Ask The Trucker

Raising the Standards of the Trucking Industry


Those Wonderful Women Truckers

Feb
5,
2007
9

Presently, there are about 8 million licensed CDL drivers in the United States. Approximately 4.5 million of these are active truck drivers. Professional truck driving, specifically over the road trucking, has always been noted as a field dominated by men. The rough and tough trucking life could only be handled by a real man . . . well, times are changing!

Women in trucking actually goes back to 1929 when Lillie Elizabeth Drennan became the first women to receive the CDL license. Driving an old Chevrolet, she was a rugged lady who carried a loaded revolver with her on her trucking adventures. Born in 1897, she paved the way for women truckers up to her passing in 1974.

Today, there are nearly 170,000 women truckers, making up 5% of all U.S. trucking jobs. By the end of 2007, that number is expected to attain 200,000. What motivates these women to leave the general work place? You will find that independence and the irrepressible challenge of truck driving jobs are the two most common motivations given. Another important reason is the wage-earning aspect. Truck driving averages 20-30% higher wages than jobs’ women usually enter into. Woman in trucking is on such a rise in the United States that it is the cause of such great organizations such as the National and International Women’s Trucking Association. Also, women are taking on more important leading roles such as management, safety, dispatching, sales and recruiting.

In the beginning, this new breed of trucker was hard for their men counterparts to accept. As time passed, men took notice as these incredible women showed their determination and abilities to handle the big rigs. I remember one day when I was parked at the Petro Truck Stop in El Paso, Texas and a driver came in and was attempting to back into a very tight spot next to a light pole. After several attempts, he pulled away frustrated. Right behind him, came this massive looking Peterbuilt and whipped right up and “hit” the spot on the very first try. I thought to myself, “Now that is one good driver.” As the door of the Peterbuilt opened, this tiny little lady that stood only about 5’4″ bounded out and made her way up to the truck stop! I just chuckled to myself and went to bed.

All truck drivers encounter the dangers and hardships associated with truck driving jobs, more so however, for over the road trucking. Women truckers are more vulnerable to these dangers and need to adhere to far greater rules of safety. Listed below are a few key points to keep in mind:

  1. Avoid rest areas at all times, especially at night.
    2. Keep doors locked at all times.
    3. Never advertise that you are alone, even using the C.B. radio
    4. Stay away from driving on back roads or taking “short cuts.”
    5. When parking at a truck stop, try parking as close to the front door as possible.
    6. At all parking spots, attempt to park under a well-lighted area.
    7. ALWAYS carry a cell phone.

I, for one, consider it a great testimony to the strength and determination of our country’s women to take on such a demanding obstacle of over the road truck driving. It is not the easiest way of life. I am also continually impressed by those women who not only have succeeded in this difficult lifestyle, but have also maintained their feminine qualities. My experiences have also shown that trucking companies show more respect and even provide BETTER opportunities to women drivers. Truck driving jobs are not for everyone. Do your homework and research the full aspects of the trucking life. If it is something that appeals to you, and you can manage all the responsibilities of home and family life, along with the struggles of truck driving careers, then give it a try. You may find yourself in that category of those wonderful women truckers!

 

About the author:

Aubrey Allen Smith is a veteran over the road driver with over 2 million safe miles and a former owner of several successful trucking companies. He is an expert in the area of truck driving jobs and an advocate for trucking safety. Please visit the Truth About Trucking to learn how to avoid the scams of the trucking industry.

 

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New Drivers : Beware and Prepare

Jan
30,
2007
2

(A guide to trucking in the Northeast)

As someone who is investigating the opportunities in truck driving careers, you undoubtedly have heard the horror stories about trucking in the Northeast. The stories of overcrowded roadways, lack of parking spaces and the constant fighting to jockey into position so you won’t miss your exit, are all true. A driver has not lived until they have experienced trucking in the Northeast. This area of the United States is one place that the truck driving schools cannot prepare you for. Even seasoned drivers will stop beforehand and psych themselves up before tackling what lies ahead.

The major problem of driving in this area of the United States encompasses several areas. The first problem, obviously, is the enormous amount of traffic. Thousands of vehicles are doing battle to get to wherever they are going. Traffic jams, accidents and, within the cities, pedestrians EVERYWHERE! Within the boroughs of New York City, it is no easy task to get 18 wheelers down streets that are packed with hundreds of cars and thousands of people, and which were originally built in the mid 1800’s!

The second problem area causes much aggravation and stress within the truck driving field. There is simply no where to park. Once you get past a certain area, parking becomes obsolete. Without trucks, America stops. Yet, in areas such as the Northeast, they provide nowhere for these drivers to stop and rest or simply even to catch their breath. Also, once you’ve reached your origin or destination, space is usually so cramped, that it can literally take hours to just get backed into the dock to get loaded or unloaded. The stories can go on and on about the Northeast. In recent years, many drivers have started to refuse to run to this area. Other problem areas too numerous to expand on include the high toll rates, the gutted, worn out road surfaces that will shake your teeth out, the hate-filled, disrespectful sentiment displayed toward the trucking industry and the outright dangers of entering into the boroughs at certain times of the day.

Years ago I had a delivery scheduled for 4:00 A.M. in the Bronx. Not knowing any better, I ran on in and found the place and parked out front on what seemed like a deserted street. It was 2:00 A.M. Within minutes drug dealers were all around my truck, using it as a blockade to shield themselves from the police cars that went by every thirty minutes or so. Eventually, a man in his mid-twenties came up to my window and motioned for me to roll it down. Lowering it about a fourth of the way, he offered me drugs, as he jumped up on the steps of the truck. I politely refused, so then he offered me his “girlfriend” who was standing a few feet away. Again, I politely refused. He then explained that I would have to pay $20 in order to park there. I told him that I would just leave, having no idea where I would go to. He then said, “Hey, asking for $20 is better than armed robbery, isn’t it?”. I looked back at him and as his eyes hardened and his hand went into his coat pocket, I knew that this situation was worsening. So what did I do? I laughed. I just laughed and said he was absolutely right and I handed him the $20 and then drove back up to the Turn Pike and parked along a very heavily traveled, well-lit spot. As my 4:00 A.M. schedule slipped by, I slept until the sun came up and headed back to the customer. I explained why I was late and got unloaded and learned a lesson about trucking in this area of the country.

As a new driver, inexperienced in truck driving, these are the mistakes you do not have to make. Now, after years of trucking and having gone through the Northeast more times than I can count, I wouldn’t even give it a second thought. After awhile, you get to know the parking areas. You learn the spots where you can shut down, safely, and wait for your appointment time. You will know the precise places where you can make it to, not just for New York City, but for the other rough areas such as New Jersey, Maryland and Connecticut.

The key to driving in the Northeast is simple…plan ahead. Know where the truck stops and rest areas are located. In the NYC area, plan on stopping at one of the truck stops along the New Jersey Turn Pike. Just remember, that once you pass exit 7 you have just entered the point of no return. There is a smaller truck stop at exit 15, but I never visited this one. The Turn Pike does have travel centers for parking, but like the truck stops, if you do not make it in early enough, there will be no parking space available. If you are running up to Connecticut or further, and time allows, stop before hand and continue your trip later that night. Most often I would stop at the Petro Truck Stop in Elkton, Maryland off of I-95 at exit 109A. This is a large truck stop which nearly always has a parking space available. I would then start running again around midnight and cruise right on through. This is the best way to bypass the adversities in the Northeast. Wait the day out and run late at night. You should also invest in a small cooler/refrigerator and keep it stocked with drinks, bread and cold cuts just in case you get stuck in a spot that offers no facilities.

In the beginning, these states will be a valuable test of your driving skills and endurance. Just know that the Northeast is beatable. As time goes by, it will become easier in making it through. Planning is the key. Plan ahead, know the spots where you can park and get something to eat, and congratulate yourself on making it through one of the toughest areas to drive in America.

About the author:

Aubrey Allen Smith is a veteran over the road driver with 29 years experience and is an expert in areas of truck driving schools and truck driver training. For more information, please visit the Truth About Trucking.

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The #1 Exploitation Toward Truck Drivers

Jan
28,
2007
1

Over the road trucking is a hard, rough existence. The general public just doesn’t understand the reality of the trucking life. People watch as the big rigs pull out onto the road ways and head off to some destination known only to the professional behind the wheel. The life of freedom! No boss looking over your shoulder, and endless hours of traveling the country, enjoying the sightseeing aspect all along the way! The general public could not be so wrong.

For most of the professionals in OTR truck driving, there is a constant, daily battle to be fought every day, never mind the weeks and sometimes months that go by without seeing their families. Forget about sleeping in your own bed every night or just relaxing and watching a little television. Don’t think about having to eat out every day and showering in a truck stop. Give no thought to the fact that the American trucker runs down the road fighting overcrowded streets on very little sleep, and is simply trying to do what we all are attempting to do: make a living.

The general public’s attitude for the most part, is that these trucks are a nuisance. I wish just once, that the truckers would come together and shut down for a week. Let the gasoline supply go dry . . . let the grocery store shelves turn empty . . . let the retail stores have nothing to sell . . . let the restaurants be without food. It would not even have to be a week. Within three to four days the United States of America would look like a third world country. The general public would be crying, “Bring back our truckers!” Fortunately, America’s truckers are too compassionate to allow this to happen, but for them, I wish just once . . .

The saddest part of all, however, is not the ways of the general public. The professionals in the trucking industry come under attack by someone you would not even consider: their own employer. These are the trucking companies that brutalize these men and women on a daily basis. They will push them to run harder to get the freight to where it needs to be. And, as the truckers fulfill their duty, they receive no more benefit or compensation for their valiant effort. After running nonstop to make the delivery on time, their employer may now make them “sit” for two days, thus losing any extra miles they would have received. They are exploited constantly, and these exploitations are hidden in well disguised ad campaigns and perhaps simple bonus programs such as being “awarded” with a company jacket!

Over the road truck driving jobs pay by the mile. The average at present is around .32 cents per mile. If a driver is not moving, they are not making any money. The average pay for an owner operator is roughly .96 cents per mile. Just so the trucking companies know, you cannot make ANY MONEY working for .96 cents per mile! But, then again, they already know this. Truck drivers want to drive. Truck drivers want miles. The #1 exploitation toward truck drivers lies with the trucking companies. They will promise miles, but then never deliver. They will give you just enough miles to keep you hanging on, but that is all the drivers are doing. Their only concern is the freight. These trucking companies are too ignorant to understand that without the driver, they have no company.

Driver retention is a major problem in trucking today. The average turnover rate today sits at nearly 125%. There is one company that has a driver retention problem of 200%! The intellectuals that run the company can’t figure out why. I can help! Do you want to lower your retention problem? Here is a suggestion for you: GIVE THEM MILES! Also, don’t just give them miles, but treat them with respect. Respect . . . another issue. Of course, I understand why the retention problem exist. There is more to the story. Sadly, many drivers are not aware of the “why.”

These drivers that have chosen truck driving careers take pride in their work and profession. Without them, our country and even the world as we know it, would crash. As you put in your 8-5 job and head home for the evening . . . as you wrap up your five-day work week and enjoy your weekend off . . . remember the American trucker that is still out there . . . running . . . getting all of the items delivered, so when you go to the store with your family, those items will be on the shelves. Because even though the trucking companies continue to exploit their own drivers, these same drivers will still complete their mission. It’s their pride. It’s in their blood.

About the author :

Aubrey Allen Smith is a veteran over the road trucker with 29 years of experience in the trucking industry and is an expert in areas of transportation. For more information, please visit the Truth About Trucking.

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Top 10 Causes of Truck Accidents

Jan
21,
2007
5

As the interstates and highways continue to become more populated, we can expect a rise in motor vehicle accidents. Even though trucking companies have improved their safety training, new statistics show an alarming rate of truck crashes. For years, news items have focused on driver fatigue as playing a major role in these incidents.

As a professional in over the road trucking, it does not matter how many years or millions of miles one have accumulated. According to the 2006 Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s report, about one in 20 drivers will be involved in an accident. The study also shows that there are roughly 141,000 truck crashes every year, and 77,000 of these was the direct fault of the truck driver.

Many factors come into play concerning truck accidents. The media loves to portray the trucker as a death machine gunning down the highway. Driver fatigue has been mentioned many times over, but now we can see the facts.

Top 10 Causes of Truck Accidents

1. Prescription Drug Use 26%
2. Traveling Too Fast 23%
3. Unfamiliar with Roadway 22%
4. Over-the-counter Drug Use 18%
5. Inadequate Surveillance 14%
6. Fatigue 13%
7. Illegal Maneuver 9%
8. Exterior Distraction 8%
9. Inadequate Evasive Action 7%
10. Aggressive Driving Behavior 7%

Even though truck driver training has improved somewhat, there appears to be the need for continual education concerning medications. I am always surprised when I hear about a truck accident and the culprit turns out to be something as simple as cough medicine! Truck driving schools and trucking companies use a three minute video during their classes showing the dangers of drugs and driving. This 180-second video is basically useless. Many new, inexperienced drivers just getting started in their truck driving career, need to fully understand the importance of applying simple over-the-counter drugs with a 80,000 pound machine. Quarterly safety meetings and updated printed material mailed to the driver on a regular basis, are just a few ways to keep this important fact imbedded in their thought process. There needs to be a continual reiteration of the facts to the drivers. And, the facts are that medications and truck driving jobs just do not mix.

About the author:

Aubrey Allen Smith is a veteran over the road driver with 29 years experience in the trucking industry and is an expert in areas of transportation and consultation on truck driving jobs. For more information, please visit the Truth About Trucking.

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Conquering Snoqualmie Pass

Jan
15,
2007
3

Very few people truly understand the hardships of the American trucker. Hollywood portrays them as wild rebels blazing down the highway enjoying their “freedom” as they disappear into the sunset. They are running the loud and mean road machines tearing through the night, fighting to get to their destination. The truth of the matter is that over the road trucking is hard, dangerous work. As the population grows in this country, it has become more difficult just to find a parking space. Tired and weary, a driver looks for a place to stop and take a much needed break. Signs everywhere read : “No Semi’s Allowed,” and “No Truck Parking.” The trucking life is rough…little rest with little respect.Truck driving can offer some rewards, though; beautiful country side scenery, endless deserts and valleys and everything in between from sea to shining sea. I have been through all forty eight states thousands of time over. I have traveled through every major city and town and many you wouldn’t know existed. I have “hit” Canada through Detroit, and blew through McAllen, Texas on my way to Monterrey, Mexico. Snow storms, tornadoes, hurricanes, ice storms, flooding, and massive thunderstorms…those professionals within the trucking industry have been through it all! Their skills are put to the test every day, and never more so than during the season of winter.

Along Interstate 90, approximately 50 miles east of Seattle, Washington is a place that every seasoned over the road trucker knows. Named after the people of the valley to the west, it is home to about 250 residents. Bordered by the Wenatchee National Forest and Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, its name means “People of the Moon.” An unincorporated town in which nearly 28,000 vehicles pass through daily. It is the main artery for the truck driving professional to get from the west to the Seattle/Tacoma area. If you happen to be there during the winter, even the most skilled driver will stop to question the certainty of making it through what is known as SNOQUALMIE PASS.

Shooting upward to a scale of 3,022 feet at the summit, you will discover why they call it the Great Northwest! You can depart at the base in sunny, 70 degree weather, and before making it to the top, will encounter rain, sleet, ice, howling winds and snow. That is, of course, you make it to the top! If you are planning on entering into the world of OTR trucking, chances are you will get to meet Snoqualmie Pass face to face.

Nestled in the heart of the Cascade Mountains, it is Washington State law that drivers must chain up before attacking the pass. When conditions worsen beyond hope, the Highway State Patrol will shut the pass down, allowing no drivers to proceed. While passing over the pass in the mid-80’s during winter, I saw many cars left abandoned and several semi rigs laying over on their sides…Snoqualmie Pass had won the battle! In the early 90’s while fighting the pass once again, they shut the pass down just minutes after I had made it through. That was the same day a driver I had seen at the Flying J truck stop that is west of the pass, had attempted to cross over before the shut down, and was killed by an avalanche. Five days later, they recovered his body.

How do you conquer Snoqualmie Pass during the winter months? After several hair-raising crossings, I figured out the answer: you don’t! For all you up-coming new drivers, just remember one thing…the freight you are hauling for the trucking companies is NEVER more important than YOU. The freight can wait. My philosophy is if you have to chain up, then you don’t need to be driving.

We are fortunate today to have the technology at our finger tips which will give us up to the minute weather forecasts as we travel this country. The “Got to go” attitude is a dangerous one. When you are fighting black ice, blowing wind and snow and you are still on level ground, what do you think it’s going to be like when you hit the 2,986 feet level that lies before you? The freight can wait. Make it to the Flying J and relax. Let Mother Nature complete Her furry, and then you can enjoy the beautiful scenery and the wonder of Snoqualmie Pass.

About the author :

Aubrey Allen Smith is a veteran over the road driver with over 29 years of experience in the trucking industry and is an expert in areas of transportation. For more information, please visit the Truth About Trucking.

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Truckers and TracFone

Jan
14,
2007
0

Over the road trucking is demanding work that requires constant communication between the driver, dispatcher and the customer. As an OTR driver, one is away from home for weeks at a time. Having to worry about the bills piling up at home is something a driver can live without. It did not take professional drivers long to discover the convenience of the “TracFone.”

TracFone is the largest prepaid wireless phone company in the United States. Presently offering 16 types of phones ranging from $10.00 to $100.00, it has become a favorite within the trucking industry! With such plans as “pay as you go” or monthly and yearly plans, truckers don’t have to worry about the bill at home laying on the table collecting dust.

Like any service, it is always best to investigate the many different plans that TracFone offers, in order to come up with the right plan for you and your budget. Be sure to get everything in writing and ask questions such as minutes and/or phone transfers, loss of phone and reimbursement policies. TracFone can be found at many retail stores including most truck stops and of course, Walmart. Therefore, it is essential to know the facts about your service provider.

Offering NO CONTRACTS, NO CREDIT CHECKS, NO DEPOSITS, and NO ACTIVATION FEES, the TracFone is the perfect wireless phone service for the trucking life. And, since nobody can cover more ground faster than an over the road trucker, TracFone’s nationwide service goes right along with them!

About the Author :

Aubrey Allen Smith is a veteran over the road driver with 29 years experience in the trucking industry and is an expert in areas of transportation. For more information, please visit the Truth About Trucking.

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Demanding Description of the American Trucker

Jan
3,
2007
1

Hundreds of thousands of delivery trucks traffic the roads of America at all times, and millions cover the roads of the world. Without them, the world’s economy would come to a screeching halt and the standard of living for most of the world would be greatly changed. Think about all of those employed by the trucking industry. Truck drivers earn their living by transporting goods across country from manufacturing plants to retail and distribution centers around the globe. As of May, 2005, there were over 3,000,000 truck drivers in the United States alone, and though their jobs may appear to go unnoticed, their services provide the world with all of its found necessities.

Two basic types of truck drivers exist in the United States, company drivers and owner operators. Company drivers are employed by particular trucking companies who provide all overhead costs and most often include training, while owner operators essentially have their own business. Owner operators own the trucks they drive and lease their trucks through contract with a trucking company, or they transport loads for more than one company, similar to a freelance operation. Though the situations of these two types of drivers are very different from a business perspective, all drivers are required to abide by the same laws, limiting the amount of time they can drive. The purpose of this is to prevent exhaustion or fatigue behind the wheel, as it is the cause of a large percentage of accidents each year. Presently, the maximum drive time for truck drivers is 11 hours with a ten hour break following.

All truck drivers are divided into different categories. Local drivers operate within the limits of hometowns, counties or nearby cities and return home every night, while regional drivers cover several states near their homes. For example, a regional driver might cover Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas. This may cause them to be away from their homes and families for several days at a time. Those who are away from home the most are called “over the road” drivers. These drivers cross thousands of miles for weeks at a time. When such large distances are necessary to cover, many companies organize driver teams, such as a husband and wife team or people in different states that break up the driving. Though the area covered by a driver is one way to distinguish what category he/she falls into, drivers are also known by the kinds of loads they carry. Auto haulers do just that…haul automobiles. They use trailers specifically designed to transport cars and trucks, and so they also possess specific skills in loading and operating this kind of equipment. Those pulling basic large trailers containing mostly non-perishable goods are known as Dry Van drivers, while Reefer drivers transport those goods that need refrigeration. There are also flat bed drivers that move large bulky items and tanker drivers moving liquids such as oil and gasoline, and for those jobs that need “less than a full truckload”, LTL drivers fill in for local delivery jobs and usually load and unload in many nearby locations.

Possibly the most important thing about truck driver training is obtaining the license required to operate the appropriate machinery and drive on public roads. Truck Drivers are required to have a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) in the United States, and Federal law distinguishes the different classes and requirements to obtain the CDL. The government takes truck driving very seriously as it is a fundamental building block to the American economy as well as a potentially dangerous situation for public roads. Good truck drivers are imperative to our standard of living, which is why some people have made a great living transporting goods where they need to go.

About the Author:

Aubrey Allen Smith is a veteran over the road trucker with 29 years of experience in the truck driving industry and is an expert in areas of trucking and truck driving schools. For more information, please visit our website.

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