Comments By 18 Wheels of Steel

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Posted:  4 years, 3 months ago

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Weapons in cab?

Hopefully at some point we will see concealed weapons permits treated like driver licenses, where if issued in one state, it is good in all states. My firearm does a pretty good job of collecting dust these days, but getting busted with it out on the road seems like a pretty good way to put my trucking career to a premature end.

A suggestion that I haven't seen is a 6 D-Cell Maglite, like the cops used to use. I put an aftermarket LED bulb for extra brightness plus longer battery life. Just rest that bad boy on your shoulder and shine in the perp's eyes. If he keeps coming at you, it's pretty obvious he's up to no good and...well, I think it's pretty easy to figure out the next step. Also doubles as a good tire thumper!

Posted:  4 years, 3 months ago

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First week of Solo-ing out.

Yeah, I've been doing paper logs. not a big deal for me since they drilled that into us in school, which was like 20 weeks.

The only real problem I've had is when I had to swap trailers with another driver to get home. I basically got all my directions and info at the terminal, then left for the spot to make the swap. Another dispatcher tried to send me a message saying the swap spot had been moved, but obviously I couldn't read it, so I sat there for like a day waiting for this guy.

Finally, I called corporate and played a little phone tag to find out where the new spot was. Still made it to my delivery on time, but I'll be glad when I finally get this thing fixed.

Have you been having to do paper logs then? Is that pretty easy to pick up? I only got limited experience at the truck school I attended.

Posted:  4 years, 3 months ago

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First week of Solo-ing out.

I've just got home after my first week on the road solo. Even though the company is switching over to automatics, I managed to get my hands on a 13 speed, and a relatively new one at that. It'll likely be awhile before they pull it from service, at which point I can lease it. Despite what I have heard, shifting really doesn't get old, even in traffic jams, at least not yet.

The first few days were kind of rough, and had me questioning if I was cut out for this line of work. Backing is a whole different monster when it's other trucks and trailers that are the obstacles, instead of little orange cones. But I am getting better, and haven't managed to hit anything. It may take 10 get out and looks at times, but if that's what it takes, then that's what I will have to do.

A big piece of advice. Don't trust the GPS. It is a handy tool, but it will totally get you turned around if you depend on it. My first solo pick up was in Atlanta, and that thing had me turned around so many times. My atlas, and google maps with satellite view and street view have been invaluable.

I'd say the directions on the Qualcomm are also useful, but mine has been down ever since I seated on my own truck. So I'm in like solo hard mode right now. Once I get off of home time, I will no doubt be routed out west so I can stop at one of the main terminals to get that fixed. Until then, using street view along with calling the shipper/consignee for directions for the final approach have made a tough situation much easier.

Posted:  4 years, 4 months ago

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Werner denied employment due to medications prescribed.

Quitting an anti-depressant cold turkey is generally not advisable. If you want to go that route, talk to the doc about weaning yourself off of them.

Posted:  4 years, 4 months ago

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Werner denied employment due to medications prescribed.

It might be that specific prescription that they do not like. I am on an anti-depressant (Zoloft), and nobody seems to care. I thought it was going to be a big deal when I first took my physical before starting school. I almost failed my blood pressure test because I was so nervous about it. The doc asked how long I was on the current dose, and was I suicidal. That was the end of it. Before I decided on my current company, I was sure to ask recruiters about this, and none of them cared either.

Back in about 2010, the FAA lifted a total ban of pilots on anti-depressants. But they only allow 4 of them. Zoloft, Prozac, Celexa, and Lexapro. If I were to wager a guess, I'd say these meds have a better track record than the others, and would probably be much more acceptable to motor carriers than any others.

Sadly, there is still a stigma on these types of meds, despite millions of Americans taking them with no side effects and a much better quality of life than they would have without them. But some nutter shoots up some public place, and later it is revealed he was on these meds. He somehow becomes a representative of all those normal people out there taking these things, that one would never know about unless it was revealed to them.

I think Tractor Man and Brett have the right idea. Perhaps talk to the doc, see about changing to one of the 4 aforementioned meds, and you'll probably have an easier time of getting your career going. Another possibility is to be straight up with the recruiters from the get go about being on the meds. See who has a problem with your prescription and who doesn't.

Posted:  4 years, 4 months ago

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Starting out with an Automatic

What terminal are you training at? I'm going to Pensacola on the 19th and I'm hoping for an auto. Did you say you would be getting a new one? I'll cross my fingers and hope for the same thing. Good luck and safe driving.

Sam

About a century ago, there were some teamsters (small 't'*) that insisted that for city work, nothing beat a team of mules. Mules were more responsive around the newer automobiles, and were easy to maintain - you just feed them.

Well, gasoline powered trucks still won out. The teamsters' work got less and less until all they could do is go around neighborhoods with a mule, and sell photos of kids sitting on the mule, wearing a cowboy hat.

Moral of this story: go automatic, say goodbye to the clutch. Your career will thank you for it.

I had to switch to automatic two weeks ago. Manuals have their advantages, but on highways, hills and warehouse docks, automatics win.

* Originally "teamsters" drove teams of horses: "Teamsters". A team of horses or mules is two or more in harness.

I did my orientation in Gary, Indiana. I'm back at home now until a trainer becomes available. I'm not 100% sure what I will get, but every new truck they order is going to have an automatic. It also sounded like there are far more autos available than manuals, so the odds are heavily in favor of winding up with a new automatic once soloing out, in my estimation. That doesn't take into account what you will drive while teamed with a trainer. You might wind up doing your training time in a manual until you solo out.

I had hoped for a manual at least for a couple years, if only to cement my manual driving skill. However, between my research, plus what Errol said, it might not be a relevant skill beyond the next several years.

Posted:  4 years, 4 months ago

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Starting out with an Automatic

The company that I'm about to start with, May, is moving to an all automatic fleet. Chances are extremely good that I will wind up in one once I solo out. (At least it'll be brand new!) I'm not exactly excited about it, but with more and more OTR companies moving in this direction there doesn't seem to be much sense in fighting it. Especially if this latest generation of Autos proves to be reliable.

I trained on a manual at Baker College and road tested in one. Michigan will give you a restriction for Automatic only if you don't road test in a manual, which is why Baker trains and road tests with manuals. I was OK at it, not great but not terrible either. I would miss a gear occasionally, but was pretty good at using the throttle and stick to feel for the gear and find it again. I'm sure that it's something that I would be able to pick back up again after a few years off but what really matters is what the company thinks.

My question is, how will this affect my future employment prospects if I decide to go local or work for a different company who exclusively uses manuals?

Posted:  4 years, 4 months ago

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On the Job Search. Thinking about May Trucking.

I've returned from orientation at May. Sadly, there are no trainers available at the moment. I'll get roughly a week off, then will head out for a few weeks of being teamed with a trainer. After that, with a little luck, I will solo out and start driving on my own. The company seems pretty good from what I've experienced so far. Unfortunately, the 13 speed manuals are on the way out at May. They are converting to all automatics, and that is likely what I'll wind up in. Too bad, but inevitable if they turn out to be as dependable as they say, no matter what company.

Still, I am excited that this is about to finally begin. My plan is to get some good experience under my belt, and if down the road I still feel the itch for the manual transmission, I will consider the O/O route.

Posted:  4 years, 4 months ago

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Another Hurdle...

Just curious, what exactly is "Attempted Animal Running at Large"? Is that when you try to let your dog loose but it won't go?

I wondered that as well. When I was there for pretrial, there were a bunch of people there, and the prosecutor was basically plea bargaining everyone by throwing an "attempted" at the front of the charge. I probably could've fought mine, but it was the only way to put this thing to bed and get out on the road. Otherwise, I'd have been stuck here for at least 3 more weeks, if not longer, since nobody wanted to hire me until the case was closed. It probably saved me a little money on the fine, and might look slightly better on a background check at first glance.

Posted:  4 years, 4 months ago

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Another Hurdle...

OK, I'm probably being a worry-wart again but here goes. I'm about to ship out for orientation at May Trucking Company. During the whole process of applying for this job, I had an unresolved misdemeanor charge. The charge is Animal Running at Large. Long story short, my dog got out and attacked the neighbor's dog, causing it injury.

I was upfront about this with the recruiter and during the application process. The recruiter said it wasn't a big deal, but that I should get it resolved before starting for the company. My pretrial date was fast approaching and I was pretty sure I could get it taken care of at that time so they scheduled my orientation date and told me to keep them posted.

Fast forward to today. Pretrial. I was able to get the charge pled down to Attempted Animal Running at Large. Still a misdemeanor but I got it resolved and paid for. Case closed. I let the recruiter know the outcome of the case, and sent in the paperwork showing that it is closed. The recruiter said it isn't a problem and we are still going forward with orientation.

Good deal, right? Well, now I am not so sure. I've heard reports of people being told by the recruiter that it is OK, only to get to orientation and be sent home for whatever it was that the recruiter said not to worry about. After 6 months of school I am so close to finally realizing this goal, it would be absolutely crushing to have it taken away at this point.

So I leave it to the experts: Is this a big deal?

Posted:  4 years, 4 months ago

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On the Job Search. Thinking about May Trucking.

Hello 18 Wheels:

First, a big CONGRATULATIONS! I passed my test on Saturday. So I know you are excited.

I am in the process of going through all the background checks to go to work for May Trucking Company. I researched them thoroughly and they seem to be a great company. I'll be starting in the Pensacola terminal. Don't have a date as yet. When I passed my CDL A test last Saturday the tester asked me who I was going with. When I said it was May out of Pensacola he lit up and said, "They are a very good company." Anyway, they have the qualities I want to stay with a company until I am ready to retire. What I like is that they have a guaranteed pay per week program. You get a minimum salary per week and if you go over that with your mileage you get paid more. When I was trucking before there were a few times I when I got laid over and didn't get paid for it. I had a truck tear the front off my truck when I was parked at a truck stop. That took around 3 weeks to get fixed and I didn't get paid for that time. With May, that can't happen. Everything I've heard about them is good.

Bad Bob

Thanks! I am also going through the background check. I'd be based out of Gary, IN. Kinda long haul from where I live, but it would mean I get to take the truck home during home time. That guaranteed minimum pay does sound good, but I couldn't figure out if the bonus for going over continued after the 90 days. If it did, that option would be a no-brainer.

I really like shifting, so having a 13 speed is going to be pretty cool. I've only worked with 8 and 10 speeds so far, so hopefully it isn't too big of a learning curve. I know they are starting to mix automatics into the fleet, and that autos are probably the future of the industry in general, but if they can just hold off for a few more years, that would be great. Then if the Automatic craze turns out to be the real deal, I'll just lease my own truck with a manual and let the company drivers deal with the autos.

Posted:  4 years, 4 months ago

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On the Job Search. Thinking about May Trucking.

Congratulations on your CDL and good luck with your job search!

Thanks!

Posted:  4 years, 4 months ago

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On the Job Search. Thinking about May Trucking.

I've just completed my Truck Driving Program at Baker College and got my CDL. Now it's time for the next step, the job hunt. I'm thinking about May Trucking Company. They have a lot of things that I like. 99% no touch freight, no teaming after training, built in power inverters, manual transmissions, and many others. Also, they said they are starting to get in automatics, I'm hoping they are not trying to phase out all the manuals, although it seems like more and more this is going to be inevitable everywhere.

I'm wondering if anyone here has any history with them, or drives for them now. What do you think?

Posted:  4 years, 4 months ago

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Baker College - Michigan

Final Report: I have finished the course. I took my State test today and passed. I am now the proud owner of a class A CDL. Baker was a good school to learn how to drive trucks. It was definitely one of the longer courses out there at 20 weeks. I think they are condensing it to 16 pretty soon. That may seem like a long time, but I was totally prepared for that State test as a result.

I was able to get roughly 50 hours of road time before actually having to take the State test, and that was quite helpful, especially for getting the hang of shifting. We probably spent about the same amount of time on range/backing, and pre-trip inspection.

In the first 25% of the course, Baker expects students to pass a pre-trip that is much more thorough than the State's requirements, before being able to move on. That can be kind of intimidating. Indeed, a fair amount of students did not clear this hurdle and didn't make it to the end of the course. That being said, once you can pass their test, the State version is a cakewalk.

The second 25% will be spend working on straight backing, lane change backing/offset backing, and a 45 degree back (to get ready for that 90). That is where you will also learn about hooking and unhooking. This portion is about 5 weeks or so. At the end of it, you will take an exam where you must perform these tasks. At this point, you've completed 10 weeks, the first half of the course.

It is important to remember this is only the hands on portion of the course. There are about 8-12 hours a week of classes going on at the same time. That's where things like logs, FMCSR, trip planning, and theory (how to shift, hazards, etc.) are discussed.

After a break, you will return and complete the final 10 weeks. Its back to about 8 hours a week of class, and 5 hours a week of road time. Road time is spent with one trainer and one driver, so that 5 hours is spent entirely behind the wheel. At first, it isn't going to be pretty. We were driving either 8 speed or 10 speed manuals, and there will be plenty of gear grinding, losing your gear, etc. For me, this half of the course coincided with the rough part of this year's winter. Needless to say, I got plenty of experience driving in the snow. I think this was a good thing. I'd rather experience the winter driving with the instructor, rather than dealing with it for the first time alone, and with a full load to boot.

To finish out, you will take a mock State test at the school, which will be graded the same as the real deal. I really liked that part, as it helped me be prepared for the actual State test. A couple of the instructors also got a good idea where the actual State testing route would be, allowing for the students to practice some of the tricky scenarios they would encounter. A 135 degree right turn being one of these. That wouldn't have been fun to encounter for the first time under the pressure of the test.

To wrap up this long winded report, I will say that the school was a good choice. If you put in the effort, the instructors will do their best to help you succeed. If you think its just going to be a breeze, and don't care, you will probably end up like the 60% or so who didn't make it to the finish. There is a variety of instructors who you will work with throughout the course. This is especially nice, because there isn't always one way of doing things. You can combine what you've learned from the various instructors with various backgrounds, and put that together into a game plan that works for you. As for me, I'm ready to move on to my next step on this path and get a job in the trucking industry.

Posted:  4 years, 6 months ago

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Baker College - Michigan

6 weeks to go. Class time is pretty simple this quarter. It's been nearly all map reading. Many of the students are having a rough go at it, mostly due to them growing up in the GPS era. I'm just old enough to have used and been familiar with maps, so that's been pretty good. The real challenge thus far is the actual road time. At this point, I'm probably good enough to pass 3rd party, but I could definitely use some polishing. The last real problem I have is losing my gear on the 6th to 4th downshift (or 5th to 3rd in the 8-speeds.) Sometimes I can save it and find the gear, but other times I definitely get down to a total crawl and can finally find 1st. I know how to use road speed to find the lost gear, but for whatever reason, those low gears are very finicky. I've got a few more weeks to work on it, and then the final 2 or 3 weeks will be focused on the 90 degree back, plus the PTI stuff for 3rd party.

Posted:  4 years, 6 months ago

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Baker College - Michigan

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I was really close to enrolling there, at one time, but I was still only 6 months removed from my felonies, at that point, and the company recruiters that were at the informational seminar, advised me to wait 3 years, and try again. I was back on the other side of Michigan by then, and chose a local school, but hit another hiccup, so now, after my initial attempt at entering the industry 12 years ago, i am trying again. anyhoo, good read so far.

Stay safe

Good Luck. It is very thorough, to be sure.

Posted:  4 years, 8 months ago

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Baker College - Michigan

It has been an awful long time since my last update. The first half of the course ended this week. I'm happy to say that I have done quite well. My backing test went very well. We were tested on offset/lane change backing, straight backing, and a 45 degree back. The latter included having to get the ICC bumper within a 3 foot box. I managed to score all possible points, needing just one pull up for each side of the offset backing, and no pull ups for the 45 degree and the straight back.

I have to say, I was definitely humbled by the whole backing experience for the first couple weeks. I can say from first hand experience that those little traffic cones get squished very flat when run over by the truck. By the end though, I was getting the truck into the space within one or two pull ups every time, and with no pull ups about 50-60% of the time.

Now I am just waiting on grades for the other courses. They should all be A's with the exception of the Rules and Regulations course. Might've squeaked by with a B or B+ in that one. The final in that class was pretty tough, all based out of the FMCSR, but an awful lot of info to memorize for a test. I can see the point though. Even if I don't remember everything, being familiar with the book, and where to look for the info will be very helpful.

It'll be about a month before classes resume, which is altogether too long for me. Of the several times I've made a run at college for various things (never trucking), I've never felt that way. I'm ready to get back and start actually getting some road time in, but that will have to wait until next month.

Posted:  4 years, 9 months ago

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Baker College - Michigan

Training continues. After what seems like forever, I've finally got to hit the range with a truck. I worked on straight line backing which was pretty easy. Then I moved onto offset backing, which is a little more tricky. Next time I'm out there, I will be trying to find some kind of reference point to know when to cut the wheel back in the opposite direction. They are doing it by counting seconds before turning, but that seems pretty inexact to me.

Posted:  4 years, 9 months ago

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Baker College - Michigan

Secretary of State had a new computer system which was messing up and wouldn't allow them to add my doubles/triples endorsement for some reason.

I reviewed my FMCSA handbook and it turns out the computer wasn't messing up at all. Doubles/Triples endorsement is not allowed on a CLP. Only Tankers.

Posted:  4 years, 9 months ago

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Baker College - Michigan

Another step closer... I now have my chauffer's license plus my commercial learners permit. I've passed my tests for tankers and doubles/triples as well. Secretary of State had a new computer system which was messing up and wouldn't allow them to add my doubles/triples endorsement for some reason. They filed it away that I passed the test and I'm guessing that will be added on later. Worst case, I'll have to retake doubles/triples, which really wouldn't be a big deal anyway.

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