The ATA, American Trucking Association, At It Again. This Time They're Green.

The ATA is well known for being against truckers. Their name is an oxymoron. It should be the American Trucking Company Owner Association. Nothing they do is for the driver, and very little they do is for the industry. They’re name makes them sound as if they speak for the entire industry. Now, they’ve decided to go green.

If you are a driver and/or owner-operator, I’m preaching to the choir. If you are not, hopefully you will understand that the ATA does not want fair competition among large company and small company trucking. They want to narrow the shipping industry down to a few tightly controlled large companies. This unfair competition will raise the overall costs of shipping, therefore hurting the economy in the process.

I found this article about how they are going green. Many of these points make sense and sound great for our world, but there are big problems for small and independent companies. They are problems the ATA will exploit to ensure a better marketplace for the companies that support them. “Green” technologies overall are not proven, and when you narrow the science down to the transportation industry, the theories gain even less credibility. If you look into the reasons that these “green” practices target the small company while leaving large companies open to do as they wish, you understand the motivation is not for ecological benefits. Lets look at these “green” practices and you decide.

  1. Governers – setting the max speed for all trucks.
    • Not the gain for safety you would think. Truck that are governed tend to cling to tightly and create gridlock on the highway system.
    • Speed is an owner-operator’s edge and the ATA is very well aware of this. While speed can be abused, an experienced owner-operator knows how and when to use it in his favor. Large fleets cannot allow thier inexperienced drivers to utilize higher speeds for a business edge.
    • The mechanics and gearing of specialized owner-operator trucks can allow them to run more efficiently at higher speeds while these configurations are to costly to apply to a large fleet of trucks.
  2.  Idle Reduction
    • Owner Operators and small companies know how to manage this without regulation. Their tight profit margins do not allow for wasted fuel. They do need to idle for certain circumstances and laws preventing it create an unsafe situation for everone as the drivers can lose rest without the comfort an idled truck provides.
    • The alternatives for idling can be restrictive and a small operator can make adjustments. Large companies want an across-the-board solution to ease the management in large fleet.
  3. Removing Older Vehicles From Operation
    • This would put many small operations under. They’re prime investment is their equipment and they’ve taken care of it to make it last. Buying new equipment just for the sake of ecological reasons would ruin their business. Large fleets can afford to take the hit and they would reap the rewards by removing competition.
  4. Fuel Tax Hike
    • Small increases can put small operations out of business. Large companies plan on using other tax shelters to make up for this loss, where small operations do not have the same tax relief.
  5. More Productive Truck Combinations
    • They are trying to force drivers into areas where it is not legal or safe to operate these combinations. Otherwise, this would be a good idea. The drivers pick up the slack here and take the blame for the accidents that this can cause.
  6. National Fuel Economy Standards
    • Another method to outlaw specialized configurations of  equipment, therefore taking the edge off of the small operator.

The biggest lie in the article, “Sometimes it’s about more than the bottom line.” That’s a big whopper of a lie from the ATA! It is always about the bottom line with the corporations they represent, always. It is actually illegal for a corporation to not operate in the interest of the bottom line. It is their duty to their shareholders to do everything possible to increase the bottom line. That’s fine and fair, we’re supposed to be in a capitalist society. There is no need to lie about it, unless you are trying to hoodwink the government and population.

If these “green” policies were fair and based on proven science, it would be self-evident. However they are biased and motivated by greed to eliminate fair competition and place an even larger burden on the individual driver. Yes, we need to be good stewards of the environment, but looking out for your neighbor is important too. The nation’s truck drivers work some of the longest hours in the harshest of conditions of any occupation in the United States. In the end, these policies reduce the chances of individual success of a driver and increase a driver’s safety and health risk’s.

Truck Lines Reject New Technology

Truck lines rejecting technology? You must be crazy. They jump all over it right? They only take advantage of it when it immediately and directly profits the company.

Truck lines love to show off technology gadgest they purchase. They show them off in trucking news magazines, new recruits, and customers. There big and really old one is satellite communication. It keeps you off the phone with the dispatcher occassionally, other than communication, it can actually work against you.

When you’re looking for a truck line, look for evidence that they want to communicate with you on the Internet. Look for a dispatcher that understands that directions e-mailed to you are great! Something this simple is rare in trucking. They are covering up the fact that the dispatcher doesn’t care and is hoping that you’ll figure out the details on your own.

Trailer tracking is great if they have it working correctly. This cuts down the time to find a trailer. Since you don’t get paid for looking for trailers, this is going to mean more money in your pocket. This is one rare instance where the term “satellite” actually means useful information.

Trucking lines may have the information, but choose to conceal it. A load may not be ready, they know it, and they give you the run-around to keep you from arriving to early and getting detention time. The dispatcher may know that if he is splitting up your schedule and you bring it to his superior’s attention, he will be at fault. This is where you get YOUR laptop and find out from the shipper when the real load information. A good smell test for this is the phone number. If your dispatcher cannot supply a correct contact, there is a reason. Sure as the day is long, your dispatcher knows how to contact the shipper and there is a reason behind the nonsense.

Qualcomm is the technology name you do not want to hear. Qualcomm used to be an innovator. Now, they’re just selling obsolete technology at outrageous prices to companies that hate change. In a day and age where wireless technologies abound, they’re still selling satellite tech laden with bugs.

You do want to hear terms like GPS and companies like AirIQ that are combining satellite and wireless for truly useful solutions. Some companies like CubeRoute are combine web technologies with wireless services to increase productivity.

No matter what the trucking lines come up with, you want to master your own laptop and keep track of your own activities so that there functions don’t interfere with the business of driving and getting paid for it.

Trucking Historical Lows In PerspectiveTo Today

In the words of President Barrack Hussein Obama, “The economy is bad and it’s going to get worse.” Now anyone knows what the Democratic is trying to pull off with the doom and gloom. They want you to think you need them to fix your problems. If you believe this, you’re in serious trouble and you need to get involved with some groups that can show you different.

So what is the trucking industry trying to pull off with their doom and gloom? It’s obvious, they want you to endure their hardships and make you believe that you need to do more with less. Next time you’re at the home terminal, check to see if they’re still driving that new BMW. You’ll get a different perspective on the doom and gloom. Down and out folks don’t have BMW’s and $1500 suits!

Yes, this may be the worse that you’ve ever had it. This look at the overall freight index shows that we’re really only at the same brinks of disasters of 9-11 and the Y2K computer scam. We made it through those, we’ll make it through these times. You are not going to die unless you commit suicide and you make shed some of the burdens holding you back and come out of this better than ever.

Use your downtime wisely. Don’t sit around with the negative people, find solutions. Use your computer and whatever other means to find answers. Yes, the answers may be bad, but you can come up with your plan of action. If you’re an owner-operator that’s losing a truck, accept the failure and move one. Trying and failing is one thing, failing and not knowing when to get out is another. If you’ve been turning miles at a loss with the false promise that a good load will be coming if you complete the loss, learn and move on. You’re just prolonging the lesson that you, your company, and your financial backers should have learned long ago.

You may love trucking so much that you can’t imagine doing anything else, but there are many things you can learn to supplement your income now. It all starts with learning about your computer and utilizing your skills to improve your education to fill the void that comes with the nature of trucking.

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The Trans-Am Leasing Scam

Any truck driver that has been around understands that a trucking lease is a scam. Very, very few ever end up owning the truck and those that do wish they would have just bought the truck. For some reason, truck drivers dreaming of owning their own equipment fall for the scam. Either inexperience or just believing the sales pitch sucker them in to the worst deal of their lives.

For this post, I’m going to use Trans-Am Trucking as an example, they deserve it almost as much as Prime. Go look at those links. You are going to see what appears to be alot of information. The quote all sorts of great average numbers and make some pretty loose promises. For example, Trans-Am claims “Sirius satellite radios in many tractors”. What a laugh! You can be sure that your luck will not get you that satellite radio, and even if it did, who pays for the service? Siruis radios are the least of your worries. What about the big ticket items?

Use your technology tools like Google to find the scams. I find this link about Trans-Am right off. This is a simple explanation of how this driver was put out with a lemon of a truck and then given excuses as to why there were no loads 2 months into the deal. Keep searching for posts like these and look for a pattern. Gather up the complaints, then ask Trans-Am trucking to provide a copy of the lease you are going to sign. Chance are they will not provided this until the end of your orientation, but it’s worth a try. You are going to find all sorts of escape clauses and vague language in the contract for them, and none for you. The truck driver is setup to take fault for everything. The benefit plans are so vague they can escape just about any part of the contract.

I’d be the first to tell you that using the Internet to find information is difficult. Companies post bad information about each other all of the time. If Prime Trucking wants to make Trans-Am trucking look bad, they write a post. However, these posts will be in a standard format with no contact information and their complaints will have little or nothing to back them up. Learn to filter for good information.

If you’re going to operate a business, you’ll need the ability to make decisions. Decisions on every aspect of trucking are crucial in the drivers success. If you are locked into a companies system, you are NOT a businessman. Don’t let them fool you into thinking you are. You are a company driver who has forfeited all rights and benefits provided to employees. Use your common sense. If you are a new driver, do you really think that leasing a truck with no real experience is in your best interest? You have no idea about a very complex business with very thin profit margins. Your chances of success are almost non-existent and you’ll be back in a company truck in short order.

Are you still thinking about a lease? I hope not. I’ve no vested interest one way or other. I have just seen so many drivers get stuck with these plans that can ruin their careers and any chance of financial success that I will do what I can to change it.

Unemployment woes lure the unemployed to the trucking industry.

Trucking has long been the job of last resort to many. I am included in those lured to the greener pastures of trucking. When I came out of the Army, there was very little employment for a 21 year old with no job experience other than what I received in the Army. The Army’s advertising slogan, “9 out of 10 employers” prefer veterans just wasn’t true. I couldn’t find 1 in 100 that would hire this Veteran. Who hadn’t dreamed of being a trucker as a kid? I followed that old dream and headed off to trucking school.

At trucking school, I found many people that had been laid off or out of work. Nobody there was previously gainfully employed at anything that resembled a good living wage. This was 1990. While not horrible times, there were plenty of people that just couldn’t find good paying work. Most were non-skilled and trucking was the first time they were required to get skilled for decent pay.

So here we are in the worst employment situation that I’ve seen in my lifetime. I’m unemployed again. This time by a highly skilled technology sector. 6 months ago, I left trucking and returned to technology, only to be laid off again. I’m resisting any urges to go trucking simply to keep employment. It doesn’t fit my family lifestyle and then there’s that little secret that nobody thinking of trucking thinks about, the trucks aren’t moving enough to make trucking pay.

If you are thinking of a trucking “career” path. Here a some things to think about before you do.

  1. The word career is a pretty loose term to describe trucking. One major accident and you will have no career. I’m not talking just a negligent accident, ANY major accident red flags you. Think hard before you apply your last resources to a risk like trucking.
  2. You are going to be recruited by many big trucking firms with big promises. These promises are lies and/or exagerations. They will pay for your trucking school if you survive a year. It’s a big if. As you close in on the payoff date, they will do anything they can to get you to quit.
  3. If your relationship at home is bad already, trucking will finish it off. Don’t lose your family over trucking. Trucking requires long periods away from home to make a good wage.
  4. So you know a trucker who made it good, why can’t you? There are many different types of people and trucking does suit some well. Some do well simply because they are miserable at home anyhow. Some simply love the road so much that nothing else matters. Really evaluate yourself well before you think you are a born trucker like these guys.
  5. In bad times, freight still moves, but slowly. Trucking companies gather as many low payed inexperienced drivers as they can during this period. Their good runs are filled by drivers that have survived everything thrown at them at the company is using them as their spokesmen.
    1. Newest drivers are shown some good runs so they don’t leave immediately, then they slowly start giving the lower paying runs.
    2. The lowest paying loads to the drivers are many times the best paying loads to the company. Short runs with long dock times often turn large profits to the company. They’ll give you a low hourly pay, while the truck earns big pay to sit idle. This is why they want you to make sure and report down times to them.
  6. Never lease a truck. Never. In my 19 years of being around trucks, I have never known anyone that did this successfully and I know many that have failed. I don’t care what they tell you, this is a bad deal. Ask to see a contract for your lawyer’s review before you sign and it will not be provided. You will be ran through a session that is well-versed by the leasing company and you will sign while you are excited about their hyped claims of success.
  7. If trucking is truly your last resort, by all means do it. You just might get by and make a few bucks. Don’t expect much and don’t complain once you’re out there. Use technology to work on training for an alternative job the entire time you’re out there.

The biggest advantage today’s truckers have is information technology, so use it! I would never plan on trucking being there for you from one day to the next. An accident, serious violation, illness, or circumstance is a career ending incident. High blood pressure on a physical, you’re out of a job on the second positve check. Diabetes? You’re out of the game. Time behind the wheel is a recipe for health problems. Sooner or later, all truckers fall victim to it and are left with little to no benefits. Insurance companies even have an entirely different set of contracts just for truckers where the rates are much higher and benefits much lower.

Before you head out, make sure you have the ability to connect to the Internet. A laptop with a connection is an absolute necessity to maintain communications with loved ones, to stay entertained, and to educate yourself.

Super Cell Phone Technology And Why A Trucker Should Wait

New super phones are out and ready for the picking. Phones like the G1, IPhone and Blackberry Storm are out and ready. These phones are amazing and I suggest that every truck driver should be looking at them. They are revolutionionizing the way all business is done and if you’re going to compete, you’re going to need to excel at using these phones.

Some of the reasons you are going to need one are -

  • Unparralled communications. There is going to be no excuse for a dispatcher to send you anywhere without highly detailed instructions. The phones are capable of almost anything you’ve seen on a computer.
  • They are going to be mainstream. No longer can a dispatcher claim that he does not have the time or skill to use a computer. When common applications are right on everybody’s phone, the “lack of computer skills” excuse is going to be the equivelant of saying, “I don’t know how to use a telephone.
  • Your competition is going to use them to their full advantage, you will not be able to compete. If it takes you the usual 3 – 5 phone calls, a stop to get local information, the time to fix a wrong turn, etc., but your competition can do it all with one document sent to their phone, you are going to fall behind quick.
  • Shopping for fuel, service, parts, and anything else is no longer going to be a game of luck. For example, you will be able to put a message out that you need a PM service and shops can announce their availability, bid on the job, show you references and ratings, etc.

There are many more actions that are going to turn these devices into a trucking businesses life blood. Information is going to become almost as important as fuel.

So, why wait? I bet you’re ready to hop on board. A few hundred bucks and you’re in the information game big, right? Not so fast, there’s a snag. The super cell phone stuff doesn’t work right yet!! As usual, the cell phone companies have turned these gadgets loose without full testing, common sense pricing, or a clear vision of what they should do. 

The G1 Android operating system is a free operating system, but the software developers are unclear about what they should develop. The providers are unclear about what they are going to allow you to place on your phone. The pricing is confusing and the spotty T-Mobile coverage is very limited.

The Blackberry Storm is a marketing plot from the core of the system. Additional charges apply for everything you want. It even cost money just try an application and many of the applications are lacking.

The durability of the super-cell-phones is very weak for a trucker. Imagine watching these phones disintagrate under the vibrations of a truck, because you’re going to see it happen. They have very sensitive devices that were never intended to take a beating. Drop one of these while you’re loading and it’s all over.

The battery life is very short anytime you use the an application that involves the screen.

Until the cell phone companies and electronics manufacturers come to their senses, keep your laptop going. Any service available on a cell phone is going to be available for your PC with high speed mobile internet. Keep researching what the phones have to offer and keep an eye out for a solution that you can tailor to trucking. I’m keeping my shock-proof, waterproof, and idiot proof heavy duty phone until the rocket scientist get their cell phone technology up to par.

Mobile Broadband Router For Your Truck

Wireless Internet for the truck is almost essential for truckers, the equipment leaves much to be desired though. Your provider uses cards that you insert into your laptop. Now you have a card that sticks out of the edge of the computer that can catch and break. You also have to attach your wireless antenna leaving you tethered by a cord. This is a mess in the cab of an already crowded truck.

There is a solution that fixes the mess and provides the option to share your connection. You need a mobile wireless router.

A router will enable you to plug in your card to an external device instead of your laptop. You can stow this device in a safe place and your signal is transmitted from the device to the wireless card that is already in your laptop from the factory. If you have a co-driver and/or spouse that wants to use the Internet at the same time, you both can logon to the same Internet connection. If you open access, you could even share with a fellow driver in another truck. This could even earn you a few dollars, just ask for a couple of bucks for access to the password that you setup. If you’re in a good area, your fellow trucker gets a good connection and you earn a few bucks while you sleep.

There is some setup required, but most folks get through it ok. It’s a little expensive, but cheaper than breaking a connection card and you save time. As soon as you start your computer, the Internet is ready to go, just like you’re at the house with a computer plugged in to cable or DSL.

How to use Delicious Bookmarking To Improve Your Surfing

Bookmarking is an important function for improving your surfing. It eliminates search times for sites that you already know exist. If you’re not already using them, every common browser has a “Bookmarks” tab in the menu. Most users simply choose to bookmark a site and never use the function to organize the bookmarks. When you do organize them, you have so many that it turns into a boring, time consuming chore. Delicous is the best utility I’ve found to solve the orginization problem and even enhance bookmarking to an entirely different level.

Delicous has very short and simple instructions to follow on their site to take all of your bookmarks and import them to their website. The most difficult task would be exporting your bookmarks to a file and then importing them. If you can find the function in your browser to export your bookmarks to an html file, keep track of where you saved that file, then use the function on Delicous to import the bookmarks, then you can do this task. Bookmark orginization solved.

As for the added functionality -

  • Suppose you find other truck drivers that use Delicous and you would like to see what websites they use, Delicous allows you to do this.
  • You can search every other person’s bookmarks that are “tagged” with the terms related to trucking, travel, roads, etc.
  • You can choose which bookmarks you want to be private and which you would like others to know about.
  • You can judge whether or not a bookmark is popular by how many times it has been shared by others.
  • Google may return quirky results, Delicous returns results that are much more targeted to what you are looking for and you can tell how many other folks judged the site worthy of a bookmark.
  • If you’re advanced enough, you can add Delicous to your website, Facebook, or other external web publication.

These are just a few suggestions, you will find more. Information is your best weapon in winning the war against truckers, Delicous is one more weapon to add to your arsenal.

By the way, if you’ve heard the term “Web 2.0″, this is the type of application that they are referring to. It uses a democratic approach in presenting information to you. Web 2.0 applications like this are much easier to use than older web applications and I think any trucker will appreciate this style of application.

Your laptop can get you loaded quicker.

Your laptop can be a powerful tool, even when it’s not running. There are 2 ways to make money with it not running. The hard way is to write web applications and create useful content that draw customers. The easy way is to place it on your steering wheel and look busy.

The easy way plays on the old stereotype of the ignorant trucker. For years, due to lack of communication, truckers have been sent to wait on a load and left to rot in the shippers parking lot waiting. The shipper figured if we were stupid enough to wait, why hurry? Lately, we’ve gained enough communication to do just about anything our dispatchers would refuse to do for us previously. We can find loads on a load board during this long wait time, get a better load, and leave the shipper with no truck. This really aggravates them.

My company has never left me in this situation yet, but my truck looks like an owner operater truck and it has a family name on the door. The shipper assumes I’m an owner operator. When a shipper looks out his window and notices a trucker with a laptop on the wheel, it strikes fear into him immediately. He figures that you’re looking for another load and that he may lose you. Especially if he thinks there is better paying freight in the area.

I caught onto this when everybody passing my truck would ask if I was looking for a load. They assume that’s about as far as truck drivers have come with a computer, and I’ll let them keep thinking it. More than once I’ve been bumped ahead of others while my computer was on the steering wheel. So, keep up the “stupid trucker” image going, it can come in handy!