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A Husband and Wife Trucking Journey

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Larry K.'s Comment
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The Beginning Of Our On-The-Road Training

Your results may vary, but this is how it's going for us...(PS this will be a lengthy post)

So let me begin by saying that thus far this has been nothing like the training horror stories we've read about. We absolutely lucked out with a trainer who not only knows his stuff, but is a genuinely cool guy who is mellow, patient and all smiles. That being said, we haven't gotten off to the best of starts. Read on for the story.

Our trainer arrived at the terminal around noon this past Monday. We were told at that time to get our stuff together, check out of our hotel and take a company van to the terminal (they've been letting us personally drive the company vans). We arrive at the terminal to get the rundown regarding what the plan is going to be. The company has a number of trucks at the terminal in California that need to be transported back to the Tennessee terminal. These are trucks that are 1-2 years old and are being placed out of service (as we understand it they will be traded-in for new trucks). Shortly after arriving at the terminal we are told that we are waiting to be assigned one of these trucks and then will be assigned a load. In the meantime we got to meet our trainer as he was running around like a chicken with his head cut off getting everything squared away. He's a small, soft spoken, Hispanic gentlemen about our age who is literally all smiles. Our immediate impression was that we were gonna get along with this guy no problem.

A few hours later we are assigned our truck. It's a 2016 Freightliner 10spd with about 500k on it. To our eyes it looked brand new but by company standards it's done. Our first task was to get a new mattress in it and load up our stuff. As we were doing so the man who runs the terminal came out and was literally over the top about wanting to make sure we had everything we needed and made sure we knew we could come to him for anything. Seriously, it's crazy how well we're being treated to this point so far!

So after getting settled in we're waiting on a load. Several hours go by and we're told by our trainer that we'd likely be waiting till morning as the shipper he anticipated was closed on Mondays. Sure enough we ended up sleeping in the truck at the terminal that night with our trainer. My wife and I took the bottom bunk, which surprisingly turned out to be fine, and the trainer took the top. As it was in the high 90's just prior to the sun going down we idled all night. Slept fine and it wasn't nearly as awkward as we anticipated.

The next morning we receive our load assignment. We are told we are to pick up a refrigerated load in Colton, California at 8:00pm and will be delivering it to a Walmart in Brundidge, Alabama. My wife and I had pictured bob-tailing directly to Colton and picking up a loaded trailer to head out. As it turned out our trainer told us to grab showers and do any last minute items at noon as we'd be headed out by 1:00. We were excited (and nervous) to get going but honestly had no idea why we'd be leaving at 1:00 when Colton was just 35 or so miles away. My wife and I had been running around town in a rental car and were both pretty nervous about driving an unfamiliar truck through LA traffic on the way out of town. Most importantly my wife did not want to start out driving at night and therefore wanted to be first to drive so my shift would begin after dark. When we were getting ready to leave the trainer gave her the option of either driving out of the terminal or we could start driving when we got out of the city. Obviously she opted to let him take us out. SOOOO glad she did!!!

So it turns out we have to go pick-up a trailer at a location that in itself was a pain to get to in traffic. Upon arriving we discover that they had a little accident with the trailer and had ripped a door completely off it's hinges. Fortunately, they had several trailers and we were able to locate another empty. We inspected the trailer, reported the issue on the first trailer via the Qualcomm and learned how to pre-trip the refrigeration unit. Then we headed out to a Blue Beacon truck wash in downtown LA to have the trailer cleaned and sanitized. On the way there the trainer is laughing and telling us stories as my wife and I are sitting there bug-eyed as we watch him navigate through insane gridlocked traffic and take us to a truck wash located in the worst possible place we could imagine having to take an 18-wheeler. Seriously insane! The road in was lined on both sides with straight trucks leaving an alley down the center barely wide enough to accommodate the truck. You'd have to have really seen it, but it was nuts.

So finally we get the trailer washed out and head for Colton. We arrive at a HUGE refrigerated distribution center along with what looked like every trucker in the country. We first learn how to check through security and discover that this will be a drop-and-hook. We then navigate around the building passed what seemed like thousands of trucks and trailers and find a home for the trailer we brought. Then we go into the warehouse to check in. Upon going inside we find ourselves in what seemed like the worlds biggest freezer. Seriously it was the size of a Boeing plant! Both my wife and I were seriously impressed at seeing what it takes to bring food to the masses. We get our trailer and the trainer and I secure the load and then scale it. -continued-

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.

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.

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.

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.

Lynn H.'s Comment
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Go on! What happened next?

Larry K.'s Comment
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So by this time my wife and I are thinking we are about out of there. Darkness had already fallen and I know that it is I who will be first to drive. We'd been up since about 5:00 in the morning but I was wired at the idea of finally getting to drive and was ready to go. It was then that we find out we'll be waiting 3-4 hours on the paperwork and are told we'd better try and get some sleep.

At about 1:30am we awaken to the truck moving. The trainer had gotten the paperwork and was already headed for the gate. He stopped on the way out so we could all use the bathroom and asked if one of us was ready to drive, to which I quickly volunteered with one request...COFFEE! We checked out and headed to a truck stop down the street for some much needed caffeine and then I took over. Like the truck we took our road test in, this truck has a much tighter shifting pattern than our old Volvo at school but, with a little grinding here and there, I got us out of there and onto the freeway without issue.

With a weight of a little over 66,000 the first thing I noticed was that driving a loaded truck really didn't feel any different from driving the empty truck in school. Within the first hour I was shifting the truck nice and smooth and thoroughly getting a kick out of the whole experience. I got my first experience pulling some hills on I-10 heading for Arizona and quickly got the hang of it. By the hour and a half mark my wife had already gone back to sleep and the trainer was complimenting me on my ability to handle the truck. Needless to say this is nothing like CDL testing! Out here it's your ability to handle the truck safely that counts, not a bunch of nit-picky BS! Shortly thereafter he tells me that, if I'm comfortable, he's gonna grab some shut eye and that all I have to do is say his name and he'll wake up (He wasn't kidding. He jumps up instantly if you so much as say his name or if a message comes across the Qualcomm). He explains the procedures for the weigh station at the Arizona border and proceeds to go to bed. I find myself driving across the desert, thoroughly loving life for another 45 minutes before my wife joins me in the passenger seat. We watch the sunrise while trucking across the desert until finally reaching Phoenix in morning rush hour. By this time I'm thoroughly comfortable with the truck and handled the traffic of Phoenix like a pro, if I do say so myself. I make it to Eloy, Arizona with about 5 minutes left on my clock before my mandatory 30 minute break. As nobody had slept much at this point, my wife was to take over from here.

We get fuel in Eloy and both my wife and I practice a few 45˚ alley docks (we're required to do a certain number throughout our training and they must be at different locations each time). Then my wife takes us out. I stay up for about an hour as the trainer rides shotgun and wait untill I see her driving comfortably, and enjoying herself, before finally deciding to go to sleep. About 20 miles outside of Wilcox, Arizona I awake to my wife saying "What the hell just happened". Like the trainer I instantly wake up the moment something is amiss. The truck had completely died at 65mph and she had to coast to stop along side the freeway. The truck then restarted and we made it another 10 miles before it happened again. We got it started again and made it to the truck stop in Wilcox where our trainer called breakdown.

Needless to say we were told we could not drive the truck and they would be sending another team to get the load. Once the team arrived they'd be sending a tow truck to pick us up and take us to Freightliner in Tucson. As it turned out the other team ran out of hours and didn't make it to us untill 2:00am this morning. The tow truck arrived around 7:00am and, after getting hooked up, we had a nice ride in a pretty sweet Peterbilt back into Tucson. (Did I mention it's about 110˚ outside during all this? Thankfully the truck would idle fine.) So we spent the entire day chilling at Freightliner only to be told that we'd need to get a hotel and they'd get to us in the morning tomorrow.

So here we are. At a hotel and anxious as hell to get back out there. On the bright side we probably missed that storm coming up out of the Gulf but at this point we have no idea what the plan is going to be. Hoping the truck is fixed right away in the morning and we'll get another load from someplace local and continue on towards Tennessee.

CDL:

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.

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.
David's Comment
member avatar

So by this time my wife and I are thinking we are about out of there. Darkness had already fallen and I know that it is I who will be first to drive. We'd been up since about 5:00 in the morning but I was wired at the idea of finally getting to drive and was ready to go. It was then that we find out we'll be waiting 3-4 hours on the paperwork and are told we'd better try and get some sleep.

At about 1:30am we awaken to the truck moving. The trainer had gotten the paperwork and was already headed for the gate. He stopped on the way out so we could all use the bathroom and asked if one of us was ready to drive, to which I quickly volunteered with one request...COFFEE! We checked out and headed to a truck stop down the street for some much needed caffeine and then I took over. Like the truck we took our road test in, this truck has a much tighter shifting pattern than our old Volvo at school but, with a little grinding here and there, I got us out of there and onto the freeway without issue.

With a weight of a little over 66,000 the first thing I noticed was that driving a loaded truck really didn't feel any different from driving the empty truck in school. Within the first hour I was shifting the truck nice and smooth and thoroughly getting a kick out of the whole experience. I got my first experience pulling some hills on I-10 heading for Arizona and quickly got the hang of it. By the hour and a half mark my wife had already gone back to sleep and the trainer was complimenting me on my ability to handle the truck. Needless to say this is nothing like CDL testing! Out here it's your ability to handle the truck safely that counts, not a bunch of nit-picky BS! Shortly thereafter he tells me that, if I'm comfortable, he's gonna grab some shut eye and that all I have to do is say his name and he'll wake up (He wasn't kidding. He jumps up instantly if you so much as say his name or if a message comes across the Qualcomm). He explains the procedures for the weigh station at the Arizona border and proceeds to go to bed. I find myself driving across the desert, thoroughly loving life for another 45 minutes before my wife joins me in the passenger seat. We watch the sunrise while trucking across the desert until finally reaching Phoenix in morning rush hour. By this time I'm thoroughly comfortable with the truck and handled the traffic of Phoenix like a pro, if I do say so myself. I make it to Eloy, Arizona with about 5 minutes left on my clock before my mandatory 30 minute break. As nobody had slept much at this point, my wife was to take over from here.

We get fuel in Eloy and both my wife and I practice a few 45˚ alley docks (we're required to do a certain number throughout our training and they must be at different locations each time). Then my wife takes us out. I stay up for about an hour as the trainer rides shotgun and wait untill I see her driving comfortably, and enjoying herself, before finally deciding to go to sleep. About 20 miles outside of Wilcox, Arizona I awake to my wife saying "What the hell just happened". Like the trainer I instantly wake up the moment something is amiss. The truck had completely died at 65mph and she had to coast to stop along side the freeway. The truck then restarted and we made it another 10 miles before it happened again. We got it started again and made it to the truck stop in Wilcox where our trainer called breakdown.

Needless to say we were told we could not drive the truck and they would be sending another team to get the load. Once the team arrived they'd be sending a tow truck to pick us up and take us to Freightliner in Tucson. As it turned out the other team ran out of hours and didn't make it to us untill 2:00am this morning. The tow truck arrived around 7:00am and, after getting hooked up, we had a nice ride in a pretty sweet Peterbilt back into Tucson. (Did I mention it's about 110˚ outside during all this? Thankfully the truck would idle fine.) So we spent the entire day chilling at Freightliner only to be told that we'd need to get a hotel and they'd get to us in the morning tomorrow.

So here we are. At a hotel and anxious as hell to get back out there. On the bright side we probably missed that storm coming up out of the Gulf but at this point we have no idea what the plan is going to be. Hoping the truck is fixed right away in the morning and we'll get another load from someplace local and continue on towards Tennessee.

Man, this sure brought back memories from when I was training.

Welcome to trucking... enjoy!

CDL:

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.

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.
Larry K.'s Comment
member avatar

Starting To Feel Like Truckers!

6/27/17

We finally got our truck out of the Freightliner dealership in Tucson around 1:00pm last Friday. Turned out to be a simple fix which required a $20 part, $500+ in labor and a total of two days worth of training time. At that time we requested a load and were given one at about 4:30 in the evening. We were dispatched to pick up a trailer in Phoenix and then proceed with it to to a Marshall's distribution center, also in Phoenix, where it would be a "high value" drop-and-hook. Delivery was to be made in Lakeland, Florida. Total drive time of around 44 hours.

Unfortunately, upon arriving at the Marshall's distribution center we discovered that they required a "release number" which did not correspond with any of the numbers provided by dispatch. We ended up parked just outside the distribution center swapping messages back and forth with nighttime dispatch all night as they attempted to find this required number. Long story short we finally got out of there with our load around 10:00am local on Saturday.

The next 44 hours (or so) we're spent driving across the desert in 110˚+ heat most of the way. The trainer has become VERY comfortable with my driving and devotes the majority of his time to my wife while sleeping through portions of my driving time. I've been doing the vast majority of night driving and typically begin my driving around 2:00am. I believe it was my first full night (days & times are really blending together and becoming a blur) in which I was coming into San Antonio, Texas. Had a blast navigating the rolling hills on the way in and a sense of victory after having navigated the interchanges and construction zones on the way through the city.

I checked off two new-to-me states on this run as we reached Alabama and eventually Florida. In Florida I began my shift shortly after reaching I-75 and drove down to Tampa and then took I-4 over to Lakeland to make the delivery. My wife and trainer woke up right as I arrived at the receiver. Shortly before reaching Lakeland we received a subsequent "high security" load which departed from Sarasota and was headed for Georgia. I drove us back to Tampa and proceeded to a truck stop in order to grab some much needed showers. I then drove us down to Sarasota to pick-up the load. My wife took over upon departure as you are not allowed to stop with a high security load until you're 200 miles from the shipper. I have to say that as I was making the deliveries and pick-ups in Florida I just kept contemplating how freaking crazy it was that I was essentially "cruising" Florida with an 18 wheeler. I hit numerous areas of heavy traffic, drove plenty of intercity streets and really nailed down my newly acquired skill of floating gears. (Which I can now do fairly smoothly all the way up or down!)

We spent the night last night at a truck stop in Georgia (another new-to-us state) as we had the delivery scheduled for this morning and had to stop at least 50 miles before the receiver due to it being a high security load. Temperature was a nice 83˚ in beautiful Georgia so we enjoyed a little mellow out of truck time around the truck stop.

We're now on our way to the main terminal in Tennessee (another new-to-us state) to drop this truck off and get our trainers regular truck. Should arrive in about an hour or so. This first couple runs (after the breakdown) have been awesome and we couldn't be happier so far with both the company and especially our trainer. As we were coming through Louisiana, a state my wife loves, and eventually the new-to-us states my wife actually uttered the words "they're gonna pay us to do this". We've learned a massive amount of things in the past few days, undergone a great deal of stress, and have been completely exhausted at times, but overall, I have to say we're having a lot of fun doing it! Hell of an adventure at this point!

Looking forward to seeing corporate and then finding out where our next destination will be!

Floating Gears:

An expression used to describe someone who is shifting gears without using the clutch at all. Drivers are taught to "Double Clutch" or press and release the clutch twice for each gear shift. If you're floating gears it means you're simply shifting without using the clutch at all.

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.

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.

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.

Cornelius A.'s Comment
member avatar

Larry K if I get fired because of your posts you will have to find a spot to live on your truck ...... whenever I see one and start reading I forget myself ha ha ha and today the company owner stood next to me for ten good minutes and I did not know he was there because I was so absorb in your postrofl-2.gifrofl-2.gifrofl-2.gifrofl-1.gifrofl-1.gifundefinedundefinedrofl-1.gifrofl-1.gifrofl-1.gif

Larry K.'s Comment
member avatar

I'm very glad you're enjoying Cornelius!

Needless to say the adventure continues! We grabbed showers at the main terminal , did laundry, dropped off the truck we were delivering, swapped all of our personal stuff over to the trainers regular truck, and developed a deeper understanding as to why drivers hate going into terminals. We then immediately received a load assignment and took off. We are to pick up a trailer in Atlanta, Ga and then grab the load and head for Salt Lake City, Utah. As I'll be driving tonight I went to sleep. I awoke to the truck stopping over and over as my wife and trainer yelled out the window repeatedly attempting to get directions from people. I sat up to find myself in the middle of this MASSIVE rail yard here in Atlanta, Georgia attempting to find our trailer under an absolutely gorgeous sunset. The place is miles long and filled with thousands upon thousands of trailers. As nobody can find the damn thing we are still, at this very moment, driving through rows, upon rows, upon rows of trailers hunting for it as dispatch attempts to obtain more information as to it's actual location.

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.

Cornelius A.'s Comment
member avatar

Why is it that drivers hate going to the terminal?

I'm very glad you're enjoying Cornelius!

Needless to say the adventure continues! We grabbed showers at the main terminal , did laundry, dropped off the truck we were delivering, swapped all of our personal stuff over to the trainers regular truck, and developed a deeper understanding as to why drivers hate going into terminals. We then immediately received a load assignment and took off. We are to pick up a trailer in Atlanta, Ga and then grab the load and head for Salt Lake City, Utah. As I'll be driving tonight I went to sleep. I awoke to the truck stopping over and over as my wife and trainer yelled out the window repeatedly attempting to get directions from people. I sat up to find myself in the middle of this MASSIVE rail yard here in Atlanta, Georgia attempting to find our trailer under an absolutely gorgeous sunset. The place is miles long and filled with thousands upon thousands of trailers. As nobody can find the damn thing we are still, at this very moment, driving through rows, upon rows, upon rows of trailers hunting for it as dispatch attempts to obtain more information as to it's actual location.

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.

Larry K.'s Comment
member avatar

Cornelius- Keep in mind my limited experience here, but from what I've seen the experienced drivers and trainers want to get out of the terminals as quickly as absolutely possible. For one thing it's a place you can get stuck for any number of reasons and, of course, if you're chilling at the terminal you're not getting miles and making money. Second, and you'll here this around the forum from the experienced guys, you have what they refer to as the "terminal rats". These are a select few individuals who've been sitting at the terminal for an unordinarily long time without a load and they want to do nothing but spread negativity and complain. So far, from the few we've met, if you talk to these individuals for a few minutes you won't be a danged bit surprised that they aren't at the top of the list with their fleet managers. Meanwhile you'll see seasoned drivers hit the terminal, run around like chickens with their heads cut off for a few hours, and then they're gone again. Our trainer has 18 years driving and 16 with our company. We barely had time to shower and get a load of laundry done before we were heading out on another load!

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.

Fleet Manager:

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.
Lush's Comment
member avatar

I think it's safe to assume that at some point a potential husband/wife team is going to be very interested in this thread. In the meantime however I'm not sure this level of detail is worthwhile, so if you're following along...let me know!

Days 6-8 (Wednesday - Friday)

We continued with practicing our straight-line backing, offset backing (what I was calling "reverse lane change") and alley docking as well as practicing our pre-trip. To this we added parallel parking to the drivers side and began learning our in-cab inspections. By Wednesday my wife had still not fully mastered the straight-line backing, which was of course effecting all other skills, so she spent the latter part of the week working to master that primarily. By Friday she had it down to science!

I got to ride rear seat on one of my wife's on-the-road outings this week. I'm utterly amazed that the girl who couldn't drive a manual car last week is able to drive a semi this week! She even pulled us into a truck stop to get fuel.

By the way, the young man who disappeared on us after having a rough first drive was called by a fellow student and convinced to return to training. Glad to see him return!

Following! Thank you for the detailed information. Very helpful for a husband/wife team considering a career change/adventure.

SAP:

Substance Abuse Professional

The Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) is a person who evaluates employees who have violated a DOT drug and alcohol program regulation and makes recommendations concerning education, treatment, follow-up testing, and aftercare.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

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