My First Day

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Code Red NV's Comment
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After I had finished my training (see my previous thread, The Schneider Diaries, a few people wanted to see how I made on in the real world. It was horrible.

My First Day

I didn’t want to get out of bed.

Fear of the unknown can be a paralyzing feeling.

I got up early, washed and dressed, organized my stuff for the twenty-seventh time, and waited to call my DBL*, Martha**.

I met Martha briefly after I had finished my SQT***. She is ex-military in that way that some ex-military are; stiff, terse, direct and to the point. No chit-chat. Our conversation that morning continued along those same lines. My truck was located at the Freightliner shop (bit of a red flag, that, but ok), and she’ll get me dispatched from there.

I knew my first truck would be a piece of work, but wow.

JH4UDjh.jpg

The truck was obviously abandoned by the previous driver. I emptied out almost two and a half Wal-Mart bags of garbage, empty McDonalds drink cups, empty coffee cups, discarded food wrappers. There was a bucket that contained some kind of chicken, but I’m only guessing chicken because that’s what was printed on the side. Seeing the greasy residue inside the bucket, I would say “chicken” is a vague generalization.

FF3gcgG.jpg

The doors of several of the cabinets were held shut by a mix of poorly applied Velcro and duct tape. They tend to pop open randomly while I drive, so I’m weary about putting anything in there.

There was a half empty box of Arm & Hammer baking soda, the rest of the powder leaked, or purposed spilled, over the inside of one of the storage compartments.

The previous driver was a smoker. God bless Simple Green.

There was no current registration or insurance card in the truck. Martha had to fax it over to the Freightliner shop.

The rear side wing was missing.

2yfyLig.jpg

I made sure to document everything I saw when I first showed up.

I did a complete, point-by-point pre-trip, like I was taking my CDL exam all over again.

After a few hours of cleaning, and waiting, I got the dispatch to my first load. Go to the Schneider drop yard in Vegas, pick up an empty trailer, and then take it to Flagstaff AZ, where I’ll drop it off and pick up a loaded trailer to deliver to another place. Simples. Except it wasn’t.

The thing about Schneider is that most of the Operating Centers and drop yards I’ve visited are just dirt lots. The Vegas yard is no different. As you drive up to the gate, I saw several large pot holes in the dirt. Instead of trying to drive around them, I assumed (yes, I know what “assumed’ means, this is the perfect context) that since other drivers must have driven over them, I could too. I was wrong.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________
* Driver Business Leader – I’ve talked about how Schneider likes their ridiculous corporate-speak.
**Obviously not her real name.
*** Skills Qualification Test. Dammit, Schneider.

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.
Code Red NV's Comment
member avatar

UsyFs4x.jpg

After an hour of trying to dig out my two rear drive axles from an ever-growing sinkhole of soft Nevada dirt, using nothing but some discarded plywood and bits of lumber, I knew that I was wasting valuable time. I bit the bullet and called Martha.

“Oh, they haven’t fixed those yet?”
“So, you know about this?”
“Yes, they were supposed to fix them.”

Well, Martha, obviously, they never got around to it. She told me I had to call Schneider Emergency Maintenance and arrange a tow from there.

So, another hour gone. On top of the hours I spent cleaning out the filth from the previous driver and then waiting to get dispatched.

Trucking can be compared to a lot of things. Falling dominos is a good example. You knock over the first one, and that effects everything else.

After the tow truck pulled me to solid ground, I finally picked up my empty trailer, and hit the road.

After a few hours, I pulled off to a truck stop to grab some Subway, the first thing I had eaten all day. And then I called my wife. And then I cried. Yes, I cried on the phone to my wife. This blog is warts and all, people.

Only once before in my life have I cried because a job. Remind me to tell you that story at some point.

I got back on the road, got to my destination, dropped off the empty trailer, spent a disproportionate amount of time hooking up my loaded trailer, because I’m new and this is my first day and despite everything I’m still trying to be a good boy and make sure it’s all done correctly. Eventually I’m on my way. By that time I had 10 minutes left on my driving clock.

By some movie-miracle magic, just on the horizon was a brightly lit truck stop. 10 minutes. I can make this. Except, I didn’t. Well, I did.

I made it to the truck stop, however by now it was close to midnight. Truck stops start getting crowded in the early evening, and are often full by midnight. This was no different. Yes, there were one or two randomly placed spaces I should have tried to get into, but I was tired and scared and I had already cried on the phone to my wife so I wasn’t interested in having anyone else know what a ***** armature I was. I circled the parking lot a few times, then left. My on-board computer was reminding me every few minutes that I was out of hours, I shouldn’t be driving, and that this was a DOT violation.

Some first day.

I started cruising the side roads for a place to just park. Some times you will see big rigs shut down in random off-road spots. Either they are broke down or they’re getting some shut-eye. But the movie-magic was all gone.

After half an hour of driving around with this robotic voice constantly reminding me I was in DOT violation, I got back onto the highway. I knew there was a larger truck stop a few miles down the road. In for a dime, in for a dollar, I reckoned. I rolled the dice. And got jackpot when I arrived. A space, one glorious, easy to get into space. Hallelujah.

It was almost one in the morning. I shut down the truck. Then I shut down.

And that was my first day on the job.

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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Errol V.'s Comment
member avatar

Welcome to the real world of trucking. I promise you it will get better. I also started out bobtail , had to go to some warehouse to pick up my first empty. I had no idea what message to send to hook up way. I had to call my DM.

Only one of your drive axles is actually powered. There's a switch on the dash that will give you "4WD" - two axle power. On a Freightliner look for the switch to the far right that says "DO NOT ENGAGE DURING SPIN OUT".

Also, get the Trucker Path app right now. It lists "all" the truck stops. My hint: look for a non-chain location. Read some of the reviews to get an idea if the place is any good. I promise you most non-chain places will have spots late at night. And many times you'll be surprised at how good they are.

Bobtail:

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

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.
ChickieMonster's Comment
member avatar

CR I had a terrible day too. Read my thread to see how much worse it could have been...

It will get better! At least that's what I have been telling myself today...

Code Red NV's Comment
member avatar

Welcome to the real world of trucking. I promise you it will get better. I also started out bobtail , had to go to some warehouse to pick up my first empty. I had no idea what message to send to hook up way. I had to call my DM.

Only one of your drive axles is actually powered. There's a switch on the dash that will give you "4WD" - two axle power. On a Freightliner look for the switch to the far right that says "DO NOT ENGAGE DURING SPIN OUT".

Also, get the Trucker Path app right now. It lists "all" the truck stops. My hint: look for a non-chain location. Read some of the reviews to get an idea if the place is any good. I promise you most non-chain places will have spots late at night. And many times you'll be surprised at how good they are.

Thanks for that.

I've actually got the Trucker Path app, I've been looking at it every day. I'll use it tonight and try to find more of the mom and pop places.

Bobtail:

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

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.
Errol V.'s Comment
member avatar

Yes, it will get better. The things that happen to you now seem mostly like bad luck, but as you gain experience that stuff just seems to disappear!

I listed about 15 really bad things that happened to me in my First Week Adventure

SAP:

Substance Abuse Professional

The Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) is a person who evaluates employees who have violated a DOT drug and alcohol program regulation and makes recommendations concerning education, treatment, follow-up testing, and aftercare.

Jetguy's Comment
member avatar

Sorry to hear about getting stuck and having to clean it out... I think asking for a new mattress when you get to a Terminal would be good- Being saturated with smoke is a legitimate reason in my mind. But what year is the truck and mileage? Schneider is at the top of my list for a job- they have some sort of terminal close to me- Edwardsville Illinois.

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.

ChickieMonster's Comment
member avatar

I just got a good laugh. I got out of the truck to go up to the store and realized the Schneider truck next to me was missing the wing like yours!! I had the thought of "how weird would that be?" Then I realized there is no way you could have made it to IL already!

Duh!!

Bryn J.'s Comment
member avatar

CR where is you WordPress link please.

Thanks

Bryn

Code Red NV's Comment
member avatar

Update: My First Month.

So, I just completed my first month. Thought I would give TT a bit of an update.

Things didn't get much better that first week. Honestly, I was expecting a bit more support from my DBL (Driver Business Leader for those not familiar with Schneider lingo). The short story is that my DBL kept assuming that I knew things that I just didn't. I mean, I spent most of my adult life working in an office. I didn't get behind the wheel of a big rig until the beginning of March. Everything is new to me, everything. Just because I did 3 weeks of Schneider training doesn't mean that I'm all knowledgable about how the world of transportation works. Or how Schneider works. Or how anything works. I still feel like every shift, every turn is practice. So, yeah, there was some tension there.

That truck eventually broke, and I left it in Sacramento, and was issued a new truck.

fsj6BLL.jpg

It’s a Kenworth. A Kenworth T680 to be specific.

It looks fairly new. And shiny. And it doesn’t smell like it was abandoned by an overweight slob who smoked like a chimney.

It took me a week and a half to figure out the clutch. I hardly have to push the clutch in to shift. I mean, barely just touch it. It's still weird. And I still screw it up.

At the beginning of my third week, however, things started to fall into place. Or, better, I could at least start to see how the pieces fit together, instead of just seeing them fall clumsily to the floor, with no understanding of what I’m supposed to do with them. Or even how many pieces I should have in the first place.

I ran the I-5 corridor in California mostly, up and back from the Inland Empire in the south to around Stockton and Sacramento in the north. Which, honestly, was fine. I'm from Southern California originally so I'm familiar with those roads. And I like running the I-5. I cruise near the speed limit, and just let the world pass me by.

This week I made it all the way up to Oregon. It was gorgeous. Coming back south, I took Hwy 58 from Eugene down into the south east of Oregon, and that was like God's Own Road. I couldn't believe I was getting paid to drive that road. Which balanced out the days they couldn't pay me enough to do this job.

This job, man. I've never had so many highs and lows, often in the same day.

So, yeah, I'm in a better place right now. Every day, every load, things get better.

I think I might just stick with this.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
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