The "Blame The Driver" Game

I’ve tried really hard not to be too critical of USX. Okay, so I’ve tried really hard to keep from saying anything that might get me into trouble with USX. Working for an “at-will” company, it’s dangerous to even mention the name of the company in a blog. But I haven’t named names, nor will I.
At the moment my frustration in regard to USX mostly has to do with my last load. Or, rather, my attempt at re-powering my last load. I arrived at the first customer yesterday around 10:00. All that needed to be done there was that two wooden bulkhead (wood frames, really) needed to be placed in the nose of the trailer. Then my first stop was where I would actually pick up my freight.
Well, I was in the first customer’s dock for seven hours. All I was waiting on that entire time was for someone at USX to clear a check to pay the customer for the bulkheads. It took seven hours to arrange this. When the customer finally got paid, it took all of about five minutes to put in the bulkheads.
Then I went across the street to the freight pick-up. That went smoother, but while I was still sitting at the gate waiting to get in (around 17:30), USX first asked me if we were going to need to re-power the load. I told them that by the time I left customer I would be up against the 14-Hour Rule, and that we should re-power. I was at this customer about four hours.
So, by the time I left the second customer with my load, I had been sitting in docks for eleven hours. Not only was I bumping up against the 14-Hour Rule (because I also drove down to the first customer), but I was exhausted. I had been up since 06:00. And while I’m sure USX expects you to rest up while you’re in docks, it’s hard to do that when you’ve just come off of a full sleep period, and you’re on the phone wrangling with the company about money, anyway.
USX didn’t seem to think that re-powering this load was a problem. Since there were no certified scales in the area, I drove down to Greensboro to weigh the load. I informed USX of this, and suggested that we complete the re-power at the truckstop where I was going. USX didn’t think this was a problem.
Long story short, I came in and weighed. The load was about 880 pounds too heavy on the drive axles. I tried to adjust for it, but could only move the trailer axles forward one pin. I figured this was a moot point, since we were going to re-power the load, and I suggested that they re-power it with a Freightliner, since they’re a little lighter than my Volvo. USX took note and said they’d try.
Now. Here’s the real reason, the only reason, I’m mentioning all of this.
I finally laid down around 23:00. I slept in my clothese because I was expecting someone to knock on my door at any moment. Around 03:00 this morning, I was suddenly bum-rushed on the satcom by several USX reps, asking pointed questions about the load. I’ll post them so that my point will be clearer.
CD______ What is your location? Do we need to re-power this load? Did you ever get load scaled?
N_____ Need your location where you shutdown, ASAP
CD______ was the person I had talked to so extensively earlier about the re-power, where I was heading, weight problems, my exact location, etc. So I told him that I thought I had already answered his questions. He responded.
CD______ Ok. First, did you get load scaled (meaning did I get the weights sorted out). And what is your location four re-power?
It was about this time I realized what was going on. They either forgot about me, or just couldn’t find a truck to re-power this load with, and were beginning to realize that this might come back to haunt them. So they were playing a tried-and-true USX office game called Blame the Driver. By asking the pointed questions of me, it put the onus on me if there were any trouble over the load. That usually works. If the driver keeps his mouth shut and doesn’t respond. Then if anyone checks the satcom record they’ll see that various office personnel had written the driver, asking specific and pointed questions, and the driver had not responded.
Well, I didn’t keep my mouth shut. I’ve been playing this game since 1999. I told CD______ that I was going to re-send my messages regarding each one of his questions. I addressed each question individually, and then re-sent the appropriate message. I had already answered each of his newest pointed questions about six hours earlier, and by sending them back to him, with original times mentioned, I completely changed the game.
I also responded to N_____ and told him that I had informed USX as early as 17:30 that this load needed to be re-powered. So by the time these messages came in, USX had been afforded ten hours to find a re-power. I asked him if he wanted me to send him the original message, but he said no. CD______ just said “Thanks.”
I won the game.
This may sound like paranoid claptrap to someone outside of the trucking industry, and someone outside of this company. But from experience, there is only one reason why CD______ would ask me pointed questions which he had already received the answer to six hours earlier. They were trying to shift blame to me, the driver. Believe me, in this company, and most likely in this entire industry, whenever something goes wrong, the first reflex is to blame the driver.
Most drivers are ignorant enough to ignore messages that they think are stupid, like CD______ asking for information he already has. But if the driver doesn’t respond on the satcom, then there’s simply a record of a situation in which one person or more (usually a couple) are asking the driver essentially the same questions (i.e. “Why is this load screwed up?”) and the driver has never responded. In that case a driver’s silence is damning. This is my first piece of advice to new drivers. Always respond to your satcom messages. Even if it’s a simple “Ok” get some kind of response on record.
Well, they were still sending me messages around 05:00 this morning. Mostly just follow-ups. “Ok,” “10/4,” “Thanks” and the like (See? They know how to play the game).
I snuggled in for a final hour or so of sleep and figured that when I got up, I’d be running the load. The weight problem was never the big deal for me. It was about the 14-Hour Rule for me, and the fact that I was exhausted. So I was going to run with the load when I got up. Then at 06:47, thirteen minutes before I was going to get up and go, they sent me a Set Re-power macro. That’s just information about which truck is coming, where there load is going, etcetera. Fifteen hours and seventeen minutes after I first told them this load would need to be re-powered, they sent me a Set Re-power macro.
I actually regret that this worked out the way it did. I’m on a new board, and I’m certain this is not making a good impression. While it is never said by the company, you’re expected as a driver to simply get the loads there. USX doesn’t care whether you’ve slept. They don’t care that you’ve just spent eleven hours on duty sitting in various docks. They don’t care if you’re overweight on one of your tandems. They just want the load to get there. But if you get caught along the way and get into trouble, they’ll kick you the curb so fast it’ll make your head spin.
This is not an indictment on USX. This is how the industry works. When all is said and done, the only recourse a driver has is to learn how to play the game. Sometimes a driver has to make a decision, like I did yesterday, that however the chips may fall, the driver presents a danger to the public by trying to drive when tired. In my case, by the time I got to the truckstop last night, I was having trouble keeping my eyes open. I had a 600 mile load ahead of me, and I knew there was no way I could make it.
I’d also like to throw in one last item. While I was that exhausted, I was also having problems controlling the truck. Thanks to USX stopping my attempted repairs to the front end of the truck on four different occasions, I still have control issues. This gets much worse when you’re tired, because you can’t stay on top of the equipment. I would hazard a guess that one of the most fatiguing things that I face now is the fact that I’m constantly wrestling with this truck. If I had any sense at all, I would quit this company and give them this truck back. I might just save my own life in doing so, not to mention the lives of others. But I know what they’d do. If I left the company, or if I simply asked for another truck, they still wouldn’t repair this truck, and they’d just put someone else in it; potentially a less experienced driver who wouldn’t know how to fight to problems in the steering.
Ok, this turned into a lengthy rant. I didn’t mean for it to. This is simply a footnote in my long slide toward death. It’s nothing that’s worth remembering, but something that’s worth mentioning at the time. A week from now all this will be forgotten.

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