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2:18 am EST        29°F (-2°C) in Lexington, NC

Calendar of Updates

I swear, my company is doing just about everything it can do to piss me off. A new policy was put into place this past Monday; it states that for amounts less than $100, dispatchers will no longer be permitted to issue what we call "Comchecks" (checks drawn from a third-party billing company called Comdata) for business-related expenses incurred on the road. While it makes a great deal of sense from the company's perspective — they'll get to save thousands of dollars in transaction fees that Comdata charges — it essentially works out to a screwing of drivers. To summarize the new policy, drivers are now expected to take cash advances of $125 every Sunday and Wednesday to cover on-the-road expenses. Of course, if the driver is unable to purchase fuel at the place he/she takes the advance, he/she gets dinged for a $2.00 transaction fee — and even better yet, the company dictates where drivers must fuel on every load. This is all fine and good for the company's bottom line; but as I said, drivers may not always be able to take their advances at the fuel stops the company's computers choose, and when that happens, it works out to saving the company $1.10 and screwing the driver out of $2.00.

I made a phone call to one of the company's vice-presidents to state my concerns with this new policy. He was polite and professional in the way he explained the rationale for the change, but as the call proceeded, he brought up an issue that I have had multiple arguments about: productivity (i.e., miles per month). I have maintained for the longest time that it has mostly been things beyond my control that have negatively affected my miles — and a look through my log books dating back to November backs me up. I suppose I can find fault with myself in two places: (1) I typically take the maximum amount of home time that company policy permits, and a bit more questionably, (2) I generally just take whatever load I'm offered and go with the flow, and sometimes these loads may only require me to make 200 miles in a day to arrive at the receiver reasonably close to my unloading appointment time. I suppose I could figuratively jump up and down and scream that I need more miles, but rocking the boat is just not a part of my personality.

In any event, outside of my home times, almost all other mileage-killers have resulted from things at least partly beyond my direct control. I can cite the three-day layover to get a long-overdue service done; the two-day layover because weekend dispatch wouldn't bother to look for Michigan-bound loads when I had to go home; and the disaster of a load I pulled last week (the shipper didn't have the load ready when promised; as a result, my dispatcher had to push the delivery appointments back 24 hours; and to top it off, the shipper had loaded an entire pallet of extra product that took most of another day to take care of) as perfect examples of things beyond my control that have happened to me. Methinks it was stated most appropriately in the 1994 film Forrest Gump: SHIT HAPPENS. I don't see why I should have to assume all of the blame for said shit, but that seems to be the company's attitude — and I've had it up to here (tapping right index finger above right ear).

Perhaps my ticket out of this company (if the way I'm treated doesn't improve dramatically) will be my federal income-tax refund check. That is going to add over $1,600 to the almost $6,000 I have saved during my time with this company, and once I've got that kind of money, I'd be silly to keep putting off buying a car. Once a car is part of the equation, I would have a great deal of flexibility in the selection of my next job, instead of being confined to within a few miles of my parents' house. Just the other day, I saw a job posting on for a nationwide trucking company; they are seeking "P&D" (pickup and delivery) drivers for local work in the Detroit area. I'm sure with my experience and safety record, I can find some kind of local P&D job in Detroit that would pay well. At that point, I'd move out of my folks' house (we can get along for short periods most of the time, but it wouldn't work as a long-term arrangement), and once a nice chunk of cash gets set aside, I'll audition for the lead role in "Larry Does College: Part Deux." wink

For the first time since last June, I got a chance to get through Charlotte, NC, and visit my grandparents. My grandmother seems to be doing quite well, but my grandfather is another story. A twenty-year progression of multiple sclerosis (MS) has finally robbed him of almost all physical strength, and he is now largely confined to bed. Between the MS and a recent mild stroke, he has some slurred speech and occasional difficulty with swallowing food or beverages. Thankfully, his mind seemed to be as sharp as ever, and he doesn't seem all that depressed or worried about his physical limitations, so that's definitely good. Certainly I hope he will hang on for as long as he can, but I do also realize that any chance I get to visit him may be my last — and any time I have a load through Charlotte, I'll try to squeeze in even an hour's visit with them, if at all possible.

And now for a little humor (at least I found it funny). Some home-building company in Georgia has decided to take a powerful religious symbol, namely one of the Ten Commandments, and use it in the name of crass commercialism. The billboard reads, "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house … when you can build your own custom home!" smile

Well, it's time for me to sleep, and then head for Maryland and Pennsylvania for two separate deliveries on Friday.