Reviewing your cell phone plan and behavior

| February 16, 2012

I learned today that Diane and I can save money on our cell phone plans. Learned when a man in a cell phone store explained it to us.

For the first time since early January, Diane and I woke up this morning in our truck. We woke up in a freeway rest area in Georgia, having driven there last night from our Florida vacation house to do a short run. The load picked up this morning and delivered near the house, to which we returned when the run was complete. We are wrapping things up at the house and will soon hit the road for real.

New rules are now in effect regarding cell phone use in the truck. Basically, don’t touch the phone while driving. Hands-free use is OK. This is not a big deal to Diane and me since we are team drivers. When the phone rings, the non-driving spouse takes the call. Also, the number of calls made and received during the day have declined because our new carrier’s communications practices are much better than those of our previous carrier.

The old motor carrier made calls to us and required us to call their office at a frequency and for reasons that bordered on the insane. Since that was the first carrier we had ever worked with, we knew no different until we changed carriers and found things far more reasonable and peaceful. Nevertheless, with the new phone rules now in effect, headsets are essential.

My headset died just a few days ago. Diane has never had one. Given how little we talk on the phone while driving anyway, we only need one headset. On the way back to the house, we stopped at a cell phone store to get one. Walking in with that intention, we walked out with two new phones, a new device used to connect our computers to the internet, and no headset. The store was out of stock on most headsets so we got skunked there. But a review of the devices we use and the associated contracts prompted us to make some changes.

We have been with our cell phone provider for many years and are delighted with the service. It has been a while since we reviewed our cell phone usage and devices. The young man at the store made it easy.

We sat at his desk as he reviewed our account. Impressed with our years of customer loyalty and the number of devices on the account (and probably the amount of money we pay each month), he made recommendations, threw in some freebies, brought various phones to us to see and feel, transferred phone directories from our old phones to the new ones, and did for us on his computer and copier much of the product rebate work we would have had to do on our own.

If you have not reviewed your cell phone usage, devices and contracts in the last year or two, it might be worth doing. Diane and I were satisfied with the contracts and devices we had this morning but found ourselves this afternoon with upgraded devices that will cost $20 a month less to use.

• If you are thinking about becoming a truck driver and wondering what cell phone plan is best, I have no plan or company to recommend. This is something for you to work out yourself. Will you be a solo driver or team? Will you drive mostly in one area or nationwide? Are you a loner or would a friends and family plan be useful? When it comes to cell phone plans and devices, there is no best. There is only what works best for you.

No matter where you are in your trucking career, it is wise to review not only your communications devices and plans, but also your communications behavior.

There are people who practically live on their cell phones. If there is an open moment, they will fill it by making a call, texting, checking messages or doing something with their smart phone.

I once offered to pay someone like this $1 a minute for every minute she would let me keep her smart phone in my pocket and turned off. For every hour so completed, the rate would increase to $100 per hour. Nothing was going on that required business use of the phone that afternoon. I showed her the cash I was willing to pay. She declined. That phone activity was just too important to her to earn $100 an hour by turning it off. It was like she would turn into a pumpkin if her cell phone was beyond her reach.

On the other extreme is a friend of mine who carries a cell phone but leaves it turned off until he has need of it. He does not like interruptions. He’ll stay focused on the task at hand, pausing to turn on the phone every now and then to check messages or make an outgoing call. A good day for him would be a day when he did not talk on the phone at all.

When I was mixing and mingling with expedite carrier CEO’s at the Sylectus conference, it was interesting to observe their cell phone use. Some turned their phones off during meetings. Others turned the sound off but set them in sight on the table to monitor text messages and call alerts.

If you are a truck driver, what kind of cell phone user are you and how important is that next call or message really? If you totaled up the time you spent on the phone yesterday, would you say the time was wisely used or could it have been better and safer spent?