All Together Now

| August 01, 2005

When leased-operator David Hein of Good Thunder, Minn., wants to bring his wife or teenage daughter along on the road, he pays $13 a month at the Minnesota-based company where he works. “I get charged that whether she rides along the whole month or just to Minneapolis and back.”

Many companies restrict the rider policy to one passenger only, but at Hein’s company the $13 is good for one month of unlimited passengers riding in the truck. “But I don’t like having more than one most times,” he says.

Hein brings his wife, Debi, along three or four times a year, he says. They have friends all over the country, and they like to travel to visit them. “At least I can make some money while I do it,” he says. “Rather than jumping in an airplane or jumping in a pickup and driving all over the place.”

His wife has to stay home with their 17-year-old daughter most of the time, and she doesn’t like the road life as much as her husband does. “She says she couldn’t do it all the time like I do,” Hein says. “She gets tired of riding in the truck after about five days. That’s the main reason she doesn’t ride along more.”

Instead, Hein’s black lab, Hunter, keeps him company in the truck about half the time, he says.

At many companies, rider policies and pet policies go hand in paw. At Arrow, drivers pay a $500 deposit to bring their pets along for the ride. “Once the pet comes off the truck, the money is returned to them except $100,” Bell says.

The deposits are usually put in place to cover damage pets may cause to the trucks, not to discourage pet owners from bringing their beloved animals along.

“Through experience, we know what it costs on average to clean up a truck,” says CFI President Herb Schmidt. “It’s more costly to us. Soiled material, things chewed up, hair, smell. There are many of our drivers who cherish the companionship of a pet. We felt like, well, if they’re willing to be responsible for the pet financially, there’s no reason for us to keep them from having that.”

Risky business
While there are plenty of companies to choose from for drivers wanting to bring along their families, many companies don’t allow passengers at all.

“The company I’m going with has a no-rider policy. Not supposed to even have an animal, although they stated if I’m discreet about it he can go,” says Stephen Meyer of Lake City, Fla. He drives over-the-road for Jack B. Kelly, Inc., hauling cryogenics.

“The reason for no riders is not the trucking company’s decision as much as it is their customers,” he says. “Any type of distraction can cause a real safety hazard, so it’s simply prohibited by them. I can understand why. If someone’s kid took off running while product was being unloaded and distracted the workers, the results could be a disaster.”

Meyer says he doesn’t mind the no-rider policy because he has only ever taken very short trips with his family on board. “Trucks are too small for more than one, in my opinion, so it’s just more comfortable anyway,” he says.

Some companies are so concerned about not having passengers that they make special alterations to the truck to prevent them.

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