10 steps To reduce Your Debts Quickly.

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Our greatest is not never falling but rising every time we fall .

The first thing to remember here is that you are not alone .

Around 73% of North American consumers have debt. Around 68% have credit card balances. Most people have debt of some sort , its how our Western society functions today. Mortgages, credit cards,auto loans,personal loans,student loans, pay-day loans………… so on and so on .

When dealing with any personal issue, you have to first recognize there is a problem and you have to want to solve it .

If you are one of those people who are ok with their levels of debt and managing it correctly, then great. stop reading here and have a great day.

The fact that you are reading this article ,tells me you are likely to have an issue with your levels of debt and are looking to solve them .That leads us into the first stage:

1/ Record your spending for a 3 month period.

For this period of time, record all your income and all your spending. Make yourself a spread sheet or even just record it in a book. Separate into areas of spending, such as Household bills Motoring, Groceries, Entertainment, Insurances and most importantly, how much your debt is costing you each month?

In other words what interest are you paying on each debt, each month ?

2/ Target the Most expensive debts.

Once you have recorded your spending for 3 months, you will be able to understand which of your debts is costing you the most money in interest. Now I am not talking about mortgage debt here. Lets focus on the unsecured loans, likely to be your credit cards that have most interest ( APR %) Use this information to make a “hit list” of debts. Make sure you pay each one on time, but focus every available spare cash onto the most expensive one. Once this one is paid off in full, these funds should then be transferred onto the second most expensive debt and so on. This is the reversal of the  “snowball” effect of how they got to be out of control in the first place.

3/ Reduce all  Un-necessary expenditure

Your  3 month  record of spending will show Where your hard earned cash was going? I was amazed how much I spent on things I didn’t really need. Not just larger ” one off” purchases, but multiple small purchases that go unnoticed until the monthly totals are added up. Once these are stopped the extra money can be allocated to your debt management.

4/ Set up an emergency cash fund

 This  will not directly reduce your debt, but will stop any credit card debt increasing . Stuff happens. That”s a fact. In order for you to stop dipping into your credit limit every time some un planned event happens , set up a cash fund to help when stuff goes sideways.

5/ Spend Smarter.

Everyone has to spend money at some point. Price check, coupons, internet shopping, sales there are many ways to find what you need at a reduced cost. Stick to buying what you need and not emotional purchases, i.e wants!

You will feel better at the end of the month when you add up the cash you saved by doing this.

6/ Improve your credit rating

There are ways you actually improve your credit rating. When your borrowing is reduced to a reasonable level, lenders will be keen for you to take up their services once again. This time use it to your advantage. Contact your existing lenders and try to get better terms by lowering your interests rates. Failing that, go to an alternative company and transfer your debt at a better interest rate. It may seem like a lot of hassle at the time, but even a small decrease in interest rates will reduce your costs over a  period of time.

7/ Increase Your Income

Change jobs, negociate a pay rise,work extra overtime, get a side hussle, rent out a spare room or even buy and sell items for a profit . Use your imagination, but obviously the extra money you generate must go to your debts.

8/Sell unwanted items for cash.

We all have have things we don”t use or need anymore. Find them , clean up and advertise them locally. Put the cash down on to your debt . Simple.

9/ Set a time scale and a  realistic goal

Progress maybe slow to start with but as debts are reduced the speed of progress should increase. You are more likely to succeed ,if you give yourself a realistic time scale and monitor your progress to keep yourself motivated.

10/ Set a future Budget

Hopefully by the time you have reached this stage your debts are under control and life is easier. Time now to prevent it happening again. Set yourself a budget and keep monitoring your income and expenditure. to prevent a build up of debt in the future.

Never underestimate the importance of abandoning crap you don”t need!

Featuring the “Battle-Axe”

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Tuesday 4th September. Colton, Walnut & Anaheim CA

54 miles only. 14 hours ( I love my job)

After a relaxing Monday afternoon, I woke on this day in a fantastic mood. That was soon to be tested.  I went to report to the warehouse early, that I was on site, hoping they would assign me a loading bay and would soon be on my way .

“Nothing ventured, nothing gained” right?  Well , not in this case. I was met by the rudest, most ignorant person I can remember meeting in a long, long time . I would hate to think what they would be like if you were late for your appointment . This woman ripped me up cos I was early!!!. Now there is an opportunity for all sorts of funny comments and jokes at this point, but I have decided to leave those today,  but I’m sure you know what I was thinking at the time.  I took this as another test of the new calm me. Hey I passed!!!!

The most pleasing part was seeing her reaction, when I told her I agreed with her and should have been more considerate and not turned up so early.  Left the building and waited in my truck, before returning to the building at my scheduled delivery time. Impressive.  Well I was anyway. Later I found out she goes by the name of “Angel”.

I think the true meaning of this name was wasted on that “battle-axe.”

So after that rocky start, I eventually got rid of my first delivery and headed back to the freeway to find my second stop.  I think “battle-axe” had actually done me a favour , because by the time she decided I was worthy to get off loaded and my paperwork was processed and I handed over $30 cash “lumper fee” ( Never done in Europe by the way ) , the early morning rush hour had passed and the freeway was running fine .

At the start of the trip I was looking into purchasing a navigation system for heavy trucks. I eventually decided  to save my money and use the google map app on my cell phone. Today would be the first test of that decision hopefully I won’t regret it .

Having entered the companies details into my phone I headed West towards LA, paying full attention to the instructions given.

The directions given by my phone were spot on.  Apart from trying to send me down a no-truck route ( not her fault as there is no way of me letting the clever little thing know that we were travelling in a semi) I arrived at the second warehouse, which was owned by the same company as my first location.  It was here that I found out that the lovely Angel spoke to all drivers in the way she had spoken me earlier. Oh well, there was me thinking I was specially selected for her abuse .

I am not sure why warehouses give appointment times for their deliveries. Possibly the only reason was to fine companies if they are late for their scheduled times, so bringing an extra source of income ( maybe they could pay to send Angel to charm school). Although I arrived exactly on my delivery time slot, I was told it would be at least two hours before they got to my load . One poor guy had already been there for four hours and they were going to get to him after me, all because his load broker had screwed up making the appointment.

Test number two. In the past I would have come “un-glued” at the warehouse manager demanding to get off loaded at the time I was given, paced the yard and probably smoked ten cigarettes while waiting.  I would not have got on a bay any earlier and would be in a bad mood all day. What a Muppet!

Today? I decided to park the truck, lock the doors and take my dog for a walk and check out the neighborhood. Test passed .

Some two hours later, I managed to finally get on a warehouse bay and my dog was now exhausted.  I had an interesting maneuver to carry out, so testing how rusty  I had become during my time away from trucking.  This reversing exercise would have been a lot harder had I entered it in an angry frame of mind.  Due to fact I was a lot calmer, it presented no problems and I was soon being unloaded. After an hour and a few more stories about the behaviour of the now infamous Angel, I was leaving and off to my final destination for this load.

My mind was also beginning to focus on what or where I was going for my load back to Canada.  The only thing I knew is that it would be back to Canada. This is because a truck registered in Canada,  cannot carry goods from a US state and deliver it to any point in the US. It can only do cross border work.  In times gone by  I have had bad experiences when it comes to waiting for a reload.  Sometimes being sat for days.  I was told by this company that this wouldn’t happen again, but this yet to be proven.  Most companies don’t book your re-load until  they know you are empty and ready to go.  This means you cannot make any plans, or even know your destination, Canada is a really big place!  Not an ideal situation and not for everyone.

For now, I can only focus on getting my last delivery done and worry about that later. As it turned out, much later

Arriving at the third warehouse of the day (all the same company) I was greeted by the familiar sight of a long line of trucks in front of me.  The warehouse had four loading doors, but only one was working. Great . Looks like its going to be a long afternoon.

When I was finally done, it had taken over five hours to take the remaining three pallets from my trailer.  It also meant that I had run out of hours on my electronic log , done very few miles and when I did the math , probably earned less that the minimum wage for todays work. Another reason why companies struggle to find drivers.  It also meant that I did not receive any news on my re-load and had to negotiate with the warehouse manager to be able to park at the facility that night as I could not legally drive anywhere till the morning.

He agreed that it was their fault my day was screwed and kindly let me use their facilities for the night. It turned out that there was a great little restaurant down the road, so I finished my day writing my notes for this blog and having a great supper of Sweet and Sour chicken, Rice and Salad.

Happy Days , despite battle axes best efforts !

Setting Up A Budget

A negative mind will never give you a positive life.

I think in my case , better late than never….

As part of my programme to change my lifestyle around, I needed to know how much money my family required to live?

Seems a simple question. But one that I could not answer .Now I am not alone in this. Recent polls suggest that only 30% of North Americans actually have a budget. That means the vast majority of people have no idea what they spend their money on and my household definitely fell into this category.

Now in order to change, you first have to establish where you are?

I”m not a financial expert in any way and my aim here is not to become a financial expert.I am finding out what works for me and maybe it would work for you.

My aim here is to change my lifestyle from working in jobs I hated just to make money to pay the bills, to working at things I love to make a living.My trusted method in the past was , ‘We need more money! ” I  would go and earn some more money, in a job that I hated, next stage? buy some “crap” I did not need, as a mental reward. ( for example, my house has five televisions of which only two are used ???)

Result? “We need more money!!”……So the cycle continued.

How to break this cycle? I decided to basically record all of our spending habits over a three-month period. I felt this was a good period of time. Long enough to give me a reasonable level of understanding as to where the moola went?

Your Budget should not only contain all the areas that you spend your “miserable” cash, but also include all of  your income. I am no computer tech, so decided to record ours the old fashion way and purchased a simple accounts book, in which I wrote my own headings.( long live paper)

1/ Food – simple enough . All groceries but not including take-out or restaurant meals.

2/ Household – Mortgage or Rent and all utility bills.

3/ Insurance- House/ Motor and personal.

4/ Motoring expenses. – Gas , repairs etc.

5/ Debt management.- Interest paid on Loans,Credit cards bank charges etc.( Shocking!!!)

6/ Entertainments_ Coffee, pub, take out, restaurants, pub , pub ,pub ……

7/Clothing- Obvious, no explanations required

8/ One off expenditures.- Every month there”s something. Birthdays, school trips etc

9/ Other – everything else, just write what it was when entering the amount .

 

Now your budget may look different to this. For example, if you did”t own a vehicle , you are not going to have motoring expenses, however you may have public  transport costs or taxi fares instead. Where”s your investments? you may ask. Quite simply at this stage, apart from some Mutual funds for my kids college education, there are no investments!

Keep it simple stupid ( Love this saying, my first boss used it all the time )

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It is very easy to get carried away and make your budget way too detailed and complicated. In my case, if I am going to carry it through, I have to make it simple to use and  simple to understand. Otherwise, I would get “fed up” with it very quickly and not bother with it . Again, make it personal to you and/or your family. This is the one that worked for us .

The point of this exercise was to clearly identify where our money was being spent and how much we actually spent. I did not want to change anything at this stage, however I did find that after recording our spending in the first few weeks, our spending habits started to change, as the shocking numbers sank in .

After the three-month period was finished, the results were amazing.

Spending money wisely on “needs” rather than “wants” in order to be able to work less and have more time to do things I love.

Its worth while reminding yourself of why you are doing this? Like most things in life, if you don”t have a target or aim that is measurable , in time, you will wonder from your path and not get the results you were looking for.

Again, this was my aim. Yours will be different . Maybe you want to save for a particular trip to the sun or a big box item? Instead of following the modern disease of putting everything on credit.

It is worth noting, American”s credit and store card debt hit over a trillion dollars in March of 2018, according to figures released by the Federal Reserve. An average of over five thousand dollars per card holder.That”s a lot !!Just saying .Not to judge anyone. I don”t want to be like those reformed smokers who don”t shut up about giving up smoking.( used to have to listen to those “muppets” when I smoked).

The important thing here is to be able to recognize your current situation. If you are happy with it the way it is, great! Bully for you and move on . For me, this was not the case and change is required.

By recording our expenditure over the three-month period, the first and most important question was answered .

1/Do you earn more than you spend ?

This has to be the starting point for everyone. You don”t have to be a  genius ( luckily for me) to work out that if you spend more than you earn over a period of time then the likely outcome is going to be…….DEBT! . The debt you incur will then cost you money every month and so your expenditure increases etc etc etc. If  you are like me you have no idea how much your  debt  is costing you each month? ( Bet you can”t give me an explanation for APR? ) Surprisingly, we were on the right side and our earnings were more than our spending, which begged the question…..

2/ Where are you spending your Money?

The fact that we earned more than we spent was an encouraging start. However, the answers to where are money went? was, to put it bluntly, bloody scary. Small, regular amounts go un-noticed especially when you pay by debit or credit card, instead of physically handing over the cash. When you see it being spent over a three-month period, then multiply it up to what it is costing you over a whole year, it can be quite shocking.

A good example of this. One of my sons is a competitive swimmer. After each early morning practice, we would get him breakfast from an extremely well-known fast food chain. Not expensive right? Well, when I did the calculations from my three months of records , it worked out to be over eighteen hundred dollars a year. For a lot of people that’s one whole pay check per year! Needles to say , my son now takes breakfast from home. He”s not happy about it , but it teaches him a valuable lesson and I”m happy because he is now having a healthy breakfast and we are saving money. Win, win.

3/ Prioritize which debts to pay off

Finally, the exercise showed which debts cost us the most each month. This automatically gave us the order of which we should reduce our debt . Next stage.

Anyone want to buy a TV ?

 

To be Continued……..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mellow Monday Drive

IMG_0363Mon 3rd September.

Primm NV to Colton CA

189 Miles Driven.

To find confidence, we must first find the courage to act .

Up around 5 am local time.  Despite my hope that many of the weekend party goers had left on Sunday to get back to suburbia, the interstate was already getting busy.  So morning routine complete, I left the truck stop and entered the steady stream of traffic.

When leaving Nevada into California, all trucks have to enter the largest scale and inspection station I have ever seen.  Firstly your’re asked what your load is.  Frozen Fries clearly was not an issue, as I was waived straight through. Maybe the fact it wasn’t even 6 am  and the inspection guard could not be bothered to take it any further.  Secondly, you are then guided through a series of control lights as to which of the many scales you drive across.  Having just fueled up, I knew I would be close to my maximum weight allowed, especially on the front axle, so it was with a little relief when the green arrow flashed for me to leave the facility and re-enter the freeway.

California, is not a truck friendly state.  Not only do the fuel prices drastically increase here, but the speed limits drops to a ‘ granny paced” 55 mph (88.5 Kmh for everyone else ) and there are plenty of officers waiting on the side of the highway with their electronic devices to remind me of that fact.  So progress was leisurely, however it was steady as everyone seemed to be satisfied following the new speed limit and there was little in the way of delays.

I am determined in this latest venture back into trucking,  not to get as stressed out while driving.  In years past the idiots you see every day in this job, would really have a negative effect on me.  As previously mentioned, I used to be a fairly heavy smoker . The amount of cigarettes I smoked would greatly increase as soon as I got behind the wheel of a big truck.  After several unsuccessful attempts to kick the habit, I finally managed it around 3 years ago. This would be the first time I’ve driven professionally since quitting the disgusting habit .  Maybe its the fact I’m older and eventually realized that there will always be idiots on the road, so screaming and yelling at them makes no difference.  Maybe its the fact that I’ve eventually come to the conclusion that life really is too short and its better to enjoy it , than to fight it .

That’s one of the reasons why I came back to trucking.  I can make a lot more money working in my previous profession, but just hated it. So now I’ve decided that its better to make what I now refer to as “Happy Money ” What I mean by that, is its better for me to make $150 and enjoy what I do, rather than $200 and totally hate what I do to earn it.  I think in the long run I will actually be better off .

When working in a job I hate, I purchase things I don’t need , just to cheer myself up. These are purely emotional purchases done for a short justification for working in a job that makes me miserable.  So to summarize, I had to do a job I didn’t enjoy, to make a certain amount of money, so I could buy things I didn’t need, in order to make me happy, if only for a short time.  Strange but true.

Bet I’m not the only one, am I ? Let me know, by completing the contact form below.

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When the interstate dropped down to the San Bernardino region and the traffic finally thinned out I was still calm and collected and to be honest with you , very proud of myself . There was also a sense of relief, because I was concerned that I may slip back into old habits and the blood pressure would be through the roof on a regular basis .

Finally, it was time to find  the location of my first drop and suitable parking hopefully close by . Now this was another occasion that new technology has made life easier . In the past to find an unfamiliar location would involve , maps , notes and possibly asking strangers for directions or using the CB radio to ask other trucks local to the area. Not today . Simply copy and paste the address on to my Google maps app and the automated woman’s voice guides me into position . My issue is just one of trust . I was considering purchasing a trucking specific GPS system, however, the $400 to $500 price range put me off making that purchase so early on, so I decided just to use my smart phone.

To my surprise it guided me, without issue, right to the building. I was equally pleased to see a large open yard with plenty of room to park for the night. Not only that, there was a truck stop ( full of trucks waiting out the holiday as suspected) within walking distance, several fast food joints and believe it or not a coffee shop . Happy bloody days mate !

So with in the warm September sun, I nice gentle walk of the neighbour hood was in order, smug in the fact we had successfully got here without incident ,fuss or bother .

Home made supper ( not a fan of fast food , except after too many beers) , make some notes for my blog and that was my day . Tomorrow , we face 3 drops all in the LA area . Probably going to be a test of my middle age Karma.

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Sunday Lunch in Vegas

IMG_0338Sunday 2nd September

Mona, Utah to Primm, Nevada

388 miles .

My plan to spend the night in a smaller parking area had paid off . The first good nights sleep since I left home , meant I felt fresh and prepared for the day . Well , I was after my compulsory 2 cups of freshly brewed coffee and a bowl of  porridge  . Having my dog with me on this trip, meant a walk is required every morning to allow him to do his business.This he did  by  marking every available post or tree. I found that the twenty-minute walk really helps wake me up and by the time my pre-trip inspection was done, my electronic log updated with a the relevant information, I was keen to get going .

Now this weekend is actually a holiday weekend , which  meant I basically had an extra day , as my first delivery was not until 8 am Tuesday morning .Because of this, I had decided to do two relatively short days , rather than getting into the Los Angeles area a whole day early, as I do remember parking in the area is likely to be full of other trucks seeing out the long weekend .So my plan today was to get somewhere south of Vegas.

Once passing by Cedar City , the I-15 goes into a twisty section, when concentration levels need to be increased .A look out for traffic cops is also a good idea, as the speed limit  is reduced on this section of the highway.Although I haven”t been on this road for nearly 11 years ,I recognized this area immediately and I find it a welcome break from the normal “straight line” highway driving. The scenery then opens up as you cross the border into Nevada, giving you a view of vast open space , with the occasional empty derelict building serving as a reminder of years gone by, when people actually lived here , before moving to the city

I was considering taking an alternative route, highway 93 south, as I was informed by a friend of mine who ran this route some years ago , that it was a beautiful drive and very popular with commercial drivers, mainly due to the fact there are no scales and inspection stations going this way. As it was my first trip, I decided that this would have to wait for another time and  stuck to the I-15 south.IMG_0333

I-15 southbound . A sign of things to come ?

 

After a relatively un eventful mornings drive I was once again planning where I was going to spend the evening . This time fuel does come into the planning . Due to the cost of fuel in California companies require you to be smart and fuel up in Nevada, as this can greatly reduce running costs . I also remembered that this highway becomes very busy on a Sunday afternoon with all the weekend party goers leaving Vegas and heading back to their Los Angeles homes . So with this in mind, I decided to park up earlier in the day at the last truck stop before entering California, a flying J at  Primm Nevada  .

It seems that they are forever doing road repairs in the party town and my Sunday afternoon drive was slow and boring  through Las Vegas, but it didn’t affect me too much as, like I’ve said, I have “plenty of time” on this trip . Even so , I was glad to get through the remainder of the always present road works  and park up half an hour later , before the crazy traffic started .IMG_0342

Primm Truck stop , Clark County , Nevada.

 

Now the truck stop here at Primm is a little different in the fact that not only does it have the usual  fuel station, restaurants, lounge and wash facilities, but this one has hotels, casino, an outlet shopping mall, theme parks and most importantly to me a Starbucks . As you can probably guess, I am a bit of a coffee fan . Up to now I have been brewing my own morning boost juice myself in the cab, as generally speaking ,coffee in most truck stops is frankly disgusting and worthy of the title .

So after a short, but hot walk with my dog ,its in to the cool air-conditioned building for a much-needed shower , followed by a fresh cup of Americano. The showers were old but clean , much the same as the towels provided, however it did the trick . Feeling fresh and ready for coffee . Well , I am not sure whether it’s the water they used or the coffee itself is different to Starbucks in Canada , but this did not taste anywhere near as good . What a let down. Oh well , not to worry , with the current exchange to US dollars rate not in my favour, it made this coffee quite expensive . Brew my own it is .

After catching up on some news from home , cooked supper of fish , rice and a salad ,I spent the rest of the evening reading , before taking an early night .

Now, I know there is mixed feelings amongst drivers over E logs . These devices record all the movements of the truck over a 24 hour period . I for one, have already realized that I am a fan . Under the old paper log book system , it was very easy for drivers to cheat the system and drive a lot more than legally allowed. Most drivers , including myself, have done this on a regular basis . However , the load Gods ( my term for the dispatchers) agents , shippers and receivers all knew this . So , if a truck was sat waiting to be loaded or unloaded for hours on end, the driver was then expected to drive all night in some instances , in order to get to their next appointment .No surprise to see truck stops full of energy drinks!

Aside from the obvious dangers to themselves and other road users , these practices were also extremely un healthy for the drivers . I can remember in my younger days driving through southern France , heading back to the UK , driving all day and night , surviving on endless cups of coffee and packs of cigarettes ( Yes I still do the coffee, but limited to two or three cups a day , thankfully, I”ve managed to kick the smoking habit finally). In a world of increasing awareness of health issues caused by excess stress, poor diet and irregular sleep patterns , this new system introduced to regulate drivers hours, will only improve the industry in the long run. It may also help to attract much-needed young blood into the trade and decrease the driver shortage problem.

Please let me know your thoughts, I welcome all comments by completing the contact form below .

 

Re- Thinking Middle Age Finances

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Study Hard. ( I did not do this ) Get a good job. Buy a big house . Be a good parent.( I do my best at this one ) Save for retirement. DIE !!.

This is the traditional view of life that formed my up bringing . Now I realize that this is not for me.  Shame it took me so long to figure it out, but as they say “better late than never”.
At my age, with my children getting older,the traditional financial suits  would be telling me to maximize my earnings to “top-up’ my investments to boost my retirement income.

There is a couple of issues with this view . Firstly, I don’t have a great deal of investments. Life ( 4 kids and 2 marriages) happened to me , instead of a stable investment plan . Secondly, retirement doesn’t seem that appealing either . ( I suck at golf)

How many people earn money doing something they love?  Well not me. Not for the past thirty years. Apart from a few remote occasions, I have done jobs for one reason only, Money.

At times I have earned decent money, but would then purchase items unnecessarily as a self reward for working hard at a job I hated. Work more.Spend More. The cycle that has dominated my life since entering the work place. This is a common feature of modern society, in fact recently it has been reported that 50% of north Americans spend the same or more than they earn on a weekly basis.  Aimlessly working hours, days, weeks, months, into years at jobs that were not enjoyable or satisfying in any way .

I am now approaching the age at which my father passed away, and determined not to waste anymore of my life. Time to change things up. So, instead of working harder, I want to spend my money smarter on things my family actually need, rather than what I  want as compensation. By doing this I am hoping to create enough time and more importantly, the energy to do things I love to do.

I have always loved metal work . In particular sculptures and figurines made from metal. Never had the mental energy to start producing my ideas.

This  has not  been exactly a “Eureka!” moment and I don’t really have a master plan.  In fact I have no bloody idea how I”m going to do this.  I guess like most problems that seem insurmountable, you pick a point to start and do just that, start.

Stage 1: Identify what was wrong

Stage 2: Prioritize the order of which I would change it.

Now time for a reality check . There are some areas of my life  I cannot change immediately. For example, as I have previously mentioned, I no longer like to live in Calgary AB.  Living in this city is not the reason why I moved to Canada and I would leave here in a heartbeat. However I can’t. My two remaining sons living at home are both at critical times in their schooling.  Schools here are good and well-funded (although this is getting less so with the decline in the oil industry and incompetent politicians) So being  the responsible parent, I am stuck living  here until the time is right.

I think its important to start at where you can make quick changes, to gain some mental momentum.

With that in mind I started to look at the obvious. Like most people of my generation, work seemed to occupy my whole life. Not at anytime could I say I have enjoyed work. Some people say they love their work , but when asked if they would still do it if they won the lottery, most reply with a confident “NO!!!”.  So to me, they are not being honest with themselves.

My end goal here is to make a living doing something that I would actually do for free . I think there are a lucky few that manage this, sports stars, musicians, actors etc. But even these are only a small percentage of people who actually play sport or music.  So, I realize this is not going to be an easy task.

How do you eat an elephant?

One fork at a time .

Having worked in the construction industry for most of the my time here in Calgary, I had earned a fair living from it.  Long hours, especially in the summers, increasing levels of incompetence and stupidity, combined with workers who cannot show up every day, customers who want top dollar work done for bottom dollar prices, delays in payment, as well as decreasing profit margins, has taken the shine off working in the industry in recent years.

Over the last year I have slowly moved away from my line of work. Firstly, I picked up part-time work with a local contractor who transported cars for a well-known car rental company. This enabled me to actually have a summer this year. A visit from my family in England,my eldest sons wedding and the birth of my second grandson made for an eventful and memorable time .

At the same time I started making some metal sculptures and selling them through an online store and even made a few sales.

Problem with the part-time work is that it didn’t provide enough income to keep my,  family. What it did though was to show me what I was missing. I really enjoyed trucking again. With the shortage of truck drivers in western Canada I started to look for work.

At the end of the summer an opportunity arose for me to take a load from Calgary down to Los Angeles. I took it.

Over the next eight days I drove down and back and really enjoyed myself ( see my other blogs on this adventure)and as if confirmation was required, I had definitely made the right decision .

The right decision to go back into trucking was confirmed, however the type of trucking work was not the perfect fit.  Long distance work by its nature meant I would be away from home for long periods of time.

Looking at the big picture and with my target to make a living out of metal art and sculpture, long distance trucking would not allow the time to develop this area.

Now sometimes things happen for a reason.  Not sure why this happens, but sometimes things just work out that way.  It was at the exact time I was preparing to go back out on my second  trip south, when I received an unexpected call from the car rental company. It appeared that their contractor had quit his position and they offered me the work .

There we have it.  Times are a changing. I am now working on hauling cars on a full-time basis, but with enough time for metal work and I even recently managed to find a retail outlet locally that have agreed to stock my work.

Little steps, but in the right direction.  I have along way to go but I believe I can do it.

Next step. Setting up a Budget!!!!

To be continued…….P1030631

 

Where Did Summer Go?

Great Falls MT to Mona UT

Saturday Sept 1st 

644 Miles drivenIMG_0321 (1)

Cool old D11 dozer parked up near the truck stop in Utah.

After a terrible nights sleep ( Fridge motor , see previous blog ) I was up at 6 am.  The driving hour regulations meant my compulsory break period ended in one hour . Just enough time to make breakfast . Porridge loaded with fruit and a freshly made coffee, followed by another coffee and a walk with my dog , meant it was  time to leave my overnight parking area .

Pre-trip inspection completed and breakfast packed away, quick clean of the cab and interstate 15 southern bound by 7.30 .

Within an hour of leaving the truck stop the views from my office window  changed dramatically . The section of the highway from Great Falls to Butte takes my breath away. A stunning mountain backdrop combine with twisting sections of road , following a river basin, provides me with a great morning drive and I soon forget about my lack of  sleep . I am wide awake now and determined to enjoy every moment . Whether it’s the scenery or the two large cups of coffee I had early I’m not sure , but what a start to the day.

A beautiful mornings drive comes to an end with a lunch break taken at a great rest stop at Pocatello IdahoIMG_0319Under the new regulations in effect in the States , a driver has to take a minimum of a half an hour break within the first 8 hours of the working day . This is an improvement in my book . I was grateful for the opportunity to take a break on this first day of September . This particular rest area has a nicely laid out trail which took about twenty minutes to stroll around , providing myself and my dog the opportunity to stretch our legs giving us both exercise and fresh air.

I don’t actually eat lunch as I find its makes me tired in the afternoon, I prefer to snack as I drive to keep awake and hunger at bay .

After my break , I pass through the remainder of Idaho and enter the second state of the journey south, Utah . This State brings me into the first large city since leaving Calgary . Salt Lake City on a Saturday afternoon gave me refresh into the joys of  heavy traffic when driving a semi truck. Something I had not experienced for over ten years . This was fun . Seriously I enjoyed it . I had forgotten how people behave when in their cars .  Driving a truck,  you are quite a bit higher up than cars and this elevated position gives you a bird’s-eye view into people’s vehicles as they pass you . I am amazed that people don’t think they can be seen or no one is watching when they are driving . This provided me with some  funny and other  stomach turning sights when driving through Salt Lake on this sunny warm afternoon . “Hey Lady in the fancy SUV stop picking your nose and wiping it on the dash !” Seriously .

Once the free entertainment had died down I was beginning to think where I was going to stop this evening .As I had fueled the previous day it wasn”t necessary to do the same today . This truck was fitted with two very large fuel tanks and I could easily drive for two days without the need to refuel . This gave me the option to park in smaller rest areas . While having no facilities , they offer a peaceful evening and a different experience altogether .

My Saturday  afternoon cruise through Utah was interrupted by a vehicle fire on the side of the highway, causing traffic to come to a halt for around an hour . Thankfully it didn’t appear as though anyone was hurt and I passed the time away talking to a fellow trucker from Nevada, who had pulled up next to me during the incident .

Already in my second day , I have noticed how much modern technology is making life easier . Firstly, my hours of driving , resting and sleeping are all recorded automatically my a machine connected directly to the electronic management system on the truck . This has replaced the need to manually record each event in a log book and hope you did it right when inspected by the  DOT. Secondly, my border crossing paperwork is now done via an electronic log process , making the whole process easier for the driver . Lastly , the days of driving and looking at the map and a directory of truck stops to figure out where you are going to stop for the night or get fuel etc have been replaced by a very useful app called “Trucker Path”.This app tells the driver  where the parking areas are located, gives to directions via google maps if required and even shows you space available ( although this does rely on drivers inputting this information when the get to that particular rest area so this  information could be unreliable ). This gives the driver the opportunity to pick the truck stops of their choice depending on what type they prefer or what services they or their truck require .

So armed with this information at lunch time , combined with the knowledge of how many hours I had left to drive , I picked a small rest area near Mona,Utah. So it was with an hour of day light remaining I pulled in a small gravel parking area next to a new BP gas station with a Subway attached . Treated myself to a large sub and an ice tea for supper , followed by a nice evening walk with my dog to finish off a great second day .

 

 

Trip 1 Calgary to Anaheim California. Day 1

IMG_0315August 31st 2018 .

Calgary Ab to Great Falls MT .

335 Miles 

If Your’re good at something you don’t even enjoy, imagine how good you would be doing something you Love ?

Moving all your stuff into a truck is a never-ending task and even when I thought I was done, I still had doubts.  Not only if I had forgotten an important travel document but even thoughts of whether or not I’m doing the right thing?  So with all these thoughts still circling my mind I arrived at a grubby looking yard where my home and source of income was parked .

The truck itself was seemingly in good condition and all fitted out with basic conveniences for life on the road.  Microwave, full fridge, high cab with a large bunk and numerous power outlets for mobile phones or computers.  Combined with large areas of  storage for clothes, food and all other things required for up to 10 days on the move.  This is one area where things have improved since my time away from driving. These highway trucks now are fitted out with many modern comforts to make the drivers down time more like a stay in an RV rather than a back of a truck.  I was pleasantly surprised.  I had driven an older version of the same truck years ago so the changes were immediately noticeable .

After a quick briefing on the new electronic log system that is now controlling commercial drivers working in the US ( Yet to be introduced in Canada only driving  – surprise!) I left the yard and headed south to Lethbridge, Alberta, where I would be picking up a full load of frozen fries ( chips to my English friends) .  Roughly a 2 1/2 hour drive south of Calgary.

Glad to see certain things don’t change.  Despite arriving 30 minutes before my appointment time, I  got on a loading bay some 2 hours later and then only after I went into shipping office to inquire why ?  A simple case of the morning shift not telling the afternoon shift,  who was next  to be loaded was the cause of my delay . Time well spent arranging and cleaning the interior of the truck.  Mentally noted for future visits.  I was pleased that I kept calm and patient, unlike in the past when plenty of blood pressure rising. shouting and yelling would have occurred.  Progress? Or just getting older? Either way I left the plant fully loaded  3 hours later than planned,  but loaded all the same.

First task? Weigh the load, or to be more exact, weigh each axle to ensure that I am under legal limits for the US.  No surprise here, axle weight limits for the US are different to the limits enforced in Canada, so I headed to a nearby weigh scale to ensure I wouldn’t be in trouble at the first government scale I got called into.

First challenge? Sliding the trailer axles allows the driver to distribute the weight, in order to keep each axle legal.  Easy? Well used to be.  An hour later and testing my newly found calm patient approach, I managed to get my load legal for the US.

Finally on my way, heading south, towards the border. Second challenge ?

Border crossing as a non Canadian citizen means extra paperwork, extra questions and more time.  I was surprised however,  how quickly this was done, a few  simple forms, a ten minute question and answer session and 6 dollars later, I was on my way into the US with my load of frozen fries. Happy Days ? ( I later found out I could have avoided this delay altogether and completed the forms online prior to me getting to the border! What a Muppet!)

As previously explained in my earlier blog, all of these delays at the yard, the shipper and the border was time spent at work, by me, that I don’t get paid for, as I only get paid for the miles traveled . Name me another job that this is the case.  Every job has its pros and cons, however I do believe this is one major cause for the driver shortage here.

Still south on interstate 15 into Montana, brings me to my overnight stopping place in Great Falls. The flying J Truck stop, provides clean ( ish) showers, hot food ( we will get to the hardships of eating on the road another time )for the me and fuel, a windscreen clean of the summer roadkill and a place to park for my truck .

I decided to cook in my cab tonight.  Something I am conscious of now as part of the aging process, is I have started to watch what I eat on a more regular basis.  I am not saying I have turned into a berry eating health freak, but the pounds have slowly been gaining through my 40’s decade and driving a truck all day provides little in the way of exercise to stop this process continuing into the next decade.

So armed with a microwave, toaster and tin opener, I soon settled down to a light British favorite of ” Beans on Toast “. Walked my dog for half an hour before settling down for a sleepless night as I wasn’t yet used to the noise of the fridge motor on my trailer working overtime to keep my load in its preferred frozen state.

Back on the Road . Happy Days? So far yes.

 

Week 1

white dump truck near pine tress during daytime
Photo by 500photos.com on Pexels.com

Why go back on the road ?

Well I guess the simple answer is because I want to. I want to see whats changed in the past ten years. I want to understand why, in my opinion, the most under valued job is taken for granted by most and its value to the economy ignored by all ? Why is the shortage of truck drivers a real threat to economic growth in Canada today?

Like most things in Canada, trucking companies are very much linked to our large neighbours to the south.  Second only to China, Canada is a major trading nation for the States.

As there is such a shortage of drivers, finding a job should not be a problem. This proved to be the case. Through a contact of mine I talked to a company based in Toronto, but with trucks working out of Calgary.  Following a brief interview over a cup of coffee, a job offer was received, followed by numerous forms to be completed in full, all to satisfy the US department of transport.

So off for a drug test I go ! Part of working in the States, requires all drivers to be drug tested and screened as part of their employment requirements. Calgary has many labs, all studying people’s pee to see if they are drunk or stoned at the time of their test.  In a country that is about to legalize the use of cannabis,  I can only imagine this number will  increase in the future.  Probably the first reason why there is a shortage of truck drivers, everyone is smoking pot and cant pass the Pre employment drug test!  No such problems for me, fill the cup up to the line, sign the forms and the results are forwarded to the company within a couple of days.

The whole hiring process is completed by a test drive and then forwarding all travel documents to Toronto head office. Within a few days I had managed to get myself hired as a truck driver.  Although I have held a licence for over 30 years, I hadn’t actually driven a truck much at all in the last 10 years so clearly the driver shortage has made the whole process very easy and there was almost a sense of desperation in many of the local companies I contacted.  I got the feeling that they would hire anyone who had a license and could donate quality pee to the Lab.

However, I decided to go with my first choice of the companies I contacted.  Firstly, I wanted a company that only ran south to the States.  There are a number of companies that only do Canada work.  This is fine weather wise for around 5 months of the year and for those who cannot travel to the US because of a  wide range of  offences prevent them doing so.  As you may have heard, winters here can be a little on the chilly side and as we are already at the time of year when temperatures are  dropping  daily.., winter is not far away.  Other reasons for this choice include roads in Canada are terrible ( apart from the tourist sections around Banff, Alberta) Most are full of potholes, bad repairs and many are still gravel.  Now given the fact that the majority of drivers here get paid by the mile (something that’s not legal in the UK ) your wages can take a serious hit in the winter. Parked waiting for the latest snow storm to pass or waiting for the snow ploughs to finally clear the roads.  On the mountain roads of Alberta and British Columbia, even the main highways can be closed on a regular basis during winter months, snow storms, avalanches and ice storms all mean regular travel disruption.  Things don’t improve that much in the summer.  Construction and tourist having a similar result .

Truck stops in Canada, while improving in recent years, are generally sparse, poor quality, dirty and somewhat limited in choice of food on offer.  As most drivers are on the road for at least a week, a place to have a clean hot shower, do some laundry, watch a movie, get a haircut, with a large selection of food choices as well as reliable wi-fi connection( useful for those of use who blog on a regular basis )  and even get  any required work done on your truck, becomes important.  All of these basic services are available at regular  intervals throughout US road network .

I think I may have come across  more reasons for the driver shortage.  Strict border crossing requirements to the US and poor roads in Canada contributing to the problem. Maybe all the new taxes received from the newly legalized pot industry could be spent on improving the roads and installing basic road side services?

My choice of company run refridgerated or frozen goods south to California and return to Western Canada with produce.  The weather here also contributes to the fact you can only purchase fruit and produce grown locally for around 3 months of the year .

Now running reefer ( refrigerated trailers) is not my first choice and is not without its issues thats for certain.  Most pick up and delivery points involve a long periods of sitting around waiting, even if you arrive on time and obviously you don’t get paid for this delay.  I would have preferred to run flat deck truck, more money in general and way more interesting work.  However, certainly to start with, reefer will do just fine.

So there you have it.  After ten years absence, I am once again heading back out on the road.  Back in the saddle. What an idiot ??

Moving to Canada? A Divided Country.

pexels-photo-756790.jpeg Canada Area      9985 million square kilometers

UK Area              241,590 square kilometers

Canada, the second biggest country in the world after Russia. This place is bloody huge . I come from a  tiny country where you can drive from one end to another in a day , well as long as the M5 motorway is clear , so night driving would be required , but you get the picture, its small .

When I first moved to Canada, I arrived under an immigration programme called a PNP. This basically meant you stayed working for the same company , doing the same job for approx 3 years and in that time you hopefully get your permanent resident card, which then allowed you to work anywhere for anyone . ( that is a whole different story , which was not a happy time I”m still not over it !!)  Canada is divided into Provinces , 10 in total , with 3 more Territories in the North of the country , very confusing I know, no-one has ever explained the difference to me.

In 2006 the province of Alberta was crying out for class 1  Truck Drivers and as I had held a license and even owned my own truck in the UK, it was an easy step for me to make and enabled my family to move relatively quickly .So this gave me an opportunity to travel through the country and get a good feel for this vast land ( earning a pathetic wage at the same time ) It quickly came apparent to me how huge this country is but also how divided a nation this is .

Most people outside of Canada would know that the Province of Quebec is the French-speaking part of the country and a lot will remember the movement for independence from the rest of the country , In fact it had referendums on its sovereignty in 1980 and 1995, both of these were a defeat for the independence campaign , the latter by a very narrow margin. As far as I can see these referendums were a waste of ballot paper and TV coverage full of politicians wearing bad suits and even worse haircuts ( wow barbers have really improved lately ) as Quebec people still regard themselves as independent  to the rest of the nation and I can confirm that the people who live in the Western Province of Alberta have few good things to say about the province of Quebec . Similar to the rivalry between the UK and the French-speaking nation in Europe. ( France , for those who can’t figure it out )

After  six months of truck driving around Canada , I realised that I hadn”t moved to Canada , but moved to a single province of Alberta . Each Province has its owns laws ,        even down to the age at which teenagers can get loaded at the bar! . Each Province , thinks it contributes the most to the economy, whilst the others contribute nothing . This is particularly bad in Alberta as its people here think the revenue from the vast oil sands situated in the northern part of the province, pays for everything nationwide whist everyone else in the country spends their time fishing or speaking French or collecting government handouts whilst smoking pot !.

I know people who live here that regard themselves as almost American rather than Canadian .Most of this countries population lives within 100 miles of the USA border to the south . Most of the people here , travel regularly to the more famous southern neighbour , especially in the Winter months when the “Snowbirds” ( Old people with money ) head to the warmer temperatures of Phoenix , Vegas or Florida the see out the bitter  weather, the rest of us are left to cope with .( Yes , if that sounds like I”m jealous) In fact , until recently Canadians didn”t even need a passport to travel south , a quick flash of their provincial driving licence would see them across the border .  International terrorism has caused a rapid increase in Canadian passport holders.

Most people here ,prefer to purchase “Domestic ” vehicles, as they feel it’s better for the economy . A loose term of the word Domestic, as in fact the Fords, GM”s and Chrysler made vehicles are  American owned and in the case of Chrysler have large Italian influence in the shape of Fiat , yet Canadians regard them as made in their country. Strange, but true .

I know each country has regional divisions , ” north south divides” and even local rivalries are common , but bottom line those divisions are put to one side when it comes to national pride or interests . Not here . In fact , in my time here I see these divisions have become wider and deeper . Only this week the news is dominated by the story of the Alberta premier banning the sale of Wine from British Columbia, in retaliation to that Province not wanting a pipeline across “their land” in order to reach world markets of India and Japan .As far as I can see that just means one province can”t have good wine and the country as a whole cannot benefit from exports of Oil. This has been exaggerated by the down turn in world oil prices ,causing a downturn in the once prolific western Canadian economy and the presence of a Prime Minister who seems to be following a policy of making himself   a proclaimed leader of human rights , rather than a leader of a nation . I don’t know anyone here in the west who would admit to voting  for him, but due to the fact that the majority of people live in the Eastern Provinces of Ontario and Quebec , making voting in the Western Canadian Provinces of Alberta and British Columbia almost pointless .

So if your thinking of moving for a new life in Canada, make sure you research the Province , not the country as a whole . Living in Toronto has no relevance or connection to living in Vancouver . Apart from the fact you will be dealing with one Canadian Immigration  department you will be wasting your time and energy . Focus on what sort of person you are ? What you like? what you want from life ?

Look upon moving to Canada in the same way you would moving to Europe .Living in Germany would be vastly different to moving to Italy . Apart from a common language    ( Although Canada is officially bi lingual , no-one outside of Quebec speaks French on a daily basis) each Province is very different. In the words of a good friend of mine ” I”m Albertan first then Canadian! “. Strange ,but true .oil-monahans-texas-sunset-70362.jpeg