Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Call It In


As people who travel the US highways and side streets, we see quite a lot of things out on the road.  We see vehicle crashes, fires, road hazards, aggressive drivers, odd behavior, and outright illegal stuff.  I've been calling 911 for years and reporting what I see.  Some times I've been laughed at, such as the time that a Hostess Doughnut truck was broken down on the Verrazano Narrows bridge and the 911 operator laughed out loud.  Cops and doughnuts have a relationship worth laughing at.


Then there was the time shortly after 9/11 when I was on the interstate near a college and a small car with clear windows pulled in front of me.  Inside were 4 people completely covered in white sheets or white hooded robes.  This vehicle pulled over on the shoulder and everyone inside jumped out of the car and changed seats in the car (Chinese fire drill is what I called that maneuver when I was growing up but I don't know why).  I called the FBI tip line and listened to the agent chuckling to himself.  I can only assume that this car was doing this as some sort of college prank all around the area or at least more than once.  These people in the car put on such a show that I didn't manage to get the license plate number.


The biggest thing that we normally see on the highway is erratic driving.  Most of the time these people are on their cell phones talking or texting.  Recently a driver was driving so crazy that they were pulling in front of people and slamming on their brakes then speeding up and pulling in front of more people and doing that over and over again.  I'm sure that I wasn't the only person who called 911 on that erratic driver, but they were pulled over shortly after my call.

Then there was a car that swerved off the highway far down into a grassy median and sat there.  I called 911, but by the time that police arrived the car was gone.  The company we are leased to has a strict policy on stopping on the shoulder unless you are involved in an accident or have a vehicle problem.  This makes it hard to stop on the shoulder whenever we want to.  There are many times when we want to stop, but can't because of this policy.  There are also very good reasons not to stop for people any more because of thefts, vandalism, and assault on the highway with no one around to help you.  Stopping for people on the shoulder is a very dangerous activity.  Still I consider it if I think that someone's life is in jeopardy.  So instead we call 911.


Usually on the highway, when an incident occurs and 911 is dialed, the local authorities are reached.  The 911 operator asks where the problem is and as soon as they find out the mile marker and highway number, they patch the caller through to the highway patrol or the local police who are handling the area.  This can take a few minutes and normally by the time the person who is in charge of the area is reached, the caller is out of the area.  Sometimes the problem is resolved before the authorities can arrive at the scene and sometimes the authorities simply arrive too late to do anything other than write up a report on whatever happened.

No matter what though, it's better to call in whatever incident happens because you just never know if you will be saving a life or not.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Owner's Freedom

Running a business is a collaborative effort between numerous parties.  Being the owner of a truck and a trailer is very similar to owning just about any other type of business.  The factors are similar in that you have to provide your customer with a service, manage your employees, maintain your equipment, and negotiate with everyone involved to reach an agreement.  Since you are the owner, you are in control of where the truck goes, what components it will have, who will be driving it, and how much work it will be doing. 

There's no one to tell you what to do.  After you service the needs of your customer, you're done for the day, week, month, or even the year.  As long as your equipment is paid for and your customer is happy, you can come and go as you please.  This can be a problem for people who need a boss to tell them what to do.  Many people don't understand how to manage a business and the change from company driver to company owner is a culture shock. 

It is definitely a challenge to rid yourself of habits formed as a company driving employee.  You must work hard to develop new habits, those of a business owner.  The biggest change is the total control you gain when signing the title to your truck.  That's when it starts to sink in that you are the owner.  You can paint the truck whichever color you like, decide when to change the oil and filters, decide how fast to drive, and how many hours you will work.

And the biggest change is that you decide who to work with (since you are no longer working FOR anyone) and for what rate per mile or per job will be.  Since you are responsible for the truck, you are the one who makes ALL the final decisions.  No one can tell you what to do with your business unless you let them.

Trucking has its benefits in that it allows the freedom of travel and the ability to live anywhere you choose.  You can live in a tax free area with low overhead or a heavily taxed area with high overhead.  Trucking allows you to get paid to travel.  To me this is a great benefit because I have always loved to travel.  I think that unless you really love traveling, you won't like trucking for more than a year.

Being the owner has even more benefits because you are traveling and deciding how much time to take off and where to take that time off.  This is a concept that most, if not all, company truck drivers have no concept of in my experience unless they were prior business owners themselves.  As an owner, I can take loads to my favorite sports team's games anywhere in the country.  I can go to any beach, casino, museum, national landmark, or neighborhood that I desire whenever I choose to so long as my business is in order. 
The only deciding factor in whether I will work or not is if the business needs me to work.  The demands of the business must be met first.  The priority is that the customers must be happy, taxes must be paid, maintenance must be done, the legal aspects of the business must be satisfied such as drug testing and records of hours of service.  Once you develop a system of keeping all of this accomplished, you can eliminate loads of stress and enjoy the freedom of being the boss. 

The risk is greater when you are the owner, but the reward is also greater.  I was recently discussing being an owner with a company employee driver.  This conversation has always gone the same in all the years I've been in this industry.  The company employee has been spoon fed gallons of lies about being an owner.  They have been brainwashed by trucking school and who knows how many ignorant people who had no business running a business in the first place.  I explained to him that you can find good paying freight no matter what the economy is doing and that you will clear most of your monthly debt obligations in a week of work, leaving you free to do as you please with the other 3 and a half weeks.

I was saying this from experience, but another older gentleman had to poke his head in on the conversation to discredit my claims and declare my information as grandiose.  This is the usual conversation that takes place in truckstops around the US and probably around the world.  It's a need I think of people to feel safe and secure in their chosen path by cutting anyone down who threatens to pull them out of said path.  The fight against the "greener grass" is alive and well.  Its more popular to sit around and complain about the world than point out its positive attributes. 

In the end, you are free to decide whether ownership or being an employee is for you.  It doesn't always make sense to be an owner, but when it does, you should consider all the positive stories and rule out the negative.  Consider the source of the information and point yourself in the direction you want it to go in, otherwise you will end up in a place that you didn't want to go.  And it will be you that put yourself there.