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At The Truck Stop: Team drivers find love for driving and each other at career fair

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Gwenetta and Julian Binns stand in front of their truck
Gwenetta Binns had her CDL three years before meeting Julian, but once the two hit it off at a career fair, they quickly decided to pursue driving as a team. Julian got his CDL shortly afterward, and now they haul a regional route in Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania. (Courtesy: Gwenetta Binns)

CLEVELAND, Ohio — A lot of career success stories start with a resume. The same can’t typically be said for love stories. For Gwenetta and Julian Binns, however, both became reality. The two got the best of both worlds when they struck up a conversation at a local career fair in Ohio.

Julian was looking into the possibilities of getting funding to attend CDL driving school, while Gwenetta was checking out local vendors and updating her resume. She had already obtained her CDL three years earlier but had not started driving professionally just yet.

“I helped him with his resume, and he helped me with things, and we just hit it off,” Gwenetta said. “I talked to him for about four or five hours that day. I never called him, but he called me. I decided to give him a chance, and we started dating.”

In the time that Gwenetta and Julian were dating, Julian obtained his CDL through the same program Gwenetta had completed years earlier.

The couple got married in June 2019 and only three months later, the two hit the road as a pair. Now they are team drivers of a 2020 Freightliner Cascadia hauling for Cleveland-based Formica Flooring where they drive a dedicated route from Indiana to Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Although Gwenetta had her CDL for quite some time before meeting Julian, she already knew she wanted to drive as a team with someone she could get along with. When she met Julian, everything just seemed to fall into place. Gwenetta was then able to stop working jobs outside of the transportation industry and put her CDL to use.

It took some searching, though, to find a company that would train them together.

“There are a lot of companies that will take teams but won’t train you together,” she said. “We wanted to be able to train together. When we finally found someone who would train us together, it was basically three of us and a trainer in the truck. It worked out.”

Gwenetta admits that she was initially a bit nervous about training with Julian, but she quickly found that they made a great team and having the trainer with them in the beginning helped them to learn how to work together and get better acquainted with being behind the wheel.

“We are still learning each other,” she said. “I’m learning his habits, and he’s learning mine. We are figuring out what we like and don’t like. Driving together teaches us a lot, but we rarely bump heads about anything. We work really well together, and there’s a lot of teamwork. We call ourselves Team Binns.”

Although being in a confined space with a spouse during the first few months of marriage can seem challenging, Gwenetta said that taking shifts allows for the two to get plenty of space. Typically, while she is driving Julian is sleeping and vice versa. Their designated route is about eight hours of drivetime one way, which makes for an ideal length of time before needing to switch drivers. Working as a team helps to keep the truck moving while a single driver would need to stop for rest.

“Every once in a while, we might get on each other’s nerves, but for the most part, we don’t really cross paths like that,” Gwenetta said. “[When one of us isn’t sleeping] we listen to music and talk. It might be hard, but if you can find that person that you can tolerate all day every day, [driving] is a perfect job.”

Also under the category of a “perfect job,” Gwenetta said the couple normally spends all week on the road but is back home for the weekend, which allows for plenty of time to spend apart or relax with family and friends.

Long before Gwenetta became a part of “Team Binns,” she wanted to pursue culinary arts and even attended college to do so. A little later, she did a little research and found out that the money in that industry wasn’t exactly what she had in mind, and she quickly lost her passion for cooking professionally. With the encouragement of a few friends who were truck drivers, Gwenetta started to consider getting her CDL. The deal was sealed when she realized that driving a truck provided the ideal financial stability she was seeking in a career.

Driving as a team, though, allows for even more financial stability since Gwenetta and Julian can save money by minimizing bills at home while they are on the road all week.

“We can both save up like we want to now,” she said, adding that the two have plans of buying a house soon.

Even though she is a part of a team, Gwenetta said she still gets interesting
responses when some people see a woman driving a truck, but that has never detoured her from wanting to grow in the trucking industry. If anything, she said it encourages her to continue.

“Don’t underestimate us women. We can outdrive just about anybody,” she said. “I tell my husband that all the time.”

As Gwenetta and Julian learn more about the trucking industry and each other, the two hope to someday be their own business, but for now they are happy to have the opportunity to work together every day.

“We love what we do and hopefully we will be able to purchase our own truck someday,” she said. “We really like the company we are with and we love seeing the world together.”

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  1. Stephynia

    February 14, 2020 at 8:45 am

    Congratulations!

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Stretch of Highway 22 in Oregon closed after tanker crash, diesel spill

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tanker crash on highway 22
Highway 22 between Idanha and Santiam Junction is unlikely to reopen until Friday or Saturday as crews remove contaminated soil in a roadside ditch and rebuild a 600-foot section of roadway, the Oregon Department of Transportation said. (Courtesy: Oregon State Police)

IDANHA, Ore. — A stretch of Highway 22 will be closed for much of this week as crews clean up gasoline and diesel fuel that leaked out of a crashed tanker truck near Idanha along the North Santiam River, state transportation authorities said Monday.

The highway between Idanha and Santiam Junction is unlikely to reopen until Friday or Saturday as crews remove contaminated soil in a roadside ditch and rebuild a 600-foot section of roadway, the Oregon Department of Transportation said.

An oil sheen was visible on the North Santiam River downstream of the crash site, but officials said most of the tanker’s oil seeped into the ditch, where it was absorbed by the soil. It’s unclear how much entered the river, the Statesman Journal reported.

The city of Salem said Monday that its drinking water is safe and the oil from the spill has not reached its water treatment plant near Stayton, which is about 30 miles (48 kilometers) away from the crash. The oil will take several days to reach the plant, the city said, and teams will test the river water at multiple locations this week. Crews have set up absorbent berms to capture the oil on the water.

If any fuel is detected in the river, the city will close the water intake gates as it did in a similar situation three years ago.

The crash on Sunday closed Highway 22 near Detroit and Santiam Junction. The truck was carrying 10,600 gallons of fuel total — 6,500 gallons of gasoline in a tanker trailer and 4,100 gallons of diesel in the truck’s tanker.

About 7,800 gallons of fuel emptied into a roadside ditch and the rest was recovered, according to Oregon Department of Environmental Quality officials.

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FMCSA final rule lowers annual registration costs for motor carriers

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truck driving down road
The reduction of the current 2019 registration year fees range from approximately $3 to $2,712 per entity, depending on the number of vehicles owned or operated by the affected entities. (iStock Photo)

WASHINGTON — Motor carriers will now see a reduction in the price they must pay to register their vehicles. On February 13, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration released a final rule that realigns the fees for the Unified Carrier Registration Plan.

According to the document posted on the federal register last week, this rule establishes reductions in the annual registration fees the states collect from motor carriers, motor private carriers of property, brokers, freight forwarders and leasing companies for the UCR Plan and Agreement for the registration years beginning in 2020.

“For the 2020 registration year, the fees will be reduced by 14.45% below the 2018 registration fee level to ensure that fee revenues collected do not exceed the statutory maximum, and to account for the excess funds held in the depository,” the document reads. “The fees will remain at the same level for 2021 and subsequent years unless revised in the future.”

The reduction of the current 2019 registration year fees range from approximately $3 to $2,712 per entity, depending on the number of vehicles owned or operated by the affected entities.

The UCR Plan and the 41 States participating in the UCR Agreement establish and collect fees from motor carriers, motor private carriers of property, brokers, freight forwarders and leasing companies. The UCR Plan and Agreement are administered by a 15-member board of directors; 14 appointed from the participating states and the industry, plus the Deputy Administrator of FMCSA or another Presidential appointee from the Department, according to the final rule.

Revenues collected are allocated to the participating states and the UCR Plan. If annual revenue collections will exceed the statutory maximum allowed, then the UCR Plan must request adjustments to the fees. In addition, any excess funds held by the UCR Plan after payments are made to the states and for administrative costs are retained in the UCR depository, and fees subsequently charged must be adjusted further to return the excess revenues held in the depository.

Adjustments in the fees are requested by the UCR Plan and approved by FMCSA. These two provisions are the reasons for the two- stage adjustment adopted in this final rule.

“While each motor carrier will realize a reduced burden, fees are considered by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A–4, Regulatory Analysis as transfer payments, not costs. Transfer payments are payments from one group to another that do not affect total resources available to society. Therefore, transfers are not considered in the monetization of societal costs and benefits of rulemakings,” according to the document.

The rule states that the total state revenue target is more than $107 million.

For more information or the read the rule in its entirety, visit https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/rulemaking/2020-01761.

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Rhode Island DOT looks to hike trucks-only tolls amid court battle; public input sought

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Rhode island dot wanting to hike rates on trucks-only toll system while court battle continues; public comment sought
A truck passes through one of Rhode Island's six operating toll gantries. (courtesy: Providence Journal)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — As the Connecticut legislature prepares to vote this week on Gov. Ned Lamont’s controversial and long-debated “trucks only” toll proposal, a similar system in Rhode Island continues to operate while legal action to overturn the tolls is underway.

The original Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) proposal to charge tolls on trucks only included 14 locations, all bridges RIDOT deemed as structurally deficient. Tolls collected at each bridge would be used to repair and upgrade the specific location.

RIDOT is accepting public comment through March 1 on a plan to increase the toll on a newly installed gantry at the Oxford Street Bridge in Providence, a bridge crossing Interstate 95. The original toll for the bridge was set at $2.25 per trip; however, RIDOT is studying the cost-benefit ratio of doubling the rate to $4.50. RIDOT representatives requesting comment on the proposed increase claim the increase is really no increase at all; it is simply an effort to maintain the revenue forecast from the 14 gantries included in the original tolling proposal.

Currently, Rhode Island has constructed toll gantries at six of the originally planned locations; however, as the program has moved forward, two locations have been temporarily or permanently delayed. Rather than adjusting anticipated total revenue based on 12 locations, Gov. Gina Raimondo has instead directed RIDOT officials to study and request rate hikes at specific bridges. The toll hikes will allow Rhode Island to collect the same $45 million forecast from the 14 original gantries. This new twist on a toll program already challenged as unconstitutional by the American Trucking Associations, and one which an appellate court has ruled Rhode Island must face in a lawsuit, is leading the trucking industry and toll opposition to question RIDOT’s language in press releases and discussions on the issue.

Chris Maxwell, president of the Rhode Island Trucking Association, said, “This should serve to reinforce concerns over the unbridled power and discretion given to RIDOT and further feeds the suspicion and skepticism of Rhode Island’s business owners about the end game of this scheme.”

Maxwell’s comments come on the heels of an already approved increased toll rate at another location in Providence. The Route 6 bridge over the Woonasquatucket River was increased from $2.00 to $5.00 last fall.

Maxwell also expressed concern about changing the still new tolls program when original approval was based on environmental impact studies. “From a legal standpoint,” he said, “these ‘on the fly’ changes would seem to undermine and violate the purpose and extent of the environmental impact assessments.”
Other opponents to the Oxford Street bridge toll increase note that the bridge does not fall into the criteria RIDOT deemed as structurally deficient, meaning revenue from the toll would be used at other locations, a provision not included in the tolling plan.

From RIDOT’s perspective, not only is the proposed toll rate increase not really an increase, it is also going to save the state money. RIDOT Director Peter Alviti said that the infrastructure costs of eliminating two planned toll locations will result in lower implementation costs.

“Our thinking is we’ll forgo building [a gantry] at the viaduct in Providence, or at least while the viaduct is being built,” Alviti said on WPRO radio. “We’ll assign the toll amount we were going to collect there to the next nearest location, which is Oxford Street.”

Chris Maxwell believes he has a full understanding of RIDOT’s intent. “[They] deliberately chose the most densely traveled tool location in the who scheme to further their insatiable appetite to soak businesses, consumers, and taxpayers,” he said in an interview with Transport Topics.

RIDOT is justifying its proposed action based on the original toll proposal’s expectation of generating $45 million in revenue. In any event, Peter Alviti says, truckers traveling I-95 through Rhode Island will still be paying $20.00 per trip.

When is an increase not an increase? It depends on what your definition of increase is. For those wanting to comment, emails can be sent to Dot.BridgeRepairTolls@dot.ri.gov or comments can be submitted in writing to Jay McGinn, P.E., Project Manager II RIDOT, 2 Capitol Hill, Providence RI 02903. Following cutoff date for comments on March 1, the new rate will be implemented on March 5.

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