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What truckers are thinking about this holiday season

Drivers passing through a truck stop in Portland, Oregon talk holiday plans and a profession in flux.

Rick Heath, Jubitz Travel Center (Image: Linda Baker)

FreightWaves caught up with a few drivers at the Jubitz Travel Center in Portland, Oregon, where conversation revolved around holiday plans and a profession in flux.

Patrick Maher, owner-operator, Logix Transportation (Image: Linda Baker)

What I’m doing: Laundry
What I’m driving: 2013 Kenworth tractor
What I’m hauling: Trade show equipment
Where I’m going: St. Paul, Minnesota, then back home to Fort Worth, Texas
Years on the road: 35. I’m 60 years old.
Holiday plans: Be with my family — one son, one wife, one stepson, three grandkids. I may work New Year’s Eve.
Salary: My 1099 says $200,000.
Expenses: $130,000.
Trucking, past and present: There’s not near the amount of money there used to be. My income has not gone up with the cost of insurance, trucks, fuel. Everything got so expensive.
Autonomous trucking: I don’t see it happening in my lifetime.  It’s negative. How are you going to control it?
Pros and cons: I’m not one of these guys who loves trucking. It’s the most money I can make for my education or lack thereof. I do it for a job.

George Dippolito, 55, company driver (Image: Linda Baker)

What I’m doing: In the Cascade Room, waiting for my girlfriend
What I’m hauling: Everything.
Years on the road: 30.
Employee vs. owner-operator: I was an owner-operator but became a company driver. There’s too much hassle being an owner-operator: taxes, fuel charges, permits, all that garbage. Now I get in my truck, get paid hourly and drive.
Holiday plans: Stay home and watch football.
ELDs: They’re easy. My truck broke down, and I had to do a log book. I hadn’t done a log book in 20 years. It was crazy. They finally fixed it, and I’m happy.
Autonomous trucking: I don’t believe that’s going to work. I don’t care if a computer is driving a truck or not. It’s got to be a person behind the wheel. Computers can’t make decisions like people.
Best work experience: When I helped a lady on a road in Montana. Her car was on fire. I came along and put it out with a fire extinguisher. That was 15 years ago.
Worst experience: Twenty years ago in San Diego, I blew a tire and went off an embankment. Rolled about 40 feet down the hill. I didn’t drive for eight months.
Trucking, past and present: The drivers are not the same quality now. They just drive because it’s an easy profession. We used to stop and help people and talk on the radio. Now even the company drivers, they just go right by you. I think of truck driving as a lifestyle, not just a job.



Rick Heath (Image: Linda Baker)

What I’m doing: Eating a roast beef sandwich at Moe’s Deli.
What I’m hauling: Motorcycles. To individuals and dealers.
Where I live: Montana
Holiday plans: Taking Christmas off.  
Driver shortage, the myth: There’s not such a driver shortage as companies want to claim.  What they’re not telling you is, every month they are adding more trucks. Plus, a lot of them don’t have personal relationships with truck drivers, so if a driver finds a better deal, he will leave.
ELDs: Last week we finally changed over from AOBRD. Just made the (Dec. 16) deadline.  It worked great for two and a half days, then broke down. Glitches. There are always glitches.
Autonomous trucking: That’s a bad deal for public safety. Something’s going to fail.

Right to left: Jimmy Thomas, 23, and his brother, Daniel, 17

What I’m doing: Ordering the Bobtail burger in the Cascade Room.
Hometown: Chattanooga, Tennessee, just moved to Kentucky to be closer to my fiancee.
What I’m hauling: Furniture
What I’m driving: A Volvo semi. We’ve got a double bunk. It’s tight for a couple of big guys like us.
Holiday plans: It’s going to be close. We just emptied out, and we’re heading to San Francisco and then home.
All in the family: I’m a generational kid. My great-grandfather, grandfather, dad moved furniture. Thought I’d take a crack at it. I wanted to get out and see the country.
Brotherly love: Nice to have Daniel’s help, company.
Daniel: I ride shotgun. Take high school classes online. I like seeing everything on the road. I got to see Florida for the first time.

Jim Crain, 63, leased owner-operator (Image: Linda Baker)

What I’m doing: Renewing my motel bill. I’m in town for work on my truck.
What I drive: 1994 Freightliner
Truck maintenance: I’m getting the engine overhauled. Cost me $20,000.
What I’m carrying: Chemical transfer
Holiday plans: Probably be driving on Christmas. There are places open 24/7/ 365. Like paper mills. They have to have their stuff. They don’t shut down. I don’t mind.
ELDs: My truck is exempt because it’s old enough. I use a paper log. Anything that is 1999 and older is exempt. I am not computer savvy, but after a while I would learn how to do it.
Autonomous trucking: I don’t know if I want to trust one of them. They are all electronic, and what if it goes haywire?
Pros and cons: I like to go different places and see things. But I wouldn’t own my own truck again. I’d like someone else to have the headaches. I don’t think schools are preparing the drivers. They drive these trucks like they are driving their cars. And you can’t do that in a semi.
Social life: I’m not lonely. You’re always meeting shippers, receivers, somebody.

20 Comments

  1. John

    Here’s the bad news about autonomous trucks. They are not less safe than human drivers. Human drivers get in accidents all the time. people get killed all the time. Computers can make decisions based on many more variables than a human can in a fraction of a second. The idea that autonomous trucks will be less safe is completely silly.

  2. Nick libretti

    Hi I’m nick l I have been driving 35 years own 8 trucks and I will tell you it gets harder every year there’s material we haul that pays less now then it did ten years ago but the truth is insurance companies are crippling this industry they take most of are profit away I’m currently without health care last year I was paying 1400 for my wife and I hade a shoulder surgery august of 2018 and I’m still paying 500 a month to pay off my portion after a 6500 dollar deductible I pay probably 5000 a month for compensation for my employees keep this in mind you are audited at the end of every year on comp so if yo had a better year then expected and grossed 60000 more then last year that’s approx 12000 you have to come up with I learned that the hard way 8 to 10000 month for the trucks a month in ct they crush us we grossed over a million in 2018 i made 70000 with the aggravations it is not worth it i love my company but the rates are no better in the last ten years and insurance made my profit ! Go to college! The suite behind the desk is making the money!

  3. Larry stewart

    Well if you like eld your not a driver your company lap dog sit boy roll over boy go to the bathroom boy get the idea lapdog stay home an flip burgers you force a driver to drive tired do real study an post it not dot made up one an these 30 yrs drivers really hahaha your all a joke park boy it nap time …
    The end

    1. Louis

      ELDs are both a blessing and a curse.
      I’ve been a driver over forty three years now and I have seen a huge drop in DOT check points on log books since the ELDs came in.
      The paper logs we’re a quick and easy citation due in part that most drivers ( including myself ) found it difficult to keep up with due to being pressure to make the pick up and delivery appointments.
      However, we could also stop many times on a run with a paper logs and not have it counted against our time for the day.
      With the coming of the ELDs, I have noticed that no longer am I being pressured by some dispatcher to take a load when I am out of hours.
      On the flip side though if that thing says I should be driving even though I am tired from being up all day getting loaded then that’s another issue.
      The only way I’ve seen to make time and money with the ELD is to run team with a spouse.
      So in short, there is no great side either way with an ELD.

  4. Nick libre

    Hi I’m nick l I have been driving 35 years own 8 trucks and I will tell you it gets harder every year there’s material we haul that pays less now then it did ten years ago but the truth is insurance companies are crippling this industry they take most of are profit away I’m currently without health care last year I was paying 1400 for my wife and I hade a shoulder surgery august of 2018 and I’m still paying 500 a month to pay off my portion after a 6500 dollar deductible I pay probably 5000 a month for compensation for my employees keep this in mind you are audited at the end of every year on comp so if yo had a better year then expected and grossed 60000 more then last year that’s approx 12000 you have to come up with I learned that the hard way 8 to 10000 month for the trucks a month in ct they crush us we grossed over a million in 2018 i made 70000 with the aggravations it is not worth it i love my company but the rates are no better in the last ten years and insurance made my profit ! Go to college! The suite behind the desk is making the money!

    1. Ronald Terlitsky

      And that same “suit” can do embezzlement for only a year of jail. The system has been very flawed for awhile and you’re right about that it’s not worth it. Unless you’re a immigrant who’ll get more than you and me (Veteran) combined.

  5. Jeff Gibson

    I can not believe that this government and it’s agencies can actually tell you what you must wear while you sleep, tell you that you must wear an item that keeps you on your side while you sleep and force you have a mask on your face that keeps you awake your spouse awake, is counter productive to getting sleep. I have 2 1/2 years to retire and our government has taken my livelihood away. These rules and regulation are way to restrictive to us. Stay out of our bedrooms and out of our wallets.

  6. VANESSA SCOTT

    Merry Christmas to all drivers out there on the road!!! Be carefuf and safe!!! Hopefully you all can get home or have a special place to go for the holidays!!!!

  7. Former Leonardo Divinchi Westside driver

    Every state I go into my meals are drugged different. Forcing you to go to sleep in your sleeper or go to the bathroom a lot just after eating. Bring system well nature’s way and a vitamin B complex in the truck

Comments are closed.

Linda Baker, Senior Environment and Technology Reporter

Linda Baker is a FreightWaves senior reporter based in Portland, Oregon. Her beat includes autonomous vehicles, the startup scene, clean trucking, and emissions regulations. Please send tips and story ideas to [email protected]