My First Two Weeks of OTR Training

by Farmer Bob

As I said previously, you have to have patience. A sense of humor helps too! I started keeping a diary of where we went and what I did, but after a short time days and events became one long blur.

In order to become a qualified driver with my company I must have at least 300 logged hours (for those who know DOT log books that's line 3 time - actual driving). The company estimates that it will take the average person 6-8 weeks to obtain these hours. Why so long you ask? Well if you could drive your legal 11 hours each day it would only take 28 days. I found out that the "real" drivers don't always drive 11 hours a day either. There are delays waiting for a load to be assigned to you. More delays in a terminal if your truck is red tagged or if it breaks down. Anyway, I am assuming it will take me two months to get 300 hours. My trainer is a nice guy. Very much like me and about the same age! Thank goodness since we will be stuck together in a truck not much bigger than a small walk-in closet.

Our First Load

Our first load was to be picked up near Los Angeles. We waited a couple of hours while they loaded our trailer. Once we had the manifest we headed to the Denver, Colorado area to drop the trailer off. My trainer drove out of Los Angeles. Once we reached Barstow he let me take over. Just like that!! We drove up I-15, and then south of Salt Lake City we took I-70 east. Now I am driving in places where I have never driven before. We went up and over the Rocky Mountains near Vail Colorado (10,603 feet). No snow or ice on the road, but snow on the sides and the mountains around us.

After we dropped off our load we spent the night at our Company's Denver terminal. Our company has a "no idle" policy and our truck does not have an APU (auxilary power unit) so it got cold in the truck. Dress warm and have a good quality sleeping bag! I'm glad Idid. I don't have a complete list of places we have been to, but we have driven through about ten states since my first day.

This is what I have learned so far:

My checklist from the recruiter said to pack enough clothes for 9-10 days. It also said to pack compactly because there isn't much room on a truck. We shower about every two days. Bad as it sounds I wore the same blue jeans for a week and didn't change my shirt except for every two days. You just don't sweat much and the work isn't all that physical. No, there isn't much room in atruck. You should pack using a soft sided duffel bag or a large gym bag. WalMart sells a soft sided tote for about $35. It holds an amazing amount of things. When you plan your clothes, dress in layers. White tee shirts get dirty easy. I bought six colored tee shirts with pockets, three pair of jeans, and three flannel shirts. That, along with a heavy jacket, rounds out my clothing. You are not dressing to impress anybody. My jacket has a removable liner. That means it works well in cool weather too. If you are going in the winter you should also take some boots in case you are outside in the snow. Bring gloves too. You can always get what you need at a truck stop, but it's expensive.

In my next post I'll go into more detail on what I brought, what I should have brought, and what I could have left at home. Good luck, and happy trucking.

Manifest:

Bill of Lading

An accurate record of everything being shipped on a truck, often times used as a checklist during unloading.

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.

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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

APU:

Auxiliary Power Unit

On tractor trailers, and APU is a small diesel engine that powers a heat and air conditioning unit while charging the truck's main batteries at the same time. This allows the driver to remain comfortable in the cab and have access to electric power without running the main truck engine.

Having an APU helps save money in fuel costs and saves wear and tear on the main engine, though they tend to be expensive to install and maintain. Therefore only a very small percentage of the trucks on the road today come equipped with an APU.

by Brett Aquila

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