Comments By Brian G.

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  • Brian G.
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  • 4 years, 1 month ago
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Posted:  4 years, 1 month ago

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Speed and lane etiquette

Technically, yes I think you could squeak by on a Class B non-CDL. However, if I was going to upgrade my license I would do it to a Class A. That removes the headache of what you tow with the coach. I attached a picture of it so you know what I'm referring to when I say it's unusual. I have a love/hate relationship with the drivers seat being that low. It definitely took some getting used to. You have to think through turns because you are way out in front of the wheels. The rule in coaches is never pull into anything or anywhere you can't see how you will turn around or exit. I'm sure that will serve me well with Trucks.

If you tow something with a GVWR of 10K+ you need a Class A. That is fine if you drag a car behind you. If you trailer it on a tandem axle trailer you are probably going to find 10K GVWR pretty fast.

I went and looked it up. Something may have changed recently. For a long time, if you owned it, you could drive it as long as it wasn't for commercial purposes with a Class C or better license. This is my 3rd bus. Last one was a GM and the one before was a skoolie. I was looking for a skoolie when I found this one.

These are very uncommon in North America. I know of 2 others that are 2 axle. There are more of the 3 axle ones.

Funny thing is I got pulled over by a Truck Enforcement Officer one time. I have radio operator plates on it. He told me that my Mercedes Convertible, F-150 and Motorhome had the same license plate. I just agreed and thanked him for his service while he ran my plates. I swear he wanted to see inside. I seriously doubt he thought this was a convertible or F-150.... The convertible was a fun toy... got rid of it. Love my F-150.

Posted:  4 years, 1 month ago

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Hi From Tim

Upstate NY is a beautiful place. I was up there in August for a friends wedding. I suspect the winters are cold though.... at least by Lower 48 standards.

Posted:  4 years, 1 month ago

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Speed and lane etiquette

I think it makes sense to stay out of the right lane. I do it when I'm driving my RV Motorcoach which is the largest thing I drive right now.... 32K, 40 feet, 12'6" tall. Squarely in Class A category. Like the governed guys, I'm not in a Ferrari. I can max out at a little over 75, but I do not like to. Handling and speed are much safer at 65 to 70 and the sweet spot is around 60 to 65. I think fuel efficiency drops radically above 55 anyway.

That said, I find this conversation fascinating. We have some huge freeways in Houston where I live. We also have some huge traffic to go with those freeways. I live here and I plan my travel around when the freeways are parking lots. Our construction planners coordinate to shut down everything at once which can be ultra irritating. I think 1/4 of our residents got their license in one of those crane vending machines and another 1/4 didn't get one at all.

What I do not understand, is why someone pulling a 53 foot dry van on a 6 lane freeway would want to camp out in lanes 4 and 5 doing 65 when the flow of traffic is 75+ and there is space to their right. This forces traffic to pass on the right which is not nearly as safe. When you factor in Bluetooth Zombies you wind up with idiots on the left, idiots on the right, and speed demons in the middle. That is not how it is supposed to work. I try very hard not to cause others to have to hit their brakes.

A Bluetooth Zombie is someone screwing off on their phone, talking, texting, facebooking or whatever it is that just simply can't wait. Normally they are in the left lane, doing about 5 to 10 mph less than the rest of the flow. When their exit comes they wait until 700 yards before the exit and go from lane 5 to the exit without signaling. grrrrr. I was pretty surprised to see that the Texas CDL handbook makes it a serious offense to operate a CMV and operate a phone with more than one keypress. Explicitly holding a phone or texting are forbidden. I see a fair number of Bluetooth Zombies in dump trucks and straight trucks.

Most of our inner city freeway lanes in Houston are "no trucks left lane." It is politically very popular with the minions. I think that policy makes sense in a couple of places but is otherwise stupid. The places where it makes sense have tight overhead obstacles and left merge entrances. Yes, in Houston we have it all for the driver.... left exit, left entrance, vanishing lanes. With one exception. We do not have double decker freeways that all lead South like San Antonio. :) I consider lane 1 to be the right most lane.

Posted:  4 years, 1 month ago

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Owner operator

While I am not an expert on trucking.... I do have alot of experience in commercial printing and business. I want to bring up a couple of points for you to think about:

1) You need a niche. Maybe you have a client who doesn't want to own trucks and will pay you to haul glow in the dark genetically modified grapefruit from California where they are grown in a microclimate to Austin where they sell for $99/pound in Whole Paycheck Foods. They will pay you $5 a mile to haul as much of this as you can manage for as long as you are willing to do it. Nice work if you can get it. If you have a niche and can figure out how to exploit it you will make money. This applies in any business. In trucking I see it in folks who do wide/oversize loads, flatbed gets a bit of niche, reefer has some niche, hazmat tanker is a niche. I'm sure there are others..... Dry van is not a niche. Not that I can see.

2) If you do not have a niche you are a commodity. As a commodity you are competing with people who have scale and capital. If you are bidding and Big Monster Trucking Company is bidding you are probably in trouble. They have $1 Zillion dollars of OPM and 450,000 trucks. OPM = Other People's Money. You have FPM and 1 truck. They can do stupid things and make money down the road. If you do stupid things you won't eat this month. Btw - I used Big Monster Trucking Company for illustrative purposes.

The four kinds of money. Just in case you don't know what FPM/OPM and it's cousins are.

1 - Your money on you. You want the best price and the best product. aka FPM or First Person Money. 2- Your money on someone else. Price matters, quality does not. 3- Someone else's money on you. What's price got to do with it? Quality is the only measure of devotion. :) 4- Someone else's money on someone else. - Where Congress lives and where publicly traded companies get money.

Back to part 2 for a moment. This is best thought of us as the "race to the bottom." In printing we joke about customers you have to pay for the right to do their work and then send them a thank you gift with your payment for them allowing you to print their rush, custom, pain in the ass job.

I thought of a couple of other things that are worth considering and that I didn't see in the thread.

Are you starting a business or making a job? Both are okay, but be clear on what you want and have. A business makes money when you are not there. It takes capital and good people making a fair wage who give a damn. A job makes money when you are there and doesn't when you are not. I think an OO 1 truck show is a job. Yes, you get more control, but if you are sick or get hurt, you are not making money. Disability insurance can provide a safety net if you can afford it.

Lastly.... thin margins are okay if you have volume. Visa gets 2.5% of most transactions but is wildly and sickly profitable. Grocery stores are rumored to run 1% margins. 3% for the big companies is also taking into account the market distortion forces that they benefit from. When you have XXXX trucks you buy XXXXX tires and you get a better price than someone who buys XX tires and has X trucks. That's the downside. The upside is you are small and can be nimble. Big companies have big management that likes big dollars. As a small operator you won't have huge expenses from people who don't produce revenue. That's a positive. You just have to figure out your appetite for risk, your ability to drive revenue, and figure out how you can win... or if you can win.

Posted:  4 years, 1 month ago

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Texas Noob with questions about intrastate

Thank you. That would be awesome.

From the research I've read new drivers are better off on the highway than in the city.

Although, I am very comfortable driving large vehicles in the city. I've driven lots of box trucks. I also have owned two bus-conversion RV's and a School bus conversion when I was in college.... one a 35' and the other a 40'. They all required some charm to coax into small spaces safely.

I always tell my friends and coworkers, safety takes a second - accidents are instant.

Posted:  4 years, 1 month ago

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Texas Noob with questions about intrastate

The pre-hire piece makes sense. A friend of mine retired after driving OTR for 21 years. I have talked to him a few times and he suggested calling the various companies and seeing what they had to offer.

I agree on Intrastate vs Interstate. However, from reading the rules, I don't see much of a way around it. Texas will grant an exemption with a doctor's note, so that's good to go. DOT states that they require 3 years of CMV experience. However, they also said it's just a guideline when I called to ask about it yesterday. They said to apply and see and each case is unique. At a minimum what I would anticipate is the ability to secure compliance for Intrastate and having to wait on Federal. When I was doing my research yesterday I ran across a batch of exemptions that were published to the Federal Register. Some folks had better vision, some had the same, and some had no vision in one eye. So I know this is do-able. They all had lots of experience.

One of the things I did ask is if the community college had graduates who had waivers. They said they did and that it wasn't a big deal. I did not ask them about their placement rates as I figured that mostly depended on what I would call "common sense" things.... i.e. not using a stupid email address (partydude12@gmail.com or worse), showing up to an interview dressed appropriately, being respectful, being honest, being polite, doing just a little research on the company you are interview with, and being *on time* for your interview. I also suspect that they measure placement in relation to offers. I'm looking for the right fit, not a fit. Life's too short to be unhappy. I could go drive a mouse for $90K/yr if enjoying what I do wasn't important.

Posted:  4 years, 1 month ago

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Texas Noob with questions about intrastate

First I want to really thank you and the other experienced drivers who have taken time out to share information. There is a ton of really valuable and useful information on this site and it's greatly appreciated. I've spent some time soaking up the information and learning.

Just a quick update - I took some time today to call FMCSA and ask them more about the requirements. I also did some research with a nearby clinic that does DOT physicals. Shouldn't be a big deal, but I might be stuck in Texas for a while. I think I know what I need to do on the waiver.

What is the advantage of a community college program vs a private school? How do you evaluate the quality of a school? What do companies look for when you tell them where you did your training? I'm just assuming that some schools have more value than others for trucking.

In the IT realm I would secretly roll my eyes when someone told me that they attended the University of Phoenix online..... It was like getting your degree on eBay. I just didn't find that graduates from UofP knew the material. Sure they had the paper, but they couldn't do anything with it. Whereas someone who went to U of Houston was more likely to know their stuff, same thing for Texas A&M or UT.

I have two community college programs that are near where I live. Both seem reasonably well run and have good reviews. I'm "in-district" for one and when I talked to them they didn't do any pressure sales tactics. When I asked if they were accredited they said they were, but frankly I wouldn't know what sort of accreditation matters. They could be accredited by Willy Wonka for all I know. What should I be asking them to figure out who is going to deliver a better training program?

One observation that I made is that one program has a transportation center with a dedicated training area for trucks and it's near where several freight companies terminals are. The other program doesn't have an obviously nearby training area, but I would expect a similar training area to be set aside.

Posted:  4 years, 1 month ago

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Texas Noob with questions about intrastate

Hi Brett, Thank you for the links. I will check those out.

Maybe I misread or misunderstood the vision requirements.

I read them to be that you must have 20/40 in each eye with or without glasses/contacts/surgery. You must not be color blind (can see colors on signs/signals) Must have 70 degree field of vision in each eye. Must have 20/40 with both eyes with or without correction.

I read that to mean that if you cannot see 20/40 in *each* eye than you are required to get a waiver.

The Texas waiver is fairly straight forward. The Federal waiver appears to want 3 years of Intrastate driving.

Posted:  4 years, 1 month ago

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Texas Noob with questions about intrastate

Good evening, I'm thinking about getting my CDL. I'm doing my research and looking for opinions on what I should expect so I can make an informed decision.

I believe I have to drive Intrastate in Texas for the first 3 years. I have a vision defect in one eye that I have had my entire adult life. I lost a rock fight when I was 15. As I understand it, not being able to read with that eye requires a vision waiver and a little hoola hoop jumping to get my medical. Texas appears to give your medical with a little jumping through hoops. It looks like Fed DOT wants to see 3 years of CMV before they will grant a vision waiver. I've got good peripheral, good color vision, see great in the other eye, but have a scar on the retina of the less good eye and while I can see out of it, I can't read unless it's big.

Fortunately, Texas is a big state and there are a few miles of road here. Are there intrastate jobs for someone who just got their CDL? I'm worried that I might not be able to find a job after getting my CDL.

I have not gotten my CDL yet, but I want to look before I leap. I'm not opposed to OTR, but from what I can tell I have to stay intrastate. Is there a way to get an FMCSA waiver in less than 3 years?

As far as where to go to get my CDL, what qualifies as a "good" CDL school? Our local community colleges both have programs that seem pretty reasonable and on the up and up. i..e it's Not Shady's Quick Driving School with Recruiters from Paradise Money Bags Trucking. When I googled "what makes a CDL school good" I found all of the listing's for Shady's Quick Driving School. :(

I'd also like input on what I may not be thinking of as I ponder this career and lifestyle shift..

I absolutely do not want to go back to work on Cube Hell for Corporate Soul Suckers. I was forced out of a nice job last summer and opted to start my own company. The sales are not materializing and I'm going to have to shut it down in the next few months. That leaves me with the options in Cube Hell, Retail Hell, or trying something new knowing I can return to Cube Hell for a paycheck if I need to. I used to be in a 75% travel job and did international work... so I know what it means to be on the road.

I've also driven a wide array of vehicles from Bus RV Conversions to military vehicles to rental box trucks. I've not had any accidents, scratches, scrapes, or smashes. I currently have a 40' Bus Conversion that I drive. I'm careful with it, but probably take it places most people would think I was crazy for going.

I've thought about the time away from family and friends and concluded that I'm single and most nights I am at home by myself. I don't think I'm missing much there.

I expect to take a pay hit the first year or two.... and not to make as much as I would working in Cube Hell. I don't have any extraordinary living expenses, car payments, or debts. I should be fine if I can swing $30K+, but obviously I want to make more than $30K.

What am I glossing over or not thinking about?

P.S. Sorry this is a long post, but I wanted to show that I've thought about this alot and it's not a "I'm mad at my job and want to get away impulse."

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