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.