Todd McCann explains the ways in which a down economy affects people in the trucking industry.
I don’t ever recall giving this economy permission to affect my life, but similar to The Evil Overlord, it seems to be blatantly ignoring my demands.
There was a time when an experienced trucking team could get 6000 miles per week if they felt like working hard. Those times seem to be gone for now. Nowadays, if we can manage 5000 miles, we feel extremely lucky. 3500-4000 is what we usually get. Every time The Evil Overlord and I think we’ve got a good week going, the freight seems to vanish like a birthday cake at an after-meeting Weight Watchers party.
One particular weekend not too long ago, we were in the Seattle area with 3500 miles and we still had three days left in the payroll period. We figured we’d run at least 1500 miles in that time, putting us at an acceptable 5000 miles. 2500 (easy for a team) and we’d hit 6000 miles. I shouldn’t have got my hopes up. Three days later we had 3800 miles after a couple of crappy little local runs. Those of you following my Twitter feed probably got tired of my whining about it the entire weekend. Sorry about that. A guy’s gotta vent somewhere.
This week, The Evil Overlord is at home taking a break, so I’m running solo. I had 2300 miles with two days left in the pay period. I was looking at a good week for a solo driver. Then I sat for nearly two days, effectively squashing my mood like a cockroach under a kid’s foot.
As bad as freight is right now, that isn’t the only reason that the economy has affected my trucking career. The company that I work for has been laying off non-driving personnel with a vengeance. This affects me because everyone still standing is overworked, grumpy, dazed, and confused.
I had one forlorn weekend dispatcher tell me he was so stressed that if he couldn’t find me a load, he’d have me go get a truckload of beer and route me to the company headquarters parking lot where we would promptly set to work on it. That one gave me a good chuckle.
Here’s how this shortage of driver-supporting personnel is affect us:
- After sitting for a few hours, you ask when you’ll be getting a load. Half the time, they didn’t even realize you had delivered your previous load and are available for another.
- Day shift doesn’t let night shift know what’s going on and vice-versa. Although I guess that’s really par for the course.
- You call in on the evenings or weekends and they’re so understaffed that it takes 30-45 minutes of horrible hold music before someone answers the phone. Then they transfer you to someone else, which forces you to endure yet another butchered orchestral version of an otherwise decent song. Then that guy “accidentally” hangs up on you.
- They send you to get empty trailers that don’t exist. If it does exist, the place you’re taking it doesn’t want it.
- You finally show up to pick up a load, only to discover that it left with another driver two hours ago.
- When you’re home waiting for the company to call you with a load (as they said they would), they continually call your cell number instead of your home number, even after you’ve told them a million times that you live out in the stix and your cell phone doesn’t work when you’re at home. Because they can’t get hold of you, they give your load to someone else and forget that you exist. When you call them and find out what happened, they somehow manage to blame you. Ugh!
Okay, I admit that the last one probably doesn’t happen to most people, but it certainly does to us nearly every time we go home. The rest of that stuff doesn’t happen everyday either, but the frequency of these kinds of things is ever increasing.
My whole point is this. If you’re considering driving a truck in this economy, you may want to re-examine your thinking. This will accomplish two very important things:
- You might save yourself from not making as much money as you were expecting.
- You’ll leave more freight for me.
Thanks a bunch.
Image of empty pockets courtesy of Shutterstock.