trucking lifestyle

Sweeping A 53′ Trailer With A Whisk Broom

I recently had an encounter with an anal retentive customer who had extremely high demands when it came to the cleanliness of my trailer. It did NOT go well. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s when the perfectionist in me kicked in.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, I’m going to cut this off here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[button link=”″ bg_color=”#5faf58″ window=”yes”]Buy from Amazon Kindle[/button][button link=”″ bg_color=”#5faf58″ window=”yes”]Buy from Apple iBooks[/button][button link=”″ bg_color=”#5faf58″ window=”yes”]Buy from Barnes & Noble[/button][button link=”″ bg_color=”#5faf58″ window=”yes”]Buy from Smashwords[/button]

If you don’t see your favorite retailer above, simply to go their website and search for “Trucking Life” to see if it’s available.[/box]

Links mentioned in the podcast version:

I mention the latest articles I wrote for

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

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

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

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

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

What the heck is an ISBN?

Smashwords can help you publish your ebook.

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

Buy the book from Amazon Kindle

Buy the book from Apple iBooks

Buy the book from Barnes & Noble

Buy the book from Smashwords

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

In the feedback section:

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

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

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

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

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

TD95: 4 Reasons That Trucker Might Be Tailgating You

Disclaimer: When searching online for a subject to write about, I kept coming across people asking why truckers tailgate cars.

The intention of this article is not to say it’s okay to tailgate other vehicles. I’m simply answering the question “why that trucker might be tailgating you.”

P.S. For the record, when I speak of “tailgating” throughout the article, I’m talking about being approximately 2-3 car lengths back, not riding another vehicle’s bumper. Just close enough to wake them up to realize they could be commiting one of the four reasons listed below.  

We’ve all seen it: A car in the fast lane with a semi truck so close to its rear bumper that it looks like a Saint Bernard is getting ready to get jiggy with a Chihuahua. Or a car creeping along in the slow lane with a rear-view mirror full of truck grill.

What possesses a trucker to tailgate a car like that? Well let’s step back a second and look at that. But first, let’s examine what tailgating actually is. Not just trucker tailgating… anybody tailgating.

For those of you in third-world countries who have yet to discover the wheel, let me explain this concept. Tailgating is when one vehicle is close to another vehicle’s rear bumper. But the question becomes, how close is too close? I think that really depends on the individual.

Some drivers might not mind a truck following them at one truck length, while another thinks they can detect diesel fumes breathing down their neck at that distance. Someone else thinks that a 2 or 3 second following distance is okay. Maybe it depends on the type of vehicle you’re driving too? I know I’d probably be more nervous being tailgated by a trucker if I were crammed into a new Fiat than if I was man-handling the road in a 1-ton F-350 pickup.

And then there are the folks who think that all trucks should have a 6-7 second following distance. For the record, this is what most trucking companies and safety organizations recommend. Now I’m not trying to say that a 3-4 second following distance is safer than a 6-7 second distance, but have you ever actually tried to follow someone at 6-7 seconds? It’s a loooooong stinkin’ distance.

If you want to get an idea of your following distance, here’s how to do it.

  1. Pick out a vehicle that’s ahead of you in traffic.
  2. When they pass a landmark, e.g. an underpass, a billboard, railroad tracks, etc; start counting off the seconds.
  3. Stop counting when you reach that landmark.
  4. Look at your raised fingers and count them (oh c’mon – you know you were doing it). That’s how many seconds following distance you have.

Now I’d be willing to bet that the number you come up with will be far less than you think it’ll be. If so, then the next time pick a vehicle even farther ahead and try it again. For a real challenge, try not to use your fingers when counting this time. Yes, it’s possible. And hey, did you know you can read silently without moving your lips. It’s true. Okay. Did you find a car that was 6-7 seconds ahead of you? I told you. That’s a long friggin’ way from that other car’s rear bumper, isn’t it?

I’ve been arguing since way back in driving school that a 6-7 second distance isn’t even possible at times.

Seriously. I got into a discussion with the lady that taught defensive driving at my truck driving school. We had just moved back from Dallas and I remember The Evil Overlord and I laughing when the teacher said we should leave a 6-7 second following distance. I asked her if she’d ever driven in Dallas. I said, “As soon as you open up a spot between you and the car in front of you, someone jumps into it and you’re back where you started.”

She responded by saying that a trucker should go 5 mph slower when in traffic, that way as soon as the passing car gets in front of you, they’ll open up a 6-7 second following distance faster.

What she neglected to take into account is the fact that the passing car isn’t the only car on the road, so the gap behind them fills up too. And perhaps even more importantly, since when has going slower than the flow of traffic ever been a safe practice?

So what to do? Well, as every trucker has learned, driving school is one thing; real life is something altogether different. The fact is that there are times when a trucker needs to or is forced to tailgate. Let’s take a look at that. So in no particular order, I present to you the four reasons that trucker might be tailgating you.

Trucker Tailgating Reason #1: Drivers Going Under the Speed Limit

I know this might be a shock to some of you 4-wheeler drivers, but even the truckers who love their job don’t do it for giggles; they do it to get paid. And the vast majority of us over-the-roaders don’t even get paid unless we’re moving down the road. So when some safety-conscious do-gooder decides to go under the speed limit, well you’re affecting our paychecks.

Listen, I understand that you fantasize about dropping your boss into a pit full of pissed-off scorpions, and therefore, you’re not in any rush to get to work. I can also understand that you missed taking advantage of the Cash For Clunkers program by one stinkin’ day and your car may have trouble reaching the speed limit. If that’s the case, that piece-o-crap shouldn’t be on the road. In either case, you’re holding up progress.

My feeling on this is that if you’re going slower than the speed limit and you don’t have a dang good excuse for it, you shouldn’t be surprised when you are tailgated.

I’ve got crap to do, appointments to be made, and an Evil Overlord to appease come payday. So when I get closer to your bumper than you’re comfortable with, you can fix that by getting the heck out of my way. Understood, Gordon Lightfoot?

I know what you’re thinking, “The speed limit is an upper-limit. I can go slower if I want to.” Yes, legally you’re correct as long as you’re going above the minimum speed limit on an interstate.” But just because you can go slower than the posted speed, doesn’t mean you should.

You know how angry you get when you’re in a hurry to make it to work on time or get your kid to gymnastics class and something or someone is standing in your way? Well, welcome to the life of a trucker. We don’t drive those big rigs for pleasure, you know. We have a job to do. 

Trucker Tailgating Reason #2: Wishy-Washy Drivers

For us truckers, the only thing more frustrating than a slow driver is a driver who can’t make up their dad-blamed mind. And as any trucker can attest to, this goes for truckers as well as 4-wheelers.

Listen, we drive these heavy suckers for a living, so we understand that a truck can’t always maintain a steady speed. But in my ever-so-humble (but totally awesome) opinion, this should only be happening in hilly terrain. A fully-loaded big rig can weigh up to 80,000 pounds (even more with the proper permits), therefore, even the slightest change in the slope of the road can cause massive fluctuations in speeds.

But what’s your excuse when you’re on flat ground? I can tell you that about 90% of the time when I see a car or a truck varying their speed, it’s because they’re paying more attention to their cell phone than the road.

Well, I guess I should say that’s 90% of the vehicles I actually manage to get around. I honestly don’t get to see the culprit for the vast majority of fickle-footed drivers. That’s because they eventually notice me getting a bit too close for comfort and they wake up long enough to pull their head out of their ass…ssassins Creed cap and hit the gas pedal.

While that is frustrating, at least they’re out of my way. And you know how much I like for people to be out of my way. (Sorry, but only my podcast listeners are going to get that little joke.)

As you can see, the first two reasons truckers tailgate are simply to bring the driver back to reality so they can hopefully start paying attention to their driving. The third reason, however, is a direct result of the first two.

Trucker Tailgating Reason #3: Preparing To Pass

If it weren’t for you folks out there with gaspedalaphobia, there’d be no need for a #3 on this list. But since you do exist (much to the chagrin of all society, including your mom), this gives us truckers yet another possible reason to tailgate.

For you brainiacs out there who haven’t thought of this, a truck takes a lot longer to get up to speed than a car does. When a car wants to pass another vehicle, they just mash the gas pedal to the floor and they’re around a 70-foot truck in less time than it takes Sheldon to knock 30,000 times on Penny’s door while wearing his Flash Gordon costume. But when the roles are reversed, passing is a major ordeal for the trucker.

I remember way back in the summer of ’84 when my high school driver education instructor, appropriately-named Mr. Lane, taught me how to pass. Even in a car, he told me to get right up behind the slower driver, or in other terms, tailgate him. When the coast was clear, he said, Step on it!”

Well, I put my foot down, but I wasn’t aware of that “passing gear” mode past what I thought was “all the way to the floor.” Thankfully, there was just enough time for me to figure it out while he yelled at me. Now let’s look at doing this in a truck.

We use reason #3 and we tailgate the speed-challenged car. Sorry, but if that didn’t happen, we’d never get around anyone. Next, we wait for an open spot big enough that even Superman couldn’t see an oncoming vehicle and then we mash on it… and then we pretty much get nothing in return. You see, it takes a long time to get these heavy suckers up to speed.

Downshifting helps, but isn’t always effective when you’re going 60 mph. At least it isn’t in my run-of-the-mill 10-speed company truck. The best case scenario is that the slower driver doesn’t feel like dying, so they back out of it and lessen the time we’re required to be out in the opposing lane.

Thankfully, this usually happens. But I’ll bet I’m not the only trucker who’s had to back out of it and duck back behind to escape a game of chicken because of some stubborn, trucker-hating jerk who refuses to help us out. 

Personally, I’ve never understood this. If they aren’t in any hurry in the first place, then why are they so opposed to letting off the gas pedal for a few seconds to help us complete the pass quicker? I just don’t get it.

And of course, remember that it isn’t always a 15-foot long car we’re passing. Other times it’s another 70-foot long truck. There are certain carriers out on the road that you see from a distance and you know you’re gonna have to pass them eventually.

Once again, we have to get right up on their bumper to set up the pass. I like to use their shiny trailer doors to check my teeth for spinach chunks while I’m waiting for an opening to pass. Once clear, you launch your attack and pray for a cooperative trucker. For more on the challenges of speed-limited trucks trying to pass each other, check out one of my favorite blog posts I’ve written called TD66: Truckers Go Turtle Racing.

I should also point out that tailgating to set up a pass is necessary whether you’re on a 4-lane freeway or a 2-lane country road. On the 2-lane, you need to close the gap for time’s sake. On the 4-lane, you want to avoid jumping out and slowing down traffic while you’re still three truck-lengths back.

Because if you do that, you can almost guarantee some Fast-and-Furious wannabe will come screaming around you on the right and attempt to squeeze back in front of you. And by the way, if you’ve ever done this, please reach into your silverware drawer, grab a fork, and jab it in your forehead. Thanks.

Trucker Tailgating Reason #4: The Trucker is a Jerk

There is no getting around admitting this. Just like the few truckers who refuse to bathe give us all a bad rap, there are also a few chronic tailgaters. These are the drivers who are tailgating a car, despite the fact that the car is going 75 mph in the fast lane.

Yes, Mr. Studmuffin Trucker, it’s nice that you can bury your speedometer needle past your 100 mph gauge. Yes, we can see how fearless and skillful you are because you can ride 5 feet off some unfortunate dude’s bumper. I’m sooooo impressed. Not.

So what I want to know is why these truckers do this? You see, when I use the word “tailgating,” I’m talking about following at two or three car lengths… for a brief period of time. The way I see it, no trucker has any reason to be close enough to a car that you can’t see the entire vehicle above your hood. Even that’s too close at highway speeds. And I’ve seen some of these miscreants stay that close until they’re out of my vision. Uncool, man. Uncool.

So why exactly are you pushing that car down the road? What’s your excuse? Your load is late? Is your load of dill pickles really so important that you’re willing to put people’s lives at risk? Is there some kind of pregnancy convention going on that will cause mass water-breakage if you don’t show up on time? Sorry, driver. I’m gonna need more convincing.

What’s that? The car driver flipped you the bird earlier? Well clearly you can quell his road rage by tailgating him and raising his stress level. Brilliant, Sherlock, just brilliant. Just try to remember this when you’re tailgating so close: if he taps his brakes and you hit him because you can’t see his taillights, you may just be in jail soon. And if that happens, I for one hope that it’s your turn to get tailgated.

So there you have it, four reasons for a trucker to be tailgating you. What do you think? Are these legitimate reasons to be tailgating (well #1-3 anyway)? Or do you think there’s ever a good excuse to tailgate? Don’t be stingy. Share your thoughts below.

TD92: Honor Among Truckers

[box]Listen to the audio version and subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.
Or enter into your favorite podcast app.
Download the intro/outro songs for free! courtesy of Walking On Einstein
Mystery Feedback Song– Only a cheater would click this before listening to the podcast! You aren’t a cheater, are you? [/box]

Truckers have to trust each other every day

Truckers have to trust each other every day

Have you ever watched a movie and heard the bad guys talking about the concept of “Honor Among Thieves?” Every time I hear it, I think, “What the heck is up with that crap?” I mean, clearly if you’re a thief, your moral compass must’ve fallen out of your pocket while you were hiking out in the woods. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Honor Among Thieves concept, it’s basically saying that there is an unwritten code that even an untrustworthy group of people can abide by to get along. I’ve know for quite some time that there was something similar in the trucking industry. An Honor Among Truckers if you will.

Now let me get one thing straight here. I’m not saying truckers in general are an untrustworthy lot, but let’s face facts. Some of the characters out here don’t exactly look like you could trust them any more than you could trust a pit bull while wearing a meat scarf. The odd thing is, for the most part, we drivers do it all the time. Trust, that is; not wear meat scarves. We smell bad enough as is. Today, we’re going to discuss three of these situations:

Honor Among Truckers Scenario #1: Parking

Truckers have to park every night in cramped spaces. Whether it’s a truck stop, a rest area, or a crowded exit ramp, we’re constantly leaving ourselves to the mercy of other drivers. Nearly every night at the truck stops, you’ll see drivers sitting behind the wheel and staring off into space. You’d think that we’d all be paranoid that someone is going to hit our truck while backing into the parking spot next to us. Yet we aren’t. Under normal situations, most of us just sit there and let the other driver do their thing. We trust that he or she is capable of doing the job without taking out our front fender. That’s Honor Among Truckers. Granted, this doesn’t mean we trust everyone equally.

Even a non-experienced driver can see when a fellow trucker is having trouble backing into a parking spot.

I've got $100 that says that ain't Gatorade

100 bucks that says that ain’t Gatorade

That’s when we toss our trusting nature into the trash bin along with all the piss-filled milk jugs (photo). We all know that there are times when it’s not only wiser to get out and guide the other driver, but it’s also the friendly thing to do. That being said, I think many times these well-meaning guiders are doing more harm than good. Listen dudes and dudettes; unless this troubled backer is a total rookie, they really don’t need you to tell them which way to turn the wheel by making giant circular motions with your arms. Seriously, you look like you’re having a conniption fit, so just knock it off. No, what most drivers need in this situation is for you to simply stand by the parking space and give a shout if they’re about to hit something. But again, the point is; if they don’t need help, we just sit there and trust that they’ll accomplish the task without smashing one of our mirrors.

Then again, this Honor Among Truckers can sometimes jump up and sock you in the Adam’s apple.

Case in point. A few weeks back, I parked at a Flying J in Missouri to run in and grab a shower. I did so for two reasons. One, because I’d been wearing a meat scarf, and two, I was trying to avoid the torture that is the inspection bays at our company shops. You see, I was heading home and the last thing I needed was for some overly zealous mechanic to find something wrong with my truck that would inevitably keep me there overnight. Been there. Done that. Wasn’t gonna risk it.

So I needed to kill a couple of hours. An extra-long shower took care of most of that time. I killed the rest of the time watching NCIS in the trucker’s lounge. But when it was finally safe to roll toward the yard, I found a surprise waiting for me by my truck. There was debris all along the driver’s side of my trailer and there was a 6-foot section of the lower side rail that was totally demolished. After I picked my jaw up off the peelot, I went back to look at the rig that was parked beside me. There wasn’t any damage on the rear of their trailer, so I went up to see if I could find a note on my truck somewhere. Nope. It was a hit-and-run. Probably some owner-operator who didn’t want his insurance rates to skyrocket. I asked around, but just like in NYC, no one claimed to have seen anything. Didn’t matter much, as my company just asked a few questions and never said another word about it. Guess it happens more often than we might think. Makes you think about trusting other drivers so much, huh?

Honor Among Truckers Scenario #2: Driving

Professional truckers are called that for a reason; we’re trained to drive defensively. Rarely do you see a trucker do something completely unexpected. Like the parking scenario, we just trust that the other driver knows what they’re doing. When a trucker switches lanes beside you, you just assume he knows you’re there. For the most part, you don’t feel the need to honk, flash your headlights, or swerve like a slalom skier to get away from them. You sure can’t say that about 4-wheelers. They’re always freaking out like we’re going to come into their lane and reenact the opening scene from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Likewise, we just assume a trucker entering a freeway on-ramp knows what to do. Again, not so much when it comes to 4-wheelers and their cell phones.

But just like the parking, sometimes driving trust can backfire too. Early in our careers, The Evil Overlord and I were tooling along on I-10 near Ontario, California. As any trucker knows, those lanes aren’t all that wide. We were cruising along at 60 mph in the second lane when we felt a jolt and saw pieces of our passenger-side mirror go flying. Another trucker had clipped our mirror as he flew by us at about 70 mph. Before we could get pulled over to the side of the road, the other driver took the next exit ramp and vanished through a truck-sized wormhole. Now had that been a shiny orange truck, we could’ve reported it and my company would’ve given Schneider a call. But this was an indistinguishable owner-operator. I’m sure this was a quickly-realized factor when the driver made his split-second decision to do the right thing or hit the exit ramp. So yes, trusting others truckers can suck sometimes, but what are you gonna do? Just like the hit-and-run, this was a freak accident. That didn’t mean that I didn’t trust the next driver who passed me. I did, albeit looking in my one good mirror a bit more often.

Honor Among Truckers Scenario #3: Thievery

Honor among truckers in action

Honor among truckers in action

Any time you see trucks in a truck stop, you’ll also see lots of empty trucks. Every trucker out there knows that these trucks have all sorts of valuable stuff in them; computers, TV’s, iPods, GPS units, video and photo cameras, and even game consoles like Playstation and XBox. So any trucker could have a field day out here. Most of us know that trucks aren’t all that hard to break into either. We know this because many of us have locked our keys in our trucks at some point in our careers. With a coat hanger in hand, we could’ve been back in our trucks in 10 minutes if we hadn’t spent those minutes cussing and questioning our intelligence level. So what’s to stop a driver from cashing in? Honor Among Truckers.

Personally, I’m kind of amazed at the amount of trust we have. Now I’m a trusting person by nature, but being married to The Evil Overlord for almost 20 years has caused some of her paranoia to rub off on me. She was raised near a big city, so she doesn’t trust anyone. While I’m content to lock and deadbolt our apartment door, she goes even further by locking our bedroom door and keeping a loaded .44 Special on her nightstand.

So that means that I’m possibly a bit more cautious than the average trucker. For example, here again we come into all the truckers sitting in their driver’s seat at the truck stop. Many drivers sit there with their laptops propped up on their steering wheel as they busy themselves with email, watching movies, surfing the web, or, as most of us can attest to; watching porn. Everyone can see this. That’s just waaaay more trust than I can muster.

My thief magnet

My thief magnet

Any time I’m on my computer, I’m always in the bunk area. Now during the daytime, I do leave the front curtains wide open to let some light in. But at night, I shut them tighter than a frog’s bunghole. Why? Take a look at that picture. That’s why. As many of you know, I gush on-and-on about my beloved MacBook Pro. God is #1 in my life. The Evil Overlord and my Mac are fighting it out for the #2 spot. Anyway, I’m not about to prop my glowing-like-the-full-moon Apple up on my steering wheel where everyone can see. That’s because even Apple-haters know that Macs are more valuable than the average PC. This is not Apple fanboyism. This is fact. At some point, I’m going to have to get out of the truck for something. And some trucker who is watching is going to know it. I faced something similar to this the other morning.

I was at the Flying J just north of Houston, TX and I was jonesing for a shower. I pulled my front curtain closed, packed my shower bag with fresh duds, and headed towards the truck stop. As usual I could see truckers who saw me vacating the truck. Some were in their trucks while others were walking about. That’s when the crazy-eyed guy approached me.

He was a thin black man in his late 50’s. He was dressed kind of ratty and he had that eye condition where you couldn’t tell what he was looking at. His left eye appeared to be fascinated with the cloud structure over my right shoulder, while his right eye appeared to be checking to see if my shirt had pit-stains under my left arm. He pointed at my truck and said, “Did you just come out of that truck?” Since I knew he just saw me get out of it, I warily said, “Uhhhh… yeah.” He went on, “Do you need any help today? I can help unload trucks and stuff.” My thought was, “Yeah, I’ll bet you’ll unload my truck.” I politely declined the offer and we went our separate ways. Just as Journey had. sings – How we touched and went our Separate Ways.

Well, like I said, The Evil Overlord has rubbed her non-trusting mojo onto me. Normally, I like it when she rubs on me, but not in this case. 😉 I soon paused, hidden by the nose of a Peterbilt. It wasn’t hard to remain unseen, as you could hide a moose behind one of those friggin’ hoods. I watched him as he walked off. He kept glancing backward and all around. Was he looking for someone else to help, or was he remembering where my truck was? He finally vanished around the end of the line of trucks. I started to walk on in to the truck stop, but I paused. Something was nagging me. I couldn’t get over the thought of having all my crap stolen when I could have prevented it. What if this were the time that I was too trusting? So I did something I rarely do. I went back and packed up all my valuable crap. And since my fully-crammed shower and computer bags weigh about 90 tons and I was parked in the back of the parking lot, I’m counting that as a daily workout. I have gone to this extreme a few other times when some seedy-looking character was walking around the parking lot. I like to say; trust, but don’t be naïve.

Well, in the end, I should have trusted old crazy-eyed Joe. I later saw him approaching other drivers outside the doors of the truck stop. If he had broken into my truck, at least he was nice enough to lock it back up and leave my clothes and my ratty old tennis shoes behind. That was very thoughtful of him.

Personally, I’m kinda baffled about this whole Honor Among Truckers thing. On one hand, it gives me the warm pink fuzzies to know that we truckers trust each other so much, especially considering the circumstances that we’re in. It shows a trust in our fellow man that doesn’t exist in this world much nowadays. But that still doesn’t mean I’m going to trust anyone that might even remotely be eyeballing my MacBook Pro. You can have The Evil Overlord though. There. Priorities set. 😉

TD61: E-logs: My First Impression

Despite the fact that I’ve been driving for 13 years, I made a bonehead rookie mistake yesterday. It was especially unfortunate since it probably would have been covered if it didn’t coincide with my first day running with e-logs. But first… what are e-logs?

[box]Listen to the audio version above and subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.
Or enter into your favorite podcast app.
Download the intro/outro songs for free! courtesy of Walking On Einstein
Mystery Feedback Song – Only a cheater would click this before listening to the podcast! You aren’t a cheater, are you?[/box]

E-logs are electronic logs. For more details, you may want to jump on over to a previous blog of mine before you read on. I gave it the appropriate name of, “Fear and loathing of electronic logs.”

As my truck was getting e-logs installed, I was taking a class on how to use them. I went in grumpy and hating them. Four hours later, I came out with a slightly less grumpy disposition and a lower hate factor, but I’m still not doing round-off-double-back-handsprings. And thank God for that. I wouldn’t want you to see my cheerleading panties.

One thing I knew going in was that each company can set up e-logs according to their own guidelines. This is something that @DeanAllen2006 had informed me of in the blog post mentioned above. Knowing my company, this was what I was most worried about. My worries weren’t unfounded.

For example, Dean’s company has their e-logs set up where he can creep along (7 mph or less) in rush hour traffic and still be on the “On-Duty, Not Driving” line. My company has it set to go to the Driving line after a half-mile, no matter what your speed is. It used to be set at 1 mile, but they decided that was waaaay too long. Grrr. Keep this under your hat, but I think mine is still set at 1 mile. Shhhhhh.

When they mentioned this in class, all three of us drivers started talking at once. Our concern was this. Many times we’ll be parked at a shipper/receiver waiting for a dock. Or maybe we got there the night before. Either way, if it’s going to be a while, we’ll start our 10-hour break. At some point, we’re going to have to wake up and back into a dock. Now there are a lot of massive warehouses out there. Some of them even have off-site buildings. Many of them will require us to drive over .5 mile to get to the dock. That will effectively break our mandatory 10-hour rest period.

The company is aware of this and is looking into it. For now the fix is to call in to the Safety Department and let them know what happened. If they can verify you never left the property, they’ll fix it. While it’s good that they’ll do that, it’s a big fail in my book. Still stranger, I’m thinking they wouldn’t even have this problem if they’d just left the 1 mile limit in effect. Although that still wouldn’t fix the off-site problem…

Next, I asked about a situation that happened to me not long ago. I had enough hours to get to my delivery location, but they didn’t have any parking. My plan was to park at a nearby Lowe’s that I had been parking at for years. Since I didn’t have enough time to fit in a 10-hour break before my delivery appointment, I was just going to drive the 5 miles from Lowe’s to the customer and show on my paper logs that I had been at the delivery point all night. Illegal? Technically, yes. Done frequently by truckers? Definitely yes. Able to do on e-logs? Nope.

That was my plan anyway. What actually happened is a tow truck driver knocked on my door and told me he was instructed to tow any truck that wouldn’t leave the Lowe’s parking lot. Naturally, I left. Here’s the thing though. I was about 7.5 hours into my break. If I had been down 8 hours I could have used it as part of a split sleeper berth, moved, and gotten my other 2 hours somewhere else. Since it wasn’t, I moved, pretended I didn’t, and delivered my load on time.

But that was only possible because I was on paper logs. I asked the trainer about this scenario and was told that since I didn’t have any hours available, and I had to move before my 10-hour break was completed, I would be charged with a log violation. She did say that the company would note the situation along with the violation so that it could be seen that I had no choice in the matter. While this sucks more than a dehydrated mosquito, that’s not the worst of it.

Since I had moved before completing my 10-hour break and I hadn’t even gotten 8 hours in to set up a possible split sleeper berth, I would now have to start my break over. So now my mandatory 10-hour break has just turned into a mandatory 17.5 hour break (that’s my wasted 7.5 hours that didn’t count, plus my new 10-hour break). Furthermore, I’m sitting 5 miles from my delivery point, but I now can’t deliver because I don’t have any driving time. In this situation, another driver would have to come and deliver my load.

The trainer said the fix for this problem was to plan ahead. If you know that a receiver doesn’t have parking, tell your dispatcher how close you can get and they’ll find another driver to relay the load. This is going to lead to a LOT of relays, especially since my company doesn’t always know which customers allow parking, and which don’t. Even crappier is that many times you can get within the same city as the receiver, you just can’t park at their facility. Since my company doesn’t pay a dime for local runs (within the same city), many of these runs won’t pay anything except for the miles it takes you to get to the relay point.

While all this sounds easy enough, what about those situations like the one I was in? I’d been parking at that Lowe’s for years. How was I to know they’d change the rules all of a sudden? Or how about those times when you park somewhere questionable because you’ve run out of driving time? Truckers are forced to move all the time for reasons such as this. Who gets stuck with the log violation, the ticket if we get caught, and possibly a service failure if the load can’t be delivered on time? Once again, it all comes back to the driver.

Here’s the next thing that didn’t make sense. Any calls to breakdown must be done during On-Duty time. So say you pull into a truck stop, do your walk-around, and notice a flat tire. You call into breakdown while you’re still On-Duty, then you check into the shop at the truck stop. They say it’ll be about 3 hours before they can fit you in. That’s fine, I’ll just go to sleep until then, get my 2 hours of my split sleeper berth in, and finish the other 8 hours after I’m out of the shop. Right? Wrong. The new e-log rules say that when you are awaiting repairs, you have to log it as On-Duty time. So not only are you wasting time that could be going toward your 10-hour break, you’re also using up your hours on your 70-hour work week. Can someone please explain to me how this is any different from moving on a customer’s property to bump a dock? Cuz my e-log trainer couldn’t.

One thing I was anticipating was for them to say how much time e-logs would save me. It came as expected. She said, “Using paper logs, you have to log 15 minutes for fueling, even if it only takes you 5 minutes. Now, if it takes you 5 minutes, it saves you 10 full minutes of driving time!” To which I responded: “But isn’t logging 15 minutes for fueling a company policy?” It was. “Federal guidelines say that anything under 7 minutes doesn’t have to be logged, other than flagging it. So, in essence, we’re losing 15 minutes, because under DOT rules, we wouldn’t even have to show fueling if it only took 5 minutes.” No good answer followed.

Next was the mandatory Pre-Trip Inspection. 15 minutes minimum is the standard for both carriers and the DOT. As I happily pointed out, “Here’s another 15 minutes lost. Before, I could log my PTI when I fueled, no matter what time of day it was. Now you’re telling me I have to do it at the beginning of the day, and it can’t be combined with any other activity.” Again. No explanation.

Now back to my rookie mistake. I got my load information and wrote it all down. For some reason, my brain decided that my delivery time of 1300 (1 p.m.) was actually 3 p.m. I don’t know how that happened. I’m guessing the “3” in 1300 stuck in my demented brain. Anyway, here’s how e-logs affected this situation.

Since I got this load information the day before and I didn’t want to sit around and wait, I had already asked if I could deliver early. No one would respond to my dispatcher, so I never got an answer. Now if I had been on paper logs, I no doubt would’ve taken off extra early and tried to deliver before my appointment time. If the customer would’ve taken me early, all would be well. If they wouldn’t take me until my appointment time, I would’ve simply showed taking off a couple of hours later on my logs. Again, illegal? Yep. Done by truckers every day? No doubt.

Instead, I waited until the very last minute to take off. I knew that the second I rolled out, my 14-hour clock started ticking. If I rolled out too early and couldn’t deliver, I’d have burned all that time while I sat waiting on my appointment. I wasn’t going to do that. The problem was, I only left in time to deliver by 3 p.m. When my dispatcher called to ask me why I wasn’t heading toward my delivery, I knew I had screwed the pooch. I had planned on rolling in by 3 p.m. Now I was going to be 2 hours late.

Luckily, I have a cool dispatcher who knows I don’t make rookie mistakes like that very often. It was also lucky that there was heavy fog out that she could blame my lateness on. I’m telling you folks, I’ve got the coolest dispatcher. Still, if everyone on e-logs is trying to maximize their time, it seems to me that it will put a whole lot of truckers in a race against time. Does anyone think that’s a good idea?

So now that my first day with e-logs is completed, here’s my initial impression. They are fairly easy to learn and use. It has some cool features that I didn’t have before, such as a running total of my hours, always knowing what city/state I’m in, and it automatically knowing when I arrive at a customer.

While all of that is great, the ability to search and read messages while I’m driving is my favorite feature. My old Qualcomm unit wouldn’t let me read a message unless I was at a complete stop. They say that I still can’t type while I’m going down the road, which is to be expected. Again, I think they forgot to disable this feature in my unit, because I’ve tried typing while going down the road and it works just dandy. Of course, I’m not planning to abuse this, but still… shhhhhhh. Check out the videos to see how these things work.

I’m convinced that the trucking industry is going to have to change if e-logs are going to work. Shippers and Receivers in particular are going to have to start caring about a trucker’s time. And if some of the new proposed rules, such as the hard 14-hour workday take hold, it will be even more necessary. I just don’t think e-logs are quite ready for the weird situations that truckers find themselves in every day.

To sum up, I think the key isn’t the e-logs themselves. The key is how they’re set up. E-logs can be as flexible as a double-jointed gymnast or as rigid as an Eskimo’s clothesline laundry. Here’s to hoping that trucking companies prefer leotards over stiff boxer shorts.

Please leave a rating and post a comment with your concerns or experiences with e-logs.