Wednesday, April 16, 2008

More Adventures

Never a dull moment. Having picked up some sort of virus somewhere between Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri, I have become increasingly ill over the past week. Finally after criss-crossing my way to Eden, North Carolina (which is the awesome quaint town that's a bugger to get to) I finally got my load going home (Palm Springs, CA this time) a straight shot down I-40 from North Carolina to California. After being set back by some technical problems with the trailer, I was running behind so I pulled an all-night shift from Arkansas to New Mexico (the stars over Texas and New Mexico at night are amazing by the way), but by the time I crossed the border into New Mexico I was becoming seriously ill. Sinus, nose, throat, lungs, ears - the works. My ears and been building and releasing pressure as I went up and down the hills, but eventually my right ear stopped draining and started just building pressure. By the time I was 50 miles from Albuquerque the pain became unbearable and was accompanied by increasing vertigo. Vertigo sucks when your standing still, it's even worse when trying to drive a several ton truck. Despite my determination to get this load done on time with no further complications, I couldn't ignore the danger any longer. I made the call and told my dispatch I was looking for an Urgent Care facility. I ended up going to the ER at a local hospital in Albuquerque. Several hours later I was diagnosed with a respiratory virus, a sinus infection, and vertigo and given some prescriptions along with instructions not to drive until checked out by my home doctor. Don't drive. Sure. No problem. how exactly do I get to my home physician if I can't drive? My fleet manager shared my frustration (probably adding some of her own) and the office people went to work trying to figure this one out. Meanwhile a husband-wife team with the same company who happened to be in Albuquerque rescued the load and took it on to California while I hung out waiting for the verdict from the office. And then it came. Now, this sounded weird to me at first too, so bear with me.
Since I have not accrued enough sick / disability leave, and since the doctor did not indicate how long I would be out of the driver seat, the company has suggested the following: I am to resign my position at the company (to be re-instated as soon as I get a Doctor's approval), move out of my truck (imagine moving out of a very small apartment), they will give me some money to help get me home, and then I can recover, get the doctor's OK, and be re-hired. Weird, huh? but it kinda makes since. Obviously there were a ton of other questions and considerations that had to be sorted out, but it looks like tomorrow morning I will be packing up and headed home minus my truck for a little unpaid sick leave. In a lot of ways this is frustrating beyond measure and I keep rehearsing the events to see if i could have done something different, but in the end I made the best call I could. A dizzy truck driver is not a good thing. In some ways though this is a welcome break. This last three weeks has been pretty stressful and rough and this arrangement came with a verbal assurance that the company valued me as an employee and wanted me to stay, so that at least was a relief to hear after being on the edge of my seat for the last three weeks because of my previous screw ups. I look forward to a quick recovery and a better time of it in the future, but as always, we'll see what happens and deal with it as it does.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Faces (#003): Sleep deprivation does funny things to men.

36 hours straight. Wow. I think I was had just gotten my second (or maybe third or fourth) wind here. Yikes.

Monday, April 07, 2008

An interesting Fact.

In 1896 there were only four cars registered in all the United States. Two of them collided with each other in St. Louis.

Truck Driving and the Economy

Look around you. Seriously, do it right now. Everything you see was moved by a truck driver at some point. Your food. Your clothes. The wallpaper. The carpet. The materials that make up the room you are sitting in. That fake tree over there. Even the real ones lining the boulevard outside. The drapes. Your car. Everything. It was all moved somewhere for your convenience by truck drivers. How many trucks are out there on the road doing this? Hundreds? Thousands? Try 15.5 million.[1] Here's a quote from one statistic site:

A typical tractor-trailer raises about $40,000 a year in federal/provincial taxes and fees.Trucks make "just-in-time" delivery possible - no other mode of delivery can match the service provided by the trucking industry. Over 269,000 commercial trucks cross the Manitoba-US border each year. In 1998, $6.06 billion of Manitoba's exports are to the United States. In 1998, $7.45 billion of Manitoba's imports are from the United States. 80% of Manitoba's merchandise trade with the United States is shipped by truck.Canada and the United States trade $300 billion in goods and services every year. More than 66% of the goods travel by truck.Each year trucks cross the Canada-US border over 10 million times. (that's one trip every three seconds).For-hire trucking directly and indirectly contributes $890 million of Manitoba's GDP.

Also, the trucking industry accounts for 12.8% of all the fuel purchased in the U.S. That means 12.8% of the fuel industry's income is guaranteed. America can't operate without it. Right now our economy is hurting. People are buying less. Things are being shipped less. And shipping is becoming more expensive. Why? In 2002 the average price for fuel was $1.26 per gallon. By 2004, two years later, it was still only $1.58 per gallon.[3] The next year, 2005, Diesel fuel shot up to $3.15 per gallon. [3] It more that doubled in less than 1 year. Each penny increase in diesel costs the trucking industry $381 million over a full year. [4]Here's another interesting statistic: on average, every time oil prices go up 10 percent, 150,000 Americans lose their jobs. [5] Prices are still high and going higher. The average profit margin for the trucking industry is 4.8% [6] while the average profit margin for the oil industry is 8.2% [7] Trucking is the foundation for America's economy. The industry provides over 9 million jobs [8] and makes even more possible by moving needed goods and materials across the country. About 88% of Truckers and warehouse workers are non-union. About 10% of all truckers are independent or "Owner Operators." The rising fuel prices are especially hurting these guys. How can self employed workers unite to create better working conditions? Something, either alternative fuel or energy, or controls on oil companies price increases, I don't really know, but something has got to give. Maybe biodiesel is the answer? At the moment biodiesel is not significantly cheaper than petrodiesel but a more widespread use of biodiesel would certainly lower the demand for petrodiesel. Also, owner-operators could conceivably produce their own - the only problem being the extremely large quantity they would need to produce, and having it available where they needed it when they needed it. It seems to me, the only thing that can really save independent drivers is for them to unite and work together for a solution. I think biodiesel has a lot of potential for being that solution but truckers would need to unite and work together to make it happen. Until then, I would encourage biodiesel sellers to target independent truck drivers as potential customers and encourage independant drivers to use it over petrodiesel whenever possible. Thus endeth my political rant.

Just to make things more complicated, there is a serious drawback to biodiesel when it comes to environmental effects and third-world living conditions. Though I still support biodiesel, I think it is important to be aware of these issues and try to work for solutions to these problems as we further develop methods of biodiesel use and production. For details, see this article: