Posts Tagged ‘weather’

Guest Post: This is the Life. We All Have to be Somewhere. This is My Life. By Jean McHarry

May 26, 2011

Hey! Todd here. Yes. I know you were expecting me, but I won’t be the one entertaining you today. Let me explain. You and I both know I’m a blabbermouth, but sometimes I just don’t know what to say about a particular subject. I had one of those cases back in July of 2010 with a post called Riding Along with a Trucker.

This post was written due to a question I got from Lucinda, a woman who was planning on riding along with her trucker husband, but only as a passenger. She was asking for advice. Well, I’ve never done that and neither had The Evil Overlord, so I enlisted the help of a couple of Twitter friends. Patty, a.k.a. @luv18wheels and @CB_SnowAngel (who apparently has given up on Twitter) gave some sound advice, but I knew I’d want more eventually. That’s how we arrived today at my first guest post.

I don’t plan on doing this a lot, but I thought I knew someone who could both answer the question better than I could and reach meet my required level on the Snark-O-Meter. Recently, I decided to hit up Jean McHarry, a.k.a the infamous @raysunshine77 on Twitter. She’s a first class smart aleck on Twitter and she always cracks me up with her sarcastic sense of humor. I’m also beginning to wonder if she’s a long-lost sister of The Evil Overlord. After much manipulation (I lied and told her I liked her), she finally acquiesced. I think you’ll be glad she did. She did a bang-up job on what she admitted was her first writing assignment since high school. I’ll let her introduce herself. That’s her standing next to her devastatingly handsome husband. Love that macho mustache. Hey, wait a second…

This is the life. We all have to be somewhere. This is my life.

By Jean McHarry

Don’t call me a seat cover! Don’t assume I’m a lot lizard! Don’t disrespect me because you don’t want women taking away a man’s job! Don’t accuse me of not having knowledge of this industry because I ride! Don’t ask me to run away with you cause you have a bigger, badder truck! And for the love of all that is chrome, don’t ask me to move the stupid truck!

I have driven, I’ve dispatched, I’ve loaded and unloaded trailers and I’ve run a truck stop. DOT assumes I’m a driver and will sometimes ask for my log book. I have to produce paperwork to show that I am allowed to be here, that I won’t do anything that would be considered work and I pay for this privilege. I love my life, I love being out here on the road. I enjoy every aspect of being a truck driver except I don’t drive the truck and let’s make this clear, I don’t want to drive the truck and no one is going to make me.

My husband has diesel running through his veins. He says it’s all he ever wanted to do (that’s a small lie, he also wanted to be a train engineer or a boat captain) and I believe it’s all he’ll ever do. I enjoy being out here. I love going new places, meeting new people and just being a little bit of a gypsy. Waking up someplace new and not knowing where I’m going to be tomorrow is a thrill that I truly appreciate. I am a passenger. That’s all I want to be.

I call myself a rolling assistant because I do more than just sit here and look pretty. I spend about a quarter of my time playing navigator. Between maps (both truck and city versions), a functional GPS, the company’s routing, the local directions, and my notes on the local directions, I can tell where we’ve been, where we’re at, where we need to be going and just how long it should take to do it all. This knowledge also helps me with keeping an eye on the weather. Twitter really has been my best friend in this endeavor. Those up to the minute updates that tell me it’s raining in Texas helped a whole lot when we were dealing with blizzards in Buffalo. I keep track of loads and payroll, keep up on all relevant news and generally just keep him company.

I cook. That sounds so simple when you type it. Is there any way to make it simple in the truck? We don’t have a refrigerator, so storage of perishables must be done in a cramped cooler that also holds our water. Canned goods have one cabinet available to them and it can’t be opened without something landing on a foot or head. I carry a crock pot, a lunchbox (it’s shaped just like those old lunch boxes your dad took to work and functions kind of like a crock pot) and an electric skillet. One of these days when I find room, I want a rice cooker but at this point something else has to move out for it to have a home.

We try to eat out of the truck for 18 out of 21 meals. Sometimes we accomplish this, most weeks it’s closer to 14 out of 21. Sometimes, we just need out of the truck. It’s not like eating dinner at the house. Imagine you had to eat every meal with your spouse in the bathroom (just throw a mattress over the tub and put the lid down on the toilet). At some point, you would need a break. Restaurants have so much more space and other people to help carry on conversations. These two luxuries can make a really long day seem like a vacation. Because when there are just two of you, there is only so much to be said and quite frankly if he asks me one more time “whatcha doing?”, I might hit him with a tire thumper.

I clean. That’s another one of those things that sounds so simple but is never as simple as you want it to be. Mirrors need to be cleaned. Glass on both the inside and the outside. Dusting (I hate dust and in a truck, the stuff just reappears the moment you knock it off). To sweep and mop (something I try to do every other day) requires half the truck be picked up and put someplace else while I accomplish such an easy task. The cooler (loaded down with ice, half a case of water and whatever perishables have been purchased for the week), the crock pot, the lunchbox oven, the trash can, 4 pairs of boots, 3 pairs of tennis shoes and the rugs. They must go somewhere. I just wish I knew where. The bed is already loaded down with luggage, a shower bag, my purse, laundry baskets, and a dozen bags of other stuff that one of these days will eventually find a home. Once the floors are all pretty, it all has to be put back. At least until bedtime. Then everything has to be moved back up front so we can sleep.

My goal is to try to make his load a little lighter, especially since I increase the weight of the truck (I have to bring a lot of stuff). Didn’t you see all the stuff I just mentioned? I’d like to have so much more, but there will never be room and I probably wouldn’t use it if I finally got it in here. My resolution each year is to try that whole minimalistic lifestyle. One of these years, it’s gonna happen. Trust me.

I spend my day trolling for news articles to read to him. I download podcasts that we both enjoy to kill the hours of driving. There is only so much music and news you can listen to in an 11 hour day. Even less now, since every hour the whole thing seems to repeat. We joke, we tease, we argue, we repeat.

I spend a huge chunk of my day online. I harass people I’ve never met (and some I never will) on Twitter. I stalk people I do know on Facebook. I farm and tame the frontier. I troll truck driving and cooking forums. He used to complain that I spent most of my day on the computer and phone. He’d ask what could I possibly be doing that would waste 7 hours a day. Why wasn’t I looking at the beautiful scenery and enjoying just relaxing while he drove? Why wasn’t I paying more attention to what was going on around us? That’s what he does. Why couldn’t I do that? I tried to explain.

From my side, with no vehicle to control, just looking at scenery that I’ve seen 100 times isn’t entertaining. It’s like staring at a wall. Now when we go home, I drive. That’s 8 to 12 hours, depending on who we are going to visit. He whines the whole time that he’s bored. I tell him to relax and enjoy the scenery, pay more attention to what’s going on around us. That’s how I get new toys.

I’d like to say we are unique, but that wouldn’t be true. I know plenty of couples out here that are in the same boat we are; one drives and one rides. Anybody that has met him will ask how I spend 24/7 with him. I am heavily medicated. All kidding aside, we love each other and we take care of each other and we are co-dependent on each other. We’ve spent time apart. I didn’t like it. He didn’t like it. I respect couples that team. I respect women that stay at home while their husband is out here on the road. I’ve been there, done that and I don’t plan on going back.

*Todd here again. Please leave your comments and/or questions here and I’ll make sure Jean sees them. You can also contact her directly through Twitter @raysunshine77, email her at janedean77@yahoo.com, or check out her Facebook page. I hear she also doesn’t mind the occasional stalker. ;-)*

The EOBR Myth

October 18, 2010

Used with permission of Xata Corp.

Quick: What’s the leading cause of trucking accidents? If you were to ask that question to the non-trucking public, they’d probably tell you that trucker fatigue was the culprit. They’d be wrong.

It’s not their fault. The media, our lawmakers, and many interest groups are cramming that idea into their ears with one of those cannonball-stuffing doo-hickies. I’m not going to go into all the statistics on this because, well, that’s just not my bag, baby. Still, I’m not asking you to take one loud-mouthed trucker’s opinion on this either. I let OOIDA (Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association) do the dirty work. Check it out for yourself.

So what is the leading cause of truck accidents? Well, actually the leading cause is 4-wheelers. In some studies it’s estimated as many as 71% of accidents involving a truck and a passenger vehicle are caused by the 4-wheeler’s actions; not the truck’s. Putting that fact aside, the accidents caused by a truck driver are usually caused by driver error, not driver fatigue.

Speeding, taking a turn too fast, improper lane changes, tailgating, and driving too fast for conditions are just a few things that cause truck accidents. Most of these kinds of accidents are the result of being in a hurry. Even when time isn’t an issue, accidents are more likely to be caused by pure carelessness, not driver fatigue.

Any honest trucker will back me up on this. Not counting time issues, the majority of close calls are caused by the stupidity of other drivers, reaching for your iPod, reading your map, eating, spilling your coffee, daydreaming about your lottery winnings, or being lost due to bad directions (see Truckers get lost about that whole ball of frustration). The vast majority of truck drivers have the common sense to get off the road before we get too tired. Despite this well-known fact, the people and industries that know what’s best for everyone else has decided that EOBRs are necessary to prevent these infrequent fatigue-related accidents.

Now I’m sure all my trucking friends have already heard of EOBRs. The acronym stands for Electronic On-Board Recorders. Basically, it’s a tell-all device for truckers. It’s what the “black box” is to the airline industry. If you haven’t heard of them yet, you likely will soon enough. There is a major push by industry groups and lawmakers to make EOBRs mandatory in all commercial vehicles. While I do think EOBRs have their merits, I also believe them to be as important to preventing accidents as the Easter Bunny is to delivering presents on Christmas Eve.

So what are the good points about EOBRs? Well, for one thing, they can detect sudden lane changes, hard braking, excessive speed, etc. That kind of information could come in handy when truckers are trying to prove themselves innocent of an accident. On the flip side, it could also be a prosecuting attorney’s ace-in-the-hole if you’re as guilty as a drunk Alcoholic Anonymous member. Secondly, I believe EOBRs would succeed in keeping those rare renegade drivers in check. It would be kind of hard to run two log books and drive until your eyes are drooping like that weird, old lady underarm flab with an EOBR installed. So that’s a good thing.

There are a couple of things that EOBR haters are worried about. First, is the whole “invasion of privacy” issue. Sure, the box would show your company where you live when you go home, but who cares? They already know your address. And yes, it shows where you’re currently located. Well, maybe if you don’t want someone to know that you’re at the nudie bar, you shouldn’t be there in the first place. While I suppose that it could be the foot-in-the-door to something more sinister, I’m just not that paranoid. And if you’re driving like a crazy person, I don’t mind the little box tattling on you.

Another complaint is the cost. Now I’ve never priced one of these puppies, but I’ve read that some of these units can cost as little as $300-$400 to install. That’s just a couple of weeks of G-string fodder for some of these guys. And if you’re a company driver, you’ve got no call to complain about the cost at all. The company will be paying for it.

The thing is, most company trucks already have some sort of EOBR in them. Our current satellite systems already show how fast we are going and our location at any given time, therefore many of us company drivers are already dealing with them. And what do you think electronic log books are? They’re just glorified EOBR boxes.

I know what some of you regular readers are thinking. “But you said you had fear and loathing of electronic logs.” I did, and still do to some extent. I don’t know exactly how they work, so that’s part of the mystery. But here’s why I’m dreading the day that I get e-logs. Time management.

The difference between our current satellite system, or even a black box that is mounted under the driver’s seat is; no one is monitoring your satellite system unless something warrants an inquiry. But e-logs are monitored real-time. If that thing is beeping at you, your dispatcher is seeing it too. This presents a problem.

Admittedly, the way the vast majority of truckers do their log books is technically illegal. Still, most truckers don’t run two logs books and backlog trips either. We simply fudge a few things here or there to suit the situation. For example, let’s say I’m going into the shipper the night before my morning appointment, therefore, I’m not in any particular rush. If I hit a traffic jam just before I run out of hours, no big deal. As long as I don’t have a DOT weigh station to deal with, I can just take my time getting to the shipper, get there 15 or 30 minutes later than “technically” legal, and show getting there when I had originally planned. Illegal? Yes. Driving 5 mph over the speed limit is too. Good thing none of us do that.

The biggest problem I see with e-logs is that there will no longer be any wiggle room. Now if I’m almost out of hours when I hit that traffic jam, what happens? Well, I get tagged by my company for driving over my hours. Either that, or traffic breaks free and I put the hammer down to bust my hump to the shipper (or any other safe parking space) before the stinkin’ e-log machine starts beeping at me.

So I ask you; what’s safer? Calmly driving 15-30 minutes over my allotted time, or driving like a Formula 1 driver injected with squirrel DNA to keep from going over my time limit? I imagine that it’s going to feel like an episode of “24” every time I get behind the wheel. Is a trucker driving an 80,000-pound weapon someone you want racing against the clock every day?

*Please leave a comment with your thoughts on EOBRs and how you think they will affect you. And if you liked this post, please make use of that pretty “Like” button below.*

Solar Driving as a Trucker

October 5, 2010

Photo by barockschloss via Flickr

Go to Lunar Driving as a Trucker, read it, and reverse everything. *smirk*

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*

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.*

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? 😉 *

Oddball Trucking Weather

June 14, 2009

Unlike many Weather Channel addicts, I don’t keep an eye on the weather until the winter months roll around. And that’s why it can sometimes sneak up behind me with a 2 X 4 and give me a big WHAP! on the back of the head.

Everyone on the planet has heard someone say, “If you don’t like the weather in (insert state or country here), just stick around for five minutes and it’ll change.” In my 12 years of trucking, I’ve discovered this to be wildly inaccurate. By and large, what you see is what you get. It’s doubtful that the temperature or precipitation will take a dramatic swing in five minutes. You can usually see rain clouds miles before it actually starts raining. The clouds start looking like it’s going to snow long before it actually lets loose. But there are definitely exceptions to this rule. For instance. . .

Two nights ago, The Evil Overlord and I delivered a load near Denver, Colorado. When I stepped out to drop the trailer, I was blessed with 60 degree weather. Five minutes later we were sitting in a truck stop. And that’s when the surprise came. No small droplets of rain. No heavy downpour of anything. It went from nothing to pea-sized hail in seconds. It was freaking LOUD! I was so stunned I barely had the presence of mind to get a little bit of video with my trusty Flip Mino HD.

Still, for most people, the weather rarely changes in five minutes. But even for normal, non-trucking folks, overnight weather changes occur. For me, the hail was just the beginning. Okay. It’s 60 degrees one minute and then it’s suddenly hailing. Weird enough. But then The Evil Overlord heads due south with our next load. She wakes me up around 5 a.m. in northern New Mexico, I step outside and my nipples are instantly hard enough to cut diamonds. “Holy cow! It’s freezing out there”, I hollered as I jumped back into the cab . “Yea, I know,” says The Evil Overlord, all innocent like. Gee. Thanks for the warning.

It was only 39 degrees outside, but when you’re still dressed for 60 degree weather. . . well, you can imagine. Shorts and flip-flops just don’t cut it in those temps. After a quick change into some sweatpants, a light jacket, and some real shoes, I was fine. At least for the time being.

Part of what makes me a good trucker is the fact that I’ve got a bladder that will hold more liquid than an Olympic-size swimming pool. Therefore, I’ve been known to go all day without a restroom break. I did so on this day. So you can imagine my surprise when I stepped out of the cab in El Paso later on that afternoon.  I was a taaad bit overdressed for the 95 degree Texas heat. Out came the shorts and flip-flops again.

Being a typical male, all this changing clothes stuff is extremely bothersome. A man should be able to get dressed once per day and not have to piss with it again. Sadly, sometimes the trucking life dictates otherwise.

As for The Evil Overlord, she’s a woman, therefore, by nature she’s unaffected by the pain-in-the-butt clothes changing requirements. Heck, she’d change clothes 15 times a day even if the temperature remained the same. Women. Can’t live with ’em. Can’t drag ’em behind your truck.

Eddie Rabbitt Was Right

May 11, 2009

Photo by sampsyo via Flickr

Eddie and I arent’ exactly tight, but we do have one thing in common. “I love a rainy night.” So does he. Last night I drove through a heck of a lightning storm in Oklahoma. I don’t really know what it is about driving in the rain, but I really dig it. Maybe I should clarify my love of rain a bit.

I don’t love all rain. I don’t love it when it comes down so hard that you can’t see three feet in front of your truck. I don’t love it when it’s accompanied by high winds. I don’t love it when it pools on the road and causes you to hydroplane. I don’t love it when it causes flooding. I’m not particularly fond of it when it rains when the sun is shining. I mean, c’mon.  Make up your freakin’ mind. But most of all I absolutely hate it when it doesn’t come down consistently.

Like your car, all modern trucks come equipped with a wiper delay function. Still, most of the time it just doesn’t cut the mustard. Although I’m really not sure how you even start the process of cutting mustard. How can you cut something that is mostly liquid? And why exactly would you want to cut the mustard? What did the mustard do to warrant getting cut? Well, now that we’ve made that as clear as mud, let’s move on.

When you drive up to eleven hours every day, the last thing you want to do is fiddle with your wipers all day. But that is exactly what happens. Rain starts as a drizzle so you turn on your wipers using a slow delay. Perfect. Then all of a sudden the sky dumps on you and you have to crank them all the way up to maximum speed just to see the road. When it lets up, you have to adjust the speed again. When this keeps up all day, I get really annoyed. Give me a nice steady rain that lasts all day and I’m a happy camper. Don’t, and I’ll be as annoyed as a marathoner with a hemorrhoid attack. Oooo!

“So. . .”, you may ask, “what’s your point?” I don’t really have one. Just thought I’d share.

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.


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