Monday, December 31, 2012

2012

2012 was a unique year for our operation.

We had approximately 5 months off work this year.  That is a good thing right?  Don't you wish you could take 5 months off work?  Unfortunately for us owner/operator types, time off is brutal.  When the wheels aren't rolling and there is no freight on the deck or in the trailer, the money isn't coming in.

On the other side of the coin, we had opportunities to run continuously 24 hours a day for weeks at a time and that was too much work.  You have to balance it all out.  You can burn out and you can veg out.  We did a little of both.  2013 looks to be a great year for us regardless of EOBR's, Hours of service regulations, and CARB regulations.

2012 was a year when dogs were being trained to drive.  2013 is the year they will drive big trucks.

 
Here are some notable things which happened to us in 2012:
-Salena bought her Mom a new car!
-The head on the truck's engine cracked (it was under warranty) and was replaced.
-We eclipsed 500,000 miles on our new truck. 
-We hauled some of the most dangerous freight that hits the highways through snow storms and icy roads
-We had more time off this year than I have ever had in the 17 years I have been driving
-We were guests on a radio show


Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Industry


When it comes to complaining about changes in the trucking industry, there are thousands of people out here doing that already.  A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, the trucking industry was started.  Its purpose was to help farmers, manufacturers, government, and basically anyone needing to move large, heavy “stuff”.  Whether across town, across the USA, or overseas, there were people dedicated to doing it. 

Trucking was a very lucrative business, but a primitive one, and very tough on the operators both mentally and physically. In an effort to make roads safer, the Department of Transportation created the Hours of Service. These enabled local law enforcement to crack down on trucking companies who were pushing their drivers too hard.  It didn’t work.  Despite the regulations, there were no stiff penalties for violating the Hours of Service; the regulations weren't taken seriously, and the logbook was commonly referred to as a “comic book”.  Even the OOIDA has admitted the average truck driver lies on their log book.

Maybe, just maybe, the problem isn't that the Hours of Service created back in 1938 aren’t being enforced or respected; maybe the problem is that the system was created and run by the government to dictate how people should behave when in their truck.  It didn’t work then, and it doesn’t work now.  It probably never will.  

I think drivers are the ones who should be responsible for the hours they drive, just like anyone else who drives a motor vehicle.  The Hours of Service, as a regulation, should be abolished completely.  It’s an unnecessary regulation. It can’t be any simpler than if you’re tired, don’t drive.  And if you drive while tired and have an accident, you’re penalized.  If you drive while tired and have an accident where you kill someone, you will be tried for manslaughter (which is what they do now), and if you’re found guilty, you go to jail.  The Hours of Service won’t stop someone from being tired or taking a life. 

Telling me how and when to drive, expecting to regulate when I’m going to be tired or awake, is taking it too far.  Don't misunderstand me; I vote, I support the system, I respect the authorities, and I abide by the rules and regulations which govern me.  And I will continue to do so, as I have my entire life. 

Having said that, I run a trucking business, and just about every trucking business has the same goal; to profit, and to do it safely.  There are two real threats to safety in the trucking business:  operators who run while tired and dangerous trucks (either poorly maintained or poorly loaded). There is still a need for weigh stations, because stopping trucks to see if they’re abiding by the weight limit laws are a good idea for everyone since we share the roads with others.  And when a carrier has a good safety record, they have to stop less at the scales, which makes sense – it would be nice if there were more companies who met the requirements to be given the green light.

But if a motor carrier threatens to fire you because you claim you’re too tired to drive, don’t work there.  Simple as that.  Ideally, a half-way intelligent person would get the word out that a particular motor carrier is trying to force people to drive while tired so no one would work there.  And if loads continually get refused, the company will have to tell the customer there are no drivers to get it done.  That’s just how it’ll be.  “Sorry, buddy.  My driver doesn’t want to work today.”  The carrier will either fire you and keep his customer, or keep you and find another customer.  But they will know better than to force you to take a load you can’t legally take.

And with today’s modern technology, it’s surprising that any of them still try that tactic since you can record any threats made by the carrier.  Doing that and playing it back for them might ensure that they wouldn’t force you to work when you can't or won’t.  Or, just turn them into the police and walk away.  Simple as that. You’ll still have a clean motor vehicle record, which along with a spotless criminal record, will be able to be checked to verify your background and you’ll be free to drive for whomever you choose. 

The industry needs safe drivers.  The best way to do this is to have a real training period; say, six months to a year. During this time you would be expected to pass rigorous testing to become a skilled heavy equipment operator. You receive your hard earned degree at the completion of the program, and you start out in the industry with a beginners rank or title.  Let’s call that rank “Operator First Class”, and as a subcategory, “with a van trailer specialty”.  After a specified period of time and further training, you work your way up to “Operator Second Class” with the subcategory of “van and platform trailer specialty”.  And so on.   

For each specialty, there will be additional training and subsequent degrees.  These “degrees” stay with you, and after you’ve successfully logged a half-million miles over a five year period, you reach “Operator Third Class”, with whatever additional trail specialties you may have added.  If you were to be fired, you claim unemployment based on your experience level and pay grade.  It’s kind of like getting promoted in the military – as you advance, so does your rank.

If you leave the industry and come back in a few years, you come back as “Operator Third Class” and resume where you left off.  You may need a refresher course to familiarize yourself with the new technology and equipment, but the job itself hasn't changed, so you don't lose all of your hard work and dedication. This scenario works for everyone because the trucking companies still make money on the work the drivers do, and the drivers do well because they work as hard as they safely can.   

There’s no need for a union here, just an organization to maintain the status quo. You would pay your yearly fees, and help keep the system in a state that favors the safe drivers.  The organization would fight the legal battles that arise to protect the drivers’ interests.

We are 74 years into the implementation of the first Hours of Service.  That “tracking” of our hours has led to Electronic On Board Recorders (EOBRs), Facial Recognition Cameras that are installed to look AT the drivers (which are currently being tested), cameras on highways, in intersections and at weigh stations, and nationwide databases that record and penalize operators no matter where they work. None of this is making the roads any safer and all of it is creating an environment no one wants to work in.

Trucking companies are the ones who are pushing for ways to get you to work as many hours as possible, and know what you’re doing while you are working those hours.  They want to be able to track you and their shipment at all times.  Their end goal is to pay less money out and take more money in.  It’s that simple.  And they really don’t care how much experience you have, as long as you can drive their truck. 

Unless the operators can wrestle back the control of their environment, the end result will be poorly trained operators, inefficient transportation of goods on the highways, poorly maintained equipment, as the trucking companies will not be able to continue to fund their maintenance accounts, higher accident ratios, and an even worse quality of life for the complaining masses that are already driving trucks. 

I would rather see professional operators with pride in what they do, demanding higher pay which would in turn fund better trucks, which they would use to haul freight at increased rates, which would happen through the whole process of supply and demand.   It would also eliminate abusive trucking companies’ practices.
 
Will we ever see that happen? Only time will tell. In the end, the people who want a career in trucking won’t be happy working in an overly oppressive environment full of people watching and controlling their every move.  What they want is to be treated like adults with professional skills and given the respect that they have worked long hard years to earn.

 

 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

CSA 2010

Compliance, Safety, and Accountability

It doesn't work.  End of post.

Seriously though, CSA is possible today because of the advent of the internet, computers, and modern technology.  This is why it is new, untested, and unproven.  CSA has hit us truckers square in the face and lately it has been shown to actually hurt the safest carriers in the industry by classifying them as unsafe.

It's the government's attempt to regulate driver's behavior.  In other words, it's like a computer telling you how to act more human.  Legally. 

The CSA was designed to:

1. Enable companies to hire safer drivers.
2. Enable drivers to work for safer carriers.
3. Enable law enforcement to target unsafe drivers and carriers more easily.
4. Create a higher demand for safe drivers.

The CSA program is for any carrier with a USDOT number.  That's pretty much everybody in any form of trucking.  I could write an entire website devoted to the CSA, but that has already been done.

The bottom line is that your equipment must be in good working order, logbook must be accurate, freight must be properly secured, and you must be fully capable of operating the vehicle both mentally and physically.

At first glance the DOT looks for:
A.  Truck and trailer
    1. License plates
    2. Inspection stickers
    3. Cleanliness of the vehicle (Dashboard free of clutter and truck recently washed)
    4. Overall condition of the vehicle such as missing mudflaps, damaged tires, and
        faulty lights (A nice paint job can really help you here)
B.  Condition of the load
    1.  How the load is situated on the trailer (positioned correctly and legally)
    2.  The condition of the securement devices (undamaged straps,chains, and binders)
    3.  The correct number and type of securement devices
    4.  The weight of the entire truck and trailer
    5.  The weight of each axle
C.    The condition of the driver
    1.  Driver's ability to answer all questions about your load, equipment, and operation accurately
    2.  Driver's environment (clean cab free of garbage)
    3.  Driver's appearance (clearly awake and alert, clean and decently dressed)

If the operator does all of this, drives a nice looking truck that's in compliance, and knows what the heck they're talking about in regards to the rules, regulations, and load information, then they'll do well during an inspection. 

Reading this from the perspective of someone who is not in the industry, or as a newcomer, you might be discouraged from embarking on a career in trucking as it would appear that the DOT is being a little too hard on truckers.  Worst case scenario, you should be prepared to lose everything at the whim of a DOT officer at a roadside checkpoint because they have the power to ban you from trucking with a series of failed inspections.

This is a boon for large trucking companies and the FMCSA as it legally removes all power from the trucker and puts it in the hands of the government.  No longer can a truck driver keep working in the business legally after they operate unsafely.  No one wants unsafe operators.  I know I don't want them.  Unfortunately though, with each law that's put in place, qualified operators are singled out and penalized unjustly.  This is the ultimate drawback of government oversight. 

The main problem in the industry is still not being addressed:  It's a general defunding of the working class.  In the trucking industry though, it means the roads are less safe, the drivers aren't as professional as they could be, the equipment is in worse shape, and the general environment is catering to the large trucking companies over the start-ups (destruction of the small business trucking companies).

An example of a large trucking company which owns no equipment, yet operates as a middleman between truckers and customers is CH Robinson.  CH Robinson nets billions of dollars as a middleman.  This is a company that takes money from the customer, decides how much money the trucker will do the load for, then sells it the trucker.  The customer and the trucker both lose money in this transaction.

This matters to CSA why?

Simply put, the time has come for customers and truckers to communicate directly with each other and completely cut out all brokers/middlemen.  Sorry brokers, it's nothing personal.  The technology that's available now eradicates their business model.   Every truck today has a laptop in it and every driver has access to load boards.  Given the reality that customers and truckers will become more tech savvy, trucking companies and brokers are worried that the small business trucker will gain the upper hand.  This is a direct threat to the major trucking companies. 

CSA 2010 was created to help EOBR's become a reality.  EOBR's will allow every single truck to be tracked by Qualcomm, Peoplenet, Skybitz, and ultimately the government, which acts in concert with the major corporations who fund the lobbyists to push their agenda.  At its core, it's the oldest game in the book:  Wipe out the competition.

Even more insidious is the way in which this is being justified.  The people who are pushing these laws are using images and stories of people killed in truck accidents to mandate their policies, yet there are no studies to date which show that CSA 2010 or EOBR's do anything to promote safety.  In fact, so far the evidence is to the contrary.  There is a rush to get this done, but rest assured it has nothing to do with safety.  It's all about stopping the small businesses from taking complete control of this industry. 

The mega-carriers and giant corporations have a war chest full of cash to throw at this, thanks to the hard working men and women out here who perform work for them.  I don't see this changing anytime soon, so all that can be done is to stay on top of the changes and understand who the major players are.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Stress Management

Trucking involves a large amount of stress. Yes, it can be managed, but it can also tear you apart. As a business owner, I don't let stress bother me. In fact, one of the things I often hear is that I act very calm for the situation. This isn't to say I handle every situation the same, as some situations require a little "self-imposed" stress to keep on top of things.  Like a load which demands intense focus to detail and constant monitoring, from loading until delivery.  Some drivers would simply start complaining and yelling at the customer, but I know better, so I handle the situation in a way that doesn't allow others to know I'm dealing with that "self-imposed" stress.


The main goal of being an owner operator of a truck is to have a profitable business. In saying that, you must have systematic goals which you accomplish different ways: over a short period of time, a midterm period of time, and a long period of time. Goal accomplishment will get you through all obstacles that present themselves and it'll help you focus in stressful situations.

A good example of this is when the load is already behind schedule when you arrive to pick it up (by no fault of yours) and the customer is demanding you drive faster to get it delivered. You could let this bother you and the agent/broker/customer may call you incessantly to remind you that you need to hurry up and not take any unnecessary breaks. Or, you could understand that if the customer wanted it there sooner, they should have ordered it sooner. Don't forget what happened to the Titanic when the order to go faster was given in spite of the knowledge the captain had, which was to go slower.


As the operator of a big rig, you are the sole person responsible for whatever happens. You are the one who will go to jail, get a ticket, get in an accident, damage the equipment, etc.  That trumps anyone's desires for you to break the law or behave unsafely. There is one thing that has stood the test of time in the trucking business and it's this: A good driving record is valuable anywhere, whereas a bad driving record will keep you enslaved to the company you're working with.  Or, keep you out of working altogether. You want to maintain your freedom, and in order to do so you must be in command of all that happens around your own truck.

When you have goals and stick to them, the whole picture comes into focus.  An example of a long term goal would be wanting to pay off your truck, trailer, house, and fund a retirement account.  This goal may be achieved fifteen years or so, which is why it's a long term goal.  The midterm goal would be to simply pay the truck off, which would take you five years.  The short term goal would be to just deliver the load.  All of these goals work together; the short term goal helps your midterm goal which helps your long term goal.  If what you are doing today doesn’t help you accomplish your long term goal, then you need to change what you're doing.

An essential part of the goal setting is to be realistic.  You can’t be 50 years old and plan to play tennis with 15 year olds competitively.  In trucking there are many risks which must be managed.  First of all, your plan needs to include a worst case scenario.  This scenario is simple:  you're dead.  It doesn’t get any worse than that. 

Now take a few steps away from that.  Let's say you aren't dead, but you can’t work anymore for whatever reason.  Can you sell your equipment?  Can you pay your bills?  Can you walk away?  Being unable to handle these things will contribute to stress, which can be overwhelming.  The more you manage it, the easier it is to remain in business. 

My worst case scenario doesn’t involve my death, but the death of those around me.  Although my death would really suck (HAHA), having an accident where some innocent person trying to get from their house to their kid’s baseball game, but doesn't make it because they were killed by my truck is unacceptable.  Many drivers who have found themselves in this situation leave the industry and never return.  And for good reason. 

I am trying to deliver freight, not be the reason someone doesn’t have a father, mother, or child anymore.  So for this reason alone, the number one thing anyone behind the wheel of a semi-truck needs to constantly remember, is that safety is the ONLY thing that matters.  If you aren’t being safe, you will never accomplish any goal.  Anywhere.  If you remember this and adhere to a goal accomplishment regimen, you will live in what I call The Stress Free Zone.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

 
At heart, all truckers are really just turkeys.  Don't believe me?  Take a closer look at the driver of this truck.
 


Happy Thanksgiving!


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Safety Run Amok

The Alliance for Driver Safety and Security is a group of trucking companies that are pooling their money to make EOBR's mandatory.

http://www.eobrforsafety.org/home

The problem is that EOBR's do nothing to promote safety. What they do accomplish is a one stop shop for all truck activity logging and location tracking, plus padding the pockets of these money grubbing freedom stealers. EOBR's do not stop drivers from being harassed by carriers, they are expensive, and require monthly fees which are unreasonable.

In addition to this, there have been no studies by ANYONE to date which prove that these devices do ANYTHING to make drivers safer, yet the EOBR made it into the last Highway Bill after the Alliance for Driver Safety and Security pushed it through with their own lawmakers and millions of bucks. And that my friend, is corruption! It is a glaring example of how money buys laws.

How much money will be generated by these devices? Here is the breakdown:

Cheapest EOBR: $700

Most expensive EOBR: $3000.00

Monthly Fees: $30.00 (and you will be locked in, so if the fees increase, you will have no choice but to pay them)

There are roughly 3 million OTR drivers on the highway. so that would be a cost to the industry as a whole of:
$2,100,000,000 for the cheapest models of EOBR's and $9,000,000,000 for the most expensive models.  Realistically only about ten percent of the industry will need the most expensive model so let’s break that out of each category.

The total estimated cost for the initial addition of EOBR's to all of the OTR fleets is:

$2,790,000,000 (That's 2.79 Billion dollars!)

The fees for these units are: $90,000,000.00/year (90 Million! EACH YEAR!)

This would outfit every Interstate truck with a tracking device which would be linked to a satellite. Through this satellite, the truck's location and activities are recorded in real time. For example, if you were driving down a hill and the truck exceeded the posted speed limit because of gravity, you may receive a speeding ticket in the mail from the local authorities. This same Alliance for Driver Safety and Security is also trying to mandate speed limiters, increase the minimum financial requirements for starting a trucking company, increase the cost of the new trucks by $6,000.00 each, and levy a $30,000.00 fine for any operator that doesn't use the same truck design that these carriers dictate.

You read that right! 

The law makers who are pushing these regulations for this group (According to Arkansas Trucking Report) are:

“...Other than Pryor and his lead co-sponsor, Republican Senator Lamar Alexander from Tennessee, both Kidd and Osterberg credited First District Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.) and Congressman Reid Ribble (R-Wisc.) for keeping the EOBR provision alive in the conference committee after the Senate and House passed their respective versions. Both Crawford and Ribble were appointed by House speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to the conference committee to hammer out differences between the Senate and House.

Then they were named to the truck safety working group to consider both the drug and alcohol clearinghouse and the EOBR rule. The clearinghouse sailed out but the EOBR rule drew some opposition among conferees. Crawford was able to overcome some House Republican resistance by explaining the EOBR provision was not a new mandate, but a means of better enforcing the current mandate…”

We are enjoying our life out here on the open road, but there are unpleasant forces at work trying to take that freedom away in the guise of safety. Make no mistake though, I am for anything that promotes truck safety on the highway.

 As long as that is what it actually does.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Changing Lanes Safely

You can't just move a semi-truck over whenever you want.  You have to plan ahead and make your move without needing help.  When you do need help, you often have to rely on the vehicles around you, most of which don't understand and don't care about your need to change lanes.  I change lanes for various reasons, and most of the time it's just because I have to.  It's rarely for fun.
First you must understand why trucks usually stay in the right lane.  A truck's main blind spot is on its right side, and the drivers of trucks don't want to chance accidents, which makes them some of the safest vehicles on the road.  Every year the safety industries release the numbers on the safety of trucks versus everyone else and trucks routinely are the safest vehicles on the highway.

When you minimize the chance of vehicles being in the area that you can't see, you reduce the chance of accidents.  Since before I was born, trucks have had stickers on their trailers that say "passing side" with an arrow pointing to the driver's side, and "suicide" with an arrow pointing to the passenger side.

As a semi-truck driver, you spend most of your time in the right lane, on the same side of the shoulder of the highway where most people pull onto when their vehicles break down, or if they're pulled over for a traffic violation.  Since trucks stay in the right lane, they must always be on the lookout for patrol cars and disabled vehicles on the shoulder.  When a truck is approaching the obstacle on the shoulder it must either move over, slow down, or both.  One of the most dangerous maneuvers a driver makes is merely moving from one lane to another. 

To further complicate this lane change, there may be traffic and obstacles ahead that the traffic behind the truck can't see.  Usually, when I'm moving over to avoid an upcoming hazard, there are vehicles speeding up from behind; they rarely want to wait for me to move into the left lane.  They don't know why, or they don't care why, I'm moving over and slowing down. 

Occasionally there's a cautious driver who recognizes what I'm attempting to do, and lets me have time to do what I need to.  Since everyone is in such a hurry to get from point A to point B these days, it's rare to see cautious drivers on the road.  I'll go into a rather lengthy post about that topic on another day. 

Many times when I move into the left lane to avoid an obstacle or situation on the shoulder, hurried traffic simply maintains their speed, blowing by me on the right.  This creates an even greater hazard, having a vehicle speeding in the right lane between an obstacle on the shoulder and a semi-truck in the left lane.  The trick is to control your environment.  You can't stop the people behind you, and you can't explain to them what you're seeing in front of you, but you can keep them guessing and leery of the big semi-truck in front of them.

As soon as you identify the hazard, you must look at the traffic behind you and around you.  After you've done this, you must decide which action to take.  Much of the time I just slow down, use my turn signal, and move over, but when I see vehicles behind me speeding up to pass on the right, I'll start to move back over into the right lane, straddling the center stripe until I pass the hazard.  This keeps them in a safer place than if they were to try to squeeze by me.  I then begin to move back into the right lane as soon as I have passed the hazard on the shoulder, leaving the vehicle behind me having to move into the left lane.

This strategy rarely fails and has resulted in safe passing of shoulder hazards time and again.  And since it's worked for over a decade and a half now, I think I'm going to stick with it.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

It's Halloween Again

Halloween is a great time to enjoy costumes, haunted houses, candy, and friends.  My truck stays parked on the night of the 31st.  It's also a great time to get hit with a pumpkin off an overpass while driving.  All over the country semi trucks get hit with pumpkins.  Kids throw them off overpasses and do tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage or more.  Sometimes they even kill people.  Kids!  Gotta love those kids!  

When a pumpkin or large object hits a windshield, it sprays glass all over the person sitting in the cab.  If you're lucky enough to avoid getting glass in your eyes, you'll then have to regain control of your truck as fast as you can, while looking around to see if anyone else on the road was hit.  
Once you've determined that everything's ok, you've got a couple of seconds to decide where to pull over and call the police.  Assuming you're under a load, you have to get the truck fixed as fast as possible.  Depending on which truck you drive, you might have to call the customer and reschedule:  My old 1997 Freightliner FLD120 had a pop out windshield that could be replaced in 15 minutes, but the new Freightliner Coronado's glass takes a couple of hours to fix.  It takes special tools and liquid weatherstripping that's hard to find.  If this were to happen to me today, it would most likely put me out of service for a few hours to a day.

The best practice is to stay off the road on Halloween night.  You can park the truck and start driving again early in the next morning, but usually between dusk and midnight is the worst time to be driving.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Close Call

Late one night in Arkansas, Salena was driving and we were almost trapped between two semi trucks on I-40.  Salena did the right thing by slowing down and preparing to move over, but she was faced with a choice of either going left, right, or straight ahead.  She chose to slow down and go straight ahead.  Thankfully, the truck driver on the ramp looked in his or her mirror and moved back over in time.

One of the biggest threats to us drivers on the road are the other drivers.  In this case, the driver was most likely tired and trying to find a place to stop to get some sleep.  As he or she pulled off the road into a closed truck weigh scale/rest area, they noticed it was completely closed off to all traffic.  Their next impulse was to get back on the road.  Instead of accurately gauging the surrounding environment, they decided to pull back out onto the highway too soon. 

Add to that the other truck which passed on the left, who saw Salena hitting her brakes but still decided to maintain the maximum speed they were traveling, creating a recipe for disaster.  By paying close attention to the situation, Salena slowed down enough so she could have come to a complete stop.  I knew the load was secured to the trailer properly and would have easily stayed secure in the event of a sudden stop.

I will rack this up to another good decision by Salena and another reason why I can sleep while she is driving.  I know that she will do the right thing in the dangerous situations.  It takes mutual trust to drive together as a team.  In Salena's case, I knew after a couple of months of living together in my small truck, that she'd be able to handle anything that was thrown at her.  In the end, the only thing that matters is safety.  We do our best to service our customers and make on-time deliveries, but if the safest route involves a late delivery, then that's how it has to be. 

No load is worth your life.  And no customer is worth a bad driving record.  The loads come and go, but your driving record is there for years to come.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Rain And Truck Drivers

Raincoats don't fit truck drivers.  If you have ever been to a truckstop when it's raining, you'll see truckers walking across the parking lot in their normal jeans and t-shirts without an umbrella or a raincoat.  You will also see this on loading docks and on fuel islands.


Truck drivers don't normally use raincoats for many reasons.  One of the reasons is that they have to dry out the raincoat and there are limited places to dry your rain coats out in the truck.  Usually it will be hung from a hook in the truck and drip dry all over the floor leaving a wet puddle mess.

We carry umbrellas and we will let them dry out in the shower, but hardly any trucks have showers, so umbrellas are also not used much.  Truckers usually will just go out into the rain and do whatever they have to do because they will just end up getting back into their trucks and taking their wet clothes off to dry on a hook. 

I am a fan of the cheap plastic poncho:
In your mind's eye, picture a group of people walking around Saint Augustine, Florida's streets at night wearing these white plastic hooded ponchos.  If you go to the ghost tour there, you will get to be a part of a historic tour of old Saint Augustine and eventually realize that you are wearing a white hooded suit.  You don't want to wander off the tour.  White hoods in the South don't have the best reputation.

As I was saying, truckers can use these cheap $1 ponchos and then throw them away.  This is the preferred rain protection of most truckers, but rarely does anyone use them.  Another reason for this is that many times you can simply decide to wait out the rain and work outside when it's dry.  It's usually safer that way.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

New Air Dog Fuel Preporator II Fuel Pump Install

The diesel fuel that I use comes from different truckstops all over the USA and it's hard to know if the fuel you are getting is clean.  This is where the fuel filter comes in.  All vehicles that run fuel have them and with a big rig, the amount of fuel that is flowing through the filter is thousands of gallons per year.

My truck is equipped with a water separator which removes water from the diesel fuel and keeps it out of the engine's fuel injectors.  Water can ruin fuel injectors.  In addition to the factory installed Davco brand water separator fuel filter, I have installed an AirDog II Fuel Preporator.

This device has a water separator and a 2 micron fuel filter.  Microns are used as a measurement for the size of the particles that the filter will allow through.  Most factory fuel filters are about 12 microns, so the Air Dog II is 6 times better than the standard fuel filter.

In addition to the filtration that the Air Dog II offers, the system also pulls any air that is in the fuel and send this air in the form of foam back to the fuel tanks.  The system practically guarantees that your fuel will be clean and free of contaminants.  It has a fuel pressure gauge on it that will measure fuel flow restriction and alert you with a light to so that you know when to change the filter.

Only time will tell if this system is doing what it claims.  So far, so good and I don't worry about bad fuel anymore.  If the fuel pump fails, the system reverts back to just being a fuel filter.  I installed this fuel system last year and the pump lasted about that long.  When it failed they sent me a new pump under warranty for free and this is the detailed step by step procedure for replacing the fuel pump.

1. Here is the Air Dog II without the water separator filter ready for the pump to be removed.


2.First unplug the pump and then remove the water separator filter, then remove these 4 bolts.


3.  After the pump is unbolted, just lift the pump off and keep the check ball area clean.


4. The new pump is slightly longer than the older pump.


5. This is the new pump with the new O-Rings.


6.  When installing the new O-Rings, I had no problems keeping the O-Rings in place, but a small amount of grease can be used to hold them in place if they don't stay put.  Everything must be clean.  It is important to keep the O-Rings in position because you don't want to have a pinched O-Ring.  A pinched O-Ring won't provide a good seal.  This went very easily.


7. Here is the pump placed on the dowels and lined up for bolting in.


8. Secure the bolts into the pump and torque them down to at least 20 lbs.  This is easily done without a torque wrench.  You are almost done.


9.  All that is left to do is screw the water separator on, plug the unit back in and run it.



And this completes the pump replacement of an Air Dog II Fuel Preporator.  It took about 15 minutes from start to finish and now the pump is quieter than before. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Never Get Outta The Boat

 
 

This is a clip from Apocalypse Now.  Chef is the name of the guy screaming "Goodbye Tiger!".  This can be you if you don't heed the following information. 

Like these two GI's leaving the riverboat to explore the shoreline, leaving the interstate to explore unfamiliar areas in your semi truck is just as dangerous.  It is just like driving into a jungle. 

When I started driving, and for every day prior to when I started driving, we had payphones and CB's.  No cellphones.  No GPS.  No Internet.  No Laptops.  No EZPASS.

It was simple.  Unless you had directions to where you were going, you didn't go there.  It was as plain as that.  If you couldn't get directions, the load didn't get delivered or picked up.  Or you will end up in worse condition than Chef did in the video clip.  I had many a load that didn't get service because the shipper or reciever didn't give an accurate phone number so I couldn't get in touch with them.  The delivery or pick up time would come and go and I would call the dispatch office and say, "No one ever called me back and I can't get directions, so the load isn't going to make it on time.  Call me back at this payphone when you hear anything or I will call you back if I don't hear from you."

Getting directions is very important because you must rely on actual information from people who know the area.  Many times truck drivers who are new and don't understand the roads around the United States and Canada will rely on modern day GPS systems to guide their path.  I still have a general rule that if you are going to exit the highway and you aren't familiar with the area, you should be able to see the place that you are going to park the truck before you exit.  Not only should you be able to see it, you should see how to get there.  As a new truck driver who doesn't know the roads like the back of their hand, you should stay on the main highways unless you have clear instructions to exit the highway.  In other words "Never get outta the boat".

There are too many "professional" truck operators hitting bridges with their trucks and trailers.  These drivers regularly blame the GPS for their grievances.  How can a person do this?  The GPS is merely a tool.  It is NOT TO BE TRUSTED.

Let me repeat that.

THE GPS IS NEVER EVER EVER EVER TO BE TRUSTED


The governor of New York is working to learn why so many people have been hitting bridges in New York lately.  Marlaina has done an excellent story about this on her blog.

As you may see, Marlaina is a pro and this post is worthy of some serious praise.  It also comes at a very opportune time as is reported in the post. 

Many times, Salena and I will exit the interstate and find ourselves in a place that's very difficult to navigate.  Thing is, that I know where I am going.  I have either been there many times or know someone who has been there and has given me directions  If I don't know, I don't go.

When laptops first became available I went out and bought one.  It was 1998 and it was a Compaq Laptop Pentium I with 128 MB of hard drive space and a dial-up 56K modem.  It was $3500.00 back then.  Currently it functions as a door stop at one of Salena's friend's houses.  I plugged in a GPS module and loaded a DeLorme United States mapping program into it.  It did give your accurate location, speed, and elevation, but the maps were created by Etak.  Etak GPS was the first GPS created back in the 80's and you've probably never heard of it before.

These maps were old.  When I first started using this system, I would call whoever was in charge of using the old maps that Etak created, and let them know that one of the streets listed on their software wasn't correct.  Some of these streets were renamed decades ago and still had the old street names displayed by Etak.  Etak supplied these maps to everyone.  It didn't matter which program you bought, the maps were Etak.  Etak's maps are seldomly being used anymore thanks to modern technology, but believe it or not, you may find on your mapping software a little note at the bottom which says, "Maps by Etak".  Some of these maps are 30 years old.

Just for fun one day, I took a trip to Staten Island and followed the GPS on the laptop with the DeLorme (Etak) maps.  I followed the road, and was supposed to keep following the road, but if I had done that, I would have wound up in the ocean.  The road deadended at a seawall, and I sat there looking out of my bug covered windshield, over my dusty green hood, at the Atlantic ocean.  This is where the Delorme software was faulty and did not have accurate information. 

Modern technology is flawed.  It will be excellent one day, but for now, it is never to be trusted.

Before you read this next story, know that this is the kind of truck driver who will probably not be able to drive a semi truck again.  He very foolishly thought he could trust his GPS and when confronted with a sign saying 12-1/2 feet in bridge height, he still proceeded to drive through the covered bridge.


Truck heavily damages NE Indiana covered bridge

SPENCERVILLE, IN -

Northern Indiana police say a tractor-trailer that drove across a historic covered bridge heavily damaged the nearly 140-year-old span by shattering many of its roof trusses.The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department says the tractor-trailer rig inflicted about $100,000 in damage to the Spencerville Covered Bridge when it rumbled across the 1873 bridge on Wednesday afternoon.Truck driver Gerard Hudson of Waukegan, Ill., was arrested on a felony criminal mischief charge. He remained jailed Thursday at the DeKalb County Jail in lieu of $1,500 bail.Police say Hudson admitted driving through the bridge that's marked with a clearance of 12 1/2 feet.
Nearby resident Lisa Vetter tells the Journal Gazette the damage to the bridge about 20 miles northeast of Fort Wayne "is a huge travesty for the community."The sheriff’s department said that Hudson acknowledged driving across the bridge that spans the St. Joseph River near Spencerville about 20 miles northeast of Fort Wayne and told deputies that his rig’s GPS device had directed him to cross the bridge.The Journal Gazette reported Thursday that county highway Superintendent Eric Patton closed the red-and-white bridge Wednesday to traffic.While the department initially estimated the damage at about $100,000, Patton said Thursday that the final damage assessment would be far higher. He joined members of an Indianapolis engineering firm on the bridge Thursday who were assessing the damage.
Patton said the tractor-trailer traveled the entire length of the bridge — the county’s only covered bridge — shattering trusses as it traveled.“He started on the west end and actually took the east end with him,” Patton said.He said the bridge is clearly marked that it has a clearance of 12 feet, 6 inches and also has signs to that effect posted at each end of the span.According to the Indiana Historical Bureau’s website, the bridge has been in use since it was built in 1873. It underwent an extensive restoration in 1981 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places the same year.Lisa Vetter, who lives about one mile from the bridge, said Thursday that she and other local residents are stunned by the incident that heavily damaged the span.“I think everybody is pretty dumbfounded and not able to comprehend how anyone in their right mind could drive a semi through a 140-year-old covered bridge. It just boggles the mind. I just don’t get it,” she said.


You don't want to be this poor guy who has thrown his career away trying to find out if his truck will fit under a 140 year old bridge.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Being A Truck Driver And Being A Truck Driver

There are many kinds of truckers out here, just as there are many kinds of people.

Truckers are from all walks of life.  Today you can watch YouTube videos depicting the lives of all kinds of drivers.  Of course, Salena started blogging over 7 years ago, and she's always supplied a steady stream of her take of life on the road.  She started her blog to keep in touch with family and friends, and now she gives people all over the planet, a different perspective on the trucking world.  She doesn't have a negative defeatist attitude that is so easily found on most of the other trucker sites you may come across.

The reason I'm bringing Salena into this is because I wouldn't even be doing this blog if it weren't for her.  And I am going to point out that she's one of the many personalities found on the road.  She's not a "trucker" as you would think of one, the way the media portrays them in movies and on TV, as big-bellied, foul-mouthed braggarts, or loners, or serial killers, or a tough son-of-a-gun.  I guess that's what sells movies and TV shows, but the reality is a little different.

Hopefully when you're looking into truckers, you'll keep an open mind.  As I've already said, there are all kinds.  In former posts, I've detailed several different reasons why people drive trucks.  Here, I'm going into what kinds of actual truckers are out here.

1. New student truckers that're learning the ropes.

2. Company drivers who've completed their student obligation and have their first year under their belt.

3. Seasoned drivers who have years of driving.

4. Trainers who are training students behind the wheel.

5. Owner-operators who have their own authority and sometimes own several trucks.

6. Owner-operators who are leased to a carrier (me).

7. Owner-operators who have some how obtained a CDL by passing up all of the regulations, bribing a carrier into verifying their false experience, and then getting insurance without paying IFTA taxes and doing all sorts of other illegal practices. (not me....yet. LOL)

This last trucker is the outlaw, if you haven't figured that one out yet.  They tend to be the ones who steal your fuel in the truckstops, wreck their trucks, steal loads, damage equipment, leave urine bottles in the parking lot, and in general give us all a bad name.  In short they are the fun ones! Ha! 

In these different positions are many different kinds of people.  For instance, the student can be a former trucker or perhaps a heavy equipment operator who is skilled and knowledgable about all things truck related, or they could be completely clueless and a road hazard. 

Company drivers who go through school are given a truck and told many things, but none of those things are ever usually maintenance related.  Maintenance is for the mechanics in the shop according to the carrier.  I have met both owner-operators and company drivers who not only won't change a headlight, they CAN'T!  And forget about explaining the turbo or the EGR/DPF system to them, they don't care and probably never will.  These people either haven't decided whether they are going to stick around trucking, or they know they won't and don't ever plan to do anything but pocket their weekly check, see a few mountains and landmarks, and go back to whatever they were doing before they started driving, or they never intend to be an owner-operator and plan on a long career at a carrier.

Unfortunately, the turnover rate at most major carriers is over 100%.  That means, if you go to a major carrier, you probably won't contribute to a retirement plan, a health plan, or build any seniority.  If you consider there's a driver shortage, you'll probably ask yourself why carriers have a 100% turnover rate when they seem to need drivers so badly.  It's the money!  Major carriers don't want drivers with seniority because the rate they have to pay them per mile goes up, the health insurance liability is greater, a retirement plan is usually needed, etc. 

Most major carriers just want people who will get their loads delivered, don't cost a lot of money, and won't ask questions.  That's the reason there's a high turnover rate - having newbies on the payroll works out well for the carriers.  And once the newbies learn, they leave.  Hence, the turnover.  There are some carriers who will take a driver just out of training, who's been on the road for six months or less, and make them a trainer.  This is why we have so many regulations in trucking.  Where there is a will to deceive, be cheap, and make money, there is a way. 

Just like any other profession,  there are experts who care about the others in the industry.  We know that the better the industry, the better life will be in their chosen career path.  If you want to be a successful trucker, you need to be this person.  You need to be the person who doesn't instigate problems on the road, who tries to see issues and stop them before they occur, and work to have the safest truck out there.  Regardless of whether you become a company driver or an owner-operator, you owe it to yourself to learn about every component on the truck and what it does.  Driving for a major carrier can give you all of the opportunities you need to do this.  You can even hang around the shop, asking questions, and talking to others that drive, to find out more about the mechanics or what their experiences have been with the truck.

The biggest difference between the professional owner-operator and the professional company driver, is the attention to maintenance.  I am not talking about company drivers who know the value of maintaining their truck as there are many, but the company driver doesn't have to pay for repairs.  Owners pay for everything, so the lower their costs are, the more money in their pocket.  And if your truck is in the shop, they simply miss out on freight.  There is a different responsibility that comes along with owning a truck.  Not better or worse, just different.  Many trucking companies have figured out that if they give a fuel bonus, they can keep the speed of their trucks down and save a lot of money while giving the driver a bonus.  Everyone wins.  Then again, there are plenty of owner-operators who run like a bat out of hell, and I can only assume they either don't know what they're doing, have to get home because their wife is pregnant and delivering that night, have a hot date somewhere, or are making so much money on the load, that maintenance and fuel mileage goes by the wayside to the rate they are getting paid.

Regardless of whether or not the driver is a company driver or an owner-operator, there are significant differences between the quality of the driver.  The reasons for these differences are many.  There are "steering wheel holders" and there are "truck drivers".  There's nothing wrong with either, as long as they do a good job.  There is something wrong if they don't.  A "steering wheel holder" typically refers to a company driver who doesn't load, unload, or do any maintenance.  And mostly it's said as a joke.

So if you're called a steering wheel holder, just smile and keep on doing a good job.  That's the most important part of being a good driver.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Twisted Straps

Have you ever held a piece of paper up to your lips, pulled it tight and blew on it?  If you did it right, you just turned a piece of paper into a musical instrument.  If you are dealing with a $30.00 strap this same principal can ruin your investment and actually decrease the chance of the freight staying put on your deck.  Here is an illustration of how air at speed can affect the object that it is flowing around.  In this case a load strap.  On the bottom near the letter "c" the air flow is minimal causing barely any movement in the object being affected by the air.  As you climb up to "b" and "a", the vibrations increase.  These vibrations can wreak havoc on load straps


In this picture, the straps are exposed to the air:
Here is a set of crates that were to be transported without a tarp.  There is a picture of an umbrella on these crates and that means that this load should be tarped, but the customer did not want it tarped so it wasn't. The straps are clearly seen with a twist in them.  The distance the straps are from the load and from the trailer to the top of the load is a factor.  On a short load or where the load is as wide as the trailer is, a twist is not necessary.

If there were no twists in these straps, the air would cause vibrations in the straps. The straps would rub violently on the load at all of these points:

The twist keeps this vibration from happening.  All there needs to be is one twist in the strap in between the top of the load and the trailer on this load.  In addition to this the load requires strap protectors which are the small plastic pieces that cover the edge of the crates where the strap touches the load. 

If you didn't twist these straps, they would vibrate and stretch and loosen up as you drive down the road.  They also will rub on the trailer, the load, and wear the strap out.  This load required 8 straps.  They are about $30.00 each so that is about $240.00 worth of straps.  Properly maintained straps can last for ten years on hundreds of loads in all weather conditions.  Improperly maintained straps will last you one load.  Maybe even two. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Brake Shoes

The following discovery is the result of a pre-trip, walk around inspection. 

A bad brake shoe.  Normally I don't have any issues with brakes because I don't really use them.  Most of the time we do highway driving, and to slow down, we just use the engine brake.  The engine brake is a compression brake, also called a "Jake Brake", named after the Jacobs Brake which is an air driven cylinder that increases the air compression in an engine cylinder, that when released, causes the engine to slow the truck down.

The brake shoes look brand new.  Here is a picture of the old brake shoes next to the new ones - the old ones are on top:

As you can see, the thickness of the brake shoe is almost identical.  These old shoes have 475,000 miles on them.  Hard to believe, but it's true.  The drive axle brakes were replaced last year and were in the same condition; barely used.  The trailer also has these brakes, and they too are in very good condition.  The fact is, that if you use your engine brake correctly, you can get one million plus miles out of a set of brakes. 

So why am I replacing them?  At first glance they look fine, and one of them IS fine.  But here's a closer look:
Can you see it?  Here's an even closer look:


If you click on the picture and make it larger, you'll be able to see a crack in the pad.  This is an automatic fail on a DOT roadside inspection.  If that happens, you'd have to get a certified mechanic to come out and change the brake shoe at the inspection site, which means unnecessary down time, and is one of the reasons why routine inspections are so important.  Even though the shoes have hardly any wear on them, they still get old and sometimes the just start to break down. 

Brake shoes don't like heat.  Neither do wheel seals.  Typically, new drivers will drive their trucks as they would their cars.  This is a tell-tale sign that a newbie driver is behind the wheel.  Trucks require greater stopping distances, and slow travel when going up and down hills, which I'll get into in a later post.  The point is, when drivers use their brakes constantly, they generate tons of heat which causes the wheel seals to prematurely wear out and leak.  Often, they even catch on fire. 

So when you see a truck or trailer with billowing smoke coming out of the wheel areas, it's almost always brake related.  This isn't always the driver's fault, as sometimes the brakes will come out of adjustment while driving, as the result of a bad slack adjuster.  I'll cover that  topic in another post also.   

After the cracks were found, the brake drum was then removed.  It took a while to do this because this brake drum was installed at the factory in August 2006, and has never been taken off the truck before.  Because of that, the mechanic had to beat on the drum with a mallet to loosen it up.  Eventually, it came off  and the brakes were replaced.




The drum was in new condition, so they just slid it back on the hub, followed it with the wheel, and in no time at all I had new brakes. 

As a result of taking 15 to 20 minutes to do a proper pre-trip inspection, I not only saved myself from getting a possible DOT violation and points on my CSA, but I also knew that the safety of my vehicle was intact before I got back on the road. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Routines, Routines, And More Routines

Today I walked around my truck and looked at everything. This is a normal routine for a pre-trip inspection. As a driver, you are responsible for maintaining the vehicle so it will pass inspections given at weigh stations along our routes. It's important that you catch anything early enough to do something about it. By anything, I mean just that, anything. You look for bolts sticking out of your tires, fluids leaking on the ground, loose securement devices on your load, loose wires sticking out, broken glass, broken plastic lights, and broken suspension components.

Typically you can see most major problems during a walk around inspection. I have a tire pressure monitoring system on all of my wheels so I don't have to take tire pressure readings everyday manually; the system does it automatically every 5 seconds. There's a long list of items that have to be checked and tested every day. I check under the hood every time I fuel, looking for leaks, broken bolts, low fluid levels, and anything else that looks out of place. Most of the time I catch the problems before they become worse. Vibrations that come from the engine and the road can wreak havoc on everything. From hose clamps, to fan belts, to every nut and bolt, the vibrations affect the trucks in such a way, eventually everything wears out.

Managing these vibrations is the key. The best practice is to keep a new vibration damper on the crankshaft, new engine mounts in between the engine and frame rails, and new vibration absorbing polyurethane bushings on all vibration creating components. Polyurethane bushings last longer then rubber and dramatically reduce vibrations throughout the truck. In addition to the bushings, new shocks need to be installed every couple of years along with any air bags that add to the suspension.

If you keep up with the walk around inspections and with replacing the key components that wear out, you can keep the truck lasting for years and years.

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

THE UGLY


This is my load. Rather, it WAS my load. This is an over-sized load that was transported through the heartland during a drought. This may sound easy because of the word drought, but it was a challenge. It shouldn't have been a challenge, but what happened turned out to be something I couldn't prevent at the loading point. I did try, but without significant load restructuring, it was a load that had to be reworked and monitored like a hawk. That's why it falls into the category of "The Ugly".
You might not think much of this load because it looks like a big rectangular set of boxes right? Well, you would be exactly right about that. It IS a set of rectangular boxes. What else do you see? They are wrapped in white shrink wrap plastic.
This load has no structural integrity. So here is a lightweight load, which was over-sized, and needed to be tarped. Which is exactly what I did.
This being the worst drought since the dust bowl, I shouldn't have had anything to worry about on this trip across the driest part of the country, right? Maybe you can see where I'm going with this; since this is an over-sized load, the route had to be planned in advance and strictly adhered to. At about 5 AM in Columbia, MO I was awakened by lightning and thunderclaps. The sky opened up and just like that, the drought was over. At least where I was parked anyway. This load was tarped very well, in fact, I'm in the habit of over-tarping most loads so that there are no surprises en route.

You might notice in the center of this load are several 2-inch straps - let's fast-forward. During the rain storm, this wide load (with no structural integrity), began to pool water on top of the tarps during the time I was parked for the night, and there's absolutely nothing I can do about that. As the water pooled though, it began to pull the individual tarps away from each other, eventually exposing the white plastic underneath. Fortunately, the weather started to clear so I was able to get moving. My goal was to get out of the rain and shed as much water off the top of the load as possible. And it worked. We were able to make it back to to the drought condition weather, where I was able to position the tarps in the place they should have been, had the skies not opened up and dumped an ocean of water on them.

Because I was not able to reproduce the original conditions I loaded under, I did have my ladder, some chains, and many extra 2 inch straps, which I used to pull the front tarp backward, the middle tarp forward, and the back tarp forward. Once the pooled water was removed from the top of the load, it was easy. The load was never exposed to any rain, and it was delivered on time, safely, and to a happy customer. This is how I like it. There is no way to keep this from happening in the future except to have the customer better reinforce the load, but this is often hard to accomplish as it requires the customer to spend more money on the loads, which they don't want to do.

We run into all sorts of new situations out here on the open road, which require experience and successful tactics to overcome. Many of these situations are completely out of our control and sometimes people get hurt and even lose their lives. It is imperative that every measure be taken to prevent any accidents or bad situations. A wise man once told me, "It isn't what you've done, it's what you're going to do." In other words, it doesn't matter how safe your record is. All that matters is how safe your record is going to be and how you're going to prevent accidents from happening in the here and now.

I am proud of having almost 1 million miles at my current carrier without any accidents, chargeable claims, or moving violations. But all of that is thrown out the window with one careless mistake.

It isn't what I've done, it's what I'm going do. THAT is all that matters.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Impact Of Electronic On Board Recorders (EOBR)

Since 1938, when the first Hours of Service rules were enforced, drivers of commercial vehicles were required to keep track of how many hours were driven in what the now abolished Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) classified as a "work period". The Hours of Service (HOS) regulations are now issued by the FMCSA and generally enforced by Department of Transportation (DOT) officers, and although there have been several changes to those regulations over the years, what has stayed constant is the requirement of drivers to keep a log book if they travel more than 150 miles from their domicile.

On this log book, we record our daily lives, to the minute. We write down when we arrive at the shipper, depart the shipper, buy fuel, take a break, go to sleep, go off duty, arrive at the receiver, depart the receiver, and when we perform pre-trip inspections of our equipment.

As any human being knows, the daily life of a person can’t really be recorded accurately on a logbook, as life isn't really that cut and dry. And, we sometimes make mistakes. For example, let's say I want to go to the grocery store. I write in my logbook the time I leave the house to go to the store. It's there in black and white and I'm ready to walk out the door. But at the last minute, I realize I need to check the fridge to see how much milk I have. Hypothetically, I "legally" have two hours in my day with which I can travel to the store and run my errands, and since I've already marked my departure time in the log book, the clock is ticking.

But because I'm using a paper logbook, I can just erase the entry, and amend it when I am done checking the fridge for how much milk I have. Then, when I get in the car, I will log that I'm actually going to begin driving. Now I'm headed to the store and there's an accident on my route. This causes me to have to sit in traffic for about thirty minutes waiting for it to clear. The clock is still ticking on my log though. I am doing nothing but sitting and waiting. Remember those two hours I have? Well, now my two hours have dwindled down to an hour and a half.

The accident finally clears and I head to the store. I still have another fifteen minutes to get to the store and at arrival, realize I only have one hour left before the clock runs out. I rush through the aisles, gather everything I need, but am in such a hurry that I forgot my milk! Now I have only thirty minutes to get home, so I jump in the car without my milk and I go as fast as I can to get there before my time runs out. Instead of driving a safe low speed, I drive the maximum speed, trying to get through the traffic lights even if they're yellow. I speed around turns and rush into the driveway of my house. I get out and write in the log that I arrived at the two hour mark! Whew!

This is how modern day truck drivers log their time. We make mistakes, we fix them. We decide when we'll sleep, and for how long, and we decide how fast we'll drive. Those of us who do well in this industry know that if you keep your speed down, you'll get the rest that your body needs, you'll drive alert, and you will prosper.

The sleep issue is another one I'm going to tackle here. Let’s say that you're off duty for 3 days, but the last day was spent working on the car until 2 AM. Now it's 5 AM and you have to be at your pick-up. So you're dead tired, but technically, you're legal on the log. You arrive on time and load the trailer. Now you need to take a nap but you can’t because you can't make on time delivery and log it legally.

According to OOIDA, drivers will change their logs to make themselves legal, maintain proper rest, and make on-time deliveries. As you've already read above, humans are unpredictable and can’t really adhere to a log-every-second-of-your-day life; well, accurately and correctly anyway, because we all make mistakes.

If the driver of this load takes a nap, he or she will be more rested and make a safe, on-time delivery. But if they're forced to push themselves by going the maximum speed, or not getting enough rest, then a couple of things can occur:

1. The driver will have an accident, either because they're tired, or because they were operating unsafely.

or,

2. They will make a late delivery to accommodate the EOBR, which may result in making the customer unhappy and therefore jeopardizing getting more customers.

What the EOBR does, is stretch out the time that you'll be able to allot for on-time delivery. This means less miles per year and less revenue to stay compliant. There will be cases on a weekly basis where the load simply can’t be delivered because of several different scenarios; bad weather, traffic, accidents, equipment failure, driver fatigue, etc. These are just a few of those reasons.

The EOBR also doesn’t promote safety. It doesn’t force customers to load or unload our trucks more quickly, and it doesn’t help the already struggling small business owners with their business. What it does do, is improve the bottom line for the EOBR manufacturers, and helps large carriers push the Owner/Operators further into the hole.

The FMCSA has recently been instrumental in making these EOBRs a mandated piece of equipment that must be installed in commercial vehicles using log books. Despite the fact that they have no safety studies supporting the claim that EOBR's do anything to promote safety. Since the FMCSA is facing opposition to the EOBR, and the OOIDA has said that the FMCSA has no data supporting the EOBR's safety claims, the FMCSA has recently launched a study that will most likely prove their claims that EOBR’s are safe. The validity of this study is the issue though, as this study was put in place AFTER the EOBR mandate was added to the recent Highway Bill.

This is a corrupt system, and the FMCSA should be forced to back down on any EOBR legislation, as they have no case for implementing them. There are far reaching implications if this EOBR goes through. The CSA2010 requirements that the FMCSA has recently pushed through are another revenue generating stream that the OOIDA is fighting against, and they are along the same legal structure as the EOBR.

Right now the trucking industry is in the middle of a fight it has NEVER seen before. Millions of dollars, and several safety groups are focusing on the entire industry and their goal is to have complete and total control of all trucks, drivers, and heavy equipment. No matter the cost.

If you are considering becoming a truck driver and want to actually enjoy yourself with a rewarding career in the transportation business, while still being able to be a free person in the United States, you need to join OOIDA. Become educated on the rules and regulations that your citizens are forcing on the average truck driver. There are valid reasons for many of these rules, but the rules themselves are not being implemented correctly, and they are not rules that will do anything to prevent the already small amount of accidents they're being written to stop.

Truck drivers are the safest people on the road. Only 4% of accidents each year are caused by truck drivers, yet we are being forced to adhere to more and more ridiculous regulations daily. And every day there are more people jumping on the anti-truck driver band wagon. This is a great industry and there are a lot of great people driving trucks,. As far as I'm concerned, good riddance to the ones who ruin it for the rest of us.

Do yourself a favor if you intend to drive; start educating yourself now. The more educated the drivers out here are, the more of a chance there is to make trucking a profitable career filled with professionals and diligent long-term drivers.

The EOBR is the government’s way of trying to control the trucking companies who hire losers to drive trucks. It will not work, and if it is implemented, the only comfort there will be, is that everyone will be forced to have them. Unfortunately, for owner-operators, their own equipment is going to be forced to have one too. This doesn’t mesh with a free country. It plays out more like a Big Brother society where your every move is tracked and watched.

In addition to the already unsafe conditions that the EOBR will create, most weigh stations that the trucks go through will automatically by-pass you if you have an EOBR. How unsafe is that? I say very - I can have a major equipment malfunction and I won't get pulled into the scale because I have an EOBR. Something to think about.

Get involved. Please urge your local Senator to stop the EOBR before it's too late.