How Do You Keep a Trucker Busy?


September 18, 2016,  5:20 AM,  Loves @ Ripon, California

The 34 hours are up five hours ago and still no assignment.  I have a “preplan” which tells me a starting point and the city of destination for a load they might decide to assign me.  Preplans have been given and canceled a half dozen times before, so I cannot act as if these are actual assignments.  That means I sit here waiting until someone is moved to make a decision.  The same “someone” who knew for the last 34 hours where exactly I would be and when exactly I would be available for assignment.  I sent a simple question in a second reply to the preplan.  “When may I expect assignment?”  The answer was “Call Produce after 9”.  That is CDT, an hour and 40 minutes from now.

September 18, 2016,  6:30 PM,  Shipper Parking – Salinas, California

I finally got someone to answer the phone and they listed some instructions, told me to have the trailer washed out, added two more stops at shippers and told me to make the deadhead to Salinas, because “they have parking there”.  They do have parking in a big dusty lot with some pot-a-potties over at the edge.  No one was at the gate, so I parked and called the number I had been given.  One PM this was.

What I needed was an appointment, hopefully in the early hours after midnight so I can actually make the delivery on time.  The phone call goes to a menu, “press one for directions, two for appointments, three for shipping”.  I press two, of course, because I need  an appointment.  That takes me to another menu where appointments are number seven.  That takes me back to the first menu where two is the answer.  Somewhere along that route it was mentioned that, “Office hours are 8 to 5 Monday through Friday”.  Today is Sunday.

Hold that thought.  This will seem like a change of subject.  I promise it will all fit together in the end…

In Texas there is a big rivalry between the two big State Universities.  The University of Texas (UT) is the biggest because they  get two thirds of the proceeds from the Permanent University Fund (PUF).  UT’s mascot is a Longhorn Steer. Texas Agricultural and Mechanical University (Texas A&M) gets the other third. They are called “Aggies”.

The PUF was a land grant from which cattle grazing fees were the main source of income.  This was devised to provide a steady, reasonable source of income for what were then the only State Colleges.  A bit later, oil was discovered on the land grant.  On the Southern end of the UT Austin Campus they put the remnants of the original “Santa Rita One” oil rig that proved the presence of petroleum on the University land in West Texas. The result today is two world class Universities with dozens of campuses and hundreds of thousands of students.  They should not denigrate each other by their arrogant rivalry but they did – back when I was a UT student, at least.

As you might expect, the rivalry results in lame jokes that one set of students tell about the other bunch.  One of the most lame is just a piece of paper that the joker hands to the jokee.  The paper says, “How do you keep an Aggie busy (over)”.  Naturally, the recipient turns the paper over to discover the exact same text on the other side.

Okay, we are veering back to the trucking story now…

That inane bit of semi-humor is precisely the joke being played on me now.  It is not very funny.  I tried picking #3 on the first menu  and that resulted in a unintelligible syllable or two followed by the call being dropped. I sent my “Arrived at Shipper”  form-message by the satellite link and noted in the comment section that the phone was not being answered and did not go to voice mail.

There was nothing left to do but wait for a message from the Company and call the number again later to see if someone was answering.  So, I call hourly for another five hours with similar results.  Finally, on a #3 this time, an actual live voice says something muttered and I jump in to tell my Company and the Pickup number.  The muttering voice thinks for a bit and says, “That is for tomorrow, call back at seven.”  Quickly, because I feel a hang-up coming, I ask (because I dare not assume), “Is that seven AM?”.  Yes.

So, let us review.  I spent a day and a half at a truck stop to fulfill a Federal regulation that will allow me to drive eleven hours a day for the next seven days or so.  Then the Company set up an assignment that I cannot even get an appointment to load before another day and a half have passed.  In those three days total, I have inspected, cleaned, repaired, maintained, guarded and fueled the truck, taken the trailer to be washed (after I swept it), filled out paperwork, sent required messages, listened to and made note of instructions and driven exactly 137.8 miles, earning about $41 or a bit less than $13 per day.

These are the same people trying to convince me to sign a lease contract of two years duration.  Now, I am in the Pre-Alliance fleet.  This means that they are supposedly giving me a demonstration of how I will be dispatched as a contractor, in hopes off convincing me to take a big part of the risk off their shoulders by having me pay for fuel, maintenance, tolls, road insurance and repairs while paying a weekly lease payment on the truck itself that runs about $700.  I will also have to find and pay for my own health insurance.  Or I can do the COBRA thing on the Company insurance, which will roughly double the premiums.  In return for that all  that commitment, I can expect to make about 25% more per mile.  Assuming enough miles to make the payments.  If I cannot get enough miles, I might actually make less than if I were a “Company” driver.  A few days of bad weather or mechanical breakdown could actually put me in negative earnings.

I would still be at their mercy for where and when I am dispatched.  And, this is the way they will schedule my earnings when I commit to a two year contract?

Would you take that deal?  Well, I won’t either.

I have been avoiding the Contract Division representative who keeps calling me to ask if I want to commit.  I don’t want the Company to think I don’t want to be a Contractor, because then they might stop this “special treatment” they are giving me as an incentive.  I hate to think what “normal treatment” must be like.

On the lighter side, I had a really nice, scenic drive down the Western edge of the San Joaquin valley.   This was another of those “winding-road” trips.  I grabbed a few pictures blindly – without taking my eyes off the road. A few are almost good – see below.  This trip would also make a great motorcycle excursion.  In fact, about 30 or so motorcycles did pass me on the journey.


Above:  Blind shot out the window


Above: Blind shot over the wheel.


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