Deja Vu

Once again, it is time to address courtesy on the road, truck stops, warehouses and rest areas; obviously, the word is not getting out.  Things I have seen this week:

On the road:

 Drivers, if you are running any closer than a truck length behind the vehicle in front of you, you are tailgating and are not only jeopardizing yourself and the vehicle you are following, but also every vehicle around you.  If you are trying to save fuel, the savings are not worth the safety issue.  For any other reason forget it, it will not wash; you are a bully and trying to use the size of your truck to intimidate the driver of the vehicle you are following…stop it!

When you come back in front of another vehicle, what are you thinking when you come back over so closely that all the other driver sees is your door handles?  Don’t you know that you could misjudge the distance by that amount in your mirrors or the blast from the wind shear could kill someone?  At minimum, you should leave a truck length of distance between you and any vehicle you pass.

It is not nice to fool with construction workers.  If you think that it is fun to make a construction worker jump back by bobbling your truck towards them, you are one sick puppy and need help.  Don’t you know that if that construction worker slips on a rock and falls, you could kill them?  Slow that truck down and show some respect for those workers; while construction zones may be a pain in the arse, without those workers out patching the roads, what few brains you have would be butter.

Truck stops:

You might be a billy bigrigger who never has to work at backing into a parking space, but give others not so lucky a break.  Turn off your headlights if at night or cock the truck to where the lights are not shining in the backing driver’s eyes.  Wait patiently for them to do what they need to do; do not go so close that they have no room to maneuver or dart behind them while they are still backing up….or step out and watch their blind side for them if they are having trouble, oh wait, that would be thinking about someone else rather than just yourself, God forbid!

That waitress in the café at the truck stop is there to serve you food, not to service other needs or to be an object of sarcasm.  Do you think that working 8 hours on ones feet, carrying heavy trays and dealing with all the BS that they do is easy?  What does her looks have to do with your being served your food and drink quickly and courteously, you most likely do not look like a Greek god either  so do not make stupid comments about how ugly or fat she is.  Take your food business to the We Bare All or Hooters restaurants if the waitress’s looks are more important to you than good food and good service.

Warehouses:

If you are going to a certain set of docks in a plant and there is a line of trucks sitting along the road next to the docks, how does it not compute in your mind that those drivers are most likely waiting for those docks they are near?  That is a staging line and you are supposed to line up at the end…yes John boy, I said end… of the line not barge up to the front.  If you are stupid enough to think you are more special than those waiting drivers and go to the head of the line, do not park on the other side of the driveway then not move when asked to so drivers at the docks can come out around the corner you are sitting on.  You might find a lady driver with an attitude that decides you are an idiot and need a lesson taught that forces you to back up out of her way.  Really, it is not nice to flip off said lady driver because you yourself are an idiot.

When you are driving through a busy factory’s drop and staging yard, where there is heavy truck traffic, you really have to remember that it is not a racetrack and there is no prize for making it to the gate first.  Look around and if there is a slower truck moving or someone trying to get set up to back in one of the tight drop lines, slow down and allow people to do what they have to do.  Everyone has someplace else to be just like you.

I do not have to repeat the backing situation from the truck stop section do I?

Rest Areas:

People and pets are moving around rest areas at all hours.  There is absolutely no need for you to take off out of a parking spot like you are shot from a sling shot.  Ease out slowly and watch for people and their pets.  That cup of coffee will still be at the truck stop when you get there.

If you sprinkle when you tinkle, please wipe the seat!  Wipe the sink too or rinse it down if you have excessively dirty hands when you are through washing them.  Oh yes, do please wash your hands, I do not want your germs thank you very much.

Parking on the shoulder of rest areas are at times a necessity, have to park there some times myself.  Please pull off of the shoulder as far as you can so the tail of your trailer is not out in the roadway; if the shoulder is not wide enough to do so, keep going to somewhere else.  People coming through while you sleep should not have to go to the other shoulder to get by your rig.  Pull up in the parking spaces as far as the line ending too, no one should have to thread the needle going through the parking area to avoid hitting your trailer; their eyesight might be a little weak too and threading a needle is difficult.

Miscellaneous:

We all have to do what we have to do when nature calls…dispose of those bags and bottles in dumpsters please…no one wants to look at that mess.

If there is somewhere that is nice enough to allow us to park, do not dispose of your trash, blown tires, bent wheels or pallets there.  You think they are going to keep allowing us to park there?  NOT!  You are not so special that you have the right to trash up someone’s property.

If you hear a woman on the cb radio, quit with the sexist crap will you!  If you have not seen hooters before, or think you need someone to flip their shirt or skirt up to make your day, buy a Playboy and give us lady drivers a break…we have some respect for ourselves, you should too.   Oh, and by the way, you think that you are helping anyone including yourself with having those signs handprinted in your window or written in the dust on your trailer about hooters or flipping someone’s skirt?  You are not, you are engaging in juvenile behavior that destroys truck driver’s images and need to grow up.

Of course, the above is just my opinion!

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Symbiotic Relationship

Though there are thousands of stories in the trucking industry about terrible dispatchers, the truth of the matter is that company drivers and leased on owner operators would be lost without the dispatchers they work with. Dispatchers are a driver’s lifeline when things go wrong, get the driver home, give them their loads and make sure they get adequate miles to satisfy both the driver and the company. Along with that, most try to ask how the driver is doing that day if they do not use satellite dispatch systems.

Dispatchers do all of the above with a phone at their ear, a pen in one hand while typing away at the computer with the other for 8 to 10 hours a day. Small company dispatchers may do other jobs along with dispatching trucks and drivers. These small company dispatchers also find the loads, schedule repairs and maintenance on the trucks, and do orientation of new hires along with often working after hours and weekend phone duty.

Dispatchers come from many areas to become dispatchers. Some start out in other areas of trucking company offices and get promoted thru the ranks into the position, some start out as drivers and then enter the office as a dispatcher, while a few are just hired cold to become a dispatcher. Brokers switch over to dispatching for a company and visa versa sometimes because the jobs are similar.

At the company where I am working now, we have two dispatchers. Jen came from another trucking company where she worked as a broker after immigrating to the USA from Canada. Scot was in my employer’s words, “The best driver this company ever had. I knew he would be a bang up dispatcher so I talked him into coming into the office.”

Jen and Scot both have very different personalities and strengths but mesh well in dispatch. Jen brought along her contacts when she came to work as a dispatcher, which helps the company, and she is the peacemaker if there is a problem with a load or a broker. Scot has the mechanical knowledge gained from his years of driving and along with his dispatching duties, handles routine maintenance and on the road repair scheduling. Both share a deep respect for the drivers under them and the work truck driving entails.

One thing both will tell you though is paramount to everything a dispatcher does and that is communication from the driver along with being on time for pick-ups and deliveries. If they do not know where you are and you will be on time, then they cannot find another load for you until they hear from you. If you are late on delivery or pick up and have not called to explain the delay, it puts dispatch into the position of having nothing to tell a customer or broker about where their freight is.

Family owned businesses find their dispatchers from within the family at times. I have only had one bad dispatcher in all of my years of driving and it was not that he was a bad person. He just was very inexperienced though he thought he knew everything. Getting directions for the drivers was impossible for him because he did not understand how the interstates ran or where the states were. He would however always ask how you were that day and would listen if you had a complaint or problem, not that he would do anything about it. He got into dispatching because he was the company owner’s son-in-law and had needed a job.

On the other hand, one of the best dispatchers I have had was the daughter of a company owner. She was only 21 years old when I hired on to drive for her dad and she was just learning about trucking and dispatching. Though she had a prior job as a server in a family friend’s café, she did not know how to work with male drivers and at first allowed them to intimidate her. Knowing that I had worked in trucking company offices, whenever I would come into the yard, she would ask me questions for hours on how to handle things. After she gained experience and confidence, she learned the delicate balance of working with male drivers and how to be taken seriously. She was and is a tiger in defense of her drivers and will take up for them, as long as they are in the right, against anyone.

To keep a good relationship with your dispatcher is easy. Do your check calls on time and keep them in the loop in how you are running. Make them your first call if something is wrong with the truck or if you are delayed on your run for any reason. Remember that dispatchers have off days too or may be ill but still at work. So just like you do not like to be rubbed the wrong way when you are not at your best, do not give your dispatcher a hard time if it appears they are having a bad day. If you have a problem that cannot be resolved over the phone in a calm fashion, do not yell at and/or cuss your dispatcher. Either wait until you get into the yard to get it resolved or get in touch with the supervisor and talk to them.

Most of all a driver must remember that at 3 am in the middle of an icy night when the truck breaks down, that dispatcher may just be your only lifeline to help; and the dispatchers have to remember that without a truck driver, a dispatcher has no paycheck. We all have to work together in our symbiotic trucking relationship to be successful, without either one of us, the rig’s wheels stop.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

USA Submits to Blackmail

It is amazing that the United States of America bows down to economic pressures from a third world country to allow hundreds, if not thousands, of foreign trucks and their drivers into the country to take freight out of US driver’s trailers. This after the American people, and congress, spoke and stopped the initial Mexican Border Pilot Program the first time. Mexico responded by placing retaliatory tariffs on U.S. imports. Under the new agreement, half the tariffs will be lifted as soon as the deal is signed, and the remainder once the first Mexican truck is allowed to enter the US. Some may call this tough politics, but it sure sounds like blackmail to me.

This new so called pilot program has a couple of new twists though. First off, companies who participated in the first pilot program will be allowed to add the time credited to them during that program to this program and can be give full authority to run in the US quickly under their own authority even if the pilot program is stopped once again.

While I do not necessarily agree that Mexican trucks or their drivers would be less safe than American trucks or truckers, I do think that by bringing Mexicans into the US to haul freight directly to and from shippers and receivers, American truckers will lose their jobs. With the current tight economy and freight situation, any addition of equipment to the supply and demand equation will tip the balance to the ones able to haul cheapest.

Part of the NAFTA agreement was that American truckers would have access to run in Mexico just like the Mexicans could run here; this is the same deal the US has with Canada. While thousands of American drivers and Canadian drivers cross the Canadian border, few if any want to cross the border into Mexico with their high crime rate, theft of equipment and drug wars not to mention their lousy infrastructure.

Another twist is that all Mexican trucks would be required to be equipped with EOBRs. Those are coming to the truck nearest and dearest to you too soon, but guess who is paying for the Mexican EOBRs; yep, the USA. The money will be taken out of the highway trust fund that US trucking companies and owner operators routinely pay into. The way I read it, the US will be paying for other things under the agreement so the Mexicans can come here and haul freight. Our government is paying someone to come in and take our jobs.

The ATA and the US Chamber of Commerce, and I am sure many corporations with operations in Mexico, are all for this latest border program. The ATA, made up of many large trucking companies with sister companies in Mexico are thinking that it will open up more freight and put more money in the company pockets due to the Mexicans hauling for cheaper rates. The US Chamber of Commerce thinks opening the border will increase commerce between the two countries. While they have not said, it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out what the large corporations are thinking. If they can cut out the middle drivers along the borders and the transfer warehouse costs; and get the Mexicans to haul the freight back and to from their factories south of the border into the US and back again at substantially reduced rates, their bottom-lines increase. Win win for everyone but the American trucker.

Makes one wonder what Mexico has that influences our government so greatly. Drugs? White slaves? Black market goods? Cheap labor force? Perhaps all of those things are a factor when one realizes the money the government pays itself for the trying to control those illegal things at least. There is something there though for our own government to go against so many people who don’t want the Mexican trucks here.

I am adding my voice to OOIDA’s and the Teamster’s voices; get out your ink pens, fire up those laptops and buy extra minutes on your cells and write, email and call your representatives once again about this border issue. Raise hell, tell them you won’t stand still for this. Do make sure to tell your representative that you will not be an accessory to a criminal act; the blackmailing of America. Speak out loudly and proudly as American truckers and let us put this down once and for all…again.

 

 

 

 

 

Interlocking Truckers

Interlocking Truckers

Trucking is a diverse industry comprised of many different types of trucking with each type having their own problems and issues.  For instance, container haulers on both coasts are under the gun from the EPA and others over pollution and traffic congestion; some are being forced to upgrade their equipment or leave the industry.  This diversity in trucking tends to make truckers themselves isolated within their own segment of the industry, not so much as a physical isolation, but a mental one.

This mental isolation, or focused vision on only what affects their segment leads to the old saying that “you cannot get two truckers to agree on the price of a free cup of coffee” as a friends says.  He is right to a great degree.  This inability of truckers to agree on any one thing has stopped truckers from addressing issues facing them both in their own segment of the industry and for the trucking industry as a whole.  There is a lot of ‘it doesn’t matter to me so why act on it’ mindset; they do not see how it affects other drivers other than themselves; or care.

HOS and EOBRs are a good indication of this mindset.  Looking at HOS first, a driver who works for a large company who has ample equipment and drivers to relay freight might not understand, or care, how those same HOS might affect a small company who cannot compete by providing relay drivers to move the higher rate, faster moving freight.   The HOS might not affect the larger company driver, but would put say, 10 drivers at the smaller company, out of work.  While it would not matter to the larger company driver, which type of HOS rules come along, that driver should care about how they would affect the smaller company driver and stand with the smaller company driver to find a compromise rule that would not adversely hurt the smaller company driver.

EOBRs might not matter too much to a younger in experience driver who comes from a prior career where they were micromanaged.  This driver perhaps started out with a large training company who already utilizes some sort of electronic logs and does not know any other way of working.  They do not understand that the cost of installing EOBRs might put a 30-truck company out of business, or how invasive they will be to a driver’s personal privacy.  They should take a stand so that EOBRs are by choice for a company, not that they are mandatory so the small company driver can stay working.

Jason’s Law is another area where there is much divided thinking.  To a driver who works in the western 11 or in the Midwest, parking might not be such an issue while to a driver who works the eastern seaboard or California, safe and adequate parking is virtually nonexistent after a certain time of day.  Drivers should understand that parking is an issue and stand up for safe and ample parking for all drivers in all areas.

There are interlocking issues and topics that lock all truckers together; we all drive trucks that are fairly standard as to engines and mechanical similarities.  We all haul freight of some sort whether it is talking, hot, cold, dead, small, or large.  We all drive on highways made of concrete or asphalt and have to deal with the same traffic.  We all are required to hold a CDL of some sort to do our jobs and we all have to follow the same federal regulations if not state.  We all do our jobs looking at the world though a windshield sitting on a seat bumping along to make a pick up or delivery while under some sort of schedule.  When you look at it that way, there are more similarities than differences and we are more like family than strangers.

In a family, the family stands together and protects each other; one steps in when another member is threatened and the good of a family takes priority over the good of a stranger.  This is how we truckers are going to have to start thinking of each other, as brother and sister drivers who are part of a larger family outside of blood relation.  We have to start working together to protect each other both in our personal safety and our job security; we all cannot work for those huge companies.

Finally, we have to stand together and show each other the respect due us as professional drivers.  No one else is going to give us that, not even our companies to a great degree.  By showing each other respect we will learn how issues can affect our brother and sister drivers and help them by standing up with them to fight for our rights and to stop the abuse of each other by everyone from the government to the companies we work for. 

John Donne had it right when he wrote

No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.  John Donne, Meditation XVII English clergyman & poet (1572 – 1631)

We truckers are interlocked in the trucking industry, it is time we understand that and remember that eventually the bell will toll for us, if not on any one current issue, eventually another will come along that affects you specifically; wouldn’t it be better if you had someone to stand with you when that time comes?  Start now by recognizing the interlocking similarities between us, the differences do not matter.

Time to Stand Up and Speak Out

The other day while waiting to get loaded, I struck up a conversation with a husband wife team from Canada.  We ended up talking about the state of the trucking union of course, both in the US and in Canada.  These folks had owned 5 trucks 2 years ago but had sold 2, had the other 2 for sale and sitting still and were only running the truck they drove.  They cited more government regulations, high fuel costs, low rates and not being able to find good drivers who would take care of the equipment as reasons for their cut backs.  Sound familiar?

They were nice folk.  When they started saying things like, “we cannot find well trained drivers, we may have to park this truck if fuel prices keep going up and the government on both sides of the border are tying our hands to make a living”, I had to ask if they were writing to their representatives and if they belonged to OOIDA or any Canadian trucking association.  Not surprisingly, their answer was no.  They said that when they were home and had time to do any of that, they just did not want to think about trucking in any way.

We are all a little that way, we eat, sleep and think about trucking when we are on the road and when we are home or are on our long breaks, we are pushed for time to do what we have to do in the short time available.  Sometimes we are so stressed that all we want to do is doze in our chairs or get so far away from the thought of trucking we just play text twist all day.  It is understandable, but how long does it take to write a short letter or email, or make a phone call to a government representative, not very long at all.

We truckers are being slammed on all sides with more regulations that aren’t going to change safety a one iota, higher fuel costs based on some Wall Street investors buying futures in oil, less and less safe parking or parking at all in some areas, lower rates as more of our manufacturing is sent overseas and as our country wants to ship everything by rail and/or bring in foreign drivers to take our jobs.  We stand around wringing our hands and saying woe is me and let circumstances take their course without speaking out proactively.

Case in point, Jason’s Law; this bill would assist truckers to be able to find safe and more adequate parking.  The amount of money asked for is miniscule compared to what we give to foreign countries to help them do everything from arming themselves to fighting drugs in their countries.  Has Jason’s Law garnered the trucking industry’s full and total support?  No, it has not; this is obvious because if the 3-5 million commercial license holders in the US, and more from Canada, would have all contacted their representatives and spoken out in support of this law, this law would of passed immediately.

Another case is training regulations.  We older drivers see daily the results of the poor training regulations on the roads.  Many trucking schools are little less than legalized scam artists who take a student’s money and just teach them the bare necessities to obtain their CDLs if the student passes at all.  Then the student is shoved through a too short training time with a trainer who may or may not have enough experience to save their own lives much less anyone else’s.  From the time the student starts school to being solo in their own truck is as little as 4-6 weeks.  The government yells about trucking safety yet does nothing to fix this problem which is at the root of most of the safety issues on the road concerning drivers and their actions.  Truckers stand around saying things like, “sure wish they would train those drivers better” but do not contact their government representatives to push for new training regulations.

We drivers wonder to each other and ourselves why special interest groups like PATT and CRASH have such influence in DC when they have such small numbers of members; it is because they stand up and speak out.  We have the numbers to control our industry, how we are regulated, governed and how we do our jobs, don’t you think it is time you stand up and speak out too?

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
United States Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue SE
Washington, DC 20590

Comment on proposed rulemaking click here

1-888-368-7238

Report a safety violation to the FMCSA click here

Contact the White House click here

Contact your representative click here

Jason’s Law click here

www.ooida.com