Another Ride Along Story

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Gladhand's Comment
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Awesome to see! That right there is the exact reason why I stuck to being a door swinger haha. I was laughing the other day because I picked up a flatbed load with my van and the bills said to tarp it, just to mess around I asked the loader if I needed to tarp it and she just rolled her eyes at me hahaha.

JD's Comment
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I like reading these and would very much like to meet Old School sometime

JD

Old School's Comment
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I am sorry for the delay folks, but I have just been covered up. This job is demanding, and if you are getting it done out here you will find your self really busy at times. I had hoped to help you understand how things work out here, and I think we can still do that, but I have got to get you caught up on how things have been going for us this week.

Do you remember me stating at the beginning of this load that my dispatcher called me and wanted to confirm that my ETA was a good solid one? Well, he did that because he thought I had really pushed it hard on my plan, and he was concerned that I might not be able to do it. I assured him that I could, and so that is how they started working on my next load plan - that is critical to running consistently high mileage weeks - accurate information, and perfectly executed plans. If you can't do what you say, then it causes everyone in that office to start scrambling to cover the next load that they had set up for you when they find out that you can't get to it because you were unable to execute something the way you promised them you could. This is why rookie drivers are allowed to sit a little between loads. They don't yet have the track record established of consistently being on time, or being early and making things happen in their favor out here on the road. Their dispatcher is going to want to make sure they are ready for that next load before they start assigning it to them.

Okay, back to my example... I made it to the Davy Crockett Travel Center in Greenville, TN on the first leg of our trip - that was critical. Here's a view from that truck stop of the surrounding mountains with "Old Glory" waving in the foreground of the shot...

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The second leg of the trip had to get us all the way to Riverdale, New Jersey, another 650 miles. To make my plan work I was going to run all the way to Riverdale, sleep on their property, and unload when they got there in the morning. The way my hours were going to work out, I would have to stay there for several more hours after getting unloaded to complete my ten hour break before I could move on to my next stop. I needed to arrive at Riverdale on Sunday night (actually it was going to be early Monday morning - like two or three o'clock), then unload Monday morning. After finishing up my ten hour break there, I was going to just barely have enough time to get up to Hamden, Connecticut for my second stop before they stopped receiving at 1500. That would allow me to then proceed up to Southington, Connecticut where my third stop was. That customer in Southington would have already stopped receiving for the day, but I would sleep just around the corner behind an Outback Steakhouse that allows me to park there. They start receiving very early in the morning, and I could get them done, then proceed over to my consignee , or my destination, and I would be emptied by ten a.m. Tuesday, just as I told my dispatcher.

We hit a snag while headed North on I-81 in Virginia. Not only was there road construction going on that had us backed up for miles, but there was also an accident mixed in there also. It delayed us more than three hours, making it impossible to even make it to Riverdale when I needed to. While I was creeping along on the interstate , I was running calculations in my head and scrambling around in the recesses of my brain trying to come up with an alternative way to get it done.

Here's what I came up with: We pulled off the Interstate at exit 251 and spent the night at the Pilot in Harrisonburg, Virginia. I calculated that I could put in ten hours there, get up the next day (Monday) and make it to Riverdale before they stopped receiving at 1500. That plan worked and I then proceeded to the Pilot in Milford, Connecticut, shut down for the evening, and took my wife to "Gipper's," a nice little sport's bar within walking distance of the truck stop that serves up a great bowl of French onion soup!

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Continued...

Consignee:

The customer the freight is being delivered to. Also referred to as "the receiver". The shipper is the customer that is shipping the goods, the consignee is the customer receiving the goods.

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.
Old School's Comment
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We had a nice dinner together, and she got to see one of my favorite "haunts" here in this area of the country. Even though my next stop in Hamden says they start unloading at seven thirty in the morning, I had sufficient time to get there around five thirty in the morning. I have slept out in the road over at this customer before, and because of that I know that they get there very early. So, here is what I did: I rolled right in their gate at five thirty a.m. just like I expected them to unload me. I pulled up and got myself in position and started getting my tarps pulled off of the part of the truck that I needed them to unload. These guys know me, because I deliver here regularly. I keep good relations with all these customers, I serve them well, and they are always glad to see me when I show up. After I had gotten it ready to be unloaded I went to the receiving door and rang the buzzer, which is how it works here at this location. Then I stood there waiting to see what was going to happen. When they opened the door, they simply asked me how may pieces I had for them, and then said for me to give them a few minutes and they would be right out! After re-tarping and securing some of the stuff on this multi-stop flat-bed load I was out of there and headed to my next stop by about seven a.m.

My next stop is in Southington, Connecticut, and when I got there they jumped right on it and had me unloaded and ready to roll all in a timely manner, allowing me to head over to my consignee or my final destination by about 8:30 a.m. Here they are unloading me inside their modern warehouse facility...

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Earlier I had sent a text message to the fork lift operator at my consignee and told him what I had for him in terms of both weight and number of "bundles" to be unloaded. I also let him know that I would be there at 0900 (nine a.m.) I pulled in there exactly at 0900, jerked my tarps to the ground and threw the straps off and had it ready for him in just a few minutes. Guess what? I was able to send my MT (empty) call to my dispatcher exactly at ten a.m. just like I had told him, and then I headed off for the pre-planned load he had for me at Cressonna, Pennsylvania. I had just enough hours to make the four hour trek over there and get my load which had 2044 miles on it!

I want to point out a few obvious things in here just for the purpose of helping you understand some of the things we harp on in here. You will see Brett often use language like "having the necessary street smarts" when he's referring to top tier drivers and how they manage things out here on the road for success. The kinds of things I did on this load are demonstrative of what he is referring to. I went in a full two hours earlier than one customer even allows for their receiving hours and still managed to get unloaded - that was a critical maneuver in how this all panned out. Had I not gotten that step accomplished, I would have been late getting everything done like I had my dispatcher expecting, and trust me, they will remember your one mistake far more easily than they will remember your every day successes. And did you notice that I had the fork lift operator's phone number in my possession? How many of you have that kind of information? It is something that I have discovered works very well for me. I can easily bypass the managers and office personnel who are often times not that flexible or helpful when I need a little assistance with something like this. That fork lift operator was looking for me when I got there. He made my day that day because I took a little "non traditional" approach to getting something done, and that is not the first time I have pulled that off before.

The load that I started this week off with had 1,396 miles on it, and this second load that I am on now has 2,044 miles on it. You guys are good at math, and you know that 3,440 miles will make for a nice fat paycheck! I am parked down in Tampa Florida tonight and have an appointment at 0900 in the morning for the first drop on this load. My next stop is the SAPA plant in Delhi. I'll do my best to keep this up a little better if I can for this next week. My wife is going to stay with me for at least one more week. I hope to keep her entertained well, and you informed and educated well during the next week's worth of productive labor. I hope you find this informative and helpful as you consider your options in this very rewarding career.

Consignee:

The customer the freight is being delivered to. Also referred to as "the receiver". The shipper is the customer that is shipping the goods, the consignee is the customer receiving the goods.

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.

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.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Linden R.'s Comment
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I go down to Harrisonburg for Thanksgiving every year! Well, the little resort called Massanutten (like 10 miles north, if that), but I go through Harrisonburg to get there. I drive by that Pilot.

Anyways, great story!

Old School's Comment
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When we left Tampa, Florida for the last leg of this dispatched load, we had planned on parking at The Oasis Travel Center in Robertsdale, AL. If you've never stopped at this truck stop it is worth making a visit sometime. It is unique in many ways, and the woman who owns it is always spending money on some new update, and they are always unique. More on that in just a little bit, but first I've got to tell you that once we got parked at the truck stop, I was exhausted and laid down for a little rest. My wife could not sleep, because she was very concerned about Hurricane Nate coming into the area. She woke me up and insisted that we keep moving.

Throughout the 35 years that I have been married to this girl I have learned that she is almost always right, so I did as I was asked and moved us over to Dan's Truck stop in Hattiesburg, MS where I was allowed by "her who must be obeyed" to get some good rest. smile.gif

Here's a few shots of things you might see when visiting the Oasis Travel Center in Robertsdale, Alabama...

Train cars that appear to be crashed into the side of the building...

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Inside the "Derailed" Diner you can have your choice of dining in a rather elegant fashion inside the rail car dining room...

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Or you can sit at one of the many different styles of seats at the counter which is strategically located beside the school bus whose door is the door into the restaurant's kitchen...

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You can probably see from the photo that some of the tables are actual pick-up truck tail-gates. It gives a whole new meaning to tail-gating! They have a variety of seats at the counter including air plane seats which you can see in that photo above and they even go to the extreme of providing a saddle for some of the cowboy types who may show up looking for a good hot meal...

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I'm trying to let my wife see some of the really interesting things that I see out here on the road, and this was just one of the many places that I thought I'd share with you also wile keeping you posted on our time together. She also got to see the Oscar Meyer Weiner Mobile on the road today while we were coming through Tennessee.

Here is a look at our truck parked inside the building at Alro Metals in Tampa Florida. We often just drive inside the buildings we unload at when running these flat-bed loads. Many of these facilities at these large metal distributors use overhead cranes to load and unload trucks, and that is how they are doing it here in Tampa...

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We picked up this pre-loaded trailer at the SAPA plant in Cressona, Pennsylvania where we always get the pleasure of backing into the tarping stations there which allow you a full two inches of clearance on either side of your trailer as you carefully back in so that you can safely be on top of your load without falling and hurting yourself. Some of these places make this job so safe that it takes all the fun out of the whole process!

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I want to share these things with you because I think it helps people see what we actually do out here, and I always am trying to come up with ways to help the new folks who are in here trying to learn about this whole career/lifestyle that I completely enjoy. I've got some more to share with you, but I'll have to get back to you in just a little while with the rest of it.

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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

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

Tonight we are parked at the Knight Terminal in Carlisle, PA. We are spending the night here and leaving out about 2:30 a.m. so that we can make our deliveries in Connecticut first thing in the morning. After we got finished with the load we picked up in Cressona, we dropped our empty trailer at the yard in Delhi, Louisiana and then hooked to our next load which was pre-loaded and waiting on us to put it on the road. This is what I love about running on this dedicated flat-bed account. Very few flat-bedders get to do drop and hooks, but much of the time when I am finished with one load, they have my next one ready to go for me. Not everyone gets this kind of treatment. But once you get yourself established well, and your dispatcher knows he can count on your communications to be accurate, and your execution of your plans to be consistent, he can start laying things out for you ahead of time so that you can keep the wheels turning. This is a truth that can be counted on with almost any type of commercial driving job. Make a strong effort at building trust with your dispatcher. That level of trust that you establish will oftentimes be the measuring cup that is used to determine how much money you are making. Don't get hung up on how many cents per mile you are getting paid, but rather focus on how well you are executing your job - that is where the money flows from. Trust begets trust, and a team can only work together toward the same goal when there is a good solid level of trust between the players. You are not the superstar just because you are at the controls of the truck. There is a whole team of professionals in that office who will have your back if you can prove yourself worthy.

Check this out: That load that I already told you about had 2,044 miles on it. Prior to that one we had one with 1,396 miles. As soon as we finished the one with 2,044 miles on it we picked up this current load with 1,381 miles, and today they let me know that when I deliver it in Farmington, Connecticut the customer will load my trailer with a back-haul load of return material that runs me right back to the yard in Delhi - another 1,381 miles back. So in the short two weeks that my wife and dog have been riding along with me we will turn in 6,202 miles. I haven't even been working that hard it seems, and we averaged 3,100 miles each week for the short time we were together. I decided against doing a 34 hour re-set and have been running on my re-cap hours this week. I do this both ways at different times, and this week it just seemed like I had some pretty good re-caps, so I just kept things moving. Typically I will do two lengthy loads per week, and generally I will average somewhere above the three thousand mile mark on a consistent basis. I'm sharing these numbers with you for one reason - I want you to understand how to make money at this business.

How many times do we hear or see truck drivers complaining online about how their company "set them up for failure," or are "starving them out?" Have you ever stopped to think about how dumb those comments are? What kind of company wants their employees to fail, or go broke? As a long time employer myself, I can tell you that my company was little more than the service and/or the product we provided, and that could not be done without my faithful, dedicated employees. Without the employees their is no company. Trucking companies treat their best people the best. There are no participation trophies given in this business. If you've got something to say you say it with your results. If you want to be successful, you conduct yourself like a professional who knows how the puzzle goes together.

Continued...

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.

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.
Old School's Comment
member avatar

The problems that are so prevalent in trucking can be almost completely done away with by proper communication and a good old fashioned work ethic. You look deep into any successful truck driver's habits and you will find that he does what he says, and he gives no reason for anyone to ever doubt that he will slip up and make a big mistake. A successful driver is a boots on the ground, let's git er done type of guy who takes care of his own business. Here is an example of the kinds of things that trip up your lower level truck drivers on any given day. This is a real world experience that I witnessed this week. No one's identity will be compromised here, but listen and learn from my experience with another driver this week. I happened to be in Cressona, Pennsylvania at the SAPA plant during the same time one of the other drivers in our fleet was there to pick up his load. We both were deep inside the plant to pick up our pre-loaded trailers. He came over to me so that he could vent (more like go on and on about how badly the company treats him) about a minor problem with the Conestoga trailer that his load was on. My load was on a regular flat-bed, so mine would need to be tarped. I told him what I would do if I had his trailer (which would have taken me all of fifteen minutes) and that would take care of the problem and I could get on the road with the load. His curt response was, "I don't have the tools, or the know how to take care of that. They are going to have to get someone out here to fix this or I am not moving this load." Trust me. this was a simple fix that needed no tools, and I think your average fifth grader could have handled it. Here is the problem. This driver thinks that he is the "star of the show." He considers himself indispensable in an industry that has one of the highest turnover rates of just about any business you can come up with. The company can replace him tomorrow, easily. He was still there waiting on someone to show up and fix his trailer when I left, (remember I had to tarp my load) and he should have been long gone before I ever even got started out the gate.

Drivers, especially those of you who are new to this, learn to be responsible for your own results. The company does not consider you some super star who is to be catered to all the time. They are looking for independent self starting types who know how to get things done. These prima-donna types are the ones you see crying foul all the time in trucking forums. They can't make money because they think the whole company is there to serve them, when the truth is that they (the drivers) are there to serve the customers. The ones who get that, will usually be the ones who find success at this career. I am kind of on a rant here, but it is an important lesson for all of us to learn. Really good drivers are a rare commodity. My own dispatcher (21 years in the transportation business) told me that out of every fifteen drivers he has, two, maybe three, will really get it and be successful at this stuff. The other 12 or 13 are constant worries and problems according to him. Where do you want to be in that scenario? I can tell you that typically those 12 or 13 drivers are the ones who are constantly looking for a different company, one that will treat them with the respect that they are certain they deserve. Those other two or three? Well, they are just as happy as a pig in mud - they are making all that money that the other guys are missing out on, and they are never having to beg for miles, in fact they are more likely to be asking if they can take just a little breather now and then so they can recharge just enough to get out there and do it all again.

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.

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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

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

Great stuff Old School. I appreciate the time and effort invested in writing these trip diaries. I am enjoying the read. Thanks!

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