Profile For Dustan J.

Dustan J.'s Info

  • Location:
    Great Falls, MT

  • Driving Status:
    Experienced Driver

  • Social Link:

  • Joined Us:
    5 years, 5 months ago

Dustan J.'s Bio

I decided to jump ship from the Army and retire out. I always wanted to drive truck but I went and committed myself to the Army early on. Most of my family in Montana drives over the road trucking from Alaska to everywhere in the south. Now I pull hopper-bottom doubles in the Northwest and Canada.

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Posted:  6 months ago

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Truck driving jobs myth or reality?

I listened to a podcast where a scientist did a great job of describing AI capability in terms of where it falls in terms of life on Earth. The very best AI barely achieved the capacity of a ****roach's brain, in the context of detecting the right input in the real world and then making decisions based on the input. In terms of computer science, that's a remarkable achievement. In reality, it's usefulness is obviously not that great. The processing power to reach a ****roach was immense, and since we're about to reach the very limit of how thin we can make those processors in an effort shrink the size down, it would take a totally new concept in information processing to reach something amounting to the processing power of a small lizard. I don't know if anyone else heard about that IBM AI that got plugged into Facebook as a test, and as it took in all the language on there it became racist and malevolent. IBM ended that test immediately upon seeing that happen. There is so much abstract reasoning involved in driving anything that we can reasonably expect that trucks will not be free of the need for onboard human input. I've seen some short runs that were hailed as a success, but how likely can that become so reliable as to really justify putting many of those trucks out there with the general public and expect acceptable results? It will take a heck of an engineering marvel to get investors and regulators to accept that risk, at least until it can be proven reliable. What is the threshold for failure, and how much of the various consequences will we accept given that there will be some issues and accidents? I think that drivers will have jobs driving for a very long time, and maybe we can achieve another form of transportation technology before automated cargo hauling becomes reliable enough to be widely deployed.

Posted:  6 months, 2 weeks ago

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Automatics for Millenials?

As far as I can tell, there is a lot of merit for both automatic and manual shifters. I prefer the manual transmissions myself because I want the control in the shifting so that I can decide what RPM I use for the mountain roads and for controlling my speed. There is a benefit in automatics for those who might struggle with that, with the shifting, etc. Manual transmissions aren't too forgiving when someone can't fully grasp how the transmission works in the scheme of the drive-train, and that is where an automatic is useful in having a driver in the truck to run the loads. Also, I see a lot of people out there who are either nursing a sore knee or are headed that way. Again, I personally prefer a manual, but I certainly won't complain either way since I'm not the one paying the bills on it. One thing I really didn't like was the way that the Eaton automatic would try to upshift on a grade, thus causing the truck to immediately lose speed and the damn thing couldn't figure out where to downshift to. I had to set it to Manual and force it to stay in that gear until it needed it to go back into Automatic. Oh, and the upshift going down the other side will certainly cause anxiety and an accident. These things were not discussed prior to getting into the truck, by the way. I only knew that from studying here on this site and from using a manual shift long enough to understand the way a truck handles different types of driving conditions. A failure to understand these things is evident in the crashes that I see on the mountain roads here where I live. It is fairly common to find the paint markings on the road and the destruction left behind after a driver fails to control the rig and it tears up the ground and the trees as it slides at whatever speed it was going when it tipped over.

I can appreciate the fuel savings, but if the driver is being conscientious and pays attention, AS THEY SHOULD BE, fuel can still be saved. I was able to bring the MPG on an old Peterbilt 379 with a CAT motor damn near to 5 MPG, up from whatever the previous driver was getting. It simply required the attention on my part and some record-keeping to work it out. I liken this to land navigation, such as in the wilderness. You might do ok for a little while just using a GPS without knowing how to plot your own location with a map and a compass, and then walking to another place using those same items. There is an underlying fundamental principle that must be understand in order to do this well enough, and if you can come close to something approximating fluency or mastery, then the GPS is a far more powerful tool in your hands than it would be otherwise. We can know this to be true on the road as well with our trucker's atlas and a ruler, and common sense. So, with an automatic, if your basic knowledge of the truck and trucking is lacking, as it is when you first start out, then your chances of something bad happening are pretty damn high. Unacceptably high in my opinion! I'd contend that companies may be jumping the gun a bit if we consider the risk/reward ratio by slapping someone's butt in the seat before having a reasonably realistic understanding of HOW and WHY transmissions deliver power to the wheels, and how to manipulate that system to safely operate and control it. It seems like common sense, yet it is still happening. Money is the major force in those decisions, and that is compounded by an obligation to deliver a return for the investors and stakeholders.

There is a place for both of those systems, and I would certainly agree that an older driver facing the aches and pains of age could benefit from an automatic transmission, and that in many cases the fuel savings are substantial. I don't agree that it is a suitable substitute for not having some reasonable skill with a manual transmission that is demonstrable.

Posted:  6 months, 2 weeks ago

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GPS Dependancy Is Bad

I use mine and keep it updated. I generally use my trucker's atlas for the planning and the GPS gives me a heads up for construction or for turns in unfamiliar places, like in towns. Now, there is one thing that made me crazy....the stupid thing has told me that addresses or even entire towns didn't exist! Rand McNally TND is the one I was given as a gift. It pulls weather data if you tether it to a phone, and that is handy if it is warning you about something on your route. I usually just run the dashboard setting because I'm nerdy about sunset/sunrise and elevation data, and the route runs in the background until I need it. Overall, I find it to be rather inferior to the good ol' trucker atlas as far as the routes are concerned, unless the haul is pretty far and I want to do something really specific in an unfamiliar area. For example, I somehow got off track in the mountains near Umatilla, OR and pulled a Maxi flatbed loaded with lumber through a forest for 4 hours on a state highway (I was still legal) and had to make it back out to the interstate. It was handy because some of the road signs weren't entirely obvious. Great teaching moment for me, and pretty embarrassing.

What I do like to do is to use Google Maps with the satellite view to locate the address, and progressively zoom out to track a truck route to wherever I need to be. It's a preliminary reconnaissance tool that can answer some questions if you need it, and you most likely will at some point because you don't always get a knowledgeable person picking up the phone. The nice thing about that is that you will usually see trucks on there since the photos are shot around midday in most instances, and there isn't much guess work left once you are seeing the designated routes with the trucks on them. Portland, OR and Seattle are a couple places that come to mind when I think "confusing roads" because you have to cross waterways and the roads to reach those bridges might not be entirely easy to work out. One shipper was located UNDER a bridge, and they were shipping steel coils to Montana.

Posted:  6 months, 2 weeks ago

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Can You Spot The Impostor?

My first load delivered to a Walmart distribution center in San Antonio. I pulled in and had to wait on a guy backing into what seemed like the only available spot, and he had to set up in a way the looked like he was jackknifing the rig to get it in. No pressure or anything! I found one and tried to get it in for something like an hour and a half. Finally a yard guy came along and seemed to take pity on me, and told me to drop it at the end of a row for him to take. That day felt like the first day of basic training at infantry school, where it's all screaming and pushups and holding everything you own over your head until your arms get numb, except it's a truck and I couldn't figure out the pivots and mechanics of that maneuver.

Since then I've pulled mostly doubles, but I did pull a tridem axle flatbed for a while and that thing can be a beast when you need to back it up with a load on it. If the pavement isn't pretty smooth and level, your trailer could react in undesirable ways and make a backing maneuver kind of frustrating if you don't have the luxury for a straight-in back.

Posted:  6 months, 2 weeks ago

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Confused about Roehl

I agree with Brett, and it could have been an oversight somewhere that will get fixed if they said that they want you to come back later. My first trucking job was with Roehl and I was based out of the Dallas terminal. When I was in their orientation, some guy had just quit after getting his license with them and doing his OTR training. He had only been there a couple months, if memory serves correctly. The only thing that really stuck out in that one was the office staff being all ****ed off about it. I mean, very ****ed off. The guy who ran that terminal was straight up bashing stuff against the wall and screaming profanity. The whole scene was about the money they had spent on him in salary and such during his training. Nice way to ease into a new career, huh?

Hang in there and give them a chance to fix it because they have an army of lawyers too.

Posted:  7 months ago

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Question: employability prospects with physical lifting limitations?

I have taken up yoga for the aches and pains that come with the physical rigors of labor. It certainly helps quite a bit.

Posted:  7 months ago

View Topic:

Question: employability prospects with physical lifting limitations?

I met some guys in Oregon in that situation, and they swapped their trailers for Conestogas. That company is phasing in the Conestogas more and more, so I'm told (curtainside vans) so that those drivers aren't tearing up their backs. They were phasing in automatic transmissions too, which I had. They're decent enough, but you gotta still throw straps. Central Oregon Truck is the company. I moved one, so please don't think I'm recruiting. System Trans. might have those trailers too, but I'm not entirely sure. Wylie is another flatbed company, but I really don't know much about them but they are under Daseke Corp. with Central Oregon and SDP flatbed out of Washington state. Hope that helps. I do know that SDP has satellite TV and APU units in all the tractor units, and they are specialized flatbed that hauls stuff for Boeing quite a bit, and the factories have a crew that tarps the load with you under the contract because the loads are usually irregular shaped pieces of equipment. I got the full rundown from a driver there one weekend.

Posted:  7 months ago

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One Foot Out of the Door

If you can suck it up for a year and part on good terms, you'll get a positive referral out of it. That means a lot. Like Brett said, small companies struggle to stay afloat.

Posted:  7 months ago

View Topic:

If hair follicle testing isn't mandated by DOT regulations. How is it legal for companies to put it on DAC report.

As a matter of business, especially in a self-insured company, it makes good sense to screen out as many possible issues as you can. Nobody can get to know the personal details of a person's life so intimately that they can make a call like that on a daily basis when you're handling a rather large volume of personnel like that. It's just reality. It sucks for some people, I'll grant you that, but the overall tendency is that they will come to regret that decision if they have a detectable level of an illicit substance in their hair from six months ago. 90 days to six months is pretty generous, really. If I were an owner an someone came saying "Yeah, I was a crackhead but I got over that last month" I'd just send them away. You're protecting your own interests on that one, and preventing catastrophe on the roadway. Add to that, it seems like people who imbibe in that way tend to think that the world owes them so much, like a trucking job that pays huge money for little effort and that is just not how the world works. It is outside of reality and I know none of us wants an unrealistic person with a very recent drug past and a likely altered cognition commanding a semi truck.

Posted:  7 months ago

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Excited about summer! Worried about winter.

I wish I could have recorded all the trash talking and insults I got when I'd chain up instead of running like the rest. One time a guy really laid into me as he passed me on the shoulder. A mile later I passed him as he was sitting in the ditch. I wished him a merry Christmas. Good times.

Posted:  7 months ago

View Topic:

Taking the Dog with you OTR

Dachsunds are my pick. Smart, loyal, protective, and alert to potential trouble very quickly. The only issue is that they have a tendency toward spine issues, so you have to learn the correct way to lift them. They are sweet dogs.

Posted:  7 months ago

View Topic:

Out of the shadows

Geez, that's a hell of a thing to do to a person who just wants to get through and move on to the next step! Getting hit by a trainer is inexcusable conduct by any standard. A coke head is a whole other thing altogether. Imagine if he had gotten arrested and you were just stuck with a truck and no trainer. I wonder how they would have handled that one given that a student was simply caught in the middle of it all.

Posted:  7 months ago

View Topic:

Trucking isn't for everyone.. but

This is one of the most important areas of the website I think. I went straight from the Army to trucking after 16 years everything that a wartime Army can dish out, and I had volunteered for every crappy and difficult assignment that I could handle. Trucking has continuously humbled me on an hourly basis because NOTHING has ever seemed to qualify as predictable, regular, reliable, easy, etc. In my region, even the interstate isn't too reliable. Farmers have gotten the best of me, the asphalt in Canada will at times seem to attack you in your seat (think "intermittently paved"), I had to train a guy who just wasn't able to grasp how to properly feed straps into ratchets well at all, I've slipped off of a trailer at a shipper, I found a pile of gravel on my trailer at a truck stop once for some reason, I even had a truck that had the DEF tank on the passenger side of the tractor for whatever reason so I was constantly pumping DEF into a 5 gallon gas can so that I could get it into my DEF tank. What I learned is that you can really get a feel of how chaotic our society can seem and still function this well. I can say that trucking will make people and break people according to their own resilience and fortitude, and if any of us feels like we finally "made it" we should hand off the keys and clean out the truck.

Posted:  7 months ago

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Automatics for Millenials?

I got put into a 10 speed autoshift T660 on a heavy haul fleet a couple years back. I was skeptical, and was suspecting that the manner in which I was put into the truck was to just dump it off on someone for whatever reason. I sucked it up and didn't complain, and just drove the crap out of it. My left leg quit aching, and it really made life easier for the most part. There is a bit of a learning curve to handling mountains and icy roads. If your automatic has a clutch, it's really handy if you need to back into a dock or a parking spot because the Eaton autoshift system is all-or-nothing and it really gets challenging when you need to finely control the truck movements, and pressing the brake even lightly will disengage the drive train. Mine had a manual setting for steep grades, and it's a life saver. Ever try to grab a gear pulling into traffic while making a turn, and you have to start all over? The autoshift system mostly keeps you out of the situation, but if you're a heavy haul trucker then you'll have to work out when to use manual and when to go back into drive to get your speed. Overall, it's a good system. I loved my 13 speed, but honestly the clutch will wear out your left leg and I never imagined that my left knee would take such a beating in such a short time.

Posted:  7 months ago

View Topic:

I'm a Podcast producer, telling stories of bravery - got one?

I used to be in the Army, and retired in 2014 after 3 combat tours of daily patrols and all the other crazy stuff we got to do, like play with explosives and fight drunks in the middle of the night (I was military police). But by far one of the most intense things I ever had to do was go over Lost Trail Pass on the Idaho/Montana border in the winter. The last town you get to see before the long climb up is Salmon, ID and if you don't chain up there, you don't really have much in the way of opportunities beyond there. So, on my way north headed toward Salmon I could see that there were dark storm clouds hiding almost all of the mountain and I just had to assume that there was some snowfall happening. It was pretty intense to be headed toward that, and the Montana DOT was getting fined $10k every day that they didn't have their road salt that I had just picked up in SLC. I was pulling a 60 ton set of bulk doubles, so as you can imagine, it doesn't move quickly and it can get squirrely if you let your attention lapse. I chained it in Salmon, and started pulling the mountain. The grade gradually increased and pretty soon I was driving on 7%, and then 8%, and at times 9% grades going up. Even with chains on the tires would occasionally spin out. Now, the first time I pulled that mountain with a load like that, I had no clue what that road is like, but suffice to say, the curves are TIGHT, and there was increasing snowfall with trucks coming at me downhill pretty fast and they were using the entire road to get it done. So, with no way out of it, I pulled it to the top and used the turnout to check chains and crap my pants. I put my triple rail sets on too, so now I had full chains on both drive axles. So, what goes up must go down too, right? Imagine my enthusiasm when I saw 10% grade on a sign. If you have never pulled a set of doubles, especially under that kind of a load, you cannot imagine how fast you can lose your air pressure to your brakes. The curves were 25 mph curves, so for me they were 15 mph maximum. I assumed that I could manage it in 5th gear and still maintain pressure. I was wrong. I controlled it for a ways, and then my air pressure alarm screamed and me so I had to sit near a curve and rev the engine to build more pressure while in the downhill lane since I had no way out. I got the air pressure built back up and decided to take it in 3rd gear with the engine break on (I know, it sounds insane, but hang in there). Remember, I was fully chained up and had to keep my speed minimal and the air built up going down that long winding mountain pass road in a snowstorm on a road I had never seen before. I took it as tenderly as I could while I had a combination heart attack/stroke/surreal experience. In the process of keeping the truck in my own lane and not dying in the river, I happened to see an unusual sight in my mirror: the side of my pup trailer facing me!!! The trailer was off-tracking by sliding sideways at the exact same speed that I was driving, and hanging in the oncoming lane. The way to correct that is that you gently pull the trailer brake handle on the steering column in small bursts to correct it back into alignment with the rest of the rig. This one was not obeying me, so I drove it down that mountain with the pup trailer sliding sideways and me experiencing conflicting emotions of fear, excitement, anxiety, and pride that I had not yet wrecked despite all the opportunities to do so. When the road finally leveled off I got the trailer back into line and promptly arrived at my destination where I could not have been happier to see Montana DOT officials. They seemed kind of surprised to see me that night, but no one questioned it since I had all that road salt that they needed. I was so exhausted from the experience that went straight to first roadside turnout and passed out in my bunk. The next morning, I called for the next load and wouldn't you know it, I had to do it all over again. The next trip over that pass with a load was in the same kind of weather, but I was a little more prepared for the experience. I destroyed the rest of my chains one that one. I honestly found it very exciting and I would in all likelihood do it all over again because you only get one ride in this life so make it worth it.

Posted:  7 months ago

View Topic:

DAC report says "authorized location with notice" or "without notice"

I had this conversation with a recruiter recently when I had to explain why I had an "unauthorized use of equipment" on my DAC, which I only discovered when I got him to explain why he needed to get me cleared through his safety guys. So, as it turns out, there are companies out there that will act spitefully and vindictively when you call in to say that you want to move on. In my case, I called in and said that I needed to leave ASAP because the way I was running was eroding my marriage, and that I wanted to go straight to the yard. Since I was told that the truck needed to come back with a load, I went to load in Portland and found myself in a long line that extended for about 2 blocks inside an industrial area, and that line was not moving for 5 hours. Since I only had just enough time to get to the yard on the ELD, I made the decision to just go instead of sitting on the street blocking the other trucks. I called the company and they said that I failed to load under the dispatch so I was the one who was wrong. Granted, I didn't load. Granted, I drove their truck back empty on their dime. Granted, I wanted to just quit ASAP. However, the recruiter and I both agreed that they did that to set my ass up because I wanted to quit, and they wanted a pound of flesh off my ass as I left. Hell, they had already turned off my access pass when I got there and I had to ask a mechanic to let me in! Everyone in the industry knows these stories, and they take it all into consideration.

Posted:  7 months ago

View Topic:

Trucking companies in Montana. Regional or Dedicated

I live in Montana. What part are you in? I know a place that does agricultural doubles, goes to Canada and are really good folks. You would have to live within roughly 60 miles of the shop though.

Posted:  7 months ago

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Truck Stops And Old Time Trucking

I seldom like parking at a truck stop, unless I thought I might need their toilets for some reason but a rest area is less noisy and the cops will likely come check on it periodically to run off the riff-raff. The toilet emergencies usually happened only when I ate from truck stops anyway. I prefer to get groceries from a Walmart and keep a few gallons of water on hand. Think "primitive camping" in a truck with the added benefit of a radio and climate control. Okay, call it "glamping" but with only the bare essentials to get down the road. I like using rest areas and turnouts for getting some sleep, especially when pulling doubles. Sleeping at shippers and receivers is also really nice because they usually have security of some kind or are far enough away from urban centers to not have the issue of trouble-makers. Also, I can seldom think of something more frustrating when you have a set of doubles and you pull in needing a parking spot in the area marked "Doubles/Triples Only!" and the spots of full of dry vans and straight trucks, and your ELD says "4 minutes remaining". You don't have those issues when you figure out how to locate a turnout, rest area, or something else that is decent enough to stop for your rest break. The trick is to make yourself self-reliant in the sense that a truck stop becomes nothing more than a place to fuel at and maybe get some incidental supplies if necessary. The mention of using the showers midday is spot-on. You will nearly always be able to knock out a quick shower midday and keep on rolling. It's pretty nice.

Posted:  7 months ago

View Topic:

Too smart to go for my CDL?

Lisa suggests...

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Driving doesn't mean you can't keep thinking. You might explain to your interlocutors that while driving you can listen to books and lectures. You can also have a voice-activated recorder handy and write as you drive. If anything, it's an opportunity to get away from the lure of computers and the distraction of phone calls, and focus on your thoughts. (This assumes, of course, that such activities would be of interest to you.) That time to do nothing but think can produce amazing results. Dr. Kary Mullis, for example, was seeking a way to detect mutations in human genes. Only when he was driving his Honda down a long and winding road in Mendocino County did the idea for PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) occur to him. In his case, knowledge, a problem to solve, and space to think led to a Nobel Prize. Just sayin'.

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To be honest Lisa, overall your perception of this job is a bit skewed, dangerous. We are not driving little Hondas. I sit at the head-end of a modest size 73' long, 8.5' wide, 13' 6" tall building capable of "pancaking" the Professor's Honda.

Safe and efficient operation definitely requires you to focus on thought...but primarily on driving; understanding the variable real-time situation you are in, managing your space, constantly adjusting, scanning, and always prepared to safely handle the unexpected. Defensive driving on steroids.

I mean seriously...do you honestly believe driving a truck requires no conscience thought?

That it's mindless?

That it's 11 hours of contiguous mental downtime that safely enables total immersion in deep intellectual thought, at a level capable of curing cancer or solving world peace?

Sorry but it's none of the above.

We do much more than babysit these behemoths...figuratively they have a mind of their own, quick tempered and will physically make a collosal mess of things in the blink of an eye. Capable of inflicting unthinkable damage if in the hands of a distracted, unfocused, "intellectually drifting" driver.

There is a time and a place for everything. Listening to books and lectures might be okay to a point, but creating meaningful content using a voice recorder for hours on end? At the intensity level you described? Sorry no, I don't agree with that.

Our primary focus, especially in the first few critical months, must be total concentration on driving. By intent and design, your mind just cannot be on lots of other things... Just sayin'

I agree with this response. I'd like to think that a lot of us have pulled over for a cat nap or a stretch of the legs to get the brain back on track.

Posted:  7 months ago

View Topic:

Too smart to go for my CDL?

People have this crazy notion that your degree is equivalent to your personality, desires, sense of adventure, etc. Not only that, a pathological need to shove their opinions onto other people seem to accompany that. You are responsible for you own happiness, so go with what you believe is best for you. If you're a single guy or otherwise not obligated to much financial responsibility then trucking can be a great way to pay off loans and set yourself up for success. I find it hilarious that someone would tell another person how to live their life, as though they are absolutely sure. A young person stands to gain a lot of knowledge and life experience pretty quickly from trucking, much like a reasonable stint in the military or something that gets you out and about in the world meeting interesting people and seeing things you could not otherwise experience from a humdrum life in the same workplace day in and day out, just a steady drone of monotony like a lawn mower outside your window at the crack of dawn on your only day off in months.

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