Tagged: mileage

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Alone on the Open Road: Truckers Feel Like ‘Throwaway People’

‘I Told Her That I Would Do Whatever It Took’

Ayisha Gomez, 39, Riverside County, Calif. Driving three years.

There were a lot of women in my training class. There were a lot of younger, I would say girls, going through. I think it’s women trying to prove themselves. And there are so many of us who are single mothers and the work that’s out there, we just can’t support our families.

Ms. Gomez said she worked for AutoZone for about eight years before becoming a truck driver. Women make up 5 percent of truckers.

My daughter got accepted to U.C.-Davis, and she wasn’t going to go because we couldn’t afford it. I told her that I would do whatever it took.

It is very stressful being away from home, being out of contact with people.

I was driving cross-country and stopped in Texas to pick up a cousin of mine. Her sister was having a baby. I said, “I’ll take you home to California.” We hardly talked at all on the trip. You forget how to communicate with people. You’re by yourself constantly. There’s nobody to talk to except when you’re picking up or dropping off a load.

The Times recently talked to truckers at a stop in Effingham, Ill. Now we want to hear what you wish car drivers knew and see what it is like in your cab.

Are you in a romantic relationship at home?

Yes. He is my high school sweetheart. We got back in touch with each other and things are falling in place. But it’s hard on him because he doesn’t understand what goes on out here. He’s always watching the weather and the news, and calling to tell me there’s a storm coming up, please be careful. He’s worried about me being at truck stops and rest areas at night. He doesn’t want me coming in in the evenings to take showers.

Do you feel in danger as a woman?

In the beginning, I noticed I got a lot of dirty looks from men. You hear remarks under their breath when you’re coming through the truck stops. I don’t hear it anymore. I’ve learned to tune everybody out. I don’t pay attention to anybody around me. I’m always aware of my surroundings, I notice what people are wearing, what they’re looking at, but if you are passing me, it looks like I’m always looking down at the ground.

Ms. Gomez explained that her first year was the hardest because she was required to drive for the large freight company that trained her, which paid a low mileage rate. Since the trucking industry was deregulated a generation ago, drivers’ pay has fallen. Truckers earn on average $43,600[4] a year, less than in 1980 when adjusted for inflation. Many work the equivalent of two full-time jobs. Now Ms. Gomez drives for a small mom-and-pop company, which pays better than the industry average.

Did you think of quitting that first year?

No. I’m not a quitter. It was very hard. My daughter kept me going. She wants to be a social worker. My oldest son has been in trouble since he was about 15. He’s currently in prison. He got sentenced to 21 years for attempted murder. Now, he is part of a gang. He’s got tattoos all over him. I’m so disappointed.

When all of this happened, my daughter went through a really hard time. I sat down and had a long talk with her. She decided she wanted to work with youth and try to help before they end up like her brother.

Trucking is not a career for me. I’m only doing this as long as I have to in order to get all of my daughter’s student loans[7] taken care of. She’s on her third year. I’ll be doing it for a few more years.

Photo

Credit George Etheredge for The New York Times Photo

Credit George Etheredge for The New York Times Continue reading the main story[8]

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‘The toughest truck in the woods’

CHARLESTON, S.C. — When Tracy Gunter Jr., founder of Tracy’s Logging, buys a new Mack truck for his fleet, productivity improves before it even hauls its first load. That’s because he’s been known to park it in the yard and watch the drivers compete to see who will be awarded the keys.

“When I buy a new truck, I park it in the yard for about a month before I put it into service,” Gunter Jr. told press at a recent Mack Trucks Born to Haul event. “You talk about hauling wood; those drivers stay late, they come in early, trying to get that new truck. That’s a tool I use sometimes.”

Tracy Gunter Jr. and his son, Tracy Gunter III, stand on a job site with one of the Mack Granites they use in their logging business. (Photo by Carmen K. Sisson)

Gunter Jr. is passionate about Mack trucks. He grew up in the South Carolina timber business and founded Tracy’s Logging in the mid-70s. Today, it produces about 300 loads per week, hauled by a predominantly Mack Granite fleet.

“I don’t know who is responsible for naming that truck the Granite,” he said. “I tell you, that’s a very appropriate name. I think that truck is as hard as a rock. It’s certainly an appropriate name because of its durability, its longevity, and my drivers do love that truck. The only problem I have with buying these new trucks is I can’t buy one for everybody at one time and the ones that don’t get it are all puffed up.”

Tracy’s Logging’s trucks are spec’d with Mack MP8 engines with 445 hp and 1,860 lb.-ft. of torque, as well as mDrive and mDrive HD automated manual transmissions.

“It’s the toughest truck in the woods,” Gunter Jr. insisted, noting 50% of the fleet’s miles are off-road.

His son, Tracy Gunter III, runs T3 Chipping. He said some features of the Mack Granite that make it the company’s top choice are: a Cornerstone chassis that provides maximum ground clearance and strength for off-road trucking; excellent visibility for improved safety; a tight turning radius; large radiator openings for improved cooling; a durable hood that flexes independently on uneven terrain; and a steel cab. Oh, and telematics?

“One of the major selling points for us was the GuardDog component,” he added, citing Mack’s remote diagnostics platform. “Coupled with our local dealer, it is providing us with a more proactive plan for fleet management. We’re not reactive anymore.”

Loggers have traditionally been reactive, Gunter III admitted, but using remote diagnostics has enabled the company to increase its uptime and boost its bottom line. This is especially important since the trucks could be operating 15 miles into the bush.

Pat Barber, president and CEO of 40-truck specialized trucking company Superior Transportation, is equally passionate about Mack trucks. He has been a lifelong Mack fan and formed Superior in 1998 at the age of 29 when he found an unserved local niche, handling oversized loads for automotive parts manufacturers and the energy sector, who would ship the equipment through the local Port of Charleston.

“No local-based trucker was able to handle the automotive expertise,” he said. “I invested everything I ever earned and bought some equipment.”

Sometimes, Barber said, he has to design the trailer around the cargo, which is often designed without any thought of how it will get to its final destination. To further complicate matters, Superior is often called on to deliver oversized equipment, such as cranes, to construction sites in downtown Charleston with its narrow streets.

This is where the Mack Pinnacle axle back day cab fits the bill.

Pat Barber stands in front of a Mack truck at Superior Transportation in North Charleston South Carolina.

“We have some of the tightest intersections in all the country,” Barber said. “I would rather drive in Manhattan than downtown Charleston. The cranes that come down here, we usually play a role in delivering and taking those back out of town. We have to have something that’s maneuverable and does the job.”

Barber spec’s Pinnacle trucks with mDrive transmissions and MP8 engines. The lightweight combination gives him a competitive advantage, he claimed.

“I can build that truck so much lighter than some of my competitors, that I can do with eight axles what it takes my competitor 11 axles to do,” he said.

Drivers love the mDrive automated manual transmission, Barber said. It has also improved fuel mileage, from about 5 mpg to 5.2 mpg in an application that’s generally overweight and even grosses 90,000 lbs at times while deadheading, due to the heavy specialized trailers they pull.

Cargo through the Port of Charleston remains a big part of Superior’s business, especially with the expansion of the Panama Canal. Barber said from June of last year to May of this year, there’s been about a 20% increase in container volumes moved through the port.

“Every container that moves through the port at some point travels on a truck,” Barber said.

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Traffic congestion: A costly conundrum for truckers

ATRI calculated that traffic delays totaled more than 996 million hours of lost productivity in 2015 for the trucking industry, which equates to 362,243 commercial truck drivers sitting idle for a working year. (Photo: VDOT)

Sitting in traffic is no picnic for any truck driver, whether in company employ or an independent. On top of that, the impact on a trucker’s bottom lime due to traffic congestion is growing as well, totaling $63.4 billion in extra trucking operational costs in 2015, according to analysis recently conducted by the American Transportation Research Institute[1] (ATRI).

The group tapped into a variety of data sources, including its unique truck GPS database, and figured out that delays on the U.S. National Highway System (NHS) totaled more than 996 million hours of lost productivity in 2015, which equates to 362,243 commercial truck drivers sitting idle for a working year.

To calculate the cost of congestion, ATRI said it applied the 2015 national average operational cost per hour (CPH) metric of $63.70 per commercial truck to the 996 million hours lost to traffic delays – that results in an over $63.4 billion in added industry operational costs due to congestion.

Distributing this cost across the 11.2 million registered large trucks in the U.S. results in an average congestion cost per truck of $5,664, the group noted.

While the actual cost for any one truck is dependent on a variety of factors such as location of operation and operating sector, ATRI stressed in its report, the group said it is possible to extrapolate congestion delays on a per truck basis using the number of miles driven annually.

Using the Federal Highway Administration’s[2] (FHWA) 2015 total truck vehicle miles traveled (VMT) figures and the 2015 total cost figure, congestion costs were calculated to have increased by an average of $0.23 per VMT for large trucks.

“Congestion-related costs continue to rise and impact our supply chains. A five minute delay for each UPS vehicle, every day, costs UPS $105 million annually in additional operating costs,” noted Rich McArdle, president of UPS Freight[3], the LTL arm of United Parcel Service, in a statement.

McArdle, who was appointed to ATRI’s board of directors in May of last year, added that this new report “quantifies this drain on the economy [due to traffic congestion] which must be addressed through targeted infrastructure investments.”

Other traffic congestion-related data points discerned by ATRI include:

  • Spreading the total congestion cost figure across the entirety of the NHS network resulted in an average industry cost per mile of $129,919, a 6.4% increase from the $111,578 per mile found in 2014.
  • The top 10 states in the group’s analysis experienced traffic congestion costs of over $2 billion each in 2015, with Florida and Texas leading with over $5 billion each. 
  • As expected, traffic congestion tended to be most severe in urban areas, with 88% of the congestion costs concentrated on only 17% of the network mileage, with 91% of the total congestion cost occurring in metropolitan areas. 
  • The report also calculation that there’s been a “dramatic increase” in traffic incidents, including a 3.8% increase in police-reported crashes and a 7.2% increase in fatalities from motor vehicle crashes in 2015 on U.S. roadways – the largest percentage increase in nearly 50 years.

References

  1. ^ American Transportation Research Institute (atri-online.org)
  2. ^ Federal Highway Administration’s (www.fhwa.dot.gov)
  3. ^ UPS Freight (ltl.upsfreight.com)