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A Look Inside Trucking Part I

by Rhonda

Once you enter trucking, there is a lot that you get to experience. So many “interesting” things come your way. Many things you don’t give much thought to until it is brought to your attention thru company training, newsletters put out by employers, the trucking magazines, and over the Qualcomm - the truck's messaging computer.

What is Qualcomm?

Qualcomm is a messaging system with GPS built in which is tied into the truck's computer and allows trucking companies to track where the driver is at, monitor the truck, and send and receive messages with the driver - similar to email. I have been told that it shows you within a few short blocks of where you are at - about 3 blocks or so. It may be much closer now. You access the Qualcomm from inside the truck using what looks like a computer keyboard and screen. Each company can set it up to their own needs. Most are set to monitor:

  • Location
  • Idle time
  • Speed
  • Miles per gallon
  • Engine over speed
  • Cruise control
  • ...and much more

Drivers sign in or out, and enter load info for dispatch and general office staff. There are different ways a company can set it up for all of the functions they would like. The functions, or Macros, are numbered and the driver may access them at any time. To enter load info you may enter #25 for example and fill in the needed blanks on the form. Empty may be #28. Breakdown may be #40. Arrive at location may be #10, Leaving location may be #11, Accident may be #30, Request for directions may be #12. This should give you an idea what the Qualcomm does. It costs the trucking companies money to own this system and send messages, so shortcuts are needed. "You" becomes "U", "tonight" becomes "2nite", "empty" becomes "MT", "trailer is trl', "for" becomes "4", and the list goes on.

Here are some examples from my experiences - yes, I actually wrote them down - date, time, and what number they are on the computer--1 thru 99 for a lot of them. I’m putting it in normal reading for us.

ME: I’m heading to Omaha as requested, no assignment at this time.

DISPATCH: Keep wheels turning, we are working on it. Thanks.

ME: This truck runs for 3 min with the key off. I don’t want this idle time credited to me & cost me my bonus while waiting for shop appointment.

DISPATCH: Noted

DISPATCH:Rhonda, your shirts are in for you to pick up, if you get up this way

SHOP: Please send in your mileage. Thank you.

DISPATCH: HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!!

ME: Thank You!!!!!!

ME: I-39 at mm117, Rockford IL. State police doing random inspections. I’m getting one now.

ME: Shipper having equipment problems. Load not ready. Others also waiting. Waiting on 2 pallets of product to be made.

ME: Finally rolling!!!!!

DISPATCH: Thanks

DISPATCH: Stop by office to get permit books updated, get IFTA stickers and more

ME: Roads getting slick. Will try to deliver today if possible.

ME: Arrived at receiver.

ME: (1hr later) Not in dock. Waiting for a dock to be open & there is heavy fog here. Sure hope it lets up when I leave

DISPATCH: Keep us posted

ME: In the dock! Short on help. Will be awhile. Fog has lifted. Going for a walk.

Note: I spent 4 3/4hrs at this place. This is time that the driver does not get paid for - which is a subject for another time.

Messages are also sent out by companies requesting help in locating stolen trucks/trailers, but if you get one of these and happen to find the lost or stolen equipment, don’t go near rig when you see it. Men may be armed and dangerous. This applies not only to your own company's equipment, but you may receive messages for helping out other companies too. The theft of rigs, trailers, and products is a billion dollar business. I have received messages from family that dispatch will send to you. Weather alerts are sent across and sometimes requiring you to shut it down as soon as you can do so safely, or if you are at a terminal (for those who drive for the bigger carriers) in weather alert area, you may not be allowed to leave until conditions improve.

I know some drivers may not care to have all of this knowledge/info so handy and sitting in your truck, but I am one who happens to like it. Before it came along and way before I entered trucking, drivers communicated by phone in the truck stops and phone booths (which are fast becoming extinct) I prefer this new way as there is less wasted time and you can keep on rolling.

by Brett Aquila Brett Aquila

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TruckingTruth was founded by Brett Aquila (that's me!), a 15 year truck driving veteran, in January 2007. After 15 years on the road I wanted to help people understand the trucking industry and everything that came with the career and lifestyle of an over the road trucker. We'll help you make the right choices and prepare you for a great start to your trucking career.