Escape from Baltimore

I’m about to leave Jessup, Maryland, which is just below Baltimore. Before I do, I wanted to rant about something. Namely, the excessive gouging of truck drivers by businesses. And, well, the way truckers get fucked by the industry, as well.
Let’s start with the grocery warehouse where I delivered yesterday. I arrived at 06:00, which was my appointment time. They got me into a dock around 07:00. Sometime around 09:00, I noticed they hadn’t been onto my trailer for awhile, so I went inside to check. The trailer was empty. My paperwork was laying on the clerk’s desk, with a roll of stickers on top of it. I was told they hadn’t finished checking in the load, that they had to label it, and they’d let me know when they were finished.
Fine with me. I’d run up on vapors and needed sleep. So I went back to the truck to lay down, expecting someone would come out and wake me up when they were done. I woke up around 12:30. Um. Okay. So I went back inside. Trailer was still empty. Paperwork was gone, though. So I went looking around for someone to tell me what the hell was going on. I was told that a large part of my load had been rejected, because they had cancelled part of the order and the shipper had sent it anyway. That freight would have to be put back onto my trailer and I would be taking it back to the shipper.
You get the idea. I finally left the customer around 14:00. To put this into perspective, and illustrate why I’m mentioning this at all, I don’t get paid for sitting. My company gives the customer two hours to unload. I was there for eight hours. The company tossed me $30 for my trouble. You do the math.
After I left the customer, I went to a truck-stop across the street from the customer. This is where the real ass-reaming began.
First off, this truck-stop has a pay lot. Simply put, you pay to park there. In one way or another. First two hours parking are free. After that, you pay to $12 to get out. Parking is free for 24 hours, but only if you 1) purchase 50 gallons of fuel or 2) purchase $20 worth of merchandise from the store. If you’re there (God forbid) into another day, this all starts over. Imagine that adding up.
Okay, next thing. This lot has been taken over by a company named IdleAire. The idea is that they build a system in truck-stop parking lots that provide shore power, air-conditioning/heat, an Internet connection, cable tv, etc. so that truck drivers don’t have to idle trucks. Good for the environment. Saves fuel. Quieter. Sounds good, right?
Well … here’s the problem. As I said, IdleAire takes over these parking lots. They leave about 1/4 of the lot for non-IdleAire parking. You can park in IdleAire parking slots for free, but you cannot idle your truck. Think about that if it’s 20 degrees outside. Our 100 degrees. Sure, you can park here, but you can’t idle your truck, which means you don’t have air conditioning or heat. IdleAire has taken a parking lot and reduced its effective useable size by 1/4 to 3/4. This at a time when truck parking is a critical problem.
So. No problem, right? Just use IdleAire. Well, I was going to be stuck overnight, so I checked into it. How much does this cost? Well, first I had to have an adapter for my passenger side window so that I can attach the IdleAire unit to my truck. That’s $10. Then I have to subscribe to the IdleAire service. That’s $20 for a year. Then I have to pay for my usage of the IdleAire service. That’s $2.18 per hour. Plus another $4 if I want to use their Internet connection. Want to watch a movie? That’s $11.
Holy crap. I started adding this up. It’d be cheaper to rent a hotel room, really. So IdleAire is taking over the truck-stops of America, taking possession of truck parking for their own personal gain, and charging incredible prices for doing so. It’s extortion, simply put.
Let me put this another way. Would you rent a hotel room if you were told that you would be charged not by the day, but at a rate of $2.18 an hour? 24 hours would be $52.32. Okay, that’s comparable to a decent hotel room. So what if you found out the room was about 8′ by 8′? What if they told you that you had to supply your own bed? What if movies were $11 per view?
I could go on and on, but I think you see where I’m going here. I’m going to pay $2.18 an hour to sleep in my own truck? For the notoriously shitty air conditioning and heat IdleAire provides? $4 a day for Internet? $11 for movies?
You know, if I idle my truck, I have air conditioning and heat. I can pay a truck-stop chain $20 a month for a Wi-Fi Internet account with unlimited access. My laptop computer plays DVDs. What’s wrong with this picture?
Well, I’m going to stop here. I could go on and on. We didn’t even get to go into the truck-stop store and buy a $3.50 can of beef stew. $1.69 for a 20 ounce soft-drink. $7 for a shower. I suppose that’s a rant for another day.
Suffice it to say that for truck drivers, dealing with extortion is just part of the job. Maybe later on I’ll get around to ranting about how truck drivers are treated by the general public, who think they’re all a bunch of uneducated, wife-beating rednecks. Or law enforcement, who largely see truck drivers as a source of easy income for the state.
Anybody want to hazard a guess as to why so many truck drivers seem pissed off? I get it. I have a big chip on my shoulder about my job. You can’t do this job for too long without developing one.

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Anonymous
Anonymous
15 years ago

Wic,

Let me start by saying that I am a Super Trucker. My first rig did’nt have power steering, a condo sleeper.. or air conditioning. These days, you boys want to bring a microwave oven, TV, shower, ice box, bed, computer, two dogs, cameras, phones, in laws etc. Is it any wonder the trucks stops have started looking more like an RV campground?

Anonymous
Anonymous
15 years ago

I was a driver too. I understand what you have to rant about. Shippers/recievers seldom give consideration to drivers waiting at the dock. They usually treat drivers like they are in the way or idiots. I have a masters degree, I’m not an idiot. I also remember when sleepers where a controversy: “Why does a driver need a sleeper? He’s supposed to drive; not sleep! Give him a thermos and get him on the road.” I would hear them say.

As far as IdleAire goes, I believe you got some bad information. The cost of IA goes against the cost for parking. Your company should pay for it if you are a company driver. If you are an owner oeprator, it is to your advantage over burning your fuel. There is a $10 window adapter you buy the first time you use it, but you keep it and trade it in if you change trucks.

It costs you about 1 gallon of fuel to use your AC/Heat. At $2.61 an hour for fuel, the $2.18 an hour for IA is an immediate savings.

You don’t have to buy the $20 membership. The lot people are pushing those because its extra credit for them. But if you do, you get a price of $1.85.

There is a fleet membership that you can get for free if you have your own DOT. I’d try to get your fleet to look into it.

I’m off the road now, too troubleshome out there. I try to do my personal travel at night so I don’t have to compete with the road wackos.

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