Welcome to our latest edition of Aces & Freights – our newsletter, written by Operations Analyst and former driver Ken Moore, regarding the trucking lifestyle.
Questions or comments? We’d love to hear from you. Please don’t hesitate to contact Ken at firstname.lastname@example.org. We hope you enjoy the content and we look forward to your comments, suggestions, and any stories you may have to share, too!
In order to drive a truck as safely as we can, we need to be in the right mindset. Namely, we need to be focused. This can sometimes be a monumental task! Truck drivers need to make, on average, 160 decisions per minute. Does that number decrease because of issues at home? Does it decrease if you’ve recently lost someone? How about if you didn’t sleep well? No, of course it doesn’t. Now, does your ability to process 160 decisions per minute decrease because of those things? Absolutely. In this edition of Aces & Freights, I’m going to delve into the too often stigmatized subject of our mental health and hopefully provide some resources that can help to improve our ability to focus on the road.
The best thing we can do to keep ourselves in good mental health is to take care of ourselves physically. Making the right decisions in what to eat, eating often, and getting physical exercise aren’t just good things to keep our hearts healthy. These same things are paramount to keeping the mind healthy enough to deal with the demanding tasks we force it to do day after day on the road.
Serotonin is a hormone that regulates almost everything important to keeping a focused mind. Sleep, mood, and appetite are all heavily influenced by serotonin and all three of those affect your driving either positively or negatively. What most people don’t realize is that 95% of our serotonin production comes from our stomachs and that our gastrointestinal tracts are lined with neurons that tell the brain what’s coming in. Simply put, if the food is something the body likes, the brain receives those signals and we’re happier because the brain rewards us with a proper amount of serotonin. If the food that we’re digesting is full of refined sugars, we can be put into an awful mood because the brain receives the signals that tell it we’re not getting what we need and it decides to alter our serotonin levels.
This can lead to a downward spiral for anyone, but especially for drivers. We tend to have really long days of work, and if our serotonin is off, we can have trouble sleeping, which will make us even more tired at the end of the day. If we’re even more tired, we’re a lot less likely to prepare our own foods and a lot more likely to eat something fast and bad for us. What does this lead to? More nights of bad sleep (which is hard enough to get when a lot of drivers first start off due to the facts that they’re in a strange environment with sounds they’re not used to and there’s a lot of stress getting used to being on their own) and more days of bad focus…This is absolutely a safety concern, but it can also affect how much money you earn. When you lose focus, you’re more likely to make a mistake while driving, which hopefully is a small mistake, but it still may cost you points on your PFP. If I average 2100 miles per week and I have a .02/mile bonus, that’s potentially jeopardizing about $550 per business quarter because I didn’t eat better. That’s junk! Also, if I’m in a bad mood because I didn’t eat well, all the little issues I encounter on the road suddenly seem like they are big issues, and not to mention that the bad serotonin levels can make me more impulsive making me more likely to quit, which could cost me a lot of money.
The “downward spiral” I described above has happened to all of us at some point, but being aware of why it happens can help us prevent it from happening again. I’ve never been one to tell anyone how to eat, but we all know that natural foods tend to make us feel better. Try replacing one or two refined foods that you regularly eat with something a little better; maybe drop potato chips or another processed snack for sunflower seeds. Just making small changes here and there will increase the likelihood of you keeping that change. Give it a month and see how much of a difference that makes in how you feel…and how you drive!
Nationally, about 6.7% of the total U.S. population suffer from depression. The number for truck drivers is in the area of 200-300% higher than that. No doubt that reduced personal contact and time with support groups such as friends and family as well as improper nutrition and exercise (as was stated in the previous article) significantly contribute to this increase. Unfortunately, depression is a bit of a touchy topic because of the stigma we associate with it. There’s a thought that if I am depressed, there’s something wrong with me and I’d just sound weak if I talked with someone about it. This is especially true in the trucking industry as almost every image the industry pushes of a truck driver is of a “tough” looking man. Large men with arms crossed and stern, stoic unshaven faces cover almost every advertisement for trucking companies. This unrealistic image reinforces the fact that truck drivers are regular, everyday people who deal with most of their issues alone over the road.
Now, the national numbers are one thing, but how much are we affected by it here at Maverick? You might think that this number is lower since we have good home time and it likely may be, but, in the Best Fleets to Drive For survey that Maverick drivers completed at the end of 2015, one of the top 3 wishes that drivers would like to see Maverick adopt is to have counseling services available to them. Even though our numbers may not be as high as the national numbers, clearly they are significant enough that we need to pay attention to this issue. Based on the statistics above and accounting for better home time for a conservative estimate, it’s still highly possible that somewhere between 150 and 250 Maverick drivers suffer from some level of depression.
So, let’s get into what exactly depression is. First and foremost, depression is a medical condition. Other examples of medical conditions are: high blood pressure, arthritis, allergies, hemophilia, etc. All of these things, including depression, vary in how severe they are and all of them are treated by specialists. Symptoms of this medical condition include: sadness or a depressed mood almost every day, the loss of enjoyment of things you used to like to do, major changes in weight in a short period of time, too much or too little sleep almost every day, fatigue almost every day, feeling hopeless or worthless or guilty almost every day, problems with concentrating or making decisions, and thoughts of hurting oneself. Sometimes this is caused by changes in serotonin levels (as described above) and sometimes it’s caused by unusually hard circumstances that we don’t know how to cope with.
Last August, my 21 year old son, Dugan, passed after a hard-fought 10 month war with brain cancer. It completely destroyed me. I suffered from almost every symptom listed above except for having thoughts of hurting myself. I barely slept…Memories had begun to surface where I could have been a better father and they haunted me endlessly…I could barely concentrate on my work…My day to day memory, which is normally quite good, lost its hold and I also had problems remembering anything from the previous year…My grief, which had started before Dugan died, developed into a social anxiety disorder and a slight paranoia…I was angrier and more depressed than I could handle on my own. It wasn’t fair to my family who was suffering as well, so I had to do something about it…
During my time with Maverick, I’ve pushed our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) multiple times. I was told that it is a great program but that it is also under-used. At first, I thought that this is due to the program possibly not being advertised well enough or often enough after orientation. Now, however, I realize that the problem goes a bit further. Knowing that I was having trouble with depression…knowing that I couldn’t cope without help…believing fully that counseling is a good thing, that it helps people, and that everyone should see a counselor at some point in his life…I picked up the phone, but couldn’t dial the number. I couldn’t admit I was lost or that I couldn’t get myself back on track. It ended up taking me two days just to make the call.
What I need to tell you is that call was the first step in building my life back up. The person handling calls for the EAP was very understanding. He looked up and found counselors in my area who are in network and accept the EAP payments. I was then given codes for myself and each member of my family to give to our grief counselor so that we could each have three free sessions with her. After that, it’s billed through insurance and it’s treated the same way as any other medical visit, going toward the deductible. The process is easy, quick, and doesn’t add to your stress.
Admittedly, I’m still reeling from losing Dugan. Some days are better than others, some hours are better than others. I’ve teared up more times than I can count just writing this article, but I’m actually able to write it because I got the help I needed to cope. One of the three top things Maverick drivers wanted was access to counseling. Well, Maverick has that. If you need the help, like I did, please make the call.
The EAP brochure and phone number is in MMS should you or your families ever find need of counseling, legal advice, and more. All inquiries, conversations, and medical information shared with the EAP or your specialists are confidential and no information is shared with Maverick or anyone else. If you need to set up home time to meet your appointment, you are under no obligation to tell us if your appointment is with a counselor.
Driving is simultaneously a career of unimaginable exploration and freedom. It’s truly an amazing feeling to get paid to explore the country. To see the Rockies and Appalachians, the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and the Gulf of Mexico, to taste the differences in pizza from state to state, to experience different cultures on a daily basis…This is an education that few people get to experience. At the same time, unfortunately, there are lots of experiences that drivers go through on a daily basis that just cause stress: bad drivers who cut you off, steep downhills with lots of curves, a receiver who happens to be in a bad mood, etc. All these things and more cause high and low levels of stress every day, and if you haven’t found a way to release that stress, it carries over to the next day and makes all of the stress for that day worse. The best thing drivers can do for themselves is to find something to do to wind down.
For me, I had an arsenal of things I could do to wind down. My guitar has been to every state that I’ve been to and would come out at the end of the day and sometimes for breaks during the day. I would also hike, collect minerals and fossils that I’d find all over the place, and keep a blog. Whatever it is, it has to be something that you enjoy doing and that can be done anywhere. Some drivers prefer fishing and some prefer golfing. I’ve heard of both being done all over the place. What’s cool is that there are more and more “hobby” groups forming online, many of which are on Facebook, and are basically forming clubs. So, if disc golfing happens to be your thing, you can go onto Facebook, find the disc golfing groups Disc Golfing Truckers and Disc Golfing Truckers/travelers, both are Maverick driver Ken Donathan’s groups, join one or both, and then not only will you have information on where you can go to do it, but you might even be able to set up times with other people in the club to play together. This would be a great option for a 34 hour break. If you don’t see a group with your interests, form one and post it to the Maverick Family Facebook page and to your wall. Maybe some other Maverick Drivers and some of your friends will join, then their friends might join and so on. The larger the group is, the better the chances of finding what you like to do all over the country.
Some other interests I’ve seen Maverick drivers have taken to are photography and photo editing. Going to different parts of the U.S. and/or Canada all the time, there’s an opportunity to catch lots of different landscapes with different lighting. (If you pay attention, you’ll notice that cloud formations are different depending on the region you’re in as well.) Then, with apps like Snapseed, you can alter your pics to however your artistic side likes.
Here are a couple of good shots by Erick Risher:
Regardless of what you end up doing at the end of the day, make sure it’s something that can help you cut the stresses of everyday life on the road. Driving is an amazing and unique experience if you let yourself enjoy it.
►With Maverick since August 2013
►Trainer for over Two Years
►Drives in MSN Division (Glass OTR)
►What does he like best about Training?
►What’s his approach in helping a student who is having trouble?
►How does he get to know his students?
►Why does he drive?
►What hobbies does he enjoy?
►Does he do any of them on the road?
David was Maverick’s Q3 Trainer of the Quarter in 2016.
Snapseed is a great, easy to use app allowing you to edit all the photos you take with your phone on the road. Not only does it let you correct for photos that came out too dark, but there are a slew of filters you can choose from to get the right feel for your pics. My favorite aspect is that it allows you to change exposure, warmth, brightness and more on specific parts of your photo instead of only having the option to do this for the entire frame. It’s a free app and it’s completely entertaining. Give it a try!
PhotoDirector is a cool alternative to Snapseed that lets you use the filters before you take the picture. There’s also a slide on the screen that controls how much light affects the details of your shot. For example, if a bright window is behind your subject, you can adjust it so that you can either have a silhouette or so that you can see the subject’s details instead. What’s even cooler is that you can use these effects on your inward facing camera, too. PhotoDirector is a free app and definitely a lot of fun.
►Harvard provides some excellent resources for how nutrition affects your brain.
►Here is a short video you can watch on what exactly Depression is and how it can affect someone:
When coming into your Dock area always size up the area that you have to work with for your setup, as you are approaching your dock look at the door you are going to back into. Check to see what kind of docking system the customer is using because there are many different variations. If it’s a spring-loaded bumper latch make sure the jaw is open before backing into it. Before you back all the way into your dock slide your tandems to the rear of the trailer. That helps reduce movement of the trailer in the unloading process because excessive movement of the trailer can cause the DOT bumper latch to wedge against the bumper and not allow it to release. Once you get the green light and an “ok” from the customer to move, but before moving the truck, walk to the back of the trailer to check and see if the jaw has been released from the bumper. You may have to back against the dock to get the jaw to release the bumper. Do not pull out if the bumper has not released. Go inside to have the customer release the lock jaws so you can move. In short, always know what kind of dock you are backing into.
Charles Baines- 5 year
David Linscott- 5 year
James Mugisha- 5 year
Eric Blakeman- 5 year
Ken Ankney- Million Mile
Kelly Johnson- Million Mile
Mitch Miller- 15 year
Keith Williams- 2 Million Miles
Jeff Woods- 5 year
Timothy Taylor- 5 year
Clarence Rhodes- 5 year
Veon Hughes- Million Mile
Brian Cady- Million Mile
Charles Howlett- Million Mile
Daniel Behanna- 10 year
James Darby- 10 year
Kenneth Dublin- 10 year
Edmond Foster- 10 year
Steven Carlson- 10 year
Michael Grant- 10 year
Gary Lipscomb- 20 years
Vincent Lester- 20 years
Cecil Conner- 5 years
Brian Doerr- 5 years
David Bell- Million Mile
Kirl Tartt- 25 years
David Bach- 5 year
Edwin Coleman- 5 year
Jeff Callen- 5 year
John Grooters- 5 year
Alvin Campbell- Million Mile
Doug Cutler- Million Mile
DJ Grey- Million Mile
Joe Oliver- 10 year
Rodney Boettger- 5 year
Alex Gulley- 5 year
Joe Steeley- 5 year
James Patrick- Million Mile
Jim Jones- 10 year
John Bentley- 15 years
Jose Origel- 5 year
Troy Smith- 5 year
Steven Jarrell- 5 year
Michael Perkins- 5 year
Scott Nester- Million Mile
Ron Nunley- Million Mile
Jay Rambo- Million Mile
Dean Payne- 15 years
It’s always a special time when Maverick family comes together to celebrate and honor our Drivers of the Month. This year was no different, as both Maverick office employees and Black Hats (along with spouses) gathered to fellowship in Little Rock at Next Level Events for our annual Driver of the Year Banquet.
Those in attendance heard speeches from VP of Operations John Coppens, Chairman & CEO Steve Williams, and President John Culp. It was a memorable time reflecting on Maverick’s humble beginnings and giving praise and special recognition to the twelve Drivers of the Month.
The next morning, while the Drivers Advisory Committee held their quarterly meeting, our Black Hats’ spouses went sightseeing in downtown Little Rock! Their stops included the Clinton Presidential Library (with its current exhibit: The Beatles!) and lunch at Forty Two.
Later in the afternoon, it was time for the Driver of the Year presentation! The Summit Conference Center was a packed house.
2015 Driver of the Year Roger Wyble
Then it was time for the Driver of the Year pronouncement! 12 outstanding and honorable Drivers of the Month were nominated, but the driver with the most votes throughout the fleet and office employees would be…
Raurii “Pineapple” Milbrandt pronounced as 2016 Driver of the Year
Emotions were definitely high as Raurii gave a heartfelt speech to the Maverick crowd.
Raurii with Driver Instructor Kurt Ebersole
Raurii with Fleet Manager Tim Seivertson
Raurii with December 2016 Driver of the Month Tommy Walters
Raurii with 2011 Driver of the Year Allen Coley
Left to right: VP of Operations John Coppens, Chairman & CEO Steve Williams, Raurii, President John Culp
Raurii with former Drivers of the Year
2016 Drivers of the Month
Congratulations Raurii! You will represent our fleet well throughout 2017 as our Driver of the Year!
As we plan for a new year it is often a time to reflect on the past and see how we can better position ourselves for the future. We understand how important it is for you to plan for your own future as well as your retirement years. Maverick would like to provide assistance in this planning process and therefore we are excited to announce the addition of a 401k Match effective January 1, 2017.
Maverick will match 50% of your contributions to an annual maximum of $1,500 per employee. We hope you find the match to be beneficial as you strive to reach your retirement goals. This match will be funded on a weekly basis and there will be a three year cliff vesting schedule. This means you are 0% vested on the employer matched funds until you have been employed with Maverick for three years. After 3 years of service with Maverick, you would be fully vested on the employer matched funds at 100%. As always, you will be fully vested in your employee contributions no matter how long you have been employed with Maverick.
If you are already enrolled in the 401k Plan you do not have to do anything to take advantage of the Match as it will automatically start matching at 50% of your employee contributions. For those that are not already enrolled, you may do so through Transamerica at any time online (upon completion of your new hire eligibility period) at www.transamerica.com or by phone at 888-676-5512. Additionally, if you are already enrolled in the 401k Plan and wish to change your contributions and/or investment allocations you may make these changes online and by phone. You may also make these modifications through the Transamerica App that can be found in the Apple and Android stores.
Please contact the Benefits Department at 866-413-4410, option #6 if you have any trouble enrolling in the Plan or have any questions.
Thank you for all of your hard work over the past year and we look forward to a great 2017!
-Maverick’s Executive Team
We have been involved in a documentary with Delaware Park Productions for about a year now. Be Prepared to Stop is about our love of and absolute dependence on the great American highway. We rely on those roads and the countless trucks rolling down them to supply us with just about everything we use every day. But this round-the-clock lifeline has become so entrenched in our daily routines, we don’t even notice it any more. That neglect is reaching a crisis point. Roads and bridges are failing; safety concerns are mounting; skilled drivers are retiring; government is at a standstill. In order to raise awareness about the impact the impending breakdown will have on all our lives, Be Prepared to Stop aims to not only explain the issues but also to energize stakeholders to push for solutions that will improve the current situation and build towards a secure future.
Obviously this is near and dear to our hearts given what we do, but this is relevant to each and every one of us as citizens of this country. We had a small private screening last night in Little Rock which kicked off the dissemination of the film. After these screenings in select cities (Los Angeles, DC, San Jose, etc) the hope is that it will be picked up by CNN, HBO or the Discovery Channel. Until it is mainstreamed, we want to share the extended trailer with you:
We’re back at it again, folks! For those of you who missed our previous post, we asked a few of our veteran drivers about some of the things they wish they had known before they went out on the road solo. Our first installment came from former driver, driver trainer and now fleet manager TJ Hargis.
Now it’s time for our second installment – this round of advice from former and current drivers Ken Moore and Tom Hachiya.
It’s actually not what a rookie driver does, that’s his/her mistake. It’s what’s not done. Before we start driving, we’re generally used to three square meals at relatively specific times of the day. This can change in a truck. We might not be able to stop for meals at the times we want to due to traffic, appointment times, etc. Now, in order to be our best, to think most clearly, to be safest, and to make our most rational decisions, we need to eat properly and consistently. I’m not talking just eating healthy. When someone first starts driving, there’s so much on his/her plate that food often doesn’t end up on the plate. I’ve spoken with drivers who’ve only eaten fast food and I’ve spoken with drivers who filled their trucks full with cans of beans. We need to eat a variety of food, snack during the day, and pay attention to getting enough non-fast food calories in our system. If we can do this, we are safer, less likely to be irritated by annoying things we have to deal with, and our families will like us more when we get home.
One of the biggest mistakes a rookie driver makes is not finding a way to wind down at the end of the day. When you first start driving, you have a ton to think about: driving safely, appointment times, eating properly in a strange environment, FMCSA regulations, hours of service, and on and on. It’s all pretty daunting in the beginning, and it’s honestly really stressful. If you play guitar, bring your guitar. If you hike, now you can hike everywhere. Personally, I like to find and collect fossils while I’m out. Whatever you choose, you need to have something at the end of the day (and sometimes in the middle) that you can do to help release that stress and feel better. Otherwise, the stress builds day after day and your time on the road isn’t what you want it to be.
From Tom Hachiya:
Time management: Consider your options before you head out on the road. Take some time to think about your 8 hour and 10 hour clock before taking off. The same thing pertains to your 30 minute break. Make sure you have a clear plan and direction, but also keep in mind your options and for hiccups that may come up along the way.
Backing: Make sure you do a good job of surveying your surroundings when you come into a customer’s area. Know where your safety threats and obstacles are at all times. Before you start backing, just stop. Look around and take an inventory of all of those things you might run into or that could hit you: a pedestrian walking along, a car that’s driving, a truck starting up. And as you’re backing up, keep track of them.
Rookies often lose track of the front of their truck. When backing, don’t be so focused that you lose track of the front. Every 10 seconds, look around as you’re backing up so you can keep track of all 4 corners of the truck.
Enjoy being a rookie: When you’re new, people expect you to make mistakes. People don’t expect you to be at 125 PFP points (Pay for Performance). Ask the extra questions, take the extra minutes. When it’s your first time at a customer, let them know. Ask them where they want you to check in, where to park. Don’t worry about the fact that you’re brand new. “Hey I’ve never been here before – where do you want me to go?” You’ll keep yourself out of trouble. Most people are happy to help you – they don’t want to see you fail!
We spoke with a few of our Maverick drivers (and former drivers) here recently who are a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the ins and outs of driving OTR. For those of you just starting out as a Maverick, those first few months out on the road going solo can be pretty intimidating. It’s a huge responsibility to be navigating 80,000 pounds of machinery on the roads, highways, and between traffic.
And so begins our short three-part series on some of the most common rookie mistakes and pieces of advice to make those first few months a little easier.
Our first contribution comes from former driver, driver trainer and external recruiter TJ Hargis. TJ is now a fleet manager for Maverick and helps new drivers transition out of their trainer truck and into going solo OTR.
Thanks so much for your time, TJ!
TJ as a driver trainer (2012)
Time management is very important. This covers everything from leaving home too late, just in time to make a delivery, and all the way to taking too long on breaks.
As a new driver, there are many obstacles that we have not seen or experienced, so the best advice that I can give is to plan your day and all your trips with a cushion to allow for road types that you haven’t seen or become comfortable with yet. Then there are other things that might crop up — traffic, time zone differences, even medical issues like when you don’t feel well. These things happen, but if we don’t allow time in our trip planning for them it could result in not loading/unloading for an additional day (which affects our pay check!).
Although it’s tough being away from our families, sometimes it’s actually better to leave a few hours early just to make sure our time is used correctly and we prepare for the obstacles that are in our everyday travels. Make sure to communicate any issues or concerns about your load or even the times and always pay attention to your H.O.S. Call your fleet manager with these questions and ask for their opinion. Remember, we’ve all been in this industry, most of us as drivers, long enough that we can help you find the right plans and path of execution.
Slow down and take your time to ensure that you do your job to the best of your ability and that you do it safely; speed with loading/unloading and trip planning will only get better in time. But find a system that works for you and stick with it. Do everything the same way every time and you create a pattern, a system. Then you can make movements without thinking of them because it becomes second nature. This is when your speed improves. Find a place for all your equipment or instruments that you use on a daily basis and return them to the same place after each use. Being organized is crucial in becoming more efficient.
Don’t ever rely solely on GPS. Always double check your atlas with all routes and restrictions, also use your local directions to get to your shippers and consignees. These are put in by our drivers that have been there before you. You obtain these by sending in Macro 1. Read these directions carefully and write them down. So here is the key to these directions, find out where you will tie in with them because the driver that entered them may have been traveling north (which should be stated) and you may be traveling south, so that means you need to compensate for that. If you have a smart phone, Google Maps works great for seeing your roads on satellite view.
And please, ALWAYS REMEMBER: Communication is the absolute key!
This year’s Driver of the Year banquet was a very special one indeed! It was a wonderful evening honoring our 12 Drivers of the Month and their spouses in attendance.
After a meet and greet and fellowship between the Drivers of the Month and Maverick’s office employees, we heard moving speeches given by Maverick CEO Steve Williams, President John Culp, and VP of Operations John Coppens.
Our Black Hats were also recognized with a short video created to honor them and their role within the Black Hat program and at Maverick.
As a special surprise, June 2015 Driver of the Month Troy Fegley and 2014 Driver of the Year Jimmy Fitzwater presented a very special gift to Kay Hendrix (lovingly known as “Momma Kay”) at the end of the banquet. She was given a plaque and a beautiful locket in recognition of her time at Maverick. Her legacy will never be forgotten, and she was moved to tears, as were the rest of us!
On Friday, the Summit conference was packed to the brim with office employees and drivers alike for the Driver of the Year presentation!
And then it was the moment we were all waiting for! Who was going to be named our 2015 Driver of the Year?