Local food service as a rookie

Topic 20873 | Page 1

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Rob's Comment
member avatar

There aren't many discussions on here from drivers who have done this work so i decided i will create one, despite still being in training.

First some background. For the last 8 years i have done warehouse work and have always dreamed of getting behind the wheel and driving OTR. However, life always seemed to happen and i kept putting it off. I joined this website a few years ago and have soaked up as much information as possible, and was about to start school then my wife got pregnant. I know that there are many families that are able to stay together despite being an OTR trucking family, but i feared not being around for my son growing up. I spent a little over 2 years working warehouse for Sysco Foods while i lived in florida and they were bringing back their "dock to driver program". I was the first to sign up and was very excited to finally be on my way to my CDL. Well, there were some snags and they dragged it out (due to corporate making changes to training regimen), and my wife and i decided that we weren't going to wait around for it when we wanted to move back to the midwest where we both were raised. I ended up transferring with Sysco to their warehouse just north of Des Moines Iowa. Sysco operates on Incentive pay for both drivers and warehouse. The faster you work, the more money you make. Almost immediately i was unhappy with my decision to transfer as i was losing nearly 300 dollars per week. I inquired about them training me for my CDL to be a driver, and was told they no longer do that. Despite being frustrated with the way things turned out, i am very thankful for the opportunities i had with Sysco and i would recommend them to anybody wanting to make good money. I began my job search looking for an apprenticeship/paid cdl training that would allow me to be home daily. I ended up applying to Performance Food Group (PFG) and was ultimately hired! my first week i spent Monday-Wednesday at the terminal/warehouse in Rock Island Illinois (we're a domocile yard in Des Moines, they run doubles to us every night.) Thursday and friday, and the entire next week i rode along with a driver to get a first hand look at what the job really was. PFG put me through school at "160 hour driving academy" located in Moline ill. While in school i was paid, and they put me up in a hotel sunday-thursday, and i made the drive back home fridays after class. After obtaining my license they bumped my pay up by nearly 7 dollars per hour. I am now entering my 7th week of 12 weeks.

Let me tell you.....The moderators and experienced drivers arent joking around when they talk about how difficult this job is, ESPECIALLY for somebody fresh out of CDL school. I do not regret my decision but it definitely pushes ya to the max. Many people think local jobs are alot less hours than OTR but thats not usually the case. I work monday-friday every week but many times i'm only home enough to get my 10 hour break in, during the week. The biggest challenges i'm facing as a rookie doing foodservice is the nonstop stress involved. I'm frequently trying to get my truck in places it was not meant to be. The backing involved at many of these places leaves very little room for error. Because i'm responsible for unloading my truck using a 2 wheeler dolly its all about getting the truck placed as close as possible to kitchen doors at these establishments to minimize steps taken, thus saving time. There's a few places that deliver to we have to jackknife the truck in order to not block traffic, as well as back up between parked cars. The driver thats been training me spends most of his time in Des Moines including several stops downtown.

I hope that i can shed some light on what food service really is. Here is a video to have a Look into food service delivery

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.

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.

OTR:

Over The Road

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

Doubles:

Refers to pulling two trailers at the same time, otherwise known as "pups" or "pup trailers" because they're only about 28 feet long. However there are some states that allow doubles that are each 48 feet in length.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Rob's Comment
member avatar

A big misconception people have about local jobs is the hours are "banker hours" and its all driving. Today we started our day at 3:30am. We had 16 stops we needed to unload, we had 587 cases, and worked about 12 hours, only driving 187 miles. total weight we unloaded was 14,700 pounds! I am used to the physicality of the work as i worked in sysco's warehouse yet theres still many days i'm sore. after my training period, i will be responsible for unloading by myself. Usually there are 3 or 4 stops per pallet, and we must sort the pallet as we're down stacking searching for the cases we need. The upside of my job is that i will have a set route, and will know best way to setup at each location. Even though i'm in my 7th week, there are still some places i dont feel comfortable trying to back into, and ultimately have my trainer help me get in. If i were out on my own i would end up parking farther away and have to walk farther, thus taking longer. I'm sure it will get better as i get more experienced, however i feel like im always running around with my head cut off trying to get my work done. The biggest tip i have is to never let your stress level get the best of you. You must always keep a clear head. Once you start getting antsy is when an accident is going to happen. There as some customers that will take their day out on you. Many of our customers have gotten accustomed to the way their driver does things so when that driver is off and your forced to fill their route they expect you to know where they want their products. On friday last week i actually had a customer get angry with me and tell me to go F myself, and GTFO of his establishment. All i could do was apologize, and offer to fix the solution but he just wanted me gone. Once i left i wasnt able to dwell on that, maneuvering with all the traffic required my full attention. Lucky for me we operate PUP trailers (28 footers), as opposed to Sysco or Martin Brothers running 48 to 53 footers, so its easier to maneuver around parked cars and narrow alleyways.

My backing has definitely improved and i look forward to getting better. Today i was able to nail a 90 driverside with no pull ups! My biggest problem is that i get frustrated when im blocking traffic while trying to get backed in and end up taking longer. It's hard to keep your cool while people are honking and flipping ya off, yet its something you'll deal with on a regular basis.

most of my training has been in an automatic, however tomorrow i'll be with a different driver in a manual. We are being dispatched at 4am.

I'm not one to typically write a whole lot so my thoughts are kinda scattered, but hoping i can help someone get a better look at if this is something they would want to do.

Probably won't be doing daily updates as nothing really changes except my stops, but I will update this periodically.

Rob's Comment
member avatar

Tuesday we spent the day on the west side of town, 16 stops, 14,400 lbs, only drove 114 miles. Put in almost 12 hours. Had me in a manual and despite being mainly in an automatic for my training my shifting was pretty good. Clutch is much tighter in that truck than the other manual we have so it took some getting used to. Ended up waiting at 2 different customers for about a half hour at each. Didn't bother me any, I'm paid hourly so it was easy money. Surprisingly didn't have any places that had difficult backs. Overall the day went well.

Wednesday we had alot more driving. We got sent "out of town" about an hour to hour and half outside of town. We had 12 stops, 13800 lbs, drove 243 miles and put in about 11 hours. We ended up getting pulled into the weigh station (no ez pass in this truck) and got the arrow telling us to weigh even though we were empty. I'm glad I got to experience that with my trainer but will be happy to not have it happen again (wishful thinking...haha...) I definitely want to stress to people contemplating food service that you need to understand that a day like today isn't typically the norm as far as amount of driving. Usually you'll have more stops, more weight and alot more city driving. Also, keep in mind you have a 2 wheeler you need to load up and PHYSICALLY unload that entire truck. I do not regret my decision to begin my career in this way, just trying to help you understand how physically demanding it is. The physical I was required to take for this job (in addition to DOT) required me to step on/off a platform one foot at a time to the beat of a metronome, lift over 70 pounds over my head, lift 100 pounds from the ground up to a shelf waist high, climb a 7foot ladder skipping every other step, push a 2 wheel dolly with 200 pounds 100 feet and open multiple doors while balancing it. After every exercise I had 1 minute to get my heart rate under 80% of the "maximum", which was some sort of formula that took into account my heart rate before we started, weight and age. I love the company i work for, as well as my management team but with the rate of injury for food service drivers in general (not specifically my company) it is a cause for concern. Being home every night, making great money, and off weekends is awesome however I don't want to run my body in the ground. That's all for tonight, if anybody has any questions I will try to answer then the best I can. I'm not one to write a diary but I'm hoping if someone is contemplating to go this direction they can see a realistic side.

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.

OC's Comment
member avatar

Thx for sharing your experiences and insight thus far on a part of trucking that isn't talked about very much in the diaries category.

Han Solo Cup's Comment
member avatar

What OC said. Please continue to document your journey as it's certain to help someone in the future (and it's an interesting read).

G-Town's Comment
member avatar

I'm glad Rob is taking the time to document his experience. Thank you! It's important to understand the reality of a job before committing to it, and not getting sucked into the premise that a local gig is somehow going to be easier than OTR. Especially true for an entry-level driver. Take the driver unloading aspect away from Rob's gig, and basically he is describing Walmart. Very similar, especially in terms of the "hustle factor", close quarter maneuvering, and the frequency of burning through the 14 every day.

OTR:

Over The Road

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

Rob's Comment
member avatar

Thursday - Thursday overall was not a bad day. 11 stops, 468 cases, 11,500 pounds, drove 112 miles, 9.5 hours. As you can tell driving is not what most of my day consists of. We do have routes, primarily on wednesday that branch out to the smallertowns where there's more drive time. Do not let my "lack" of hours fool you into the amount of work we're required to do, as theres 2 of us in the truck since im training. The first half of my training period i was responsible for stacking product in trailer while trainer wheeled it in, now i have been with a different guy and he has me run it all in. I've got some extra weight that i'm looking forward to shedding, This job will definitely do that. 1 thing i forgot to mention is that we have 2 different temp zones in our trailers. We have the freezer, which is set around 0, and the cooler/dry that is set around 40. Feels really good when the weather is hot! Due to us teaming up to get the trailer unloaded we occasionally have to sit and wait for a customer to arrive. Today that was about an hour. I know to most drivers that's nothing, however i find it hard to get moving again after we busted our tails, just to end up sitting, to then have to shift it into high gear again once customer shows up. Some of our customers will give us keys and alarm codes to allow us deliver without them present, but that wasnt the case for this stop. After we sat there about 20 minutes i thought i'd go check the door just to be sure nobody was there. No cars were in the parking lot but i thought maaaaybe they got dropped off or walked, it was atleast worth looking into. Well it turns out the door was left open a crack so i opened it. As luck would have it, when the customer left the prior night they had set their security alarm but did not completely shut the back door. Needless to say, i tripped the alarm and i closed door. Went back to my truck and just waited for the police to show up. My interaction with the police was very brief, just explained what happened and showed him my paperwork to prove why i was there.....he took my information and off he went. Unfortunately it was not my first time setting off an alarm, and likely will not be my last. Many times a customer gives us a key they forget to inform us of an alarm, or what the code is.

Friday- Friday sucked! it rained most of the day. I felt so gross by the end of the day being soaking wet that i jumped in the shower as soon as i got home. 14 stops, 552 cases, 13,900 pounds, drove 79 miles, put in 8 hours. Today our trailer was loaded clear to the tail. We had to pull our ramp out halfway just to create a platform to stand on, as well as stack product so i could stack it as i was on ground. Our first stop took 200 cases, over 7000 pounds, so we had plenty of space after the first stop! Today the route we were on required ALOT more hustle. We have 3 stops that if we do not have them off by lunch (typically 11am-2pm) you'll have to park in the middle of the street in the shared turn lane, and can't bring stuff in until after lunch as it'll just be in their way and nobody has time to put it away. One frustrating thing about me not having a set route yet is that the driver who usually does this route always puts their product in their shelving. My job is to just wheel it into the area it belongs (cooler/freezer/dry storage) and leave it stacked on the ground. I understand this guy wanting to keep his customers happy, but that isn't our job, and our management does NOT want us doing that as we then become liable for spoiled product if we do not rotate it correctly, and they also are not being charged additional money to cover the extra time it takes us to deliver due to that. I've had customers cuss me out because i've explained that its not my job, and i have been instructed not to do it. One person even told me that when i didn't do it, that this was the worst delivery he's had in 40 years, and told me to GTFO of his place. it definitely takes alot of self control to remain professional and courteous while somebody is belittling you. Most of the customers i deal with are wonderful and i have begun to establish a relationship with them, but you will always have people who want to take their bad day out on ya, which is true for any interactions with others in life.

Rob's Comment
member avatar

Today i experienced 2 things i want to stress..... 1. ALWAYS KEEP A SAFE FOLLOWING DISTANCE. With the rain we were having i was keeping more following distance, which is kinda funny because 1 of the guys i was with for a couple weeks was always complaining i was leaving TOO MUCH space, allowing cars to move in causing me to slow up more. Told him i didn't care, as my goal is to be safe AND NOT HIT ANYTHING. There was a city bus in the lane i was in that was coming to a stop to pick some people up. as i had enough time and nobody was coming from behind i moved over to the other lane to pass the bus. As i was moving over, a pedestrian came running across the street to try and catch the bus that was about to leave without them. This caused the vehicles in front of me to slam on their brakes to avoid hitting them, and had i been following too closely i surely would have rear ended this vehicle. I ended up tripping the drive cam due to a hard brake as it startled me that someone could be so dumb (pedestrian....not the car)

2. ALWAYS G.O.A.L (Get Out And Look) IF YOU'RE UNSURE OF ANYTHING. We started the day around 430am, so the darkness, mixed with the rain made it difficult to see very well in my mirrors The place we were delivering to was downtown in an alleyway. They do have some lights but they conveniently were not on/working. There was a wooden fence on my passenger side, and a couple garbage cans as well as a SUV parked on the driver side. I seen what obstacles i had to go around and felt confident i could do it, however as i was shimmying the trailer into the hole i lost site of the SUV. i decided that it would be best for me to G.O.A.L. despite it pouring rain. Well its a good thing i did, because if i had continued to back at the angle i was going i would surely have hit the vehicle. Did it suck getting wet, and it taking a couple extra minutes to do that...absolutely. I would much rather take the extra time to be sure i won't hit anything, and keep my license clean than be involved in any kind of accident.

The contract i signed for my schooling is a 1 year contract. If i do not fulfill my obligation i am on the hook for $4,000. The only thing that will get me out of it is if they fire me for "performance". My goal is to get 1 year of safe driving and then look at my options and decide if i want to stick with food service or move into another sector. The biggest problem most food service drivers have is the money is too good to walk away from. Most guys don't do this work because they enjoy it, its because they have to provide for their family and most other local jobs won't pay close to what they're making. my biggest worry is how many guys get hurt doing this job. One of my first days i was told "it isn't a matter of IF you'll get hurt, but more of a question of WHEN will you get hurt." That's no surprise when you think about it. We have cases of meat that are upwards of 90 pounds. Also you're constantly loading your 2 wheeler heavy (300 pounds or more sometimes) so you can make less trips in. Less walking = saved time. There's days like today where your trailer is loaded clear to the back and you have to pull the ramp out halfway just to be able to start down stacking the pallet. That is one of the most dangerous things we face. Since i've been here i've heard about several guys that have fallen off the back of the trailer, not just with my company, but with others as us food service guys are usually delivering to some of the same places and will chat for a bit. i've heard of 1 guy tearing his ACL, another fell off the back and injured his back pretty bad and was out a substantial amount of time, and another guy ruptured his spleen. Also, 1 thing i feel that gets overlooked by many people is the amount of places that have stairs we have to use. thankfully the route i've been on doesnt have many accounts with steps, but the ones that do theres alot of em. 1 of the places has wooden steps, 15 i believe, that i'm always afraid of falling through. I would much rather go down stairs, than have to go up. Once you start going down the stairs, there's really no stopping. I've been to many kitchens (including my time at sysco when i was planning on getting CDL thru them and got sent out with them for a week) where the kitchen floor is very greasy and it gets tracked onto stairs. In that situation all you can do is pray that you're shoes have enough traction otherwise you're gonna be going for a real bumpy ride.

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.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Rob's Comment
member avatar

This week i had 48.5 total hours. I will Gross roughly 1150 for the week. IT'S GOOD MONEY, BUT YOU EARN EVERY PENNY OF IT. My hourly pay is 21.90 which isnt bad for a driver straight out of school, in my opinion. top pay for our "house" at the moment is around 25, and within the next 2 years will be nearly 27 an hour (scheduled raises due to union contract) Despite paying so well, all the food service companies in my area have a shortage of drivers. From what i hear, it took PFG a year to fill an open position for an experienced driver even with a sign on bonus. Sysco is currently offering 4,500 dollar sign on bonus and still can't find qualified drivers.

I wanted to give a brief look into food service as a trainee. I will periodically update this thread if anything interesting happens, or something that i feel others may benefit from. I will also probably document the first 2 weeks that i am on my own after training which will hopefully be around Thanksgiving so i can give you an even better look at my experiences, as well as talking about doing this job in snow and ice when the time comes. Feel free to ask any questions, i'll still check back here.

here is my list of what i perceive as pro's/cons after 7 weeks of training. PROS - Money, Home every night, work week is monday-friday (there gonna be putting us on 4 day work week soon to cut down on OT as anything after 40 is OT)

Cons- very physical labor, lots of congestion as most of my days are spent "in town", pulling in/backing into places that weren't designed to accomodate a semi (even for us pulling a 28' pup trailer), work in all weather conditions. When the warehouse is building their pallet they're sometimes putting 6 stops onto 1 pallet if the stops arent getting a whole lot of cases and you'll have to dig through the entire pallet to get the 1 case you need. The reason that happens is because due to food safety regulations you must have chicken on the bottom, then beef, etc. It's definitely a royal PITA but there's nothing you can do about it

Things i'm indifferent about: Drive cam- I do not mind the drive cam because it makes me focus that much more of safe driving. There are quite a few times that it will trip from the bumps on the road but i'm willing to deal with it if it could help prove my innocence, or hold me responsible if something happens. Auto/manual- The auto is definitely nice when dealing with alot of traffic and stop lights but it just takes forever to get moving. Also, when backing up you have to apply pressure to fuel pedal, can't just let it roll on its own like ya can in a manual. If you take your foot off the fuel pedal it'll stop and the truck starts to jerk around a bit when trying to back up.

To me this job is great because it allows me to make a livable wage to provide for my family, while still being home every night and off weekends. I just want to caution those that are thinking of this kind work to not do it for the money. You can make just as much (or more) OTR , if you prove yourself to be a reliable, top tier driver. If you're interested i'd really recommend you watch somebody unloading into a restaurant and see some of the places we have to get into or watch the video i'd posted in an earlier update. It's always best to park as close as you can to the doorway for where you're delivering because more walking = more time, which most of the time we dont have. Most days i've had have been scheduled for 12-14 hours. that doesn't take into account any traffic delays, or waiting on a customer to show up. IT DEFINITELY REQUIRES ALOT OF HUSTLE. If this work interests you, i'd highly recommend doing atleast a year OTR to get your backing skills. With the frequency of how many tight places, and all the traffic around you back into you're liklihood of being involved in an accident is MUCH higher. It isnt uncommon to have to block traffic to get into an alley.

OTR:

Over The Road

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

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
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