Comments By Larry E.

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  • Larry E.
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  • 8 years, 10 months ago
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Posted:  6 years, 7 months ago

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Observations and Musings of an Over The Road (OTR) Truck Driver (Part 1 & 2)

Observations and Musings of an Over The Road (OTR) Truck Driver

I have held numerous jobs in my life. The first one, at the age of 12, was sweeping hanger floors and pumping gas at an airport in exchange for flight time down the road, so I could solo on my 16th birthday . I worked fast food in a KFC and worked in a full service gas station during High School. I spent many a fun filled hour in the working in the college cafeteria/food service before getting my first job in the “real world” as a Naval Flight Officer flying off of aircraft carriers in the Navy. It afforded me the opportunity to go places, see things and participate in interesting work that very few of my peers could even contemplate. After retiring, I thought it was time to give back to the community and spent another career as a math and science teacher for grades 5-8. I left education, not because of the kids, but because of the adults, on so many different levels.

So what does this have to do with driving a truck OTR? Simply nothing, other than I have always enjoyed travel and thought driving a truck would be nice way to wind down my life as a working adult and simultaneously see the United States. I have discovered that driving OTR , is unlike anything I have every done before. Sure, it involves a lot of teamwork. Let’s face it, you may be in charge of your rig, but without a lot of other, behind the scene, folks you wouldn’t be getting very far or earning any money. There is a mental component. Unlike the common perception of truck drivers, to be successful you have to be thinking all of the time. At first, it may seem overwhelming with having to control the tractor and trailer, navigate, keep up your situational awareness, be managing your different clocks, remembering the QC and all of the other things that go with the business of driving a big rig.There is plenty of stress, both external and internal. If you have any work ethic at all, you want to make sure that you are on time, both to pickup and drop your loads. You are now at the mercy of traffic, vehicles who’s drivers have no apparent fear of death as they cut you off or come sneaking up on your right side because they are in a hurry. Then there is the self imposed stress where you question whether you doing everything correctly, wondering what your driver manager thinks about you and your performance. And, in the case of driving flatbed, there is a pretty significant physical component in all types of weather.

But there is a component of OTR that, I believe, is truly unique to this part of the trucking industry. That is the impersonal nature of our interactions with people. For me, the vast majority of the time, I am interacting with complete strangers. Be they fellow drivers, the people at the fuel desk, customers, waitstaff, etc. For the period of time you are on the road and away from home, you are dealing almost exclusively with strangers. I always try and greet people with a smile and cheerful attitude, but let’s face it, the odds of seeing them again is pretty slim.Everything else is either done on a phone or through some form of electronic media - totally impersonal. It isn’t a good thing or bad thing, it just is.

Another thing that I have observed is that you have lots of time by yourself. You may be thinking, “Duh!”, but that time by yourself gives you plenty of time to think. Now that can be good or bad. The goods are you can review past, present and future plans or events. Reflecting on past success or failure is a great way to improve your professional and personal skills and potentially avoid some mistakes that you previously made. Additionally, this time can be used positively to continue to plan. Things are always changing on the road, whether it be traffic, weather, maintenance issues, weigh station/DOT, etc. You need to have plans, alternatives and alternative to those alternatives so that when stuff starts happening you can react on the fly with very little time lost to planning or indecision.

Posted:  6 years, 8 months ago

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Prime gives all drivers a raise!

Sounds like there is a lot of raises going on in the industry. Melton just gave us a pay raise, too. Looks like the increased freight and need for drivers is working to everyone's advantage. Life be good!

Posted:  6 years, 8 months ago

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Finally leaving for Melton Truck Lines

Good luck John. Soak up all of the knowledge you can from your trainer - it will pay dividends later down the line. If you see truck 9118, in your travels, stop by and say "Hi!". Melton has done right by me.

Posted:  6 years, 8 months ago

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My Truck Got Hit

That "here" should have been "hear". wtf.gif

Too quick on the send.

Posted:  6 years, 8 months ago

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My Truck Got Hit

Sorry to here about your incident. What Old School said it very true - those end spots are nasty spots that are frequent hits. That hit and run stuff seems to come with the territory. When I got tagged, the guy did everything except cry to try and keep me from reporting it. Even the Sheriff deputy got irritated with the guy! I know a lot of people will leave a space if they can between them and another truck. I was told early on, park next to someone if you can. It reduces your chances of getting tagged by 50%.

Posted:  6 years, 8 months ago

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Mountains and Valleys and... Goats!

Old School, or any of you with experience, I was wondering how time zones play in HOS. Do you have to add/subtract from your HOS for crossing time zones and calculate your hours based on your starting time zone?

This is new territory for me as aviation simplified this by converting everything to what is called Zulu time or GMT(Greenwich Mean Time)

Great pics BTW

The HOS are based on the time where your company is based. For Melton, it is central time. Just one more little thing that you have to be aware of when you are shutting down for the night. You have to watch it real close for a 34 hr reset, too. For the most part, all of your dispatching/delivery is done on local times. It can help you or hurt you depending on which way you are headed. I've only gotten bit by it once, but was able to recover, somewhat gracefully.

Posted:  6 years, 8 months ago

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Triletter's first year OTR Flatbedding

I appreciate the props. The writing is a bit rough, but it is a start. I don't post as often as a lot of others, but I come through here when I can and offer my perspective, where appropriate. Another day and another choice from the box of chocolates called life!

Posted:  6 years, 8 months ago

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Triletter's first year OTR Flatbedding

I see so many Melton trucks out on the road, but I have yet to come across you. If you had been stalking me like Daniel has you might have caught me by now, but hopefully we'll find each other somewhere and be able to sit down and visit with each other a little about this crazy life we call "truckin".

It's the same for me - I see so many Western Express trucks out here and keeping hoping it is you. This flat bed world is small enough that we will eventually bump into one another. I truly look forward to it!

Posted:  6 years, 8 months ago

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Triletter's first year OTR Flatbedding

Hard to believe, but a year ago I was just starting this adventure that is called Over The Road (OTR) trucking. Since then I have learned so much about this profession it isn’t funny. There have been days when the beauty of the road just can’t be put into words and other times when it couldn’t be seen due to the inky blackness. I have been through mountains, deserts, plains, canyons and bayous. I have been through the major metropolitan areas on both coasts and most in between. I have made it through parts of Canada and regularly visited the border town of Laredo. I have 7 more and I can say I have, once again, visited all 48 of the contiguous states. I used to think that having a 100,000 miles on one of our vehicles was a lot and now I have over 128,000 is just this year!

There have been times when I was bored or missing home and family. There were other times that more than that made up for it. The vistas at sunrise or sunset. My first time at a steel plant seeing the red hot steel on rollers as I was driving in, picking up a load at an open pit mine on an indian reservation. Being in LA evening rush hour traffic at night short on hours, driving in the dark on ice covered roads, sitting at the bottom of a pass due to chain laws and then making my way over the top were a bit stressful. OK, at times it was terrifying! Dragging around a 48/53 foot trailer loaded to 80,000 pounds and missing a turn is stressful, but I have managed to avoid hitting anything or anyone. Wish I could say the same for being hit, but thankfully, they were all (3 times) low speed and minimal cosmetic damage.

The work has been challenging, both physically and mentally. The heat has been significant on occasion and my fingers have been so cold that they hurt for hours after I was done with the load. Temperatures have ranged from minus 20 up to 106 and everything in between. I can say that I enjoy the middle of that range the best. Incredible weather. Fog, rain that would make a frog hold its breath, snow that made me want an artificial horizon so I would at least be able to tell which way was up. Winds that would rock me to sleep or scare the snot out of me when that dry van I was passing started moving all over the road. Never mind the effect on my own tractor.

I have learned how to be comfortable out here in my little mobile cubicle. I have no problems whipping into a WalMart to replenish my stores, because I refuse to start to look like some of those truckers that haven’t seen their toes in years and huff and puff just walking into the building. I have been pleasantly surprised at the quality and cleanliness of most of the truck stop shower facilities. I have also experienced others that should have been condemned by the health authorities, but felt fantastic just to have the opportunity to get clean after a couple of days of hard sweaty work and baby wipes in between. Rest stops are your friend and run the from the “Oh, wow” to just shy of primitive.

And the best part is I have just scratched the surface in learning this profession. I still have so many places to go and types of freight to experience. And the personalities that you meet and some you wish you hadn’t. The evening rodeo as everyone jockeys for their parking spaces is a type of entertainment you have to see to truly believe. Keeping a positive outlook when so many others are doing everything they can to drag you down. It all adds up to an ongoing experience that I am enjoying immensely!

I won’t do this for ever, but I am certainly glad that I took that step into the unknown to experience one more aspect of life on this planet!

Posted:  6 years, 8 months ago

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I'm in!!! Orientation with Melton Truck Lines in Tulsa, OK

Hey Larry! Thanks! Just curious, what part of NC? I'm here in Wilmington.

I'm strongly considering going with them and also using the GI Bill OJT program. Do you ever worry that something is going to go wrong and something will fall off the trailer? That's the only thing with flatbed, I'm kind of a worry-wart and afraid that the worst situation will happen. But, I always use that as an excuse to quadruple-check things lol, I suppose that may be a good thing, though.

Josh

Taking truck frame rails to Cleveland Freightliner plant. As for "things falling off" that is every flatbedder's nightmare. However, you will be trained on how to secure loads, you get a reference book with pictures to help, a driver mentor/trainer to be able to call and you always have safety to call, if in doubt. I've called them several times just to make sure I was thinking it through correctly. There is no such thing as over securing or over checking your loads, so that shouldn't be a problem.

If you go flat bed, the first couple of months you feel like you are slow and stupid. You are slow, but you won't be given your own truck if you're stupid. Taking less time will come with practice, just as it will with driving. You may not see the same type of load for a couple of months which will have you looking at your reference guide or making calls. Then one day you think, "I now know how to do this!" Then you will be thrown a curve like I was last week. Really had to put some thought into how to secure the load and be able to verbalize the why, should anyone ask. Was it right? I would have let my daughter drive next to me with my grandson in the car and not have thought anything about it. I exceeded all of DOT's and Melton's requirements, too. Could it have been done differently? I am certain it could have. That is why I like the challenge of this particular part of the trucking world.

Good luck in what ever you choose to do!

Posted:  6 years, 8 months ago

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I'm in!!! Orientation with Melton Truck Lines in Tulsa, OK

I just talked to a recruiter from Melton, everything she told me sounded great! About how many miles are you guys averaging with Melton? She told me 2300-2500/week. Does that sound right? What are the average length of haul?

Thanks!

I have been averaging right at the 2500/ week. I had one week of 3600 and when you go home or come out, typically, your miles will be a bit less. I don't know what the "average" length of haul is, but I would guess 800. That takes into account some of the short stuff you will get and the long stuff, too. Right now I'm on a 1400 mile haul from Laredo to North Carolina.

Melton has been a great fit for me and I really like it here. This week is my 1 year mark with them and I won't be going any where for a while.

dancing-banana.gif

Posted:  6 years, 8 months ago

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Weighing Stations

Plus, many states have mobil scales that are used at "random" places and times. As with most things, stay legal and coops aren't a problem. However, if you don't want to run legal, you will be making significant donations to the state you are in and may be jeopardizing your driving privileges.

Posted:  6 years, 8 months ago

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Some Loads Just Aren't As Fun

We are supplied with everything we need to secure a normal load. If we need something else (dunnage or securement), we buy it and send the receipt in and they reimburse on the next pay check. If a strap is worn, ratchet broke, etc., the next time we hit a terminal it is a one-for-one swap. Corner protectors can be bought and reimbursed, but our main terminals have pallets of the card board types. There is one shipper (can't remember which one) that provides the nice big plastic ones. You want to throw every strap you can/have on that load!

smile.gif

One of the reasons that I am very happy with them.

Posted:  6 years, 8 months ago

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Some Loads Just Aren't As Fun

Old School,

That is a mess! I think technically, you would have wanted a strap or two in the middle of that mess, but when it is pre-loaded you can't do that. And that type of load is inherently unstable so the more straps the better. What is your response to DOT if they ask you about the overhang on a 53' load, or is it like most things, it depends on the state?

Posted:  6 years, 8 months ago

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What's wrong with this load?

Guyjax, you can use straps on suicide coils, but they can't be the only thing used. I've been seeing a number of suicide coils that are "X"ed with straps, in what appears to be a method of keeping them from going forward or back. Thanks, but I'll use my chains unless I run out and then I would probably be over weigh for the load.

Hope the driver wasn't injured, but I'll bet there was a stink in the cab and he had to change his shorts.

Posted:  6 years, 8 months ago

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Flatbed alleydock

Good advise above. The other thing I learned after getting out of CDL school is to drive as close to the "opening" of the alley, then (depending on your truck) cut 45* out for a 2 potato count then then 45* back in. Make sure your trailer is past the "opening" and then back 'er in. In the real world, avoid "jack knifing" your trailer, because that spred axle (with much weight) is going to make the process difficult and may "spring" your trailer.

Hope that made sense.

Posted:  6 years, 8 months ago

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Things that make you go WOW!

MOAB is a mountain biker's paradise! Wouldn't want to be there right now, but in the spring, fall and part of the winter you can have some AWESOME rides.

smile.gifdancing-dog.gif

Posted:  6 years, 8 months ago

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Turning in my 24 years on Patrol to Becoming an OTR Truck Driver. Any Advice for a Female Starting Out?

Larry,

Thanks for setting me straight on BOL. I suppose you shook your head when you saw I called it Laden. Oh well, I will be the first to admit that I got a long way to go to call myself a driver. I like your input on how companies handle them. I worked for a short time as a security officer for Premier. I loved working with the drivers and apparently they weren't used to someone with a good attitude. Even when they gave me a hard time when I had to photograph their trucks (Locks/trailer number) I still liked being around them. Thanks again Larry.

Ms. Donna, that is what we are here for. I didn't shake my head at all since I've been there done that. This is my third career and each one has their own lingo and ways. That is part of the fun; you get to learn new things. With your background, you will do fine in this industry.

Have fun in your journey and don't hesitate to jump on here with questions.

Posted:  6 years, 9 months ago

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Turning in my 24 years on Patrol to Becoming an OTR Truck Driver. Any Advice for a Female Starting Out?

Ms. Donna,

Sounds like you have what it takes to be a driver; you don't mind spartan accommodations, you enjoy your own company and you can problem solve. If you can back a boat or horse trailer, you will be able to back a big rig; it will take a little bit of training and practice, but you are used to that in your current job. That High Road Training Program is the key to a successful written. It got me through all of my tests with out a problem.

As for company or self funded CDL school, there is lots of information on this site. I made the decision to self fund, but everyone has to make that determination on their own.

BOL's (Bills of Lading) are handled differently by different companies. We now use TransFlo, but used TransPac previously; just names and not really important until you are on the road. When I was regional, we just dropped them off at the end of the week in the office. Whatever company you go with will train you on the system they use. All are pretty simple.

Most likely you will not have a choice on what loads you get or where you are going; known as forced dispatch. Not a big deal since you get to see more places and the surprise makes it more of an adventure. The more research you can do on this site and others will enable you to make more informed choices that fit your needs and personality.

Good Luck!

Posted:  6 years, 9 months ago

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Chain of command: load planners vs driver managers

Joanna, what GuyJax said will work for you. Once you have credibility with your DM you will be able to make requests. They may not happen right away, but, in my experience, they do happen. I never ask for a specific type of load, but I do occasionally ask to head a specific direction; west, north, etc. Frequently, that takes a load or two and then I'm going that direction. We have a little over 1100 drivers and I've been told (don't know it for a fact, but seems to reasonable) that planners will start to recognize your truck # or name when there is a "hot" load and you come through for them. I NEVER complain about the length of a load or loads and eventually, I get a really sweet load that makes up for the "others" I have been assigned. That is why it is so important to build a working relationship with your DM. They are the ones that may "refuse" a load for you or at least negotiate a better load now or in the future based on past performance.

At the same time, I always remember that I am just one of those 1100+ drivers and my view of the company's world is like looking through a straw. At the end of the day, what ever makes money for the company makes money for me.

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