TransAm Orientation

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ChickieMonster's Comment
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Editor's Note: We have an excellent review of TransAm Trucking so check that out.

Day 1:

Bus picked us up at the hotel @ 7:10. There are so many people in this class that we filled up a standard size school bus. The class that is a week ahead of us had to wait for the bus to come back for them. I would say there are at least 40 people, but it's a mix of students and experienced drivers. Today was just a half day. We spent the morning filling out all our basic new hire paper work, then they started drug tests at around 8. There are so many people it took until nearly noon to get everyone done. And this was just a pee test! I would hate to see how long it would take to get hair samples from this many people. We will lose the experienced drivers after Friday. Students stay at the hotel over the weekend, then next week it's class time, road testing and work on the backing range with the instructors.

At noon they brought in pizza and we had a brief presentation from Leasing. (Daniel B was right, they push the lease hard here! No worries, I'm not the least bit interested in leasing.) The only interesting thing they said about leasing with them is that once you lease, you cannot go back to being a company driver. Why? Because: "We set you up to succeed as a independent contractor. If you can't succeed at that, then we don't think you will succeed as a company driver."

Tomorrow starts the nitty gritty procedures and policies part of orientation.

Couple of notes: The lady who does the orientation class is a very nice lady, but tolerates no shenanigans in her class. No talking, no cell phones, and raise your hand to ask questions or leave the room.

If you are a smoker, TransAm's terminal is a non-smoking property! You must leave the property and walk down to a designated smoking area.

If you are doing direct deposit for your paycheck, BE SURE to bring either a voided check or something with your bank's letterhead on it. Just writing in your account numbers will not work.

For those interested in TransAm: Orientation and training is paid at $50 per day. Starting cpm is .30. Not sure yet about fuel or safety bonuses but I will be sure to let you know as soon as I do. They use the Laquinta Inn down the road. Not a bad hotel: free breakfast (eggs, biscuits and gravy, make-your-own waffles, cold cereal and yogurt, fruit etc, etc), biiiiggg TV in the rooms, Tempurpedic mattresses, and microwave and fridge in the room. I suggest bring your own food for supper or there is a Walmart, Taco Bell, Wendy's or McDonald's within walking distance. You can request a private room and they will take the difference out of your first paycheck. They bus or fly people into Kansas City (Olathe is a suburb of KC) then bring them by taxi to the hotel. You can also drive in and they will reimburse 15 cents per mile.

Terminal:

A facility where trucking companies operate out of, or their "home base" if you will. A lot of major companies have multiple terminals around the country which usually consist of the main office building, a drop lot for trailers, and sometimes a repair shop and wash facilities.

CPM:

Cents Per Mile

Drivers are often paid by the mile and it's given in cents per mile, or cpm.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
ChickieMonster's Comment
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Day 2:

Today was a long day filled with the joys of policy and procedure. We started the morning learning about what they call "the Unit." TransAm does not use Qualcomm systems. (I believe they are Tecq units? Don't quote me). Basically your logs, messaging and gps system. We had to sign on duty and off duty at lunch. When we tried to sign back on duty after lunch they all went down so we didn't do anymore with them today. They took our pictures for our files. Then we started going over the handbook. The massive, delightful handbook. Driver expectations, pay system, etc, etc, etc. We learned about their fuel system (company drivers fuel when, where and how much the Unit says), and learned how to write EFS checks. All in all, a pretty tedious day.

A few tidbits:

Company drivers are FORCED DISPATCH and you take the route the Unit tells you. Per Diem pay is not optional. For new drivers it is 12 cents. So you make 18 cpm and 12 cents per diem. You also get 1/2 cent raises every 6 months. To get bonuses you must do a safety class once per quarter and 1 ethics and policy class per year. Bonuses are for basic things: no late deliveries, following the Unit, no safety or DOT violations, and so forth. Rider policy is $19 per month, not prorated. Their longest policy is for 6 months but you can renew it immediately. The money is due upfront for however many months you want, taken out in payroll deductions.

As boring as this day was, they really hooked us up on lunch! We had smoked turkey and smoked brisket sandwiches with coleslaw, mashed potatoes, and baked beans. It was great!

Got some homework tonight (reading more of the lovely handbook) and then we start working with the Unit extensively tomorrow.

Two more drivers fell for the lease program. I'm really hating to see this happen.

I did get a great opportunity to promote TT today! We were on break and someone didn't know what floating was. I explained and then referred them here. Several people asked me for the website so hopefully we get to do some educating soon!

Qualcomm:

Omnitracs (a.k.a. Qualcomm) is a satellite-based messaging system with built-in GPS capabilities built by Qualcomm. It has a small computer screen and keyboard and is tied into the truck’s computer. It allows trucking companies to track where the driver is at, monitor the truck, and send and receive messages with the driver – similar to email.

DOT:

Department Of Transportation

A department of the federal executive branch responsible for the national highways and for railroad and airline safety. It also manages Amtrak, the national railroad system, and the Coast Guard.

State and Federal DOT Officers are responsible for commercial vehicle enforcement. "The truck police" you could call them.

CPM:

Cents Per Mile

Drivers are often paid by the mile and it's given in cents per mile, or cpm.

Per Diem:

Getting paid per diem means getting a portion of your salary paid to you without taxes taken out. It's technically classified as a meal and expense reimbursement.

Truck drivers and others who travel for a living get large tax deductions for meal expenses. The Government set up per diem pay as a way to reimburse some of the taxes you pay with each paycheck instead of making you wait until tax filing season.

Getting per diem pay means a driver will get a larger paycheck each week but a smaller tax return at tax time.

We have a ton of information on our wiki page on per diem pay

DWI:

Driving While Intoxicated

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

ChickieMonster's Comment
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Day 3:

More procedures. Going over the load process, how to understand your Treq unit load messages, understanding the fuel solution process, the fueling and pre-trip processes, etc etc. Around 10 the student training manager came in to talk to the students about the schedule and expected behavior. We went over the e-log system in detail, going over various situations we may use, such as personal conveyance (bobtailing to Walmart while waiting on a load for example) and safe haven (such as being mandated to leave a shipper but you are out of hours). Went over a little bit of time management, then spent the afternoon working with the Treq units getting a general understanding of how they work. Obviously our driver trainers will go more into detail on this when we leave with them next week. All of the lease contractors save one got their trucks and are all set to leave tonight or early tomorrow. Originally they did not have enough trucks for all of the experienced company drivers so they were going to fly them out to recover their trucks. But apparently they got some trucks in so all of the experienced drivers are being assigned their trucks tonight and are ready to leave. The students get to spend the weekend in the hotel, paid.

Today's tidbits:

Company drivers MUST follow the company GPS routes to the letter. Any out of route miles must be approved. Also, as a company driver, if you want to bobtail to Walmart or somewhere, you must have this approved as well. There are several different restrictions on when you can and can't do this.

At TransAm, drivers CANNOT call shippers or receivers to get an earlier appointment. You can either show up and hope they give you an earlier appointment or you can message your DM to see if they can call. The only reason you can call is to find out if they have overnight parking, but this is listed on your load information.

New policy at TransAM: If you are written up for missing a scale, it is IMMEDIATE TERMINATION!! It used to be that they suspended your PrePass for 6 months but they have been having problems lately with this happening so they changed their policy. It's still unclear what happens if you realize you've missed the scale house and turn around and go back.

We have not lost a single person out of this class. TransAm is a little different in that they completely finish your application BEFORE you leave for orientation so that they don't have to send anyone home. No paperwork is needed other than your license, med card, and social security card or birth certificate. Also, they do not do their own physical on site. Just a drug screen.

Bobtail:

"Bobtailing" means you are driving a tractor without a trailer attached.

Shipper:

The customer who is shipping the freight. This is where the driver will pick up a load and then deliver it to the receiver or consignee.

Dm:

Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.
Robert B. (The Dragon) ye's Comment
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Very cool review. In regards to "missing" a scale house, you have to try to miss them. The majority are more than well marked and you'll always hear drivers on the radio talking about whether they're open or closed. I wouldn't worry too much on that one. Plus, when doing your trip plan, utilize the Trucker Path app. It will show you where all the with stations are, along with corresponding mile markers and you'll know ahead of time.

ChickieMonster's Comment
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Oh yeah I forgot. We all got our fuel cards today. We can fuel at all the major truck stops, but company drivers have to fuel wherever the fuel solution we receive tells us. Also we have to get exactly how much fuel the fuel solution tells us to. We have to fuel up the reefer every time and send in a message saying we filled the reefer up.

Experienced drivers and contractors got their "goody bags." These had EFS checks to pay for lumpers, trailer washouts, scale tickets etc, trip sheets which are the cover sheets for our trip paperwork, a disposable camera, load seals, and a seal stamp for paperwork. They were also issued their trailer lock, kingpin lock, and two load locks.

Reefer:

A refrigerated trailer.

ChickieMonster's Comment
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Weekend is almost over. Spent relaxing and binge watching Food Network. I am soooo ready for tomorrow to get back behind the wheel! I haven't been in a truck since the 7th so there's a little bit of nerves but I'm confident that it will be riding a bike! This will be my first time in an automatic so it should be interesting!

ChickieMonster's Comment
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Day 1 of Track 1 (student drivers):

Today we spent the entire day out on the training range. They have a course set up, starting with pulling out of a space between two trailers. You then do several very tight left and right turns between cones, around barrels and light poles, and avoiding concrete barriers. You end this portion by setting up for what they call an angle park. It's set up similar to how truck stops are and you pull up then back between two sets of cones. After this you pull out of the spot, drive back across the range, and down to the straight back. You have to make a tight right turn, almost a U-turn, then back between two trailers. This was the first time I had ever backed between trailers, so that was a little scary! From there you pull out of the spot (without taking out a trailer) and pull all the way up to the fence and straight back to the concrete barrier. The goal here is to get your ICC bumper between two cones right in front of the barrier so you have to stop short of the cones and get out and pace off your distance to the cones. It surprised me how many people didn't understand the concept of pacing off your distance, as this is how I learned to set up for my 90 degree alley dock. From this position, you pull up slightly and begin a 45 degree angle dock between two trailers. I had never done a 45 before especially between trailers so there was a little bit of a learning curve for me. All in all, I think I did ok for my first time in a truck in nearly a month! I only rubbed one cone, just barely scooting it over a little bit, and I only had to stop and back up once on the driving.

They run two training trucks, which helps when your class is as large as ours (13 people). The drivers who have been out with a trainer for 11 days and came back today stole our truck to do their re-evaluation, so we were only running one truck. While we were waiting for our turn, the other instructor got one of the bobtails and found an empty trailer and we practiced coupling, uncoupling, and sliding tandems. As I learned how to do this in school, I didn't have to do this part. Everyone else took their turns doing this because they didn't learn this in school. (Why aren't schools teaching this?!? It's a super important part of the job!)

Daily Tidbits:

LISTEN TO THE INSTRUCTORS!!!! They are there to HELP you through the maneuvers, but they are also the ones who determine if you will be going out with a trainer. They tell you up front, if they don't believe you are capable, they will not let you go out with a trainer. These guys are super cool, funny and helpful, but they are there to teach and they don't mess around. The instructors both said to not be nervous and reassured all of us that we weren't gonna get it right the first time. They dance down the range, crack jokes, and pick fun at people, but as soon as you are putting the truck, yourself, or someone else in danger, they jump in and get down to business.

ABSOLUTELY no cell phones on the range unless you have a good reason. You can also smoke within the confines of the range, but not in the trucks or the shed they have out there for storage. Seat belts MUST be worn at all times, regardless if you are only moving 6 inches or 60 feet.

Pay attention to your mirrors! The turns they have you making are super tight and if you don't pay attention you WILL take out a cone or barrel.

The most important thing they stress is GOAL! You must GOAL before you start backing into a spot, every time. You have to GOAL before you hook a trailer or slide tandems.

Bring sunglasses and wear comfy shoes. You will be doing a lot of walking around the range and standing on concrete and the sun is very bright reflecting off the pavement.

As a side note: this was my first time in an automatic, and I have to say that I really like it! Not having to worry about shifting takes a HUGE load off! My only negatives were the tendency to roll back quickly after taking your foot off the brake and not being able to just idle backwards. The brake pedal was a little funky to me, as you don't have to put very much pressure on it, but that will be easy to adapt to. TransAm runs all Kenworth trucks (the 700 and 680) and I'm not crazy about the mirrors. I'm used to the old Freightliner from school where I could see the steer tires in the hood mirrors, and I can't do that in the Kenworth so I'm just having to guess when the tires are straightened out. Again, just another thing that I will have to adapt to.

Bobtail:

"Bobtailing" means you are driving a tractor without a trailer attached.

Tandems:

Tandem Axles

A set of axles spaced close together, legally defined as more than 40 and less than 96 inches apart by the USDOT. Drivers tend to refer to the tandem axles on their trailer as just "tandems". You might hear a driver say, "I'm 400 pounds overweight on my tandems", referring to his trailer tandems, not his tractor tandems. Tractor tandems are generally just referred to as "drives" which is short for "drive axles".

Tandem:

Tandem Axles

A set of axles spaced close together, legally defined as more than 40 and less than 96 inches apart by the USDOT. Drivers tend to refer to the tandem axles on their trailer as just "tandems". You might hear a driver say, "I'm 400 pounds overweight on my tandems", referring to his trailer tandems, not his tractor tandems. Tractor tandems are generally just referred to as "drives" which is short for "drive axles".

Lil's Comment
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ChickieMonster, thanks for the detailed information. It sounds like you're doing a great job! Your points about the forced dispatch, the inability to bobtail without approval and the consequences for missed scale, make me wonder if that's the norm in the industry or if this company just micromanages more. But it also gives me an idea of what questions to ask in the future, so thank you.

Bobtail:

"Bobtailing" means you are driving a tractor without a trailer attached.

Daniel B.'s Comment
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ChickieMonster, thanks for the detailed information. It sounds like you're doing a great job! Your points about the forced dispatch, the inability to bobtail without approval and the consequences for missed scale, make me wonder if that's the norm in the industry or if this company just micromanages more. But it also gives me an idea of what questions to ask in the future, so thank you.

I had to deal with this with my first company, they pushed the lease down our throats as hard if not harder than TransAm. It's all about taking all your power away and restricting yourself as a company driver to make the idea of being a lease operator more enticing. These rules and policies are not normal industry-wide. For example, Prime gives you their own fuel stops but you don't need permission to use Off-Duty driving (just make sure youse using it legally) and they don't fire folks for running a scale.

Companies like this really, really want you to lease a truck. If you lease, you'll be able to X, Y, and Z at your own discretion but if youre a company driver then you cannot do X, Y, and Z without their permission. They're baiting you to lease and they're capturing all the rookies who don't know any better every time.

Bobtail:

"Bobtailing" means you are driving a tractor without a trailer attached.

Lil's Comment
member avatar

Daniel, you make a great point about them trying to take power away to make leasing more appealing. I wouldn't have thought about that. It is sad that people who don't know about this site would think becoming an O/O is the best option. All of the people who know about my upcoming schooling for CDL have told me to be an O/O. But those are people who have no knowledge of the trucking industry. Thanks to this site, I know better. Thank you also for acknowledging that these rules are not industry-wide. I know co's like Schneider and Roehl have routes planned and places they want drivers to fuel at, which I have no problem with. But I would hope they wouldn't fire me if I missed a fuel location, as TransAm does for missing a scale.

CDL:

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
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