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.



A Trucker’s Family

As I was lamenting to my wife Lesli about what I should talk about this week, she commented (somewhat tongue in cheek), “How about all the holidays and family events that truckers miss?” At first, I laughed then I thought that maybe it is a subject that needs a little more light on it. As truckers, we focus on what our job is. We focus on our duties but often times we don’t give enough credit to the “support crews”. We all have different circumstances but what is overlooked is the price our loved ones pay for our choice of occupation.

This year alone, I have missed Valentines Day, My wife’s birthday, Memorial Day, both of my daughters birthdays, and our Anniversary! On the schedule I’m on now, I will also miss Halloween, my birthday, and Thanksgiving is up in the air. I did have the 4th of July at home.

I’ve talked about many of the issues that we face regarding new rules, lack of training standards, insurance minimums, self insurance, getting involved, lack of respect, and other things. The one thing that gets overlooked the most is the personal price paid by drivers and their families. No matter where you are in the economic scale, every one of us are here to improve the lives for ourselves and our families.

In return for my commitment to my chosen occupation I provide a decent lifestyle for my family. I can do this because I chose to educate myself on how to do this business. It’s not merely a job to me. I became an independent operator early on because once I saw how to provide better for my family, I couldn’t just keep on doing what I had been doing.

Of all the considerations that I made, the price my family would pay was one that I didn’t fairly assess. I didn’t give credit to the fact that my wife would have to basically raise our children by herself. Oh yes, I would check in for a couple days a week and expect to be treated like the king of my castle (mobile home at that time). I would, and still do, attend to a few things that need attention at home and try to work that in with my self proclaimed entitled relaxation.

Over the years, Lesli has assumed more and more responsibilities to allow me to do what I do. She does things like mow the lawn, schedule repairs on cars, schedule all the dentist, doctor, and optical appointments. She shows up at recitals and school functions in support of our kids and our nieces that she has cared for since their births. Lately, she has even learned how to caulk around windows and on siding to prepare for winter. Over the years, her responsibility list has kept on growing while mine has stayed the same.

As our business grew, she had to assume the duties of bookkeeper and learn how to manage our finances and record everything in bookkeeping programs, issue invoices and record payments and follow up on late payments and look for loads while I am driving. All of which she has become very accomplished at. Then when I would come home, she would answer all the financial questions I would have.

As for my kids, they grew up in an environment that was normal when I was gone. When I was home, things were different until I hit the road again. I missed many teacher conferences, track meets, ballet and piano recitals, and swim meets as well as other school functions. I wish I could have received pictures on my smart phone of the events that I wasn’t able to attend but they weren’t invented then.

There is a price that we all (drivers and families) pay to pursue this profession. For some, that price is higher than others. For me, missing each of these events left me feeling regret and yet a small bit of satisfaction remained knowing that I was doing the best that I could for my family. Ultimately, that is the balance that we all must strike to be a trucker. We sacrifice our family time to provide the best we can for our families. For my family, each of them dealt with my absences in different ways. I always felt like they were happy when I was able to attend their events but I knew my presence wasn’t required.  

I have to say that the trucking occupation has given us a pretty good living; better than anything else that was available to me at the time. It’s not all bad but it has had its price from time to time. The focus of this piece however is to shine a small light on the life of a trucker’s family. If I could turn back time and make that choice again, knowing what I know now, I would still choose this occupation for the same reasons.

There is some 3-3.2 million drivers currently employed in the United States. There are at least a half dozen people closely associated with each of these drivers. So when you go shopping, remember that not only a trucker brought it but, a trucker’s family also paid a price for you to have the things you want. As you drive down the road and pass that truck, take a moment to realize that many people have paid a price for you to have the things you need for your family. Sometimes, a little wave or consideration on the road makes everyone feel a little bit better about what we do and what our families have given up to bring America’s goods to market. If you happen to run into a family member of a trucker, please express your appreciation for their sacrifices too. Thank you.

Who’s in That Truck?

As you go down the road today, you see a lot of big trucks. Lately there seems to be no shortage of news stories about those evil truckers. We are a dangerous, fatigued, run unsafe, filthy, fat, out of shape, littering bunch of rejects of society. We chase the dollar so hard that we put everyone else on the road in danger. At least that’s the image the media and safety advocacy groups seem to portray. What I would like to do is tell the story from a trucker’s point of view.

The trucking industry is indeed the place that every down on their luck person can go to find employment. It’s not a job for everyone but it is a job for anyone who is willing to work hard and learn and maybe sacrifice a little to have a future. When you look in that window of a truck as you go by, what is it you see? Do you see that person the media says is so out of control? Let me introduce you to the majority of who those people really are.

I am a member of an association called Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA). We just finished the fall board meeting. In that room is a collection of drivers both current and retired. Almost all have at least 2 million miles accident free. Most of those drivers have even more experience. They are men and women from all over the United States and Canada. I had the opportunity to get to know a very special driver there that just retired. He had over 6 1/2 million accident free miles! He has been driving over 60 years. Hats off to you Mr. John Taylor! All around the table there is the best of the best.

With that said, you may think that doesn’t represent the truckers you see. So, who are they? They are fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, husbands, wives, aunts, uncles and friends. They are people that have wanted to drive truck all their lives. They are people who never thought they would be driving trucks. They are people who have the same hopes and aspirations that you do. They want to provide for their families. They want to send their kids to college. They want reasonable healthcare. They want to retire some day. They would like to take a short vacation once in a while.

I’ve met people driving trucks that come from all nationalities and just about any occupation you can think of. The one that tops the list is probably former military people. The very ones that fought for our country. Also you will find some that come from professional careers like lawyers, accountants, and doctors and teachers that decided for some reason or another to change their profession. Some have PhDs. Some drivers are high school drop outs. Some completed high school and went to work. There really isn’t a typical truck driver.

There is one thing that every driver on the road has in common. No one wants to die and no one wants anyone else to get hurt. A far cry from the image painted of drivers today. In fact you might be surprised to know that many of those drivers have been honored by various groups for saving the lives of other motorists. They are the Highway Angels and Highway Heros. With that said, there are many more that carry out good deeds everyday that receive no recognition what so ever. They help others out of their own kindness. You will also find that truck drivers are some of the most charitable working people on earth. Truckers are involved in so many charities that I can’t even to begin to name them. Truckers are always ready to help those down on their luck. They are some of the first to organize to provide aid in the case of a natural disasters. The image emerging now should be somewhat different than where we started.

The average truck driver drives about as much in one year as the average car driver does in 10 years. The average driver at OOIDA has over 2 million miles. That’s 200 years of car driving. In the October 2014 edition of Land Line Magazine, Managing Editor Jami Jones has an op-ed piece titled Lauer. Lawyers. Lies. that lays out very clearly the true accident rates of cars and trucks. That piece points out that 75-80% of fatality accidents that involve trucks were not the fault of the trucker. In 2012, while there were 3,921 deaths in crashes involving large trucks, there were 29,156 people who died in crashes that did not involve large trucks. If cars drove the same miles that trucks do that would equate to approximately 291,560 deaths in cars versus 3,921in trucks.

Yes, the people in that truck may annoy you at times but above all, they are by far the safest drivers on the road and deserve the respect of the motoring public and the media. Now, please take another look in the window of that big truck.