I turned 21 in 79 and started trucking sometime in 1980. My experience is 10 car Cottrell Stinger, detachable gooseneck, double gooseneck, flatbed, lowboy, end dump, belly dump, pneumatic tanker, fuel tanker, doubles, dry box, reefer, piggybacks. My specialty and passion is hauling cars but have been an independent truck mover since 7/ 13. I have traveled to all 48 states and all provinces of Canada except the Yukon and Alaska. I have also picked up in Nova Scotia.
I started in a 1972 C Series Ford single axle with a single axle trailer.
I'm also an active aviation enthusiast with a Private Pilot License.
Posted: 7 years ago
How I Learned To Adjust My Brakes (And Clean out My drawers)
Thanks for posting Dave. You brought back some memories for me travelling those routes.
I'm a linehaul driver out of Carlisle, PA and frequently run the hazmat route when I have bulk or stuff not allowed by the Penna Turnpike through the tunnels. Depending on the location of my meet, from Western PA to Carlisle, I'll take 79 - 68 - 70 - 81, or PA 31 - 30 - 70 - 81.
There's a running debate amongst linehaul drivers on which route is better during bad weather. 68 definitely has it's grades. The one grade that you descend into the town of Cumberland is a doozy. I've seen drivers underestimate that grade and smoke their brakes.
As far as adjusting your own brakes, that's a no-no where I work, probably where most drivers work in this day and age. Most companies what their mechanics to make those kind of adjustments. I know when my brakes need adjusting, it's not hard to tell, and I take my set to the shop (I pull doubles).
Yea, I forgot to mention that these were the old style breaks that required a 9/16 wrench and a hammer. Today's breaks are better left to mechanics. They are supposedly auto adjusting. I assume that means if they are working correctly. For that reason, I like the old style myself because I can make sure they are right myself but gone are those days.
Posted: 7 years ago
Dave, this is all great stuff and we appreciate it but you're starting to scare me a bit here. Is this an entire book you're going to post in our forum today at one time? Because if you have a series of good stories and lessons I'd love to post them on the website in an organized manner of some sort. And putting them here in the forum is actually a good idea. But you're putting up a whole lot of stuff at once. Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll talk.
But from what little I've read so far I really like your stuff.
No sir I'm done for the day. These are stories that I've written and have saved. I'm always willing to share my stories with young drivers in order to help them become better drivers and not make the same mistakes that I have is all. Let me know if I can change anything to accommodate you in your goals for Trucking Truth.
Posted: 7 years ago
I have been a trucker for many, many years. I've seen a lot happen in this business. I've driven in some very nasty weather and have been stuck in truck stops for a day or 2 waiting for hazardous weather and road conditions to pass. I've also seen many a tractor trailer end up in the ditch or median because of foolish thinking; Foolish thinking that has ruined careers or cost people their lives and left families without a mom or dad. People get pressured by dispatchers to get a load there on time when they've never even driven a truck in their life. Drivers get in a hurry to make up for lost time etc. You see, the problem with making qualified driver trainers out of drivers with only a year or less of experience is that they haven't learned to distinguish between what they see as urgent and what their dispatcher sees as urgent. As a result, they are not able to properly inform the student about this scenario. The road is filled with improperly trained drivers under a lot of pressure which are accidents waiting to happen.
Sometimes in this business we need to re-evaluate things and make important decisions that only we the driver can make. One of the best decisions I ever made was to budget my money so that I can grab a hotel from time to time; especially when weather circumstances warrant doing so. I've even done it for 2 nights. When it comes to making important decisions in life, I ask myself 4 basic questions.
1. What is the best thing that will happen if I do this? 2. What is the best thing that will happen if I don't do this? 3. What is the worst thing that will happen if I do this? 4. What is the worst thing that will happen if I don't do this?
One of my signatures below is taken from the aviation industry that I have also been a part of.
Let not thine confidence exceed thy abilities, for broad and vast shall be thy means of destruction.
Posted: 7 years ago
From Twin Sticks To Auto Shifts
After 35 years of banging gears I will take Auto shift every time. I absolutely love the auto shift transmissions available today. I move trucks piggyback out of San Antonio, TX and I drive all new trucks. Many of them come with auto shift transmissions these days and they are very reliable. You can place the switch in auto or manual shift. You know it's funny but you can always spot a new driver belly aching about how automatics are unreliable or getting excited because he has just been assigned a truck with a 13 or 18 speed transmission. Then even though he/she has only 20,000 on board they feel a need to go through every single gear. LMAO I think we all used to be that way.
While we are on the topic, you know it's funny but you simply can't compare today's trucks to their predecessors. Modern new drivers have no idea how easy they have it with their walk ins and everything else on board these days. They are as different as a DC3 aircraft and a commercial airliner. When I was about 22, one of the first trucks I drove back in '80 or '81 had a duplex or sometimes called a twin stick. You had two shifters; The main and the auxiliary. Today, they are bundled together in the same box, roughly speaking, with the two gearshifts replaced by the shift lever and a hi-lo range selector, roughly equal to today's 9- or 10-speeds. Now, let's see if I can get this right.
First gear on the main box, low then into high on the auxiliary. That's the easy part. Next, shift the main into second, but before engaging the clutch, you pull the auxiliary out of high, rev the engine, slip it into low and engage the clutch. Now you're in second low. Depending on the load, you might have to do that all the way up through the gears 'till you get to top speed. More likely, you'll cheat and run through a few gears in low before you have to start splitting them. It only gets worse when you get into the 3- and 4-speed auxiliaries; today's 13 and 18 speeds.
Shift timing had to be impeccable, and good drivers could often skip shift and even split odd gears. If you missed a shift, it would bite you but good. The teeth on the gears were spaced pretty widely apart, so there was a good chance that a partially engaged gear would kick the shifter back. If you were lucky, the meaty part of the palm of your hand took the brunt of it. Drivers have had wrists and fingers broken by the kickback.
If you happened to miss a split shift, you wound up in what they called double-nothin' -- both transmissions in neutral. That often meant a full stop to get the thing back into gear, though some of the drivers made claims to finessing them back into gear, if they could remember which gear they were in. Personally, I haven't seen this done without a very unhealthy grinding of the gears. You may have seen pictures or heard stories from older drivers about drivers with one arm wrenched through the steering wheel gripping a shifter while the other arm grapples with the other stick. God forbid you happen to hit a pothole at that moment, because the big steering wheel with all its leverage could whip around and easily break an arm.
Ahh... the good ole days!
Posted: 7 years ago
I stopped at a Pilot in Richfield, Ohio the other day (1/26/16) to throw my lunch in the mic. Yes' I'm a local driver. When I pulled into this rather tight truck parking Pilot, I noticed a truck was parked at a 45 degree angle to his trailer blocking other trucks. It turned out that the driver swiped (tail swing) the truck parked on the left and they were waiting for the police to show up and file a report. The name on the truck implied that it was more than like likely a low time driver. I will save the company further embarrassment by keeping their name anonymous. I believe that truck stop incursions happen for one of two reasons. Poor training and/or Lazy with a capital L. Trucks were backed up against a building facing other trucks that were backed up against a fence. The room allotted for maneuvering was minimal and would pose a challenge for a seasoned driver much more a low time driver. The truck stop is partly the blame for painting the lines the way they did. They should have been painted at a 45 deg angle.
Accidents are no small matter and they do go on your record for a significant period of time. Some will mean termination. Drivers need to take this more serious. Some drivers don't ask for help; someone to keep a watchful eye because they have too much pride and don't want to look inferior. Some drivers are very lazy. You can always tell because they are creeping back slower than a turtle. (literally) The reason being is because they don't know what is really going on back there and are backing with blind faith. Very bad idea!! One tool you can add to your collection if you find yourself in this situation frequently and are not afraid to ask for help is a cheap pair of Walkie Talkies. Communication is vital. I was not there to see it happen but I do know this. All accidents are preventable.
Posted: 7 years ago
How I Learned To Adjust My Brakes (And Clean out My drawers)
One of my first jobs in trucking was hauling ship containers out of Baltimore, MD to Cleveland, Ohio. Sometimes I hauled pallets of Oxidizer (Haz Mat) out of Wilmington, DE Sometimes I hauled Haz Mat out of Baltimore. You can't run the toll road(called the green stamp) with Haz mat because of the tunnels in PA so instead of turning right following I-70 into Breezewood you stayed West on what then was called Hwy 40/48. I-68 has since been built leaving 40/48 off limits for trucks I believe. If you've ever driven across I-68, you know it is no easy task. There are plenty of steep grades and plenty of curves with at least one mandatory stop.
Hwy 40/48 was not much different other than it wasn't a divided highway. It was mostly 2 lane highway with a passing lane from time to time. And when I say steep I'm talking anywhere from 6 to 12% grades across MD and PA. Try that with no engine Brake. Most trucks back then were not equipped with Jake Brakes like they are today. I don't remember precisely what model truck I was driving that night other than it was a cab over. If I remember correctly, the 48 foot trailer came out sometime in the 80's so I was probably pulling a 45' trailer. I drove a lot of different trucks during those days as a lease driver. Most everything I know about trucking today I had to learn on my own and some of it I had to learn the hard way. The guy that taught me how to drive didn't have more than a couple years of experience himself. When I look back, I really didn't learn much from him except for a few basics.
Loaded to the max within the legal gross weight limits I made my way across 40/48. I was a young driver wet behind the ears and I had no formal mountain pass training(if it even existed back then) I had trucks passing me a lot of the time and behind me some of the time giving me the impression that I was Joe Slow. I became very intimidated by all this, never considering how heavy they were compared to me and started trying to keep up with the other drivers. This particular day which was in fact my first time across this route was a day that I will never, ever forget. I had many instances such as this one but this was the daddy of them all. If you don't have anyone teach you how to safely negotiate a mountain pass with an 80,000 pound rig, you're probably going to be more challenged than any cowboy in any rodeo event and your ride to glory is going to last a lot longer than 8 seconds.
The problem with going down mountain passes too fast especially when you are heavy is that you have to keep hitting the brakes in order to slow down. The faster you are traveling, the more heat you are going to generate when you press the brakes. After awhile, you can start to see what looks like smoke coming off your wheels. You've also noticed that your brakes are not working as well as they once did. I'm not sure which of those comes first, the smoke or the loss of brake power but I do know that the only option is to hit the brakes harder. This results in even hotter brakes, more smoke and less braking. If you keep this up you will eventually have a fire which I have experienced too. You get the picture. Now here comes this sign letting you know that you only have 3 more miles down to the bottom of the hill. (That makes me feel better)This event will cause your whole life to flash through your mind and it is the loneliest feeling in the world knowing that you can't seem to slow this speeding truck down this hill and around these curves hoping not to flip it over.
I was all over the CB radio that night and one driver told me about a mandatory pull off when I got to the top of the next pass. He told me that If I pulled in there and parked that he would come check it out for me. This was back in the days when drivers would actually pull over and take the time to help you. Of course we didn't have cell phones and Qualcomm's back then like today. I pulled into this pull off area and set my brakes. I started to climb out of my cab when I noticed my truck still wanted to roll. I quickly got back in and mashed the brakes, popped it in granny gear and turned off the key until the other driver arrived. This guy was a flatbedder and used some wood to chock the wheels. Next he brings out this hammer and 9/16 box wrench and proceeds to teach me how to adjust brakes. You normally turn the bolt on the slack adjuster clockwise until it is snug and then back 1/2 a turn. Typically, out of adjustment brakes are no more than a full turn. We were getting 2 or 3 turns out of each adjuster before turning back 1/2.
It wasn't until a few years later that I learned how to safely negotiate a pass but from that day forward I was a brake adjusting fool. Every time I got into a different truck and trailer you could find me under my truck/trailer adjusting ALL of my brakes. I could tell you countless horrifying stories of experiences I had going down mountain passes because No one ever taught me how. I've never had to use one of those runaway truck ramps and due to fear of the unknown I'm not sure it even crossed my mind or not because more often than not I was holding on for dear life.
I'm really glad they have schools that teach young drivers how to avoid these near fatal mistakes so they don't have to go through the trouble some of us older folks have had to go through and lived to talk about it. I hope you enjoyed!
Posted: 7 years ago
Decision Making And Hazardous Attitudes
I would like to borrow something from my aviation community that I believe all of us drivers can benefit from. It's called Decision making and hazardous attitudes.
Basically there are five different human attitudes which can and will affect how a pilot/driver makes a decision. Understanding how they apply to your flying/driving is important. These attitudes are:
•Anti-Authority: "Don't tell me!" - When people have this attitude they may resent having someone tell them what to do or they think of rules and regulations as silly or unneeded. •Impulsive: "Do something quickly!" - This is what people do when they feel the need to do something, anything and now. Usually they do the first thing that pops up in them. •Invulnerability: "It won't happen to me!" - Accidents happen only to other people. Thinking this may lead to taking more unnecessary risks. •Macho: "I can do it!" - These guys we all know. Trying to prove that they are better than anyone else and taking more risks. Both sexes are susceptible to this attitude. •Resignation: "What's the use?" - These people think that they do not make a great deal of difference in what happens to them. When things are going well they think: "Good luck". And when things are not so well, they seem to think that someone is out to get them.
Most people have a mix of these attitudes with them since the day they were born and some attitudes are more prominent than others. It makes them what they are, interesting!
Now, here are the antidotes.
Hazardous Attitude Antidote
Anti-authority: Don't tell me! Follow the rules, they are usually right. Do not let your independence bend the rules to get your way, as it will backfire.
Impulsive: Do something quickly! Not so fast, think first. Most situations in the ****pit do not require 1 second snap decisions and the pilot has time to evaluate and choose an action.
Invulnerability: It won't happen to me! It could happen to me. Because you never had an engine fail(in the air) or weather turn bad it does not mean it will never happen to you.
Macho: I can do it! Taking changes is foolish. Although a certain amount of confidence is required for flying/driving and you are feeling more capable when your skills improve, its important to keep a realistic view.
Resignation: What's the use? I'm not helpless, I can make a difference. Sometimes outside pressures will push you to leave the final go no-go decision to an external factor in stead of keeping to a safety mindset and decide for yourself if a flight/trip is safe.
Balanced It is doubtful that anyone could fly an airplane without a balance of these attitudes. The perfect pilot/driver (if there is such a pilot/driver) has a mix of equally balanced characteristics. But as no one is perfect some of these characteristics will be stronger than others in a person.
Conclusion To prevent one of these attitudes becoming too dominant or stronger than others, you need to remember the antidotes for each of them. And I mean by heart! So that they are immediately available to you when you need them.
Although you need to bear in mind that recognizing your own character attitudes or peculiarities can be difficult at times, it helps when someone explains your actions as they saw them. Or at least spend some time on self reflection, rethink what you did and why.
Posted: 7 years ago
I'm A Police Officer, I Can Help You.
Many years ago, I worked as a lease driver for a company out of Cleveland, Ohio then called Transportation Unlimited. As a lease driver I drove for many different trucking outfits back then; Advance, Olin, Norandex, True Value, Revco, Stouffers, Parker, and TRW just to name a few. I drove for a company several times that hauled fiberglass insulation rolls. Don't remember their name. On this particular trip, I delivered to some place down in West By God Virginia. I have many stories that I can tell you about my earliest experiences in that state. I have to tell you that in those days, I did a lot of drinking. After all, I was a truck driver and I thought all drivers parked their trucks at a watering hole to have fun with lonely women at the end of a long hard day behind the wheel. I can testify that this lifestyle can lead to foggy thinking the next morning.
I thought that the care free life was what we all signed up for. For me it usually meant crazy long nights of partying and a lack of sleep followed by trying to make my appointments on time. I'm pleased to tell you that I haven't drank for many years and my life is much easier now. After one such night, I had to find out where this place was that was waiting on me. They didn't have GPS like they do now. Hey there's a police officer, I'll ask him. I go over to this police officer and show him the company address I was looking for. His partner comes over to take a look at it and they start discussing the best route. He then asks me, how heavy are you? And I replied, not heavy at all. I have a trailer of insulation that probably weighs less than 5,000 LBS(if I remember right). They both just smiled and the one said, just follow me, I'll take you right to it. I said alright, that's great!
So I hop up in this old 1974 International cab over, put her in gear and proceeded to follow this police cruiser. I don't remember it being much further than 3 or 4 miles away but it was a trip that I would not soon forget. I don't remember where I was in WV at the time or what road they took me down but I can testify that it was anything but straight and flat. I tried to keep up with them but this road they took me down had turns that were so sharp and hills that were so close to each other that the entire front tandem of the trailer completely lifted off the ground at least twice that I can remember. I slowed way down and was wondering if I was going to make it all the way or not. The cruiser in front of me slows down coming out of the curve ahead of me to watch me carefully and is now pointing 180 degrees in the opposite direction of where I'm pointing going into the curve. On going traffic that managed to squeeze by were shaking their heads wondering what planet I came from bringing a semi down this road like this. LOL
I'm happy to say that I managed to get to the customer without any damage or having to report to my employer that I flipped their truck over. When we got there, the officer came over and apologized and felt really bad. He said that I didn't look that long to him and he obviously misjudged the road. I thanked him and we parted ways. I'm thinking to myself as they drove away "Where in the hell did these people come from and how could they not know that trucks obviously don't belong on that road? Was there a road restriction? If there was, I don't remember it. After all, I had the best escort in the city; The police! Right?
Lessons learned: I have a great respect for the police department and they are not the enemy as have recently been portrayed. They are also not qualified to escort a commercial vehicle as they did with me. When we get help from anyone such as I did we shouldn't assume that these people are professionals. We need to ask the proper questions regarding length, height, weight and restrictions. My grandfather retired from truck driving after 40+ years. I proudly brought my first truck over to his house to show him one time and before we parted ways he left me with a pearl of wisdom that is one of my signatures below.
Truck driving is a thinking job. When you quit thinking, that's when you're going to get yourself into trouble.
This I have experienced several times in my career.
Posted: 7 years ago
I'm 57 and started driving semi trucks sometime in 1980. I see a lot of trucks pulled over these days and I know it is because they were speeding. The term I like to use is "driving like a maniac." I remember being in their shoes when I was younger and had so much to prove to the world. I was out of control from the day I was born and it took me many years to slow down and reinvent myself. I had my license suspended before I was 17 due to having earned at least 6 speeding tickets, some of which cost me some jail time. When I started driving semi's, I was awarded several speeding tickets along with one head on collision in 1981 and a reckless operation. That was in less than 1 year of commercial driving. If that isn't enough, your learners permit that you get when you are 16; It got suspended. I was charged with driving a vehicle without a licensed driver. You could say that I had a lot of trouble getting out of the chute. My last ticket was in 1996 going into Blythe, CA.
I have worked very hard to get where I am now and in October of this year 2016 I will have 20 years without any charges on my CDL. I'm reminded of what it was like when the CDL was instituted back in the late 80's. I knew a few drivers who's driving records had caught up with them. Before the CDL came out, if you had accumulated too many tickets you could simply go to another state and apply for a drivers license and you were back in business. These drivers were now faced with paying back every ticket they had been awarded in all states that they had held a license. For some it ended their careers.
In hindsight, especially after that accident, I could have saved myself a lot of trouble if I had simply learned how to slow down. After all, I wasn't making any better money by putting my license on the line. The money I made from speeding and dodging scale houses was the change I had in my pocket. After that accident, nobody worth driving for would even look at me for over 3 years. I'm not OTR anymore but if I was I wouldn't accept a load from a shipper that I knew I would have to break my personal boundaries i.e. sleep, hours of service, speeding etc. to deliver on time or beat traffic or weather.
Everyone today is in a hurry driving like I used to drive; driving like a maniac, going absolutely nowhere, following too close, driving too fast for conditions and not paying attention to the big picture. I just kick back and set my cruise to no faster than 3 miles over the speed limit. Can I get away with more? Probably depending on where I am but I have come to the conclusion that speed limits are posted for a reason and I have even more recently subscribed to driving no faster than the posted speed limit which in todays world usually means that I'm the slowest person on the road. And when the road starts getting congested, I remind myself that I don't have anything to gain by passing other vehicles and I don't have to drive the speed limit. It's only a limit and I can drive slower if need be.
For me, it's not what I can get away with but rather what is the law? It's a matter of principle. If we look around us we have little by little become a nation of impatient law breakers who have no respect for the other driver. This is exactly how I was when I was younger. Do you think I'm exaggerating? Think about it. I'm probably going to sound a little harsh here but it's an uncontestable fact.
When you speed, you break the law. When you break the law, you are committing a crime. Speeding is a criminal offense.
If you are a speeder who has charges on your record I would like to encourage you to reflect on what you have gained by speeding other than violations. Today is as good as any to reinvent yourself and simply say "No More."
I haven't seen any blue lights behind me in many years and what's nice for me is that when I apply for a job today, within 48 hours they are calling me and asking me "When can you start?"
Posted: 7 years ago
Hotel For The Night
Sound's like you have a good dispatcher. I've met a lot of good people like that these days. I guess things are changing because I remember when things weren't so nice. We sure took a lot of pressure when we got on the phone. Of course when you think about it, the only time we had to take it was when we called them from a payphone because we didn't have cell phones and QUALCOMM's like they have today. And there was absolutely no sympathy if you were late. To the back of the pack you went which usually meant the end of the day if they had time for you. It was not uncommon to have to wait until morning. That is why I became a car hauler. No appointments. Same way with piggybacks.