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From Teaching to Trucking - My Journey So Far

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Llandros's Comment
member avatar

Ok, this is going to be long - telling you that on the front end but I do want to be as thorough as possible in documenting this career transition. Hopefully it entertains and maybe even informs at least one person out there - I know I have really enjoyed all the training journals that I have had the pleasure to read over the last few months.

For the past 15 years, I have been a teacher. It was my fall-back career. The trouble is that I never knew what I really wanted to do so it became my primary career. The past 10 years have been pretty miserable as the industry declined in ways that I never really imagined. Still, I had no idea of what else I could or would want to do so I just stayed put. The misery and frustrations only strengthened with time.

Every year for as long as I have been teaching I have shared with friends and family what my 'summer plans' were going to be - I would close my apartment for a few months and head out in the car on a cross-country road trip with no real purpose except to just travel. I clear my head on the road and it always makes me feel so much better. My yearly 700 mile trips home to see family were always the highlights of my year. But as is normal, plans never came through and that dream was always pushed aside due to other responsibilities.

That is until this past summer. I traveled home to assist with my mom as she underwent back surgery. Once I had been there long enough to know that she was on the mend, I traveled back home - overnight, in a car with no AC in the deep south in July! Again, my thoughts were always on what I should be doing and not doing with my life and I kept thinking "if only I could find a job that would allow me to travel, work independently, be away from home most of the time (I have no kids or relationships to stop me), and just work in a job that would reward me for the work that I put in..." All the while, these large 18-wheelers were whizzing past me and it just clicked - why not drive a truck? I'd never even considered it.

So now it's off to do the research - internet, youtube videos, you name it. And it was all there. Everything that I was seeing was just exactly what I had been looking for. I kept reading. Before you know it, I landed here and on a few other sites. Then, just when everything was looking so promising, I saw the high turnover rate and the first red flag was raised. Why are so many people entering and leaving? What am I missing? Digging some more, it seemed that it all boiled down to two basic areas that repeated the most. Sure, there were others, but these two were the most consistent.

Lack of home time and isolation - there it was, in black and white. Well, for me, home time was actually better on the road. At best, I see my family 7 days in an entire year - all during Christmas break. I live 700 miles from the nearest family. It's tough, but trucking actually looks like it could get me home multiple times in a year. And even if I only stayed 2-3 days a trip and made it back 5-6 times a year, I'd be doing much better than now. Plus, everything I do in my home I can do in a truck - EVERYTHING! I already live an isolated life so I knew that I could be more than comfortable on my own. Earlier in the year I had looked into working on a cruise ship. I was ready for a 'nomadic' existence. Still, that seemed to be 'Disney on a Boat' and I had already given my years to the Mouse when I first moved to Orlando. So the trucking lifestyle was very much an appealing part of the package.

By now, I was sold on the industry, the life style, everything. I even drove to the nearest truck stops to me several times and walked around the lot - just trying to notice the companies that were there. Starting noticing the 'back side' to these stops that I never knew was there. Each trip got me more and more excited about making this transition. It was just a question of where to start and when to get started. As it turned out, both of those questions would get different answers as time moved on. To my surprise, both answers would come in a much different way than I originally anticipated. What's that saying about the best laid plans of mice and men?....

Believe me, there is more to come...I'm just getting started and I hope I didn't bore you to much with this introduction. Still, I hope that you will join me as I move my story along. There's more to tell!

Llandros (Scott)

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Llandros's Comment
member avatar

So here is how I originally thought this was going to work. I would work this school year (my 16th) and leave for a company sponsored school in June when both my job ended and my apartment lease expired. Yeah, not gonna happen. As it turned out, my lease expires in March. I really dislike the place that I live so to extend at the extreme rates that they charge for month-to-month leases was out of the question.

Well, the plan was moved up to start at the end of March. That didn't work either. You see, that means that I would leave just one week before the state testing - a horrible time to throw kids a curve ball like that. It doesn't help that I teach 3rd grade - a high stakes testing grade. So now I had to pick a new date to do this. Leaving at Christmas seemed to be a better choice. My lease was 'breakable' but required a two month penalty (paid immediately) and a 60 day notice - essentially 4 months. It was better to just let the lease expire and keep things in storage in the apartment. I could always move it out sometime in March when I got home time.

Now the current job is beyond miserable. I have literally checked out at this point. The workload demands were beyond insane and the micromanaging had become unbearable. In years past, you might get about 10-12 'visits' from admin in a year. We were already on number 27 and had only been in school 40 days. The morale in the school was terrible. You were now mandated of what you did every minute of the day and were scrutinized heavily - no room to adapt to teaching children in the ways that they needed. It felt like being in an after school job when I was 15. The breaking point was when my team was told (all of us 10-19 year veterans) that "for teachers, autonomy is earned". Well, so is respect and that just flew out the window. The writing was on the wall - making it to December was going to be tough.

But a new question formed. Why? Why MUST I wait until December? If the ship is sinking, get out before you go under. So I thought again. Who says that I can't start sooner? The answer was just as simple. The only one putting the restraints on me was actually me. With that, I made the decision to move now - every day in a miserable situation is just depriving me of a day that I could be in a better, happier, more fulfilling one.

I had looked over so many companies. I thought about Swift as I knew that they had a terminal (Memphis) close to my family home in Jackson, MS. I only really knew of about 3 companies at the time - Swift, J.B. Hunt, and C.R. England. But this site was what led me down the path to seeing a few other places. Before long, I had my notebook out and was making a short list of the companies that I found. I also read forum posts and looked at so many company websites that eventually all started to blur together.

It wasn't long until I had a short list of the places that appealed to me. My choices were, in no particular order, Prime, Wil-Trans , and Jim Palmer Trucking. I just kept coming back to each and they all had there strong points. Just when I was sold on one, another would sway me. I loved the amenities of Prime but having just come from 'being one of thousands', I liked the idea of a smaller company. Wil-Trans made the most sense as it was closer to my home but I leaned more to Jim Palmer as I really wanted to learn how to drive in the winds of Wyoming, the mountain passes of the Northwest, the craziness that is California...

So that was the decision. I would try for JPT. I put in the application (my only one) on Friday, Sept. 30. Within 90 minutes, my phone was ringing! I spoke with a recruiter named Alex and she detailed what the company offered. Having used this site, I knew everything she was about to say! In just a short conversation, I was very confident that I had made the right choice. She told me that she would put my name through and that I would begin the interview process the next week.

I was excited but cautious. All the advice here said to apply for multiple positions. But here I was, putting all my eggs in one basket. Still, I knew that I was doing this and had researched the industry and the company enough to know that I was comfortable with what was happening. I started the High Road course on this site (I can't recommend in highly enough!) and although some of it was like reading a foreign language, I was doing pretty good. Keeping my average at or above 95%. It was alot and time was going to go fast. I was shooting for a start date of Nov. 7. There was no time to lose so I put my heart into studying as well as packing up my apartment. After all, once I started training, I would only be coming back here to move my things out!

Nothing like a little stress to get you moving. But that's when everything went to hell in a hand basket! Did I fail to mention that I sometimes have a 'dark cloud' that seems to like to follow me? Well, it was about to rain down on me once again!

Terminal:

A facility where trucking companies operate out of, or their "home base" if you will. A lot of major companies have multiple terminals around the country which usually consist of the main office building, a drop lot for trailers, and sometimes a repair shop and wash facilities.

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.

Wil-Trans:

Darrel Wilson bought his first tractor in 1980 at age 20, but, being too young to meet OTR age requirements, he leased the truck out and hired a driver.

Through growth and acquisition, Wil-Trans now employs over 200 drivers, and has a long-standing partnership with Prime, Inc. to haul their refrigerated freight. The family of businesses also includes Jim Palmer Trucking and O & S Trucking.

Llandros's Comment
member avatar

October 6th. I'm sitting in the rare peace and quiet of my classroom having lunch alone in the dark - I must add that this is one of the highlights of my day - and my phone rings. It's a Montana phone number and I answer it. I only have about 25 minutes for lunch but Alex, the recruiter, tells me that this will be a short interview. We talk and it is a very casual conversation. No tricky questions, just things like "Why trucking?" and "What made you think of Jim Palmer?" The interview ended and she said that with how the conversation went, she would pass my name on to the next phase - a second interview with the head of recruiting.

Well, I'm more than excited at this point but very anxious to get to the next step. It's a process but I am happy that they are taking their time and being selective. I have read about many orientations with 100 applicants that dwindle significantly. JPT brings anywhere from 1 to 5 at a time. It gives me time to get ready but each day is putting my start date at risk. A 2 week notice at work is expected and I need to travel from FL to MS to drop my pets off with my family. It's all doable, but a definite tight schedule.

I almost forget to stop at the store - there's this little thing called a hurricane that is hitting within 24 hours or so. School is cancelled and I am looking at no power and who knows what else. Still, I am too excited about the call and the next phase of the process! Fortunately, the hurricane becomes a non-issue and blows through with no real impact at all.

The next several days are nerve wracking waiting for the call. Finally, Oct. 11th, the phone rings. Again, I am at school but this time during planning. It's a great time to talk and the interview goes very well. Jennifer is very nice, professional, and asks similar questions. She also reminds me of the demands of the industry and what the lifestyle entails. It's all pretty much what I had hoped to hear and by the end of the conversation, she informs me that I will be getting a follow up call to go over some background checking information.

The next week, I stay home with some mystery illness. It almost feels like flu with the aches and pains, but I don't feel 'sick' at all. Still, its just a rough bout of something. I end up taking Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday off (gotta use up those sick days while I can). The call comes through on Wednesday. The background checks are about to start. Still, I am in panic mode. I have been getting these 'Toll Violations' in the mail and they show a car and tag that is not mine but they insist that it is registered to me. It dawns on me that something could be very wrong on my DMV report. I'm already off and not feeling great, might as well go to the DMV and get this thing taken care of.

I get there and sure enough there is a problem. It is clear that the vehicle does not belong to me. It turns out that the same clerk handed out my plate to this other person and I got his. So all of his violations are now stacking up on mine. At this point, I feel like I am going to throw up. Who knows what else might be showing up on my report - unpaid fines, whatever. My brain is working overtime on what could be on there. I tell the clerk what I am doing - job search wise - and ask if she can tell if there is anything on my DMV report that would show up. She pulls up my record and I brace for whatever she is about to tell me....

...which is that there is nothing on there at all. She turns the monitor and shows me my free and clear report. I breathe a sigh of relief and get a new tag to put on the car. One crisis and hurricane averted, but the next is quickly on it's way. And this one, well, it doesn't end so nicely. Did I fail to mention that I am feeling more stressed than ever at this point?

Yeah...me, a dark cloud, and a whole lot of bad luck. But it's all in how you look at it and I'm not that easily discourage. So far, none of this is really that bad but the next, well, it puts me in a scary place. That's all in the next update! Hope you continue to follow along with me!

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.

DMV:

Department of Motor Vehicles, Bureau of Motor Vehicles

The state agency that handles everything related to your driver's licences, including testing, issuance, transfers, and revocation.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

DWI:

Driving While Intoxicated

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Llandros's Comment
member avatar

While I was out sick with this mystery illness, the phone rings again. It is October 19th and I am having a final 'interview' call - it's not really an interview but more of a 'this is what to expect in the process at this point' type of call. In addition, my recruiter has called several times to answer questions and just check in with me.

The background checks start in full swing on the 20th. I get a different call from another state that is a basic physical ability questionnaire. It's weird but nothing to intimidating. The questions are things such as 'can you lift this many pounds?' and "are you able to crawl under a trailer?'. It is a quick call lasting no more than about 10 minutes total.

Now the waiting game continues but at least I know that everything should be in order.

I return to work on Friday, the 21st. I still feel odd but not actually sick. Later in the evening, the pain starts but this time it's intense. It seems to be coming from my chest and the pains are shooting out to my shoulders, my neck, and my back. It becomes constant and intense just around the rib cage and I know that this could be serious. It's odd because I just had a physical on the 14th and things were fantastic. But not today. The choices are not good but I drive to the hospital. Better to check this out than let it go.

Here's the thing. If you go to the hospital complaining of chest pains and you have ANY family history of health problems (my father and uncles), well, you just bought yourself at least one overnight stay in the cardiac ward. They run my blood pressure and it is awful - 186 over 103! Two doctors notice a small red area on my back but it looks like I just leaned against that area and it left a mark. The next 26 hours are full of EKG's, stress tests, vital checks, and every heart monitoring test they can throw at me. It all comes back perfect and in fact, it takes a long time to get my heart rate up on the stress test. They ask if I work out - well, not as much as I should, but enough apparently to make a difference! The pain is gone but there is no explanation for it. I get discharged late Saturday night and head home to finally rest!

Monday, October 24th - JPT starts calling my references. I actually happen to be in the room during one of the calls. It was pretty straight forward as well - how long have you known the applicant, did they think I would be a good match for the job, those kinds of things. At this point, I know that things are getting close to being complete and I am more than ready for it.

But the mystery illness is about to reveal itself once and for all - and it's gonna get nasty from here!

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
G-Town's Comment
member avatar

Llandros I read your entire thread,...interesting story. Tanks for taking the time to share it.

I am no Doctor but it sounds like you had an anxiety attack. I hope it all works out in your favor. One piece of advice, try to get that BP in check before committing to Jim Palmer (or any company for that matter). Anything greater than 140/90 is going to fail the medical certification. The other thing you need to do is make sure the test results are readily available because Jim Palmer will probably ask for supporting documentation on your hospital stay.

You may want to thoroughly review these links so you understand the implications of your recent hospital visit.

DOT:

Department Of Transportation

A department of the federal executive branch responsible for the national highways and for railroad and airline safety. It also manages Amtrak, the national railroad system, and the Coast Guard.

State and Federal DOT Officers are responsible for commercial vehicle enforcement. "The truck police" you could call them.

Hypertension:

Abnormally high blood pressure.

Sleep Apnea:

A physical disorder in which you have pauses in your breathing, or take shallow breaths, during sleep. These pauses can last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. Normal breathing will usually resume, sometimes with a loud choking sound or snort.

In obstructive sleep apnea, your airways become blocked or collapse during sleep, causing the pauses and shallow breathing.

It is a chronic condition that will require ongoing management. It affects about 18 million people in the U.S.

BMI:

Body mass index (BMI)

BMI is a formula that uses weight and height to estimate body fat. For most people, BMI provides a reasonable estimate of body fat. The BMI's biggest weakness is that it doesn't consider individual factors such as bone or muscle mass. BMI may:

  • Underestimate body fat for older adults or other people with low muscle mass
  • Overestimate body fat for people who are very muscular and physically fit

It's quite common, especially for men, to fall into the "overweight" category if you happen to be stronger than average. If you're pretty strong but in good shape then pay no attention.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Llandros's Comment
member avatar

Tuesday - Oct. 25th - Today, I got up and jumped in the shower. I didn't notice anything until I was drying off and putting on deodorant. I felt the bumps before looking down and finally saw what looked like a million insect bites. I turned to see my back and this long stretch extended from the left side of my back all the way around to the front and stretching just beyond the arm pit. Of course, I had to go to work because teaching is not the kind of job you just call in for at the last minute.

I knew what it was. I'd had this before and it was awful. It felt like someone had just beat me with a baseball bat, left me in the sun for hours to burn, and then let ants start biting me over and over. This had to be shingles. I instantly called and tried to get into the doctor but could not get in until the next morning. It was going to be a rough day and night but what else could I do? The one bright spot of the day came later that afternoon.

JPT called. I was conditionally hired and was given a start date. I would be joining their training on Nov. 21st. It was a great day but a painful one to say the least. I managed to deal with it for the night and made it to the doctor. Definitely shingles and highly contagious. Blood pressure was back in the excellent range, just like normal. So at least I had a name for my pain, but not something that I necessarily needed while I tried to end a job, close up an apartment, study for a permit test, and start a new job. But this was temporary and easily managed so the focus was on moving forward the best way possible.

Halloween - Finally, it was time to let the school know what was going on. Today, I would be giving notice to finally end a 15 and a half year relationship that was no longer working at all. I had of course let my references know but that was only 3 people and they had kept it very quiet.

The first person to tell was the principal. I will sum it up with her response - "Take me with you!" This was something that I heard quite a bit over the next week. In addition, things like "I'm so envious", "You're so lucky", and "I wish it was me". I even had some people confide that they are in the process of looking for other work as well. The one thing I did not hear at all was that I should rethink about what I am giving up or that it was possibly a mistake. I knew that there were a lot of miserable people here but it still shocked me as more and more people started voicing things to me.

So here I sit, still teaching but looking at the end quickly approaching. My final day is in three more days (Nov 11th) and it's all I can do to grin and bear it. This weekend I will shut my apartment down and don't plan to see it again until most likely March. Next week I will be traveling with what possessions I need and my animals to MS. During this week my plan is to continue studying like crazy. I am good on General Knowledge, Air Brakes, and Combination Vehicles. I am clueless on the pre-trip and have to really focus on that. It's a lot to happen in a short time. Fortunately, I am almost fully healed and things are moving as I hoped.

I will have more to add as the days get closer. For now, you are pretty much caught up on the process that has gotten me to this point. Hopefully the drama and craziness has been exhausted and training will be a much different story. One thing is for sure - it has definitely been memorable for me up to this point.

Thanks for reading and will update again very soon!

Llandros (Scott)

Combination Vehicle:

A vehicle with two separate parts - the power unit (tractor) and the trailer. Tractor-trailers are considered combination vehicles.

TNTrucker73's Comment
member avatar

Looking forward to you New Career postings Congrats!!!

Susan D. 's Comment
member avatar

Great story.. Very entertaining. I hope you discover that trucking is everything you want it to be. I myself, am a healthcare professional who got sick of sick people after almost 20 years. You will soon find yourself surrounded by retired military, law enforcement, healthcare providers, and yes.. Many former educators too.

This job is challenging and stressful, but in a different kind of way. Having been at this almost a year now, I can honestly say I love it and am having fun doing something I enjoy very much.

Good luck and please keep your story going. I promise many people are reading it, while only a few respond.

Dave's Comment
member avatar

Welcome aboard Wil-Trans/Jim Palmer. Coincidently I started training with Wil-Trans on the day you applied at Jim Palmer. My recruiter. Adam, is in Missoula & I had my 2nd interview with Jennifer (they were all super helpful & nice)

Interestingly I also left a decent career for a change. I've been a Paramedic for 28 years, becoming burnt out & decided it was time for a change.

Thanks you for writing and describing your experiences. They were very well written & I enjoyed them I hope the Shingles is resolving and you are feeling better ( it's a painful disease)

Good luck & be safe

David

Wil-Trans:

Darrel Wilson bought his first tractor in 1980 at age 20, but, being too young to meet OTR age requirements, he leased the truck out and hired a driver.

Through growth and acquisition, Wil-Trans now employs over 200 drivers, and has a long-standing partnership with Prime, Inc. to haul their refrigerated freight. The family of businesses also includes Jim Palmer Trucking and O & S Trucking.

Llandros's Comment
member avatar

Thank you to all for the replies - I was so excited that anyone actually was reading!

Thursday, Nov. 10 - Today is a day that I know will not be easy. I have to inform 18 children that their lives are about to be turned upside down as they are losing their teacher. I also have to inform the families. It's not that they won't be able to deal with it but it does tend to upset them initially. That conversation will be in about 2 hours from now.

The closing down of my apartment is at a stand still - I have to live there at least until Sunday so there is not much more that I can do. In the meantime, I have killed it on General Knowledge, Combination Vehicles, and Air Brakes. I'm still reviewing it constantly but I feel confident in all three areas. The illness is pretty much gone - still some visual signs but no pain or complications. Hopefully another day or two is all it will need to be completely gone.

The pre-trip probably intimidates me the most. I have created flash cards from Daniel's post and am just reciting them over and over and over. I added the pics to each one and hopefully it should sink in soon but I have not been able to practice it enough to feel any comfort level there. It's alot to prep for but I want to go there with confidence and be able concentrate on the skills part once I am there. Not having the resources of this site would have made this so much more difficult than I could imagine.

Well, not much more for today. Tomorrow is my final day at my job. I'm more than ready to finally be done with this career and get started on trucking. So much to do but some things have to wait until the last minute. I'm sure that it will come together but for now it's just the game of waiting!

Combination Vehicle:

A vehicle with two separate parts - the power unit (tractor) and the trailer. Tractor-trailers are considered combination vehicles.

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