Archive for March, 2010

Doing the right thing

Every time you have a change of equipment and every day before you start driving you are required to do a pre-trip inspection. This is to insure that everything is on proper working order. If something is not right it is supposed to get fixed before you move. Of course we don’t get paid for waiting for the repair unless it is over 24 hours so the driver is motivated to NOT find problems.

Last week we received an assignment that would take four or five hours to complete and had eight allotted. When the pre-trip was done it was discovered that both marker lights on the rear of the trailer were out. When we tried to replace them we discovered that the connectors were so corroded they had turned to powder meaning these lights had been out a long time.

Naturally the temptation was there to just run without them. If a driver can’t see my trailer because these lights are out they have bigger problems. Had it been daylight it would have simply meant not turning the lights on and no one would notice. However if we did get caught it would be a ticket. Having lights out also gives the cops an excuse to pull you over, not that they actually need one. Once they pull you over they can check everything including the last seven days of your logs and write a ticket for each problem.

We elected to do the right thing and notified the breakdown team. We got an automated response saying it would be 32 minutes before we hear from them. As this was a JIT load we also notified that team plus the nighttime DM. For an hour we heard nothing. I finally contacted the DM again and said that it appeared that no one cared about this JIT load. Within minutes we had a call from the help line. They directed us to a truck stop a few miles away for repairs. The load was due at four in the morning and it is now 10pm. The shop tells us they can’t even get to us until six. Now we have to let everyone know the load will be late.

As it is going to be hours before we are seen we do what all good truck drivers do with downtime, we went to sleep. I did set my alarm for 5:30 so I would be awake when the shop called to tell us to come in. About 4am, while I am in a very deep sleep, the phone rings and what followed was a very confused conversation were I told the mechanic that we had already had the repair done and left. Fortunately he said something that triggered the correct thought process in my brain and I got the truck in for repairs. It took about 20 minutes.

When we got to the consignee, five hours late, there were a few comments but nothing overt. After all I had done the right thing. I just have this paranoid fear that there is a secret file that says something like ‘follows rules to closely.’

Coincidentally our route to our next stop took us back down the same road and at the NY/PA border the cops were pulling in every truck going both directions and picking out ones to inspect.

For now the ticket and points on your license are bad enough but the driver can claim when applying at another company that his old company told him to drive in violation and paid the ticket. Starting in July a new safey initiative goes in to effect and a safety log will be created for each driver. Everything you do wrong goes in to it and anyone can check it. Hopefully this will cause drivers to be more compliant and to push back on their companies when told to drive in violation.

I fully admit we don’t always do the right thing but we are getting better at it. It can be painful sometimes though.

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Slowing Down

I read recently, naturally can’t find the reference now, that Blogging by the average Joe is off 20% from 2008. The advent of Twitter and the increase in Facebook popularity was mentioned as the main reason. Although it was pointed out that it is so much easier to simply spit our 140 characters or less instead of stringing together actual paragraphs. I would like to suggest it is simply because most of us don’t really have anything interesting to say. Take this Blog for instance. When I started it there was a lot to talk about because I was changing my life dramatically and there were specific things to cover like school, going out the mentor, driving on my own, getting used to driving with my wife, the insanity of the industry, etc. Now however things are settling in to a routine. You don’t really want to hear about the latest pissing contest with our driver manager and I don’t particularly want to rehash it. We are doing fewer and fewer new things so less to talk about. The obvious place this is going is that while I am not shutting this Blog down it will not be updated all that often unless something truly interesting happens. The Twitter feed will continue so you can see small events without actually following me.

We did do one new thing the other day. We went to a grocery warehouse. They are notorious for being unfriendly to drivers. From that standpoint this one wasn’t too bad but they were running two hours behind on their schedule. These warehouses also use a thing called a “lumper.” Lumpers are third parties who unload the trucks. The carrier gets to pay them. That’s right the trucking company pays a third party to unload the stuff we deliver to the consignee. To do this the driver transmits information to a specific department in our company who authorizes the payment. The driver then writes a ComCheck to the lumper or lumper company. A ComCheck is a bank draft that is only good once an authorization code has been issued for it. So the process is:

  1. Dock the truck
  2. Get with lumper to find out how much and other details
  3. Contact our company for an OK
  4. Write ComCheck and give to lumper
  5. Lumper contacts ComData to make sure check is good
  6. Lumper unloads truck
  7. Lumper stops for break in the middle
  8. It takes twice as long to unload the truck as it did to load it

This is great as long as you get the authorization but we got back a message saying that nothing could be done until the next morning. This is a senseless and stupid message as it means we would have to take the load out of the consignees property and bring it back the next day. We finally got it straightened out but it is just another example of the lack of efficiency in this industry.

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