I Don’t Often Complain, But…



103 Degrees At Temple, Texas On July 2, 2009, 5:42 PM

I am not one that’s inclined to complain. Complaining generally doesn’t do any good.

On the other hand, examining facts can be beneficial. So, let us examine the facts.

The trucking company I drive for is beginning to whine very loudly once again about drivers idling their trucks excessively. There are two reasons to idle a truck while parked, either (a) to maintain interior cab temperature via heating or air conditioning or (b) to idle the engine in extremely cold weather to keep it from freezing up and not starting.

Freight volume is down. As a result, a lot of trucking companies have gone out of business. Many companies that remain in business are operating at reduced freight levels and are looking for ways to trim costs in any way and every way they can.

Here’s an example of how reduced freight volume is impacting me. Last week, I got paid for 1,000 miles for the entire week. That’s roughly one third of what a “good” 3,000-mile week would be. As a result, I’m sitting in a parked truck much more than I would be in more normal times. Fortunately my bills aren’t that high, so I’m able to survive on a smaller income.

So I and many other company drivers are sitting around in the trucks a lot more than we normally would. Enter the company, complaining loudly about “excessive” idle time percentages. They are backing it up with thinly-veiled threats of job termination.

I have been told I MUST reduce my idle time percentage — I’m some sort of menace. “Reports” are being placed in my employee file. I’m being “monitored” for “review.”

Do I want to remain employed? If the answer is “yes” then that means shutting the truck off and not running the air conditioner. Other trucks around me are idling endlessly, but mine is turned off in order to get that idle percentage time down.

So, here I sit in Temple, Texas waiting on another load with my windows rolled down and the engine turned off. It’s currently about 103 degrees here at Temple — typical summertime Texas weather — hot and dry. Fortunately, there’s a breeze blowing. Even so, I’m still sweating and everything is warmer to the touch than I am.

It’s hot enough in this truck that my cell phone’s circuitry won’t allow the charging circuit to charge the battery if the phone is in use — a safety feature to keep the phone from catching on fire and burning up.

Just how bad do I need a job?


15 thoughts on “I Don’t Often Complain, But…

  1. Wow. That’s such bullshit! What do they expect drivers to do. JB Hunt did the same thing to me last year and threatened to fire me If I didnt get my idle under 20% which is not to bad but if u are sitting and not moving what do they expect. My dispatched at jb hunt told me to go and sit inside of the truck stop to cool down but to KEEP THAT TRUCK OFF! I bet the dispatchers have nice cool a/c in their offices.

    1. Someone probably needs to have a heat stroke and end up somehow making the national news, but the chances of that happening are virtually nil — it’s not a sexy news story.

      I was talking to a Stevens driver earlier. Stevens is a notoriously low-wage trucking company. They keep their drivers very busy and don’t care how much they idle the trucks.

  2. Tom,this is crazy.I completely agree with idle restrictions when they apply.This is not one of them.Im pretty sure we all know when to and when not to idle the truck.You cannot cool off at 103 just sitting in a truck.These companies dont realize that there are alot of times that we wont idle when its cool outside ,only when its cold.They arent there when we arent idling when we could be.They do not understand we want the best for the company also just dont kill us in the process.If these companies are so concerned with saving fuel then they should be asking management why there arent APU’s on these trucks.There is a difference in running the truck just for the heck of it and running the truck to survive.Maybe they should come out here and show us how its done and what they would suggest to survive in a truck at 103.Ive took up alot of your time and wont keep you but on behalf of a fellow driver and brother ,im sorry your having to sit there like this.
    Steve in alabama

    1. I wonder what the monthly electrical costs are of the various offices, especially the main corporate office. I bet they could save a lot of money if they would simply open the windows and turn off their air conditioning.

  3. I hear ya! This is unusually hot weather for this early in the summer here in Texas.It seems like a simple explanation of the extreme weather would be enough for your company to allot the needed idle time.People actually die here from the heat,especially old people like you :), that are not from here who haven’t had time to acclimate themselves to the heat.
    Keep complaining,it’s nice to hear TruckerTom gets frustrated too sometimes.

  4. If I were you,I would just idle as needed.If you were to lose your job over it,then that wasn’t the right job.Better to lose the job,than Tom himself.

    1. I will idle it while I’m sleeping. The trucks were originally equipped with “Optimized Idle” in order to automatically start and stop the truck’s engine in order to maintain cab temperature as well as cut fuel costs. But that’s not enough, they are still trying to squeeze out more savings.

  5. Tom,

    Might be time to become an Owner/operator. In the expedited trucking business. Then you can idle all you want or get a truck with an APU… In fact, doesn’t Shaffer have APU Equipped trucks? I think Brian has one on his truck (TruckerLlew).

    Sorry to hear about you burning up in there.. You should go north.. Traverse City’s HIGH today was 66..

    -Mike

    1. There are just too many things that can go wrong with a truck. I don’t want the responsibility of owning one.

      Shaffer/Crete does have a few trucks that are equipped with APU’s, but not anywhere near all of them.

      Bottom line is, they don’t care. The fleet managers I’m certain are under pressure to help cut operating costs and are graded on the performance of the drivers they are responsible for.

  6. Tom,
    Living in NW Louisiana just 15 miles from the Texas state line it’s not unusual to 103 degrees this time of year. Lately the TV reports are advising to stay indoors out of the heat and to drink plenty of liquids. Even my doctor advised me that because I’m on blood pressure medicine that I should never get too hot. These are the temps that cause heat stroke and it doesn’t take being out in it very long if you get hot enough. Not every place you drivers deliver have nice truck stops. Sometimes you have to settle for very small truck stops and there’s no space to hang out inside. Funny how your company can ask you to kill your engine and sit in 103 degress while they are in their nice air conditioned offices talking about cutting costs. Let them cut off their A/C for the summer and that should help a lot. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Try to stay cool as best you can.

  7. They should give you solar power! With all the sun baking on the cab, you could get alot of electric for heat & air! I am working on making the drivers seat double as a toilet. However, not sure the feds will let drivers drive a truck with there pants off! : )

  8. Tom, I wonder how they would feel if you put a window A/C unit in the passenger’s side and ran your generator to run it? OR.. Why couldn’t they just pipe some cold air from the refer unit to the truck? Hmmmm… Get a cot and a sleeping bag and go sleep in the trailer 😉

    I feel for you. 58 here in TC as I type.

    1. Ron Stroope suggested that I could disconnect the truck from the trailer, open a trailer door, start the reefer unit and park the truck with an open window facing the door with a tarp so the cool air would blow in the truck !!!!

      It’s still 88 degrees at 12:44 AM.

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