How Much is Too Much?


Photo by MyLifeStory via Flickr

I’m fixing to kill two birds with one stone. As if I could even hit one bird with a stone, let alone two. Heck. I once missed a squirrel from 20 feet with a 12-gauge shotgun. Seriously. I’ve got no hope with a freakin’ stone.

Any-who, for those of you who don’t know, the carrier I drive for has made a lot of changes to company policy lately. I’ve been rather vocal about these changes, both online and off. This prompted me to write a letter to the head of our safety department. Not an e-mail, an actual letter; with a stamp and everything. Perhaps I should address it with giant block letters, that way it will for sure get noticed. Nah. I don’t want to have the HazMat folks evacuating the building.

I’ve decided to post this letter on the blog because it speaks to a subject that every driver has to face. What exactly are you willing to give up in order to get something else? Maybe it’s a nicer truck or the opportunity to be home more often? In my case, it’s higher pay that causes me to make sacrifices. But where do you draw the line? How much is too much?

Also, this letter will show you hot-headed drivers how to write a respectful letter to an employer, a government official, or a retailer who has given you bad service. Not that I’m an expert on the subject, but I know that some of you psychotic drivers out there think everything can be solved by cramming your fist down someone’s esophagus. While that’s a temptation we all want to give in to, a little respect goes a long way. So here goes.

The names have been changed to protect the innocent. Also the company name, the address, and the pay rates. And before anyone asks, I’ll say it again. I DO NOT reveal the name of my company. This is to insure that my butt keeps it’s job. Also, the formatting of the address looks funky on here. I assure you that it looks beau-tee-ful on the actual letter.

November 24, 2010

Mr. Q.B. Cull

Turtle Trucking

10-4 Drive

Freightville, Hawaii

Dear Mr. Cull,

I trust that I have sent this to the appropriate party. If not, please pass it on to the correct individual or department.

In light of some of Turtle Trucking’s recent decisions (and some older ones), I felt the need to voice my opinion. According to many of the other company drivers that I’ve spoken with, I’m positive that I’m not the only one who is concerned.

We all know that Turtle Trucking charges its customers a premium price for excellent service. According to the company line, none of this is possible without top-of-the-line drivers. I fear that these policies are going to start affecting the quality of drivers that are attracted to Turtle Trucking.

I don’t actively recruit drivers, but I have plenty of them ask me about the company. The first thing they ask is if the 3 cents per mile is true. I have to tell them that pay rate was before the bad economy hit, and that it’s now 2 cents. Still, I assure them that the money and the miles are there to be had.

Next, they ask me how I like the company. I tell them that the company is efficient and the money is great, but that they will have to make some sacrifices for it. The first thing I mention is that no inverters are allowed in the truck. They always ask about the cigarette lighter kind, to which I say no. 9 times out of 10, they walk away.

If that didn’t scare them off, they usually say, “That’s okay, I’ve got one of those cooking devices that plugs into a cigarette lighter.” Now I have to tell them that they can’t have those either. I’d be willing to bet that they’ll walk off too. Every Turtle Trucking driver I’ve spoken with is livid about this new rule.

Drivers only have a few things that make their life on the road bearable: a paycheck on Friday, a hot shower, and a hot meal. Turtle Trucking pays more than most carriers, but now if I want a hot meal I have to spend that hard-earned money to eat in restaurants. If the health and efficiency of the driver is truly a concern for Turtle Trucking, this can’t be a good thing. Not to mention, hot meals cooked in the truck are $2-3, and the cheapest you can walk out of a truck stop restaurant is $10.

I spoke with a couple of 10+ year Turtle Trucking drivers and some maintenance personnel about the inverter issue. It seems that they were banned after a couple of drivers misused their inverters, which caused their trucks to catch fire. I can only assume that some drivers recently showed poor judgment using their cooking devices too.

It’s disturbing to me that a few drivers with poor judgment can affect company policy so much. If a driver is found to be an unsafe driver, you don’t put the truck out of commission; you get rid of the driver responsible for the behavior. Why punish all the drivers who still use common sense? Clearly, these devices couldn’t be sold if they were unsafe to operate. It’s the idiotic driver who is at fault.

Next up: idling. While I personally think the new idling policy is fair, I’ve had many-a-driver walk away when I mention it. Most say it wouldn’t be an issue if we had APU’s, but as you well know, Turtle Trucking hasn’t decided that they’re cost effective yet.

E-logs are another matter. I know every carrier will eventually convert to E-logs, but I also know from talking to drivers that most want to avoid them as long as possible. Therefore, many won’t even be considering Turtle Trucking.

Despite what the company posters say, all the Turtle Trucking drivers that I’ve spoken with don’t like them. At worst, one company driver was going to retire early because of them. At best, the remaining drivers say that they don’t like them, but that they are “tolerable.”

Lastly is the fact that you have to turn your truck in if you’re going to be out of it for more than 3 days. I know it used to be 4 days. One of those 10+ year Turtle Trucking veterans said that it was 5 days a while back. While this rule won’t affect drivers who live near a yard, it will certainly affect those of us who don’t.

In order to keep my truck, I used to be okay with the idea of taking only 4 days vacation instead of 5. Now, if I want a week’s vacation, I’ll have to drop my truck at the Honolulu yard and drive home 7.5 hours. When I’m ready to come back, it’s another 7.5 hours. That’s one full day of my vacation wasted driving to and from a yard. I understand that you need to utilize your trucks, but how can you expect to keep drivers long-term if they can’t make their vacation time worth their while?

To sum up, I, and every other Turtle Trucking driver I’ve spoken with know that we make sacrifices for the higher pay that Turtle Trucking offers. The question is this: In an industry where many carriers are striving to provide better conditions for drivers, how will Turtle Trucking fare when it comes to hiring and retaining quality drivers in the future? And how long before the extra pay isn’t worth it?

Sincerely,

Christopher T. McCann

Okay. Don’t be laughing at the first name. Don’t force me to cram a fist down your esophagus.

I know what some of you are thinking, and you’re probably right. I don’t expect this letter to change any of our company policies, but hey, you never know. The engine with the low dipstick gets the oil. And since I’m so slick… uhhh, wait… or am I the dipstick? Oh, shut up and eat your turkey…Turkey.

*Please leave a comment with your thoughts. And if you can stir up the energy to move your mouse to the top of the post, please give this post a rating.*

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17 Responses to “How Much is Too Much?”

  1. Ray Lawson Says:

    I don’t think you could start a truck on fire with an inverter that plugs into the cig. lighter if you held a lighter under it. My guess is they don’t want to pay the bill to get the truck jumped after someone leaves it running all night with the laptop on and the truck won’t start in the morning. Same for the cooking utensils. Not sure how many batteries your trucks have but I have 4 100 amp batteries and I can kill them running a small inverter overnight.

    • Todd McCann Says:

      That could be part of it, for sure, but it was verified by that veteran driver that a couple of trucks burned down. He saw them. If you saw some of the old pictures of the way guys used to rig those inverters you could see how it could happen.

      For example, one guy took a 1000 watt inverter, took the battery connections off, and replaced them with a cigarettle lighter plug. Saw a picture of it. Another picture I saw was installed in a glove compartment and the guy had removed some of the casing and had about twenty things plugged into it. No exaggeration. Twenty. No wonder they had problems. I’m guessing these guys left them on with everything plugged in and walked away, either into a truck stop or to go home.

      The thing is, if they would just do the installations in their shop like every other carrier out there, they wouldn’t be having these issues. I’ve worked for super-big companies that had them installed in all their trucks and they never had any issues. As I said, it’s always a couple of morons that screw it up for everyone.

  2. helmetorheels Says:

    It sounds like Undercover Boss needs to get Turtle Trucking’s owner/president/CEO to do a show. It always amazes me when upper management gets into the trenches and sees how stupid a lot of the policies they create are. Sounds like Turtle Trucking could use a good dose of reality!

    • Todd McCann Says:

      You know, many times the CEO/owner of a company have been drivers in the past. Many times they are the founders.

      It’s the middle managers that need a dose of reality. I’d be happy to offer my services. I’d even sleep in the floor for a week so they could have the bunk.

  3. Ray Lawson Says:

    That’s all true. The fastest way to burn a truck down is to improperly install a power inverter. Even though I know how to do it I always have a shop (last two trucks were at Peterbilt) install the inverter and I always make sure they have an extra master fuse. The reason for not doing the work myself (much cheaper) is so in the event of a fire I can prove to the insurance company that it was properly installed. My comment was only about the plug in inverters (under 350w) not being able to start a fire.

    • Todd McCann Says:

      That’s great advice, getting a shop to install it to CYA.

      I know what you mean about the small inverters. I think the cooking devices are the same. Would require some major stupidity to burn a truck down with one of those.

      Thanks for the follow-up, Ray.

  4. rose lefebvre Says:

    I do not know much about trucking, but get a kick out of your writing.
    Lisa directed me to your site and I am glad she did!!
    Check out my site sometime…I write aabout family, friends, writing, poetry, my thoughts, animals, and nature…lots of wandering in my mind!

  5. Old Friend Says:

    Okay Todd, we have to talk about dangling prepositions.

    • Todd McCann Says:

      LOL. Wasn’t it you that was suggesting I should teach? Guess you didn’t mean English class, huh? I wouldn’t know a dangling preposition if it socked me in the nose. Clearly.

  6. Lisa Nowak Says:

    “Turtle Trucking” – I love it! Great letter. I hope it gets you some results, but knowing how the corporate world is, I’m not holding my breath.

    • Todd McCann Says:

      Please don’t. I wouldn’t want your suffocation on my conscious. I’m certainly not expecting any policy changes either. I’ll be shocked if I even get acknowledgement that they received the letter.

  7. David Austin Says:

    I did like the way your letter got to the point of the issues.And like you I wish that companies would put consideration into retaining the “good” drivers that they’ve got.
    I hope that this letter gets to the person/people that you intended it for.And hopefully it makes a difference,to make things better for you and your fellow drivers at the place that you work.I’ll keep my fingers crossed for ya.

    • Todd McCann Says:

      Some drivers that I’ve talked to have had suspicions that they do this on purpose so that they can hire new drivers at a lower pay rate. I don’t buy that, but you’re right, it seems that companies to more to draw new drivers in than they do to retain the ones they have.

  8. Todd McCann Says:

    Here’s an update for you. Believe it or not, the safety director read my letter and instructed my dispatcher to get me to HQ so that he and a few of the other big wigs can discuss this with me.

    Call me shocked! I wasn’t even expecting a boilerplate e-mail message, let alone a face-to-face meeting. Do you think I should shower before I meet with them? 😉

  9. Kevin McKague Says:

    First of all, I think this is a very well written letter. I’ve written and read a lot of letters to bosses and newspapers, and you’ve really knocked this one out of the park.

    I’ve worked for companies before that don’t allow inverters, but what harm can the little stoves cause? I accidentally left one on this morning for about 6 hours and my lunch was barely hot. They aren’t going to catch fire, and they probably use less juice than two clearance lights.

    In the end though, I honestly can’t imagine walking away from a company that pays 3 cents/mile (kidding), or any real, good salary for these reasons. I guess I’m not as bothered by a lot of the stuff that bother others. Maybe because its because I haven’t done it as long as some, so I don’t know how much different things are now.

    Turning in my truck when taking just 4 days off would bother me. I understand that as a company driver, they need to keep everything on the road when possible, and that I have no real right to object, but I hate coming back from my week’s vacation to see the truck has been used by a slob who smokes. Most companies do this though.

    Please keep us updated on your meeting with the corporate big wigs! Maybe a career in upper management is in your future!

    • Todd McCann Says:

      Hey Kevin. Appreciate you leaving the comment.

      You’re right about the little stoves not being very dangerous. Mine will heat up a tin of soup in about 20 minutes, so it does get hot. I just doubt it could get hot enough to burn a truck to the ground. As a matter of fact, I told another driver the same thing and told him I was going to experiment with mine by throwing a piece of paper in it while it was still hot. He told me that wasn’t necessary. He said he puts his Subway sandwiches wrapped in paper into his and leaves them for 30-45 minutes. When he pulls it out, the paper isn’t even charred. I think that settles that.

      I think a lot of the things that I mentioned could be tolerated for short periods of time. Heck, that’s what I’m doing now. But over the course of time I believe it would wear on a driver. There are too many options out there. So drivers like me will move on, and new drivers won’t even consider working for my company in the first place. I know that’s true. Just think about how many of my friends on Twitter would choose to work for my company if they had an opportunity. I’d say exactly zero. The majority of drivers that ask me about my company don’t have any interest in driving for my company after I tell them about it.

      As for turning in the truck, the smoke issue is definitely part of the problem. In addition is the fact that our truck probably won’t be waiting on us when we get back from our time off. I’ve talked to quite a few drivers who didn’t have a truck waiting on them when they got back. Many had to wait up to a week before one was available. This extra week is unpaid. I just consider that unacceptable for any long-term driver. I know I wouldn’t tolerate it.

      Again, really appreciate the insightful comment. You know that I’ll keep everyone updated on this. And I hope that upper management thing was a joke. I can’t imagine a worse hell. 🙂

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