Over The Road Trucking Questions and Answers – July 2017 [Video]

I occasionally get questions from viewers about over-the-road trucking operations.

This video addresses a batch of questions from Bill C, a viewer in Minnesota.

Bill’s questions range from operations to how Trucker Kitty handles riding in the truck.

I hope you enjoy this video; I recommend viewing it in full screen mode.

Here are the questions that will be answered in this video:

Do most truck stops keep the washer fluid buckets stocked? Like the opposite of most gas stations?

They do in most cases; the larger national chains have staff that handles that fairly well, although in some cases they could do better.

You truckers get to have a steering wheel knob? You lucky bastards!

Wheel KnobSome people think I AM a bastard! It’s nice to know you think I’m a lucky one.

You can be a lucky bastard, too. They sell these at most truck stops and I’ve even seen them at Walmart.

I’ll show my son your channel. He loves eluko79 and Freewayjim.

Thanks for sharing these links; I’ve subscribed to both and have borrowed some ideas from them for use in my own videos.

So when you are chasing an empty, you’re not paid for that, correct?

Because I’m not a company driver, most of the time that is correct. My Independent Contractor agreement includes payment for two or three tiers of excessive ‘out of route’ trailer chases.

The first tier starts at 75 miles, but it has to be out of route to count. If I’m dead-heading 150 miles and get routed to a location 100 miles along that route and the location is only 10 miles out of route, then it doesn’t meet the threshold.

Does it cost you time/fuel?

Absolutely!

How about when you are pulling an empty? Are you still paid? Paid less than a full load?

I am not paid for pulling an empty trailer. Since I’m not a company driver and choose my own loads, I’m in control of how far my dead head travel is.

Company drivers are normally paid the same mileage rate whether they are loaded or empty, so it’s incumbent upon the company’s load planners to minimize the amount of unproductive travel.

There has been one exception this, however; a national retail chain needed one of their trailers moved from Phoenix, Arizona to Fort Worth, Texas and I happened to get that “load”. In this case, the trailer was the load!

I was paid quite well to move an empty trailer a thousand miles. I never did find out why that company wanted that trailer moved, but I was happy to do it!

Do you ever haul something that is not a full 78-80K lb load?

All the time! By the way, 80,000 pounds is my maximum gross weight and includes the weight of the tractor with fuel, the trailer and the load.

The largest load I can carry is less than 46,000 pounds. My average load is less than 30,000 pounds.

When I used to pull refer, most of my loads were over 40,000 pounds.

What factors are taken into consideration for paying you? Distance? Weight? Delivery elapsed time?

Distance is a large factor, but so is supply and demand. Freight haulers are a commodity to shippers; if there are more trucks than there are loads in a given market, then rates go down.

If there is more freight loads than trucks, rates go up. Rates are expressed in dollars and cents per mile.

There are some markets that always have lots of freight to haul such as southern California where there are lots of manufacturers in addition to Asian imports through the Port of Los Angeles.

There are other factors, too, such as multiple pick-ups or deliveries. The video series where I pick up a load of paper products in Neelys Landing, Missouri and haul it to the Houston area to make five deliveries paid extra for the four additional deliveries.

I started driving for Uber a couple months ago, so I am now lightly cognizant of having to care about time/distance/fuel to maximize my income and minimize expenses.

You are dealing with some of the same considerations that I do, so if you lose your IT job, you already have some of the skills necessary to be an owner-operator independent contractor.

You say that you as a driver are responsible for making sure the trailer passes inspection.

Yes, it is the drivers responsibility to ensure that both the tractor and trailer are road worthy. Additionally, load securement is another concern, although I rarely have to deal with this. I’ll try to include some examples in future videos.

Flatbed haulers really have to deal with this as you might imagine.

In a previous video, I saw you note that one of the three rear top marker lights was out. In that case, do you have to replace the bulb? Or do you have to pay to replace the bulb? Or is that Schneider’s responsibility?

Since the trailer is company equipment, Schneider is responsible for maintenance costs. In the example you mentioned, I would have had to take that trailer to a shop to be repaired because I couldn’t physically reach the light.

Plus, I think those lights are hard wired and it’s beyond the reasonable repair capability of most drivers. I didn’t take it to a shop because I was only going across the river to swap that empty trailer for a loaded one and I was short on time.

Some of the other trailer lights are readily available at most truck stops and easily replaced by drivers. I get reimbursed for lights I replace on trailers.

What do you do if you notice a glaring problem with a trailer? Do you contact Schneider to let them know?

It depends; if the trailer can be moved and if we have a terminal nearby with a repair facility, I’ll head straight there.

If not, I’ll call the maintenance department and they’ll route me to an authorized location and set up the repair. If the trailer can’t be moved, or if I break down somewhere, maintenance will arrange to dispatch a repair service truck.

And then I presume they re-route you to a different load so you’re not sitting idle?

Not in most cases. Once I hook the load, it and any problems are mine.

There are rare occasions where a trailer is really messed up or the shops in the area are seriously backlogged; in those cases, they’ll un-assign me from the load.

Of course, if it is was a load to get me home or if I had an awesome load pre-booked at that destination, then that would not be OK.

If a CVI (Commercial Vehicle Inspector) catches a problem that you can do nothing about (like the broken weld you mentioned), are you still penalized for it?

Yes; remember, it’s the drivers responsibility to ensure that both the tractor and trailer are road worthy.

I got a ‘fix it ticket’ in that example. We got the trailer into a shop and had it fixed by the next morning. It didn’t cost me any money, but it did cost me points.

Does Schneider reimburse you if you get an expensive ticket like that? Or was it your responsibility to not take the trailer in the first place, therefore it’s on you?

I had to take the trailer, AND it was on me. It is the drivers responsibility to identify any issues and get them resolved before inspectors have a chance to look for them!

And if it’s easier for you to answer all this on FB or your website, just let me know 🙂

I prefer to get your questions in the YouTube comments section, but I’ll take them if you want to leave them on my Facebook page or my website.

Cat Questions

I don’t know Schneider’s policies, but they allow animals in their trucks?

No, Schneider does not allow pets in their trucks. There is no prohibition on pets for non-company drivers in their own trucks, however.

Does your cat get free reign of the cab while you are driving? Or do you keep (him/her) penned up?

Trucker Kitty has free reign of the truck. He’s got 4 or 5 places where he sleeps. I’ll try to include him in more videos.

Would they allow other types of “contained” animals (birds, rodents, fish, etc)? How about dogs?

Most drivers with pets in their trucks do have dogs. As for other types of critters, you’d have to take into consideration how they would handle the near constant movement and vibration of the ride.

You’d think the company wouldn’t want the messes associated with animals, nor complaints from other employees who might be allergic to animals.

I believe that is the main reason most companies don’t allow pets in company trucks.

So he won’t get down while you are driving?

It’s quite a jump from the top bunk. He does jump to and from the back of my seat, but not when I’m sitting in it.

I see a cat bed in the passenger seat, does he spend time in there while you are driving?

Kitty in bed

 

Yes. When he can’t get up top, he alternates between the lower bunk and the passenger seat.

What if he starts yowling while you are driving in a spot that you CAN’T pull over (like the single lane construction areas in your Mt Shasta video)? Do you just sit and listen to him yowl until you can pull over?

Yeah, pretty much!

Do you encounter other drivers in your travels? Or is it pretty solitary with just the occasional friendly greeting?

I rarely encounter the same driver more than once.

Do you visit truck stops, restaurants, or other places often enough that they know who you are?

I do have “favorite” truck stops that I visit, but it can be weeks between stops. Between staff turnover and the fact that I tend to keep to myself, I don’t get noticed much.

Tractor questions

Kind of piggybacking off my statement “complaints from other employees who might be allergic to animals”, I remember when this blue truck was new to you. Is it your truck for the duration of its life with Schneider? Or might you get assigned to a different tractor?

I’m not an employee, I’m an Independent Contractor or Owner Operator.

This is my truck during the term of my lease; then I have the option of turning it in or purchasing it. I’m two years into a three year lease and am currently leaning towards buying the truck at the end of the lease.

How long does a company like Schneider keep a tractor in its fleet until it decides it is time to retire it? Is that per years in service? Mileage?

I’m not sure, but I think it’s about three to four years; they seem to have between 350,000 and 500,000 miles on them. They are constantly selling old trucks and bringing new trucks in.

They have a website devoted to selling used tractors and trailers. The image below is linked to their website if you would like to see what is available:

Schneider Trucks for Sale

I know radar detectors are illegal in VA. Do you use one? Does Schneider have a policy against them?

I don’t recall what Schneider’s policy is regarding radar detectors, but I don’t use one because they are illegal in several states and I don’t feel the need to have one.

Posted speed limits in most states are adequate for highway driving in a big rig; most are 65-75 mph and I rarely drive over 65 unless I’m in a time crunch and have a light load. California, western Oregon and parts of Tennessee truck speed limits are 55 mph, which I think is stupid; it just pisses off the car drivers when they’re speed limit is 65 mph and they’re trying to do 70!

Fuel is my biggest expense, so fuel economy is always on my mind. The fuel economy sweet spot for my truck is between 60 & 65 mph on level ground.

If you have a microwave, is there an inverter built into the tractor? Even a small microwave needs a decent amount of wattage. Are there other outlets so you could plug in other things (laptop, alarm clock, TV/radio. etc.)?

I purchased an inverter that I paid to have installed in the truck. It’s rated at 1500 watts but I really want a larger one; about 2500 watts.

My microwave oven draws 700 watts and makes the low-voltage alarm on my inverter chirp. It can’t support anything that draws 1500 watts.

1500W Inverter

There seems to be a “table” below your microwave. Is there room in the sleeper for you to have a chair behind the driver’s seat so you could have a small seating/desk/table area to do paperwork or eat? Or do you have to go into the truck stop and borrow one of their tables for paperwork?

No. I use the bunk to sit on when I’m working or eating in the “back office.” What little paperwork I have, I do in the driver’s seat.

It would be cool to see a video “tour” of the inside of the tractor/sleeper showing the features and creature comforts in there. Yes I know there probably isn’t a whole lot to show, but it’s still interesting to me.

I have been planning for some time to do a two part video series of the tractor. There is a lot to show, and I think most people will find it interesting.

Part 1 would be the cab, or the “front office,” as well as exterior stuff to better understand the gauges, switches and controls.

Part 2 would be the sleeper area, or the “back office.”

The Job

Do you ever find yourself “under the gun” to get a load delivered on time?

All the time!

Between chasing down an empty trailer after a delivery, a pickup or delivery SNAFU, road construction delays, weather delays, equipment failure delays, and accidents, I often find myself behind schedule.

Ever considered being an owner/operator? Or is the extra expense/hassle not worth it?

I’ve been an owner operator since before I signed on to Schneider in 2013.

Is there the opportunity to make more as O/O but with it you have to deal with major repairs and the associated downtime?

It’s possible to make more money as an owner operator, but for me it’s about being in control. I hated not being in control as a company driver; I wouldn’t know from day to day where I would be going.

With Schneider’s Choice program, I decide which loads to book. I decide where I’m going.

I do have to say, if I was unattached without wife and kids, and wasn’t in my current IT career, OTR trucking would be an attractive job to me. I can handle being by myself for extended periods of time.

Oddly enough, that’s kind of how I fell into this. Being the lucky bastard that I am, I’m single and my kids are grown. I lost my fancy corporate job in 2009 during the great recession.

That was OK with me at the time, as I’d had enough of the corporate world. But by 2011 things weren’t going well, financially, and a good friend suggested becoming an over-the-road driver.

I had fantasized about this in the past, so here I am. I liken it to the “I want to be a cowboy and ride the range” fantasy.

I plan to produce a Q&A video like this one monthly if I get enough questions.

If you’ve got questions about something I didn’t cover here or if something occurs to you while watching a video, leave your question in the comments section below the video on YouTube, on my website page associated with that video, or on my Facebook Page.

Thanks for your questions and keep them coming!

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