Trucking’s Bad Four Letter Words
This article is by Thomas M. SCOPEL. American Rig Radio recognized Thomas as "an articulate, thinking professional trucker who happens to have morphed into a writer." He is a regular contributor to an American Chronicle and is currently working on his first novel.
It's 2:30 pm., and I'm a little mad. The broker assured that the load was ready. My dispatch said, "Hurry up and get there", which I did, and now the shipper has said that they're "waiting on one skid", which incidentally, isn't even created yet, and won't be finished and ready until after shift change at 5:00 pm.
Did I mention that I'm mad? Furious would be more like it! Of course, on the outside, I'll always maintain a professional attitude and appearance, but on the inside, it's another story. Let me tell you, plenty of four letter words are currently floating around in my head right now. But, I'm not talking about the ones you hear day in and day out over the CB. No no, these are far worse. These are the four letter words that most, if not all, drivers has seen or used quite regularly, and some my not have realized that they are using them.
"Wait", as in hurry up and wait, is one of the worse four letter words in the trucking industry. This is a regular occurrence for most drivers. First of all, let me say that there are many good and quick shippers and receivers. Those are the ones that realize that drivers work on a extremely odd time frame and understand that to a driver, time is money. However, there are just as many bad, if not more, than there are good. These are the ones who force the driver to wait. To them, time doesn't matter because they themselves work on an hourly rate and mostly, don't even consider the drivers' point of view. Therefore, a driver will wait for loading and unloading, they wait for the paperwork and they wait for their turn to put their truck into the dock. But, it's not only the shippers' and receivers' that make the driver wait. Drivers must wait for dispatch to get and give out the loads. Sometimes they have to wait while a trailer at there terminal is changed out. And, a driver is guaranteed a wait in the line, especially if it is cheaper than the next place, at the fuel pumps..., which brings us to another bad four letter word... "fuel".
"Fuel" is a very touchy subject for both companies, company drivers' and owner operators' alike. It's no wonder, considering the recent upward spike in fuel prices, that it has become the single largest operating expense. I personally always wondered why diesel fuel costs more per gallon than gasoline. Diesel is less refined, therefore, shouldn't it be cheaper? Even with the taxes added to the price per gallon, it should be cheaper than gasoline. This expense forces a driver to carefully and cautiously map out their route, taking into consideration which state to fuel in (some have less taxes than others) because, after all, just a few cents can make a big difference when you are filling your two one hundred plus gallon tanks. This in turn can cost hundreds, and depending upon trip distance, thousands of hard earned dollars. With this is mind, all drivers are aware of whether or not to "idle", yet another bad four letter word.
To idle is to sit still why your engine is running. Although, a driver does have to stay warm or cool, depending upon location and time of the year, this can cut into operating expenses and therefore increase over all costs. Recently, attached generators have aided in eliminating this dilemma, but if you don't have a generator, this can be a problem at times because some states have even made it illegal. Those are the states that force me to wonder if the commodity is more valuable than the human driver, for it is the driver who will have to attempt to sleep in their truck during a ninety degree day or a ten degree night with no climate control, thus seriously jeopardizing their, as well as the general public, safety due to the inability to get good "rest". Oh No! Another bad four letter word.
"Rest" is something that most drivers never seem to get enough of. Believe me when I tell you that there is a big difference between rest and sleep. They are not one in the same. The time a driver spends during other trip responsibilities, does put a dent into the amount of time a driver gets to sleep. Not to mention, the notoriously three am, beating on the window wake up call by the neighborhood lot lizards (hookers to you non-drivers), doesn't help. These are just a few of the many reasons that contributes to the fact that the driver never really does get the rest that they truly need. Of course their "logs" will say different. Once again, another bad four letter word...
"Logs" is a list and legal description of a drivers daily events. Everything a driver does time wise, must be listed in their logbook. From driving, to loading and unloading, to inspections and sleeping, it must be shown in their logbook. This verifies that they are abiding by the legal limits set forth by the federal government. Of course, all drivers will tell you that their logs are the truth... wink wink. They will have logged their driving time from point A to point B. They will have logged the fifteen minute pre-trip inspection that they supposedly did that morning. They will have logged the fifteen minutes it took to load or unload the trailer, after they waited, in the bunk of course, for four hours to get to the dock. And they will have logged the wonderful night sleep that they had gotten just the night before, and, mathematically, they will be correct. Of course, if they are wrong and get pulled into an "open" (Wow!, another bad word), scale house, they will get a "fine" (does the bad four letter words ever stop?).
Lets tackle these two bad words at once shall we. "Open!" The dreaded open word. This is when a scale house is "open", and requires all commercial drivers to pull in and drive across their scales in order to verify that the driver is within the legal weight limits. A "fine" comes into play a number of different ways during this ordeal. As most drivers will attest, if the DOT pulls you around back, most of the time a driver will be receiving a ticket, therefore requiring them to pay a fine. There are many disparities between a automobile fine and a commercial motor vehicle fine. A truck fine can and does cost two, three and even more times as much as a comparable automobile fine. Commercial drivers are quite aware of the "To Serve And Collect" tactics of the "in the name of safety" enforcement divisions, and try quite hard to abide by those rules. Personally, I feel that commercial drivers are unfairly discriminated against in this fashion and it doesn't have a thing to do with safety. It is surely about the almighty dollar. If equality was a factor, wouldn't they be weighing these over-sized campers and motor homes. If I'm not mistaken, and I could be, don't they have a required weight limit. None-the-less, during the open session, it can strike fear into the hearts of drivers, for they know that any truck, at any given time, on any given day, will have at least one violation if the DOT looks hard enough. Also, there are many factors do contribute to this including, but not limited to, the weather, the driver's appearance, or whether the company has been cited before. Either way, it adds up to money, as well as "time" (arguably the worst bad word of all), to the driver.
"Time" is the mother of all bad four letter words in the trucking industry. Fore, trucking is constantly based on time. The quicker the driver can haul the load, the more loads the driver can get, therefore, the more loads the driver can get, the more money the driver can make. Which, in turn, makes the time spent at all the above, all that more crucial to the driver. However, not all the variable aspects of the trucking industry realize, nor respect this for the most part, and there is really nothing a driver can do about it short of leaving the industry. Which, unfortunately, quite a few do. The ones that do stay can and do complain about these things, and nine times of of ten, they will have a legitimate complaint. Does it correct the problem? Highly doubtful. Will it change the way things are done? Probably not. Do I know how to solve it? No. I do, however, know that there are so many of trucking's bad four letter words, that you could write a book about them. I have chosen just a few of the main ones which quickly came to mind during this ordeal. That was before a few other choice four letter words invaded my mind after the shipper informed me that their machine broke down and it will be substantially longer until my skid is ready. Sure, I could get irate and madder than I am right now. I could jump up and down and throw a tantrum. But, being the professional that I am, I guess I'll just "wait!"