The life of a truckers wife can be lonely and filled with uncertainty and worry.
When James first started truck driving for Werner's Enterprise, Omaha Nebraska
being their Head Office. We were living in Oregon and he paid to go to
IITR Driving School in Creswell, Oregon for the six week course. We
borrowed money off my Ford Escort car.
Upon completion he was offered a driving position with two companies. Gordon's
Transport and Werner's. James opted to go with Gordon's as they were offering
designated runs which James wanted to do so he would be home more often than
over the road driving. He would attend Gordon's orientation course and
received their letter and bus ticket to travel up to Portland, Oregon on Sunday and
be ready to start orientation on Monday.
He packed his bag and we drove to the bus station and he left, arriving and
being met by a shuttle to his hotel. He arrived next morning at the venue for
orientation to discover he was a day late and they were sending him home with a
return ticket. James tried to point out from his letter the dates and times they had
written down, the mistake was theirs - he had proof, and still they would not
budge. James was late and that was that!
James called me and I immediately called IITR and spoke with the Manager who
tried to intervene on our behalf as they also had a copy of the letter as Gordon's
invitation to drivers had come through them. Gordon's staff would still not
James had to accept
Werner's whom did not have any Net Op openings in our area and also at that time still had a very good name and reputation. (they have been loosing their good name in the years that James worked for them, with many drivers quitting) He drove OTR with his trainer for 6 weeks, then got his own truck and solo drove for the first year.
In October he found Shadow at a Truck Stop who had either been dumped or run
away from his owner (probably the later as he ran away from us after having him 2
years) and he loved being companion on the truck
James requested to drive Net Ops anywhere there was a vacancy, we were tired of
living in a Manufactured Home Park with their rules and regulations. The nearest
vacancy was in Cheyenne, Wyoming, so he accepted, I gave my notice to University of Oregon, we sold the single wide, and my Ford Escort. Packed up and loaded a Uhaul medum truck, with trailer on the back with the Ford Ranger and left for Wyoming, following James who was hauling a load in his bigrig in January.
We had bought 35 acres of land about 20 miles from Laramie and thought we may put a house on the property, however it was too far away from Cheyenne and we did not live there.
It took us 3 days and nights to get there, plus a change in time zone from Pacific to Mountain one hour ahead. We slept in the bigrig when James ran out of hours. Driving 11 hours days in a Uhaul truck with the pickup and trailer behind on very unfamilar roads was no mean fete especially a Kiwi and never driving further than my town up to Auckland which took around 3 hours was a huge challenge. I had to drive some very scary snowy/icy roads that I was not used to at all. However I survived the trip
We rented a double wide in a Park but was not so strict with their rules and we
could have our two dogs. They were not ready for us as they said the previous tenants had left the place in a mess and was real dirty so they put us up in a motel for the night. However when we arrived the Manager was still cleaning although he had not really made much headway from my point of view and I needed to clean before I could bring our stuff in and put away in the cupboards. I cleaned all next day the walls, ceilings, light fixtures and floors etc
Two days later James and I took a drive north several miles past Laramie and on our way back along I75 freeway.. Photos of our wreck and rest of the story Here
Well, we are vehicleless and out of pocket, because we discover the insurance on our pickup expired on the 26 December. Our 'bozo' agent failed to configure his computer to take out payments from our bank account and he had missed December. The insurance office was on the same floor and building as our Selco Credit Union. He had also missed October and fortunately we discovered this and went in person to tell him, and make payment up to date.
After many exhaustive and fruitile phone calls, emails and letters back and forth
to Selco Credit Union they paid off the loan we had outstanding very quickly but this did not cover the insurance. Over 2 years of trying we were never able to resolve the agents error (who had left their employ to go 'gold mining or some-such odd job') We also spoke with his manager whom was curious and said he would look into our account with our policy payments and mentioned that he had had several other similar cases that needed closer scrutinary. He would call us back when he learned more, he did not call so James and I on several different ocassions tried calling him back without success and finally talked with another supervisor whom said that he was not with the company anymore, and no further answers to where or why etc. This guy was very curt with me and very accomplished at avoiding my questions, to the dilemma we had got into and more or less put the blame on our shoulders for expecting their company to automatically take payments from our bank account and we should have done it personally - why do companies offer automatic payments in the first place??!!
We were never able to resolve this never got reimbused. We tried getting a lawyer but the ones we contacted did not have out of State licence, because our vehicle was still registered and insured in Oregon and we were now living in Wyoming and the accident occured in Wyoming. We had to eat this lose and move on.
We bought a 2nd hand beat up Cherokee that we were scared to leave Cheyenne over any distance in case it broke down, however it didn't and served us until we got to Nebraska
James drove from Cheyenne to Rock Springs about 250 miles one way and back 5 days per week, many times after I could sit long enough I came for the ride and learn to drive the bigrig. For six months, with the ocassional run from Cheyenne to North Platt in Nebraska which was flatter run with less closure of the I 80 interstate from snow - no trips no money coming in because he isn't working.
There was an ocassion that James and I had to sleep overnight in Laramie in the truck, fortunately this route James was issued with the Bigrig sleeper as the road from Laramie to Cheyenne was closed due to heavy snow and ice. There were other times that we got home late due to the weather or got a late start.
An opening came up and James requested to take the Cheyenne to North Platt with a time zone change of one hour into Central time about an hour from North Platt. He drove that for the next 6 months, with me almost his constant companion, I thoroughly enjoyed traveling with him..
We lived in Cheyenne for a year and did some extensive searching and had a couple of Real Estate agents sending us likely homes and land for sale around Nebraska in our price range (as it was greener than Wyoming which I did not like) We bought our first home, with only photos to view. Not the best recommendation to buy homes on, and will not do again! Cheyenne was knee deep in snow in the winter. Can you believe it? I said to James I would follow him anywhere except I did not want to be 'knee deep' in snow - yet here I was in Wyoming knee deep AND I swept the snow off the front porch - yes I did say swept.. Who would have guessed I would be sweeping snow with a house broom, unheard of back in NZ as the snow around my neck of the woods when it did snow was far too wet and mostly did not settle on concrete, or the roads. I always thought snow was snow, but I have since learned there is a variation of snow!!
We packed up again in February and I left the house cleaner than I got it and we hired a Budget Rental truck that were offering a special. Paid cash up front and headed south into Central time zone and taking just one day to arrive. However we had to spend the night at a motel before we could go see the house the next day.
We were a bit shocked to see how dirty the house was left, as this was a real estate sale, so I had to set about cleaning again before I could put anything away. The house was run down yet livable downstairs, upstairs was too hot in summer and too cold in winter as it did not have any insulation. The outside buildings and grounds were also run down.
After we unloaded the Budget we called the office in Lincoln to request directions to take the truck back and I drove our car. We spent hours looking for their office and could not find it and it got dark so we had to drive back home again and try next day. We ended up with them taking extra money out because we were late! We were not happy as their instructions to their depot was almost impossible to find and we only stumbled upon it on our way down another road and saw it tucked away. - People need to stop and think that not everyone has 'local knowledge'!!!
The first winter was quite a nightmare as we only had a car in snowy conditions, we traded in the old cherokee for a 'brand new' Isuzu car, James wanted a 2nd hand 4WD but our credit was not good and had been dented (I don't think our credit has ever been unmarked for one thing or another - even when I first got my SSN someone put stuff on there and I am still disputing that it is not mine!) Anyway, he could buy a brand new car to improve our credit rating, but not a 2nd hand pickup!
The grader vehicle had not been down to our driveway as the previous elderly lady whom lived in our home, probably did not go out much and we were the last house on this road, so the road was several feet deep with snow and James often got stuck and either had our neighbour pull him out or he was not able to drive into work because of the road near the bridge was unaccessible even with 4WD.
After a month or so the grader driver got the picture and came down and graded, but it was not until the next winter that they graded on a regular basis and then I began to see other 4WD vehicles drive on the road all year long as it was a short cut to the houses on the fork a quarter of a mile away. - By the second year we had traded in our car for a 4WD which we own outright and still have today.
Well life of a truckers wife ran along with its ups and downs for the next 2 years as James drove the Net Ops dedicated run from Omaha Head Office to Westbranch Iowa. He was home each evening and two days off. I could not go with him as they had a no passenger policy and they would see me. There were several ocassions that James got home late and a couple of those I called his dispatcher as I was worried where he was and if there had been an accident. James broke down many times over the years and in some very isolated areas and it would take hours for anyone to come and tow his truck. He was off for the ocassional day due to bad weather as he had when we lived in Cheyenne and no freight could get through due to the roads being closed etc. However these days were not often and he received $60 per day which helped and better than nothing.
I worked around the house and grounds, painted and changed out screening in windows and doors, repaired some broken windows, put up the electric fence and mended many, many times of the course of months for the two horses we bought as one constantly got out and would often break the connection which I had to find and fix. I put on my winter boots, coat, hat and gloves to just walk down 50 yards to the mailbox wadding in thigh high snow near the bottom of the driveway that first winter. The other winters the driveway never got all this built up snow because of the 4WD kept the snow packed down.
I planted in a vege garden the first summer and not the others as the animals now had free range over the whole 4 acres..Until I had my nasty fall off Tazman and most simple tasks after that has been awkward or just too hard for me to accomplish.
January 2009, James did not drive for a full 8 days, Werners had changed their $60.00 per day down to $20 and also took drivers holiday pay that they would not get any. Story here. James had to quickly change companies and was hired on with Universe Trucking, gave his notice to Werners so he would be in good standing with them and drove OTR again, whereby he was usually only gone a week so it was not too bad for me to get back into. After a couple of months he was driving up to New York and the States up there which was more pay. He was making good money which we socked away to relocate once again. Universe did not use the qualcomm paperless logs which is like a computer inside the truck which tells the dispatchers where the truck is at all times and read milage etc and drivers can communicate from. James had to learn all the different techniques of written logs and tallying up times, different time zones etc which was a whole different ball game.
James did well driving for them and the Safety Manager whom James always spoke with when he came back in was pleased with his driving and dedication however all that changed when James mentioned that we were going to have to relocate out of state to Safety and owner's son whom ran Universe. Universe did not have a depot in any other state so there was no question whether James could still relocate with the company.
Two weeks before James was to finish he asked the owners son if he could keep sending him up to New York so he could make the big money so we would have enough behind us. The owner's father whom was way past retiring often came in to put in his two cents worth and was not very tactful at best was there that day.
The strangest thing, I was waiting out in the pickup for James to come back out with his wages and he said to me "I think I was just fired"!
I thought he was joking... James said that the 'old man' upon hearing James request
to haul loads up to New York and learning that he was leaving said that James had brought the trailer in with a scratch on it...! and something about his logs had an error but he was not able to go to see Safety and talk about it and get it fixed as this had happened several times before - James had not done anything wrong just an error how he filled out his logs and once explained was able to be amended. The old man said "we could call it quits"!!!!
James and I were both completely confused and astounded and we took out everything from the bigrig. I was going to clean out the truck with soap and water and clean everything down when he came back in on his final day. We had to leave it dirty.
After we packed up and relocated to Georgia to the last time zone of Eastern (I have lived in 4 time zones across the United States) and James went to one of the local big trucking companies he learned that Universe Trucking had placed him in 'log violation on his 70 hours, which is a misdomeanor on his DAT files. Talk about mean spirited. - James drove 5 days and was home for the weekend, he was driving 11 hours days which can be done within a 14 hour daily time alotment. His total hours was 55 hours per week. He never drove into his 70 hours which is law to stop and have a 32 hour reset - which was his weekend home! We do not understand how James came into log violation under any of these circumstances.
James has had to put in a dispute, and the old man passed on a few weeks after we left.
James has driven bigrig truck over one million miles (1,000,000). and a drawer full of Award certificates for his safety, dedication and other positive reinforcements, mostly from Werners as he drove with them the longest so far.
After several applications to driving companies he was hired on with Arnolds Transport after travelling down to Jackson, Florida for orientation and drove over the road being away for about 4 to 6 weeks and home 2 days. Us Express bought them out a few months later even though they still operate under their name, James was offered the opportunity to go Owner lease driver. We gave it a lot of thought and James talked to various owner drivers and decided we would do it. He had to resign from Arnolds, hire on with US Express and travelled to their orientation and see if he would be eligible to be offered a Lease truck which he was, over several hundred other hopeful drivers. US Express was suppose to give James a grace period of 1 week before they started to take out lease payments each month - they started straight away.
We have had such small wages that we have had to dip into our reserves Then 6 weeks ago James parked his bigrig at a truck stop not far from our turn off after being home for one night and was inside the shop, it was dark and he jumped back in to the truck and started it up and started to drive forward when he heard an awful whirring and clunking sound, quickly turned the motor off and got out to see all the anti-freeze gushing out onto the parking area. With a flash light he looked under the hood and saw that several of the fan blades had been sheered off, so then he looked around the grill and saw some small dents and a couple of splits. Some driver had backed into his grill and pushed the radiator back against the fan. He called me and I had to come and get him after calling dispatcher whom said they would send a tow truck out next day. When we got back next day we were able to see more of the damage. We took numerous photos and the truck was towed away and he was home for a week without work or wages coming in.
We had to drive up to Atlanta to pick up his bigrig which was not where they said it was but actually several miles away at their Atlanta depot - communication needs to be better with all truck companies to their drivers for better production!
Since he started back driving again he stopped home one night and each week he has had a breakdown of some sort that has resulted from that 'sneaky driver' who backed into him and took off without a word. He has received no wages in 5 weeks as they are taking what he earns to pay back the lease on the truck as well as the $1,000.00 deductable for insurance. Who in their right mind would pay their employer to be employed?? James, my dedicated and loyal working husband, that's who..And that is what I mentioned to his supervisor when I was talking with him. He received a small wage last week of $256.00 which did not even meet our rent.
I had the Electricty company threatening to shut off the power, Windstream cut off the dish network and will be cutting off phone and internet service, James verizon phone service is overdue which he needs to call dispatcher, yet US Express does not pay for the service they require their drivers to have and we still owe on our rent. The dogs are getting low in food.
My children have offered to come to the rescue, Kerie tried to send me money via Paypal which she deposited her tax return in. As she is working in France on a working holiday she was not able to put her New Zealand bank details on there so she could pay her NZ credit card. When she called Paypal they said she had to be in England to do this being a Commonwealth country like our own I guess. This makes me mad that Paypal will accept money deposited into your account quick enough yet will not allow you to send money to another members account unless you have banking details typed in. Isn't it our money???
So my son Daryl, who is working on the Continent tried to send me money from his Wells-Fargo account and he could not do this either... What the heck is wrong with our banking system that we cannot send or transfer money from bank to bank. - I have now seen two small deposits under 20 cent sent to our bank from Daryl's as a test, I am still waiting for his main deposit to come through which Daryl says has gone through his end.
America, you need to get with the program, New Zealand and Australia are 'light years' ahead of you in these areas. We can actually nominate any day of the week to pay a bill, transfer etc etc not choose from a small selection of dates. Don't you realise that all you have to do is re-configure your computers and they can do anything you ask of them???
Well it is Wednesday and all last week and this week I have been real scared as to what we will do if US Express does not come through and pay James a decent wage, he has been driving long hours and miles but each week has still had a break down which has cost time and loss of hours.
My faith in the Lord has taken a big nose dive as I have really believed He would not let us get into this big mess whereby I could be homeless, without power by next week. The bible says we are not to worry as the birds don't worry about food and he sees every sparrow fall to the ground and we (humans) are suppose to be more precious to Him that birds and animals. Our dogs have never had to go hungry, I would never ignore my children yet here I sit scared and wondering why the Lord Jesus has not answered our prayers.
More when I know more...
6 May 09, I spent several hours on the phone with James then his dispatcher, payroll, then trying to go up the chain of command to his supervisor's supervisor whom I did speak with and was able to tell them our situation. They have promised to look into these 'what I think' is an exhorbant amount of money taken away that we do not get any wages at all and try and crunch numbers to spread out over a longer period of time and smaller amount taken. I did receive responses back to my initial call which I thank them for as so many people these days ignore you.
I am told that they are able to stretch out payments and we should get something in our bank tomorrow and hopefully Daryl's transfer will be there too and I can finally pay our overdue utilities and get back into current statis at the very least.
I think, finally the Lord heard me, I am much more calmer and composed than the mess I was in earlier today after emailing my good friend back in New Zealand who has a cool head while mine was overloaded.
Amanda Martin-Shaver ©
6 May 2010
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