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Inside Trucking Part 3: Life On The Road

by Rhonda

With all the fuel that drivers purchase, it's wise to get the driver payback cards from the truck stops that offer them. Its free, and it's a way of saying thank you to the professional driver. For each gallon of fuel purchased, you get 1 cent/point put on the card. You can use these points to purchase anything except alcohol and tobacco products.

I had a clerk tell me a regular driver saved all year to purchase Christmas gifts on one card. Since I don't buy Christmas gifts, this never entered my mind that it was possible. You will have several payback cards and you can keep one or two for saving. I saved one of mine for a nice meal at the end of my day. It cost $7.37 and I paid 89 cents after cashing in my points. The rest you can use for the often purchased food and drink. You will also notice that the good food costs more than that candy bar and here is a way to save money and still get your fresh fruit and the other healthy food offered at higher prices. Use your payback card. Its painless and free.

Women Drivers Trying To Eat

After I did a blog on this subject I came across even more of my notes. Just more proof on how women are treated when trying to eat out, and you don't have to be a driver to experience this - it happens at your local eating places too.

At a large truck stop known for its great homemade food, I went in for a meal. I seated myself near the kitchen area where the staff had to walk by me, hoping this would get me more contact with the staff. A waiter watched me enter, picked up a menu, but didn't come my way. In fact he looked away! He then looked at me and in my general area and looked away again. I begin to sense what he is expecting - a man. Soon after that a man enters, walks past me, and picks his spot to sit. Now the waiter takes that menu, walks past me, and gives it to that man! He then walks past me again, picks up another menu and then gives me the menu. There was no reason why he could not pick up two menus and give me one, continue to the man's table and then get our drinks. After years of this treatment when you eat alone, it really gets old.

My First Year Of Driving

As a rookie driver I did 1,500 to 2,400 miles a week on a dedicated account. I had good weeks and bad weeks and a truck that broke down every 4 to 5 weeks. I was also learning how to put all the training together to keep moving and maximize my mileage. Soon you catch on and things get easier. As a beginner you can expect to make around $31,000 to $35,000 and this was in 2001. Some of the ads in trucking still say that for 2010. Now for many of us, this is tremendous wages. I worked 11 years as a state employee before this job and never came close to these wages. I drove 113,370 actual miles my first calendar year. These are not your paid mileage as that is different. I received all my quarterly bonuses too. I made $33,000! I was happy with that. That is a nice income for anyone. You can live on that.

What Happened To The Time?

You may forget time zone changes. One morning when getting up, I had about 2 ½ hours before going about 10 miles to my receiver. I went for a walk and then inside to grab a breakfast sandwich and coffee. I was enjoying my breakfast and the quiet time before I start my day. Sure is pretty out and its going to be a great day, I told myself. While eating, I heard someone ask for the time. "It's 8:15" was the answer. WHAT??? How stupid can I be??? I forgot the time change!! I never change my watch crossing the time zones because you must do your logs from your home time zone.

I grab my food and drink and start running to the truck and now my great day has went away and its all my fault. My appointment is at 9 and I have never ever been late and I still have a chance to be on time. I get in the truck and start it. The low air pressure alarm was still going off but it was getting near the required amount of air pressure to make it quit, so I put the truck in gear and quickly hit the road. The buzzers quit before I left the parking lot. On the highway heading to a place I have never gone to before, I am hoping that my directions are right. This has now set the mood of the day for me and there is no one to blame but me. I'll be upset at myself today. I arrive at my receiver at 8:45 and park as the instructions say to do. I run to the guard shack with my papers and all the info I need to sign in. There are several drivers ahead of me on the phone checking in. It is 8:50. The guard takes some info from me while I am waiting in line.

The phone is handed to each driver and at 9, I still don't have the phone. I am now close enough to the ones in front of me and they are not happy. Finally I get the phone ( I think its 9:10) and I tell person on other end all the info and the time I entered the lot and the time the guard checked me in. He tells me that I am now late and missed my appointment time!! And my employer will be written up! I'm to go to my truck and wait and I will be called when they have another time open to get me in! I'm asked if there are other drivers in line and I say "Yes, about 10 more at this time". I hand the phone to the next driver and tell all in line if they had a 9am appointment they are now late and are being written up along with their employer. Some did have the same appointment time as me and they don't like this either. And believe me, this is the polite version!!!

Hoping My Company Figures It Out

In the truck I am sending Qualcomm messages and I'm on the phone to my dispatch office. I am glad they can pull up the Qualcomm and look at my arrival time. I am telling my office everything about this place and that I am not the only one they're saying are "late". They are also trying to calm me down. They see I am not late and I did arrive in plenty of time. They will check into this. I had to wait around 1 hour before I was allowed in the gate and I was at this place for many hours.

Drivers are the ones who keep the employer in business. A few "lates", even in a situation like this, will eventually cause a customer to drop the carrier as one of their preferred carriers. Drivers will find themselves taken off the account or banned from going to this specific place, or maybe even sent to find another job.

There are also some places where you can not enter more than 15 minutes early for appointment times. One time I had a guard tell me I was 20 minutes early for my 11pm appointment and I must leave the lot. I looked at him dumbfounded and he again said I must leave or I will be in trouble. I said by the time I turn around it will be time to be here so can I just back up and sit on the side? NO was the answer, I had to leave the property. WHAT A CROCK OF BULL!!! Who else is coming at this time of night???? I did as told and went and drove about 5 miles to go "around the block" because that was the only thing I could really do. The place was not next to the interstate and there weren't a lot of options.

So there's a few tidbits I thought I'd throw at ya about life on the road!

Qualcomm:

Omnitracs (a.k.a. Qualcomm) is a satellite-based messaging system with built-in GPS capabilities built by Qualcomm. It has a small computer screen and keyboard and is tied into the truck’s computer. It allows trucking companies to track where the driver is at, monitor the truck, and send and receive messages with the driver – similar to email.

Interstate:

Commercial trade, business, movement of goods or money, or transportation from one state to another, regulated by the Federal Department Of Transportation (DOT).

DWI:

Driving While Intoxicated

by Brett Aquila

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