Don’t Let the Little Things Bother You….Just Roll On

•June 17, 2009 • 2 Comments

In the past few months that I’ve been driving, I’ve learned one major thing. Trucking can destroy you if you let it. Truck driving can make you very bitter and angry. Trucking can raise your blood pressure and be extremely stressful. Truck driving is filled with unexpected problems, rude people, a total lack of respect for what you do and sacrifice everyday just so the guy who cut you off can get his iPod at Walmart a few bucks cheaper. Truck driving can literally drive you to madness….if you let it.

Just Let It Ride

I hear some of these truck drivers screaming over the CB because somebody cut them off or some other truck driver isn’t driving “fast enough.” I see my trainer get furious when a shipper or receiver treats him like crap or part of our load gets refused. He hates being disrespected. I look at some of these drivers at truck stops who look like they’ve been pulling their hair out all day. I hear the anger in drivers voices after a long day on the road. Some of them even try to seek out a fight. It doesn’t have to be this way.

For some reason, many people are not able to let the little things roll off their backs. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that when I’m driving through, say, New Jersey, and I’ve been cut off for the 6th time in 4 miles, it gets aggravating. But in the grand scheme of things, does it really affect my life that much? Just roll on! If somebody gives me the finger because I blocked up the passing lane for a minute, does that persons opinion of me really matter? Just roll on! If a shipper or receiver seems to be bossing me around and shows a lack of respect, do I really think they will matter to me 24hrs later? Just roll on! If a tire goes flat on me, isn’t it something I expected to happen at some point? Just roll on! Well, after I get the tire replaced of course.

You can not be sensitive in this career. You can not let the little things bother you. I see so many people get so worked up over the smallest things. It makes me wonder how they’d deal with something major that happens in their life. My main rule of thumb; if it won’t affect my life tomorrow, why get worked up about it? We all have our bad days, and it’s ok to get mad when somebody does something stupid, but for the most part, just let it be! I’ve found the happiest drivers out on the road have the mentality of “whatever happens, happens.” Truck driving is a job where you must live in the moment, and quickly forget the past. Just because you’re having an enjoyable drive right now, doesn’t mean you won’t blow a tire in 5 minutes. And if you do blow a tire, you have to be ok with that. Just part of the job. It’s going to happen. There really is no way around it. So when it does happen, don’t get upset! Just breathe, calm down, and chalk it up to the adventures in truck driving. If somebody cuts you off or is driving like an idiot, you shouldn’t even let it bother you in the first place. But if you must, curse and swear at the dumb driver, then forget about it! It already happened and it’s over and done with. Just roll on!

Advice For New Drivers

For those who are thinking about entering truck driving, I’m here to tell you, if you can’t let things happen as they happen, you’ll never survive this life. You can’t really plan anything out here. You can plan ahead the best you can, but very rarely does anything in truck driving actually go to plan. There is an endless list of things that can happen, but here’s one example. Let’s say you start your trip at noon. You decide you’ll drive until 8pm then grab a much needed shower since you haven’t had one in two days and you feel like crap. After 8 hours of driving, the only thing on your mind is the great feeling of a hot shower. Your head is itchy, you feel dirty, your face feels greasy, your hands have leftover spilled deisel fuel on them, you need a change of clothes, and you just want to feel clean once again! You pull into the only truck stop within 100 miles or so, go in to grab a shower, and see the wait time is 30 minutes. Ok, no big deal. You wait, and wait, and wait for your number to be called, but it never comes. An hour later, you discover the truck stop is having a plumbing issue and nobody told you. The showers are closed. You’re not getting a shower tonight. How would you deal with this? It’s a true story and it happened to me.  continue to page 2 –>

CDL Training Begins

•June 17, 2009 • Leave a Comment

At a time when school ends for many, mine begins anew. This time around, I’ll be schooling with Swift. Believe it or not, a trucking company may actually think seriously about hiring a Florida resident. I live a little north of Tampa, and as it turns out, Swift has an Ocala terminal. I have been quiet for awhile, as I’ve sought employment from many trucking companies.

The big deal for me, is getting back in the truck, after a 12 year hiatus!

School is two weeks in Tennessee, and the last week in Ocala. Three days in orientation the following week, and we hit the road again with a trainer. I have been away from this blog for a short time, while discussions, and employment efforts were taking place. I will do my best to keep up with the writing and the process, as I begin anew.

Many things will be repetitive, but I need to re-learn them. New people looking to break in to trucking, stay the course, and don’t give up!

Returning To Trucking After Vacation: Part Two

•June 15, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I arrive to my shipper by taking the on ramp to the interstate to enter the customer’s lot. So I enter the ramp and take an immediate right turn again into the yard. I check in and find out all are on lunch so I will need to wait. But its not long and now someone comes to me and tells me the procedure on how to get this done. My insides are in knots now as this backing thing is still an issue with me.

Out the “out” drive I go and I turn left onto this four lane road and stop in the inside lane. When my helpers have stopped all traffic, I move forward at an angle into the next lane and then I back up towards the docks. They want the trailer next to the west wall. I warned them they will get the trailer in what ever dock that back end goes to, but I will really try to get the specific one they asked for.

The docks are empty so this will help me back up a wee bit faster and not hit parked trucks! OK, vehicles are stopped everywhere waiting and waiting on me and many are not happy. I can see most of their faces and even read lips too! Some are watching in amazement on how a truck backs up with all the moving that the tractor does while we guide the trailer into its place. I really tried to get the specified dock but we end up in the middle one and that is where I stayed. The tractor is parked in the outside lane and taking up the entire width of that lane. The customer has cones I can use to block traffic from that lane and protect the truck. I get that done and wait in the truck fully expecting some idiot to run into me saying “I didn’t see you.”

Soon I am loaded and have my papers and leave for the truck stop to weigh the load. Steers are 12,300, Drivers are 33,400 and the Tandems are 34,580 for a total weight of 80,280. I am over the legal 80,000 pound limit and on the rears which the limit is 34,000. I have a half tank of fuel. I slide my tandems 2 holes to take off 500 pounds and transfer it to the front. But this will not solve my over gross weight. I’ve heard too many stories about the fines and it all depends on the officer’s mood and your mood at the time too. I do know that I have no scales unless there is a surprise scale setup to catch us so I will burn off enough fuel by the first official scale that I will not worry about it. Due to this weight I can not purchase more than 30 gallons of fuel for my trip back to be legal.

I make it to Chicago/Gary for the night at the company terminal. Fuel guage is reading between 1/4 and E. I put in 27 gallons of fuel at 8 pounds a gallon.  I am tired and hungry and need a shower.

11-06-02  I set the alarm for 3am for the shower but when it went off I was still tired and decided to sleep as I have a couple of other choices to do that later today. Right now sleep is more important.  I got another hour and then I had to get up and get ready.  I leave at 4:30 am and stop at the DeKalb plaza to get my first cup of coffee of the day about 6.  I don’t take any on my walk back to the truck as I am wanting to enjoy the first sip of the day when back on the interstate and heading westbound.  I’m still on the ramp shifting gears when the gear shift bumps into the dash where the cups sit as this gear shift is not TIGHT like on my truck–it wobbles. But sometimes it is “normal”.  So there goes all of my coffee all over the place – even on me! I am not at all happy about this. I now have to wait for the next truck stop to get my first cup of coffee for the day.   I got that accomplished and for the rest of the week, I won the battle of  “lets knock over the drinks” by being extra careful of that gearshift that sometimes wobbled and sometimes not.  I made it to my shipper/reciever with the fuel guage reading just about E.   I had also called the person assigned to me and explained about the weight problems but I should have enough to make it to the next fuel stop.  I got my new trailer and left and prayed and coasted and did everything possible to get to that next fuel stop.  I did get there and put in 145 gallons out of 200.  I’m going to the White Bear Lake MN. Still no time for a shower as I wanted to get thru the Twin Cities before evening traffic.  I did get that done and no delays with unloading so now I’m heading to Austin MN.  I stop at the customer just to see if I could maybe get the load now and not tomorrow.  Well the product is “hot off the press” and so hot that it can not be put on a trailer due to the moisture problems.  I leave them my trailer and go to the truck stop for the night.  They will load the trailer about 2 am and I can have it at 6:30.  I did 643 miles today.

11-07-02  Got my trailer and drove 3 hours to Cedar Rapids IA to drop this load and get the next one to Rockford IL.  I have a 3pm appointment.  I know its going to be close.  By the time I leave the paper mill in Cedar Rapids I have exactly 3 hours to go thru all the towns and the speed limit is 55 in IL too.  I also call my terminal and say that 3 pm is not possible and phone calls are made.  I am told I have up to 30 minutes past appointment time to get there.  I leave and drive faster that I normally do and actually do 65 in IL knowing I am taking a chance with the police.  I also did not want to deliver this load in the morning.  I did make Rockford on time and drove up and over the curb and onto the sidewalk at this customer, missing all employee cars in the lot while you back to the ramp, missing the drop off and the pole.  All went well here and back to the mill I go.   I get my next load and head west on I80 for Des Moines.  But I am spending the night about  halfway there as my time will be up.

11-08-02  4:30 am.  I hear a garbage truck go by and he makes a lot of noise with the dumster so I just get up.  It was then I discover an overturned trailer on the main drive of this shopping center/truck stop. (see other story I posted on Trailer Rollover)  Soon I am on the road and heading to my terminal and home.  When I arrive I need to unhook this trailer and put the truck in the lineup and take my things out of it.  I look for “my” truck and its not here.  OK, it was to be here yesterday.  I go looking for it in the shop.  Not there either.  Office assures me it will be here for me when I leave Monday.  I go home and enjoy my weekend.  (“my” truck was here and waiting for me on Monday and all was OK with it.)

Returning To Trucking After Vacation: Part One

•June 9, 2009 • 1 Comment

11/04/02    Back to work after vacation and I do not want to be here! But I must as I did not come into big money while gone! I arrive to work a little before 7am and park near “my” truck so I can re-load it with all my things. First I go to the fuel desk and ask for my keys as I had to turn them in. During the week off, “my” truck was used by other drivers. I was handed one key and not the others. This is my first clue that something is wrong.

Back to the line of tractors, I do a walk thru and can not find “my” truck. I’m not happy with this as I know what it means and I don’t like that at all. But there is a slim chance it could be in the shop for a minor repair to replace a headlight or something? So I head to the shop as its almost time for my winter training to begin in the upstairs gathering room. I saw a movie on winter roads and lots of wrecked trucks and took a quiz. Because of my background and/or time with my employer, I did not have to drive for training. But I did last winter and also for this past spring training.

When done I head to the main building to report to my assigned office person and let him know that “my” truck is not on the lot and I want it now. He is already aware of this and called the person in charge at another terminal about “my” truck as it was put into the computer that it must back to this terminal on Sunday so I can do my assignment. Well, “my” truck was here yesterday but the driver(s) did not get out of it because of their truck not being ready or not here. I am so mad that I’m not totally sure what went on except that I am the one paying for it. All I know is “my” truck is now in Colorado and due back on Thursday. 

So I get to use another truck whose driver is on vacation.  The truck and driver are also on the same account as me.  I’m given the keys and head to that truck which is here in the line up.  I unlock it and see that it was not cleaned out!!  What a crock!  I had to clean out “my” truck but not this driver???!!!  This is going to be a very long week.  I put my things in and shove other drivers things out of the way.  I get this done and the truck set up and ready to go so I can be somewhat comfortable in it.  I go back to the office to make sure that I and this truck are in the system so I don’t have any problems getting fuel with my fuel card and trying to leave and enter other company terminals. And to make sure that “my” truck comes back to me this week.  Both have been taken care off.  Out to the fuel pumps I go and put in 101 gallons.

Finally around 11 am, I can finally leave and I am told to bobtail for the 2 hour drive to Cedar Rapids, Iowa to another customer where I will get an empty trailer, then I can go to my shipper at the account I am on for my new trailer.  We can not come in without a trailer.  I go to the customer as assigned only to find out that there are zero trailers here.  More delays and I am getting more angry as the day goes on. I send in a message on qualcomm and I wait and wait and wait.  This makes me more angry. Finally a beep from the qualcomm tells me there is a message waiting.  Could it be for me???? Or is a something for the entire fleet to see?  Its for me!!!  I am to now go to the mechanic shop and get a trailer that has been worked on.  OK, but I drove by that place to get to this one and now I have to backtrack.  IS IT FRIDAY YET??!!

Finally, I enter my shipper/reciever and drop the empty trailer and get my loaded trailer going to Three Rivers Michigan.  I pull onto the scale to get my axle weight and total weight.  Steers are 12,080, Drives are 31,200 and Tandems are 33,120.  Finally something went right.  I do not have to slide the tandems to make axle weight.

I made a list of things I found wrong with this truck.  Some of it is just being picky, but when you spend $80,000 and up on a tractor, everything should work on it.  Here are some of them:

1.  CB does not work–mine or the crappy one that came with the truck.

2.  Gearshift not as tight as mine so it wobbles and hits the dash where the cup holders are when shifting.  I WORE MY COFFEE!!!  This was not a plesant experiance.

3.  Qualcomm lite works when it wants to. This means you need a flashlight when dark to enter your load info.

4.  The dome light also has a mind of its own and did not like me at all.

5.  Truck goes right and I mean right if you don’t have a firm grip on the steering wheel. (guess this is better than going left)

6.  Air vents broke and the ones still there don’t move.

7.  NO AIR PRESSURE BUZZER 

8.  Only 2 out of the 8 radio speakers work

9.  Headlights pointed too low for me, but I can live with it. 

10.  Fuel guage light is out.

I WANT “MY” TRUCK BACK!!!!!

11-05-02    As I am nearing our customer from the north side, I look south as I cross the bridge and railroad tracks and see no trucks in line or a truck in the one dock we use.  This is good news for me.  I make a right turn on a residental street and go south for about 3 blocks.  There are factory/warehouses on the right hand side for the entire length of the street.  My customer is at the end.  At the end to my left are trailers in the dirt lot.  I turn right and proceed to the NW corner of the building on a drive next to the river.  I round the corner and see 2 of my employer’s trucks that you can not see from the street when I was looking. 

I park behind them and get out and see that they are sleeping as the curtains are shut.  I go around them and back into the dock.  I am being unloaded when they wake up and move the trucks closer to me.  They got in about 2 this morning and stayed far enough back from the dock to not cause confusion while sleeping.  I ask them if they had been to the scrap yard in Toledo.  I get grins and the line that you are going to have “fun” now!  I was told that someone must help you and block 4 lanes of a busy highway while I back into the dock.  And this wonderful event happens 1 block off the busy interstate.  I am just thrilled to know about this and the new adventure given to me.    Soon I am on my way and not looking forward to this blocking of a busy 4 lane highway while I back into a dock.  Backing is still not my best thing.  I’m going to have lots of  4-wheelers upset with me.  That’s OK as they upset me daily too!

One Electric Ride

•June 9, 2009 • 1 Comment

Last week I had an awesome ride. We made a delivery in Los Angeles then had to go clear across the country to Pittsburgh, PA. Around Amarillo, TX we stopped to grab some food and get some rest. I woke up about 10pm ready to go. While we were sleeping, some severe thunderstorms formed and moved past us. I got back onto I-40 going east bound and immediately was greeted by mother nature with one of the most electric storms I’ve ever seen. The storms were well ahead of me. In fact, the skies above me were completely clear. But off in the distance, there were constant flashes of lightning.

This is one of those trips where you just turn off the radio, set the cruise, and enjoy the show. Sometimes night driving can be a little boring since there isn’t much to look at. Not tonight. It was absolutely amazing to watch the lighting crawling around the clouds. It was almost as if the storms were talking to each other. I’d look off towards the south and see an amazing bolt of lightning brighten up the towering cumulus clouds then streak towards the ground. Then shortly thereafter, the storm to the north would brighten up with a bright streak across the sky. It was as if the storms were in competition with each other. Brilliant flashes of orange, blue, and white. The further off in the distance the storm was, the more colorful it was. I’m assuming it’s due to the lightning reflecting off of the different layers of the atmosphere. But while driving through the flat lands of the Texas Panhandle and into Oklahoma, I could see these storms for what seemed like 100 miles.

There are some nights when you don’t want to be in the truck. There are some nights you think about your loved ones back at home. There are some nights you wonder why in the world you are living this life. Then there are some nights when you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world at that paticular moment. You feel at total peace with the world. Stress is non-existent. You can’t believe you actually get paid to do what you’re doing. This was one of those nights. My trainer was still sleeping in back so it was just me, the powerful rumble of the truck, the pavement, and mother nature. Each lighting strike would crackle the silent CB radio. I think just about every single driver around me was feeling the same thing I was. Because the radio was virtually silent. Just in total awe of the ridiculous power mother nature was showing. Every once in a great while a driver would hop on the radio to say “wow” or “that was crazy” after an amazing lightning strike. These were no ordinary storms. They were very powerful, but from a distance, they were beautiful.

This lasted for hours. No matter how far I drove, I didn’t seem to get any closer to the storms. I was a perfect distance away. I was able to take in the awesome beauty of the storms without having to worry about the rain, wind, and hail. It was almost a hypnotic experience. I was in heaven.

I then began to come up on some of the towns these storms hit. The towns were totally dark except for the flashes of police cars, fire trucks, and public works vehicles. There was flooding, wind damage, cars on the side of the road with hail damage, debris everywhere, power outages, and a total complete mess for these little towns to deal with. It seemed a little surreal to me to think about the beauty that I was seeing and the peace it brought me, then coming up upon the havoc it was creating for all these other people. It wasn’t so bad to where anybody got hurt, but they had one heck of a clean up to deal with.

As the sun was beginning to come up, the storms quickly faded away, my lightning show was gone, my trainer came up front, and my drive was about over. It was one of those moments when I wanted to go back in time and start my drive all over again. I could have driven forever that night. It was a night I was truly glad to be a truck driver.

Until next time, drive safely!

TruckerMike

You’ll Know You Can Drive When……….

•June 4, 2009 • Leave a Comment

When you make a wrong turn onto US 119, and keep going!!

In my previous post I mentioned that I had previously driven over the road before, and like many here, I’m going out there again. Notice I said “going”, not hoping to go, but I’m getting prepared to go. Each day you should talk to recruiters, visit this site, and TruckingTruth’s truck driving forum.

Taking those actions will get you to where you desire to go. Even though I’ll need to go back to school for training to drive again, I’m not concerned because I’ve been on US 119 in Letcher County, Kentucky. I mentioned at the start of this post, I made a wrong turn.

Letcher County, KY. is in the southeast section of Kentucky, bordering Virginia. In my opinion, it is home to some of the finest truck drivers I’ve ever seen. The mountains there are over 3000 feet. There are no guardrails and the view below is spectacular! It is the type of drive where the driver must swing into the oncoming lane in order to keep the trailer from being ripped by the jagged rocks on your right side.

The day drivers approaching you on your left, see your approach, and think nothing about throwing it in reverse and backing up, to give you clearance! I knew that day, I could drive, but I also knew I’d never be in the class of those truckers that do it every day in Letcher County, Kentucky.

The new drivers here will get road experience. I hope it’s not similiar to US 119, as I really hope you never have reason to be there. Of course, if you live there, I hope you get home often! Oh those day drivers on US 119, I forgot to mention that they do get a good chuckle before they throw it in reverse!

At that point in time, way before GPS and computers, drivers used only a map if they didn’t have directions sent to them by their fleet manager, etc. I wasn’t clever enough to really know all the intricacies that are part of the Truckers Rand McNally. I’m sure it’s much easier out there these days.

Those of you on the road, be safe out there! Those of us not yet there, prepare!

Oh Where, Oh Where Did the Wolfie Go?

•June 3, 2009 • 3 Comments

Welcome back, everyone, once again to my blog.  Sorry I disappeared for a while.  As you may remember, I’ve been out of work for over a month, so finances got really tight.  I am back now, however, so shall we get on with it?

First of all, let me touch on a very important point for everyone who is looking at becoming a truck driver.  Take care of your back! This one came up and bit me during week 3.  Simply put, I overstressed my back trying to pull the release arm on the fifth wheel of one of the yard trucks and wound up in bed for two days because of it.  I couldn’t even climb up into the cab to do the driving portions of the days.  So I strongly recommend that you stretch every day, as well as do some form of exercise for your back.  It’ll thank you for it in the future.

Finishing Up CDL School

Okay, so back to the important stuff.  I managed to finish week 3 of the school by coming in on Friday and Saturday.  Both of those days were just like all the others… so I’m not going to tire you out with descriptions.  The only thing that was different (and a bit scary at first) was the fact that on Saturday, I was taken out by an instructor I didn’t know well to tow doubles through some very tight turns.  Now, I’ve been vague as to what part of the U.S. I live in, but I’m going to get a bit more specific now.  Well, rather I’m going to give a very strong clue.  The area where I was driving was a stretch of road called the Carver curves.  It’s an old set of logging roads that were paved and turned into a two lane highway.  So, imagine if you will: it’s your first time towing doubles, there is little to no room for error, you have to hug the high side lines, plus you have to worry about the silly civilians and the ‘super truckers’ who come whipping through the curves.  Add to that equation an instructor who pointed out, with glee I might add, a chunk of metal imbedded in a pine tree due to a ‘super trucker’ who didn’t plan right and slammed their trailer into said tree.  I’ll tell you, I could have broken a cinder block had I been sitting on it!

Fortunately, I managed to do everything right the first time.  No damage to the tractor or the trailers.  With that little episode over, we continued on our way to Promentory Point… a little nearby reservoir.  Just before that area is a hill that’s a 6% grade one way and a 7% grade the other.  This gave me the opportunity to play with the Jake brake and learn how to operate it in both low and high settings (low was 2 cylinders and high was 4 as I remember on the Freightliners).

CDL Testing Time

Week 4 was school testing and prep for the state test.  I did suprisingly well on my tests, except for the in-cab inspection.  I got one thing out of order and failed that one, but I did get to re-take it and got a 70%.  The school tested us on 4 backs: 45-degree sight side, 90-degree sight side, 45-degree blind side, and the straight back.  We were also tested on the pre-trip (both outside and in-cab) and on coupling/uncoupling the trailer.  The Sunday following all of that was the State test.  My state’s test was fairly simple: pre-trip, 45-degree sight side back, straight back, then road test.  Fortunately, I passed them all (I did not want to pay another $100 just for failing).  So, as of  May 19th, I became an officially liscensed CDL Class A driver.  Yay me.

Headin Out On The Road

On the down side, the company I had orignially planned on going with decided to recant on their hiring promise… something about having to redistribute drivers between terminals.  I’m now going to go to work for my second (and only other) choice.  The company doesn’t have the best reputation, but we’ll see how it all works out.

I start with my mentor on Thursday (supposedly).  I’ll keep everyone updated with what I’m doing as I roll along.

 
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