Comments By Cold War Surplus

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Posted:  6 years ago

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What you wish you had

Your truck may already have a fridge, inverter or APU. Every company has their own policies though. For example, every truck at CRST comes with a fridge, you have to pay for your own inverter and there is no APU option.

NO company trucks come with carpeting, but it's nice if you want to go barefoot in the cab. I pick up two bath mats at Walmart, lay one down the middle of the cab and one parallel to my bunk. Much cozier than vinyl and easier to clean.

Before you buy any appliances get a measuring tape and know exactly how much room you have to work with. I once bought the smallest microwave in the store thinking it would work great in my Cascadia. It barely fit in the cabinet over the fridge and had to be held in place with bungies while the truck was moving. To use it I had to unpack it and place it on my bunk. Smaller appliances made for R.V's and trucks are much more expensive than regular household models. Check out Dometic products for tight spaces.

Many of the truck items will be available at truck stops. I understand you don't want to pay full price for these things but you'll earn ~$100/mo in points just buying the fuel you need to do the job and those points can only be spent at the truck stops. My GPS, CB radio, annual internet subscriptions and some Christmas presents for friends and family were all paid for with points.

For news and entertainment I bring my iPad on the road. An audio cable connected to the truck's radio lets me listen to free podcasts or audio books. I have unlimited data with T-mobile that lets me stream shows on my down time from Amazon Prime, iTunes or my HBO subscription. France24 has a nice 30 minute free news broadcast for world news and you can find Fox News or CNN (depending on your preference) live streaming on Youtube for US news.

Posted:  6 years ago

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Your Favorite Truck Stop

Are the TA's of America the most "modern" truck stops?

Nope. TA and Petro are usually have the largest parking lots and offer the most services. You won't see a TA with 13 parking spaces like the Love's in Las Cruces, NM. Each of the major chains has its quirks.

Love's started out as a chain of, "country stores". Convenience stores like 7-11, Circle K, etc. They grew into truck stops. I have to tell trainee drivers to be careful when driving in Oklahoma not to just turn into a driveway with a Love's sign because it may just be a convenience store! They skimp on amenities , but bribe drivers with up to 4 points per gallon on their loyalty program. If you find a Love's with a driver's lounge, a sit-down restaurant or a full-size truck parking lot you can than the Federal Trade Commission. When Flying J merged with Pilot the FTC would only allow the merger if they agreed to sell 20 locations to Love's. Oak Creek, WI; Concord, CA and Troutdale, OR locations were all formerly Flying J. If you're not sure, look for keypads near the shower doors. They'll be disabled but they're often visible.

Pilot/Flying J locations are uneven. The Flying J stores are generally nicer and have better parking than the Pilot stores (compare the Flying J across the street from Iowa 80 with the Pilot on the other side of the freeway). Typically they have services inside the store (restaurant, driver's lounge) but they haven't had service/repair facilities. until recently their focus has been on attracting four-wheelers in addition to CMV drivers so their stores are brightly lit with wide aisles (reminds me of Target). Recently acquired by Warren Buffet, Pilot/Flying J are now opening hundreds of truck maintenance facilities and setting up a chain of clinics with healthcare plans for drivers.

TA/Petro doesn't skimp. The largest parking lots by far. You know you'll get a sit-down restaurant and a 24-hour shop at most locations. The showers are the nicest of the three. Unfortunately, they have fewer locations than the other two (271 vs. Love's 430 and Pilot/Flying J's 550) and their rewards program is the stingiest of the three - 10,000 gallons before you reach free showers on demand).

Posted:  6 years ago

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Your Favorite Truck Stop

Jubitz off I-5 exit 307 in Portland, OR. There's an old school truck stop on one end of the property and a hotel on the other with an enclosed mini-mall of travel services between them. Barber shop, full laundromat, movie theater, several restaurants, convenience store, shoe repair, DOT physicals, mailboxes, etc.

Ever wonder what would happen if a billionaire decided to make some nice truck stops just because? The owner of Sinclair oil did before he passed. Officially, Grand America Hotels and Resorts, little America on I-80 in Wyoming and I-40 in Flagstaff, AZ are some of my favorite stops. Great food, fair prices, marble showers and an upscale look and feel that will make you forget you're in a truck stop.

Posted:  6 years ago

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May Trucking Company pay options: CPM (0.35 for me as a rookie) vs. $105 daily minimum with 90 day extra pay based on miles.

May has been offering innovative pay options for years. They used to have three pay options. As an experienced driver I have no problem covering 650 miles a day while driving. There are plenty of days I make nothing though. Make a delivery and find your customer doesn't have an empty trailer available for you to take to your next pickup? You can spend ALL DAY driving across multiple states looking for an empty trailer for zero pay. Pull into the receiver and have the guard tell you, "It's going to be a while. We had 7 dockworkers call in sick today. Give me your cell number and I'll call you when I have a gate." Get a, "camper load" - a load where the delivery date is several days after the drive time needed to get the load from the shipper to the receiver - ie you pick up a load in Rialto, CA on on Wednesday morning to be delivered in Clackamas, OR on the following Monday. Yes, I call and no, they won't accept early delivery. Two days of paid driving and three days parked at a truck stop under load. For these reasons and others you are going to lose whole days of driving time.

It looks like they're trying to use a half-off pay option (600 miles a day @ $105 works out to $.175 cpm) to limit their driver turnover. Who is going to quit in a huff over something minor knowing they've leaving half their pay behind? Most drivers will plan their departures around the 90 day pay cycle and since every driver will have a different hire date that should smooth May's driver turnover. The drivers who stay will make a little more overall since they have a guaranteed minimum. Drivers who quit unexpectedly end up working for $.175 cpm - perfectly legal because the drivers agreed to it.

Posted:  6 years ago

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Dry Van Midwest Regional?

Oh, the promised land - a local/regional driving job with good pay and no OTR experience requirement.

Sadly, you've actually got TWO issues. First, you're looking for a company that offers a path to earning your CDL without you having to pay up-front. There are several companies that offer this but they all want a term of OTR driving in exchange for that training. Smaller regional carriers don't usually offer training. Your best bet is to find a large OTR carrier that offers training and has dedicated, regional routes in your area.

Secondly, finding your dream job won't be as hard AFTER you have your 1 year of OTR out of the way. You live in the heart of freight country. A quick peek at the Schneider (picked randomly could be Prime, Swift or a dozen others) job site shows regional opportunities with hometime every other weekend and a dedicated JCPenny run with weekends off (must live within 100 miles of Lenexa, KS). I'd suggest talking to a recruiter and asking how many months of driving OTR you would have to put in before you could transition to a dedicated regional run.

Posted:  6 years ago

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Dry Van, Reefer,Advantages and Disadvantages

The biggest differences are noise, time and attention to detail.

Dry van is often drop and hook. You don't need to wait your turn for a live load/live unload. This can take hours on both ends of your trip and you often earn a fraction of what you could be earning if your wheels were turning. If you like watching tv I guess that could be an advantage.

I pull dry van, but I've parked next to a reefer truck at truck stops. Reefer units are loud enough from several feet away. I can't imagine trying to sleep while hitched to one.

A sealed dry van requires little supervision. A refer has to be set to the proper temperature for the load every time. The internal combustion engine that keeps the reefer cool is running more than the truck's engine so breakdowns are a fact of life. One more thing that can break, take you off the road and take money out of your pocket. If your load shifts and a box blocks a vent that was keeping the load cool an entire load could be rejected. In a nutshell, more work, less pay, more hassles with reefer.

Posted:  6 years ago

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Schneider drivers I need your feedback

Not a Schneider driver, but I can think of two important advantages about driving for Schneider that I didn't consider when deciding where to start my career.

1) Facilities. Schneider has dozens of them. Laundry, wi-fi, showers, restaurants. It's like having a chain of truck stops that are only open to Schneider drivers. Must be nice to have a place to park your truck instead of roaming the earth looking for an empty parking space at the public truck stops after dark. CRST has FOUR terminals. By default they send you to the terminal closest to your home of record when your truck needs maintenance. I have to go to Riverside, CA - a mere 1,207 miles from my home! Other drivers who live in L.A. just drive home for an extra day or two of hometime.

2) They know where their trailers are!!! Their smartphone app will show you a map of empty trailer locations based on their satellite tracking. I have spent many 11-hour days driving across multiple states looking for trailers that aren't there. I earn nothing on those days.

Posted:  6 years ago

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Nikola Truck

The problem is our industry is slow to adopt new technology and resistant to change. Rear-backing cameras, collision avoidance radar, headlights bright enough to make it seem like you're driving in daylight - all standard even on mid-grade family sedans yet not coming to your CMV anytime soon.

There are several attempts to move from diesel currently and have been in the recent past. You don't have to look too hard to find LPNG pumps (Liquid Propane Natural Gas - methane) at truck stops. You can't blame the trucking companies. They have to pay more for the truck up front, risk uncertain fueling options and then face a lower resale value for the truck.

A live load once took longer than expected so I had to limp into a truck stop after dark hoping to find somewhere to park. All the regular parking spaces were occupied so I asked the manager about parking options. She suggested I park next to the LPNG pumps. I asked, "Won't that be in the way if someone wants to fuel their truck?" She replied, "No. We put that pump in 8 years ago and we've only used it once!"

Posted:  6 years ago

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Is it appropriate to give your fleet manager a gift

What kind of gift would be appropriate?

I gave my FM a spill-proof, vacuum-insulated coffee cup from Contigo (<$20 on sale). Simple, inexpensive, keeps her coffee hot all day and sits on her desk acting as a reminder of her favorite driver.

Posted:  6 years ago

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Getting started in trucking with an 3 year old DUI

Start here: Trucking Companies That Hire Drivers With DUI

While having a DUI does limit your options you can still go forward. Prime is an excellent choice. I don't know what you consider close. Prime trains in Springfield, MO - a state that borders Illinois. I had to go three states away to train without a DUI!

You've got two things going for you right out of the gate. 1) Time is on your side. The list of companies willing to hire you will get longer the longer it's been since your DUI. You're in the heart of truck country. 2) Several large OTR companies are headquartered (and run schools in) Iowa, Wisconsin and Missouri.

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