Profile For Feanor K.

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    1 year, 7 months ago

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Posted:  3 months, 3 weeks ago

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End of a Journey - My year of trucking.

Very interesting. Maybe I should check into barbering haha!

Thanks Will, I do plan to share more stuff soon!

Posted:  3 months, 3 weeks ago

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End of a Journey - My year of trucking.

Thanks for the kind words Brett! I'm gonna give it my all, and I'll continue to pop in here, I always enjoy hearing the stories of other drivers, and sharing what bits of help I can. I made this post because I wanted to share my experience with everyone to give a little bit back to this awesome community, without whom I probably would never have made it half as far as I did. It's the absolute least I could do.

A very good read and well put, Feanor. I can relate, but in an opposite manner. I LOVE trucking. I tried Barbering when I first got out of the service. I enjoyed it and appreciated the skill I learned, I took a huge pay cut to go into trucking. Sounds funny huh. I hardly worked and made great money being a barber. I barely worked 3 1/2 days a week and averaged 1,200 a week in my pocket. But, I didn't love doing it. I enjoyed it, but didn't love it. So I completely get where you are coming from.

Thanks Patrick! That's crazy though, I had no idea barbers were paid that way! But there is no replacement for doing what you love, eh?

Posted:  3 months, 4 weeks ago

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End of a Journey - My year of trucking.

Anyway here is the rest!

I put in my request to switch to the Regional Northwest Heavy-Haul fleet mid-April and my company was great about it. They got me home at the end of the month, gave me a 3 day crash course in drop-axles, picking up a couple local loads with a trainer, then handed me the keys to my new truck.

Now I have to say, I was a little dubious going in about the pay. I had heard from my OTR trainer and other people at the yard that I shouldn't expect to make the same kind of money I was as an OTR driver. I had heard some good things as well, but I know how truckers tend to exaggerate so I was more inclined to believe the negative. Still, the idea of being home every weekend was enough for me to try it, even if I did expect a pay cut. Turns out, I needn't have worried.

They had warned me they would run me hard, and I told them the harder the better. They took me at my word. I hit the ground running with this fleet and it was really fantastic. From my first load out to my last, I was planned at LEAST one load ahead, often two. The work was hard and physical, something which was actually a huge improvement for me compared to the long long hours sitting when OTR. Even better was the pay, I had been all prepared to take the pay cut with a grimace, but I was surprised and delighted to find that all that tarping in the summer heat actually added up pretty quick on my check, and although I certainly wasn't running any 3200 mile weeks anymore, the superior mileage pay did wonders. After a month I realized that I was actually averaging MORE money, was feeling much better physically, and was home weekends consistently to boot.

Perhaps best of all was the appreciation I got from dispatch. I had been prepared to suck it up and repeat the whole 'proving myself' process for the next month or two, but at the end of my first week my dispatcher called to thank me for running hard, and told me he 'Could already tell I was going to be an excellent driver', followed by giving me a juicy 1600 mile round-trip load to Canada (somewhere I had ALWAYS wanted to go!) I was amazed and super happy to see how quickly my work was noticed, and it only got better from there.

I don't want to sound like I am bragging, but just to emphasize the way I was treated. And me just a rookie with less than 9 months under my belt at the time, and only a WEEK with the fleet! This is the true definition of a Performance Based profession. I truly feel I was treated like royalty here, and the only thing I was asked to do in exchange was work hard. Quite a change from previous jobs I have worked, where people with confident personalities or flashy degrees got the promotions. Don't get me wrong, I think that hard work pays off in the long run anywhere, but in trucking that work translates truly and instantly into appreciation and MONEY. That is something I will miss about this career.

So if it was all that fantastic, why did I quit after not quite 3 months? Simply put, trucking is not for me. The very fact that things had fallen out so perfectly really brought that home. Home every week? Check! Great money? Check! Good physical work and great DM? Check! ..... So why was I still not happy?

Because I chose trucking as a job, not a career. I want to be a writer, I want to design games, and work on my social and spiritual life. Trucking is a great career in a lot of ways, but for these goals, I found that working consistent 14+ hour days was just not conducive. Sure I was home weekends, but after 5-6 exhausting 14 hour days which ended in immediate collapse on my bunk, I was far more fit for the couch than for the discipline of working on the challenges of ANOTHER career. I tried to use trucking like I had done with past jobs, as a means to make money while building my true career in my free time. That is just not feasible, for me atleast.

Do I regret doing it? Well, this time last year I had never driven a manual vehicle, hardly been outside my home state in my life, let alone the country, was nervous about traveling and downright scared of big cities. One year later I have been to all but 3 or 4 states in the country + Canada, been through LA, NYC, Atlanta, Chicago, Boston, NJ, Philly, Houston and just about ever other, and done it all in a 70 ft, 80k pound rig. I have no fear of traveling, in this country or others, I have gained a ton of confidence in myself, learned alot about patience and following through, finally got off my rear to get my passport and my GED, and even saved a nice chunk of money in the process. Do I regret that? WHAT IS THERE TO REGRET!?

In the end it is something I am very glad and thankful to have done. It is also something I will miss. Was quitting the right decision? Probably not from a financial standpoint. Quitting a good job where you are appreciated when you are young and single to chase dreams of being a published writer? Not advice you would hear from a financial consultant. But I do think it WAS the right decision for me.

Will I ever go back? It is not something I plan to do, but it is a skill I have gained for life, and I can't predict that far ahead. All I know is, for now, I'm going to take myself a vacation, relax, and then hit my old projects with all my newfound confidence and determination!

To the rest of you out there, you all have my respect for what you do, and my wishes for a safe journey!

Posted:  3 months, 4 weeks ago

View Topic:

End of a Journey - My year of trucking.

Feanor, that's a great post! There's a lot of honesty in it, and that's important for people to be able to see the realities of this career. Brett wrote an excellent article once about The Solitude In Trucking, and how it affects different people. It's a good read for anyone contemplating this career.

I'm looking forward to hearing more from you, and I'm really glad some of the things we teach in here were helpful to you during the past year.

Thanks Old School! This whole site was a huge benefit to me, but as a flat-bedder your posts particularly have been a big deal. That is a great article by Brett, I remember reading it early on but foolishly thought it wouldn't apply to me seeing as I was young and single. Lesson learned there.

Hello,

Your story is inspirational. I appreciate your honesty. I definately wouldn't say it's the end of a journey, but the next chapter in your trucking career. In my opinion, a regional driver puts his/her pants on the same way as an OTR. Congrats on making it a year, you have completed more than most.

Safe travels Chris

I'm afraid I phrased my post in a confusing way. I planned to do this story all in one post but I quickly ran out of room. I have been a regional driver for the last few months, and that is why I say end of a journey. I am done with trucking for the indefinite future. Believe me, I know regional drivers put on their pants! Especially in flat-bedding. That's a lot of tarping/securing! Sorry to be confusing with my title!

Posted:  3 months, 4 weeks ago

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End of a Journey - My year of trucking.

Last year on July 15th, 2017 I quit my job as a part-time baker in a health-food store in North Idaho to make the plunge into the world of Trucking. A few days ago, almost exactly one year later, I cleaned out my truck and turned in the keys for the last time. This thread is about what happened in between, and why I came to that decision.

The first thing I should say is that this site is the real deal. I spend a lot of time researching in the months leading up to getting my CDL, and after. Brett, Old School and the others were proven right more times than I can count over the last year, and I am thankful my internet research led me here.

I started a CDL Training Diary thread about a year ago, but ended up abandoning it as soon as I started with my company due to time restraints. I left off where I just got that shiny CDL. Here's the rest of the story. The first company I applied for, my primary choice, got back to me in my last week of training and had me set up to start orientation before I even graduated. So I started training with System Transport in less than a week.

I could make a whole diary just about the month and a half I spent out there with my trainer, but I will keep it brief. It was the same incredibly stressful, eye-opening, system-shocking rollercoaster I have heard many people on this site recount before. I came close to quitting multiple times. Without the preparation TT gave me, I almost certainly would have.

I could barely shift my first week, could not downshift to save my life (almost literally!) I was so stressed and demoralized I seemed to lose basic navigation skills. I couldn't park, was nearly sent home after scratching a truck backing up at a truck stop, and (I cringe to say this) bumping a truck with the corner of my trailer in a tight rest area.

What kept me going was something I heard on a trucker's youtube channel once. Not an exact quote but what he said was: Never quit when you are at a low point, if you do that, all you will have seen is how bad things can be, and never how good they can be. Give it six months. After that, if you still wanna quit on a normal/good day, then go ahead.

I heeded that advice, and I am glad I did. Things did get better. I made it through training by sheer determination and the skin of my teeth, and likewise the upgrade upon returning. I knew I had left a bad impression with atleast one dispatcher, and was probably not going to be given much more in the way of second chances. But things were looking up.

Why were things looking up? Because I have been through similar situations before, and I know that I function about 90% better on my own. I am a definite introvert and very socially awkward, which combines to make training hell for me. Doubly so when stuck in a cramped cab with a stranger 24/7. So I knew things would get better quickly once I had those keys to my own truck. I was not really nervous. I knew I would make mistakes, but I also knew I could handle them without freezing up the way I did whenever I had the trainer looking over my shoulder. And I was right.

My DM was excellent. The first run he gave me was a pretty standard test run. A short rescue load of about 300 miles round trip. I took longer than I should have tarping and securing but it got done and after that things immediately took off. The next 6 months were a blur, but it wasn't the first time, I had been through training and I had all the good info of Trucking Truth to prepare me, and I held on.

I ran hard, usually stopping with less than 15 mins on my 11 and burning through the 70 every week. My dispatcher responded with appreciation and more miles. Eventually, it slowed down, not in actual miles but in my head. I got where I could keep up, and eventually even stay a step ahead. I learned to deal with customers and call ahead about early deliveries/overnight parking. I learned to manage my clock and how to tell predict when parking would be available. I learned how to back, if not excellently then atleast tolerably. All those tricks that seemed impossible when my heart was pounding and I was so worried about how stupid I must look to the trainer fell into place with surprising ease.

I will not pretend it was perfect, I doubt any rookie year is. I overran my clock once, I backed under a kingpin or two, and had some close calls in the snowy mountains. But all in all it went better than I had dared hope. My dispatcher thanked me frequently for running hard, and always kept the miles coming, and the paychecks followed.

From my first week solo I averaged more than I had hoped or been led to suspect as a rookie. I will stress that I was virtually NEVER limited by freight or office factors there, only by my own ability and willingness to run. I loved that. It truly is a performance based pay profession as they say here on TT. I plan to make a thread going over my earnings for the year soon in more detail.

What I did not love, in the end, was the time away from home. I mentioned I am an introvert and perform much better alone, and that is true. I thought I was prepared for the loneliness and that my reaction would fade with time. In a sense it did. The immediate strong home-sickness I got my first month or two out did dissipate, but the overall loneliness did not. And that is what determined me finally to switch fleets, and finally try out the regional option than I had turned down in favor of OTR at the beginning. More on that to follow.

Posted:  3 months, 4 weeks ago

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TO DRIVE OR NOT TO DRIVE

It is almost always 1 day off earned per 7 days out, usually capping at 5. So if you don't want 2 weeks out 2 days home, you could stay out 5 weeks and take 5 days home, not quite a week but close enough, and dispatcher may work with you here.

Posted:  5 months ago

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Nearing the end of week 24 of 2018!

Been sitting all weekend here in Centralia WA cause they couldn't get me a load home for the weekend.

Meh they told me this happens once in a while in training, and they are paying me extra atleast.

I deliver this morning and then got a nice long load to Montana.

The year is going very well as a whole! So far I've stuck to my plan and it has not failed me.

Posted:  5 months ago

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Looking for a good flatbed OTR company

I can vouch for Systems Transport OTR division. Been with the company 9 months now and 8 of them on that fleet.

I started straight out of school, green as can be, but had no trouble hitting 3000-3200 miles/wk.

Rarely ever had to wait more than 10 mins for my next load, and never more than an hour.

They have plenty of freight and will give you as much as your willingto handle. Started at 43cpm, could be more with your exp.

Posted:  6 months, 2 weeks ago

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Packing List

I agree with some others here. It is a good list, but reduce the hygiene and the QUANTITY of most everything. I had a similar list to this when I was about to head out, but the moment I peaked in that sleeper cab most of it went out the window. This is the truck your trainer lives in, and chances are he will have every storage space filled except for your own bunk. Take just the basics you need to survive and can stand to have cluttering up the bunk in which you will be sleeping every night.

Something else to keep in mind is that your training period is really one of survival. Drive, Eat, Sleep, Learn. Chances are you will be struggling just to keep up with everything being thrown at you, with any spare time being grabbed for sleep. Personally I was happy to get a shower every 2 or 3 days. When we were at a customer I had time to grab my coat and hard hat and then run to try and keep up with my trainer. I cycled a pair of basketball shorts for jammies, 2 or 3 pairs of jeans and a few t-shirts, a hoodie and a coat, and it was plenty using the laundry at the truck stops as needed. I was a vegan going solid for a year when I started training, but within a few days I realized that if I was going to get fed, I had to take a break from that diet and eat what was quick and convenient.

Time is money out here and every minute counts. My trainer once pounded on the restroom door because I was taking too long to pee on a load-check break, I was in there less than a minute. Now he may have been a bit of a hard-ass, but no matter who you are with, you will be too overwhelmed to think of much beyond the true basics. A good coat, a pair of flip-flops for showers, maybe a towel (I used the ones provided), maybe shampoo-conditioner (I cut my hair very short and just used the soap they provide), a small bottle of laundry detergent.

My point is the more minimalist you can be the better, and any conveniences you can live without, ditch them. You won't even have time to miss them. It all goes by in a blur, and you just hang on, try to keep up, and survive. It's just a few weeks, then you can get your own truck and do whatever you want with it. Like getting back on that vegan diet.

Posted:  6 months, 2 weeks ago

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I need some advice, please!

ATS is only for PC as far as I know. It doesn't require anything fancy though, and isn't more than $20 or $30. The wheel would be a bigger concern, that ran me around $300 for a good one. Cheap ones are $100-$150.

You would not need to rent a truck to test out. And private school should pay for your test and likely have the inspector come out to their school. In mine the tester would come out every saturday and test all the students who were ready. We had a 99% success rate, and they would even let you stay past your completion date free as long as you needed to pass (within reason).

Posted:  6 months, 2 weeks ago

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What Does It Take To Be The Best?

Foresighted. When it comes to REALLY maxing out your miles, I've found that 70 to be one of your biggest enemies. A really good driver should always be planning as many days ahead as possible with regards to that clock. It can save you a lot in the long term if you can time your 34 resets with customer off-hours, shop-time, or other unavoidable delays.

Posted:  6 months, 2 weeks ago

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I need some advice, please!

It sounds to me like you think/learn a lot like me. I personally went with a Private CDL School, partly for the reason that they do one-on-one instruction. It cost about $4500 up front, but there are companies out there that will reimburse you for your tuition. As far as the backing itself, we can all give you tips until the end of time, but just doing it is really the only solution. It is just muscle memory and repetition is key.

That said, what I did about a month before CDL school was went and bought American Truck Simulator and a decent steering wheel. That is a really great game, and though I could never find a backing range exercise, you can make your own by finding a parking space somewhere in the game and just use the lines. This REALLY helps with getting that muscle memory and making the trailer do what you want without the stress of a bunch of people and distractions.

The shifting I didn't find very helpful tbh, even though I got a steering wheel with the H-pattern shifter and clutch, they just can't simulate all the feel and nuances in shifting a real truck.

So yeah, nothing will sub for hands on practice, but ATS can go a long way if you get a decent wheel (really helps to have 900 degree rotation).

Posted:  6 months, 4 weeks ago

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Scared of that Perverted, Creepy Trainer? - an article by Rainy

Have to say it is a breath of fresh air to hear on this subject from a viewpoint that is so practical and non-victimized.

Posted:  7 months ago

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Finally a solo driver !

IMO that is the worst of it behind you then. Solo has its challenges, but now it's you and your truck and no one else to distract you (or help you, but it's a good trade) !

Posted:  7 months ago

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Update to my training.

Get ready for the fun part.

Posted:  7 months, 2 weeks ago

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Another Topic Just For Fun - What was your last load? How much did it weigh? How many miles?

3 Skidded Steel Coils, 44k, 800 some miles from Waterbury CT to Bridgeview IL. That Waterbury place has a damned tight turn. And some 12' 7" bridges if you turn out the wrong way (I did, in case you are wondering. Good news, I now know that my truck is less than 12' 7"!! :) )

Posted:  7 months, 2 weeks ago

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New Tax Laws

Is there already a discussion on this somewhere? I'd be interested to hear people's thoughts on the new Itemized Deduction laws and how hard it will hit company drivers. I am actually pretty surprised at how little I have seen about this topic around, but maybe I just haven't been looking in the right places. By my estimation it could be thousands of dollars per year.

Posted:  1 year, 1 month ago

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CDL Skills Test Passed Today, Second Time Around

Congrats man! Great feeling isn't it?

Posted:  1 year, 2 months ago

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My CDL School Experience - Sage

Okay! Test day. Took me FOREVER to fall asleep the night before, only got about 5 hours. Couldn't stop going over ways I could fail the test.

Got up at about 5:30 and was there at 6:30, half hour early. 7 several people showed up, and I wasn't sure who was the tester, so I just waited by my car. About 10 mins later the school director came out and got me to meet the examiner. He was a nice enough guy, and we went over paperwork for about 5 mins then he had us go out to the yard.

He had me check the oil and the fan then hop in and start her up for a signal-light check. Then on to the outside inspection. I had this one down by like the 3rd day of class so I was not worried. It went well and he had me hop in for the in-cab. Nailed that too, and I was feeling a bit more confident.

Straight back was easy ofcourse, although I did start drifting a bit at the end for some reason and almost freaked out and turned the wrong way, but he gave me the thumbs up before I could screw it up. Pulled up and on to the offset.

It was blindside which I actually was doing a lot better on than the sight-side. Nailed that without a pull-up, but when he gave me the wave forward to start the 90, I thought he was telling me to pull up and correct. Didn't realize till he came up and asked where I was going. By then I was in an awkward position to get re-positioned for the 90. I had to back up again and come at it again, but didn't myself enough room. As a result I had a bad time trying to do the U turn and get it set up for the 90 on the other side of the course.

I got it close to where I wanted it, I wasn't really happy, but I was getting worried that I was gonna get failed for time if I didn't go, so I was just like, HERE GOES! It was a different angle than what I had been practicing all week and I was sure I was gonna screw it up at first, but then I started setting the angle and my instincts took over. I had to come in pretty sharp, and it took two or three pull ups to get truck and trailer straight, but I knew I had it once the trailer was in there. I had my last big scare when I realized that I was paying so much attention to not hitting cones that I wasn't paying attention to how far back I was. I slammed the brakes and saw that I had just BARELY stopped short of hitting the back - a ten point penalty that would have failed me. I got the thumbs up though, and the instructor did some papers then hopped in and said let's go for a drive.

Here we go. The pull-out of the drive-way was one of the worst parts, it was tiny and you had to start full on the left-side just to make a right turn out, and hog both lanes for like twenty feet to keep from curbing. Fortunately traffic was light that morning, and we made it out just fine, and my starts were smooth. We pulled up to the first light and he asked me to make a right. Crap. One of the tightest turns in town, and straight to a hill. I took it too shallow and went over the curb a little with my tandems. The horror! I thought I was going to be failed right there, but he just said to give it a little more room. I took the hill in 5th just to be safe, too slow for the traffic but better than missing my gears and stalling.

Next turn he let me know ahead that I was gonna have to go into the gravel to clear it, and I did. Then on to ANOTHER super-tight turn, left this time. Again he let me know I'd have to curb a little to make it and go really slow. I did and it's a good thing he informed me because it was TIGHT. I think I went through all the worst turns in Post Falls that trip lol.

From there we went through an S curve and on to a train crossing. Fortunately we had practiced this part of the route a lot, and I did just fine. Then on to the free-way. Easy peasy. After a couple miles he had me exit and I made my only big mistake besides the curb at the start. He asked me to get in the left lane, but I thought he was pointing right, and started into there. I had to cut across into the left at the last second and blocked both. He didn't look happy but didn't say much.

From there it was a straight shot back, and we got in smooth. I was feeling pretty good about it at this point, until he started talking. He had been quiet up to this point, but suddenly started in about how I needed to not whip the truck in lane changes, and got annoyed when I had trouble getting in position to back it back up to park. His whole attitude became very disapproving and I was suddenly sure I had failed.

He sat there doing paperwork for another couple minutes while I just sat there, too scared to ask if I passed or not. Finally he hands me a piece of paper. Passed All is all it said. He told me again the things I did wrong and needed to fix, but I was so happy I just grinned and shook his hand and thanked him. I had my CDL!

I'm not sure why he had the attitude switch at the end, I think maybe he didn't want me to get ****y just because I had a licence now and remind me that I was still a rookie with a lot to learn. I was just so happy to have passed and be getting my licence though! The school director came out to congratulate me, and get the next student on the list. I let him know what details I could, and wished him best of luck (he passed, I learned later)!

They gave me some instructions on what to do next, and I went to my car, still grinning like a fool. I took a selfie, by the truck I had driven in and sent it my fam, then went home to celebrate! I had my CDL!

Posted:  1 year, 2 months ago

View Topic:

My CDL School Experience - Sage

Thanks for the briefing. I'm considering heading to Sage in Indianapolis in the couple of months.

Very welcome! Thanks for reading :)

Apologies for lack of updates, orientation at System and now my first couple days on the road with a trainer have been taking all my time and focus. Tomorrow we are sitting at a truckstop in Kansas probably all day waiting to deliver, so I'll try to finish this off then.

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