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Almost Ready

Sebring, Florida

I am obsessed. With a Facebook page. Two actually.

Road Talk and Trucker’s Weather Updates and Road Conditions.

So complete is my obsession that MacGyver is waking every morning to his coffee, served in his red Ferrari mug, and my crash report.

This was a routine winter drive on US87 enroute to Great Falls, Montana in January 2013. But winter conditions this year seem anything but routine. Two Facebook pages which report weather and road conditions for big truck drivers, including multi-vehicle pileups has become my staycation obsession.

This was a routine winter drive on US87 enroute to Great Falls, Montana in January 2013. But winter conditions this year seem anything but routine. Two Facebook pages which report weather and road conditions for big truck drivers, including multi-vehicle pileups has become my staycation obsession.

“I need to unfriend them,” I tell him almost every day. “It’s freaking me out.”

It’s, like, an addiction that I feed it several times a day. There have been so many storms this winter and consequently many horrific crashes. Before Facebook I knew there were big truck crashes, I saw evidence of crashes, but there was no play-by-play.

Continue reading

Almost Ready

Sebring, Florida

I am obsessed. With a Facebook page. Two actually.

Road Talk and Trucker’s Weather Updates and Road Conditions.

So complete is my obsession that MacGyver is waking every morning to his coffee, served in his red Ferrari mug, and my crash report.

This was a routine winter drive on US87 enroute to Great Falls, Montana in January 2013. But winter conditions this year seem anything but routine. Two Facebook pages which report weather and road conditions for big truck drivers, including multi-vehicle pileups has become my staycation obsession.

This was a routine winter drive on US87 enroute to Great Falls, Montana in January 2013. But winter conditions this year seem anything but routine. Two Facebook pages which report weather and road conditions for big truck drivers, including multi-vehicle pileups has become my staycation obsession.

“I need to unfriend them,” I tell him almost every day. “It’s freaking me out.”

It’s, like, an addiction that I feed it several times a day. There have been so many storms this winter and consequently many horrific crashes. Before Facebook I knew there were big truck crashes, I saw evidence of crashes, but there was no play-by-play.

Continue reading

So Long Cali, It’s Been Good To Know You

Las Vegas, Nevada

The words from my favorite movie, Sound of Music, danced in my brain as we departed California before the first stroke of 2014.

“There’s a sad sort of clanging from the clock in the hall, and the bells in the
steeple too…. Regretfully they tell us, but firmly they compel us, to say goodbye to you.”

Oh, we loved you California, even though the freight out often sucked, stranding us for more than a week.

While millions of people devour and depend on the goods and services and jobs that we bring, there is a serious lack of big truck parking. The constant road construction is never enough, the highways are dilapidated making it impossible to sleep on some routes.

One of the joys of spring in California. Fresh picked, fragrant, succulent strawberries in April and crisp, crunchy sweet peas. All a Vespa ride from the Lodi, California Flying J on I-5.

One of the joys of spring in California. Fresh picked, fragrant, succulent strawberries in April and crisp, crunchy sweet peas. All a Vespa ride from the Lodi, California Flying J on I-5.

The bad was tempered by the great. The velvety, Leprechaun-green hillsides of spring that seemed to infuse oxygen into a winter-weary body. The succulent, red Spring strawberries, hours from the fields to the fruit stands. Great salads in almost every restaurant — Lodi, CA at the Fox and Hounds has the best Sunday brunch omelette bar I have ever seen, they have roasted garlic — and the deliciously, languorous bike path along the water’s edge in Long Beach.

Continue reading

So Long Cali, It’s Been Good To Know You

Las Vegas, Nevada

The words from my favorite movie, Sound of Music, danced in my brain as we departed California before the first stroke of 2014.

“There’s a sad sort of clanging from the clock in the hall, and the bells in the
steeple too…. Regretfully they tell us, but firmly they compel us, to say goodbye to you.”

Oh, we loved you California, even though the freight out often sucked, stranding us for more than a week.

While millions of people devour and depend on the goods and services and jobs that we bring, there is a serious lack of big truck parking. The constant road construction is never enough, the highways are dilapidated making it impossible to sleep on some routes.

One of the joys of spring in California. Fresh picked, fragrant, succulent strawberries in April and crisp, crunchy sweet peas. All a Vespa ride from the Lodi, California Flying J on I-5.

One of the joys of spring in California. Fresh picked, fragrant, succulent strawberries in April and crisp, crunchy sweet peas. All a Vespa ride from the Lodi, California Flying J on I-5.

The bad was tempered by the great. The velvety, Leprechaun-green hillsides of spring that seemed to infuse oxygen into a winter-weary body. The succulent, red Spring strawberries, hours from the fields to the fruit stands. Great salads in almost every restaurant — Lodi, CA at the Fox and Hounds has the best Sunday brunch omelette bar I have ever seen, they have roasted garlic — and the deliciously, languorous bike path along the water’s edge in Long Beach.

Continue reading

2013: New Sights New Heights

Tucson, Arizona

It likely comes as no surprise that I am a goal-oriented person. And the end of the year is my finish line.

I believe in aiming high. When I aim high, I come out farther ahead than when I’ve aimed more realistically. I have learned that writing my goals down on paper, specific goals with numbers and details attached and putting them in my wallet, keeps me on target. And most importantly MacGyver has learned that my goals are his goals. (“Get on board or get left behind,” is his translation.)

2013 - New Sights New Heights

Dancing on the Louisiana bayou, not far from Henderson, at Whiskey Creek. Where the oldsters out maneuvered the youngsters, dancing up a storm to the Zydeco Bands.

Since my birthday is at the end of the year, my favorite present is my yearly review. How did we do?

WE Inc. is celebrating. We did a lot of stuff this year. There was fun. There was business. There were issues. And as my husband likes to say, with an astonished inflection in his voice, we’re still married.

We traveled new roads with Black Beauty. She was on the BC Ferries to Vancouver Island to deliver a chiller to the Victoria, British Columbia (BC) Target store. We crawled up the mountain, literally, 13.5 kilometers on a forest service road above Squamish, BC where an eco-power generation station is under construction.

2013 - New Sights New Heights

“You have the right-a-way Captain.” I drove onto the taxiway at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport to make our delivery.

The craziest delivery was at O’Hare airport near Chicago where we delivered a jet bridge to gate E2 and I drove across the taxiway between the arriving and departing jets. And in five years on the road, it afforded us our first opportunity to visit Chicago. We found downtown, off-street, secure parking and launched our Brompton bicycles to ride along Lake Michigan on its glorious biking and walking path. We will be back to take the architectural boat tour. It is a beautiful city that comes alive in the summer.

2013 - New Sights New Heights

We finally made it. We had been driving around Chicago in all directions for more than five years but we had never visited Chicago. It was a glorious weekend, we rode our bikes on the bike path around the Lake.

While our trip to Hay River, Northwest Territories, the home of Buffalo Air at the 60th Parallel was exciting for us Canadians who never expected to ever see the place, my favorite stop was Lafayette, Louisiana.

Our last visit to Louisiana was in New Orleans at Christmas 2010 where we made the most of a bad situation when Black Beauty had a major transmission repair under warranty, but it was an incomplete visit. We did no dancing and I heard no music because we were on a strict 3 AM and 3 PM  driving schedule delivering expedited air freight.

MacGyver discovered a real treat this summer, a Sunday afternoon, because I still don’t stay up very late, four o’clock to eight o’clock dance fest at the Whiskey River Saloon along the bayou. We drove the Vespa about 30 miles out of Lafayette to a corrugated metal shack leaning jauntily toward the water. Inside, the wood floor was rubbed smooth by years of pounding cowboy boots. The best part, it was all ages, but mostly oldsters. When I say oldsters, I mean older than me oldsters. Feet were flying, stomping, sliding and kicking.

This year MacGyver turned 50 and he celebrated, often. There was the up close inspection of the Yas Marina Formula One race track in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, the view of the Coca-Cola 600 from a luxury condo above the track, the load that brought us within a one hour Vespa ride of the Austin, Texas Formula One race.

It wasn’t just fun. We advanced our small business by making two big purchases. Early in the year, we added a 51 foot Fontaine step deck trailer to our equipment roster. Instead of paying $170 a week to rent the trailer, we are now paying ourselves $200 a week to pay back our loan from WE Inc. By owning our trailer, we get an extra eight percent of the load. This year I paid ourselves back $8,250 for the trailer purchase and we brought in more than $10,000 in extra revenue. My first priority for 2014 is to finish repaying our savings account.

In November, we added a conestoga-style rolling tarp system to our trailer and loading ramps, costing almost $26,000. The tarp is on a frame. We push the frame and tarp forward to load the trailer, then push it back, cinch it closed and we’re off, saving time and energy. A businesswoman friend calls it a revenue-generating insurance policy. If either one of us gets hurt, it affects our income. We owe our savings $20,000 with interest and it will be repaid at $150 a week for three years.

Most importantly, we again reached our top goal of every year. We deposited our maximum retirement contributions. In my mind, the only money a small businessowner really makes, is the money that is set aside for investing in the future and providing for the business.

2013 - New Sights New Heights

We delivered a building, literally, up the mountain, above Squamish British Columbia in August. We drove 13.5 kilometers up a Forest Service Road. It was very steep, up and down, and the view was incredible.

My financial plan is simple. Each year I decide how much will go into savings and investments. We have learned to never pay interest to others. I cover the fixed business costs, such as insurance, permits, plates and the variable costs, repairs and maintenance and supplies and then we spend the rest. If we need something for the business and we don’t have the cash, we put off all personal spending. So, the downside, the Marlaina-is-no-fun side, is that there is no exotic winter holiday this winter. We’ll be sitting in Florida, I-know-it-could-be-worse, selling crap on eBay.

Thank you for joining us on our travels this past year.

For 2014, we wish you health, happiness, and success in reaching your goals.

Attention Toronto: I Heard It At The Truckstop

Gary, Indiana

“…I’m a truck driver,” I heard the voice from the toilet in the ladies restroom in the TA truck stop say as I walked in the door. “I can’t smoke crack cocaine.”

Before I divulge more of what I eavesdropped — except when someone is talking in their outdoor voice on the toilet in a public restroom it is not eavesdropping — I must confirm that bluetooth headsets have removed the boundaries of good taste for many people. It is common in both ladies and mens restrooms in truckstops for truck drivers to sit on the toilet and talk on the phone.

“I never watch the TV news, it’s too depressing,” she continued. “I musta been home cuz there it was on the TV,” she said incredulously, “he said he smoked crack cocaine.”

Long pause while my friend listens. “They say smoking crack cocaine makes your mind not right, it must, because he said it ON TV!!”

I knew who she was talking about the minute I heard the first mention of crack cocaine.

Toronto, you really hit the big time. Here’s an American truck driver, I can tell by the accent, who spends most of her time on the road and readily admits that she almost never watches television and she knows that the Mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford, admitted that he has smoked crack cocaine.

That’s notoriety.

The Weather Outside Is Frightful

New York, New York

Isolated by both their transient working lifestyle and technology, there is one event that brings truckers together — the weather.

The Weather Outside Is Frightful

The moisture in the air creates ice fog encasing the trucks and the road in the parking lot in a thin layer of ice.

The Farmer’s Almanac predicted a winter smothered in snow, and it is coming to pass. Two-thirds of the nation, extending south of the Mason Dixon line, has seen snow or has snow on the ground. Two consecutive weekends, the continental US has experienced winter storms — named Dion and Electra by The Weather Channel its recent policy aimed at captivating viewers — stretching between 1,100 and 1,500 miles.

Last weekend, Saturday, December 7, dozens of drivers spent the weekend huddled around the television. The Weather Channel beamed in reports of the octopus-like storm that originated in Mexico and unleashed its wrath, ice, near Pecos, Texas on I-10, pummeled Dallas, brought freezing temperatures to Houston then marched cross Arkansas, dipped down to Tennessee, through Kentucky, Virginia, Pennsylvania and fizzled out past upstate New York after leaving a mountain of snow.

“My husband, he had his cherry bust early when we did two years out of North Dakota,” Mrs. Over-the-Road told me, describing their nightmarish drive from Roanoke, Virginia to Pennsylvania. Maryland was the worst, she said, reporting more trucks than she could count in the ditch.

The highway carnage began in Pecos, TX with a 10-truck pileup and fire and closed the Interstate. Ice was the villain. And no doubt, some driving too fast and following too close.

We parked on Friday after delivering in Allentown. MacGyver wanted a load. Me? Call it women’s intuition. My gut said we should sit this weekend out.

Besides, we had Christmas lights to string and we were enjoying a trucker coincidence. One of the best things about life on the road is unexpectedly running into a friend. It always amazes us how close we come to our driver friends while we crisscross the nation.

In Louisiana, before the storm, our friend Dave from Ohio, literally passed me on I-10. I thought I recognized his truck as it drifted by. Eyeing our conestoga, then our storage box, he realized that the truck was ours and MacGyver’s phone rang. We stopped 15 minutes down the road at a Petro and discovered we were delivering not far from each other. On Friday we found ourselves at the same truck stop. We all took the weekend off.

We watched east and north. In Texas and Oklahoma drivers were stuck on the Interstate for hours. By Sunday, the Virginia DOT was warning of an “historic” ice situation. The weather was moving up I-81.

The Weather Outside Is Frightful

Our driver friend Dave and I, after our second meal in three days at the truck stop, checking the radar app. Behind us a couple of dozen drivers watching The Weather Channel. We met Dave at Landstar’s cargo securement class two years ago.

 

Drivers who chose to sit out the weather were making use of the down time.  The line formed early in the laundry room. I was in first at 7AM. A steady stream followed.

Solo drivers took advantage of face-to-face conversations, picking over the forecast, bellyaching about freight and rates and complaining about a trucker bad habit of following “too damn close on the cruise control.”

One who was loaded in New Hampshire was delivering near Roanoke, Virginia.
“I’m waiting,” he told me. “It’s not good out there.” He knows snow, he said, because based in South Dakota but he didn’t like the ice. Later in the day, a 50 vehicle pile up on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

In the last week feet, not inches, of snow has fallen in upstate New York. Lake effect snow. Heavy snowfalls will continue until the lakes freezes over. They are still waiting. The Mid-Atlantic states saw snow too.

This weekend more snow is crawling across the country, heavy snow accumulation is expected today in Pennsylvania, upstate New York and the New England states. In Boston 12 to 18 inches of snow is forecast.

Since we’re all in this together, 18-wheelers and four-wheelers, and we all want to go home in one piece without an insurance claim number.

  • Clear your back window, so you can see what’s behind you.
  • Wipe off your tail lights so people can see you and know when you brake.
  • Turn your headlights on. Headlights are not just for seeing, they let others see you.
  • Leave plenty of space. Following too close and driving too fast is a leading cause of crashes.

Be safe.

Seven Days Later We Were 70 Degrees Colder

Trois Rivieres, Quebec

2013 is MacGyver’s Championship Year.

He will forever remember it as the year that we “renewed our vows,” he says. When your husband tells his mother, your mother-in-law, that you are the best wife EVER, he believes it.

I know because I am the best wife EVER!

Hiding in the tractor, despite the brilliant sunshine in Port Huron, Michigan, because it was windy and cold, the trucking gods delivered an unparalleled gift to MacGyver.

“I didn’t plan this,” he said sheepishly looking up from the computer. “Really. Yes, it was a goal, but I didn’t plan this.”

In a development, usually the preserve of the uber wealthy, but made possible by our trucking lifestyle, out of the blue, we had the opportunity to do something he wanted to do and get paid for it. The Load Board provided a conestoga, team load, 32 miles away — and we are the proud new parents of a conestoga trailer — to Red Oak, Texas, a mere 232 miles north of Austin.

And what made that load to the People’s Republic Of Austin even more special than its $2.74 ALL miles to the truck covering that deadhead, was that we would arrive in time, in Austin, for the weekend of the second running of the American Grand Prix. Yes, a Formula One race.

Seven Days Later We Were 70 Degrees Colder

MacGyver picked the best general admission seats in the house. See that slope across the track behind me. Those seats are staring into the sun. I survived the heat — and should have appreciated it more — and found one good thing, no waits for the ladies room. Instead the lineup was outside the men’s room.

As our dear friends, you know that MacGyver is an avid Formula One fan. This year, his 50th birthday year, he celebrated with a day at FerrariWorld and a closeup and personal visit to the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, followed by the Canadian Grand Prix in June in Montreal, Quebec with our friends Salena and Truckin Ed. They are now MacGyver’s second favorite people after this wife, because they wangled him an invitation to a private condo to see the running of the NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where our load out was the camera that fell during the race.

Seven Days Later We Were 70 Degrees Colder

And seven days later, we were battling a snow squall as it roared from Lake Huron and Georgian Bay across to Woodstock, Ontario. I knew I should have appreciated the heat more when I had it.

Between March and November it is all Formula One. To me, the F1 Hostage Wife, it is torture. The daily, slow drip of information. Day-in-day-out. I can’t get away with nodding distractedly, I am quizzed to ensure I can hold my own in conversation, that I can offer an opinion, that I don’t embarrass him at F1 outings.

In fact, so versed am I in all things Formula One, that sitting 100 feet from Turn One at the Austin track, even though at that moment I could not see the track or the cars making the turn, I knew that Red Bull’s Mark Webber had overtaken Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, roaring into third place.

How did I know? Because I heard it. Because the Red Bull cars make a unique downshifting sound prior to accelerating. Sebastian Vettel, this year’s four time world champion can shift so quickly and effectively that the end result is his car gets more traction on the corner in a manoeuvre that sounds oddly like a big truck’s unmuffled engine retarder. None of the other Formula One cars make this sound. All of the other cars accelerate after the corner, every one of them, the Ferrari, the McLaren, the Mercedes, the Lotus and the Renault. The drivers all shift and accelerate after the corner.

So, since the load fluttered into our lap, there was no doubt that MacGyver would be at the race. It was not worth the energy to moan that we had spent an enormous amount of money on our rolling tarp system that spending another $359 was just too much for me to bear. And remembering that in July, for no good reason, when I was lusting after a pair of kitten-heel, pointy-toe, black patent, Stuart Weitzman pumps, MacGyver said, sure, without whining. So I didn’t whine either.

But horrors. He wanted me to attend with him. Say what?

It is not often that a wife gets to give her a husband something he really wants, and that something is you. He wanted me to go to the race with him. So I did.

But first, knowing he did not want a whining wife sitting next to him, he did a special reconnaissance. He found cheap parking, $40, next to the gate next to Turn One so I walked less than ten New York City blocks. He decided we’d sit in the general admission area on the grass above Turn One. If he had picked the opposite side, we would have been looking into the sun. He took the folding chairs out of the storage box, checked them, cleaned them, and went to Target to pick up some rags in case he needed to level out the chairs to counteract the slope of the hill.

And so we went. I was hot. It was uncomfortable. It was crowded. I am totally uninterested. All the things I hate, including that I spent $139 to be hot and uncomfortable. Except he made it interesting. We found ourselves next to a young couple from Los Angeles, Raj and Sara, late 20-somethings. He was new to an interest in Formula One and she was along for the ride. MacGyver donned his elder statesman cap, armed with his second-by-second iPAD app, he explained the intrigue of formula one, man, machine, skill and dumb bad luck. “You made this race really great,” Raj told MacGyver as we were packing up. And he did.

Seven Days Later We Were 70 Degrees Colder

That’s a Lotus out front, followed by a Ferrari and a McLaren at the Formula One race in Austin, Texas

“To me it was like renewing our wedding vows,” he gushed. “That you watched the race with me.”

Then he picked our next good paying load, into the teeth of winter. I should have enjoyed the heat more.

Small Business Mantra: If You Don’t Ask You Don’t Get

Angry with the avalanche of government regulation, the Hours of Service changes chief among them, truck drivers, who see themselves as capitalists, were talking socialism.

So great was the whining — let’s shut down America and let people miss us — that a group calling itself Truckers For The Constitution hijacked the debate, twisting it into an “impeach Obama” campaign to foment support for a convoy on Washington, DC.

It failed — tremendously.

Small Business Mantra- If You Don't Ask You Don't Get

When naming a company, be careful what you wish for. This guy is making a joke, but small businesses go broke all the time, the majority don’t survive two years. To thrive as an Owner Operator these days, business savvy is required, and that means understanding that time is money.

While I didn’t support that protest, it doesn’t mean there aren’t important issues.

Small business has been under fire for more than 30 years from the behemoth corporations that need to grow at all costs. The avalanche of corporate-spawned regulations, in the name of safety, that is smothering small trucking, is promoted by the large carriers in an unholy alliance with safety groups. Government no longer makes regulation, today’s regulations are drafted by industry lobbyists, whether it’s finance or transportation.

It’s the corporate stamp-out-the-little-guy playbook. And for those who defend the new corporatocracy by quoting the Founding Fathers and The Constitution, the founding fathers knew that if government stopped acting as referee, it no longer does, communities and citizens would eventually lose to capitalism. And lose big.

Trucking is a commodity business. It is extremely difficult to make money in highly competitive commodity markets from tortilla chips to baby car seats to trucking. There is only one money-making equation. Unit times Price equals Revenue. Sell more, charge less. Sell less, charge more.

Shippers want to move their goods as cheaply as possible. The major carriers have volume to drive down price. The challenge for the small trucking fleets and owner operators is to persuade shippers that their services and equipment offers qualities worthy of a price premium.

Now that Ferro & Co, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Director and her staff, have reduced paid Drive time, increased unpaid On Duty time and eliminated flexibility with changes to the 34 hour restart, raising prices must be added to the profit-making mix that includes saving money with efficiencies like fuel efficiency.

Corporations, in a grow or die cycle, absorb some cost increases, temporarily, but continually work to pass costs along to the consumer, their customer.

This year the $12 shower at the TA/Petro is $13. Buy six coffees get one free at the Pilot is now buy nine-get-one-free. The cash discount for diesel decreased. Hot dog prices increased.

Many owner operators trust the mileage rate to cover costs and leave a profit, but with the changes to Hours of Service, we must cover every mile we drive and every hour we are on duty.  Saying “that’s trucking” and absorbing waiting time or canceled loads is not the road to profit. And without profit there is no rational reason to risk $200,000 on a tractor, trailer and gear to be in business.

So how can I be a profitable little guy? By looking at these profit killers.

1. Oops, we don’t need you.  Truck Ordered Not Used.

The shipper has the agent order an extra truck “just in case” because no one ever makes the shipper pay penalties for ordering a truck and not using it. Or, what happened to us outside San Francisco last year, we deadheaded almost 500 miles to pick up a 42,000 pound Hazardous Materials load that was heavier than advertised even though we were explicit about our payload. The shipper’s practice is not to include the pallets in the total weight. Pallets weigh 40 pounds each. There were 16. The load put us 2,000 pounds over gross weight.

What do drivers do? The dockworkers told us some abandon the load, others take it, running the risk of an overweight ticket. We left. It took one month of phone calls and emails to get a Truck Ordered Not Used payment of $250. It did not cover our deadhead and time.

Ordering a truck and not using it is breaking a contract. When a Freight Bill Number is issued, it’s a contract. If the shipper breaks the contract, and does not use my truck, it owes me money. It is called the cost of lost opportunity and it is a fundamental, economic principle.

The cancellation deprived me of revenue and, worse, it deprived me of the opportunity during that time to accept another load and bring in other revenue.

The cost of lost opportunity is often seen in residential real estate, if the buyer cancels the contract to buy, the seller is entitled to keep the deposit. The seller was deprived of her opportunity to sell.

Capitalism only works if commitments are honored.

Solution: Determine the Truck Ordered Not Used policy when accepting the load.  Start at $500.

Small Business Mantra- If You Don't Ask You Don't Get

We loaded in the setting sun after a day-long wait for this expedited team load. We were paid detention at $50 an hour.

2. Hurry up and wait. Detention.

Shippers load by appointment or first-come-first-served. Often they run with fewer forklifts than needed, saving them money, since they don’t pay drivers to wait. Lost time is lost money for an Owner Operator.

The first two hours are typically free, but every hour of waiting time should be compensated. Recently we were told to arrive at 0700 for loading, assuming an appointment. We were fifth in line. There was only one person loading. We had deadheaded, because we planned the route with this piece, abandoning it would cost more than waiting. I wished every minute of that four hours that we could leave.

“We have to let it go to preserve the relationship,” the agents typically say. But the agent’s time hasn’t been wasted, they work on many loads at the same time and the shipper saved money with less staff. Drivers have a specific number of money-making hours per week that must be protected.

Solution: determine the detention policy. $50 an hour is the average.

3. Heavy is more expensive than light. Fuel Surcharge.

A fuel surcharge is attached to each load, based on a national fuel price average by region, which is adjusted weekly.

However, the fuel surcharge does not reflect the freight’s weight. Shippers are lobbying hard to increase the 80,000 pound gross vehicle weight for tractor/trailer units. It costs more to pull 45,000 pounds up Eisenhower Pass on I-70 in Colorado than a 15,000 pound load, considerably more. We know our fuel consumption on every load. Last year it was 51-cents per mile, this year it is 47-cents.

Solution: Ask for more if you need it. Business is a negotiation.

Small Business Mantra- If You Don't Ask You Don't Get

This sticker is a reminder on a company-owned truck. But it’s a good reminder for Owner Operators too. Small business can profit by making or saving money. While it is essential to get paid for our time and to receive a return on our investment, it is also important to save money by operating efficiently. Driving 58 mph and investing in fuel efficiency helps our bottom line.

4. Covering deadhead for short miles. Practical miles.

Loaded miles are typically two-to-10 percent less than the actual miles the truck travels. Shippers want a deal, agents are happy to oblige, drivers are expected to give the discount.

Depending on the loaded miles and the deadhead miles to pick up the load, unpaid miles can eliminate profit because Owner Operators pay to deadhead. Our calculations tell us the ALL miles rate before saying yes.

Solution: Know the total miles the truck will travel and how the rate affects each mile.

One of my favorite quotes from another Owner Operator who drives a hard bargain is: If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

It takes a surprisingly small amount of money to get negotiating power. In our small business life, I have found that as little as $1,000 in the bank to pay unexpected bills prevents a small business owner from taking a job that she knows she shouldn’t.

Saying no is scary. We’re always told someone cheaper is waiting to do the job, but it surprises me how often the other party says “I’ll pay.”

It happened recently on a load from Texas to Quebec. Willing to walk away from the load — while we wanted it, we didn’t need it — MacGyver requested an additional $1,000 to put a team on it for expedited delivery. The shipper paid.

Small business owners everywhere leave too much money on the table.

The Seatbelts and a Stinkbug

Lansdowne, Ontario

In my best Mrs. Dressup tone, putting 25-years of broadcasting experience to use, we made a video for our friend Jennie’s Grade 3-4 class in nearby Maitland.

The Seatbelts and a Stinkbug

One of the students in our friend Jennie’s Grade 3-4 class in Maitland, Ontario named our kill sheet a roadkill counter.

To thrill her kids, the teacher extraordinaire asked us to give them the inside scoop on our tractor, since we were delivering 31,000 pounds of geo-textiles, giant screen-like sheets of plastic to their local landfill.

The first photo Jennie showed them was a closeup of the tractor door, which has a sign that says: Team Operation, Co-Driver in Bunk. Underneath it are silhouettes of five deer, a hawk and a turtle. Our road kills.

“I didn’t tell them anything about the sign, which could have been on anything at all,” she reported later by email.  “They thought at first that it was a sign on a wildlife sanctuary, but they were confused about the bunk bed reference.  Then they figured out that it was a tractor, but thought at first that the animal decals meant that you were a wildlife transport.”

I think pretty smart getting the idea of a heavy-highway tractor from that snippet of information.

We showed them where we sleep and demonstrated the cargo net that protects the sleeping co-driver when we’re moving. We showed them where I cook food, where I make MacGyver’s sandwiches. We explained the cockpit, which had security cuffs on the tractor and trailer brake to prevent them being released since we were loaded. We described how we get loads through the computer and showed them our Canadian and USA WiFis. We talked about the vibration-canceling Bose ride driver seat. We opened the hood to show the oil bypass system that allows us to have 410,000 miles on our engine oil. We opened the storage box behind the tractor, the Vespa garage, and revealed MacGyver’s escape pod.

So what impressed the kids most about our home and business?

Jennie sent excerpts from her students’ journals. We’ve corrected spelling for readability.

“I learned that trucks have garages, and I learned that when you’re sleeping there is a seatbelt.  I also learned that hoods on trucks can go up, and I learned that there is brake cuffs.  And I learned that MacGyver and Marlaina have USA internet and Canada internet.”

“Trucks can have garages and seatbelts on their beds.  A stinkbug rode all the way from Carolina.  They have a motorcycle in the garage.  They make food with a microwave.  When MacGyver washes the truck he stands on the engine.”

“I learned about how they cook their food in the microwave. MacGyver is so so cool.  And the Marlaina is so so cool.  The seatbelts were on the bed and the garage is awesome.” (I love “the Marlaina”. – Jennie)

“MacGyver and Marlaina make their food in a microwave.  They have a seatbelt on their bed so they don’t fall out if they hit a big bump.  They get internet for the states and Canada so when they go over the bridge they just plug the cords in the wall.  MacGyver and Marlaina have stickers on the side of their truck.”

“One thing I know is they had a seatbelt on the bed so they won’t fall on the ground.  And also a stinkbug rode all the way from Carolina.  They have a fridge on the truck.  They have a motorcycle in the garage.  P.S.  They have lots of internet and two phones.”

“MacGyver and Marlaina live in a truck.  There is a seatbelt on the bed.  They make food.  MacGyver is a good fix-it man.  A stinkbug rode all the way from Carolina.”

“They push a red button when it is icy (for the automatic tire chains).  A stinkbug rode all the way from Carolina.”

“They make their food in a microwave.  They have a garage on the truck.  They have automatic chains on the truck.  They have pictures of the animals they hit and a motorbike in the garage.”

“They have 2 kinds of internet: the USA internet and Canada internet.  They take turns driving at night.  Marlaina makes snacks and food, drinks and other things.”

“I never knew that trucks can have a garage or a seatbelt on the bed.  I did not know that you need a USA and Canada GPS.  MacGyver and Marlaina have a roadkill counter.”

MacGyver says I hope we haven’t given them the idea that all trucks come with a Vespa. They will be disappointed.

And the stinkbug, that was a throw-a-way comment, when at the end of the video we noticed one crawling on the passenger window.

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