David Hallmark hauls chemicals for Service Transport Co. where he’s been for four months. He’s been hauling hazmat for five years and a driver for a total of 15 years.
Almost every driver who says they like driving will say they like the freedom of not having a boss looking over their shoulder, but when asked what he likes about driving, Hallmark gave a different answer.
“Still a level of adventure on the road,” he said. “Freeways are more congested. It’s all about attitude; how you handle stress. There are good days and bad days. Just take the miles as they come. Safety first. We all have families to get back to.”
Most of the drivers for Service Transport get home two to three times per week “with a really decent check,” Hallmark said. Their routes are out and back, usually with no back haul so drivers get more home time that way. “The reason more drivers are staying out longer is by company demand or to make more money.”
However, Hallmark is on a bit of a different path right now. He is only getting home about once a week, now, and has chosen to do more long-haul runs because “we are saving up for vacation. We want to see San Antonio, SeaWorld, the Alamo, and we’re saving up for a very special vacation next year for the boy.”
The “we” he mentions is his girlfriend of two years, Shannon, and her 11-year-old son, Keaton, who thinks of him as his dad, Hallmark said.
“It’s a very, very happy relationship that I have with them,” he added.
When asked when they might get married, Hallmark said: “We haven’t decided. We both were married before for some years. We’re just taking this slow. We just can’t see our lives as complete without the other.”
Hallmark said the reason he drives for Service Transport, out of Houston, is because he did a little checking up on them before he decided to apply and they live up to what he heard.
“I’ve heard good driver reviews about them,” he said. “Initially questioning office personnel I found everyone was very friendly and willing to help. They still do. Executives and drivers seem to be on an equal level. They seek driver comments. We’re all encouraged to communicate with individual terminal managers with concerns that are passed up the chain of command. Drivers’ concerns are addressed pretty quickly.”
Hallmark has an Electronic On-Board Recorder (EOBR) on his truck and says he likes not having to keep a paper log. His truck has a PeopleNet unit with company e-mail, but he has a laptop with an Internet card so he’s set for that without having it on his EOBR.
As a hazmat driver we asked if he drove less because of the safety issue with loads.
“We have standard Hours of Service,” he explained. “Seventy-five percent of the time I’ll drive after the 10th hour. PeopleNet tells us when we are at one hour left so we can find a place to park.”
Hallmark said he doesn’t have trouble finding a place to park because he has his stops planned.
“Our safety department says we have 10 hours to drive and one hour to look for a stop,” he said. “E-logs protect me as a driver. After driving 10 hours I’m tired. Sometimes I may make a 14-hour day without even driving 10. I’m glad the law gives me an opportunity to do that.”
The much discussed CSA 2010 safety assessment program came up while we talked to Hallmark.
“CSA 2010 is putting a lot of pressure on drivers to do pre-trip, to make sure the vehicle is safe. I don’t like it, but that’s just the way it is. Our company has highlighted the main points of CSA 2010 for us in meetings so we can be prepared.”
We asked Hallmark what it’s like being out on the road so much.
“Its 50 percent lonely; 25 percent fun, 25 percent miserable and 100 percent rewarding,” he said.
What he likes about it is meeting new people.
“There hasn’t been one day where there hasn’t been one person that has said something nice to me,” Hallmark said. “I always meet someone who makes my day. I try to portray a good attitude. It saddens me to see so many truckers who are unhappy or have a bad attitude.”
Hallmark said the best thing that could happen in trucking has nothing to do with regulations or the condition of highways.
“We need bigger truck stops,” he said. “They are crowded. Food could be more healthy. I try to eat right and get exercise.”
And remember, “There is no perfect company,” he said. “Every company has its flaws. I would encourage the drivers to see more good in their situation and strive to make that day better. It could mean the difference between a happy life and a heart attack.”
Barb Kampbell of The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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