Wednesday, February 26, 2014

One Cab Driver Killing Suspect In Custody

The other day there was yet another murder of a cab driver in Houston. Mr. Donalvon Rhyne was found dead in his taxi earlier this week in a neighborhood that is certainly far from the worst in the Houston area. It was apparent, if the news reports are to be believed, that he had dropped a customer and was taken by surprise by thugs as he was sitting waiting for his next fare.

As of now one Jock Wilson is in custody with another filth undergoing questioning. If Mr. Wilson and/or his alleged accomplice are guilty, then it is my fervent hope that they pay the ultimate price.

This type of crime is, after all, what the death penalty is all about.

Monday, February 17, 2014

A Tool Sighting Coming down Houston Way

There will be a Tool sighting in Houston later next month. I will be there although I have noted that the tickets are astronomical. Not usually going to see just your average band. Usually looking for something obscure and offbeat (as Tool certainly was in the early 90's and still are for that matter) andI will only see big name bands if they are something special. Tool certainly qualifies. Right up there with Rammstein. That was one concert I won't be forgetting anytime soon.

Please enjoy Tool. This one is a bit disturbing. Aren't they all.

Age Discrimination in the Trucking Business?

Seem to you like everyone is being discriminated against these day? Just ask and they'll tell you I'm sure. Gays, racial "minorities," large folk, small folk,  transgendered, the religious, the non religious, the wrong religious, etc. etc. ad nauseum. What one does not often hear so much about is age discrimination. Perhaps it is because a lot of those older folks who are being discriminated against in the workplace (ie let go, outsourced, downsized, whatever) just tend to say "the heck with it" and move along. Perhaps that is fine and good for a few, but for a great many it is a life altering event and likely very seldom for the better. At least from a financial stand....

I have mentioned before that I work for a mid level chemical trucking firm (it looks very promising to be changing hats within a couple weeks) and I may, I repeat may, have seen some of the very age discrimination I am speaking of. I certainly have my suspicions.  Read on.....

A while back my firm hired an old friend of mine from another firm with a pie in the sky package. This man has been around this business since the dawn of time and is well into his sixties. As a fact of business, he trained me back in the mid early nineties. Fact is, this man knows more about this industry than any six of the young folk that seem to be in charge put together. What he was not real adept at apparently was generating some rather nonsensical reports due to his lack of computer (Microsoft Office type crap) skills. He was working on upgrading, attending training sessions in fact, but I suppose his progress was not quick enough for some. Oh he did come down with the bonafide flu and was out for a few days also. Let us not forget that.... This gentleman was unceremoniously (or perhaps ceremoniously) escorted out one fine afternoon.......

There was an older gentleman in Pennsylvania who had been with the company for years. Knew more than anyone about chemical freight in that neck of the woods (The Philadelphia and NJ chemical complexes) and he suddenly found himself unemployed. Not sure the circumstances there and I  should perhaps not comment further.

Another instance I am familiar with is a gentleman in our central dispatch who was apparently let go last week. He had been with the firm for going on thirty years I believe and knew the business inside and out from a national perspective. That knowledge certainly is not something that can replaced over night. Can't be replaced in a matter of years likely. He knew more than anyone about this business in our firm.  We are now in deep. A few girls in their early twenties and one young arrogant "manager" who is likely no more than twenty eight are at the helm of a multi million dollar business. One of the major problems it seems were that when some business to conduct with our central dispatch, it was often those of us in the satellite offices would deal with him (the "let go guy) and when given the choice of working with a kid who has no idea what is going on, would just deal with the issue ourselves. As noted, a couple of these kids were literally folding clothes at Old Navy (or something similar) just a few short months ago.

Now we come to the issue of drivers, mechanics, clerks, etc. etc. of a certain age. There has been, I have noticed, a good deal of letting some of these folk in an older age group go. A driver, as most know, has to pass a Department of Transportation mandated physical to remain in business as it were. If it can't be passed satisfactorily then the company has no choice but to take a driver out of the truck. What I have noticed is that some of these folk who have passed their DOT physical have still been let go. There are other reasons given of course and perhaps in some instances these "firings" are justified. A company does have to protect themselves from a road menace or a possible health issue behind the wheel. Folks are getting downright tired of having big rigs crash all over the place. Funny thing though on this particular issue, is that our company has retained a man with major documentable  health issues, a man who has had numerous major incidents (running over parked cars, being rescued by ambulance on the yard and on the road a time or two, and I believe another spectacular crash early in his career with the company). He is still behind the wheel and I believe him to be a truly a menace to both himself and the motoring public. However, he is a man of certain girth and I would imagine that the "legal team" is somewhat afraid of a "fat man" lawsuit. Just a guess. Hard to say the true motivation there. A good many of lessor girth (but in a certain age group) are now with competing firms........

These are just a few of the odd occurrences that I have noted during my tenure with this group. Something is bad wrong in my opinion with the "management team." There is a lot of amorality and some downright immorality in corporate America and I would certainly put some of those in this firm in one (or both) categories. Whether or not they are systematically practicing age discrimination is something that I won't accuse them of at this juncture (with apologies to George I). I will note that there have been some rather startling episodes concerning folk in this aforementioned certain age group. It is all very interesting.

Very interesting indeed.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Run a Trucking Company and Buy into Pop Psychology

Have you ever found yourself in the wrong pew and knew it? Perhaps waited a bit too long to make a change? What about not fitting in with a particular firms "corporate culture?" That seems to be where I find myself at "this juncture" (no offense intended toward George I) of my working career.

As previously noted in earlier postings, I am currently in "management" with a, if not major, certainly a chemical carrier of note. Forty eight states and Canada baby with shipments also into the badlands south of the border hauling everything from Gasoline to Phenol with a little food grade to boot. One of the last type outfits one would find upper "management' buying into (and buying) some sort of pseudo scientific pop psychology program I would think. Guess not and read on.......

For the last few weeks any and all "management" types along with a select few others have been shipped off to our corporate office for a one day seminar (or something) in personality types. You know - the type thing where everybody takes some kind of test, gets a score of sorts, and everybody compares and contrasts each others' personalities or some such. In addition to this type of thing being quite ridiculous, the cost is astronomical. These programs don't come free. The well meaning "instructors" that are shipped in to put these little soirees on make a pretty penny I would imagine. Think also of employee plane, rental car, hotel, per diem, etc. etc. costs.
When all is said and done the price of such nonsense is very well into the middle six figures I would guess. If costs alone are discounted, what purpose does some sort of pseudo psychology program really have? It gets the company folk together to "put faces with names" I suppose. Nothing wrong there I guess although in one years time a large number of those faces and names will be with competing firms and a new crop will be in. Seems like an utter ridiculous waste of time.....

Of course this is the same firm that subscribes to a program name of "Afterburner" which is a deal where a committee is set up to "get to the bottom of" things such as accidents, spills, etc. etc. Not really a bad thing at all but not something that is not already in place at every major carrier in existence without the fancy name, posters, training sessions by ex military pilots. etc.  I would imagine this "Afterburner" thing costs a great deal also. Of course it is another program where folks are shipped all over the place to attend a one day training session along with all the assorted costs. Did I mention that this particular deal is the brainchild of an ex military general officer? Perhaps I didn't -gotta find some way to make a living after a career in service I suppose. I know I did not mention that our COO allegedly showed up to one of the meetings wearing a flight suit. Good Lord!

I also near forgot to mention that some of the (really select) get to head up to a well known Midwestern public university for a week long session of sorts. Pretty nice gig if you can get it I guess. Most just go and have a little something else pretty to add to their resume, but there are a few who come back from their week wearing their hard won "education" credentials on their lapel like they have just earned a Masters Degree from Rice University. Or something.

I do believe I mentioned we are a trucking company. A trucking company that has a good deal of unrest in the labor force due to fair compensation at best. A trucking company that has equipment issues (ie trailers that can't load due to just being flat worn out). A trucking company where a substantial portion of the tractor fleet is just about ready for the salvage yard. A trucking company where it is exceptionally hard to find qualified drivers (in most areas) due to the word being out in the trucking community (yes they talk) due mainly to the aforementioned compensation levels....and we are wasting money on nonsense.

Oh well.

I certainly do not begrudge anyone who is smart enough to come up with some sort of silly pseudo scientific personality assessment program or some sort of (common sense) crisis investigation program and can find folk who are willing to pony up big bucks for same. This is America after all and if that is what makes one achieve the (now) very elusive American dream, well go for it. More power too you and hats off.

What is odd is that a company in what is normally a no nonsense, bottom line, type business has those behind large mahogany desks that are silly enough to buy into tripe.

Yep. Time for a change I do believe. Trucking ain't a business in which it is hard to find a different color hat to wear.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Management Disconnect in the Trucking Industry

I have noted a time or two that I have been in (and out of) the transportation business in one form or another for the better part of two decades. There have been sojourns in the hospitality industry and education along the way and even a stint in corrections "education." The transportation industry, trucking in particular, is always a fall back when needed (and when one can stomach it).

I have driven trucks, owned taxicabs, driven limos (yes I have a few stories), run local "hot shot," and have been, and currently am in, trucking "management." Not upper management of course, but down in the trenches with the grunts. Yes, the nitty gritty dealing daily with irate truckers, irate customers, sullen wash rack hands and mechanics, etc. etc. These folks can be enough on any given day to try  patience sure but nothing tends to be more infuriating (and ridiculous) than dealing with the corporate folk and their unrealistic demands and fantastic schemes.

Right now the emphasis is on "recruiting." The problem is that no common carrier that I am aware of is really fully staffed. Like with anything else, some firms are better than others, but none (that I know of) in the chemical transportation segment are what I would call a real good company. My firm of about one thousand drivers is only down around ten folks from this time last year. True, there has been a good bit of turnover (roughly twenty percent) but there has been a good deal of hiring to offset the loss. For the uninitiated, a turnover rate of 20 percent is not considered that bad industry wide. Some firms have close to a 100 percent turnover rate in the time frame of one year. That fact that we are only down eight or ten from a year ago should be looked upon as, if not near phenomenal, at least pretty darn good.

Of course it isn't seen in that light.  It is considered abject failure by the corporate types and their answer is that the company has failed at "recruiting" and its' cousin, "retention". Perhaps we have. For instance, a manager with our firm must seriously look a candidate in the face and tell them that we offer a ridiculously low training pay package (for hauling unbelievably hazardous products). We must let them know that it is company policy that a driver must be in training for quite a time ( usually regardless of experience), but we certainly don't tell them that when training is completed and they are working on "percentage" that 25 percent is not really 25 percent. We let them figure that one out on their own.......or more likely they are informed by the old hands of this little fact before they even really get going...Makes it a bit of a hard sell to recruit or retain.

Recruiting? At any truckstop a driver can pick up one of the plethora of trucker "magazines" that are all devoted to this recruiting. Who can forget the "Donco - Good for you. Good for your family" advertisements that were in all of them in the mid 90's? Must not have worked too well. Where is Donco now? You see the point? If a trucking firm has to spend any amount chasing the dwindling pool of drivers, then that company is one to avoid. Everyone knows this. It is no secret. When was the last time anyone saw an advertisement devoted to recruiting drivers for say UPS, FedEx, Kroger, or even The Evil Empire? What about Praxair, TriGas, Air Liquide or Amerigas? What you do see is the Schneider, CalArk, Prime, Werners' etc. etc. of the world. There is  reason for that.....

Our firm is now placing their hopes in our region on a billboard. Not billboards mind you but a billboard. Singular. We are gearing up for the horde of people who will be lighting up the phone lines just waiting to come to work for our firm. We are taking it seriously, there are forms to fill out and procedures to follow and it will be a flop. Oh we will get a few calls and maybe even hire a couple of folks as a direct result but, at the end of the day, we will  gain two and lose two (if we are lucky).

Problem is (other than the obvious driver compensation issue) is that these folks in charge of recruiting are young marketing, public relations, or some other type of "business" grads. It is difficult for a sorority sister to understand the motivations of a truck driving man (or woman) and they will miss the mark every time. These marketing gurus are not bad kids - on the contrary. Smart? No doubt. Decent folk? I'm sure. They just don't get it. That's all. How could they possibly?
In fairness, it is not their fault that they are in league with the devil (so to speak). They are people of job age and a job was offered. They do the best they can and are held accountable for the success (and usually lack thereof) of their grandiose plans. How can it be otherwise when the senior "leadership" of the company are  as visionary as opium eaters and live in a fantasy world themselves?They can not reach the trucking crowd. They simply misunderstand their psychology.

Incidentally, I casually asked a trucker what he thought when he saw a trucking company constantly advertising for drivers. He said it showed desperation. That was predictable and most think the same way. The exact same way..

Is there an easy answer to the trucker shortage that plagues nearly (but not all) sectors of the industry? Not sure. A huge leap forward in compensation is a start. One thing I do know is that most truckers want a truck that doesn't (often) strand them, decent home time, and fair (yes good) compensation. How hard is that to figure out?

Recruiting for a trucking company? Good luck with all that.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Thug Life

Richard Sherman's out burst a brief while back caused quite a stir. Don't know who Richard Sherman is? Being only a casual fan, at best, of the NFL, I had to search my memory. For the uninitiated this Sherman is a defensive back with the Seattle Seahawks. His adrenaline fueled rant (or was it something else?) directed against an opposing player (one M. Crabtree of the SF club), was the talk of the town so to speak for a spell........It was indeed a spectacle, a rather amusing one in my humble, and it certainly had the wags wagging. For days on end....

I didn't see rant as it occurred. . As, I mentioned, as a casual fan only of anything NFL, and certainly caring little about a couple of west coast programs, (if the Saints and maybe, just maybe, the Texans ain't in it, I don't care) I was busy doing something else at the time of the "offensive" tirade. My better half called to me and begged me to come listen to "this thug" and I reluctantly got my ass up from computer gazing (not porn this time) and came in. With the miracle of modern technology the television was "rewound" and I got to see what had happened minutes earlier.  I really didn't think much about it to be honest. Wrote it off as some silly pro athlete making an ass of himself for his fifteen minutes and moved on. Who knew what that this would bring out the professional race baiters and their two cents? Guess I should have figured such....

Shortly after the rant, this Sherman was in full damage control mode, making apologies, kowtowing, and generally doing the things that are done when someone makes an ass of themselves publicwise (oh my brother). He came across as a soft spoken, gentle soul, and perhaps we should all now get the feeling that this is the true Richard Sherman and the one that whizzed over himself on national programing was just "caught up in the emotion of the game." Or some such.
There could be some merit to this. I personally have a distant relative who spent many years in the NFL and he was indeed a gentle giant in person. I also distinctly remember as a young person watching him take his helmet off during a nationally televised game and whacking an opponent with it. So this "emotion of the game" thing may be real after all. No matter and not really the point.

During the aftermath of Sherman's aforementioned "damage control" it came out that use of the word "thug" was somehow racist and code for the dreaded "N" word. You know what I'm talking about although I am sure you have never uttered such a dreadful and foul word in the past what with most of you being all "post racial." Or something. Interestingly enough an acquaintance of mine, a trucker with my firm, asked me if I heard "that buck" talking crazy after the game. I suppose he can be forgiven for use of such a, let us be honest, hateful and rather antiquated term (to boot) when describing the incident in question. He was, after all, a police officer in one of the roughest (and darkest, as they say), cities in the South for quite a number of years. That type experience won't likely foster a feeling of "racial tolerance" in a person I would wager. I digress..

Thug? Does use of this word actually mean something "bad" to today's post racial (whatever that is) society?  Is it code for the big N? Perhaps. Let us think about this for a moment.

I have heard, and there may be merit here, that the NBA fell from grace in the eyes of the public due to it becoming a league of "thugs." I personally believe they don't really play basketball anymore but that is perhaps beside the point. At the height of popularity we had Larry, Hakeem, John S, Magic,  Michael,  and a few noted others all involved. (Who can forget Bob Costas near fellating praise of Jordan night after night?) It was a game then. It was watched, the ratings were through the roof, and people paid attention. The NBA was even popular enough at that time to spawn the bastard child WNBA and it, for a time, was hugely successful. (Everyone loved Comets coach Van Chancellor down Houston way).  Then the big stars, folks with some class, left the game and the street ball playing, near unintelligible children, took over the sport and the ratings began to plummet. The talk was that the NBA had become thuggish. What did this mean?
 Did folk mean that it had become dominated by gangsta looking, gold chain wearing, pants on the ground punks? Pretty sure they did and incidentally it did not take long for the powers that be in the sport to begin importing European (and other) players which did nothing to dilute the game, in fact improved it, and some of the so called thuggishness (is that a word?) dissipated. As a result we see the league now with an improved image and somewhat improved ratings.

Sherman is probably right when he says that "thug" is code. What he, and many many others, do not understand likely is that when the majority, the silent majority and (let us be honest) the bill paying majority, label something thuggish they are simply stating what most folk are thinking. Let me be clear on this if I can because this can also apply to the gay marriage (and other issues) thing that is all the rage right now. The majority, usually the silent majority, will always label something different be it dialect, sexual orientation, cultural norms, etc. etc. as queer (no pun intended) and perhaps even threatening to what is considered outside the norm.

What does any of this mean? Not much. Only that when the majority see behavior that they consider thuggish (usually language), the perpetrator of the perceived thuggishness is often a person of color.

Just the way it is and nothing can be done about it. All the blabbering by the pundits, the spokesfolk of the chattering class, and those in the (highly lucrative) business of perpetuating racial issues, certainly won't fix the "problem."

On the contrary. It just makes the majority dig in their collective heels.