A Week In The Life Of A Flatbed Driver

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Old School's Comment
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Day 6 Monday (11/11)

My work day today was from about 6 am until 8:30 pm

Started the day with planning my last leg of my trip which was getting into Cincinnati, and getting to my receiver which was in the downtown area of the city. Studied several different sources until I felt I had come up with a plan that would get me into the right place without any mishaps. When delivering a load on a fifty three foot spread axle trailer in a downtown area with very tight turns you don't want to get yourself in a bind anywhere if you can help it. I also went ahead and filled out my Transflo paper work that I will have to send in after I get unloaded. It's so easy to do this stuff now - we used to have to find a truck stop with a transflo scanner to send in our paper work, but now you can use your smart-phone and snap a photo of the pages and send it in using their phone app.

I logged myself to on duty at about seven a.m. and after my pre-trip I started rolling toward my destination. Arrived right at 8 a.m., which was the earliest they would receive me. I spent about 30 minutes on duty unstrapping my 47,000 pound load of slinky coils, and then I went off duty for about an hour until I was unloaded. I sent in my paperwork and sent my dispatcher an empty call, which produced the immediate effect of my qualcomm going off like crazy with messages from him telling me that I still had my load going to Syracuse New York. Man I was glad about that, I was afraid my blunder the other day had messed things up, but we're still on. The only problem is that it still has the same delivery date, I'm going to really be challenged to see if I can get it home on time. Here's a couple photos of me getting ready to be unloaded on Depot Street in Downtown Cincinnati.

Truck driver strapping down metal coils on a flatbedTruck driver strapping down metal coils on a flatbed

We "high tailed" it over to Shoals Indiana from Cincinnati to the USG plant to pick up a load of Sheetrock bound for Syracuse New York. Fortunately for the sake of my time management this will be a drop and hook at the Sheetrock plant. This is a little unusual in the flat-bed work that I do, but occasionally we get a load like this, usually it is a Sheetrock load. I drop my trailer in the yard, leave enough tarps, straps, bungees and corner protectors with that trailer to secure and tarp the load that will go on it, and I will get those things back with the trailer that I am hauling out of the plant. This is a nice treat to not have to throw the tarps on this load, it's already done for us and we still get paid for doing it - not even a truck driver could complain about that.

We do our best at getting to our fuel stop just on the other side of the Ohio line before we are forced to take our thirty minute D.O.T. break. After that we keep pushing what little time we have left to get ourselves to the Flying J at Sunbury Ohio. While we were rolling down the road we had our supper simmering in the crock pot tempting us to shut down with it's fragrance filling the air inside our cab.

After finding a place to park we indulged our willing appetites with this truckers Jambalaya that had been teasing us along the way for too many miles. It's a simple and inexpensive recipe that I made up myself with chopped up bologna for the meat. It sure tasted good on this cold damp night.

truckers jambalaya cooked in his truck

We've still got a ways to go tomorrow, but if we don't hit any snags I'll get this thing in there before 1600 hours and that will have me caught back up with where I needed to be before the blunder that caused me to sit idle for two straight days. Everything's looking favorable except the weather, we will just have to see how it goes. When you sign up to be a road warrior you just have to take things as they come, and when the boss expects you to produce like a professional, you tackle the job and don't complain. After all this is what we wanted to be, an American Truck Driver.

Qualcomm:

Omnitracs (a.k.a. Qualcomm) is a satellite-based messaging system with built-in GPS capabilities built by Qualcomm. It has a small computer screen and keyboard and is tied into the truck’s computer. It allows trucking companies to track where the driver is at, monitor the truck, and send and receive messages with the driver – similar to email.

Dispatcher:

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.

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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Brett Aquila's Comment
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When you sign up to be a road warrior you just have to take things as they come, and when the boss expects you to produce like a professional, you tackle the job and don't complain. After all this is what we wanted to be, an American Truck Driver.

Amen to that! Well said!

And great pics! We love pics!

Steven N. (aka Wilson)'s Comment
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Great post, Old School. I love it!!!

Dennis S.'s Comment
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Great blog. Loved the stories. Keep the rubber side down.

Old School's Comment
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Day 7 (Tuesday)

Just another day in Paradise!

I'm naturally an early riser, so I do my trip planning, writing myself notes in a notebook for the day, and any necessary paperwork in the mornings when my mind is fresh and alert. So that's how this day started. I looked over my route to Syracuse, and made notes to myself about it. I noticed Daniel refers to a notebook in his journal. I don't know if we are doing the same thing or not, but I write everything down like my route, my load number, city of origin and destination, fuel stop, etc. Not only does writing it down help me to remember it, but it is also an easily accessible source of that information if I were to need it while driving because my Qualcomm doesn't allow you to read the massages unless you're stopped.

Woke up around 5:00 am and then we finally could log on duty at about 6:45. After pre-tripping the truck we set out for Syracuse NY. If you remember we had to be there by 1600 and we didn't have a whole lot of room for delays. We stopped once briefly for a bathroom break at a rest stop, and then rolled on through some heavy snow in Ohio, fairly decent weather in Pennsylvania, and some light snow in upstate New York.

One of the things about this job is that things can change so quickly on you while you're out here, and you've just got to be prepared to play the game with the hand your dealt. Take for example the weather. Yesterday I couldn't have asked for anything nicer, the temp was mild and we were looking at scenes like this:

truck drivers picture of the tree-lined open road in autumn

And Now today we woke up in a truck stop covered in snow and our view on the road looked like this.

truck drivers picture of the tree-lined open road in the snow in autumn

We made it through the weather safely, and arrived at our destination at 1500 which just made me proud! And I guess my DM was thrilled also since he quickly sent us another load to be picked up tonight in Oakfield, NY. Oakfield is about three hours away on a good weather day, and I've got about five hours left on my clock. After about one and a half hours I have my load untarped and unloaded and we make a quick stop at a Walmart for some groceries. Oh, by the way here's what a flat-bedder goes through in the winter months while doing his job.

flatbedder folding tarp in the snow

Now we have just enough time to get to Oakfield if we don't hit a snag. We are still having heavy snow in Syracuse and some frozen overpasses that haven't been salted yet, but we make this leg of the journey without a hitch and arrive at our shipper (a USG Plant) with five minutes left on our clock.

Here's how we are going to manage our clock now in this situation. I went ahead and logged fifteen minutes for my post-trip which I will do later while I'm waiting to be unloaded, and then I got the clock on sleeper berth so that I can get going as soon as possible in the morning, because I will never make my delivery appointment in Bridgeport Alabama if I don't get started as soon as possible. This will give you a good idea about how some days are long ones. We started at about five this morning reviewing our options and making a plan on how to accomplish all this today and now this load here didn't get completed being loaded, secured and tarped until about one a.m. Since we were out of hours and already on the sleeper berth line we bedded down in the shippers parking lot so as not to set our clock on the drive line.

Here's a few photos of me securing, and tarping this late night 47,000 pound load of large paper rolls bound for a Sheetrock plant in Bridgeport Alabama.

flatbedder strapping paper rolls bound for a Sheetrock plant in Bridgeport Alabamaflatbedder strapping paper rolls bound for a Sheetrock plant in Bridgeport Alabama

While we were backed up to the dock and waiting to be loaded we couldn't help but feel that someone was staring at us the whole time, because every time we glanced across the parking lot there was this funny little forklift sitting over there across the way that looked like it had two eyes a nose and a mouth forming a sort of face on it. Can you see it in this photo?

DSC_5203_zps1ba58ab3.jpg

I'll be back to let you know if we make a tough delivery time on this one. I think we can make it, but if we have a traffic delay or something like that it will make it even tougher. I hope you're getting a feel for what it's like out here on the road, because that was my purpose in doing this little journal. I've enjoyed sharing these things with you and hope I haven't scared too many of you away from the joys of flat-bedding.

Shipper:

The customer who is shipping the freight. This is where the driver will pick up a load and then deliver it to the receiver or consignee.

Sleeper Berth:

The portion of the tractor behind the seats which acts as the "living space" for the driver. It generally contains a bed (or bunk beds), cabinets, lights, temperature control knobs, and 12 volt plugs for power.

Qualcomm:

Omnitracs (a.k.a. Qualcomm) is a satellite-based messaging system with built-in GPS capabilities built by Qualcomm. It has a small computer screen and keyboard and is tied into the truck’s computer. It allows trucking companies to track where the driver is at, monitor the truck, and send and receive messages with the driver – similar to email.

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.
Daniel B.'s Comment
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Great posts Old School. I'm trying to make mine as informative as yours haha.

I do the same thing as you. I write down all my load information. These are the things I write down:

  • Load #
  • BoL #
  • Trailer #
  • Seal #
  • Required temp
  • Weight of the load
  • # of pallets in trailer
  • And what the products are.

Then I write all my pickup information and all my delivery information. On the back of the page I write detailed routing information and my fuel stops. Makes life a lot easier!

Brett Aquila's Comment
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Your updates are awesome and those pictures are fantastic!!! That one of you folding the tarp in the snow - that should be your avatar!

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Steven N. (aka Wilson)'s Comment
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These posts are just awesome. The tarp in the snow; wow! Knowing what the load is I find interesting. I am planning on keeping a diary as well. I think it would be cool to have a journal of everything I haul and some trivia about it. Will help me tell my stories one day. You guys are making me so anxious to get started!

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

David's Comment
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It's funny, been home for 6 month and it's like I can see your days through your eyes.... It's very fascinating. I too took my daughter with me weeks before I got a local job, it was nice to have a civil conversation....

I'm enjoying your story old school, keep it up.

David

Old School's Comment
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Day 8 & 9

I'll probably end this thread with one more post after this one. I hope those of you following it have enjoyed reading it as much as I've enjoyed sharing it with you. My purpose was to give you a taste of what it really is like living on the road. And sure enough we've gotten to see good days, bad days, frustrations and successes. That's pretty much how each week in a truck drivers life goes, and if you noticed the same things are happening in Daniel's thread. There are always ups and downs in this business. The main thing to being successful at this is being able to be steady in an ever changing environment while continuing to conduct yourself in a professional reliable manner that your dispatcher can always depend on.

Ok, I'm getting sidetracked - I'm putting days 8 & 9 together here because they mostly consist of pleasant weather and driving.

As I was drifting off to sleep in Oakfield New York around 1:30 in the morning, I realized that I was very close to Brett's little farm. I imagined him waking up in a few hours and throwing some more logs in the wood burning stove, sitting down in front of his computer with a friendly dog lying at his feet, and working away at some project or idea he has in his mind for this web site. Just wanted to say thanks to you Brett, we all sincerely appreciate what you've done to help us break into the industry, and it's nice to know that you've still got a long list of "to do" projects going on in the recesses of that cranial cavity of yours!

Day 8 We got up and got going before the sun was up and had beautiful weather all day. We traveled from Oakfield New York to Pendleton Kentucky where we settled in for a nice night at a Pilot truck stop. We ate New England Clam chowder that had been cooking in the crock pot while we were driving the last leg of the days journey. We threw some crab meat in the pot that we had picked up at Wal-mart on our earlier grocery trip. The smell was tantalizing as we traveled, and the meal was very satisfying at the end of our day.

Day 9 We need to get to Bridgeport Alabama before 1400 today, and we should be able to do it. Something just doesn't seem right when I wake up. I don't hear the interstate noise, I instead hear the sound of lots of big trucks moving slowly in low gear. After checking things out we find that the interstate has been closed due to an early morning accident involving a truck load of pigs! A detour has been established and lots of big trucks are rolling slowly by the truck stop onto a scenic byway that goes right by our truck stop. Once we get rolling it takes so long for us to get through the detour and back onto our regular route that I'm running calculations in my head about my delivery time frame and realize that there's no way I'm going to make it now. I pull over at a rest area and message my DM explaining the situation. He agrees with my assessment and tells me I can get unloaded Friday morning.

We get ourselves down close to the destination and settle in at a truck stop that's about thirty minutes away from our destination. I always try my best to meet the demands of the schedule they give me, or even do better, that's how you make more money in this crazy job than the many folks that just don't seem to get it. But, there will always be things that pop up that are beyond your control. You do your best to be consistent and reliable, but don't let the things you can't control get to you. If you let those uncontrollable variables start unsettling you you're going to quit enjoying what you do, and once you no longer enjoy this the more those uncontrollable variables start to control you.

My daughter had a job interview just before we embarked on this little journey together, and today she got a call from the prospective employer that they want her to come back in for a follow-up interview. So, I will have to figure out how to get her back to Texas before I wanted to. Man, I'm gonna miss her. She has not only been very pleasant company, but a huge help to me also while travelling together. I put in a special request to my DM to see if he could find a way to route me to Texas - hopefully I'll know something in a few days.

We'll get this paper unloaded in the morning, and then we'll tell you what our next load assignment is. I'll probably end this thread there and try to get back in the mode of responding to the many new questions that keep popping up in the forum. I've been kind of MIA while working on this little documentary, and the forums been hopping. Sorry Brett, I've noticed you've been working overtime this week, but you've sure been giving some good advice!

Good night!

Interstate:

Commercial trade, business, movement of goods or money, or transportation from one state to another, regulated by the Federal Department Of Transportation (DOT).

Dispatcher:

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.

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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

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