Profile For Mark B.

Mark B.'s Info

  • Location:
    WI

  • Driving Status:
    Experienced Driver

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  • Joined Us:
    3 years, 8 months ago

Mark B.'s Bio

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Posted:  3 weeks, 5 days ago

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My understanding of the split sleeper berth rule

Pretty good way to sum it up, Susan.

Posted:  3 weeks, 5 days ago

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Shifting patterns while approaching a Stop Light. PLEASE HELP!

Thanks CWC I really do appreciate your input. Please humor me, I know you don’t know the truck etc but in a 9 speed as I’m approaching the light what gear should I be in. Instructors have said 5th. Or should it be lower say 4th? And if I’m in 5th coming up to the stop and the light turns green, I should downshift I’m guessing correct?

In a 9-speed, personally I would downshift to 4th for this reason. It should still take off in 5th if the wheels were still moving, but it might be rough and you would have to ride the clutch pedal. I assumed you were testing in a 10-speed.

Posted:  3 weeks, 5 days ago

View Topic:

Shifting patterns while approaching a Stop Light. PLEASE HELP!

The short answer is if the wheels are still turning, and you are still in 5th gear, leave it in gear and gently let the clutch pedal back out. Feel for the clutch to grab without letting the engine stall - don't dump the clutch. Assuming you are driving a late-model truck, you should have more than enough torque at idle to continue moving with an empty/light trailer with little problem in that low gear. If you take it out of gear at that low of a speed, just clutch and move the selector stick directly to 4th or 3rd - you don't need to rev the engine to match road speed if you are only moving 1-2 mph. Taking a grind is worth one point, stalling the truck or impeding traffic is an auto-fail.

On the exam, keep it simple, and don't forget to breathe! 😃

Posted:  3 weeks, 5 days ago

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Going to CDL School soon and nervous about backing a trailer!

Chris, they should ease you into the backing exercises. You'll start with learning to straight line back, how to back around a corner (a 90 deg back, but in a wide open area), how to serpentine back (through a cone slalom), and how to do a 45 deg back before you get to the maneuver skills exercises. Crawl it - the slower your trailer moves, the easier it is to see and correct problems. When you get to your training location, keep your phone in your pocket and forget about YouTube - you didn't sign up for the YouTube CDL school - they will have a way that they want you to do things. Watch your instructors, ask for examples, ask questions. When you aren't backing, observe your classmates and ask yourself "what are they doing right", "what would you be doing differently" if you were in the hot seat right then. Ask for a couple of chances to back between trailers, not just the cones!

Simulators are a great tool for certain tasks - perfect for teaching the basics of shifting or winter driving - but you'll need to be in and around the truck to get the perspective you need to build your backing skills.

Also, don't run the cones over unless you want an angry instructor. Cones are actually pretty expensive. If it doesn't look right, just stop the truck and check your position before you continue your back.

Posted:  3 weeks, 5 days ago

View Topic:

My understanding of the split sleeper berth rule

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When you get to the wash rinse repeat what do you mean. You made a nice easy to understand example but what will your clock look like at the wash rinse repeat.

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So this won't be as simple, but really nothing about Split Sleeper is simple... While you must get 10 hours of break time, with at least 8 of those hours in the Sleeper, you don't strictly have to do 8/2hrs working, there are other ways to split it up. Notice that I do not take a 30 minute break. It can get really complicated, this is just an example.

E.G., starting a fresh shift following a 10hr reset:

1st 8 hours total working ; 1 hr spent On-Duty, 7 hours driving ; remaining 11hr clock -> 04:00 ; remaining 14 hr clock -> 06:00
1st 8 hour break ; After 8 hours consecutive Sleeper Berth, my clocks reset to the times remaining when I made a status change to "SB"
11hr clock -> 04:00 ; 14 hr clock -> 06:00 to start the next stint.

2nd work period is 3 hrs Driving ; remaining 11hr clock -> 01:00 ; remaining 14 hr clock -> 03:00
2 hour break ; 2 hours Off Duty + SB

At the end of the 2 hour break, because I have completed a total of 10 hours off duty, my clocks gain back everything since the end of the first 8 hr break period. Basically, whatever the time was at the end of that first 8 hour break, my 14hr clock now starts from then. Since that time, I have used 3 hours of 11hr clock and 5 hours of 14hr clock (the 14hr clock is not paused by the short break).
I could start a new 8/2 cycle beginning with 11hr clock -> 08:00 ; 14hr clock -> 09:00 and repeat the 8/2 split.

You can take the long break (8 hours SB) or the short break (2 hours Off+SB) first, doesn't matter. But again, without a teammate I would break the cycle with a 10hr reset. I only run "Eights & Twos" when I have a weird appointment time and I triple check my HOS before I end my breaks.

If this seems like word salad, I get it. The best explanation/examples of this that I have ever seen is in that $5 J.J. Keller "HOS" manual that you can buy at most truck stops.

Posted:  3 weeks, 5 days ago

View Topic:

Terminated by Schneider

That's pretty much it, Bruce. Drivers are the only ones in the company that actually make the money. Everyone else is an expense. If you can't retain good drivers, you go out of business. We've all known plenty of bad managers, but it is very difficult to recruit good drivers, and there is real incentive to try and retain decent employees in trucking.

The entire O&T department were experienced drivers. We never made a decision to terminate a driver or a CDL trainee lightly because we all knew that for many people getting their CDL is a such life changing event. I saw drivers that had made some really bad decisions on the road get a second (sometimes a third) chance simply because of their humble attitudes in the aftermath. The ones that made excuses and blamed everyone else generally had a history of disrespectful behavior or complaints in their driver diaries, and they didn't last past the time it took to process the paperwork for dismissal.

Posted:  3 weeks, 5 days ago

View Topic:

My understanding of the split sleeper berth rule

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When you take an 8 hour break, you get back exactly what you had prior to said break. You drive for a while and take the 2 hour, you get back the remainder, correct experienced drivers?

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Sounds correct to me. Make sure that the 8 hour breaks are logged as 8 consecutive hours on "Sleeper Berth" - no "Off Duty" time will count toward this reset. When you take a full 10hr break, it will reset your 11/14hr clocks to their normal start times and break the cycle.

A good way to run this is:

  • 8hrs On Duty + Drive
  • 8hrs consecutive SB
  • 2hrs On Duty + Drive
  • 2hrs SB+Off Duty

Wash, Rinse, Repeat.

You could technically keep doing this until your 70hr clock runs out, but I wouldn't recommend it. It gets tiring. Split Sleeper works best for coast-to-coast team operations where two drivers alternate shifts to keep the truck rolling as much as possible. Also, communicate with your DM/FM about what you are doing because it can confuse your load planners when they try to predict your availability for future loads.

Posted:  3 weeks, 5 days ago

View Topic:

Terminated by Schneider

New drivers, just like Brett and the Mods said, I wouldn't believe a word of this story. I used to work as an Orientation & Training Supervisor at a large company (~2,400 drivers and a large CDL training program) before I decided to go back out over the road. When drivers were referred to us over critical events requiring intervention, most took ownership of their behavior and really wanted to improve their skills. But every now and again I would get a "Christian T" sent to us from the Operations department. Even in cases where the issue was purely behavioral - like this one - that company still made an active effort to retain every one of its drivers.

Schneider and other medium to mega carriers keep extensive records of our events, conversations (both phone recordings and QualComm/PeopleNet/TruckPC messages), and telemetry/videos. If HR decided it was time to terminate this guy, they had more than enough evidence to protect against a lawsuit and an unemployment claim. I pretty sure they talked to every staff member that interacted with Christian from the operations department to the training department before they made the decision. I'm willing to bet there was a documented history of behavioral issues. There usually is. It's actually really difficult to fire drivers in this industry; company owners are very sensitive to driver retention losses and don't want to be sued for wrongful termination. The company has to have its ducks in a row before terminating a driver.

I don't know exactly how Schneider does their DAC reporting, but this sounds like he was terminated for insubordination. That's most likely what will be on his HireRight report. Probably not going to impress many recruiters with that.

If you end up getting called back to a terminal for some additional training, swallow your ego, be willing to jump through a few hoops, and get something positive out of the experience that makes you a better driver, and move on down the road. If you don't understand why you are being coached by the office staff, tell them as much. Ask for additional training! Throwing away a career instead of seeking mentorship is just foolish.

Posted:  1 year, 4 months ago

View Topic:

Driving Manual??

The biggest thing to keep in mind when you are learning to operate a manual transmission is to cut yourself some slack. You are going to grind gears and miss shifts and stall out. That’s okay, the equipment is tough. Don’t panic, take a breath, and begin again. Keep at it - with some time and patience, it will become easier and easier.

Posted:  1 year, 4 months ago

View Topic:

What is your money maker?

All of the above replies are great, and I want to mention one more thing that may not be as obvious to a new driver as it sounds: learn the ins and outs of your company’s pay scales/system and policies. Even if you are in a fixed-annual increase system, there may be other special pays and bonuses available that you will want to know about.

My company uses a merit-based pay increase system where we can see pay increases after a productive calendar quarter. It’s a fairly complicated system, and there is a transition period from a student’s initial training pay onto the merit system that many of our first-year drivers didn’t take the time (or just didn’t know) to learn. Performance during and after this period can mean the difference between an industry average annual income and a reasonably comfortable one at the end of the first year, and it makes a world of difference in the second year.

Understanding my company’s system informs how I run and helps me set myself up for long term success. The biggest benefit is that I don’t have to kill myself to make a good paycheck.

Posted:  2 years, 5 months ago

View Topic:

Looking to go with Roehl or TMC - Couple of questions about the hiring process.

When I joined Roehl, it took about a week from the day I accepted their offer to the day I showed up for training. This was mostly time to get the physical and drug testing done before reporting. I already had my permit.

I can't really speak on their requirements for moving violations, but I can tell you that our recruiters are back to work today (I was at the corporate HQ this morning), if you want to give them a call.

I've always heard good things about TMC, except they don't allow pets. I have a flatbed buddy who turned them down over that. I can also tell you that our pay structures are different (anybody from TMC correct me if I'm wrong). Roehl's pay isn't seniority-based, it is productivity-based with different base cpm rates depending on what type of freight you are hauling (van, reefer, flatbed, curtain, regional, local, dedicated). They do pay increases quarterly and you can come pretty close to topping out after a year, depending on how you run. Many drivers do not like this system, but they also don't read/negotiate their contracts or the company policies. If you learn how to use it, it works roehlly well.

Posted:  2 years, 5 months ago

View Topic:

TMC, Prime, or Roehl

Roanpony, I can't speak much about TMC or Prime (I understand both to be good companies), but I got my CDL through Roehl and have been with them over a year now.

I am a national reefer driver, but we have a pretty robust flatbed and specialized division and they do not charge drivers to use securement equipment. Our CDL training program is 3-4 weeks, 6 days a week at one of our terminals - flatbedders usually train at Marshfield, WI, Gary, IN or Conley, GA. We also have an outstanding training program that partners with Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton, WI, but they do not pull flatbed trailers at that location. All expenses paid during this first phase. It was not "a chicken crap boot camp experience" - for a large company, Roehl was sincere in their efforts to safely train and prepare its new drivers. I worked with multiple trainers who had worked in different segments of this industry and they were dedicated professionals that set me up for success. We did a lot of backing practice and city/close quarters driving.

During the next phase of training, the over the road with a trainer portion, my driver trainer was a two-million mile safe driver who had been with the company since 1998. He pushed me to prepare to go solo, but never raised his voice or berated me. I wasn't his logbook; when I was on-duty, so was he (Roehl requires a minimum of 6-hours overlap). The final four months of training was as a part of a training fleet - I had a fleet manager with a small board dedicated to grooming new solo drivers. I operated as a solo driver, but I still had additional training requirements to complete and skills testing. By the end, as many experienced drivers say, there was always something new to learn, but I was confident in my ability to plan and complete my trips, and I have enjoyed a very successful first year.

We have a lot of veterans working here, including senior management, support staff, drivers, and myself. They are good people who have always been honest with me. I've worked hard to develop good relationships with my fleet managers, load planners, maintenance, and regular customers. It has paid off. If you can be patient with people and develop those relationships, you will be successful at any of these companies. Roehl is not as strict as TMC with appearance (we don't have uniforms or anything), but like anywhere, it doesn't go unnoticed and they have expectations of good hygiene and maintaining the equipment. Our drivers are pretty tight-knit and we actively police up our slobs and super truckers.

Like Brett said, we do get a lot of people who come through the school houses with the wrong attitude, unrealistic expectations of what they are getting into, people who signed a contract without reading, or who otherwise fought the corporate culture during their time here. They don't stay very long, and end up owing the company repayment for their training. 3/4 of my training class left before their first year. The current contract for getting your CDL with Roehl is 120,000 paid miles, which works out to about a year, or maybe a little more depending on how you work. I was able to complete mine in just over 11 months on the national reefer fleet. Honestly, if you aren't willing or able to commit to at least year with one company, you are hurting your future employment opportunities anyway. If those folks had taken the time to read through this site, I think they would have had a much easier time.

Let me know if you have any specific questions and I will be happy to reply. Best of luck!

Posted:  3 years, 7 months ago

View Topic:

So, about that truck driver shortage ...

I would beg to differ. I don't share the view that pay should be purely based on the level of education one has. How about the level of risk one takes, not just with their own lives, but those of others. One moment of inattentiveness as a truck driver can have dire consequences, yet the pay nowhere near compensates for this level of responsibility. Let's not sell ourselves short by thinking that just because a job needs no post-secondary education, that it is not worthy of a decent paycheck. And also the amount of hours a trucker puts in is way more than in any other job. If we don't value ourselves or our time then no one else will.

Couldn't agree more, Rob.

Brett, I've read your comments in several threads where you talk about how drivers' pay has stagnated over the years - like it has with most blue collar jobs. I am curious: what is your take on companies' ability to raise driver pay? Having discussed the market with several veteran drivers in my area, they all seemed to think that the transportation industry has become so ultra-competitive that company profit margins are too small to afford the increase in pay. I remember you pointing out thin profit margins and high expenses are pitfalls for Owner Operators, although I have met a few independent O/Os who said they are doing very well for themselves (some folks are more disciplined/savvy business owners than others). It seems to me that if companies were serious about recruiting and retaining the best qualified drivers, it would make sense for them to offer a better compensation package. Although it also occurs to me that high rates of attrition are used to the company's advantage...

Posted:  3 years, 8 months ago

View Topic:

DOT Physical and Medical card

I may be totally wrong, but our Doctor said the urine sample he collects at the Physical is only for Kidney screening and something about sugar in the urine? I really don't care just like to know facts.

Although my company ordered their own drug test at the same time, the paperwork I received for this one was a federal form that specifically says it is a DOT drug panel for DOT and the FMCSA. They also did the local tests for excess sugar, blood, and protein for my certification.

I saw on the last page of the FMCSA medical form where it says that a drug test is not required for the two-year medical certification, so maybe this was just my company being proactive?

Posted:  3 years, 8 months ago

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DOT Physical and Medical card

I don't know about Illinois, but Wisconsin required a medical card before receiving a permit. Initial drug testing was a part of the medical exam. The DMV let me take my knowledge/endorsement exams before my physical, but I couldn't actually get my permit until after I could present the medical card.

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