Ask The Trucker

Raising the Standards of the Trucking Industry


Hours of Service to Change Again?

Jan
20,
2008
5

After a long, hard battle advocates finally accomplished their goal in having the hours of service for truck drivers changed to the current 14/10 rule with the 34-hour restart thrown in for support. Remember all the news this was making back then? It was going to be so much better for the general public safety and concerns.

Entering into effect on October 1st, 2005, the trucking industry began operating under the new rules, which to this day, many drivers still do not agree with. And now . . . change may be coming again. Last July, the court ruled to vacate the current rule and change it BACK to the way it was before! The ruling will not become effective until September 12, 2008. Some parties such as ATA, et al are or will be asking for a stay of the current ruling.

If the court does not grant a stay, then on September 12, drivers will be going back to the 10-hour driving rule, and will no longer use the 34-hour restart rule. Rules that will be staying in place are the 14-hour on-duty time, the 10 hours off duty, the 2/8 hours split sleeper berth time and the 60/70 rule.

So for now, the trucking industry will have to wait and see. Are we in for another hours of service rule change? It is highly possible. I stand behind the old adage as I did in 2005 . . . “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

About the Author:

Aubrey Allen Smith is a veteran trucker and author of the first and original Truth About Trucking. An expert in transportation, his book has helped thousands of new, inexperienced drivers understand the scams of the trucking industry. Please visit http://www.truthabouttrucking.com today, to learn more.

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Winter Driving Tips

Nov
4,
2007
3

On December 21st at precisely 7:42 A.M. EST, the sun’s rays will strike one of the two tropical latitude lines, and thus winter will officially begin for the Northern Hemisphere. This will also be the official beginning of “winter driving” for the millions of truck drivers across our country. This is a time when your driving skills can be put to the ultimate test, especially for the over the road trucker.

 

For the lucky drivers dedicated to running the southern states, etc., winter will not create too many problems. Those long haulers running all 48 states finding themselves in the northern region, New England states and beyond . . . they know they are in for a ride!

For years I ran all 48 states plus parts of Canada and found myself fighting freezing rain, ice and snow on many occasions. In the Midwest, you will do battle with the snow and ice and the howling winds that can toss your rig around like a rag doll. I have seen too many rigs laid over on their sides or simply stuck in the winter conditions, unable to move. Not only is this a very frustrating time, but it can also be a deadly one when we fail to make the right choices.

Truck drivers must prepare accordingly for the winter driving period. Here are some winter driving tips that not only will make this time of year more comfortable, but could end up saving your life:

• Have your rig “winterized” by a professional technician.

• Carry a few gallons of a fuel treatment product to prevent the diesel from gelling.

• Carry extra blankets . . . enough to keep you warm in case you get stranded.

• Carry a supply of “energy food” such as energy bars, etc., and water.

• Keep the fuel tanks as full as possible, especially before crossing a mountain pass or similar object.

• Allow extra distance between you and the vehicles ahead of you.

• SLOW DOWN. Adjust your speed appropriately for the road conditions.

• Check the weather forecast ahead of you BEFORE you head out.

• Avoid using cruise control.

• PLAN AHEAD. Know where truck stops are ahead of you on your planned trip, so you can make the appropriate stop should the weather turn really bad.

• If the time comes where tire chains are needed . . . STOP!

Having the right equipment and supplies can make the difference between life and death. Should you find yourself stranded on the side of the road in -30 degree temperatures, you will discover that even if the rig keeps running, very little heat, if any, will blow out! It is very important to carry extra blankets and energy food and water. Keep the rig in tip-top shape and by taking extra precautions, you can survive a difficult situation.
There are plenty of tricks and tips to get a car unstuck from the ice and snow, many of which can be applied to trucks too. Know before you go!

The best way to prevent being caught in a life and death situation during winter time, is having the right state of mind in making the GO-NO-GO decision. Even if other drivers are heading out in what to you, seems like a bad idea . . . then stick with your intuition. Make the NO-GO decision to stay put until the weather clears. Make the right decision. The freight can wait.

About the Author:

Aubrey Allen Smith is the author of the Truth About Trucking and host of AskTheTrucker “Live” on Blog Talk Radio.
With over 30 years years in the transportation industry, and 21 years as an OTR driver, he utilizes his time by helping new drivers to the industry. By exposing the scams of the trucking industry, he has helped thousands and is considered an expert in motor carrier transportation.

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Depression and the Long Haul Trucker

Oct
22,
2007
1

A long haul trucker is no stranger to sleep deprivation. Even local truck drivers deal with the problem of little rest, many working 70 hour weeks. Sleep deprivation is the leading cause of serious truck related accidents, resulting in as high as 40% of all crashes. The constant attitude of many motor carriers of “you’ve got to get the freight there,” is an enormous stress on the long haul trucker. Even though Federal Regulations require a driver to take a 10-hour break after 14 hours of on duty time, these 10 hours often work out to be only 5-6 hours of actual sleep per day.

Several years ago, I decided to keep a log of the actual sleep time I received each day. Over a six-week period, it showed that I was only actually “sleeping” an average of 4 hours per day. Twenty eight hours of sleep in an entire week . . . and to add to the problem, a great deal of long haul trucking is done at night.

Sleep deprivation can lead to many other health problems, including depression. Adding the lack of sleep on top of endless hours alone and away from family, increases the risk of “the invisible illness,” depression. Though statistics vary, it is believed that depression in long haul truck drivers is as high as 30-40 percent.

Signs of depression include:

Feeling of hopelessness

Loss of interest in daily activities

Change in appetite or weight

Sleep disturbances

Loss of energy or fatigue

Aches and pains

Low self esteem

Less interest in sex

Feeling of sadness and crying spells

Thoughts of suicide

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above on a regular basis, you may be battling “the invisible illness.” See your doctor. Depression is treatable and you DO NOT have to live that way! The first step is recognizing the signs and the second step is doing something about it. Go to your doctor and get the help that will change your life. As your friend in trucking . . . don’t think about it . . . DO IT.

About the Author:

Aubrey Allen Smith is the author of the Truth About Trucking and How to Guarantee a “Perfect” Move.

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Moving : When You Have to Store Your Items

Oct
15,
2007
0

Moving can be an emotional process. When there are other steps your move requires, the emotion can run even higher. One of these steps is the necessity of placing your items into storage. When the probability of storage plays into the equation, one should look into the correct storage facility to prevent any unwanted “surprises.”

Using the moving company’s storage is a very expensive adventure. There are additional charges for placing your items into their storage, additional charges for removing the items out of their storage and of course, the expensive monthly charges for using their facility. Simply put, utilizing the mover’s storage can add up to plenty of dollars!

When you have to store your items, the best route to take is to use a self storage facility. Not only is it much cheaper, but you can have 24 hour access to your goods and not be limited to the moving company’s hours of business. You will also have the piece of mind knowing that you and only you have access to your belongings.

When choosing a self storage facility, there is one key element to look for: be absolutely certain the moving truck, especially if your goods will be transported by an 18-wheeler, that the truck can “fit” into the self storage facility. This is where the biggest problem can arise for customers, causing additional charges from the movers. If the semi arrives and cannot maneuver properly around the self storage facility, you may be looking at an additional charge like a “long carry charge” or even worse, a “shuttle charge.” If possible, take pictures of the self storage facility, showing its layout, etc., and give to your mover . . . this way they can see beforehand that the truck will be able to “fit”.

At the time when your items are being placed into the storage, be sure to have plenty of blankets and protective equipment to cover your furniture. Remember, once your items are going into a self storage facility, YOU are ultimately responsible for having the proper protective supplies, such as blankets, paper pads, etc. The mover should bring along enough paper pads to do the job since they knew in advance your items were going into self storage, but many times they will “run short” and have no way of protecting against scratches and damages.

By using your own self storage, you will not have to worry about the large expenses that movers charge for storage, and you will be totally in charge of your belongings.

About the Author:

Aubrey Allen Smith is the author of “How to Guarantee a “Perfect” Move” and the “Truth About Trucking.” He is an expert in motor carrier transportation and has 38 years experience within the moving industry.

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Mexican Trucks Not Allowed in U.S.

Sep
30,
2007
3

House Bill H.R. 1773: Safe American Roads Act of 2007 was upheld recently which prohibits the Secretary of Transportation from allowing motor carriers domiciled in Mexico to operate across the border into the United States. President George Bush was in favor of this outrageous proposal and has stated that he will veto it. This is not surprising since President Bush stated on May 30th, 2006 that seventy miles of border fence would be constructed by September 30, 2007.  Well, today is September 30th, 2007 and even though the funds and sources have been appropriated for the border fence, only three miles have been completed.

I have driven in Mexico, hauling dry goods in and out of the country. Mexico basically has no laws governing the commercial motor carrier and their truck drivers. There are no hours of service rules, drivers do not have log books and safety inspection requirements simply do not exist.  Once, while in Monterrey, Mexico a truck in front of me could not get around the “millions” of vehicles in front of him, so he simply drove his rig up over the curb (sidewalk), taking out a street sign, and nobody appeared to even notice! Mexico does not have any EPA laws, so the fumes and smoke from the cars and trucks were blinding.

The senate approved the proposal by a 74-24 vote, delaying the Bush plan to allow Mexican trucks to fill our highways in the United States. Who were the Republican Senators who voted against it? They are listed below in alphabetical order:

Allard (CO)
Bennett (UT)
Bond (MO)
Bunning (KY)
Burr (NC)
Cochran (MS)
Cornyn (TX)
DeMint (SC)

Dole (NC)
Domenici (NM)
Grassley (IA)
Gregg (NH)
Hagel (NE)
Hutchison (TX)
Kyl (AZ)
Lieberman (CT) (Independent)

Lott (MS)
Lugar (IN)
Martinez (FL)

McConnell (KY)
Murkowski (AK)
Stevens (AK)
Sununu (NH)
Vitter (LA)

Two Republicans, Craig of Idaho and John McCain of Arizona must have felt that the safety of the American people was not important of an issue, because they did not even vote! As a Florida resident, it has opened my eyes to the insight of Senator Mel Martinez. If you are from Florida and would like to let Senator Martinez know how you feel you can do so by using the link below:

http://martinez.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=ContactInformation.ContactForm

Sometimes I feel as if the entire Presidential election is a scam like over the road trucking. The acts by President Bush and the Republican party seems as if they are purposely attempting to fail in order to bring in a Democratic President. Does the American vote really count anymore? Is the next President already decided by those in extreme power? When you sit back and watch the leaders of our nation do some of the things they do, one has to wonder. The majority of credit has to go to the Democrats on this one . . . they voted to keep America’s roads safe. Now let’s see what President Bush will do . . .

About the Author:

Aubrey Allen Smith is the author of the Truth About Trucking and an expert in motor carrier transportation. Fighting back for our nation’s drivers, he reveals the scams of the truck driving schools and trucking industry. Please visit http://www.truthabouttrucking.com today, to learn more. (Special thanks to my friend Barry for his contribution to this article)

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Private Pilot: The Joy of Flying

Sep
17,
2007
1

Piper Cherokee 180

There is nothing like the feeling of sliding into a Cessna 172 or Piper Cherokee 180 and heading off into the sky. The sense of freedom is enormous, and whatever worries or problems you may be facing, just fade away. It is an incredible feeling!Nearing my 22nd year of professional truck driving, nothing can clear my mind or ease my spirit as much as flying. The sound of the engine, lowering the flaps, full rich mixture and power and the aircraft shooting down the runway and then . . . lift oes that they can enjoy when they are home. It is very important to be able to do those things for relaxation to mend the mind and body, before having to jump in the truck again.  ff! Now this is cool. This is more than cool . . . it is totally awesome!

After CDL training, the stress of trucking can wear you down sooner or later. Trucking will take over your life until you have no life . . . if you let it. After a hard three or four-week run, all a driver wants to do when they make it home, is rest. In a few days they will have to head out, and start it all over again. It is imperative that someone who lives the life of a trucker, has hobbi

Many will enjoy a movie out with their families . . . a fishing trip . . . time out on the boat . . . a motorcycle ride . . . whatever it is, a driver should set aside that time at home for rest and enjoyment. Life is too short to spend it always in a truck. Most trucking companies don’t understand this. The only thing that exists in life is the freight. Forget about the freight for a while . . . and enjoy life when you can before it’s gone. I look forward to riding my Harley every chance I get. What a rush! But, flying . . . now there is freedom and peace. Have you ever thought about becoming a pilot? It’s not hard at all, and is not too expensive . . . and the joy it brings is immeasurable. Only if it is two or three hours a week or several hours a month . . . the rewards are great.

At 3500 feet or 8500 feet, all the stress and worries of daily life seem to disappear. It makes you realize that we are very small creatures inhabiting this planet! It brings your perspective of things back to a normal realization. If you are one who’s entire life is bound by trucking, like so many drivers are, (I know, I’ve been there), and you are considering a “hobby” of some sort, consider attaining your Private Pilot Certificate.  Discover the joy of general aviation. You won’t regret it.

I am planning my first flight to Freeport in the Bahamas and will be flying a Piper Cherokee 180. I received my Private Pilot License in March 1985 and still have the same enthusiasm today as I had on my first flight. I have about 15 hours to go in attaining my commercial/instrument rating . . . always learning and always discovering new things. Although it is only about 246.5 nautical miles and will take roughly two hours and forty minutes to make it to Freeport, with approximately thirty-eight minutes of “ocean” flying . . . it’s going to be the best two hours and forty minutes of my life!

Don’t let trucking control your life. Whatever it takes . . . whatever hobby you choose . . . make it work for you. If you’ve never thought about flying, consider it now. Trust me . . . you’ll be glad you did.

About the Author:

Aubrey Allen Smith is the author of the Truth About Trucking and How to Guarantee a “Perfect” Move. He is an expert in motor carrier transportation and a 38-year veteran in the household goods moving industry. Please visit his web sites today, to learn more.

 

 

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Truck Driver Salaries

Sep
1,
2007
11

The United States trucking industry hauls more than nine billion tons of the country’s freight every year. That works out to be over 64 percent of the nation’s cargo. How important is trucking to American consumers? The number of communities that solely depend on trucking for the delivery of their merchandise is a staggering seventy (70) percent!

If the American truckers decided to go on strike, this country would be doomed. Within a matter of days store shelves would be empty, and all the necessities that we, the consumers, take for granted would be gone. Within a week’s time, we would have the appearance of a third world country. It’s true what they say . . . “Without Trucks . . . America STOPS!”

The trucking industry brings in a yearly revenue estimated at slightly over 255 billion dollars. Common carriers yearly revenue is estimated at nearly 98 billion. This is no easy task, since the operating ratio for these trucking companies is estimated at approximately 95.2 percent, meaning that for every dollar in revenue, it costs the trucking company 95.2 cents to operate. This gives them a profit of only 4.8 cents per dollar. There are a lot of miles being driven!

On the average, an over the road trucker will run 100,000 miles per year. That is the same as driving around the Earth four times! As an over the road driver for 21 years, accumulating approximately 2,220,000 miles, it is the same as having driven around our planet slightly more than 89 times. I know professional drivers who have accomplished five million miles in their careers . . . that is 200.75 times around the Earth! Amazing when you think about it.

What can a driver expect to make in salary for all these miles? The average company driver now earns between $32,400 and $42,300 . . . depending on the size of the company. The majority of owner operators gross salaries ranging between $100,000 and $150,000 per year, but with an average operating cost of 50%, their net income averages $50,000 to $75,000 . . . if they’re lucky.

If a company “promises” that you will earn $60,000 per year or more as a company driver, be very leery. It just does not happen in the real world. The over all average per year . . . $35,000 gross. Is this worth all the stress and headaches that come with over the road trucking? Is it worth being away from your family for long periods of time? These are questions you will have to ask yourself and contemplate with your loved ones.

Trucking is an enormous asset to our country and our way of life. The general public does not understand this. As a driver, you play a major role in keeping our “way of life” going. Don’t forget that when you are traveling around the Earth.

About the Author:

Aubrey Allen Smith is the author of the first and original: Truth About Trucking, as well as How to Guarantee a “Perfect” Move. An expert in motor carrier transportation, he assists new drivers entering into truck driving careers by exposing the scams of the trucking industry. Please visit www.truthabouttrucking.com today, to learn more.

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Moving Companies Have No Insurance

Aug
28,
2007
0

Moving scams abound throughout the United States and each year thousands of consumers fall prey to this kind of operation. On the other hand, 40 million moves take place each year, and the large majority of these are performed satisfactorily. The key to having a good move by moving companies, is knowing what to look out for when making the decision.

There are simple, easy steps one can take to insure their move goes smoothly and without any hitches. The biggest concern for a consumer is the price of course, but more so, I believe, is the transportation of the items without any damages. It is possible to increase your chances of having a claim-free move if you follow certain “insider secrets” that I have seen work time and time again.

Undoubtedly, one of the greatest mistakes by consumers is believing that moving companies offer insurance at an affordable price. Even moving representatives will refer to these options as “insurance.” This is an illegal act by moving companies. Whether they call it “insurance” by mistake or simply by misunderstanding, no moving companies in the United States have or can offer “insurance.”

Having started in the moving industry in 1969 at the age of ten, I have heard these options called “insurance” by the drivers, salespeople and even owners of the company. Moving companies have no “insurance” . . . legally, it is a “valuation coverage.” Only an insurance company can sell insurance. A moving company is a moving company . . . not an insurance company. Legally, when a moving representative refers to “valuation coverage” as “insurance,” they are breaking the law, due to “false pretense.” Again, many moving reps do this out of misunderstanding or mistakenly.

However, legally speaking, it is against the law to refer to “valuation coverage” as “insurance.” Valuation coverage is a “contractual limit of liability.” It is a liability to cover the items shipped, in which you purchase through a contract with the mover. Should damages occur during transit, you file a “claim” with the moving company, and they in return, forward your “claim” to their insurance company. The number one complaint by consumers against moving companies concerns claims for damages. Understanding the mechanics behind the moving industry, and knowing simple but effective steps you can take, will greatly increase your chances of having a damage-free move.

About the Author:

 Aubrey Allen Smith began in the moving industry in 1969 at the age of ten. An expert in motor carrier transportation, he is the author of the popular eBooks: Truth About Trucking and How to Guarantee a “Perfect” Move. His “insider secrets” have helped many consumers experience a worry-free move. Please visit http://www.guaranteemove.com to learn more.

 

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Can an Amputee Have a CDL?

Aug
28,
2007
16

I receive hundreds of emails from people all across the United States asking questions concerning CDL requirements and assistance with general help topics. It may take me a few days to answer, but I always write back. I enjoy the correspondence with other drivers and especially, the “newbies.” I recently received an email from a gentleman who asked me a question that I have never been asked before in 29 years of trucking. He was an (arm) amputee, and was having trouble with his home state issuing him a CDL. He asked for my help.

I knew what the Regulations had to say about it, but I searched on the internet and was surprised at some of the things I found. One article was written by an employer stating his amazement that an (arm) amputee would even apply for his open truck driving job. I left a comment on his site…I had to!  I would like everyone to know that an amputee, arm or leg, CAN DRIVE a semi tractor-trailer!

People just do not understand the Regulations when it comes to driving a commercial motor vehicle. Can an amputee have a CDL? YES! Can an amputee drive a semi rig? YES! Those whom I call “the foolish ones,” will point out Regulation 391.41(b), which basically states that a person cannot drive a commercial motor vehicle if they have a “loss of a foot, a leg, a hand, or an arm.” BUT, they always seem to miss the next line: except if they have “been granted a skill performance evaluation certificate pursuant to 391.49.”

 Within this section is the key for those with this physical condition: §391.49 Alternative physical qualification standards for the loss or impairment of limbs. All one needs is a Skill Performance Evaluation (SPE) Certificate. This certificate shows that the person seeking a CDL can operate the commercial motor vehicle safely, and that the amputee condition does not interfere with the safe operation of the vehicle.

Several months ago I sat down at a T/A Truck Stop for dinner, and the driver next to me had ONE ARM! He had been driving that way for 16 years! So for all of you people like the above employer: understand about the subject before you write about it! And, for all you who are wondering if an amputee can have a CDL: the answer is a clear and resounding, YES!

 For the complete rules, regulations and explanation for this type of situation, read Regulation 391.49 and if you are an amputee and want to drive the big rigs . . . THEN GO FOR IT!  I’ll ride with you any day, before I ride with the above-mentioned employer!

Good Luck, and KEEP ON ‘TRUCKIN’

About the Author: Aubrey Allen Smith is an expert in motor carrier transportation and an advocate for truck driving safety. Author of the original “Truth About Trucking,” he fights for the rights of truckers by exposing the scams within the trucking industry. Please visit http://www.truthabouttrucking today, if you are considering a truck driving career.

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Moving Tips: The Three Types of Estimates

Aug
21,
2007
0

We have all heard of moving “horror” stories or perhaps you are someone who had the misfortune of experiencing it first-hand. Although there are many excellent movers across the country, the fact remains that moving scams do exist. If there is going to be a problem, the starting point for the consumer will always begin with the moving estimate. Many times, the only item the customer will see is the price at the bottom of the page and totally miss the “fine print.” The first step in preventing a major “surprise” at the final destination of your move, is to fully understand what each “estimate” means for you, the consumer. The three types of estimates are:

  • NON – BINDING ESTIMATE:

In this “estimate” you are given an estimated figure of your total weight based on a set price per pound. Depending on the “actual” weight, your final bill could be higher OR lower than the original estimate. The odd of this estimate working in your favor is next to none. Many times the salesperson will tell you that they purposely figured your weight higher for this estimate, so there is “no way” your final bill will cost more! This normally backfires for the consumer, even if the salesperson was being totally honest. Remember, this is an “estimate.” Even seasoned estimators can and do “miss” the weight. Furthermore, if the estimated weight does “go over,” the moving company can ONLY collect 110% of the original amount shown on the estimate. So, if the price shown is $5405.95, then the maximum you could end up paying at destination could ONLY be $5946.54 (110% of $5405.95). This type of “estimate,” in my opinion, does not provide the “peace of mind” you would want during a relocation process. Never accept a non-binding moving estimate.

  • BINDING ESTIMATE:

This “estimate” can actually be very misleading to the customer. Sometimes referred to as a “fixed price” estimate, it gives the impression that you will only be charged for the amount shown on the estimate, and not a penny more. This sounds like a “guaranteed price,” doesn’t it? This is perhaps the main estimate that customers fall for, believing that the “binding” price is “guaranteed.” However, when providing this estimate, the mover will nearly always fail to mention that the driver who will be loading your shipment HAS THE RIGHT to “challenge” the estimate, if he feels that the weight has gone over! Thus, this is where the “binding estimate” can come back and bite you! The driver must “challenge” the moving estimate BEFORE he begins loading. Most often, drivers will not “challenge” several hundred pounds or even a few thousand pounds. However, if the driver feels that the weight shown on the “binding estimate” is much lower than the actual weight he will be loading, he can legally “challenge” the estimate, and the salesperson will have to come back out to your residence and renegotiate the price with you. Therefore, your original “binding” price meant absolutely nothing! Never accept a binding estimate.

  • BINDING – NOT TO EXCEED ESTIMATE

This estimate is exactly what it proposes to be: a “not to exceed” price. The price shown on the estimate is exactly what you will be charged unless your weight is lower than what is shown on the estimate. If it is lower, then you will pay LESS! This moving estimate guarantees that your ending cost can only go DOWN and not UP! The only way of knowing what your TRUE weight is, is to be present when the driver weighs the truck. You must be there when he weighs the truck ‘EMPTY’ and when he weighs the truck ‘LOADED.’ Many customers do not want to be inconvenienced by this, but remember . . . do not trust the moving company with your empty and loaded scale. Make the effort to go down to the scale and witness the “weighing” yourself, both empty and once it has been loaded.

Forty million people move every year in the United States. There are simple, easy steps you can take that will assure your move, either local or cross country, will go efficiently and greatly reduce your chances of having a major claim. The FIRST STEP is choosing the right “estimate.” Always choose the “Binding – NOT TO EXCEED.”

About the Author:

Aubrey Allen Smith is the author of the Truth About Trucking and “How to Guarantee a “Perfect” Move.” Having started in the moving business in 1969 at the age of ten, he is an expert in the field of transportation. He shares his “insider secrets” and moving tips that only a moving veteran would know. Please visit www.guaranteemove.com to see how you can guarantee a “perfect” move.

 

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