Posts Tagged ‘forced dispatch’

Guest post: Benefits of Semi Truck Weight Compliance. By Noble McIntyre

September 12, 2012

Photo by Linda N. via Flickr

Hello, one and all. First, a quick update on the status of the new Web site. Things are coming along slowly, but surely. I recently fixed a major problem I’ve been having; so that’s good. But I’m still missing a major component, so you’re gonna have to control your giddiness. I’m sure you’ll manage somehow. Still, I have a feeling that I’m eventually going to have to crack this sucker open to the public with a few lingering quirks. It’s like choosing someone to marry. If you’re waiting for perfection, you’re never going to do it. The Evil Overlord is the exception to the rule. She really hit the jackpot there.

So what’s this about a guest post? Well, if you remember correctly, I told you in our last visit that I was working on providing a couple of guest posts to fill the Sandra Bernhard-sized tooth gap between the posts I’ve written.

Today’s treat is brought to you by a gentleman named Noble McIntyre. Now I’m not positive, but I think Noble may be a bit clairvoyant. A while back, I began playing with the idea of asking for submissions for a couple of guest posts to fill in the gaping hole that the blog was becoming. Not long after, I received an email from Noble asking if I accepted guest posts. I’m telling you people… clairvoyant. I’m guessing that skill comes in handy with his day job. You see, Noble is an attorney. That’s gotta be pretty darn handy to get into the minds of the opposing counsel. And before you say it, yes, I know it’s hard to believe a lawyer was perusing my blog, but that’s just further proof that I rock. I’ve been telling people that for years, but no one ever listens.

So let’s get on with today’s submission. Afterward, I’ll be back to share my thoughts on the subject. Here we go. And oh yea. You ladies may want to check out Noble’s picture at the bottom of the post. He’s a handsome devil, he is. Hands off though, ladies. He’s already been snagged off the market. Sorry to disappoint.

Benefits of Semi Truck Weight Compliance: by Noble McIntyre

It’s human nature to want the most benefit for the lowest cost. It may seem more efficient to load a semi truck to maximum capacity—or more—in order to transport more merchandise in fewer trips. That works in theory, but not always in practice. I’ve taken on semi truck cases that came about when someone was injured due to some sort of negligence on the part of a truck driver or a trucking company like, for example, overloading a truck. And accidents involving a semi have the potential to do much more damage when the truck is heavier than is legally allowed.

Surpassing truck weight limits can also cost more in fees and fines when trucks don’t pass inspection at highway weigh stations. But additional costs in fuel, maintenance, and safety must be considered as well. Here are a few of the ways ignoring trucking weigh limits can increase costs, and affect the safety of not just the truckers, but passenger vehicle drivers.

Road Fatigue

Highways are built to withstand a lot of wear—vehicles driving over them, harsh weather, heat, cold. They’re also constructed with certain weight limits in mind. When those limits are surpassed, the road suffers and begins to wear down more quickly than planned. This not only makes for uncomfortable driving, it increases road maintenance costs for the states the highways run through, and those costs are passed on to the taxpayers. By complying with weight limits, truckers and trucking companies can help roads last longer, and reduce maintenance costs, thereby saving states money that can be put toward other public needs.

Wasted Fuel and Time

It comes down to simple power-to-weight ratio—the heavier a truck is, the more power required to propel it. When a truck is loaded over its maximum weight, it will require more fuel to travel the same distance at the same speeds as a lighter truck. In addition to wasting fuel, this will also translate to higher costs for the trucking company because of the need to buy fuel more often. It also means lost time to stop for those fueling needs. Those costs are most likely passed on to the consumer. By adhering to weight limits, truckers can save time and money both for the trucking company, and for the people who buy the products being transported. For those of us concerned about the effect high food costs have on our communities, it’s frustrating to know that some of those costs could be more reasonable if weight limit regulations were strictly followed.

Safety

When loaded to maximum weight, the stopping distance for semi trucks is roughly 40 percent greater than that of regular passenger vehicles. This is assuming fair weather and road conditions. That distance will increase when roads are wet, for example, or when the truck is traveling above the speed limit. Now imagine how the stopping distance is affected when a truck is carrying more than the allowed maximum weight. Even in good weather, the distance is increased, not to mention, a heavier truck will do more damage to other vehicles and to property should an accident occur. Weight compliance promotes safety for the truck, its driver, and other drivers on the road. I would be more than happy to accept a reduction in the number of clients I have if it meant fewer people were being injured in trucking accidents due to poor practices.

The trucking industry remains the most effective tool in transporting goods from one location to another. There is plenty of room for improvement, to be sure. But until technological and mechanical advances come about that improve efficiency, current safety standards must be maintained. The benefits simply outweigh the costs.

Noble McIntyre is the senior partner and owner of McIntyre Law, a firm staffed by experienced Oklahoma City truck accident lawyers.

 

 

 

 

 

Good stuff, Noble. Thanks for entertaining and informing the peeps. Now from a trucker’s view, let me add a few thoughts of my own.

For quite a while now, my company has been sending out a satellite message about once a week reminding us to route around the Pawtucket River Bridge on I-95 in Rhode Island. It seems that about once a week one of my highly intelligent co-workers gets a ticket for crossing the bridge. You know, the bridge that has been marked as truck restricted since 2007. The one marked by those bright orange signs that are really hard to see. Yea, those. I just don’t get it. If a bridge is clearly marked as illegal, why would anyone cross it? Why not take the marked route? It’s not that far out of the way. Yet the coppers in Rhode Island have been picking trucker’s pockets clean for years. These fines aren’t cheap either. We’re talking maximums of $2000 plus. Ouch-a-mundo! But then there are times when things aren’t quite so clear-cut.

Now there isn’t a trucker out there who hasn’t come across a situation that can’t be avoided. Sometimes by the time you see the weight restriction signs on the bridge, you’re already crossing it. Oops. But hey, when you looked at the trucker’s atlas during your trip planning, the road was clearly marked in orange! For you non-truckers; roads highlighted in orange are supposed to be open to trucks. Most of the time, they’re right. But some of the time they neglect to mention that it’s okay to run the road, providing you’re under the weight limit. That would be the weight limit that isn’t posted anywhere in the atlas.

Other times, you find yourself stuck between an FMCSA rule-maker’s head and a hard place. There you sit, staring at a weight-restricted bridge in the dead of night. You followed your company-supplied directions to the letter. Yet there you are. You’ve got no place to turn around. What now? I wrote about this exact scenario in a blog post called Trucking in the Northeast. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. I find that prayer helps.

But what about running with an overweight load? Truck drivers do it all the time. But why do we do it? Because your dispatcher says to do it? Sorry dudes and dudettes, but that crap ain’t gonna fly here. Drivers, you’ve gotta think about this. It’s your license. It’s your ticket. It’s your money that’s gonna pay the fine. It’s not a point of pride to say, “I can find my way around any scale.” Okay great.

What good does it do? It takes more fuel to go around the scales. The back roads always take longer too. So why do we do it? Yeah, it’s a pain to take the load back to the shipper for reloading. Yes, it’s annoying to stop five times to fuel in a 600 mile trip just to keep your load legal.

But notice I kept saying “we” truckers. Yes, @DriverChrisMc, I just called myself a trucker again. Mark it on the calendar. The thing is, I’ve done all this myself. I routed around all the weigh stations once a long time ago. I found it stressful and never did it again. Sort of. What I will still do is route around ONE scale if I know I can burn off enough fuel before I get to the rest of the chicken coops (weight stations–a little trucker-speak there). But why even do that?

Well, I know why I do it. Because the places where I load, you either take that load or you sit and idle your truck until you burn off enough fuel to run the load. I’ve asked the company to cut the load. They won’t. I’ve asked to deadhead to get another load. Nothing else in the area. That’s not hard to believe when you’re in the wasteland known as North Dakota. And this is why I NEVER fill my fuel tanks any more. 3/4 max for me. Less if I’m anywhere in the vicinity of one of our 46,350 pound sugar loads.

I guess if you’re an owner/operator, I can maybe see the point of dodging all the scales on an entire trip. Maybe it was “take the load or don’t get paid.” That’s your choice I guess. Just remember that not only are we all breaking the law, but we’re also defying every reason that Noble just laid out. And shame on us all for dissing the Noble.

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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.*

Really? A Good Dispatcher?

November 17, 2010

Photo by mboperator via Flickr

Yes, I know that’s a rather comical statement for us truckers, but hang on and I’ll make my point. But first, let’s start this out by explaining something to my non-trucking readers. You drivers out there can zone out for a second. As if you weren’t doing that already.

When you drive a satellite-equipped truck, here’s the way the dispatching process is supposed to work.

  1. Your satellite unit beeps at you. If your company believes you to be incapable of reading a short message and hitting a few keys while you’re driving, then you pull over. If they actually treat you like a professional, you can do the remaining steps while you drive.
  2. You examine your load information, which includes a load number, the shipper and receiver, their addresses (and sometimes phone number), the pick up and delivery times, possibly some fuel stop and/or routing information, and any additional information you might need, such as pickup and delivery numbers,  weights, piece counts, etc.
  3. If everything you need is included in the message and you have the hours to run the load, you respond with a canned message that says you got the info and you accept the load.
  4. You pick up and deliver on time.
  5. You wait for the next beep.

That’s the way it works if you work for a normal company. Now I swear I’m not going to start another whine-fest, but I’ve got to explain what happened this morning to get to my point.

I had set my PTA (Projected Time Available) for 1:00 p.m. So naturally, I get a beep at 10:30 a.m. I’m not exactly shocked about getting woke up. The message says to call in for a “verbal.”

As long as I can remember, there has always been a need for verbal dispatches. Maybe the load is too complicated for a satellite message. Maybe it requires special instructions; like you have to go to a different location to weigh your empty tractor-trailer before you go into the shipper. Maybe it’s a high-value load. It could be a lot of different things. These loads are fine for verbals. They’re actually appreciated because they shed light on a confusing situation.

However, lately, nearly every load I get requires a verbal dispatch. I don’t know why and according to every one I talk to, they don’t know either. Basically, everyone is just repeating something that someone else has already said, which just so happens to be the exact same information that is included in the satellite dispatch. Take this morning for example.

I call in and my dispatcher tells me where and when the load picks up and delivers, including the extra stop. She tells me to call another phone number. I call that number and the woman tells me the EXACT same information. Then that woman tells me that I need to call yet another number because there is 19 pounds of HazMat on board. That’s hazardous materials for you normal folk.

Okay. First off, 19 pounds isn’t even a reportable quantity. It still has to be listed on the Bill of Lading, but it doesn’t require any other special handling. Secondly, I’ve been hauling HazMat since 1997, so do I really need to be told to keep the papers in the side door or on the seat when I’m not in the vehicle? Thirdly, I’ve been woken up early and told to call three different people. Lastly, I think the stupid beep interrupted an especially interesting dream. I’m assuming that because I woke up grumpy, and frankly, that’s just not like me. Unlike The Evil Overlord and the wrath of her mornings, I usually wake up in a decent mood. Not today. Which brings me back around to the point. Yes, finally. Hush.

When I called the HazMat guy, I said these exact words: “Hi. This is truck #### calling in for a HazMat verbal, because clearly I haven’t learned how to do HazMat loads in the 13 years I’ve had my HazMat endorsement.” Okay. I admit that it was dripping with sarcasm, but it was in no way said with a mean or violent tone. I’d be willing to bet that if he would’ve laughed, I would have too. But that was not to be.

His response? “Do you have a problem.” I said,“Well, yes. This does seem a bit ridiculous, don’t you think?” His reply? “I can always route you to a terminal if you’d like to turn your truck in.” After a moment’s pause of disbelief, I said, “Wow. This company sure has changed for the worse.”

Now I realize that he didn’t deserve my sarcasm, but I didn’t deserve that kind of threat either. That’s like giving your pal a friendly punch in the arm and getting a swift kick to the nuts in return. I think he realized that immediately, because he started explaining that he had a job to do and that he didn’t make the policies. I apologized for the sarcasm, but again explained to him that this kind of nitpicking does nothing to make us drivers feel like the professionals that they claim us to be.

And now to my point. Yes, I know. It’s about freakin’ time. You know, I’m fully aware that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. I just prefer to get from point A to point B like an alcoholic wastoid trying to walk a white line on Cops. (sings Bad Boys)

I immediately called my dispatcher to tell her what happened. I explained to her what I had said and how I had said it. Knowing me fairly well, the sarcasm bit didn’t surprise her much. Still, she said that the HazMat guy shouldn’t have said that to me. She said she was going to turn him in, but I asked her to give the guy a break. Who knows what kind of day he was having and our conversation had ended on a friendlier tone. I suppose my forgiving nature might have had something to do with some unnecessary sarcasm, too. Just maybe…

After that, I went into a mini rant about how things are changing at this company and where I thought the company was heading if they continued to treat experienced drivers like 4th graders. Although she’s heard similar rants from me before, she calmly listened, agreed with certain points, and disagreed with other points. By the end of it all, we were laughing as usual. And that, my friends is the key, and the point B at the other end of my oddly shaped line.

Sure, a dispatcher needs to know what they’re doing. They need to know the rules. They need to try to fight to get you pulled off the crappy loads. They need to try to get you home when you requested. But that’s not what makes a great dispatcher. First and foremost, they need to have the ability to listen, understand, and remain calm; even when you aren’t. Some examples? Glad you asked.

  • When the person on the other end of the line is having a hissy fit, they need to understand that life on the road isn’t a picnic. The Bible says, “A soft answer turns away wrath.” It’s true. When she’s calm, it always calms me down. If a dispatcher gets combatative back at you, it’ll only cause things to escalate. My dispatcher is always calm. Even when she’s having a rough day, she always manages to stay cool with me.
  • When you call to inquire why you only got 1500 miles last week, they need to understand that you’re not staying away from your family for weeks at a time just so you can sit at a truck stop while you wait on a load. Not to mention, poor miles make them look bad. My dispatcher comprehends this.
  • When you call complaining about some stupid policy that you both know will never be changed, they need to realize that you just need to blow off some steam. My dispatcher always has an open ear.
  • When you get woken up, causing you to cop an attitude at them or someone else, they need to understand that a trucker’s schedule is as wonky as SpongeBob on a Peyote vision quest. My dispatcher understands that I don’t hold the same hours as she does. She always apologizes when she has to wake me up to pass down the holy orders from the trucking gods.

Now I fully understand that truckers haven’t cornered the market on crappy days. I have no doubt that working in an office must really suck. I know that dispatchers have bad days too. But what a good dispatcher must realize is that at the end of the day, they get to go home and relax, while we’re stuck in our truck waiting for the next beep and our next idiotic verbal dispatch. And we’ve still got a week-and-a-half before we’ll see our family again.

So drivers everywhere, if you’ve got a good dispatcher, hang onto them. Tell them you appreciate the fact that they understand your life on the road. Maybe even get them a gift card this Christmas.

If you’ve got a crappy dispatcher, ask for a new one. And if you can’t seem to get rid of them, I’ll be barreling down I-29 tomorrow. Just bring them out and shove them into my path. That oughta do the trick.

*Please leave a comment and give this post a rating. Feel free to lie and give me 5 stars. ;-)”

Lunar Driving as a Trucker

September 22, 2010

Photo by Jason Bache via Flickr

Here’s a heads-up to any prospective drivers out there. If you think Over-The-Road (OTR) trucking is a 9-to-5 job, you’re gonna be more disappointed than a stoner with a bag of oregano. We have a name for you folks: Solar drivers.

Solar drivers are guys or gals who only like to run during the daylight. While our circadian rhythms are ideally designed for solar driving, the chances of you getting to do it every day are about as good as you finding a Christian Atheist that’s interested in converting to Islam.

Remember that I’m speaking of OTR driving. Sure, you may be able to find a local driving job that will let you do the solar thing, but if you’re a long-hauler, well, good luck with that. And don’t get your hopes up for a local driving job with big bucks and no whammies.

The fact is that freight can pick up or deliver at any time, and 9 times out of 10, you’ve got no choice as to whether you’re going to be a Solar driver or a Lunar driver. Most loads simply don’t have enough extra transit time for you to be picky.

Common sense would tell you that most businesses are open during the day, so that’s when you’ll be awake and driving. That’s all fine and dandy, but what if you pick up a 500-mile load at night and it delivers at 7:00 AM the following morning? This happens quite frequently, so you should expect it.

I’d love to tell you that you won’t have to drive at night very often, but if I did I’d be a bigger liar than if Pamela Anderson came out and said that she was born with those entities (no pun intended).

There is an exception to this rule. If you’re a team driver, you may get to choose Solar or Lunar driving. Since a team truck pretty much runs around the clock, you can usually get on a schedule. For instance, The Evil Overlord is a Lunar driver. Each afternoon I’d wake her up, and after wrestling the grenade launcher from her, we’d eat and shower. Just before dark she’d start her driving shift and finish sometime before sunrise. You can do this too if you’ve got a flexible co-driver who’s willing to drive the opposite shift.

I’m a lucky guy. Not only am I blessed with devastating good-looks, but I’m also capable of switching from a Solar driver to a Lunar driver in less time than it takes you to roll your eyes at that “devastating good-looks” statement.

So tell me. Why is it that you want to be a Solar driver? Are you sure that it’s all it’s cracked up to be? Here’s my argument for embracing your inner Lunar driver:

  • There’s no rush hour at night. That should be enough in itself.
  • There is no such thing as a good time to cross over the George Washington Bridge into New York City, but if you must, 3:00 AM is the time to do it.
  • There’s less construction at night. Even when the crews are working the graveyard shift, there’s fewer 4-wheelers around that haven’t figured out how to merge BEFORE you get to the giant flashing arrow!
  • When it’s time to go to sleep, the truck stop parking lots are less crowded in the morning.
  • There’s less traffic at night.
  • The darkness is sooooo peaceful.
  • The chicken coops (DOT weigh stations) are less likely to be open at night.
  • Fewer drivers are cursing at each other on the CB radio.
  • It’s fun to flash your bright lights at people. Kidding. Okay, maybe sometimes. Ohhhhh. So THAT’S why he was cussing at me on the CB.
  • If you’re a woman trucker, it’s harder for people to notice you. Therefore, they don’t slow down, act stupid, try to get your attention, and unwittingly block you behind other traffic. The Evil Overlord drove at night for this very reason.
  • Did I mention that there’s less traffic?
  • Heavy winds usually get calmer at night.
  • The fuel bays are typically less crowded at night.
  • So are shippers and receivers.
  • There’s no waiting for a shower at 2:00 AM.
  • If you pull out of a parking spot after dark, you just made another driver happy enough to pee his pants, which could actually be the very reason why they’re looking for a parking space in the first place.
  • And I should also mention that there’s less traffic.

Then again, as I’m making this list, some negative aspects of Lunar driving come to mind. For instance:

  • Potty breaks become an ordeal because all the rest areas are packed tighter than a Mexican illegal immigrant’s apartment. On the plus side, the exit ramps are usually quite dark. So do what you gotta do.
  • OH CRAP! DEER!
  • More drunks on the road… or the sidewalk… or the shoulder of the road… or the ditch… or on the wrong side of the highway… or all of the above.
  • You can’t see the ladder laying in the middle of the road until it’s too late. That would be the ladder that fell off the roof of the aforementioned drunk’s VW Beetle.
  • You can’t see the Smokey Bears (police) at night. Not that it matters when your speed-limited truck gets outrun by an armadillo with a limp.
  • Snow-packed and/or icy roads at night are much more dangerous, which is why you should pull over and tell your dispatcher to stuff it.
  • Your choice of fast food is Subway, Subway, or Subway. If you’re lucky, you can wait a few more miles and find a Subway.
  • It’s harder to read street signs in the dark.
  • Fewer of your Twitter friends will be online. Now put down that phone and drive.
  • Finding a parking spot in the middle of the night just plain sucks.
  • Getting brighted by some jerk who’s just doing it for fun. *snicker*
  • I did mention that there’s less traffic at night, right? Oh shoot. That went in the other section.
  • Sometimes that pesky circadian rhythm jumps up and yanks your eyelids shut for no apparent reason. Even if you’ve had plenty of sleep.
  • The Fuzz can easily see if you’ve got even one teeny-tiny-little-light that has burned out. They’ll pull you over as the VW drunk guy does a U-turn in the ditch to retrieve his ladder.

So maybe there are some advantages to being a Solar driver. I can do either, and quite frankly it’s nice to have to mix it up a bit. I wouldn’t want to have to choose between the two, but if I were forced, I’d go with being a Lunar driver. Why? Did I mention there’s less traffic on the Lunar shift?

*Got pros and cons that I’ve forgotten? Leave a comment so that everyone can read them! And please pass this on to anyone who you think might enjoy it. Thanks*

Riding Along with a Trucker

July 3, 2010

I like Lucinda. Not only is her name really close to The Evil Overlord’s name (Lorinda), but she was also kind enough to drop by, read “Go to bed angry” , and leave a comment. I love getting comments, largely because it means someone other than my mom is reading the blog. So here’s what Lucinda wrote:

What are your thoughts on a wife joining a husband on the road when the children are grown, more as a companion not as a co-driver? This is what we have been thinking of doing. We have our own authority so we would be free to schedule loads to places we want to visit and stay as long as we want.

Well Lucinda, that’s a good question. My initial thought was, “Wow. This lady must be really bored.” However, after some deliberation, I thought, “Wow. This lady must be reeeeeeeeeally bored.” Seriously though, I see what you and the hubster are after.

The little critters that used to laugh while peeing in your face soon evolved into pesky ankle-biters, who eventually matured into know-it-all teens. Before you know it they’ve changed into human beings. That’s when they move out and the freedom begins; both yours and theirs. Better hurry! They’ve got four years of college before the inevitable move back into the parents house. Time for some fun. Time for a job that pays you to travel. That’s what we’re talking about here.

I think that the last sentence of your comment is the key. If the hubby was a company driver, I’d have second, thirds and possibly even fifteen thoughts about this, primarily because you have little or no choice regarding your destinations. Company drivers know this well. So do Owner/Operators. A what?

Now Lucinda has been a trucker’s wife for a long time, so I’m not telling her anything new here. I’m speaking to my non-trucking readers now. A quick lesson for ya. Company drivers are simply hired hands. We do what the company tells us to do. Sometimes we even do it without whining. We drive company-owned trucks. Although there are exceptions, typically, company drivers have little choice over what loads they get and where they go.

Owner/Operators, or O/O, are a step up, or down the rung, depending who you ask. They own or lease their own trucks, and can set them up any way they want. Although they are their own company, they usually associate themselves with a larger carrier. That carrier gives them a bunch of loads to choose from. So in that regard, they’ve got more choices as to where they go.

But Lucinda’s husband has his own authority. When a trucker has their own authority, they’re in complete control. They own their trucks and they have the “authority” to book their own loads. They can do this through sources of their own or load brokers. They can go anywhere they choose whether they’re loaded or empty. Of course, if you’d like to see Niagara Falls, it’s always best if you can find a load to Buffalo. May as well get paid to go there. (Thanks to @lawsonbulk for his help with the different types of trucking.)

Now back to Lucinda. The last line of your comment was the most important. If you’re truly looking at this as a way of working and vacationing, then having your own authority is the only way to go. I give you my blessing, not that you needed it. Still, there are some things you should beware of, especially since it doesn’t sound like you’ve spent much extended time in the truck.

When I started responding to your comment, my mind immediately went to a couple of my Twitter friends. @luv18wheels has been a passenger riding along with her husband for a long time. I asked her advice and here’s what she had to say:

Todd,

First of all she best make sure that her and hubby get along really well in their relationship. Because as you know first hand, there’s a lot of stress on the road and arguments about decisions made while on the truck can really get heated. I rarely get bored as I have my PC, Twitter, Facebook, and navigate directions for hubby. I also use the Qualcomm for him to speed things along, and I like to read. Also, having a pet on the truck can be very entertaining, and they are good stress relievers. Plus, you have to take them for walks, which is good for the both of you. When I’m back on the computer we rarely interact, so when I do come up front it’s like a visit, and then we can talk about what’s on our mind. Heck if she wants alone time she can pull the curtain and go in the back to read or watch a DVD. There’s a lot to see in this beautiful country so boredom has never been one of my issues. We also have Satellite Radio, which keeps us up to date on what’s going on in the world, and it entertains us as well. Just being in a truck with only the space of a large closet can cause problems in the relationship if you don’t get along well in the first place.

Thank you Pat, I couldn’t have said it better myself. Although watching a DVD in the bunk while we’re bouncing down the road would probably make me blow chunks from here to Hawaii. But as I said in “Go to bed angry”, getting along with your potential co-rider is paramount. Being married for several years doesn’t necessarily mean that you can be stuck in a tiny space with them for weeks on end, especially if you’re not used to being around your long-haul-truckin’ spouse. This goes for Lucinda and anyone else thinking about doing this.

I also think Pat’s advice on finding a hobby is important. Pat’s thing may not be your thing, although I expect her having multiple hobbies has kept her from going stir crazy. Just find something to keep you busy.

Another passenger-only Twitter friend, @CB_SnowAngel says that she doesn’t have to worry about getting too much of her boyfriend. She says he’s so focused on the job, that it sometimes feels like she’s not even there. So if Mr. Lucinda is a focused-kinda-guy, maybe finding alone time won’t be an issue. Sabrina also backs up Pat on two things. If you need to get away, escape to the bunk area. She too, thinks that a computer is a great way to wile away the miles.

So, Lucinda. Other than what you’ve already heard, I’d suggest one more thing. Take it slow at first. Only plan on staying out on the road for a week or two at a time. If things get stressful, you can look forward to getting home and away from that annoying person.

However, if you and the hunk-of-burning-stud are having a blast, stay out and have fun. And if you ever get to Niagara Falls, look around and see if you can locate my buns. I’m pretty sure I froze them off there one cold January day.

*So, do I have any riders out there? Have any additional advice for Lucinda? Or maybe you’ve got a specific question. Leave a comment and we’ll see if we can’t get it answered. Thanks.*

When Planners Don’t

March 18, 2010

To continue from last week; Planners are the big ugly Oz behind the curtain of mystery. If you’ve got a beef about a load you’ve been given, they are completely unattainable. You can’t reach them directly by phone. Your dispatcher won’t transfer you to them. The office receptionist won’t transfer you either.

There is only one way that you can get to these puppet masters. They have to want to talk to you. It just so happens that the only time they choose to lower the veil is when they’ve done something good. One example is when they’ve swapped a couple of loads around, or arranged for you to swap loads so you can get home on time. Or maybe they need some help with a load because another truck has broken down. Basically, in order for them to want to talk to the lowly driver, they either have to be really pleased with themselves, or in a tight pinch where some strategic grovelling is needed.

Now I’m not an unfriendly person by nature, but I really don’t want to speak to ANYONE at my company unless I’m having a problem with something. You send me load information; I’ll run the load. If I need you, I’ll call. If I need my dispatcher, no problem; he’ll answer the phone. Need a HazMat permit for Idaho? The receptionist will patch me right through. Even the CSR’s (Customer Service Representatives) can be reached if I’m having a problem with a shipper or receiver. But the Planners? Oh no, you can’t talk to them! Mere mortals cannot speak to the great gods of confusion.

The Evil Overlord and I recently went through a round of planner-hating, spurring on the title of this post,”When Planners don’t.” As those of you who follow me on twitter know, we recently got a brand-new truck. It had 8.7 miles on it when we got it. Unfortunately, new trucks require some things to be reinstalled. I wasn’t about to tap into the wiring harness to hook up my CB and the company policy was that our inverter (to convert DC power to AC) had to be installed by a company shop. By the time we got to the yard to pick up the new truck, the shop was getting ready to close for the night. Also, our brand-new satellite system wasn’t working. There’s a good start for you.

“When Planners don’t” example number one is on the way. Instead of letting us sit overnight to get our stuff installed, the planners (through our dispatcher, of course), told us to deliver the load we were under the next morning and they would route us back through the yard to get our stuff put in. Knowing planners as we do, we argued, but our dispatcher was only following orders.

After our delivery the next morning, we got sent in the opposite direction from the yard. Again, we called to argue, but our dispatcher couldn’t get the planners to budge. On we went. This is one bad thing about forced dispatch. Had these been safety issues, they would have been forced to get it taken care of. Since it wasn’t, they thought it could wait.

Next example. We were due home in three days and we got sent in the opposite direction from our house. This direction also happened to have a lovely little blizzard on the way. As some of you may recall, this has happened to us a lot this past year, starting at Halloween, when we missed a big shindig we’d been planning with our nephews for nearly three months. That was the first blizzard in the opposite direction from our house. Although you may recall it might have had something to do with greed on my part.

Although we did make it home for Thanksgiving and Christmas, the same thing happened at those holidays too. So by the time this fourth time rolled around, I WENT OFF on my poor dispatcher. He could do nothing but apologize and tell us we had to take the loads. We got home two days late.

Coming back out from the house, we again stressed the need to get to a company shop. Instead, we were sent out west, were we don’t have any shops at all. Finally, we got that load heading back through a shop near Chicago. We asked to stop in, but the planners said that there wasn’t enough time. More arguing and promises to get us back through there, and on we went, steaming out the ears. We did get back through, but again, they said there wasn’t enough time. There were too many important loads. So we passed by again.

Now it comes to a head. We delivered 90 miles from the shop on a Friday afternoon. I asked to deadhead (take an empty trailer) down to the yard, where they said they could get us in immediately. The planners didn’t want to send us there. They kept sending us load after load, which I promptly refused. They hate it when we do that. Good.

In the end, we had to threaten to quit. Even then, they finally gave in too late. The shop would close before we could get there. Having threatened to quit, and gotten permission to finally get the work done, we weren’t about to let them give us more loads through the weekend to keep us rolling, with “promises” to get us back through again.

Now since the shop wouldn’t be open until Monday morning, we went to a nearby truck stop so we would have access to food and showers. We could have gotten showers at the yard if we had went on in, but without an inverter to operate our microwave, we would have been eating Chinese take-out and pizza delivery all weekend. We got to the yard by Monday morning and I was waiting at the shop doors before they even opened.

Now here’s the real kicker. Installing an inverter, a CB, and updating the software in our satellite system was only supposed to take about 3-4 hours tops. That’s why we were so hacked about having to pass up getting it done so many times. The shop foreman told me to wait in my truck and they’d call me shortly. Awesome! I’d be on the road by noon!

However, when I got the call an hour later, they informed me that my transmission had a recall part that needed to be replaced before they could install our stuff. When they saw my expression change, they assured me that the job only took 45 minutes and the dealer where they were sending us had put us on a priority list. So you can guess what happened. Eight hours later we rolled out of the dealer and back to our yard, where, of course, the shop was closed for the night. Nice.

Now it’s Tuesday morning and I’m once again standing at the shop door before the foreman gets there. The truck finally rolls into the shop about 9:00 am. My “3-4 hours of work” was finally done at 5:30, which just so happens to be the time that the shop closes. Well, it took a lot longer than expected, but at least we were ready to roll. CB hooked up? Check. Inverter installed and working? Yup. Satellite system updated. You bet. But the update wasn’t working. Now not only was our GPS not working, but our messaging system wasn’t either. We could live without GPS, but if your messages aren’t working, it’s a royal pain in the sitter.

I jumped out of the truck and ran back inside. Door’s locked. It’s 5:35. After 15 hours of yoga, meditation, a massage, a round of acupuncture, and some weird aroma therapy mask made of llama dung, I was finally able to calm down.

Wednesday morning and those shop guys knew not to jerk me around anymore. It usually doesn’t do any good to get pissy with these people, but sometimes that’s what it takes to be taken seriously. Sometimes nice guys do finish last. Anyway, they replaced the faulty unit and we were ready to go by 9:30 a.m. So now we just needed to get a load and get moving. That shouldn’t be a problem since there was SO MUCH freight that we hadn’t had time in the last three weeks to get our stuff installed. Right? 2.5 hours later, we finally got a load. Where’s all those freakin’ loads now, you jerk-wad Planner?

So that’s what happens, “When Planners don’t.” If they had just planned to let us stop at a shop and get this stuff done when we had our chances, they wouldn’t have lost the use of our truck from Friday morning to Wednesday afternoon. Their greed caused them to lose a truck for 5.5 days, but more importantly for us, it shorted us 5.5 days of driving. That paycheck sucked worse than a vacuum cleaner convention.

I apologize for the 1400+ words rant, but it had to be done. I’m pretty sure my dispatcher was getting tired of hearing it, and I know The Evil Overlord and I are tired of hearing each other whine about it. That leaves whatever sucker has bothered to read this far down.

I promise I’ll have a more upbeat post next time around. Maybe something great will happen soon. Personally, I’m praying for a chance to leave a Planner with a few less teeth to brush. Anyone have their address?

*Yea. Like I’ve got a violent bone in my body. Okay, be sure to leave your thoughts on Planners. Even if you like them and think they’re the greatest people on the planet, well, you’re entitled to your ignorant opinion. HA! Kidding! Be sure to give this post a rating and pass the word to your friends.*

No Guarantees in Trucking

December 23, 2009

The trucking industry might offer you a lot of things, but guarantees aren’t one of them. There’s plenty of “we’ll do what we can’s” and “let’s see how it pans out” type statements, but nothing is set in stone. I think “set in pudding” is closer to the mark.

As I write this post, I’m sitting 200 miles away from my house. It’s December 23 and we are due home  by noon. At least that’s what we asked for. My company doesn’t guarantee home time. Furthermore, I’ve never worked for a company that has. The Evil Overlord and I delivered a load at 5 a.m. and are now eagerly awaiting word from HQ as to whether we’ll be dead-heading (running without a load) home or whether they’re going to try to cram in one more load. If they give us the nod to head home, sorry, but the rest of this post is gonna have to wait. But for now, let’s move on.

As truck drivers, Christmas is about the closest thing we get to a guarantee. Most companies that we have worked for have had policies to get all drivers home on Christmas Day. Not Thanksgiving. Not 4th of July. Not Labor Day. Only Christmas, and only Christmas Day at that. So far, they’ve been successful, but to varying degrees.

Some years, you get plenty of time before and after Christmas Day. Other times you might get enough time to eat your 10 pound quota of mom’s chocolate chip cookies, then it’s back out on the road. One year, we got to the house in the early morning hours of Christmas Day, then had to leave at 6 a.m. on the 26th in order to deliver a load on time. Heck, I didn’t even have time to, errrr, “process” my Christmas cookies. We were sooooo freakin’ tired the entire time. The upside is that now we know what a zombie Christmas would feel like, if zombies cared about anything but eating brains that is. Clearly, they don’t. Okay… that was a weird little tangent. Nothing like the birth of the Savior of the world to bring on the zombie talk. Continuing on that line…

Last year was another of those zombie Christmas’. We had about four hours to wrap a dump truck load of gifts for the nephews and get over to their house to set up before the little spitfires woke up and kamikazied down the stairs. After that, it was over to my mom’s house where we walked around in a stupor for the rest of the day. Lucky for them, we didn’t have any weird craving for brains.

This lack of guarantees doesn’t just apply to Christmas though. The same thing happened this year at Thanksgiving. We got in with enough time to grab a couple of hours of sleep before we were due at my mom’s house. A couple of months before that, we completely missed a Halloween holiday that we had been planning for over two months. There have been many similar situations over the years.

Holy baby Jesus!  Is that blasphemy? Hope not. I mean, he is holy and all. Anyway, we just got told to deadhead home. The rest will have to wait. Wow! Home on time AND no load, which means that we don’t have a deadline that will cut our time short. We’ll have to see how long we can soak this thing for. Finish up later.

On second thought, I’ve decided that I’m going to give you a Christmas gift that you’ll cherish throughout the years. A gift so unique and unheard of that you’ll be telling all your friends and relatives about it for years to come. What is this special gift?

A blog post that’s less than 1000 words. Merry Christmas.

Is Forced Dispatch Forced?

October 30, 2009

Photo by Glutnix via Flickr

I’m sitting in the driver’s lounge of a truck shop right now. Last night, in 25 degree weather, our alternator belt broke. It not only powers the batteries, but since everything in our modern truck is electrical, it also powers nearly everything else, including the heater. So what does this have to do with forced dispatched? Hang on. I’m taking the construction detour to get around to it.

Forced dispatch simply means that you can’t reject a load that your company gives you. Since Owner/Operators can pick and choose their loads, this is usually only an issue for company drivers. The term “forced” is the thing most folks get caught up with. Now I don’t like to be forced to do anything. Most people don’t. Perhaps the term should be changed to the phrase, “Strongly suggested if you want any good loads in the future” dispatch. Or how about, “The planner is too freakin’ lazy to look for anything else” dispatch. Those are both pretty fitting.

The thing with forced dispatch is that it’s really not… at least it isn’t if you’ve got a good reason to refuse the load. And now we come to the part where I’m sitting in a shop’s driver lounge with a broken truck. Now undoubtedly, my alternator belt would have broken at some point, but if I had utilized the exception rule on forced dispatch, I’d be close to home instead of freezing my nipples off in Longmont, Colorado right now.

I had just delivered a load near Dallas, TX  when I received my next load information. This was Tuesday night and the load was going to the Denver area to be delivered Wednesday night. Since we were due home in Missouri on Thursday night, I almost refused it. Instead I got greedy. I saw that we could deliver on Wednesday night and still be home by Thursday night. Just one more load, right! The problem is that I accepted the load without thinking it through. On hindsight, I should have refused it and sat in Texas until they found something better.

I was well on my way to Denver when one of my Twitter friends shot me a tweet that told me that he was heading to Austin TX and he hoped I enjoyed the Denver blizzard. The what? As they say on the iPhone commercials, “There’s an app for that.” The Weather Channel app confirmed it, up to 12 inches of snow. Great. Had I known that in advance, I would’ve had grounds to refuse that forced dispatch. I could’ve simply stated that I might get stuck in the storm which might cause me to get home late. I had the company look for another driver who might want to switch loads, but I knew it was useless. What kind of idiot would want to drive right back into the blizzard that he had just escaped? My dispatcher asked if I wanted to put off my home time until the next week, but that really wasn’t an option. Under normal circumstances, that might work. But not this particular weekend.

You see, we had been planning a decked-out Halloween weekend for our nephews and we really needed to be home by Thursday night to prepare for it. Our costumes had been bought way back in August. On top of that, The Evil Overlord had scheduled a few appointments on Friday and I had a doctor’s appointment on Monday. Doctors appointments are yet another good reason to refuse forced dispatches. Yet I didn’t. So basically, I blew it worse than a kid with a kazoo.

And all this because I thought I could fit in one more load. You know, it’s true what the Bible says about greed. It sucks. Well, it doesn’t say it in those exact words, but you get the drift… just as I do. All snowy 12″ of them. Dang it.

*Do you have a similar story where your greed got you into trouble? Tell us all about it by leaving a comment. And if you enjoyed this post, please pass it on to your friends. You do have friends, don’t you? 😉 *

When Company Policy Overrides Common Sense

April 11, 2009

Anyone who’s heard me speak of trucking knows that I always recommend the large national carriers to new drivers. I’ve got many reasons for doing so, but that still doesn’t mean that they’re perfect. Sometimes they leave me shaking my head like a bobble head doll in a monster truck.

Take this morning as an example. I delivered a load in St. James, Missouri and received my load information to pick up a load in Jonesboro, Arkansas. As sometimes happens, the load was going to have to be picked up late. It wasn’t my fault. They just didn’t have another driver that was closer, so it was up to me to pick it up as soon as possible.

Anyway, in their infinite wisdom, my company (and many other large carriers) always sends us routing information so that we know what route to take. Company policy states that we cannot deviate from the supplied routing. Unfortunately, it’s not always the best route to take.

Today, it was sending me on every little back woods, twisty-turvy, hilly, state highway to get to Jonesboro. I’ve had previous experience with these particular roads and knew it would be slow-going. In the past, if I saw that the route wasn’t practical for whatever reason, I just sent a satellite message to my boss informing her of the route that I was going to take. She always deferred to my judgement and experience. But today was different.

Today, I have a new boss (more on that in the next post). I sent a message as usual stating that it would be much faster, not to mention safer, to go a little out of route over to Rolla and take US-63 instead of the back roads. It couldn’t have been more than 20-30 miles out of route, if it was even that far. No dice. I get a message back saying that it’s against company policy to deviate from the routing. Of course, I already know this. But sometimes you’ve gotta use your brain too.

What’s going to waste more fuel?

  1. Going 20-30 miles out of route, but maintaining a fairly steady speed for the entire route?  Or. . .
  2. Taking curvy roads with huge hills, causing massive speed fluctuations and gear shifting.

Now I don’t really know the scientific answer, but my gut tells me that the nice, steady, fairly flat, bigger road would save fuel. Maybe I’m wrong. But what about safety issues?

Large companies are always saying that their #1 priority is safety. Really? Let’s look at that.

Which route would be safer?

  1. A US highway that is partially four-lane, fairly flat, and mostly straight?  Or. . .
  2. Numerous tiny two lane highways with no shoulders, narrow bridges, small towns with tight corners, and long sections of tight 30-35 mph curves that sometimes requires my tractor or trailer to be in the oncoming traffic’s lane? Not to mention the fact that if you’re a team operation, your co-driver isn’t sleeping well because of all the curves, speed changes, and rollercoaster hills. And they have to drive later on that day.

I trust that my point is made. A smaller company might be able to bend certain company policies if it’ll benefit both the company and the driver. But a large company can’t afford to, or won’t make exceptions as easily, even if it’s the smart thing to do. And in that regard, this round goes to the smaller company.

As for my trip this morning, I was right about two things:

  1. It was as curvy and hilly as I remembered, so it took me 1.5 hours longer to make the trip than if I had taken US-63.
  2. The Evil Overlord (wife/co-driver) didn’t sleep well so it’s gonna be a bad day.  Too bad my new boss can’t trade me places just for today.  I bet he’d trust my judgement the next time I offered it.  Company policy or not!

Dang. I love it when I’m right.


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