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newsminer.comJack Binder has braved Alaska’s famed Dalton Highway since it opened in 1974.

Now 68, Binder, a 50-year truck driver, recently retired from his CDL driver job. As he looks back on his driving achievements, he relishes the opportunity he’s had to master Alaska’s harsh conditions.

Newsminer.com captured the highlights of Binder’s career in a nice feature story.

“It’s a career that’s paid me well and given me a lot of independence,” Binder told the publication.

Originally from Bemidji, Minnesota, he first came to Fairbanks at age 18 to drive a cement mixing truck during the summer construction season.

“I came up here in ’68 and Alaska got in my blood,” Binder said. “It’s sort of hard to explain. It was a frontier atmosphere and it was an adventure coming up here.”

During the Vietnam War, Binder worked as a translator.

He missed Alaska, so in 1972 he returned there to drive a cement mixer in the summer months. It was the start of a long career in Alaska.

Binder’s father was a truck driver, too, and when the Alyeska Pipeline and the Dalton Highway opened in 1974, the father-son duo moved to Fairbanks to drive for the now-defunct Weaver Brothers truck company and deliver supplies to the camps in the North Slope oil fields.

“I fell in love with trucks at an early age. He and I were really close. I suppose I was following in his footsteps,” Binder said of his father. “I grew up with this idea that truck drivers were kings of the road and they’d stop and help everyone.”

The Dalton Highway was different then.

It was only open to commercial vehicles, the road wasn’t as straight and there was no bridge spanning the Yukon.

It was in hauling bridge beam pipes for the construction of the E.L. Patton Yukon Bridge that he fell in love with trucking.

“It just got in the blood,” he said. “Trucking is something that is easy to get into and difficult to get away from.”

However, Binder, now retired from his trucking job, has gotten away from it. But he hasn’t gone far. He decided to become a mentor and trainer at Alaska West Express, where he’s worked the last 13 years.

“It’s been a rewarding career and I guess I’m ready to be off the road,” Binder said. “It’s nice to be home every night.”

Read the rest of the story here.

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thenewswheel.comAre you considering a Commercial Truck Driver job? It can be a gratifying career for sure, but not everyone can handle long hours on the road every day.

Here are seven great points to consider if you’re weighing a career as a commercial truck driver, as published on the website Newswheel.com.

1. Before even considering starting a career as a truck driver, ask yourself if you enjoy driving.

If you have a regular driver’s license and you hate driving, you will likely hate being a truck driver. Before you put the time and effort into this career, you should make sure it’s something you will enjoy.

2. Before embarking on a career as a truck driver, be sure you are physically and mentally able to sit for several hours.

You could be driving for hours before you get to your first stop. If you are unable to handle sitting that long, your career will be a short one.

3. Depending on the company you start driving for, you could be responsible for loading and unloading your truck.

This can be very physically demanding. If you have any health issues that prevent you from lifting anything heavy, you may want to consider a different career path.

4. Most people will not be able to get behind the wheel of an 18-wheeler and just start driving.

You will need to learn how to drive a truck before you can consider a career doing so. When you go to truck driving school, you will learn everything you need to so that you can safely drive your truck in even the most congested areas. You will also learn about safety and the rules of the road that apply to 18-wheelers.

5. No company will hire you to drive trucks for them if you don’t have your heavy vehicle license.

Most areas require that you take a written test and have your permit to drive a tractor trailer. You will likely need to hold your permit for a specific period of time before you can take the test for your license. When you take your test, you will need to go driving with an instructor. If you do well and pass the test, you will get your license to drive an 18-wheeler.

6. Some people who have received their license choose to work 40-hour a week.

In this scenario, you can go into work, take your truck out, do your job, return your truck and then go home. Some people want a different type of career, choosing to drive very long distances, which keeps them away from home for days or weeks at a time.

7. The final step to becoming a commercial truck driver is to find a good job.

Your driving school may offer job placement. You can also find companies online who are hiring.

Working as a commercial truck driver can be a very rewarding career. As long as you know a few tips for becoming a commercial truck driver, you should be well on your way.

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LeRoy BaxterAs an owner operator for Baxter Trucking, LeRoy Baxter transports honey bees throughout the West, from Montana and Wyoming to California and South Dakota. His routes take him through Big Sky country, past mountainous vistas and along the Pacific coastline.

Along the way, Baxter documents the scenic beauty he sees with his smartphone camera. For Baxter, who’s driven OTR for 22 years, taking pictures on the road has enhanced his CDL trucking job all the more. Here are some great shots he’s taken and what he has to say about his photography.

Tetons from Togwotee PassHow did you learn photography?

Years ago, when I first started trucking over the road, I would take pictures, put them in a scrapbook and make notes on where the pictures were taken. For Christmas one year, my wife gave me a camera that took panoramic pictures. I got into it for a while but phased out of it because the pictures were expensive to develop.

I started getting into it again when I joined Facebook five years ago. People seemed to be interested in the photos I posted. I said, “If I’m posting pictures, I might as well be posting good pictures.” So I started practicing.

LeRoy railroad tracksWhat do you look for when you’re shooting?

Lines. The simplicity of the lines inspires me. I strive to capture that in my photos. I like taking black and white pictures most of all. They bring out the crispness of the lines and the different tones of colors.

What do you love to shoot?

The Tetons and the Crazy Mountains of Montana. They’re so impressive. They never fail to give me a different look. The way the sun hits them, it’s never the same. As truck drivers, the landscape is one of the things we look at the most. It always fascinates me. I always want to know what’s on the other side of whatever I’m looking at.

LeRoy Montana2

How has photography enhanced your trucking job?

Photography has helped me experience my journeys out here even more. As drivers, we’ve looked at that same country a million times. But in taking pictures, I notice a lot more than I used to. It makes me look forward to the seasons. Each season offers something new and different.

Why do you take pictures?

I used to take them because I wanted to show people what I was doing. Then it snowballed into people enjoying what I show them. I get pleasure out of that. I want people to see the same beauty I’m looking at and experience the same happiness.

LeRoy Levina montanaDo you learn anything from taking photos?

I probably take 300 or 400 pictures a week. Most of them aren’t very good, but every once in a while there’s one. From those, you learn what works for you and what doesn’t. It takes lots of practice. I experiment with light and times of day. Over time, I’ve gotten better.

All photos by LeRoy Baxter

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ksl.comTruck driver Kevin Otteson of Reddaway Trucking received honor for driving more than 2 million miles without a single accident.

Otteson holds a CDL trucking job at Reddaway for 23 years.

Overall, throughout his 30-year professional driving career, he drove about 3.5 million miles accident free, he told Salt Lake City’s Deseret News.

Otteson was presented with a ring from Reddaway Trucking Friday to honor the achievement.

Mike Matich, the company’s terminal manager, called it a rare accomplishment.

Otteson said he drives because he likes the solitude. Otteson also makes it part of his normal routine to stop to help drivers whose cars are stuck or need help fixing a flat.

His secret to being accident free for so many miles?

“Pay attention to your surroundings,” he said. “Don’t watch just the vehicle in front of you. Watch two or three cars in front of you. Maintain an even keel out here.”

Read the rest of the Deseret News story here.

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It might be called relay driving or more simply “swapping.” But, whatever you call it, those who drive in a relay trucking system have one thing in common: they really like it.

Relay drivers say the system has lifestyle benefits that other CDL trucking jobs don’t have. Here’s Drive My Way’s look at relay driving, how it works and why drivers like it so much.

How It Works

One driver leaves from one city, another driver leaves from a different city, and they meet with their loads at a halfway point set up by a dispatcher. As the drivers approach the designated city, they call each other to determine an exact meeting point.

There are variations of the system, but true relay drivers swap trailers at the meeting point then turn around and head to their home terminals with the new load, taking it closer to its final destination.

The big upside for relay drivers: They’re home every night. And while UPS and FedEx specialize in relay driving, they’re not the only companies doing it.

Laydon Cooper

Laydon Cooper

The Benefits

Laydon Cooper is a company driver running team for Old Dominion Freight Line. He’s had a CDL trucking job for 26 years. While he doesn’t drive relay himself, many of his Old Dominion colleagues do. They like it for its flexibility, the home time and the fact that they usually swap with the same driver each time, Cooper says.

True relay drivers are home every day, says Cooper. So for drivers who value home time, relay is ideal.

Relay drivers also tend to be paid very well by the mile. Cooper says singles make 61 cents per mile on average at Old Dominion. They also receive “drop and hook” pay. As a result, they tend to make more money (and receive better benefits) than other types of drivers.

Another big perk of relay: Drivers do not touch freight, so they do not have to spend hours loading or unloading.

“You don’t got to sit at a shipper’s dock for five or six hours while they’re jerking you around,” says Cooper. “You have a manifest that lists the number of pieces of freight on the trailer. Dock workers at our terminal do the loading and unloading.”

For “drop and hook” pay, Old Dominion drivers receive $1.50 for each hook and unhook of a trailer they do and $1.50 for each time they fuel the tractor, Cooper says.

Desiree Wood, president of Real Women in Trucking, Inc., drove relay for about six months as a contractor for U.S. Mail. She loved that she didn’t have the hours of loading and unloading that you have with most OTR jobs. All she had to do was drive.

Desiree Wood

Desiree Wood

Wood drove her full 10-and-a-half-hour shift

When it ended, another driver was waiting to take over the load. Wood was able to get a good night’s sleep in a motel room for a change. Any loading or unloading she did was minimal, she adds.

“I kept the freight moving, and that was it,” Wood says. “After that, I was off the clock. I didn’t have to go to sleep in the back behind somebody I didn’t know. The load didn’t tie me down anymore. I was truly off the clock. It was great.”

Laura Butler Beckett, an OTR team driver for Western Flyer Express out of Oklahoma City, Okla., has been driving relay for four years. Beckett’s setup is different from a true relay setup in that she stays out for two or three weeks at a time. But the rest of the job is similar. She calls it “swapping.”

Laura Beckett

Laura Beckett’s truck

Beckett and her teammate run from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

The timing works well for them. “I don’t have to sit in a loading dock loading and unloading, and I can keep my truck moving,” Beckett says. “I really do keep it moving, too. There’s not a lot of down time.”

On any given day, Beckett says, “I pick up a loaded trailer, run it 680 miles and swap it out to a solo driver to deliver,” she says. “I love it.”

The dispatchers at Western Flyer Express make her job run smoothly every day, Beckett adds. “The dispatchers are so good,” she says. “I’ve been with his company almost four years. They’ve acquired about 400 trucks in the time I’ve worked for them. They’ve got the timing down. You’ll get there within a half hour of each other usually—and usually that half hour works out with one of our 30-minute breaks.”

The Drawbacks

Cooper says the downside to driving relay depends most on one’s point of view. While relay drivers typically are home nightly, they may have to work Tuesday through Saturday shifts.

“It all depends on where you are on the board in terms of seniority,” he says. “Seniority plays a big role in what routes you get. That is specific to relay like UPS, FedEx Freight and Old Dominion. That’s unique to this type of less-than-truckload sector.”

Relay drivers often run nighttime shifts as well, so if you’re not a night person, relay may not be for you.

Real Women in Trucking’s Wood wants to see more creativity behind the formula in the future, but she still recalls her relay job fondly. “I didn’t have the stress of looking for truck parking,” she reasons. “Showers were available, and I had privacy. My whole demeanor was different. To go in somewhere and close the door makes a big difference.”

real-women-in-trucking-logo-horiz

Drive My Way is proud to partner with the membership organization REAL Women in Trucking, Inc. to help drivers match with prospective employers. Registration on Drive My Way is free for all drivers, but if you heard about us from REAL Women in Trucking, Inc., please take the time to note it in your registration.

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Truck driver takes amazing photosIt’s not every day that people think of truck drivers as great photographers. But perhaps it’s time for that to change. From what we’ve seen at Drive My Way, many people with CDL driver jobs have quite an eye for the angles, scenes and life streaming through their windshields every day. It’s inspired us to launch this new monthly series, “Sharpshooters,” where we’ll highlight truck drivers who happen to be great photographers.

To get “Sharpshooters” started, we interviewed one of the best truck drivin’ photographers we know, Tempie Davie. Davie, who teams with her soul mate and best friend, Frank Tucker, is leased to Gulick Trucking out of Vancouver, Wash. In this exclusive Drive My Way interview, she discusses why she shoots, her inspiration, and how others with CDL trucking jobs can take quality shots.

Truck driver takes amazing picturesWhy do you shoot?

Because I love it. Time passes so quickly, I want to remember it all. The sun may never hit that barn the same way again. You may never see a rainbow that big and bright again.

It allows me to hold onto the things that will never happen again. It also allows my friends and family to travel with me, to hopefully feel the excitement of the moment.

What inspires you?

Everything! I love finding beauty in the ordinary. For example, some people see an old barn. However, I see the lines, the light, the stories of generations long gone.

Others see an old pair of doll shoes. However, I see a little girl trying to remember where she left them and crying because her baby’s feet are cold. Furthermore, some people see just a flower. However, I see the elderly widow, wishing for just one more bouquet. Overall, it’s the story, real or imagined, that inspires me.

Truck driver takes amazing pictures

Springtime in the Gorge

What is your favorite subject to shoot?

Oh, how would I ever choose? There is beauty wherever I look. If I have to pick just one, I’d have to say the Columbia River Gorge.

It’s my home, and the beauty is ever changing. Just a shift in the light or a change in season and everything looks different. You have to experience it for yourself.

Truck driver takes amazing picturesHow did you get into photography?

My parents bought me my first camera, a Kodak Instamatic, when I was 8 years old. I was hooked! At 10, I got a Polaroid.

How fun was that to see the pictures instantly! My next camera was a Ricoh 35 millimeter, I was in heaven. I took pictures of everything. Then life happened, two kids, an alcoholic husband, work and a drug addiction. Photography took a back seat. I got my life together, raised my children and started thinking about pictures again. Before, I lost my camera to the disease of addiction, so I started taking pictures with my phone. Instantly, I was hooked again. I got my first DSLR camera for Christmas. I’m enjoying learning how to use it!

What worthy tips can you give other drivers who like shooting from the road?

If you are shooting on the fly, a fast shutter speed is your best bet. If you use a cell phone, find the manual settings for the camera on it and play with them. Learn what they do. Learn to read the light and adjust the exposure accordingly. Most importantly, just have fun. Shoot what moves you.

Truck driver takes amazing picturesWhat should a picture do?

A picture should transport the viewers to another place and time. It should convey a feeling, tell a story, record a memory. I want people to feel what I felt, wonder what I wondered and imagine the stories of the people who lived in that old house. I want my pictures to make you smile, cry, think and most of all, experience life through my eyes.

All photos by Tempie Davie. See her photos on Facebook here.

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investopedia.comFew of us enter the workforce expecting to work forever – but it turns out some professions are more conducive to the long term than others. The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College released a study on the topic this spring. Overall, the study found that some skills last until retirement age, and some don’t.

Investopedia.com wrote about the center’s findings, saying skills for some careers fade as we age.

The Center for Retirement Research studied white collar and blue collar jobs alike, and the human skill set diminished in both sectors. However, when it comes to careers with the best longevity, writing and math fared well, truck driving did not.

The researchers developed a “Susceptibility Index.” This “measures how likely the physical and cognitive abilities required by an occupation are to decline during the working years. On the high end of the list included airline pilots, jewelers, maids, and housekeepers. In addition, truck drivers, oral surgeons, kindergarten teachers, photographers, and licensed practical nurses made the list.

Some of these careers cut short due to physical limitations.

Those may include the loss of fine motor skills rather than an overall decease in mobility; jewelers and oral surgeons need steady hands and precise movements. Still others – such as truck drivers and airline pilots – may need a combination of long attention spans and the ability to sit still for many hours at a stretch.

Alternately, the study found, “crystallized” cognitive skills such as vocabulary tend to last well into a person’s 60s and 70s, meaning that oral and written comprehension and math skills can last throughout a career.

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kptv.comAfter directly affected by distracted driving, one Mississippi man created something constructive from the experience. He developed a great tool to curb distracted driving.

It’s called Drive Smart

And though the product still is in its experimental stage, Drive Smart has the potential to make roads a lot safer for those with CDL driver jobs.

Ross Muller designed the prototype after dealing with a serious accident, he told Mississippi website WLOX.com

“The gentleman that hit me was a young driver who I believe was distracted by his phone, so it sparked my interest,” said Muller, who then decided to find a way to curb distracted driving among young drivers.

After two years of tinkering with his prototype, Muller thought of an idea that utilizes something in almost every vehicle.

The cigarette lighter

“It’s just a 12-point inverter. They’re very common when you use cell phone chargers or radio detectors,” Muller said. “It’s pretty much that right there, but it emits a Bluetooth signal.”

Once fully operational, Drive Smart makes it so that once a driver turns on the ignition, their smartphone loses much of its functionality.

“Once the drive smart device powers on, it’ll lock the cell phone. The only two things you can do on the cell phone is make an emergency phone call, or call the home phone,” Muller said.

Local law enforcement officials say Muller’s idea reduces distracted driving

“It’s a step in the right direction anytime you get a device to help with the young people to avoid having wrecks and fatalities. It’s a plus for us,” said Lt. Calvin Hutchins of the Pascagoula Police Department.

Currently, Drive Smart remains in the patent process. Muller plans to exhibit the invention to potential distributors at a conference this month.

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Smoking, Meats

Part of Drive My Way’s ‘Big Rigs and Barbecue’ Series

If Karl Pickard were a recipe, he’d make for an interesting mix: one part truck driver, one part foodie.

The company driver for ATS out of St. Cloud, Minn., started cooking in his mama’s kitchen at age 8.

He’s pushed his culinary boundaries ever since, whether he’s cooking at home or on his truck.

“Us out here on the road, we don’t have much. The one thing I do insist on is good food,” says Pickard in a smooth drawl. Pickard puts few limits on what he’ll cook, even if it means having to improvise while on the road for his CDL trucking job.

Karl and Jeanette“Everything we cook really does not have a recipe,” he says of himself and his wife, Jeanette. “We’ll look at the recipe online and get the general idea, then we take it in any direction we want to take it.”

Having a CDL trucking job doesn’t hinder Pickard’s ability to cook what he wants. He’s been at it long enough to make anything work. On the road, Pickard loves to grill truckside. On any given evening, he could be firing up brats, sausages or the stuffed hamburger Jeanette makes.

But when he’s home, it’s all about the smoker. Pickard learned to smoke meats when he was a teenager. He learned from watching his uncle and stepdad, who were “big into it.”

By now, Pickard, 57, is big into it, too. He’s smoked it all, from brisket and pork shoulder to fish and sausages. When asked what he prefers to smoke, he replies, “Everything. I’m an eater. I’m a foodie. I just like eatin.”

The Prep

Pickard loves pork short ribs most of all. He recommends first pulling off the membrane on the inside of the ribs. If the membrane is on, the dry rub won’t soak in. And for Pickard, it’s all about the dry rub.

“The rub gives the meat its flavor,” he says. “So you start with a good dry rub, like McCormick’s applewood dry rub. I add to that chipotle, cayenne powder, brown sugar and black pepper. You rub it on your ribs really thick—really thick—and put them in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours.”

When Pickard’s ribs have marinated long enough, he fires up the grill to 225 degrees. He soaks wood chips in water, getting them nice and wet so smoke develops. Then he puts his ribs on the grill and closes it up, letting them smoke for 8 to 10 hours at low temperature.

Cooking on the Truck

Pickard cooks ribs on the truck, too, but when he does, it’s quite a different process. When the ribs have Karlmarinated in the refrigerator for 24 hours, he cuts the slab into three equal pieces and places them in his Aroma cooker, one slab on top of the other. He sets them to “slow cook” for three to four hours, “until they’re nice and tender,” he says.

Then he fires up his 18-inch gas grill and cooks the ribs for about 10 more minutes per side, until they’re crispy.

“If you want sauce, I’ll bring sauce to the table,” Pickard says. “I do not sauce my ribs. I take pride in what I make. It’s the best feeling to see the looks on people’s faces while they’re eating what I cooked.”

Missed our first “Big Rigs and Barbecue” story? Check it out here.

Featured image courtesy RealAKP / Pixabay, other images courtesy of Karl Pickard.

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mashable.comThose with CDL driver jobs know that cars traveling close on their heels create potential safety hazards for everyone. And vehicles passing semis on a two-lane road can face challenges. This is due to the car drivers and those with CDL driver jobs can’t see if oncoming traffic is coming or not.

But Samsung recently came up with an innovative solution to this problem, Mashable writes. Naturally, Samsung’s innovative solution lies in a semi truck itself.

The Argentinian arm of the South Korean tech giant is showing off what it calls a Safety Truck, a semi truck with a wireless camera mounted on the front, displaying the road ahead on a screen tacked on to the back of the truck. The move is a part of an effort to reduce head-on collisions caused from passing vehicles.

The front-mounted camera broadcasts its signal to four monitors on the back of the truck to give drivers behind the truck a good view ahead. In addition to making passing safer, Samsung says that this would let drivers see any obstacles in the road ahead, preventing the need for sudden emergency braking.

While the truck used in the testing isn’t on the road anymore, Samsung is working with safety agencies to further enhance the tech, Mashable writes. It adds that the Samsung technology does have some drawbacks.

It seems like it would work well on two-lane roads, but it wouldn’t really have much use on multi-lane highways. The screen could also prove to be a distraction, and image quality issues could be a concern as well.

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