Sunday, September 30, 2012

Driving habits and traffic

I got suckered the other day in taking a load to Long Island there by New York City. The last time I was there was over 8 years ago. I can safely say that traffic has gotten a lot worse, not better.

I had a little over an hour buffer to be able to deliver my load on time.

That didn't happen.

I was in 3, count them 3 traffic stoppages that made me 2 hours late to my delivery.  Two of the traffic jams were in what I call choke points, where the traffic was down to 2 lanes.  I swear people don't know how to drive in the major cities anymore.  Everyone is focused in their own little world and they can't see past the end of their nose.

What some people don't understand is that a drivers license is a 'privilege', not a right given to you by the government (state government).   For a license to drive a car, you really don't have to do much here in the US.  I know overseas in Europe, they are very stringent with how they issue their licenses AND quite a few over there have you retest every 3-4 years or so to ensure your skills are still up to par.

That's something that we need to do here I think.  Not only that, but if your involved in a major accident that injures, I think you should get the license suspended.  Remember, you don't have a 'right' to drive. 

Everyone needs to be held accountable for their actions, held to a higher standard than what we do today.  When people take personal responsibility things would improve out there I think.

That's all my personal opinion, but I think we would do better if we headed in that direction, retesting or more stringent penalties for accidents.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Dashcam, why get one?

I have recently went and bought a dashcam to have in my truck. There are a variety of reasons a person should do something like this. Now you do have to keep in mind I am a former law enforcement officer so I do look at this in a slightly different way.

I have posted a short clip below to show the quality of the picture and how it would look as it is recording going down the road.
video
Now this camera is a basic model out there that is sold by a variety of vendors. It is a DVR 027 720p high resolution camera. A great site to go look at so you can compare cameras is dashcamtalk I have mine with an 8GB SD card. I have the camera set up to loop, meaning it will record over the oldest file so it can constantly stay on. My card lets me store 5 10 minute sessions before it loops over, they are big files after all. So if you have something happen, or see something happen find a safe place to pull over, download the contents of the card on your computer for safe keeping, then move on. For the price this a a very good camera for the money.

 The model I have does fairly decent at night also. The one thing to look at in the clip above are the side mirrors that are visible. If you watch the clip you see the car coming up the side of the truck before it passes and comes into view of the camera. Also, it shows current date and time of recording.

Now for the burning question....Why should I get one of these? It's pretty simple really. A dashcam can be your greatest ally if someone tries to say you did something that you didn't do, such as run up on their bumper, lane changes etc. If your in an accident it can help determine what actually happened. Now keep in mind it can be a two-edged sword since it is recording everything as it happens.

 In today's society, a person has to 'CYA, or cover your Ass' more each day and the dashcam is just another tool you can use to do that.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Expectations

I'm one of those type of people that likes to make, and keep plans to an extent. When you really think about it, my job revolves around scheduling, and it can get pretty tight so I can be a little anal about scheduling.

This brings me to expectations.

What I mean by this is if someone makes a promise that they are going to do something, I kinda expect them to keep it.

Now before you say anything, yes, I do realize that things do come up and that can cancel out the promise.

My issue is when it 'appears' to happen the majority of the time.

Like I said before, I am a thinker.  I go and think back to the last few times or whatever the case may be and see if I see a pattern.  The problem is that I do.

I don't know, along with everything else, if no one has any expectations anymore.  I don't consider my standards high by any means.  I figure mine are average like anyone else.  The trend I'm noticing though, at least in my corner of the world, is that I am to the point of dropping expectations down to near zero so I won't be disappointed when something doesn't go through.

You know, that's pretty sad, lowering expectations that low.  It doesn't give a person anything to achieve for in life.  It doesn't give you a set of goals to strive for.  Setting them that low just means you are simply in survival mode going from day to day.

Well do you know what?  Survival mode SUCKS.  I absolutely hate feeling this low, when I know I can and should achieve higher, AND expect the same out of others.  I expect the best out of people and they should get the best out of me, not just what gets everyone by.

So I guess this goes out to those people who either have low expectations, or fail to follow through on a consistent basis.  The advice is, you need to shape up and raise the bar, or move on.  Yeah, I know giving an ultimatum is not the best thing but there is no middle ground where this is concerned.  Keep in mind I need to continue to work on this on my end too since it is a two way street, but its pretty simple.

Shape up, or ship out.  Simple expectations.

Out of nowhere

Have you ever had something come at you from out of the blue and flat knock you over?

How about the classic 2x4 in the back of the head?

Well, I had something along those lines come at me a few days ago.  I'll have to admit it was something I never dreamed would be asked of me.  Before you ask, no I'm not going to say what it was, some things are meant to be kept private.

Now the thing is, when a person gets hit with something like this their first reaction is usually the worst because it is instinctive, meant to protect them.  Quite a few people will either try to ignore the problem or pass off the decision to someone else so they don't have to do it.

After getting over the shock, I went and started to think through what was asked of me.  Now I am a very analytical person, who likes to try and look for every possible angle before making a decision on something this huge.

A person has to take into consideration everyone or everything that will be affected by this decision.  It is a life changing event, and will change more than one life, but many.  You have to look at all of the pro's and con's and try as much as possible to make an informed decision.

I will say I am EXTREMELY glad I have some great friends who make good sounding boards, and informed opinions of their own.  It never hurts to run things by an unbiased third party that is not involved in any of the potential changes in the event.  They usually give you a good solid understanding of things on how they do stand.

The decision was not easy to make, and hurts like hell, BUT I know in my heart it was the right decision.  The thing about it is that I realize I will have to live with it for the rest of my life, and I'm prepared for that, and I hope that makes it a little easier.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Clearing things up

Have you ever had a relationship or a close friendship end all of a sudden without very much warning?

Have you ever thought that you were doing the 'right thing' by cutting off all communication at once to end something?

Now for the next question.  Were you able to figure out WHY things reached the point they did?  Or better yet, were you able to move on with the specter of the last relationship/friendship hanging over your head.

I'm going to guess that you had a pretty difficult time.

Going off of personal experience, I have seen that when a person does this, there is no real 'finality' to anything.  You still have that voice in the back of your head playing that god awful 'WHAT IF' game.  At least it does with me anyways.

That little voice can be the most destructive thing in your life.  I know I have a pretty active imagination so I can come up with some pretty good 'what if' situations that can just drive you nuts.

I have became one of those type of people in the last 5 years or so that would rather have the truth, than even a little white lie, or even worse, silence.  I know like anyone else I don't want to make the same mistakes again.  Like anyone else, I sometimes don't want to hear the truth, but it has to be said, and repeated at times until it sinks in.

The thing about it, is the fact when both parties can talk about what they think happened with things, it really helps with the closure of everything.  That specter, that 'little green monster' of what if, is taken out of the picture, and it helps the healing process.

Now I didn't say hearing the truth wouldn't be painful.  But the thing is, sometimes you have to deal with that short amount of pain, to be able to heal and move on.  If you don't, it can color how you approach any other relationship or friendship and that can doom it to failure from day one.

I look back in my life, and I see a few friendships and old relationships that I have not done this.  The closer I look the more I see how damaging it was not only to me, but to the other party.  It can hurt that person for years if left unchecked.

Also looking back I see who my true friends are.  The ones that don't pull punches.  You know, the ones that can be irritating at times because what they told you hurt, but it was the truth.  They are the ones that stand beside you through thick and thin if you let them.

I can say, I am truly grateful for my true friends and I hope they know who they are.  It might hurt for a short while to hear the truth, but its needed, and I hope I can return the favor by being a true friend to them.

Lets face it, in this world, what would we be without our true friends and family?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Randoms, how random are they?

Yesterday, I received a message that I needed to go by one of our terminals. Don't pass go, don't collect 200 dollars lol.

When I got the message I had a pretty good idea what it was all about.  Last week my DM(driver manager) asked me if I was going to go to one of our terminals in GA when I was in the area.  I informed her I wasn't since it was way out of my way and there was no reason to go there.

At that point it really didn't sink in.  Then when I went and did a 34 hr reset in Muskogee I was asked at that point if I was headed to the OKC terminal to do the reset.  Again, no it was over a 3 hour drive out of the way and I saw no reason.  At this point I suspected something was up lol.

I went in and got to do a random alcohol screening.  It was kinda funny to me when the nurse asked me if I have ever had a breathalyzer test done.  I commented in an off hand fashion, 'of course, but I used to give them since I'm former law enforcement'.  At that point she just kinda stared at me for a second then continued on.

The thing that gets me is that I seem to average a 'random' at the company I work at every 8-10 months or so.  Now it is a rather LARGE company with somewhere in the neighborhood of over 20k drivers.  With that many drivers, I tend to get selected for a random quite a bit.  Makes me wonder if the company is just wanting to test someone they hope will pass with flying colors.  Who know, but I just find it a little funny that I get so many randoms.

When I was in the military, it seemed to be the same way.  I swear we had 'randoms' every 6 months or so then.  I remember one time we had 3 in a 4 month period.  That was crazy!

So who thinks randoms are computer generated out of the complete pool?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Communication, a two way street

I noticed something when I was going through my phone today. The majority of the time I am the one that initiates contact with any of my friends or family.

At first, I told myself, 'I'm sure they are busy with other things and just didn't make the time.'

Well, the more I thought about it, the more I considered that is probably the lamest excuse in the book.  Yes, I have told myself that before so I too have done this with other people, and you know how that makes me feel when I look back?

Ashamed.

Ashamed that I could not take 15 seconds to send a text or an email, just to see how they are doing. 

Ashamed that I couldn't take the time to call them, even if they can't pick up their phone at work, and leave a simple voice mail.

Communication is a two way street.  You can't expect everyone to always make the first contact to you as it should ebb and flow like any other type of communication.  Humans are social beings, and we don't handle not being communicated to very well.  There are some people that will take bad communication, i.e. cussing, put downs etc over no communication. 

Knowing this, it strikes me to know where I stand with what I consider my close friends and family.  There are some that I have not heard from in weeks.  Now I do know that people are at different communication levels.  You have some you chat with on a daily or weekly basis.  Others, maybe every few weeks or so. 

The thing that stands out is when that communication suddenly cuts off.  Those are the ones that you notice right off the bat.  Yes, I do know like I stated above that people do get busy, things come up, but I am one of those type that if nothing else, will let that other person know that I have been thinking about them in some form. 

Communication will make or break any type of friendship, and that can be one of the worst things to happen.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Worn down

Have you ever reached that point where you are just completely worn down? I'm talking mentally and physically?

I know on the physical side I have definitely reached that point.  I usually try to take a '34hr reset' once a week while I'm out on the road.  It does two things.  One it resets my logbook which can usually use it.  The other thing it does is let me relax a little and recharge.

Well,  I have been going for the last 10 days straight, and I can tell.  I feel myself slowly grinding down and I know here soon I need to take a break.  The problem is doing it at the right time in a decent place.  There is nothing worse than shutting down for 34 hours out in the middle of nowhere.

Mentally, is a variety of issues.  Part of it is the running I have been doing, and dealing with some of the BS that corporate has thrown in our way.  Another, is the changing seasons.  The season change might not sound like much, but for a person that has suffered from PTSD and depression, it can hit you hard.  Then there is the other part which is much more personal, that I won't go into at this time.

Both of these combined have worn me down to the bone.  I know I could use some extended time off, meaning more than a day or two.  The problem with that is that my financial obligations 'seem' to keep me from doing that.  Notice I said seem.  It's all a matter of perspective.

I do know one other thing.  I'm tired of being ALONE.  I can safely say this single crap is for the birds.  I would love to share my life with someone, but trying to find someone that understands how my life is seems to be the challenge. 

At times, I feel like throwing in the towel, say screw the world, quit everything I am doing, and do nothing.  Become a 'moocher'.  Do you know what though?  It's not in me.  There is NO way I can ever take myself down to that level.  Just the thought of it makes my skin crawl.  How others do it I can't figure out.

So since I can't bring myself to become a moocher, or go into the entitlement class, I'll continue to plug along as I have been, and see if I can improve my situation.  There has to be a light at the end of this tunnel.

Monday, September 10, 2012

How to be strong....

I sit here and look back and have a few friends who are in different situations but it is the same premises. They have something going on with their life and it appears to be at a turning point.

They are usually at a crossroads where they need to make an important decision that can affect how their life will be from that point on. 

I know quite a few people would want to step in, give advice, but they ultimately end up taking the situation over and making the decision for that person, which is not a good thing.

 When you reach a crossroads in life, the only way you know for a fact that it was the right decision is for you to make it yourself.  Now that doesn't mean that you don't ask for or receive any help to carry out the decision.  After all, that's what friends are for, and most would gladly help you in this regard.  The biggest thing though is that you have to ultimately make that final decision yourself. 

Drawing strength from friends and family is the biggest power a person can use.  You don't have to feel alone out there when making a major decision.  Your friends and family should stand with you side by side, to lend you their strength and knowledge to help you through that crossroads.

I know that's where I'm at right now, standing by to give my friends the strength they need to make the decision they need to so they can continue to move down the path.  I wish I could make the decision for them, but that's not my job.  I can give advice, and strength for whatever decision that they do make, and know that ultimately that they made the right decision.


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Same old grind....

Do you sometimes feel like you get in a rut? Doing the same thing day in and day out? Do you feel like Bill Murry in Groundhog Day?

I'll admit at times I feel that way.  Not like the exact same event is happening every day, thank god, but maybe in life in general.

I'm sitting here thinking about the fact that I have been back on the road for over a year and a half, going on two years.  I know I chose this life again, but the one thing I didn't consider was how bad the economy really affected the trucking industry.

Confused?  Let me explain.

Before I left as an over the road driver in 2006,(due to being deployed overseas) I could schedule home time every 2-3 weeks and make a very good living with no issues.  Loads were there, cost of living wasn't too bad out on the road.

When I came back in 2011, I have discovered in order to make sure I can meet all of my financial obligations, I have to stay out 3-4 weeks, and the cost of living out on the road is much worse.

What that means, is that what little social life I had a few years ago, has now drifted down to an almost absolute zero.  I've had people tell me I should find myself a girlfriend, have fun etc etc.  Well if you have read my previous blog, you'll see that I've noticed that as a society we have changed to wanting things 'NOW'.  I have found that it seems like when someone finds out I'm a truck driver, any interest suddenly evaporates.  I saw this to a lesser effect when I was in law enforcement,(yes I worked ALOT of hours then too), but wrote it off as someone not wanting to deal with someone in that lifestyle.

I've re-evaluated that thought.  I look back and it was that person wanting things 'NOW'.  They want you around at their beck and call, when THEY want.  I am thinking people have forgotten the art of 'compromise' and figure out good middle ground that both can handle.  That is part of what being in a relationship means, communicating and working things out.  Another part is realizing that you are only one part in the relationship and there are other many parts, besides your partner, such as kids, grand kids, family etc.

Now back to this feeling in a rut thing.  I know part of this is due to not taking any time to have FUN, take a break, cut loose.  I keep telling myself I need to take a cruise, but I keep putting it off because that logical side of me says 'you can't afford it'.  Well, I'm figuring out if I don't do something like that soon I might just wither up and die inside, becoming a working 'robot' for all practical purposes with no zest, no feeling for life.

A very good friend of mine has a nice quote. "Love today, for tomorrow is not promised".  They are so right in that a person should LOVE for today, live it, have fun because you never know what tomorrow will bring if it even arrives.  I'll freely admit, I haven't done this.  I've taken tomorrow for granted, taken for granted that people will always be there for you no matter what.  Do you know what?  I KNOW I have missed out on a lot, and I kick myself for it.  I know there is nothing I can do to get any of that back, but I can turn over a new leaf, and just LIVE.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Do we have to have it now?

I have been noticing something here lately. It seems that we, not only individually but also as a society currently have the mindset that 'We want it and we want it now!'. I know this isn't something that came along overnight. 

You hear major media outlets talk on how they need to get the message they are trying to get across in less than 30 seconds or they lose the audience.

Look at Twitter.  Yes, I use Twitter, and it can be a good information source when links are added, but limiting a post to 140 characters really makes for a short conversation.

I know it was a market selling point, but it seems that more people have fallen into this mentality of wanting things NOW.

Lets move the focus to relationships.  I can remember, oh, not even 4 years ago when I got divorced that conversations with others seemed to last longer.  You took more time to get to know someone.  Now, it seems if things don't 'click' within the first few exchanges, one or both of the person's move on to the next one.

How much can you truly learn about someone in just a few short exchanges?  Not much I contend.  Even if they have a detailed profile you are looking at, that is still just a small snapshot into who they really are.  The only way you are going to find out it to spend some time and effort to get to know them.

Call me old-fashioned, but I like to get to know the person before I make a decision like that.  You don't know what kind of an impact this person could have in your life as a friend, best friend, companion, etc.

I have posted before that I am a firm believer that people come and go in your life.  Some are around for a few weeks or months, others a lifetime.  The times that they enter your life are usually during an event that they can help focus, if you let them.  Everyone that enters your life serves some purpose, the trick is letting them fulfill that purpose.

That brings me back to the 'me me me' society we have today.  I honestly believe that people are cutting those links too fast before that person fulfills that purpose in your life.  A life with unfulfilled purpose is really no life at all as it would seem shallow and empty.

So lets do the age old adage, 'stop and smell the roses'.  Lets not only smell the roses, but look at the petals, see how full they are.  Look at the stem, and see the thorns as you carefully hold it, admiring its beauty and intoxicating smell, but also remember that it can cause pain.  A rose is a good symbol showing that an item can be both pleasurable and painful, depending on how you look at it.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

EOBR's, the truths and myths

Ok, so today I was listening to my XM radio while driving down the road. One of the topics was the EOBR mandate that congress put in the highway transportation bill. Now right off the bat I know there are some pretty uninformed drivers but today most of them just set me off on the deep end.

I mean heck, almost to a man they all lamented on how they wish we were back in the 'good old days' running the paper logs how we used to over 10 years ago.

I started driving in 93, and from day one I dealt with paper logs with the job I had.  I'll be honest, the morons that want to go back to those days are just flat out stupid, and that's being nice to the stupid people.  The rules we had at that point were over 50 years old!!!!! 50 years!!!!  Do I need to say it again? 50 years!!!!!   They were initially enacted back when trucks were just a wee bit different than they are now.

So yes, the rules needed to change with the times.  Manufacturers made the trucks a heck of a lot more comfortable to drive and ride in.  A person was not as worn out driving a full day vs 15-20 years ago.  The old rules were that...old.

Now I'll admit, no one likes it when the government gets involved in regulation and rulemaking, but when the industry won't voluntarily do it themselves they have to step in and this is where we are today.

The first myth is that when running an EOBR, you will drive less miles vs paper logs where drivers could 'fudge' things once in a while.  Well I have been running with an EOBR for over a year now, and you know what, my revenue on my truck went UP...not down.

The key to making the EOBR work for you is this neat little thing called 'time management'.  Even when I ran paper logs I did time management down to the point I could inform anyone when I would deliver and be there ON TIME, EVERY TIME.  If a driver isn't doing time management, he is wasting alot of time I can guarantee that.

An EOBR also helps with those pesky shippers and receivers that like to keep you over their allotted 2 hours to load or unload.  It's really hard for their billing department to argue when you have devices with GPS capability that your equipment was there when you said it was.  Unless they like paying the massive detention time that I know companies are charging, the more companies running EOBR's, the quicker they are going to unload those trucks.

Another myth is that you can't change anything on an EOBR.  Well I know with the model I have, a Qualcomm MCT200, I can edit any line BUT the drive line. 

This one is probably not a myth, BUT any company pulling this kind of crap won't have quality drivers for long.  Companies are forcing their drivers to drive their full 11 hours, or get back on the road right when their 10 is up.  The one I drive for doesn't do that.  To micromanage a driver like that is really not worth it.  The companies that do this kind of a practice have an extremely high turnover rate I'm willing to bet.

Once you drive your 11, or reach your 14, you have to shut down or get a violation.  The log rules didn't change people.  The exception for bad weather etc of 2 hours still applies.  It just means you have to DOCUMENT what the reason is.

Only the big companies want EOBR's.  Really?  The large carriers only make up about 10 percent of the total companies out here.  You would be surprised to see how many smaller carriers have 'electronic logs in use' stickers on their trucks so that myth is a wash.

My final thing is that as we continue to get more technology, its going to get used.  A person can either flow with the times, and be vigilant, to make sure the rules are fair.... or they just flat need to get out of the industry.  Things are NOT going to go back to the 'good old days', trust me.

New addition to the truck

While I was home this weekend I added a new item to my truck. an 18' stepbox by Sturdy-Lite.  When I put my Dynasys APU on, they installed the blower motor box in my right sidebox taking up all of the space.  That was where I normally stored my snow chains,(that I have yet to use thank god lol) so I needed some more storage.

I was planning on getting a box eventually so  this worked out.  I had ordered one at the beginning of the week from a site online, but was told the next day they were out.  I found this one at Southwest Trailer Sales in Oklahoma City.  The other nice thing was that it cost me 100 dollars less than the one I would have gotten online.  So instead of costing 450, this one cost 350, which was really nice.

The one thing I might have to do is put some bracing on it, but the jury is still out on that.  Other than that its a pretty solid box built here in the US.

Decisions of the heart

Have you ever heard of the old saying, 'If you love something set it free, if it comes back it was meant to be'? I have and for the longest time I thought I knew what it meant. Well, now I can safely say I actually do.

I'm sure everyone has the idea in one way shape or form that this would be an easy idea to follow.  I mean heck, its a pretty simple decision isn't it?  Well I have found out there are just a few pitfalls to this kind of a decision.

I guess part of the 'test' of this kind of saying is the thoughts and feelings you go through while that person that you have fallen in love with is away.  I mean there is really no communication with them at this point to let them know the depths of how you feel since setting them free means not communicating the depths of your soul to them.  You have to operate off of 'faith' that things will work out in the end.

Faith.  That is probably the hardest thing for a person to have it seems.  It hinges on believing in the unknown, the unseen, that things will be as how they should be with no influence from your part.  Faith is probably the ultimate, highest aspect of trust.  Without one, you can't have the other.  I honestly think having faith in religion is a lot easier than having faith and trust in a person.  As far as I'm concerned this is the ultimate test of a relationship, if it can make it through this then it can make it through anything.

One of the other pitfalls, at least for me, is quieting your mind and just let things flow to the conclusion that will happen.  Not the conclusion you want or desire, but the one that should naturally happen.  You see, I am a thinker, I always have been.  It was something that I refined when I was growing up on the farm.  All of those endless hours spent out in the field on the tractor gave you 'plenty' of time to think through different ideas and problems.  I would look at things from every conceivable angle I could to determine the best course of action.  The sad thing though is that with all of that time, over 30 years basically, I have recently found one angle I can't figure out or even remotely consider, 'Free Will'.

 Free Will.  That is the one thing I can't account for, the one thing I can't change.  Everyone has it.  Everyone one uses it.  Even if that person has allowed someone else to make their decisions for them, their first decision of free will, was to allow another person to take it, so they had it up to that point.  I'll admit, free will scares the crap out of me because its the ultimate 'ace card'.  I have no idea what it is going to do.

So that is where we come back to Faith.  A person has to have faith, they have to be open to change, whatever it may be and let it and free will take its course.  It's the scariest thing I have ever encountered in my life.  I would almost rather be back in the middle east being shot at or blown up, or back on the beat putting my life on the line every day.  It scares me that much, but I know I have to let go, let things run their course, and have Faith that it will turn out however it is suppose to be.  No matter how it turns out, I know I will be stronger for it.