Posts Tagged ‘down time’

Understanding the New Hours-of-Service (HOS) Rules

June 17, 2013

Confused over the Hours-of-Service rules

Photo by jonny goldstein via Flickr

Unless you’ve just beamed in from another planet (or you’re a non-trucker), you’re probably aware of the new Hours-of-Service rules that are looming. But do you understand them fully? From some of the feedback I’ve been getting on Twitter and the blog, I’d say there’s still some confusion out there. The Bible flat-out says that all Christians will be persecuted. Well, I’m pretty sure some Bible-thumper at my company has been Skyping with God on my behalf. You see, my company recently decided that I would be one of the lucky ones who got put on the new Hours-of-Service rules a few weeks early. You know, just to try it out. *sigh* Well, I guess this kind of persecution is better than being around when Nero was kabob-ing Christians to light his garden parties. So thanks for that, God. (Read or listen to the full article)

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Honor Among Truckers

May 6, 2013

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. (cont.)

Guess what? If you’re reading this right now, you’re getting another one of my blog posts late. I will once again remind you that I won’t continue to post these reminders here forever. I am trying to give everyone a chance to get over to AboutTruckDriving.com and resubscribe over at my new site. That link will take you to the subscribe page. If you want to be notified via email, just type your email address into the subscribe box on that page. Dang. Now I know what my teacher felt like when she was scolding me for putting gum under my desk. 😀

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Guest post: You Can’t See America from the Trucker’s Lounge. By Kevin McKague

November 26, 2012

Where there’s a will, there’s a way
Photo by Kevin McKague

Hey there, folks. Todd here piping in with a few words before we get started with today’s guest post. As many of you already know, I use my blog as a venue to share my thoughts about things related to trucking. I save the deep, insightful, well-researched articles for those other Web sites. But every once in a while, I want to cover a subject that I know precisely diddly-squat about. This is one of those times.

After following the adventures of Kevin McKague on his Twitter account, I approached him for the job of covering for my ignorance of exploring as a trucker. He rose to the challenge. Not only did he turn out a heck of a blog post, but he’s also one of those nice guys on Twitter who can make you laugh, even if you totally disagree with the subject of the tweet. That’s a rare thing, so if you all aren’t following @KevinofMI on Twitter, you should start cutting yourself in shame right now. Or you could just click the link and avoid the inevitable pain. I hear blood stains are a bear to get out of clothing.

Since I’m a lazy bum who rarely goes exploring, I doubt I’ll be back after his post with any of my own thoughts. After reading this post, I will say that I felt more of a desire to see what I’ve been missing all these years. I’m not sure if I’ll follow up with any action, but hey, at least it tempted me. Maybe one day I’ll go out on a limb and try something I’ve heard about in the past. I think they call it “taking a walk” or something like that. I trust that y’all will enjoy this guest post as much as I did. So with that, I’ll shut my turkey-hole. Take it away, Kevin.

You Can’t See America from the Trucker’s Lounge. By Kevin McKague

I became a truck driver in my mid-thirties, after years of hating my career in retail management. I wanted a job that offered more security, that could withstand the ups and downs of economic tides, and that couldn’t be outsourced. Most of all, I wanted more adventure. I had always loved to travel, but I didn’t enjoy the kind of travel arranged by travel agents and tour guides. I love spontaneity, and the serendipitous moments of finding things you didn’t know existed. I love getting on a highway and literally taking the road you’ve never taken, just to see where it went.

I often run into drivers who believe that it is impossible to really enjoy a spontaneous travel experience while behind the wheel of an 18-wheeler. While it’s true that many places are off limits to us, (you won’t find truck parking or any truck routes to the Grand Canyon or the Statue of Liberty) you can find plenty of adventure if you are willing to walk a few blocks from the truck stop Subway shop. These opportunities are not hard to find, if you want to find them. In the days before smart phones, I would simply consult my Rand-McNally truck atlas, and start walking towards the closest interesting looking town or neighborhood whenever I was stuck in a truck stop for 34 hours. Today, there are apps for that! By the way, the Google Maps mobile apps include a lot of trails, and the “directions for bikers/pedestrians button” can point you towards them. Or if you don’t have a mobile device, AllTrails.com is an excellent way to find places to explore.

Western Maryland Rail Trail
Photo by Kevin McKague

One of my favorite stops along my current dedicated run is the Western Maryland Rail Trail in Hancock, Maryland; just off of exit 3 on I-70. Park at the Liberty Truck Stop, and walk across the street to the C+0 park entrance. You can also access the trail at exit 12. Look for the brown traffic signs by the side of the freeway stating “Rail-Trail access”. There you will find over 20 beautiful miles of paved trails built on a former rail line that travels along the Potomac River. I carry an inexpensive bike in the passenger seat of my truck for such a location (see the picture at the top of the post). The trail has plenty of wild life, in fact, twice while riding I’ve been joined by deer that have come right up to me when I wasn’t looking. One fawn ran alongside me for a few yards and then sped off into the woods as soon as I looked directly at him.

Casinos offer another opportunity for side trips. Even if you don’t like gambling, many casinos offer truck parking and shuttle buses. The drivers of these busses, by the way, don’t know or care if you don’t actually stay in the casino. Once during an extended layover in Moline, Illinois, I took advantage of a shuttle offered by the Rhythm City Casino in Davenport, Iowa, just across the Mississippi River. There I found walking and biking trails that followed the river, and crossed over in two spots allowing you to shop and eat in two states. The Davenport casino is also within walking distance of Modern Woodmen Park, the home of Minor League Baseball’s Quad Cities River Bandits, an affiliate of the Houston Astros.

The Ameristar Casino in St. Charles, Missouri offers truck parking, and while walking nearby I noticed that the parking lot is right next to the Katy Trail, another rail-trail that runs across nearly the entire width of Missouri. To the south of the casino is a nice wooded area with smaller dirt pedestrian trails that remind me of something Huck Finn would’ve found comfortable. Just to the north about a block is the historic city of St. Charles, with some good food and interesting architecture. Next to the Missouri River in town is a sign marking the location of an early campsite of the Lewis and Clark expedition. I don’t normally gamble, but the casino offers free fountain drinks inside (DIET COKE? Yes, please), and a cool Dean Martin themed slot machine that plays “Ain’t that a kick in the head” when you win.

In 2011, just a few days after we killed Bin Laden, I visited the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The official memorial site had not been built yet, but was completed in time for the 10 year anniversary of 9/11, and I’ve been told that trucks are still allowed in on weekdays. As always, I would recommend that you call first to make sure this policy hasn’t changed before making the trip in. The roads to the site from the Pennsylvania Turnpike are legal for trucks, but depending on which way you come in, some are very hilly and challenging for those with heavy loads. If you’re comfortable with dropping your trailer, there is a truck stop with a big lot in Somerset, at exit 110, (look for the National Memorial signs off of the turnpike) so you can bobtail in. Somerset also has plenty of good restaurants and some nice architecture. I recommend the Summit Diner, on 791 North Center Avenue, just a short walk away from the truck stop. If you feel comfortable approaching the subject with strangers, most of the people in Somerset and the surrounding areas have stories about what they saw the day when the world almost literally fell on them; 9/11.

Don’t forget to consider using mass transit when you can. Los Angeles offers a $5 pass which allows you to travel any city bus or subway (yes, LA has subways, who knew?) for the entire day. Early in my driving career, while stuck near Commerce City, a simple call to the LA Metro office got me all of the info I needed to get a map and make my way down to Long Beach. There I found plenty of nice restaurants, shopping, and beautiful boats to look at down by the docks. The beach there is sandy and clean, and it’s a good spot to have a picnic lunch while watching boats and tourists. From Long Beach I went up to Hollywood to look at the Walk of Fame. Like the casinos, Hollywood was never on any of my lists of things to do or places to visit, but once I got there I had a blast.

Now that the T/A Travel Center in Nashville, Tennessee has been re-built after that devastating flood in 2010, you can park there, walk across the pedestrian bridge, and visit one of the nicest, most entertaining cities in America. Even if you’re like me and don’t like Country music, it’s quite a different thing to see an up-and-coming artist live. By all means, just walk into the first bar that has live music drifting out of the door. Many of these shows are free. (Stick to the Diet Coke, you have to drive in the morning.) The library has a nice art display and will allow non-residents to use their computers and Internet. The State Capitol allowed me to roam freely when I was there. I wandered onto the House floor and into the Supreme Court Library. Ask the guard about the marble staircase handrail with the bullet hole. I won’t ruin the story for you, but let’s just say there is more than one way to stop a filibuster.

The key here is to expect the unexpected, and look for adventure each and every time an opportunity presents itself. Use your smart phone apps, and maybe keep an extra fully charged battery with you in case you get lost. The older I get, the more I have come to understand that the sayings that sounded like silly clichés when we were young are true. You truly only live once. While you’re sitting in a truck stop listening to drivers complain about the same things you heard drivers complain about in the last truck stop, eating yet another Subway sandwich and watching another repeat of Law and Order, you could be discovering something.

By the way, what is it with Law and Order? Is there a 24/7 Law and Order channel? Does the Department of Transportation actually require that Law and Order play non-stop in every single truck stop in America? But I digress.

This is a beautiful country we live in, my friends, it would be a shame to only see it from the freeways.

Kevin McKague is a father of three and a truck driver, and is probably somewhere between Flint, Michigan and Baltimore, Maryland at this very moment. He is a recovering elected official, having briefly served on the Davison, Michigan, city council. He is a media junkie, a social-media addict, avid reader, traveler, and optimist. He does not want to buy anything from you. He can be found online at Twitter.com/KevinofMI, at Flickr (http://flic.kr/ps/wg49J), and his Instagram ID is Kevin_McKague.

Guest Post: Five Tips for Sleeping Near a Busy Road. By Sam Fisher

October 15, 2012

Photo by landlessness via Flickr

Hey folks. It’s been a little over a month since the last blog post, so I figured, “Yeah, I guess I should put something up. Gotta stop the crybabies from whining, you know.” Yes, I’m referring to me, Todd. You know, I’ve really been feeling the itch to get some new blog posts out, but I’m still busy getting the new Web site finished. Although I suppose that itch could just be dandruff.

Anyway, I’m going to put myself out there by saying that I’m shooting for a late November/early December time frame. I’ve just gotta say that after I’ve busted my hump on this, if you people don’t mob the site like a pack of cavemen on a Zippo salesman, I’m going to officially disown all of you. I might even make my protest last a whole day if you don’t watch yourselves.

So anywho, I’ve got another guest blog post for you today. This one is written by a British fella named Sam Fisher. Now I’m pretty sure this isn’t the same guy that’s in all the Splinter Cell video games, but just in case, no one piss him off. This guy could sneak up on you easier than a pair of too-small panties and make your life just as uncomfortable. And for the record, I plead the fifth on that analogy.

Seriously, the real Sam Fisher seems like a very nice guy. He discovered the blog and wrote me a nice email asking if I accepted guest blog posts. It just so happens, I was looking for one. He suggested he could write one called, “ways to fall asleep near busty roads.” I mean, how could I refuse that? LOL He was a good sport when I pointed out the spelling goof and we had a laugh about the trouble I get into when my auto-correct changes a sentence that is supposed to read, “I had trouble backing into the dock.” 😀 So now we get to the main course; spelled correctly and everything. And of course, I’ll be back afterward to blab some more.

Five Tips for Sleeping Near a Busy Road. By Sam Fisher

For many, a quiet night’s sleep in familiar surroundings is the norm; however for a trucker the complete opposite is true. Many nights will have you pulling up at the side of a busy road with the roar of traffic and the honks of horns to contend with. However, fear not sleepy heads. Here are five sure tips to let you drop off into a deep, natural sleep and help you wake up feeling refreshed and ready to drive.

1. Sleep Cycles

A little known fact is that as you sleep you drift through various sleep cycles. Waking up in the middle of a sleep cycle can leave you feeling tired and like you still need a few more hours sleep. In some cases, waking up half-an-hour earlier can actually be better than sleeping a bit longer. It is best to try and sleep for 9, 7.5 or 6 hours, as that will mean you will usually wake up in between sleep cycles. It normally takes around fifteen minutes for the average adult to fall asleep, so plan accordingly.

2. White Noise

The mysterious late night sounds of the road can wake even the most tired of drivers from a heavy slumber. Interrupted sleep can stop rest and often leave you struggling to try and drift back off. One great technique for combating unexpected noise is a technique called white noise. White noise is usually something such as classical music that after listening to it for a while your mind blocks out. This can then dull your sense of hearing when played at night while sleeping. This can work with all types of music but just make sure it’s nothing that will get you excited and have an adverse effect on sleeping.

3. Avoid Sugar and Caffeine

It might seem an obvious suggestion but many people forget and end up staring at their truck’s roof with their mind buzzing and sleep far out of reach. Try to avoid drinking coffee, energy drinks or other things with lots of caffeine or sugar for at least four hours before you plan on falling asleep. Stimulants are not only bad for your sleep, but for your health in general; so try to get some proper sleep and eat better, more natural foods that have long-lasting energy release. In doing so, you may be able to reduce the habit and leave you feeling much better in the long run.

4. Make Yourself Comfortable

I know it’s easier said than done, especially while you’re in the confines of your truck, but getting comfy is a must if you have trouble sleeping. Mattress toppers and the right pillows are a great way to improve your comfort within the limited space you have to work with. Pillows come in all shapes and types from firm to soft, including some special ones such a memory foam and orthopaedic. Try some out and see which works best for you.

5. A Good Book

I know reading isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but with the massive variety of literature, there is bound to be a book or magazine for you. Reading helps you sleep in several ways. Firstly, it helps remove from your mind the worries and stress of the day which usually jump on you as you try and sleep. Reading also helps calm the mind and gets your brain in the right mode for sleep. Not only does a good book help with your sleep but it can get you through boring patches while you’re waiting around for your truck to be loaded or when you’re in the middle of nowhere and have some time to kill.

Good luck and I hope this helps you get a better night’s sleep on the road.

This is a guest post by Sam Fisher on behalf of Teletrac a company specialising in fleet tracking technology.

Well Sam, I’m sure it will. Thanks for the fine article. Now you people know me. I can’t let a post go by without adding my 2 cents. First up is about white noise. I know Sam’s right about this one. I keep a small, 12-volt fan running while I’m sleeping. The steady drone really helps me zonk out. When it’s super cold outside and I can’t run the fan, I usually don’t sleep as well. That’s when I pray for a reefer by my head. That would be a refrigerated trailer, not the other kind of reefer (although I bet that would knock me out too). 😀 However, reefers can be a mixed blessing if the thing keeps starting and stopping all night. You drivers know what I mean. Those hard starts can sometimes scare you into squirting!

My first experience using music as white noise was back when The Evil Overlord and I were just dating. She was telling me how awesome The Cure was, but me being a metalhead, I was having none of that. Then the guitar player in our band got into The Cure and suddenly it was okay. The Evil Overlord still gets pissed about that. And by the way, the same thing happened with The Cult. Anywho, she eventually got me listening to The Cure’s “Disintegration” album when I went to bed. It even says in the liner notes that it was mixed to give two different experiences, depending on whether you played it loud or soft. It’s true. It’s powerful when it’s loud, but it makes me sleep like a drunk, 18-year-old cat when the volume is low. It’s weird how that works.

Next up is making yourself comfortable. Boy, do I know about this one. When The Evil Overlord was on the road with me, I always accused her of bringing too much crap. Much of that was bedding. I’m telling you folks, we had a lot of bedding. She usually brought 3-4 sets of sheets and blankets, 3 or 4 mattress pads, 5 or 6 pillows, 2 body pillows (if you team drivers don’t have one yet, go out and buy one (or two) — you can kiss my feet later), and a couple of sheets of that egg crate-looking padding. And this was for only 3 weeks on the road.

Luckily, this padding stayed in the truck. As for the rest of it, she changed the sheets once per week and using the pillows, packed herself into bed like a vase being shipped from Nicaragua via Jeep. I’m pretty sure if anyone made little fluffy packing peanuts, we’d have bought them too. But you know what? All of that made sleeping a joy. Well, as much of a joy as it could be when you’re bouncing down the road.

Now that the wicked one is out of the truck and back with the normal humans, I’ve stuck with the plan… well, to some extent anyway. I don’t use the egg crate stuff because I don’t need the extra cushion as a solo driver. But I’ve stuck with the sheets, extra pillows and mattress pads. I’ve got three pillows, one soft, one firm, and one body. I normally use the soft one, but the firm one comes in handy when you’re in one of those parking spots where it feels like you’re trying to sleep while standing on your head. And of course, it’s always nice having extra pillows when you’re leaning up against the wall in your bunk.

Now I can hear some of you masculine guys out there saying, “All a man needs is a sleeping bag.” I’ve got a correction there. “All a macho man needs is a sleeping bag.” Seriously, get over yourself and buy some freakin’ sheets! You sleep in your bunk more than you do your bed at home! Make it comfortable! I keep two sets of sheets with me now. I rarely change them in my 3 weeks out (I am a man, after all —  and I always smell fresh — really), but it’s nice to have a backup for when you spill milk all over them. Been there, done that. And a final word on sheets: cotton-blend in the summer, flannel in the winter. Spend the money on flannel and I might let you kiss my hand when you’re done with my feet.

And lastly, The Evil Overlord will vouch for reading before you go to bed because the Sandman typically taunts her at night. Personally, I don’t need a book to fall asleep. Unless I’ve got something stressing me out, I’m usually dreaming about swimming pools full of banana split ice cream in less than five minutes. And that’s a good thing, because when The Evil Overlord gets pissed at me for falling asleep so quickly, it’s always nice to be snoring again not long after she purposely nudges me, slaps me on the chest, makes a loud noise, or drops something on my head. You people never believe me, but I’m telling you folks; she’s evil personified.

*Let’s hear from you drivers out there. Give us some tips that help you sleep when you’re in the truck. And do it now. You heard me. No back-talk.*

A Trucker Visits Carhenge

March 5, 2012

As a trucker for nearly 15 years, I’ve traveled all across the United States and parts of Canada. Along the way I’ve had the opportunity to explore many things. Yet, for the most part, I haven’t. Why not? Well, it basically comes down to one thing: I can be a lazy tightwad when I put my mind to it.

You see, I drive a truck to earn a living, not to have fun. Every time I’ve tried to go exploring, it ended up costing me a fortune. Like that time The Evil Overlord (the wife and ex-codriver) and I went into Portland, Oregon when our company couldn’t find us a load. The cab fare to and from downtown was almost $40. The meal we had at Jake’s Famous Crawfish was unbelievably awesome, but it set us back over $100. By the way, The Evil Overlord and I both highly recommend the Halibut stuffed with Brie.

Another time, we were stuck in Salt Lake City for five days due to the combination of a broken air conditioner, a holiday weekend, and a bonehead who ordered a wrong part. Long story there. There’s another venue for that. Again, The Evil Overlord wanted to go sight-seeing. Another expensive meal or two (not so great this time), a car rental, and a trip to the zoo, aquarium, and lots of other places I have no recollection of, and we spent nearly as much as we would have made if we’d have been driving all week. Had The Evil Overlord not been there, I’d have ordered a couple of pizzas and glued the remote control to my hand. That’s just how I roll.

Again, my point is that I spend 2-4 weeks on the road to make money, not spend it. And that’s what I choose to do. If you choose otherwise, you could see a lot of cool junk as a truck driver. You’ve just got to be motivated enough to do it and be willing to spend the dough. Your call.

Now having said all that, sometimes an opportunity just presents itself. That’s what happened when I found myself out in the middle of freakin’ nowhere in Nebraska. As if Nebraska itself isn’t in the middle of freakin’ nowhere. Anyway, I saw the signs for Carhenge long before I got there. Somewhere in the back of my amoeba-sized brain, I recalled the name and remembered reading about it somewhere. So what to do? Should I stop or not? For a change of pace, I had plenty of time on the load. Hmmmm. . .

Ultimately, I decided that I wasn’t going to go out of my way to see it. Yea, I know; surprise, surprise. If it wasn’t within viewing distance of the road, or it was, but the parking looked tight, I’d drive right on by. In other words, if I had to put any effort whatsoever into this little endeavor, I was going to pass. As fate would have it, the parking lot was empty and it was right on the main thoroughfare.

I ended up being there for 45 minutes. Not because the place was so interesting, but because I thought I’d finally reach into the depths of my soul and explore my artsy-fartsy side. This is something that @darkstaff, @alanqbristol, and @DriverChrisMc have been trying to get me to do for a long time. I don’t really have an eye for that sort of thing, but I figured I’d give it a shot. Here’s what I came up with.

The video was shot with a Flip Mino HD and all the pictures were taken with my iPhone 3GS (the one with the older, crappier camera). The pictures were all taken and edited using the Camera+ app, which totally rocks, by the way.

The music is a song called “Segue Jazz” from the band Walking On Einstein. You can find it on the “Commoners Among The Masses” album. They are from the Joplin, MO area and I went to high school with the drummer and bass player. Although the band is no longer playing, I love ’em and still listen to their stuff all the time. Let me know what you think.

Are All These Changes Good for the Trucking Industry?

January 26, 2012

Photo by johanohrling via Flickr

The new Hours-of-Service rules, texting and cell phone laws, the CSA, and my personal nemesis and eternal torturer of my soul, Electronic Logbooks, all claim to make the trucking industry safer. But do they? Let’s take a look at that. We’ll discuss the issues first, then sum it all up at the end. May as well tackle these puppies in order. And yes, tackling puppies is perfectly okay if they’re barking for no reason.

So about these new Hours-of-Service rules. Well, truck accidents are at a 60-year low, so naturally, it’s time to change the rules. Oh boy. Where to start? I guess we really only need to focus on a few of the rules that will affect the majority of drivers. For a complete list of the Hours-of-Service changes, click here.

The 11-hour rule: Well, for once we lucked out. The powers who know whats best for us had wanted to reduce our daily driving sessions to 10 hours. They lost. For now. Don’t expect this to go away though. They’ve already said they’re going after it again. Yay.

The current 34-hour restart rule: The old rule said that if you took an uninterrupted 34-hour break, you got to reset your 70-hour work week. Why was this rule important to drivers? Because if you reset your 70 hours, you could squeeze in 82 hours of working within that week. Thanks to @TameraGeorge1 for pointing me to an article on this.

The new 34-hour restart rule: Used to be, you could take your 34-hour break any time you wanted. Now it has to include two periods between 1:00 AM – 5:00 AM, home terminal time. Granted, they wanted the hours to be from 1:00 AM – 6:00 AM, but they relented. Bless their hearts. But why did they want specific times at all? Well, the divine rulers of all things sacred and righteous said that they wanted us to be sure to get two periods of “overnight” rest. How thoughtful of them. In reality though, these people know trucking about as well as I know the commodity market. They’re pretty sure that we need to sleep sometime and I’m pretty sure that you can sell a pig. That’s about the extend of our knowledge. The difference is, I’m not trying to tell them how to run the commodities game.

So what’s the problem with the new rule? Let me sum it up for you. The new 34-hour rule is as worthless as a drunk Harley rider in a motocross race. Why? Because we truckers don’t sleep when normal folks sleep. Sure, 1:00 AM to 5:00 AM might be prime sleeping time on one day, but two days later it’s the middle of your driving shift. They just can’t comprehend that not everyone has a 9 to 5 day job and not everyone sleeps at night. The concept truly is beyond them.

Now let’s be honest here. The current 34-hour rule is hard enough to do as is. The trucking industry simply moves to quick. The last thing anyone wants is to leave a driver sitting for 34 hours. I can’t count how many times I’ve gotten 30-32 hours into a 34-hour break, only to have to cut it short to pick up a load by a certain time. In other words, freight has to be really freakin’ slow to sit still for 34 hours. Kinda like right now. I’m writing this in the midst of what is looking to be a 42 hour shutdown. Still, that doesn’t happen all that often. Especially this marathon sit-a-thon I’m tolerating today.

So now we’ve got a time restriction on top of all that. It’s not all that often that I get shut down for 34 hours. But now it has to be 34 hours starting and ending at a particular time. I’m sorry, but I really don’t see the shippers staying in touch with my dispatcher to find out if their shipping schedule works with my 34-hour restart.

You can only do one 34-restart per week: This one is pretty self-explanatory. Although it really doesn’t matter, since we’ll be hard pressed to get even one restart per week. If you have enough time to get a second restart within a week, you’ve got bigger problems than it not being legal.

The 8-hour break rule: Basically, you can’t drive more than 8 hours without taking a break of at least 30 minutes. Personally, I can’t wait until I have to refuse a load because the delivery is 9 hours away and a 30-minute break would make me late. Honestly though, for the vast majority of drivers this will have little effect, as most stop at some point in their day to eat. It probably will affect me as I typically eat my mid-shift meal on the run. I’m sure I’m not the only one. Speaking of distracted driving. . .

Distracted driving laws: No texting for truckers. No cell phones for truckers. What’s next? No iPods for truckers? No CD players for truckers? No GPS for truckers? No CB’s for truckers? Okay. I admit. I’d be all right with that last one. But hey, why not get rid of the  gauges on my dashboard? I do look down at them ever now and then. Better get rid of all the billboards too. And while you’re at it, Corvettes are no longer allowed on the roadway. And that beautiful river? Better dam it up. I can’t be caught looking away from the road. And of course, my e-log unit needs to go. All that beeping is waaaaay too distracting.
The CSA, or Comprehensive Safety Analysis: This fairly new system is the FMCSA’s attempt to get rid of bad drivers and bad carriers by assigning points for naughty behavior. If a driver gets too many points, they’re a hiring risk. And since those points transfer to the trucking company, they want to get rid of bad drivers. Problem is, you can be cited for all kinds of things that are out of your control. For instance, I recently got a warning for speeding (I actually wasn’t). Even though I didn’t get a ticket, I still got points on my CSA. Here’s that story and my complete thoughts on the CSA. Also, if a tail light burns out in mid trip, that’s considered unsafe and I get points. But the last time I checked, my eyeballs were restricted to my head. Now if I could just take them out and hang them 70 feet out my window I could’ve seen that burned out light. Oh wait. Can’t do that. That would be distracted driving.
The cursed E-logs, or Electronic Logs: I have so many musing on e-logs that I’m not even going to link to them all here. Just go up to the handy-dandy search bar, type “e-logs,” and mark off a day-and-a-half on your calendar. Okay. It’s not that bad, but I have written extensively about them. My hatred is known far and wide. I’m pretty sure that even that rice farmer in rural China has heard about it by now.
Okay. So back to the question: Are all these changes good for the trucking industry?
Well I guess that all depends on which part of the trucking industry you’re talking about. In short, I think the changes will be good for the safety aspect, so-so for the trucking companies, and downright awful for the driver and their bank account. Gee. There’s a surprise.
First, I think when it comes to safety (which this is supposedly all about), adding time restraints to the 34-hour rule change won’t have near the effect that the trucking godheads believe it will, mainly because I don’t think drivers are going to get it very often, if ever. But this is not good news for the carriers and the drivers. You see, the whole point of the 34-hour rule is to reset your 70-hour work week, enabling you to work more hours, which in turn puts more money in yours and the carriers’ pockets. But if they’ve now limited the work week to 70 hours, what’s the point in having the rule at all? Is it just me, or am I totally missing something here? I guess it will make doing your paper logs easier with a reset, but other than that this rule is as pointless as a lead life jacket.
As for the 8-hour rule, I suppose the more breaks you take in a day, the more alert you’ll be. And if you have to be down for 30 minutes, maybe so many drivers won’t be eating while they’re driving. So I guess you can mark that as a plus for the safety side. As for the carriers, they may experience a few more late deliveries, but that probably won’t happen very often either. As for the drivers, maybe being forced to stop will allow them to quit eating so much fast food. Maybe. Okay, that’s a Mr. Fantastic-sized stretch.
Now for distracted driving laws. This one is probably good for safety. . . as long as they don’t take it too far. Although they may have already crossed that bridge. As bad as I hate to admit it though, distractions do cause us to take our eyes off the road for a brief moment. I think if we were all honest with ourselves, we’d admit this. How many times have you done something while talking on the phone or fiddling with your CB that you never would’ve done if you weren’t? I mean, that’s never happened to me, but maybe it has to you. But where does it all end? With nothing to listen to and nobody to talk to, how long will you be driving before your eyelids come crashing to the ground? Sorry, but the surrounding traffic is better off with me texting (not that I’m advising that) than me asleep behind the wheel. Hey, that’d be a good name for a band. Oh wait. . .
Next we tackle the puppies. I mean the CSA. We’ve already tackled the puppies. As bad I hate to admit it, I believe that the CSA is going to be good for safety. They’re trying to weed out the bad drivers and the carriers who turn a blind eye to safety issues that their drivers are pointing out. Unfortunately, some good drivers with bad luck, a bad day, or even bad timing are going to get caught up in this mess. One bad thing could screw up an otherwise excellent career. Still, I know from my own experience that the CSA has caused me to do some things I haven’t done in the past. That license plate light that’s burned out? Yea, I fixed that. That missing mudflap? Yep. Went to the shop for that too. Watching my speed more closely? Yep. So blame the CSA when you get behind me and I’m doing the speed limit. Yes. I’m now that annoying guy.
As for those hell-spawned e-logs, well, I’d really rather eat a turd casserole than admit what I’m about to say, but here goes. I think that e-logs are good for safety. Gosh, I feel like banging my head against a dresser drawer like Dobby for saying that. The fact is, there’s absolutely no way to cheat. I’ve heard drivers say they can cheat with e-logs, but I think they’re probably so used to lying on the CB that it’s spilled over into their e-logs. I’m sure most carriers love them because they don’t see as many log violations. But is this good for the driver? Well, it keeps them from cheating and it makes them run legal logs, but I stand by it when I say there needs to be more flexibility. Add more flexibility to the Hours-of-Service rules and e-logs won’t be such an issue. I won’t be holding my breath on that one though.
So where does that leave us drivers? Well, I don’t really care. The new Hours-of-Service rules don’t kick in until July 1, 2013 and I’ll be off the road and out of the trucking industry for good by then. Yea. Like I haven’t been saying that since 1997.
*What do you think about all these changes? Let us all hear your thoughts by leaving a comment. And please give this post a rating and force it onto all your unsuspecting online friends. Thanks*

Doing Dallas

September 10, 2011

Photo by dave_hensley via Flickr

I’ve got an odd relationship with the city of Dallas. In my pre-trucking days, I loved it… well, most of the time anyway. Now that I’m a trucker, I like being in Dallas almost as much as I like being in the middle of West Texas when I have a surprise attack from the Kingdom of Diarrhea.

My first trip to Dallas holds special meaning. It was November 19, 1993, and The Evil Overlord and I were standing in the courthouse sporting a lot of hair and a pair of rings that cost $50. Dudes, I gotta tell you. Getting married in jeans and flannel ROCKS! Yes, I eventually wound up in a penguin suit when we had another ceremony for the family and friends, but the first time was a lot more fun.

We were moving from Missouri to Dallas where I was going to be attending college. For The Evil Overlord, it was a return to where she lived during most of her wild teen years. These first few years are what every married couple considers “the good ole days.” Granted, at the time they sometimes didn’t feel like much fun. Although we both worked, we were usually broke and were sharing a crap-hole apartment with a large family of cockroaches. But when you look back, they were definitely good times. I know the cockroaches partied nearly every night.

Eventually, The Evil Overlord got a job as a leasing agent at an apartment complex and she started making more money. It seemed that she could sell hamburgers to cows when she put her mind to it. Once we had a little more money, we started enjoying some of the things that you can’t get in rural Missouri. Hockey games, sightseeing, museums, and lots and lots of nightlife.

In my opinion, Dallas also has one of the coolest skylines at night. Reunion tower is probably the most unusual. It looks like a giant microphone with a lighted ball on top. You can’t see it from the ground, but there’s a restaurant inside that spins 360 degrees. Pretty cool, but waaaaay out of our price range. We used to take visitors to the observation deck though. Check it out if you get a chance.

Another standout building is a skyscraper outlined in neon green lights. It looks wicked cool at night. Another building has a giant X on the side and a cool-looking tower on top. The Evil Overlord informed me that Metallica lived on the roof of that building. I’m thinking there might have been some funny smelling smoke coming out of her beat-up Honda Civic when that idea came to fruition. Ya think? Her and her friends were kinda naughty back then. Funny, now she can barely drink a glass of wine without turning beet red.

So you can see, Dallas holds a lot of “firsts” for me. My first hockey game. Ah yes. A little tip from your Uncle Todd: it’s not wise to wear a St. Louis Blues jersey to a Blues vs. Stars game, especially if you can’t fight your way out of a soggy paper bag. Luckily, the Blues lost. Whew!

Other firsts: I visited my first real museum. I went to my first piano bar. Funny stuff! I had my first Shiner Bock. Yummy! I went to my first gay bar. I went to my first Major League Baseball game at Rangers stadium. I had my first I-Max experience. Heck, I even got my first wife there. If I ever need another all depends on how long The Evil Overlord can tolerate me.

What? What are you stammering on about? One at a time please. I can’t understand when you’re all talking at once. There. That’s better. Oh… I guess I should explain that trip to the gay bar, huh?

The Evil Overlord had leased an apartment to a gay couple she nicknamed “The Homies.” Don’t worry, The Evil Overlord wasn’t being insensitive. She has a long history with gay guys and these guys loved it and her. One of her best friends in high school was a guy who turned out to be gay. Funny thing was, she knew he was gay long before he did. Anyway, these new friends of hers asked her to go to the bar with them. She asked me if it was okay if she went with them.

Now why wouldn’t she ask me to go along? Because she knew me… or she thought she did. You see, I grew up in a small town without a lot of diversity. We had a few exchange students, but most of the town was caucasian. NO ONE was outwardly gay. Heck, I found out a close high school friend of mine was gay about two years after graduation. I figured that out when he hit on me. Yikes!

So when it came time to go to a gay bar, The Evil Overlord naturally assumed I wouldn’t want to go. My initial reaction, was “HELL NO, I don’t wanna go,” but I started to think about it more. I was in a big city and knew I wouldn’t live there forever. I knew I wasn’t gay. I knew “The Homies” and they were okay. I was even getting used to their wolf whistles when they caught me walking down the hallway. And best of all, I had an experienced guide. The Evil Overlord was a veteran of gay bars because she attracts gay men like dogs are drawn to crotches. So what the heck? Life is about experiences. Right?

Well, it was an experience all right. Once at the club, our first stop was upstairs where there was a drag show complete with guys, errr, gals, errrr, whatever, lip-syncing to “Son of a Preacher Man” and every song ever sung by Whitney Houston. As we were walking back downstairs a guy coming up the stairs ran his hand down my chest. Now THAT gave me the heebee-jeebees, and The Evil Overlord and “The Homies” fits of laughter!

Really, a gay bar is pretty much like a regular bar, except there are mostly guys and they’re dancing with each other to lots of disco hits. They’re also doing pretty much everything else that goes on at a regular bar. Lots of grinding, fondling, and necking take place. The later it gets, the crazier it gets.

At first it was a little creepy, but like anything, I got used to it fairly quick. Although I have to say that I never really got used to the G-string clad guys that were paid to dance on a ledge around the edge of the dance floor. Especially since one of them clearly had a thing for me. I’m also pretty sure he had an elephant somewhere in his family tree. Perhaps the best thing about that night was that for the first time, uhhhh… ever, I got more attention than The Evil Overlord. Granted, it wasn’t exactly the setting I would’ve preferred. Hey, when you’re me, you’ve gotta settle for what you can get. And no, you pervs. I went home with The Evil Overlord.

So now that that’s explained. Let’s move on to the present. I really can’t stand Dallas now that I’m a trucker. I still have a few good memories as I drive by the glowing skyline at night, but they vanish quicker than a glass of milk at an Oreo convention as soon as I start looking for a parking spot.

Most of the large truck stops are all within a few miles of each other on a stretch of I-20, just south of Dallas. I wouldn’t exactly call this a “nice” neighborhood either. First you drive around in the parking lots hoping to find a spot while you dodge the NASCAR wannabe trucker that keeps doing laps in the parking lot at 30 mph. If you don’t find a spot there you move to the next truck stop. When (if) you finally find a parking spot, you can’t go through the night without at least one knock on your door. It’s either a beggar/junkie or a lot lizard… /junkie.

Take last night, I circled the Pilot parking lot three times looking for an empty space. Twice I had to hit my brakes hard as the Jeff Gordon wannabe came screaming around a corner. I finally gave up and headed out. As I passed a tiny truck stop about a block down the road, I noticed a couple of open parking spaces. I whipped in and nabbed one. Two hours later, the cashier comes out and asks for $7 for parking. I told him I hadn’t seen a sign. He pointed to it, but I still couldn’t see it since there weren’t any lights in the lot. I would have left, but if I had it would have broken up my 10-hour break and I couldn’t have delivered my load on time. Not to mention, the later it gets, the less chance of finding an empty spot. So I paid up.

Next, I wake up about 11 PM and hear someone yelling outside my window. “C’mon, back! C’mon! You got it! Bring it! You got it!” I guess the guide had to yell because the parking lot was as black as a bat’s bedroom. Still, that’s kinda rude for a driver to do that to another driver. He had to know there where drivers sleeping.

The next time I woke up was at 3 AM. This time it was a Latino lot lizard. Now I have to admit, she was kinda good-looking. She was thin, had make-up on, her hair was fixed, and she was nicely dressed. I waved her away and immediately heard another knock on the truck next door. Before I could crawl back into bed, she had crawled up into my neighbor’s cab and slammed the door. You know what came next. Yep. A driver who needs to spend a little time greasing his truck shocks better. Now see, if I were allowed to idle my truck without consequences, I wouldn’t have had to listen to all that.

Now it’s 5 AM and I hear another knock. I think, “Great, she’s forgotten that she’s already hit me up.” Nope. This time it was a woman who I can only describe as, “The human race is doomed if the apocalypse comes and it’s just me and her left.” Talk about nasty. She was a black woman who looked like she’d just crawled out of bed. Now that I think of it, she probably had. Great. Now I’ve got the heebee-jeebees again. Her hair was all messed up, she was overweight, her clothes were all tattered, and she had a gap between her two front teeth that I could’ve backed an over-sized trailer into. I waved her off and went back to bed. Not that it mattered. I’d been awake since Lady Latin knocked.

This isn’t just Dallas we’re talking about. When it comes to trucking, the names of big cities are interchangeable. Whether you’re talking about Vegas, Newark, the outskirts of L.A., or Dallas, your experience will probably be similar. Fight traffic, fight for a parking space, fight off lot lizards and beggars, and fight for your sleep.

And guess what? When I got up at 7 AM, I saw Miss Latin Lot Lizard 2011 and yet another lot lizard trotting across the parking lot and giggling. Well, I guess I wasn’t the only one who didn’t get any sleep.

*Please rate this post and leave a comment about your worst night in a truck stop. Let all those non-truckers know I’m not full of it. Well, not about this anyway. ;-)*

A Trucker’s Home

December 6, 2010

I’m 42 years old and The Evil Overlord has been 29 for several years now. We live with her parents. How pathetic is that? Well, according to many of the truckers I’ve spoken with, it’s not pathetic at all. Well, at least it’s not that uncommon anyway.

I was reminded of this again yesterday when my company asked me to pick up a driver whose truck had broken down. He needed a lift home and they needed me to rescue him and the load he had been hauling. I’d be willing to bet that they were more concerned with the load than the driver. Carriers are “family-oriented” like that.

I knew immediately that Clint was a non-smoker. If he had been a puffer, all his stuff would’ve smelled like smoke and it would have taken a week or two to fumigate my truck after the 4.5 hour trip to his house. I did, however, put my foot down when he tried to bring his 13-gallon trash can into my cab. That would be the one that was caked with Skoal spit. *shudders* I was also grateful to discover that he wasn’t one of those annoying drivers. That would have made it seem like an 8-hour trip.

As we talked (and no, I didn’t do all the talking), I discovered that Clint was an avid sportsman who loved hunting and fishing. Well, there’s two things right off the bat that we don’t have in common. I’m certain that I don’t have the skill to shoot a fish or cast far enough to snag a deer.

As the conversation progressed, I discovered that he was a 41-year-old single guy who had never been married. After serving a couple of terms in the Navy, he got his CDL (Commercial Drivers License) and moved home with his dad. His father had recently passed away after a nightmare called Alzheimer’s disease.

I asked him if he had moved in with his dad because of the Alzheimer’s, to which he said, “No. He got that years later. I drive a truck. I’m never home. What the hell do I need a house for?”

Good point. While it may be pathetic for most grown adults to live with their parents, I believe that truckers might be one of the exceptions. People with special needs such as physical or mental disabilities would be understandable too. Now that I think of it, a lot of truckers might qualify for the mental side of that.

After The Evil Overlord and I got married, we moved to Dallas where I attended The Art Institute. During that time, we rented an apartment and suffered through life as most poor, uneducated, newlyweds do. They were some of the best years of our lives. Doesn’t everybody say that?

After graduation, we came back to Missouri and moved in with her parents until we could get our lives in order. We got into trucking after discovering that my degree was a worthless as a bartender at a lemonade stand.

As truckers, we stayed out on the road for 3 weeks at a time. Many drivers stay out much longer than that. When we did get home, we were only there for 3-4 days at a time, so we never really saw the need to get a place of our own. Her parents were happy to see us when we got home and they had an extra room to spare, so what the heck?

Years later, we got the itch to own a home. Since we were making good money, we thought we’d build a house that we could enjoy when we finally quit trucking and came off the road. We built that beautiful house, but there was one big honkin’ problem. We didn’t see any immediate end to our trucking careers.

I’ve got to tell you, it really sucked paying a large mortgage payment on a place that seemed to only be good for doing your laundry when you came off the road. It didn’t take long before we sold it and moved back in with her parents.

Fast forward to present day. The Evil Overlord is no longer driving. She quit for a while, then came back for a year-and-a-half, then quit again. Fickle woman. This time it’s for good though. Now she’s back at school and living with her parents while I’m out here on the road. And that is why we’ve put a deposit down on one-half of a brand new rental duplex.

Parents are fine. Actually, they’re more than fine. Without those two people feeling frisky at least once in their lives, you wouldn’t even exist. We should all thank them for doing the nasty for us. Still, they aren’t someone you want to live with for the rest of your lives. That’s why the Bible says to “leave your parents and cleave to your spouse.” God knew even back then that your parents would eventually drive you bonkers.

After The Evil Overlord put the deposit down on the place, she gleefully called me up to ask me if I was excited. I was less than enthused and she was perplexed. I explained that, while I understood her giddiness, I was still out here on the road for 3 weeks at a pop. She was happy to be getting some personal space and that was understandable. Since I’m rarely home, all it does for me is make her happy. And after all, I guess that’s part of a husband’s job. I’m sure I’ll enjoy getting back to the way it all began. It’ll be just me and The Evil Overlord again. And those pesky nephews, I guess. Unfortunately, my glee will only last for 30-40 hours a month.

My point is this. You’ve got good reason to raise your eyebrows when you meet a grown adult who still lives with his/her parents, but if you find out that person is a trucker, give them some slack. Would you want to spend a good chunk of your monthly income to own a home or maintain an apartment that you rarely get to visit?

*Please leave a comment with your thoughts on this subject. And if you’re feeling particularly nice, go up to the top of the post and give it a star rating. Thanks.*

Perspective on Sucky Things

July 17, 2010

Photo by Yellow.Cat via Flickr

Anyone following me on Twitter knows that I’m switching trucking companies. For those of you not following me on Twitter, well, I just don’t know how you can sleep at night. As of now, I’ve quit one job and orientation for the new job starts on Monday. The ride over to the hotel has given me some perspective.

With the luck I’ve been having with my former company, I was shocked when the terminal manager allowed me to use the company van to get here. And she did this after I handed her my keys, so there’s no doubt that she did so knowing that I no longer worked for the company. Some of the drivers in the driver’s lounge said that it’s now a company’s responsibility to get a driver home after they quit, but I’ve never heard of any such obligation. If this is true, and you’re certain of it, please leave a note in the comments section so we can all know for the future.

Back to the story. I got lucky that I caught another driver pulling out in the van and he agreed to drive me to the hotel. His wife was following him in a rental car, so when I asked about it he offered to tell me what he referred to as “The Saga.” Since you readers know the way I tell long-winded stories, it won’t be hard for you to imagine that I liked this guy immediately. Especially since he asked if I minded hearing it all before he began the tale. That’s more choices than I give you poor folks.

His story began before we even got out of the parking lot, and it continued all the way to Hertz. After his wife/co-driver had checked the car in, she got into the van, listened for two seconds, and broke in with an exasperated, “Oh my God! Are you telling this story AGAIN?” Thinking that this woman reminded me of The Evil Overlord, I sat back and subdued a snicker as they playfully bickered about how many times he had told it. She soon gave in to the inevitable and waved him back into his story. I couldn’t see her face, but knowing The Evil Overlord, I imagine that there was some major eye-rolling going on up there. “The Saga” finished just as I pulled into the hotel parking lot 45 minutes later.

As these two were brand new truck drivers, I had listened with interest to the entire story, complete with her popping in to correct him every now and then. Being the thoughtful person that I am, I’ll give you the cliff notes version. His training went perfect. He got an excellent trainer who taught him well. Her trainer was a black man who constantly ranted about the white man’s oppression. Sorry, but I have to say this. It’s 2010 and there’s a black man in the White House. Enough already. @diesel_lady would be so proud of me.

Back to Mr. Racist. He drove on her log book, which for you non-truckers, means that he showed her driving, but did a lot of it himself. He didn’t help her learn to back the truck. He allowed her to take five whole showers in four weeks of training. This guy spent the entire training period using her as a tool to make big bucks, instead of taking it slow at first and teaching her the ropes. She admitted that she didn’t learn a thing.

This whole “bad trainer” thing bugs the crap out of me. I won’t go there right now because my next blog will cover that and more. A lady named Becca left a comment asking for some advice for people who are thinking of becoming truckers. Stay tuned for that by the end of the weekend.

Onward. After both of their training was over, they had to take a rental car from Ohio to the Chicago area to pick up their truck. When he told me that they were supposed to pick it up from an International shop, I knew what was coming; and so do you truckers. But first, the truck wasn’t even there. Someone had picked it up and taken it to the company yard. After tracking it down, he hopped in it and turned the key, which produced nothing but a string of curses. Back into the shop for a new starter and it started right up. Ready to roll? Hang on.

Now they were informed that they couldn’t take the truck because it was missing two marker lights. Uh…wasn’t it just at the International dealer? Were they fresh out of lights? Well, it seems that the lights were being overnighted from another company terminal instead. Two days later, the lights still aren’t there. These are lights, people. You can get them almost anywhere. Ugh. In the meantime, he’s talked to his trainer on the phone. The trainer is coming through there and takes the initiative to stop into an International dealer and pick up some lights. Yes, I’m confused too. What is it with these stinkin’ lights? Are they coated with caramel or something? So anyway, now they’re under way, right? Nope, their very first load with their very first company gets double-booked (two drivers show up to pick up the same load), so they sit, frustrated, until the following morning.

Finally, they get a load to South Texas, they haul butt, and they get there early. They turn off the truck to take a shower, and yes, of course, the truck won’t restart. Now they sit for 7 hours and no one will respond to their satellite messages or phone calls. Finally, one of their messages gets a response. Messages that say stuff about quitting tend to do that. One of the higher-ups calls them, listens intently, and shoots off a couple of emails. Within a couple of hours they’re back in a rental car heading to the Dallas yard to pick up a brand-spanking-new truck. The same model that I’ve had in the shop twice in the last three weeks. I pray that I just had a lemon. And that’s when they meet me.

I mentioned earlier that this van ride put some stuff into perspective. It’s not just this story, but also the time that I’ve had to think. Yes. Pass the Excedrin please. So what exactly is my insight on this situation? Well, sometimes stuff just sucks. How’s that for deep and profound?

We all go through bad patches. Some last longer than others. Hopefully leaving my old team-oriented company will put an end to my hellish marathon. The fact is, if a company is team-oriented, it’s a good chance that it’s gonna suck for a solo driver. Likewise for a team at a solo-oriented company. This isn’t always true, but I think it’s a darn-tootin’ good rule-of-thumb.

This new husband/wife team knew that I had just quit. Yet when they asked me what I thought of their decision to work for the company, I told them that I thought they made the right choice. Sure, at times The Evil Overlord and I have been madder than a couple of cats in a bathtub. I told them as much. Still, I told them that the company was one of the best for teams. So how bad could it have been for The Evil Overlord and me?

Sure, the miles weren’t as plentiful as they were in years past. Maybe that was because the economy sucked harder than the national hickey-giving champion. Yes, there were times when I was frustrated because I couldn’t get a response to a question and when I finally did, it was wrong. Perhaps that was because this company chose to lay off office personnel instead of drivers when the hickies started flying.

When my truck broke down in San Antonio, did they get me a nice hotel room? Yep. When it broke down three weeks later for the exact same transmission problem, did they allow me to leave the truck at the shop and go home so the nephews could spend four days pile-driving me and trying to hit me in the junk? Yep. Kinda pissed at them for that one actually.

When I realized I had accidentally signed up for the more expensive insurance plan after The Evil Overlord quit, did they let me change it and reimburse the overcharge? Yea. Did they totally screw up my paycheck and leave me without any money this week when I really needed it? Yes. Did they fix the problem and make an emergency electronic deposit into my bank account? Yep. Sure it’s not going to help much right now, but they could have made me tough it out until next Friday. Did they save me $60 by letting me use the company van, even after I had quit? Yup.

Have I been whining about my company for the last month? Yes. Have I had a job? Yes. Did I manage to go from one job, straight into another? Yes. Are there good people out there who have been without income for many weeks or even months? Yes. Should I stop crying like a little girl and appreciate what I’ve got? Uh… maybe?

*So what do you do when you’re in a funk? How do you pull out of it? Tell us all how you stay so upbeat and perky (and annoying) 😉 by leaving a comment. And if you’ve got a friends who’s down in the dumps, pass this post along to them. Thanks.*

Health and Trucking

January 11, 2010

I’ve been thinking about my health more lately. I’m guessing that it’s got something to do with the fact that my father-in-law recently died twice during a fairly routine operation. Thanks to a couple of jolts of electricity, he’s still around to torment me. Guess I didn’t pay the doctors enough.

I recently read where a doctor told a trucker that the average life expectancy of a truck driver after he retires is seven months. Seven months? Gee, I’m hoping he’s speaking of truckers that spend their entire careers behind the wheel and finally give it up when they’re 70. I don’t really know. What I do know is that it’s reeeeeally freakin’ hard to be healthy and drive a truck.

The job itself isn’t exactly a sweat-inducing full body workout that produces glistening six-pack abs. Cripes, we sit behind a windshield all day and stare at the road. Go hang out at a truck stop for a while if you want to see the consequences of driving a truck for a living.

Drivers who are stooped over due to bad backs, drivers who limp, and drivers with enormous front butts are just a few of the maladies. That’s not even mentioning some of the more common unseen side effects, such as hemorrhoids. Thank God that can’t be detected by passers-by. A beer gut hanging out from underneath a too short tee-shirt is enough for this kid. Now that I think of it, maybe it’s the ol’ hems that’s causing all the limping. Eeeww.

As with most health issues, it all boils down to those two things that make people unhealthy: diet and exercise. Or should I say, lack of.

Try this. Go into a truck stop restaurant sometime and look at a menu. Not exactly healthy fare, is it? Sure there is usually a limited selection of healthy options, but you know the old saying: “Man cannot live by grilled chicken breast alone.” Well, it’s something like that anyway. Even if you could stomach the same food every day, it’s expensive to eat in the truck stops.

Another reason it’s so hard to eat healthy as a truck driver is time. Granted, solo drivers have to shut down for 10 hours after driving for 11, so time isn’t as much of a deterrent as it is for team drivers. The Evil Overlord and I can vouch for this. As a team operation, the truck can pretty much be moving 24/7 without breaking any laws. You know this and your bosses are well aware of it, too. Therefore, tight schedules often dictate how much time you have to eat properly.

After a three-year break from trucking, The Evil Overlord has been back in the truck with me for a little over a year now. Before she quit, we seemed to have plenty of time to eat right, even though we didn’t always choose to do so. Because we didn’t eat healthy most of the time, we both gained weight.

When she finally decided to crack down on the eating habits, she went on a special diet which required her to do some light cooking and meal preparation. Back then, she always had time to do what was necessary, and as a result she lost over 40 pounds. To her chagrin, I dropped down to my ideal weight too, but much quicker than her.

Times have changed. I don’t know if it’s the poor economy that’s affecting the contracts between carriers and their customers or what, but extra time is something we rarely have now. Nearly every load we run has very little extra time on it. Lack of time leads to bad food choices. If you don’t have time to prepare your own meals in the truck, it’s doubtful that there’s time to eat from the healthy section of the truck stop menu either.

They don’t call it fast food for nothing. Yes, I know that fast food joints have a healthy menu too, but let’s be honest. Who goes into Jack-in-the-Crack and orders a salad? Yes, we should, and we sometimes do, but more often than not, the smell of burgers and chili fries gets the best of you.

So you can see that it is possible to eat a somewhat healthy diet, even if you don’t have much time. You just have to want it really bad. Now on to the second half of the problem: exercise.

The arguments that apply to diet are also good for exercise. A solo driver has mandatory down time, so all they need is a handful of willpower. They have time to walk, jog, run, jump rope, or even lift weights. As a solo driver, I managed to lift weights two or three times a week. The key is making sure you have access to a shower afterward. That is, unless you don’t mind whiffing your own B.O.

Even better, I figured out a way to work out inside the cab of my truck. Every time I tried to do my workout outside of the truck, I always had a slew of drivers come up and interrupt me. Any excuse to stop the pain was good enough for me, so to stick with it I devised a way to do it inside the cab. Plus, there’s air conditioning in there.

Now that I’m part of a team operation again, my workouts have come to a screeching halt and what appeared to be pectoral muscles peeking through have turned into mini man boobs again. No thanks, Kramer. I don’t need a “Bro” yet, but I’ll keep your digits handy, just in case.

In the beginning, The Evil Overlord and I did try to walk for some exercise. Even back then, there wasn’t enough time to cook and exercise. Cooking won out and 40 pounds less flab seems to indicate that we made the right choice. Exercise nowadays? Utterly impossible with our time restraints. Sure, every now and then we might have a slow day with some extra time, but the only thing inconsistent exercise brings is unnecessary pain in places you didn’t even know existed. Sorry, but that ain’t happening.

So it all translates to this. If you’re going to drive a truck for a living and want to refrain from developing a fourth chin, you need to have two things: a willpower of steel and a set of tolerant taste buds.

I’m thinking that a bip to the back of the head now and then from someone who cares about your health more than you do might help too.

*So how do you eat healthy and exercise while on the road? Or do you? Leave your tips, tricks, questions or comments in the Comment section. And as soon as you wipe that Big Mac juice off your grubby mitts, please share this post with a friend or 42. Thanks.*


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