Are You a Professional Truck Driver, or a Wanna-Be?

In 30 years in this industry, I have met a lot of people who drive trucks over the road, Local, and Regional, And in every case, there’s always something different about each individual. Some carry themselves with respect, not just for themselves, but for their companies, in representing the industry, and in properly representing themselves, because they take Pride in what they do.

Others, on the other hand, seem to act haphazardly in almost everything they do. Like they have a care less attitude about how they go about doing things, how they dress or keep themselves, how they drive around other traffic,  or even on a lot, whether it is a truck stop lot, a company lot, or a customer lot.  Then, you have the types that act all beside themselves, like they are the King of the block.  How many of them have I seen fail, and in doing so, misrepresent the industry and drivers altogether.  It’s sad.

Well, a big part of this article is what the last is all about. I.e., How YOU represent both yourself, and the trucking industry as a whole. If you act as a complete professional, then you will earn the respect of a lot of people, and businesses.  Many times, you could end up finding yourself being called by your dispatcher telling you that they have a load for you to haul, and that that particular customer has asked for You, By Name, to haul the load.  That only comes by doing your utmost to make sure that customer is well pleased with the work you do, and how you present yourself, from the time you arrive, to the time you have the load secured and leave their property,…. And make delivery.

On the other hand, you might show up late, with a poor attitude, don’t help with making sure the load is properly placed and secured, or walk around with a big chip on your shoulder.  How you talk to others, especially other drivers, will make a difference in how you are seen as well.

Over the years, I’ve seen plenty of men, and even some women, (but very few in this particular case) who acted as if the world rested on their shoulders, and that they deserved priority in getting loaded or unloaded first, or getting the next dispatch, having service or repairs done on their truck, or even being waited on in the restaurant, which turns Everybody off.

Just today, I arrived at a regular customer to find a completely different situation taking place that came out of a situation that took place a few short weeks ago.  Instead of being able to step inside to present my pickup information, I had to go around the building to another window and speak through a very small hole to give my pickup information, then I had to turn my head and almost place my ear to the hole to hear what the individual inside was saying to, or asking me.   Respectfully, I asked what had happened to have this sudden change in procedures. And guess what?

It turns out that Two Grown Men (more like, Child-men)  got into a dispute outside the building, and one of those … men… tried to beat the other, With His Load Bar???   Well, you can just guess what transpired from there.  THAT man likely ended up in cuffs, with “assault with a deadly weapon” charge placed against him.   Both were discharged from the facility, and who knows, maybe Both are now without jobs.

TWO Grown Men!?!?!  I’ve heard it before on the CB, men arguing over NON-sense, and threatening to do harm to one another. Even challenging one another to pull to the side of the road to settle it with fists.  With one stopping and pulling out a bar, of a hammer of some other object, to do the other guy serious injury???  seriously??,….if you are so infantile that you feel you have to resort to such measures, then you Surely do Not belong behind the wheel of an 80,000 pound vehicle!  Or any Other vehicle for that matter!

If you want to be in this profession, then I strongly suggest that you take a deep breath, pull up your pants, (wear suspenders if you have to!)  and tell yourself, “I Am A Professional, and I will Act like one, No matter What.  If someone does, or says something that would normally affect me negatively, I’m going to shrug my shoulders, brush it off, and walk the other way, instead of getting myself into something I Do Not intend to be a part of.”

Professionalism in this industry comes from the heart, not from your attitude.  As some say today,….. Stand up and put your Man-Pants on!  Now show the world that you’ve come to Earn respect.

Advertisements

Is It a War On Truckers?

Trucking has changed from a business for those doing the work of bringing the countries goods from one end of the country to the other and being profitable, not only for the trucking company, shipper and receiver, but for the driver as well.  For the driver, back in the day, this proved to be a good venture, especially financially.  Pay was good, benefits were good, and home-time was something to boast about. A person could make good wages and be able to afford a home, car, and many other necessities of life without having to struggle over how to pay the next weeks bills.  Over the years, it has changed, primarily because pay became stagnant, with little if any change to keep up with the level of the economy.

Though many still do, owner operators used to make above level funds, yet over the years, big companies came into being. Companies that have grown exponentially, with more trucks, equipment, and people numbering well over 1000 which brought strong competition for moving freight, so strong that freight rates dropped heavily, forcing many small business owners to see heavy losses and face either bankruptcy, or just throwing in the towel and selling out what little they had because they couldn’t keep up with the costs of running their business and keeping their homes. Some say that deregulation was a contributing factor  as well, leaving room for the big companies to expand more and more, forcing the small business operators out. While many have survived, their numbers have dropped significantly.

Now, companies complain about a severe shortage in the number of drivers available. with many that have been in the industry since returning from earlier military service and Baby Boomers that have been in the industry for many years are leaving the drivers seat, in large part due to the many changes that have taken place over the past few years, along with the lack of Quality drivers on the road, and a lack in increases in pay to meet up with economic levels.

While companies have been looking for more drivers, they have, in some circumstances, increased driver pay, along with offering some hefty bonuses to new drivers coming into their employ. Bonuses that get paid out over a matter of time, not all at once. And the increase in pay is also an effort to get drivers to remain with their company.  Problem is, if policies at some companies do not change to reflect a better outlook to remain, the pay raises will not be a guarantee to the company that they will retain those drivers. In some places, those policies will have to change to the point that if a driver has any kind of serious question as to the meaning of a policy, then a reasonable answer need be given, and not a response that calls for the driver to return their assigned truck to the terminal and leave the company, as this fails to help retain drivers. Plus, the quality of driver has been a concern to many experienced drivers in this as well, which in many cases, fall squarely on the back of the individual trucking company and their training programs as well,

Many  changes have been made in trucking over the years as well that has affected the shortage, in part due to the rapid changes in the hours of service, to heavier restrictions, to the ELD mandate, and most recently, the push by the ATA (American Trucking Association), who not only pushed for the ELD, but who have, since 2015, been pushing to have working from the 2015 Denham Amendment, written by Rep, Jeff Denham (R) from California. An amendment that can, and will, negatively affect the average drivers pay by ensuring that any time spent outside of driving time, will never be compensated unless an individual company decides on their own to pay those drivers.  An amendment that has been soundly defeated since 2015, an amendment that the ATA has attempted to get through every Federal Transportation bill in the country, To include the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act. This time includes Layover and detention time, and additional time needed to load secure and unload freight from their rigs. Those that will benefit from this change will be the trucking company, in many cases, along with shippers and receivers, while the driver is to be left to the mileage they have to drive to move the freight, with some companies using strictly household mover miles, or PCMiler miles set strictly for the shortest route possible, and not the practical miles it actually takes to make delivery on time, and effectively.

The Denham and Fischer amendments, These amendment, must not be passed, along with the Fischer Amendment, which applies to truckers rest and meal breaks. The latter of which was defeated in the state supreme court in California, winning drivers the right to be compensated for required breaks which they mandated or told to take.  Both these amendments are being pushed hard by the ATA, which apparently will fight repeatedly to see passed, in any transportation bill that comes before congress, even if this is to include an  Omnibus bill, or a stand-alone bill.  The ATA has been pushing so hard, that they have even laid false reports that the bill has already been passed in hopes to discourage drivers and their families from contacting their state representatives to voice their concern and demands to see these amendments are prevented from being enacted upon, or included in federal transportation bills.

Truckers must be understood, and respected, for what they do, give, and sacrifice. Especially by those in power in the industry, before drivers finally bring themselves together and fight back in a way that the Transportation Machine has never before experienced, and may well wish never happens again.  This war of wages and employees Must come to an end, amicably. And the ATA needs to step aside, and think, not of themselves, but of the people who are the ones that are primary in making the machine work properly.   Those people being, The American Truck Driver!

 

Hours of Service Rules On the Agenda In the Senate. Here We Go Again

Drivers

Back in 2013, the FMCSA changed and updated one of the affects of the hours Of Service to affect when and how truckers would be required to conduct the 34 hour reset. That change made it mandatory that when the reset was taken, it could (1) only be taken One time per week, and (2) required the driver to take said reset break with Two 1 A.M. To 5 A.M., periods prior to being able to go back on duty to conduct any further work. The problem with that, is that there are those drivers who prefer, and have adjusted their personal working times (body clocks) to run during the midnight periods in an effort to avoid the heavy traffic and congestion that is involved with daylight running. In requiring this mandatory rest period to be conducted in such a way, those drivers would have to change their circadian rhythms to run during the day again, or,…. wait until later in the second days evening to once again begin moving, and keep to their preferred running times, which would involve further delaying the delivery and pickups of loads.

There have been others in the industry who have raised their voices to the FMCSA in an attempt to get them to understand the problems associated with this particular rule, along with additional problems encountered with how this rule was implemented. Then, Congress intervened and ordered a halt to that particular part of the rule in 2013, and returned trucking to the point where the driver could take a 34 hour reset whenever he or she needed to, or when the driver was forced to stop for an undetermined amount of time, due to loads not being available, weather conditions that preempted safe movement, extended breakdown repairs, and any other number of circumstances that prevented the driver from working. Instead, the driver was Forced to have to wait to do a reset until a specified number of hours were completed before a reset could be conducted. Once again, this brought the driver to the point of Not being able to operate, and/or complete a run, making loads late, and thereby costing companies and owner operators both time, productivity, possibly customers, and money.

Now, back in December of 2014, the House stepped in, and ordered the reset rule to be set back to the 2011 requirement that we are currently operating under, where, if a driver stops for 34 hours or more, even if they had already been running for less than the 70 hours (lets just say, for convenience,….. 49 hours worth of running) then the driver could get a reset, without it being mandatory, thereby resetting the clock, And, not having to wait til he or she had reached 168 hours of on duty time prior to taking a reset (which has been a Huge gripe in the trucking community).

Right now, though, the House is looking at tossing the 2013 rule out altogether, and allowing us to Stay with the 2011 rule, which the majority favors, and preventing the FMCSA from changing the rule further. BUT… The Senate has come up with something different, along with ADDing 3 hours to the 70 hour rule, with the downside of wanting to stick to the FMCSA’s (cough, cough) “Study” saying that going by the 2013 rule would prevent truckers from being “fatigued” more easily, thereby putting us back into the quagmire that we have been fighting going back to, for the reasons mentioned earlier.

Right now, unless the Senate agrees to back down from this decision, which I doubt, and the House decides that their idea is the better course, then the House and senate would have to sit down together and debate which way would “be best for truckers”, thereby leaving Us in the lurch having to make whatever changes need to be made, and suffer with it if that change is the wrong idea, Annnd, leaving us with once again having to raise our voices to get Big Brother to pay attention.

 

The way it has been, and is right now, If those of us in the trucking community do not stand up, and raise our voices with our respective Senators and Congressmen, and raise your voices Loudly, then everything is going to continue to change for the negative, and every trucker out there is going to continue the pointless and endless whining on the CB, and in the truck stops about how Big Daddy keeps screwing with our livelihoods, and how “we just cant catch a decent break”. It’s kinda like this,…. if you had a tumor on your brain, that was gonna cost you your life, would you want a cook with a fork and serrated knife in his hands to do the surgery on you?? or would you want a fully knowledgeable (and experienced) brain surgeon to do the work, and bring you out safe and alive, with all the gunk removed so you could carry on a normal and happy life?

Drivers need to get on the horn and contact your respective legislator, and Make them Listen. Phone calls, email, messages and posts on their facebook pages, Linkedin, Twitter accounts, anything you can find that they use to communicate with to get their attention! Tell them to leave us with the 2011 version of the 34 hour reset, so we can do our jobs. THEY don’t know how to do it, WE DO! We’re the ones who have the training, knowledge, and Experience in doing this kind of work. They push paperwork, kiss babies butts and make them cry, and make themselves look good to the public!

If you don’t speak up now, And from now on, then you may just as well go bury your head under a rock and say, To Heck with this world.

 

What is Happening With Americas Rest Areas?

rest areas uncedr construction

For years now, truck parking around this country has been at a premium, and getting worse, instead of better. With the growing number of trucks on the road, and the demand for more drivers for trucks, it makes finding truck parking harder and harder. The problem being, is that many states have closed rest areas for the purpose of “scheduled Maintenance, or repair”  yet when drivers pass these areas by that are closed, there is no one around doing anything even remotely related to maintenance, leaving travelers wondering why this is so.  Plus add that drivers traveling through one or two of these states are finding that some of these rest areas are posted with signs stating that there is a limit as to how many hours they are allowed to stop and rest.

For truckers held under Federal DOT standards, this is a huge problem.  Some have pulled into these rest areas to try to get their required 10 hour rest break, only to be awakened by state police or sheriffs, and be handed tickets for overstaying their Locally allotted limit of time, which falls far short of the  Federally required amount of time, putting drivers into direct violation of FMCSA rules. Plus, many travelers that use the highways for commutes, or business on a regular basis that also use the rest areas are wondering what the holdup is on getting these places back up and running again, with responses that the state is “lacking in funding” to keep the rest areas open, or “cannot afford the trash removal fees” as their reason for closing down these much needed places.

Jason’s Law, which was spearheaded by his widowed wife Joan Rivenberg, was supposed to be one that was to provide funding and incentive to get the problem of much needed parking for the nations tractor trailer drivers adequate spaces and places to get safely parked, and has been several years in the making for anything to take place.  Not only have the states been slow to respond to the truck parking issue, but even several communities around the country are fighting and taking a hard stance against some truck stops trying to make improvements and expansions to their current facilities, or in adding additional truck stops, in an effort to help alleviate the parking situation that truckers face. And one state in particular (Florida) has a couple of communities (along the east end of Interstate 4 and the junction of interstates 4 and 95) that are practically Demanding that the state either shut down, or move a pair of rest areas because they think that the trucks make too much noise, cause pollution, and the most far fetched of ideas,….. that “trucks bring crime to their communities”,…..and that “cars have plenty of exit ramps that they can utilize”.  I shake my head at that one. I’ve never seen a bill of lading in a truck drivers possession that stated under the product line,…. “criminal contents.”

Another person who has been going around the country attending meetings related to safe truck parking, is Desiree Wood of Real Women in Trucking and the Truck parking Coalition, which can be found on Facebook and the web, has also been pushing for more accountability and education in the country in the need for additional safe truck parking which is in dire need, and her efforts have not gone un-noticed. She along with several others, have been taking the issue to a number of states around the country, and have been well recieved.

Anyway, I digress!  One state in the country, namely Missouri,  has taken positive steps toward improving on their rest areas, and have taken old unused weigh stations and turned them into Truck Parking Only, parking areas. And even Texas has been taking some steps towards improving some of their rest areas as well, yet they still leave some areas where you can barely squeeze several trucks into them, as they are mainly “picnic areas, or just old, outdated rest areas that could use improvement. Now granted, those areas have little if any facilities, but they DO provide truckers with a place to park and get some rest, without interference. More states need to follow this example.  The only thing I would request for these truck parking areas, is that the state at least include facilities that drivers can use in the event mother nature comes calling,… suddenly.  Even if it is something as simple as the concrete buildings created for use as outhouses, that can be very easily maintained, and very cost effectively, plus simple hand wash stations as well.

Regardless what is done, these rest areas are direct areas that many drivers will go to, if they have to, in order to find a parking place to Hopefully get the rest they need, and the states need to get on the ball to complete their maintenance or upgrades as soon as possible.  At the least, don’t close the rest areas until they have the work force they need directly on hand to begin the work as soon as they “temporarily” close them down. Then start and finish the project in an appropriate amount of time, instead of dragging the project on, and on.

 

Truck Driver Training, Will Driver Quality Improvements Take Place?

 

safe

Experienced truckers in the industry today have seen, far better than those in bureaucratic positions and even those that run many of the carriers in the country today, just how bad the quality of today’s truck driver has actually become.  With many feeling that there is little, if any, hope that improvements will take place. Even with the advent of last years FMCSA sponsored meetings of what needs to be done to improve upon the training of new Entry Level drivers (by way of the Entry Level Driver Training Advisory Committee meetings) which was put together to offer ways for the FMCSA to enact legislation to make stronger improvements of how new drivers coming into the industry are to be properly trained so that our nations roadways might become safer, and so that companies will have a higher degree of more competent and capable truck drivers.

Part of these “improvements”, which many experienced drivers hope to see, are how trucking companies that have their own training schools and curriculum’s, will be required to meet specific training standards for new drivers, well before they are allowed to step off training courses, and into the public realm, where the decisions they make and how they respond to driving conditions, can become more critical to themselves and the motoring public.

Another aspect is people who have a “business” of helping people get their CDL license with little, or no, hands on training in a certified school. I’m speaking of places that offer you how to get your CDL license within 1 day, without having to pay the price, and time, of going through a truck driving school.  Granted, there are those who can step behind the wheel of a “Big Rig” and safely operate it from point A to point B without incident, but the ongoing intricacies that can become involved in day-to-day operations, in differing climates and locales, can present circumstance that the novice will fail to see and respond to appropriately, and in time.

The comments and concerns of the experienced driver today, and still ongoing, and many of them feel that instead of seeing better drivers entering the market, we are seeing more dangerous drivers behind the wheel instead.  With many of today’s drivers not knowing when they have actually given sufficient room to another vehicle, whether another big rig or car when passing, before stepping back to the right lane. Failing to give room to drivers attempting to merge left to avoid emergency vehicles, or others that are parked on the shoulder. How to make turns safely.  Failing to keep safe following distances from vehicles they are behind. Maneuvering for parking spaces in tight spots. Speeding through parking lots packed with vehicles and people moving around. Not having the patience to wait while drivers are attempting to get backed into parking spaces. Knowing how to read a truck atlas and which routes they can and cannot use. And the list just continues to grow, and grow, and grow.

On top of the driving problems, many are not adequately trained in how to properly and safely secure loads, along with tarping loads on open trailers.  The same goes with closed trailer units in ensuring that the load is properly positioned inside so that weights are properly distributed for safe movement. Drivers also need to be required to have the presence of mind to dress appropriately when they are expected to meet customers.

Image and attitude can be Everything when dealing with customers. I’ve trained more drivers to meet customers in a professional manner that garnered them “By Name Requests” from customers wanting them to come back and haul loads, which meant that their companies were properly presented as having drivers that knew what they were doing.

Until the FMCSA listens to drivers with experience, (along with those who work in safety departments within the industry that show strong, positive results within their companies due to practices that work)  and come up with proper standards that training schools and self-teaching trucking companies will have to comply with, and positive results are seen, then there will continue to be concerns by experienced drivers as to whether or not it is worthwhile to stay behind the wheel themselves, or to bail from the industry in favor of work elsewhere that keeps them from being on the road with drivers who continue to show themselves to not be safe to operate around.

Driver Safety Becoming More of a Concern

truck crash

Over the years, Decades, actually, driver safety has been one of how they load and unload, and how they operate safely on the road. Both go hand-in-hand with one another. But, today, things have shown a greater need of change, and what in the military is called, Situational Awareness. The reason for this sudden need to change (?), given the last number of years where drivers have been killed by thugs for what little money they had on them when they parked for a nights rest, or been held up on a truck-stop parking lot after having gotten fuel and a cash advance, or had their loads and rigs high-jacked, we now have a new problem, that has occurred over the last several months.

Truckers, while traveling down the nations roads, are being shot and killed, and even having objects thrown at them from overpasses, or passing vehicles, which have ended up in numerous deaths and serious injuries that have contributed to truck crashes. Whether these incidents have been the result of aggressive driving on the part of one party or the other, truckers now need to be even aware of who, and what, is going on around them, and to take even more care as to how and when they react to different situations.

Aggressive driving is not just cause by one side of the driving spectrum, it happens on all sides, including truck drivers as well. It involves tailgating, which has involved numerous deaths due to driver inattentiveness, or just being in too big a hurry to get someplace. Making unsafe lane changes which result in cutting other drivers off and sometimes forcing the other driver to take evasive actions to avoid a collision. Failing to Yield to the right of way when entering the highway from another. Failing to use turn signals, properly or even not at all, to alert others following that you intend, or are going to make a lane change or turn. And even shouting at, or using “sign language” towards other drivers who may have committed the traffic offense, which often aggravates the situation even more, and very possibly, has led to more recent incidents of the shooting deaths of truckers while on the move.

The most recent incidents have happened in the Chicago area, with at least two deaths happening on the beltways around the city, and the most recent having taken place in California, where the driver was found to have been shot and killed. Whether this was due to aggressive driving, gang violence, or just a chance happening, we may never know. But taking the proper steps to drive as safely as possible, and not bringing emotions into play if someone else does “The stupid” routine, could well keep something from happening.

Sadly, this article will not make it out to the eyes of everyone out there that drives any kind of vehicle, but hopefully, it will reach enough people to make a difference. Your life, and the lives of others are almost literally up for grabs right now, and in today’s society, where everyone is in a huge hurry to get someplace as fast as possible, with truckers being the “big, slow-moving, pile of junk” that’s in the way.

80,00 pounds of rolling truck cannot,… stop on a dime, turn on a dime, or take off or maneuver like a race car. They are huge machines that require concentration and effort to get them from place to place, all with the operator of the rig doing so as safely as possible. And everyone needs to more attentive and observant of what is going on around themselves, and give one another the space they need to get from point A to point B as safely as possible.

For the trucker, doing so is now an even higher need, as they are scrutinized more heavily than any other driver on the roadways, and increasing their vigilance while driving has become even more necessary today. So my advice is to slow down, and not get in the hurry that everyone else is in. Let the other vehicle get around you as safely as you can and even slow down to give yourself room between yourself and the passing vehicle. Do your best to keep your emotions in check so as not to bring greater risk into the situation. Hopefully, incidents can and will be avoided, but the responsibility may well rely on what You do, and not the “other guy.”

Trucker Shut-Down? Are You Kidding?

megatrucks-Semi-Trucks-Pa-002

Given what has been happening over the last 4 years or so, truckers are plenty upset over what is taking place in Washington, DC.  Truckers, including company drivers, Owner Operators, and possibly even union drivers are upset over rulings and proposals being presented by those in Congress and the Senate.   What with the ELD mandate that everyone and their uncle is fighting,

Then, add that Senator Richard Blumenthall (D) Conneticutt has proposed putting the 2013  version of the 34 hour reset back into action via the senate (again, another no go for the majority of truckers.  And another push going on about Sleep Apnea, Carrier fitness ratings, AND the ATA’s involvement in ways that does little-if-anything (no surprise there) to help truckers in the long run, among them the recent push to attempt to back and slip an amendment into several transportation bills that would prevent states from writing and enforcing laws that would ensure that drivers are PAID for any and all work they do, outside of driving their trucks from point A to point B.  And the years of stagnant pay that truckers have been under for decades.

And recently, someone posted on Facebook that truckers should go on strike, by shutting down in June of this year.  Uhhh, REALLY???  You have to be kidding!  To propose having truckers shut down for two days, with little, if any, notice, and expect that everyone will get the message and act, will not happen.  Why??   You need ALL truckers on board for such an action, which would include company drivers, Local operators, Container operators, Owner Operators, Unions, the whole gammut of truck drivers.  Plus, more time would have to be needed to prepare for such action, so drivers know where they will be, how they will conduct a shutdown, the finance that they will need at home, and on the road to compensate. How their individual companies will respond to their actions, AND, even more importantly, who is going to be the overall representative/s to stand up and speak for the drivers, and can they be trusted to push the subject, so that the bid-wigs in DC, along with every trucking company in the country is forced to listen.

If you have been listening to truckers at all, over the years, the standard (and correct) response to a shutdown in this day and age has been the same.  It’s hard enough to get two truckers to agree on some kind of strike, but get the entire country of truckers to stand together??  Not likely!

Yes, something needs to be done to get DC, the DOT, FMCSA, all the safety advocates, the ATA, Trucking Companies, and everyone else, out of the lives and livelihoods of truckers, and allow them to do their jobs, CORRECTLY, and with proper compensation, home-time, and less stress.  They wonder why truckers are overweight, have high blood pressure, poor family lives, face divorces, and many other problems that they would not have, if not for the BS that plays out every day in the industry.

Trucker shutdown?  If you want to do that, then work, (Hard) at getting every single trucker out there involved in agreeing, then set a solid date, contacts, and representatives that will be available to take action, until then,  Don’t bark up a tree, because only the birds will hear you, and they don’t care.