Posts Tagged ‘cops’

Truckers vs. Cops vs. DOT vs. Carriers

December 21, 2010

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.*

A Miracle in Indiana

April 27, 2009

Photo by miguelb via Flickr

I’m a believer in God and I believe in miracles. They’re around us everyday. According to the laws of physics, a bumblebee’s wings are too small to lift it off the ground; yet they do the job well enough to make me run and scream like a little girl. People are miraculously saved from impending accidents by pets. A mother somehow knows that her daughter is in trouble, even though she’s 2000 miles away at the time. A hospital patient comes out of a coma after 15 years. Yes, miracles are real, but they just don’t happen to me very often. Until yesterday.

I had gone into a customer to see if I could pick up a load early, but they were having none of that. The shipping lady told me to come back at 5 p.m. Since I wasn’t allowed to park on their property, she suggested a truck stop 2.5 miles down the road. I had seen it on the way in, so I went there to wait it out.

Bejeweled occupied my time quite nicely. . . actually too nicely. After playing a while, I glanced at the clock, which showed it to be 3:30. Plenty of time. As anyone who plays video games can tell you, time freakin’ flies when you’re having fun. The next time I looked up, it was 4:59. Holy cow! I slapped my MacBook Pro shut and pulled out of the truck stop. I wasn’t going to be late as I knew I had until 7 p.m. to pick up the load, so I wasn’t in a huge hurry. But I wasn’t paying attention either.

That’s when I saw it in the distance. A black car with something on top. I hoped it was a luggage rack, but I didn’t hold out much hope. It wasn’t. One glance at my speedometer told me I was going somewhere between 55 and 60 mph. Problem was, I had no idea what the speed limit was. The road I was on ran alongside an Interstate, but that told me nothing. It could have been 35 mph or it could have been 55 or 60 mph.

As the Indiana State Trooper went past me, I thought I had gotten lucky. Not so. As soon as he got past, he whipped a U-turn and got behind me. I knew he was going to pull me over, but still he didn’t do anything. I could see the shipper in the distance and was praying that I could turn off and he wouldn’t bother with me. Again, no such luck. He flipped on the cherries.

As there was no shoulder and no side roads to pull over, I turned on my hazard flashers and slowly proceeded to the next turn off, which was right beside the shipper. The cop seemed to realize that I couldn’t pull over, so he waited patiently until I did. I grabbed my license and truck registration and stepped out of the cab. Now I’ve had cops get all pissy and paranoid on me for stepping out before, but this officer didn’t seem to have a problem with it. As he drew closer, I was surprised by how young he was. He couldn’t have been a day over 25. I told him that I stepped out because the wife was sleeping and I didn’t want to wake her up. He understood and asked if I realized I was speeding. I said, “I realized it about the time I saw you.”

As he eyed my license and registration, I pointed at the shipper and explained that I had already been here once and that I had been waiting at the truck stop until my load was ready at 5 p.m. As that had nothing to do with me speeding, I don’t know why I even mentioned it. Nervous babble I suppose. He made no comment. Then he asked to look at my log book.

I had been expecting that, but I’ve learned that you never offer your log book unless an officer asks for it. Even if you’re pulled into a weigh station and you’re told to bring your paperwork in for inspection, you never take your log book. If it’s right in front of an officer’s face, they’re liable to look at it. If not, he/she may not bother. Out of sight, out of mind. For the most part, it works. The reason truckers do this is because a simple miscalculation or slip of the pen could end up costing you hundreds of dollars.

Anyway, I jumped back in the cab and handed it out to him, grateful that I had remembered to update it before I started playing Bejeweled. That in itself is a miracle, since I normally would have waited until after I was loaded before I caught the log book up. He asked, “When was the last time you got a ticket?” I knew it had been a while so I said, “Probably three years ago.” He said, “I’ll be back.” I wonder how he said that phrase without saying it like Arnold? I just can’t do it. “Aallll be bock.”

As I waited in the cab, I hoped for the best. I kept glancing in my side mirror and hoping he would get out quickly and come back with a warning. But he stayed put. When I finally saw his door open, I didn’t know whether he had had time to write a ticket or not. I anticipated the worst.

As he handed my license, registration, and log book back to me he said, “Have you learned your lesson?” I think the shock on my face amused him as I could tell he was suppressing a smile. I said, “Yes sir, I have,” feeling a little awkward calling a guy nearly half my age “sir.” He said that 99% of troopers would have issued me a ticket and that I should feel fortunate. I assured him that I was very grateful.

I asked him if he minded telling me how fast I was going, to which he replied, “56 in a 40 mph zone.” I said, “Ouch” before I could stop myself. He said, “Yeah, it’s a $170 fine.” I cringed and thanked him again for the warning. I told him that he had kept me out of a lot of hot water with my company and my driving record. He seemed to know this and told me to remember him anytime I saw a speed limit sign. Ironic, since me not seeing the speed limit sign was why I was in this position in the first place.

So there’s my miracle. When you’re a truck driver, getting out of any ticket is rare. Fines in trucks are steeper than the fines you get in automobiles and they’re a great source of revenue for state economies. But getting out of the kind of ticket I escaped is almost unheard of.

Sixteen miles an hour over the speed limit is considered a major violation and that is exactly why I was stopped. When it comes to trucking companies and State Motor Vehicle Departments, this kind of ticket is right up there with reckless driving, driving while intoxicated, and leaving the scene of an accident. That’s serious stuff, and so was the ticket I miraculously avoided. Sure, it’s not quite as miraculous as childbirth or surviving a worldwide flood in a wooden boat filled with pairs of animals. But hey, I’ll take any kind of miracle I can get.

Now if I could just quit seeing that trooper’s face every time I see a stinkin’ speed limit sign. Enough with the guilt already. Hammer down!!


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