Sunday, March 29, 2015

Vacation Season

Many owner/operators take January and February off.  Not all of us, but many choose to not drive this time of the year because factories, production, and construction slows down.  The weather plays a large role in the slow down.  The weather is also a large reason not to venture out on the roads.  This time of the year, it can be deadly out there.  With icy roads, snowy towns, and closed highways, trucking is difficult this time of the year.

Most of the southern routes are even getting hit hard this year. The southern routes are even more dangerous than the northern routes when they are covered in ice.  Most of the southern states are not equipped as well as their northern counterparts to handle the ice and snow because it is such a seldom occurrence.

Not all owner/operators are able to take the winter months off due to various reasons.  I've worked my share of winter months including working several years in the northern mid-west through all of the ice and snow.  While it does present a few challenges, most of them can be overcome with good preparations.  Snow and ice are completely different when it comes to how your vehicle handles on them.

Snow pack is actually better for vehicle handling than a summer road after a rain shower.  The worst condition to drive in is one with low visibility.  If you can't see, you can't drive.  It doesn't matter what the road conditions are if there is poor visibility, however poor visibility combined with snow covered roads is very bad.

Poor visibility combined with icy roads is about as deadly as it gets.  On icy roads, you can't stop, control your vehicle, and you especially can't safely drive anywhere.  Most of the time if there is a pile up of vehicles on the highway, it is because of a combination of poor road conditions and poor visibility.

Most people take their vacations in the summer or fall.  Truckers tend to take their vacations right after Christmas up until March.  One way the powers that be have tried to control truckers taking this time off is to require that you drive in ice and snow in order to maintain your insurance.  This is almost impossible for an insurance company to mandate as they can't know if you've driven in ice or snow, but technically, if you are driving somewhere and the temperature is below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, there's some ice nearby and you've driven in it.

The winter months are also an opportunity for those starting in trucking to grab some really high paying freight because the veterans who have already earned their money won't be so apt to be heading out to haul anything.  This opens the door to higher rates depending on the needs of the customer. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A Million Miles



What exactly is a million miles?  Well here is an example of what the average person's working day is like compared to mine. How many times have you driven to work?  If you’re an average person, it’s every day since you were 18.  Minus some weekends and some holidays.  Basically you’ve left your home to drive to work or go wherever and return home, approximately 35 miles per day for your entire adult life since you earned your driver’s license.  

Every other day, if you live near a major city, there is an accident along your route.  The accident is from a collision or vehicular failure that happens at random on the highway.  At least once a week on your particular route to and from work, school, or a friend’s house, there is some kind of incident on the road involving a wrecked vehicle or two.  

After dealing with this day in and day out, every day, you get the picture that the road is a dangerous place where you manage to survive and make it to work and back successfully.  It becomes robotic after a while.  You know how long it will take you to get to where you need to be and how long it will take you to get back.  Usually you can plan your morning and evening based on the historical time it has taken you in the past.  

Now consider that instead of arriving at work, you never do.  You just keep going all day and never get there.  (Maybe that’s a good thing depending on your job.  LOL)  Then you do it again and again and again.  Day after day after day, week and after week, month after month.  Driving around 700 miles a day endlessly.  700 miles is 20 times more than your average commute per day.  Right now in your average commute you’ll see one accident every other day.  Consider if you times that by 20.  Consider that we cross country truck drivers see thousands of accidents in our careers.  Many of them happen right before our eyes.  In some cases they happen directly to us.  

We battle fatigue, traffic, weather, our health, our equipment, and the latest legal hurdles thrown in our path to see to it that everyone in the country has stuff.  All truckers are inconvenienced by the laws that don’t allow drivers to park in towns overnight.  Some of us handle it better than others.  Some of us thrive on the lifestyle where some only dabble in it and decide it isn’t for them.  The latter is more common.  

So to get to a million miles you must maintain your composure minute by minute, day after day, so on and so on for about a decade.  If that sounds appealing to you then you shouldn’t wait and go get your CDL so you can start racking up the miles.  The trick is to always focus on safety.  It’s not as easy as some people think and as some people make it look.  

In fact when I started trucking, I didn’t fully realize what the others before me had accomplished.  I understood what they did in that they drove a truck, but once you see that it takes tens of thousands of miles of watching, listening, and reacting before you start to get a handle on exactly what the job entails, well it starts to sink in. 

A million miles can go by and a generation will have passed.  Some drivers out here have over 6 million miles under their belt.  Now that’s a lot of miles!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Patriotism

 Flag of the United States of America

If you are going to wave a flag, know what it means, and how it came to be.  Don't just wave a flag because other people are doing so.  In my life, I've had the misfortune of knowing too many sheep-like people who don't bother to actually look into why they love the USA.  They know that they love their country, but they have nothing to compare it to because US citizens really don't leave the USA much. 

One of the reasons I like to travel outside of the USA is to see first hand what else is going on in the world.  Every time I've left the country, I'm reminded of what a great country the USA is.  In comparison to the rest of the planet, the USA remains a promising melting pot of the people of the world.  If you come to my country, all I ask is that you try to appreciate what all went into the creation of this great nation because too many take that for granted.

So I wanted to do a post about the flag of the USA.  Not because the topic is popular or politically correct, but just because my recent travels have reignited the patriotic spirit that will remain a part of me for life.  One of the great things about this nation is our respect for human life.  As citizens we have rights and certain privileges that other nations simply don't have.  You can come to the USA and pursue any legal course that you can handle.

You can build a successful business and amass wealth, or start a charity and help the people of the world, or become an artist who is celebrated around the globe.  In the USA, one thing still remains true and that is the fact that you can literally achieve ANYTHING.

This freedom wasn't just given to us, the people before us had to fight for it.  Today the struggle continues as it will long after I'm gone.  Regardless of what you believe in, the USA will welcome you in.  Why?  Because as long as you apply yourself, you can succeed.

Excerpt from "The New Colossus" inscribed on the Statue Of Liberty

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
-Emma Lazarus

So here is a little reminder of what this great nation means to me and how great it is to see our flag.  For when you leave our shores for distant lands and the USA is no longer under your feet, the very next time you see that flag is a thing of beauty.

Here is a brief description of the American flag from Wikipedia.  These two sentences spell out why the flag looks the way it does and yet this small paragraph cannot even begin to go into all of the lives lost so that it could fly above our heads.  That is a humbling thought on its own.

The national flag of the United States of America, often referred to as the American flag, consists of thirteen equal horizontal stripes of red (top and bottom) alternating with white, with a blue rectangle in the canton (referred to specifically as the "union") bearing fifty small, white, five-pointed stars arranged in nine offset horizontal rows of six stars (top and bottom) alternating with rows of five stars. The 50 stars on the flag represent the 50 states of the United States of America and the 13 stripes represent the thirteen British colonies that declared independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain and became the first states in the Union.

American Flag


Semper Fidelis