A Day In The Life Of A Walmart Dedicated Driver

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G-Town's Comment
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“A day in the life of a Walmart Dedicated driver”

The summer holiday weekends are typically very busy at Walmart Grocery DC 7030. A combination of two factors occur; many drivers take an extra day-off and due to the increase in store traffic, they need to replenish inventory at a faster than usual rate. Walmart is a machine, incredibly proficient at moving products to their stores and turning over their inventory at almost the same rate of deliveries. Many times the net result is too many loads, not enough drivers to cover them and planners with frazzled nerves. The solution? We call it doubling-up; the available drivers are pre-planned on two loads as opposed to one. For me, this is always a good thing. Extra money and the challenge of getting the work done in 14 hours. The first time I was doubled-up I had less than 6 months of experience. I remember it well,…and not fondly. Now, I welcome the challenge, bring-it big “W”.

So here goes, Friday afternoon I was pre-planned for a Saturday delivery, a 225 mile, 2-stop dry grocery load destined for the Phillipsburg NJ Walmart, then a backhaul from Nestle water in Breinigsville PA. I knew I would also be pre-planned on a second load, likely a reefer run of Freezer/Dairy/Deli. That would play out later on Saturday morning once the first wave of loads is dispatched.

Saturday morning arrives and I am dispatched on the first load for a dock out time of 0600. After pre-tripping the tractor, I putt-putt to the dry-load ready lot and get under trailer number 118210. I perform a pre-trip inspection on the trailer, check the seal number and attach my lock. This trailer is loaded with 28 pallets of mixed dry grocery, 44,100lbs (Walmart-Speak aka REMIX) destined for the Phillipsburg NJ SuperStore. I scale out at 77,250lbs, and move the tandems to the 11-hole to balance my weight. It’s 0710 and I am on my way. I usually grab a second cup of coffee at the Loves off exit 92 of I-81, but since I am doubled-up today, I for-go that luxury and extra shot of caffeine.

About 5 minutes before my ETA, I call the store to let them know I will be arriving and have a supervisor or manager open the door to let me in. All of the store names are on voice speed-dial. I learned this calling a head trick the hard way. Walmart is totally about hustle, any timed saved is beneficial. I arrive at my 1st stop at 0920. Phillipsburg is a drop and hook location for dry loads. As long as they have an empty, I can pull my lock, dock, drop the load, hook to an empty, lock it up and after a pre-trip on the empty trailer make time to the Nestle backhaul. And for everyone reading this, I always GOAL and send a freeform message indicating that. I do this for several reasons; it’s the right thing to do, Swift requires it and perhaps more relevant I always check for debris that could cause an unwanted flat. My empty is trailer number 138633. This is one of the newer vans purchased about a year ago. Drop and hook locations are ideal for maximizing available time. I do the usual drop and hook process and in 20 minutes underway to the back haul, thus skipping the live un-load process and saving about 25 minutes of time.

I arrive at Nestle about 45 minutes later. Much to my surprise, they’re not very busy. Rather unusual for “water season”. With Nestle there is nose-in parking in front of the shipping office. It’s me and two other trucks. My pick-up time is 12:00,…the actual time I walked onto the office was 11:49. Nestle is hit or miss with “ready loads”. I give my PU# to the shipping attendant and I immediately receive the bill, and the drop spot number and the spot number where the load is. Wow,…today I was the “bat” and not the “ball”, so far everything is proceeding as planned. I drop the empty in the assigned spot, grab my lock and drive across the yard to the “ready” lot for my load in space B-2, trailer number 102105. I do a quick visual and hook to the load. I then review the BOL, look at the number of pallets, if any are topped, and the total weight, 21 pallets at 45,515 lbs. Based on the weight and the fact that the last pallet is sitting at the 44’ mark of the trailer, I position my tandems in the 7 hole. Nestle is usually accurate with BOL weight, and since I have scaled this type of load many times in the past, I know where to set my tandems so that I am legal and balanced. If I was over 46,000lbs on the load I would definitely scale it, cause that gets me within 500 pounds of legal. After a pre-trip inspection of the trailer, I am again underway headed first east on I-78, north on PA-61, then south on I-81 for a couple of miles to the DC. I then call my DM to let them know I am headed back, and available for the second load at about 14:00. He informs me of 3 possibilities for the second trip, all 2 stop reefer loads of 100 miles or less. All of them have been “started” to be loaded, and each have a dock-out time consistent with my ETA. We agreed that I would get whichever load is finished and available first. I like that plan.

Continued...

Pre-trip Inspection:

A pre-trip inspection is a thorough inspection of the truck completed before driving for the first time each day.

Federal and state laws require that drivers inspect their vehicles. Federal and state inspectors also may inspect your vehicles. If they judge a vehicle to be unsafe, they will put it “out of service” until it is repaired.

Tandems:

Tandem Axles

A set of axles spaced close together, legally defined as more than 40 and less than 96 inches apart by the USDOT. Drivers tend to refer to the tandem axles on their trailer as just "tandems". You might hear a driver say, "I'm 400 pounds overweight on my tandems", referring to his trailer tandems, not his tractor tandems. Tractor tandems are generally just referred to as "drives" which is short for "drive axles".

Tandem:

Tandem Axles

A set of axles spaced close together, legally defined as more than 40 and less than 96 inches apart by the USDOT. Drivers tend to refer to the tandem axles on their trailer as just "tandems". You might hear a driver say, "I'm 400 pounds overweight on my tandems", referring to his trailer tandems, not his tractor tandems. Tractor tandems are generally just referred to as "drives" which is short for "drive axles".

Dm:

Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.

Reefer:

A refrigerated trailer.

Drop And Hook:

Drop and hook means the driver will drop one trailer and hook to another one.

In order to speed up the pickup and delivery process a driver may be instructed to drop their empty trailer and hook to one that is already loaded, or drop their loaded trailer and hook to one that is already empty. That way the driver will not have to wait for a trailer to be loaded or unloaded.

G-Town's Comment
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Continued...

The 50 mile trip back is uneventful and I arrive at the DC at 13:30. I do my Final Destination Arrival “Macro-5”, check in with the guard and proceed to B lot where the inbound dry loads are parked for eventual unloading. I find an open spot and “get-er’ in the hole”. Exchange a quick chat with a WM spotter, do a quick walk-around and pull my lock. I do a quick check on my QC and didn’t notice a pre-plan for the second load, indicating none of the possibilities are completed. No worries, need to take the 30 minute break anyway. I park the tractor in front of the office and log myself off-duty with the remarks “30 minute break”. I head to the office and look at the status of three loads I could possibly be dispatched on, all are about 70-75% complete which tells me my 30 minute break in reality will be about an hour to an hour and 15 minutes. Typical and something I need to manage and be prepared for in this job. This DC loads about 200 trailers in a 24 hour period, all things considered an extra 30-45 minutes is a minor inconvenience, although will likely push my on-duty clock into the 13th hour.

As expected I was dispatched at 14:50 with a 2 stop Freezer/Dairy/Deli reefer load destined for Selinsgrove PA and Lewisburg PA (south of Williamsport PA). I do quick check on the paperwork, specifically looking to see how the trailers is loaded. Walmart reefer loads are consolidated using up to three different temperature zones. My check reveals one pallet in Zone 3 belonging to Lewisburg (Dairy/Deli) that the Selinsgrove unloaders will need to move off the trailer to unblock Zone 2 (freezer) and return once they unload their product. The trailer has 21 pallets, with a weight of 27,895 pounds. One of the lighter Walmart loads I have pulled. Good thing, the route to Selinsgrove is circuitous and hilly. A sub 30k load will help to expedite my travel time. I do a quick walk-around on my tractor and proceed to “T” lot for my load. I am informed the trailer, #308182 is still on the dock door which means I need to get a spotter to move it away from the door so I can get under it. For safety reasons Walmart forbids “delivery” road drivers (even their own private fleet) from moving a trailer off the dock door, even if it’s green-lighted. I radio a spotter to lend a hand. 5 minutes later a spotter arrives in his yellow “critter” and pulls the trailer out. I do a quick check of the reefer and the temps (32,-20, 33 degrees respectively). Once under the trailer, hooked up, I perform the fourth trailer pre-trip of the day, lock it up and check my reefer fuel level. It less than ½ of a tank, and requires that I top it off otherwise security will require that I turn around and fill to at least ¾. I proceed to the covered fuel bay and fill with “#2 go-juice” to get me out the door. I proceed to security for check-out, scale out at 11,250 on the steers, 27,810 on the drives and 27,485 on the tandems. Still the “Bat” today, this registers an almost “perfect” on the weight balance. I’ll run with, avoiding time resetting the tandems. The guard signs me out and I am officially on my way to delivering the second load of the day at 15:25.

The route to Selinsgrove is one of my top 3 favorite drives. Hog heaven! Although very challenging, it’s through some of the most beautiful mountain country Pennsylvania has to offer. One way it’s about 43 miles to Selinsgrove, requiring about 90 minutes to cover in a loaded semi rolling over hills and valleys using I-81S, PA-901, PA-54, and finally PA-11/15 south. We’ll be using all the gears. When I was still in a 10-speed manual, this route required a whole lot of magic managing the frequent gear changes under high-torque. Although I do miss that fun, now, in an auto-shift, the “truck” does most of the work, reducing driver fatigue on a challenging route like this.

I arrive as expected about 90 minutes later,…they are waiting. Reefer loads garner high-priority and King for an Hour status. Selinsgrove is one of the best stores for unloading Walmart loads very quickly, especially important on the second run of the day. I opened the door, shut-down zone 3 and began the process of supervising the unloading process. For some stores, I help. For this store, I pull tickets and stay out of their way, readying myself to shut down the sub-zero blowers in zone 2, and quickly open up the freezer bulkheads so the unloaders don’t skip-a-beat. The timing was just right as I secured the second half of the bulkhead door, cinched-up overhead and out of their way. They had their 11 pallets off the truck, put-away and the one Lewisburg pallet reloaded in 20 minutes. Love these guys! I buttoned everything back up, restarted the reefer in zones 2-3, sealed for the next store, locked and readied to go. After sending my departure Macro, I rechecked my route and headed out, backtracking North on 11/15 headed to Lewisburg about 18 miles away.

To be continued...

Bulkhead:

A strong wall-like structure placed at the front of a flatbed trailer (or on the rear of the tractor) used to protect the driver against shifting cargo during a front-end collision. May also refer to any separator within a dry or liquid trailer (also called a baffle for liquid trailers) used to partition the load.

Tandems:

Tandem Axles

A set of axles spaced close together, legally defined as more than 40 and less than 96 inches apart by the USDOT. Drivers tend to refer to the tandem axles on their trailer as just "tandems". You might hear a driver say, "I'm 400 pounds overweight on my tandems", referring to his trailer tandems, not his tractor tandems. Tractor tandems are generally just referred to as "drives" which is short for "drive axles".

Tandem:

Tandem Axles

A set of axles spaced close together, legally defined as more than 40 and less than 96 inches apart by the USDOT. Drivers tend to refer to the tandem axles on their trailer as just "tandems". You might hear a driver say, "I'm 400 pounds overweight on my tandems", referring to his trailer tandems, not his tractor tandems. Tractor tandems are generally just referred to as "drives" which is short for "drive axles".

Reefer:

A refrigerated trailer.

G-Town's Comment
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Continued...

Now…as all this chaos was underway, so was my on-duty clock. Tick-tock, it doesn’t stop. With a return trip of 55 miles, my clock was now just under 2 hours. Time flies when you’re having fun. The return route continued north on 15 to I-80 East, exiting at PA-54 back to PA-901, then I-81 north to the DC. The sun was just beginning to set, casting a golden hue over the mountains and on the surrounding landscape. These are the moments that are best enjoyed from our vantage point, high above all the others who may never experience our world. Honk and cuss all you want, for me, during moments like this, I at one with my environment. Cut-off from the mundane and hurried existence of domestic America. I would not trade this for anything.

As I make the left into the DC and proceed up the hill to the big white fortress, the little QC reminder is blinking red, warning me of my impending HOS infraction,…I have arrived with less than 15 minutes to spare on my 14. Got it done, all of it! Some would consider this day long, arduous, and stressed. To me, it was perfect; utilizing 98% of my clock, covering over 350 miles, and 4 stops. Tending to the work quietly, safely, and efficiently, delivering over 117,000 pounds of grocery product to fill the shelves for hungry Labor-Day Weekend shoppers. A thankless job you say? I think otherwise.

As I relax in the cab, closing out my trips, entering the post-trip maintenance macro, my thoughts turn to my time as the “Bat” and consider it a blessing to even the score for all those days when I was unfortunately the, “Ball”. A great day indeed. Yes, today was my turn to have all the fun.

Just another day, a day in the life of a Walmart Dedicated Driver.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Turtle's Comment
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Bravo! Thanks for an enjoyable and interesting read.

Linden R.'s Comment
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How long did this take to type!?!

JakeBreak's Comment
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That's all you. I'm glad you like what you do there gtown. Personally I don't think I could do it. I really like otr and find it pretty relaxing. Tight schedules like that drive me crazy.

OTR:

Over The Road

OTR driving normally means you'll be hauling freight to various customers throughout your company's hauling region. It often entails being gone from home for two to three weeks at a time.

G-Town's Comment
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How long did this take to type!?!

I typed it on a Word doc, started on Sunday and worked o

Bravo! Thanks for an enjoyable and interesting read.

Thanks. Glad you liked it.

G-Town's Comment
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How long did this take to type!?!

Started it in a Word doc on Sunday, worked on in a little bit each day, finished it last night. Not sure how long it took to type.

G-Town's Comment
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That's all you. I'm glad you like what you do there gtown. Personally I don't think I could do it. I really like otr and find it pretty relaxing. Tight schedules like that drive me crazy.

Not every day is like that or it would drive me crazy.

OTR:

Over The Road

OTR driving normally means you'll be hauling freight to various customers throughout your company's hauling region. It often entails being gone from home for two to three weeks at a time.

Bud A.'s Comment
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I agree, great reading and helpful for understanding what you do on those runs. I think it would make me a little crazy (or crazy-er!)

And if no one has said it to you, thank you for making sure the ice cream is in the freezer at the store when I go to get it for my wife and grandson!

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
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