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My First Run As A Professional Driver

by BlueHillsTrucker

Going into the trucking driving field I knew my life would eventually move at a pavement pounding pace. Just how quickly that pace, and the entire process transpired would amaze me.

truck-snow.jpg

Within the past three weeks I graduated truck driving school, passed my CDL test, and interviewed with a mid-sized carrier located on the shores of Lake Superior. After road testing for the company, I took a drug test and a physical agility exam, applied for a passport, got a TWIC card (a biometric ID card required for unescorted access to maritime facilities) and completed two days of comprehensive company orientation. Confident with my choice, I signed on with the company, and the following day I climbed into the cab of a 2012 Kenworth T660 with my trainer, Mark, for a 1,500 mile run to the Northeast. Since my last blog post I went from being a CDL student to becoming a wheel-turnin', mileage-earnin' trucker! It's presumptuous of me to call myself a trucker after completing just one trip, but I kind of felt like one while on the road.

Not The Start I Was Hoping For

My run began in northern Minnesota with a pre-loaded flatbed with 40 pallets of ceiling tile bound for Boston. I got a chance to ease my pre-journey jitters by practicing some cornering and backing maneuvers with the split-axle trailer in the terminal yard before we headed out. But those jitters returned tenfold several minutes later when I was cut off by a couple of impatient four-wheelers who decided they couldn't wait behind another semi waiting to make a left turn one block down from me. Those cars raced up to me in mid turn – causing me to come up short and bump my tires up onto a curb and stall the truck.

There we sat, motionless, blocking four lanes of traffic directly in front of the home terminal. At that moment my trainer could've lost his cool and scolded me for getting caught up in such a predicament. But instead he calmly told me to start the truck and ease my wheels over the curb and continue on. I don't remember much of what happened in the next several miles as my head was reeling from the previous situation.

I managed to navigate our rig to a truck stop in southern Wisconsin before shutting down for the night. Though it was only a five hour drive I was mentally and physically ready to climb into my upper bunk to recharge myself for the following day. The next morning, Mark got us around Chicago, but had me do most of the turnpike driving through Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. I gained confidence splitting gears with the Eaton Fuller 13-speed in the grades of the Poconos in Pennsylvania and the Adirondacks of New York. I worked on combining down shifts and engine braking to maintain downhill control in the mountains of Vermont.

The Challenges Never End In Trucking

Five out of the six days on the road I battled a constant drizzle, torrential down pours, high winds, sleet, road construction, traffic congestion and occasional diarrhea (from the truck stop deli). Except for a few scuffed sidewalls on the trailer tires, the run went off on schedule without a hitch. Mark convinced me to stick with flatbedding. It pays better and looks cool going down the road. We're headed for Cincinnati this afternoon and after that – who knows?

Finally runnin' heavy, The Blue Hills Trucker

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.

DAC:

Drive-A-Check Report

A truck drivers DAC report will contain detailed information about their job history of the last 10 years as a CDL driver (as required by the DOT).

It may also contain your criminal history, drug test results, DOT infractions and accident history. The program is strictly voluntary from a company standpoint, but most of the medium-to-large carriers will participate.

Most trucking companies use DAC reports as part of their hiring and background check process. It is extremely important that drivers verify that the information contained in it is correct, and have it fixed if it's not.

TWIC:

Transportation Worker Identification Credential

Truck drivers who regularly pick up from or deliver to the shipping ports will often be required to carry a TWIC card.

Your TWIC is a tamper-resistant biometric card which acts as both your identification in secure areas, as well as an indicator of you having passed the necessary security clearance. TWIC cards are valid for five years. The issuance of TWIC cards is overseen by the Transportation Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

by Brett Aquila

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