Posts Tagged ‘idling laws’

A Trucker’s Thanksgiving

November 21, 2011

Gobble, Gobble

Photo by r_gnuce via Flickr

Well, it’s that time of year again. It’s time to slap-fight your siblings for the drumstick and have spoon duels over the last dollop of Cool Whip, because we all know pumpkin pie just ain’t right until you can’t see the plate beneath the pie.

More importantly though, it’s time to look around us and give thanks for everything we have. For being blessed with an annoying brother who called dibs on the drumstick before you. For your superior health, which enables you to punch him hard enough to leave a giant bruise. For the job that you hate. You know, the job that put that turkey on the table. The job that paid your bills all year. The job that the dude in the unemployment line would kill for. Yes, I know I’m among the guiltiest in this regard. Thanks for pointing that out. Now shut your face.

So that’s what I’m here to do today: count my blessings. And since I’m such a ooey-gooey, touchy-feely, sentimental kinda guy, I’ll do so in my typical fashion. Here are the things that this trucker is thankful for. As expected, let’s start out with:

  • Thanks to the inventors of electronic logs for wasting my valuable time. As if my trips to the mall with The Evil Overlord weren’t enough torture for one man.
  • Thanks to the driver who insists on going the speed limit in the fast lane. I hadn’t realized it was your job to police me. Thanks for keeping me in line.
  • Thanks to all those drivers who slow down when you see a cop, even when you’re not speeding. I hear that if a cop sees you do this, he’ll pull you over and give you an ice cream cone.
  • Thanks to all you good folks who overspend your budgets. Your greed = my freight.
  • Thanks to all the credit card companies who promote this overspending. May your consciences be clear as you sleep on your $800 pillow lined with kitten fur.
  • Thank you to the medical profession for extending life expectancy. It’s going to take every last second of life to pay off these stinkin’ credit cards. Dang. My balance just went up again. Who knew there was such thing as a badmouthing fee?
  • Thanks to all the rubberneckers who bring traffic to a near standstill, even though whatever is happening is on the opposite side of the highway.
  • Thanks to that police officer who issues me a ticket for having a light out. You know, one of those three tiny, but extremely crucial clearance lights that are above my trailer doors. Whew! Did you see that? That airplane almost rear-ended me!
  • Thanks to all the drivers who try to close the gap when I flip my turn signal on to switch lanes. No worries. It’s not like I can’t take the spot after you pass. Aw crap. The next guy punched it too. And the next… And the next…
  • Thanks to all the truckers who tailgate 4-wheelers. Nothing says “professional” quite like a rear-view mirror full of grille.
  • Thanks to the woman who puts on her makeup in 65 mph rush hour traffic. We all know how important it is to look pretty when there’s an open casket.
  • Thanks to all those 4-wheelers who like to hang out in a trucker’s blind spots. Oh well. Out of sight, out of mind. Never you mind that pesky turn signal light that’s making the side of your face glow.
  • Thanks to the driver who locks up his brakes in front of me because he missed his turn. I’ve really been needing to check the integrity of my brakes. Too bad they work.
  • Thanks to the DOT, the FMCSA, the CSA, and all the other organizations who love truckers enough to regulate them. It’s nice to know that you can make me log it if it takes more than 7 minutes to pee, but you can’t make a receiver unload me in less than 3 hours.
  • Thanks to the trucker who parks in front of the fuel islands for extended periods of time. Yes, I know you had fuel card problems. I saw your fuel receipt through the Subway bag with toilet paper stuck to it.
  • Thanks to all the drivers who figure out where the gas pedal is after I start to pass you.
  • Thanks to all the 4-wheelers who go 5 mph under the speed limit on 2-lane highways. It’s a good thing I’m not driving this truck to make money or anything.
  • Thanks to the driver who writes SHOW YOUR HOOTERS in the dust on the back of the trailer. Public opinion: 1 Trucker’s reputation: 0
  • Thanks to the truck who parks crookeder than a homemade TV antenna. I hope you weren’t emotionally attached to that side-view mirror.
  • Thanks to the state of California for making us truckers stay in the far right lanes. It’s not like that’s where all the other vehicles are trying to enter the roadway or anything.
  • I’d also like to thank California for making trucks go 55 mph. We all know how dangerous those tumbleweeds can be.
  • Thanks to the driver who pulls out in front of me from a side street. I’ve been meaning to work on my slalom skills.
  • Thanks to my company for banning all cooking devices from my truck. There’s nothing quite like a cold bowl of Captain Crunch on a blustery winter’s night.
  • Thanks to the inattentive or unyielding trucker who won’t back out of it for two seconds so a slightly faster truck can get around him quicker. I’m sure all those drivers stuck behind you will be talking about the nice trucker when they get to work.
  • Thanks to the DOT for their hours-of-service rules. How would I know when I’m tired without your infinite wisdom?
  • Thanks to the drivers who feel the need to go 25 mph in a 45 mph construction zone. Good thing you’re clairvoyant. Those construction workers are always putting up the wrong speed limit signs.
  • Thanks to all the businesses who put up NO TRUCK PARKING signs. I nearly forgot that my money is less valuable than everyone else’s.
  • Thanks to all the worthless pile of dung truckers who use these parking lots as trash bins and toilets. I’m sure that has absolutely nothing to do with those NO TRUCK PARKING signs.
  • Thanks to all you 4-wheelers who are so kind as to allow me to hang out in the fast lane after I’ve scooted over to help you merge onto the highway. Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize you were on the phone.
  • Speaking of on-ramps and phones, thanks to the driver who can’t be bothered to put away his cell phone as he’s barreling down the on-ramp. I guess the two cars to the left of me forgot to use their X-ray vision to see you trying to push me over. I know, right? What a waste of super powers.
  • And yet again, thanks to all those wishy-washy 4-wheelers who can’t make a decision when they get to the end of the on-ramp. Yes, I know being 3 car-lengths ahead of me will make it an impossibly tight fit, but why don’t you try anyway.
  • Thanks to the Christians who write Bible verses on the bathroom walls. Nothing says “Jesus loves you” quite like vandalizing someone’s property.
  • Thanks to all the shippers and receivers who value my time so much. Everyone deserves a 5-hour nap in the middle of their workday. Right?
  • Thanks to the soccer mom who cuts across three lanes in front of me to get to her exit ramp. My doctor has been saying I need to increase my heart rate more often.
  • Thanks to the person who flips me the bird for riding out in the left-hand lane. Clearly I misread that sign that read, TRUCKS LEFT LANE ONLY. My bad.
  • Thanks to all the good citizens who vote for anti-idling laws for trucks. While you may not die from harmful gas inhalation, you’ve dramatically increased your shot at getting run over by a trucker who was unsuccessfully trying to sleep in a pool of his own sweat.
  • And finally, thanks to the truck stop owners who wants $37 for a small bottle of Pepto-Bismol. When you’re looking for your place of torment in hell, just follow the signs that say, EXPLOITED A DIARRHEA SUFFERER.
Well, there you have it; a list of things to be thankful for. Yes, I know. Heartfelt is my middle name. That’s just me.
So, what are you thankful for this Turkey Day? As soon as you get done clobbering your brother with that drumstick you stole, why don’t you pop on over to the comments section and leave your thoughts. I’d appreciate it if you’d wash your hands first. I don’t want you touching my comments sections with those greasy turkey fingers. I swear. We can’t have anything nice in this house.

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. ;-)*

How Much is Too Much?

November 25, 2010

Photo by MyLifeStory via Flickr

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

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

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

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

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

November 24, 2010

Mr. Q.B. Cull

Turtle Trucking

10-4 Drive

Freightville, Hawaii

Dear Mr. Cull,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Christopher T. McCann

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

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

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

Non-Truckers: Don’t Take It for Granted

September 11, 2010

As I’ve stated before in “Why I do this,”  one of the main reasons I have an online presence is to inform non-truckers what it’s like to live as an Over-The-Road trucker. Sure, bad days can come off sounding a bit whiny sometimes, but the idea is not to gain sympathy. The plan is to help people stop and think when they’re around trucks. From what my non-trucker friends tell me, it’s been working.

Driving a truck isn’t the hard part of trucking. Living the life is. Once you learn how to drive the monster truck on steroids, the actual driving is usually a pleasure. Beautiful sunrises and sunsets over the desert, a hillside full of fall foliage in the Northeast, or a glimpse of Lake Coeur d’ Alene in Northern Idaho never gets old. It also helps not to have a boss who is constantly trying to catch you surfing the web instead of working.

Of course, there’s also the threat of crossing snow-covered Rocky Mountains, fighting rush hour traffic, and the very existence of New York City, which is about as much fun as a titty-twister from a professional arm wrestler. Still, the majority of time it beats staring at a cubicle wall and kissing some jerk’s buttocks day after day.

So what exactly is so hard about the trucking life? It’s the little things that most non-truckers rarely, if ever, think about. For instance,

When was the last time you:

  • had to wonder if your shower was going to have hot water?
  • had to worry about having good water pressure in that shower?
  • had to worry about even getting a shower?
  • had to get dressed in the middle of the night to take a leak, or worse?
  • had to blow a non-family member’s pubic hair off your toilet seat?
  • had to brush your teeth while smelling someone else’s butt funk or five someone else’s?
  • couldn’t easily get to a hospital when you were puking up something that resembles cottage cheese and hot dog chunks?
  • had to be a contortionist to make your bed?
  • were up all day and were then told you need to drive 500 miles?
  • got out of your vehicle and the parking lot smelled like boiling urine?
  • tried to pass a vehicle for 5 minutes before you gave up and got back behind the freak with the fickle right foot?
  • couldn’t find a place to park?
  • had to sleep in a pool of your own sweaty B.O.?
  • couldn’t sleep because your toes felt like they’d been dipped in liquid nitrogen?
  • got bad directions, cursed, missed your turn, cursed, and couldn’t turn around for 10 miles, cursing the whole time?
  • were woke up and solicited by a hooker? Sorry men. Dreams don’t count.
  • were separated from your spouse for over a week… and that happened every month?
  • were forced to have a marital spat over the phone?
  • missed your child’s big event because you were in another state delivering a load of really important ketchup packets?
  • had to post a “Beware of falling objects” sign in your vehicle to remind you every time you open a cabinet door?
  • couldn’t get to a Starbucks when you really, really, really needed a fix?
  • realized that your restaurant choices were limited to where you could park?
  • had to get out of your vehicle 10 times just to back into a parking space? And you weren’t 16-years-old.
  • had to drive up a painstakingly long 6-mile hill at 25 miles per hour?
  • had to drive down a painstakingly long 6-mile hill at 25 miles per hour?
  • were told you couldn’t drive any further until you got a nose-hair-sized crack in your windshield repaired?
  • had to account for every 15-minute period of your day?
  • had to sit for 10 hours just 15 miles from home because the Department of Transportation has deemed that it’s too dangerous to drive another 15 minutes?
  • had to live in a room the size of a walk-in closet, sometimes with another crabby person?
  • had to sleep in a bouncing bed? On second thought, don’t answer that.
  • had to pack a suitcase to go to work?
  • had to do 15 loads of laundry in 30 hours? I should have bought stock in April Fresh Tide years ago.
  • had to pay twice as much as another driver for the exact same traffic violation?
  • were issued a DUI after one beer? CDL holders can be; because we all know that the type of plastic card you hold makes all the difference in how your body handles booze.
  • had to fuel at a particular station, even if the lines were longer than an NBA star’s criminal record?
  • had to take a particular route to work, even if it took longer than the way you’d prefer to go?
  • had to cancel a vacation because your employer couldn’t get you home in time?
  • were told you could go home on Friday afternoon, but you didn’t actually get there until the following Thursday?
  • got a 30-hour weekend after working for 3 or 4 weeks?
  • said “TGIF” and it actually meant something?
  • had a friend that didn’t involve an Internet connection?

I rest my case for now. I urge my non-trucking readers to appreciate the normal lives that they lead. Your life may seem mundane at times, but please don’t take it for granted. When you’re on your way to your weekend golf game or a baby shower, remember the truckers that are en route to the docks at Golfsmith and Babies-R-Us. Hopefully, those thoughts carry over into the weekdays too.

To the folks out there who are considering driving a truck for a living, I’d like you to think long and hard about what you’re getting into. While it’s true that you’ll never really know if you’re cut out for the trucking life until you’re actually doing it, you can do everything in your power to be informed before you try to enter the industry.

Talk to truckers. Read about trucking. Ride along with a trucker for a week or more if you can manage it. Whatever you do, please don’t get into trucking without careful consideration. The last thing we need out here is another whiny trucker. Just follow me on Twitter if you don’t believe me. 🙂

*So, what is it that I missed? What do you think people shouldn’t take for granted? Let us all know by leaving a comment. And please pass this post along to all your non-trucking friends. Who knows? Maybe they’ll started giving us truckers a bit more consideration out on the road. Thanks.*

Typing Mad at the TSA

February 2, 2010

Photo by Will Imholte via Flickr

Okay. I admit it. I just lost my cool. But this time, I’m not apologizing for it. I’ve been known to snap at people now and then. If I realized that I was wrong, I’d sometimes feel guilty (not always) and apologize to the person who got snapped at… unless it’s The Evil Overlord of course. Never admit to your spouse that you were wrong about anything. So here’s how it went down.

Let me start by saying that I’m not having a good day. I woke up with The Evil Overlord ripping the covers off me and telling me that she didn’t make good time. She insisted I figure up our average. This happens on a regular basis (the insisting and the making bad time, not the cover-ripping), so I don’t blame her for my venom-spitting attitude. You might ask, “What’s an average?” What we mean is the mile per hour that we have to “average” in order to deliver on time. I divide the total miles left on the trip, by the number of hours that we have to do it. That determines whether we eat fast food or if we have time to eat healthier. Sometimes math and mornings just don’t mix. This cheery morning, the average came out to 83 mph. Uh-oh. Thus the crappy attitude ensues.

We are on yet another hot load, this time from Indianapolis, IN to Oakland, CA. Like I said, it was a hot load, but I really didn’t think we were doing that poorly on this particular trip. We weren’t. You see, there’s these things called time zones. I’ve been dealing with time zones for 13 years now, and every so often one jumps up to kick me square in the teeth. It turns out that California is on Pacific time, which is two hours behind the Central time zone that we run on. BEHIND, Todd, BEHIND!! I had figured it two hours AHEAD. So instead of 83 mph, we really only had to average 35 mph. Of course I didn’t this realize this until I sped all the way across Donner Pass and got into Sacramento. Once I realized my mistake, my mood only got worse. Sure, we’d be on time now, but what kind of an idiot makes a mistake like that? Don’t answer that.

Now I arrive at the receiver. I’ll not name names, but I’ve been here before, so I know the procedure. The last time I was here, the guard shack asked if I had a co-driver. Since I did, they wanted to see The Evil Overlord’s driver’s license. Now I’d rather punch a mafia warlord in the gonads than reach my hand into The Evil Overlord’s purse, so I had to wake her up to find her ID. I always hate waking her up, and she wasn’t overly pleased with me, but hey, a couple of black eyes is the price you have to pay sometimes. Anyway, this time I was fully prepared.

Before we even got to the receiver, I already had The Evil Overlord’s ID in hand. I was feeling pretty smug for remembering to ask her while she was still awake. I pull up and the woman at the guard shack asks for my paperwork. No problem, here you go. Then she asks me for my ID. Happy to oblige. Next she asks, “Do you have anyone in the back.” Yes, I do. I handed her The Evil Overlord’s ID before she could even ask for it. That’s when it happened. The guard shack Nazi told me she needed to see my co-driver’s face.

I admit. I snapped. “Oh, c’mon! That’s bull#*@%!!! I didn’t have to wake her up the last time I was here!” It all went downhill from there. Hitler grabbed the phone and slammed the window shut like I was holding a flamethrower to her head. I was good and pissed by then, so I hollered back and told The Evil Overlord that they needed to see her face. After some cussing, she put some clothes on and stuck her grouchy-looking face out through the curtain. I tried to get the guard’s attention to tell her that my co-driver’s face was now visible. She didn’t respond, so I honked the little horn (not the big air horn). That’s when four more guards rounded the corner in a hurry and stepped into the guard shack.

I overheard Hitler say that I was cussing and calling her names. When one of the other guards asked if that was true, I admitted what I had said, but denied calling her any names. Naturally, she said I was lying. That didn’t help my mood either. Then the other guard asked me what the problem was. And here is the crux of it… and the reason I’m not apologizing to anyone.

When your co-driver is sleeping, they shouldn’t be disturbed. One of these days, the people of this great nation are going to have to realize that they can’t have safe roads AND sleepy truck drivers. This goes for waking drivers up in the middle of their sleep, as well as the many no-idling policies that are becoming law across the nation. I said as much to the guard.

He said that it was a TSA rule that both drivers must physically present themselves. I truthfully told him, “That wasn’t the rules the last time I came here.” He doubted me as I went on to say that I had never been asked to wake my co-driver up at ANY of their other facilities throughout the country. In fact, I had never even been asked to produce a co-driver’s ID before. I had been asked for her ID at a pick up location, but never a receiver. Keep in mind that I have been truck driving for 13 years, and have delivered to this particular unnamed company on and off throughout the years. Now, why would I get so cheesed about all this if every facility asked for an ID and an Evil Overlord sighting? I wouldn’t. Actually, I wouldn’t still be trucking if that were the case.

The guard reiterated to me that it was a TSA rule that had to be followed. I pointed out that the DOT has rules that I must follow, too. A driver’s log book is a federal document that is legally binding in every way. Lawyers produce these suckers in a court of law when they want to prove what a driver was up to on any given day. So, in disrupting The Evil Overlord’s sleep, I had two choices. I could log it as such, and she would have to start her 10-hour rest period over, or I could ignore that it happened and falsify my log books. I’ll let you decide which I did. Still, the point is, I’ve got rules to follow too.

I told the guard that waking up a sleeping co-driver would be like me bringing the cops by his house at 3 a.m., knocking on his door, and telling him that he needed to get his wife out of bed so she could come to the front door. I went on to say, “What the heck do you think my wife is gonna do? Run around naked with a bomb strapped to her back?” That did get a laugh out of him and things started to calm down.

Here’s a couple more points to prove how stupid all of this is. All the loading docks were within plain sight of the guard shack. Really, what was I going to do right there in plain sight? Furthermore, all they wanted The Evil Overlord to do, was stick her head out from behind the curtain. What does that really accomplish? For all they knew, I had four psychotic terrorists wearing C-4 laden underwear back there.

Anyway, I eventually got my paperwork back and prepared to enter the gate. I turned my ignition switch and… nothing. Five minutes later and a couple of taps on the starter, the old wench finally turned over. So, it looks like this worthless pile of rhinoceros dung is going back into the shop for the sixth time. The air conditioning still isn’t fixed and our starting issues still aren’t worked out. THE SIXTH TIME!! Oh yeah. I see my mood getting better aaaaany minute now.

Well, I suppose there is one thing that I should be thankful for. I finally got a blog post out. Maybe I should get pissed more often. It seems that being all red-faced and buggy-eyed makes me type faster than a squirrel on crack.

*So what’s your experience with the TSA? Or any other strict security rules for that matter? Let us hear about it by leaving a comment. Now put on your shoes, put away your laptop, throw out that deadly paperclip, and give this post a rating and tell your friends about it right now. Don’t make me have to order a strip search.*

The Insanity of Truck Idling Laws

April 12, 2009

I know I said my next post would be about dispatchers, but I’ve got something fresh on my mind; mainly because it’s happening right now. So please humor me.

I’m guessing from the title that you can tell which of side of the argument I take when it comes to truck idling laws. First off, let me say that I do care for our environment. I don’t litter, I try to reuse anything I can, and I hate to waste paper of any kind. However, I’m on the opposite side of the coin from those enviro-wackos who constantly measure their carbon footprint. I’d like to put my footprint right up their carbon-hole.

For those of you who have no idea what a truck idling law is, let’s get you up to speed. Trucks need to idle their engines for a few reasons.

  1. To power their stuff inside their cabs, such as a TV, computer, or microwave oven.
  2. To provide heat or air conditioning for the truck.
  3. To provide power to their PTO or Power Take Off, which is needed by some trucks for loading or unloading product.

Before anyone has a chance to jump on it, I’ll let you know that I’m fully aware that a truck-mounted APU (auxiliary power unit) can do everything an idling engine can do, with a fraction of the exhaust fumes. But I’m also aware that these units cost thousands of dollars per truck, and because of that, most carriers haven’t installed them.

I’m also aware that idling options such as IdleAire exist. But they’re only available at select truck stops and they have an hourly fee; a fee which most companies won’t reimburse to their drivers. Besides, you aren’t always at a truck stop when you need to idle.

Some states have decided to limit the time that large trucks can idle their engines. New Jersey and New York were a couple of the first to start this nonsense, and of course, California wasn’t far behind. Part of the problem is that there aren’t any national guidelines. One state may limit idling time to 5 minutes. Another says it’s okay to idle 5 minutes out of every hour. Still another adjusts idling time to the temperature or the time of year. And the variations go on and on. How the heck are we supposed to keep track of it all?

What’s even more impractical is the spirit of these laws. The media and anti-truck organizations are always mouthing off about tired truckers, but these same unreasonable people are the ones standing beside the ecco-freaks in the no-idling movement. Well, to put it nicely, poop or get off the pot!

If I’m trying to sleep in 90 degree weather, what good is 5 minutes of idle time? You can’t cool the cab of a semi in 5 minutes. Likewise, if it’s 30 degrees, there’s not a chance that your engine will heat up enough in 5 minutes to provide you with even the slightest bit of heat. I don’t know about you, but I don’t sleep well when I’m lying in a pool of my own sweat or my little piggies are shivering underneath the covers. If I don’t sleep well, I’m not as alert when I drive.  That’s the opposite of promoting safety. Besides, I’m betting that these folks and everyone else leaves their climate control on at their house 24/7. Since we live in our trucks, shouldn’t we be able to have the same comforts?

As if things weren’t bad enough, now many of the shippers and receivers truckers deal with are implementing idling rules of their own. They usually let you know that they provide a drivers lounge for our “convenience.” When you go inside, you’re confronted with four folding chairs and a couple of half empty vending machines. Wow, that’s great. . . and sooooo comfortable. Heck, my butt gets numb just thinking about it. But what makes their no-idling policies so annoying is the fact that they don’t take into consideration that you just might have a co-driver who’s trying to sleep.

Is it safe for them to have to wake up to go into the driver’s lounge while the trailer is being unloaded for two or three hours? Remember, they have to drive later on that day. Even if they don’t require you to vacate your truck (most don’t), it’s still going to be hard to sleep without any air circulating through the truck. Sure, I could open the windows in nice weather, but how much of the year is the temperature perfect for that?

Luckily the point of this little rant is somewhat unnecessary. Although these state laws and company policies exist, they’re rarely enforced. Go into a truck stop in most any state and you’ll find plenty of trucks idling away. At the facility I’m at right now, there are signs everywhere telling you that idling will not be tolerated, yet here I sit doing just that. The yard jockeys (drivers who shuttle trailers in and out of docks) have been driving past me for the past three hours and no one has even looked at me twice. This happens all over the country, too. And that makes me happy. Let’s hope it continues.

The reason I get so riled about all this idling stuff is because it’s just one more example of people not caring about anyone but themselves and their own agenda. I just wish that people would think things through before they promote ideas that they don’t fully understand. Think about how others will be affected by your actions before you act. Sure, you want to clean up the planet for your children. That’s commendable. But what if a tired trucker collides with your vehicle and wipes out your entire family because he/she isn’t getting enough rest due to strict idling laws? Trust me, you’ll see this kind of story in the news more often if they start enforcing these idling laws.

Besides, if you really want to save the ozone, why don’t you go after the most evil producer of methane gas on our planet. . . cow farts.

When Your Truck Hates You

April 4, 2009

As of now I’m thoroughly convinced that our truck hates us. If you’ve been following this blog, you are well aware of the myriad of mechanical problems we’ve been having with our new truck.I won’t go into the past details again. You’re welcome. But the saga isn’t over.

Last night, while in Las Vegas, our air conditioning went out. . . again. Now you may recall that it has already been repaired twice. But it had been working fine all this time that we’ve been running up north. Now as soon as we get to someplace warm, it craps out on us again. How’s that for Vegas luck? We’re going to try to tough it out until we can get to one of our company shops, but no one will be getting much sleep until then.

Let me explain something about trucks. It’s true for cars too, but it seems to be especially pronounced in trucks. Let’s use right now as an example. We’ve made it to Arizona and I’m sitting in my truck typing away. It’s approximately 50-55 degrees outside, yet it’s about 75 degrees in the truck. I’ve got the front curtains up to block the sun and the windows are down, but it’s just not enough. No matter what, it always seems to be 20 degrees hotter in the truck. And it’s only 8 a.m. Can’t wait to see what it will be like at noon.

What really chaps my hide is the look you get when you put your truck in the shop for a/c problems when it’s 50 degrees outside. Most shop personnel think you’re nuts, thinking “what kind of freak needs a/c when it’s 50 degrees.” This kind of freak. It’s not just the temperature we’re dealing with, but the humidity also. It doesn’t take long for a truck with no a/c to start feeling like a sauna. And I doubt anyone (including The Evil Overlord) wants to see me sitting in my truck with nothing on but a towel.

Once again, I know I’ve been quite the downer lately. In trucking, there are plenty of opportunities to put you in a foul mood. But a truck that keeps screwing up on you is high on the list of things that will do the trick. Tied with that is dealing with an employer that is incompetent. Low miles due to a slow economy, I can deal with. Occasional other misfortunes are acceptable every now and then. But recurring problems are hard to let roll off your back.

And that’s why I have to force myself to try to stay positive; to try to find the silver lining. At least I have a job to complain about. And that’s saying something in this economy. Sure, my truck hates my guts and it’s now about 85 degrees in my truck, but it could be worse. For example, I’m stripping down and reaching for the towel right now.

The High-Idle Saga Continues

March 25, 2009

Thought I’d give you an update on our truck’s mechanical issues. First of all, I haven’t went all Scarface on anybody, so that’s good.

At the time of my last post about this topic, we were expecting to get into our company shop by the next night. I’m happy to report that is precisely what happened. But when we got there, we found out that the shop was only open 8 to 5 Monday through Friday. Apparently the economy had struck again and our company had laid off 13 mechanics and cut the remaining staff’s hours. We had been expecting them to have all day Friday to work on our truck, and if they weren’t finished by then, at least we knew they could finish up the repairs on Saturday and send us on our merry way. Instead, we had to hope that they could get everything done by 5 pm. If not, we would be stuck at the yard until Monday morning. And that sounded about as appealing as a Weight Watchers bikini calendar.

First, the good news. I’m happy to report that they got everything repaired by 5 pm. When I checked in at 8 am, they didn’t have an empty garage bay open, so they sent us a couple of blocks down the street to get a front end alignment. The Evil Overlord and I played co-op Lego Star Wars on our Nintendo DS’s while we waited. By the time we got back to our shop, they had cleared a bay and told us to pull right in. How’s that for some sweet timing?

They found a short in a wire that was causing our weird electrical issues. So it was nice to know that my wipers would actually work during the next blizzard. They replaced our cracked windshield and replaced a part on our a/c system. The mechanic said that he wasn’t even going to mess with the broken piece of plastic under our front bumper since I had already zip-tied it up off the ground. And best of all, they hooked up their computer to our truck and reprogrammed the entire system so that the hi-idle would work.

Now the bad news. Once we got out of the shop, we hi-idled our truck and everything seemed to be working perfectly. We ended up being there until Saturday evening, so the truck ran on hi-idle for a little over 24 hours. That’s way longer than it did before so we assumed the problem was fixed. But as is typical when you assume something, we were wrong. We didn’t park again until the next night. When it we hit the hi-idle button, it did so for about 10 minutes before it crapped out again. It hasn’t worked right since. Not long after, our “check engine” light came back on and our truck started bucking like a cowboy on a pissed off bull. At least the bucking was a sporadic thing and really only occurred when pulling a heavy load up a hill. Our a/c had also decided to get squirrelly on us again.

Fast forward to this past weekend. We called our road maintenance department and arranged for our truck to be left at our local Freightliner dealer while we took our home time. They would have three days to perform the exorcism. I picked up the truck Monday and here’s the report I got. They found a problem with the a/c and fixed it. They found and fixed the bucking issue. As for the hi-idle problem, the shop manager said they left the truck running for 2 hours, but the hi-idle never kicked off. Wouldn’t you know it? He said that they had done a recall on part of the electrical system and he thought that could have been the problem, but he admitted that it was just a guess. With trepidation, I drive the truck home.

That night we hop in the truck, hit the hi-idle button, and start loading the truck. A whole 5 minutes goes by before my demon possessed truck decides it doesn’t much care for hi-idle, and promptly drops down to lo-idle again. I hit the button again, and 5 minutes later  it goes off again. Ugggggh! For the love of Pete! Why couldn’t that have happened for the guys at Freightliner?

Well, we’re back on the road again and our stubborn, high blood pressure inducing truck decides when it wants to hi-idle and when it doesn’t. Never fear though, I’ve figured out how to fix her. If I could just remember where I put that big ol’ sledge hammer. . .

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