‘Going dark’.

21 Sep

Everyone was forewarned; I posted on Facebook a couple of months ago that I was ‘going dark’. I was simply bidding my time, waiting and watching for certain things to happen, to take effect, or not before officially ‘signing off’ social media; and no, I haven’t even seen the movie Snowden yet.

So why did I leave LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and finally Facebook, you may be wondering? And NO, I haven’t merely deactivated Facebook to reactivate it sometime in the near future, but I’ve actually set in motion to DELETE all my accounts.

Now it’s not that I think more highly of myself than I ought to, but if I take the time to write a meaningful post, provide some pictures or informative links, I still expect the courtesy of my FB friends to view it (only if it’s pertinent to them of course), approve or disapprove of it through use of the ‘like memes’,  perhaps add a comment; and if they really liked it, to share it. I do most often with theirs.

So the first reason was this: When I finally published my book, I was told by reputable and savvy media pundits that I needed to be on all the social media sites in order to properly promote it if I wanted it to be recognized and generate sales.

Well the sales never happened, regardless of my efforts, book signing events, good reviews in trade magazines, TV and radio interviews, and definitely nothing through social media.

I also believed that social media could be used to generate good and affect causes; so when one of my best friend and family were being expelled from Canada because his job description – that of truck driver – didn’t qualify him for landed immigrant status, I started a Facebook campaign to create sympathy and protest…all to no avail. My friend and his family had to leave by Aug 10th of this year.

I often informed my FB friends about a new blog I’ve posted, in which publication an editorial of mine might be seen, or perhaps a radio interview I happened to be on. I rarely got reviews, comments, or any indication that anyone took notice. That my friends is disheartening to a writer and author.

There was that video I did called Thank Ya Lord by Hillbilly Christian and the UnJugged Band. I posted the You Tube link and that’s all she wrote as the sayin’ goes. People, I don’t post these notices, articles, videos etc. for my own edification…

So will I ever return to Facebook? Perhaps in the future, but in a different guise or apparation, but not as the Intrepid Trucker or under my own name – probably under a pseudonym or nom de plume – so do stay posted.

Thanks

A.R.E.M.

 

 

Head-hunters and Horseheads.

14 Sep

images

When Marlon Brando, playing the role of Mafia Godfather Don Corleone mumbled to his ‘wise guy’ the order to “make him an offer he can’t refuse”, the poor recipient of that generous offer woke up the next morning to find a horse head in his bed.

In the corporate business world, special recruiters, called ‘head-hunters, somewhat like the ‘wise guys’ – are sent out seeking exceptional, qualified, potential candidates, to work for the recruiting company. This kind of head-hunting is definitely not at all like the wild, painted, bone in nose savages you’d see in the jungles of Borneo or most urban centres.

Rather than resorting to intimidation or coercion, aka; a shrunken head on a rope or a horse head in bed, these employers use inducements like better income, special perks, bonuses and position within the company. Their reasoning: if you want to attract the best and brightest, you have to be willing to ‘pony up’ – pun intended – some generous incentives or the competition will scoop your prospect before you.

The company I’m currently signed on with is considered one of the top 20 companies to drive/work for, yet they’re offering their employees, a $2500 recruiting bonus if they can attract new drivers, mechanics etc. to work for them. I’ve seen billboards and advertisements in trade magazines where trucking companies are offering anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000 sign on bonuses for qualified drivers. Experienced, professional, qualified personal in many industries – from truckers, mechanics, landscapers, even to dock workers with forklift skills, has become an employee’s market, where there is a lucrative financial windfall for people like me and anyone else who still takes pride in their work, strives for excellence, and can still actually ‘do a day’s work.

What a great opportunity for those of us nearing retirement or already retired. We hold in our hands four bargaining chips or Aces: a) our age – which give us some authority b) our lengthy work related experience c) our skill and qualification d) our demonstrated work ethic.

We can now strike a bargain, demand a run or work schedule to our liking, negotiate for ‘special’ considerations, like longer holidays and generous perks without fear of reprimand, reprisal or even dismissal. Why should we worry about job security, when we have ‘Social Security’, as well as CPP, RRSP’s, life insurance, paid off mortgages and debts (or close to it). In other words, we are Zoomers baby; we may be older but we’re dependable and becoming evermore necessary; if not just a little more cantankerous. We’re like those older action heroes’ that just don’t know when to quit fighting bad guys.

Yes, we have real leverage and clout; but we’d better not be reckless with it! After all, these companies hold all house cards and their Royal Flush can still beat our four Aces.

I mentioned reckless because all good swords are two-edged, cutting both ways. A page in a good book has two sides. When we offer our ‘extended’ services to a new or current employer, they will still have certain requirements – levels of performance they expect from us. Be careful not to strike up a bargain you can’t live up to.

What do I mean? You have to keep in mind that at our age, we do have certain age related limitations and infirmities that may affect our performance. If you have arthritis – depending on severity – lumping your load may not be a good idea. You may now suffer from incontinence, so long drives through regions without adequate rest-stops is not advisable; and do you really want to wear a diaper while you drive?

I personally suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder and my night driving eyesight has greatly diminished – as it will for most people as they age – so night driving is out of the equation. Besides, I’m incapable of driving an eight-hour shift through the night and remain awake; yet I can literally drive from 6 am till 10 pm, no sweat. I could go on about our age related infirmities; as most elderly people are want to do, endlessly discussing their aches and pains, but you get the idea.

We are obligated to inform, discuss and insist from our employers, that they and their dispatchers, shippers, receiver’s, managers, all understand and keep these limitations in mind when giving us our assignments. Make sure you stipulate all the negotiated terms/deals of your employment into your contract and never disclose them to your peers. It’s NOTB, none of their business; only you and your employer’s business; blabbing to your co-workers could render your hard-fought deal null and void.

Finally, young people don’t identify with older peoples’ peculiarities or their needs. When employers/dispatchers are under pressure to move loads, everyone who’s available to them is 30-40 something-ish. Don’t be surprised if any of the persons mentioned in the preceding paragraph happen to conveniently forget about your agreements and your limitations when it suits the companies needs and purpose. Always remember this: the industry needs us, they really do want us, but they will be coy about their desperation for us.

Beyond that, we have to demonstrate that we will perform to the best of our capabilities, capitalizing on our established experience and the conscientious professionalism that they will and still expect of us. For instance; we don’t wear flip-flops on the job, dress in pajama pants or loose-fitting terry cloth shorts, nor do we wear muscle man T-shirts at the customers. We still are professionals.

As for me; I don’t intend to run – as aforementioned – as hard anymore; 10-12 hour days are long enough for this old man. That ridiculous Canadian HOS 13 hours of driving/15-16 hours on duty per day is both unsafe, unhealthy and unreasonable in my opinion; seriously, if you have to run that hard to earn a ‘decent’ living, you’re not living, you’re just an indentured servant to the industry and slave to your truck.

So, YOU EMPLOYERS, there’s a huge pool of potential employee’s out there just waiting for you to make them an offer they can’t refuse; but without the horsehead please.

horse-head-1

 

 

Where Have all the Truckers Gone…

19 Jun

Read this editorial from Truck News then dare to disagree with me!

CTA study predicts driver shortage to be worse than previously thought

I want to congratulate the corporate trucking industry as well as the numerous regulatory agencies for a job well done in deterring and dissuading potential new candidates from ever considering trucking as a viable career. You’ve worked diligently to discredit the image of real bonifide truckers by breaking their spirit of independence, which was the hallmark of their distinguished character.

You’ve broken apart their collective culture of camaraderie and bond that once permeated throughout the industry. We did it by C.B. banter and truck-stop fellowship. We were once recognized as a unique cadre of people who didn’t always conform or play by the rules, people who didn’t kowtow to the whims of uninitiated driver managers who never even ‘drove a mile in our boots’. Today the industry is comprised of feeble minded people who’ve chosen this job, only as a last resort option.

Thanks to your efforts, many seasoned, experienced professional truckers have abandoned the industry or intend to do so in the not so distant future. You’ve replaced us with people who might be able to drive a truck but they aren’t truckers. They don’t even know how to use a C.B. let alone have a C.B. handle and are too preoccupied listening to chatter or music on their cell phones, buds in their ears, sandal’s or thongs on their feet, foot on the dash, lounging as if sitting in a recliner; they are a cavalier, laze fare less than qualified drivers of trucks, but they are not real truckers.

But in so doing, you’ve undermined your very own existence. No longer is there any allure to our vocation, you’ve tarnished the very lustre of a job that once dazzled brightly in the eyes of young boys and girls who fancied themselves driving shiny big rigs with loud air horns. The exotic, even glamorous image of life on the road, men and women who were self-sufficient, a little bit of rogue, a touch of rascal but always a renegade that played by their own rules and were nobodies fool, is now spurned and discouraged. That profile has been replaced by the few recruits you do attract; unimaginative, unambitious, indifferent drivers who view their job as merely a transition to a better career.

We have gone from an industry of conscientious ‘can do’ truckers, once a prestigious vocation, to a maligned profession whose drives have a ‘I’ll do it if I can’ attitude. Trucking, once upon a time, attracted only the best candidates because it offered the romance of adventure, really good pay, respect and admiration, freedom and membership into a special cadre of people with the same ambitions. Think cowboy on the range, sailor on a tall sailing ship, circuit race car drivers, carnies, etc.

Once upon at time, truckers were considered ‘misfits’ because we didn’t fit into societies desired status quo mold. Today’s new crop of drivers are also misfits; they just don’t fit into this industry.

All this job offers now is lousy pay, lousy hours, lousy lifestyle, lousy image; in two words, it’s become a ‘lousy job’ all thanks to you. Well done corporate trucking industry and regulators.

 

 

 

ABOUT THOSE STRANGE DREAMS

28 May

I guess it’s about time I address those strange dreams I mentioned on Facebook I had earlier this week and saying I’d write about them; so here they are. They have nothing to do with trucking, yet the first one has to do with my pick-up truck and autonomous trucks. As for the second one having anything to do with my marriage…well, maybe, deeply, subconsciously. But for the record, I’m no fan of Cher, so how she slipped into my dream is still a mystery to me.
Perhaps my dreams were just a product of eating a late chicken cobb salad but they were quite vivid, and even today, four days later, I can still clearly envision them.

My first dream found me in some kind of drop/rail yard. I was standing near an autonomous cement mixer/rail car. It was the weirdest machine I’ve seen since the Terminator. Anyway, it had mechanical arms that rotated some kind of flywheel on its face, activating it to turn on.
Behind me, someone had dropped two enclosed rail car-carriers, side by side. The autonomous cement mixing railcar began to abruptly move forward and slammed hard into the rail car-carriers that were obstructing its path.
When I went to examine the damage, on the other side of the wreckage was my totally crushed pick-up. My wife just happened to be there and she tried to assuage me that I was thoroughly covered by insurance – she’s an insurance broker – but that didn’t comfort me as I knew I could never replace or find such a comparable truck. Insurance agents…
I literally woke up in a state of panic and exasperation.
IMG_20150827_152141

After realizing it was just a dream, I quickly fell back to asleep. Sometime later, early in the morning, just before my waking, my second dream began.
I saw a large elevated concrete ramp which turned out to be a raised landing ramp or tarmac for commercial aircraft. It was more than wide enough to accommodate the jets coming in for a landing.
Anyway, walking up the ramp was a tall, fine figured woman, with long straight black hair. She was wearing an elegant, full length, backless white gown and was completely out of place walking up the tarmac. Obviously, her back was to me. She wore high heal shoes and walked somewhat awkwardly, as if in a bit of a panic. Perhaps she knew of her dire predicament and soon quickened her pace. in the distance, a jet was coming in for a landing.
As she began to run, her high-heeled shoes gave way and she stumbled forward, just in time, as the aircrafts landing gear touched down not far from her. The turbulent vortex off the jets wings caused her slinky gown to literally blow up to her shoulders revealing her naked body. Yes, her legs and buttocks were toned and firm…ok!
She desperately tried to get up but kept stumbling from either panic or disorientation.
Two men came out of no where, from some unseen side access door and scrambled across the tarmac to the other side ignoring the weak sounding pleas for help from the desperate woman; and another jet was about to make a landing, so they had no time for her.
I seem to have been situated in a convenient location; dreams can be uncanny that way, just ask Freud, and was able to make my way to the woman in good time.
I helped her get to her feet and saw it was Cher; just don’t ask me why! I helped fold down her dress to cover her up her modesty and help her to regain her composure. With my arm around her, we hastily made it up the ramp to the access door where the two gents had earlier come out and rushed into enclove and safety.
I led her Cher down the stairs to my waiting pick-up – this time, thank God, it wasn’t wrecked – and offered to take her to a nearby hospital or to a friends place. Cher, showing relief and gratitude, warmly smiled at me and suggested I take her home. She provided me her address and the instructions how to get there… which I can’t recall, damn it!  When we arrived at her gated estate, I again offered to get a doctor to attend to her or call a friend to come over. She just indicated she would feel safer and more comfortable if I were to remain with her for a while and invited me in.
I stayed the night…

cher_11  Cher at 69

No, it’s not exactly the gown I described, but you get the idea, and not bad for a 70 year old! And yeah, I know, cosmetic surgery, high dollar personal trainers and living in paradise sure helps keep one young.
When I was younger, I took some college courses in psychology to upgrade myself after having dropped out of high-school. I also took philosophy, theology and some other courses, but the psychology courses led me to read numerous books on psychiatry and the study of mental illness. Certain triggers in the course of our day, life, experience can have significant effect on what we dream. I gave my hypothesis earlier on my FB post. Look it up LOL.

Caught Between a Paradox and a Paradigm, Why The Trucking Industry is Doomed to Collapse in 10 Years

7 May

Just the other day, I was engaged in an interesting discussion with another ‘seasoned professional’ driver about the dire state of our industry; yes, he too was close to retirement. The topic revolved around a tenuous situation I had been put in by my dispatcher; that of picking up a heavy load and traveling 1455 miles through a mountainous region over two days to make my delivery. In the end, my dispatcher realized his demands were not only unreasonable but also undoable. We compromised and everyone, especially me, was happy. I still made my delivery in good time…just not his time. In the end, this other driver and I agreed it will be a pleasure to retire and leave the industry.

When I first became a truck-driver some 39 years ago, it was considered a prestigious job, we got lots of respect – friends envied me – the pay was very good, we had decent benefits, normal working hours/shifts with overtime, good conditions, job security and so much more. It wasn’t a perfect job but far better than doing manual labour. Back then, I even looked forward to helping load/off-load my trailer; I saw it as a form of exercise – staying fit – and besides, I got paid to do it. That’s why I became a truck-driver; that’s also when the industry had no problems attracting new recruits like me.

Over the years, trucking has been evolving, or should I say de-evolving. One major factor was deregulation, another, the incursion of cheap American carriers creeping into our territory; American drivers always worked cheaper than their Canadian counterparts – don’t ask me why, I don’t know, but a now defunct American trade magazine called Trucker News wrote an article comparing educational grade equivalency between US truckers to Canadian truckers. They, the US drivers were gauged at grade 11 and Canadian drivers were at a first year college level. Interesting and maybe even relevant.

Now it’s common knowledge that trucking and truckers are still classified as part-time or seasonal farm labour – what we do amounts to piece work – it’s a designation that dates back to the dark ages of trucking – sometime in the 1930’s. Even FDR approved of it as goods were desperately needed to feed a desperate hungry country and drivers were willing to work ridiculous hours to earn money during the depression. There’s a great movie about trucking during the depression starring Humphrey Bogart called ‘They Drive By Night’ made in 1940.

They Drive By Night

 I read an article a long time ago; supposedly, it had been suggested in the USA – shortly after deregulation in the 1980’s – that truck-drivers be reclassified and included into the ‘Fair Labor and Standards Act’. This would mean drivers would be paid/treated like everyone else with entitlement to overtime after 40 hrs, benefits, better working conditions, etc.

Apparently, Congress had a study conducted on the feasibility and economic impact this would have on the economy and discovered it would bankrupt the country…in case you were wondering why it never happened.

So here’s the paradox: without truck-drivers, freight, goods, food, essentials, etc. will not get to market and the consumer. Truck-drivers and the trucking industry are a vital component of maintaining a healthy, strong economy. Attracting future recruits to trucking as a viable profession/vocation; especially as the economy and population are constantly growing and that current drivers are aging and will soon be leaving the industry to retire, it would seem a reasonable expectation and goal.

And yet the trucking industry, in its current form, insist on maintaining a status quo that clearly dates back to the dark ages. Sure, thanks to current HOS rules, drivers working hours are capped at 70 hours per week (over an 8-day week in the USA, more logically over a 7-day week in Canada. Seriously, only the Beatles worked Eight Days a Week).

But what other job/industry regulated by the Fair Labor Standards Act expects their employees to work 70 hours plus, with overtime only beginning at 60 hours – and only for some company drivers – pays by ‘piece work’ as in – paid by the mile – offers no real compensation for lengthy ‘away time’ from home, usually no recompensing drivers for time spent loading/off-loading at the customer, not to mention the amount of ‘free hours’ drivers are expected to bury/unreport so as not to erode their earning time and much more. This would be totally unacceptable in any other civilized industry.

Consider this, if a newly hired employee at say – Wal Mart or Toyota – found out they would not get paid overtime until after working 60 hours were expected to give their employer several hours of their own time – without pay – to stock shelves, clean up, whatever; how long do you think that employee would remain with Wal Mart or Toyota – regardless of how badly they needed the job. Yet in trucking, this is the norm and considered acceptable.

Again: the paradox is that drivers are desperately needed and the industry is doing its best to discourage or attract new recruits.

Which brings us to a paradigm; trucking must completely change its paradigm – its called a paradigm shift – or else it will collapse within ten years. Don’t believe me! The average age of drivers is now 55 years. In ten years, they’ll be 65 and eligible for retirement. Sure, some will remain in the industry due to economic necessity, but the vast majority, including me will be long gone. REASON: why would we want to continue to work for an industry that blatantly exploits its drivers, over works them, disregards their personal circumstances in regards to health/infirmities, family, home-time, etc.

I’m already 64 and am seriously considering leaving the industry altogether, and I work for a company voted one of the 20 Best Companies to Driver For. Where does that leave the other 10,000 plus in North America? And Autonomous trucks are still a long way off.

Appreciation Days, Respect and BBQ’s

27 Mar

Rodney Dangerfield I Get No Respect

“I don’t get no respect” was a famous line from Rodney Dangerfield’s shtick that always elicited a laugh from the audience.
It’s also a common refrain throughout various segments of society, not just among truck drivers, but its no laughing matter. We all crave respect, especially if we feel we’ve earned it; we all want some appreciation for the work we’ve done or contribution we’ve made. It’s human nature, that’s why more and more trucking companies as well as truck-stops, even some shipper/receivers celebrate Driver Appreciation Days and events throughout the year. Sure, we’re being paid to do our job, but a pat on the back, a ‘job well done’ compliment or note, or a small gratuity/reward goes a long way in encouraging continued performance and participation.
Twenty-some years ago, I participated in a national televised Knights of the Road production; it followed and profiled four drivers and aired on Global TV. The purpose of the one-hour long show was to convey to society that the job of trucking was an admirable profession and that drivers were normal, hardworking everyday people, just like the viewing audience.
Regrettably, I wasn’t rewarded for my effort and participation, the show had little to no impact on the image of the industry and I vowed never to participate in something like that ever again.
Fast forward fifteen years to 2007 when I get a call from some reporter at HighwaySTAR wanting to interview me because of my fitness regimen and weight loss. The reporters name: Peter Frances Carter.
Because of his meddling in my life, our new-formed friendship and later, his encouraging me to try my hand at writing editorials for HighwaySTAR, I found myself unwittingly re-engaged in an industry I had vowed not to.

HighwaySTAR article

From that encounter and friendship, I had articles appear in HighwaySTAR, Today’s Trucking, Truck News, I finally finished and published my first book, found myself – on numerous occasions – being a guest on Show Trucker, thanks to James Menzies endorsement, and starting a blog – at James’ suggestion – called: theintrepidtrucker.com.
Once again though, my participation has come full circle. Even though I was paid for most of the articles I wrote; that appeared in the above mentioned trade magazines; all the times I was a guest on the Show Trucker, discussing timely, pertinent topics, extensively promoting my book, the magazines and radio show; I rarely received a compliment or even acknowledgment from my peers for my efforts.
Quite frankly, I seriously doubt I made any impact on the community of drivers or the industry whatsoever. Even where I work, I literally have to shove a magazine into the face of my dispatchers, fellow drivers and management if they’re to read something I wrote. That’s pretty pathetic, when you consider their bread and butter is trucking but they’ve no interest in my extra-curricular activity; which is usually trucking and or health related.
Which brings me to the purpose of this lengthy editorial. Supposedly, I have 98 ‘friends’ who follow me on Facebook. That’s far too many, especially when I never hear from them, receive a comment, get a ‘like’ or a post; maybe I should get a ‘life’. So I’ve decided to purge my site from all the dross, those “friends” that are too politically correct, too indifferent or disinterested in me or what I have to offer/say.
Hey! I even respond to those critical, sometimes vitriol messages to my more incendiary posts out of courtesy. I generally try to be civil and Christian but I am first and foremost a truck-driver; consider the source I say.
So let the purging begin. We’ll see who takes the time to read and like or comment first before I start to delete friends.
P.S. Remember I had said 80-90% so some of you are quite secure; you should know who you are: not too worry.

Dropping Turkeys,Touchdown Jesus and Egg Bombs

15 Mar

“As God is my witness, I honestly believed Turkeys could fly!” Famous last words from Mr. Carlson, station Manager of WKRP in Cincinnati Ohio, from that infamous Thanksgiving TV episode when they dropped free turkeys to listeners below from a helicopter. Yes, it turned out disastrous. Newsman Les Nessman reiterated that classic newscast from the Hindenburg tragedy : “Ohhhh, the humanity, ohhh the horror…”

Then there’s the saga of ‘Touchdown Jesus’; it’s what the locals in Monroe Ohio, before it’s destruction in 2010, mockingly called the glaringly huge, iconic – if not idolatrous – statue of Jesus, situated in front of the Solid Rock Church; easily seen from off Interstate I75 around mile 36.

Now being a simple, mortal man and Christian, I found that particular statue not only ‘gaudy’ (not gody, or Gaudi) but I also found it some what offensive. I realize throughout Christian history, churches and various denominations have been at odds concerning imagery, icons and statues. Having said that, if I happened to find it offensive, what might’ve God thought of it?

Jesus on Fire

Exactly! It was struck by lightning and burned to the ground. Cue in the Twilight Zone theme.

You would think the good people of the congregation would’ve gotten the message and left it at that. There was a time not so long ago and very long ago (think Old Testament story of the statues of Baal in the pagan temple, knocked face down sometime during the night, as if in obeisance before the captured Ark of the Covenant) that, had lightning struck and destroyed your cherished ‘idol’, monument, building, etc. whatever that may be, it was a clear message from God that He disapproved of it. But thanks to the ‘gods’ of Insurance, they went ahead and erected another bigger, better statue. The locals call it Hug Me Jesus.

Hug Me Jesus

Many years ago, a favourite actor of mine: Vic Morrow was filming a Twilight Zone movie called A Quality of Mercy when the Huey helicopter – in a scene of pursuing him and some Vietnamese children – experienced a catastrophic mechanical failure due to a prop detonation, it fell on top of Mr. Morrow and the children, decapitating and or crushing  them.

I brought those two helicopter examples up because, come March 27th, Easter Sunday morning, this same church is planning an Easter Egg drop – from a helicopter no less – to the excited waiting children below. What could possibly go wrong?