Saturday, November 24, 2007


About two weeks ago, I thought I was going to suffocate in my sleep. My CPAP machine, which I depend on to keep my airway open and prevent my sleep apnea from occurring, rolled over and died. It was sudden, with no warning at all. The familiar rush of pressurized air ceased and I couldn't breathe. Sat up and ripped my mask off, with my slumber on hold. "What's wrong with this freakin' thing??!!" I wondered aloud. No answer came, so I investigated.

Is the inverter working? Yep. Green "on" light is glowing. Plugged into the inverter all the way? Yep. Plugged into the CPAP all the way? Yep. Pressed the "go" button on the machine. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Well, shit!! Looked at the status panel and saw an ominous error message:  ERROR -- E03. Pressed the "go" button half a dozen times. No change. Message stayed as-is. At that point, I pronounced the patient officially dead, unplugged it and put it back into its carrying bag, then stowed it away. So much for that. No CPAP for you!!! Hello, Mr. OSA! We meet again!!

And so we did. My old enemy, my sleep apnea, returned with a vengeance. It seemed like I was waking up every ten minutes or so. Doze off, wake back up, doze off again, wake back up -- an endless cycle. I was made quickly and acutely aware of just how much I depended on that machine to help me get a decent night's sleep and it decidedly sucked without the thing's aid and support! I knew that the earliest I'd be able to take the thing in to the hospital outlet that provides and services them would be Monday. Four nearly sleepless nights to look forward to!! Gee, whiz -- what a thrill! Next morning, tired and groggy, I called in and left a message on my dispatcher's voice mail, since he was busy and unavailable in person, as is usually the case. Told him I had to take Monday morning off, to see about getting it fixed, as I couldn't take many breaks without the thing. Emergency! Gotta have it!

He found me a more or less suitable load and I headed home on Friday, tired as hell from lack of sleep, but able to drive safely in spite of it, because driving when you're dead-tired is something all truckers learn to deal with on frequent occasions. I didn't sleep any better at home -- worse, in fact, because I'm much more used to sleeping in my truck's bunk than I am my own bed. So, as you might imagine, I was glad when Monday dawned at last. I had been so pooped over the weekend that I didn't even have the energy to ride Velvet. She stayed parked all weekend. Not about to risk getting out on her so tired and maybe crashing her and hurting myself. No way, Jose!

I was lurking like a vulture in the parking lot of the hospital equipment outlet, waiting for them to open up. I pointed to the CPAP bag I carried. "It died. Fix it, please!!" Or something to that effect, anyway. I had to leave it and go back home until their technician could perform an autopsy on it. They called after about three hours and the news wasn't good. Motor was burned up and the tech said it was due to neglect; I hadn't changed the filters often enough. I argued mightily. I DID wash out the foam one at least every two weeks or so, and always had done so! I can't get in town every month to get a new inner filter, as I'm on the road all the time! It's very hard for a trucker to do anything like that, when everything's closed on the weekends when I am at home! Told them that I suspected that the thing may have ended up too close to the sleeper curtain in my truck and that was what probably blocked the air flow. I couldn't put it up on a shelf, because the cord wouldn't reach to the plug in my cab and also the risk of pulling it off the shelf and having it conk me in the head! Not safe, so I had to put it on the floor. Our trucks aren't equipped with the desks that others have. Nowhere else to put it. I tried to keep it away from the curtain, but sometimes, in spite of all your efforts. . . .

My company had just gone on a new insurance plan and although I didn't have a claim on it as yet, the outlet was required to write a letter, explaining why the thing died at such a young age. Insurance will only replace them every five years, normally. Mine didn't last quite two years. When the insurance company got the letter, they'd likely deny the claim and the whole thing would come out of my pocket, instead of just the $500 deductible. No way could I afford that; the five hundred bucks is going to strain me enough, but I might come up with enough in my Comdata "credit union" account to cover most of that. But NOT the whole enchilada!!

Finally, it was decided that since I didn't have an insurance claim as yet, they would refer me to another outlet in town and I could get a new machine from them. That way, I was a first-time buyer, with no previous machine that had died on me. No letter would be written and my insurance would pay their part of it. So, that's what happened. Went over there and the hospital outlet had faxed my sleep study and all the other pertinent information to them. I walked out of there with a new CPAP. A different brand; smaller, and made different, so that there's no risk of it getting too close to that curtain again. And they'll mail me new filters each month, along with mask cushions and a new mask at certain intervals. Everything worked out for the best in the end and by my next break period, I was sleeping like a baby again. Ahhhh -- sweet relief!!

That relief would be short-lived, though, because this past week was a holidaze weekend. Thanksgiving, specifically. The busiest travel day of the year and the exhorbitant gas prices weren't stopping them this year. Holidays present even greater challenges to truckers. Plants and warehouses tend to close early before a holiday and don't open up until the long weekend is over, so it means you're in a mad rush to deliver and pick up your loads before quitting time rolls around.

Such was the case with me on Wednesday of last week. I had a long run down to North Carolina from the area around our yard in Illinois. Started Tuesday, but didn't get far before my hours ran out. I drove over them a bit, in fact, making it into Indiana before I shut down, then logging myself further down the road than I actually was. This was so that the time when I fueled would coincide with my logbook and I wouldn't drive too long getting to the truckstop. If you don't understand all that, trust me. I know what I'm doing when I cheat. I had to save all the hours I could for the marathon I'd be running the next day.

Wednesday, I started out an hour and a half before my log says I did, fueled in Kentucky, then drove all the way to Sanford, North Carolina, non-stop. I was scheduled to deliver at 3 P.M., CST, but I wanted to get there as early as I could, both to beat the brunt of the traffic nightmare I knew would be coming, and to get my load delivered and skedaddle to my next pickup, which would presumably take me home for the holiday. Show up after  they close, and you ain't going home, Jack! You'll sit out the holiday right there!

Stopped twice for bathroom breaks and that was it. Pulled into the customer at Sanford at 1 -- two hours early. I think the forklift was on the truck before I bumped the dock. They want to get 'er done and go home, too!! By that time, I was actually almost three hours over my drive hours in reality, but due to my clever logging, I had an hour and a half left on paper. Amazing what one can do with a little creative arithmetic! That wasn't enough, though, in spite of my creativity. I got my next load pronto -- dispatch was even in a hurry to get the heck out of Dodge. Yep, they sent me to South Carolina to load again, almost a tradition when I'm in Sanford. To a paper mill, which, according to the load info, would be open at least until midnight. Over 150 miles, by HHG reckoning, and pretty accurate this time, because the back roads ARE the quickest way to get down there from where I was. That happens occasionally. But I required more than ninety minutes in order to cover that distance and not show my 65 mph truck running 85, or something like that, which would be unacceptable and would get me written up for a violation.

To hell with the log for now! I gotta get that load picked up WAY before they can close and the later it gets, the worse traffic will be, heading out to grandma's, or wherever. So, I once again went on the old tried, true and well-tested "Drive Now -- Log It Later" strategy. No scales out in the woods anyway and most of the interstate scales would be closing early, as they pulled the DOT bears off the trucks and put them on the roads for extra traffic patrols. Truckers get a free pass often on holiday weekends. The bears have too many 4-wheelers to worry about. So, chances of getting caught for HOS violations are slimmer.

I got to the paper mill about 6, after fighting increasingly heavy traffic all the way down there. I figured up my hours after I had dropped my empty caboose and hooked up to my loaded one and found that at that point I was only 7 1/2 hours over the 11 hours I'm legally permitted to drive. Eighteen and a half hours on the road, straight. Call me Iron Man!!! I wasn't tired -- much. Just nearing a total collapse, as you might imagine. New CPAP wasn't doing me any good at all ifI couldn't get INTO the bunk in the first place. But it was necessary, if I was to have any holiday at all. My marathon over at last, I made my way to the nearest truckstop, found a space at the curb, ate a Subway pizza, then went to sleep.

I got up later than I meant to Thanksgiving morning and made my way home, again through fairly heavy traffic, but feeling much better after the rest I'd gotten. finally. It was after 2 P.M. before I arrived home. Caught up my logbook, showing a break in North Carolina that I actually drove through, mostly, then another shorter break in South Carolina, so that once again my fuel time would coincide accurately. Crossed all the "T's," dotted all the "I's," and went to the house. Took my mom out for dinner. I hadn't eaten much all day and I pigged out on fried chicken.

And now it's too blamed cold to ride Velvet, dang it!! I thought about it until I stepped outside and could see my breath in the air. I went back inside and Velvet's still parked in the garage, sound asleep. I ain't no polar bear. Supposed to warm up again next week. We'll see.


Sunday, November 18, 2007


When I got in my truck last Monday night, preparing to leave out, I got a Qualcomm message which indicated that my trailer, which I had dropped at a local truckstop, as usual, had been under scrutiny by one of our company cops. These individuals also go by other names, such as "snitches," or "apple polishers," or "brown-nosers," to name a few. They are, in fact, other drivers from my company who have appointed themselves as remote enforcers of company policies. If they find that you're not doing something that you're supposed to be doing, or they think you're not, they'll call up the head honchos at our yard and rat you out to the company brass. Then you'll get the ominous message on your QC as evidence that you've been caught!

"Why was your trailer dropped at the [name of truckstop] without being locked up?" That was what this particular company official wanted to know. Unfortunately, I couldn't tell him right at that time, as it was too late to call him. He would have already left the office by then. The company had another trailer and load stolen about two weeks earlier and in a fleet message, they were threatening 3-day suspensions if trailers dropped for the weekend weren't turned into rolling bank vaults by being locked up in every imaginable way known to man. A routine reaction to such thefts. Seen it before, been there, done that.

Not that it isn't a serious thing. It is, and to that end, I'll always have locks on my dropped trailer when I'm at home. However. last week I came home with an empty box, my load not ready to pick up until Monday evening, so I saw no point in turning an empty trailer into Fort Knox. I slapped my trusty glad hand lock on it and headed to the house. The snitching do-gooder brown-noser who ratted on me evidently didn't see that lock at all and never bothered to look in the damn thing, so he could see that it was empty. No load. Nothing to steal. And it was locked, at least somewhat, sucker! Joke's on you, this time! I called the official who had sent the message the next morning and left word on his voice mail, attesting to those facts. That was all I could do; the company brass can be next to impossible to reach on a phone in person. The snitches must have a direct hotline to them, or something, evidently.

I'm not inclined to snitch on other drivers; I consider whatever they do -- or don't do -- as none of my business. Only if someone were driving their truck in an unsafe manner and endangering others would I report anyone to the company, and even in that case I would attempt to talk to the driver myself before I did so. If another driver is negligent and their load gets stolen, then that's between them and the company, because there's no way that a driver can NOT report a missing trailer! That's a little too, uh, obvious, don't you think?? No, it's not my job to police truckstop parking lots and check out any of our trailers that have been dropped there. Every driver is supposed to know the policy on locking them up and it's their ass if they don't and the load disappears.

I don't know if the snitch who called in on me will get a shiny new truck out of the deal or not, although that's the sort of thing that motivates most of them. If he does, it would surely be poetic justice if the asshole totaled it the first week he had it!! And that's how I feel about that.


While we're on the subject of self-appointed "cops," the members of what I call the Fatigue Police have scored yet another victory in their ongoing efforts to rest us truckers to death. The Fatigue Police are the several outsider coalitions who have stuck their noses into the FMCSA's rulemaking process and turned the Hours Of Service rules into a game of musical regulations in recent years. They include groups such as Public Citizen, Parents Against Tired Truckers, and several others, and they are totally obsessed with the issue of driver fatigue. Like most of these crusader organizations, they have a one-track mind and don't even know when to quit. Enough is never enough, in their effort to impose their will on an industry that none of them have ever worked in and know little about in any practical sense.

Those groups, along with the Teamster's Union, sued the FMCSA over things they didn't like in the current HOS regs and evidently got the judges on their side, because the federal court vacated (overturned) parts of the HOS rules recently. FMCSA managed to obtain a stay until Dec. 27 of this year and on that date, unless they come up with something new, get another stay, or congress acts in our favor, we will lose the 11-hour drive rule and the 34-hour reset of our 70 weekly hours that we needed so badly for years. It will revert back to 10 hours drive time, without a reset at all, just like it was before the HOS was changed in 2005. That sucks, and especially the reset part. The 70-hour rule was always the biggest pain in the ass of all the regs that drivers had to comply with, and one that led to widespread falsification of logbooks that was almost legendary. So, here we go again, unless Lady Fortune should smile on us before Christmas.

The problem is that the FMCSA has to try to please everyone and all too often, when you do that, you end up pleasing no one. The trucking industry is already split up into several competing factions as it is, with union vs non-union, small companies vs big ones, independent O/O drivers vs company drivers, and so on. Add to that the grassroots coalitions who want to keep us in our bunks 75% of the time and it's a recipe for disaster, as far as any sensible regulations are concerned. The union is self-serving, as all unions are -- concerned only with what's good for the union and not giving a rat's behind about anyone else. And the coalitions push their single-minded agenda for all it's worth, conveniently ignoring the fact that driver fatigue was cited as a causal factor in less than 10% of the accidents studied, where the truck was deemed to be at fault. And those are official U.S. Government studies, too! There are none so blind as those who refuse to see.

So, there we are. The FMCSA giveth and the courts taketh away. Back to square one and back to the drawing board. And where are the drivers in all of this furor? Where are the ones who have to live with this crap?? Out there doing our jobs, hoping for the best, the majority of us having been convinced that nothing we can say matters, because no one is listening to us anyway. We have representation, but it looks like the union and the coalitions have better lawyers. And that's what it takes to get your voice heard, in this day and age.

I'll keep y'all posted on this as things develop (or don't develop).


Thursday, November 8, 2007


As I write this, I'm not at home. It's Thursday and I'm in southern Kentucky, just north of the Tennessee state line, headed for a delivery in an Atlanta suburb tomorrow morning. From there I hope to be dispatched homeward, after this load is delivered. I'm going to try a little experiment tomorrow, when I send in my "empty at destination" message. It has occurred to me that there has to be a way that I can manipulate the fuel solution I wrote about last week.

I believe that by under-reporting my remaining fuel, which is required information in the empty message, I might be able to generate a "Use Fuel Book" non-solution from the computer at the terminal. That would free me to fuel anywhere, along any route I choose, and avoid any routing conflicts, arguments with dispatch (which drivers most often lose), and other hassles.

That number, from 1 to 8, that I send in is what triggers the "solution" that the computer sends me. An '8' equals nearly full tanks, whereas a '1' would equal "Get me to a truckstop ASAP!! I'm running on fumes!!" In the latter case, the computer would either direct me to the closest fuel stop in my area, or spit out the "Use Fuel Book" mentioned earlier. Hypothetically, I could also over-report the fuel level in my tanks and acheive the same result, although that is riskier and could lead to nearly running me out of fuel. It would all depend on my actual gauge reading when I send the message in.

What I don't know, of course, is how much input a dispatcher has on the fuel solution/routing. The solution is computer-generated, but does a dispatcher select the route?? Hmmmmmmmm. Only one way to find out -- experiment a little. If dispatch chooses my route, then I'm screwed royally, because they would necessarily go by our computerized GPS system, which calculates everything in a straight line and is based on the old Household Movers Guide (HHG) of yesteryear, which companies still stubbornly cling to today.

The HHG is a dinosaur. A living fossil that refuses to be buried. Compiled way back in the 1950's, it calculates the absolute shortest route between points 'A' and 'B' all over the country. This was great for drivers back then, because it saved them lots of time in planning theirtrips. However, in today's world it's obsolete and nearly worthless, mainly because it has almost never been updated in all those years. In the 50's, the Interstate Highway System so common today was in its infancy. Many of today's modern interstates simply didn't exist back then and the byways and backroads were the only way a driver had to get anywhere. The HHG utilizes mainly these backwoods routes, with a little interstate travel thrown in here and there. Hop on the Big Road for a few miles, then back out in the woods again for miles on end. As close to a straight line to a destination as possible, since the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Sounds reasonable on the surface, don't it? It's far from it, though.

Since the HHG has only undergone only a couple of minor upgrades in the years since its inception, and has never had the major overhaul it needs, there are many things that it doesn't take into consideration; things that impact a driver directly. Like all those little backwater towns on the backroads. Those burgs all have traffic lights, stop signs, lowered speed limits, etc., all of which slow you down. Add to that modern-day traffic congestion. There are easily five times the number of vehicles on the roads today than there were in the 1950's. Congestion in those little towns is incredible at certain hours of the day and there aren't as many alternate routes through them as in the larger cities; one main drag and that's about it. And trucks have to stick to that main drag, or a designated truck route in about all of them, so any alternate routes are useless to a trucker anyway. Some have built bypasses, but the vast majority haven't bothered. The interstates passed them by and the local economy won't allow it.

Then there's the two-lane configuration of many of the backroads. Great on a motorcycle, and what I prefer on that mode of transportation, but not so great in a truck, when you have an appointment load to deliver. So many are narrow, no shoulders, nowhere to go if anything should happen. Just a ditch, where you'll roll your rig over a couple of times. Inherently dangerous and totally obsolete for truck transportation, with the exception of local delivery drivers, who have to run them, and for access to rural shippers and receivers. If that's not enough, then you have the inevitable "local yokels" in their cars. Ma and Pa, out for a cruise up the road, tootling along at 35, and completely unmindful of the line of traffic backed up behind them, cursing them fluently. You drive a 70-foot-long tractor-trailer that accelerates like a snail and you'll never get around them, unless you're very lucky, or you like to take crazy chances with your life and the lives of others.

The lack of truck facilities on the backwoods routes are another problem. The interstates took most of the commercial traffic off of them, so there are very few truckstops out in the woods these days. What does a driver do if he/she runs out of hours on those routes? There's nowhere to park, forcing you to use your creativity (and hope you don't get ticketed by some small town cop). Even stopping to use the bathroom is a challenge; half the time it's impossible to find a spot to even pull over and use an "emergency bottle," which most drivers have around, out of necessity. All the amenities are out on the interstate, miles from the routes dictated by the HHG. Those were the main roads back when it was written, but not anymore.

Most OTR drivers nowadays stay on the interstate most of the time. It's faster, with higher speed limits and no stop signs or traffic lights to contend with. That is, of course, the whole idea behind them, the reason they exist in the first place -- safe, high-speed transportation all over the country. Taking an interstate route may be a little longer, but it's quicker and with today's Just-In-Time Freight strategies, "hot" loads, and tight etas, it's almost mandatory. The shortest route has become the slowest one all too often in modern times. There are some drivers, mainly old-timers and a few tightwads, who don't want to give the companies any free miles, and who still take the backwoods approach to driving, but the interstate is the preferred way to travel. So much so that a few companies have abandoned the HHG altogether and now pay drivers what is called "practical miles," based primarily on the interstate routes that most are using.

Far too many companies, though, still base their dispatched mileage on that old dinosaur. The reason?? It makes perfect economic sense for them to do so. They only pay drivers for the dispatched miles, not for actual miles driven. By utilizing the HHG, they keep the dispatched miles as short as possible, and thus don't have to pay out as much to the drivers, all the time fully aware that the majority of their drivers will take the interstate, for the sake of faster delivery and fewer hassles. From a driver's point of view, they are actually screwing us out of the more practical miles we are actually driving, and out of the monetary compensation for running those miles. In the minds of the companies, though, we are screwing ourselves, by taking the longer, though quicker route. We can take the shorter route and not give them those free miles. And risk being late with the loads because it's often so much slower on the backroads. It creates a real dilemma for drivers. Many of them have quit over this and it remains one of the reasons for high driver turnover and the shortage of drivers, many of whom get fed up and pursue other career paths.

Now I hope you see my dilemma with this fuel solution nonsense, and why I'm so opposed to it. That computer is programmed to always put me on the shortest route to my destination, and not the fastest, or most practical one. That's what has given me all the grief, especially when I'm heading home for the weekend. Computers only do what they're programmed to do; they're not "smart." They are electronic imbeciles, in fact. Quite stupid, compared to human intelligence. So, the only solution is better programming; practical miles, instead of HHG miles.

The Household Guide should be scrapped, and ALL companies required, by law, to pay practical miles to their drivers, in my opinion. If the majority of us are running on the interstates, then PAY us for doing so. It's only fair! If not, before long, most of the more experienced ones like myself are going to hang it up and leave our highways filled with 60-day-wonders driving 80,000 pound trucks. Is that what America wants, or needs?

Sunday, November 4, 2007


Well, got home for the third week in a row and I believe I know now why I've been held out on the road so much this year. I've been punished for defying the "fuel solution" I receive along with the load information when I'm dispatched on a new load. The last three weeks, I've followed it and I've gotten home. I thought back to when this whole crazy scheme first started, put two and two together, and came to my conclusion. There is a definite pattern to my defiance and my being held out on the road a week later.

The root of the problem is really in dispatch and my own dispatcher in particular. It's also partly due to my own stubbornness. For those of you who are unenlightened about the trucking world, dispatchers control a driver's life on the road. They manage drivers; my company calls them "driver managers," officially, in fact. They come in all shapes, sizes and personalities. like all human beings, and they can be your best friend in some instances and your worst nightmare of an enemy in others. They can make your life on the road go smoothly, or they can make it a living hell and whichever mode it is is usually up to the driver him or herself -- how well they get along, cooperate, and do their job. That makes all the difference, in most cases.

I've always tried my best to get along with dispatch and strive to be cooperative. I'm quite competent at what I do, after almost ten years, so doing my job correctly is a no-brainer. Usually, that is. However, I have two quirks to my personality. I can be extremely stubborn, especially when I'm forced to do something I strongly disagree with, and I'm not inclined to suffer people and schemes that I think are foolish and idiotic very gently at all. That's especially true when I'm on the receiving end of the foolishness. The so-called "fuel solution" that my company has come up with this year is a prime example of that.

This newest program (scheme) began at the first of this year, or the end of last year -- I can't remember exactly when. We are allowed to fuel at only one truckstop chain, having an exclusive fleet contract with that company. Prior to the start of the new scheme, we were free to fuel at any of their locations. Then, with no explanation at all (typical of a trucking company), we started getting a fuel solution when we were assigned every load. This dictates a particular location where we are supposed to fuel and even dictates how much we can put in our tanks. It's all computer-generated. Gee, ain't those electronic brains smart!! They know now where I need to fuel, when, and how much I'll need!!! Some machine knows that better than the poor moron who drives the damned truck!! Ain't that something?? Will wonders never cease?? Well, you get the idea -- it has a tendency to make a driver feel worthless, like we don't have enough sense to know when we need fuel, how much we need, and where the hell to get it! After some of us have been doing it for nearly a decade.

And some of the "solutions" were/are idiotic. Y'see, in deciding where you have to fuel, that electronic genius at the yard also dictates the route you have to take, and it has about as much sense of geography as the average public high school student. It had me driving 48 miles out of route in the Nashville area once, just to fuel at a certan truckstop. And it would often put me on the wrong route home (and still does sometimes). I laughed at first; the things my company will do to save a few pennies per gallon is incredible!

So, at first I fueled where I wanted to, when I disagreed with the routing. Screw this, I thought. If they can't afford the fuel, maybe they should re-think the business they're in, where fuel costs are a cost of doing that business! With as many trucks out there that blow our slow-ass doors off on the highway and run rings around us, they must know something my company don't, in order to run those higher speeds. You gotta know they're burning more fuel than we are, eating their dust.

I found out a little later that the fuel solution was also a tax dodge. Fuel taxes for trucks in all the states that they operate in is a VERY complicated thing indeed. I don't pretend to know very much about it, as I'm not an accountant, or a lawyer, but it's very complex. Somebody apparently discovered that by fueling in certain locations in a state, companies can end up paying less fuel tax to that state at the end of each year and save themselves a little dough. Well, I'm not opposed to that at all, having run a business in my lifetime. Cutting costs equals greater profits in any business. That I know, and you can't blame companies for doing what they can to cut their overhead. But, uh, when they do it at my expense, that's when I tend to get rebellious.

Here's my beef:  How much money are they saving, really, if I'm forced to take a roundabout route to fuel in a certain place, and by doing so, have to drive an extra 150 miles to get home on the weekend? It seems to me that the extra mileage would eat up any fuel and tax savings that they hope to acheive. That's what seems so utterly idiotic about the whole thing, to me. It's like robbing Peter to pay Paul. Not to mention that it'll take me extra time to get home and thus have less time to spend when I get here. The problem is that the idiot-savant computer in Illinois will stick me on a route that runs directly from the shipper to the destination, without taking into consideration the fact that I'm going home first and that my best route to the Dawg House may differ greatly from the one it's dictating to me! Don't screw with me, computer! I know well my fastest and most direct routes home, from about anywhere!!

I wasn't the only driver that was ignoring the "solution" at first; I talked to plenty of others who were just as stubborn as myself, especially the more experienced ones, who felt much as I did about it. It was demeaning to an experienced driver, who already knew the best routes to almost any destination. We didn't need it dictated to us by a machine. Then, one day I got a message from my dispatcher -- not a fleet message, but a personal one, sent to all his drivers. It stated that we now had to follow the solution to the letter, all the time. If we had a problem, let him know. "Bullshit," was my first thought, but I tried to cooperate all I could, wanting to get along, as usual. I fueled where it told me to, unless it spit out something ridiculous.

It did do that again, of course, and as I was headed home, as usual. I asked my dispatcher to change it once, when it had me going home through Nashville, from the yard; that would cost me an extra 100 miles and two hours of driving. He refused to change it, stating that he showed it was shorter, going that way. Crap!! I knew better, but I went that way, just to see, and set the trip odometer to measure the miles. Sure enough, it was 92 miles further, taking that route, rather than my  usual one. Told him about it and got no response  at all. He also refused to change it on several other occasions, when I argued with the routing. So, I gave up. What's the use?? Damn training company thinks it has to treat everybody like a rookie who don't know their behind from a hole in the ground!

Four weeks ago, I was in Ohio when I got my homebound load and the solution was screwed up again. It had me taking a route from the shipper, straight to the destination and fueling along the way. That route didn't even run through Tennessee, much less Knoxville. My only logical route was down I-71 to I-75, and then home. Any other route would force me to drive 175-200 miles further. I ignored it, took the sensible route home, and fueled where I wanted to. The next week I was held out again and that weekend the probable reason why started to occur to me. I was being punished for my disobedience, like a misbehaving child.

I set out to prove my theory. I followed it, to the letter, just like I was supposed to do. Luckily, the homebound fuel solutions were sensible for a change, and on the right route, and I got another crazy one changed by second shift this week. I've been home for the past three weekends. Good dog!! Jump through the hoop!! You'll get a treat if you do your trick!!! That's what I feel like. Am I overly sensitive?? Ya think?? My exact thoughts are unprintable and would likely get me kicked off of AOL, so I'll keep them to myself.

I'll jump through their hoops, as long as it's reasonable. One dispatcher told me that they know there's problems with the fuel solution (I'll say!) and they're working on it. We'll see. It does seem a little better now than it did, most of the time. I'll ask to get it changed, if it's unreasonable, and may ask the other shifts, my situation permitting. Some of the other drivers have told me that they don't follow it when it's that ridiculous and they don't get punished for it, so it looks like it depends on the particular dispatcher. Mine is a "Mr. Rulebook," "Mr. Strictly Business" type, so there you go. I'm stuck with it, just like I'm stuck with him. I'm contemplating a major change in my career in the next two years anyway, so I'll tough it out as long as I can. I have bills that have to be paid and I can't do without the money to pay them. That's my bottom line.