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Saturday, September 23, 2017

Perdue, trucking company will pay $2 million after big rig full of chicken killed off-duty deputy

Photo: Courtesy of the Law Office of Michael A. Kernbach, PC
Article thanks to Scott Daugherty and Links provided:

The family of an off-duty sheriff’s deputy killed three years ago by a big rig hauling frozen Perdue chicken parts has agreed to settle a wrongful death lawsuit for $2.05 million, according to court documents.
Earl Baynor Jr. Trucking, the owner of the big rig, and its insurance company will pay $1.05 million. Perdue will pay $1 million.
“The family is relieved that the case has been resolved,” said Michael Kernbach, the family’s attorney. “It is a sad case all around.”
A Perdue spokesman declined to comment on the settlement, citing a confidentiality agreement. Attorneys for the trucking company did not respond to requests for comment.
The lawsuit, which initially sought $25 million in damages, stemmed from a Sept. 4, 2014, crash on U.S. 13 near its intersection with Eyreville Drive in Northampton County.
Albert Thomas, 50, was driving a tractor when he was fatally rear-ended by a 2005 Peterbilt 387 semi hauling a 53-foot Perdue trailer. Rodney Shepherd was driving the big rig.
According to the lawsuit, Shepherd was working for Baynor Trucking at the time of the crash. Perdue hired the company to transport chicken from its processing plant in Accomack County.
Thomas was moving the tractor as part of a second job, according to Kernbach.
After the crash, Thomas – a deputy with the Northampton County Sheriff’s Office who was assigned to the Eastern Shore Regional Jail – was taken to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital and pronounced dead two days later.
The lawsuit alleged the trucking company had a poor safety record that included repeated falsified hours-of-service documentation, as well as drivers in possession of alcohol, positive tests for cocaine and daylight wrecks that occurred during dry conditions.
Shepherd pleaded guilty in January 2015 in Northampton General District Court to misdemeanor reckless driving for following too closely.
He was ordered to serve four days in jail and pay $731 in fines and court costs.

Scott Daugherty covers courts for The Virginian-Pilot.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Road Trip: Crossing The Evergreen State In a 1957 Chevy
Article thanks to Kyler Lacey and Links provided:

One of the universal dreams in the automotive community is the idea of a long road trip in a classic car. Nothing but open road, good tunes, and your vintage steel. We’re no different, and we have always wanted to do something like that, so we prepped out 1957 Chevrolet and took off on a nearly 800-mile trip from Kingston, Washington, to Spokane Valley, Washington, and back – with a few stops in between. We did it the right way too, and for the most part, used the old US highways rather than the interstate—two lanes, wheat fields on either side, and stoplights in every little town along the way.

We took the car to Spokane Valley, because we bought it from a friend of ours that lives out there, Dave Leigh, and we thought it would be fun to show him the progress of his old car. Not only that, but we recently learned that the old Brown and Holter Chevrolet dealership, where the car was sold brand new, is still standing in Pullman, Washington. So we thought, what the heck, let’s visit out car’s old home and make a couple hundred-mile detour on our way.

Our 1957 Chevy is powered by a small-block 350 cubic-incher, a cast-iron two-speed Powerglide, and the stock rearend. We’re riding on drum brakes all around – no brake booster, relying on the old generator, factory power steering, and the 1957 date-stamped radiator. The temperatures were forecast to be 100 degrees on the way out, and our only air-conditioner is available in the form of rolling down the windows. We crossed our fingers, loaded the trunk, checked our fluids and tire pressure, and hit the road.

We started with a ferry ride across the Puget Sound, and landed in Edmonds, where we headed straight for good ole Highway-2. Sure, it’s a slower road than I-90, but it’s also a heck of a lot more scenic. We passed through little towns like Gold Bar, Leavenworth, Cashmere, and Wilbur, and didn’t pass by very many gas stations. Our small-block Chevy drinks gasoline like it’s going out of style.

We made it to Spokane without any major issues, but the inline fuel filter started plugging up and caused us it to choke a little when accelerating to highway speeds. We knew Dave had a lift we could use, so we bought the $5 part and headed over for our visit. What was meant to be a 10-minute part replacement turned into a five-hour ordeal when we pulled into Dave’s driveway, put the car into reverse, and started moving forward.

The immediate assumption was that we’d just blown our 60-year-old transmission, but once it was up on the lift, we found that some bushings had fallen out of the linkage and caused things to go out of whack. Dave sat in the car while we tried to adjust things from below. When he shifted into reverse, the linkage just wouldn’t push it far enough to click into gear and it stayed in low, which is why it went forward instead of backward.

After hours if adjusting and readjusting, we got Park, Neutral, Drive, and Low to line up, then we used some well-placed springs to assist the linkage in pulling the selector into place on the transmission. It was a temporary fix, but that’s part of owning and driving a 60-year-old car. You’ve got to roll with the punches and make it work with what you’ve got. We made it home alright and we’re going to fix it the right way over the next weekend.

After visiting Dave and making our repairs, it was time to head down to Pullman. We took a couple pictures in front of the old dealership building where the car sold new, and headed over to the new dealership building where Brown and Holter is still operating under their new name for the last couple decades: Chipman and Taylor Chevrolet.

After that, it was time to head home and we made our way back via highway 195 from Pullman to Colfax. Then, from there, along Highway 26 until we hit Vantage and merged onto I-90 West. All-in-all, we spent roughly 15 hours in the car and made our way across more than 750 miles of road. The Chevy takes to the highway better than anything modern, and even in the hot temperatures, we couldn’t have been more comfortable. If you can take a road trip in your classic car, and the car can handle the strain, we recommend that you do it.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Driver pay, trucking’s image, and the worsening driver shortage
Article thanks to Cristina Commendatore and Links provided:
The average age of the truck driver is 52 and each year that number continues to increase, according to Leah Shaver, COO at the National Transportation Institute. But as fleets are finding it more and more difficult to attract a younger driver base, partly because of an industry-wide image problem, what can they do to soften the blow of a deepening driver shortage?
“Our efforts to recruit and retain millennials today are not as successful as we need them to be. The incoming students are not coming in at fast enough rates, and they’re not sticking with the industry the way that we need,” Shaver explained during a recent Fleet Owner webinar sponsored by Ryder.
Titled Listening to the Voice of the Driver can Ease the Shortage, Shaver along with Patrick Pendergast, group director of talent acquisition at Ryder System, discussed how driver income, trucking’s image, and the economy are impacting the worsening truck driver shortage.
NTI, which tracks driver income for both for-hire and private fleets, has found private fleet income is always more stable than for-hire income. According to Shaver, one of the problems is that over the last 10 years, for-hire income has at times been the opposite of the rate of inflation. In the last five years, she explained the rate of change for driver compensation has gone up by only 6.3%. Compare that to minimum wage, which has gone up by 45.26%, and the income for a worker at McDonald’s, which has increased by 94%.
NTI also compared earnings for for-hire fleets versus private fleets per region nationwide and found that the median W2 income nationwide is about $54,000 for for-hire fleets and well over $70,000 for private fleet drivers.
“That’s a big gap,” Shaver stressed, noting that private fleet drivers also have more consistent workloads and time spent at home. “Private fleet drivers tend to retire from their jobs. They don’t age out or wear out in the same way that they do in for-hire fleets. It’s a lifelong career, and they do retire. Private fleets are seeing retirements in record numbers, and they’re really expanding their recruiting and retention efforts.”
Shaver noted that throughout the industry, however, there really haven’t been significant changes in driver compensation this year, which is difficult to understand considering the decrease in the supply of drivers. There has been a small increase—0.6% in the maximum a driver can earn at a company—but overall the industry has seen very little movement in earnings, she added.
Plus, the industry is still trying to overcome an image problem. “In recent news we see that media can pick up on a story, and image can still affect our industry,” Shaver said. “Ultimately, that image makes it very hard to sell as a career.”
Shaver referred to articles from the New York Times and USA Today in which drivers interviewed said they really feel a continued disconnect with their companies and often feel like they’re “throwaway people.”
“When we visit with carriers, we’re seeing some upward movement in driver turnover,” Shaver explained. “Carriers are telling us pretty consistently that turnover has spiked up, and driver supply is becoming even more difficult.”

Driver satisfaction: Best practices

According to Pendergast, pay is a crucial component to how satisfied a driver is, but it’s not the only one. He outlined some best practices for fleets to consider.
Appreciation: “How do we figure out within our own group of employees, our own group of drivers, what really matters to them,” Pendergast asked. “We encourage companies to spend time talking to their drivers. Some drivers feel disconnected and don’t feel their company recognizes them as a true partner.”
Using advanced technology to attract talent: “Millennials have grown up with a tremendous amount of technology all around them,” he noted. “As Leah pointed out, the trucking industry does have an image problem. It’s incumbent on us in the industry to talk about the changes in engine technology and talk about collision avoidance and all the things that are attractive to the younger generation.”
Have a plan around retention: “This problem isn’t going away,” Pendergast stressed. “The ostrich approach isn’t going to work.” He added it is critically important for fleets to listen to their drivers to understand what challenges they face. “Some managers might be nervous to hear the challenges the drivers have, but that’s the first step to understanding what your turnover looks like.”
Pay and benefits: Pendergast advised carriers be in line with what the market is paying and the environment in which they’re operating.
Treatment: “Do your managers understand the roles they play in your turnover percentage,” he asked. “They are certainly playing a big role in how the driver feels when they get in their truck and go out for their loads that day.”
Employee involvement and training: Pendergast advised that fleets get employees involved in the decisions that affect them and acknowledge any input they give. When it comes to training and advancement, he said all employees, but particularly millennials, have a real thirst for learning and understanding how they get ahead and what the next steps are.
Recognition and performance management: Perks such as performance bonuses for safety, driver of the month, safety banquets, and other events that highlight what drivers are doing really well and what matter for your company go a long way, Pendergast stressed. He also noted that open communication and regularly scheduled performance appraisals are invaluable in driver retention efforts.
According to Shaver, researchers at NTI know and believe that the driver turnover will continue to rise. “It’s going to be stuck at over 80% in the foreseeable balance of the year—that’s our prediction,” she said. “We think that GDP (gross domestic product) is going to continue to grow. Unemployment has dropped. Blue collar jobs are not being filled. Construction is booming. Labor shortage is an issue. All of these signs point to economic growth, but our prediction remains nearly flat for driver pay.”

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Driver-Facing Cameras Get the Boot in Quebec
Article thanks to and John Bendel. Links provided:
Sept 8, 2017  Driver-facing cameras just got a poke in the eye from a Canadian court.
A Quebec Superior Court in Montreal has upheld an arbitrator’s ruling that Sysco Quebec cannot have driver-facing cameras in its delivery fleet. Sysco Quebec is part of Sysco, the food supply company that operates the 2nd largest private fleet in North America. Sysco Quebec employs approximately 70 drivers, according to court records. Their fleet is primarily day cabs.
Problems first arose when Sysco Quebec installed DriveCam exterior and interior cameras in November of 2012. Drivers were happy to have the forward facing cameras. They were not happy about the cameras staring them in the face.
Lytx, the company that distributes DriveCam, explains that while the driver facing cameras record all the time, they continually overwrite their memory. Video is only saved when an event – an accident, for example – causes the system to save 10 seconds of video immediately before the incident and 10 seconds after. Those are the only images management sees, the company says.
Even so, the Montreal Sysco drivers were not happy. They complained to their union that they felt intimidated by the cameras. Sometimes, they claimed, a bump in the road would cause the camera to save and transmit video back to Sysco.

So the union filed a grievance asking that the driver-facing cameras be removed. Sysco declined, and the grievance ultimately made its way to an arbitrator who ruled in May of 2016 that the cameras had to go.

Now it was Sysco’s turn to be unhappy. Sysco obeyed the ruling and removed the interior cameras; they also filed suit claiming the arbitrator had misinterpreted and misapplied the law. The arbitrator, Sysco said, had failed to properly consider a driver’s expectation of privacy while in the driver’s seat.

According to Sysco, the case was about the balance between a driver’s right to privacy and the company’s duty to proactively promote safety and health.

In its August 18th decision, the court found the arbitrator had considered that balance correctly. Methods “less intrusive” than those cameras could be used to further the interests of safety, the court said.
So the arbitrator’s ruling stands – at least for now.
Lytx deferred to their client, Sysco, for comment. For its part, Sysco declined to comment, but in an interesting way. Sysco’s corporate director of external communications wrote in an email: “Thank you for reaching out. Sysco does not provide comment on pending litigation.”
Pending litigation?
Sounds like Sysco may not have accepted the latest court decision as the final word.
Even if it were, the issue of driver-facing cameras is not really settled in Quebec. In 2014, Linde Canada installed the same DriveCam systems in its trucks. Linde is the German-based company that supplies industrial gases across North America. Some of those gases are dangerous.
Linde drivers complained about the cameras, a grievance was filed, and as in the Sysco case, the issue went to arbitration. But in the Linde case, the arbitrator found in favor of the company. The nature of the cargo made the difference. Hazardous cargo, such as hydrogen, tipped the scale and the Linde fleet now has driver-facing cameras.
These two conflicting opinions make it hard to predict the future of driver-facing cameras, at least in the Canadian province of Quebec – the only place in which those decisions apply.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Commentary: Over-Regulation and Idiotic Enforcement

Rolf Lockwood
Article thanks to Rolf Lockwood and Links provided:

Aug, 2017  Gallons of ink have been consumed in bitching about the extreme over-regulation of this industry. Ink and a lot of hot air. But we’re right to bitch and moan.
The nuclear-power world is full of rules and regs, too. Possibly — but only possibly — more than we face. At least there’s an obvious calamity quotient there. Sure, our trucks can do damage in a bunch of ways, but the controls outweigh the risk we represent by a factor of about five gazillion to one. And they’re driving people away from trucking. The headaches are just too many.
Case in point: scalehouse inspectors and other enforcement folks who don’t know their stuff. If we’re going to have all these rules, can we please have them applied fairly and correctly?
You don’t know how many letters and calls and e-mails I get from drivers, owner-operators, and fleet managers who say they’ve been poorly served at this scale or that. Yes, we rarely hear the other side, and no doubt some of the complaints I receive are misplaced, misguided, or just plain wrong. I understand that the inspection/enforcement job is a very tough one. I’m also sure that most people doing this thankless job take it seriously and make the effort to understand the laws they enforce.
But not all of them.
Take this true case from a few years ago, about an absurd ticket handed out by police in a sizeable city. It has nothing to do with trucking, but it easily could. A 77-year-old guy — with but one ticket in 61 years at the wheel – was nailed for talking on his cell phone while driving. Thing is, he does not and never has owned a cell phone. He figured it was a clear case of a ticket quota at work, and the evidence would seem to prove him right.
How can we possibly respect the enforcement community when this sort of thing goes on?
Another damning incident involves a reader I’ve known for a while, a veteran driver who knows his stuff. Including when to be polite, though that patience was severely tested during a scale stop not long ago. Running a four-axle dump truck, his job at the time gave him no way to check axle loads before hitting the road.
In this case the inspector came out and said the reader was 5,500 pounds heavy on the drives but his gross was fine. Then he added, “You’re maxed out on both steer and lift axle.” What? How can the gross be good if the steer and lift axles are maxed and the drives are 5,500 over? How, my reader asked, does that math work?
This particular gravel load is what the guys call “soup.” It self-levels, so when the inspector suggested shifting weight onto the lift – even though it was “maxed” in his own words – my driver friend asked, “How?”
This inspector, not at all new to the job, was completely baffled when he shouldn’t have been. And by all accounts he managed to enrage the local trucking community in the process.
We all deserve better.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Truckers You Should be Watching on YouTube

Article thanks to Jim Sweeney and the RoadPro Family of Brands. Links provided:

Lots of the trucks on the road are equipped with dashcams facing forward, but a growing number of truckers have turned their cameras inward to create their own YouTube channels.
There are dozens of drivers on YouTube giving their opinions about everything from trucking regulations to truck stop chili and quite a few have attracted dedicated followings, with subscribers in the tens of thousands. The most popular even make appearances at trucking shows.
The videos are as varied as truckers themselves. Some are profane while others are G-rated. Some drivers like to rant against current and former employers, while others detail their personal lives. Some deliver tips for new truckers and others rail against the profession.  
Most of the drivers also have social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) to supplement their videos. A few of the most popular even sell T-shirts and other swag.
A lot of the truckers on YouTube are in no great hurry to get to the point. While some videos are focused on specific issues, others are long and meandering. Lots of passing scenery, lots of musing about weather and road conditions and plenty of stream-of-consciousness commentary about, well, everything.
There’s no way to know how many viewers are also truckers, though, judging by the comments, there are quite a few. We’ve listed eight here that offer a good cross-section of material and points of view. Check them out.  
At presstime, this Ontario-based trucker had posted more than 1,500 videos, most as part of the series he calls Heavy Haul TV. He offers a thoughtful mix of practical advice, driving tips and insights into life on the road.
A long-haul trucker from Manitoba, Trucker Josh and his dog, Diesel, criss-cross the United States and Canada. He also shoots videos at home between runs. The videos aren’t always the most exciting, but Josh is an affable companion.
This trucker offers up a mix of commentary about the industry and insights into the trucking life.
This quirky, self-described “weird chick from Boston” is no longer trucking, having traded in her Peterbilt (named “Lazarus”) for an RV, but she built the largest trucking-related video channel online. If your think all truckers are gruff middle-aged guys in flannel shirts, Allie Knight and her cat, Spike, will be a revelation.
This husband-and-wife driving team make trucking seem like just about the most fun a couple can have at 60 mph. They mix the playfulness with some solid advice for other drivers.
JBG is the channel of “Johnny B. Goode”, a trucker from Wisconsin whose truck is named Baby Blue. Matter-of-fact and down-to-earth, he doesn’t go for laughs, just a faithful chronicling of everyday life..
Indiana Jack makes a point of taking his camera out of the cab and into all aspects of the trucking business. He interviews others in the industry and makes a genuine effort to be interesting without trash-talking other vloggers.
With a voice that wouldn’t be out of place on a late night jazz station, TRB tells it like it is, from how to schedule showers to the prospects of Uber freight.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

The Dealers Who Add $3,000.00 to Window Stickers While Secretly Selling at Invoice
Don’t get ripped off! Article thanks to Bark’s Bites (Mark "Bark M." Baruth) and Links provided:

July, 2017 In the last five years, I’ve visited over 2,500 dealers in 44 different states. Sometimes I think I’ve seen everything. And just when I think that, I’m invariably proven wrong.
This week, I walked through the doors of a massive dealership — easily one of the largest dealers I’ve ever set foot in (the name and make of this dealer shall remain anonymous, since the conversation was “off the record”). This dealer sells upwards of 500 new cars a month and about 200 used per month, and they’re planning to add even more floor space so they can increase their volume.
As I waited to talk to the GM, I browsed the cars on the showroom floor. Considering the overwhelming success of this store, you can imagine my surprise when I saw that every car on the floor, without exception, had an extra sticker on the window.
The sticker said:
TINT $200.00
TOTAL $3149.00
I damn near sprinted around the showroom to check, and yes, I was right — this sticker was on Every. Single. Car. The dealer did have a couple of new models that, in theory, could possibly be considered “limited availability,” but most of them were “limited to how many the factory can produce in a year.”
Of course, everybody knows (because the internet says it’s true) that dealers absolutely, positively, do not make money on new cars (insert eye-roll emoji), so I had to find out what was going on here.
Turns out it’s some pretty sinister shit that you, the consumer, definitely need to know about.
There are a fair number of manufacturers that absolutely, positively, will not allow their dealers to advertise below invoice (Toyota, Honda, etc.), so they have to get fairly creative in order to advertise “specials” to entice customers to come in the door. Let me explain.
Have you ever shopped at a liquidation sale, like when Circuit City went out of business? The liquidators buy up all the inventory and subsequently throw up big “50% OFF” signs all over the store.
Well, of course that’s not really true — the inventory of washers, dryers, and HDTVs is, in most cases, actually no cheaper than it was before, but they can advertise it as 50 percent off by marking it up  before “slashing prices.” In order for your local Japanese import dealer to do those “$5,000 OFF ALL NEW CAMCORDIMA” sales, they actually have to mark the cars up first.
You may be saying to yourself, “But, Bark, isn’t that illegal?” In some states, yes, it is. In many states in the union, you can’t put any dealer markup on the sticker. In others, you have to put something of value on the sticker in order to mark it up — you can claim that window tint is worth $2,000 if you want to, but there has to be something there. However, in many states, you can put whatever the hell you want to on the sticker, and you can make it look nearly identical to the actual Monroney sticker.
But is anybody actually stupid enough to fall for this? Does anybody ever walk in and pay full pop plus an additional $3,149? “Sometimes, yes,” said the GM of this particular store. “It’s almost always immigrants who don’t know any better.” While punching people labelled as Nazis may be up for debate, I think we can all agree that it’s okay to punch GMs who take advantage of immigrants.
“But,” he continued, “we actually only sell about 10 percent of our cars at MSRP or above. It’s psychological warfare — the customer feels like he’s getting a really great deal, but we know that we’re glad to sell the car at invoice, so anything above that is a win.”
I did a quick check of his third-party listings on the usual suspects, and noticed that he didn’t have any of the ADM added to his cars on the classified sites. “No, of course not. Nobody would click on them if we did that. We advertise at invoice, which is the minimum price that we’re allowed to advertise at.
“However, if you click through to our website, you’ll see that all of the cars have a little button that says ‘Click to unlock our Internet Specials.’ If they click that button, they have to fill out a contact form, including name, phone number, and e-mail. If they provide a valid e-mail, we’ll show them the real price — invoice minus holdback and all dealer fees. Every internet deal is a loser for us, but it helps us hit our sales targets.”
In case you’re not playing along at home, I’ll sum it up for you: the dealer marks up all of his cars on the sales floor, hoping that uneducated customers will fall for it, so that he can, in turn, sell the majority of his cars at a loss to smart shoppers, but only if they’re willing to give up a “lead.” It also allows him to advertise “sales” to pull in more traffic in the slower times, even though the sale price is, in most cases, essentially MSRP.
And dealers wonder why customers don’t trust them. So how can you avoid this sort of nonsense?
It sounds simple, but do your homework. Over 80 percent of customers now “research” online before they visit a dealership, but the vast majority of that research consists of reading new car reviews and dealer reviews on Google and DealerRater. At the very least, if you’re shopping new, you need to come to the dealer armed with invoice numbers.
Third-party searches are a great place to start your search, but it’s not where you should end it. Many dealers are doing exactly what my new GM friend is doing — saving the best deals for their own websites. Doesn’t really matter if it’s due to OEM regulations or if it’s because the dealer thinks that he closes at a higher percentage on leads from his site, it’s just true. After you find the car you want via or, head over to the dealer’s site to make sure that better pricing isn’t available there.
This tactic of forcing a customer to give up an email address in order to “unlock” the best deals is, unfortunately, becoming rather commonplace. While I don’t really care if a dealer spams my personal email (60,000 unread and counting), you might. So it doesn’t hurt to throw together an extra email address for yourself like “” As long as you actually create the address, their CRM tools will recognize it as valid and email you the pertinent information.
Also, never, ever pay ADM. Not never. I don’t care if it’s the latest and greatest car on the market. MSRP, sure. ADM, nope. I bought two of the hottest, most marked up cars on the market (2013 Boss 302, 2016 Focus RS) and refused to pay ADM. There certainly is no reason to do it on a 2018 Camry.
Lastly, don’t write off a dealer that has a car you want just because you hate their tactics. While it can be somewhat emotionally satisfying to say “screw you” to a dealer who marks up everything on his lot, there’s no reason to inconvenience yourself by driving across town or, God forbid, flying across the country. Chances are the dealer isn’t as stupid as he’s appearing to be and that he understands that he’ll eventually have to sell the car at invoice or below. Just make it clear in your communications that you’re willing to pay invoice minus holdback, and stick to your guns. No negotiation, no haggling. Invoice minus holdback and go.

Now you know how to avoid this particular dealer trick, but as long as there are franchise dealers, there will be more tricks. If you come across any new ones, email me at and I’ll let you know how to beat them. It’s kinda my thing.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

What My First Job Out of College Taught Me About Driving Trucks

Article thanks to Senior Editor Jack Roberts and Links provided:

July, 2017  Believe it or not, once upon a time I had a job driving trucks.
This was back in the early 1990s, right after I got out of college. I went to work for a brand-new marketing firm that targeted trade shows nationally. The entry-level job was an “Operations Manager.” It was a fancy title. But basically you did everything around the place except for janitorial work – including driving trucks to trade shows all over the country.
I didn’t have a CDL then – mainly because the company was too cheap to pay for it – and it didn’t really need Class 8 hauling capacity, either. Instead, it rented Class 7 straight trucks from the local Ryder dealer, and we took those out on the open highway to wherever we needed to go: Vegas, Orlando, Miami, Chicago, Anaheim… And a funky little truck show in Louisville, Kentucky, that we bitched about incessantly. At the time, I had no idea what a fixture that truck show would become in my life a few years down the road.
Looking back on it, it was a pretty miserable experience. I lasted a bit more than a year-and-a-half – and it surprises me today that I made it that long. But I’m stubborn like that.
The company told us all the time that because we were a startup, we needed to operate smart and cheap. But the reality was we were running just a shade inside of the law. Looking back on it, we were lucky no one got hurt. Or worse.
To be fair to Ryder, the cabover trucks we were in weren’t even remotely spec’d for long-haul driving. No cruise control. Bench seats (the passenger seat could not be adjusted). AM radios. And manual transmissions – although they were automotive-grade, so at least we didn’t have to deal with double-clutching and high/low ranges. And the trucks were governed to about 65 mph. 
All that said, driving was my favorite part of the job. I didn’t mind being alone. And I definitely liked being way beyond the reach of any bosses dreaming up stuff for me to do. Plus, it was a pretty cool way to see the country first-hand. Much different than looking down at it from an airplane seat the way I do today. I never really considered truck driving as a career. But I don’t think I would’ve minded it a lot if that’s what I’d wound up doing. It wasn’t the worst job I ever had. It could’ve easily been made a lot better if I’d been given better equipment. And I can think of way worse ways to make a living.
At the time, I never would have thought I’d one day wind up being a journalist covering the North American trucking industry. And it’s funny how often I think back on that brief time behind the wheel when I’m talking to drivers, or fleet and OEM executives today.
For example, you don’t have to sell me too hard on the value of ergonomics, driver comfort features or safety systems. I understand the strain drivers feel being away from loved ones for long periods and missing important holidays and events. I have some real-world insight into the prejudices the driving public holds against trucks and truck drivers. And I totally understand when drivers say they’d like fewer rules and regulations dictating how they do their jobs. And I really get it when they say they don’t like Big Brother sitting in the cab with them looking over their shoulder.
A lot has changed since my brief stint on the nation’s highways. But a lot of the core issues and pain points drivers face today have not.
But there’s no doubt the equipment today has gotten light-years better – and safer – than it was 20 years ago. I can’t match their miles or their experience, but I can’t help but smile when I hear old school drivers today tell newbies they don’t know how good they have it. Because they don’t.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

What Makes Green Bay Special

Article thanks to Ty Montgomery and Links provided:

Aug. 14, 2017  Aaron Rodgers can make a football sing.

Seriously … I’ve heard it.
The first time it happened was during minicamp my rookie year. I was basically fresh out of college and Aaron was already Aaron: Super Bowl champion, MVP — all that stuff. I ran a slant, and when I got out into my route and planted my foot, that’s when I heard it. It was this … whoosh. A whistle, like one of those little Nerf Vortex balls.
I put my hands up as quickly as I could, and as soon as I did, the ball was right on me — right on time, right on target, right in stride. His accuracy definitely matches his power. It was unlike any ball I had ever caught.
I’ve seen Aaron do this to other guys, too. He always makes sure he zips one at you in the first couple of passes, and he’ll make sure to do it when he’s throwing a short pass so he can really put something extra on it. I think it’s just his way of welcoming you and letting you know what he expects out of you — like he’s gonna bring it, and you need to be ready at all times. It’s one of those little things he does to set the tone.
And every now and then, if he zips one at you and you don’t catch it, he’ll stand in the backfield and flex at you, like you can’t handle the heat. So I think he does it to have a little fun, too.
Being on the other end of one of those passes, it’s definitely an experience. And although I’ve transitioned to running back full time now….
Actually, transition isn’t really the right word. When I think of a transition, I think of moving from one thing to another — in my case, that would mean putting wide receiver behind me. But I haven’t done that. I don’t need to be put into some running back box, confined to the space between the tackles. I can still play wide receiver from the running back position, and I can still benefit from a passer like Aaron.
So I look at it more as an evolution … a true utilization of my skill set.
If you would have told me when I got drafted in the third round in 2015 that I’d be the No. 1 running back on the Packers’ depth chart two years later, I would have said you were crazy.
Then I would have said, “But hey, I’ll take it.”
So what if I’m not playing the position I was drafted to play? I’m just trying to contribute to this team and add value in any way possible. I knew that being the No. 1 wasn’t very likely when I initially made the move to running back. It was actually kind of a doomsday scenario. I joined the running backs, and then Eddie Lacy got hurt. Then Don Jackson. Then James Starks. And….
Get in there, 88.
It was a far cry from where I had been back in training camp last year. Before the season even started — when I wasn’t sure if I was even going to make the team.
I’m serious. I can actually remember coming home from practice early in camp to find my wife unpacking some boxes, and I sarcastically said, “Don’t unpack too much just yet, because I’m not sure how long we’re gonna be here.”
I was coming off ankle surgery. I had missed the entire off-season. I hadn’t practiced the whole first week of camp. Plus, we had a lot of talented receivers. It was competitive. I mean, I still went out on the field every day with confidence and left everything I had out there. But at the end of the day, I felt like I was too far behind. I just really didn’t know what was going to happen.
I didn’t see a lot of action during the preseason, or in the first few games of the regular season. As the weeks went on, I grew more and more uncertain about my future in Green Bay.
I could feel some of the guys looking on kind of laughing, like, What’s Ty doing? Is he allowed to be back there?
Then one day, I walked past Mike McCarthy in the hallway. He stopped me, said hello … and then he mentioned that he had an idea.
The coaches had been talking, and they thought they could use me in a lot of different ways out of the backfield. So they were thinking about trying me out at running back, if I was up for it.
I was like, “Hey, if you’re even thinking about it, let’s just do it. Let’s dive right in and see how it goes.”
I kept my best “be professional” face as we shook hands and went our separate ways. But as I walked down the hall, I was on a cloud. I was light on my feet, light in my spirit. I knew it was going to be a big opportunity for me.
And then, at practice the next day, we were doing a half-line drill, and coach called me over to line up in the backfield.
I could feel some of the guys looking on kind of laughing, like, What’s Ty doing? Is he allowed to be back there? Like if I was back there, it must be a trick play or something.
Then, when the ball was snapped, I took the handoff and ran an outside zone play. I hit the hole hard, too. The offense regrouped and I lined up in the backfield again. And again, I took the handoff, this time on an inside zone play.
You should have seen my teammates’ faces. They were all looking at each other like, Wait … what? Is this for real?
After five or six runs, I think the guys started to realize, Whoa, this is for real … and Ty’s not that bad.
A lot of people don’t know this, but I grew up carrying the football. I admired guys like Eddie George, Emmitt Smith and Walter Payton. Being an NFL running back had always been my dream. It wasn’t until high school that I made the switch to wide receiver. I even played some running back when I was at Stanford, and I loved it.
So when I started taking handoffs from Aaron, my instincts were still there. Making the cuts … seeing and hitting the holes … doing it full speed … falling forward after contact … it all came back naturally.
The real difficulty came in learning the playbook, specifically pass protection. It was like learning a foreign language. It was completely new to me.
I think I put a lot of pressure on myself because as a running back, when you stay in to block, you’re the last line of defense before a pass rusher gets to the quarterback. So deep down, I just didn’t want to be the guy who missed an assignment and got Aaron killed back there.
That’s where the other running backs — and Aaron — came in.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about this game, it’s that you can’t do anything alone. Football is the ultimate team sport. Communication is key, and we have to help one another to make sure we’re all on the same page. And our team kind of embodies that.
When I first walked into the running backs room, I wondered how I would be received. I mean, there are only so many snaps in a football game, and with me walking in as another guy vying for playing time, I would have understood if guys had been defensive and focused on themselves, just out of self-interest.
But not our guys.
They welcomed me.
When we were watching film or putting in the weekly game plan, I never felt dumb if I didn’t know what to do on a particular play or if I had a question. I was never afraid to speak up because everybody in the room had let me know from Day One that the running backs room isn’t full of selfish individuals. They didn’t necessarily say it, but I definitely felt it. They were helpful and gave me constructive advice.
I honestly don’t think I could have made the switch as well as I did if it hadn’t been for those guys — Eddie Lacy, James Starks, Don Jackson, Aaron Ripkowski, Coach Sirmans — helping me throughout the season.
"So what if I’m not playing the position I was drafted to play? I’m just trying to contribute to this team and add value in any way possible."
Aaron was the same way. And that was probably the best part of being in the backfield: I was right there with him in the middle of everything, not split out on an island at receiver. So if I had a question, or if I didn’t know what to do on a particular play, I would just lean over and tap Aaron, he’d tell me what to do and then I’d try to execute it to the best of my ability. Simple as that.
But I get so much more than just guidance from Aaron in the backfield.  
I also get confidence.
Aaron is so cerebral, and he sees the game in a way that I think only he can see it. He’s a perfectionist, and he demands that others around him strive for perfection as well.
That’s why, every now and then, he’ll zip one of those rockets at you.
Just to keep you on your toes.
And when you’re the one setting the tone, like Aaron, you have to have an air of confidence about you. That’s just part of being a leader. You can’t be hesitant. You can’t second-guess yourself. And I sort of took of that attitude when I joined Aaron in the backfield. I don’t know … it’s tough to explain. His confidence is just contagious.
That’s why when he came out and said that whole “run the table” thing last year, I was kind of glad. A lot of guys were. That was just him letting all of us know — along with the rest of the world — that he had confidence in us. A lot of people tried to put pressure on us to win out after Aaron said that. But that didn’t bother us because we put more pressure on ourselves than anybody outside of our locker room ever could.
That’s just another example of what makes this place so special. It’s the kind of place where the running backs will welcome you into their group, even if it means you might steal some carries. The kind of place where the coaches will try anything and everything to maximize the talent on the roster, even move a receiver to running back. The kind of place where the quarterback tells the world we’re gonna win out, and everybody on the team believes him.
It’s all just … Green Bay.
It’s part of what makes being a Green Bay Packer so special.
This year, I feel like a rookie all over again — which is a little weird because I’m also the veteran in the running backs room. It’s my first off-season preparing to play running back full time. I’ve put on a few pounds — good pounds … running back pounds. And I’m ready to put them to use.
It’s kind of crazy … you just never know what God has in store for you. At this time last year, I was telling my wife not to unpack too many boxes. I wasn’t even sure if I was going to have a job come Week 1. Now, I’m playing a key role in the offense.
I guess that’s why I was so excited about the idea of playing running back. Having Coach McCarthy tell me that the coaches thought I could be a valuable contributor out of the backfield meant just that — that they thought I was valuable. That they wanted me here. That I was a part of their plan.
That really meant the world to me because my wife and I love it here in Green Bay. It’s funny: I was born in Mississippi, grew up in Dallas and went to college in California. And when I go back to those places and tell people how much I love living in Green Bay, they think I’m kidding, or that I’m just being nice. Like it’s such a small town and it’s so cold and so … Green Bay … that I couldn’t possibly love it as much as I say I do.
But I honestly do.
Living in Green Bay is a simple life. It’s not crowded. There’s no traffic. It’s quiet. There’s good golf, good food, good beer — great beer.
But what it really comes down to is the people.
My wife and I have made so many great friends outside the team since we’ve been here. We love the small-town feel. It really is a community in every sense, and the Packers are as big a part of the community as anything. I think that in a world of big-market franchises and billion-dollar television contracts, what we have here is rare.
It’s the kind of thing that could only happen in a place like Green Bay.
And after living here, I don’t know if I could go back to living in a big city. I might be a small-town guy for life.
It truly is the opportunity of a lifetime for me to play for a winning organization like the Packers — with teammates like the ones I have now, great ownership, and a fantastic fanbase in a great city. And for me to be able to play a key role on a team that has its sights set on winning a Super Bowl is an even greater blessing. It’s everything I could have ever asked for.
This season — my first full year as a running back — is only the beginning. I love it here in Green Bay, and I hope God’s plan is for me to be a Green Bay Packer for life.