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Sunday, October 4, 2020

DirecTV or Dish: Which is better?

Having been a very long term customer of DirecTV, we faced a dilemma after selling and purchasing a different house required a move. Except for about a six month period of cable tv in 2008, I have been a steady customer of DirecTV for over 26 years.

For a long time I’ve been fed up with the seemingly constant battles over Direct’s continuing price escalations over the years. I started with a DVR and boxes for every TV and slowly gave them up one by one negotiating lower prices. Eventually I was down to one DVR on one TV in the living room and the most basic channel lineup they offered. New customers were offered great deals while long term customers had to haggle with them every time they jacked the price up. The compelling reason for me to start and stay with DirecTV was that they were the only option for getting NFL Sunday Ticket games. I was a diehard Green Bay Packer fan, born and raised in Wisconsin, who moved to Utah for 25 years to work, paying well over $200 extra annually to be able to watch the Packers every week.


After retiring and moving back to Wisconsin a couple years ago, I stayed with DirecTV probably just because I was familiar with them. Last year we bought a motorhome and I was checking into putting a satellite dish on it for TV reception on the road. In 2015, AT&T bought out DirecTV and I believe their customer service has been on a decline ever since. After checking RV forums I discovered that DirecTV has basically abandoned the RV market and only Dish is now compatible with mobile systems. Another strike against them for me(us), and the final one.


After finding that the house we bought was already set up for Dish Network with their satellite dish equipment, we decided to pull the plug on Direct and go with Dish. A couple weeks before the move we dialed up Dish customer service and got ready for the hard sell. Our first surprise was that we got a customer rep down in Tulsa, OK who could actually speak clear and understandable English. That was great.


Surprise number two: No hard sell, he asked what we wanted and we told him the second tier channel lineup, a Hopper DVR box and a Joey for the bedroom TV. Total package was a bit over $70 per month and a two year price guarantee. Free installation and a $300 Mastercard gift card included for new service. We told him the move was in two weeks and we got our pick of appointment times for the serviceman to come out.


Surprise number three: A couple weeks later near the appointment time the service guy called and told me what time he’d be there. I went to meet him and was surprised that there were two techs, they introduced themselves and said one of them was training. Since the place was already set up for Dish, I assumed they would swap out the satellite dish for the newest model, bring the boxes, hook them up and be on their way. They were there for almost three hours! They said that the wiring was too old and they were going to replace everything from the dish into the house to the boxes.


Surprise number four: The techs finished up the install and gave me a demonstration of the system and it is excellent. We had the latest and greatest Genie DVR from DirecTV and the Dish Hopper and remote is much better! It has built in to the remote/box the Firestick/Roku streaming system that is all controllable with the Hopper remote. It also has the voice command system to find programs you want to watch or pick up where you left off. I’m still going through learning all the features and we are very impressed. All this and we don’t have to worry about price hikes for at least two years.


Dish has branched out somewhat by offering extra products like sound bar audio systems, surge protectors, and services like installing televisions, home security systems, doorbells, cameras, etc. It’s a way for them to increase profit margins and hopefully slow price increases. They show and offer these services and there was no hard sell when I declined.


We are extremely happy with the switch and so far, so good! Would not hesitate to recommend Dish Network.




Tuesday, June 30, 2020

My 2nd Florida Car - 1983 Buick Regal Limited

In 1980, my dad found me a great deal on a used 1973 Buick Century that I happily drove more than 100,000 miles with no problems. About 1988, he called again, perfect timing as the old '73 Century was starting to wear out. This time, he knew an elderly man who lived about a block away and decided to sell his car. It was a fully loaded 1983 Buick Regal Limited with 8,000 miles on it! The guy bought it new when he was 90 years old and drove it for 5 years before he got into a fairly minor traffic accident that damaged the front end. A body shop had fixed the damage and it looked and drove like a brand new car. That crash convinced him to give up driving and he wanted to get rid of it. With only 8,000 miles in 5 years he sure didn't use the car much and it was always kept in a garage.

Like I stated, the car was loaded with a V-6 motor, padded vinyl top, fancy wheels and power everything. It felt like a very luxurious car driving it. The factory sticker was still in the glove box, with the MSRP at $13,500. That was not inexpensive for a car in 1983. My dad had driven it, said it was good and I told him to make the deal and I'll find a way to get down there.

That also was a great car right up until early 1993 when I started hearing lifter noise with the engine fully warmed up. I had always religiously maintained that car and was very surprised it let me down. This happened just as I was getting ready to make the move to Salt Lake City in July. Being just about ready to load up a U-haul truck, I got a trailer to haul my other car and decided to leave the Regal behind. My wife had to stay an extra month to close on the house so she drove it until then, took it to a used car lot in Crivitz and took whatever the owner would give us. The amount he offered was ridiculously low, so I had not one pang of guilt selling the car to him. In fact, I believe he could have replaced the motor and still have made money reselling it.


Monday, May 18, 2020

What's your CDL Score?

The following is a guest post written by Kate Speer at GetMyCDLScore.com, an interesting and unique new trucker service. Check them out, links provided!

What's your CDLScore?! 

You know that you are the best driver. Can you prove it? How do you stack up against your peers? 

Prove your knowledge, skills, and experience and see how you rank compared to other drivers. You will be able to see where you rank in terms of other drivers in your state or other drivers in your category (dry van, flatbed, etc). 

Sign up for FREE at www.GetMyCDLScore.com and get your score. 

Your CDLScore is similar to a credit score, but all about your driving skills, experience, and knowledge. This is going to be the new industry standard for finding a job that is your best match, asking for a raise or additional hometime, and just having a third party measure of how you stack up compared to other drivers. Not to mention the bragging rights earned for having the top score around!

We’ve helped 582 CDL drivers find their ideal job in the past 12 months. Not looking for a job? No problem, you can still get your own CDLScore, see where you measure against your peers and be entered to win great monthly prizes. We can help you improve your skills, knowledge, and provide a standard way to measure your performance and progress.

We find your CDLScore using a proprietary 32 point algorithm. Our scoring algorithm takes your driving history, tenure, freight experience, on the job performance, Professional Driver Quality Assessment (PDQA) and more, to create a CDLScore that we use to compare you to your peers and find the right carrier for you. 

Beyond the number, we can help you increase your score, learn new skills, connect with other drivers in our community, and find the right opportunities to succeed.

Find a job, improve your skills, win prizes - it's all here at CDLScore. Get your free score today at www.GetMyCDLScore.com.


Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Deciding on a Trucking Career - Part VIII The End

(This is Part VIII of a series, “Deciding on a Trucking Career”.  I would suggest reading Parts I through VII first, they were posted earlier in this blog.) Links provided below:

Leaving Utah
In February, 2018 I wrote: "In a couple days, after retiring the first of this year, I am moving back to my home state of Wisconsin. I’ve spent almost 25 years living and working in Utah and it’s been quite a ride. This move is with mixed feelings, knowing I will always miss this place."

Update May, 2020: Back in 2016 my marriage had ended after almost 8 years. Fortunately, there was no hostility between us and the divorce was amicable. I was almost 64 years old and my priorities had to undergo significant change. I really had no family out west and needed to start preparing for retirement. My mom was still alive in a memory care facility in Wisconsin and the cost of living in Utah was astronomical compared to rural northern Wisconsin. So I made the decision to move back after I pulled the plug. Part of this was written as a good-bye post to Utah in my blog in early 2018.

Thanks to my dear friends back in Wisconsin I found a nice 3.3 acre wooded property with a large garage and A-frame house near Crivitz and closed on it November of 2017. Then all I had to do was find a buyer of my double-wide mobile home in a 55 and over restricted park in Salt Lake. That took a while as the park had been bought out and they were drastically raising the lot rents to unbelievable rates. After finally finding a buyer and closing at the end of February, 2018 I was ready to go back to Wisconsin, the same way I left 25 years ago.

"After having been a regional semi-driver from Wisconsin since 1980, I transferred to Salt Lake City with Ryder in July of 1993 driving a 24 foot U-haul truck with all my possessions, pulling a car and tow dolly behind. Coming across I-80 in Iowa I had to detour many miles off the interstate due to flooded roads from the huge winter storms of early 1993. Back on I-80, in the western side of Nebraska, just east of Wyoming, I ran into a thunderstorm and saw an empty semi-truck with a husband-wife team get blown sideways in a micro burst and flip over only a few hundred feet in front of me. Thankfully, both were unhurt and able to climb out the top through the passenger door of the cab-over as I pulled up. They were pretty shook up and I had never seen anything like that before. Coming down Parley’s canyon into the Salt Lake valley with that U-haul and tow vehicle behind was a whole different experience than with my car a few weeks earlier! I remember having thoughts, wondering what I was getting myself into.

Being from the mid-west, I didn’t know what a mountain was until Boyce, Bob and other drivers coached me through a few canyons, my wide eyes staring and white knuckles on the wheel! Utah is a special place to live and work, having traveled and spent extensive time as a trainer in cities throughout the inter-mountain west. There is nowhere I’d rather live other than in a cabin in the north woods of Wisconsin, getting back to a small town quiet life, near family and friends."

Both Boyce Williams (79) and Bob Carter (80) passed away in 2019. Bob was a fellow driver trainer with me for many years from 1994 until he retired. Boyce had been selected as Ryder Systems corporate Driver of the Year and had well over 2 million miles accident free.

"There are so many people I’d like to acknowledge, I’ll miss them, fellow drivers, supervisors, employees and vendors of our customer. I’ve worked with so many people in Las Vegas, Phoenix, Seattle, Denver and elsewhere. A lot of great friends, the list would be long and thanks to Facebook, I can hopefully stay in touch. Most of all, thanks to my “Utah family” of the last 10 years, who always made me feel welcome and I will forever love and miss! Thanks for all of the great memories. The circle of life pulls me back to Wisconsin, but my time here has been so special! Oh, and by the way, I will never miss being stuck in Wyoming weather...... and that’s all I got to say about that, LOL. I hope the drive back (in another U-Haul and my car on a tow dolly) will have a lot less drama than the first one coming here. Take care!"

It's been almost two and a half years now since I retired. I'm in a great relationship and content. Now, in the middle of this Covid-19 mess, I'm sure glad I don't have to work. I really don't miss driving for work but did find a good deal on used 36-foot motorhome last year with a car to tow behind. I guess you can't keep a natural driver in one place for too long. We were able to escape the Wisconsin winter and spend three months in Florida this year. We had a great time and hope to repeat annually.

All in all, trucking has given me the opportunity to have a good life. It was a lot of hard work but I always made decent money and have enough put away for a comfortable retirement. I don't know what the future holds for professional drivers, but, if you keep your record clean, there are good companies to work for. Unlike some, I have never had the desire to own my own truck and be self-employed. I've seen so many do this and slowly go broke. Company drivers get a lot in the way of benefits and vacation that owner operators do not. But for some, it can work out. If you choose to be a professional driver, good luck with your endeavor, drive safe and get onboard with a good company. You can make some very good money if you are a true "professional". The market for drivers is always cyclical but an old trucker friend once told me "Drivers are a dime a dozen but good ones are always hard to find". My employer for more than 25 years was Ryder, they have locations all over the country. Happy Trucking!

Links to: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII



Friday, April 10, 2020

Tips and Tools for Increased Comfort and Cleanliness in Your Rig

Guest post by Richard Reina, Product Training Director at TRUCKiD.com

As we navigate these unprecedented times amid the coronavirus pandemic, truckers are driving greater distances and for longer hours to transport necessary items like food and medical supplies around the country. As the necessity of social distancing increases the demand for at-home delivery of groceries and other staples, truckers are not able to hunker down in the safety of their own homes during this crisis. As a result, they expose themselves to health risks every day as they keep the supply chain intact and alleviate shortages of our basic household needs and protective gear—including masks.

While truckers are able to practice social distancing when on the road, they are potentially exposing themselves to the virus at every pick-up, drop-off and gas station stop they make along the way. However, there are measures all truckers can take to keep themselves healthy, safe and comfortable while delivering goods across the country.

First and foremost, you’ll want to make sure you have proper products to protect yourself from the virus, including:

Face Masks
Per CDC’s updated recommendations, they are now suggesting everyone cover their mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when out in public to prevent spreading COVID-19. While many places are out of stock, there a various methods of making a homemade mask with items you already have that will be just as effective.

Disinfectant Wipes
It goes without saying that any disinfectant product is a good first-line defense against the coronavirus, indeed, any viruses. Whether it’s wipes, sprays or liquids, these cleaners are a must-have for the trucker who’s in and out of their cab multiple times a day, touching many different surfaces. The biggest challenge may be simply finding these products available and in-stock, but when shopping be sure to purchase cleaners on the EPA’s list of products that are registered for use against coronavirus.

Disposable Gloves
While not a cleaning product per se, for the average trucker, a box of disposable nitrile or vinyl gloves can be just as valuable if disinfectants are not available. Given the frequency and variety of surfaces which are touched every day, these gloves are certainly must-have items and should be properly changed and/or disposed of following each delivery so germs aren’t transferred back into your cab.

Waterless Hand Cleaners
Whether a driver has a box of disposable gloves or not, there are always those times when your bare skin is going to get soiled and require thorough cleaning. While soap and hot running water are the best for washing hands, yet again, the driver who’s constantly on the road doesn’t always have that as a regular option. Personally, I’m never without a bottle of waterless hand cleaner. It gets all the grime off and cleans up with some paper towels or clean shop rags. While these products may not be disinfectants per se, we understand that cleaning away the dirt plays a role in keeping viruses at bay. Also be sure to keep a bottle of hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol in your vehicle at all times to further clean and disinfect your hands. And, though it may go without saying, wash your hands with soap and water when you get the first chance, especially before eating or touching your face.

Glass Cleaners
Visibility through the cab’s glass is of utmost importance for safety. Truckers never know what kind of weather they’ll encounter, and the opportunities to take the rig to a car wash may not always be there when you need it, especially now when many non-essential businesses are closed. For my cars, I’ve made it a habit to carry glass cleaner and some microfiber cloths. The great thing about glass cleaner is that it gets the job done on the outside glass, inside glass, and even the truck’s headlights and taillights.

Regularly Clean Your Cab
If not at the end of every day, or at least every other morning before you start work, you should be giving your cab a good wipe down to get rid of any lingering germs. Start with a thorough vacuuming, if possible, and then wipe down all the frequently touched areas, such as the steering wheel, dashboard, center console and door handles, with virus-killing cleaner that is safe for each material.

While protecting yourself and keeping your cab as germ-free as possible is paramount during this time, it’s also a good idea to add some upgrades to your truck to ensure additional safety and comfort during those long shifts.

Seat Covers for Comfort
Seat comfort can be greatly enhanced at a reasonable cost by purchasing a seat cover. Normally, I would recommend a “custom fit” seat cover that will come close to looking like an OE seat fabric. However, in this case, I’d suggest a universal seat cover, as that will be easier to remove and reinstall. I would also recommend one that’s machine washable. These days, cleanliness is on everyone’s mind. A seat cover than can be removed without tools, thrown into a washing machine, and reinstalled when dry is a great choice.

Bluetooth Connectivity for Entertainment
Longer hours on the road require distractions to keep drivers awake and alert. Everyone has a cell phone these days, and I continue to be amazed at the drivers who still hand hold their phones while driving. An add-on device which ties your cell phone to the truck’s audio system via Bluetooth connectivity is an affordable way to be safe and stay entertained, which also allows you to be reachable while driving.

Upgraded Headlight Bulbs for Improved Visibility
Although we’re headed into a stretch of longer days and shorter nights, truckers still find themselves behind the wheel when it’s dark, not to mention dawn and dusk. Any improvement in forward visibility is going to help improve safety and reduce eyestrain. Brighter bulbs also help you be seen by other truckers and passenger cars. Headlight upgrades don’t need to involve replacement of the entire assembly. Most modern trucks have replaceable bulbs. Consider upgrading to an LED kit, or if looking for a more cost-effective solution, go with newer and brighter halogen bulbs.

Interior Organizers for Neatness
You don’t have to be a neatnik to appreciate the peace and calm which comes along with things being in place. This is as true in your cab as it is in your home. An unkempt truck interior will add to anyone’s stress level. The ability to put your hand on something as it’s needed will also contribute to your ability to stay focused on the primary task at hand, which is driving. With an interior organizer, you’ll be able to store all your protective gear in an organized fashion. I like soft-sided interior organizers for the flexibility to fit in different places, as well as the ease with which they can be carried in and out of the cab and stored elsewhere when not in use.

This is a scary time for us all—especially for the brave men and women still working during this pandemic. But as long as we take the proper precautions to protect ourselves and others, it will help put your mind at ease and contribute to flattening the curve.

Richard Reina is the product training director at TRUCKiD.com, a one-stop-shop for aftermarket semi-truck parts and accessories.