How a Husband And Wife Became Interested in Trucking - Part 1

by rbradyjohnsen

Randy and I have been together now for nearly 29 years. In the beginning, for a few years, Randy had a Class A CDL for his job maintaining semi trucks and trailers for a truck leasing company, and he drove a little too (just a little). But for over 25 years, we owned an at-home business where we created signs, lettering and pinstriping, plus did some graphic design projects. With that business, we (especially Randy) did a lot of work for truckers. When business got slow, I took jobs outside the house, mostly part-time or temporary. I did everything from retail sales to administrative assistant to marketing consultant. During our years together, we had plenty of complications and drama. Randy battled alcoholism for much of his adult life, but he is (thankfully) recovering now. We've had severe financial problems, Randy had some legal problems, and we've lost 4 babies. When our business began to really struggle due to the economy and our children were successfully raised and on their own, we decided it was time for a change.

Started In A Class B Truck

Randy had often spoken of possibly becoming a truck driver over the years. And after I lost my last job, he began a job driving a Class B straight truck for a bizarre, unprofessional little trucking company and hauled mail for the Post Office. I explained it in the trucker's forum. The pay wasn't great, there were no benefits, and the hours were unpredictable. But he enjoyed the driving, made a few extra dollars doing it, and the owner kept promising to help him get his Class A CDL back and put him in one of the tractor trailers. We knew that was a bad plan, and I could see that the job would turn into a dead-end, so I began my serious research into OTR truck driving. I was intrigued by the fact that husband and wife driving teams were becoming increasingly common, and it sounded like they made a comfortable living. And we were already used to working closely together.

OTR Trucking Sounded Right

I was excited because I had always been fascinated by trucking. I had been a late-night waitress as a teenager, and my favorite customers were the truckers, whom I much preferred over the obnoxious drunks. And I think I fell in love with the smell of truck grease and diesel fuel when Randy and I first lived together, because that's what he smelled like when he came home from work. So, to me, diesel fuel smells like love. I also envied the big trucks I saw as I drove around selling advertising at my last unpleasant job, and I had often wished I could trade places with them. I felt confident that I would be accepted as a student because I have a perfect driving record (no accidents ever, no tickets in nearly 30 years) and zero criminal history. Many of my friends and family were rather surprised, because I don't "look like a truck driver", and they thought it was an odd career choice. But I knew, from all my research, that driving truck was more complex, challenging and interesting than most people realize.

During the late Spring of 2008, Randy was laid off for 2 months when he lost his security clearance (which was later reinstated after an investigation) because of a previous misdemeanor. My Unemployment Benefits had run out and I had been unable to find another job, so we could no longer afford to make our mortgage payments. After all that we had been through and after struggling so hard for so many years, we decided that it was time to give up our home. Since we had so little left to lose, we also decided that it would be a good time to go to trucking school. We thought we could save money to carry us through the first few months and still be able to pay the remaining bills at home.

A Couple Of Bumps In The Road

When we applied at one of the big companies that everyone makes fun of in 2008, I was accepted but Randy was told that his misdemeanor would have to be 2 years old, and that would not happen until the following summer (2009) because they went by the date of the disposition rather than the actual charge. Feeling brave, I decided I would go to truck driving school by myself and get a head start while Randy stayed at home and kept working. I got my Class A permit, acing the tests after reading the CDL book 3 times through, taking notes, studying hard and taking practice tests online. When I went to get my DOT medical card, they found a trace of blood in my urine, which is very common. Even so, I decided to get follow-up tests (ick, no fun) to be on the safe side. By the time those tests were completed in December, 2008, the big company had implemented a hiring freeze and the busy part of the trucking season was over with. So I thought I would enjoy a few more months of my "normal" life at home.

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.

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.

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.

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

by Brett Aquila

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