past few years and was eagerly on my way to the terminal to pick her up so we could go back to team trucking. That’s when her orientation leader walked in and said the company had initiated a company-wide hiring freeze. They promptly put everyone on a bus back to their homes. Well, everyone except her.
The Evil Overlord only escaped the axe after reminding them she was going to be teaming with me and I was due to arrive that evening. Long story short, our miles SUCKED for the next 1.5 years. When we had worked as a team for this carrier previously, we had regularly gotten between 5,000-6,000 miles. Fast forward to The Great Recession, where now we were lucky to get 3,000 miles between the two of us. 2,500 wasn’t all that uncommon either. In context for you non-truckers, 3,000 miles is a number most of us solo drivers can easily attain if our dispatcher is willing and able to give us that many miles.
Trucking freight is in constant flux
Freight goes up and down all the time in the trucking industry. Sure, there are good times and bad times; but the point I’m trying to make is that there is always freight. Maybe not a lot of certain types of freight, but there is always some. Take The Great Recession as an example.
As I mentioned earlier, that recession started primarily due to the real estate industry. Once all those homeowners lost their homes, the market was flooded with houses that needed to be sold. We’re back to the law of supply and demand now. When there is a large supply of something, the price goes down. And since many of these homes were foreclosed on, the prices on these abundant houses went waaaaaaay down.
So why would anyone want to build or buy a brand-new house when they could get a slightly-used one for peanuts? They wouldn’t; which is why the construction industry came to a screeching halt. Truckers who hauled construction materials and equipment suddenly had less freight to deliver.
So that means that trucking jobs are NOT recession-proof, right?
Not so fast, Speedy Gonzales. One thing that drives The Evil Overlord nuts about me is how I nitpick over words. The group of guys that I work with at my LTL (Less-Than-Load) company also immediately honed in on this little annoyance when I started there 13 months ago.
For instance, one of my co-workers might say on the phone, “Man! That 4-wheeler literally ran me into the ditch!” Before I can stop myself, I’d often say, “Don’t you mean figuratively? You wouldn’t still be tooling down the road right now if you were literally put in the ditch.”
Or The Evil Overlord got in the habit of saying “my bedroom” when she meant “our bedroom (understandable since I was usually on the road).” She does quickly correct herself now, but only after pointing out the fact that if I didn’t rein in this annoying little quirk of mine, I would soon both alienate all my new co-workers and find myself eating a knuckle sandwich with a big diamond ring on it. But I admit I still have to bite my tongue on a regular basis.
Now let’s relate this back to trucking. Here’s the notion I’m going to put forth:
Truck driving is recession-proof, but all trucking jobs are not
Do you see the subtly there? Much like the construction industry during The Great Recession, my current job is suffering from the same lack of need. The LTL company I work for hauls a lot of B2B (Business-to-Business) freight, meaning that we deliver a lot of products to keep businesses running.
For example, we don’t haul the toilet paper or frozen pizza to the grocery store, but we do haul the shelving units and freezers where those products are displayed. And we don’t haul the widgets a factory makes; we haul the machines that make those widgets.
We all know there is an unprecedented number of businesses closed right now due to the Coronavirus pandemic. With so many businesses closed, there is no one to produce the widgets. Sure, the factories that produce essential products such as food, fuel, and cleaning/medical supplies are still going full-bore, but again, that’s only a small portion of the supplies we would normally deliver.
So while the trucking industry in general is considered an “essential” service, the trucking job that I have has had to cut back on staff. Much to my chagrin, one of those folks was me. I reported in the last podcast, TD143: Coronavirus Trucking, that I had just missed the first round of layoffs. Well, two weeks later they got me too. So now, for the first time in my life I’m unemployed. So there; it’s definitive. Truck driving is not recession-proof! Wait! Not true!
Truck driving is recession-proof
Let the word nitpicking begin! I stand by my statement: some trucking jobs are not recession-proof (like mine), but truck driving as a profession is! I actually knew this long before the whole Corona crisis, but it got cemented in my mind once I started working here.
If you read/listened to, TD136: The Emotions Of Changing Truck Driving Jobs, you’ll know that one of my biggest fears in taking this LTL job was the threat of layoffs. In my previous 22 years of being a trucker, the term “layoff” had never even crossed my mind. But my new co-workers put my mind at ease since most all of them had been through it when they were low on the seniority list.
Every one of them knew at least one or two other trucking companies that would hire me immediately, even knowing it was only temporary until I got called back. So that was a major load off my mind. Anyway, back to the point.
Back in 2008, when the economy got so bad for a couple of years, The Evil Overlord and I continued to drive truck. Granted, we had lower miles than we would have liked, but we continued to have a job. There were a few layoffs within the OTR (Over-the-Road) trucking companies, but for the most part everyone kept their jobs, their families insured, and enough money coming in to survive. And that’s really what it’s about, isn’t it; weathering the storm until things get back to normal?
But just like is happening now, the LTL industry back then was being slammed way harder than the OTR companies. There were layoffs galore; and these weren’t short layoffs either. These were 12-18 month or longer layoffs. This is what my co-workers had gone through and they managed to come out the other end. As one of the guys said, “I’ve never missed a meal due to a layoff.”
But here’s the beauty of being a truck driver during a recession
Just because I’m laid off right now because my LTL carrier doesn’t haul enough “essential” products to keep me employed, that doesn’t mean I’m worried about my livelihood. You see, being laid off means that I can go find other work until my employer calls me back, just like my co-workers did back in 2008. That means I can keep working. Maybe not in the LTL industry, but I can keep on trucking.
All I would have to do is switch the type of carrier that I drive for; one that hauls more essential products. And the great news is that there is always someone hiring in the trucking industry. Always! This was true back in The Great Recession of 2008 and it’s true now during The Great TP Shortage of 2020. So in the end, I stand by my statement:
Truck driving is recession-proof, but all trucking jobs are not
Truth be told; I’d love to be working right now. I was actually enjoying that short little crappy Kansas City bid for the two weeks I was forced to do it. The money was still as good as my best year as an OTR driver, but it was a nice change of pace being back home in my own bed every day before I had to take my stupid 30-minute break.
I’m not thrilled about being laid off, but it’s better than the option of not being laid off and staying home without any loads most of the week where I’m not making any money (which is happening to some of our drivers). Being laid off means that I have the option to go get another trucking job if I want. With my 23 years of experience, I could be starting another job Monday morning if I so choose. But I don’t.
As I was crawling into bed after a long day of video gaming the other day, I told The Evil Overlord, “Man, that felt like a useless day,” to which she responded, “You haven’t taken any vacation time in 15 years (a true statement). Go sit on the couch, relax, and play video games for a change of pace. I’m making chocolate chip cookies.” Gratefully, I’m able to do that thanks to the combination of our savings account, my health care provider extending coverage for eight weeks, the $2400 stimulus check, and the $600 extra unemployment money provided by the CARES Act.
Hopefully things will get back to normal before the health insurance gives out and I have to start looking for a fill-in job until I get called back to work.
For now, you can still expect a new Trucker Dump podcast/blog every month. Jut don’t expect the release frequency to increase. I will be spending some of my extra time fixing my website and exploring some other trucking-related projects instead of needlessly raising your expectations of me. But for the most part I’m just going to do what I do best … obey The Evil Overlord.
Podcast Show Notes
I’ve heard lots of people say that truck driving is a recession-proof job. But if that’s true, then why am I laid off from my trucking job right now? We’ll discuss the issue and hopefully get to the bottom of it once and for all.
But like a good appetizer before the main entree, we’ve got lots of news to cover, including recalls from three truck manufacturers and pulling back the reins on emissions expectations. And of course, there’s still lots of Corona-related stories, including rules extensions, Real IDs, government helping truckers, and Coronavirus fraudsters.
I’ll also share some trucking-related COVID resources, as well as things you can do to protect yourself in these trying times. And what would life be without listener feedback?
In today’s episode, I’m starting a new series where I talk to truckers who have a speciality. Every now and then I’ll interview a driver who does something different than the average trucker. Today, you’ll hear from my good friend and fellow Trucker Dump Slack Group member, Shannon Holden about his job as a rental equipment hauler.
But before that we’ve got lots of news to cover including more truck recalls, lots of new legislation, ELD privacy issues, and some stupid things truckers do, which means I’m pissed off through half the news segment. But we lighten the mood every now and then with an odd quarantine, seven of the best companies to work for (according to Forbes), a couple of cool new products, and a chance for a free trip to Nashville.
I didn’t think we’d have a Trucker Grub segment, but an old acquaintance stops in to talk about Nancy’s Pizza in Litchfield, Illinois. You’ll never guess who it is in a million years.
In the listener feedback section we’ll discuss the sleep drug Ambien, refresher courses, the importance of asking questions, and I’ll have my sanity questioned. ‘Bout friggin’ time.
I haven’t felt this way since 1997. My emotions are all over the map more than the 18-wheeler I drive. Joy… Fear… Doubt… Anticipation… and perhaps most of all… Uncertainty.
What’s so significant about both 1997 and February 2019? Both are major shifts in my work history. 1997 was when The Evil Overlord (wife and ex co-driver) and I started driving a truck for a living. Not only was this a profound shift in the type of job I was doing, but it was also a major lifestyle change for us. And now I‘m facing that again as I’m getting ready to change truck driving jobs.
But wait; how is switching from one truck driving job to another trucking driving job such a big deal? For all I know, maybe it won’t be. That’s part of the uncertainty I was talking about.
Changing truck driving jobs is not a new thing for me.
While I’m not a job-hopper by any means, I’m also no stranger to switching trucking companies. I’ve worked for six different carriers over my 21-year career. Yes, I realize that’s not a lot, especially compared to how often truck drivers job-hop nowadays.
So what makes this current job change so different?
As I’ve mentioned before, The Evil Overlord and I were a team operation for nine years of my career. The entire time we pulled dry vans for large carriers. Now one might think that going from a team operation to a solo driver was a huge change, but I had no anxiety about that whatsoever.
First, an Over-The-Road (OTR) dry van driver job is an OTR dry van driver job. There are subtle differences, but not much.
Even more important was the fact that I knew my marriage to the evil wench was strong enough to survive being apart 3–4 weeks at a time. And proof of that is that I can call her an evil wench and not only am I still married, but I haven’t been murdered in my sleep yet… yet.
I also knew that the only thing that was really going to change about my job was that I would be sleeping a lot better in a truck that wasn’t bouncing down I-95.
Well that, and I wouldn’t have to listen to her nagging me to slow to a crawl on perfectly fine snow-covered roads. Even today if I’m on the phone with her and mention that it’s snowing, she tells me to slow down. She think she knows me so well. ? Hammer down!
The differences between my current job and the new one.
More home time
Less money (initially)
Type of runs
Kind of truck
Working for a union
I’ll explain more about each of these as I run through the list of emotions I’ve been going through. Everyone grab your mood rings and let’s get moving.
Jumping for joy
When I first saw this job advertised, I jumped for joy. It looked like it was the shining gold trophy job I’ve been waiting on for what seemed like an eternity. The job that would finally get me away from having to be away from home for two to four weeks at a time and even more importantly, do so without such a massive pay cut that I’d have to buy my clothes at rummage sales for the rest of my life.
Ultimately, my goal is to be home every night and this new company provides a transition to that eventually. But for now, this is a nice stop-gap. You see, I’ll still be out on the road all week, but I’ll be home every weekend. And this isn’t one of those “trucker weekends” that really means you’ll get home for 34 hours on a Tuesday.
Nope, this is home every Friday night or Saturday morning and I’ll leave back out again Sunday night or Monday morning. Naturally, there will be times when the weekend will be shorter, but for the most part I’ll get a full 48 hours or more off each weekend. Hallelujah!
For years, I’ve seen plenty of other jobs blip onto my radar screen, but none of them could even come close to matching this home time or the money I’m making as an OTR driver. Most of the more local jobs I’ve seen would’ve had me taking a 30-50% pay cut. Literally.
As I’ve mentioned here many times before, you almost always have to take a pay cut when you are home more often. I get that. And that’s why I waited patiently until an opportunity like this arose.￼
Then came the anticipation…
Like I said, I was very patient waiting for this job. From the time I called about it the first time to the time I was hired was probably about a year. I thought this was the right job, but jumping on it right away would destroy all our plans.
If you’re a regular Trucker Dump listener, you’ll know that The Evil Overlord is in school right now. Our plan has been for me to stay out here on the road long enough to get her through school… no matter how long it takes. Once she has a better paying job, then I’ll be able to quit driving OTR and take the inevitable pay cut to work local.
Well, this job is a slight pay cut the first year, so I waited. I called the guy who would be my local terminal manager every few months just to keep in touch. I asked a different set of questions each time and we chatted about the job and the job market in general. When would be the best time to apply? When is your busy time of the year? How does this “home every weekend” thing work in real life?
Every time the job came up in my email, I’d text The Evil Overlord; “The job is up again.” We’d talk about it, but each time we decided to stick with the original plan.
Finally, after months of talking to the terminal manager and learning more about the pay package from both him and some of their drivers, the job popped up again I sent the text message. This time she texted, “Go ahead and apply. If I have to, I’ll get a part-time job while I’m in school to make ends meet.”
The main reason we decided to make the jump earlier than expected is because this new company quoted a higher annual pay than I expected. It’s still a pay cut, but only a slight one for the first year.
According to them, in the second year I’ll get a mileage pay bump so I’ll be making the same money I am now. Even better, by year three I’ll be making more than I am now (not CPM, but overall)!
So you can see my joy had me jumping up and down like an Oprah audience member after she’s won a lifetime subscription to Oprah Magazine.
I filled out an online application on a Friday and got a text message on Monday requesting a phone interview. I set one for the following day.
Then the fear set in…
I think my fear set in the day I was officially offered the job. Up until then it had only been a dream and a hope that things would work out. But as soon as I was told the job was mine if I wanted it, my first thought was, “Oh, crap. What have I done?”
The Evil Overlord and I had made this plan and now we’re deviating from it. I know how much money I make at my current job. I only know what I’m told at this new company. Is my eagerness to spend more time at home getting the best of me?
Here’s where the doubt kicked in…
What if the pay wasn’t as much as they claimed? They wouldn’t be the first trucking company in history to exaggerate their pay package, now would they? Could The Evil Overlord and I cinch up our money belts and make it work if the pay wasn’t as much as advertised?
Believe me, I’ve done my due diligence. I better have, since as @Mark in the Trucker Dump Slack Group said, “you actually wrote the book” on the subject (How to Find a Great Truck Driving Job). I’ve talked to the terminal manager for a total of 2.5-3 hours over the course of three or four phone calls. I’ve talked to eight of their drivers at length. And I spoke with a recruiter for another 45 minutes during the job interview and the road tester for another 30 minutes.
They all backed up the advertised pay amount. I would expect that from the terminal manager and the recruiter, but the drivers backed it up too. Every driver I spoke with said I could actually make more than the stated amount in my first year if I was any kind of decent driver. And I like to think I am or else they wouldn’t have hired me, right?
Even better, every driver I talked to said it was the best job they’d ever had! They’d made more money and had more home time than any other driving job in their past! Sweet!
Now naturally, I was waiting for every one of them to give me their name so I would list them as a referral, but not one did. I suppose that could be because they might not get referral bonus pay? I don’t know. Either way, they weren’t blowing diesel smoke up my caboose just to earn some extra cash; so that was comforting.
Now I can hear some of you saying, “Hey, you just said you wrote the book on How to Find a Great Truck Driving Job. You even brag about your full list of questions offered in the book. How could you not know if they paid for driver referrals after speaking with them so much?!”
As I’ve said all along about the Trucking Company Questionnaire (which you’ll find in How to Find a Great Truck Driving Job or here separately); you don’t have to ask every question on the list; you only have to ask about the things you care about. I’ve never recruited a driver before so whether they have driver referral pay or not is inconsequential to me. So there, smarty pants.
The fact is, everyone knows when you go through a job change that things can get tight financially as you get comfortable with the new job. The first week usually pays less while you’re going through orientation and training. Then your first week out by yourself you’re often about efficient as a snowplow on a Smart car.
So my biggest fear comes from the financial side of it. Unsurprising, since you all know I’m always in the running for the National Cheapskate of the Month Award. Hard to believe I haven’t won yet. Oh well, just being nominated is an honor.
So back to my doubt…
If I did the research on sites like PayScale.com and talked to multiple drivers, a recruiter, and a manager, then why the doubt? Because I’m leaving a known quantity for an unknown one.
As you’ve heard/read throughout the years here on the Trucker Dump podcast/blog, I know my current company inside and out. I know the things I hate. I know the things I love. I know how their freight runs and where I might be able to find that nearly extinct species known as an empty trailer.
I know every detail of their pay package and how much I’m going to make each year. I understand how the safety department will react to a log infraction. Basically, I know how the system works and I know how to use it to my advantage. I know the world of an OTR dry van trucker.
It’s like I had everything written down on a huge, black chalkboard and then this new job walked up with a big eraser and left nothing behind except smears of chalk dust. Wow. I really dated myself with that metaphor.
What’s so different about this Less-Than-Truckload (LTL) job? Why all the doubt and fear?
The biggest difference I’m facing is that I’ve always driven over the road and my new job is LTL. This means that the freight lanes will be different since I’ll be running primarily between their terminals. But how do they manage to get their drivers home every weekend without shorting us on miles?
Every time I’ve headed home in the last 21 years, I’ve always known I was going to have a bad paycheck coming out from the house. This LTL company has been operating like this for years, so I’m sure they know what they’re doing. But I don’t! And that causes doubt.
I also know I’ll be making significantly less money per mile, but supposedly I’ll only make slightly less money overall the first year because I’ll also be paid hourly for all On-Duty time. Other than detention pay after one hour at a shipper/receiver, I’ve never dealt with hourly pay within the trucking industry.
How does it work? How do they track the time? What counts as On-Duty time? How do we track it to keep them honest? Again, I’m sure they know what they’re doing and I’ll know soon enough. But until then, I’m clueless. And being clueless causes lots of fear and doubt in this dude. Especially after working in a job for so long where you are totally comfortable and totally in-the-know. Totally.
Another big unknown is working for a union.
The only other time I’ve had a union job was in my late 20’s when I loaded trucks part-time for UPS. Talk about a difficult job! Kudos to everyone who does it. It’s super-fast paced and there’s no room for error, (which they will purposely test you for quality assurance purposes). Hey! It’s only one digit off in the zip code! It’ll get there eventually!
Back then, I didn’t much like the union. I had to pay a union fee every week for no visual benefit. It didn’t help that my paychecks were so small already, which made the union dues a healthy percentage of my gross pay. Grrrr.
But now it’s different. I still have to pay union dues, but now I can see the benefits in the form of company-paid health insurance. Yes, you heard that right. Also, I can see that the union negotiated to get us paid for On-Duty work. How many other carriers are doing that?
All-in-all, this health insurance is one of the reasons why I can afford to make this jump earlier than expected, because the union dues I’ll be paying are about $100 less per week than what I’m currently paying for health insurance. That makes up over $5000 in pay differential right there!
Yet still, I’m leery. Can the union be all it’s cracked up to be? Am I comfortable letting a group of people I’ll probably never meet make career decisions for me? What’s up with this process of bidding for jobs? What if they call for a strike? That’s some real fear stuff right there, folks.
Another fear I have is the equipment.
One of the questions I asked every driver I talked to was, “What is the worst thing about this job?” Without hesitation, every last one replied, “Crappy equipment.” Great. Unanimously crappy equipment.
This is another major fear. My current company prides itself on it’s fleet. Most of the trucks are less than 3 years old and both tractors and trailers are well-maintained. Y’all have heard me belly ache, whine, and moan when I have to sit in an inspection bay line for two hours or take the truck in for a lube job every 2-3 weeks and an oil change every month or so. It’s a pain in my arse and a “waste” of my working hours.
But it’s also the reason I’m rarely broken down on the shoulder of an interstate or limping to the tire shop with a flat tire. It’s also why the weigh stations don’t look twice at me, unless of course a DOT officer needs an easy inspection at the end of their shift (yes, this has happened to me twice).
So now I’m going to be driving older equipment that is clearly not as well-maintained as I’m accustomed. Their drivers all say it’s not as bad as it sounds because they get paid a good hourly On-Duty wage, which starts the second they call in the breakdown.
But in the realm of doubt, I’d like to note that two (count ‘em – TWO) of the eight drivers I’ve spoken to were broken down at the time. To be fair, neither of them seemed even remotely pissed or stressed by their situation. So maybe there is something to that hourly breakdown pay? Heck, at my current company I don’t get breakdown pay unless I’m shut down for 24 hours. 22 hours down? Sorry, that doesn’t qualify. Ugh.
Another thing about the equipment is it’s a day cab (a truck without a bunk area behind the driver’s seat), and I may be driving multiple trucks. From what I’ve gathered, they’ll try to leave you in the same truck, but if it breaks down or someone else needs it while you’re at home, that sucker will vanish like Siegfried & Roy threw a shiny red curtain over it. Seriously, the driver who gave me my road test told me to always clean everything out of the truck on the weekends. He stressed the word always. So that’s going to suck.
That might also mean that I’m having to drive trucks that smell like cigarette smoke. Now in the past, I’ve always fought hard and long to get a smoke-free truck. I didn’t stop badgering them until I got one. I know I’ve talked about that on the podcast before.
While I’m still going to pursue the cleanest, smoke-free truck I can get, I’m not going to get all anal about it this time. My big argument has always been that I don’t want to live in a smoky environment, which is what I’m doing in a sleeper cab. You’re huffing those third-hand smoke cancer fumes 24/7 for weeks at a time. Not so in a day cab. Yes, I’ll still be driving it for 11 hours per day, but I won’t have to sleep in it throughout the week.
And that leads me to another doubt… I’ll be sleeping in hotel rooms every night.
First, let me just say that I don’t understand the economics behind this decision. Yes, these day cabs are stripped down like Will Ferrell in every movie he’s ever made, but are they saving so much money not buying sleeper cabs that they can afford to pay for thousands of drivers to stay in hotels every night? Granted, we’re not staying at the Marriott or anything, but still… But I digress.
The hotel room does have me freaked out though. At first I though it sounded awesome. I’ll get a shower every day and I’ll never have to worry about finding truck parking again. Those are two BIG positives.
But then I realized that I’ve never really slept all that great in hotels. Will I get accustomed to it? Honestly, I’m going to miss the bunk in my sleeper. Heck, I spend more nights in it than I do in my King-sized pillow top at home. Not to mention that lots of milestones in my life have happened in the sleeper of my trucks; mainly both of my books and this podcast.
But the day cab causes other issues too. First, I’m used to having everything I’ll ever need with me. My beloved freezer will have to stay at home because I refuse to leave a $600 fridge inside the truck every night, nor are day cabs designed to accommodate that.
And because I’m lazy and the thing weighs a ton, I’m not going to lug it inside every day either. Nor will I have my microwave oven. Maybe the hotel will have one; maybe not. Again, I’m uncertain so I’m fearful.
Right now I’ve got extra winter supplies, two pair of shoes and a pair of boots, all my audio gear, my drone, extra clothes and bedding, and my own pillows. Everything has it’s place.
No more. I’ll be going the minimalist route from now on. My goal is to fit everything into one bag; food, clothes, and electronics. We’ll see how that goes. Stay tuned.
Basically, as I’m spending my last few days inside this big truck, every time I stand up and walk into the bunk, I now think to myself, “Enjoy it while you can, bucko. Before too long you won’t even be able to stand up inside your truck, let alone take a few steps and fall into bed.”
So basically, this all this comes down fear, doubt, and uncertainty caused by the unknown; mixed in with anticipation of learning something new and having the joy of being home every weekend.
Who knows? Maybe everything will be exactly as it was presented to me. Maybe it won’t live up to hype. Even then, maybe it’ll still be a great job for me. Worst case scenario, my current bosses say they’ll be glad to rehire me if things don’t work out. You know, It’s always good to have a safety net when you’re taking a leap, so there is that to be thankful for.
In the end, I just have to trust that I’ve done everything I can to make a wise decision and then rear back and make that jump into the unknown. Christopher Columbus wasn’t afraid to jump and I shouldn’t be either. After all, we do have that first name in common. Well, that and we both look sexy in tights.
One thing’s for certain, I better put on my big boy tights and get ready to jump quick because my last day with this company is Friday and I’ll be starting the new job on March 4. So I guess there’s just one word left to say…
Podcast Show Notes
Man, we’ve got a colossal show today, headlined by me sharing the emotional rollercoaster I’ve been on lately as I prepare to change truck driving jobs.
But before that, we’ve got interesting stuff like Dustin’s Trucker Grub segment on some good BBQ and some long lost listener feedback from Keith, who talks about hourly pay and has a military analogy to truck training, Scot has comments on the podcast and a question about driver suicide, and Mark sent in a audio clip about why there’s so much confrontation between drivers.
But of course, we’ll start out with a bajillion news stories regarding such things as truck idling regulations, concealed carry in a truck, speed limit changes, updates on the truck parking situation, and what changes our benevolent regulators would like to focus on within the trucking industry.
And speaking of things that don’t work, we’ll also be discussing electric truck technologies, truck tolls, autonomous trucks, 1099 drivers, and trucker protests.
And to round out the news and bring it all back around to emotions, we have two stories, one of lost love and money and the other on found satisfaction in mentoring others. And of course, I’ll be announcing the winner of the Trucker Dump tee shirt for filling out the Listener Survey.
Recruiters have an especially bad rap within the trucking community. Most truck drivers think all recruiters are big fat liars with flaming pants. But what if that wasn’t always the case? Today I’m going to give you a different spin on this line of thinking.
This post is an excerpt (actually an entire chapter) from my book, How to Find a Great Truck Driving Job. Now I don’t want to turn this into a promo for the book, but it seems as pointless as a cock-fight with furry little ducklings to not reuse something I’ve already written. So let’s get on with it.
Recruiters… Friend Or Foe?
An old joke: How can you tell if a lawyer is lying? His lips are moving.
You could replace the word “lawyer” with many occupations. With the 2016 presidential election fresh in our minds, naturally politicians come to mind. But for the purposes of truckers, “recruiters” would fit the bill. But do they deserve that reputation? Let’s discuss that and more.
Recruiters are the gatekeepers of trucking companies.
They are the people who are responsible for “recruiting” drivers to work for their company. As a driver, if you have an interest in working for a particular company, you’ll probably call an 800 number and talk to a recruiter.
After talking to many different recruiters from different companies, you’ll narrow down your choices. Once you make your decision, your recruiter is the person that will guide you through the rest of the hiring process. Unfortunately, you may never meet your recruiter face-to-face.
Larger trucking companies usually have to hire from all over the United States to get enough drivers to fill their trucks. That’s just the nature of the beast.
Unfortunately, that means that most of the hiring is done over the phone. And it’s a lot easier for someone to lie to you over the phone than it is to your face. That certainly explains why that varsity cheerleader always had plans when you called to ask her out on a date. So however unlikely it is, if you can talk face-to-face, by all means do so.
Before we go any further, let me clarify where my job-hunting experience lies.
I have never worked for a small company (1000 trucks or less) and probably never will. I have my reasons, which I discuss in detail in Trucking Life, but for now let’s talk about my experience with recruiters for smaller companies.
I openly admit that I haven’t dealt with very many. Of those that I have, I have mixed feelings. Being a smaller company tends to promote an “I’m your buddy” type of attitude,but I’ve talked to some really nice guys and gals that I didn’t entirely trust.
One particular recruiter was super nice on the phone. As fate would have it, I found myself stranded without a load in their town one day and I went to talk with him face-to-face.
I still thought he was a nice guy as he gave me the tour and introduced me to everyone in the office, which consisted of five whole people. All of them were ultra-friendly and I started to get an “at home” kind of feeling.
Then I was introduced to the owner himself, who was also very nice. I’m telling you, there was so much niceness in that building, it could almost make a man want to puke up his McGriddles. I talked with him for about two hours and was feeling so good about the whole ordeal that I filled out an application and did a pre-employment drug screen right there on the spot.
He suggested that I stick around and talk to some of the drivers after-hours, so I did. He was a moron for suggesting that, but man I’m glad he did. I found out that once you were an employee, the owner transformed into a controlling, tightwad-of-a-jerk with slave master tendencies.
Despite this, the drivers were generally happy with their jobs because of the money they were making. When I related all the information I had been told by the owner and recruiter, they gave me a knowing smile and said, “Yea, sure. We heard all that too.”
What neither the owner or the recruiter bothered to tell me was how I was going to have to run illegal log books nearly every day and get very little sleep just to get the job done and make all that money. No thanks. The money was good, but not that good. And trust me when I say that I need my beauty sleep.
So you can see that niceness can be very misleading. That’s not to say that large company recruiters can’t kill you with kindness also. They can, and sometimes do. So beware either way.
And when possible, you should always compare what the recruiters say to what the drivers are saying. I give you some tips on getting information from drivers in Trucking Life if you need some help with that.
Now that I’ve sat here and told you that “recruiters” are synonymous with “liars,” let me clarify that a bit.
Among truckers, recruiters certainly have a reputation for lying, but in my experience that’s not entirely true. Sure, I’ve run into a handful of bald-faced liars over the years, but by-and-large I’m convinced that most recruiters get a bad rap because of a simple lack of communication between the driver and the recruiter.
For instance, most recruiters have a list of things that they’re supposed to discuss with drivers,but drivers don’t usually bother making up their own list of questions to ask the recruiter. Ta-dahhhh! Now you’ve got a list! Well you should have by now anyway. I’ve only linked to it about 457 times already. If not, download the questionnaire now!
You’ve got to remember that when you’re speaking with a recruiter, it is basically a substitution for the typical job interview.
Most people think of a job interview as a one-sided affair; where an interviewer asks all the questions while you sit and dutifully answer them. I beg to differ.
I once took a career class where the teacher told me that a job interview should be a two-way street. In other words, you should ask your share of questions too. You can’t expect them to anticipate your every question.You’ve got to be prepared to ask the questions that they haven’t covered. As a matter of fact, maybe there’s a reason they aren’t covering certain topics.
Here’s a classic example of this:The Evil Overlord and I had gone through the entire recruiting process at a trucking company, attended orientation, and started team driving for them. Everything was going well until the first time a holiday rolled around and we didn’t get paid for it, even though we had worked on that particular day. After a quick call to the payroll department, we learned that this particular company didn’t even have holiday pay. No wonder our paychecks were light!
You see, we had always received holiday pay from our previous employers and had just assumed that this company would pay it also. If you’ve ever seen the movie The Long Kiss Goodnight, you know what Samuel L. Jackson’s character says about making assumptions. You make an “ass” out of “u” and “mption.”
Think the recruiter lied to me? Well, I hadn’t asked about holiday pay and they hadn’t bothered to mention it. Does that make them a liar? I don’t think so. Look at it this way.
Say I’m trying to sell a 4X4 Jeep. When a buyer approaches me, do I start out by telling him about all its flaws? “Dude. This thing is awesome. I’ve mowed down some trees with this thing! And I can tell ya it’s been through its fair share of mud pits in its day too! But look! There’s hardly any rust on it yet! I’m kinda surprised it’s still got plenty of power, considering all the miles it’s got on it and all the abuse I’ve put it through! And I only got it stuck in the river once.”Good luck selling it like that.
Likewise, a recruiter is not going to brag about the company’s flaws. I can hear it now. “Our pay is on par with the rest of the industry, but we don’t pay holiday pay like some companies do. Oh, and by the way, like most other trucking companies, we don’t pay you for every mile you run either. And did I mention that those bonuses I told you about are completely unattainable?”Why would they focus on their negatives? Now all of these things may be true,but they aren’t going to tell you about it. . . unless you ask.
Like I said, it’s partly the interviewee’s responsibility to ask the right questions. Getting back to our Jeep scenario, if the buyer asks me if it’s been used off-road much, I’m obligated to tell the truth. If I lie and the buyer later finds out, I can be held liable.
The same goes with your recruiter. If you ask them if the company has holiday pay, they’re obligated to tell you. If they tell you that you’ll be paid for holidays, then later you find out you were lied to, then you’ve got good reason to complain.
Also, asking the right questions puts you in the best position to make a wise decision. If you were the buyer in that Jeep scenario, you’d want to take the Jeep to your mechanic so you can get as much information as possible. That way you can make an educated decision as to whether you still want to buy it. If you know what’s wrong with it, you’re likely to get a better deal on it, too.
Here again, if you ask your recruiter all the right questions, you can decide if that particular company is going to be a good fit for you or not. If it’s not, keep looking. There are gobs of trucking jobs to choose from. Gobs… Good Lord. Am I a vocabulary giant or what?
All recruiters are not created equal.
There’s no doubt; if recruiters had Pinocchio noses, some of them could be hands-free pole-vaulting champions. Unfortunately, it’s really hard to tell whether someone is lying over the phone. Other times, you get a prickly feeling in your ear. Watch out! It’s that nose coming through the phone line!
Want the first step to figuring out if your recruiter might be tempted to lie to you?
Find out what is motivating them by asking one simple question: “Are you paid by commission?” Sure, they might think you’re rude, but you have the right to know what is motivating them. And if you word this question correctly, they won’t be able to get offended.
Here’s how: When you pop the question, just immediately tell them that you want to make sure they get paid for talking to you. If they work on salary, they won’t care either way. If they’re on commission, it will look good that you want to make sure that they’re getting paid for helping you.
Keep in mind that this only applies if the recruiter is actually being helpful. If they aren’t, call back at another time and hope you get a different person. If you get the same person again, ask for someone else or call back until you get a different one. Most of the larger carriers have more than one recruiter, so you’ll get lucky eventually. You may be screwed if it’s a small company though.
Either way, the recruiter knows what you are hinting at: that salaried employees are more likely to be honest than those paid by commission. But at least you’ve said it nicely!
Is it true? Are commission-based recruiters more likely to lie?
Common sense tells me yes, but I have absolutely no solid proof to support that statement. What I do have is tons of phone time with recruiters.“How so? You’ve only worked for six companies.” Yes, but just because I’ve only worked for six different trucking companies doesn’t mean that I’ve only talked to six recruiters. For each job search, I talked to dozens of recruiters in the process of finding the best job available at the time.
Generally, what I’ve discovered is that salaried recruiters tend to be more forthright about their company.
They still aren’t going to actively promote the negative aspects of their company, but they tend to be less eager than their commissioned counterparts. I’ve gotten some surprisingly truthful responses to some tough questions from salaried recruiters.
For example, I asked one salaried recruiter if he had heard what the drivers’ biggest complaints were about the company. He actually told me that he had heard a lot of complaining about a particular division within the company and he suggested I avoid it at all costs.
When I told him I was a little surprised he would tell me that, he said, “I’ve got no reason to lie. I get paid whether you come to work for us or not. Besides, if I’m dishonest you’ll call me out on it later, so why lie?” So,maybe I do have some proof for my accusation.
And that’s my point. Salaried recruiters have less reason to lie. They get paid no matter what. Commissioned recruiters, however, only get paid if they “make the sale,” so their motivation factor is high.
Another thing I’ve noticed is that salaried recruiters tend to be better informed than those paid on commission.
That’s not to say that they’re smarter, it’s just that there seems to be a higher turnover rate on commissioned recruiters. That’s just common sense. The less time spent on a job, the less you know about it.
For example, I have one large national trucking company (a former employer) that calls me every now and then to ask if I’m ready to come back. This particular company not only puts their recruiters on commission, but they’re independent contractors to boot.
What this means is that nearly every time I get a call from them, I’m speaking to a different person. When I tell them that I’ve been talking to Recruiter X, they usually say, “Recruiter X is no longer with the company. I’ve taken over her list of drivers.”What’s worse, sometimes the pay rates and other quoted information are completely different from what the last recruiter said.
This can cause countless problems. I tell a story in Trucking Life about how a bunch of drivers in our orientation group were told by their recruiters that they would be making 38 cents per mile. Once in class, they were surprised when the class instructor told them they had been misinformed and they’d actually be making less money per mile than what their recruiters had quoted them.
Later on, we found out that most of them had different recruiters, which meant that there had been a major miscommunication somewhere along the line. Does that mean that those drivers were lied to? In this case it sounded like the recruiters were simply misinformed, not forked-tongue liars.
On the other hand, when The Evil Overlord left me as a solo driver, I went looking for a more solo-friendly company. I’ve already mentioned how much we liked the first company we ever worked for.
Even way back then, they were better suited for solo drivers than for their teams, which you may recall prompted us to leave for more pay with a team-oriented company. So,when I became a solo driver, that company immediately came to mind.
I called them again and guess who answered? No, it wasn’t the recruiter that hired us in 1997 (that would be too good of a story), but it was a guy we had met way back then. This was 2005, so eight years later, this (salaried) guy was still working as a recruiter for the same company.
And let me tell you, this guy had an answer for everything I tossed at him. It didn’t work out for me in the end, but it does illustrate how salary can equal longevity and superior knowledge when it comes to recruiters.
One last word on recruiters: If it sounds too good to be true. . .
A good indicator of an honest recruiter is a willingness to tell you that their company isn’t perfect. Then again, they know this. So maybe it’s a tactic. Until we can equip all recruiters with Pinocchio noses and videophones, you’re going to have to depend largely on your instincts. And that tickle in your ear. Good luck!
So let’s find your perfect job!
Okay, I admit it. There is no such thing as a perfect job. If you find one, let me know. Did you notice the title of this book? It’s How to Find a Great Truck Driving Job. Notice it says a greatjob, not a perfectjob.
It is said in trucking that your goal is to “Find a recruiter whose lies suit you best.” I’ve addressed the whole “lying recruiter” thing, but that mantra could also say, “Your goal is to find a company whose negatives you can live with.”Or perhaps more bluntly, “Find a company that you don’t completely hate.”
Your goal is not to find a perfect job. It doesn’t exist. I’ll bet even taste testers for Ben & Jerry’s complain about brain freezes. And those poor Victoria’s Secret photographers probably whine about sand getting everywhere on a beach bikini shoot.
Your duty is to find the best truck driving job that you can for what you want out of the job. Keep this in mind as you talk to recruiters, fill out the questionnaires, and compare trucking companies.
That’s the end of the chapter. So I know there has to be someone (probably many) who still think all recruiters and filthy lowlifes. Please share your bad (or good) experiences that are guiding these feelings. Leave a comment below or email me at TruckerDump@gmail.com.
Podcast Show Notes
In today’s main topic, we discuss whether trucking recruiters are friend or foe? My views on the subject might surprise you.
But before that we’ve a tribute to a friend, a couple of funny videos, and DriverChrisMc will point you to some good Mexican food in the Trucker Grub segment.
We’ll discuss fancy pants new trucks from Volvo and Freightliner and what’s this about a truck with no mirrors?
Lots of other topics including trucker fatalities stats, a truck parking update, facial recognition for truckers, and a major construction warning in the south.
And of course, we’ll talk about the trucker who got beaten by security guards and we’ll talk about what qualifies as “adverse weather conditions” when it comes to log books.
We’ll also look at some length-of-haul stats and what that means, and we’re going to figure out if it’s true that truckers are considered unskilled labor.
In the feedback section, David will clarify something from the last podcast about hourly pay, BSHarlan1971 leaves an iTunes review, and screaminbob weighs in on the Weight My Truck app (see what I did there) and the Trucker Path app that we talked about in the last podcast.
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.
Volvo Trucks– Check out the new VNL series and all it’s awesome features.
I’d like to give every trucker a Christmas present this year, but since I’m financially tighter than a pair of yoga pants on a 300-pound trucker, I’m going to have to get creative here. So with that, I’m going to show you three free trucking apps that will make your life easier and more stress-free if you’ll give them a try.
For those of you still rockin’ flip phones; these app things you keep hearing about are these helpful little programs that run on this thing called a smartphone. Even the cheapest smartphone can run all these apps, so it’s not like you have to go out and sell all your kid’s toys to afford the new iPhone or anything.
Now don’t be fooled by the name. You don’t have to be smart to use a smartphone. But if you aren’t using one yet, well, perhaps that could be an indication of your intelligence level. Or at least your unwillingness to take advantage of today’s helpful technology.
Let’s get on with it. Three free trucking apps every trucker should have.
Weigh My Truck
The Weigh My Truck app is an iPhone and Android app that lets you weigh your load without ever having to exit the cab. No more rolling down the window to have an annoying intercom screaming match between you and the cashier inside. No more will you need to search for a place to park after you’re done scaling. Even better, you’ll never have to be the butt-face trucker who blocks the scale while you casually stroll into the store for your scale ticket.
Here’s the way this works.
You pull onto the scale and fire up the app. If you’ve given the app permission to use your location (GPS settings), it will usually show you which scale you are at (truck stop and address). If for some reason it doesn’t recognize where you are (like if you don’t give the phone permission), it will ask you for the location code number, which is always posted somewhere on the big sign near the intercom buttons. Enter the code and tap “Accept.”
Enter your Truck number and Trailer number. The app will save both of these numbers so if you change trailers often, you’ll need to enter the new trailer number each time. Tap “Accept.”
Enter your load number and tap “Accept.” Depending on how you (or your employer) has set up the app, there may be additional information needed.
If this is your First Weigh, tap the button. One cool feature is that the app knows if you’ve scaled there recently, so it will ask if it’s a First Weigh or a Reweigh, just like the cashier would. Tap the appropriate button and move on.
Tap “Accept” to approve the fee. The fee will change depending on which button you tapped.
The Weigh My Truck app then connects to the weigh master inside. Usually within a few seconds (depending how busy the cashier is) a new screen shows your axled weights.
If everything looks legal, tap “Done.” Within a few minutes you’ll receive an email with a PDF image of the actual scale ticket. If you need to adjust your tandems, do so and drive back onto the scale to repeat the process. Again, the app will recognize it’s a reweigh and charge you accordingly.
Sometimes I add an additional step or two, depending on the situation. For instance, I usually take a screenshot of the axle weights before I tap “Done.” My memory sucks so it’s always easier to access it in my Photos app than to dig into email. For you non-smartphone users, you can take a screenshot usually by pressing a couple of physical buttons simultaneously (i.e. volume up and sleep/wake buttons).
The other thing I will sometimes do is walk inside the truck stop to get the actual scale ticket. Since doing this totally defeats the purpose of the app, I only do this when another driver is going to make the final delivery and I want leave a copy for him. On a side note, if you’re one of those drivers who drop a heavy load for another driver without leaving a scale ticket, the rest of us hope a vulture craps on your head the next time you’re doing your pre-trip. Better yet, when you’re looking up at an airplane with your mouth open.
Wow. When you write out all these steps, it sounds like this process would take forever. In reality, it usually takes less than one minute from the time you fire up the app. And the best thing is that you never have to get out of the truck!
Think about it. You’ve got a heavy load and you need fuel. But first you need to weigh your load so you know how much you can add to remain legal. Without the Weigh My Truck app, you scale the load, go park (hopefully), walk inside, wait in line, pay for the ticket, walk back out to the truck, and then go fuel. Or worse, you have to adjust your weights so you do this two or three times before you can fuel! Orrrrrrrr… you can do all this with the Weigh My Truck app without ever having to wait in line at the register!
Seriously folks, this one is a no-brainer. The only reason I can think to not use the Weigh My Truck app is if you’re working on a cash basis. This is the main reason I wasn’t using it for so long. I work off cash so The Evil Overlord doesn’t have to worry about my money situation. Since the app needs to be connected to a charge/debit card, that just didn’t work for me.
You can tie lots of different cards to it (see the website for details), but the ultimate scenario is for your employer to set it up. That’s what I’m dealing with now and I can tell you that it’s great to know I can scale anytime I need to without having to get reimbursed. All charges go directly to them. And that also means I don’t have to keep as much cash on hand.
I’m guessing that if you’re an owner-operator, you’re probably using a charge/debit card for all these types of expenses anyway, am I right? Well hook it up to the Weigh My Truck app and make your life easier!
The only thing that really bugs me about this app is the horrible use of screen space. They must’ve forgotten that many truckers have aging eyes. As you can see from the screenshots, they’ve got all this unused yellow space and then these tiny little text fields. With that much unused space, I feel like it’s insane that I have to put on my reading glasses to use the app. For the record, I’ve reported this issue to Cat and they said they told the app developers. We’ll see. That was quite a lot time ago and nothing has changed yet. Uncool.
Listen, if you EVER use Cat Scales, pretty please with sugar plums on top, download the Weigh My Truck app on iPhone or Android right now. I realize it isn’t Christmas yet, but consider it an early gift to not only yourself, but to all your fellow truck drivers. Let’s speed up the scaling process for everyone! Oh; and always remember that a side perk is less walking for your lazy arse. Yay!
Nowadays, every time I see a trucker walking into a truck stop to get their scale ticket I’m thinking, “Dude! What’s wrong with you! Don’t you know there’s an app for that!” Download the app so you aren’t “that guy (or gal).”
It shows you on a map where all the things relevant to truckers are. Truck stops, rest areas, weigh stations, Cat scales, Walmarts, truck washes, repair shops, hotels, truck dealers, etc. You can turn off anything you don’t want to see, which is handy if you don’t need a hotel or a repair shop very often. If you ever do, a couple of taps turns them back on.
Find stops in route…
Enter parking status…
With a tap on any of the pins on the map, you can find more details about the stop, including phone numbers, number of parking spots, and driver reviews, just to name a few. It will even give you driving directions to the stop by opening up your maps app of choice.
But perhaps the coolest, and most popular feature is parking availability.
According to Wikipedia, Trucker Path has over 500,000 active users. This is what makes this app so special. You see, they rely on truckers to update the app’s parking availability. Here’s the way this works.
Just like the Weigh My Truck app, Trucker Path knows where you’re at if you’ve given them access to your location within the app. When you arrive at a truck stop, you can open the app and it immediately asks you what the parking situation is. You can choose Green for “Lots of Spots,” Yellow for “Some Spots,” or Red for “Lot is Full.” Bummer, man. Sorry to hear that.
By the way, for you evil geniuses out there, there’s no sense in trying to game the system by marking a truck stop as full just so you’ll have a parking space when you get there in three hours. Lots of turd-flinging truckers used to do that until Trucker Path caught on (primarily because honest drivers told them it was happening), so the developers changed it so you now have to be near a truck stop to update it. Thank God, because that was reeeeeally defeating the purpose of the app for a while.
You can also see how long ago the last update was, which is a great feature because, do you really care what the parking availability says if the last time the app was updated was 24 hours ago? No. But unless you’re at an obscure location, it’s likely that some helpful trucker has updated the app within a hour or so. But what if they haven’t?
Another great feature is “View History.”
With this feature you can go back and look at the parking status over the last several days. Usually you can detect some sort of pattern such as, “Hmmmm. It looks like this truck stop has some parking available until 10 PM almost every night. Awesome!”
Again, this data is only as good as the drivers using the app. But I have to say that it’s usually pretty good. It could be even better if you download this Christmas gift for yourself and start contributing to the cause.
I should point out that all of the features listed above are free. There are some ads, but they’re pretty non-intrusive. Most of the time there is nothing that pops in your face and demands attention. Good thing, cuz I wouldn’t want to have to sic the vulture on them too.
There is a pay option also. A premium membership will cost you $1.99 per month (that’s 33% off the regular price of $2.99) or you can save 50% by paying $17.99 annually. Doing so not only eliminates ads, but it also gives you extra features like Night Mode (black background screen) and Parking Prediction. I do get a lot of use out of the app, but I just don’t find these few extra features compelling enough to sign up for another subscription plan. But then again, I am tighter than a scuba mask.
The Trucker Path app is also a portal to other paid services, such as a load board, job searches, factoring, roadside assistance, and electronic logs, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Just do yourself a favor and download the Trucker Path app on Android or iPhone now so you can quit randomly searching three jammed-packed parking lots every night before you finally find parking. You and your blood pressure can thank me later.
I’ll bet even Santa uses the Transflo Mobile+ app on Android and iPhone. He does make a lot of deliveries, you know. And all those invoices have to be sent somewhere, right?
I’m sure most of you truckers know what Transflo is. That’s the kiosk in the truck stop where you go stand in a line for the opportunity to scan all your paperwork like a Neanderthal. If you’re lucky, the scanner doesn’t jam up. Okay, that doesn’t happen that often, but it does take time out of your day to walk into the truck stop to do it. There we are; back to that pesky walking nuisance again.
Wouldn’t it be far easier to just do it from the cab of your truck? Well, that’s precisely what the Transflo Mobile+ app does. It literally takes me about 30 seconds to scan a bill of lading and send it in to get paid; possibly one minute if I’ve got toll receipts or other documents to scan. I can hear it now, “I ain’t got room for no scanner in my truck!” No, silly Trucker Man. It’s not an actual scanning machine, it’s your smartphone!
Granted, the company you work for needs to be using the Transflo network, which most of the big ones are since Transflo’s parent company Pegasus TransTech bought TripPak back in 2014. Once that is set up with your company, it’s as easy as farting while you sleep.
One thing really cool about the Transflo Mobile+ app is that trucking companies can use it as a “skin,” meaning they can make it into their own app which features specific things to their company. Just go to your app store and type in “Transflo” and I think you’ll be surprised how many well-known trucking companies are using it.
Here’s how it works. Please keep in mind your company might have it set up slightly different.
Open the Transflo Mobile+ app. If you can’t figure this one out, I give up. Put on the dunce hat, go to the stool in the corner, and play Snake on your flip phone for the rest of this blog post.
Look for a way to scan. It might be called “Scan Documents” or something similar. In my app, I can access it from the “Loads” tab or under “Driver Benefits.” If you find it under “Loads” (or something similar-sounding), you’re in luck. That’s because all your recent loads are there and you can easily see which loads haven’t been scanned yet.
Tap the load you want to scan. If you can’t find it, check under “Driver Benefits” to find “Scan Documents.” At least that’s how mine is set up. Sometimes loads don’t show up properly if it has been handled by more than one driver. You might have to enter a few more details like your load number, but it’s still super-easy.
Tap the Scan button and it will give you an option to take a photo.
Take a photo of the document. For best results, place the document (one at a time) on a solid-colored surface, preferably something dark to contrast the paper. Once you snap the picture, you can choose to Use Photo or Retake.
Crop the photo. When this screen pops up, you’ll see four white lines framing the document. If you need to make adjustments, just drag the lines with your finger. Most of the time it’s spot-on, but it can get confused by complex backgrounds, crumpled paper, or shadows. Tap “Next” when you’ve got it framed nicely (see screenshot).
Make any adjustments. If the photo is out of focus or is too dark, the app will warn you. It’s actually quite hard to screw it up. As you can see from the screenshots, these photos were taken in near darkness with only the phone’s camera flash for illumination and they turned out just fine. Frankly, the most problems I’ve had is during daylight when there are harsh shadows across the document. Basic adjustments are Lighter, Darker, and Rotate. Tap “Accept.”
Choose your document type. Lots of options to choose from here (see screenshot). Tap “Next.” If you have more than one document, such as toll receipts or scale tickets (if you’re not using the Weigh My Truck app yet), you’ll have the option to repeat the steps to take additional photos. You can even send scans of DOT physical cards, driver’s licenses, etc. if your company requests them. Tap “Next” when all documents are scanned.
Enter your details. My company requires my Driver ID, Load or Order Number, and Truck Number. The first two are always pre-populated, but for some reason I have to enter my truck number each time. Weird, but whatever. Again, the details your employer wants are probably different from mine. Tap “Next.”
Send confirmation. From here you can Send All (it shows you how many pages you’ve scanned) or Add Pages (if you forgot something). You should tap one of these buttons.
Confirmation number. Within a few seconds, you’ll get a 16-digit confirmation number. I write this number on the back of the document, along with date scanned. Keep it for however long your company requires.
The Transflo Mobile+ app does more than just scan documents.
If your company uses the app, it can be used for so much more than scanning paperwork. You can report OS&D (Overage, Shortage, & Damaged freight), check your payroll, locate company terminals, find your truck on a map (I’m assuming this is tracking the truck, not your phone, but I’ve not test it yet), and report accident/equipment damage.
But perhaps the best feature is that you can get load information and message dispatch when you’re not in the truck. I LOVE both of these features. Yes, I’d love them even more if I could access them when the truck was moving, but my company has requested that to be disabled. Understandable, but I don’t have to like it. And for the record, rejecting access to the GPS on my phone doesn’t solve the problem. Not that I would know anything about that.
So why are these two features so friggin’ awesome?
When I’m at home, my truck is parked about 15 miles away at a truck stop. Before Transflo Mobile+ was in my life, I used to get calls from dispatch asking if I’d seen my next load coming out from the house. Don’t be buggin’ me at home, man! No longer. Instead, the load pops up in the app and I can accept it or reject it right there.
And if I need to reject it, that means I probably need to talk to my dispatcher. Sure, I could call, but The Evil Overlord is a vampire so she always sleeps later than I do. No problem! I can quietly text my dispatcher from within the app while my lazy butt is still laying in bed.
All this wonderfulness works out on the road too.
How many times have you been eating in a restaurant or taking a shower when dispatch calls and asks why you’re not responding to your truck’s computer messages? With the Transflo Mobile+ app installed on your phone, you’re no longer bound to your truck like a prisoner in a chain gang.
Get out and explore if you want! If you’ve got notifications turned on for the app and you can see your load details, you’ll be able to see that you can hang out at that nifty little coffee shop for a couple more hours before you need to head back to the truck. The freedom this app offers is truly amazing.
And hey, I realize some of you don’t want to be bothered when you’re off duty. If that’s your schtick, then simply turn off notifications. Although let’s be honest, you know they’re going to keep bugging you until you respond. “He’ll keep calling me. He’ll keep calling me until I come over. He’ll make me feel guilty…”(Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) (man, I’m on a roll with the movie quotes today). Anyway, you might as well be in the know when it comes to dispatch so you can ward off the jailbreak search.
Think of all the advantages of this app. First, the freedom we just discussed. Secondly, remember all those times that you didn’t get paid for a load because you ran out of driving hours before you could find a Transflo kiosk? No more! With the Transflo Mobile+ app on Android or iPhone, you can have that paperwork sent off to your company within minutes. And thirdly, no more of that annoying walking into the truck stop to scan your bills. Yucky!
Spreading Christmas Cheer!
Well there you have it. Three trucking apps that will make you as jolly as an elf. Find all three apps by searching in Google Play on your Android device or the App Store on iPhone or iPad.
Speaking of elves and movies, I can’t believe I still haven’t seen Elf with Will Ferrell. What’s wrong with me. “Hey Siri, remind me to watch Elf this year before Christmas!”
Podcast show notes:
In today’s main topic, I’ll share 3 Trucking Apps Every Trucker Should Have and tell you why they’re so awesome. But there’s so much more!
We’ll also be discussing news stories about truck recalls, tolls, impending new emissions standards, HOS of proposals, and whether driver pay is the key to solving every problem in the trucking industry.
I’ll tell you where you’re most likely to get a moving violation, and speaking of violations, we’ll be discussing the sentence that was handed down to the Pilot executives.
The tiniest of progress has been made to stop the exploitation of truck booting, so that’s good. Look out for some changes at your local Road Ranger too.
I’ll point you to a couple of articles to help you curb your road rage and improve your professionalism. And we’ll finish up the news by sharing a Trucking charity and finding out about a possible exemption for narcoleptic truckers. Whaaaa?
In the Trucker Grub segment, Dustin is back to tell us where to find some great clam chowder, and Lindsay, Chris, and a whole bunch of David’s share their thoughts about everything from gross truckers, to driver rules, to driver pay, to a book of science fiction short stories set in the trucker universe is.
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.
You’ve heard the saying “a penny for your thoughts.” Well, I say screw that. But how about 20 bucks for your thoughts?! Count me in! Well all you have to do is take an online survey where you answer some questions about your life as a trucker. This offer is available to all truckers; whether you’re an owner-operator, lease-purchaser, or company driver.
Yeah, yeah, another survey. I hear ya. But trust me; I just took it and I can tell you it’s painless. Better hurry though. Once their quota is filled, your chance at the $20 is gone forever.
This online survey from L.E.K. Consulting will take you about 25 minutes to complete. At the end, you’ll enter your contact info and they’ll send you a Visa gift card worth $20. It’s that easy. Oh and none of your answers will be associated with you personally. They’ll take all the data gathered from everyone and lump it all together into what I can only assume resembles a giant lump of monkey bread.
So what kinds of questions do you need to answer?
Beyond the basic demographic stuff (gender, age, income, etc.), they’re wanting to know what type of trucking you do and what expenses you have as a trucker, compared to what is covered by your employer (if you have one). They want to know what products or services are important to you and which ones you currently use or plan to use in the future. And they also want to know what types of products/services you might be interested in purchasing in the future.
So like I said, this survey is a quick and easy way to make $20 that your spouse will never know about. Feel free to spend it all on Mountain Dew and Cheetos if that’s your thing.
You know, it just dawned on me that $20 for a 25-minute survey is over $40 per hour! Sadly, that’s almost 4x what I make for an hour of detention time sitting at a grocery warehouse waiting to be unloaded.
We truckers often feel under-appreciated; and rightly so. We deliver virtually every product that everyone owns, yet we’re still considered a nuisance to the road. But every once in a while, we truckers do get some recognition. Not everyone in the trucking industry is so lucky.
The most obvious example of driver’s being appreciated is the aptly named National Truck Driver Appreciation Week, which takes place each September. But many carriers also have Driver Appreciation Days throughout the year where they give away prizes and grill burgers and brats for their drivers. I attended one of these recently and had the opportunity to chat with the CEO of my company. Discussing how things could improve with the head honcho while eating french toast and bacon! How can you beat that?
Additionally, shippers and receivers sometimes give us products for no apparent reason. I got full access to a rack of packaged cookies not too long ago and my friend DriverChrisMc gets a free pint of Ben & Jerry’s every time he picks up a load there. Hey, I just discovered something good about pulling a reefer! And I just found one more reason to curse his name. ?
The forgotten people
So clearly we truckers get more accolades than our whiny little selves let on. But what about all the forgotten people who keep the trucking industry rolling? Last time I checked, there wasn’t a National Shower Cleaners Week. So let’s start there. Here’s a list of unsung heroes who keep the trucking industry rolling.
Thank you to the truck stop maintenance people
These jack of all trades do everything from cleaning showers, to mopping up a kid’s puke, to power washing the fuel bays, to trying to keep up with the onslaught of the restrooms. Now I know many of you are thinking, “What’s this idiot talking about? Why would we thank these people? The truck stops are always filthy!”
Okay. I’ll admit that truck stops often aren’t as clean as we’d like. But think about how nasty they’d be without these good folks? Here’s an idea; if we truckers want cleaner facilities, how about we quit being such slobs?
There is absolutely no reasons to spray water all over the sink area. I brush my teeth and knock down my Alfalfa cowlick every single day without soaking the countertop and the floor. And if a little water does splash out of the sink, it’s super easy to grab a paper towel and wipe up your mess before you leave.
Another little tip to help with the cleanliness. I know this is going to come as a complete surprise to some of you, but human waste belongs IN a toilet, not somewhere in the vicinity of a toilet. First off, toilet paper goes INTO the toilet as does your poop. Unless you’ve had an emergency Hershey squirt, there is absolutely no reason for it to be on the floor or the walls.
As for #2, you women sit down for crying out loud, so why is it that The Evil Overlord could write a novel called “Horrors of the Ladies’ Room”? And men, well, if you can aim a pea shooter or a squirt gun, then why can’t you hit your friggin’ target in the john? It is kinda shaped like a gun barrel, ya know. Any hey, if you’re not going to use a urinal, lift the toilet seat. I know there’s not women coming into the men’s room, but we guys still have to sit on those seats.
Now for the parking lots. Who do you think puts all that trash in the parking lot? And speaking of pee lots, do you really think the truck stop employees are the ones pissing in the parking lot? Nope. It’s us truckers! But these good maintenance people have to clean it all up.
Basically, if we truckers didn’t act like our mom was following us around and cleaning up after us, the maintenance people would not only have an easier job, but they’d also be able to keep things cleaner. Besides, I’m pretty sure your mom would kick you square in the ass if you left her bathroom sink covered in water and shaving stubble. Let alone what your wife would do to you.
So why do it to the maintenance crew? If that’s not convincing enough, look at it this way. If you were doing that job, how would you feel about your sloppiness? If you said you wouldn’t care; then you’re a liar-liar and I kinda hope your pants do catch on fire.
So thank you to the maintenance crew. We know you have a thankless job, but we’re lucky to have you and we appreciate the job you do. Obviously, we’ll appreciate you even more if we don’t find wads of hair in the shower drain or poop streaks in the toilet. Thanks.
Thank you to the truck stop service workers and managers
We all know how big of jerks some truckers can be. Now imagine your job is interacting with them all… day… long. They listen to us bitch and moan about our screwed up fuel card, despite the fact that it’s not their fault. They give us cash advances and they even still send faxes for drivers who are still living in the 80’s. They dish up deli goods, brew our coffee and make the Pilot/Flying J’s smell like someone had a early morning cinna-gasm.
The ones I feel most sorry for are the young pretty female cashiers. We’ve all heard truckers flirting with them. News flash, truckers; no attractive young woman wants to flirt with a middle-aged, smelly trucker wearing grease-stained clothes and exhaling a toxic mixture of cigarettes and coffee. Just assume if she wanted to flirt with older guys all day long, she’d be working at Hooter’s or twirling around a pole for a living.
In short, truck stop cashiers and managers do whatever it takes to keep us truckers fed and caffeinated so we can keep those big wheels rolling. So please take it easy on them. And thank you folks for all the things you do to keep the truck stops running smoothly.
P.S. Drivers: Your coffee stirrer and empty creamer packets belong in the trash, not on the countertop. Again, your mother doesn’t work here.
Thank you to all the restaurant staff
Whether it’s the ever-present Subway, a tantalizing Taco Hell, or a full-service restaurant like Denny’s or Iron Skillet, we truckers should appreciate the job these folks are doing.
Many of these eateries are open 24/7, which means someone is always working the graveyard shift so you can get some grub when you’re pulling an all-night drive.
Or maybe you just want to get out of the truck to relax for a while. Lord knows it’s hard to chill out in the driver’s lounge when you’ve got a bunch of drivers screaming over each other about the bad call the referee just made. Or worse, a discussion of politics breaks out. God help us. If only we could elect one of these guys as our President. They all seem to think they’ve got it all figured out. Uh huh.
As you regular listeners/readers know, I eat most of my meals in my truck. But every once in a while, even cheapskates like me need to escape the cab for a while. It’s nice to go inside and have a seat at a real table instead eating off that crusty old road atlas that doubles as a TV tray. Sometimes I forget how comforting it is to have a friendly waiter or waitress plop a plate of food in front of you and keep your glass of iced tea filled.
And of course, they couldn’t serve up the food at all if someone wasn’t standing over that hot stove back in the kitchen. Maybe I appreciate these cooks a bit more than the average Joe because I can’t cook to save my life. If I can’t pop the top off a package and stick it in a microwave, ain’t no one getting fed around me.
So thanks to all the restaurant personnel who keep us truckers fed and for providing us with the closest thing to home we can have without actually being there.
Thank you to the mechanics
No one likes going to the shop. I get that. But what’s worse? Taking a shower or sitting in a driver’s lounge while your truck is being worked on; or you crawling underneath your truck in the pee lot to diagnose and fix the problem yourself? I have the mechanical aptitude of a toothbrush, so I probably appreciate these hard-working folks far more than those of you who could fix your trucks if you wanted to.
The times I appreciate these mechanics the most is when I’m broken down on the side of the highway. I get to sit in my nice, safe cab while the mechanic proceeds to remove a tire with one eye, while the other one is keeping tabs on all the passing cars.
These road calls are extremely dangerous, drivers. Try to remember that and get to an exit ramp or somewhere completely off the road if possible. I don’t know how much these guys are getting paid, but I’m sure it’s not enough to dodge traffic and fix your flat tire in the pouring rain.
So when you see a broken down vehicle on the road, try to move over a lane to give them some breathing room. I’m amazed at how many truckers I see blow by without changing lanes or even easing off the throttle. I know traffic doesn’t always allow a lane change, but that shouldn’t keep you from backing out of the throttle a bit, now should it?
So thanks to the mechanics who fix our flats, replace our alternators, and troubleshoot intermittent electronic problems that drive us battier than Batman driving the Batmobile into the Batcave.
Yes, you sometimes take longer than I’d like to fix my truck, but from now on I’m going to try to think of it like this. If I had to fix my own truck, it would take me ten times longer than it will for you to do it. And that’s assuming I’m capable of doing anything more complicated than changing a headlight bulb. Hmmmm… better make that 20x faster.
Thanks to the dispatchers… yes, I really did just say that
Personally, I can’t see why anyone would voluntarily become a trucking dispatcher, but I’m thankful that there are enough insane people out there to fill the positions.
First, you’re talking to truck drivers all day. There are three types of calls dispatchers take.
The informational request – Stuff happens throughout a trucker’s day. We sometimes find ourselves with an incorrect pickup or delivery number. We have questions about a load or a customer. Perhaps we have a question about company policy. Or maybe we need some out-of-route fuel set up. These calls are usually the easiest part of their day.
The friendly blabbermouth – There is a school of thought that you should call your dispatcher fairly often to form a good relationship with them. I’m just going to come out and say that this is flat-out wrong. I’ve had a lot of dispatchers over the years and not one has ever told me they like it when a driver calls just to chat. Dispatchers have a lot to do, so it makes it awkward for them because they need to get off the phone to help other drivers, but they don’t want to offend the blabbermouth either.
The disgruntled driver – I’ve never had a dispatcher who didn’t appreciate the fact that I only call when I need something. Furthermore, if it’s just information I need, usually I can get an answer with a quick computer message. Dispatchers truly love that. But when I do have a serious problem, it often warrants a phone call. And I’m usually not in a good mood. Maybe it’s looking like they’re going to have trouble getting me home on time. Or perhaps they’re expecting me to be ready to drive an 11-hour shift, twelve hours from now after I’ve just woken up from 8 hours of sleep. Whatever the situation, these are not fun phone conversations for either party involved.
As you can see, only one of these types of driver interactions are pleasant. And we drivers don’t really even know what goes on when they’re not on the phone with us. They’re busy screening our loads before they send them to us (at least the good ones do) to make sure we have the hours to run them. They’re pushing through detention pay and handling lumper transactions. And you know there’s some office politics going on too.
It’s a fact. Dispatchers are pretty much universally despised by drivers. That rivalry is as old as the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s. I don’t think that way though. I think dispatchers have a tough job that I wouldn’t want to do. And that makes me appreciate them more. Well, as long as they’re a good dispatcher who actually treats you with respect and has a cool enough head to know when you just need to blow off some steam.
Now if you’re a bad dispatcher, all bets are off. Might I advise a different job? I hear the truck stops are hiring shower cleaners.
Thank you to the planners
Dispatchers for small carriers may actually handle the planning duties too, but most large trucking companies have stand-alone planners nowadays. Their sole purpose is to look at the loads available and assign it to the truck that is best-suited to cover it. Maybe that’s because you’re closest to the load. Or maybe you’re not, but it’s the best load to get you home for your proctologist appointment on Friday.
My dislike of planners is well-documented way back from my early days of blogging/podcasting. But the more I think about the complexity of their job, the more I have an appreciation for what they do. Not only are they usually handling large zones of the country and planning hundreds of trucks per day, but they’re often thinking two or three steps ahead.
One of the few times I’m truly pissed at my company is when it looks like I might not be getting home after my typical three weeks out. Yet in all my years with this company, I’ve probably not gotten home only three or four times. Not bad for 12 years. Now if you compare that number to how many times I’d given up hope that I was going to be able to get home, well, that’s a much bigger number.
There have been many times when I’m calling dispatch and complaining about my situation, whether that’s getting home late or possibly not at all. It’s the day before I’m due home and still no plans come. Just as I resign myself to my fate, the planner usually comes through at 4:45 PM with some crazy series of loads that will have me home on time.
Maybe I pick up a load headed the wrong direction, but I’m relaying with another driver who has a load going my way. I remember one time there was a combination of four loads/relays lined up just to get me home! That couldn’t have been easy, especially considering I’m just one of thousands of drivers they’re trying to get home. It’s truly impressive when you think about it. I often refer to what they do as “magic.”
So as I preach so often on this blog/podcast, I’m trying to look at the situation with a new set of eyes. Therefore, I’d like to thank all the planners for the miracles they pull off every day to keep us rolling.
Thank you to the other office employees
There are numerous other jobs that make my driving job possible, but we don’t have time to go into great detail for everyone.
Without the recruiter deciding I’m an awesome candidate, I would’t even have this job. Without Sales People, there would be no customers with freight. Without Customer Service Reps, the loads wouldn’t get booked and my load information would be wrong waaaaay more than the 99% that’s it’s correct. Without the Payroll department, I wouldn’t get paid, which would make The Evil Overlord slightly grumpy.
Obviously, there are the executives who keep everything running smoothly and who provide the job and the equipment to do it. I can honestly say that if I had to buy my own truck, I probably would’ve never been a truck driver. There’s also the Tech department that keep all the computers running so I can send messages from my truck instead of calling and bugging my dispatcher. And lest we forget, accessing Netflix over the company Wi-Fi.
Now one department that’s harder to thank, let alone love, is the Safety department. They’re pretty good at what they do, but obviously I wish we truckers were allowed to police ourselves. Unfortunately, there are too many of you outlaws out there who ruined it for the rest of us. Old time trucker, I’m looking at you. At least I can always count on the Safety department to walk me though the 8-hour split sleeper berth when I have to do it. You’d think I’d have it licked after 21 years, but it is what it is.
So basically, a big thanks to everyone who works in the office to keep my truck moving and the money rolling in. I appreciate it almost as much as The Evil Overlord does.
Another group that’s hard to thank is the shippers/receivers
I’m going to do my best here. After all, without their products, we truckers would have anything to haul. But I’ve got a qualifier before I go thanking them.
If you’re a well-organized shipper/receiver who gets their trucks loaded or unloaded in a timely manner, then I’m truly thankful for you. To all you forklift drivers who drive that lift like it’s an extension of your body; thank you for doing your job so well. There are few things I love more than getting loaded in 15 minutes. Yes, it happens, but it’s very rare. 30 minutes is pretty awesome too.
Now I do understand that some products simply take more time to load, but I would argue that if you can’t load a truck in less than 1-2 hours, you need to revamp your system. Maybe quit trying to save a buck or two by floor stacking everything? Or maybe you should face the realization that you’re not quite as efficient as you think you are. Maybe you could remedy that by setting your appointment times further apart because you’re always running behind schedule?
To sum up, if you’re an efficient shipper/receiver, thank you for respecting the driver’s time. But if you set unrealistic appointment times and have slow loaders that make a sloth look like Speedy Gonzales, then you can go suck eggs. And I’m not talking about those delicious Cadbury eggs. I’m talking about some eggs covered with chicken poop and full of blood clots. Bon appetit!
Last but not least, I’d like to thank the 4-wheeler drivers
Yes, you heard me right. You can pick your jaw up off the floor now. You know, it’s common knowledge that we humans tend to focus on the bad things in life. I don’t know why that is and I wish that wasn’t the case, but there’s no denying it.
We over-the-road truckers can be on the roads for up to 11 hours per day. We encounter thousands, possibly 10’s or even 100’s of thousands of cars per day depending where we are.
Most of the day goes smoothly. The vast majority of these interactions between cars are trucks are handled perfectly by everyone involved. But if one 4-wheeler driver does something stupid or flat-out dangerous around us, that’s the thing that will stick in our craw all day long. Heck, we might even carry it into the next day.
But again, this takes a mind shift on our part. Yes, I’ve been guilty of bashing 4-wheelers numerous times in the Trucker Dump archives. And many times, rightly so. But it’s also important that we remember how many good 4-wheeler drivers there are out there.
We encounter them every single day:
The utility worker in the Ford pickup that stayed back from the light so we could make that tight right turn. Much obliged, man.
That soccer mom in the Honda minivan who ducked in behind us before the exit ramp instead of speeding up and cutting across three lanes of traffic in front of us. Thank you for not making me change my boxer shorts today. We all know you can wear underwear for three or four days, right? ?
To the many cars and pickups that refrain from giving us the ol’ one-finger salute when they finally get around us after we found ourselves in a turtle race. Thank you for your patience.
Remember that nice old guy in the Corvette who left a gap at the busy intersection so you could get onto the street from the side road? Much appreciated, old rich dude that I’m not at all jealous of.
How about all the smart drivers who pass your big rig quickly so they aren’t riding alongside you for the next three miles? Thank you for not giving me a crick in my neck from constantly monitoring my mirror until you’ve passed.
You know how you turn on your turn signal when you’re trying to change lanes and that 4-wheeler driver actually slowed down a bit instead of gassing on it for a change of pace? Not only do I thank you, but I think I may love you a little bit too.
What about all those freeway on-ramps where the driver is actually paying attention and they either slow down or speed up to merge properly? Thank you for not being one of those butt-munches that hasn’t figured out how to merge yet.
Or what about when you scooted into the center lane to help that Toyota SUV merge onto the freeway? Thank you for speeding up quickly so we can get back into the right lane as soon as possible.
Yes, I’m certain that most of us encountered a bad 4-wheeler driver sometime today. But think of all the ones who passed by without incident. Do the numbers. 10 thousand, 100 thousand or more good drivers compared to the one or two bad ones that we’re focusing on.
So for my final thank you, I’d like to give a shout out to the group of people who are usually cited as being the trucker’s #1 enemy; 4-wheeler drivers. To all of you who do the little things to help us truckers navigate traffic; thank you. Even to those of you who simply don’t do anything stupid enough to draw our attention in the first place; I sincerely thank you.
For the rest of you selfish, knuckle-headed 4-wheeler drivers who cause us truckers daily torment, well, as far as I’m concerned, you can go play chicken with a friggin’ telephone pole. And I’m hoping you don’t have collision warning.
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.
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.
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I’ll never forget this. It was December 17, 2017 and I was walking out of the shower room at the Flying J in Fargo, ND. That’s when I saw the trucker sitting alone in the driver’s lounge. He was opening a box. What was that look on his face? Horror? Disgust? Fear?
My guess is it was probably a little of each. You see, he was opening a new Electronic Logging Device, or ELD. Nothing like waiting until the last second. As we all know, the ELD mandate started the next day. I’m sure many of you went through the same emotional trauma.
Those of you new to ELDs have had them in your trucks for over 8 months now. By now you’ve had plenty of time to figure out what you like and dislike about your current setup. Is it hard to use? Is the software confusing? Does the hardware feel cheap and flimsy?
Well perhaps you should have a look at the Trace by FleetUp. FleetUp sent me a unit for testing and I’ve been using it for about three months. Well, sort of. You see, I learned a valuable lesson. I’m NEVER going to test another ELD unit! But before you go thinking that’s a slight against the Trace, let me explain.
No one likes disclaimers, but I feel I need to for this review. You see, in order to truly put an ELD through its paces, you need to have both the software and the hardware plug-in device. Without the plug-in device, the software can’t tell when the truck is moving. And since that’s the very purpose of ELDs, well, you see the problem.
So as you’ve probably already guessed, I did not have the plug-in device. FleetUp wanted to send one to me, but unfortunately I wouldn’t be able to install it because I’m a company driver. My safety department said that I couldn’t install it for two reasons:
Another elog device would mean I was running two log books. Last time I checked, that was still illegal.
My company doesn’t even allow me to put stickers on the windows, let alone install an electronic device that hooks into the truck’s computer!
To remedy this problem, Kimberli (one of my contacts at FleetUp) installed it on her personal vehicle. This obviously wasn’t ideal, but we did what we had to do and worked around the issues as best as possible. So now that you have a frame of reference, let’s move on.
The Trace Tablet
The Trace device itself is impressive. It is a 7” tablet with a bright orange case, surrounded by a thick, black bumper. I couldn’t believe how heavy the unit was when I first picked it up! It feels like a tank could run over it and the Trace would taunt it with a “neener neener” as it rolled away with its turret between its legs. Second disclaimer: If you’re lucky enough to own a tank, please don’t actually try this. But please DO invite me for a ride-along! Please God, let there be live ammo.
Not only is the Trace case (hey, I’m a poet!) incredibly thick, but part of the weight comes from the metal strip on the back that sticks to the magnets on the mount. The design works perfectly, despite its heft. The first time I used it, I didn’t get the mounting bracket’s suction cup attached to the windshield sufficiently and it popped off in transit. The whole thing, tablet and mount, went crashing to the floor. When I picked it up, they were still connected! The magnet on the RAM mount is so powerful that I’m pretty sure I saw a 747 lose some altitude when it flew overhead. What? It could happen!
The screen on the Trace is super bright. Only in the harshest of direct sunlight did I have any problems seeing what was onscreen. That’s par for the course with mobile devices. It is both dust and water resistant and can be submerged in up to three feet of water for 30 minutes, not that I can see any scenario where you’d want to do that. As heavy as the Trace is, it would drop you like an anchor if you tried to snorkel with it.
There is a 13 Megapixel camera with Flash LED on the back, a power button, volume buttons, a headphone jack, a return button, a SIM card slot, a Micro SD card slot, a USB-C port for charging and data transfer, and a cool SOS button that will automatically dial a preprogrammed phone number. And there’s one more button that for the life of me I couldn’t figure out what it does. All these ports and buttons have covers over them to promote the dust and water resistance claims. Battery life will last a couple of days if you don’t have the screen on the whole time. But honestly, if you’re using it on the mount you may as well leave it plugged in.
The Trace comes with a hand strap, a really nice carry case, a 64GB Micro SD card and SD card adapter, an AT&T SIM card, and a USB-C cable for charging and computer transfer with both AC and DC plugs. You can include one of two different length of RAM mounts with magnets when you order.
If you’ve never heard of RAM mounts, they are some of the sturdiest you can buy. They also have interchangeable heads to suit your ever-changing mobile device needs. The only thing I didn’t like about it was that the suction cup requires an extremely smooth surface like glass. I wanted to install it on the face of my dashboard, but even though none of the surfaces on my dash are very course, the RAM mount was having none of it. Once you get good suction on the windshield though, The Hulk would have a hard time ripping it off.
The FleetUp Software
I’ve always been a huge fan of the color orange, so I was tickled orange (you see what I did there?) when I powered up the Trace to discover a bright orange screen appear. A quick swipe up (on screen directions) reveals four app icons: FleetUp HOS, FleetUp Camera, CamScanner, and TeamViewer QuickSupport. We’ll get back to these apps in a second.
Another nice touch is that it includes the Tech Support email address and phone number right on the main screen. No more plummeting the depths of a website to find out how to get help! Woo-hoo!
The software seems plenty snappy too. When it comes to software, there are few things more frustrating than slow, laggy software. I should know. The PeopleNet elogs my company uses are on a Samsung Galaxy tablet and it sometimes takes a 3-4 seconds for anything to happen after you touch the screen. That causes a lot of miss clicks and that’s just gross. Not so with the Trace. You touch and it responds immediately.
One thing I really like is that the Trace is literally just a tablet running Android. While the FleetUp apps are front and center, just behind the scenes you can install whatever apps you want on the device. For instance, FleetUp is working on a navigation solution, but for now you can download Google Maps or any of the truck-specific GPS apps you favor and it will run it just fine.
You can even install games and social media apps. It’s basically a multi-use device that you can use for both business and pleasure. Just don’t nod off while reading in bed with the Trace held above your head. As heavy as it is, you might wind up with a concussion.
FleetUp HOS App
FleetUp HOS is the elog app. It is FMCSA compliant and can even do IFTA fuel tax automation and reporting. Nice!
It also claims to be the only elog system with a voice assistant. I have to say that while the voice is way more robotic than Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa, it’s still extremely helpful when you’re first getting started with the app.
Not only will the voice assistant walk you through the setup process, but it will also warn you when you’re running out of hours. One thing I was especially grateful for was how it kept reminding me to fill out my Daily Vehicle Inspection Report (DVIR) each day. In my defense, it was easy to forget when the DVIR was due based on how Kimberli was driving, not me.
And remember, the voice assistant will only speak up if you’re about to screw up. It’s also good to know that you can disable the voice once you feel comfortable that you know what you’re doing. By and large, I give the voice assistant a big thumbs up.
There are two main sections in the FleetUp HOS app: Status and Logs.
The Logs screen is where you’ll find your typical elog graph like our old beloved paper logs. You can also select a calendar to see previous days and one tap will show your 8-day recap.
There is a green line that takes the place of your ink pen, indicating what you’ve been up to and there is also a vertical red line that indicates where you need to stop driving. First, you’ll see the red line where you need to take your 30-minute break after 8 hours of working. After that, it will readjust to your 11 or 14, depending how crappy your day has been. I never got to the 70-hour warning, but I’m sure the red line would warn you when it’s drawing near too.
I did see some goofs in both the red line and the green duty line every now and then. At one point I had a diagonal green line going backwards from the Sleeper Berth line to the Driving line (see photo). Maybe I’m a time traveler and just never knew it?
I also had some instances where the red line wasn’t placed correctly. Honestly, I chock both of these malfunctions up to trying to share a vehicle with Kimberli. I’ll explain here in a second.
The Status screen is what you see when you’re driving. You’ll see four different colored circles that count down the time available on your 8, 11, 14 and 70-hour clocks. Again, I had some goofs with these too, but I wouldn’t worry about it too much. You’ll also see where you can log a Yard Move or Personal Conveyance.
Here’s what was happening. As with most electronic logs, you tap a button to indicate whether you want to go to the Off-Duty, Sleeper, or On-Duty status, but the Driving line can only be controlled by the hardware plug-in that was installed on Kimberli’s car. So you can imagine how many violations I was getting without knowing her every move.
Since I couldn’t place myself on the Driving line, I would often put myself on the On-Duty line while I was driving. Since there was no way Kimberli was going to drive anywhere close to 11 hours per day, it was really my only option if I wanted to test the warnings and the logging system. Many times, I’d wake up to a violation because she drove to work without allowing 8-10 hours after I showed going into the Sleeper. Again, nothing she could have foreseen.
Same with the red line. I might’ve went On-Duty at 10 AM and expected to see the 8-hour red line at 6 PM, but I’d see it at a different time because Kimberli started her day before I did. So as I said, unique circumstances here, so nothing I’d worry about. But now you can see why I’ll never do another ELD review, right?
FleetUp Camera App
FleetUp Camera is basically a dash cam app. Like any dash cam, it will constantly record and erase video as it needs. In the event of a crash, it will save the last bit of video. You can also tap the screen to save a chunk of video. This is great for those times when another driver does something stupid in camera view, but you’re lucky enough to not be involved. Here we come, YouTube! You can also save photos on the fly. Just touch a button and keep on truckin’.
The dash cam has different settings depending on what time of day, weather conditions, etc. To be honest, the only time I could tell a major difference was switching from day to night mode.
The Trace shines in it’s ability to multitask. You can run the dash cam in the background while the elogs are still doing their thing, or you can put the dash cam on screen the whole time. And if you want to save battery life, you can kill the screen and both apps will continue to work in the background.
The only problem I had with the FleetUp Camera app was finding a good position for the tablet on my dash. I really hate to have anything on my dash that blocks my view of the road. That was a problem with the shorter RAM mount they sent me.
As I mentioned earlier, the suction cup wouldn’t stick to the vertical face of my dashboard so I had to mount it on the windshield on my far left (where the glass was closest to the edge of the dash). Due to the location of the camera on the back of the device, the only way I could get the camera to “peek” over the dash without obstructing my view was to put it in portrait mode (vertical) with most of the device below my dash. It was actually nice to have the device out of my way, but it was awkward to use the elogs with my left hand.
Again, none of this would be an issue if you don’t mind mounting it on top of your dash. Or perhaps the longer RAM mount might do the trick. All in all, it’s not a deal breaker.
Listeners of the Trucker Dump Podcast might be thinking, “Hey, Todd doesn’t like dash cams, so why is he promoting one.” Well, you’re correct that I not a fan (that’s a whole other topic), but if you are, the Trace makes a good one.
Cam Scanner App
This app is great for scanning your documents, such as bills of lading and receipts, electronically. Perfect for the slob who uses his dash as a filing cabinet! Get rid of all that paper!
You can take a photo with the camera and it will automatically recognize the borders of the document and resize everything. If it’s off a bit, you can easily adjust the edges. It will then process it to make the text clearer and show you the results. If you don’t like those results, you can alter the contrast with some additional settings.
Now that it’s too your liking, you can easily share the document (or multiple documents) via email, messaging apps like Whats App, or social media apps like Facebook and Twitter. You can even annotate the document if you have an app called InNote installed. With this, you can draw lines, circles, arrows, and make handwritten notes to bring attention to something on the page. Nifty, huh?
Another cool feature is the Recognize button. Tap that and it will automatically OCR the document. Yes, that’s a fancy term. It stands for Optical Character Recognition. In simple terms, it recognizes words in a photo and saves them. This makes it easy to search for a document later.
Maybe you can’t remember where you saved a scanned document, but if you know you’re looking for the inspection form you got from the Oklahoma State Trooper, all you have to do is search for one of the words you know will be on the document, such as Oklahoma. Viola! Found it!
There is also a Note button, which enables you to type a message that will be attached to the document. For instance, if a paper receipt you scanned only says “Miscellaneous $15,” you can type a note saying the fee is for parking. Before we move on, let’s all have a moment of silence to curse the truck stop owners who charge for parking.
TeamViewer Quick Support App
TeamViewer is a nice app to have if you’re having issues with your Trace. When you start a TeamViewer session, someone from tech support can remotely access your device. They can either control the device themselves or they can watch what you’re doing.
Either way, you can feel comfortable about it because you can still see everything that is happening onscreen. Let’s hope you never have any problems with the Trace or the FleetUp apps, but this is technology after all. If you do, at least you know TeamViewer Quick Support is just a tap away.
So what is the cost?
The price of the Trace is $683, which honestly seemed a bit steep to me at first. But then I remembered that this is a multi-use device.
You can use it as a log book. It’s also a dash cam. It also makes for a great large screen GPS navigation device. You can read ebooks or listen to audiobooks and podcasts. You can even play games on it! Basically, you can download any Android app as long as you’ve got the space on the micro SD card (although there are monthly data allowances to watch – stay tuned for pricing).
And let’s not forget that the Trace is a highly ruggedized device. In the event of a nuclear holocaust, I’m guessing that the Trace would probably still be humming right along while you’re being vaporized.
So can you buy a 7” Android tablet, a GPS navigation device, and a dash cam for $683? Possibly, but why not have one device instead of three?
The RAM mounts are $70 for the longer model and $60 for the short one.
There is a monthly fee of $25 for using the FleetUp software on the Trace. This includes 500 megabytes of data usage (the website says 1 GB now so this may have changed). There are additional plans with more bandwidth if you’re a data hog.
No hardware needed?
One thing I should point out is that you can use the FleetUp apps without spending $683 for the Trace. If you already have an iPhone, iPad, or Android device, you can download the FleetUp apps for free and only pay the $25 per month, per device.
For instance, if you had three drivers with three devices, the cost would be $75 per month ($25 x 3). But if you were running three team trucks, you’d have 6 drivers instead of three. Each additional person is $10 per month, so in that case, your monthly bill would be $75 (three drivers with devices) plus $30 ($10 for each surplus driver), for a total of $105 per month. Not bad for covering 6 drivers!
We all heard about the ONE20 ELD going away. My guess is this is just the first of many companies that won’t make the cut. I’m no fortune teller, but I don’t think FleetUp will be one of those companies. I could be wrong, but they just seem to have their crap together. Have a look at the FleetUp website and you’ll see that they have their hand in more baskets than just the Trace.
The FleetUp Trace ELD is a solid piece of hardware with the ability to take the place of multiple trucking-related devices and it’s easy to use, thanks in part to the voice assistant. The monthly cost is in range with other ELDs and FleetUp is actively developing and supporting their products and services. And remember, the software is free to download if you already have a mobile device to put it on.
So in the end, the only thing you really have to worry about is dropping the Trace on your foot while wearing flip-flops!
Podcast Show Notes:
In today’s podcast, I tell you about an electronic logging device (ELD) called the FleetUp Trace.
I also share news stories about a truck recall, the possibility of new Hours-of-Service rules, more happenings in the autonomous truck world (including what’s up with your job), I point you to a survey for your opinions about the biggest trucking issues, and a lady trucker stands up to the man and wins. I also discuss dash cams and a conversation I had with OOIDA on Twitter. Trucker Grub features an Albuquerque restaurant.
In the feedback section we discuss private vs. sponsored truck driving schools, we follow up with last months mad gay trucker, and obviously… strawberry jam.
Check out new Trucker Dump merchandise at TeePublic.com, including tee shirts, hoodies, mugs, stickers, tote bags, and even kid’s clothes (not that any sane person would put their kid in a Trucker Dump shirt)!
This episode of Trucker Dump is sponsored by:
Citadel Fleet Safety – Call (800)269-5905 or click the link for a special discount for Trucker Dump listeners. Click on [Customer Login] in the upper-right corner, click on the Trucker Dump logo, and use password: truckerdump.
Classic Truck Insurance – Call 888-498-0255 right now for your free quote, to get get your own authority, or to become a freight broker.