I read your story “Dangerous Roads” [in the April 2008 issue] and thought I would put my two cents in. The worst stretch of road I ever drove, as for winter driving, is U.S. Hwy. 287 from Rawlins up to Muddy Gap Junction – so as to catch Wyoming Hwy. 220 into Casper, Wyo. It can get so mean on that road for about a 25-mile stretch there, and the wind coming across down off of Elk Mountain up on I-80. I won’t go into detail here, but I could tell some real stories about some of these roads and mountain passes.
Anyway, I have nothing to complain about and still enjoy driving yet today. I started driving in ’57 and still run about 3,000 miles a week.
‘Reckless Driving’ Ruined My Career
This is a heads-up, so it may never happen to you. I learned the hard way that a “reckless driving” conviction is a driving-career kiss of death. Reckless driving is generally defined in most states as a “wanton disregard for the safety of other persons and property.” The charge can be applied to just about any situation – speeding, failure to yield, running a red light, improper lane change, following too close, etc. Yes, the offenses I listed usually are written as such, but an officer of the law can elect to use the “reckless driving” citation in place of any of these.
The thing most of us forget is that the CDL is for both truck and auto, and my story happened in my auto in November 2006, in a small town out of state, with a biased officer whose tickets generate part of the revenue for the city and part of the salary for the judge. My mistake was to think that the local court would serve justice in hearing my case, and in not seeking the counsel of a lawyer. I never had a chance. It did not make any difference to the judge that I would lose my job, or that I had a child support payment to make, let alone require an income to pay my home mortgage and living expenses. I made an attempt to present my case using documents I had brought and was brushed off sternly by the judge. My case was all about the conviction and the large fine.
My experience was right out of a movie script, but the point is I was convicted. I knew I was going to lose my job because of company policy towards “reckless driving” – it did not matter if it happened in the truck or on your way home from work in your personal auto. What I did not know is that this charge has been adopted by most all insurance companies of trucking businesses as a means to raise insurance rates. Not only did I lose my job, but I am unemployable with any company that uses a commercial vehicle, big or small, for three years and some even longer. It does not matter that I have a clean and safe driving record in my 20 years of trucking. What matters is that you never have to learn the lesson I am now enduring.
It is a horrible feeling knowing you are no longer employable in a job you have done most of your life. So always be conscious of your driving habits whether in your truck or your auto at home. Should you ever get a ticket that may jeopardize your career, do not trust in yourself or the justice system to render you a fair judgment. Seek the counsel of a lawyer who is trained to deal in such violations, and don’t even think twice of what it will cost you in lawyer fees, because it will cost you far more if you lose your career and income.
Be Nicer to Each Other
What is wrong with the trucking industry? Listen to the CB while on the highway or at a truckstop. They aren’t satisfied with the truck, the dispatcher, the boss, the training driver, the truckstop, the government, the kids, the wife – life in general.
I work for an ATE (advanced truckstop electrification) company, and I must admit that I was pie-eyed when I started this job six months ago. I am an outsider coming into the trucking world with great admiration and respect for the people of the industry, and I cannot understand for the life of me why the people in the industry are mean, ornery and cruel to one another.
I know for a fact most of the time the driver comes into the truckstop, he/she is tired or has been driving a while and they need a break. I also know that when they get ready to leave, they probably are already late leaving by company standard or schedule. I smile and try to provide the service with an upbeat attitude, and I get grumpy and short retorts. It’s OK – I understand.
I will not stop serving and doing my best to assist, but nothing surprises me anymore. Sound like my kids when they were home – “Dad, she is touching me! Mom, why does she have a bigger spoon than I do? Dad, she is looking at me funny!” Oh well, I guess I will just continue to keep on, and maybe one of these days I will be surprised.
Mont Clare, Pa.
Focus on What You Can Control
I have been in the trucking industry for more than 40 years. Many persons who own trucks think like truck drivers, not like who they truly should be – businesspeople. In my opinion we need to think about the things we can control, not about the things we have no control over, such as the price of fuel. We need to concentrate on and demand getting paid a fair and just rate for the service we provide.
It is time that we understand the brokers are the ones that create the cheap freight, not the shippers. If we refuse to haul freight at the cheap rates the brokers are currently paying, they would be forced to pay what the shipper gives them, including the fuel surcharge, to get the freight moved. Instead of striking because of fuel prices, it would be more advantageous to collectively boycott the brokers. If we target only one broker, this would bring attention to the shippers and other brokers and cause them to explain why they can’t get the freight moved on time. It might even cause the shipper to change brokers. Hopefully the next broker would get the message and do the right thing – pay the truckers a fair and just rate.
Drivers, remember you can only survive if you get paid the proper amount for what you do. This is what I tell my customers: “The sweetness of a cheap rate is soon forgotten, while the bitterness of poor quality service lingers on forever.” This is something I learned from an older businessman years ago. Much luck and success to all.
Oliver Van Stepp
Elite Express Trucking
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