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Hi all. This is Amy, aka Mrs. PuterGeek, but when I'm on the road, I'm Boo-Boo. That's my CB handle. Peter is also PuterGeek, and his CB handle is Moondog. I'm going to take this page to explain what we do, how we do it, what we take on the road, and general information. We were really surprised to find that there were subscribers to Putergeek's newsletter and visitors to the website that wanted to know more about our jobs and our experiences as truck drivers. So, let's honk that horn and do some explaining.
We pick up freight at a shipper and deliver it to a consignee/receiver. To get a load, we called agents who have contracts with local shippers and they offer us a load. We accept the load based on what it pays per mile, the total number of miles of the load, the weight of the freight, whether there are multiple pickups or deliveries, whether we have to hand unload the freight, and when it delivers. I'll explain each a little more so you can see what we consider a good or bad load.
The more the load pays per mile, the more we make. We don't accept a load to California under $1.25/mile. The shorter the miles, the higher the rate should be. So for example, a load from Ohio to Georgia should pay at least $1.40/mile or higher, and a load from Ohio to California should pay $1.25/mile or higher.
Now, if team service is required, that is an extra charge. Some agents who don't have any balls won't charge what should be charged. Team service should be an additional .25-.40/mile, depending on how quick they want it, but some agents only charge .10-.15/mile. Those loads we don't take because if a customer wants good service, they should pay for it. Ranger takes a cut of the revenue.
Another per mile charge is the fuel surcharge. With the cost of fuel, which just so happens to be the highest cost (even more per month than a truck payment) a fuel surcharge has been in place to help fray the cost of expensive fuel. When fuel was averaging $1.60+, we were seeing .08/mile and some agents were adding 6%. Now that fuel is around $1.35-1.40, we're seeing .06/mile. We don't get a cut of the fuel surcharge. Luckily Ranger doesn't take a piece of it either, 100% goes to the truck owner.
We get paid based on the Household Mover's Guide miles, also known as book miles, and as what we drivers call Liar's Guide Miles. Why you ask? Well, the Liar's Guide goes by zip code to zip code. So here's how we get screwed on miles: if we pick up 15 miles out of town and deliver 30 miles out of zip code, we just lost 45 paid miles, if we have a hazardous materials load, we must take by-passes around cities...which are not included in the miles, and if there is an accident and we are detoured around it and it is a 100 mile detour...we get screwed out of those too.
Here is real example...a bridge was out and the 4 month old detour was an extra 150 miles and the detour was not included in the miles, so we'd have to drive 150 miles for free, so needless to say, we did not take the load.
Another way we get screwed on miles is that the Liar's Guide goes shortest route, not practical. Shortest route includes state and local highways that trucks are allowed on. Practical miles would be primarily interstate and then state highways. Unless we have a lot of time, we don't go on state and local roads because there are more towns, stop lights, and the speed limits are lower. We tend to stay to the interstate because there are less towns and the speed limits are generally higher. Even though going via interstate may be longer, it will be quicker.
The weight of the load is a big consideration. The heavier the load...the more fuel we use and the costs go up. Also, if we have a heavy load and we'll be doing a lot of mountains, the slower we go up and the longer it takes to get to our destination.
Some of you may wonder how much weight we can haul. It varies from truck to truck. The heavier the tractor and trailer is, the less you can haul. A normal tractor and semi-trailer can only weigh 80,000 lbs., that includes fuel, drivers, driver's personal stuff, and the freight. We have a limit on how many pounds can be on each the steers, drives, and trailer axles. The max weight on the steers is 12,000 lbs., the drives 34,000 lbs., and the trailer 34,000 lbs. Some states allow 20,000 lbs. on the steers but the 80,000 lbs. is still the max.
One thing that we do have to concern ourselves with regarding gross vehicle weight (80,000 lbs.) is the additional weight of snow or ice. If we go through an ice/snow storm and then get pulled into a scale, we can be overweight. If the scale master is nice, he'll see why we're over gross and will tell us to knock some ice/snow off and we can go on our merry way. If the scale master wants to be prick/butthole, he'll give us a ticket and won't let us leave until we can make the load legal. That is another page entirely so let's go on.
Now these, we hate. The more pickup and deliveries, the longer it take to load and unload. Some drivers who pull reefers generally have LOTS of pickup and deliveries. Drivers can have multiple pickups and deliver all the freight to one consignee. They can have one pickup but deliver to multiple consignees. They can have multiple pickup and multiple deliveries. Each stop except for the first pickup and last delivery pay extra, usually around $25-50 per extra stop. And yes, Ranger takes a piece of that too.
What make these kinds of loads tricky is that the consignee's hours of operation have to be taken into consideration. Some are open from 8am to 5pm, some 6am to noon, some noon to 2:30pm, and some 24 hours. Depending on how many miles it is between each stop, you can miss their closing time and have to spend the night. Some places ship or receive by appointment only and some are first come first served. But basically, multiple stops are a pain and we try to only take one pickup and one delivery.
This is also called lumping. Lumping means the driver has to load or unload the freight. Drivers usually get paid for this, around $50-100 depending on the freight. We have found that it's not worth it. Anyone ever unload 1500 car tires on a 53' trailer?!? IT'S TERRIBLE. Peter and I did that...ONCE...and it took us 6 hours. The next and last tire load we took, we hired a lumper for $75 and he unloaded the trailer in 3 hours because he's in better shape and knows what he's doing.
We absolutely refuse to lump freight because we believe it is the shipper's and consignee's responsibility to load/unload their freight. We don't ask them to help drive the truck, so they shouldn't expect us to lump their freight.
Some shippers/consignees actually force drivers to lump the freight (it is illegal but they don't care because who is going to tell them not to?). Some shippers/receivers tell drivers that they must hire a lumper and guess what?!...it's that shipper/receiver's lumper and they always charge A LOT more. Some places give you X amount of time to load/unload the freight...if you take too long, they tell you to pull away from the dock and they'll try to "squeeze you back in" or make you reschedule your appointment which could be the next day or could be next week.
Basically, every driver should refuse to accept/take a load that requires them to lump the freight. It doesn't pay crap, it takes too long, and the shipper/receiver usually abuses the driver. Some don't, but there are too many who do and if drivers would just refuse to take those loads, the shipper/receiver would get the message and do their job rather than making the driver do it for them.
Here's is our definition of a good load: we do one pickup in Ohio, one delivery in California, pays $1.25-1.50/mile, and is "no touch" or doesn't require our loading/unloading it, and it's under 30,000 lbs.
Here's is a bad load: has 3 pick ups, 4 deliveries, going from wherever to wherever, pays $1.05/mile, is a team load, requires us to load/unload it, and weighs 46,000 which would put us to the max 80,000 lbs. This has "bad load" written all over it. It has multiple stops, pays crap, is heavy, and is driver load/unload.
One last thing on good load/bad load. If the load is 2000 miles and requires team service, we should deliver it within 40-60 hours. If it isn't a team load, a single driver should deliver it in 3-5 days. But if the delivery schedule is for 8 days, that's too much time and not productive. We would actually lose money since someone is using the truck for storage.
Peter is the lead driver. He's the "captain" and takes all the responsibility for the truck. He is responsible for coordinating with the truck owner repairs that are needed. He schedules fuel stops, baby-sits repairs and oil changes on the road, and drives the night shift. He also fills out his log book. He is the one who deals with the rude buttholes that we encounter at truck stops and shippers/receivers. He gets final say on what load we take, that way if it turns into a bad load, he can't get upset at me for taking it. Peter always says to me, "You can make a decision but then you're responsible for it, but if you have me make the decision, then I'll always be responsible for it and I can't get mad at you." That's why I let him make the decisions but I do let my opinions be known. Peter is usually the one to drive in heavy traffic i.e. rush hour in L.A., in heavy rain, fog, snow, and ice, and is the primary driver when it comes to backing into a dock. He is the one responsible to make sure we stay on schedule and decides how far the truck goes each day. He is responsible for making sure that the load we pickup is loaded correctly and secured in the trailer so it won't shift/move. Peter is always the one who drives to the shippers and consignees because he is more comfortable maneuvering in tight spaces.
Amy is the second-seat driver. I'm responsible for all the paperwork on a load: the bill of lading, fuel receipts, my log book, permits, and directions to pickup and delivery. I find the best route to the shipper and consignee. I let Peter know if I've noticed anything wrong or broken on the truck. I am the windshield, window, and floor cleaner. I'm the official sandwich maker and dog walker. I also make up the phone list of agents to call when trying to find a load, and I call the shippers/consignees to get directions to their place of business. I usually drive the day shift. I'm the spotter when we are doing backing maneuvers. I greet the shipper/consignee and find out what dock they want us to back into. I'm also the navigator which means I make sure that Peter doesn't miss any turns. I'm the extra set of eyes to help watch for stupid four wheelers, dogs/cats, deer, and debris in the road. (He's never hit a dog/cat but he has hit 1 deer, 2 raccoons, and 1 chicken!)
We have tried exchanging duties and have found that this works best for us. When conditions are more demanding, Peter takes over because he has faster reaction times and has more experience than I do. He's more aggressive whereas I'm more laid back. And since he hates to write, I do 99% of the paperwork. But since I don't like staying up past midnight (except when we're home and I'm on my computer), he drives the night shift. Since Peter gets impatient with commuters and doesn't like to see the sun except when it's over the windshield, I drive the day shift.
Oh boy, do we have a lot of stuff in our truck and there's not a whole lot of room to store it in. We have 2 side boxes and an outside oil box. The side boxes are compartments that are accessible from the outside. In the driver's side box, Peter keeps his tool boxes, electrical repair box, duct tape, and general tools. In the passenger side box, we keep the Rubbermaid box full of general stuff like extra duct tape, WD-40, air gauges, e-straps, rags, PNV phone line, emergency triangle, and cable line for the satellite dish. The oil box is an add-on box that holds extra gallons of oil and other fluids.
On the inside of the truck, we have storage on both sides of the cab. On the driver's side is a wardrobe but since we don't have anything on hangers, that's where I put dirty clothes, Dirt Devil hand-held vacuum (I call it a sweeper), and spare shoes. Below that is a little storage area for gallons of water, a CD container, and Milo's dog food. At the top is where we store batteries, trash bags, medicines, ketchup, utensils, and food items.
On the passenger side, there is a storage area where we have our 13" TV, VCR, Dish Network receiver, PNV phone, video tapes, and inverters. Above that is a small storage area where I keep extra paperwork, the permit book, the truck stop directory, extra log books, warranty book for the truck, and my 'junk'. At the bottom, we have an area where we put our 50 qt. electronic ice chest.
This truck has a little shelf along the back wall. It's the perfect height to keep paperback books in as well as my little electronic Yahtzee game.
For our bed, we actually have a sofa! In the up position, it's a sofa. When you pull it out, it becomes a bed. Pretty cool huh? Not many trucks have a sofa/bed combo. The bed is basically a twin bed. The sofa can sit 3-4 adults comfortably. We sleep head-to-toe so we have more room. But when you have 2 adults and 2 dogs, there isn't much room left. Under the bunk is more storage where I have the Rubbermaid that holds Maggie's food, spare leashes, brushes, all vet receipts from day one, and a couple more CD holders. At the head and foot of the bed, there are 2 big windows. They don't open but they are inside the doors that are only used for emergency exits. We also have 2 overhead windows on the top of the sleeper roof, and we even have a sunroof in the cab!
We have a spare bed (the top bunk) above the bottom one . It can be raised up and attached to the back wall. Since we need the storage, we leave it down. It's a real bed but we take out the mattress and use it for storage. Up there we have 3 clothes bags, my Rubbermaid container full of 'necessary' stuff (extra office supplies, cd's, yarn, spare batteries, and extra bottles of health supplies), Peter's Rubbermaid container that holds his computer books and supplies, the pillows, our comforter, and our coats. We have enough clothes for a full week, plus extra shirts, socks, and underwear. There are times when we are so busy that I can't do laundry, so extra underclothes is a must. We always carry our winter coats because it gets cold in higher elevations. We have an extra pair of shoes each because no one wants to drive in wet shoes. And we also have sweaters for the dogs because they get cold too!
It may sound like we have quite a bit of storage but believe me, we don't! Our bathroom at the house is bigger than the inside of the truck.
The sleeper can be closed off by way of the floor-to-ceiling curtain. This is absolutely necessary because when one person is trying to sleep, there is nothing more annoying than trying to fall asleep when the driver has the AM/FM on, the CB on, or a cassette/CD going. There are separate AC controls for the bunk. So I can have the A/C on up front with heat, and Peter can have it icy cold in the bunk.
Peter and I both have laptops. Peter keeps his on a shelf above Milo's food area and mine is on top of my Rubbermaid. Since trucks run off of DC power, we have DC to AC inverters to power the laptops, the VCR, the vacuum/sweeper, the Dish Network receiver, and the chargers for the cell phone, Peter's electric screw driver/drill, and battery re-charger. We have a total of 3 inverters: 1-300 watt for the satellite TV receiver and my sweeper, and 2-150 volt inverters for the laptops and various chargers.
We don't have a microwave but only because we don't have the room for it. Some really HUGE, custom sleepers have showers (small ones but hey, beggars can't be choosy), porta-potties, a double bed, refrigerator, recliners, sinks, stove, microwave, and TONS of storage. But since their wheelbase is so much longer, they have a hard time backing into parking spaces and docks.
To give you an idea, women at home really get excited with extra rooms, new carpeting, new dishes, furniture, and general house stuff. Well, when we picked out this truck, I got excited about the windows in the bunk and the sofa. We don't have dishes because I don't have time to wash dishes, so it's plastic ware for us!
The only "housework" I have is the windows, the floor, and the carpeting in the bunk. We had carpeting up front but we had the truck owner rip it out because it will get destroyed with mud, diesel, salt, and dog hair. We had a rubber floor put in because when it gets dirty, I open the doors and blow the dust/hair off with the air gun and then Windex it.
So there you have it pretty much in a nutshell. We live in an area smaller than most bathrooms, with little storage, and not much privacy except for the sleeper curtain. We drive all over the country hauling freight. We work every day of the week, including weekends and holidays (except Christmas). Even when we're not under a load, we're tied to the truck. We work, relax, kick back, and sleep inside our truck.
We eat crappy food. Imagine making dinner out of stuff from the local convenience store or eating 8 hour old deep fried food out of the hot deli at the truck stops. There are times when a McDonald's looks like a 4 star restaurant. Sure, we could eat at the restaurant in the truck stops, but it costs a bit and after this many years, we'd rather find a pizza place.
Here's an example of what we do when we have 'time off'. We picked up in Memphis, TN on Friday. We deliver near Pittsburgh, Pa on Monday. Since the run is only 800 miles, we drove to Glendale, KY and spent the night at the Petro truck stop. Saturday, we drove the rest of the way to our consignee. We are sitting in the Pittsburgh agent's yard and we got here around 5pm Saturday night. We let the dogs out, set up the satellite TV, and got out our computers. We already picked up dinner at the truck stop 3 miles down the road. We got to sleep in on Sunday and Peter sat up front working on his web site and general computer stuff, and I sat on the sofa watching TV and worked on this page. Now here's something you may not realize. We don't have a toilet in the truck. We do have washable containers to urinate in (pee jugs). We empty these properly and wash them. But, here it is Sunday evening, and we have to go #2...time to put away the laptops, the satellite TV, and drive to the truck stop to do our business. Since we were there, we picked up a pizza (it really sucked...crust tasted like crackers and the sauce tasted like spaghetti sauce...what a waste of $10), and then we drove back to the agent's yard. Bet you never thought of that did you? It's a pain but this is our life.
This is also why we're ready to get off the road. We're tired of showering only 2-3 times a week, eating old deep-fried food, and eating chips for meals because it's better than truck stop food; spending 3-4 times more for supplies at the truck stops rather than being able to go to the local Kmart/Walmart who tell us to leave just because we're truck drivers even though they let RV'ers park there all the time without buying anything. We're tired of being thought of as road hogs, second class citizens, drunks, druggies, pot heads, illiterate, un-skilled, ignorant, and bad people. We have found most drivers to be smart, intelligent, educated (ex-doctors, ex-lawyers, ex-CEO's, ex-nurses, ex-police officers, ex-athletes), hard-working people just trying to make a living like all of you. While there are some 'pot head/druggies', it is not the norm.
Peter and I have both been to college. We love to read, watch movies, visit family, travel, work on our computers, learn new things, we can piss in a bottle to pass a drug test any day of the week, we don't drink except at home, and as far as people thinking truck drivers are dumb/illiterate, just go to www.putergeek.com and www.putergeek.com/amy to see how 'dumb' we are.
Our hope for these pages is to educate the general public as to how hard-working drivers are. Truck driving is a blue-collar profession, but not everyone can do it. It's more of a life style than a job. It is physically and mentally challenging. (Try to read and understand the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations Handbook, as prescribed by the US Dept. of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration Parts 382, 383, 387, 390-397, 399, 400, as well as all of the Hazardous Material regulations that change every year and that we must know, and let us not forget all the various state laws that we need to know).
We are not trying to say that truck drivers are better than anyone else, nor are we trying to say that our profession is as complicated as a doctor. We're just trying to make people understand that truck drivers are people too! We're out here trying to make a living, just like the people next door.
So, read these pages with an open mind and have fun. Of course, if you have any specific trucking-related questions, send an email to the link at the bottom of this page and we will do the best we can to answer your question. Until then, keep the shiny side up, and the dirty side down!
Amy, aka Boo-Boo, aka Mrs. Putergeek
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