Exit Only: Fringe benefits
Transported by bike, owner-operator finds fitness, fun and food on the road
A year and a half ago, when then-company driver Scott Grenerth bought his 2002 International and leased on to Fikes Truck Line, he was fairly happy with his 7.5-year driving career, but the freedom to modify his equipment and schedule his own loads that came with owner-operator status, combined with longer hauls and more time spent on the road, delivered unexpectedly delightful outcomes.
“So many drivers,” he says, “you ask them, ‘Why’d you become a truck driver? You get a lot of answers, but one of the most common ones is ‘I wanted to see the country.’ Well, how much do you get to see from the truck? There’s a lot of great stuff, and I’m not complaining about it, but I’m loving driving more than ever since I’ve gotten to take my bike with me.”
And most anybody can do it — Grenerth purchased his current Schwinn road bike for $1 at an auction in his hometown in Northwest Ohio, and he’s 6’9″, not exactly easy to fit. With a new helmet for less than $30 and comfortable clothes you probably already have, you can be rolling in no time.
Grenerth wants to help, too. Check out his www.truckercycler.com website, click the “How to Trucker Cycle” tab and you’ll see illustrations of how he carries his bike strapped to the front of his flatbed, with the trailer’s side kit making the whole process very simple, he says. He’s in the process of compiling examples from hosts of drivers out there on how they carry their bikes, too, and adding new places to ride/explore within easy distance of truckstops.
One of them, the Shelby Bottoms Greenway in Nashville, Tenn., a few miles’ ride from the downtown Travel Centers of America location, the former naturalist Grenerth discovered several days prior to the day I met him, after which we took a ride on the Greenway (see photo). “A couple Mondays ago here in Nashville I jumped on my bike and went over to see the Time Jumpers here,” he told me. “Great music — two miles each way, basically, from the truckstop,” a 5- to 10-minute ride. He uses his bike to take advantage of local farmers’ markets, grocery stores and healthy restaurants, too.
“At 40 years old, I’m in the best shape of my life,” he said. And though he rides year round, “particularly now that this severe winter weather is over with,” he added, he’s looking forward to really taking advantage of local attractions in the communities he lays over in on the road.
At his site, find guides to rides through Columbus, North Baltimore and Brookville, Ohio, as well as Oklahoma City; Kansas City, Mo.; New Haven, Conn.; and more.
Flex time Bison Transport driver Tom Balaz of Winnipeg, Manitoba, who typically runs a majority of his miles in the States, sounded off in the April “Feedback” section of Truckers News with an idea I’ve heard echoed around the nation the past several years by drivers and owner-operators of all stripes. Balaz and others would introduce flexibility into drivers’ hours. “My thinking is,” he says, “take the million-mile driver … and give that driver some hours flexibility. Give him some wiggle room. Instead of being forced to sit for 10 hours, maybe he can roll after 8 or 9. Give him the flexibility to add an extra hour or so of driving time.” However unlikely such a proposal may be to pass muster with some of the safety groups lobbying FMCSA for universal electronic onboard recorder mandates and rigid hours rules, Balaz’ idea has new teeth and a somewhat new character now that driver safety history information down to the roadside level will be available via the CSA 2010 program combined with the FMCSA’s new pre-employment screening tool. The million-mile safe driver, says Balaz, “probably has an excellent CSA record.” Balaz suggests the possibility of making such flexibility contingent, also, on that driver or owner-operator’s use of an EOBR for hours-of-service monitoring, each driver’s hours customized to his/her safety record. It would require a simple programming effort to make a reality from the practical standpoint, issues of EOBR cost, regulatory change, and privacy aside. And, as Balaz has it, “there’s not [any compliance] incentive for the million mile safe driver,” as it is, to stay that way, or even to get there.