Comments By Larry K.

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  • Larry K.
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Posted:  5 years, 4 months ago

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A Husband and Wife Trucking Journey

Working with FEMA and Hurricane Florence

On the morning of September 11th we arrived at Fort Bragg amongst a sea of reporters all attempting to ascertain FEMA’s level of preparedness for the upcoming hurricane. We had been told by folks who had worked with FEMA in the past that we could expect a great deal of sitting around and watching Netflix, especially prior to the storm. Our company had 35 trucks/teams being dispatched to aid in hurricane relief however we were one of the very first to arrive. As such nobody really knew the check in process and my wife and I had to figure that out for ourselves and eventually report the procedures to dispatch so they could pass it along to others still incoming. FEMA’s staging area turned out to be on Simmons Army Air Field and we arrived to see a relatively impressive level of preparation. There were approximately 1,200 trailers loaded with either water, food or generators, all divided into rows based upon their contents, with more incoming at all times, just at this one FEMA camp. Estes was the company with the FEMA contract and who we were there with, along with other companies and owner/ops. We were instructed to park in a line of about 50 bobtail trucks that had already arrived and await further instruction.

As we had been on the road dealing with trailer hunting, cancelled loads and then the run from the Louisville, KY area down to Fort Bragg, NC we were actually looking forward to a bit of downtime. We had been told prior to arriving to stock our truck up with supplies, and had intended to do so anyhow. As such our truck was loaded with an excessive amount of water, food, new rain gear, towels, and anything else we thought may come in useful while operating in a hurricane. No sooner had we loaded all this junk into the front seats so we could clear the bunks when someone rapped on the door asking us if we were ready for a run. We were provided with a printout to be taped in the upper right of our windshield with the Department of Homeland Security seal and designating us as “FEMA - Disaster Relief”, a truck number to be taped in the lower left, and our company provided us with federal documents designating us as essentially being DOT immune (hours of service and weight restrictions were out the window). They then have all the selected bobtail trucks line up and follow a pilot car that instructs each truck to hook to trailers one at a time. After all are connected you are instructed to pull out into three rows pointing out of the facility and await your paperwork and destination instructions. Apparently the North Carolina governor and FEMA had decided to juggle supplies to different FEMA camps based upon the track of the storm and where they anticipated supplies to be most needed. Our first run was to take water to a FEMA staging area in Tarboro, NC in a convoy of around 20 trucks. Afterwards we were to head to one of the truck stops along the I-95 corridor and report back in the morning. As we drove into Tarboro residents we’re out on the streets in front of their homes waving at us and flashing us peace signs, it was quite the experience. This was repeated over and over up until the hurricane and we rode the hurricane itself out in the truck at the Petro in Kenly, NC.

By the night of September 13th (which happened to be my 45th birthday) we had finished our last pre-storm staging run and we’re sitting at the Petro in Kenly as Florence began making contact on the coast. This is a Petro that would normally be packed but was otherwise empty aside from FEMA drivers, lineman from all over the country, and fuel trucks. We were told to remain here throughout the storm and return to Fort Bragg on Sunday morning when we’d begin relief efforts. We watched various weather reports, including the visually based Windytv.com, and saw the disconcerting image of Florences projected track coming literally straight at us before it was projected to hook a left to the south and go around us. Winds were expected to hit 65mph with heavy rains in Kenly. My wife and I had spent a large portion of last winter running through Wyoming and routinely drove under the signs stating “Wind gusts 65mph+ ahead. 18 trucks blown over this week” so 65mph didn’t scare us, especially since we weren’t driving it it. In fact we told our family that we expected Wyoming wind with Arkansas rain. From our vantage point that’s exactly what it turned out to be.

On Sunday the 15th we departed Kenly at abut 4:00am for Fort Bragg. On the way we encountered downed trees and areas just beginning to flood on I-95, areas which we would be closed completely by that evening, but we managed t get around it. As most know, the true damage from storm was the rain and flooding that came both during as well as after. By 9:30am they had us hooked up to a load of water and staged to head right into the heart of in Wilmington. We sat waiting on paperwork for three hours before we were told that there was no route in and we had to park the trailer. At 8:00pm we were hooked to a load of MRE’s and staged to depart for Cedar Point only to again be told to park due to their being no route in. We spent that night on Fort Bragg disheartened because we couldn’t get anything to those who needed it most.

~Continued~

Posted:  5 years, 4 months ago

View Topic:

A Husband and Wife Trucking Journey

Correction....It’s about the Planners!

Wow, time flies! I guess it’s time I give you guys an update. I’m glad to see that some of you folks are finding this thread informative and do apologize if I tend to let it go by the wayside for months at a time. I tend to write when time permits, such as the hometime we’re currently on, then it’s all drive, sleep, drive, sleep for weeks or months. As such this will be a lengthy, series of posts.

So I left off last with a major upset in our routine and a bit of a gripe session. Those who know my wife and I know that gripe sessions are reserved for friends and venues such as this forum. If we were to “gripe” to our company it would come in the form of a rational discussion seeking a reasonable resolution. As such we ultimately decided after my last posting to soldier on and see how things went for a few more weeks before we made any major changes based upon a belief that the grass would be greener on the other side of the fence. Ultimately it was the right decision.

My last post was entitled “In a big company it’s all abut the fleet team”. Well, I’m going to make a correction to that and say that, from a drivers perspective, in a big company it’s all about the planners. Your only point of contact may be a few dispatchers who think of you as just another couple of drivers, but if the planners love you those dispatchers are eventually gonna love you as well and, most importantly to you, you’re going to get the good loads and make the money. There is a lot about being a truck driver that can be deemed as difficult. The lifestyle, the pace, fatigue, foul weather etc. To be successful you have to be a self-motivated, self-regulating individual. That being said, what it takes to do this job successfully is an absolute no-brainer and rather easy to achieve. The big picture is as simple as it gets. Pick up a customers freight on time, deliver it to where it’s going on time, be professional and don’t be a pain in the arse while you’re doing it. Take the lousy loads and do them without complaint. (Count your money at the end of the month rather than load by load. We recently picked up a load for a new team that had run out of hours and ran it the whopping FOUR remaining miles just to sit for a live unload! Then it turned out to have a bunch of damage because the previous team hadn’t secured the load. The ONLY driver related damage we’d ever had!) COMMUNICATE! If anything is going to prevent you from accomplishing that ‘big picture’ inform those that need to know immediately (preferably documented in writing over the Qualcomm, not by phone). Not rocket science! Start by doing this on the first load and by the time you’ve done this fifty times in a row the planners look upon you as reliable and begin to count on you, which means you get the loads. If they’re happy they are not griping to your dispatchers about you, if your dispatchers aren’t being griped at they don’t need to waste their time griping at you. In the end your dispatchers learn you are a no hassle driver (or team) and you pretty much can do your own thing out here. Your “boss” becomes a trip plan sent over the Qualcomm. Receive trip plan, follow trip plan, move on to next trip plan. We often go a week, or even weeks, without even speaking to the company. I should note that this also includes the freedom to ignore some of the “rules”. For example, in our company, and I assume most, you’ll receive group messages with rules such as having to notify dispatch if you’re going to stop for more than hour while under load. If we contact our dispatch regarding these “rules” they will tell us to “disregard that as it’s for the drivers they are having service issues with”. Why? Because they know us well enough to know that if we stop we do so having made sure it will not effect on time delivery. We stop when we want, where we want.

So all this being said, we continued on with this philosophy after my last post. It wasn’t long before we were receiving messages directly from the planners regarding tightly scheduled plans stating things such as “Thanks for the on time service yesterday! You guys rock!”. Within a few weeks we were back to getting the miles and rocking and rolling. We had several months of 6000 mile weeks and, due to the way loads fell, had one particularly good week that we finished out at 7,824 miles. Then we hit a gnarly string of bad luck for a weeks. For a while it seemed like every load was getting cancelled. Of course when this happens you often end up sitting a while to wait for the next load. Then we found ourselves constantly needing to swap our reefer for a dry van, or a dry van for a reefer. This meant trailer hunting and, if you’re a driver who has had to play this game, you know it’s a massive time suck. These things led us into several weeks of lousy 4,000 to 4,500 mile weeks. Our dispatchers recognized that we were having a bad string and after the last cancelled load called us to offer an opportunity. Hurricane Florence was about a week out from hitting North Carolina and they asked if we’d like to volunteer to drive hurricane relief for FEMA out of Fort Bragg. Money wise the pay was equal to about 5,800 mile weeks but we jumped at the chance to both help and get the experience. We even put off our home time (twice in fact) in order to stay as long as we were needed (we have family in North Carolina).

~continued~

Posted:  5 years, 6 months ago

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CSA points story & questions! (And heads up to others)

Unfortunately, at the time, I was trusting the dispatcher when he assured me that we were still legal as we had a 30 day grace period. He even messaged us saying he was “pretty sure” about the grace period but would have to check, then sent us a follow up saying “yes, you’re good for 30 days”. In December we’d only been driving six months so took our dispatchers at their word. The infuriating part of this is that neither of us have received a ticket or violation either up to this point according to the officers involved. No citations were written in either case. I was told it was a “note to light a fire under the dispatchers” and my wife was told he was letting her off with a warning.

Posted:  5 years, 6 months ago

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CSA points story & questions! (And heads up to others)

Couple typo’s there sorry....we we’re reminding our company through December...not January. And he noted the missing registration not inspection.

Posted:  5 years, 6 months ago

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CSA points story & questions! (And heads up to others)

Hey guys,

So about 4 weeks back my wife was pulled over in California while bobtail for doing 6-10 over. The officer was extremely nice to her and all smiles. He told her that there is often confusion as to whether you must go 55 when bobtail or are allowed to go 65. He also noted that she was traveling with the flow of traffic (with other semi’s specifically) and then said he would not issue her a citation but would have to perform a level 2 inspection. We passed the inspection and went on our merry way believing all was well. Today, 28 days exactly from the traffic stop, she receives a message from our company saying she must come in for a mandatory safety briefing due to receiving 4 CSA points (which means 12 for first year) due to a 6-10mph over violation on her level 2 inspection. We then pulled out the inspection form and went to the FMCSA website and paid the $10 to pull her personal PSP only to discover that she has zero violations across the board. Both we and our company also noted that the code for 6-10 over is a “392.2 - SLLS2” but the officer left the “2” out after the “SLLS” on the inspection form. After further review we noticed that she is not even showing as having had an inspection (despite FMCSA stating that 95% of inspections are on the website within 21 days). More critical was the fact that nowhere on the PSP is there a category stating how many CSA points the driver has accrued. As far as we are able to tell a driver can not look up his actual CSA points but instead receives only a list of violations and then must look elsewhere to figure out how many points they are worth! (A company can look up their CSA points though!)

This then prompted me to pull my own PSP as I have had 2 inspections in the past year. A level 2 last year which was passed and in January of this year I received a level 1 at a scale house and also passed. In December of last year, the month prior to my level 1, we knew that at the end of the year we would need our updated vehicle registration. We informed our dispatcher of this throughout the month of January and he said we’d be routed to the terminal to update our permit book. As the month went on we kept reminding them, and they kept telling us we’d be routed to the terminal. At the end of the month...nothing. They then tell us that there is a 30 day grace period if we get pulled over and not to worry about. So sure enough I get that level 1 immediately after the 1st of the year. As I took my permit book to the officer/inspector I notified him of the situation immediately. He informed me that it wouldn’t be a problem especially since I notified him right up front. After passing the inspection he provides me with the level 1 form and tells me that he “noted the fact that I did not have a hard copy of the current inspection just so it would light a fire under my dispatchers ass”. Well, guess what? I check my PSP and there I see a violation for a 392.2RG missing registration. Again though, my PSP says absolutely nothing about points. I then begin performing internet searches to determine how many/if any CSA points a 392.2RG is worth and find absolutely zilch. Oh it’s referenced many times along with how many are given each year and how many result in OOS, but I can find NOTHING about points.

So the questions. Does anyone know if a 392.2RG results in CSA points and if so how many? Should we be anticipating that at some point my wife will eventually get that inspection and 12 points added to her PSP or do you think she’s out of the woods at 28 days? Do you think the fact that the officer miscoded the violation makes a difference? Does anyone know if it can be fought? (If so we have prepaid legal services and will fight one based upon miscoding the violation and the other with company messages stating that the registration thing would be fine.)

Gotta say, we are absolutely irate about this for several reasons! My wife was legitimately within 6-10 over, so that’s her bad, but it is our understanding that citations can be fought while violations on the inspection form cannot! If factual, that is some serious BS right there as ultimately the officer is flashing you smiles while simultaneously being judge, jury and executioner right on the roadside or in the inspection bay. It’s clear that both officers blew some serious smoke up our ***es which is a major chicken s**t thing to be doing on the part of the DOT! I am now reading that if a you are given a “warning”, but that warning is noted under “violations” on the inspection form, you are better off telling the officer “no thanks, I’ll take the citation”. Obviously the second reason to be ticked off is that I still have a months worth of Qualcomm messages in which we were informing our dispatch that we needed our update registration and they kept insuring us that all would be fine.

Answers to questions/thoughts/comments/personal experience welcome!

Posted:  5 years, 10 months ago

View Topic:

A Husband and Wife Trucking Journey

Now, despite this being an automatic, one would think this would be an exciting moment! I mean a BRAND NEW truck...cool right? Wrong! Have you seen the movie Lost In Space? You know the scene where they are launching the Jupiter 2 spacecraft and the pilot says “And the monkey flips the switch”? Yeah well, let’s just say we’ve named our new truck “Jupiter” (we left out the “2” as it would be insulting to our previous truck). This truck does everything for you to the point that my 16 year old could drive it. What’s more is that they have disabled all driving modes other than the economy mode, so it’s not just an automatic but a neutered automatic! In addition to this they told us they would not be able to install our inverter until May or June due to needing some part. This means we lost all the fun and challenge of driving a truck while simultaneously losing the ability to cook or watch tv . As the night driver, this truck is every bit as boring to drive through the night as I feared it would be. Now, as though that’s not sufficient reason to be bummed, this truck has some serious design flaws for a husband/wife team. For one thing the storage sucks and we are now a mobile storage unit and planning how we can get rid of about 25% of our stuff on home time next week (fortunately we don’t need cooking supplies anymore). Secondly the sleeping arrangement sucks. My wife and I “spend time” together in the lower bunk while on resets or waiting on loads but I will typically sleep in the upper bunk when stopped for extended periods. The upper bunk has significantly reduced headroom. The only way to access the upper bunk is from the fold down ladder which can not be raised or lowered by the person in the upper bunk. This ladder effectively cages in the person in the lower bunk and blocks access to cupboards as it is located dead center, so naturally, my wife wants it up as much as possible. This in turn means I’m stuck up there till she puts it down. (Or I can do gymnastics trying to get into a position to slide down without anywhere to place my feet.) The ladder was apparently also designed for someone with boots on as it sure as hell wasn’t designed for a bare foot person about to go to bed. Oh, and god forbid my wife decides to turn on the fancy new lighting system while I’m asleep as I’ll wake up feeling like I’m in a tanning bed!

Anyhow, *****, *****...I know. There is a bright side. We left on this last run feeling thoroughly satisfied with our company and truck and are now about to head home feeling as though we’ve gone to work for a completely new company. As such, the sky is now the limit! While we didn’t want to make any changes, thereby fixing something that wasn’t broken, we now have nothing to lose. We’ve spoken with our old dispatch and have been told we can pick and choose from anything we want to do within the company due to coming up on a full year of zero service failures and zero safety violations. Anything but go back to them that is as, because they were such a good team they have now been tasked with handling only new drivers and those who are problem drivers. (We almost feel sorrier for them than ourselves.) We’ve also been offered numerous opportunities with other companies and, in fact, have a friend working for a small company out of Minnesota that would offer us significantly higher pay, quality equipment, and the ability to run super-solo if we so desire. (We’ll know more about that next week.) Any way you cut it we will definitely finish out our full year with our current company but the concept of making a switch that would allow us to learn more about the industry, and potentially make more money doing so, is becoming quite appealing. It sucks however because it was never our intention to think of our company as a “starter company”. We’re even exploring the option of getting some flatbed experience and in fact literally just spent the past hour talking to a gentleman with 37 years of flatbedding experience who gave us several leads. My wife and I have considerable experience running our own business, could buy a truck tomorrow if we desired, and are very much self motivated individuals, so a progression towards an independent owner-op situation is not out of the question (despite the dire warnings...though a great deal of homework is still required.)

Anyhow, gotta get rolling again but that’s where we happen to be at for the moment folks.

Posted:  5 years, 10 months ago

View Topic:

A Husband and Wife Trucking Journey

In A Big Company...It’s All About The Fleet Team!

For a while now I’ve been thinking it was time to post an update. Initially I had planned to talk about some of the pre-conceived notions we had prior to getting into the industry versus what the realities are out here. Then this happened....

We’ve been out for approximately seven weeks now and will be taking home time next week. About two weeks into this run we began hearing rumors through the grapevine that the company was about to initiate a major scrambling of their fleet teams, resulting in most drivers being transferred to entirely new teams. This was a major nerve wracking prospect as we had developed an excellent relationship with our fleet team and have heard horror stories about how bad things can go when this happens. We even personally know folks who have quit other companies after just such a change up. It was for this very reason that we wouldn’t even consider taking other opportunities within the company, such as a dedicated route, as doing so meant losing our trusted fleet team.

We immediately called our dispatchers and discovered they were planning to call us and inform us of the change that evening. As it turned out we were to be assigned to our new fleet team beginning the following day!! Our original team assured us that our new team had been fully informed that we were their best team and we were told all we had to do was keep doing what we’d been doing and all would be fine. On our side the plan was to keep calm, hope for the best, and cross our fingers that the last ten months of paying our dues and building relationships wasn’t completely erased. Unfortunately, that’s not how it’s been going.

Upon being assigned to our new team we were currently in the process of delivering on multiple trip plans remaining from our previous team. We received no “welcome to the new team” message or call. We finally arrived at our receiver in Olney, Illinois, and completed the prior trip plans, at 2:00am on a Saturday morning. We then proceeded to sit there for THREE DAYS waiting on our next load! In fact we sat for seven out of the next eleven days. (To be fair, one day was for a minor mechanical issue and one was for weather. The other five and a half however were waiting on loads to be dispatched.) In the weeks to come we ran into multiple issues in which we would arrive at shippers only to have them look at us like we had three heads and wonder why we were there. On one occasion we arrived at our appointment to find that our fleet team had the date wrong and the actual appointment was for the next day...so we sat for 24 hours. On another we arrived to discover the load we were to pick up had been picked up by another carrier...8 DAYS earlier! (They even commented “Your dispatch is all screwed up!”.) Just a couple days ago we actually had to stop in the middle of the night and put our foot down, telling dispatch that the truck would not move any further until such time as they provide us with a trip plan that accurately depicted what we had been verbally, or through messages, instructed to do. We’ve also seen multiple errors in the trip plans themselves that we were able to overcome simply because we had the correct information via messages from the planners. More than anything we’ve had the distinct impression that we have returned to being nobodies and that the past ten months of building a reputation was all for not! None of this was ever an issue with our previous team.

Now to add insult to injury, we had been told we’d be able to keep our truck (which we loved) for another 150k miles, or so, as long as it didn’t start developing issues. Last week however we received a trip plan to head to corporate headquarters and drop a load. Our A/C had been lacking oomf recently so we asked if the shop could take a look at it while we were there and at that time were informed that we wouldn’t need to worry about it as we were coming in to be assigned a new truck. We asked if there was any way we could be issued a manual, knowing it’s all going automatic, and we were told it shouldn’t be a problem as the automatics were being reserved for the new drivers coming in with licenses restricted to automatics. What we got was a brand new (150 miles on it and still plastic wrapped) 2018 Freightliner Cascadia...automatic.

-continued-

Posted:  6 years, 3 months ago

View Topic:

A Husband and Wife Trucking Journey

I’m Pretty Sure We’re Officially Truckers Now!

Seeing as how it’s been over three months now it would be easy for anyone now reading this thread to assume that we had gone the way of the dodo like so many other new drivers. Quite the contrary!

We have now traveled 36 states, most multiple times, and logged almost exactly 70,000 miles on our own (in addition to our training mileage). We’ve routinely run reefer and dry van, high security and high value. We’ve been dispatched to shippers and receivers on rural farms and chicken ranches as well as those located in urban areas such as downtown LA or Dallas, during rush hour no less. We’ve been placed on many of the most major accounts our company has over the past several months and have completed all runs with zero safety violations, and with zero service failures. We even added “interstate drug runners” to our resumes at one point by transporting high value and high security pharmaceuticals that had to be aimlessly driven around for ten hours to prevent the possibility of being hijacked while we waited for the receiver to open. As such we have recently been placed on a temporary dedicated account for the holidays, running time sensitive freight through the northern states, despite it being our first winter. In fact we have been asked at times to serve as discretionary drivers, scouting out the weather and reporting conditions for others following in our tracks. We’ve traveled through the remnants of each one of the major hurricanes that have hit the country, through the smoke of many of the major fires, and over most of the passes most often talked about. We’ve crossed the country east-to-west, west-to-east, north-to-south, south-to-north and diagonally more times than we can keep track of without looking back at logs. Things that turned our knuckles white and clenched our cheeks just a few months ago, are now just par for the course. It’s rather insane just how rapidly things have changed and truly hard to believe that just nine months ago neither of us had ever been behind the wheel of a big rig! In spite of all this, there is a new sight to see, a new challenge to face, and something new to learn virtually every day!

A Little On How Our Preliminary Expectations Are Panning Out

Our Choice of Company

We continue to be absolutely thrilled with our choice of company and, at this point, it would require a pretty sweet deal to convince us to go elsewhere. From the moment we established a reputation with our trainer we have been treated like gold ever since. We’ve never experienced an unreasonable issue with getting home for home time and in fact have been offered to take more time if we need it. If we need time between loads to shop, do laundry, or whatever, we simply say so. Our pay has always been correct and our raises have come with our upgrades right on schedule. Don’t get me wrong, there’s always some irritation with skeleton night or weekend crews, but nothing that should come as any surprise to anyone who has previously been involved in the corporate world. Our company is geared toward teams and I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for someone intending to go solo. That being said, if you’re a “natural team” (meaning coming in as relatives or friends who already know each other) and you have questions, feel free to ask me and we can arrange to speak privately.

The Money

For the most part the money is exactly what we expected it to be prior to starting school (at this point) and I’m confident we’ll continue to see it increase. Much of the financial end comes down to our own decisions as drivers. What type of account we’re on and how we manage our time makes all the difference in the world at the end of the week. For example, at times we’ve taken a reset when we didn’t absolutely have to simply because we were plum whooped. Other times you’re forced into a reset because you didn’t manage your time in such a manner as to allow you to continue to run on recaps. As you become more familiar with how it all works you become more efficient and with that the income increases, at least that’s how it’s working for us so far.

You also have to take it on an average. There will be many things beyond your control and you’ll just have to let it roll off your back and have a better week next week. For example, I have ample time to write now as we are in just such a predicament. We were running west bound I-80 through Wyoming early this past Friday attempting to beat incoming winter weather conditions and arrive in Troutdale, Oregon late Friday night. Needless to say the weather set in quicker than Wyoming DOT was predicting and I-80 was shut down right in front of us. We immediately got off at the Little America to wait it out and received word they were opening back up three hours later. Twenty miles later we found ourselves on solid ice and stuck in traffic caused by an accident ahead. As we sat there our company declared an in-house mandatory shutdown for the area (we don’t run on ice). Needless to say all this delayed our arrival to early this morning (a Sunday) and put us in a situation of having to wait till Tuesday morning to get our run back! Nearly 3 days running lost when all’s said and done. Oh well, such is trucking! Time to stock up, get some good food, catch up on Netflix, do a little Christmas shopping, write a blog post, and maybe even show the wife some love!

Till next time guys!

Posted:  6 years, 6 months ago

View Topic:

A Husband and Wife Trucking Journey

An overdue update!

On our first home time - California - August 1st

A lot to report here over the past couple weeks! I'll do my best to cover the portions that would be pertinent to those seeking to go down this road themselves. We got out of Hutchins and finished our run to Libertyville, Illinois. From there we received the final load of our training that had us arriving at the main terminal in Tennessee on the evening of Wednesday, July 19th. Our trainer got us checked into the hotel and met us at the terminal the following morning where we checked in for our upgrade testing. My wife literally cried while saying goodbye to our trainer, something I find amazing as, from all the stories we'd been told, we should have been celebrating the end of multiple weeks of hell. Upon checking in the office lady noticed that my wife looked absolutely beat and gave us the option of beginning our four day upgrade process on Friday the 21'st...we elected to take that option. We put the morning to good use by taking the time to meet our fleet managers in person and then proceeded to the hotel to catch up on some much needed sleep.

Upgrade testing

Upgrade testing turned out to be more training than it was testing. The trainers were a combination of individuals who ran the yard and were dedicated trainers, and OTR trainers who were filling in as yard trainers while in the terminal for various reasons. Once again I have to say that we were thoroughly impressed first and foremost by the people. Everyone at this company actually seems to give a damn! From the ex-drill seargent dedicated trainers, to the OTR drivers who got stuck having to train us green peas, everyone was great! We spent three days in a training yard where we learned maneuvers such as the 180˚ back. This is simply a maneuver in which you begin with a line of barrels along the drivers side of the vehicle and must back untill your tandems reach the last barrel, pivot 180˚ around that barrel, and end up facing the other direction with the barrels again on the drivers side. I actually found this maneuver rather fun as it was something completely new. We also practiced maneuvers ranging from basic turns, to offset lane changes, to 45˚ alley docks. Day three was spent on final testing. In order to test out of the yard we had to perform four 45˚ alley docks between trailers, in succession, within one hour. Of course this must be performed without hitting barrels, trailers, or having to be stopped by a trainer for any safety reason. I knocked mine out without any issue whatsoever. My wife suffered a bit of test anxiety and initially had to stop and go sit down to calm herself. She had spent the past four weeks doing this everyday and was good enough that she'd been parking in spots so tight that you couldn't walk between the trailers once we were parked, but nerves got the better of her. Once she calmed down she hammered out her four without issue. The culmination of this testing was essentially our successful upgrade as the following morning was simply spent in a classroom going over everything from payroll to company policies.

Upgrade to our Upgrade

We not only lucked out by having a great trainer but lucked out in that he is one of the few dedicated reefer trainers within the company and has an excellent reputation. In addition he was going to bat for us in a big way and singing our praises to our fleet managers and company management. Throughout training we came to the conclusion that we wanted to remain running the semi-dedicated refrigerated runs that we'd been running with our trainer. (This will involve coast-to-coast reefer runs with numerous dry-van runs, of all types, thrown in as necessary to get us back to a coast-to-coast reefer run.) It was explained to us that after our initial upgrade we'd be required to put in a minimum of six months before we'd qualify to upgrade to reefer. As it turned out we were invited to take the reefer class, and go through the necessary interviews, immediately after lunch on our fourth day. We did so and ended up being upgraded to semi-dedicated reefer, and coded as such in the system, within four hours of being upgraded to drivers! This was all being done as other members of our upgrade class gave us dirty looks and were clearly wondering how we managed to pull it off!

Truck assignment

As the latter part of our upgrade was happening our trainer was flown to California to pick up a truck and a student. As it turned out the truck he was bringing back was cherry. It's an exceptionally clean 10 spd Freightliner with 120k and a direct tv system and inverter pre-installed. He went to bat for us again and we ended up with a hand-picked truck!

First runs on our own

Our first run was a dry-van of Little Debbie's which departed Tennessee and delivered in Kingman, Az. (The folks at Little Debbie's offered us a job! Lol!) We delivered several hours early and without issue. The second was an Amazon load from Arizona to Tracy, California. Amazon loaded us 6000lbs overweight on our tandems (when set at Ca limit) but after a five hour re-work we also delivered that load without a hitch.

Home Time

We're now on home time till Fri 8/4. We're outfitting the truck for the long term and have installed a CB as well as obtaining a Mack-daddy custom mattress. We'll also be adding a 12volt cooler prior to taking off again.

As always, wish us luck!

Posted:  6 years, 7 months ago

View Topic:

A Husband and Wife Trucking Journey

Training Nearly Complete!

Monday, July 17th - Hutchins, Tx - 4:30am local

Almost exactly one week since my last update and, as it turns out, I've got some time to burn. We've now crossed the country about seven and a half times and are on the very tail end of our training. We each need about two more shifts and we'll have met all the necessary training requirements and will be dropped at the main terminal in Chattanooga, probably Thursday, to begin final testing. After that we'll be assigned our own truck and will be given a load to our home area where we'll take about six days of much needed home time, outfit our new truck, and finally be able to get our dog! From there we'll be on our own! As much as we love our trainer we are SOOO ready to be on our own and develop our own routine! My intention will be to keep this thread running well into the first year of our driving, though posts will likely become less frequent. I'll be posting details on the upgrade testing, which I think will be valuable, and I want the thread to reflect such things as wether we get the miles and make the money we anticipated when initially planning all this. Our trainer assures us that we will be getting the same kinda loads and miles after we upgrade as we've gotten during training and we have learned that it was no accident that he was designated as our trainer. Apparently we are being groomed to run precisely as we have been and will run a lot of refrigerated loads with some high-security and high-value dry van loads thrown in here and there. Ironically it doesn't seem as though we'll being doing much hazmat. If that all proves true then we should find ourselves actually doing better financially during the first few months than we had anticipated, but I'll be sure to report how it actually pans out.

So, what have we done the past week? Honestly, it's beginning to blur together to the point that I now have to pull out my logs and remind myself! We finished that load into Salt Lake City and then grabbed a refrigerated trailer and headed up to Logan, Utah to make the first of two cheese pick-ups. The drive up to Logan is absolutely gorgeous! As seems to be all to commonly the case, we got a little tied up at the shipper in Logan due to not having the correct pick-up numbers and then proceeded to Fillmore, Utah for the second cheese pick-up. In Fillmore we again discovered we had not been given the correct pick-up numbers by dispatch and ended up spending the night as it got worked out. No matter, it was a beautiful place to stop and the weather was perfect for a change. (Apparently this is a new account and actually belongs to a sister company, hence the confusion on the numbers.) We finally got out of there and delivered in Pomona, California. From Pomona we picked up a load of organic produce in Colton, Ca and delivered to a Walmart distribution center in Shelbyville, Tennessee. From Shelbyville we departed for La Vergne, Tennessee where we picked up a UPS load and delivered in Irving, Texas about 8 hours ago. We now have a pre-plan to pickup a FedEx load in Fort Worth, Tx and deliver it on the north side of Chicago, unfortunately, we discovered a blown hub seal upon arriving in Irving. We're now sitting here at a terminal in Hutchins, Texas waiting on the shop to open in order to have it replaced. As it should be a quick fix, we anticipate being able to make our pickup and head to Chicago but we'll see here in about an hour or two. After that we'll likely get a load heading back to Tennessee and will complete our training and be dropped off to test out.

So that's it guys. For those following along, I'll be sure to give a detailed account as to what is involved in the whole testing out and upgrade process as well as the process of being issued a truck. Stay tuned!

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