The Broken Brokers

Why are brokers broken in shipping today? I don’t understand the broker problem and how the industry got into such a mess with them. They can cut deals and take virtually all that they can hope to get away with. To the best of my knowledge, there’s no amount that they cannot weasel out of a shipping charge. If they can get a trucker to take it for a price, they can make the deal look like anything they want – and they do not have to disclose the information to the trucker or the shipper.

Today I had an odd experience. I talked to a broker that didn’t have kids yelling and a dog barking in the background. Cool! They were an actual business called Mercer Transportation. You’d think that is a good sign, right? I couldn’t even get basic information out of them, they told me to call the shipper.  All that the shipper would tell me was that he paid Mercer to take care of things so that he wouldn’t have to talk to truckers all day, so call Mercer! I don’t blame him. It took three phone calls and over a half hour on the phone to find out my appointment time and directions. At one point, they couldn’t even tell me the name of the shipper! They offered no excuses, they just kept putting me on hold.

The problem is that nobody understands brokers. I don’t fully understand. They are there to help shippers find truckers, truckers find shippers, and to be the information source for the two. It should not be that hard with today’s technology. They cannot handle the task effectively and the shippers and truckers are so used to this, that they just accept it. Not only do they accept it, they pay dearly for the service! In most cases, the shipper does not even know what the final amount of his payments actually make it to the truck hauling his load.

It seems to me that all the industry needs is a load board, but this turns out to be false too. Good freight rarely hits a load board. If it’s good paying freight, they go through the expense of a broker that has trucks.

I have to wonder, “Who is going to finally come up with a solution that ends the brokering madness and waste?” It’s got to be coming soon. Truckers are going out of business at a very alarming rate. A major cause for truckers losing their trucks is that the fuel surcharges are being skimmed by the brokers and their leasing companies leaving the trucker will very little for fuel. What will the brokers do when the only truckers left standing are large companies that broker their own freight?

The practices that brokers are pulling now are basically legalized robbery. They do it because they can. I would advise any criminal minded individual to skip the court system and jail time, go to truck broker school and learn to steal legally. How much longer then can do it, we’ll soon find out.

Wubi - Not The Perfect Operating System, But Closer

Linux peaks the interest of many. Free and better are the keywords that perk everyone up. However, if you are a novice with Linux, it’s a hopeless endeavor. The install alone is enough to drive you insane. One wrong move and you’ve formatted your entire hard drive. Dual-booting is automated with most installs now, but there are choices that many of us are not sure of. The instructions and help could not be more unclear. If you’re still left wondering what all this is about you can download Ubuntu for free and run it off the CD, but this is a SLOW way to run the operating system and you are not going to hunt down the CD everytime you have a few minutes to work on learning Linux.

The answer has arrived. It’s Wubi. Wubi is an Ubuntu install that installs like a normal Windows program. When it’s done installing, you will have the choice to boot to Linux or Windows.

The major drawback for truckers is that there is no easy install for aircards for cellular wireless Internet. It will work fine with wifi spots though.

You get all of the major programs for web browsing, photo editing, and an office suite. You also get games and other extras that come with most Linux installs. The best benefit in my opinion, is that you have an alternate operating system in case there are problems with Windows. This might save you from reformatting your hard drive or paying a repair bill because you can find out if it’s a hardware or software problem easily. If Linux is running fine, it’s a Windows problem.

It’s a great way to get started with Linux. You might save money and you will have a more reliable operating system on your computer.

Did we sell Northlake, Illinois To Another Country?

I was having a good day. Nice weather and the deliveries went well. I checked the map, found Northlake, Illinois, and headed for the pickup. I know that Northlake is still in the boundaries of the United States, but I didn’t find any Americans there. I went to a well known American paper company, so you would think if any American’s were in the town, they would be working there.

They did have a bunch of guys from a foreign country that were all knelt to the ground with there rear in the air chanting to a poster of Osama Bin Laden. I could have swore that followers of that guy terrorized our nation and that we were still on the lookout for him and his followers. Should I report my findings. No way, that we make me a racist, right? Besides, the owners of company are American and certainly they would report that they had been taken over.

The situation is getting ridiculous. Our government does nothing to protect us when these groups are allowed to gather and praise a sworn enemy with absolutely no fear. They are even quite proud and look down their nose at a lowly American truck driver. They yabber on in their foreign tongue and they can barely communicate in English.

Rainy Day In Illinois

It was just a bad day for trucking. Chicago in the rain sets a dreary mood for anything, and today was no exception.

My first delivery was to a business that nearly burnt down recently, so a bunch of trucks were lined up to use the few remaining docks. Then I dealt with Chicago traffic all day, for very low pay. It makes you wonder why truckers do this job sometimes.

Tomorrow is this grass roots trucking strike to top it all off. It most likely will be nothing, but there is the threat of some moron actually taking it seriously and trying to harm the trucks that are moving. Most folks will keep moving as the strike is pointless and we need to make money no matter what the price of fuel is. I’m sure the ATA is fueling this will all they can muster so they can promote their agenda of turning truckers into even lower paid slaves and getting as many illegal aliens in their place as possible.

Americans are asking themselves more and more how do we stop the political insanity. Not just truckers, but people from all walks are asking. The dwindling dollar and changing financial picture is pushing it, but so is all of the weird politics. Once again we are faced with only three weak choices for a president. No matter which side you’re on, you have to ask yourself if these folks are really the best we have to choose from and how the hell did it happen this way. It’s not that we’re living bad in the U.S. by any measure, we just know it’s going to get worse for a while.

I need a nice day and my motorcycle to forget about it all for just a while.

I’ve already turned off the talk radio. Too much of that and a person could go crazy, and I think some have. Radio is great because it makes you think. The problem is that you start thinking too much and you want to do something about the problems you just listened to. But what do you do? Nothing is going to change the insansity that is winding up. They’ll start on a subject like the Federal Reserve and a poor truck driver’s head just starts swimming with ideas on a subject that you really don’t know much about in the first place.

For now, I’m going to take a shower at a nasty Petro truck stop in Remington, Indiana, then head out for an all-nighter trucking run in the wind and rain. I’ll try to find some good rock n’ roll and see if that helps matters!

Idleaire sucks, sucks government funds.

Take a look at this site about companies receiving government grants for technology like Idleaire. If that link is bad, just do a Google search for Idleaire government funding. Here’s another link concerning the Idleaire bankruptcy.

The idea of Idleaire is that they construct a big gizmo in a parking lot that feeds heat/cooling and a few other extras to trucks through a hose that mounts in the window. At first glance, this seems like a good idea. Saves fuel and provides comfort and entertainment for truckers, right? I would not argue that, it does do this. The problem is that there are much better alternatives that do not get the attention and government funds. Truckers have the options of ultra-low emission generators and battery systems that are far better for the environment and more accessible and affordable than an Idleaire membership.

The idea of a government grant that does not need repaid, or is repaid on the chance a business may succeed make my skin crawl. This is America where we are supposed to have free markets. Idleaire was founded and continues to rely on politicians to fund their contraptions with OUR money. If a company wants to operate, they should be forced to compete in the market. If Idleaire could hold up the their claims of greatness, there are millions of trucks on the road that would use their services.

Idleaire sucks because -

  • The hose contraption is a pain in the ass to get mounted
  • They make you park in a nose in configuration that opens you up to accidents when you have to blindly back into the parking lot throughfare
  • They are expensive. Compared to on-board systems, you have to pay around $1.85/hr for their service
  • Spaces are limited. If services like these are forced on truckers as an only option, there are not enough spaces, what do you do without the ability to idle if you cannot get a space.
  • Drivers go long distances and waste fuel to get to Idleaire services when they have their company paying the bill.
  • Idleaire employees wake drivers up and cause lost sleep. They constantly bug you, even after you bought service.
  • They claim that they filter air for you, but it had better be a good air filter. The intakes are right next to the trucks’ exhaust pipes.
  • They have future plans that you must be a “member” to park. As parking places get more limited, they are going to force a driver to pay for a spot to rest.

I could go on and on about why Idleaire sucks. Just the fact that they have been relying on government funding for 7 years and still cannot survive without grants goes to show what a failing business model they have. One look at all the empty hoses in the truckstops, even during bad weather tells the story best.

Keep in mind that Idleaire is stealing the taxpayers’ money and politicians are allowing it. The politicians are just doing what they are programmed to do, suck up and get kick-backs from fellow theives. Idleaire is your thief, and they are proud thieves indeed judging from their promotionals.

If ever there was a company to boycott because they are pilfering government funds, Idleaire would be first on the list.

Computers In Contact Lenses

I came across some interesting technology where electrical engineers are working on contact lenses that produce computer generated displays. No matter how you view this, whether they would be horrifying, creepy, intriguing, life-saving, life-changing, or ridiculous, it is a great example of where tech and bio-tech are going.  Here’s a link from National Geographic that explains these bionic contacts.

My first reaction was, “No way, I’m not sticking a computer in my eye.” Then I thought, oh yeah, what if you were going blind and you could see with these? What if you could tell the computer in your eye to zoom in to avoid a collision while driving your truck? What if the display could alert you to an object in your line of vision that was an obstacle to avoid? Then I changed my mind.

The science is coming around, but so far, the only test subject have been rabbits that have experienced the technology for 20 second intervals. I bet it plays with their mind a little.

Like any technology, there are good and bad uses. You could fool or torture a person or you could make the blind see again. The possiblities of this are endless. With implantable lenses, you could have a computer permanantly implanted in your eye. I’ve often wondered when we would see windshield computers or reasonable glasses with monitors, but I never dreamed of putting it directly in your eye with a contact. My imagination isn’t that big, but I’m intrigued that other folks not only have the imagination, but the technological ability.

Here some things I thought of, and I bet we see a few of them happen.

  • Truck drivers get ultra sensitive vision ability
  • Law breakers are required to wear them to record what they see and what they’re doing as part of their parole.
  • Entertainment companies record first person what a person sees for movies
  • Near blind are able to see better
  • Video games are enhanced to the point where you could train a person in the ultimate of virtual reality
  • Book readers and movies are shown on them.

My biggest questions are how will they effect us physically and mentally? I’m sure the creators, good and bad, are wondering the same thing.

Connect To The Family Computer Instead Of Using An Expensive Laptop

So you’ve got a laptop that’s aging a little or you would like to buy the absolute cheapest laptop you can find. No sense risking the theft of a $2000 laptop. Would if you would rather put your money in the family’s computer at home instead of one that you only use for items on the road. Then there are other problems with a laptop on the road like security and extra licenses for duplicate software that you have on your home computer. The solution is simple and inexpensive. The ultimate alternative to the high cost laptop along with benefits no traveling geek should be without.

There is a chance that the speed of your connection will not be fast enough all the time, but other than that, PCNow will allow you to access your home computer and use it just as though you were setting in front of it. You can:

  • Fix problems on your home computer from your laptop
  • Run a less expensive laptop with a small hard drive, lower memory, etc. to run programs from home. If your home computer meets specs for better software, you can run it remote.
  • Stay legal and save money by running the software on one computer.
  • Download files to your home computer for safer keeping.
  • STAY SECURE! If you do online banking or other security sensitive activities on the Internet, PCNow is an added layer of security. There are still ways a hacker can capture your wireless activity, but it is more difficult if you are using a secure connection like PCNow.
  • Allow your family to enjoy a new laptop while gaining power of your old laptop
  • Keep your business records at home where they are safer. For example, you could upload weekly records to your desktop at home and delete them from your laptop.

I highly recommend this product for any trucker’s laptop, but especially to those using less expensive laptops.

Best Value GPS - Garmin Nuvi 360

I  keep an eye out for  good value GPS products. It takes some skill to learn to make them relevant to a truck driver, but they really are the best option. Trucking GPS  units are simply to expensive to be cost effective considering their inaccuracy. They do not give you the information you need, so why spend the extra bucks.

The Garmin Nuvi 360 is an adequate product for a reasonable price. This will be my next GPS  for my semi-truck. Over-the-road drivers easily get a return on investment within 2 months of owning a product like this if used correctly, but most important is that you always know where you’re at. You still need directions from shippers and receivers and you still need to check for truck routes the old fashioned ways, but you will never be lost to the point that you cannot get yourself corrected.

The False Driver Shortage - Again, Don't Buy It

I get irritated every time I see the same old “Driver Shortage” stories put out as “news” on the Internet. First and foremost, this is not “News”, it’s more of a press release put out for a group of ATA member companies that are lacking drivers due to the bad situations that they put their drivers in.

This article “Driver Shortage Changing The Face Of Trucking Industry  – from “The Trucker” website is so full of tired fallacies that it’s going to take a while to inform you. Let’s start with information about “The Trucker”. It’s a publication and website put together by Randall-Reilly publishing. Randall-Reilly is in the business of advertising, not news. They also have sister companies that collect data for targeted mailing lists and phone lists. Sounds bad already right. The Trucker is not for the trucker, it’s published for trucking companies, the vast majority of which belong to the ATA (American Trucking Association).

The American Trucking Association is the trucker driver’s enemy. It’s members are the large trucking companies. The ATA promotes laws that provide the least pay to the driver to increase profits. It’s their business and it’s what they do, which is ok. The problem is that they promote themselves as folks that are on the side of the drivers. They give the impression that they move the majority of freight when they actually move a much smaller percentage of overall freight than their competitors, the small companies and owner operators. They dream of putting the small business out of business or in a comprimising position that they can take advantage of. They succeed with lobbying efforts that no small business can afford to participate in.

The article first complains that the trucking industry is not getting new blood. No kidding? Look at the stagnet pay and work schedule that is unheard of by today’s youth. No longer is the workforce full of farmer’s and soldier’s that are used to working ALL the time. It’s no longer second nature to work yourself into the ground for less than minimum wage. Yes, you can make a good wage, but when you figure the hours used to make get it, it’s very low.

Then they go on to bragging about regional runs. With the hours of service regulations, regional runs pay even lower than over-the-road positions. Dispatch is trying to juggle getting drivers home with running miles. You will either earn low pay or falsify your logs to make the delivery schedules.

Then they say that middle-aged white men are shrinking in availability. So they’re saying this is the demographic that pulls the weight and their son’s are not interested. Their sons refuse to put up with what their Dad did. They grew up without seeing their Dad. The trucking industry has made their bed, but they don’t want to lie in it.

Then they talk about the worsening economy helping the driver shortage. What? A bad economy is good for the fine members of the ATA. What does this tell you? People must be desperate to accept what their offering.

Then they claim freight is stacking up without being delivered. This is the biggest lie of all. When have you seen this shortage at your store? This freight stacks up until the bid on hauling reaches an amount a small company or owner-operator can afford to take it and still clear a profit. They’re forcing us to be logistical geniuses they claim. No, they’re forcing you to be competitive.

The article ends with a VERY short narrative from an ex-driver saying it’s tough out there. No kidding.

I hope this article helps you look at this “Driver Shortage” misinformation objectively. Know your sources before you think you’re getting into an industry that needs you. One understated fact, it is very tough out there.

Burning Trash Out By The Fuel Pumps

There are sometimes when you just don’t believe what you’re seeing. Now I realize tha this is a little ways from the pumps. It might be ok and I’m sure this is common practice for this place, but would it be a better idea to not do this? You know, just to be safe. Maybe the garbageman would trade them fuel for trash removal or something. No wait, THERE’S A DUMPSTER right next to the fire!

How do some types of business get over regulated and others just passed over? You can see they got a pit that any inspector could see anytime they visit. I don’t know, maybe it’s to code?

My guess would be that this truck stop is so bad that it is agreed that maybe a fire would be a good thing to happen there.