Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Back in The Saddle Again

Well, I'm back on the road again after taking a week's vacation with my dear family.  We had a great time together under the bright Texas sun floating in the cool water of the Comal river and the various water runs at Schlitterbahn water park.  For me it was a time to enjoy my greatest gifts from God - my wonderful wife and three sweet girls.  I miss them all terribly while carving out a living on the highways and byways, but getting to be with them all for an entire week was immensely pleasant for me.  I may never have enough personal belongings accumulated to mean anything to anybody, but I have known enough of love to stir up the envy of the world's wealthiest men, all because of the family that God has blessed me with.  We have loved each other through thick and thin - mostly thin when it came to money, and mostly thick as pertains to trouble.  The currency of love cannot be diminished or devalued by troubles or trials, it is based on something higher and purer than gold - "God is love" - "For God so loved the world, that he gave..."  As far as love is concerned, I will never be bankrupt - His vault is immeasurable in it's height and depth - it is unfathomable in it's unending supply.

I'm sleeping tonight at a truck stop in Montgomery Alabama.  I will deliver the load of fiberglass insulation panels that I picked up in Waxahachie TX yesterday to an air conditioning contractor here first thing in the morning.  Then a new adventure will begin, I don't have a clue as to what I'll be doing next, but I'll fill you in as soon as I know where I'm off to next.

Here's a shot of the five of us enjoying a delicious meal together while on our vacation.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Running with the Big Dogs

One of the enjoyable things about this job is meeting the ever changing challenges that come up with each new day.  I am constantly competing against the regulations that hinder your ability to work the amount of hours you want to so that you can get the most accomplished.  I'm not trying to break the rules, nor even bend the rules, but rather constantly trying to work within the parameters of the law and still be able to get the most done.  To be able to get the most done you have got to have a good grasp of what is allowed and what is not.  If you are one of those people who just takes a lax approach at understanding how the clock works for you or against you then you will never be at the top of your game in this business because you will find yourself being mastered by the clock.  Of course, to some extent we are all mastered by it, but I find that if I can master it, instead of it mastering me, I can be a more productive driver.

Time wise, I get a great deal of satisfaction out of beating the odds that are against us as drivers.  I hear so many drivers complaining about running out of hours, and I'm puzzled by it because it should be something that is at the forefront of our thoughts and trip planning.  Any time I can beat the odds and get a difficult load in on time I get a great deal of satisfaction out of it, and it only encourages the load planners to depend on me that much more.  Once you've got them trusting you, they will be much better about keeping you rolling.  If they have doubts as to your willingness or ability to "get er done" you may be sitting at times, which can mess up your time management.  They are not trying to punish you by making you sit, but rather they weren't confident enough in you to have the next load ready for you, because if you didn't get the current load in on time, then the next one is really going to be late. It's just the reality of the logistics business, time management is everything.

I've never really given much thought to how I measure up against other drivers, but I am constantly measuring myself against my own goals and accomplishments.  I constantly find myself trying to improve my performance, if only because I know that it will help me get the best treatment from my load planners and my DM (driver manager).  This job is completely performance based pay, so if you are at the top of your game you will do much better than the average guy who doesn't put forth a whole lot of effort in his planning and execution.

So, I was surprised by this message that I received on my qualcomm this week from my new DM.

I never even thought about being at the head of the pack, I mean that is a lot of drivers that I'm competing against.  Well, I guess runner up isn't quite at the top, in fact some would call it losing, but it was still quite a surprise to me.  So I responded with this message.

Which garnered this response from my new DM.  Notice that he doesn't really respond in reference to my performance, but to my attitude.  This is one of those things that I constantly refer to when trying to advise new drivers how to succeed in this career.  Attitude is everything, if you can just keep yourself from falling prey to the current trend of thinking you've got to muscle your way into controlling the way your DM operates, and just keep consistently doing what ever it takes to "get er done" you will come out on top.  Truck drivers as a whole are some of the worst whiners and complainers I've ever come across, and without knowing it they are working like crazy at killing their chances of success at their chosen career.

Well, I'm not going to break my arm at patting myself on the back, because I know there is still a lot to accomplish, and even though it is fun to realize that you are pushing the line at being the top dog, I also realize that I'm often times competing against guys that are really new to all this.  Sure there is a core group of drivers here that have been here for years, but they are also bringing in around one hundred new drivers every week.

It's also proper to note here that there is a price to pay to be at the top.  I didn't go home at all during the month of June.  It's a simple matter of math to figure out who is going to be on top, and those are the ones who put out the most.  At this company there is a comprehensive set of measurements that are used to determine who is the top driver, including things like on time deliveries, fuel mileage, number of clean inspections, out of route miles, log violations, etc.

Well, I'm in Eau Claire, Wisconsin tonight - it's funny because I was just here about  ten days ago.  Since then I've been down to Colorado, then down to Laredo TX where I realized I was parked under the Mexican flag at my pick up point.

From there, I went over into Florida, then they had me go to the main terminal in Nashville, so they could pat me on the back for being "runner up" - I did get to meet my new DM while there, and I think we are going to get on just fine with each other.  Then I got this current load of aluminum siding which brought me right back up to Eau Claire Wisconsin.

They are keeping me very busy, but I wouldn't have it any other way!

Friday, July 4, 2014

This job can give you a lifetime of stories to tell

You see so many things when living like a modern day gypsy constantly on the move from one state to the next, that you can easily build up a lifetime of tales to tell.  I rolled out of Colorado City this morning carrying this load of "slinky coils" that I picked up late yesterday at the Rocky Mountain Steel Warehouse in Pueblo, Colorado.

After weighing my loaded truck I found that my gross weight was 79,960 pounds.  That is just 40 pounds under the maximum legal weight for an eighteen wheeler.  My fuel tanks were full when I weighed, so I was good to go without having to calculate my fuel burn-off before getting to the first weigh station.

After winding my way up through the Raton Pass and crossing the line into New Mexico I was going to head east on US 87, so I took the exit for Raton New Mexico and stopped at the traffic light to wait for it to turn green.  As I looked to the right to get a look at what might be coming from that direction a young Whitetail buck deer, with about six or eight inches of fresh new velvet covered antler growth protruding from his head, trotted up beside me on the shoulder and stopped abruptly.  He then appeared to be looking at the traffic light as though he were waiting for it to turn green.  The moment it changed he gently trotted out into the intersection while looking both ways and then promptly disappeared down into a small brush filled ravine on the other side of the road.  I wish I could have photographed him, but it all happened so quickly that I didn't even have the presence of mind to grab my phone and snap the photo.

This is what I mean about seeing so many things out on the road.  It seems that I see interesting things every day, and after a while you just get accustomed to experiencing so many varied things that it seems like normal to you.  Having a deer cross an intersection with you is definitely not normal though, and it will go into my mental file of strange yet true stories of life on the road.  Some day when I'm old and grey I'll hear someone say something about a whitetail deer and it will open up that mental file that I have stored away in my mind and I will tell them the story about the time I crossed an intersection in Raton, New Mexico with a Whitetail deer right along the side of my big rig.

I'm headed to San Antonio Texas with this load, and will have plenty of time to get in a 34 hour reset before I deliver it Monday morning.