The Power Of Being First (How To Set Yourself Up For Success In Trucking)

Topic 15087 | Page 1

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Old School's Comment
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Here's another true story from my past week.

I try to teach people how to position themselves for success when they are out here doing this job. It can be a really tough environment for the uninitiated and so many folks never seem to understand the competitive nature of the job. I share my experiences with you knowing that we all have different situations and circumstances, but the principles of success are still the same. If some of the experiences I share with you can trigger your thoughts in how to apply the principles to your own situation then hopefully you too can enjoy conquering the daily challenges that cripple so many drivers who never realize they can take control over the things that cause grief for many drivers.

First in, first out. That is a mantra for me. Simply put, that means the first driver on the scene gets unloaded or loaded first, and therefore he is on his way and available for the next load first. Sometimes this means sleeping on the premises, sometimes it means starting your day at one a.m. while other drivers are snug in their sleepers, other times it might mean making some phone calls to your customers and getting some appointments moved forward if possible.

As long as you make it a principle of yours to be first, it will reap unexpected rewards for you on a continual basis. As drivers we never really know what is going on behind the scenes of our jobs. We pretty much see just what is outside of our windshields, but we have a large support team behind us sitting in their miserable little cubicles wearily staring at their constantly changing computer screens. Those folks are constantly on the look out for our well being. They are working hard to keep you rolling, but they need a little help from you. If you are the type of driver who is taking every opportunity to set himself up for success, you will find that they are able to keep feeding "the good stuff" to you.

Here is how getting unloaded earlier than my dispatcher expected me to this week paid off with a big dividend to me.

This story really starts with a call from my dispatcher last week when he gave me a choice of loads to pick from. We had two loads going to the Northeast, and I chose the one with five stops going to Connecticut. The other one had two stops and emptied out in North Collins, New York. My dispatcher commented that he was surprised at my choice, "You know the other one will empty out quicker, I'm surprised you're not going for that one." (He knows how I think)

I know these customers in Connecticut well, and I have the cell phone numbers for the fork lift operators. If you are kind and polite to these people they will give you their phone numbers and do favors for you. I got the loaders at the SAPA plant to load the the stops in a different order from what the paper work showed, and that allowed me to make my first stop at a customer that starts unloading at four a.m. instead of getting started on my stops at eight a.m. I made some calls and got my next two stops set up early and I was emptied out by nine a.m. My dispatcher was not expecting me to be empty until around noon or maybe a little later. As soon as I sent in my MT call I started moving my rig down to Cressona, Pennsylvania. One convenience of this dedicated account is that I often already know where my back haul is coming from even before they've decided on which load they want me to get. So I don't have to wait on them to dispatch me. Once I'm empty I can start moving that way.

While I'm moving that direction my phone starts ringing - it is my dispatcher. "Dale, how did you get emptied out so quick?" He continues, "Now you've put me in a predicament. We only have one load available from Cressona, and we have two drivers up there we need to get back. I knew one of you was going to have to wait for a load so I already dispatched the load to Driver X because everything about yall's loads put him getting back to Cressona first. Now that I'm looking at where you guys are at, you are going to be the first one to Cressona."

Okay, here's the kicker...

He took the load off of the other driver and put it on me. Driver X had to sit and wait. Old School, who stuck to his principle of getting in there first, got the first load out.

I only ran two loads this week. That one to Connecticut was 1480 miles. The load I got out of Cressona netted me 1850 miles. First in, First out. That's 3,300 miles this week. To the victors go the spoils. Never forget you are competing with the other drivers out there, and you will come out on top.

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.

Dispatcher:

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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Pat M.'s Comment
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I can think of two products that we haul that will not work for but that is the nature of the product as they need to be placed in a certain order. But since I am paid hourly that is not an issue. For everything else it is first in first out.

Kinda like the bridge beams I am hauling at the moment, I left at 2 am and was done and unloaded by 2 pm every day. The others slept in and had to wait to be unloaded the next morning and that put them later getting back every day.

The other driver called me Wednesday and asked where I was. When I told him Columbus he said some not very nice things.. LOL He was only about 15 miles from the yard and it was 9 am and I had 4.5 hours until my day was done. He still had about 10 to go.

Big Scott (CFI Driver/Tra's Comment
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Awesome.

FloridaBuckeye's Comment
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You don't get this kind of real world helpful stuff anywhere else but TT!

Thanks for all you do Old School, especially for rookies like me.

Brett Aquila's Comment
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Never forget you are competing with the other drivers out there

That is one aspect of trucking we don't talk about quite enough. Rarely will you have a job where you are competing with your co-workers. But most of the time that's exactly what trucking is. There is only so much freight to go around and you have to learn to position yourself so that you're one of the drivers that gets assigned a new load as soon as you're empty.

One of the ways I used to get ahead of my competition (co-workers) when I was pulling a dry van was by keeping a list of customers where we might have empty trailers. You see, many dry van companies do a lot of drop and hooks at customers. You'll go in and drop your loaded trailer, grab an empty one, and then you'll be given your next load assignment.

But here's the catch. Sometimes you'll take a loaded trailer into a customer and find there are no empties there. Most drivers will go park somewhere out of the way, send dispatch a message saying they need an empty trailer from somewhere, and then sit there for several hours or maybe even a whole day waiting on someone in the offices to locate them an empty trailer. Unfortunately that is low on the list of priorities so no one gets in a hurry to locate one for you.

But you see, I have my list of customers with empty trailers. So while the others are sitting there parked waiting for dispatch, I'm heading down the road to the customers on my list looking for empties. Once I find an empty I can then be assigned a load. Often times I would find several trucks that delivered ahead of me and were waiting for an empty. I'd go find my own, let dispatch know I had one, and I'd be off on my next assignment while the rest of the trucks sat there twiddling their thumbs. Often times there would be no freight left for that day by the time they found empty trailers so those drivers would lose a whole day's pay, which of course went straight into my pocket.

You have to hustle if you want to turn 2,800+ miles per week like the top tier drivers. You can call ahead to move appointments forward like Old School mentioned and you can keep a list of empty trailers if you're pulling a dry van or refrigerated trailer. Those are just two strategies for getting ahead and staying ahead out there.

Dry Van:

A trailer or truck that that requires no special attention, such as refrigeration, that hauls regular palletted, boxed, or floor-loaded freight. The most common type of trailer in trucking.

Drop And Hook:

Drop and hook means the driver will drop one trailer and hook to another one.

In order to speed up the pickup and delivery process a driver may be instructed to drop their empty trailer and hook to one that is already loaded, or drop their loaded trailer and hook to one that is already empty. That way the driver will not have to wait for a trailer to be loaded or unloaded.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
C T.'s Comment
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You guys got any tips to pull 2800+ miles flatbedding on the east coast? I got to my delivery last night and was the 1st unloaded today. I'm still learning but can't seem to get more than 3 loads done a week.

Pianoman's Comment
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Wow, thanks for posting this Old School! Really appreciate the way you share your experiences with us--it's so helpful!

SAMUEL C.'s Comment
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"First in, First out....To the victors go the spoils. Never forget you are competing with the other drivers out there, and you will come out on top."

Thanks for the advice OS and I put it to use this week. Sunday night, pull bungees and straps that night, pulled my tarps early that morning, waited to be unloaded. Monday and Tuesday, the same. Wednesday and today went a little different, because of my first in, first out, I was ready to roll early every morning, which allowed me to pick up my loads early and with a little politeness and a phone call, I delivered early, both days.

As a side note, my phone rang today, thought it was my fleet manager , nope!!! It was a "shiny shoe", the head load planner. He thanked me for the great job I did this week, but asked if I could tame it down a bit, they were having trouble keeping up. Thank you as always Old School for your valuable insight.

Fleet Manager:

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.
Old School's Comment
member avatar
my phone rang today, thought it was my fleet manager , nope!!! It was a "shiny shoe", the head load planner. He thanked me for the great job I did this week, but asked if I could tame it down a bit, they were having trouble keeping up.

Haha! Great Job Samuel! Keep em on their toes...

Once you start getting noticed like that they will keep you moving. Trust me on this, those guys in that office know who they can depend on. It's not easy work staying at the top of the food chain. Bring your "A" game every day and never get complacent about safety and productivity.

It's often the little things that can set you apart. I like what you are doing - the things like having your tarps ready to be pulled off the night before. Once I was sleeping outside a job site, but there were about three trucks that had gotten there before me - I pulled my bungees that night and had my tarps just hanging down on the sides waiting to be pulled off. It was obvious that I was ready for action. When the job superintendent showed up in the morning he took a look at us and then walked over to my window and said you pull in first, because you are the only one ready - we can get you out of here quickly, and by the time we're done with you these other guys will be ready.

Fleet Manager:

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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
SAMUEL C.'s Comment
member avatar

I have even went full tilt on some loads, if I know exactly where they are unloading me and the weather is in my favor, I'll totally strip it down the night before. Bungees, straps and tarps pulled and rolled. Yes, you are worn out from a days worth of driving and you want to call it quits for the day, but I look at it like parking, it's all about the setup.

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