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.