Profile For Brett Aquila

Brett Aquila's Info

  • Location:
    Keeseville, NY

  • Driving Status:
    Experienced Driver

  • Social Link:
    Brett Aquila On The Web

  • Joined Us:
    15 years, 11 months ago

Brett Aquila's Bio

Hey Everyone! I'm the owner and founder of TruckingTruth and a 15 year trucking veteran.

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Posted:  2 days, 12 hours ago

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Just had my first steer go flat and want to make sure I'm not getting the 2 year over confidence.

I've done risky things safely my entire life - truck driving, the climber in a tree service, rock climber, ice climber, football, hockey, race cars, etc. I've never broken a bone, had a stitch, or had to go to a doctor or hospital for an injury.

I manage risk well for several reasons.

For starters, I simply don't assume things will be okay. I do everything in my power to make sure they will be ok. I double-check and sometimes triple-check things. I know that you're rolling the dice every time you make an assumption, and making assumptions while doing something risky will eventually lead to disaster. When will that point come? God only knows. Why couldn't it be this time? That's what I always ask myself, and then I continue checking everything.

When I'm driving, I know that anything can happen at any time. Almost all the worst accidents I witnessed over the years were in fantastic conditions; a sunny day, light traffic, and clear roads. That's when people let their guard down.

Another key to risk management is controlling your emotions. If you keep yourself calm, you'll think clearly. When you get emotional, you lose that clarity. I rarely get emotional, but if I do, I do not take on risks until I can gather myself. That might mean stopping for lunch or going for a jog. Whatever it takes to get your emotions back in control before doing anything risky.

Patience is also key. Getting in a hurry causes all kinds of mistakes. Patiently do your pre-trip. Patiently make your way down the highway. You're not losing time by being patient; you're saving grief, which saves more than time.

Ask anyone who has had a preventable accident of some sort and they will almost always recall a time before the accident that they made a bad assumption:

"I didn't think anyone was behind me."

"I thought that car was going to wait for me before making the turn in front of me."

"I just checked the locking pin the last time I stopped and it was fine. I didn't think I needed to check it again."

Patience, diligence, and handling your emotions well will go a long way toward keeping you safe.

Davy, I love your attitude and your approach to things. You always make excellent points and raise great questions.

Posted:  5 days, 13 hours ago

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Some experiences and questions after my first month solo

Scaling and sliding tandems: How much of a weight difference is too much between the drives and tandems?

I would say get them within 3,000 pounds or so. In other words:

Steer: 12,000
Tractor: 33,000
Trailer: 30,000

That's totally fine. Even more of a difference is fine. You may have heard us mention that balancing the weight between drives and tandems is safer, especially on slick roads. The main reason you want them balanced is for traction. If there's an imbalance, you want more weight on the drives than the tandems.

I wasn't overly concerned about how much the balance was off. I was more concerned about one set of tandems being very close to the limit. So if you had:

Steer: 12,000
Tractor: 33,800
Trailer: 30,000

...I would balance that out better just to get those drives away from the legal limit.

Don't obsess over getting the weights balanced. You're fine if you're within 3,000 pounds, which is very conservative. You could go much further than that and likely never have an issue.

You're on the highway, another truck will be merging on, but you can't change lanes: I was told to maintain my speed and it's up to the merging truck to adjust, but I'm struggling with that

Every situation is unique, and looking as far ahead as possible is the key. The more time you have to adjust to changing circumstances, the better, and that comes from looking way ahead.

I always had a rule: When in doubt, keep doing what you're doing. I'll explain.

When you think about it, multi-vehicle accidents are almost always a result of someone doing something that someone else didn't expect. Example: Car #1 runs a red light and collides with car #2. Running the red light wasn't the problem. The problem is that car #2 didn't know car #1 was going to do that. If car #2 had known, they would have stopped and let car #1 go through the red light. Accident avoided.

So based on that idea, when I was in a tense situation with multiple vehicles and there was no clear action that I should take, I would keep doing what I was doing. If a truck was merging and I was in the righthand lane with vehicles all around me, I would most likely just maintain my lane and my speed. That makes my movement predictable and allows the surrounding vehicles to adjust to what I'm doing.

You'd like to get over and make room for the truck, but you won't always be able to do that. In those circumstances, maintain your speed and your lane. You will be predictable, and others can adjust to your actions.

Posted:  2 weeks ago

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Should I remove or keep experience

Hey Emily,

It's clear you're leaving out an awful lot of information about your situation. It's hard to help you if we don't know what's happening.

Breaking your ankle is no reason to leave a company. Seeing "unsafe practices" - well, you're the captain of your own ship. As long as no one puts you in harm's way, what others do is not your biggest concern. No one wants to see anyone get hurt, but as a rookie driver, you already have plenty on your plate.

You absolutely must be honest on your applications. These companies do very thorough background checks, and they will find everything. So be honest.

If you're looking for a regional gig, just apply to any companies you can find that offer it in your area. This is the slowest time of year for most companies, so that's going to make it a little more difficult.

Let us know of questions you may have, and fill us in on more details so we can understand your situation better.

Posted:  2 weeks, 1 day ago

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Melton Trucking Orientation

Sorry, but I have experienced non-English speaking drivers. But I doubt they’ll run the rest of us off

I'm sure a few slip through the cracks. I'm sure many speak a little English, but not enough to talk in a conversation without translation.

If they were gonna run the rest of us off, that would have happened decades ago.

Posted:  2 weeks, 1 day ago

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Melton Trucking Orientation

The Sikh, Arab, and Indian drivers out there beg to differ. Not all immigrants lack fluency in English.

This is why people get so aggravated with you. You're snarky, you've added nothing to the conversation, you didn't read the passage you're responding to closely, and no one ever said, "all immigrants lack fluency in English."

What BK said was:

One of the requirements to drive a truck is to have a working knowledge of English, so all those non-English speaking immigrants are unlikely to start flooding the trucking job market.

He specifically said, "Non-English speaking immigrants"

BK is also correct about the English-speaking requirement. Here is the information from the FMCSA:

49 CFR § 391.11 - General qualifications of drivers.

(2) Can read and speak the English language sufficiently to converse with the general public, to understand highway traffic signs and signals in the English language, to respond to official inquiries, and to make entries on reports and records;

Come on, man! Quit aggravating everyone.

Posted:  2 weeks, 2 days ago

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I love my company, but I think it's time...

Check out Google Maps and their live traffic feature if you haven't already. Super helpful.

Posted:  2 weeks, 2 days ago

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I love my company, but I think it's time...

One was because of an accident that shutdown the highway while I was on it.

Do you have a CB radio? I lost count of how many times a wreck closed the highway, but I quickly went around it because I knew about it ahead of time.

Even without a CB, Google Maps gives real-time traffic information. I'm not sure if it only covers cities or the entire nation, but it will show a highway in red if traffic is stopped or at a crawl.

So those are two ways you may have learned about the accident and gone around it. That's why I asked, "Are you sure you did everything possible to get to your appointments on time?" Experienced drivers learn a ton of tricks over time and rarely arrive late. There may have been nothing you could do in this case, even with a CB and Google Maps. But whenever you're late, take a hard look at everything you did in the hours and days leading up to the delay. You will almost always find something you could have done.

Another late delivery was because dispatch and customer service got the delivery times of two loads going to the same place mixed up. I followed the information in the load plan just as we are instructed to do

I almost always contacted the customers before arriving, especially if I knew I might load or unload early. I would call and verify the appointment and the directions because one or both are sometimes wrong, or something may have changed. If you had called ahead, you might have discovered the discrepancy.

To be clear, I'm not at all criticizing you. I'm just giving examples of how a little digging will find opportunities to learn.

I am providing that information to say that I truly am a highly dependable driver whom my company knows will get the job done.

That's the key to everything right there. If you know you outperform most drivers, you have all the leverage in the world to pressure dispatch a little when your mileage drops or ask them for an extra favor once in a while. Dispatchers are acutely aware of who their top performers are, and they will take care of them. Of course, never forget that being kind, helpful, and cooperative is also big in trucking because so many drivers are not, especially when they're unhappy about something.

You'll make great money and get the treatment you deserve if you handle yourself like a pro. It's obvious you care deeply about performing at a high level. Never stop searching for ways to improve.

Posted:  2 weeks, 3 days ago

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Patience’s was honestly key but I didnt eat..

I just got off the phone with my Driver’s Coach and he just told me that because DOT wasn’t involved, I shouldn’t have it report on my DAC. Is he possibly lying?

I doubt he's lying, but he could be wrong. The DAC has almost no oversight at all. Companies can choose to put anything they want on there. You can, however, challenge anything on there and they will have to prove it.

I wouldn't worry about the DAC too much. As long as you keep your job and learn from this, you'll be fine.

Posted:  2 weeks, 3 days ago

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Patience’s was honestly key but I didnt eat..

Your honesty and attitude will play a major factor in their final decision.

I'd like to reiterate this, although it was mentioned several times already. This is huge. Like everyone keeps saying, own it. Don't make excuses or blame anyone. Just say, "I screwed up. No excuses. I'm willing to go through whatever additional training or classes you'd like to put me through, and this will make me a better driver."

See, if you make excuses or place blame elsewhere, they'll expect you to keep on making mistakes without learning from them, and no one wants drivers like that. We all make mistakes, but not everyone takes responsibility and attempts to learn from it and get better. Let them know in no uncertain terms that you care very much about what happened and you will get better because of it.

We've had several Schneider drivers in this forum over the years who had accidents but were forgiven. They owned it, and Schneider showed them mercy. They'll do the same for you if you handle it well.

Don't let it rattle you, but do make sure to be far more careful. No one here will condemn you for it, but we hope you'll take it seriously and work hard at learning from it.

Posted:  2 weeks, 3 days ago

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I love my company, but I think it's time...

As for your suggestion in getting appointment times moved up, after I did that with the receiver and the shipper in Payson, UT, my DM told me that management doesn't like us doing that. They said that the workers at the locations may be willing to do it, but then management at those facilities doesn't like when things are thrown off schedule by intention

rofl-3.gif

That makes me laugh because every driver that moves their appointments ahead is told not to do that, but we do it anyways. People who work in offices, especially managers, love to have complete control of everything. In trucking, the dispatchers and load planners want everything to work out like a game of chess, where they have full control over all the pieces, and we're the pieces!

So they get nervous when they lay out a plan, but the driver changes it. Once they learn to trust you, they'll stop saying anything about it because you'll be more productive than most. It's amazing how much someone will learn to trust you when you consistently find ways to put more money in their pocket.

I would use word games to change my appointment times. I knew that if I called the customer and told them I was the driver, they wouldn't give much weight to anything I requested. But they give a lot of weight to the office personnel. So I would call the customer and say, "Hi, I'm Brett Aquila with U.S. Express. We have a driver coming in for an appointment later today, but we're in a bit of a pickle, and we'd love to move that appointment from 3:00 pm to 10:00 am so the driver can make another appointment later this afternoon. Would that be possible?"

They would say yes, nine out of ten times.

Hey, nothing I said was a lie. I just didn't tell them I was the driver. I guess they assumed I worked in the office. Whoops!

rofl-2.gif

If I am ever late for an appointment now, it's because stuff happens that we can't control.

Are you sure? If I was late once a year for any reason, that was too often. You can't control everything, but you can control enough that you should be on time 99% of the time. Traffic, weather, logbook hours, and more can all be managed. Anytime you're late, look back on the previous 24 - 36 hours and ask yourself if you could have done anything different to make that appointment on time. There's almost always something you could have done.

So, my DM is really stuck in the middle. After talking to my DM, if it doesn't seem like any improvement can be made, I will talk to the operations manager. He and I get along pretty well, so he will shoot straight with me.

You're correct. He is stuck in the middle, and that's a perfect strategy. Just make sure you give your dispatcher a head's up before you talk to operations about it so he doesn't think you're going behind his back to complain about him. Let him know,

Man, I know you've done everything in your power to get more miles for me, and I appreciate it, but I'm going to talk to operations to see if I can get them to pull some strings. You haven't done a thing wrong. You're doing a great job. I just need someone with more authority to make things happen for me. I'll put in a good word for you.

That will keep a clear understanding between you and your dispatcher.

I will be cautious in making any move to another company because I know that freight is slow, so it's possible that I am just caught up in the midst of my company feeling that freight sluggishness. I had already been thinking about the fact that I don't want to make a lateral move from one company to another and simply trade one set of discomforting issues for another set that I dislike more.

2023 is going to be a mess, to put it mildly. The economy has already started circling the drain, and I think it's going to get far worse over the next 6 - 12 months. Always keep lobbying for more miles. Be relentless. When they give you the big miles, take advantage of it and make great things happen.

It sounds like your mileage hasn't been as terrible as you had thought, but you should average 11,000 - 12,000 miles per month pretty consistently. Keep your standards high, and keep holding dispatch to a high standard.

Posted:  2 weeks, 4 days ago

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I love my company, but I think it's time...

Now I’m over 38,000 miles which translates into a little over 12,000 per month.

Nice BK! Way to hustle!

Posted:  2 weeks, 4 days ago

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I love my company, but I think it's time...

I sure feel like I am complaining.

Not at all. This is all totally legit.

I will hit 2,800 one week and then be under 2,000 the next. I have averaged 2,100 miles a week (information from my DM) since June

Those miles are terrible if your goal is to run hard and make as much money as you can without burning out. I mean, terrible. Most highly productive drivers shoot for 3,000+ miles per week. I used to average around 3,000 miles per week with a goal of about 3,200. I would be extremely unhappy if I had less than 2,700 in a week. It rarely happened, even when I ran regional and I was home on weekends.

I would focus on working with dispatch to get better miles if money is your main concern. I don't think changing companies will help because rarely will a company consistently just hand any old driver 3,000+ miles per week. You must have several things working for you:

  • You must have a great dispatcher. Not all dispatchers are created equal. Ask your dispatcher where you stand on the board. If drivers are averaging more miles than you, ask why that is and find out what you can do to get your mileage up near the top of the fleet. Do not be shy about this! Tell him/her straight up, "I can not live on less than 2,500 miles per week. I must average that or more consistently. What can I do to get up there?"
  • You must make all of your appointments on time. If you're late even 5% of the time, there is almost no chance you'll turn big miles. They simply won't allow you to haul their most valuable freight, which means the pool of freight you qualify to haul is less than it could be. You're missing out on opportunities. Get to the appointments on time.
  • You must pick up and deliver early once in a while. You mentioned this already, and it's not easy, especially pulling reefer. But it's doable. If you can even move one appointment up each week, you'll make more money. If you can do that two or three times a week, you'll make a lot more.
  • Find ways to get loaded or unloaded more quickly. Again, not easy, especially in a reefer. But there are always opportunities. I've watched guys walk into customers with boxes of donuts. Get creative. Tell a white lie if you have to. I used to tell customers, "Look, I totally understand you guys are busy, but I have another load scheduled after this one and if I miss it I'm going to lose about $300 this week alone. If you can do anything to get me out of here a little faster, I would be thrilled! If not, I understand and I appreciate your efforts. But I'd love it if you could!" Simple as that. Give it a shot.

You really have to hustle in this business if you want to turn big miles. You must learn how to work the system. You have to work the people at your company, workers on the docks, and even DOT officers once in a while. You must watch the weather, plan your trips around city traffic, and plan your fuel stops, scheduled maintenance, and personal affairs strategically.

Many times drivers have come here talking about changing companies because they're not getting enough miles, and we always tell them what I've told you. You must learn how to turn the big miles. They won't be handed to you. If you're not getting big miles where you're at, you almost certainly won't get them anywhere else, either.

I'm not against you changing companies in order to make more money. If you were turning 3,000 miles a week but found a better pay rate elsewhere, you'd be crazy not to take it. But I'm afraid you'll wind up in the same boat if you go somewhere else. I'd like to see you try to work the system and improve your miles here first. Once you've maxed out your potential at this company, look elsewhere, assuming you're okay with how everything else is going where you're at.

Posted:  2 weeks, 4 days ago

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I love my company, but I think it's time...

How many miles are you getting now?

If you're consistently turning 2,500+ miles per week, you'll have to ensure you don't make a move that gets you nowhere in the end.

As you know, every company has advantages and disadvantages, so if you make a move, you may just end up exchanging one set of problems for a fresh set that isn't any better.

I asked what you were looking for in your next job to see if you had a clear vision for making a move. The scheduling issue isn't enough in itself, but making more money is a great reason to change companies, as long as you actually wind up making more money in the end. You have to be careful about making a sideways (or backward!) move.

You seem reluctant to complain, which I commend you for, but it's perfectly fine to list the cons of working there. There is a big difference between legitimate complaints and someone who is just obnoxious about it, like the famous "BBQ sauce" guy who included "lousy BBQ sauce in the cafeteria" on his list of complaints about his company.

rofl-3.gif

At this point, I think you're either holding back on your reasons for wanting to leave, or you don't have a clear vision of what you want. I'm not sure which. If you were to say, "that's all I've got," then I would say stay where you're at until you find compelling reasons to leave and some great prospects. If there's more to the story, let us know so we can advise you better.

I promise nothing you say will get you labeled as a complainer because I asked for more details.

Posted:  2 weeks, 4 days ago

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I love my company, but I think it's time...

What are you looking for in your next job?

Posted:  3 weeks ago

View Topic:

Physical Control Charge in Ohio

The silver lining Brett is that the website worked perfectly! We don’t want somebody with that mindset operating an 18 wheeler

That's true!

Posted:  3 weeks ago

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Physical Control Charge in Ohio

I was as polite as I could muster

You handled it flawlessly. In fact, I thought the guy was lucky to have someone with your experience as a former LEO and an owner-op interested in helping at all.

Posted:  3 weeks ago

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Physical Control Charge in Ohio

Well, he basically cussed you guys out and asked to have his account deleted.

Turns out people with low standards don't appreciate honest assessments.

rofl-3.gif

Posted:  3 weeks, 1 day ago

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Mileage Pay?

I'm told by the senior VP of operations that the customers set the mileage and we are paid by that calculation

That's true. I thought this was odd when I first heard it myself, but once I thought about it, I understood why.

When trucking companies negotiate with their customers, they don't always negotiate the rate per mile. They negotiate the actual mileage of the trip. Why?

If they allow for a lower rate per mile but keep the same trip length, the trucking company will lose revenues, but they'll still have to pay the driver for the full distance.

However, if they negotiate the length of the trip and allow for fewer miles, they also pay the driver less for the trip, so the loss isn't as bad for the company.

Weird, right?

It reminds me of the way restaurants often shrink the amount of food they're serving instead of reducing the prices. It's not a tactic you would expect.

Posted:  3 weeks, 2 days ago

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Mileage Pay?

Regardless of how you're paid, I highly encourage new drivers to keep track of everything. Make a little spreadsheet or use a notebook to track each load number, the starting and ending locations, and the paid miles. Confirm that the paid miles match what your GPS or Google Maps says for the distance. If you're being paid zip miles (used to be called Household Mover's Miles), you may find that GPS mileage is a little longer than the paid miles, sometimes by as much as 10%. It shouldn't be over 10%. If it is, contact dispatch and let them know.

When you get paid, verify everything on your paycheck. Make sure you're paid for every mile they owe you.

Over the years, I worked for quite a few companies. I was never overpaid, but almost every company I worked for regularly "forgot" to pay me for something. Every time I called payroll, they'd say, "You're right. We're sorry. It will be in your next paycheck."

If you aren't keeping track of your pay closely, I can almost guarantee you're getting shorted sometimes. Maybe it's accidental, maybe it's an unethical manager trying to increase their bonus or make the numbers look better. Who knows, right?

Keep track of everything. Verify everything.

I loved being paid by the mile for those who haven't heard my take in the past. I knew I could outrun almost anyone and enjoyed getting paid for the work I completed. I also loved that my company makes money the same way I do - by moving as much freight as possible.

I did a podcast on the subject. You can listen to it right here on our website:

Episode 8: Is Mileage Pay Fair?

I have no issue with people who prefer to get paid by the hour. I understand you feel they should pay us for the time we put in. That's valid. Many companies pay a combination of mileage and hourly, which is an acceptable compromise. If you get stuck at a shipper too long or your truck breaks down, they'll pay you for it. Otherwise, you're paid by the mile.

In the end, what matters isn't how they pay you, but how much they pay you. Look at the body of work you've done and ask yourself if you're happy with the pay. If not, it might be time to look for a better-paying job. If so, you're in good shape, and there's no need to worry about how they break it down.

Posted:  3 weeks, 3 days ago

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Is regional a waste of time, is OTR the more practical path?

One of the things I think this site is skewed on, is how local is looked at. I did two years OTR, have been local for another three years, and while I work with guys who do fourteen hour days with a two hour commute on both ends (which seems to be the prevailing belief around here that all local work is), it's literally by choice. You want to make six figures and live in the sticks, that's what it's going to take. There are other choices though. When we got pregnant last year, I dropped into a 0400-1400 five days a week shift, live seven minutes from the terminal, and still made over 85k for the year. My terminal offers 4, ten hour days weekly shifts and we're not even the only carrier on our block that offers that. I talked to a driver last week working for an equipment rental company who literally works bankers hours and made 75k. You can't tell me local drivers working these shifts aren't getting great family time at home. All I'm saying, is once you get some experience, the local game is not all doom and gloom.

Sweet gig!

To be fair, we're not skewed against local work. Most of the good-paying local jobs are exactly as we describe.

I did local work hauling auto parts out of Canada into Buffalo. It was 70-hour weeks, 5 days a week.

I had a few dump truck jobs over the years, and the hours weren't bad most of the time, but they didn't pay that well, either.

We've had dozens of members that did local work, and stories like yours are pretty rare. It sounds like you have a pretty awesome gig, but those aren't real common.

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TruckingTruth was founded by Brett Aquila (that's me!), a 15 year truck driving veteran, in January 2007. After 15 years on the road I wanted to help people understand the trucking industry and everything that came with the career and lifestyle of an over the road trucker. We'll help you make the right choices and prepare for a great start to your trucking career.

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Becoming A Truck Driver is a dream we've all pondered at some point in our lives. We've all wondered if the adventure and challenges of life on the open road would suit us better than the ordinary day to day lives we've always known. At TruckingTruth we'll help you decide if trucking is right for you and help you get your career off to a great start.

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