Comments By Cold War Surplus

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Posted:  2 years, 3 months ago

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I-70 Colorado mountains

CRST's trucks aren't allowed on I-70 west of Denver. You get a nastygram on the Qualcomm telling you to get off of I-70 even if you're just taking I-15 over I-70!

Posted:  2 years, 3 months ago

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Car hauling

I took a gig driving for an auto auction house before going to CDL school. I would drive the vehicles from the dealerships to the auction house and then to their new owners after the auction. There were also two CDL drivers who drove car haulers there. I asked them a lot of questions about driving while I was there. I remember three things they told me:

1. Car haulers are very low with minimal ground clearance. You have to be very careful or you can get stuck on railroad tracks, curbs or anything that isn't flat, level road.

2. Car dealers pack their lots with cars so there's usually no room to drive your truck onto the lot to load/unload. Most of the time you'll be unloading on the center lane of the road in front of the dealership as cars whiz by on either side of you.

3. You're responsible to all damage to the vehicles. Fair enough, but if a salesperson or lot attendant at the dealership has a fender bender after you've delivered the car in perfect condition they don't always do the right thing. Given the choice between admitting a mistake and possibly losing their job or claiming, "It came that way off the truck" many will have no problem blaming the driver. To protect yourself you MUST take pictures of every car you deliver on all sides.

Posted:  2 years, 3 months ago

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When the trucks stop

Hasn't been getting much coverage, but truckers in Brazil have been on strike for the last week over the price of diesel. It hasn't taken long for things to go off the rails:

8 airports closed (no fuel), 64 million chickens killed (no feed), empty store shelves, 12+ hours in line to buy gas

The government is trying to hold things together with the military and the police. A scary example of what can happen if we don't go to work every day.

Posted:  2 years, 5 months ago

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CRST Questions

CRST actually uses several schools to train drivers. The two main schools are located at their terminals in Riverside, CA and Cedar Rapids, IA. You're closer to the school in Cedar Rapids so you will go there UNLESS you are a veteran of the armed forced. CRST (and Stevens Transport) sends veterans to Careers World Wide in Keenesburg, CO for an accelerated training program. CRST also uses several feeder schools throughout the southern states. These drivers go through orientation at the CRST terminal in Oklahoma City, OK. My answers will vary slightly from millionmiler24's because I attended the school in Keenesburg.

CLP testing occurs before dawn on Wednesday. Your entire class will load up into a van, drive to the DMV office in Denver and wait in the parking lot for the DMV to open at 8. The DMV employees know you're coming - a new class shows up at that office every Wednesday.

Week 1 your class will split up into trucks with usually 4-5 students in a truck. You will rotate with one student driving the truck forward and back in a straight line and the others sitting in the sleeper berth watching and waiting for their turn.

Week 2 is a lot like week 1 only now you drive the truck forward into a road parallel to the one it started out at, then back into the new lane, then pull forward into the first lane and back to your starting position.

Week 3 you will work on alley backing in the morning and after lunch you will take the truck out on the road with an instructor. You'll take it on the freeways and stop in small towns and rest areas.

CWW is still using trucks with manual transmissions.

If you don't make it through on your first attempt they will work with you and give you every opportunity to improve. You basically get a dedicated truck and instructor to work with you to get you test ready.

CRST doesn't have APU's. You will get power from an inverter and optimized idle. You may purchase an inverter at your own expense (1,500 watts max). You can buy one at the truck stop using your points. It must be installed by a CRST tech at a terminal. There is a small fee for this but once you have paid the fee once you can have inverters installed or removed as many times as you want for no additional charge.

Your inverter will draw power from the battery while the truck is parked. When the battery gets low the the optimized idle will start the truck automatically and recharge the battery then shut the truck off.

Posted:  2 years, 6 months ago

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TV service

For my tv needs I depend on a combination of Philo and T-mobile. Philo offers 37 channels for $16/mo. AMC, IFC, History and Discovery are included and have everything I need.

My iPad is 4G capable. With the 6gb/mo. data plan and my veterans discount I can connect to TMO for $21.25/mo. While 4G data is capped at 6gb/mo. streaming video doesn't count against the cap. All the Youtube and Philo I can watch even if I've already used up my 6gb. Sweet deal.

Posted:  2 years, 6 months ago

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Possible self driving/ autonomous trucks opinions and time frame?

Self-driving trucks are not going to have any impact on trucking for a very long time.

I beg to differ. The fear, uncertainty and doubt created by all the hype IS having an impact - young people are ruling out driving careers as a viable option because they perceive it as a dead-end. " Oh noes! Why invest three weeks of my life to get a CDL when the trucks are just going to drive themselves?" This combined with retiring baby boomers is shrinking the pool of available drivers at a time when demand for drivers is at an all-time high. Look for massive signing bonuses, higher cpm rates and improved benefits to continue for the foreseeable future.

Posted:  2 years, 7 months ago

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Never say never

I have two predictions for you:

1. You'll be getting more phone calls asking you to stay. 2. A set of "golden handcuffs" are coming your way - a bonus provided by an employer to discourage an employee from taking employment elsewhere. They give the cash up-front to stay for a given period. Laws vary by state, but most of the time if you leave early you have to pay back a pro-rated percentage of the bonus.

Posted:  2 years, 7 months ago

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Cdl question

First the bad news - without a 160-hour training certificate your options will be very slim as others have already stated. That said, there's nothing stopping you from taking the CDL class at your local community college after you have your CDL to clear that hurdle. Yeah, it's about $2-3K to go that route but you should easily earn that back in your first year. The college won't have a problem taking your money and the insurance companies don't care that you got it after you got your CDL as long as you have it.

Now the good part. Every year from Oct thru Jan parcel carriers are SLAMMED covering Santa's back. UPS, FedEx, USPS, OnTrac, etc. hire THOUSANDS of seasonal drivers just to cover the surge. Since most drivers drive year-round there isn't a lot of interest in these positions so they have lower hiring standards than they would for their year-round drivers.

You don't mention what part of the country you're from so I can't tailor my recommendations to your region but some other ideas are driving the harvest to market/canning plant for farms in the Fall, delivering heating oil in the northern states in the Winter or Driving busloads of skiers to the slopes.

Posted:  2 years, 11 months ago

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Why all the hate...?

I suspect a lot of it has to do with the fact that the large mega-carriers are run more efficiently, have lower operating costs and are able to haul loads profitably at a much lower cpm rate. You are their competition. Instead of adapting to the changing times they've chosen to fight tooth and nail to keep the profession as it was instead of moving forward. Instead of trying to compete effectively they've chosen to blame the competition for low freight rates and make spurious accusations about their safety records. Don't worry about it - these dinosaurs will disappear soon enough.

Posted:  2 years, 11 months ago

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Linehaul questions.

You're probably going to take the company that will hire you. Every region is different in linehaul but these jobs pay well and LTL carriers usually don't struggle as much as OTR carriers to find drivers. I've heard stories of trainees being offered linehaul positions right out of school in the Northeast. In the Northwest there's a regional LTL carrier (Penninsula Truck Lines) that wants five years of verified OTR experience before they'll consider you. Consider my remarks as applicable to the Northwest market, but other markets aren't that different.

The big advantage with the union carriers is the insurance. Usually, it's thrown in at no charge to you beyond paying union dues. Unions were exempted from Obamacare so you can still get a, "Cadillac plan". The big hitch is the wages. Yellow/YRC/New Penn/Holland/Reddaway starting pay is on the low end of the scale (51.56 cpm/$20.83/hr. to start) and then there's the 15% giveback - they deduct 15% of your earnings back! UPS wages are o.k., but they tend to starve out new drivers giving them 1 or 2 runs a week. Compare Yellow's starting wage with SAIA (64 cpm w/2 years exp.), Old Dominion (68 cpm), Estes (68 cpm).

As an entry-level linehaul driver you'll be working the extra board (sometimes called the system). A typical linehaul terminal will have 12-15 drivers on bid runs and those drivers will have 3 or 4 weeks of vacation time each so 36-60 weeks where they will need someone to fill in for them. Bid driver sick days and extra freight during the busy season will fill out your runs. Seniority comes into play when bidding on a regular run. After you've worked the extra board for a year or two you will probably have enough seniority to get a bid run. Seniority also comes into play for weekend work.

Traditionally, P&D drivers get promoted into linehaul but their wives usually veto this in favor of having them home at night. The big problem you're going to face is external competition. If a terminal has one opening and another driver with a clean record and 5 years of experience applies you won't get called back. If that other driver doesn't apply you will get the job.

Pulling doubles and triples isn't the hard part - wrestling with the dollies to hitch your set is the hard part. It can be extra difficult if you're doing it in an uneven, gravel lot. The driving part isn't that much different than pulling a single 53' dry van. Doubles and triples have fewer accidents than singles. Parking can be a challenge since 84' of trailers takes up a lot more room than a single and backing up isn't an option.

Posted:  3 years, 2 months ago

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Noob with decision anxiety

You're doing it wrong. There is no right answer. The schools teach you how to pass the test to get your CDL - that's it. Minor details like how to fuel the truck, what to do at a weigh station and where to park your truck when your hours are exhausted are all left to the company trainers. While trainers vary, all companies recognize the need to keep butts in trucks and do what they can to make sure that will be up to speed by the time your training is done.

I also weighed the CPM heavily when I chose my first company. That is the wrong answer. I was ecstatic when I found a company that would count my time in the army toward time on their pay scale. My 8 years of service meant I would be starting at 42 CPM! I'd be smoking the chumps at most companies starting out at 25 CPM. After my first year I found that I made about 65% of what those chumps made. How could that be?

Team driving - My CPM rate was only good when I was driving with a co-driver. If my co-driver quit or got fired I would be driving solo, at 21 CPM until I found a new co-driver! Yes, less than what trainee drivers made. This would go on for weeks or months until I would be routed to a terminal to find a new co-driver.

Evil Truck Company - My company bought all their trucks from the same Evil Truck Company and retired them at 500k miles. This meant most of their repairs were done under warranty. Good deal for the company, bad deal for the driver. I won't name the truck company here because I don't want to start a land war over who makes the best trucks. The point is this policy took money out of my pocket but was something I didn't consider when choosing a company. Evil Truck Company once made great trucks but they moved their production to a third-world country and their trucks are now being made by folks who earn less than $1/hr. and don't speak English.

The pattern was always the same - truck would break down, limp to the nearest dealer, check into the hotel and come back on Monday. On Monday you'd show up at the dealership and ask about the truck. They didn't know what was wrong with the truck yet because your company hadn't given them permission to start work on it. Frantic call to the FM, foul language, threats, etc. Permission given! Two day later you'd call the dealership and find that something was broken on your truck that, "Isn't supposed to break". Things like a broken DEF box or bad camshafts. Either way it was a warranty repair so the techs at the dealership weren't allowed to work on it. Evil Truck Company would have to fly in their mechanics, but it would take a few days for them to get there. They'd have to file a report with Evil Truck Company HQ to get the repairs approved and only then would they start work. My truck was less than a year old. It spent more than a month in dealerships while I was earning $40/ a day in breakdown pay.

Bad luck - I had a co-driver wreck our truck and spent almost two weeks waiting to get out of Sheffield, TX. He was fired and I was forced to drive him to the nearest terminal to his home - at 21 CPM!

A much better measure is what the average driver earns at a company. Obviously, your mileage will vary but a good attitude and a solid work ethic go a long way. I include the above examples to show that it's the things you're not thinking about that can have a huge impact on your earnings.

Posted:  3 years, 2 months ago

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Regen and high idle...confused

If the buildup isn't too bad and you're running up hills you can sometimes skip the regen and let the engine burn off the accumulation with normal driving. You can drive for hours if the regen light is the only dash warning.

Things get serious when the lowest yellow check engine light comes on (outline of an engine with no text). This means that the buildup is bad enough that you need to perform a regen and normal driving isn't going to make the regen light go away. At that point the clock is ticking towards an engine derate. How many minutes you have will vary depending on the amount of buildup, humidity, outside temperature and a number of other conditions but you'll generally have more than an hour. Once the check engine light with the word, "CHECK" comes on you only have a few minutes until your engine derates and your parking options are what you can coast your truck to.

btw...2016 FL cascadia.

May God have mercy on your soul!

Posted:  3 years, 2 months ago

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Is everyone aware the ATA has lobbied for "anti-trucker" wages? Urgent!

It looks like the OP is talking about the Denham Amendment.

The main purpose of the amendment is to check efforts by individual states to set their own rules for HOS and pay. While it's nice to think that when you were in say, California you automatically got layover pay it would be a nightmare for OTR drivers and companies to keep all the rules straight. What if you had 3 hours of drive time by federal HOS rules, but had to pull over in Medford because you wouldn't have enough HOS to legally drive in California?

Of course, other bits get added, just like they do to any other bill. The worst thing I saw was a provision limiting drivers from being able to file class-action lawsuits against trucking companies. I can understand not forcing companies to work with 48 different state laws, but the class-action limitation just looks like a favor to Walmart.

Posted:  3 years, 2 months ago

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CRST Drivers, I got a question for ya.

Congratulations and welcome to the fleet! To log into the app you need to add the letter, "d" to your employee ID number. If you are employee, "903T", you would enter, "903Td". The d on the end means you are a driver.

Posted:  3 years, 2 months ago

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So I failed at flatbed (not really)

double-quotes-start.png

To ALL new drivers out there: ^^^THIS^^^ is how you change jobs. If you decide what you are doing or the division you are in isn't really for you, find what you want/need then change divisions WITHIN YOUR COMPANY, that way you can give a division a TRIAL RUN and if you find its not for you, then you can move to another division within your company, that way you don't look like a job hopper and you still have a lot of opportunities.

double-quotes-end.png

While I agree that he handled it well, company policies vary on letting drivers switch divisions. For example, if you wanted to try flatbed (CRST's Malone division) it wouldn't be as simple as talking to your FM and making the switch. You would have to quit CRST for 6 months then reapply as an external applicant to the Malone division.

Posted:  3 years, 2 months ago

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New Team Truckers - Seeking Advice

Hi Drew, welcome to the forum.

You've touched on a number of issues, but I'll try to stick to the questions asked for brevity. Every company sponsored training program is different. Some require you to pay the tuition back with monthly or weekly payments, some forgive the debt after working for the company for a set period (with some bits repaid) and some will reimburse you if you paid for trucking school on your own - in monthly installments, of course. I signed on for CRST's veteran's program. They paid for my Greyhound ticket to Careers World Wide in Keenesburg, CO. We stayed in dorms and were given $75/wk for groceries. All DMV fees were paid by CRST. After earning my CDL I was given a rental car to drive to orientation in OKC. CRST deducted $100/mo. to pay them back for the bus fare to Keenesburg and the grocery money. It was about $400 total. After driving with them for 10 months the cost of my training was forgiven. They ran 4 payments of $375 through my check - the money went in and went out leaving just the payroll taxes to pay tax on the value of the training I received.

If I had quit CRST before the 10 months were up, I would have been on the hook for $6,000! There's also a nasty non-compete clause in the contract where they will sue any employer who hires you before your contract is up. Oddly enough, they often do take drivers back who strayed away allowing them to finish their contract provided they didn't abandon their truck or commit some other cardinal sin.

The real advantage to a contract is one-stop shopping and a coincidence of needs. You're going to want one year of OTR driving on your resume before you start looking for another job any way. This shows that you can drive safely in all weather conditions and aren't some kind of snowflake that looks for greener grass the moment things get rough. The company that trained you has invested in your success and is more likely to forgive minor transgressions that you as a new driver are pretty much guaranteed to make.

Most OTR jobs just go where the loads take you. You will see most of the lower 48 states. Regular coast to coast runs would happen on a dedicated account or with a carrier who specialized in that. Most carriers don't go to Canada - it's a specialty. The HOS rules and other regulations are different there. You'd need a valid U.S. passport to drive a cross-border route. I don't know of any companies that will send a first-year driver across the border.

Posted:  3 years, 2 months ago

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Stevens company sponsored cdl training

There's more than one school. Stevens and CRST both send veterans to a school in Colorado for training. I went to the school as a CRST student. Same trucks, same instructors, same dorms. There were three differences between the groups. CRST advanced their students $75/wk. for groceries. We repaid that later through payroll deductions. We were asked not to tell the Stevens students about this since they didn't get grocery money. When the training was complete CRST students took a rental car to orientation in OKC, Stevens students took the Greyhound to Texas. Apparently a tornado had gone through the area where Stevens has orientation about the time we graduated so it took my classmates a few days to make contact with Stevens after they arrived in Texas. The driving skills tests in orientation was the biggest difference. CRST students drove to a truck stop down the street from the terminal. Stevens students would spend hours every day performing rigorous maneuvers. At one point they described having to take the truck and trailer on a figure-8 course in reverse!

Day 1 - DOT Physical. You'll take a UA. Physicals were done in a chiropractor's office above a nearby truckstop first thing in the morning. Afternoon is orientation then study for your permit. Day 2 - Study for permit. Day 3 - Go to DMV before dawn, wait for DMV to open, take your permit test. Afternoon in the yard hooking and unhooking trailers. The rest of week 1 is spent taking a truck with >1,000,000 miles forward about 200 yards then back in a straight line over and over. Done? O.K., you can watch the next student do the same thing! Day 3 is the day the UA results come back. On average, we'd lose one student from each class for testing hot.

Week 2 - Take the same truck forward 200 yards, back at an angle into a lane parallel to the one you started in, pull forward and then back into the lane you started in. About an 8 hour day in the yard and evenings spent studying the textbook and filling out a multiple-choice test.

Week 3 - Mornings in the yard working on alley backing, afternoons on the road through rural Colorado. You'll be evaluated on your next to last day on your pre-trip, alley backing and driving skills. If you pass you'll be given a certificate by your evaluator. In the afternoon you'll drive to the DMV with the rest of your class and redeem your permit, the certificate and your driver's license for a temporary paper CDL. On your last day you'll be packing, working on your travel arrangements to orientation and finishing any odds and ends with your paperwork. There's a small celebration and awards ceremony for highest gpa and best road test scores.

Posted:  3 years, 3 months ago

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Mobile phone service

I've been very happy with TMO. I've actually seen areas where there was no signal sprout bars in the last two years. They're definitely expanding their footprint BUT they have to do it on the new spectrum they've bought in the last year or two which isn't the same frequency as what they've been using. If you're using an older or lower-tiered phone you won't see the difference. I've actually had some of my students badmouth TMO because they didn't have any bars only to show them my phone with 5 bars! They're SHOCKED to learn we're on the same network. Does your phone support band 12? Band 66?

Cricket is an affordable alternative that may work for older users or folks who use their data only to send texts but more sophisticated users will be disappointed. Cricket is prepaid only. Cricket does not allow tethering. Cricket has some of the slowest data speeds around, much slower than AT&T. While AT&T doesn't cap the total amount of data you can use on the Cricket plan they do cap downloads to 8 Mbps! Real world users average about 4.5 Mbps, which pales in comparison to AT&T's 20.8 Mbps and is a fifth of what you'll see on the fastest networks (Verizon and TMO).

Posted:  3 years, 4 months ago

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A Regular GPS or a Tablet?

A dedicated unit is the way to go. A tablet has a lot more applications running in the background that can create memory management issues, lags or even cause your navigation app to crash. Rand McNally's top of the line Intelliroute 8" TND Tablet earned only 3 stars on Amazon reviews with many users remarking that it's not ready for prime-time. Multiple users reported that their units froze, crashed or otherwise became unusable in less than a year. Nearly half (47%) of those reviews were one star! They make quality products and most of their other products earn 4 stars or more.

A random navigation app on the Google play store probably won't have map updates as often as the market leaders (Garmin & Rand McNally) and probably won't be as truck safe - warning you about truck prohibited roads, low bridges, etc. Bite the bullet and get a separate gps instead of trying save a buck and ending up with a piece of junk that doesn't work well as a tablet or a gps.

Posted:  3 years, 4 months ago

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Medical cards in 2018

Thanks Rick. The article made a lot more sense. Drivers won't need to carry their medical cards after June 22, 2018. D.O.T. certified medical examiners will submit the results of their exams directly to the FMCSA. The FMCSA will notify the state DMV of a driver's medical status. Drivers no longer submit their long forms to their local DMV.

I can't imagine what kind of hell it would be for some poor driver who finds that a mistake was made or a physical was, "lost" in the system and had to deal with the FMCSA and DMV to resolve their issue. The other thing that caught my eye was, "This transmission will include the results for both commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders and non-CDL holders." The FMCSA is building a database of physicals for EVERYONE! I guess someone could have a condition and then years later try to get their CDL but that sounds creepy and a little Orwellian.

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