After working hard and steady for several months, I couldn’t make my schedule work out to minimize my time off around Thanksgiving. So I decided to take the whole week off and pick up after the holiday. After all, it was a much needed respite. It was nice spending time with family and friends. During my holiday, I did a considerable amount of driving the four-wheeler. During that time, I made some observations that are the foundation of this post.

Being in the four-wheeler (car) with my family, and having experience as a truck driver caused me to make some observations, “from the other side of the picture”. Many in our industry lament about how we should get more respect for what we do. I totally agree, BUT… That is where the story begins.

While driving in our car, I began being critical of those truck drivers that I shared the road with. I noticed that many didn’t use a signal to change lanes. They seemed to be quite aggressive with their speed and cut in front of the cars at times. Sometimes, even somewhat tailgating the cars they followed. Having the understanding of driving a big truck, I know why they did most of what they did. Yet, it was imprinted in my mind what the car driver’s experience of driving around a big truck was like. If I was a regular car driver, I could see why many people are not really fond of trucks.

After the holiday I had to go back to work. My critical observance of truck drivers continued. After being out of the truck for a week, I felt good about going back to work. As I left the house and started on the road for another week, my frustration with truck drivers continued. I started to notice things that caused me to ponder the whole respect and courtesy issue.

I think here is where I acknowledge that the actions of a few don’t define the lot. An example of this is where one bad cop doesn’t define all law enforcement. One lazy kid doesn’t define all youth. I have run into some real pricks that were cops but most are pretty reasonable. I’ve encountered some kids that have had it pretty easy and don’t seem to know the value of a dollar, but most kids really only want to know what is expected of them so they can meet the grade. Truck drivers aren’t really that different. Most of us are really safe and considerate. We are just trying to make a living for our families. The problem seems to start with what is expected.

Today, drivers are taught by schools and hired by self-insured carriers where they are taught only what that company wants them to know. Courtesy doesn’t seem to be one of those things. This lack of courtesy isn’t limited to the big company drivers. It seems to be fairly common across the board. The only common factor that I see is that most of these drivers are not self-employed. What that says, I’m not sure. I can speculate but that isn’t fair to those that I would be wrong about. What I can say is that we need to take a long hard look at ourselves before we start asking others to give us respect.

There are many things to point to that could be improved. One such thing is to briefly turn your lights off and back on, instead of flashing your bright lights, to signal the passing truck to pull back over. Another is when you catch up to another truck on cruise control, pull out to pass and they speed up. Yet another is the infamous “elephant races” that take place when under- powered trucks try to pull a hill and refuse to move over to clear one lane for passage. I can’t count the times that I have witnessed a truck pulling out in front of a car that causes the car to hit his breaks when a little patience by the truck driver would have allowed that car, or a few cars, to pass without really changing the truck driver’s driving time. Each of these moves causes an adverse opinion of the truck driver.

It matters not only how you present yourself on the road but also how you present yourself when you stop. I have experienced trucks parking in the fuel island with no regard for other drivers. I understand this when it is slow and there are plenty of open pumps. I don’t understand the blatant disregard for the needs of other drivers that you are familiar with. Drivers also do other disgusting things like leaving the bathroom without washing their hands. Having a conversation on the phone while using the stalls. Leaving trash and paper in the areas they use for someone else to clean up. Even wearing T-shirts that don’t cover their guts and presenting themselves as slobs.

The real topper to my week was watching a C R England (blue) truck pull up along the front of the parked trucks at the Loves truck stop in Lost Hills, CA. Right there, he jumped out with a screwdriver to steal a steer axle hub cap from a parked truck and put it on his own truck! When I asked the guy why he stole the cap he responded that he would never do that.

On my return trip home I pondered all that I had experienced and observed over the past week and pondered why these things had become so prevalent. What I came up with was as follows.

In the last 20 or so years, driver training has taken place in truck driving schools and at self-insured carriers. Seldom does an old seasoned driver ever train a new driver. Newbies are only taught what they need to know to operate the machine. They are not taught the knowledge of experienced drivers. They are not taught courtesy or respect. That seems to be an after thought.

Part of pointing out a problem is to offer a solution to said problem. My solution is to promote standardized minimum training requirements for new drivers. Take a look at That is a site that has some real guidance for driver training. The second part of my solution is to repeal the self insurance provision for large carriers (Click here to learn more about self-insurance). That would require all drivers be insured equally. No longer would large companies simply look for a warm body to fill the seat. They would be looking for someone to stay around. Someone that is safe and well trained.

It is up to us. Before we can ask for respect from other people, we have to make sure we are worthy of that respect for ourselves. The challenges of our industry must not only be met, but led by our most experienced drivers. We all have a part in the future of trucking. Your question is what are you going to do?

Cost of Living

Today I have a topic that few others ever touch…  “The cost of living.”

The topic is often painted with a broad brush. I would like for us, as an industry to open up this discussion now as we are in the midst of HOS changes, a growing economy, and continued rule making. Now is the time to set the stage for the industry future.

I think going forward from here requires us to define what is reasonable to expect for our labors. This is not about what the market willing to pay, but what it should pay. You’ve heard the old line that truckers can’t agree on anything.

Well I’ve made the argument many times that there are three things we all can agree on,  #1; We need more pay,  #2;  We need full healthcare and,  #3; We need a reasonable retirement.

To get to these things we need to decide what reasonable pay, health care, and retirement are. Then we as an industry need to demand these as a standard for our services.

As regulations change we need to demand reasonable compensation for the effects of the regulations. Cost-of-living is usually defined in dollars. Because cost vary from one part of the country to the next you have to think in terms of man-hours exchanged for goods and services. I.e. what will one hour of labor buy you?  My father-in-law, in 1976, was a company driver that did OTR. In ’76, if you worked long haul, you were definitely middle-class. You were able to provide for your family very well.

My question today is, “what is reasonable to ask for as drivers?” How much does it cost, and how does that breakdown in cents per mile?  (Use national averages. Based on 10,000 miles per month.)

Things to consider in your cost-of-living are;  house payment, food, miscellaneous household expenses (such as clothes, utilities, etc.), transportation expenses (like car and insurance), health insurance, life, dental and optical insurance, and co-pays. Also, the amounts not covered by insurance. We should also include retirement, savings, and money for recreational events for the family.

Healthcare expenses and retirement are two of the most important factors in our business today. Healthcare cost varies greatly from having no insurance to full coverage. There are many policies and plans out with a variety of deductibles and coverages.  Take time to find the one that is most suited to your budget and situation. For company drivers, you may have an option of purchasing your healthcare through your employer. If you can, often time that is the least expensive route to go, but not always. Just remember your total health care costs include not only the cost of your insurance but the cost that insurance doesn’t cover. Total health care cost can usually be estimated at around $1500 a month. Included in your healthcare costs should also be a good dental and optical plan. With the elevated cost of dentistry, many dentists are finding it hard to stay in business because it is a luxury fewer and fewer of us can afford.

Retirement is another major expense that very few of us drivers can afford without help. The amount of money in a personal retirement account that you need for your retirement is dependent upon your living situation. How much money you wind up with in your personal account depends on how aggressive you are at contributing to your retirement and how many years before you start your retirement. It is reasonable, with today’s dollars, to expect and need a retirement account worth a minimum of $500,000 at maturity. At a 5% interest rate this would bring you about $25,000 per year. Combine that with the Social Security and Medicare and possibly AARP benefits, you might have a reasonable standard of living in your retirement years. When calculating your need, allow for an average of 3%  inflation per year. If you deposit $1000 per month in an IRA for 30 years that would give you $360,000 plus interest earned. For a driver running 10,000 miles per month that would come out to $.10 a mile for your retirement.

STATISTICS to consider:

  • The median income in America is just under $50,000.
  • Economics is determined by the exchange rate of man-hours to goods and services. Money is simply the medium used to make this exchange
  • 60 to 65% of health care spending comes from programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, Tri-care, The Children’s Health Insurance program and, the Veterans health administration.
  • US Census Bureau reported that a record 50.7 million residents (which includes 9.9 million noncitizens) or 16.7% of the population, were uninsured in 2009
  • a 2000 study in five states found that medical debt contributed to 46.2% of all personal bankruptcies, and in 2007. 62.1% of all filers for bankruptcies claimed high medical expenses.
  • The price of a home in 1963 was $18,000, 1980 was $64,600, 1990 was $122,900, 2000 was $169,000, and in 2010 it was $221,800. With a high of $247,900 in 2007.
  • In February of 2000, I received a letter stating that fuel prices up to $1.199 no fuel surcharge. For every five cents of increase in fuel price after that there would be an additional 1% fuel surcharge.

As a rule of thumb, driver pay and fuel costs should be about the same. Not including insurance benefits.


Start by making a list of your entire home expenses, not only the ones you have, but the ones you should have. Then, take your average miles per month and divide the amount of your cost by the amount of your miles. This will give you a picture of how many cents per mile you need to make to pay your bills. Having that knowledge is the first step.

  • Use that information when you seek employment or ask for a raise. If an employer says that it is too much money, then you show him your list and ask him what you don’t need. Making your employer aware of your needs may be the first step of getting closer to providing those needs.
  • Promote the full disclosure of rates as they are paid from the shipper to the receiver. Use that information to show how much is being kept from you or at least what percentage of that you’re being paid..
  • Use your CSA score to increase your pay. With the new regulations coming, your driver score is more important than ever. A good driver score will be worth a lot of money to a company. Use it to your advantage.
  • Your personal hygiene is probably as large of a factor in your message being received well as the presentation of your need itself. There is no substitute for smelling clean and wearing clean clothes. After all you are presenting yourself as a professional.
  • Education is the key to making good decisions. Always be aware of what your options are. This may be information about how much the competitors pay if you are a company driver or lease owner operator. It may mean keeping up with current events in the industry such as changing hours of service rules and other rules imposed by the FMCSA. Aside from road dog radio, there are many publications about the trucking industry to gather information from. One of the most dependable is the publication by OOIDA called Land Line. Another is a free publication called Overdrive Magazine. You can even receive the digital copy of each. Find a publication that can be sent to your home every month or viewed online to keep you abreast of changes you may not be aware of.
  • I recommend that all drivers, including company drivers, join one of the several driver advocacy groups. My personal favorite is OOIDA. Then make your opinions heard by the leadership of these groups. They have the power to lobby as a group that you don’t have as an individual. If you support these organizations, consider contributing to their lobbying fund or PAC.
  • I also recommend that you all, if you don’t already, call your federal and state senators and representatives often to express how you feel about issues. It’s not hard and you don’t have to be a really good public speaker. Just call the White House switchboard at 202 – 224 – 3121 and give them your zip code. They will then put you through to your representative or your senators. Leave a message with their aid and your opinion will be registered. Also, take a look at Sometimes it seems like they never listen but your vote and combined voices are the only things more powerful than lobbyist money.
  • Have conversations with your fellow drivers and point out how much more money we need than we are being paid. Not in a whining way, but in an educated way. Ask your fellow drivers to get involved to help make a difference. Remember, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease”.
  • Holding down Inflation in the United States can no longer ride on the backs of truck drivers. We are not responsible for inflation created in the market simply by trying to provide for our needs and our family’s needs. Controlling inflation is an argument that’s used by many to keep us poor so others can profit at our expense.

Arm yourselves with knowledge. Have conversations with other drivers, not to find your differences but to find the things you have in common. We have the opportunity to make our future better if we will step up and be heard. We can ill afford to let a few others speak for us without our input.




This week has been a special week for me. I share my birthday with Veterans Day. This also was the week that OOIDA held the annual Truckers For Troops telethon. You might guess that veterans hold a special place in my heart and I think we should take better care of them. Our military people are taught the meaning of patriotism in a very physical I started asking myself what it means to serve our country. That is what I want to share with you.

I was fortunate enough to be too young to go to Vietnam before it ended. After that, America enjoyed a relatively peaceful time. There were conflicts that came along and I don’t ever want to minimize the service of anyone. At that time, my country didn’t need me. By the time Desert Storm came along, I was too old to go. The military was looking for a younger man.

This has left me in a real strange position. I love my country and would fight for it any day. Yet, I am not a veteran. I never will be. I will never be honored for my military service to our country. At the same time, 2 of my 3 best friends are Vietnam Vets. My oldest brother was a vet from the same war. A guy from my church got drafted and then returned with part of the muscle on his left arm blown off. I feel a deep appreciation for the fact that I didn’t have to go to war because of the sacrifices my friends made. I have a cousin that was a chopper pilot in Vietnam Nam. I remember when he came home after his tour showing me his helmet that he wore. It had a bullet hole through the top of it barely missing his head by a fraction of an inch. I feel somewhat guilty that I didn’t serve as they did. When I confronted my vet friends about this, they said that I shouldn’t feel guilty for anything. I should be happy that I didn’t have to go. They helped me to understand that fighting for our country meant more than dodging bullets and serving in the military.

That’s where this story really begins. I started to define the meaning of serving my country. My friends helped me by explaining that if I wasn’t here (paying taxes) doing what I do that they wouldn’t have been provided for there. However, my duties to country go much deeper than paying taxes. Serving our country as citizens also includes respect for authority, honor, duty, and country. We also have the responsibility to direct our government. We are a government that was conceived with the idea that we could be self governing and support the best interests of the citizens and country. That doesn’t mean that we have to choose a party and reject any idea from the other party. It means that we are supposed to sit down and discuss ideals with an open mind to be able to choose the best path for our country. These ideals are not limited to a national scope. They are intended to start at the local level and dictate the direction of the community which will be a voice in the next larger body of citizens and so on until the will of the people has filtered to the national level. It is our patriotic duty to participate in this process.

Supporting our troops is a popular emotion shared by many Americans. What this entails is much more than putting a sticker of a ribbon on our cars! It is our duty to country to never allow our troops to be sent into harms way for any purpose other than the protection of our country. Not pay back. Not profiteering. Not country building. Not the spread of western values. We are to lead by example to be the guiding light to the rest of the world. Entice others to embrace the values we hold dear based on their merits.

Our obligation is to establish the authority that we respect. Honor our creation by establishing standards that the rest of the world can look toward as a beacon of freedom. Answer the call of duty to our country notwithstanding membership in our military, but at all levels of civic duty. Of the most important duties we are charged with is duty to country. We must educate ourselves with an open mind to seek out the best options for our country. This is how we honor our military people. We must never allow any soldiers’ service to be in vain. That is the ultimate in disrespect.

As we get older and more mature, we are better able to provide a more diverse solution to our problems. This is based in the theory that we learn more as we get older. Not become set in our ways but grow as our knowledge increases. Much of our future can be sorted out by simply looking at the past. Most of the situations that we face today or at least something similar, our forefathers faced in the past. We must not forge ahead with the mindset that we are the first to face these challenges. We have a very good template established with well thought out guidelines. Take time to read the constitution. As you read, understand that serving our country started with a relatively small group of people that held dear the ideals that founded and have served our country well many years ago. The more you know of history the better you will be at directing the future. Don’t allow special interest to sway a decision that is not in the best interest of our country.

I find peace in the knowledge that I am fighting for our country right here on the home front. I embrace the same values that our soldiers fight for. That is for me to have the right to express my opinion. Remember, it is not “this” country, it is “our” country.

Inactive to Proactive

The basic premise is that humans are creatures of habit. That said, we as truckers depend on our good habits that have been developed to keep us safe and able to earn a good living. Those habits are what I want to focus on. Yes, the pretrip inspection, regularly checking mirrors, keeping current and correct logs, checking our load, etc. are all parts of our everyday routine or habit. The habits that I want us to examine are the ones that define us personally. How many of us have complained about some aspect of the industry? These are the habits that I want to focus on.

If we complain about things that are not right, this too can become part of our habits. More often then not we only complain to each other (which has no effect in changing the wrong. Another bad habit.). We are participants in an industry but we are inactive in deciding its direction. It is my opinion that we should complain to someone that can help change things. Otherwise, we should just settle for the status quo and stop complaining. Most drivers have an opinion about almost every aspect of our business. The problem is that we do very little to actually make it different. That is what I want to help with. Moving from Inactive to Proactive.

As I said earlier, we are creatures of habit. We have to change our habits to really make things better. I suggest that you start with small changes. Each week, or even each month, choose something that you want to change. It does’t have to be related to trucking. It could be something personal. Self discipline goes hand in hand with becoming proactive. Make that one small change and stick with it. Keep doing that every day. Soon, you won’t even think about it any more because it became a habit. Now you are ready to choose another aspect to change. Repeat this process over and over. In a short amount of time, you will start to notice that you are becoming more of the person that you want to be and less of the person you were.

A habit is developed by doing the same thing over and over. Most of the time we develop these habits unconsciously. To move from inactive to proactive you have to think about the things you want to change and start doing them regularly. It does require a measure of self discipline to accomplish your goals. You have to stick with the change until it becomes habit.

Smoking, or quitting smoking was one of the hardest things for me personally to change. I could find no redeeming quality to smoking. I knew it was bad for me. Knowing in my mind that it was not the thing that I needed to be doing yet was the thing that my mind kept telling me to do was quite the conundrum. I had many personal arguments with myself on the matter. Finally, I had to support what I knew to be the right thing to do. I stopped smoking. I probably will forever be a smoker, I simply choose not to do it. I miss it sometimes but I am proud that I changed something in my life for the better and I don’t choose to go back.

Improvements in your life are accomplished the same way. Choose the things you don’t really like about yourself and start a plan to be who you want to be. One day at a time! Fight the battles of today, not the battles of a lifetime. You will find that practicing these simple measures (with self discipline), in a short you will start noticing the change in yourself. You will start to move yourself from inactive to proactive! Best of luck to you! Give it a whirl! Pick one thing and start your own self improvement process.

Let’s Make a Difference

This week I have several things to share with you. First, I want to ask how everyone is doing with the Five Plus Challenge? Were you able move away from your comfort zone far enough to start accepting the challenge? Did you make contact with a representative? I suspect very few did. I admit, I didn’t either. I promise you that in the three weeks left in the month, I will make that contact. I’m not doing very good on getting  five people to participate as well. This is also a part of the challenge that I will continue to work on. This leads me to the next realization I had last week.

As I listened to the current events and many of the different perspectives on the varied subjects, I realized that the trucking industry is very much a reflection of the national landscape. There is a lot of talk about what should be done on many different fronts but it is the voice of the major players and media that come through. A lot is presented as if it were the silver bullet to all the problems but in reality, “they” don’t often speak to the needs of the minions. We continue taking what is decided for us in spite of our protests. Just look at the results from the listening sessions that were held. Many people with extensive experience spoke up and gave excellent input. Yet, the voice that gets heard is that of the major players.

I heard a statistic about voter participation in America. It indicated that participation across the board was down. Even more so on off year elections. You may ask, “What does this have to do with trucking”? Well the statistics for truckers getting involved are even lower than the national average! We have to learn how to be the stewards of our own destiny. We will do this by becoming part of the system and being heard. You may feel as if your voice doesn’t really make much difference. The truth is that unless your politician stands to gain something from it, your voice alone doesn’t really make much difference. That is why we have been ignored on so many issues. When we speak together, we display a voting block. That is something that can be valued. If that block is large enough, we start to be heard. We have the power to make quality changes to our industry if we collectively stand together.

We are a government, By the People, Of the People and, For the People. If we don’t participate in the government, WE ARE NOT HEARD! That is the importance of the challenge from last week. We have to decide if we are going to take what we are fed or decide for ourselves what we will have. As we get older and become the more experienced drivers in our industry, we have to learn more leadership skills to properly prepare the newer drivers for their own future.

It really is about moving out of your comfort zone to take the next steps. We can do this. Just try it this week. Try to call your representative. You will get a staffer. Tell them how you feel about something. I promise you that you will go away with the satisfaction of knowing that you actually did something. If that is too big of a step, then go to and just sign on to one of the form letters there. You may also feel that it didn’t really make a difference. Well, when you add your voice to the others that decided to make a difference, you will start to see things change. Encourage others to find that inner strength to make a difference too! Before you know it, you will be the roll model of the next generation. Let’s step up and make a difference!

Appropriation H

Deciding what topic that is most pressing in the transportation business at this time is almost anyone’s bet. You could choose truck parking, HOS, ELD’s, driver training, insurance, pay, FMCSA, ….. The list goes on and on. The hot topic this week seems to be the transportation bill. While it’s not settled yet what exactly will be in the final bill, it seems there is one thing for certain, the can will be kicked ( rather hard ) down the road again.

It seems the biggest stumbling block for this congress is appropriations. How do we fund the things we need to keep the trust fund alive? It seems that it depends mostly on which party you are from. This is rather strange because both parities get their needs from businesses supplied by trucks. Trucking and infrastructure is neither republican or democrat. It is a vital part of our economy and supports almost every business in America. How could there be so much reluctance and indecision to support our highways, infrastructure, and the thousands of small business truckers?

I have a solution. I call it “Appropriation H[elp]“. That’s right, Appropriation H. If you wonder what should be done, just ask yourself:

  • How many can be helped by funding our infrastructure?
  • What is the most efficient way to collect money to not only fix our immediate problems but make us the envy of the world once again?
  • How many jobs could we create?
  • How much more efficiently and less costly would goods be delivered to their destinations?

That list of questions seems to be endless as well. I say the best way to determine the answers to those questions are to ask small business truckers. That is where every dollar counts. Apply Appropriation H (ask small business truckers) to solve the problems. Small business truckers are the backbone of our transportation system. Although most of the lobbying dollars come from large corporations and associations, it is small business truckers that do all the things the “big guys” can’t do. While there are a few different opinions about how to fix the problems, most people (small business truckers and some large companies) agree that the best way to fix the problems in the short term is increase fuel tax across the board and apply it ALL to the roads and bridges.

Appropriation H is the most effective solution to a problem. It is not red or blue. It is no less effective on big problems. It helps the largest number of people immediately. It can also be applied to solve future problems. There is a plan out there that has been offered up that puts a small sales tax, by percentage, on all goods sold to support the infrastructure. Considering all goods sold used the infrastructure, this plan could be the solution to the long range problems as well. As we reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, our “leaders” struggle to figure out how to raise the money for infrastructure without raising taxes. Once the coffers are refilled, this plan could settle that question for many years to come by removing and replacing the current fuel tax with a set sales tax. This plan was offered up by a small business trucker. Does this plan get much consideration? It gets some lip service but not much in the way of press as a solution. I contend that this is because individually we don’t contribute enough to be taken seriously.

While I make light of this serious problem with some so called humor, these questions about what to do are still out there looming and lurking awaiting some real leadership and vision to put them to rest. I personally don’t have all the answers. What I do have is a voice. Combined with other voices of like mind, the volume gets louder. Using the example of the Seattle Seahawks fans, (being the loudest in the league) we can put our voices together and affect the outcome. We need to set our individual opinions aside for a moment and listen to all the options. The best ideas will rise to the top if you have an open mind. With over 3 million truckers out there, just 10% of us could change the entire discussion if we spoke in one voice. The choice is ours. We can direct our destiny or let it be decided by the louder home team.