‘Something New Every Day’
Expediter chronicles the long-haul life online for trucking insiders and the public
Phil and Diane Madsen run leased to FedEx White Glove Services in a 2006 Volvo with 132-inch ARI sleeper and 16-foot box. Over the past several years, I’ve called on the pair for perspective on various topics, from tales of strange cargo (you may remember the Madsens from our October 2010 “Unique Hauls” story) to examples of the many owner-operators taking to the web to write and publish. Phil Madsen is one of those operators.
“It would be very frustrating to be out on the road if you didn’t have a way to share it with others,” says Madsen. “Blogging is really a godsend.”
Madsen’s “Learning something new every day” blog, which contains some of the best writing on long-haul life, details small things experienced daily toward a goal of casting the bigger trucking picture in a clear light.
The Madsens’ story demonstrates the infinite variety among the U.S. trucking community — Phil and Diane met during Jesse Ventura’s campaign for Minnesota governor, before taking to the highway. Active in online trucking forums from the get-go, Phil sought to communicate not only with other drivers but with communities outside trucking. He also wanted a resource that he and Diane could document their trucking adventure.
He launched the successfulexpediters.com site in 2006, hoping to provide a platform for himself and others to blog about their businesses and experiences. While fellow trucker Bob Sleasman blogged there for two years, today Madsen’s own blog, he says, “is the main activity.”
While too many blogs become meandering accounts of the daily trivia of their writers, holding little value to readers who don’t know them, Madsen’s is focused. His central device — to begin each post with something new he encountered — lends an ongoing sense of discovery that makes the writing uncommonly accessible and valuable. His audience is a broad mix of trucking insiders, expediter-wannabes and outsiders with an interest in trucking to whom Madsen seeks to represent the industry realistically. Such a wide audience contributes to the quality of Madsen’s writing, which can quickly update owner-operators on efficiency steps he’s taking, detail the history of where he and Diane are parked, and muse about their work.
In an April post about do-it-yourself maintenance he performed to avoid tearing off a low-hanging hose at high speed, Madsen wrote, “An expediter friend once told me something I never forgot. ‘Little things become big things,’ he said. And he is right.”
TruckSmart When I met Phil and Diane Madsen, Phil raved about the upgrades the TravelCenters of America location in La Vergne, Tenn., had made to its showers, part of system-wide TA/Petro upgrades concluded last year, says Tom Liutkis. Also new at the truckstop chain is the TruckSmart iPhone and Android app, which delivers quick interactive maps displaying nearby TA and Petro locations with turn-by-turn directions, fuel prices, number of available showers and estimates of available parking per stop, updated every two hours. An up-to-date listing of special offers at restaurants, travel stores and truck maintenance centers is also available. Among other functions are quick-push calls to RoadSquad mobile maintenance services. When called or linked, the RoadSquad national call center captures precise coordinates (latitude and longitude) of the sidelined trucker, providing RoadSquad precise dispatch capability. TA believes the launch of TruckSmart represents the first time precise parking data has been made available to haulers. And this month, phase two of the app launches, integrating the UltraOne rewards program. Reward card members will be able to check point balances, access shower credits, review past transactions and UltraExtras benefits achieved, and call customer service, even reserving a shower using points or shower credits.