truckers

TD138: Being A Rental Equipment Truck Driver

This episode of Trucker Dump is sponsored by Volvo Trucks. Learn more at volvotrucks.us.

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.

Links mentioned in the podcast:

I got a chance to co-host the May 29 episode of The Trucking Podcast with Buck Ballard when Don the Beer Guy couldn’t make it. Lots of stories and laughs in this one!

I got interviewed by Niki from the Truck Boss Show about the Trucker Dump Podcast.

I spoke with Niki from the Truck Boss Show on starting your own podcast.

The Truck Boss Show is giving away some free swag. First person to email me at TruckerDump@gmail.com wins the loot!

Brake Safety Week inspection blitz set for Sept. 15-22

Paccar recalls nearly 7,000 Kenworth, Peterbilt trucks over various issues

Mirror issue prompts recall of 4,000 Kenworth, Peterbilt tractors

Daimler issues recall for brake air supply capacity issue

CDL Mills And Bad Trainers Will Love This FMCSA Rule

Senate bill would force DOT to institute speed limiter mandate, set 65 mph limit

Bill in Congress would restore drivers’ per diem tax deduction

New Montana law will raise truck speed limits

DOT seeking input on regs around autonomous driving

FMCSA’s proposed HOS changes now expected July 31

DOT funding bill would force 30-minute break to remain in hours regs

Trucker faces 40 criminal counts stemming from deadly I-70 crash near Denver

Plenty blame to go around in Colo. tragedy, when the damage is done

Truckers’ 90-Mile Road-Rage Battle Kills Woman, Companies To Pay $26 Million

ELD data handling: ‘Privacy is paramount,’ but practices vary

Permit required for truckers in insect quarantine area beginning May 1

New TruckPark app allows drivers to reserve parking spaces

TruckPark app on Apple App Store
TruckPark app on Google Play Store

VSA PlugSaver is a cool device to keep your trailer lights from flickering.

Isela from the Truck Boss Show interviews trucker/inventor of the the VSA Plugsaver.

Seven fleets named to Forbes’ ‘Best Large Employers’ list

Truckers can enter to win free trip to Nashville with the RoadPro Ultimate Nashville Getaway Giveaway

This Trucker Fell Asleep At The Wheel After Falsifying His Logs. A Jury Awarded Him $80 Million

Links in the Feedback section:

Doug (Missouri Miller Boy (who did the May Trucker Grub segment) challenges the concept of me claiming to be both a cheapskate and an Apple-loving, cat lover and I attempt to explain the dilemma.

Joe questions a wreck involving a trucker taking Ambient, a drug used for insomnia.

Ambien on Drugs.com

Author Lisa Nowak offers congratulations for my new job and I spin it into a lesson that has been recently reinforced that should be a part of every trucker’s life.

David is considering renewing his CDL and wants to know the best path to upgrading from a Class B to a Class A.

Show info:

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

Join the Trucker Dump Podcast Facebook Group

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

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

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

 

Sponsored: The Iowa 80 Truck Stop Is Trucker Heaven

If someone were to ask a non-trucker where the largest truckstop in the world was located, I’ll bet most would guess somewhere near a major US city, such as New York City or Los Angeles. But any experienced trucker could tell you that the World’s Largest Truckstop is the Iowa 80 in Walcott, Iowa. If you’ve haven’t visited this trucker heaven yet, you need to put it on your bucket list.

The Iowa 80 has been serving truckers 24/7 continuously since 1964 and it has grown and expanded to become everything a trucker could need (and let’s be honest, some things we just want!).

Your truck will think it’s in heaven too…

Believe it or not, the Iowa 80 truck stop has 900 parking spots to choose from. Yes, you heard that right; 900. If your truck requires service or needs repairs you can call on the Truck Service Center and their roadside assistance 24/7.

Once you’ve got Big Mama back up and running, make her happy by topping off the tanks in one of 15 fuel bays and then give her a good scrubbing at the 24/7 Truckomat truck wash. While you’re there, be sure to take Brutus the Mighty Warrior Chihuahua to the Dogomat pet wash so both your babies will be squeaky clean.

You could always use the CAT scale while you’re there, but you might want to be careful about that. Anything named Big Mama might be a bit sensitive about her weight. 😉

Once you get parked in one of the 900 parking spots, head on into the Iowa 80 main building to get some new bling for your big metal baby. The first thing you’ll likely notice when coming into the driver’s entrance is that there’s a full size tractor-trailer in there! And what’s that? Two more bobtails towards the back of the Super Truck Showroom! Wow!

Have you ever coveted a cool accessory on another driver’s truck? Well, you’ll likely be able to find whatever you’re looking for in the Iowa 80 semi truck accessories area. Truck vent visors? Yep, and plenty to choose from. There is a huge selection of everything from gear shift knobs to mud flaps to chrome parts and accessories. And be sure to throw some chrome axle covers into the cart to make Big Mama look super-sexy! How about some of those fancy money-saving led marker lights? The Super Truck Showroom has so many LED light displays that I momentarily thought I was at a Motley Crue concert!

Point is, you’ll never see a more complete set of chrome parts, accessories, and cool stuff for your truck than you will at the Iowa 80 Super Truck Showroom.

Look at all those driver amenities!

Now it’s time to baby ourselves. Priorities first; let’s get that pesky exercising out of the way in the 24/7 fitness room. Ouch! I threw my back out on the weight machine because I think I’m tougher than I really am (something every aging trucker could admit to if they only would). Good thing there’s a licensed chiropractor at the Iowa 80! May as well get that nearly expired DOT physical done while you’re there.

Now obviously you have to go back to the fitness room to finish up your workout, right. UGH! Now I slipped on the elliptical machine and chipped a tooth! What to do? Easy, just head down the hallway to Interstate Dental. Yes seriously. A dentist in a truck stop. How cool is that?

Now that you’ve finally finished your workout, go knock the funk off your bod in one of 24 immaculate shower rooms. Next, toss your sweaty workout clothes in one of 13 washers and 16 dryers.

While you’re waiting for your clothes to finish, take advantage of the barber shop and then go chat with some drivers in the Driver Den, watch a movie in the large Movie Theater, or check out the Gift Shop to pick up some souvenirs for the spouse and kiddies. Or stop in at the Custom Shop and have some spiffy new DOT numbers for Big Mama or have a custom embroidered shirt or hat made for yourself.  So many things for a driver to do!

But of course, a trucker’s favorite thing to do is eat. And hey, you did already do a quick workout so you deserve it, right?

So many food choices, you’ll have a hard time deciding!

Let’s start with the Iowa 80 Kitchen, which is open 24/7 and features breakfast, lunch, and dinner buffets. If you’re in a hurry late at night, the Wendy’s restaurant is also open 24/7.

Your choices really open up if you get there during normal hours. In the food court you’ll find Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Blimpie, Dairy Queen/Orange Julius, and Caribou Coffee/Einstein Bros. Bagels, where you’d be a fool not to order a Campfire Mocha (S’mores flavored)!

Notice anything odd about that list? NO SUBWAY! HOORAY!

Other fun things to do at Iowa 80…

If you’re a fan of old trucks, be sure to stop into the Iowa 80 Trucking Museum located adjacent to the the truck stop. They’ve got some really cool trucks in there. After seeing what truckers in the past used to drive, you might think twice before complaining about your air ride seat not having enough lumbar support!

Another cool thing Iowa 80 does is host the Truckers Jamboree for three days every summer. You’ll find antique truck shows, the Super Trucks Beauty Contest, the Iowa Pork Chop Cookout, carnival games, live country music, Trucker Olympics, fireworks, and over 175 exhibits. Even cooler, admission and parking is free.

The next Trucker Jamboree is July 11-13, 2019 so be sure to mark your calendar and get Big Mama pointed toward Iowa.

Something for every trucker…

So you can now see why I call the Iowa 80 truck stop a “trucker heaven.” It’s got everything your average trucker could need or want and it’s all in one place. If you haven’t been there to experience it yet, well, what are you waiting for? Jump on I-80 in Iowa and get off at at exit 284.

If you don’t see the Iowa 80 from the exit ramp, please turn your truck keys in cuz you’re friggin’ blind as bat.

TD137: OTR Trucking vs. LTL Trucking

If you’re a regular listener/reader, you’ll know that I recently made a job change. For this episode, I thought about just talking about my new Less-Than-Load (LTL) job, but instead I’ve decided to tell you about the new job while also comparing it to my old Over-The-Road (OTR) job. So let’s get to it.

But first, let’s define what LTL and OTR means so all the newbies and non-truckers can follow along.

OTR stands for Over-The-Road. This type of trucking is typically (but not always) freight picked up at one or two customers at most and delivered to one or two receivers. There are OTR carriers that deal with multiple pickups or stops on one trailer, but the vast majority of large national trucking companies like JB Hunt, Prime, and US Xpress, pick up a load at one location and deliver it to a single location about 99% of the time. Also, unless you’re on some sort of dedicated account, you’re probably not running the same routes every day. Pretty straightforward really. 

LTL stands for Less-Than-Load (or Truckload), meaning they pick up freight from lots of different customers throughout the day who have “less than a full load.” Each customer might only have one pallet, tote, tub, barrel, or crate to ship. All that freight is collected by local drivers who bring it back to local terminals where it is sorted based on which direction it is headed. From there it will keep moving to other terminals and branching out until it reaches it’s final destination.

Think of LTL like a tree. 

There are many roots (shipping customers) on a tree. All those roots converge into the tree trunk.

The tree trunk is the local LTL terminal where all the day’s freight is collected. Freight is then sorted according to the direction of it’s destination and loaded onto many trailers. From there, each branch (or load) forks off in a different direction until you finally get to the leaf (the freight’s final destination in this weird analogy). 

UPS and Fedex are probably the LTL carriers you’re most familiar with. They would have many more branches than most LTL carriers because they are often delivering to individual homes, whereas companies like YRC and Old Dominion are doing more business-to-business freight, meaning there are less branches before it reaches it’s final destination. 

I hope I didn’t confuse you with that analogy so much that you leaf this blog post. Sorry, I realize that’s an inexcusably lame pun, but I’m cheesy enough that I just couldn’t pass it up. 

Here’s the nitty-gritty of how LTL driving works. 

Freight is picked up by many city drivers throughout the day. One local driver might deliver and pick up freight from 10 or more different customers each day. Some terminals have dozens of local drivers that are each doing that. They then bring it back to their local terminal where either they or a dock worker separates it and loads it onto outbound trailers. 

Then the line-haul drivers like me come in and take it to it’s final destination or some point along the way toward it’s final destination. If a few pallets of freight needs to be kicked off (unloaded) at another terminal along the way, either the driver will do it or a dock worker will. 

For instance, I might be pulling a trailer from Joplin that has freight going to Des Moines, Chicago, and Minneapolis (all north of Joplin). Des Moines is the place where this route splits. From there, some of it is staying in Iowa, some is going on north to Minneapolis, and the rest needs to get moving eastbound and down towards Chicago.

If there’s only a few pallets of Des Moines and Chicago freight, they may have me kick off that freight in Des Moines and keep on trucking up to Minnesota. But if most of the freight is staying in Des Moines, they will likely have me drop the trailer there and head somewhere else if I still have driving hours. As I’m moving on, the Des Moines dock workers are splitting that Chicago and Minneapolis freight onto the appropriate trailers, which will be picked up later by other line-haul drivers.

Sometimes this routing has already been planned in advance, but sometimes it’s a spur-of-the-moment decision based on what has come into Des Moines recently. Basically, it boils down to us line-haul drivers doing whatever dispatch tells us to do. 

Okay, now that has been explained, let me issue a disclaimer: 

My only experience working LTL is with this new job, so please keep in mind that I’m only speaking from my limited experience I’ve gained in the first month or so. Not all LTL carriers are alike, so please take my thoughts on this subject with a grain of salt and always do your own research before you make any job switch.   

The job transition

I have to say that the job transition wasn’t as smooth as I’d hoped. Things just seemed confused throughout. When I asked why things were so messed up, I was told this company had just set up a new hiring process. Okay, I’ll give them that. But that still didn’t make it any easier. 

For example, there was such a long interval between my initial drug screen and my start date, that I had to go back in to do another drug screen. Although I guess part of that falls on my old job still needing me to be out a minimum of two weeks.

Let me take a second here to give a shout out to my old employer. Since my new company had called them early on, they knew I was in the running for a new job. They routed me to headquarters where I sat down with my dispatcher and her boss. When they heard my perspective new job involved similar pay and considerably more home time, instead of coping an attitude, they wished me the best and told me I always had a job there if it didn’t work out. They also promised to work with me to get me home whenever I needed throughout the hiring process. They held up their promise until the end, so kudos to them.

On my first home time since I was found out, I did the drug screen and the physical fitness test, which I’m happy to say I passed with flying colors. Then I went back out for three more weeks while the new company processed the test results and scheduled my road test. 

After the road test, I went back out for my final three weeks. I could’ve made it two weeks, but the new employer wasn’t in any particular rush and it just so happened The Evil Overlord was going to be traveling to the city where I needed to drop off my truck. How’s that for luck?

My first week on the job

Again, my first week started with confusion. I had been told to show up for work Monday night, March 4. I was told I’d be riding with a driver to St. Louis and back all week, but about two hours before I was scheduled to head out, I got a call saying that plans had changed and I’d now be riding with a guy to Kansas City and back every night for the first week. 

The bad thing was that I was getting paid for all miles, whether I was driving or my mentor (trainer) was. St. Louis and back is 604 miles round trip, while KC and back is only 310. That’s a tad more than half the miles I was expecting. Yucky. 

Even worse, the dispatcher called me back just an hour before I was due at work to warn me to wear warm clothes because I’d be working the outside dock for a couple of hours. Well, I didn’t have time to find my heavy coveralls, so I threw on some long johns and my coat, dug out my insulated boots, and scrambled to find some heavy gloves and a beanie. 

We got to KC about 12:30 AM where it was a balmy 12 degrees with a wind chill of about 2 degrees. By the end of the two hours dock work, I couldn’t feel my feet. They thawed out about the time we got home three hours later. 

I’m convinced that first night was the cause of the sickness that haunted me for the next three weeks. Not only was this wussy OTR trucker not accustomed to working in the cold every night, but I also wasn’t used to being around other people in tight quarters like our driver’s room. I found out later that all the other drivers at our terminal had been passing trucker cooties around for a while. And of course, I had shaken the hands of every single one of them the first night as I was introduced to everyone.

So there’s the first big difference I noticed between OTR trucking and LTL trucking; the trucker cooties.

As an OTR trucker, I didn’t talk to anyone face-to-face regularly. I was in my truck most of the day; a place where I came into contact with only my own cooties. 

I think of my new situation kind of like a 3rd grade class. When one person gets sick, everyone gets sick. Even worse, think what it would be like if that 3rd grade class interacted every day with other 3rd graders from all across the USA. That’s what you’re dealing with in LTL.

We all touch the same computer keys to sign in and out. We handle the same pieces of paper to punch in/out on the time clock. We all hang out in a driver’s room while we wait on our loads. We handle a different handheld ELD each day that some other driver has probably been sneezing on without covering his mouth. We all cram into a shuttle van to go to the hotel every morning. And perhaps worst of all, we all share trucks where truckers are spreading their cooties over every surface they touch. 

I mentioned in the last podcast, TD136: The emotions of changing truck driving jobs, that we have assigned trucks at my LTL job… sort of. Well, that was accurate. When we come back to work each night, we get the same truck. But that doesn’t mean it sits there unused all day. 

When I’m in bed at the hotel, some city worker is usually driving it around to make deliveries. So what I’m saying is that if you want to be a millionaire when you retire, you should be buying lots of stock in Lysol disinfecting wipes, cuz I’m stocking up on ‘em big time. 

Now I do realize that a lot of this trucker cootie stuff is true about OTR truckers too, but not to the same extent in my opinion. My OTR truck was mine. The only time anyone else was in it was for maintenance. I used my own writing pen whenever possible and I’m still going to do that. But I can’t wipe down every door handle to the driver’s room and shuttle van, nor can I put on rubber gloves to handle every log in/out sheet. Well I could, but people already think I’m weird as it is.  

I’ve always had a strong immune system, but I think it’s just out of practice from 21 years of OTR trucking. So I’m guessing I’ll be suffering with more bouts of sickness until get my body gets used to fighting off trucker cooties again. Heck, I even got food poisoning in my first full week of solo driving with them. Not a fun trip. Let’s just say that my liquid assets were expeditiously exporting from all ports. Yeah. 

Speaking of other drivers, that’s another thing that’s different between OTR and LTL driving; the driver relationships. 

I worked for my former employer for a total of 13 years. I knew a handful of office employees and a few big wigs by name, but oddly enough, I can’t recall the first names of even two of my fellow company drivers. We were just rarely in the same place at the same time. Not so with LTL. 

Since we’re all home over the weekend, most of us are coming back to work at the same time on Monday. Not only do drivers based in the same terminal chat in the driver’s room before we head out, but we also often talk on the phone. 

I have truly never experienced a driving job like this. Never have I worked a job where so many drivers were willing to help each other. There is a lot to learn coming from OTR trucking to LTL trucking and it’s hard to keep it all straight in my tiny little Brussels sprout-sized brain. Good Lord, why would I use that horrific vegetable as an example? They taste like tiny little dirty cabbages! Yuck!

Here are just a few of the questions I’ve asked multiple times (hey – it’s a lot to take in!): 

  • When can I claim layover pay and how do I figure it?
  • How much time do I claim for drop/hooking?
  • How do I make sure I get paid for breakdown? 
  • What’s the best way to get your truck serviced without someone stealing your assigned truck?
  • Where do I park and check-in when I get to a terminal I’ve never been to?
  • Is that little state highway okay to run between these two terminals? 
  • Where do I put this freight I was told to unload? 
  • How do I get to the hotel; bobtail, taxi, or shuttle van (the answer of which depends on where and when you arrive)?
  • How does this job bidding thing work?
  • And what the heck is “notching” a driver?

Just to get it out of the way, let me try to explain notching to you. I think “notching” is a union thing, but it could also be non-union LTL for all I know. Remember my disclaimer. 

With OTR, you’re often preplanned on loads, and that doesn’t always translate to first come, first served. But in LTL, the first driver to their destination gets the next best outbound load. 

But the union is all about seniority too. That means it’s important that you don’t screw someone with more seniority by leaving earlier (notching) than they do if you’re both headed to the same place. 

So for instance, I’m the low man at my home terminal until some poor sap is hired on behind me. So if the driver right above me and I are both heading to Nashville and we’re both set to depart at the same time, I need to make sure I don’t punch out (notch) and leave before he does. That puts him in a position to arrive first and get the better load back out. 

Part of me thinks that sounds fair, but another side of brain says that if I’m eager enough to leave out a bit early, then I should be able to do that. But then again, the union has been doing it this way for years, and frankly, I value my kneecaps. 😉  

But once we’re both out on the road, all bets are off. If he’s the type of driver that likes to stop and get coffee every couple of hours or pull off for an hour-long nap, then that’s his problem if I beat him to Nashville. You snooze, you lose, buddy.  

So back to all my questions…

As you know, I’m a naturally-inquisitive guy, but even I’ve asked a heck-of-a-lot more questions than normal within the last month or so. God bless Ronnie (my mentor) for being willing to answer the constant barrage during my first week. I feel sorry for him, but he was a real trooper. 

For the record, getting less miles (and money) in my first week and going with Ronnie to KC for dock work proved to be a lot more useful than riding back and forth to St. Louis for a turn-and-burn. 

I got some experience on a forklift (it’d been about 25 years since I’d been on one), but more importantly I learned how to read the freight bills to figure out where freight was moving and how much of it there was. 

I also got some basics on how to load such mismatched freight (no such thing as 22 pallets of identical freight in the LTL world) to reduce damage and maximize the space available. I still have a lot to learn in that department, but that one week of low-paying dock training gave me a leg up on other new drivers I’ve talked to.

Back to this driver relationship thing… 

That first night at work, I got the phone numbers of four or five of our drivers and I’ve since added a handful more to my Contacts app. Everyone says to call if I have any questions. I have… many times. If I can’t reach one guy, there’s always another driver to call on. That’s largely because everyone is driving at night. I’ve even got phone numbers from guys who drive out of other terminals! 

When I was driving back from orientation in Indianapolis (yes, I drove a truck to orientation the second week – first time that’s ever happened), I had to stop and kick off some freight in St. Louis before I could head home. This would be my first time doing it without Ronnie’s help. 

I grabbed a forklift and headed out. I walked up to a guy on the dock and said, “Hey man, I’m new. I think I know what I’m doing, but I don’t know whether to put the freight on the dock or in one of the outbound trailers.” He just said, “You read the bills and I’ll move the freight.” Everywhere I’ve gone, I’ve always had drivers willing to help when I ask. Very cool.

Driving at night is another huge difference between OTR and LTL.

When I was an OTR driver, I did my share of overnight driving. That’s actually one of the things I like about OTR; the variety of driving hours. One day you’re up driving during daylight and the next night, you’re waking up at 10 PM to drive all night to deliver a load in the morning. Variety is the spice of life, right? Well, for some people it is and for some people it isn’t.

Seriously, if you’re a solar driver (can’t stay awake at night), LTL is NOT for you. Literally, 85-90% of our driving is in the dark. I typically start between 8-10 PM. If the miles are there and everything goes smoothly, I’m parked at the terminal and heading to the hotel by 8-10 AM, which is always my goal because you know this cheapskate wants a free breakfast. C’mon, you beautiful waffle maker!

Another major difference is preplanning.

For you newbies and non-truckers, preplans are just what they sound like. Before you’re finished with your current load, your dispatcher is already planning out your next load. As soon as they know for sure, they tell you so you can manage your hours of service better. 

The best thing about preplanning is that you almost always knew what you’d be doing next. And the closer your home time got, the more important it seemed. Thanks to preplans, I could often give The Evil Overlord a rough estimate of when I’d be home two days before I got there. Not so with my LTL job. 

Like I said earlier, my new company does everything on a first come, first served basis. Whoever gets to the delivery terminal first gets the best load back out. So obviously dispatch can’t preplan you because they never know who is going to show up first. 

The only exception to this first come, first served rule is leaving out from home after the weekend off. In this scenario, the driver with the most seniority gets the best load (usually the longest mileage). That seems fair, right? But again, there are exceptions.

Some drivers have bid runs.

These are runs that are consistent enough to warrant the same person doing them every night. This can be great if you’re a top dog, but it can really backfire on you if you’re a lowly peon like me. 

You see, there are good bids and there are bad bids.

That driver I was supposed to go with the first week has the #1 seniority spot at our terminal. His bid is St. Louis, drop/hook, and straight back every night. That’s over 3,000 miles per week in 5 days. If you could see me right now, I’m approximately the color of Shrek.

But there are bad bids too.  

Right now, my favorite person in the whole wide world isn’t The Evil Overlord; it’s my mentor, Ronnie. I’m pretty sure he’s her favorite person too, and she hasn’t even met him yet! Why?

Because Ronnie chooses to do that Kansas City bid that only pays 1550 miles plus some dock time each week. He’s in his 60’s and he’s really only doing this job for the insurance and to keep active. Unlike me, he’s been smart with his money and doesn’t need more miles. He can usually even finish his run before he needs to take a stupid 30-minute break. And did I mention it’s only 5 days per week? 

I actually kind of like that KC bid. It’s got a little bit of driving, a little bit of dock work, and lots of home time. If I was in Ronnie’s boat, I’d love to do that bid run. But I’m not in Ronnie’s boat; I’m in my crappy little dinghy with a leaky hull. If I was forced to do Ronnie’s bid, I honestly don’t think I could work here. I’d have to find another LTL job or go back to OTR. It’s just not enough money.

Sure, I would love to have a good bid and be back home every day, but I’m a long ways off from taking that #1 St. Louis bid due to my low seniority. Besides, all the good bids are taken. But there is one more bid that nobody wants and since I’m the low guy, it’s going to fall to me until we can get someone new hired. 

This bid is Joplin to Memphis 3 times one week and twice the next on a continual loop. That’s only 380 miles per day and a lot of sitting at the hotel between loads. Great for the podcast; horrible for my wallet. Normally that would force me to find another job, but everyone tells me that I’ll be able to pick up additional runs to make it worth my while.

For instance, if I get to Memphis early enough and there is freight running to Nashville that they need to move, I could actually turn a 380 mile day into a 600+ mile day. Then I’d swing back through Memphis to get back on my bid run before heading back to Joplin. On my short week, I’ll be able to ask for extra freight on Friday night, but again, this is all dependent on having enough freight to keep us all busy.

You see, being the low man on the totem pole has another downside. If there is additional freight to run, those drivers with higher seniority get first dibs. If they don’t want it, it might fall down to me. In the busy time of the year, there’s enough freight for everyone. The slow time is a different story.  

I can really only hope and pray my fellow drivers are right about this bid and these extra runs, because I like this job a lot and really don’t want to have to move on. I see the potential if I can get off this bid and back onto the open board (out all week and back on weekends) and I’m just praying for someone to come along who would enjoy lower miles and more home time. If you know anyone like that in Southwest Missouri, send them my way! Enough about that!

Not sleeping in the truck is another major difference between LTL and OTR.

I mentioned this in TD136: The Emotions Of Changing Truck Driving Jobs. I don’t know if every LTL does this, but if you see them driving day cabs they probably do. 

Turns out, it’s not so bad. I’ve had a few rough times trying to sleep during daylight (usually due to have coffee and then getting shut down earlier than expected), but for the most part I’m snoring like a chainsaw. It’s great getting a shower every day too. 

I am still getting used to the food. Most of the hotels have microwaves so I’m back to packing cans of soup again. And of course, there’s peanut butter. There’s allllllllways peanut butter. 

No parking woes in LTL!

But just as I suspected, the best thing about LTL and day cabs is that I don’t have to find truck parking every day. The only thing I have to worry about is finding someplace to stop for my 30-minute break. And you’ll be happy to know that I haven’t gone all hypocrite on you and blocked the fuel bays. Can’t say that for some of my fellow drivers, but at least I haven’t stooped that low.

Perhaps the biggest difference I see between OTR and LTL is being paid for your time.

As an OTR driver, there is this common thought of “I’m only getting paid if the wheels are turning.” I accepted the fact that I didn’t get paid to fuel, drop/hook trailers, do pre-trip/post trip inspections, sweep a trailer, get a flat fixed, wait for a load to be ready or unloaded, or take a random drug test. It’s all just part of the job, right? I’ve said that to so many drivers in the past.  

As an example, I didn’t get paid any detention time until 2013. That’s 16 years if you’re counting! When I finally did, it was only $12 per hour after one hour detention, with a daily cap of $75. I also used to get $75 layover pay or $75 breakdown, but only after 24 hours of continuous downtime.

LTL pays you for your time.

Again, disclaimer here. All LTL companies may not pay for your time, but mine sure does. 

With LTL, I get paid for waiting, which is the way it should be. I do give them some time initially, but now I get paid a lot more per hour if I have to wait on a load. And there is no cap! 

The other day, I made $100 before I even left the hotel room! I’m not saying that to brag. It’s just that I was being delayed because my load wasn’t ready yet. I was available and ready to go, so I should be getting paid, right? SO SHOULD OTR DRIVERS! But they’re not.

Guess what? For the first time in my career, I got paid for a tire blowout from the minute I called breakdown to the time I pulled out of the shop. Later that week another one blew out and I got paid hourly again. And for the record, this is a decent hourly wage. 

In case you didn’t notice, everything I just mentioned involved getting paid for my time. I wasn’t working, but that wasn’t my choice, was it? I prefer to drive because I can make more money than sitting around with my thumb up my keister, but if someone is wasting my time while I’m out on the road, why shouldn’t we drivers get paid for that? 

It’s something we OTR drivers have been disgruntled about for decades, but it never changed and likely never will until some drastic steps take place. All I can tell you is it’s amazing how less-stressed you are when you’re being paid fairly for your down time.

So it only stands to reason that I get paid for my work too, right? Yep.  

I got paid for fueling for the first time in 21 years. I got paid for dropping and/or hooking a trailer. I got paid for working on the dock. I even get paid a minimum pay if I don’t get a set amount of miles each day. 

How much of this is the union?

Now I’m honestly not sure how much of this has to do with LTL and how much it has to do with being a part of the union. After all, they were responsible for lots of labor laws that many people enjoy today.

Enjoy your weekends off and a 40-hour work week? How about paid vacation, sick leave, medical leave, military leave, or paid holidays? Then thank a union. http://www.unionplus.org/blog/union-made/eight-reasons-thank-unions

Now please don’t think the Trucker Dump podcast/blog is going to turn into a platform to promote unions. That’s really not my goal. It’s just that I believe in giving credit where credit is due. 

The last major difference I see between OTR and LTL is home time. 

Honestly, I was a bit mislead about this. I was told I would be home Friday night or Saturday by noon, when in fact as an open board driver (before and hopefully after this Memphis bid) I’m usually pulling into my home terminal sometime Saturday evening or early AM on Sunday. 

That still works for me because I’m still getting adequate home time. Our normal start time is Monday 8-10 PM so I’m still getting close to 48 hours off every weekend. I might get shorted a bit more during the busy season, but I’m kind of a hammer dog anyway so I’m going to take the freight when it’s there and smile all the way to the bank. 

And speaking of banks, I’ve already deposited the biggest paycheck I’ve ever gotten in my 21 year career. And that’s with making 11 cents less per mile than my last job. This, my friends, is the power of getting paid for ALL the work you do, not just driving. 

Again, not to brag… oh who am I kidding? I’m totally bragging!! LOL  

For many years I’ve heard drivers talking up LTL trucking. 

I’d always heard they made more money than the average OTR trucker, but I just never took it seriously. Why didn’t I ever take the time to see if there was any merit to it? Dunno. 

Listen, I have never been one to tell another driver who to work for. I’ve said it as long as I’ve been blogging; I don’t know your situation and I don’t know what your priorities are, so I’m not going to recommend any particular trucking companies to you. Or types of trucking for that matter.

So if you’re happy with your OTR job, by all means keep it up. But if you’re fed up with not being paid for the work you do or the time you’re being forced to waste out on the road, then LTL driving might be for you. 

If you can drive at night without careening off into a river and if you can handle putting in your dues on the bottom rung of the seniority ladder for a while, then I would highly recommend at least looking into an LTL job in your area. What can it hurt?

I can honestly say that I wish I’d made this move about 10 years ago. Then again, if this forced bid thing doesn’t work out for me, I may have to delete this post altogether and disavow any knowledge of it… which would really suck because this sucker took me about 10 hours to write. Yes… seriously.

 

Podcast show notes:

Well, there’s been a 2-month hiatus while I switched jobs, but it brought up a good main topic for today’s show; comparing OTR to LTL trucking.

We’ve got not one, but two good places to eat for the Trucker Grub segment.

Plenty of listener feedback too, including more information on the facial recognition system being used at the Canadian border, an audio comment with an oopsie from a driver (and one from myself), and of course I’m going to include some listener comments saying nice things about the podcast. Why wouldn’t I?

And obviously, there’s been lots of news over the past couple of months. I couldn’t hit everything, but it might seem like it. We cover the April 12 slow roll protest, more equipment recalls, and some past and upcoming safety blitzes.

Speaking of upcoming things, how about new Hours of Service, new emissions standards (oh boy), 18 year old interstate truckers, a drug & alcohol clearinghouse, and a couple of studies on ELD usage, truck parking, and the Eisenhower Tunnel in the Colorado mountains.

We also have some good news for diabetic truckers, an attorney’s advice on things you should do after accident, and imagine this; contradicting articles on the driver shortage issue. Who knew?

Listen to the podcast version or read the full article and the podcast show notes on AboutTruckDriving.com.

This episode of Trucker Dump is sponsored by:

  • Volvo Trucks – Check out the new VNL series and all it’s awesome features

Links mentioned in the podcast:

Protestors reckon with minimal ‘shutdown’ and protest participation from OverdriveOnline.com

Volvo recalls 11,000 trucks over sleeper bunk window issue from OverdriveOnline.com

Mack recalls nearly 4,000 trucks over mirror issue, Carrier recalls nearly 4,000 APUs from OverdriveOnline.com

Next emissions deadline will ban more trucks from OverdriveOnline.com

Inspection Blitz Alert! Road check 2019 Announced from TheTruckersReport.com

Truckers Made To Climb Onto Trailers To Remove Snow During Enforcement Blitz from TheTruckersReport.com

Virginia increases registration fees, diesel taxes to fund I-81 improvements from OverdriveOnline.com

It’s Official: FMCSA Plans To Overhaul Hours Of Service Rules For Truckers from TheTruckersReport.com

Interstate Trucking Will Be Open To Drivers 18+ Under New Bill from TheTruckersReport.com

Federal Govt: The ‘Truck Driver Shortage’ Doesn’t Exist from TheTruckersReport.com

ATA Insists Driver Shortage Is Real Despite Govt. Report Saying It Isn’t from TheTruckersReport.com

From within or without? — pressure to run over hours in the wake of the ELD mandate from OverdriveOnline.com

Drivers will need to register in Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse to change jobs, ensure accuracy from OverdriveOnline.com

Truckers Can Find Safe Parking Even After Hours Are Up Says FMCSA Official from TheTruckersReport.com

FMCSA Ends the Diabetic Driver Exemption Program from GoByTruckNews.com

TD116: Diabetes And Truckers

Colorado DOT to study allowing hazmat trucks to travel through I-70’s Eisenhower Tunnel from OverdriveOnline.com

Trucking Law: Things to consider after an accident from OverdriveOnline.com

35-year trucker Joe Bartlett got a seatbelt ticket — until this video got it thrown out from OverdriveOnline.com

Trucking law: Your gun rights on private property from OverdriveOnline.com

Missouri Miller Boy gives us two restaurants for the Trucker Grub:

TD136: The Emotions Of Changing Truck Driving Jobs from AboutTruckDriving.com

Eight Reasons to Thank Unions from UnionPlus.org

Links in the feedback section:

Rod from GarmanTrucking.net read TD134: 3 Free Trucking Apps Every Trucker Should Have and enjoyed it. Thanks man!

Eddie Child is the winner of the Trucker Dump tee shirt for taking the Trucker Dump Listener Survey.

Lindsay had a chuckle about something I said in TD134: 3 Free Trucking Apps Every Trucker Should Have and passed the word along to her husband, who drives truck and works at Bartholomew Pressure Washing out of the Raleigh NC area.

Jeff Hardy listened to TD135: Trucking Recruiters: Friend Or Foe? and wants to help us understand how facial recognition works at the Canadian border. He also quotes The Red Green Show, which apparently is a Canadian thing.

Nick Mack tells a story of when he was complacent about 6 months into his new driving career and I follow up with my own similar story. I also mention two podcasts I’ve done on this important subject, TD97: A Trucker’s Worst Nemesis: Complacency and TD104: Complacency Strikes.

Photos of my recent incident on Flickr.

Glenn wrote the shortest email in history to tell me the term I was looking for was A-Pillar. Thanks, Glenn!

Show info:

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

Join the Trucker Dump Podcast Facebook Group

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

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

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

TD136: The Emotions Of Changing Truck Driving Jobs

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
  • Food situation
  • Sleeping situation
  • 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…

GERONIMOOOOoooo!!!!!!!!

[hr]

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.

Please fill out the Trucker Dump Podcast listener survey!

Listen to the podcast version or read the full article and the podcast show notes on AboutTruckDriving.com.

This episode of Trucker Dump is sponsored by:

  • VolvoTrucks – Check out the new VNL series and all it’s awesome features

Links mentioned in the podcast:

Trucking Law: Can you refuse to drive in poor weather? from OverdriveOnline.com

As per diem benefit sunsets for company drivers, carriers find a work-around and OOIDA asks Congress to act from OverdriveOnline.com

Volvo Group invests in wireless battery charging from OverdriveOnline.com

Report finds trust in autonomous technologies falling from FleetOwner.com

Test drive: Freightliner’s autonomous-capable 2020 Cascade from Commercial Carrier Journal

Collision avoidance systems, sleep apnea testing among NTSB’s Most Wanted safety improvements from OverdriveOnline.com

Eight-state truck parking information initiative nears full launch from OverdriveOnline.com

Pilot Flying J looks to add new locations, enhance existing stores in 2019 from OverdriveOnline.com

ATRI updates list of idling regulations from OverdriveOnline.com

Compendium of Idling Regulations from ATRI

Virginia legislators back off of I-81 tolls – for now from OverdriveOnline.com

Senate bill would expand concealed carry reciprocity from OverdriveOnline.com

Eight states consider raising speed limits, eliminating speed differentials from LandLineMag.com

Minnesota raises speed limits to 60 on over 5,000 miles of highways from OverdriveOnline.com

Truckers gear up for another ‘slow roll’ protest this week from CDLLife.com

Exec Ordered To Pay Truckers Millions For Misclassifying Them As Contractors from TheTruckersReport.com

Here Are The Top 10 Worst Traffic Bottlenecks For Trucks In The Country from TheTruckersReport.com

Account of ‘catfishes’ trucker a grave reminder to be leery of online romance scams from OverdriveOnline.com

Show info:

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

Join the Trucker Dump Podcast Facebook Group

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

Join the iTruckers Slack Group if you’re a trucker who loves your Apple tech toys by emailing TheiTruckers@gmail.com

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

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

TD135: Trucking Recruiters… Friend Or Foe?

(c) Can Stock Photo / stuartmiles

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’sbasically 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.

Listen to the podcast version or read the full article and the podcast show notes on AboutTruckDriving.com.

Please fill out the Trucker Dump Podcast listener survey for a chance to win a Trucker Dump t-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: trucker dump.
  • Volvo Trucks– Check out the new VNL series and all it’s awesome features.

Links mentioned in the podcast:

Dirt Road Trucker: Episode 1 from High Grade LLC

Dirt Road Trucker: Episode 2 – Opening Day of Gravel Season from High Grade LLC

Fleets to begin testing all-electric Volvo VNR tractor in 2019 from OverdriveOnline.com

Freightliner debuts Cascade with limited autonomous capabilities from OverdriveOnline.com

No Mirror, No Problem! FMCSA Allows Cameras In Place Of Mirrors On Truckers from TheTruckersReport.com

MirrorEye demo video

I-59/20 in downtown Birmingham to close for 14 months from OverdriveOnline.com

Michigan, Ohio expanding truck parking information systems from OverdriveOnline.com

How Do Bad Driving Conditions Reflect On HOS? from BigRoad.com

Record number of truckers killed in workplace fatalities in 2017 from OverdriveOnline.com

TD97: A Trucker’s Worst Nightmare – Complacency

TD104: Complacency Strikes

Team Truckers “Attacked” By Security Guards, Charged With Assault from TheTruckersReport.com

Trucker Targeted By Facial Recognition Artificial Intelligence from TheTruckersReport.com

Freight’s drift toward greater regionalization: Average length of haul on the spot market from OverdriveOnline.com

Truckers are classified as ‘unskilled labor’? Nope. from OverdriveOnline.com

TruckerNation.org – The Trucker’s Voice

Trucker Grub features Las Brisas in Charleston, MO. Submitted by DriverChrisMc, who spends enough time in Mexican restaurants that he probably speaks fluent Spanish by now.

Learn more about the ebook, How to Find a Great Truck Driving Job

Download the Trucking Company Questionnaire for only $1.99.

Buy the Trucking Job Combo Pack for only $14.98. That’s 25% off the regular price!

Links in the feedback section:

David writes in with a clarification on hourly pay.

BSHarlan1971 left a lovely review on Apple Podcasts.

ScreamingBob listened to TD134: 3 Free Trucking Apps Every Trucker Should Have and shares his thoughts on scaling loads and finding truck parking.

Show info:

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

Join the Trucker Dump Podcast Facebook Group

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

Join the iTruckers Slack Group if you’re a trucker who loves your Apple tech toys by emailing TheiTruckers@gmail.com

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

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

TD134: 3 Free Trucking Apps Every Trucker Should Have

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.

  1. 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.”
  2. 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.”
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Tap “Accept” to approve the fee. The fee will change depending on which button you tapped.
  6. 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.
  7. 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).”

Trucker Path

If you haven’t at least heard the name Trucker Path by now, you really need to get out more. If you already use the app (available on Android and iPhone), then you know why it’s such a great self-Christmas gift. If you haven’t, then “Let me ‘splain… No there is too much. Let me sum up.” (The Princess Bride)

Trucker Path does lots of things.

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.

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.

There is also a routing feature that will show you a few different routes to choose from. Trucker Path claims the “Truck maps were designed by truckers so you can be assured routes are truck-ready…” There is no turn-by-turn directions yet, but at the rate they keep updating this app, I’d be shocked if it wasn’t coming down the line.

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.

Transflo Mobile+

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Tap the Scan button and it will give you an option to take a photo.
  5. 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.
  6. 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).
  7. 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.”
  8. 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.
  9. 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.”
  10. 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.
  11. 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.

Again, all this sounds like a pain, but I can literally scan two or three documents and have a confirmation number in one minute or less. It’s that fast, and oh so painless. “If you have the means, I highly recommend picking it up.” (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off)

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.

Listen to the podcast version or read the full article and the podcast show notes on AboutTruckDriving.com.

Please fill out the Trucker Dump Podcast listener survey for a chance to win a Trucker Dump t-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.

Links mentioned in the podcast:

TD132: Should We Call Out Bad Truckers?

TD119: Winter Truck Driving Tips From An Alaskan Trucker

TD80: ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas: Trucker Style

Air bag issue prompts recall of nearly 3,000 Freightliner Cascade tractors from OverdriveOnline.com

More than 6,000 Freightliner Cascades recalled over brake light issue from OverdriveOnline.com

Brake issues prompt recalls by Daimler, Great Dane from OverdriveOnline.com

Navistar recalls 21,000 International trucks over transmission issue from OverdriveOnline.com

Ex-Pilot Flying J Execs Get Minimum Prison Sentences from TheTruckersReport.com

Better ‘pay would solve most’ critical issues: Readers’ priorities show variation from, similarity to recent rankings from OverdriveOnline.com

Owner-operators drive less, earn more through summer from OverdriveOnline.com

Beware for the new tax laws from LandLineMag.com

New personal-conveyance FAQs illustrate FMCSA’s round-trip view of ‘under dispatch’ from OverdriveOnline.com

Hours of service proposal could come by end of March from OverdriveOnline.com

“For-e-ver” from The Sandlot

New CVSA policy stresses that inspectors shouldn’t interrupt off-duty drivers for random inspection from OverdriveOnline.com

New Law Aims To Stop Predatory Truck Booting from TheTruckersReport.com

The 15 toughest states when it comes to moving violations from OverdriveOnline.com

Truck-Only Tolls Proposed In Connecticut from TheTruckersReport.com

Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission approves toll increase for 11th consecutive year from LandLineMag.com

Pennsylvania Toll Calculator

EPA: Truck Emissions Standards To Be Tightened from TheTruckersReport.com

What we can do about the physical and emotional violence of chronic stress made manifest from OverdriveOnline.com

Choose professionalism to define, and create, your value from OverdriveOnline.com

The Great Indiana Trucker Boycott of 1988 from LandLineMag.com

Narcoleptic Trucker Seeks Exemption to Get Behind the Wheel from GoByTruckNews.com

Sleigh Bells and Santa from Trucker’s Final Mile from LandLineMag.com

Truckers Final Mile is a charity whose purpose is to help return truck drivers to their families in the event of a death. Give a donation today!

Dustin tells us about Bob’s Clam Hut in the Trucker Grub segment.

Links mentioned in the main topic:

TD134: 3 Trucking Apps Every Trucker Should Have to view all the screenshots of these apps.

Weigh My Truck app on iPhone and Android.

“Let me ‘plain… No, there is too much. Let me sum up.” from The Princess Bride

Download the Truck Path app on Android or iPhone.

“Truck maps were designed by truckers so you can be assured routes are truck-ready…” quote from Trucker Path website.

Trucker Path has over 500,000 active users. Wikipedia

Download the Transflo Mobile+ on Android and iPhone.

Pegasus TransTech bought TripPak back in 2014.

“If you have the means, I highly recommend picking it up.” from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

“He’ll keep calling me. He’ll keep calling me until I come over. He’ll make me feel guilty…” from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

Links mentioned in the feedback section:

David wrote in to tell us about a couple of collections of short stories set in the trucking universe.

Driver Dave listened to TD133: A Trucker Gives Thanks and wants to tell us about a gross trucker and Texas scale houses manned by cowboy hat-wearing State Troopers.

Lindsay listened to TD132: Should We Call Out Bad Truckers? and has some thoughts about it.

David listened to TD133: A Trucker Gives Thanks and wants to talk about hourly pay (something I talked about in the feedback section).

Chris just writes in to tell me he appreciates and enjoys the podcast. You know I always love to hear that!

Show info:

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

Join the Trucker Dump Podcast Facebook Group

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

Join the iTruckers Slack Group if you’re a trucker who loves your Apple tech toys by emailing TheiTruckers@gmail.com

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

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

$20 For Your Thoughts, Truckers

Update: This survey is no longer active

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.

So what are you waiting for? Take the survey now!

(c) Can Stock Photo / devon

 

TD132: Should We Call Out Bad Truckers?

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.   

(c) Can Stock Photo / Forewer

What are your thoughts about confronting bad drivers? Do you do it? Are you still going to do it after reading this article? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Podcast Show Notes:

We all see people doing stupid, inconsiderate, or just plain rude things every day. What do we do it about? Should we call these people out or should we bite our tongues? We’ll discuss that in today’s main topic.

But the show is also jam-packed with news stories, including some recalls, some autonomous truck stuff, some good news for diabetic truckers, and more thoughts about dash cams. We’ll also talk about naughty booters and some even naughtier truckers. And I’ll tell you a couple of ways you can get your voice heard to make trucking driving a better job. We’ll also talk about what makes a good trucking company and of course, the death of a trucking icon.

Driver Dave sent in a unique Trucker Grub segment and in the feedback section we hear from Ali, who has a tailgating tale, Tim is considering a switch from IT to trucking, and Anthony’s “oddest question I’ve ever received” leads to a discussion of truck driving schools.

Listen to the podcast version or read the full article and the podcast show notes on AboutTruckDriving.com.

This episode of Trucker Dump is sponsored by:

Links mentioned in the podcast:

Burt Reynolds, an icon in trucking film lore, dies at 82 from OverdriveOnline.com

More than 4,000 Freightliner trucks affected by two separate recalls from OverdriveOnline.com

Engine harness issue prompts recall of 11,000 Kenworth tractors from OverdriveOnline.com

I-5 in Washington, Oregon Best Route to Deploy Self-Driving Semis, Report Says from Transport Topics

Volvo Trucks developing autonomous, electric concept tractor-trailer from OverdriveOnline.com

Self-Driving Trucks May Replace 300k Truckers, But It’ll Be “Fun” from TheTruckersReport.com

Good News For Some Diabetic Drivers! from TheTruckersReport.com

Hopeful and careful-what-you-wish-for dynamics in reader commentary in wake of FMCSA’s hours moves from OverdriveOnline.com

The Trucking Podcast with Buck Ballard and Don the Beer Guy

2,700 Comments Submitted On HOS Reform, Comment Period Extended from OverdriveOnline.com

Click here to share your thoughts with the FMCSA about the hours of service. And do it by October 10, 2018!

Another lot bites the dust, unleashing booters in the wee hours from OverdriveOnline.com

Three truckers busted smuggling immigrants across U.S.- Mexico border from OverdriveOnline.com

NTSB touts benefits of driver-, road-facing dash cams from OverdriveOnline.com

Payroll Podcast from Truck Driver Power discussing dash cams.

Detention Time Impacts on Safety, Productivity and Compliance – Driver Survey from the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI)

Survey: Parking Is #1 Stress For Drivers, Made Worse By ELDs from TheTruckersReport.com

Modest proposal: Outlining a federal, graduated CDL from OverdriveOnline.com

Goodyear seeking nominations for annual Highway Hero award from OverdriveOnline.com

Nominations open for ‘Best Fleets to Drive For’ contest from OverdriveOnline.com

Click here to nominate the Best Fleets to Drive For

Carrier Owner Fakes Kidnapping To Avoid Paying Truckers $9,000 from TheTruckersReport.com

TD107: The Fuel Bay Golden Rule

Witnesses: Rudeness at fuel pumps triggered truck stop shooting/suicide from CDL Life

No charges to be filed in Georgia fuel pump shooting from CDL Life

Trucker Grub features Daniel’s Truck Stop in Windsor, Ontario and the Ten Acre Truck Stop in Belleville,

Links mentioned in the feedback section:

TD95: 4 Reasons That Trucker Might Be Tailgating You

25% off the regular price when you order the ebook combo pack which includes “Trucking Life: An Entertaining, Yet Informative Guide To Becoming And Being A Truck Driver” and “How to Find a Great Truck Driving Job.” Only $14.98! And don’t forget there’s a free 9.25-hour audiobook version of “Trucking Life” included!

Show info:

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

Join the Trucker Dump Podcast Facebook Group

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

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

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TD131: Review Of The FleetUp Trace ELD

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.

Disclaimer

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:

  1. Another elog device would mean I was running two log books. Last time I checked, that was still illegal. 
  2. 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.

Logs Screen

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.

 

Status screen

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!

The summary

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! 

 

TD130: How Much Should Truckers Bend The Rules?

The trucking industry is full of opportunities to fudge things. But the question is; should we? Where do we draw the line between fact and fiction; between right and wrong? In other words, how much should truckers bend the rules?

The trucking industry is full of opportunities to fudge things. But the question is; should we? Where do we draw the line between fact and fiction; between right and wrong? In other words, how much should truckers bend the rules?

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This was the topic of a conversation I had in the Trucker Dump Slack group after a friend called me out about something I mentioned doing. He was basically questioning whether what I was doing was moral or not. For the record, this is one of the things that I love about the Trucker Dump Slack group. We can always have a lively, yet civil conversation without anyone get bent out of shape and resorting to personal insults. So anyway, I don’t fault this guy at all for questioning my morals. In fact, I welcome it. 

You see, this guy is a friend of mine and a fellow Christian. Stick with me here. The religious stuff will be over in a minute. I just need to set the stage so you can see where we are both coming from. 

Even non-Christians know the verse in the Bible about not judging other people. Heck, they quote it all the time to justify some of their behaviors. This makes sense when you’re talking about unbelievers. Why should a Christian judge them against something that this person doesn’t even believe? On a side note, people who disagree with Christians should remember this works in reverse. Anywho…

But far too often Christians use this rule amongst themselves too. And that is not what the Bible says. There are many verses saying that we are supposed to hold our fellow Christians accountable; that we are to call them out and try to help bring them back if they are going down a slippery slope. So with that explained, let’s move on to what my friend was calling me out on. Sunday school class is dismissed. 😉

The setup

The Evil Overlord (wife and ex-codriver) and I are planning to go on a little trip to her aunt and uncle’s lake house this weekend. We’ll be doing some skiing, some canoeing, some fishing, some jet skiing, and possibly some golf if we can squeeze in a few extra hours to look for my golf ball in the weeds. We haven’t done anything like this in ages, so we’re both really looking forward to it. 

Now here’s the problem. To enjoy a mini vacation, you need money, right? My week was looking like I was going to have a measly 2000 miles. However, if I could deliver my 700-mile load by Friday midnight, I would jump from a bad paycheck to an excellent paycheck. Only problem was I needed to go 616 miles in 11 hours… in a 64 mph truck… on a Friday… around Atlanta and down to the Orlando area.

No problem since I’m a super-trucker and all. This friend of mine didn’t think I could do it. I told him he should go ahead and wash his feet so they would taste better when I proved him wrong.

Well, I am awesome, so I arrived at 11:30 PM with about 40 minutes left on my 11-hour driving clock. I went into the office, only to find out there wasn’t going to be anyone who could sign for delivery until 4 AM. The dock guy refused to sign the bill.

The questionable choice

Here’s where the dilemma comes in. In order to get paid for a load, my company has to receive my Arrived at Consignee (fancy word for Receiver) and Empty computer messages by Friday midnight. So now what? I reeeeally needed those miles for a good paycheck.

For starters, I had run all the miles, but I had not “officially” delivered the load yet; not without that signature and dropping the trailer. Here’s some other things that factored into my decision. I had been to this place before and knew it was a drop and hook. I could see at least 5 empty trailers from my cab so I knew it wouldn’t wind up being a live unload.

I also knew that a product count was not necessary at the time of delivery. Furthermore, this warehouse opens the trailer doors from the inside, so you can’t even break the seal (that verifies the trailer has not been opened in transit) before backing into the dock. So basically, I knew this drop was happening no matter what. There was absolutely no reason to reject the load. 

So I sent the Arrived and Empty messages and told the gang in the Trucker Dump Slack group about it. For the record, I would not have made this choice if I had been even 10 miles from the delivery. 

That’s when my friend rightly questioned my honesty. His point was that if my company’s policy considered a load to be delivered only after the bills were signed, then it is a lie to turn in that message before that process is complete. Officially, he is 100% correct. He’s also only been driving for a little over a year. I truly believe that just like The Evil Overlord and me, his sense of things will change the further along his trucking career goes.

He was also concerned that it might screw up my dispatcher if they thought I had already dropped the load, when in reality I hadn’t. He thought they might go ahead and dispatch me on another load. He’s also 100% right about that. But I had that problem licked too. I already had my next two loads planned out, so that wasn’t going to be an issue unless dispatch changed something on their end (which I admit is totally possible).

The question of right and wrong

I remember back when The Evil Overlord and I first starting trucking. We went in determined to follow the rules to the letter of the law. We were going to obey all company policies and we were going to run our logbook completely legal. No hot dogging it for us! Oh, the naïvety of the newbie! 

The insanity of the paid-by-the-mile standards

It wasn’t long before we realized that the trucking industry is full of stupid rules. For instance, we discovered right away that we NEVER got paid for all the miles we ran. We were even paid Practical miles at our first company and it still shorted us! It only got worse at subsequent companies when we discovered the Household Mover’s Guide method of figuring paid miles. What a joke! 

For you non-truckers, this method pays Post Office to Post Office, not actual addresses, which we all know is totally doable with today’s GPS technology. Yet most carriers still calculate with this method. Why? Because it generally pays the driver about 10% fewer miles than they’ve actually driven… and because they can get away with it. 

Getting your loads turned in on time

Another example is getting paid for loads. Back when we started, our paychecks were determined by what loads we could get turned in by noon on Tuesday. These were the days when many companies still had you mail in your paperwork before you could get paid! Seriously! Snail mail! Like a caveman!

So we might deliver a load Friday night, but the mail system wouldn’t get it to the payroll department until Wednesday night. How fair is that? That often translated in not being able to make your mortgage payment one week and getting raped by the IRS on the following week’s paycheck.

Eventually, carriers started using electronic methods like Transflo to send in your paperwork. While this was better, it still required you to be at a truck stop with a Transflo kiosk by a set deadline. If you didn’t have a load going toward one in time, you were screwed! Thankfully, Transflo now has a mobile phone app so I can actually send in my paperwork minutes after I deliver. Not that I need to anymore since as I said before, all they need is my Arrived and Empty messages to be sent in on the truck’s communication device. Please keep in mind that each carrier handles this differently. I’m sure there are many that still require paperwork in hand to pay you for the load.

The fudging of log books

And of course, there’s the trucker’s logbook. For you non-truckers, we drivers have to keep a record of every moment of our day. Nowadays it’s all done electronically, making it harder to cheat the system.  But back in the day, we used paper logs.

It was a fairly common practice to fudge paper logs. The Evil Overlord and I never really abused it (possibly because we were a team operation that didn’t really need to), but many drivers used to run two log books. One of the log books would look legal because they would leave out entire trips after the fact so they could log more hours in a week. The other book was so they could keep track of their lies.

In all honesty, we never did that. The most I was ever off was about 3 hours. I don’t even remember the circumstances, but as luck would have it I got pulled into a Kansas weigh station for a paperwork check. The trooper briefly examined my log book and handed it back. How he didn’t notice that I shouldn’t have been standing there for another three hours is beyond me, but I was obviously overjoyed! I never got that far out of sync again. 

But the trucking industry isn’t a perfect world. There were times when you couldn’t find parking and you had to drive a little over your time. We just drove however many minutes less the next day to make up for it. 

Or maybe there was a traffic jam due construction or a wreck that would delay us 3 hours. We’d log those three hours like we took them at a truck stop. According to my paper logs, I don’t think I ever had a delay due to traffic. See how lucky paper logs are?! 

The nickel and diming

The point is, trucking companies don’t succeed by throwing their money away. By and large, the trucking industry works on a small profit margin. Any penny saved is a penny earned. 

Think of all the extra little things that most of us drivers don’t get paid for. Fueling, truck inspections, minor mechanical breakdowns, waiting in line at a customer’s guard shack, getting your truck washed, sweeping out a filthy trailer, sliding your tandems to get your weights legal, sitting around waiting on a load or a message from dispatch, listening to horrible hold music on the phone, and in my case, sitting in an inspection bay line at my company terminal for 2 hours. 

Now as another Trucker Dump Slack member (Kris a.k.a. @Gravy) once pointed out, most of that stuff is figured into your mileage pay. He should know since he owns a small fleet of trucks. I guess I can see his point about sweeping a trailer, fueling, inspections, and common tasks we have to do on a regular basis.

However, I’m not convinced that waiting for 2 hours to get a tire fixed or waiting an hour for a message from dispatch is included in the mileage pay. Heck, I once had a company tell me they didn’t pay vacation pay because it was figured into the mileage! What the heck!? While the pay-per-mile rate was good, it wasn’t THAT good! Yeesh!

The technicalities of trucking

In my point of view, so many of these moral choices we have to make are based on the “spirit of the law” rather than the “letter of the law.” I think we all just have to judge what we’re doing and decide if we’re okay with it or not. 

For example, I’m a Christian who believes in the Bible. It flat-out says that you shouldn’t lie. So was I lying by submitting my load as delivered when it wasn’t officially delivered yet? I honestly don’t know.

To me, this is a technicality. My company has to set a deadline for their company policies. So by the letter of the law, I was wrong to say I had delivered already. On the other hand, I get paid by the mile and I had run all the miles by midnight. I was sitting on their property and there was no chance they weren’t going to accept the load. My conscience is clear on the latter choice. That’s the spirit of the law.

Let’s look at another example of a technicality. My company will only pay detention time (time spend waiting to load/unload) if I send in a detention request before I send my final Empty message. If I send it even 30 seconds before that Empty message, I’m good. But if I forget and send it 30 seconds after the Empty message, they won’t pay my detention time unless I call and pitch a big baby fit. 

This drives me up a freakin’ wall. Why? Because they know when I arrived at the customer and when I left. I always remember to send those messages. Heck, the Arrived call usually pops up automatically when I stop thanks to the magic of GPS! It’s simply a technicality!

And here’s another thing to prove my point. This company policy can be overridden easily if someone decides to do a little computer fixing. It literally takes a few minutes at most. So if they can fudge the system, why can’t I? 

Two wrongs don’t make a right

Now as I was justifying my actions to my friend, he pointed out that two wrongs don’t make a right and that we can only control our actions and choices. Again, wise words that are 100% accurate. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to do it that way.

As a Christian, I know I’m supposed to “turn the other cheek.” But even Jesus himself didn’t always do that when he was justified in his actions. And if Jesus was doing it, there’s no question in my mind that it was justified. Case in point; he cleared out the temple with a whip and overturned all the tables when people had turned the holy place into a marketplace! I take that to mean that just because you’re a Christian, doesn’t mean you have to get walked on and abused.

Work the system, man (or woman)

Again, all these trucking companies have systems in place so that everyone who works there has a guideline to go by. Sometimes these systems work for you; sometimes they work against you. 

Let me explain one more situation that happened on the same weekend to explain how this system can work on your behalf or against you. 

After my Friday night delivery, I picked up a 190-mile load Saturday morning that delivered the following morning. I drove straight through and got parked by 5 PM Saturday. My delivery was set for 10 AM on Sunday. If you do the math, that’s 17 hours down already. 

My next load was scheduled to pick up anytime after midnight on Sunday. So basically, by the time I could pick up my load, I would have been sitting for 31 hours. Might as well stick around for another few hours and get my 70 hours back. You know how I like to do resets instead of working against my recap everyday, right? 

So I deliver Sunday morning and I receive my new load information. I thought it was a live load, but apparently it is a preloaded trailer. An important point is that I still had 12 hours available to run that day, but I didn’t pick up any hours after midnight, which is why I was trying to do a 34-hour break. The big key here is that the load comments did not say the load was ready. It still showed a pick up time of anytime after midnight. 

Now according to my last podcast/blog, TD129: 4 Ways To Become A More Efficient Trucker, I normally would call and ask if this preloaded trailer was ready early. But I didn’t. Why?

First, because I didn’t want to screw up a 34-hour break. But the main reason is because my company has a policy that I get $75 if I have fewer than 500 miles over the weekend.

Here’s where things get morally sticky

I had only run 190 miles so far for the weekend and I wasn’t planning to drive until the early AM hours of Monday. That means I would only be getting 190 miles over the weekend, which makes me eligible for the $75. 

Now I could’ve called dispatch and they might’ve told me the load was ready to go. I did have hours to run after all. But if I grabbed the load, I then miss they chance of the $75 extra and I also screw up my 34-hour break.

However, if I uncharacteristically act like most truckers do and just accept their stated appointment time as gospel, I can get both the weekend pay and the 70-hour restart.

So there’s the choice I had to make. Play dumb and reap the benefits (like most truckers would in this situation) or by being my normal efficient self, I might wind up screwing myself out of $75 and in the long run being less efficient by not getting my 70-hour reset?

I thought about it for about two seconds and went with playing dumb. I did this for two reasons:

  1. My dispatcher may look at the situation on Monday and decide not to pay me anyway. There won’t be anything I can do about that.
  2. I’ve gotten screwed by this “less than 500 miles” rule many, many times. In fact, they did it to me again in this example. 

Here’s how they squeeze out of paying weekend pay. By the way, I generally like the company I work for or else I wouldn’t have spent 12 years of life with them, but every company has their stupid rules. This is just one of those.

For easy math, let’s say I have a 501 mile load and that’s all the miles I’ve got until Monday morning. I pick it up on Friday afternoon. I run 495 miles on Friday night and I drive 6 more miles after midnight to arrive at my delivery at 12:06 AM Saturday morning. Guess what? All 501 miles are counted as weekend miles because I “officially” delivered on Saturday, despite the fact that the vast majority of the miles were run on Friday.

This can work against me on the opposite end too. Say I’ve been sitting at a truck stop since Friday at 11 PM. I finally receive a 600-mile load at 11 PM on Sunday. You can see where this is going. Yep, all 600 miles counts as weekend miles, even though I may only be able to knock off 60 miles at most.

This is the method they used to screw me this time. I delivered the 190-mile load on Sunday morning and they immediately dispatched me on a 325-mile load, even though the pickup time was set for anytime on Monday. Those two loads totaled 515 miles, as my dispatcher matter-of-factly pointed out when I requested the $75 weekend pay. In my book, those 325 miles shouldn’t count towards the weekend, but they do. It’s just another example of how these companies work the system to their advantage. 

Seriously, receiving weekend pay at my company is about as rare as a porcelain doll that actually doesn’t look creepy after the lights are turned out. So when I have an opportunity to make it work to my advantage, I do. Or in this case, I tried.

Is that morally wrong? I suppose it might be. But again, my conscience is clear about this. All I’m doing is trying to make the system work for me, just like they are doing for themselves. Two wrongs don’t make a right, but it does help me feel like I’m getting just a tad bit of the money I’ve been screwed out of over the years. Too bad it didn’t work this time.

One final argument 

Let me present one bit of math to put the nail in the coffin here. Let’s jump back to the Household Mover’s Guide that usually pays 10% fewer miles than I actually run.

I’ve driven for 21 years. Let’s say I averaged 120,000 miles per year (this is a low estimate). Total: 2,520,000 miles. Let’s round down to 2.5 million miles. I got screwed out of ten percent of those miles, so that’s 250,000 miles I’ve never been paid for! I’m guessing I averaged about 45¢ per mile over that 21-year span. Multiply that and now I’m really depressed. Apparently I’ve been screwed out of $112,500. 

Wow. Just wow. I think it’s safe to say that no matter how many times I manage to work the system to my advantage, I’m never going to break even. My conscience is clear. Is yours?

[box]What are your thoughts on this subject. Do you work the system to your advantage? How far do you go? Leave your comments below.[/box]

Podcast show notes: