Semi-Social: Ship Shape

Port Authority Site Has The Answers

By Tom Kelley

Just navigating your truck through the surface streets of the New York City metro area can be complex enough, so once you add in a network of bridges and tunnels, airports and seaports, the complexity can seem formidable. Even as a long-haul trucker, it’s likely that some of your loads will be destined for, or originate from, the area’s air/sea ports, and that you’ll need to use at least some of the bridges and tunnels along your route.

Fortunately, much of this infrastructure is under common management, avoiding the need to keep track of rules from dozens of separate agencies. The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey conceives, builds, operates and maintains the infrastructure critical to the New York/New Jersey region’s trade and transportation network.

The Port Authority facilities include the country’s busiest airport system, marine terminals and ports, the PATH rail transit system, six tunnels and bridges between New York and New Jersey, the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan, and the World Trade Center.

Before you gripe about tolls or fees, it’s important to know that the Port Authority is a financially self-supporting entity. It does not receive tax revenue from either state or from any local jurisdiction and has no power to tax, nor does it have the power to pledge the credit of either state or any municipality. The Port Authority relies primarily on revenue generated from facility operations.

Its status as self-supporting and as a bi-state municipal entity are not the only attributes that make the Port Authority unique. A welcome relief to anybody who has ever attempted to navigate a government website, the Port Authority website is informative and well-designed.

Recognizing the critical role that trucks play in the region’s transportation network, the Port Authority site offers a dedicated section for truck related information.

dtr

The “Truckers’ Resources” section includes detailed information on height, weight and cargo restrictions for trucks using the various bridges and tunnels, as well as printable versions of the information to keep in your truck. Other information includes toll details, E-ZPass prices, and contact numbers for each of the bridge and tunnel facilities to make arrangements for convoys or oversized vehicles.

For trucks accessing the seaport facilities, a separate page offers information, forms and contact info for the SeaLink system. SeaLink is the Port Authority’s uniform truck driver identification system. Using the port’s Automated Cargo Expediting System (ACES), this identification system enables trucks to move quickly and safely through the marine terminal gates, speeding the flow of thousands of containers in and out of the port each day.

To help address air-quality issues at and around their facilities, the Port Authority has established a “Drayage Truck Registry” to aid in the process of phasing out older, higher emission trucks operating at its facilities. Information about the registry, contact info, registration forms, and tips for finding your truck’s engine data can be found in the section’s drayage truck page.

Also available is information about the Port Authority’s “Truck Replacement Program,” a special first-come, first-served, limited offer to provide grants and financing to eligible truck owners to help them purchase newer, cleaner and more environmentally-friendly trucks.

As the “Truckers’ Resources” section is just the truck-specific part of the Port Authority site, there is obviously a wealth of other general information throughout the site, making it a great resource for first-time truckers visiting the area.

Check it out at www.panynj.gov/truckers-resources on the web.

Semi Social: Run For Your Life

truckersnews_screen

By Tom Kelley

While the stereotypical image of truckers is anything but fair, there are always a few kernels of truth at the root of any stereotype. Nowhere is the trucker stereotype more accurate than in regard to health and fitness. The schedule and demands of truck driving create the potential for the worst health outcomes of virtually any profession.

Notice though, that I said “potential.” While truck driving doesn’t offer the best opportunities for maintaining your health and fitness, neither does it specifically prevent them, especially if you make a commitment to take those opportunities as often as possible.

At least one trucker is determined to change the stereotype by encouraging other truckers to stay fit and protect their health while dealing with the realities of driving a truck.

A thirty-plus-year veteran of trucking, Jeff Clark has worked as a driver for more than two decades, and has spent another decade as an owner-operator. In addition to his trucking exploits, Jeff is still a competitive marathon runner, who at the age of 52, has finished several marathons and has been featured in “Runner’s World” magazine. In 2008, he was recognized as the “Truckers News” Highway Health Hero of the Year.

A published author and frequent contributor to multiple publications, Jeff shares health and fitness tips with other truckers at his “Marathon Trucker” blog on the “Truckers News” website. “My goal is to increase the life expectancy of over the road truckers,” says Jeff.

In one recent post, Jeff explains how he easily finds opportunities for exercise while on the road. “I do most of my exploring without diesel.

Sometimes while waiting to get loaded I slip on the running shoes and search for a shortcut,” writes Jeff.

“Some days I think there is a place to go and I go searching for it.

Saturday was one of those ‘go look for it’ days. I knew that the Military Ridge State Trail runs along U.S. Highway 151 where I was driving. I knew that there is a small truckstop in Barneveld, WI,” Jeff explained. “So, I pulled my truck into the lot and got my bike out. Five minutes later I was heading out of the truckstop in search of the trail.

It took about three minutes for me to find it.”

“About 20 minutes into the ride a sign caught my attention. It was the entrance to Blue Mound State Park. So, I took it. Uphill for a mile, and my calves were sore for three days. The sign read, ‘Towers this way.’

The park features two tall observation towers. I climbed them both,” said Jeff. “They had incredible views of the Wisconsin Uplands that were somehow skipped over by the glaciers.”

Concluding, Jeff notes, “Exercise can be play. This type of play would not be possible without putting in some effort to exercise regularly.

The views from those towers were worth every bit of sweat that I dropped. Being in shape can open up new worlds. On this day I sure was glad that it did.”

In another post, Jeff explains his motivation for helping organize health walk events for truckers. “Over the years I have run in scores of events. The smallest event that I have been involved with was 12 people.

I have also run in races with 15,000 people,” wrote Jeff. “I have learned many things from my involvement in these events. The most important is what sticks with me. It has to be about the participants.”

“When I was a kid I had always wanted to run a marathon. At the age of 46 I started running again after about 30 years of not running. I even entered a 5K,” Jeff recalls. “I noticed that many of the participants in this race came back every year. Why? They had fun. It was about the participants.”

“Last year (2010) at MATS, I tried to apply that knowledge to organizing an event. For the first time ever we held a walk at a truck show,” said Jeff.

In a series of posts from 2010, Jeff chronicles his experience of having a heart attack while competing, along with his recovery and return to running. At the time, Jeff’s doctor told him, “If you didn’t run you might have had a heart attack 10 years ago.” In hindsight, Jeff realized that he had experienced symptoms prior to the heart attack. “I learned a lesson,” Jeff says. “Don’t hesitate to get checked. You have unexplained chest pain. See a doctor.”

In addition to the “Marathon Trucker” blog, Jeff also shares his health and fitness knowledge through “The Trucking Solutions Group.” Founded in 2008, the group’s goal was to get together and share best practices to help each other improve our businesses. Members discuss issues and topics pertaining to all aspects of the trucking industry during conference calls at least once per week.

During many of the early conference calls, the group realized that many discussions were related to health issues, leading to the creation of a sub-group called the “Driver Health Council,” which also meets once per week via conference calls.

In 2010, Jeff worked through the Driver Health Council to conduct the first-ever Health Awareness Walks at several popular truck shows The 1.5 mile fun walks were designed to increase awareness among drivers, and others in the trucking industry, of the need to live a healthier lifestyle. In 2011, the group added blood drives in partnership with the American Red Cross to the fun walk schedule.

Check It Out At:

Web: www.truckersnews.com/marathon-trucker

Facebook: www.facebook.com/GrandmaRoxanne

Twitter: @marathontrucker

See Also: truckingsolutionsgroup.org

Semi Social: The Year In Reverse


A Look Back @ Semi Social’s 2011 Blogs & Websites


By Tom Kelley

When the Semi Social column was launched, our goal was to profile trucking industry blogs and websites that provide informative, educational resources for the beginning trucker. While not every site we’ve featured was strictly formatted as a “social media” site, all have met our primary goal. Here’s a look back at the sites we profiled in 2011:

Safety Central
Veteran Trucker Teaches Safety & Compliance

Issue Date: January, 2011
Blog/Site Name: Ol’ Blue, USA
Blogger: RJ Taylor
Site Address: www.olblueusa.org

Founded in 1986, Ol’ Blue, USA (United Safety Alliance), is dedicated to educating the nation on highway safety and to improving relations between law enforcement, commercial drivers and the motoring public. The namesake of the organization, Ol’ Blue, is a 1951 working truck pulling a 53-foot trailer that travels the country attending truck shows and conducting numerous safety events. Over the years, Taylor transformed his trucking show events from strictly an “appearance” gig to a multimedia communication channel between law enforcement and truckers.

An important part of that channel is the Ol’ Blue website (www.olblueusa.org). Taylor’s website features extensive safety resources including pre-trip inspection instructions, a tire blowout safety video, and “Safety Minute” tips. The Ol’ Blue site has also been the trucking industry’s leading resource for Hours of Service (HOS) compliance information throughout the lengthy series of regulatory revisions. Also on the site are archived recordings of Ol’ Blue’s popular “Ask The Law” (ATL) radio program, which is broadcast live on the Midnight Trucking Radio Network on the first Monday of every month from midnight till 2:00 AM.

Trucking’s Better Half
Serial Organizer Creates Resource For Lady Truckers

Issue Date: February, 2011
Blog/Site Name: Women In Trucking
Blogger: Ellen Voie
Site Address: www.WomenInTrucking.org

In what has historically been a male-dominated profession, women are playing an increasing role in trucking, not just in the administrative realm, but on the front lines as well. In response to the lady truckers’ need for information, the Women In Trucking Association (WIT) was founded in March, 2007 to promote the employment of women in the trucking industry, remove obstacles that might keep them from succeeding, and celebrate the successes of its members.

In addition to links to industry service providers that recognize the importance of women in the industry, the WIT website also features a semi-monthly newsletter to keep members, stakeholders and interested parties up to date on the association’s happenings. An online discussion forum at the site includes nearly 4,000 posts spread across nearly 1,000 threads.


Plum Assignment
Newly-Minted Team Documents Transition From Civilians To Truckers

Issue Date: March, 2011
Blog/Site Name: Plum Trucker
Blogger: Michelle Crawford
Site Address: plumtrucker.blogspot.com

Some of the newest truckers in the business have also joined the ranks of the “Semi Social” with websites that chronicle the challenges they face on the road. One such site is Plum Trucker, the online home of “twenty-somethings” Michelle Crawford and her fiance/co-driver, Kendall Donaldson. Given that Michelle and Kendall have only been out on the road sans-trainer since August, 2010, and that the first post to the site dates back to mid-April, 2010, it’s clear that Plum Trucker tells as much of the story of becoming a trucker as it tells of being a trucker.


A Load Of Support
Site Offers Support For Drivers & Those Back Home

Issue Date: April, 2011
Blog/Site Name: Loved Ones And Drivers Support (LOADS)
Blogger: Kathy Harders
Site Address: www.loads.org

Loved Ones And Drivers Support (LOADS) is a support group for the families of truckers and truckers themselves. Founded in 1992, LOADS rapidly grew into much more than a support group. Long before the internet became an everyday tool for drivers and their families, the organization kept its members in touch through a quarterly newsletter and membership directory. By the late ‘90s, LOADS was one of the earliest trucking organizations to effectively use the internet to its advantage with a site containing resource information and an e-mail based message board.

Today the group uses an online forum (registration required) to maintain discussions on topics ranging from computer help, to photo album links, and the group’s main focus, the home connection. In another nod to the benefits of internet technology, the LOADS site also host weekly online chats that move the discussions into real-time.

Web Traffic
Online Resources For Highway traffic & Construction Info

Issue Date: May, 2011
Blog/Site Name: National Traffic and Road Closure Information
Blogger: N/A
Site Address: www.fhwa.dot.gov/trafficinfo

In what some might suggest is a rare moment of helpfulness, the Federal Highway Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation has developed the “National Traffic and Road Closure Information” website to serve as a clearinghouse for a diverse collection of traffic data sources for metro areas from coast to coast.

Located at www.fhwa.dot.gov/trafficinfo, the site provides a map-based interface to enable users to quickly locate major traffic, construction and weather sites on the web. The linked sites include a combination of local, regional and state government information sources, as well as a number of commercial sources that aggregate weather and highway data across a wider area. Links to all state D.O.T. websites are included, providing access to state weight/height restrictions and other valuable truck operation information, in addition to road condition and congestion data.

View Of the Road
Trucker’s Online Diary Features Dash-Cam Video

Issue Date: June, 2011
Blog/Site Name: Truck Driver Diary
Blogger: “Reuben”
Site Address: www.truckdriverdiary.com

In addition to a regularly updated blog, the Truck Driver Diary has well-followed Twitter and Facebook acounts with plenty of message traffic. Most unique among trucker blogs, however, is the Diary’s use of YouTube videos showing a driver’s eye view of the road in virtually every post. Each narrated video is about 1-3 minutes long to ensure trouble-free downloading in areas with marginal internet bandwidth. Some posts have more than one video segment.


Lipstick Trucker

Issue Date: July, 2011
Blog/Site Name: Lipstick Trucker
Blogger: Kelly Embleton
Site Address: Closed

Among the trucker blogs we profiled, the Lipstick Trucker blog was the most eclectic we found. While still at her “day job” as a truck driver, Kelly Embleton is also still blogging, but the subject matter of her newest blog reflects her main passion, home decor. The new blog can be found at: www.sarahandbessie.blogspot.com on the web.


No Address, No Problem
Multi-Career Couple Hits The Road

Issue Date: August, 2011
Blog/Site Name: Life With No Fixed Address
Bloggers: “Marlaina & Greg”
Site Address: www.lifewithnofixedaddress.com

Marlaina’s blog, “Life With No Fixed Address” began in 2008 as e-mail letters to home when she and Greg arrived in Carlisle, Pennsylvania to start truck driving school with Schneider National, where, according to Marlaina, “We learned there is both art and science to driving a vehicle the size of a seven-story building.”

The Life With No Fixed Address blog only averages a few posts per month, but what it lacks in frequency, it makes up for in depth and quality. Each well-written post is as long as the feature articles in many magazines, and while photos may not be plentiful, virtually every image posted to the blog is professional competition quality.

Another Slice
The Slice Of Life Blog’s Fairer Side

Issue Date: September, 2011
Blog/Site Name: Slice of Life
Blogger: Gina Stumborg
Site Address: sliceoftruckerlife.com/blogs/gina-angsten/

Launched in late 2008, Freightliner’s “Slice of Life” program provided each of three drivers with a new 2009 Freightliner Cascadia tractor, equipped with a Detroit Diesel DD15 engine. In the course of the real-world road-test of the trucks, each driver would relate their experiences on the Slice of Life blog.

Due to the popularity of the blog, Freightliner extended the program, added a fourth trucker to the blogging roster, and updated the program trucks to 2010 Cascadia models featuring the Detroit Diesel DD15 engine with BlueTec SCR emissions technology. At the 2010 Mid America Trucking Show, Freightliner introduced Gina (Angsten) Stumborg as the fourth Slice of Life blogger, selected from a pool of more than 400 applicants seeking to take part in “Slice of Life Season 2: Reloaded for 2010.”

Play It Again
TRIB Website Explains Benefits Of Retreaded Tires

Issue Date: October, 2011
Blog/Site Name: Tire Retread & Repair Information Bureau (TRIB)
Blogger: David Stevens
Site Address: www.retread.org

Perhaps the single most misunderstood element of trucking operations is the use of retreaded tires. Retreading is a process where a used tire, after careful inspection, gets a new tread surface applied, allowing the tire’s foundation, or “casing,” to serve multiple lives before disposal. 

To address the widespread lack of knowledge about retreads, the Tire Retread & Repair Information Bureau (TRIB) was formed by many of the key players in the tire manufacturing and retreading industry. The TRIB website at www.retread.org serves as a repository of tire retreading information, and a link to reputable retailers.

Tire Question?
Ask The Answer Man

Issue Date: November, 2011
Blog/Site Name: fleetHQ – Ask The Tire Answer Man
Blogger: Tim Miller
Site Address: blog.fleethq.com

To address the need for tire education, Goodyear recently launched its “fleetHQ – Ask The Tire Answer Man” blog, located at blog.fleethq.com on the web. The site offers truckers the opportunity to interact with Goodyear’s “Tire Answer Man,” Tim Miller. With more than 30 years of commercial tire experience, Miller knows tires and trucking.

Launched in June, 2011, the blog offers a variety of additional features, including regularly updated entries that cover a wide range of truck and truck tire-related topics, such as wide-base tires, and the importance of selecting the right on-highway service provider; a calendar that lists live “Answer Man” trade show appearances; a feature that lets readers submit questions; an interactive poll, and more.

Semi Social: Tire Question?

Ask The Answer Man

GY-AnswerBlog

By Tom Kelley

Among maintenance costs, tires top the list, even at the best fleets and even with the best drivers. With that in mind, it’s important for prospective drivers and owner-operators to learn as much as they can about everything related to the tires that keep their rigs rollin’.

To address this need for education, Goodyear recently launched its “fleetHQ – Ask The Tire Answer Man” blog, located at blog.fleethq.com on the web. The site offers truckers the opportunity to interact with Goodyear’s “Tire Answer Man,” Tim Miller.

With more than 30 years of commercial tire experience, Miller knows tires and trucking. Having spent his career working with original equipment truck manufacturers, fleets and owner-operators in a variety of capacities – from tire design engineer, technical representative, and national account exec to his current role as the communications manager for Goodyear’s commercial tire division – Miller draws upon his vast knowledge of the tire and trucking industries to discuss issues that are of importance to truckers.

Launched in June, 2011, the blog offers a variety of additional features, including regularly updated entries that cover a wide range of truck and truck tire-related topics, such as wide-base tires, and the importance of selecting the right on-highway service provider; a calendar that lists live “Answer Man” trade show appearances; a feature that lets readers submit questions; an interactive poll, and more.

Like the other elements of Goodyear’s fleetHQ program, the blog content is focused on helping drivers, owner operators and fleet managers working in trucking operations of all sizes.

One recent post provided information especially relevant for drivers and owner operators out on the road. In the post, “A little homework goes a long way! What to look for in on-highway service,” Miller advises truckers to look for the following clues to ensure they’re dealing with a professional on-highway tire and service provider:

1. Physical condition. Is the outlet clean? Does it have a professional appearance? Look at the equipment in the shop’s service bays. Does the equipment appear to be well-maintained? A high-quality shop should look the part.

2. Menu of services. Consider these questions: Does the shop go beyond the basics when it comes to services? Does it offer preventive maintenance? Does it perform light mechanical work? Does it have an express lube service? Does it stock a wide range of tires and tire sizes? And can it deliver all of the above quickly and professionally?

3. Professional affiliations. Remember the old saying, “You are judged by the company you keep?” Well, that concept also applies to on-highway service networks. Is the outlet part of a larger tire and truck service network? Is it affiliated with reputable on-highway service providers?

Such connections add an extra layer of credibility, and again, inspire confidence.

Miller adds, “Consistency is another factor. Can you access the same products and services across a wide spectrum of locations?”

Another post, titled, “Technology helps wide-base tires overcome barriers to acceptance,” helps truckers get more comfortable with spec’ing wide-base tires. “We know that wide-base tires have been around for years, but truckers have not always been quick to spec them,” says Miller. “There can be different reasons for this, including lack of ‘limp-home’ capability.”

Miller asks, “What if there were wide-base tires that had the ability to instantly seal a nail hole puncture of 1/4-inch in the repairable area of the tread? Would this change perceptions of wide-base tires?”

“That’s precisely why Goodyear has incorporated DuraSeal Technology into two recently launched wide-base truck tires,” says Miller. “In fact, these products are the first wide-base tires in the industry to offer self-sealing technology like DuraSeal.”

Check It Out @ – blog.fleethq.com/


Semi Social: Another Slice

The Slice Of Life Blog’s Fairer Side

By Tom Kelley

A year ago, in our first installment of Semi Social, we profiled the “Slice of Life” blog of Statesville, NC based Henry Albert, a trucker known as well for his attire as for his ability to squeeze every possible fraction of fuel economy from his truck. To celebrate our first birthday, you could say we’re back for another “slice.”

Launched in late 2008, Freightliner’s “Slice of Life” program provided each of three drivers with a new 2009 Freightliner Cascadia tractor, equipped with a Detroit Diesel DD15 engine. In the course of the real-world road-test of the trucks, each driver would blog about their experiences at www.SliceofTruckerLife.com on the web.


Hard to miss out on the road, Gina Stumborg’s Slice of Life 2010 Cascadia depicts the natural beauty of the region from which the truck’s name was derived.

Hard to miss out on the road, Gina Stumborg’s Slice of Life 2010 Cascadia depicts the natural beauty of the region from which the truck’s name was derived.


Due to the popularity of “Slice of Life” in its first year, Freightliner extended the program, added a fourth trucker to the blogging roster, and updated the program trucks to 2010 Cascadia models featuring the Detroit Diesel DD15 engine with BlueTec SCR emissions technology. At the 2010 Mid America Trucking Show, Freightliner introduced Gina (Angsten) Stumborg as the fourth Slice of Life blogger, selected from a pool of more than 400 applicants seeking to take part in “Slice of Life Season

2: Reloaded for 2010.”

“I think it’s great that Freightliner wants to have real-life drivers put the truck out there on the road, actually working and giving them real-world results,” said Gina at the announcement event. “Not enough companies do that, so I’m looking forward to getting started.” Gina took delivery of her 2010 Cascadia and launched her Slice of Life blog in May 2010.

Originally from St. Joseph, MO, Gina has been a driver for 18 years. After starting in Colorado with a local company, she then began driving over-the-road for Westway Express, where she traveled through all 48 states. Gina also worked as a trainer and dispatcher for Westway.

“I just love being a trucker. I like waking up in a different city every day, and I’ve met some really great people while out on the road,” said Gina. “It’s not a job for me, it’s a lifestyle, so being an owner-operator really suits me.” Active in the trucking industry, Gina is a member of both OOIDA and Trucker Buddy, in addition to maintaining her Slice of Life blog.

Currently, Gina works for Wisconsin-based Duplainville Transport, the transportation arm of magazine printing and distribution giant Quad Graphics. She hauls printed materials “in the box” from Wisconsin to Oklahoma City and all points east. Gina’s #1 co-driver and occasional guest-blogger is a two-year-old “Aussie-Doodle” named She-La.

Earlier this summer, Gina married her boyfriend and fellow Duplainville trucker, Don Stumborg, with the wedding ceremony taking place in Las Vegas. As a pair of true truckers, their “honeymoon” was celebrated by visiting the Great West Truck Show. While waiting for delivery of his recently ordered Cascadia tractor, Don will fill the role of #2 co-driver, running team with Gina and She-La.

Gina married her boyfriend and fellow Duplainville trucker, Don Stumborg, in Las Vegas earlier this summer. True truckers, their “honeymoon” was at the Great West Truck Show.

Gina married her boyfriend and fellow Duplainville trucker, Don Stumborg, in Las Vegas earlier this summer. True truckers, their “honeymoon” was at the Great West Truck Show.

Like many lady-truckers, Gina is no stranger to the nuts and bolts of her truck. While she may not be in Henry Albert’s league at engineering-speak, her posts make it clear that she knows how her truck works, and how to make the truck work efficiently.

Recently, Gina’s trucking savvy was put to an extreme test when her truck took a major lightning hit while she was driving down the Interstate at 55 MPH. The hit was strong/close enough to fry one or more of the truck’s control modules, shutting off the engine, which disabled the power steering, and killed the truck’s lights. After an experience that would certainly disorient the average driver, Gina had the presence of mind to get the disabled truck safely to the side of the road and to get a State Patrol car on scene to stand in for her inoperable emergency flashers.

“That was probably the most scary time that I can remember while driving,” said Gina in her blog post. “I had only heard of people getting hit by lightning, and never thought it would ever happen to me.

She-La didn’t know what to think, her eyes got as big as her head.”

This summer’s extreme heat served to make a believer out of Gina regarding her truck cab’s features. In a recent post, she describes the effectiveness of the Cascadia’s no-idle “ParkSmart” HVAC system. “Down in Georgia it was 105 degrees . . . I was inside the Cascadia and keeping cool,” wrote Gina.

“Like any truck, if you leave the truck turned off and the ParkSmart not running, it will warm up. However, it was so cold in the truck that I had just spaced out (about) turning on the ParkSmart. I was out of the truck for about 45 minutes and it was still cool inside when I got back,” Gina continued. “Between the A/C, and how well it works, and the insulation in the Cascadia there is no reason not to be comfortable in the summer.”

Like Henry Albert, Gina consistently tracks her fuel mileage, looking for every way possible to improve efficiency. “Duplainville Transport is a Smartway company and we just got in a bunch of new trailers. I pulled one for a week and was able to get 7.5 MPG pulling 43,000-pound loads, running 62-63 MPH. My route was Wisconsin to Georgia to West Virginia and back to Wisconsin,” writes Gina.

“Along with the Cascadia having the aerodynamics, having super singles and the Airtabs all play apart in my fuel mileage,” Gina explained. “Put all of that with a trailer that also has super singles, Airtabs, gap reducers and skirts on the trailer, . . . I really would not have expected such a difference . . . but once I pulled one of these trailers for longer than two days, I’m convinced.”

Check It Out At –

Web: sliceoftruckerlife.com/blogs/gina-angsten/

Facebook: www.facebook.com/#!/GinaStumborg

Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/50585018@N04/




Semi-Social: No Address, No Problem

Multi-Career Couple Hits The Road

By Tom Kelley

After navigating a lengthy path of eclectic careers, then “forty-somethings” Marlaina and Greg sought a new adventure, and found it in the form of becoming long-haul truckers. The inspiration for the adventure came when Marlaina read a magazine article about husband-and-wife team truck drivers.

Marlaina’s blog, “Life With No Fixed Address” began in 2008 as e-mail letters to home when she and Greg arrived in Carlisle, Pennsylvania to start truck-driving school with Schneider National, where, according to Marlaina, “We learned there is both art and science to driving a vehicle the size of a seven-story building.”

Marlaina and her husband Greg (aka MacGyver) tell their travel tales in the “Life With No Fixed Address” blog.

Marlaina and her husband Greg (aka MacGyver) tell their travel tales in the “Life With No Fixed Address” blog.

It would appear that starting the blog was inevitable. “When I was 19,” says Marlaina, “a tarot card reader told me that I would “go far and see much” and write about it in my 50s. Cool, I thought, dismissing the writing-about-it part. This (the blog) is the writing-about-it part. The part where a (now) 50-year-old woman and her 45-year-old husband trade their 450-square-foot New York City apartment for a 75 square-foot tractor-trailer sleeper.”

Marlaina continues, “The blog chronicles my “drive-about” in America from the viewpoint of an outsider and an insider: a smalltown, Canadian-born girl who grew up to be a media elite in her home country, and a naturalized American operating a boutique creative services agency with my artist husband in the ‘Capital of the World,’ New York City.”

The Life With No Fixed Address blog only averages a few posts per month, but what it lacks in frequency, it makes up for in depth and quality. Each well-written post is as long as the feature articles in many magazines, and while photos may not be plentiful, virtually every image posted to the blog is professional competition quality.

Common themes of the blog posts include Turnin’ and Learnin’, Truck Stuff and Great Drives, with the most frequent themes being Road Reports, Cool Places, and Good Eats. Most of the photos on the site feature artistic views of trucks or the sweeping vistas that drivers enjoy as workplace scenery, but there are also plenty of striking images from the couple’s travels unrelated to the trucking biz.
The blog’s inaugural post details some of Marlaina’s more stressful moments while taking her CDL road test, but the first anniversary post is among her most favorite entries.

“We have been hammer down for a whole year and a few miles short of 200,000 miles across America touching three of the four corners, Seattle, San Diego and Miami,” writes Marlaina. “We’ve seen snow and ice, skies the color of a bad bruises, rainstorms and hail, amazing sunrises and sunsets like paintings, blue skies and puffy white clouds and we’ve been paid for about 180,000 miles.”

In that anniversary post, Marlaina reflects on her and Greg’s driver training through the lens of a year on the road. “Training was tough, many nights we didn’t think we’d make it,” says Marlaina. “I kept telling Greg, if they kick us out after the first week, it will still have been worth it. . . We couldn’t understand how much space the trailer needed to make a simple turn. They worked hard to get us through that training school because we are a husband and wife team and they are valuable.”

blogscreenshot

“They didn’t kick us out,” continues Marlaina, recalling the training program attrition. “Not only didn’t they kick us out, after one year, there are only four of us left. The first day of class we had 16. . . Six of us graduated, five of us passed the Commercial Driver’s test and only four of us are still driving truck or with Schneider.”

Other favorite posts include the story of avoiding a tangle with a “swarm” of deer that may well have been elk, on the highway in rural Montana. After coming to a full stop to let the herd of 100 or so cross the road safely, Marlaina writes “The last big mommy deer (or elk) in the pack scampers up the hill, stops, turns around and catches my eye as if to say, ‘thanks, driver’.”

The headlines of some of Marlaina’s other favorites include “Paparazzi Lightning,” “Celebrating Christmas Trucker-Style,” and “Are You There Yet?!?!,” a post that goes in-depth on average road speeds and saving fuel, an important topic now that the couple have become owner-operators.

A more current post, “Burning Green: $1,000 Fill,” details the couple’s experiences with recent record-high fuel prices. The entry provides a level of technical detail that one would be more likely to hear from an engineer or at least an equipment editor, not from media/creative types recently turned trucker. It would appear that Greg’s “MacGyver” handle is well-earned, as Marlaina credits him with much of the research and adaptation that adds a substantial profit to their bottom line.

When comparing their 2-MPG advantage over that of another trucker at the fuel pump, Greg says, “Slowing down is the trick.” The other driver replied, “That’s what my wife keeps telling me.”

Check It Out At: www.lifewithnofixedaddress.com

Semi Social: View Of the Road

Trucker’s Online Diary Features Dash-Cam Video

By Tom Kelley

diaryscreenshot

The online home of the “Bohemian Cowboy” (aka Reuben), at www.TruckDriverDiary.com, is one of the newest trucker blogs plying the virtual asphalt out there on the information superhighway.

Unsurprisingly, the “Diary” also happens to take the fullest advantage of the available social media technologies.

In addition to a regularly updated blog, the Diary has well-followed Twitter and Facebook accounts with plenty of message traffic. Most unique among trucker blogs, however, is the Diary’s use of YouTube videos showing a driver’s eye view of the road in virtually every post.

Given the plethora of video recordings on the site, it could be more accurate to call the Diary a video-blog, or “vlog” as some might say, but we’ll stick with the blog designation for simplicity. Each narrated video is about 1-3 minutes long to ensure trouble-free downloading in areas with marginal internet bandwidth. Some posts have more than one video segment.

Three minutes or less may sound like a short post, but as a point of comparison, a typical speaker reading this article aloud would only take 4-5 minutes to finish, so the three-minute video is more akin to a quickly read article than an evening-news soundbite.

Lest anybody worry about the safety of recording video on the road, Reuben’s setup uses a small windshield mounted video camera, which delivers surprisingly stable video, given the fact that this windshield is in a Class 8 OTR truck operating on some of the continent’s less-than-stellar examples of pavement.

This configuration makes recording the video post a hands-free process, allowing Reuben to keep his attention safely on the road while telling his stories as if the audience was right there in his passenger seat.

Perhaps we can get a behind-the-scenes look at Reuben’s camera set-up for a future installment of Semi Social.

While the Diary blog is new to the trucking world, the Bohemian Cowboy is a lifelong trucker. A Viet Nam vet born on a farm in the Midwest, Reuben has more than 35 years behind the wheel, covering over four million safe miles in the U.S. and Canada.

The post content on the Diary blog all has some connection to trucking, but runs the gamut within that designation. Some posts are travelogues with Reuben explaining what the viewer is seeing, in other posts a video of city traffic will illustrate a discussion of how congestion impacts Hours of Service, while in other posts, the view through the windshield serves solely as a backdrop for unrelated or loosely-related news or anecdotes.

Where the Diary takes great advantage of the video format is in a number of “how-to” posts, covering topics including a PrePass scale clearance, an explanation of proper downhill speed management, or a Qualcomm system tutorial (with the truck parked and camera re-aimed in the latter case).

Even in the posts that aren’t explicitly how-to entries, many will contain informative tips and tricks about operating a truck.

Like most newer blogs, the Diary employs a “tag cloud,” which is a topic index where keywords or “tags” are shown in sizes relative to the frequency the topic’s appearance in posts. This gives the visitor a quick way to follow links to posts that contain the topic matter identified by the tag.

It’s often said that a picture is worth a thousand words. If you consider that video is typically made of about three dozen pictures per second and factor in that thousand words per picture, you can begin to get an idea of the value of this video “ride along” resource for the new and prospective driver. Written descriptions, and even classroom simulations are no substitute for seeing how things happen in the real world.

All of the sites and blogs we’ve profiled in these pages are great, informative resources, but given the Bohemian Cowboy’s skill at delivering information in an educational style, we’d rate the Truck Driver Diary as required viewing for any future drivers.

Check It Out At:
Web: www.truckdriverdiary.com

Twitter: @TruckDriverDiar

Facebook: www.facebook.com/TruckDriverDiary

YouTube: www.youtube.com/user/TruckDriverDiary

Semi Social: A Load Of Support

Site Offers Support For Drivers & Those Back Home

Site Offers Support For Drivers & Those Back Home

By Tom Kelley

Loved Ones And Drivers Support (LOADS) is a support group for the families of truckers and truckers themselves. The LOADS community allows drivers and their families to reach out to one another, ideas on how to survive the long-distance relationship, weekly on-line chat sessions, and advocacy programs targeting those who use a negative image of truckers to sell their products.

Kathy Harders, the wife of OTR driver Robert Harders, had already gone through many of the typical issues faced by many trucker’s wives when she came to the realization that her plight was far from unique. Kathy realized that other wives, mothers, children, and even husbands, were back at home while their loved ones were on the road. This revelation planted a seed in Kathy’s ever-working mind, where it quickly took root.

By 1992, that seed blossomed into Loved Ones and Drivers Support. LOADS rapidly grew into much more than a support group. Long before the internet became an everyday tool for drivers and their families, the organization kept its members in touch through a quarterly newsletter and membership directory.

By the late ‘90s, LOADS was one of the earliest trucking organizations to effectively use the internet to its advantage with a site containing resource information and an e-mail based message board.

Today the group uses an online forum (registration required) to maintain discussions on topics ranging from computer help, to photo album links, recipes, jokes, and the group’s main focus, the home connection. The forum is quite active, with just under 54,000 posts, and with many of the topics having posts that are less than a day old. In another nod to the benefits of internet technology, the LOADS site also host weekly online chats that move the discussions into real-time.

Among the site’s key elements is a section designated “Survival Tips.”

Divided into two sections, one for the driver, and one for the “homefronter,” these short common-sense tips provide the sort of advice that every trucking family needs to know.

Under the driver section, tips include: making sure the homefronter knows how to handle basic home repairs; being sure the office knows your spouse’s name and any special circumstances that may require him/her to reach you; and bringing trucking publications home to help educate the family about the trucking industry.

In the homefronter section, the key tips include: using a bulletin board near the phone to help remember messages to pass along to the driver when he/she call home; to not have arguments over the phone; and to have plans already set up for the inevitable home emergencies.

One piece of advice in both sections is the admonition to remember that a trucking family is a partnership.

In addition to providing a support network for trucking families, LOADS has taken an active role in improving the image of truckers, and working with government agencies to help educate the public on sharing the roads safely with large vehicles. LOADS established Project P.R.I.D.E.

(Putting Rigs In Drivers Education) to advocate the inclusion of road sharing information in driver instruction manuals.

The LOADS website also features an online store (www.cafepress.com/loads) where visitors can purchase logo gear including hats, mugs, shirts and more.

In addition to all the work that comes with running the LOADS organization, Kathy is also a frequent contributor to many trucking publications. NASCAR and cats are among Kathy’s hobbies, but when it comes to the cats, she has long accepted that her two cats actually rule the home, just letting her and her husband stay there to keep them company.

Check It Out At: www.loads.org.

Semi Social: Trucking’s Better Half

Serial Organizer Creates Resource For Lady Truckers

By Tom Kelley

In what has historically been a male-dominated profession, women are playing an increasing role in trucking, not just in the administrative realm, but on the front lines as well. While acceptance of lady truckers has increased dramatically over the last decade, the profession still presents some obstacles for women wishing to gain entry.

In response to the lady truckers’ need for information, advice and resources, the Women In Trucking Association (WIT) was founded in March, 2007. The goals of WIT are to promote the employment of women in the trucking industry, remove obstacles that might keep them from succeeding, and celebrate the successes of its members. WIT was created for both men and women, who are either involved in the trucking industry, or have a career interest in one of the largest networks of professionals in North America.

While the need for an organization like WIT was a certainty, and its goals are laudable, it would be reasonably safe to say that the organization would not have achieved its rapid success, if not for the founder, Ellen Voie. Anybody who has been around the trucking industry for long knows who Ellen is, and Ellen makes a point of getting to know anybody she meets in the trucking world.

Most who know Ellen, know her as an “organizer,” not in the union sense of the word, but in the sense that she applies a talent for making order out of chaos in all that she is involved with. What fewer people know about Ellen is that she is also a compulsive learner. Not content to merely observe, Ellen holds a private pilot’s license and a motorcycle endorsement, in addition to her recently minted CDL.

Ellen’s background in trucking began in 1980, when she earned a degree in Traffic & Transportation Management while employed as Traffic Manager for a steel fabricating plant in central Wisconsin. She later worked as a dispatcher prior to becoming co-owner of a small fleet. After starting a family, Ellen became a transportation consultant, licensing and permitting trucks.

From March, 2000 through January 2006, Ellen served as the Executive Director of Trucker Buddy, a pen pal program between professional drivers and elementary students. Ellen had served on the Board for three years prior and had become familiar with the program and its mission, and under her guidance the organization grew to become an internationally recognized mentoring initiative.

Prior to Ellen’s current role as President/CEO of WIT, she was the Manager of Retention and Recruiting Programs at Schneider National, responsible for creating corporate level programs to encourage non-traditional groups to consider careers in the trucking industry.

Space precludes listing every corner of the trucking industry that has benefitted from Ellen’s organizational skills, but just to name a few examples, she has established local and state level trucker appreciation events, assisted in promoting and expanding the Families of Trucker’s Support Group, served on multiple ATA committee, serves on the Board of Directors of the Wisconsin Motor Carrier Association and is a member of the Wisconsin DOT’s Motor Carrier Advisory Committee.

Ellen has also written extensively about trucking and family issues, with articles appearing in numerous publications and websites, in addition to publishing two books, Marriage in the Long Run, a collection of some of her most popular columns, and Crushing Cones, written to provide potential drivers with information on what to expect when attending driver training school.

Ellen is also a frequent blog contributor at BigTruckTV.com, where she writes about Human Resource issues.

While the WIT website (www.WomenInTrucking.org) isn’t published in the typical blog format, it is nonetheless packed with great information. In addition to links to industry service providers that recognize the importance of women in the industry, there is also a semi-monthly newsletter to keep members, stakeholders and interested parties up to date on the association’s happenings.

ellenvoiescreenshotOne section of the site, entitled Secrets to Success, offers an extensive collection of feature-length articles on topics ranging from “Climbing the Career Ladder,” to “Life on the Road,” to “Relationships,” to “Safety & Harassment.” The Secrets to Success section also includes dozens of “My Story” biographies of prominent women in the trucking industry.

An online discussion forum at the site includes nearly 4,000 posts spread across nearly 1,000 threads. The WIT online store offers a wide selection of logo items and other items. Drivers (male or female) can join the organization for $25.00/year, and student drivers get a first year break on the fee at $10.00/year.

To learn more about Women In Trucking, or Ellen Voie’s latest activities, check out these links:

Ellen’s Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/people/Ellen-Voie/1214801300

Ellen’s BigTruckTV.com Blog: http://businessknowledgeresource.blog.bigtrucktv.com/bttv_expert/ellen_voie

WIT Website: http://www.WomenInTrucking.org

WIT Twitter Handle: @WomenInTrucking

WIT Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=125991767442727

Semi Social: Still Rollin’

By Tom Kelley

In a landscape littered with the archives of trucker blogs that have long since come and gone, The Daily Rant stands out as one of the earliest, most prolific, and more importantly, still published trucker blogs on the ‘net. First published in May 2005, The Daily Rant is still alive, and well, and posting as you may have expected – 364 days or more per year.

Salera Lattera, pictured here with co-driver Eddie Godfrey, have been posting The Daily Rant trucking blog since 2005. Photo courtesy of Avital Aronowitz - www.avitalphoto.com

Salena Lettera, pictured here with co-driver Eddie Godfrey, have been posting The Daily Rant trucking blog since 2005. Photo courtesy of Avital Aronowitz - www.avitalphoto.com

The proprietress of The Daily Rant is Salena Lettera, who currently team drives for Landstar’s Ranger division with her “boyfriend/co-driver” Ed Godfrey. A forty-something New Yorker, Lettera has held a CDL since 2006, and had already spent two years on the road with Ed before getting her license.

About her choice to be driver, Lettera says,“I’ve done a lot of jobs in my life, from my first one bussing and waiting tables in my family restaurant, to managing a movie theater . . . to making people beautiful selling Estee Lauder cosmetics and hawking Sabrett’s from my very own hot dog cart; but driving a truck has been by far the best job I’ve ever had.”

Many of the trucker blogs we’ve seen tend to follow a single theme, whether it’s business, travel or human interest, but at The Daily Rant, Lettera provides a continually interesting mix of themes and topics, ranging from (hundreds of) photos of her travels, to commentary on current events, to both the business and personal sides of surviving and thriving on the road as a trucker.

Lettera’s posts frequently bridge the gap between lifestyle issues and the nuts & bolts of trucking. Lettera mentions Barnes & Noble bookstores as a frequent stopping place to grab a latte and check out the latest reading material. When asked by a fellow trucker how to deal with parking at retail locations, Lettera covered both the technical as well as the personal side.

“What we usually do . . . is check it out before we go. If it’s in a mall, we usually have no problem navigating the parking lot, but some malls don’t let trucks park in their lots so we look for those signs right away,” says Lettera. “We also usually look at the address on Google Maps, which is really an invaluable tool. Most Barnes & Nobles are in big shopping plazas . . . it’s rare that we come across one with a small lot.”

dailyrant

“You can often get a good idea of the turning area in the lot by looking at the (Google) satellite image,” explains Lettera. “In those pictures, we can see where the cars are parked. Most parking spaces are 10′ wide by 20′ long, so knowing that, we’re able to determine how much turning room we’ll have or where we’d be able to park the truck once we get there.”

“Sometimes a mall security guard will stop to see what we’re doing,” says Lettera. “Their main concern is if we plan on staying overnight. I usually say something like, ‘Oh, we’re just planning to go to dinner and then hit Barnes and Noble for a little while . . . we’ll be out of here when the mall closes.’ I make sure they know I plan on SPENDING MY MONEY in their mall and that I won’t be staying there overnight. That usually seems to work.”

Parking in a retail location is just one of the advice posts at The Daily Rant, other topics range from how to find favorite food items, to tips for a low-cost date night, to how much Lettera and Godfrey have saved by upgrading to a 132″ sleeper in 2009. Other posts cover the previously mentioned photos and current events topics, and occasionally the blog’s namesake, a rant about whatever has drawn Lettera’s ire.

Check It Out At: http://www.salenalettera.com/

FEATURED FLEETS