Truckers vs. Cops vs. DOT vs. Carriers


Photo by davidsonscott15 via Flickr

There is a constant unseen battle going on in the trucking industry. It’s like the movie “Alien vs. Predator,” only with two more factions that rear back their butt-ugly heads and roar. Perhaps someone should make a massive online video game about it.

It could be called Truckers vs. Cops vs. DOT vs. Carriers. I’d ask all the geeks to play as the Trucker faction. That way the proper groups would receive the bloody slaughter that they deserve. Let me explain what brought this blog post to fruition.

I was sitting at a truck stop in Birmingham, Alabama when it all started. I had arrived there on a Saturday night and was still 150 miles away from my delivery location. The load didn’t have to be there until Monday at midnight.

I could have had the load to the receiver by 9 AM on Sunday, but I was planning on delivering it by 9 AM on Monday. Now why would I do that? My trucking readers already know the answer, so let’s get the unwashed masses of non-truckers up to speed.

Truckers can only work 70 hours within an 8 day period. This is called the 70-hour rule. This includes driving, loading or unloading, fueling, inspections, dropping and hooking trailers, etc. Anything that takes up time to do your job goes against the 70 hours. Enter the 34-hour rule.

The 34-hour rule says that if a trucker is down for 34 straight hours (either off-duty, in the sleeper berth, or an uninterrupted combination of the two), they can reset their 70-hour work week. But why is this a good thing? Because after 7 days of driving, we only get back the hours that we ran a week ago. So if I only ran 3 hours last Wednesday, that’s exactly how many hours I would have available to work this Wednesday (providing I max out my hours every day). It’s a bit more complicated than that, but you get the gist of it.

Every trucker and dispatcher knows that the week before Christmas is busier than a Las Vegas pimp. There are lots of dropped loads, relaying with other drivers, and cancelling or switching of loads, all in the name of getting the driver home for Christmas. Seeing as how this all happened the week before Christmas, I wanted to be able to run as hard as possible that week. And that’s why I elected to do my 34-hour restart instead of delivering ASAP.

That’s when my Qualcomm beeped at me (that’s the satellite communication thingy-ma-bop; yes, that’s the technical name). Weekend dispatch had a preplan for me and needed me to call in. After viewing the load on my Qualcomm, I figured up my logs and realized that I couldn’t finish my 34 hours and still deliver my current load and pick up the preplan on time. I’d have to leave at about the 32 hour mark to do it legally.

I called in and asked if I could finish the 34 hours and pick up the preplan 1-2 hours late. Some customers allow late pick ups, but of course, this wasn’t one of them. I was told that the 34-hour restart is a luxury, not something that is required. He was right and I knew it. Still, most dispatchers would work with you. He said I was the only one in the area that could do the load. Yea, I know drivers, we’ve all heard that a million and one times.

I accepted my fate and figured I’d go ahead and deliver ASAP instead of waiting. That way I could deliver, drive to the pick up point, and get in a 10-hour break before my appointment time. Once loaded, I’d have a full 11 hours to run. That was my plan anyway.

After driving 3 hours to deliver the load, I heard another beep. Assuming it was my load information for this all-important, cancer-curing, God-ordained preplan, I eagerly read the message, only to find out the load had cancelled. I mumbled something not print-worthy, took a few deep breaths, and called in again.

I was told that the load had been double-booked. This means that two drivers had somehow managed to be issued the same load. When I expressed my frustration of being pulled off a 34-hour restart to cover the load, all I got was, “Sorry.” Being the completely unselfish guy that I am, I asked why I was pulled off the load instead of the other driver, to which I got the intellectually-stimulating answer of, “I don’t know.” Good answer, Crap-for-brains.

Now to find a parking spot. There was only one tiny little truck stop with no real parking, and it was already jammed with trucks. I pulled out of the lot, hit my flashers, and pulled onto the edge of the road. Keep in mind, this is a side street, not a major corridor. Seeing as how my Qualcomm doesn’t work when the truck is moving, I had to stop to send a message relaying my intention to drive to the next town to look for parking.

I had been there for approximately one minute (no exaggeration) when a car pulled up with its headlights pointing at me. As I hadn’t blocked the driveway, I figured the guy was just being a jerk. I went about typing my message. When he continued to sit there I began to wonder if it was a cop. No lights or any decals were visible, but just in case, I held up my keyboard to show him what I was doing. He continued to sit there.

Just as I was ready to get out to see if it was a cop, he pulled around to the driver’s side, got out of the car and yelled, yes, yelled at me, “You’re parked in the street!” I said, “My keyboard doesn’t work when the truck is moving. I was just sending a quick message and I was just getting ready to leave. I’ve been here less than a minute. My brake isn’t even pulled.” He yelled yet again, “Why didn’t you move when I was sitting there?” I said, “You were pointed straight at me with your headlights on, you’ve got no lights on the hood or on your dash, and no visible decals. How was I supposed to know you were a cop?”

That’s when he got the look. It reminded me of Martin Lawrence as he’s about to go into his, “Is this because I’m a black man?” tirade that is present in everything he does. I don’t mean this to be racist, but that’s exactly what it reminded me of. Again, a yell. “Give me your license!” I was waiting for a “boy” to finish out the sentence, but it didn’t come.

I handed it to him and he got back in his car. He immediately got back out and yelled again, “Get out of the street!” “Where am I supposed to go!” “I don’t care! Just get out of the street!” He followed me as I pulled around to the fuel bay and within 10 minutes he was back at my door with a ticket in hand. Once I figured out I was getting a ticket, I figured, what the heck Todd; give him a piece of your mind.

In a calm voice I said, “You know, I have a lot of appreciation for the job you guys do, but clearly you don’t have any appreciation for what truckers put up with. I’ve got all these guidelines to follow and no one cares as long as I’m following theirs at the moment. My load unexpectedly cancelled and I was looking for a place to park. As you can see, there aren’t any spots here. Since I can’t drive around without telling my company what I’m doing, and I can’t use my satellite unless I’m sitting still, I pulled to the side of the road. Yes, I know I should’ve pulled back into the fuel bay, but I was just going to be there for a minute or two.”

He said, “That’s not my concern and as far as the rest of these truckers, I’m fixin’ to go move them too.” What a set-up he had just provided. I said, “There’s another thing. DOT has regulations too. If you wake those drivers up and make them move, most of them will be violating the DOT rules. But why would you care about that? If they get caught driving illegally, it’s their license and money that’s in jeopardy. But again, that’s not your problem, is it?”

By this time, he was getting quieter, but he managed to say, “That doesn’t change the fact that you were still breaking the law.” I responded, “Yes, I admit that. But you could have just as easily considered that I was only there for a minute and let me off with a warning. But no…”

He handed me my ticket and told me there was a small place to park about a mile up the road. Being the snarky kinda guy that I am, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to say, “Gee. Would’ve been nice if you’d told me that BEFORE giving me a ticket. I would’ve been happy to move. That’s all I was looking for was a place to park.” I confess that I was overjoyed when I managed to kick up a bunch of dust on his car as I left.

So that’s the battle. The Cops, the DOT, and Carriers all have guidelines that Truckers need to follow. Each thinks theirs is the most important. As long as the driver is complying with their rules, the world is a happy land of fluffy bunnies and chocolate streams. And why not? The driver is the only one taking the risk. Things are just as they should be.

To end this on a somewhat happy note, I called the Chief of Police the following morning. I explained that the officer hadn’t identified himself until he pulled around. I then relayed the rest of the story and asked if I was supposed to be able to read the officer’s mind. He chuckled. The chief realized that I had a good point. He apologized for the incident and asked if I would mind paying court costs if he could have the ticket reduced to a non-point violation. Of course, I agreed. Nevermind that the court costs on a $30 ticket are $101.50. Sheez Louise. Are these people cops or robbers?

*Please leave your stories of your battles with inconsiderate Cops, DOT, and Carriers in the comments for all to enjoy. And don’t forget to give a star rating at the top of the post.*

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18 Responses to “Truckers vs. Cops vs. DOT vs. Carriers”

  1. Christy Says:

    It’s a shame that some of the hardasses ruin it for the men and women in uniform that actually have hearts AND brains. Common sense. A rare commodity when it’s wrapped up in a uniform and a gun.
    I think we truckers and cops have a lot in common, actually. Both groups are under a lot of stress. Both groups have to jump through hoops to satisfy their “higher ups”. We share high divorce rates, depression and even suicide. We share lousy diets, and eating while sitting behind the wheel.
    There is way too much expected from the professional driver anymore. We have NO leeway, no breathing room. They want
    perfection but after dividing our take home pay by the hours we worked,
    we’re lucky to average $10.00 an hour. I think they should just mandate the military to take over the trucking industry. They can be perfect little sheeple, because they are used to doing what they are told.
    Your dispatch is a real a**hole to have put you in the position that they did. But still, it all falls down on us to make the final choice, and say “NO”! It all falls down on us. Whatever it is, WE are always in the wrong.
    They don’t call this “The Last American Sweatshop” for nothing.
    What I’d like to know is, when is enough, enough? When are the professional drivers, the truckers, going to start taking action and start
    emailing their State lawmakers, or flooding the local newspapers with the true horror stories of what is going on in this industry?
    Trust me when I tell you this, it will get worse before it (if ever) gets better.

    And here I sit, for over 7 hours, and I will run out of time in their docks. Unpaid to sit here. Guess I’ll take a nap and dream of a good meal and a hot shower, since I won’t be getting either one of those any time in the near future.

    • Todd McCann Says:

      Excellent points, Christy. While it’s true that cops and truckers have a lot in common, there is one big difference. Cops have authority over truckers. That’s a biggie. I also believe that we are a lot more considerate of them than they are of us. I’m not saying that they are completely uncaring. I know they aren’t. Cops have every right to tell us not to idle our trucks in non-idling jurisdictions, but most of them don’t bother. Many cops will leave you alone if you’re parked right beside a “No Parking” sign on the exit ramp of a rest area. Most won’t even look twice at you if you’re driving 5 miles over the speed limit.

      I probably came off a bit harsh on the cops. Still, when they want something done it’s exactly as I stated. They don’t care about your company rules or that you’re defying the DOT laws. As long as you do what THEY say, all is well.

      As for drivers saying “no,” you are exactly right… for the most part. If my company ever asked me to run illegal (which they don’t), I’d tell them no. But I dare you to try that with an officer who is telling you to move in the middle of your sleep. You’re going to have to run illegal to find another parking spot, and there isn’t squat that any driver can do about that. Even if someone were to defy the cop by saying that they couldn’t move because of the DOT rules, the driver would still end up losing. If a cop is asking you to move, it’s for a reason. So off the driver goes, in risk of being caught for driving without hours.

      I love what you said about getting involved with the media and politicians. I’ve got to be honest. I’ve always been one to gripe about stuff and not do anything about it. I think most people are that way. Lately though, I’m beginning to see the error of my ways. I mean, look at it. I write a letter to my safety director and next thing you know, I’m getting scheduled for an appointment to discuss things with some company bigwigs. Not long after, I call a Chief of Police to discuss the way an officer handled a situation. Next thing you know, I’m looking at a non-point violation instead of the CSA-bruising kind of ticket. Perhaps “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” is a popular saying for a reason.

  2. Tracy Lynn Says:

    Another excellent post Todd. You have a valid point. I have seen it in action myself. The cops, DOT, FMCSA, they all have their own agendas. They do know about the rules and regulations from each other but they turn it into a p!ss!ng game to see who is higher on the ladder that day.

    Cops think DOT are peons & DOT thinks everybody is a peon. I took enough BS on the phone from DOT so I actually drove to Lansing to speak to his highness face to face. Of course he left me sitting for 5 hours before he would see me but that was to my benefit, I had plenty of time to think of all the stupid stuff DOT does so I was able to make a long list. I can’t say that I got a lot accomplished other than, after showing him my tape recorder, he stopped calling me lil missy.

    I miss the road. I do not miss the idiotic agencies that are allowed to treat people like morons.

    Kudos to you!

    TracyLynn

    • Todd McCann Says:

      Thanks for the back up, Tracy Lynn. As I agreed with Christy earlier, you do things the right way. You find an injustice and you act on it. DOT are boneheads? You go for a visit. Smucker’s treats some truckers like dispensible people? You call them out. The world would be a better place if we all took a bigger part. I’m going to try to start doing just that.

      Thanks for your comment… Lil Missy. 😉

  3. Jason Says:

    Great post as always, Todd! At least you got the fine reduced! Be safe.

    • Todd McCann Says:

      Thanks Jason. True. The points are the killer for a trucker. Still, $101.50 court costs on a $30 fine? Someone help me up. My wrists seem to be attached to my ankles.

  4. helmetorheels Says:

    Wow. I had no idea about all the things truckers go through.

    Seriously, get a writing job or write a book! Get out of trucking!

  5. Lisa Nowak Says:

    I hope that cop gets a stale doughnut in his stocking this year.

    Merry Christmas!

    • Todd McCann Says:

      Excellent! I’ll put in a call to Santa. LOL.

    • Kat Says:

      only one stale doughnut… dammmmmm i would give him a dozen lol

      as for the price of the court… hollllllly *@&$*@($ sheeeeeesssssh yeah daylight robbery… from the very people who are supposed to stop robberys!!!! *rolls eyes*

      thanks for your blogs… have found them entertaining, and delightful to read… and agree with ya… truckers have enough to worry about without adding in a sarcastic, grumpy,know-it-all, peacock+badge wearing cop, who wouln’t know the frustrations that truckies face each day if they all jumped up at once and bit him on the ass!

      I think all cops and politicians/dot/etc.. should be made to drive a rig for at least a month… before they are allowed into service at being a cop/dot, etc… thatway there at least they have walked a mile in our shoes and hopefully realize how funkedup some rules and regulations are.

      keep safe n keep on trucking. 🙂

      • Todd McCann Says:

        Thanks again for another entertaining comment. I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog. I’m certainly getting a kick out of your comments. You’re a spirited one, aren’t you? LOL

        I love the idea of everyone having to take a ride in a truck in rush hour traffic before they can be issued a driver’s license. If you think of a good way to accomplish this massive undertaking, be sure to let me know. Perhaps at gunpoint?

        I respect the job that the cops have to do, but clearly some of them don’t have a clue what they’re doing when it comes to trucks. I once had an officer look right at my log which was off by a couple of hours. A blind man could’ve seen it. He didn’t. So either he was blind, or he was in a really generous mood. I’m guessing the former.

  6. Cheryl Says:

    Holy buckets! I agree with Pam, you should write a book. I’ll edit. 🙂 Merry Christmas!

  7. Amanda Says:

    Thanks for this good explanation of the 34-hour rule. I had seen mentions of it on Twitter but didn’t fully know what it meant.

    I appreciate this glimpse into the rules and regulations you guys put up with. When I’m driving through Wisconsin, I do the least I can do, which is to give you guys lots of room and not be a jerk-ass. I plan on being a cop in the future, so I will be sure to consider truckers’ battles as I interact with them.

    Thanks to you and your fellow truckers for keeping the shelves full of the stuff I like to buy. Our big snowstorm several days ago kept the trucks from getting through, and shelves went empty. Of course, I’m sure not everyone made that correlation. :/

    • Todd McCann Says:

      Thanks for saying so, Amanda. We truckers love it when people don’t think their shelves are stocked through teleportation.

      Also glad to hear that you’re going to become a cop. We need more of them with common sense and consideration. I will admit that many of them are pretty cool. Most cops would have given me a chance to leave.

      Lots of cops also look the other way when we park illegally, drive 5 mph over the speed limit, have one tiny clearance light out, or most importantly, ignore the fact that we are idling our trucks in a non-idling jurisdiction. To those officers, we truckers truly thank you.

  8. fltruckerwife Says:

    You did the right thing by calling the Chief. Glad you were able to get a non-point violation as well.

    Just be careful next time you are around there. If that officer gets wind that you called and had the ticket changed, he may stalk you. I speak from experience. 🙂

    • Todd McCann Says:

      Thanks for the warning, Casey. I know I’ll be looking out for him. Once you get a ticket somewhere, you always remember where it happened and are overly cautious when you revisit the place.

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