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ooida-with-hopeThis was a significant moment! To arrive with Hope Rivenburg (Jason’s Law) at the OOIDA Headquarters for the final of four regional truck parking coalition meetings held on October 5, 2016.

If you have followed this blog and my social media activity over the past 8 years you will know just how many twists and turns my journey into the trucking industry has taken. Truck parking came to my attention through twitter when an article about a murdered truck driver named Jason Rivenburg was shared with me by a friend I met through social media that had a small Virginia newspaper.

Shortly afterwards I came to know Hope Rivenburg and felt blessed that I could help share news of her campaign to create a safe truck parking bill named after her Husband Jason.

Over the years watching this movement transition from a heartbroken family gathering petition signatures at their local country fair to the day Hope texted me during her first trip to Washington D.C. saying she wished she wore flat shoes because it was “…much bigger than she thought it was…“, I have been inspired.

One person CAN make a difference! Hope Rivenburg is proof of that.

The series of truck parking coalition meetings brought together people who would normally not sit at the same table and have a conversation. I found that there were vast differences in the beginning in understanding terminology between the groups but I felt optimistic following each meeting that most of the people in attendance wanted to identify ways to solve the problem of truck parking shortages.

I say “most” since there were some stakeholders that were absent and should have been represented in these meetings such as the shippers and receivers who dictate strict schedules, representatives from the freight brokerage sector and the trucking carriers of large fleets where drivers have very little experience in locating truck parking outside of their designated fuel stop locations.

lisa-joyce-and-meDo you know that there were only two individuals (2) that attended all four (4) meetings for truck parking? I was one (1) of those people. The other person was Mr. Carl Rundell from “Truck Smart Parking Services“.

Regardless of the absence of some of the major stakeholders,  I was pleased to meet several representatives from the National Association of Truck Stop Owners (NATSO) and be able to better understand where they are coming from with their arguments and statements about truck drivers and trip planning. It was clear that there has been a lack of communication to partner industries in the supply chain when it comes to the needs of the individuals that serve this country each and every day in their work as truck drivers.

Joyce Hibma, the Wife of a truck driver has become an instrumental voice for drivers in the North Bend, Washington truck parking battle. She attended the Salt Lake City coalition with me as a REAL Women in Trucking Mission Support Member. This is a woman who herself is on a mission and she is to be commended for her hard work on behalf of drivers. In Salt Lake City, Joyce and I met Lisa Mullings from NATSO and Caroline Boris Research Analyst from ATRI ( American Transportation Research Institute ).

At the Maryland and Dallas Meetings, Idella Hansen RWIT Treasurer and Pat Hockaday from “Truckers United” attended the coalition meetings which helped place more drivers in the room in order to give real life perspective to solutions.

Lisa Mullings CEO of NATSO remarked during the final meeting at OOIDA Headquarters “Where are the carriers in this conversation? They call themselves “Logistics” companies and they are dictating fuel stops and highway routing in the bigger carriers, Why aren’t they helping their own drivers with parking?

It is a great question and observation since these issues will get worse when mandated ELD’s come to fruition. atri-gal-with-joyce-and-iThe truth is that the inexperienced driver population is more likely to park on highway ramps because they are being run to the minute with their e-logs and many of these drivers do not have knowledge on truck parking outside their fuel routing.

Another issue that emerged was trucking fleets that only fuel at one chain that notoriously does not construct enough truck parking for the area in need which then in turn pushes off overflow to other chains who do not benefit from fuel sales. Pilot Travel, specifically, the “fuel your truck and get out” chain vs. Travel Centers of America, a chain that generally has a larger area to park but not so much a place fleet drivers are authorized to fuel at their locations. What are the reasons for this? Only major carriers can answer this question and drivers can only speculate. This is why carriers should have been part of these discussions.

The truck parking shortage is a problem that still has obstacles and that is where YOU, the reader comes in. In a post I published on the REAL Women in Trucking blog called “How to Take Action on a Local Level for Truck Parking” I’ve explained seven (7) simple steps each one of us can do to help advance this issue and keep the momentum going.

Essentially, we are in a place where despite all of the great ideas that emerged from the four regional truck parking coalition meetings there remains an obstacle. Communities that protest new truck parking that have not been sold on how safe truck parking serves them.

Here is what you need to know and how you can help work toward educating your state freight planners. Currently, All of the states have been tasked by the Federal government to do something they have never been required to do in the past, that is to create a freight plan. States must have an approved freight plan and freight network in place by December 2017 in order to continue to use their freight formula funds that were made available in FAST Act.  See Link: The FAST Act: The Freight Provisions

Truck parking is an eligible activity for FAST Act funds but it is not required. Truck parking is often overlooked as a necessary component to intelligent freight planning. Smart freight plans should be focused on alleviating highway congestion and part of thsleeping-truckat would be assisting truck drivers who must comply with federal hours of service requirements to prevent unsafe operation of a commercial motor vehicle.

  • Truck parking facilitates interstate commerce which must not be impeded by states and local governments
  • Truck parking improves highway safety

Hope Rivenburg has worked tirelessly to make sure that “Jason’s Law” for Safe Truck Parking, an initiative named after her murdered Husband would be recognized by the Federal government as a matter of safety. Hope took immediate and relentless personal initiative to take action for truck drivers.

Hope Rivenburg proved that one person CAN make a difference and she got the ball rolling but now the ball is our court.

Truck drivers must keep this issue relevant and they can do that by helping to write emails and making phone calls to educate state agencies that are not aware that truck parking is an eligible activity for FAST Act funds.

This is a call to action

Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Use this link created by Allen Smith to the MPO Interactive Map to locate your State MPO contact information.
  2. Use the SAMPLE LETTER located on the MPO Interactive Map Link as a guide by using “cut and paste” and then revise the letter for your particular region and situation. You can use this link to download a PDF of the SAMPLE LETTER TO STATE AGENCIES. ( This letter is only a sample, it is not to be used verbatim, please personalize it to your situation.
  3. Send a letter, email it or make phone calls to the state agencies you have selected from the MPO Interactive Map to explain the pertinent information in a respectful manner that includes asking if “truck parking is in the freight plan” and if they are aware that “truck parking is an eligible activity for FAST Act funds and it is necessary in their region”.
  4. Identify to these agency heads in your letter or phone call that the funds “can be used on eligible projects until December 2017. After that, they can only use them if they have their freight plan in place”.  (Remember that eligible activities include truck parking and ITS type systems for information sharing and notifications).
  5. You can also help by calling State Motor Carrier Associations to make sure they understand that truck parking is an eligible project and asking them if they know “What’s in the freight plan?” for that State. The goal is to make certain that the agency representative comes away from the conversation with awareness that truck parking is needed and eligible for funds for their state.
  6. If possible, get involved in State and MPO area freight advisory committees.
  7. Ask the State agencies that you contact: “What have you done to improve on Jason’s Law data since the report was published”?

If they have not heard of “Jason’s Law” ask them for their email to share with them the following links.

FHWA DOT Jason’s Law

USDOT “Jason’s Law” Survey Reaffirms Nationwide Truck Parking Needs

Final Advice: Persist with your state by asking the question: “What is in your freight plan?” be tenacious but polite about getting answers.

REMEMBER! There are only 50 States, If you commit to writing at least 2 MPO’s from the interactive map we can make a difference. Stop waiting for everyone else to make a difference for YOU!

Listen to the Replay> Solutions to Improve Truck Parking with Host Allen Smith and Guests Nicole Katsikides Deputy Director of Maryland Department of Transportation Office of Planning and Preliminary Engineering and Desiree Wood President REAL Women in Trucking, Inc.

Much Thanks to Nicole Katsikides for help in drafting this call to action for truck drivers!

with much gratitude,

Desiree Wood

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TwitterSocial Media has given a voice to individuals and this includes truck drivers that recognize arguing with one another solves nothing, BUT united efforts when there is a call to action DOES.
We learned between 2009 and 2013 that Facebook posts and Twitter posts directly to elected officials pages could elicit a response since these posts are public and ignoring them is bad social media etiquette (manners).
We also learned that there are many elected officials who seem to be in the pocket of the trucking lobby.
Too often the truck drivers with their limited ability to get accurate timely information while they are out on the road miss deadlines to make critical calls , send letters or an email to their elected officials on important legislation that can affect their livelihood.
In an attempt to educate truck drivers on how to use social media in addition to calling their elected officials to either oppose or support legislation, we wanted to provide you with a few pointers. With the link below you can find tips on calling your elected officials when you see a “Call To Action” that indicates your immediate attention is required to work together for a united cause that affects the truck driver population.
See Link: “Tips for Calling Your Member of Congress”. Remember to ask for the “Transportation Staffer”. Sometimes the person on the phone will take the information themselves. Give your directive on the purpose of your call as detailed in the link I have provided. They should ask for your zip code and you should be prepared to state what bill or amendment and the section you are calling about and which way you want the elected official to vote on it.
If you do not know who your elected representative is you can look them up with this link using your zip code:
Once you have located the name of your representative, you can either call the main Capitol Switchboard 202–224-3121 to be connected to their offices or look up their direct number with this link: Office of the Clerk of the United States House of Representatives
I suggest you keep the number programmed in your phone for future “Call To Action” events that we post on our Facebook page “REAL Women in Trucking, Inc.” and you should look up your Senators numbers as well. Find Your Senator
Since trucking is heavily regulated it is important to become familiar with the members of the very powerful Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Some of the members of this committee have deep “friendships” with the trucking lobby.
Truck drivers must realize that the trucking lobby does not serve truck drivers, they serve the carriers that pay them to lobby against things like better pay, more safe truck parking and intelligent hours of service that would be safer for truck driver flexibility.
Unfortunately elected officials do not want to hear from people that are not their constituents (people whose votes affect them) through their websites and office lines. This makes them very insulated from how the trucking lobby is hurting the truck drivers with their persuasive techniques.
This is why social media is a powerful tool for truck drivers.
If you are on Twitter or Facebook you can publicly voice your opposition or support regardless of where your voting jurisdiction is located. I suggest you use hashtags in these posts that include the state abbreviation and #politics #congress #senate just to name a few since many people outside trucking follow these tweet timelines.
You can always just commit yourself to “ReTweeting” the posts from our @WomenTruckers tag when you see that we are participating in a “Call To Action”. The objective is to create a ruckus that cannot be ignored. Elected officials do not like controversy. They often do not like the public to become educated on whom they are “in bed”.
Below I have compiled a list of Twitter tags of all members of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
During a “Call To Action” not only should you call your elected representatives by phone, you should tweet them directly and/or post on Facebook to their official page even when they are not in your election zip code to let them know of your position. This will also educate people who ARE in their voting zip code know about legislation that is going on behind closed doors and they might begin to support our causes locally.
When just a few truck drivers and their supporters work together to “ReTweet” and share these posts in social media it brings much needed attention to prevent underhanded lobbying.
I hope you will all use these twitter tags for upcoming “Call To Action” alerts and please refrain from profanity and threats when making your posts.
Here is the list:
Twitter Tags for the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee @Transport
 Members:
@RepBillShuster PA (he is the head of this committee)
Alphabetically with a state abbreviation hashtag
@RepDonYoung #AK
@RepRickCrawford #AR
@RepKirkpatrick #AZ
@RepMimiWalters #CA
@Rep_Hunter #CA
@GraceNapolitano #CA
@RepGaramendi #CA
@RepJeffDenham #CA
@Rep_JaniceHahn #CA
@RepHuffman #CA
@JuliaBrownley26 #CA
@RepEsty #CT
@EleanorNorton #DC
@RepCurbelo #FL
@RepJohnMica #FL NOTE: John Mica has protected tweets & does not LISTEN on twitter. This is a sign of arrogance and lack of transparency. Regardless, I tweet to his tag and use the @Congressdotgov tag along with it so someone hears what I am saying to him
@RepCorrineBrown #FL
@LoisFrankel #FL
@RepWebster #FL
@RepRobWoodall #GA
@RodneyDavis #IL
@RepLipinski #IL
@RepBost #IL
@RepCheri #IL
@RepAndreCarson #IN
@ToddRokita #IN
@RepThomasMassie #KY
@RepGarretGraves #LA
@MikeCapuano #MA
@RepCummings #MD
@RepDonnaEdwards #MD
@CandiceMiller #MI
@RepSamGraves #MO
@USRepRickNolan #MN
@RepLeeZeldin #NY
@RepJerryNadler #NY
@RepRichardHanna #NY
@RepJohnKatko #NY
@RepSeanMaloney #NY
@RepSires #NJ
@RepLoBiondo #NJ
@RepDavidRouzer #NC
@RepMarkMeadows #NC
@RepHardy #NV
@RepDinaTitus #NV
@RepBobGibbs #OH
@RepPeterDeFazio #OR
@RepLouBarletta #PA
@RepRyanCostello #PA
@RepScottPerry #PA
@RepSanfordSC #SC
@RepJohnDuncanJr #TN
@RepCohen #TN
@RepBrianBabin #TX
@RepEBJ #TX
@Farenthold #TX
@RepComstock #VA
@RepRickLarsen #WA
@RepRibble #WI
Here are a few extras:
Congress @Congressdotgov
@GOPOversight @Jasoninthehouse #UT
@HouseJudiciary @RobGoodlatte #VA
Thanks for your help!
Sincerely,
Desiree Wood
President

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The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 15,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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I just returned from Memphis where I gave a seminar called “Social Media and Women Truckers’ at the 1st Annual Memphis Truck Expo.

Two rather broad topics but I decided to include them in one presentation to illustrate the following:

  1. How powerful social media has been for social justice issues.
  2. To demonstrate how influential individuals can be in social media.
  3. To emphasize that persistently covering up issues related to women truckers and to those women entering the industry will eventually come back to haunt carriers who are permitting it to occur.

In the past few months I have been contacted by a number of Social Media Experts & “Guru’s” who have been consulting with various trucking industry entities who are looking to launch social media campaigns.

For someone outside of the trucking industry who is doing research , odds are they will find one of the outspoken social media truckers.

Here is the problem for the trucking industry:

Social Media cannot be “Controlled” the way mainstream media and advertising has been in the past. The trucking industry has been very slow to understand this.

When I spoke to contacts in supply chain / logistics to let them know about my presentation the response was: “Good, someone needs to tell them because they do not get it.

What this person meant was “Transparency” is what the trucking industry does not get. Saying you are being transparent can just as easily mean you are being a transparent liar but for someone who has never had to do business with all cards on the table this concept is difficult to grasp.

The power of social media is enormous. The first thing the trucking industry needs to recognize is that size does not matter. If your organization does not participate in listening and problem solving you are irrelevant.

Isn’t that logistics?

Unless you have a commitment to positive transparency you will fail in social media. Until the trucking industry can digest that transparency can be positive or negative, I do not recommend wasting any money launching a campaign that will fall flat.

If carriers cannot take the heat in a public forum to have their money source (Shippers) see how they treat employees (Drivers) or how they permit drivers to conduct themselves in public they will have a big problem in social media.

Currently, there are a number of mainstream media projects in development that will feature women truckers. This will inevitably create a recruiting boom for the unethical.

By creating the presentation called “Social Media & Women Truckers”, my hope is to help others in the trucking industry understand that corporate responsibility begins with each and every individual.

What I have referred to as my “Social Media Experiment” to see if one person could have a voice and make an impact is now complete.  I achieved my goal BUT I will continue to create a path for others who are searching for accurate information to enter this industry, at least until I see others stepping up to do the right thing.

Unfortunately, Women are still frequently being harmed during their training period, and violence against women in many areas of the trucking industry remains an issue. I will continue to use my social media presence to raise awareness of this fixable problem.

Ironically, Women Truckers to those outside and away from the trucking industry are admired. The image of a woman trucker is held in high esteem as a symbol of resiliency and strength. I have received emails from parents telling me that they hope their Daughters would grow up to be strong like I am, from old ladies telling me to keep talking and heard from Fathers of Daughters who are eager to see who will step up and make the necessary changes to create a more professional environment in the trucking industry.

I’d like to walk away now but it would be irresponsible to do that when few others are stepping forward. Women truckers carry a silent secret, they know others are being harmed in this industry and the truth is it’s best to not get involved for fear of retaliation. Other drivers, both Men and Women have been told “stay out of it” and targeted for retaliation for trying to stick up for someone who has been harmed, this is wrong. This mob mentality, prison inmate mentality, street gang mentality, religion based fanatic mentality must stop. The people being hurt,  retaliated against, shunned are the children of someone.

To me, being silent is not okay when someone is being harmed.

Looking the other way is NOT okay!

One person can have an impact and individual drivers participating in social media have seen this is true.

I will be sharing my presentation called “Social Media & Women Truckers” as a series of posts in the coming weeks on the self help website “Real Women In Trucking

I have included a preview here called:

What are you Sponsoring?”

Sponsoring Diversity is great, but do your homework. Are you sponsoring a cover up, an advocate or simply looking for a smoke screen to ease the impact of impending litigation? Violence against women is an issue worldwide. Silence equals an endorsement of violence in some male dominated industries.
 
 

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                                                                                                                                                        The last ride of Covenant Transport Truck 11438 was as eventful as it was in the beginning of my story when I began writing in 2008 on “Ask the Trucker”.

Generally, my dedicated account kept me east of Texas but as you know I am from California.  One of the reasons I wanted to enter trucking was so that I could run all 48 states because I have friends and family everywhere.  In late May, I got a load assignment from Ohio to Porterville, California and I was thrilled because my oldest Grandson Mason lives with his Dad in Porterville. I have been unable to my family for 4 or 5 years.

I was able to visit Mason at his school for lunchtime and go to his little league practice. You should have seen the smile on his face when I showed him the truck. He was so excited and he saw I had his picture in my bunk. 

A load to central California generally means heading south to get a load back east again. This was perfect so I could see my Mother, Step-Father and Niece. They did not know of the events in my student trucker story until after it was publicized.

I was only able to visit long enough to have dinner because I got a load out of Torrance, California that went all the way to Delaware. It sure was nice to see them again.

My load had a stopover in Chattanooga, Tennessee and I was told Truck 11438 had been sold; I had to come in to our home terminal to move into another truck.  It was time and I knew it was coming because many others on our dedicated fleet had to do the same. My truck had about 550,000 miles on it and it ran like a champ. I had minimal problems with it but I knew it was time for it to be cycled out of service.

Truck 11438 was the headquarters of the world I shared through twitter, it is where I was interviewed by Dan Rather  , plus it was @TruckinDogKarmas first home.

It was bittersweet for me on that last run because there have been so many memories on twitter of people who have come to meet me & the projects launched from inside that truck.  All those provocative tweets that were lobbed from my bunk using only my Palm Treo PDA that reached worldwide to spread my story and conduct my social media experiment.

When I received the number of the truck I was supposed to move into I was puzzled, it was not but 300 numbers different than mine, which meant it was old also and should also be up for sale soon.

Switching trucks does not mean getting a new truck and many of the other drivers were complaining they were being assigned trucks that had multiple mechanical problems which was delaying them from leaving out to roll again.  We do not get paid to move our stuff from truck to truck and we do not get paid to sit and wait for repairs. Some drivers had been there already a week with no pay, yet our terminal had new trucks everywhere.

From what I understand, trucking carriers will bring new trucks to sit on the property to make it seem like they have no drivers and this makes students get excited that they might get one of those brand new trucks.  It is a gimmick and according to Allen Smith on “Ask the Trucker” they often do not have to make payments on them until they are in service. So they are actually just using them as lures.

I could barely find room to park my bobtail there were so many new trucks out on our property when I arrived.  When I checked out the truck I was assigned I saw it had 100,000 miles MORE than my truck.  That meant it would be sold probably in the next go-round and I would be moving once again with no pay.

The interior was brand spankin new, the passenger side was brand spankin new, the back of the cab, all new metal, and the driver’s side old. On the Qualcomm was a message from the former driver that had not been erased, this is what it said: “Steering really starting to pull right on this truck. Did not want to deal with this Sunday evening traffic through mountains with this truck in shape it’s in. Getting ready to head out”, the driver signed his name and the message was dated.

That was the last message on the Qualcomm and this truck had obviously been pulled from a ditch, no way to know what happened to the driver.  I pulled the hood open to see many of the parts I have taken my truck in for that were repeat offenders in other trucks had not been replaced. According to my dispatcher this truck had been inspected and was road ready but the tires had gouges, the horn did not work and there were a number of other items I wrote up to send this truck back to the shop.

There were no guarantees that whatever caused this truck to end up in a major accident was resolved. I adamantly refused to accept it.  Poor equipment ends lives and as company drivers we are held responsible for equipment yet we have little say in repairs we feel are necessary.

Take the case of Daren Baird a female trucker who had 40 years accident free yet in a Tennessee rainstorm her truck crashed, ending her life. The trailer which usually hauled U.S. Mail was empty at the time and she was on her way to the terminal to begin her day. Daren Baird who appeared on the Today Show with host Meredith Viera may have been the victim of faulty equipment according to others who worked at the same company.  I have included the clip here when the crash was reported.

Watch Today Show Report on Crash of Daren Baird with Meredith Viera

The Tennessee company that Daren Baird worked for had a history of operating unsafe equipment according to another former driver for the company. The Department of Transportation rating for this company was a very high 92 with 100 being the worst.  According to sources, this company now has new DOT numbers which would in effect give it a clean slate.  You can read more about this tragedy and comments from other drivers with news stories included about equipment failures from this company in the following link.

Veteran Truck Driver Dies on the Road

There are new regulations coming to the trucking industry called CSA 2010 but unfortunately they have not been perfectly thought out with regards to willful negligence on behalf of carriers. Most people think of truck drivers as being Owner-Operators but this is not true. Many truck drivers are employees who have to argue for repairs on their trucks even though most of our bosses never take the time nor even know how to inspect one themselves.

My dispatcher at least has been man enough to admit he has never inspected a trailer or truck and would not know where to start. He was not happy that I refused the truck assignment but he told me he would assign me another.  I didn’t want to make him unhappy but I did not feel comfortable gambling my life on a truck that made me feel very uncertain of its overall safety.

The second truck option I was assigned had also been in a serious accident and was not even on the property.  It had been assigned to my girlfriend Deborah who had taken it to Detroit Diesel for major repairs and it would not be fixed for several days.  She had already lost many days of work with this truck babysitting it.

I agreed to wait for the second truck because I knew my girlfriend had inspected it with a fine tooth comb and persistently oversaw the many repairs it was receiving. She had been going to check on its progress and was monitoring which parts were being replaced.

My dispatcher issued me an advance to get a room to wait for the truck. It was too hot for Karma & I to sit and we are not supposed to idle. My stuff was half packed and it was a disaster to move around.  The off property mechanics told me the truck would definitely not be ready for a couple days because they were awaiting a part to be delivered. I made the best of it and packed up our bags to go stay at a motel close by our terminal.

I f you have read my student trucker story you will remember a part where I had to get off of the truck from my first co-driver who was a supposed to be a temporary after he became violent and I was shaking so hard I could not shift. He had been badgering me about my sex life trying to find out why I was not interested in him. In his final tantrum he declared I must be a racist because I was not responding to his come on. He proceeded to try to persuade me that he would never force me to have sex with him.

I was fresh out of a very poor training experience and had very little skills to drive on my own. I had no money and no one to call for help.  This guy had flirted his way into the trainer’s program with “MS” just before we had left our terminal despite his admission that his own dispatcher told him he had an attitude problem and should not become a trainer.

Shortly after I was on the truck alone with him he confessed he was only becoming a trainer to “Git a Female on the truck” and proceeded to badger me relentlessly until it reached the breaking point.

I was stunned when I finally got off the truck and I did not know who to call. This was not covered in orientation and it was after hours. Thankfully, the terminal manager gave me a number to call that I was not made aware of previously that was for emergencies. It was called the “Incident Reponse Center” and they helped me over the phone to get a room so I could get off the truck and away from that guy.

Unfortunately, on Monday morning when it was time to pay for the room again no one at my company was answering my calls. I kept being told to call “MS” but she was not returning my messages. I ended up being asked to move out of the room and sit in the lobby with all my stuff.

The lady at the front desk was extremely rude to me and went on and on about my company’s reputation and how they did this all this time. I am formerly of the hospitality industry so I was not amused to see this front desk clerk rant and rave about the company I work for while I sat in the lobby with all of my belongings around me.

At that time, I was new to Covenant Transport and like most students I wanted to give the benefit of the doubt that this was an isolated incident.

I called and called that day trying to find someone to put money on my card so I could go back in my room. I will admit I was also traumatized from the incident with the other driver. I just wanted to be alone while I waited for another truck to come pick me up. 

Most times I could reach no one or got disconnected. If I was able to reach someone, they just transferred me to another dead end where I was disconnected or got the Voice mail of “MS”.

Sitting in that motel lobby listening to the lady go on and on about Covenant Transport while being on hold trying to reach someone to pay for the room as I was told to do was more than frustrating, then a guy with an accent answered the phone. I explained to him the situation and within minutes I had money on my card and was back in my room.

All the excuses and run around about what proper channels I had to follow to get my room paid for and BOOM! One dispatcher who decided to go the extra mile handled in a few seconds. He was not my dispatcher and I have never met him in person but I will always remember his name.

That was over two years ago and I have had few instances where I needed a motel room since then.  I won’t recap it all but my point is that we have issues on the road and we are without home & wheels and we rely on our in-house support.

In a low paying company like mine, it’s true we live check to check. Because I had two very long trips with good miles I had no trip packs in the system, they had not been dropped so I was not getting a paycheck the week I came in to swap trucks.

I was also not eligible for an advance because I was no longer under a load. They had taken my Delaware load because it needed to be delivered before the repairs would be completed for the truck.  This is trucking, fly by night trying to manage life and work in a manner most people could not tolerate.

At least I had a direct number now to my dispatcher and he usually answered the phone so I did not foresee a problem calling to get more money on my card to pay for the room another night, except I was wrong.

A communication breakdown on when the repairs would be complete and one person in a meeting was all it took to derail my day. For whatever reason, no one could give authorization to pay for my room so here I was again being asked to sit in the lobby and wait for my company to pay.

I began calling as soon as the 9-5 staff had come to work that day but here it was past check out time and no one was available to handle the transaction. In a company the size of mine this seems to be absolutely unimaginable!

Having drivers in motels across the country for various reasons in a fleet our size should be a daily occurrence so making sure everyone has money to pay for their rooms before checkout… Come on, … what’s the problem? I mean, checkout time is the same time all over the world so it’s not a big mystery that this should be a first thing in the morning priority for whoever is in charge of authorizing it.

On this occasion, the lady at the front desk was polite and even spoke to my dispatcher to let him know that my stuff had to stay in the room but I had to come and sit in the lobby with @TruckinDogKarma until someone from Covenant Transport paid for the room.

I set up my laptop at a breakfast table and sat with Karma waiting. It was already lunchtime so I had hoped they would call soon but you never know. I decided to get up and walk down the driveway of the motel. Maybe my dispatcher could find someone else to help issue the funds?

I walked down the steep driveway of the motel and slipped. There was runoff water on the driveway from a backed up drain and it had accumulated algae. My knee went straight down into the blacktop and I saw something sticking out, it was my kneecap.

In a few seconds my life had changed again. A man saw me fall and called 911, I screamed so loud Karma ran back to the office with her tail between her legs. I think she went to get help and it worked! She was returned to me by several people who brought me ice until the Ambulance arrived. I remember seeing Karma standing there perfectly still, she looked so scared and she never has her tail like that.

I called my dispatcher and told him I fell and I would be going in the ambulance to the hospital; I needed help with the dog. He said he would send someone but in just a few minutes he arrived himself and took Karma. 

My Kneecap Shattered

My kneecap broke in half and the bottom half broke into 9 pieces. I went to a trauma center and had surgery the next day.  By a stroke of luck my girlfriends were in town for truck repairs at the same time. In over 2 years at Covenant Transport we have never all been in at the same time and Thanks God for them!

Deborah paid for the motel room, got my laptop from the lobby and put Karma back in the room where she stayed until they moved her to our company motel across the street.

Deborah helped me home from the hospital and my other friend Darlene helped me gather my stuff from truck 11438 after my surgery with a few other friends who were so nice to come help me and in the rain too!

Some very nice people from twitter drove up from Georgia drove up to get Karma and kept her for two weeks after my surgery because I could barely move around on my own. (Thanks to The Johnsons from Twitter)

After I was out of the hospital I stayed in our company motel which is quite shabby but I had no choice. Now I am recuperating in Florida and I am on a new adventure with workman’s comp and trying to get to my physical therapy on the city bus in a leg brace.

In my next post I will talk about my experience with workman’s compensation. When truck drivers are injured far from home they are reliant on their companies to help them get home with their belongings, pets and they are generally in a great deal of pain.

I plan to share with you how the supply chain works when the freight is the driver.

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Ray LaHood, Anne Ferro, Bill Graves

Name an industry that can get away with leaving a labor force stranded across the United States days before Christmas and hardly get any mainstream media giving it any coverage?

This is the power of controlling media and the trucking industry proved it during December 2009 when Arrow trucking turned off gas cards, bounced paychecks, closed its doors, and left truck drivers stranded.

I decided against a picture of an Arrow Truck for this post but instead I chose this nifty picture of Bill Graves the CEO of the “American Trucking Association” with Ray LaHood & Anne Ferro because they obviously all know each other.

On December 22, 2009 the Christian Science Monitor reported the Arrow closing and the story made its way to Twitter shortly afterwards.  In researching the timeline for this post I noted that the editor has made a comment about the original title. It makes me wonder if someone “contacted them” and a correction to the wording was made. Speaking out about human indignities by the trucking industry seems to be monitored very carefully.

Twitter became quickly a buzz on the 22nd with that initial article. Shortly thereafter a second report via Landline eNews article called “ Nightmare before Christmas ” by Clarissa Kell-Holland was also circulating.

Remarks by the truckers on twitter quickly became heated when it became clear that the twitter tags of @RayLaHood who is the U.S. Secretary of Transportation and frequently tweeted about job creation during that week & the ATA Twitter tag @TruckingMatters remained silent on the Arrow Issue.

Ellen Voie of @WomeninTrucking tweeted an announcement that Anne Ferro of the FMCSA would speak at the “Salute to Women Behind the Wheel” but said nothing about Arrow. In a private email I was advised she was very much aware of the situation but for whatever reason did not tweet any articles. I still have those dated emails but some of the remarks are not pleasing about Ellen Voie and they were made by one of her members so I will refrain for now.

Meanwhile others like @HDTrucking tweeted “Arrow Drivers get one heck of a lump of coal for Christmas” in between “Retweeting” things for Hubby Evan Lockridge @LockridgeReport who tweeted he would be doing a show on the 23rd about the Stranded Arrow Drivers.

Individual Truckers on Twitter were tweeting:  “Hope we never see management from Arrow trucking in management jobs in any other trucking company. #Fail 9:52 PM Dec 22nd, 2009” which was just one of the popular “ReTweets” that went on for days. (This was a retweet I copy & pasted from Jami Jones @Shewhoknowstruck )

On Facebook remarks of disgust that no one knew about the drivers went like this: “…I was talking to some at church, they have no clue what just happened! Sad! Some said they would have just brought the truck home. I ask how? Most of these guys had no money. How you going to buy fuel, pay tolls, cross border without cash? Plus they lost all contact with their company!” were made on the newly created Fan Page called “Stranded Arrow Trucking Drivers-Coordinate Efforts Here” which was made by the Landline Staff on Twitter. (The title has since been changed as well as the mission)

In prior projects on twitter such as @JasonsLaw & the Virginia Rest Area Issue , there had been interference by the Landline Staff on Twitter so I would be lying if I said everyone believed that OOIDA was creating the page for anything more than a membership drive. I have included a link above from my previous post on Jason’s Law but at this time I cannot elaborate further.

That afternoon in fact a well known Canadian Trucker had some mixed signals from comments made by Jami Jones the Senior Editor of Landline and challenged her to call into Daniel Audet’sTruck Star Radio” to discuss the Fan Page.

At first she declined but when pressed to show that she truly cared to get the word out through ALL mediums, she agreed and convinced the listeners that the OOIDA Fan Page was an effort to help the stranded drivers and not a membership ploy as we had seen in the past.

I was aware that OOIDA Media had also been calling around. I was on home time, I was very sick with a high fever and my truck starter had died so I had to drive to Denton, Texas to go into the shop. I was actually parked in the mechanics bay for the night on the 22nd and was hesitant to become a fan of the page until I was convinced by Daniel Audet that Jami Jones was sincere. At about 9pm CST I became a fan of the page and forwarded it to MANY people.

Dan Little President of the “Owner Operators United@DDLittle on Twitter had already begun Tweeting & making phone calls on behalf of the Stranded Arrow Drivers.

Dan Little was in close contact through Twitter, Facebook and nightly on “Truck Star Radio” and reported that OOU members were going above the call to assist the Arrow Drivers in getting them home, fed, & get them motels.  The OOU board of Directors also offered a 1 year 100% free membership to all Arrow Drivers.

Within a hour of the Qualcomm message that was received  by the Arrow Drivers telling them that the company had folded the OOU was contacted and that information  was passed on to Bob McCarty and several other national media contacts.  According to Dan Little it was Mr. McCarty who contacted CNN who broke the story worldwide.

On the morning of December 23, 2009 I was received an early morning call from @Longhawl a trusted friend from twitter who has dispelled many misinformation campaigns by  “The Trolls of Trucking on Twitter”.

My friend “Longhawl” was deeply disturbed by the news of the Arrow closing and more so that the ATA had the nerve to sit quietly and saying nothing and doing nothing.  I agreed that the ATA was a despicable example how to represent an industry but the truth about trucking is that this is how truckers are treated and most people could care less.  Longhawl told me he was just plain tired of seeing the arrogance that the ATA displayed toward the hardworking American Trucker and he wanted to help. He asked me why no one was attacking the ATA on Twitter outright and I said that retaliation in trucking is very real so most individuals are intimidated, also much of the trucking media sources are controlled.

In fact as I recal the day the ATA came on Twitter they only followed national media contacts and the publishing partners for the major trucking periodicals are very much “connected”.

Longhawl said “Well I don’t work for the Trucking Industry and I am going to say a few things” I said “Okay, I will ReTweet what you say.” I also introduced Longhawl to Mike Rone of “RMR Consultants” who was working on cleaning up a DAC for a woman trucker named @NJKatwoman .

Mike was disturbed that no one had assisted the drivers by notifying truck stops properly, making sure the drivers who were cut off from the outside world suddenly could make their way home with their belongings for the holidays. I spent a few hours on the phone with both Mike & Longhawl that morning while I awaited the repair on my truck. During that time I saw an Arrow driver try to turn in his keys to the Service Desk and the girl had no idea what he was talking about. Then he went to the fuel desk and she had no idea either.

Mike Rone had called Dallas Radio Station KRLD to get them to cover the story and I spoke to the girl at the fuel desk and told her what was going on. While I was speaking to her another girl walked up and said that the day before an Arrow driver was able to fuel up but the card did not go through so they had to pump out the fuel. Still they did not know that the company had gone belly up nor were they aware that the drivers were stranded. How humiliating is this for a driver who is on his way home for the holidays? They had already received one bounced paycheck and via qualcomm the company told them they were unemployed without notice. A message that said in essence “See Ya wouldn’t want to be Ya”.

The OOIDA Fan Page had numerous offers to help the drivers but there was no rhyme or reason to it. There were carriers offering jobs and rides but in practice that meant nothing more than a free link ad. There were no drivers on Facebook because they were out-of- touch. When companies like Swift & Schneider came forth to offer rides home it sounded grand but in practice how would the Arrow drivers know this? Were Schneider’s drivers advised to go track them down? What if they did see an Arrow driver who was stranded and they needed to go to Florida but the Schneider truck was under a load going to Washington?  Then what? I mean it looked great on the surface but in reality there was not any sort of practical rescue operation being conducted.

Together, Longhawl & Mike Rone created a forum that went live the morning of December 24, 2009 which aimed to sort out offers for assistance from all over the internet to make it easy for the drivers once they were located but not many people ever found that forum. It was submerged before it took off but it was made to help the drivers and that was all.

We had twitter going crazy despite the lack of mainstream media attention. The ruckus of the Stranded Arrow drivers and our constant circulating of the OOIDA fan page link was everywhere you looked. Within hours if you googled “Arrow Drivers” the 2 lone articles were complimented by thousands of additional items which were actual tweets that were going into Google.

Not many people realize that what you post on Facebook it remains in Facebook but on Twitter it escapes the “Twitoshepre” and into the “World Wide Web” which makes it searchable in Google!

The chatter could not be ignored, this was not just truckers on twitter who had jumped onboard, and the news of the Stranded Arrow Drivers was being circulated by concerned citizens from around the world on Twitter who were OUTRAGED!!!!

On the morning of December 23, 2009 “Fleet Owner” magazine put out an article called “Social Media Comes to the aid of Stranded Arrow Truck Drivers” but here’s the thing, these are all ATA skewed publications and it was sort of a slap in the face with some feeble acknowledgement that said: “Yes, we see you are making an impact but we are still not going to do anything about it.”

I personally monitored those tweets in Google regularly and forwarded the increasing stats to interested parties. There were many familiar faces in those tweets who were not only my followers but even my DOG’s followers!

My Damn Dog was doing more for Arrow Drivers than the FMCSA, Women in Trucking or the American Trucking Association! Merry Effing Christmas Truckers!

Okay, so I’m getting a little pissed… Breathe Breathe…

The tweets were very targeted by utilizing “Hashtags”, we had seen success in several projects by doing this method for the Virginia Rest Areas, Pickens Plan and Dog Rescue.

In the future I will detail this but I did go on “Truck Star Radio” and give a tutorial to people who wanted to help.

This was an enormous success and by the 24th I had been introduced to a group of former Arrow drivers and volunteers on Twitter and Facebook who I invited to join “Truck Star Radio” as much as they wanted to tell their true story.

It was not long until reports began coming back that pledges to give help were being ignored and that the OOIDA page was not being managed properly. Still it was an amazing outpouring of people wanting to help. Still today it is inspiring to see all the people wanting to help truckers and it stands as a testament to the power of social media.

In those beginning hours there was truly more offers for help than there was drivers. That was the problem, how would a stranded driver know that they needed to get on the internet?

As I said in the recent “Blog Talk Radio” broadcast I was deeply moved when I observed former Arrow Driver Brandon White organize efforts while enroute to his new job on the greyhound bus.

I was included in a circulating email of volunteers but I did not post publically because I did not want to alert “The Trolls” about my involvement which would derail the cooperation that we thought was taking place.

I have included the radio broadcast link and I don’t want to recap everything here but basically at this time I did not know about Donna Creekmore but learned of her shortly afterwards and her list of drivers.

This list was crucial to weed out the scammers who emerged. The other disturbing thing was that people who were disgusted trying to pledge assistance on the OOIDA board. Some people were reporting they went ahead and gave to some of the designated charities but then some drivers were reporting those same charities either ran out of funds or the told the drivers that they did not meet the criteria to get assistance.

One Arrow driver called the number and was told to go to a homeless shelter!

This was a problem for me and others who felt if Donna Creekmore had verified them as drivers and there were people willing to help assist them they should be matched up, end of story.

Again, I won’t get into all the backroom shenanigans FOR NOW but I did receive the exchanges between OOIDA & the Volunteers and it was not surprising to me who the characters were but still it was disappointing that this crisis was turning into a media power struggle.

Another page on Facebook surfaced on the 24th called the “Ex-Arrow Employee’s Page” and it seemed odd that OOIDA had not been in direct contact with these folks and Donna Creekmore as soon as they appeared on the scene to collaborate.

Donna Creekmore was assisted by a woman named Dana to organize help directly to drivers. I personally called both of them to see who they were because it was true that scammers were coming out of the woodwork on the OOIDA page and it seemed like no one was managing it properly. My own followers on twitter were getting too personally involved and I did not want any of them getting ripped off.

Donna Creekmore was actually in the emergency room with her Husband when I spoke to her, she said she was concerned with getting “her drivers” home. To my knowledge no one from OOIDA had contacted her at this time nor were they aware that Dana, Donna, Brandon and other Volunteers had set up a base of operations to help the actual drivers on from the driver list and match with pledges for help from individuals.

On the Monday after Christmas however the emails were flying. Soon after, Dana set up a third page of Volunteer efforts on Facebook for the Arrow drivers.  Dana continued assisting drivers with volunteers while Donna Creekmore was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia.

It was an amazing weekend! A huge storm had hit Oklahoma & Texas and shut down I-40. Many truckers were stranded and some were attempting to help stranded Arrow drivers when the storm hit.

Despite my attempt to stay in the background I was compelled to post publically after an OOIDA member called me to dispel rumors about repo men being at truck stops. I also called Freightliner and posted on their Facebook page asking for a public announcement. I did not get a response but it sure brought the trolls out.

Private texts to me by other truckers on twitter asked for me to pass along offers of help and jobs to Donna & Dana because they too did not want to stir up the trolls.

It was already too late; in fact the King of Trolls had posted on the OOIDA page Jan 2nd to stay away from any of the “other groups” and wanted to know if anyone had a concrete list. He had been tweeting with Jami Jones who was ensuring that to him that,  “…/amazing/ isn’t the word for it. It seems like we spend as much time killing rumors as productive good some days. & we have debunked some requests from alleged Arrow drivers needing help. We didn’t just fall off the turnip truck here” but that was not the truth.

There were problems behind the scenes and Jami Jones blogged “Imagine All the People” where she implied there was social media backstabbing which was sort of crazy because all the people I knew of had been up 24/7 tweeting, donating every last nickel they had and making phone calls to help Arrow Drivers while they were in bad shape themselves.

One woman who is a big fan of @TruckinDogKarma was in the ICU tweeting from her phone and had to have it removed from her by her doctor!  She later made phone calls with a partial list and got deeply involved with the missing trucker story when the Mother of that guy poured her heart out to her.

If that were not enough to turn my stomach, on January 5, 2010 the ATA finally remarked on the Arrow driver situation. Like a synchronized swimming event Ellen Voie tweeted “Angels Among Us” which originally had comments on it that have been moderated off but I was sent the copies.

In this article Ellen states she was called by OOIDA to bring home the last Arrow drivers but according to Donna Creekmore there were many drivers who were still not home or had no home to go to.

On this same day OOIDA edited their Mission Statement and Title on the Facebook Fan Page and the ATA Twitter @TruckingMatters account tweets this dumbass remark “Thank you to all the trucking companies working from day 1 to help former Arrow drivers #SupportArrowDrivers #Win “

That was in addition to this tweet right next to it: “TweetsSchneider National encourages former Arrow drivers to apply http://www.schneiderjobs.com #SupportArrowDrivers #trucking”

OY VEY! So those are the Holy Grail of Hope to the American Trucker?  Seems to me every day is media day in trucking!

There was huge lesson to be learned in the Arrow Trucking mess and that is people do care about truckers but they are not getting the information they need to help them.

Many people came together who were formerly divided and eventually worked together.

Good can come out of what happened at Arrow in the sense that an awakening should begin to come about that ordinary people can make a difference. You can gather the rest on your own when your eyes begin to clear like mine have.

Listen to the Blog Talk Radio called “Truckers Home” with former Arrow Trucking Employee Donna Creekmore that aired May 6, 2010
Blog Talk Radio Truth About Trucking "Live"

There were so many individual people to thank it was not possible to remember everyone. If you would like to thank someone please post and let them be recognized.

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Have you noticed lately there are a growing number of Truckers using Twitter?
While at first glance this may seem an odd addition to social media, examine if you will the entire process of logistics.
Ultimately idea’s shared through social media are intended to manifest profit. Whether the profit is monetary, social change or simply sharing information, knowledge about a better way of doing things to create a tangible item , at some point it , that item will require a ride with us on a truck.

The concept from your mind to paper with pen, the word document made on your computer, everything you see around you has been delivered by a truck. Supplies you will require to affect social change utilizing social media, the building supplies to rebuild homes after a natural or made made disaster, transporting fresh water & food; it is all brought by a Trucker.
Truckers are a relevant part of the logistics process that make your thoughts and ideas come to life.

In addition, Truckers are always on the move and they use products that help them live in an efficient manner on the road, transporting products, sometimes representing a product by their conduct on the road.

From a marketing standpoint you might title this sort of interaction a “Focus Group”.

I was introduced to Twitter by @AsktheTrucker which is where I wrote my story of becoming a Trucker in 2007 and the terrible treatment I received during my CDL training.

My driving schedule of 500-600 miles a day hindered my mission to inform prospective trucking students of the challenges that they might encounter and help them to better prepare as they entered the industry.  Twitter afforded me the ability to communicate in real-time what I saw and what I heard and to describe the obstacles I encountered in delivering goods across the United States of America.
The urgency of my message came as the economy crumbled and I became acutely aware that many displaced workers would become desperate for a new life like I was when I came to trucking. Most would be set-up for failure by unscrupulous recruiters who prey on the disenfranchised hopeful individuals who have the least to spare. The method is errily familiar to the mortgage industry who sold many people the American Dream of Home Ownership in loans that were packaged to make commisions for loan orginators but not for long term success to the homeowners.

I watched in disgust as prospective students were given unreal expectations of what it takes to live the lifestyle of a trucker yet they qualified carriers for government funding in the form of subsidies and tax incentives and still they were set up to fail. This process generated incredible turnover. This was why the trucking industry always claimed they had a shortage of drivers. The students were an industry in themselves of cheap labor, to be used and discarded.

Twitter provided me a method to depict for prospective students a real snapshot of the trucking lifestyle before students got themselves saddled with a high interest loan, a useless CDL and perhaps lose the house they were already desperate to save.

The chatter on Twitter is reminiscent of what occurs on the CB, another thing relatively new in my life but natural to the Truckers isolated existence. Granted, it gets ugly at times but often they are sharing valuable information that assists other truckers.

Truck drivers are highly misunderstood and underappreciated for the hours they work, the risk of life and limb to deliver freight and the manner they are treated , esspecially by my home state of California which made me want to reach out even more.
My Twitter Mission grew each day because the relevance of what is happening in our Country.  Trucking is one of the last American Industries we have not completely outsourced.

Nothing makes sense when you hear the claims by the American Trucking Association that there is a “Qualified Driver Shortage” but there remains enormous turnover when unemployment is high. This industry is not being held accountable who claims it cares about safety but pushes drivers to do unsafe things, pays low wages, expects a great deal of unpaid labor , long hours of driving with few breaks and yet classifies truck drivers as unskilled!

The Government is scrambling to create jobs but subsidizes truck driver training that produces few qualified truck drivers and while many are screaming about wasteful spending , no one examines why this industry has not reduced it’s enormous turnover rate in training carriers who benefit from taxpayers. No one demands accountability and transparency on why there are no statistics kept on student truck carriers crashes.
Why the huge disparity in who goes to CDL School and those who become qualified truck drivers? Why are experienced drivers with good records being “Starved Out” ? Why are student carrier crashes not defined and held to a higher standard if they are benifitting from government funds and favorable tax incentives to hire certain demographics? Why are unproven drivers permitted to receive a Hazardous Materials Endorsement when they go for their CDL permit when these prospects have ZERO expertise in driving a big rig?

Why are we punishing “Mom & Pop” Truckers , the last small businesses we have not destroyed in an America that says they don’t want socialism?

Does capitalism mean destroying small business to benefit the few who have the means to crush those who cannot compete?

Unfortunately, Truckers are not the most sympathetic creatures, so society in general ignores them. This is precisely why the conduct by big trucking companies has been permitted.

The nature of the job requires a certain sort of person, perhaps not the type of person you want to attend your garden party but I hope that the Truckers on Twitter will remind you how fortunate you are to have the little luxuries in life. To be able to walk to the corner store for milk and bread and not have to drive to the railyard for such daily items. For you to enjoy the convenience of having things that the truck driver often has to live without in order to keep store shelves full for the masses.

Perhaps products you want to sell, invent, distribute, a book you want to write, the advertising pitch you have an idea for and plan to draft up on your computer tonight…. when your idea becomes a tangible thing …. it will be delivered by a truck driver.

A Man or Woman Trucker just like me stayed up long hours without pay in many cases to wait for those goods to be loaded, maybe drove all night in a snowstorm unable to stop for a shower to make their delivery appointment on-time, got cut off and barely averted a disastrous crash from cars zipping in front of them and slowing down, sleeping in that dirty old truck with no air-conditioning in the summer or no heat in the winter because they can’t afford the fuel, or in the case of California, no reasonable solution for temperature control.

Help these people do their job safely and effectively by learning what the truckers need,  not what the trucking industry tells you they need or what they say they are doing … it is a facade.

Twitter makes Truckers relevant because they play an integral part in the supply chain of logistics & technology. Twitter is the CB for the World and Truckers now have a voice outside an industry that has not represented them.

Truckers need you to listen, they need help.

Safe Parking, Accountability by Shippers, Receivers and Carriers for Climate Control in the Cab, Violence Against Women during Training and retaliation for reporting and a whole bunch of trucking organizations with executives being paid good salaries who deliver NOTHING for the truck driver.

These are just a few topics that have been concealed in this industry and social media is giving drivers relevance to speak outside of the cabs, outside of the CB frequency for the first time ever. Please Listen to them.

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