The Commandments of Trucking

This started out to be the “10 Commandments” of trucking, but I increased it to 18, one for each wheel, lol!

 

1) Thou shall not tailgate or drive aggressively
2) Thou shall not drive fatigued.
3) Thou shall not drive distracted.
4) Thou shall not drive more than 3-5 mph over the posted speed limit
5) Thou shall not change lanes abruptly and without signaling.
6) Thou shall not intimidate, terrify, or bully the “four-wheelers”
7) Thou shalt not sexually harass women truckers on the CB radio
8) Thou shalt not go two days or more without shaving, showering, etc.
9) Thou shall not toss “urine bombs” on the roadway, or leave them, and your trash in a parking lot. (or anyplace, for that matter)
10) Thou shalt not drive faster than 3 mph in any truck stop.
11) Thou shalt not drive too fast for road conditions and Thou shalt not argue with Mother Nature, know when to take your rig off of the road.
12) Thou shalt not drive in a way that would reflect poorly upon your brother/sister truckers and our industry in general.
13) Thou shalt not dress in such a manner that would reflect poorly upon your company or attract unwanted intentions
14) Thou shalt not tie up the fuel island for more than 15 minutes.
15) Thou shalt not steal from any fellow trucker, male or female.
16) Thou shalt not drive in any manner which could be construed as rude, unsafe, or aggressive.
17) Thou shalt not take on/off ramps faster than the SUGGESTED SPEED LIMIT FOR TRUCKS.
18) If driving team, thou shalt not compromise your co-drivers safety or sleep patterns. Thou shalt be courteous and respectful.

Posted in Uncategorized

“I’m Single and Running Doubles”

I’m Single and Running Doubles”

I held the doubles/triples endorsements for 15 years, and only had the opportunity to use them a few times for New England Motor Freight out of Elizabeth, NJ back in 2008. I made a little deal with them….”You hook ‘em up and I’ll pull ‘em”, I said. When they were desperate enough, they’d use me. I would always give them back the way they were given to me….still attached. Truth is, I had no clue as to properly hook and unhook doubles, and I wasn’t strong enough to move the heavy dollys. i couldn’t see the logic in paying for endorsements that I wasn’t planning on using, so the Tanker endorsement also went bye bye.

One of a long haul drivers eventual goal is more money and more home time. Living in a truck, away from family, friends, and beloved pets, (in my case, five kitty cats), takes a toll.When a good job opportunity waves at you with a smile and the promise of a better life, you have to take it. Problem was, I had to go and obtain my doubles endorsement again, this time in North Carolina, the beautiful State where I currently call ‘home’. The written exam was no different than the one I took in New Jersey back in 1996, which I passed with flying colors on the first try. Sailed right through it. Whoopee. What a brainiac, right? Fast forward to 2012, my brain is 16 years older, and a few brain cells shy of a full load. After my first try at the test, I left the Motor Vehicle office that morning with my head down, feeling supremely disappointed in myself. I flunked. Not even close to passing. So with CDL book in hand, I read and reread the chapter pertaining to Doubles, and went back the next day, feeling way more confident that I would surely pass on the second try. It was the Friday before the Memorial Day weekend, and when I left the DMV, I was choking back tears. All I needed was a big ‘old FAIL buzzer…..oh yeah, I already had one….in my head. It isn’t easy to bend your leg around to kick yourself in the butt while you’re driving, yet I managed to do that exceptionally well on the 20 mile drive home.

Government workers get every holiday off, including one’s we never heard of, but Memorial Day, I knew they would be closed. I just couldn’t enjoy this past holiday weekend, so filled with angst tinged with the hint of terror of having to retake that miserable test a third time. Have you ever read that chapter in the CDL handbook? It’s a dry read, my friends. Not entertaining in the least. Reading algorithms and string theory would have been more interesting, I think And I’d long forgotten what a “petcock” was….wasn’t that the family rooster?

So I went online for more help. Eureka! I found a site with the questions AND answers to that test from hell, and when I left the Motor Vehicle office on Tuesday morning, I wanted to skip like a 6 year old, I was that elated. Finally, I could call my potential new boss with some good news, since my previous two phones calls to him were not happy ones. He had been rooting for me all along, bolstering my spirits with encouraging words. He was just as excited as I was that joyous morning. The sun shone brightly as I drove straight to Kernersville from the DMV and enjoyed a full day of paperwork and piddling in a tiny cup the size of a thimble for the required DOT drug screen. Finally. A test I could pass without having to study.

Finally after a tense 10 days to find out if had a job, their Safety department approved me. It didn’t help that my previous employer which was Celadon Trucking, was dragging their feet in verifying my employment with them. Shame on them and tenstreet.com!

I’ve been out on the road pulling doubles for four days now. Teamed up with a nice older gent who is a cross between Jimmy Stewart and Barney Fife. I can’t understand half of what he’s saying, and he’s hyper as all hell. He won’t tell me his age but I think he’s pushing 70. Old time trucker who has three times more energy than I do on a good day.

I am learning that pulling doubles is a bit more treacherous than your standard, garden variety 53′ dry van. That fact hit home yesterday when my air line blew while I was cruising about 70 mph on Interstate 80 in Wyoming yesterday. Thankfully, when it comes to driving, I have reflexes like a cat. I only left about 50 feet of rubber on the roadway before I got on the shoulder, it would have been less, but a camper decided to break down in the exact same place that I needed to swing into. Duct tape and co-driver, Dave, to the rescue, and we made it to Laramie, Wyoming for repairs. Only one airline needed to be replaced, oh, and two “super single” dolly tires. And I thank God that this happened on a clear, bright and sunny day. Had this happened on a snowy, icy or wet road, I might not be here to share the tale. Note to self: Don’t just give the airlines a quick once over; inspect them like you’re the DOT man looking to write you up for the tiniest little kink in that hose.

I don’t want a repeat performance of that near disaster and thankfully, my panties stayed dry, although I think I gained another pound of unsightly belly fat and a few more gray hairs.

All this so that I can get home once a week and a bring home a better paycheck. Keep your fingers crossed for me, folks. I’ve got five furkids that I need to get home to. And please keep the truckers in your prayers. Those hard working men and women who sacrifice so much and get so little in return, keep America moving. Without us, this Country would come to a smoking, screeching halt……the way I did yesterday on I-80 in Wyoming.

Trucking since 1996

    There are more women than you probably realize, that have been trucking since the 80’s, or even longer than that.  The harassment for most of them never let up, but these spunky gals refused to allow anyone to keep them from their love of the open road, and the challenges of driving.  To them, I salute you all!  You were the groundbreakers, the trail blazers, and like the suffragettes from 100 years ago, you opened the doors so that the wanna-be LadyTruckers could follow in your footsteps.

   I started trucking back in 1996.  I was very fortunate in that I really did not experience the gender discrimination that so many women have dealt with.  But I did get a lot of “double takes”, and some men looked at me as if I had two heads.  At one TA, I was not served breakfast after waiting nearly an hour for my meal, the waitress may have assumed, incorrectly, that I was a “lot lizard” and not worthy of a hot meal.  Some of the dock managers could be real jerks, expecting me to hand unload a trailer full of product….well folks, if it’s difficult for one strong man to do, it will be nearly impossible for one gal to do.  Thankfully, most freight is now “drop and hook” or ‘no touch’, and there are those in the industry who recognize and value the strengths of the nation’s LadyTruckers.  We tend to be safer and more courteous drivers behind the wheel.

 I welcome you all to peruse my blog, and please take a few minutes to view my ongoing video series:

The LadyTrucker Chronicles on YouTube.  http://www.youtube.com/NJKatwoman

Have a safe and blessed day!

I am an abused American

As a woman, I have dealt with multiple traumas in the past. Not surprising when you look at the statistics regarding violence again women in America.

There are various forms of abuse, it does not always have to entail hitting or beating. Emotional abuse can be nearly as bad, whereas the victim is always being denigrated, demoralized, made to feel “not worthy” of anything better. After a while, the victim begins to believe this is true. Oftentimes, they become afraid to leave the abuser, feeling as though they are worthless and not deserving of better treatment.

Over the past 15 years in my trucking career, I have seen the transportation industry become “the abuser” toward the professional driver. Our status has fallen from “Knights of the Road” to “slave labor”. We are now “The Last American Sweatshop”, whereas our skills, time and labor are not given the respect or salaries that we are deserving of.

We are constantly being “battered” when laws get passed that totally disregard the health and safety of the professional driver. Anti-idling laws are a prime example. Drivers have frozen to death in their bunks, trying to obey unethical, immoral, and unconscionable laws . I am sure that there will be drivers across the States that will suffer from heat exhaustion, fatigue, and worse, the life threatening condition known as heat stroke, due to extremely high temperatures in their bunks if they are unable to idle their trucks to remain cool, warm, and to get the proper rest needed in order to perform their jobs safely and effectively. There were States that would allow idling if you had a pet on board. The unspoken inference was “your life does not equal the value of a dog”.

That, my friends, is emotional abuse.

When you are delayed at a shipper or a receiver, and you are not compensated for your time from the moment
the shipper/receiver lets you “bump the dock”, then you are being told that, “Your time is worthless”, “You do not matter”, and just like an abused woman, over time, something deep inside you begins to believe this heartbreaking and terrible lie. Again, this is emotional abuse, and the slow eroding of a person’s feeling of self-esteem and self-worth. How ironic that men, who comprise the majority of drivers in the transportation industry, are actually getting a taste of their own ‘medicine’, so to speak, since it has been men who have traditionally been the abusers against women, as statistics will prove.

When a driver is sent to another Country, Canada or Quebec, for instance, and left to hang out to dry, unable to cross the border, and not being compensated for the hours and miles lost, again, the non-verbal message is:
“You do not matter”. “You are not a human being”. “You are worth less than an animal”. “We don’t care what happens to you, there is always another driver to replace you”. This, again, is abuse!

The transportation industry, working in conjunction with the FMCSA, have conspired against the professional drivers, men and women alike, to divide us, to keep us “off balance” with the constant barrage of new “laws” and standards that they expect us to adhere to, totally disregarding the fact that we are human beings, with the same needs, wants, and issues that any other human being has.

15 years ago, trucking companies would attempt to lure drivers into their employ with the promise of a beautiful truck equipped with a refrigerator, microwave, and free satellite radio. Now, we get trucks without APU’s, told we can’t idle to maintain our body temperatures, and given a cheap, plastic truck that will most likely kill us when the outside temperatures reach 85 degrees and higher come summer time. Forget about a refrigerator, you will have to try and keep your food from spoiling in two days with a small cigarette lighter plug in cooler. And since you cannot idle your truck to stay warm/cool, you cannot watch your small television, or use your laptop without the truck batteries dying in 10 minutes. Can someone say, “Solitary Confinement”? Is trucking a job? Or a punishment?

For a few years now, the industry has tried to perpetuate the rumor of a “driver shortage”. Nothing could be further from the truth! CDL schools are garnering new recruits with the promise of high wages and a satisfying career in transportation, and pumping them out at an alarming rate. Trucking companies hold orientation classes twice a week, that are filled to capacity. If you decide to quit your company, there will be five drivers to replace you in a day.

All trucking companies know this, and so, they will treat you like garbage, like an abused woman, and if you don’t like it, just find another profession.

To me, that’s like saying, “You don’t like being married to an abusive man? OK, than don’t ever have a relationship again”. Not much of a choice there, now is it?

Think hard before you decide to become a professional driver! KNOW what you are getting into! Try to do your homework on the trucking boards and forums regarding any company that you are considering working for.

I know that I tried to “do my homework” before I got involved with some abusive men. Yet, in the beginning
of the relationships, I did not see the “warning signs”. Over time, the small things became big issues. And this is the same problem that we professional drivers are dealing with now.

Can you deal with being told every single day that you live, that you are worthless? You are quickly replaceable.

Every time that you get behind the wheel of your “big rig”, your life is in danger. You will not even find safety while in the sanctuary of your bunk if you cannot maintain a safe temperature. You will not be treated with the respect that you are deserving of. You will not be paid a fair and equitable wage for the hours that you work. Most likely, you will be told where you can fuel, which will impact whether you will get a shower every five days, or every other day. You will not be able to eat healthily if you cannot keep perishable foods in your truck, and be able to cook a decent meal.

And if you have a dog, or a cat, you are being told that the animals life has more value than you do.

This, my friends, is abuse. The transportation industry has lowered itself to this level. The only way that this can be changed is to utilize the power of the internet by social networking, and banding together to affect positive changes.

There are many people, besides myself, who have the desire to make this happen. I truly believe and have faith that
IT CAN BE DONE!

I highly recommend Allen and Donna Smith, who run http://www.AskTheTrucker.com/ and http://www.TruthAboutTrucking.com/. I also recommend Heather Pontruff of http://www.thetruckersvoice.net/ These are just a couple of the many people who are advocates for trucker’s rights. Also, you must join and get active with http://www.truckingboards.com/forum/forum.php and again, there are many other trucking social networking sites. Go to http://www.ripoffreport.com/ and type in the name of any trucking company that you are considering working for.

Better yet, do not bother entering the trucking industry! I would like to see a “true driver shortage” across this whole Country. When the industry cannot find anyone who is willing to be continuously emotionally abused, and financially battered, earning less than minimum wage, perhaps then our true worth and value will finally be realized.

Can anyone say “Unionize”?

PS: You do not have to be a professional driver or even in the transportation industry to become an advocate for
better working conditions for the men and women who “Move America”. All you have to do is have compassion, and care about the things that are unfair and unjust, and willing to try to “make a difference”. And for that, I will thank you in advance for your support of us.

Christy Kuppler
member of
http://www.Women In Trucking.org/

Posted in Uncategorized

A Beloved Poem- “People Will Talk” by Mary E. Harris

This has been one of my favorite poems since I was just a young girl.  I was only 10 years old and even at that tender age, it resonated with me.  Truly a classic, and it has stood the test of time.   People are the primary reason that I am a “loner”, someone
who prefers a small, quality circle of friends, people who truly know my heart and intentions.  As for the rest of you, here you are, right here in this poem!

You may get through the world, but ’twill be very slow,
If you listen to all that is said as you go;
You’ll be worried and freeted and kept in a stew,
For meddlesome tongues will have something to do;

For People Will Talk.

It quiet and modest, you’ll have it presumed
That your humble position is only assumed;
You’re a wolf in sheep’s clothings, or else you’re a fool,
But don’t get excited, keep perfectly cool;

For People Will Talk.

If generous and noble, they’ll vent out their spleen.
You’ll hear some loud hints that you’re selfish and mean.
If upright and honest and fair as the day,
They’ll call you a rogue in a sly, sneaking way!

For People Will Talk.

And then if you show any boldness of heart,
Or a slight inclination to take your own part,
They will call you an upstart, conceitied, and vain;
But keep straight ahead, don’t stop and explain;

For People Will Talk.

If threadbare your dress, or old-fashioned your hat,
Some one will surely take notice of that,
And hint rather strong that you can’t pay your way;
But don’t get excited whatever they say,

For People Will Talk.

If you dress in the fashion, don’t think to escape,
For they criticize then if a different shape;
You’re ahead of your means, or your tailor’s unpaid
But mind your own business, don’t mind what is said;

For People Will Talk.

Now, the best way to do is to do as your please,
For your mind, if you have one, will then be at ease.
Of course you will meet with all sorts of abuse,
But don’t think to stop it, it is of no use,

For People Will Talk.

“The world will tell you who you are, until you tell the world”

Posted in Uncategorized

First trip to Canada

Well, I finally got to visit another Country!  Canada.  I have always wondered why drivers complain about going there, and now I know why.  Getting INTO the Country is not so bad…just be sure to have all your ducks in a row regarding your paperwork, but getting OUT is another story.  I lost three hours waiting for paperwork to be faxed back to me at our company’s sister terminal in Kichener.  I found the whole process to be extremely stressful.  Hopefully, I’ll get better at the myriad of details and paperwork, and in time, become a seasoned traveler in and out of the Country.

The traffic in Canada rivals that of New Jersey at rush hour, and because they have so many people and not enough roads, you have traffic all of the time.  Finding a safe haven to shut down at is also a challenge.   I finally found a space, made my own parking spot, at the third place I went to, a Husky gas station.  Everything is “Husky” up there.  Everything is run by Middle Eastern people, and although they are polite for the most part, I found their accents difficult to understand.  And just like in the States, the drivers like to shut down fairly early, around dinnertime, or 5 to 6 pm.

The highlight of my first trip was when I was sitting at the border, getting ready to cross back into the States.  The woman manning the booth took all of my paperwork, and as required, starting hammering me with questions.  “Do you have anyone else in the truck with you”?  “Have you ever been fingerprinted”?  “Are you carrying any weapons”?  And the one question that really stumped me was “Fish and Chips”?    In order to hear the woman better, I had turned off my truck, but there was plenty of engines rumbling around me, many trucks were lined up, everyone eager to get out of Canada and work their way home.  So, I asked her to repeat the question, again, she says, “Fish and Chips”?  Now, I’m confused, and don’t know what to say.  I give her the deer in the headlights stare, and repeated her question back to her….at that point, she burst out into laughter.  She said, “I said ‘Citizenship’?”    I practically doubled over from laughing so hard!   I remembered a funny story from years ago when my Mom had discovered a brand new grocery market, so I shared it with the border lady.   We lived in Linden, NJ at the time, and Mom was so enthused about this sparkling clean market that she came home all excited and was telling Dad all about it.  Then she said, “The name of the store is “Shop and Save”.  At that point, my Dad suddenly stopped in the middle of what he was doing, threw his hands up and bellowed, “You went to SOUTH PASSIAC”????   (South Passaic was quite a haul from Linden, NJ, at least an hour and a half’s drive).   Mom started cracking up, and she leaned close into Dad’s face, and with exaggerated lip movements, she enunciated, “I said Shop and Save, Louie”.   Dad visibly relieved said, “Oh, OK”.   It became a hilarious inside joke from that point on, that when someone didn’t clearly hear something, we would just roll our eyes and say, “South Passaic”.  Now, the border patrol lady and I are laughing even harder, and we wound up chatting like old friends for a few more minutes.

I’m hoping that if I get that border lady again, she will remember me and say, “Fish and Chips”?  Whereas I will declare, “I’m American”!

Posted in 1

Welcome Friends!

They call me the “NJKatwoman”.  “NJ” because I’m originally from New Jersey, and “Katwoman” because that has been my CB “handle” for nearly 20 years.    And because I’ve never quite fit any particular mold, I chose to spell my handle with a “K” to somewhat set me apart from all of the other Catwomen out there.   Thankfully, I don’t carry that across the board, and you won’t see me substituting a K where a C should be.   Unlike some who take kutesy to the umpth level, you might see something like THIS in their “personal about me” section:  “I enjoy kooking, krocheting, and kats”!   In my case it’s more like, “I enjoy crafting, crocheting, cats, yard sales, flea markets, and junking for treasures”.  C what I mean?

In the past, I have worked many different fields.  Everything from secretarial to construction.   You could say I was a  Jill of all trades, master of none.  When I was younger, the norm was to be a typist, secretary, bookeeper, accounts payable,  you get my drift.  I was what the men would call “a skirt”.  Always dressed to the nines, shoes to match the hand-bag, hair coiffed just so.  Always looking my best, and when I look back, I have to laugh that all of the women in the office dressed the same way.  Funny, because we were cooped up in a somewhat “corporate” enviroment, and had no contact with anyone other than the co-workers that we shared cubicles with.   In those days, women didn’t make very much money, and yet, three quarters of our salaries would go toward pantyhose, cosmetics, and getting our hair styled on a regular basis.  The men got away with wearing the same suit every day, but to keep things interesting, they would change from the dark blue tie, to the dark blue tie with the tiny dots on it.   Fridays were exciting.   You never knew if the boss might be in a festive mood, whereas he might just break out the golf themed tie.  Whooohoo!

In 1979, I found myself disenchanted with the phoniness and cliques that I saw displayed in that corporate world.  I missed being outside, and seeing the world unfold around me.   As a young lass, weekends were fun times, and the town I grew up in had an “adult liquid refreshment station” on every corner.  Well, at one of those local establishments, I had the pleasure of meeting a very nice man, who gave me my start in the world of transportation.  Mr. Dee Villani owned the Villani Bus Company in Linden, NJ.  He ran school buses, and coaches.   A popular, effusive, and outgoing man, you were hard pressed to find anyone who didn’t know “Dee”.   Dee offered me a job with Villani, and I happily drove the 53 passenger school buses on and off for him for years.   School bus driving was great fun, I enjoyed driving, and loved the kids.  The salary wasn’t that fantastic, so I always supplemented my income with part time jobs like bartending, or utilizing my musical talents to perform as a singer/guitarist at the local clubs on the weekends.   My partner, Bob Russo, and I called ourselves “Parkway West”.

My sense of direction or lack of it in those days was nearly legend.   One lovely summer day, I decided to hop into my Volkswagon Beetle,  and head down to the Jersey shore.  Right before I got to the Parkway, I realized that I didn’t know which direction to head, so I called my Mother.  “Mom!  I’m nearly to the Parkway, and I’m going to Belmar…which way do I go?  East or West”?  Once Mother stopped laughing, she replied, “You head South until you hit water”!   So, that is how I came up with the name of “Parkway West” for Bobby and I.  We performed for about five years, and we were real “regulars” at Louie Lynch’s Emerald Pub in Elizabeth.

It’s a long story, and difficult for me to share as to how I ended up homeless, and living in a truck.  But when I look back, I realize that it was one of the best things that could happen to me.  I learned a valuable profession, and one that I take great pride in doing.    I upgraded my class B school bus driver’s license to a Class A and started driving a big rig in October of 1996.  There were women driving trucks 13 years ago, but not as many as you see now.   I drove solo, which means no co-driver.  GPS was used only for the military, not for your common driver, and I never heard the expression,  “cel phone”.   We’ve seen a tremendous amount of changes in technology in only 13 years.  What hasn’t changed, however, are the antiquated mindsets of the managers, and male co-workers that we share this profession with.  I admit, there has been SOME improvement, but we have a long way to go. Along with sharing my stories with you, I will be featuring my ongoing video series, “The LadyTrucker Chronicles”.   Every woman has her “story” as to why she chose trucking as a career.  I am not alone in wanting to know her motivations and how the industry has treated her since she chose this profession.   Truckers have endured a “bad rap”, and no longer enjoy the “hero worship” that was bestowed upon them in the 1970’s when the movie, “Convoy” and others of that genre hit the movie theatres.  I would like to see our status become elevated once again.  The people who “move America” are some of the most dedicated, hard working, underpaid, undervalued members of our society.  Trucking isn’t called “The Last American Sweatshop” for nothing.   It’s time you know what it’s really like for us out there.  And it’s time to start giving some long overdue respect to our fantastic, talented, strong and powerful women in this industry, our “LadyTruckers”.

I welcome any of the solo driving LadyTruckers to submit their video story to me via my gmail account. 
Email me for the details at jerseypurr@gmail.com

and I would be proud to feature your own personal story,
complete with music background, titling, etc.  Instead of
complaining about the problems in trucking, instead, be a part
of the solution.   We are the proud women in trucking!

And with that, I respectfully offer you the first segment in the ongoing video series,
“The LadyTrucker Chronicles”   I am pleased to introduce Emily.