The Best of the Truck Stop Rewards Programs

Trucks parked at truck stopTruck drivers deserve some perks here and there, and where better than at truck stops. After all, a truck driver will stop at dozens of truck stops throughout the week, either for fuel, trucker showers or for trucker parking. Oh, and food, don’t forget about food.

Truck stop restaurants, buffets and fast food establishments are all good reasons to stop at a truck stop. So in the mix of all of this are truck stop reward programs. Truck driver loyalty to particular truck stop brands is rewarded with points and freebies. But not all truck stop rewards programs are worth the effort. Here is a look at the best rewards programs at truck stops and why they are winners.

My Love’s Rewards

Love’s Travel Stops is one of the biggest national truck stop chains in North America. So how does the My Love’s Rewards program measure up?

  • You earn points based on your level, ranging from Base status to Gold status. The higher your status, the more you benefit.
  • To be a Base status you have to buy up to 499 gallons of fuel in a month; at the Diamond status you are buying at least 1,500 gallons of fuel a month. You have to maintain the purchasing amount in order to keep your status.
  • You earn a free shower and free fountain drink refill with a minimum of 50 gallons of fuel purchased. However, you have to use this within 7 days if you are at Base status; you have 10 days to use it at the Gold status.
  • You get points per gallon fueled or per dollar spent on merchandise that qualifies. One point for Base status, two points for Gold status, three points for Platinum status, and four points for Diamond status. Each point is worth one cent. So you would need 100 points to earn buck.
  • You have to have 500 points, which is the equivalent of $5, in order to redeem your rewards. The points expire if you haven’t used them in a year.

Pilot Flying J My Rewards

The My Rewards program at Pilot Flying J is very similar to the My Love’s Rewards program. However, the Pilot Flying J program offers some extra perks including:

  • You can get an extended shower credit in which you gain extra showering time for free.
  • Points can be used for Wi-Fi service at the Pilot Flying J truck stops.
  • On your birthday you get Birthday Rewards during that entire month.
  • Dumping fees are decreased to $7, compared to $10, for professional drivers in the My Rewards program.
  • You can print off a coupon for 10 percent off at Denny’s or a Rolling Strong Discount.

When comparing the Love’s rewards program with the Pilot Flying J program, the latter has Love’s beat by a long shot.

Petro and TravelCenters of America’s Ultra One Rewards

Petro and TAs (TravelCenters of America) utilize the super fancy sounding rewards program called Ultra One. That is the base level, whereas there is also Ultra One Expediter and Ultra One Coach.

  • For Ultra One cardholders the benefits are geared at professional drivers.
  • Ultra One Expediter is aimed at expeditors, such as FedEx drivers or regional truck drivers.
  • Ultra One Coach is for professional passenger haulers.

The main differences for commercial truck drivers is with the amount of fuel that must be purchased for free shower credits. With the Expediter card drivers get a free shower if they buy 50 gallons of fuel within 5 days. Drivers with the Ultra One are required to buy at least 50 gallons at once in order to get a shower.

As for the reviews of the perks, the Ultra One Rewards program doesn’t’ offer as many perks as the My Rewards program at Pilot Flying J. While the points aren’t supposed to expire from the Ultra One program, truck drivers have reported that their points have been removed due to inactivity within a few months’ span. Sounds a little fishy to remove points if they don’t expire, and drivers note this as a reason not to bother with this rewards program.

Choosing the Best Truck Stop Rewards Program

In reality you aren’t going to drive out of your way and off your route in order to get points on your truck stop rewards card. It’s not worth it in the long run. Truck drivers are going to stop at truck stops along their way, choosing among those with the best fuel rates and with amenities they prefer. Cleanliness is always an overarching factor, and ample trucker parking is another plus. So rather than choosing a single rewards program to participate in, get a rewards card at every truck stop you stop at. That way you are able to gain rewards and perks simply for stopping at the truck stops you would have chosen anyway.

Trucking Stars: Who is Allie Knight?

Truck driver Allie KnightIf you are a truck driver with any clue about social media, then chances are you have at least heard of Allie Knight. She is a truck driver, yes, “she,” as well as a YouTube celebrity. More than 54,000 people are subscribed to the Allie Knight channel called “Big Trucks Open Roads… and This Weird Chick from Boston.” Why? Because she is a long haul truck driver for Jim Palmer Trucking with a background and education in metalsmithing and jewelry making skills. In a nutshell, she’s an interesting artist who just happens to be a truck driver. In the world of trucking Allie Knight’s a phenomenon.

Allie, an Online Trucking Star

As a woman in trucking you are already singled out as one of the 5 percent of females in a male dominated industry. However, as a young woman with a knack for making well-edited YouTube videos, you are much more likely to stand out from the other truckers in a lounge. People are much more likely to recognize you when you go to truck stops and weigh stations, than, say, the average trucker.

However, unlike most famous people Allie wants to meet up with other truck drivers over the road. On her website she has a contact section along with a map where truck drivers can leave their name, email and optional Twitter handle along with a pin on the virtual map that shows where they will be in her area. The idea? Meet Allie over the road if you pass through her area and she’s available. Sounds interesting and could be a great way to meet a new truck driver, one who is more popular and friendly than most.

Allie also posts her upcoming schedule of events where she will be going, on her website. For example, for the summer Allie Knight will be at Laconia Bike Week in Laconia, New Hampshire along with the Great American Truck Show in Dallas, Texas. She’s also a speaker on the panel at the ALK Transportation Technology Summit 2016 from May 23 to 24 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Allie’s the perfect combo of a steadfast OTR truck driver, along with being tech savvy and intelligent.

Chances are, if there’s a truck show coming to your region, Allie might be in attendance so keep a check on her website, Facebook profile or Twitter account.

Where to Find Allie

If you are not in Allie’s geographical area, or you are skittish about meeting other truckers, fear not! There’s an app for that. Well, not an app but a website, or four. If you are looking for Allie online, she has several places where she hangs out virtually:

Payoff for Being Social

Thanks to her massive following and marketing power, Allie has several outlets that help her make more money as a trucker:

  • Hammer Lane has a shirt called the Do You Even Shift AK Series dedicated to Allie Knight as a tribute to her trucking prowess
  • Tribute to Truckers features Allie Knight in their Gone Truckin’ series
  • Content Allie creates through YouTube videos is also translated into written web content, such as for Live Trucking

So while Allie is using social media to share her passion for trucking and life on the road from an atypical perspective, she’s also building herself a brand. Who knows? Maybe we’ll see Allie on the Discovery Channel or the Travel Channel with her own spin on truck driver reality.

Resources via Allie Knight

If you aren’t interested in meeting Allie, then why should you care about who she is? Well, if you do a quick check on her Twitter feed you’ll see she offers all sorts of friendly advice and inspiration for truckers. For example, she’s recently posted a tweet about not being able to park in a Walmart parking lot in Cedar Rapids, and not being able to find overnight parking for truckers elsewhere nearby. If you are a trucker going through Cedar Rapids this is key information for you. It’s the little tidbits of knowledge, such as this, that help you make your day better and easier as a truck driver over the road.

Furthermore, if you are just looking to chat with a friendly truck driver, Allie’s Twitter feed is updated regularly, as in, daily. You will have a good opportunity to hear back from her with any communication you have. For millennial truck drivers Allie is on the same level in terms of ability to use and interest in technology. In fact, millennials are most likely to be the target audience of Allie Knight’s videos and blogs. Finding a like minded individual in a sea of baby boomers is refreshing for millennial generation truck drivers.

Photo credit: Twitter

How to Keep Truck Drivers in Today’s Shortage

woman trucker
Over 48,000. That is the approximate number of drivers that the trucking industry needs to end the shortage. While it is well known there is a driver shortage, many fleet managers don’t realize how to keep their drivers, and there isn’t a lot about keeping drivers out there. This means already-busy fleet managers are left to their own on figuring out how to retain current drivers and how to attract new drivers.

Communication

While fleet manager might guess better trucks and higher pay would keep drivers, this is only part of the problem. Communication and acknowledgment are two reasons why drivers leave for other companies. When fleet managers know what their drivers want, they can make reasonable changes or plan for changes that might cost too much currently.

Planning for communication and for major changes drivers would like to see will help keep drivers. The first step fleet managers can do to retain current drivers and attract new drivers is set up meetings with the drivers. A meeting for the drivers should be held at least once per month. Let the drivers know they should discuss things that make them unhappy with their current positions.

Then, make an honest effort to change those things. If it’s something easy such as adding driver recognition, do that right away. You could have an employee of the month recognition, with something as inexpensive as a $25 gift card at a truck stop as an reward.

Trucks

Some drivers change trucking companies because they are driving trucks that often break down and are not well maintained. Even if your drivers do not complain about the trucks, you should have a maintenance program and schedule in place. Keeping the trucks clean and well maintained is a factor with some drivers, and you’ll get new drivers if you are known to keep the trucks clean and maintained.

If your fleet is made of older trucks, you might want to try to get newer trucks. Look into getting new trucks one at a time or even leasing a fleet of trucks, whichever seems to be financially viable for your situation.

When trucks break down, drivers can’t meet deadlines and that also takes time away from their family. When you have trucks that are well taken care of, they’ll break down less and you’ll save money in the long run, and you’ll retain more drivers. Well-maintained trucks also attracts new drivers.

Facilities

Make sure your facilities are up-to-date and clean. Restrooms, the waiting rooms for the repair shops, offices – all of it should be comfortable for administrative staff and drivers. Even if you have to hire a janitor to take care of the facilities, including the showers, it’s worth it to keep drivers and attract new drivers. A frequent complaint of drivers is having to use dirty facilities and moldy showers.

Keep everything cleaned and free of mold; and have a comfortable waiting room with a television and WiFi for the drivers while they are waiting for the truck to be maintained or repaired. Add a coffee machine to the waiting room or break area. Keep a fridge for the drivers to store sodas and meals that they might have while they are waiting on the truck.

More Communication

When you hire new drivers, have a post-hire interview within six weeks to find out if the driver is happy with his or her job and what could be changed to make the driver happy. You may also want to create a training program where a new driver rides with a veteran for a week or so. The veteran driver could also give insights to the fleet manager if needed, and is also someone the new driver can discuss potential issues with or ask questions regarding any parts of the job he or she doesn’t understand.

Increased Pay

You could also increase driver pay; this doesn’t necessarily have to be in the form of higher dollar per hour or mile. Group health insurance helps a driver save some money and a 401(k) encourages savings and driver retention. You might add sick days if your company doesn’t already provide this benefit. These all mean money to the driver, but more importantly, they show the driver you are thinking about them and doing what you can that is within your budget.

Job Expectations

When you are advertising for new drivers, write a job description that accurately describes truck driving jobs available. If you write a description that makes the job look better than it is, you’re just costing yourself money, as that newly hired driver will figure it out and will start looking for other work. You might have less applications; however, you’ll be more likely to retain the drivers you have.

Driver Commitment

Don’t forget, it’s the drivers who pay your salary. While it does take money to make some of these changes, do what you can. And most importantly, listen to your drivers.

Who is JB Hunt’s Shelley Simpson and Why is She Important?

shelly-simpson-jb-hunt

Women in the trucking industry might be a rare concept for most truck drivers. However, it’s the 21st century, and along with self driving trucks and electronic logging devices come the idea that women belong in the trucking industry, too.

Most notably are the women leaders in the trucking world, with top names including Andrea Rush, Lisa Lasater, and Shelley Simpson. Let’s find out who Shelly Simpson is and her importance for trucking.

Women in Trucking Association

The Women in Trucking Association, based out of Wisconsin, was founded in 2007 to help women who want to get into the trucking industry. Through scholarships and information for women who need help and financial aid for truck driving schools, the WIT provides a valuable resource to this gender. One of the ways the WIT continues to advance women in trucking is through their annual Women in Trucking Association’s Distinguished Woman award.

WIT Distinguished Women Recipient

For 2016 the Women in Trucking Association has chosen Shelley Simpson as the Distinguished Woman in Trucking, as reported by the CCJ. Announced on April 8, 2016 this elevates the status of Simpson, who is the integrated capacity solutions and truckload president, chief marketing officer (CMO), executive vice president at JB Hunt. Other contenders for the award include Red Arrow Logistics, Liz Lasater, and the director of logistics sustainability for Walmart, Elizabeth Fretheim. Simpson beat out these other leading ladies through her steadfast capability to accomplish outstanding feats for JB Hunt and the logistics world at large.

Ellen Voie, who is the CEO and president of the Women in Trucking Association, adds that “Choosing the winner among these three finalists was not an easy decision. Shelley is very deserving of this award. Increasing revenue by nearly $2 billion over a five-year-period shows she is a mover and knows how to get things done. She is well-respected not only as a woman in logistics, but also as a mentor to many women,” as noted by WIT.

jb-hunt-truck

Meet Shelley Simpson

Being a top notch business person is one thing, but serving the women of trucking as a mentor adds a whole new level of professionalism for Simpson. As more women are becoming interested in the trucking industry, either on the business side or from behind the wheel, there needs to be more mentors willing to help pull these women up the corporate ladder.

In terms of financial prowess Simpson’s achievements are extraordinary. She has been the leader of a revenue increase for JB Hunt that went from $4.5 billion in revenue to $6.2 billion in just five years. Simpson’s unit alone has increased by almost $1 billion.

Simpson didn’t start out on the top, though. She started out very near to the mail room, so to speak, as a customer service representative for JB Hunt way back in 1994 in Lowell, Arkansas. Within a year she’d moved up to a pricing manager position, followed by a senior pricing manager role within a year. As she moved up the corporate ladder, here are the many hats worn by Simpson at JB Hunt from 1999 until today:

  • Director of pricing and yield management from 1999 to 2000
  • Director of economic analysis from 2000 to 2002
  • Vice president, economic analysis from 2002 to 2004
  • Director pricing and yield management from 2004 to 2005
  • Senior vice president of finance and administration from 2005 to 2007
  • President, integrated capacity solutions from 2007 to 2011
  • Chief marketing officer; EVP: president of integrated capacity solutions from 2011 to 2014
  • Chief marketing officer; EVP; president of ICS and truck from 2014 to present day

She has remained at the Lowell, Arkansas company for more than 20 years serving the JB Hunt company in almost every capacity possible. This trucking career follows her education at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, where she earned her bachelor of science in marketing and marketing management. Simpson has dedicated her professional life to working at JB Hunt, and the hard work has certainly paid off.

Advice for Women Working in Trucking

Being able to wear so many hats has permitted Simpson to understand all levels of business for JB Hunt. This experience and knowledge has granted her the best possible outcome, the ability to work at the top of the corporate ladder. Simpson didn’t let the fact that she was one of only 5 percent of women in trucking stop her from being successful. While women in trucking was a much rarer concept when Simpson first started working as a customer service representative, today women are becoming more accepted in trucking. There are still issues with truck drivers and corporate big wigs who are not yet willing to work with women. However, as more women push through the bias and make trucking their chosen profession, this glass ceiling in trucking companies will shatter.

* Photo Credit: Twitter

How the Truck Parking Situation Got So Out of Hand

semi trucks parked at truck stopTruck driver parking ranks as one of the most difficult parts of the trucking job. If you are lucky enough to find a parking lot when you need one, then you might not be so happy about who’s parking next to you. Loud, trash tossing with a lack of disregard, truck drivers in parking lots get a bad rap.

That might be part of the reason why trucker parking is difficult to maintain. However, the main reason boils down to the Benjamins. Truck stops that aren’t making money find it costly to manage and expand trucker parking. Often times it’s a lost cause, and truckers are forced to find other options when they pass lot after lot that is maxed out. So what’s the deal? How did this all happen?

Reserved Trucker Parking

When you have truck stops with Reserve It! parking, looking at you TA-Petro, then that starts a cycle. These truck stops allow truckers to reserve a spot in advance, often leaving the truckers who need emergency parking to be out of luck. Additionally, truck drivers are known to park their trailers, most often empty, at truck stops so they can bobtail to the local restaurants, shopping centers or other places that prohibit trailers. This leaves loads of trucker parking spaces full with trailers, while those drivers in need of rest or to follow their hours of service mandates are forced to keep rolling. This is a problem. One way to remedy this issue would be to get more businesses, beyond the Walmart stores, to allow trucker parking.

Trucker Etiquette

However, that most certainly will never happen. Here’s the first problem. Truck drivers are notorious for tossing their garbage out of their truck windows, leaving bottles filled with urine, bags of rotting food, cigarette butts and used condoms to liter the parking area after they leave. No business wants to have to clean up after truckers, so it’s best to force them away for good. Secondly, the idea of truck drivers filling up businesses’ parking lots with their rigs and trailers, either for bobtailing or to sleep, means that there is less available parking for customers, paying customers. That’s a big no-no for businesses, and one of the primary problems with truck drivers in these parking lots.

Parking Lot Paving Problems

A big rig can weigh 40,000, 50,000 or even 80,000 pounds by the time they get their loads piled on, and especially if running over-sized truck driving jobs. Roads have weight limits, and so do parking lots. The bigger the truck, the more pressure placed on the pavement beneath it. Over time this creates an insane amount of stress, causing fissures and broken surfaces. Businesses don’t want to have to spend extra money maintaining parking lots. Truck stops, even though they cater to truck drivers, don’t want to spend a fortune on truck parking either. Therefore, when it comes time to expand or upgrade trucker parking, the answer is usually “No.” It’s just not cost effective. Truckers are going to purchase fuel and food from truck stops, because they have to. However, there isn’t much opportunity for financial growth at this point, in order to cover the costs of parking. That’s where the reserved parking and paid parking for truckers comes in.

Paid to Park for Truck Drivers

Truckers, especially those who are owner operators or independent drivers who are fitting their expenses, don’t want to pay another expense. For truck stops that mandate pay to park, this puts truckers in a bind. Either they pay or keep rolling. Often they will choose to keep moving until they get to another truck stop that doesn’t charge for parking. This can put truckers in a bind with their hours of service rules, which is a problem. However, when you are paying $20 a day to park at truck stops, over the course of a month that’s $600 in truck parking fees. Looking at it like that, no trucker wants to pay that kind of money when free parking is available. So free parking places get filled up the fastest, such as at rest areas or independent truck stops without fees for parking.

As more and more trucking jobs are created and filled for the US trucking industry, this is only going to increase the strain on existing parking lots for truckers. Paying to park is not the answer. However, parking lot attendees need a way to recuperate their costs for maintaining truck parking lots. A solution needs to be found, and fast. The main source of contention, as usual, is money. If there was a way to create parking, maintain parking and do it all for nothing, there wouldn’t be a trucking parking situation to speak of.

Pros and Cons of Love’s Truck Stops

Love’s Travel Stops and Country Stores, better known simply as Love’s, are located in 40 states across the US. As a national chain truck stop, Love’s got its start in 1964 by founder Tom Love, thus the name. The Love’s headquarters are located in The Village, Oklahoma. Truck drivers who travel with OTR CDL jobs quickly become familiar with the 370-plus Love’s truck stops. Love’s is a travel center and fuel stop, which is ideal for truck drivers who need to fill up, wash up and rest up. In addition to selling diesel fuel, Love’s offers truck and tire repair and maintenance services. Typical truck driver amenities including for-a-fee Wi-Fi, truckers’ lounges and fast food are available at most Love’s locations. Trucker parking is available for truckers at Love’s, but there isn’t the option of reserving parking spaces like you have at TA-Petro.

Positives of Love’s Truck Stops

Love's tanker truck driving on the hhighwayFor truck drivers there are a few key factors that make or break a truck stop chain. At Love’s diesel fuel is typically priced competitively. This is essential when you are looking to increase your fuel economy, and your rig is only getting about 5 miles per gallon. Cleanliness is another huge selling point for truck drivers. No trucker wants to find a truck parking lot with overflowing garbage bins or trashed restrooms. This is especially important in truck driver shower stalls. In general, Love’s offers clean facilities, keeping in mind that the independent employment will vary from location to location.

Another perk offered at Love’s is the availability of trucker hotels. A new service via Love’s, there are only a handful of hotels opened at the current time:

  • Sleep Inn and Suites in Jasper, Alabama

  • Sleep Inn and Suites in Defuniak Springs/Mossy Head, Florida

  • Sleep Inn/MainStay Suites in Emerson/Cartersville, Georgia

  • Microtel Inn and Suites by Wyndham in Pecos, Texas

  • Microtel Inn and Suites by Wyndham in Sweetwater, Texas

Additional hotels are are scheduled to open in 2016 and 2017 in Texas, Maryland, Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, Alabama, Utah, Washington, Kansas, New Mexico, Nevada, Virginia and California. The hotel chains affiliating with Love’s include:

  • Holiday Inn Express and Suites

  • Best Western Plus

  • Hampton Inn and Suites by Hilton

  • Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott

  • Comfort Inn and Suites

How does this work? Love’s is partnering with these specific hotel chains and locations to offer truck driver friendly hotel accommodations. These include convenient truck parking at Love’s, pet friendly accommodations, onsite fitness centers, and a complimentary hot breakfast. As finding trucker friendly hotels on the road is a major hassle for truckers pulling trailers, this is a great benefit offered by Love’s.

Love’s also has a rewards program called My Love Rewards. You get points that can be used for fuel, in-store purchases, free showers, and free beverage refills. Members start out at the base status, but with gallons fueled they can quickly move up to gold, platinum and then diamond status. At the diamond level, cardholders receive four points for every gallon of fuel or qualified merchandise purchased at Love’s.

Downsides to Love’s Truck Stops

One of the biggest letdowns of Love’s truck stops is the lack of sit-down full service restaurants and trucker buffets. Instead Love’s is wholly dedicated to offering a wide bevy of fast food options including:

  • Arby’s

  • Baskin Robbins

  • Bojangles’

  • Burger King

  • Carl’s Jr.

  • Chester’s

  • Dairy Queen

  • Del Taco

  • Denny’s

  • Dunkin’ Donuts

  • Godfather’s Pizza

  • Green Burrito

  • Hardee’s

  • IHOP Express

  • Love’s Subs

  • McDonald’s

  • Sonic

  • Subway

  • Taco Bell

  • Wendy’s

While this type of food is fast and convenient for truckers, it’s also not necessarily the healthiest. Lots of highly processed, sodium filled and fatty foods are sold at these fast food establishments. Truck drivers may have a few options of healthy choices, such as salads or vegetable based sandwiches. However, the temptation is often too great for hungry truckers to make healthy meal decisions when tempted with the smells and signs of greasy burgers and salty fries.

Having sit-down restaurants also provides truck drivers a chance to feel more at home over the road. They can mix and mingle with the wait staff or other truck drivers. Truckers can get home cooked meals, often from mom and pop style diners, at other truck stops. The lack of full service restaurants at Love’s has to be the chain’s worst feature.

Overall Score

Love’s offers truck drivers the essentials for life on the road. From truck repair and maintenance, to showers and trucker parking, everything a trucker needs can be found at Love’s truck stops. However, if you are keen to a particular type of dining, you might be less inclined to stop at a Love’s on a regular basis. Yet the perk of a hotel partnership is good to know for those nights when you find yourself laid over for an OTR trucking job.

5 Off the Wall Benefits to Being a Trucker

Truck drivers have it made in so many ways, if they’d only pay attention. Sure, a truck driving job takes you places so you get to travel while being paid. Every trucker agrees that not having a boss constantly watching you is a blessing. And let’s be honest. Even though you love your spouse and home life, sometimes you really need a break. As a professional truck driver with OTR trucking jobs you get all of that and more. Here are five benefits to being an over the road trucker that you might not have thought of yet.

Never Mowing the Lawn

Kenworth trucking towing another semi-truckEvery single week during the spring, summer and fall, and sometimes winter in the southern regions, the grass needs mowing, the weeds need digging, and the pesticides need spraying. If you are a trucker, though, chances are you won’t have to burden yourself with such mundane tasks. Maybe your spouse is left to tend to the landscaping, or perhaps you have hired a landscaping company to deal with the trimming. All the same, this is one chore you get to avoid if you are an OTR truck driver. If you are one of those outdoorsy types who likes to cut the grass, you can find a trucking job that allows you to come home on a weekly basis. This gives you the perfect opportunity to get out and enjoy the natural scenery that comes from tending the lawn and flower garden.

Dealing with Annoying Neighbors

Hate your neighbors? Become a trucker. It is a better investment than selling your home and moving. After all, you might want to come back home at some point in your life, you know, like when you retire from trucking. You get to leave when the neighbors become overbearing or obnoxious without looking rude or snobby. In reality, to get this incentive in your favor, you do not even have to really leave for a trucking job at all. Since you are a truck driver, by default you can simply say you are going on the road and “disappear” when their chatty conversations or rude comments go too far. When your neighbors throw those backyard barbecues and stand around comparing the size of their smokers, you can avoid all that mess by being on a trucking job. Thanks to your career, when you come home you can grill in peace without being expected to host community gatherings.

Sleepovers with Children’s Friends

If you have children under the age of 10, sleepovers are bound to happen and they are stressful. When you are dealing with restless children, rebellious kids, or straight up out of control demons, sleep is limited all around the house. As a truck driver you can leave these social functions to your spouse, noting that when you are home the last thing you want to deal with is a house full of children whom are not your offspring. And you get to get away with it, because you are a trucker. Along with sleepovers come stomach bugs, the flu and other sicknesses that spread like wildfire in such environments. If you are able to avoid your house when there are strange children running around, then you stand a good chance of avoiding their germs as well.

Never Getting to Leave Your Home State

Some people never cross the border of their state—in their entire lives. Often times it is not because they do not want to. They simply never have the opportunity to take a trip out of state, much less across the country. Truck drivers do this on a daily basis, crossing as many as half a dozen state lines from dawn to dusk. Thanks to your over the road truck driving jobs you get paid to cross borders. Your days are spent exploring this great nation we call home, expanding your own horizons in the process.

Having to Wear a Business Suit

You can’t tell me that wearing a stuffy, wool, lined business suit on a daily basis is fun. Just like wearing 6-inch heels can’t be as easy as it looks, wearing those suits have to be difficult. Truck drivers have their own personal uniforms of their choosing, for the most part. Even truck drivers who work for trucking companies like Swift Transportation or Werner Enterprises and have to wear uniforms aren’t stuffed into business suits. Forget the ties, bow ties and black polished wing tips. Truck drivers can wear gym shorts, pajama pants, cowboy boots or button up shirts. Shoot they can even go naked if they are really feeling frisky, and willing to get quite the DOT write up in an unexpected inspection. All the same, when it comes to sporting business suits, truckers have the upper hand.

Government Interference: Why the DOT is Bad for Business

Once you make the choice to take on a truck driving career, you become closely tied with the Department of Transportation (DOT). The DOT might be a federal government agency, but it’s also the main connector between truck drivers and their jobs. Without the DOT’s approval, you can’t get your CDL, be approved for commercial trucking jobs via the Compliance, Safety, Accountability Program (CSA report) as this is a DOT agency. Trucking companies use CSA reports to determine if a new hire is eligible for truck driving jobs, i.e. they have a valid CDL and a good work history. So all in all, if you don’t like working with the DOT, you can forget being a truck driver. But is that fair?

The DOT’s Trucking History

United States DOT sealEver since the truck driving industry became official back in 1910, laws were sent down from above to manage the system. After all, with nearly 100,000 tractor and semi-trailer combinations with multi-ton loads in tow taking over US roads, there had to be some form of regulation. These trucks and their loads were destructive on the already weak roadways. Solid tires and 15 mph max took a toll on dirt roads, creating hazards for all drivers. The first laws were from four states including Maine and Massachusetts where a weight limit was imposed on all commercial trucks.

Then World War I came. In the decade since the first trucks, more than one million truckers were rolling along American roads. Part of this was thanks to the improvements of roads and the creation of the diesel engine. However, these developed out of a major demand on the use of commercial tractor-trailers for hauling cargo without depending on the overtaxed railroads busy with war shipments.

From this increase of a dependence on the trucking industry, the federal government stepped in to create blanket regulations across the board. Starting with the American Trucking Associations in 1933 and the Interstate Commerce Commission in 1935, the establishment of the Department of Transportation soon followed in 1966. So while the DOT hasn’t been the primary enforcer of federal laws for the trucking industry, the agency has its roots in federal regulation. But is this necessary at this point?

The Current State of Trucking

In the past the federal government has stepped up to regulate truckers, beginning with the New Deal and President Franklin D. Roosevelt. This was to create fair competition among trucking companies and businesses requiring the work of truckers hauling loads. From that effort we have the federal control of the DOT overseeing the entire trucking industry.

Yet other workers in the US are monitored by the Department of Labor. Through the Department of Labor workers are ensured a safe and healthy workplace. The main priority of the DOT, on the other hand, is to establish a safe highway system for drivers. The first problem with the DOT, in terms of truck driver safety, is that it isn’t the agency’s main priority. Sure, when truckers are having accidents and killing other people the DOT is interested in truck driver safety. However, the agency is primarily interested in roadway safety, and that is a problem.

Coming Up with a Solution

Any truck driver you talk to will tell you that increased federal oversight for drivers is wholly unnecessary. So to replace the DOT with another agency would not be a viable solution. What if the Department of Labor stepped up and took on the task of handling truck driver safety? That would be a complete overhaul of everything from electronic logging devices to hours of service rules. The bottom line is that these programs established by the DOT are hurting the trucking industry more than helping it. Since they are focused on keeping roadways safe, these rules and regulations are not working for the trucking industry.

For example, when truck drivers are told to sit at a rest area for the next 12 hours to meet hours of service rules, while their load of frozen fish becomes cost prohibitive due to reefer trailer requirements, this adds cost to the bottom line of trucking carriers. The DOT has zero need for truck drivers to get their loads delivered on time. That’s not their priority. This is a major roadblock for truck drivers and trucking companies. Instead of working as separate agencies, if truckers are to be mandated by the DOT for workplace issues, then the DOT needs to create a viable connection with the trucking industry on a level other than federally.

Perhaps the solution is to create a mid-level organization similar to OOIDA (Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association) but for all levels of truck driving companies. This agency would be similar to the American Trucking Associations, but without such a strong history to federal agencies; the ATA was established in 1933 under the guise of the New Deal in government.

Gaining more of an advocate role, without the long arm of federal rule hovering over, would be ideal for such an organization. Truck drivers are trying to do their jobs, and trucking companies depend on these drivers to keep their businesses afloat. The DOT needs to back off through a reduction in regulations, while other advocate agencies need to step up in the name of truck driving jobs and the trucking industry.

Save Money by Bypassing Weight Scale Stops

Every time a loaded truck has to stop, it costs the company money. This includes stopping for weight scales. Drivewyze conducted a study on weigh station stops to see the average cost of stopping to have the truck weighed. This only applies to trucks that pull in, get weighed and are right back on the road. The statistics do not take into account those trucks that are pulled over.

The Cost of Stopping

CAT certified scalesIn 2007, a study that was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) found that the average cost for stopping at a weigh scale was $8.68. Drivewyze looked at over 13 million weigh scale stops over two months and found that one-fourth of the trucks took 47 seconds or less. One-fourth of the trucks were at the scales for 48 seconds to 78 seconds. One-fourth of the trucks were at the scales for 79 seconds to 2 minutes and 20 seconds. The last quarter of the trucks were at the scales longer than 2 minutes and 20 seconds.

Drivewyze determined that direct cost and opportunity cost losses averaged $9.26 average. This amount could be saved for each weigh scale bypass.

However, some fleets may not realize such a large savings and some trucking companies may realize even more savings, depending on the amount of time the average truck spends at the weigh stations for a particular fleet. For example, one truck passed a Minnesota scale 14 times per day; and if the driver used the bypass system, that fleet would save $2,000 per month. That is a considerable savings, especially if that fleet has several trucks that average $2,000 per month.

Is a Bypass System Worth It?

Carriers should check into the cost of bypass systems and then determine which costs less: a bypass system or using the weight scales. Drivewyze also offers an app that is available for $15.75 per month per truck (as of early 2016). Compare the cost of using a transponder, an app like Drivewyze or stopping at the scales to see which of the three options best benefits your fleet.

Part of the cost figuring means checking the locations where the transponders work. If you have a fleet that passes a scale where your transponder company is set up, the transponder may save you money. However, if most of your fleet travels on highways that do not have a transponder system, the system is not going to help you.
Even the Drivewyze app is slightly limited; it sends alerts for over 1,200 sites across the United States, but would only be useful if your fleet passes any of these sites frequently.

Research

Instead of jumping on something that might seem like a good idea, create a spreadsheet for each truck. You can use the average price per stop found by Drivewyze, or you can create your own average for each truck.

You might have some of the trucks use a transponder or an app like Drivewyze, or it might not be worth it for some trucks. With this information, you’ll be able to determine whether each truck has net savings per trip if it uses a bypass system. Sometimes, if the money is even, it’s worth using a bypass system just so that your trucks get to their destinations sooner and so that the drivers don’t have to go through the stress and hassle of stopping at several weigh stations on their route.