Thursday, November 30, 2017


Solo Trucking

I've driven with trainers, teammates, students, and as a solo driver. Each of these phases of driving have different challenges and rewards. The title today shows which one I'm going to talk about. I'm starting here because it's what I'm currently doing and have spent the majority of my trucking career doing up to this point.

Solo driving is exactly what the name implies. It's just you, the truck, the load, and if you're lucky you've got a traveling companion who lets you know how much he misses you by barking and flipping around in circles every time you return from the truckstop. Usually the enthusiasm he exhibits is based on whether or not you've brought a hamburger or hot dog to the truck with you. But, you know it's not just the food. He's watching outside the truck with an intense expression of determination that he not miss a single step of your return as soon as you come into view. Even a furry co-driver provides some challenges, but for me he's essential.

As a solo driver the biggest issue is isolation. For the most part isolation isn't a negative issue, but it can sometimes trigger unexpected problems. One example is running out of hours and not having a backup driver who can take over and finish the run on time. The solutions vary based on whether you're picking up or delivering your load.

If it's a pickup, the solution is usually to take that load away from you and giving it to another driver. That's frustrating for me because it means the money for driving that load just went to someone else. The next load assignment might be more miles, less miles, leave you sitting longer than a regular break waiting for load to be prepped, or even have your dispatcher and planners go home for the day and the next shift forgets you exist. Like I said, frustrating.

If it's a delivery, the solution could be another driver swapping his load for yours. For example, I was taking this load to Omaha, Nebraska. I ran out of hours, so the company sent another driver with a later delivery time heading to Chicago, Illinois. I just came from Chicago, but I will take his load to Chicago and he'll take mine to Omaha. Everything gets there on time and everybody is happy.

Another delivery solution is someone being dispatched to bring an empty trailer and taking the loaded one. The empty trailer gives dispatch and the planners options on where they can send you when time comes back on the clock. Sometimes, there won't be an empty trailer and the driver will just take the paperwork and load and get it where it needs to go.

Depending on the circumstances, sometimes the company just reschedules the delivery time and lets you get it where it's got to go when you can get it there. One of the hardest things for me is when the load assignment is late being assigned. Delivering a load due yesterday and not picked up until today drives me personally bonkers, but it happens fairly regularly for a variety of reasons I won't go into.

The basic problem is when you have a problem and can't go any further with your load, the solution is getting a backup driver or rescheduling the delivery. In the case of a breakdown, especially if it's the trailer, they usually leave you with the load and it gets there when you can. If it's a truck or medical problem, they reschedule or send someone to pick it up from you.

Solo drivers are very watchful of their clock. There's a Hours of Service (HOS) regulation that determines when they can drive and when they can't. It breaks down like this:

70 Hours On-Duty/Driving time per 8 days
14 Hours On-Duty time
11 Hours Driving time
8 Hours Driving time/30-minute break 

If we don't follow the guidelines and rules set up for these 4 clocks, we can get fines, tickets, and habitual bad behavior can lose us our jobs. So, we watch the clocks count down, work when there's time left, and take breaks when there isn't.

With a co-driver, the clocks still have to be followed individually, but together they're just not that important. Out of hours? Switch drivers, log the switch, and you're back on the road. The only exception is really when there's mechanical issues with the equipment or medical issues with one of the drivers. You can't drive a broken truck and you can't drive puking your guts up.

Back to isolation. Emotionally, isolation can be crippling or it can be freeing. Sometimes, you can experience both during the course of the day and it leads to real self-examination or real problems. Problems like depression, suicide, road rage, accidents due to inattention or fatigue, or just the vague feeling that something is missing that you desperately want in your life.

Many drivers fight isolation by spending as much time as they can in the truckstop restaurants, driver's lounges, or meeting with other drivers at their companies. Talking on the phone to someone you know will always answer the phone any time of day or night is another method. A lot of drivers also have entertainment in their trucks. Computers, phones, televisions, hobbies, pets, and cooking are several ways drivers combat isolation.

There are also interpersonal relationships between drivers during downtime. Some drivers find a willing companion for a few hours and some will hire that companionship when it's available. The stranger relationships don't hold any interest for me, so I occasionally meet my boyfriend when we cross paths on the road. We talk most days and compare locations just so we can meet face to face, have a meal, watch a movie, sleep together, or just sleep.

Most drivers are out on the road for days, weeks, and months at a time so when they can get home to their families and friends they're like the tired workhorses of the old days straining for the barn, a good meal, and a good rest. But, there's a lot of drivers like me. We don't go home.

The drivers who don't go home have a variety of reasons. Some are saving money, some don't have a place and don't want one, and some are just in between and haven't settled yet. I spoke with a veteran a couple days ago who lived in his truck with his wife. They sold everything and moved into the truck. When asked why, he said that they wanted to save as much money as possible while they were driving because they had to start over when they lost everything in the stock market crash. Makes sense to me.

For me, I have a home. I love my home, but I love my family more. They need that home, and while I desperately want to see them standing and succeeding on their own, I vividly remember trying and failing to make a living for myself and my young family. The worry I had then was often about having and keeping a roof over my head. That, at least, I can help alleviate a bit for my children and grandchildren. It's not much, but that I can do.

I started this post because the isolation I feel is overwhelming at times. I like being alone. Often I prefer it. But, there's just something so heartbreaking when I don't want to be by myself and there's no one there. The phone doesn't ring. The voices I love hearing don't pick up the phone when I call. The diner is empty. The driver lounge holds only echoes of arguments, laughter, and football commentary. It's like walking through a world filled with people who are figments of imagination.

On those days, I desperately want to work. No, I need to work. When that damn clock is fighting with me, I curl up next to my furry co-driver, sniffle into his soft ear and fall asleep. As I fall asleep, I pray, "Please God, don't let him fart."

Monday, July 17, 2017


Better late than never... I'll try to be brief, but, I'm not that kind of girl.
The Wedding

 My family got together in Lincoln City, Oregon for a memorial for my mother, a kind of reunion, and to help my cousin get hitched. To say it was an emotional rollercoaster ride for me is kind of mild.

First, I had to find a way to get there. Normally, my company would route a load there and back for a vacation, hometime, or whatever you'd like to call it. Unfornately, it was determined that even if we looked for a load, the truck would be sitting unprotected somewhere while I was with my family. As much as I disliked that I couldn't combine work and travel to where I needed to be, I understood. It's company property and I can't just leave it unattended somewhere. I envisioned a scenario where hundreds of dollars and impound lots were in my future. Nope. Not happening on my watch.

So, back to the problem. I have a dog. Dog could be boarded, but I just didn't like that option. Bus? Nope. Dog. Plane? Nope. Dog. I love my dog. A plane ride would've scared the crap out of him. After several discussions with work, it was decided that I could rent a car and drive from Denver, Colorado to Lincoln City, Oregon. They were even taking care of the arrangements and would reimburse me for the cost of the rental.

Well, it turns out they "couldn't" rent it for me. They needed me to rent it. Okay, whatever. I get to the rental agency and discover the flaw in all our planning. I don't carry car insurance anymore because I no longer own a car. You can see where this is heading. Twice the cost of the rental because I had to insure it, per day. Ugh! Fine! Fine! Whatever. I just want to go see my family! Let me go already!

I get in the car and take off! Whew! It's finally happening! I get to see my peeps! Not so fast Buck Rogers. I'm a truck driver. After driving the car to the truck to pack up the dog and my bags, I did a Pre-Trip Inspection. Okay, it's clean, nothing's obviously broken. But, hey, what's this? No washer fluid? No coolant? One tire has low air pressure? Fine. Stop and fill the tire with air. Pick up coolant and washer fluid. The washer fluid and coolant issues didn't come back up, but that tire? I had to keep putting air in it. Every day I had the car I had to air up the tire. It wasn't flat. Just slightly low.

I did get a $50 off discount on my next rental because of the issues. I probably won't rent again, but it's the thought that counts. While they're giving stuff away, can they give me back the computer battery pack that I left in the car when I returned it? Always something.

The drive was long, mostly boring, and surprisingly uncomfortable. I didn't think about the fact that truck seats are designed to be as comfortable as possible for the long hours we need to be in them. Car seats? They just aren't that comfortable for long distances. Nothing felt like it was positioned well, my feet swelled up, I had to stop frequently, and other than being able to drive anywhere at whatever speed I chose to, I really didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would. But then again, 1300 miles one way isn't cake in a truck either. Potayto potahto  I guess.

I'll cover the weekend with my family in another post, as I did say I'd try to be brief.

I get back to my truck and find it covered in dust, spiderwebs, and all the leaves, branches, and dirt that any vehicle would get sitting under trees in a dirt lot for over a week and a half. First things first. Bath time!

Get back to working and it feels different somehow. Like a shoe that you haven't worn in a while, so it lost some shape or comfort level or something. I don't know how to describe it. After being back a couple of weeks, it's normal again; but that first week was just hard. I don't know if it was the vehicle switching or if it's just because of how much I loved seeing everyone and miss them all. I still miss them, but I've got the groove back.

Walked into work to thank the guys who helped make the trip happen, and found one was "no longer with the company" and the other was in the hospital. I'm hoping he comes back soon. Nobody is talking about either of them. And...more than likely, I won't be getting the reimbursement I was told I would get.

Oh, and the money I spent on vacation? I needed it for taxes. Guess who's going to get late payment dents in her checking account next month? No, I did know about the taxes and chose to use the money I'd set aside. To see my family? Totally worth it!

Mom At the Beach (Don't hate...she loved it here)

Saturday, June 10, 2017


I was reading an article this morning where the question was asked, "Why aren't there more women in trucking?"

The answer is, of course, multifaceted and complex.

1. Money
2. Safety
3. Family

I've discussed money before, and I'm always interested in the miles I'm driving. The reason for that is pretty simple. Life revolves around money. You have it...bills paid. You don't have it...someone else pays your bills. I've been on both sides of this issue, having and not having. I prefer being the one who gets to decide for myself what, where, and how much I can do and have.

In the someone else pays your bills category, if you don't feel like a subhuman leech, then get off the planet. There's no hope for you. If you aren't making yourself feel crappy because you can't feed and house yourself and your kids without help, don't worry. There are millions of Americans and international citizens alike who are there to tell you what you can have and not have and how subhuman you are, even when you're doing everything you can.

The amount of money available in the industry is mind-boggling. It does not trickle down to the driving portion of the industry. Men still get a higher income on average than women. The yearly income is barely above "poverty" levels. For the work, stress, and hazards that come with driving, it's just not enough to keep any butt in the seat, male or female. Any driver who lasts longer than a few years on the road will not say they do it because of the money. It might keep the family fed and off the streets, but money? Nope. They're out there on that road because they either don't know anything else or they love it. (When I say love, I do mean love-hate.)

On to safety.

Any society has conflicts between male and female. Hell, sometimes even male and male and female and female. It doesn't really make a difference. An assault is an assault. A rape is a rape. An attack is an attack.

The difference in trucking is that when you start out, you are placed in a vulnerable position with a stranger. You are in a position where you have to decide whether your safety or your goal of being a truck driver is more important. Every day, you have to consciously choose whether to trust someone you don't know and can't easily get away from or leave the truck and your goal.

Many, many, many women have reported verbal, physical, and psychological abuses during their training. Unfortunately, these abuses are not limited to women. Men get abused and coerced too, they just don't report it unless it's something macho, like, "Bastard punched me and then threw me out the window!"

Women though, we're trained from a young age to please people, to be liked, to be fragile. A woman coming into the industry might have the goal to be a truck driver, but societal indoctrination plays a big role in whether they allow themselves to be a victim to the countless predators.

Every trip to the bathroom is an exercise in self-control and self-respect for me. I have to tell myself not to notice if someone is looking or talking. My head is up, my stride is strong, and I can say, "Hi, how are you?" and keep walking. My nature is to stop and really listen to the answer, but it isn't safe. I don't know if the guy in the black truck next to me at the fuel island is a wife beater. I don't know if he's a stalker. I don't know if he's got a teddybear collection, collects panties, or if he wears them. I DON'T KNOW. And I try really hard not to let my knowledge of possibilities and statistics run my imagination into the nightmare zone.

Most women grow up knowing they are targets. They know, from first-hand experiences, what it feels like to be a victim. At some point in their lives, someone they trusted or a stranger has caused them harm.

Now, take a truck driver's lifestyle. You've gone through training unscathed. Now, you're alone in a truck, surrounded by strangers every night. There is no real privacy. The drivers sit in their trucks watching you walk the dog, go into the truckstop to get what you need, then they watch you walk back to your truck. They know, where you're parked, if you're alone, and if they wanted to they could come to your truck and find a way in.

"Hey, my phone's not working. Can I borrow yours?"

"Do you have any (fill in the blank)?"

"Can you help me with something?"

I don't even fully trust the guys in my own company. I might sit in my truck and talk to them as they stand outside, but I don't get in other people's trucks. I also try really hard to avoid walking near a truck where I see someone sitting in the seat just watching outside.

Unless you're a moron, trucking life is dangerous, and you know it. Most women just don't want to risk themselves in that situation without a partner or husband to back them up. They're smart. But, like me, many women drivers don't have a husband or partner, and accepted the risks. Anyone with an ounce of self-preservation doesn't attack a trucker in his truck. They'll get stabbed, shot, set on fire, beaten with flashlights and crowbars, eaten by dogs, or all of the above and then run over multiple times.

If you aren't willing and able to protect yourself, don't become a truck driver. Period. If you become a truck driver and don't have that self-preservation instinct, you're a victim waiting to happen. Society says don't blame the victim, but I'm calling double standard on that one. If you know you're a victim waiting to happen and still want to drive, then change your attitude so you can defend yourself. Being proactive about defensive strategy is just smart.

Last on my short list of why women don't get into trucking is family.

We are a society at odds within our own homes. Divorce, single-parent households, single-income all know the lists. But, think about this for a minute.

Dad went out and learned to drive a truck to take care of his family. He's got a wife, couple of kids, dogs, cats, mortgage, car payments...
He's never at family dinner, school events, athletic games, doctor visits, car repairs, bill collection calls...

Okay, so what about the woman? Well, she left the kids with her parents and became a truck driver. Why? Hubby/Baby-Daddy left her with the kids and didn't pay child support. No? That doesn't work? It doesn't for me either. That's why I waited to start school after my kids were grown.

Any woman in a relationship with a man who is not on the truck with her is in for a world of emotional upheaval. Expectations and delivering on those expectations when you have a job to do that doesn't allow for distractions. Distractions get people killed out here. If you can't keep your significant others from guilting you and making you feel like crap because you're out doing your job, it's time to reevaluate.

I'd say the same thing to a man. Everyone involved needs to be on the same page. If my page and your page don't match, we need to reevaluate.

Driving is in my blood. I love what I do. Do I wish some things were different? Yes. Absolutely. This is my life. I'm going to live it.

Thanks for being here,

Renae-The Truck Driving Woman


I got to Omaha yesterday. Close to out of hours and nothing coming back on recap hours meant having to shut down for a 34. I don't mind shutting down, but I'd rather work. I know that sounds weird, but I really like working. Just driving all day or all night and getting to where I need to go. I like it.

This 34-hour reset was a little different. I needed to do a safety review for the company. So, I took a hotel room for a couple of days. Between the review and some basic housekeeping, I stayed, not busy, but not bored either. I got to say, "Howdy!" to some of the guys and gals at the office. I also got a 100,000 mile safe-driving bonus and a certificate.

Now, that I think about it, I don't even know how many miles I did drive with C.R. England. I know it was close to 100,00 miles. Another 10,000 or so for Celadon. This truck had 1100 when I got it in October, 2016. It's 110,000 now. Another 40,000 on the first truck with Hill Bros.

So, let's do some math.... 100,000+10,000+40,000+110,000=260,00. Those numbers aren't exact, of course, but essentially, since July of 2016, I have driven more than a quarter of a million miles. It makes the 100,000 miles safe driving placards seem puny. lol

.... Well, it's been a week plus since I started writing this post. Last week was super busy. I hit the next 34 reset in Omaha again. I thought it would shape up another awesome week or two before heading to Oregon for my family. So far, that hasn't been the case.

Live loading and unloading takes a 5-hour drive and turns it into an all day ordeal. I can use that time you boogers just wasted! It's totally frustrating to find my time used up before making any money. I'm enjoying driving and that aspect of the job. I see new places and old places all the time, each time with fresh eyes and a different thought going through my head. But, and this is a huge but, I'm not out here to go broke.

During training and for the first few months after training, I was B R O K E! No money, nothing reserved. No real resources to get the things I needed for my job, much less myself or my responsibilities at home. I thank God for the teammates and trainers I had. Decent people, every one of them, but generous? Nope. I think I got one meal out of any of them while I was drinking water from a bottle filled at the sink and living on points from my Love's card.

My Driver Manager (DM) changed several times and the real piece of crap was a man whose name I have chosen to forget. This piece of crap would schedule short runs, use up time, and then become unavailable to set up the weekend so you could work when you could (had the hours). Over and over and over, he'd set up one, maybe 2 runs for the week, and then leave you hanging out to dry. I lost weight, my house was getting eviction notices, and my attitude stank. I finally started writing letters and emails (because the calls I made weren't getting any responses.) I stated, "I did not come to WORK to lose my house and get skinny."

That did get a few responses, but it didn't stay consistent and I was just not getting anywhere with my financial stress levels. I took training classes and became a trainer. This upped my income level a little bit, but was still contingent on the loads and miles my students and I were given. The base pay rate was really so low that it wouldn't have made too much difference in anything other than whether I could eat a real meal once in a while.

When my income actually was less than that of my student's? I took a hike. I had a contract to complete, which I did, but when that was up I ran for the hills. Being roped into a contract on a new truck in a lease purchase program did not alleviate any stress whatsoever, so I booked it out of the new company as fast as I could. Hooking up with Hill Brothers has been a wonderful next step.

Hill Brothers is a local company out of Omaha, Nebraska. The pay is decent with a per diem attached to every mile you drive. Tons of resources, bonuses, and an attitude that customers, trucking company, AND driver are integral to everyone's success makes this a great company for me. They figured out fairly quickly that I like to work and will work myself to exhaustion before I'll call for a break.

No company or person is perfect. This weekend is the perfect example of trucking ups and downs. As I said, last week was the best! Tons of miles, run the load, grab and go, on to the next town. It was cool. I felt like the majority of my available work time was used AND, best of all, they were miles so I'd get paid for them. The last 2 days have been....not so cool.

Live unload and there was a problem with the shipment. The shipper sent different amounts than the order. They finally unloaded and released me, but a 2-hour job, became 5. Then, I get sent on a relay to pick up a load from another driver. This was a 6-7 hour job. To get
it unloaded? 48 hours plus. Most of it sitting in a truck stop. The DM did call and tell me he's got a load out as soon as I'm unloaded and he added $100 layover pay.

The layover pay helps alleviate some of my bad attitude, but it does nothing for my stress levels and my paycheck is still going to stink.

So, what to do with my copious amounts of time between when I picked up the relay and get it to the customer? I pretty much slept myself out on my 34 reset a couple days ago. The last 2 nights, I got pretty decent sleep too. I cleaned the truck inside and out. I can do some deep cleaning, bought a book called "Successful Women Speak Differently" by Valorie Burton, which I've started and appears to be something I can sink my teeth into, I can write, blog, make calls, sleep, walk the dog, and generally just do whatever I feel like.

Hmmm... looks like there are a few perks to some extended downtime. See, I'm smiling already.

Monday, May 22, 2017

New York Times "Alone on the Open Road..." Human Interest or Can You Do Better?

I read this article from the New York Times and was saddened. It's a step in the right direction, but it doesn't do enough. I hope there are more articles that are related to the subject of Trucking and Truck Drivers.

NYT interviewed several drivers and showed the Petro at Effingham, Illinois.

Aisha Gomez got into trucking to help her daughter through college to be a social worker. At the end of the interview with her, she literally says she walks with her head down. What?! Be proud. You are doing and have done a job that has destroyed relationships and big, tough men have walked away because it was too hard. It's hard to be away from home, friends, and family.

Women have been doing this job and every other "male dominated" profession since the beginning of time. We pulled together as a huge work force when our men went to war. We fed our families on farms when the fathers and sons left, or passed away. We entered the business world to create a better life for ourselves and those who followed us.

Women rock! Pick your head up. I don't care if 100 men stare. Let 'em. You're beautiful. You're doing something that not everyone can or will do. You stepped up to the plate and took care of business!

In an interview with an older man, he said, "If my grandkids do this I'll kill them." Then, why did you stay in trucking until you retired? Seriously, if a person of any age decides that trucking is what they really want to do, then who are you to make threats. I don't care if you have a budding rock star, poet, or gynecologist; you don't have the right to decide for someone else what their dream is.

The article discussed several topics, including driver pay as well as the lack of social outlets. Truckers are alone. Relationships don't work in the long run for a lot of drivers because their job doesn't leave room for other people. You lose the ability to converse, or your conversations become trucking centric, or you just don't have a frame of reference to make good conversation.

Many drivers choose to stay in trucking, but bring their spouse or significant other into it with them. Others choose to go it alone.  Either way, this is not a job that really allows significant interaction with other people. Social media, the internet, and cell phones have changed the dynamic from a few years ago, but even that gets hard. Some companies don't allow you to make calls while you're "working." Even hands-free calling is in the sights for regulations.

This is a hard job and distractions make it unsafe. That's why we're not allowed to text while driving. That's fine. That's better than fine. But, if it ever does come down to not being able to pick up the phone when your family, friends, or work calls it's going to get downright ugly.

Picture, if you will, spending all of your waking hours driving and listening to music, news, or whatever. You stop and get food in a noisy truck stop, get a shower, do some laundry. There's about 6 or 7 hours until you have to get rolling again. I don't know about anybody else, but those hours are important to get my sleep. I am NOT giving up my sleep time for anyone to tell me something they could have communicated during the time I'm awake and alert. I NEED that sleep to be able to drive safely.

Now, if your wife or husband can't reach you for most of the day, what's the reaction going to be? It isn't going to be flowers. It's going to be what were you doing? Where were you? Why didn't you pick up the phone? What do you mean you have to go to bed? Who's with you? I'm sure you see where I'm going with this.

You oldtimers who had to deal with the communication issues before the technology caught up, my hat's off to you. No, I don't want to do the job that way. I like my technology. Thanks.

I guess what I got out of the article in the Times was that somebody is paying attention. But, are they looking at it as a human interest story or are they going to look deeper? Truckers are alone. Okay, that hasn't changed in all the years since it became a regular job. That Petro sure has a nice restaurant, barber shop, laundromat, etc. But what about the hundreds of thousands of truck drivers who run out of hours and have to sleep at a weigh station or a rest area or just a parking area. No barbershops around there.

If you want to see trucking, do a ride-along with a truck driver. Don't just pull into a truck stop and think that's it. It's not. Not even close.

I'm in my company's yard for a reset. The closest bathroom is 200 yards away. The closest shower is 9 miles away. The closest shopping is the gas station 1/2 mile away. Yep, not a barbershop in sight. (I went into a barbershop for a haircut. The man said he wouldn't cut a woman's hair.)

Thanks for keeping up with my ramblings.

Renae - The Truck Driving Woman

Thursday, May 18, 2017


I'm gonna have to take a deep breath and chill for a moment. I hope you don't mind. It's been a long, rough day. Again. It's not that anything horrible happened, but it was definitely stressful. I've been up since 5:30 a.m. and drove 630 miles in about 10 hours. I only stopped twice on the whole trip.

Now, most of my days seem to involve the long hours but don't produce as many miles. Usually, that's because of shippers and receivers or going through areas where traffic is nice and thick, with stop lights, stop signs, traffic jams, and so many other wonderful things to slow a hardworking truck driver down. You've all been through towns and cities during rush hour or every block has a stop light. I don't need to describe it.

Shippers and receivers are the customers that we pick up and deliver the loads to. Sometimes, it's quick. In and out in about 20 minutes to a half hour. Other times, it's like being inside molasses and nobody but you seems in a hurry. Live loading and unloading is a pain in the butt when your bread and butter depends on the miles you travel in a restricted amount of time. But, sometimes, that drop n' hook that usually goes so smooth turns into your day from hell.

You pull into the customer with your empty trailer, talk to the insecurity guard with the chip on his or her shoulder, and put that trailer where they tell you to. Depending on the customer, you might just drop that, pick up your loaded trailer, and grab your bills of lading from the guard on the way back out. Or... you might have to go inside and talk to a shipping/receiving clerk and do more dancing around in order to get your loaded trailer and bills and be on your way. Of course, that guard needs to earn his paycheck on the way out too, so you gotta stop and see him.

The day from hell usually begins when you have to wait in a line of a dozen trucks all needing to do the same thing you are doing. Then you go through the guard, who provides clear and precise instruction through the maze of buildings. (This is highly exaggerated. Most of the time, I swear these guys are speaking ancient Greek.) Then you have to wait for the dozen trucks ahead of you to decipher and complete their instructions. Then you have to meet said drivers waiting in line for the clerk to give you more Greek.

When you finally get to the trailer you're taking out with you, you realize the landing gear crank is stiff or stuck. You get that fixed by spraying WD-40 and whacking it with a hammer. Then your reefer has an alarm code. What? The refrigerated trailer has a temperature setting and tells you when something is wrong. Thus, alarm codes. You figure out the fuel gauge is faulty and send in a breakdown report stating that it needs replaced. You finish that and go back to checking out the trailer.

This pre-trip inspection on trailers is essential. You don't know if it's been damaged or it was dropped off without it's marker lights working, tires in good shape, or mudflaps missing. You don't know if someone hit the fuel tank with a fork lift or even if it has fuel. You have to check it out and report the problems so they can get fixed. They send you to the repair shop and there goes half your day. That's money down the drain people! My potential income for the day stuck in a garage.

If those weren't enough to deal with, you also have to make sure that if your trailer is good to go, that the load is secure, sealed, and weighted properly across the axles. If the guy loading the trailer pushes everything to the front, you might be overweight on the drive axle of the truck. (Those double sets of tires at the back of the truck.) If the guy loading the trailer puts everything on the back, you might be overweight on the tandems. (Those double sets of tires at the back of the trailer.) There are adjustments the driver can make to even it all out, but if you pushed and pulled the equipment as far as it can go and you're still over somewhere, then you have to take the whole kit n' caboodle back to the shipper and have them rework the load. Bye bye paycheck for the day.

A non-Class A Driver's License (CDL) holder might say, what's the big deal? The big deal is that the regulations on transporting goods around the country on the nation's roads are so strict that we get special consideration by law enforcement in every state. They consider us a source of revenue. That revenue is brought in by giving truck drivers tickets, violations, out-of-service orders, and anything else they can think of. There are plenty of stories about officers making up stuff when they couldn't find anything real. Hand to God.

The condition of our paperwork, equipment, and ourselves is inspected with a fine-tooth comb. Everything. They have the right to inspect the inside of our trucks. Do cops get to go inside your house without a warrant? No? The truck is my living and working space, but I do not have any expectation of privacy. Companies are even talking about putting INWARD-facing cameras in the trucks to observe drivers. Any company or government agency who would require such a thing is asking for a lawsuit. Just sayin'.

So back to my day. My load was ready. It was easy to get to. It scaled out legally. Everything went smooth and all equipment was hunky dory. So why did I have a stressful day? One word. Traffic.

I swear people get dumber and dumber on Interstate 80 going through Iowa. I-80 is a very up-and-down highway through some lovely and some boring country in Iowa. Most trucks are governed well below the speed limit. Add that and the natural tendency to slow down pulling 80,000 pounds up a hill and you get a lot of people stuck behind slower moving vehicles. Drivers get impatient and do some really stupid and dangerous things.

I see the problem as being the terrain more than anything. Each truck travels as fast as it can, but it's below the speed limit going uphill. Downhill, they try to make up time. But downhill can mean coasting, which most drivers do. The problem with that is the trailer becomes the control of the truck. (That's dangerous in so many ways it'd take me forever to explain them all.) The difference in the truck speeds, up, and then down, and the different power levels of each truck really causes a mess. Add in a couple of fairly good sized cities to go through with all the car traffic and it takes a bad situation and makes it so much worse.

Cars zipping up and realizing that two trucks are stuck in a slow speed race to see who can get to the top of the hill first. Trucks with faster and more powerful engines pulling up and straining for that opening to get around the slowpokes. Pretty soon, you've got packs. Packs of vehicles all vying for the chance to get into a clear space and get on their way. Pack driving is dangerous, stressful, and makes me want to pull out my hair, puke, or piss my pants. All of which are painful and no fun.

The thing is, every truck on the road is working. That driver is trying to make the miles to bring in the paycheck. Car drivers forget that. We aren't out here to mess up their commute or be an obstacle to them in some way. We're not out here playing around trying to be assholes. We are doing our job. Every car driver that decides we're purposely causing delays in his day and does something stupid and/or dangerous in order to get around or get back at us is literally doing the equivalent of walking into a stranger's workplace, waving a weapon, and screaming at the employees.  

Are those drivers being educated on why trucks are doing what they're doing? Are those drivers being taught how to treat a semi truck on the road? Are those drivers even showing the minimum of respect to the guy literally bringing everything he owns or wants? Nope. Not even a little bit.

To the drivers of the cars that do allow us in when we need to shift lanes... To the drivers of the cars who don't hang out next to the trailer at 70 mph or in a curve... To the drivers of the cars with the kids who want us to blow the air horn....

To the rest of the drivers who get dumber and dumber.... I pray you live through it.

Thanks guys for reading and understanding,

Renae - The Truck Driving Woman

Monday, May 15, 2017

Mother's Day

Yesterday was Mother's Day. I'm a mother. I had a crappy day. It's not that the day itself was bad, but things seem to happen around Mother's Day.

When I was 14-years old, my present to my mother was a broken toilet. I was taking a shower and when I finished, opened the bathroom door. Within seconds I was passed out on the floor. I woke to the bathroom flooding, the tank busted, and a towel rack twisted like a candy cane. I don't remember anything after opening the door, but no one else was there so I had to have done the damage.

I kept turning the shutoff valve and it seemed to not be working. I panicked and started yelling for someone to come help me. No one was in the house. I called my grandfather, who lived next door. He came out of his house yelling for my mother. She was in the alley, weeding. I didn't know that.

My grandfather was running, well hobbling, as fast as he could and my mom just zipped past him like he was standing still. I watched it all from the bedroom window, still crying into the phone.

Mom came in like a whirlwind, twisted the handle on the shut-off valve and viola! No more water. Well, there was water. Lots of it. The bathroom flood on that floor leaked into the downstairs and flooded the basement bathroom too. It took all the towels and most of the blankets in the house to mop up the water and start the process of drying out the house.

She had to get a new tank for the toilet. Try doing that in a small town on a holiday Sunday! She did get one and I watched and helped her put it in. Then, she handed my brother a sledgehammer and we both watched as he demolished the old tank. It was his idea. She let him. She said it would be easier to throw away in small pieces, so why not?

I wouldn't denigrate Mother's Day as being a bad day if that had been the only incident. My mother-in-law passed away a couple of days after Mother's Day. I've had numerous accidents, injuries, and just bad news and crappy luck on the holiday. Yesterday, not an exception to the crappy Mother's Day rule.

I was running a load to Illinois from Kansas. A nice run, pleasant weather, and no real issues. I pick up a load assignment from the Illinois destination and move to the next one. That's the life of a truck driver. Moving from assignment to assignment is the whole job.

I picked up the new load and headed for the Iowa destination a little over 100 miles away. Rather than interstate travel, I had to take some state highways and go through some towns. I prefer interstates because the speed limit is higher and people are generally given more room to get around slower moving trucks.

The highway traffic was impatient. I was going the speed limit, but it seemed like everyone was in a hurry. I had at least 3 cars up my ass the whole time. After hanging out behind me for a little while, they'd start zooming past me like they were late for a hot date. What? No one can tell time or set an alarm so they're not running late? It's not like Mom won't forgive you for running behind. She might be more upset about the phone call from the hospital or the police saying you wouldn't be making it to any dinners in the future because you were stupid.

It's sad how many people risk their lives and the future holidays with their families because they don't leave on time, or early. It's stupid and I feel sorry for all the families who lose loved ones during holidays. Allowing yourself to risk your family and friends to always associate holidays with something so life-altering is just selfish.

Enough of my after-school special.

I get to my destination and call for a manager to meet me at the receiving office. It's hot, the doors are locked, I can't get out of the heat, and they're taking their sweet time. I call back again and then again. Finally, they get to the door and sign my bills so I can break the seal and back into the dock. Yay! I can feel the air conditioning in my near future!

I pull the truck forward to make room for the doors to open and that's when my stressful day goes to hell. The stack of pallets at the back of the trailer starts falling. I jump back as fast as I can, but the product still hit my hand, wrist, and arm.

I have to go to the office and track the guy back down so he can take care of the pallets that are laying upside down on the ground behind the trailer. My neck and back are starting to hurt, my head is pounding from the heat headache, and I'm still not done with this place. Getting into my truck is a no-go because I have to watch them clean up the mess so I can dock.

The cause of the collapse? Pickles. The pickle jars lost their lids at some point. The pickle juice soaked the cardboard, collapsing it. When I opened the doors, the unstable load on top of the pickles had nothing to hold them in place. The shipper regularly sends loads sealed and without any kind of restraints.

Me, as the driver breaking the seal and opening the doors, is the one at risk of injury. I escaped major injury this time, but I had another load of wood that fell. That one cut me a little as it fell. Again, another close call. It's just as easy to be blamed for the collapse and breakage and have that fall back on the company or the driver themselves. I didn't load or secure it. I just transported it to the customer.

The end result is wasted time and my back hurts. Jumping around trying not to get crushed is not a good activity for someone who has arthritis from old injuries. Oh well. It's not the first time, it won't be the last. If I get crushed under a falling load who gets to sue?

On a happier note, my kids sent me Happy Mother's Day texts. My aunt sent me a note and one of my friends sent me a note. I wasn't forgotten this year! Yay!

Thanks for reading about my Mother's Day,

Renae - The Truck Driving Woman