The Importance Of Trip Planning And Good Timing

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Old School's Comment
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Timing is very critical in this job. Often times I need to tell my dispatcher , or a customer exactly (at least within an hour) what time I will be somewhere that is maybe fifteen hundred miles away, and I may need to tell them four days before I am going to be there. The customer needs to know because they are often times needing their goods to be introduced into their production lines, and my dispatcher needs to know so that he can plan on my next load. All of this plays a part in the successful truck driver's ability to remain a top tier driver in his fleet, which means he becomes someone who can be depended on, and therefore leaned on, more heavily. Of course all this adds to his bottom line, and that is why we strive to do our best at this. I try to teach people how much this job is seriously akin to being self employed, because the results of how much one gets out of it are directly related to how much one puts into it. It is a career in which there is a wide range of annual pay that is received by the men and women who have taken on this crazy lifestyle. The discrepancy in pay in this career is not due to the fact that some trucking companies are cheapskates, wile others are willing to pay better, but rather that the pay in this whole career is completely performance based. The best performing drivers earn the most money - it is as simple as that. I fully realize that there is some variance in mileage pay amounts, but for the most part it is your performance that really counts.

If my dispatcher knows exactly when I am going to be empty then he can plan on finding me something that will keep me on the move, instead of me sitting and waiting for my next load. There is no money made by an idle truck, neither for the company, or the driver. Efficiency is boosted by this critical component of good timing and being able to communicate it with those who need to know when you are going to arrive, when you will be empty, and when you will be available to roll again. This whole element of timing helps the driver with his "cash flow" also. There is a cut-off point in a professional driver's week that he must have his paperwork turned in so that the company can process those trips for payment on the day that they do the weekly payroll. The more you can accomplish by that cut-off point, the more money there will be on your weekly paycheck.

I'm embarking on a good trip to illustrate all this that is being loaded today on a trailer at the SAPA plant in Delhi, Louisiana. I'd like to finish this multi-stop load which finals in Ilion, New York on Tuesday morning before ten o'clock in the morning at the time zone of Phoenix, AZ - my company's headquarters. As some of you may already know, I've been home for a few days to have my stitches from some recent surgery removed, so I've already been thinking about this whole trip. In fact, as I'm posting this I am sitting at the Jubilee Truck Stop in Delhi, where I arrived at 7:30 this morning. I left my house at three o'clock in the morning with the whole reason being that I was thinking ahead about this trip, and one of the things that will make it possible to pull it off is that when I leave tonight I need to have my full clock available to me so that I have enough time to make it half way to Riverdale, New Jersey, my first stop on this load. The only way I could accomplish that was to leave the house early enough so that I could get to Delhi in time to take a full ten hour break before I depart with my loaded trailer. I already know from experience that they will not have me loaded until about five o'clock in the afternoon. My ten hour break will be finished at 5:30 this afternoon, and I can get on the road with a full eleven hours of driving time available to me.

Well, hopefully you can already see how much planning has got to go into this to make it all come off like clock work. I'll have stops in Riverdale, New Jersey, Hamden, Connecticut, Farmington, Connecticut, and my final stop in Ilion, New York. I'm leaving tonight, (Saturday) and I need to arrive and get unloaded in Ilion on Tuesday morning before ten a.m. in Phoenix, AZ's time zone. I'm going to keep you posted all along the way, but for now I've got to lay down and get some rest. I'll update you tomorrow on how everything is coming along. I hope you will enjoy this little exercise, as it will illustrate how important trip planning is and how vital a truck drivers performance is linked to his overall pay.

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.

OOS:

When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

DSTURBD's Comment
member avatar

Hey there OS. I'm a very rookie solo driver (about a month and a few days) and I have been really surprised at how accurate my trip plans are using my company's method. I am usually right where my plan says I should be and I know my DM loves that I am always on time and can be counted on. I even got one load a day late, but there was extra time before the delivery, so I was able to make up the difference and still made an on-time delivery. There have also been a couple of times that it was important that I get rolling right away and worry about the trip plan on my break after shutting down. Every one of these has resulted in one difficulty or another from me just trying to follow the verbal nav directions without having actually looked at my route beforehand. As a result, I take my planning very seriously and am getting to be someone my DM says she can rely on. And, we all know that that means good loads!! thank-you.gif

DSTURBD

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.
's Comment
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Bump

Old School's Comment
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Well, I guess the joke is on me on this one. When I rolled from the truck stop over to the SAPA plant (I'm close enough that I can do this without tripping my clock), I was told by the crew that loads the trailers that my load was not going to go out tonight! It seems the production crew had some problem with part of the load, and there was not going to be enough material on the load to make it worth the while to ship it out. Here I am wanting to do a running commentary on this load for you guys because it had some really interesting features to it that make for some really great moments to teach the importance of trip planning, and it gets fouled up right at the start! Two of the things that I was going to point out are...

1) The fact that I left my home time early enough so that I could get my ten hour break in before I needed to grab the load and go.

2) It is a great load to show you how I sometimes flip my days and nights so that I can make a tight schedule work out just right.

Now the fact that I left my home (which is four and a half hours away) early and my load isn't going to be ready means I'll have to sit here all day tomorrow at the truck stop (sigh...) and take the load on Monday whenever they are able to get it ready to go. My dispatcher apologized profusely, but it isn't his fault. No one communicated the issues with him so he had no way of knowing what was happening. He did put two hundred dollars layover pay on me though, so I guess I can live with that. Whenever the load is ready I will go ahead and document it for you guys even if it doesn't need to be run like I would have originally done it. I'm sure it will help some of the new folks in here to see how things come together, or fall apart for us out here when we are doing this job.

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.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Jetguy's Comment
member avatar
He did put two hundred dollars layover pay on me though,

$200 sounds good

Where I work $15/hr detention as company driver. A lease guy just got $430 for about 6 hours detention. I know detention and layover are 2 different things. I haven't heard of anyone getting layover where I work.

Old School's Comment
member avatar

Okay, we will continue on with this topic even though it turned out differently than I had hoped. But that's one thing about this job, you can expect each day to throw you a curve. The challenges in this career are one of the things that make it enjoyable for one person, while those same challenges are demoralizing for another. It takes some special folks to make this career work, and I hope you all may get to see a little bit of what it takes to get ahead in this career while getting to see how I make this load work out the way I want it to.

They finally got the load ready late on Monday. I hooked to the pre-loaded trailer and was ready to pull out of Delhi, LA at 7:30 p.m. Monday night. This is Tuesday morning as I'm posting this and I am sitting in the T/A truck stop at Greenville, TN (exit 36 on I-81). I drove all through the night last night, logging 658 miles with a brief stop in McCalla, AL at the Love's truck stop for fuel and my thirty minute break. I arrived here in Greenville (a different time zone now) at 8:00 a.m.

They added several more stops onto the load to make it a more efficient run for their pocket book - such is the life of a dedicated driver. The total miles on this load are 1,882. Because of the multiple stops, they've got it emptying out on Saturday. These multiple stop loads can really slow you down sometimes, especially when all the stops are in the Northeast. I've already told them that I'm going to empty out first thing Friday. We'll see how that works out, but what I want to stress to those of you who are new at this, is that I do this almost every week. I am always trying to push my appointments forward. It is a tried and true strategy for me that has put me considerably ahead of the other drivers in my fleet in terms of my annual income. This load is a good example of why you want to move things along quicker than the average driver would think to do. This load is actually pretty tough to get done by Saturday, but I don't want to empty out on a Saturday and have to be dealing with weekend dispatch, which in my case on this dedicated account is NOBODY. That means I will have to sit for the weekend. That is why I already communicated to them that I will be empty on Friday morning. They have got to get me back to Delhi, LA anyways because that is my dedicated customer down there. If they get me something close to a direct run back that is another 1400 miles added onto this week. You guys are good at math - that is almost thirty three hundred miles this week. Those miles are not because I have a good dispatcher , but because I took the initiative to move things along so that they work out to my advantage - that's how the veteran drivers handle this stuff. That is how you make some serious money at this job.

My first stop is in Riverdale New Jersey, and they set me an appointment for Thursday morning. I already contacted the customer and told them we need to deliver it first thing Wednesday morning and that our truck would be sitting there waiting on them when they show up for work that morning. I'll drive all night tonight also and unless some unforeseen catastrophe strikes in the night, I'll be there waiting on them in the morning just like I told them.

These multi-stop flat-bed loads can be quite tricky. I will have to expose the various product at the different locations so that they can unload it, but I sure don't want to have to untarp it completely and re-do it each time. The Conestoga trailers simplify this greatly, but this one was loaded on a regular flat-bed. I always climb all over the load before tarping it and memorize where everyone's product is situated so that I can get unloaded at each stop efficiently. Here's a shot of what this load looks like...

multi-stop Knight flatbed trailer load tarped in the parking lot

You can't see it in that first photo, but there is a gap in this load back at the back where the tarp dips down into the irregular shape of the stacked product on the trailer. After we get the first stop off in Riverdale, I'm going to show you a little trick that I did on this tarping job to save me some work. I have a three section tarp system, and I overlapped the middle section quite a bit extra on top of that back tarp - that's a clue. It will be easier to explain when I get you a shot of them unloading me at that first stop early tomorrow. Here's a look at that dip in the load I'm talking about...

multi-stop Knight flatbed trailer load tarped in the parking lot

Okay, it's high time for me to get some shut eye. After all I've got to do another 650 some odd miles tomorrow night also. I'll get back to you on some of the fun I'm having with this load on Wednesday. Thanks for following along with me on this run.

"We've got a long ways to go, and short time to get there. We're gonna do what they say can't be done." -Jerry Reed, in Smokey And The Bandit

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

Turtle's Comment
member avatar

Following with great interest. Thanks OS

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Old School's Comment
member avatar

My first stop is in the bag!

I traveled another 650 miles last night and parked my truck on my customer's property here in Riverdale, New Jersey. I arrived here at 5:45 this morning. The easiest way to get unloaded quickly at this particular place is to get here early in the morning, which is why I planned it out like this. They do not have a good place here for unloading flat-bed trucks. They have five docks here for dry van loads, and the only place for you to get a flat-bed in here is to block off the other trucks access to those docks by parking across them so they can come out with a fork lift and unload you. If you get here late in the day it is almost impossible to get in there because of all the other trucks coming and going, and if they see that you are sitting there waiting, then they just back out of the entrance and go in the exit and back up to their dock, which effectively keeps you blocked out. Basically you need to be here when there are no dry van trucks here, and if you get here early in the morning you can block them out. I've dance this dance here enough times to know how it all plays out.

Here's the problem with all that. I got here early and I got unloaded, but because of the fact that I had to drive 650 miles to accomplish that, I am now required to take a ten hour break to get some rest. Well, that puts me too late into the day to get to my next stop before they stop receiving for the day! So I will have to take a ten hour break here, then drive over to my next stop in Bridgewater, New Jersey, which is only 40 miles from here. I'll sleep in their parking lot tonight and get unloaded there first thing in the morning. Seems kind of silly to drive forty miles and then take another ten hour break, but that's the way this one falls.

I pushed really hard to get to this first stop today, because after studying this whole load, I am quite sure that I can get the next five stops all unloaded tomorrow. Had I taken my time at the beginning and got here tomorrow as my dispatch appointments were set up, I would not be able to accomplish my goal of getting myself emptied out first thing Friday morning. Remember the whole point of this was to set myself up for another load early on Friday. That is how you prove your worth in this business, in fact I got a call from my dispatcher yesterday saying, "I see what you are doing with this load, I really like the way you think!" I have found that with these multi-stop loads you really need to push it hard on the front half of the load if you are going to advance the appointment times. Waiting around and trying to get ahead on the tail end only leaves you open to more things that can delay you unexpectedly.

Okay, so what do you do when you are taking two ten hour breaks back to back? Well, I like to walk for exercise, and Riverdale is a great place to do just that. There is a city park right next door to my customer here which I can walk through and get into a nice little neighborhood that boasts sights like this...

20151029_141412_zpsxljxd0ia.jpg

You can also seek out a small diner where the locals go to eat and find yourself a bargain on a nice hot lunch plate such as this open faced roast beef sandwich served with mashed potatoes and real soup that they actually make on the premises. This is a little place called Karen's Country Kitchen. I eat here every time I make a delivery to this customer. They are friendly and the food is always good and reasonably priced.

20161116_122325_zpsxz3dcrzh.jpg

Karen's Country Kitchen is a small luncheonette counter with a feel of days gone by about it. It is fun to discover these little tucked away places all across the country. It is part of the simple pleasures of doing this job. You can make this job enjoyable by embracing the whole lifestyle it offers, or you can sit in your truck and be miserable. I have chosen to enjoy myself, all while proving that I can do this with the best of them.

20161116_121419_zpsaf57jmsm.jpg

Continued...

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.

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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

DWI:

Driving While Intoxicated

Old School's Comment
member avatar

Some new drivers really struggle with staying up all night driving, and the last thing I want for a driver to do is to be unsafely driving while trying to doze off. Here's a tip on how you can assist yourself in that task of staying awake. I like to snack on something if I am getting sleepy. I'm not sure why it helps, but if my mouth can be active it seems to help me stay awake. I think a lot of truck drivers do this, and is probably why so many of us are grossly overweight. So, don't go for the chips and a soft drink, try getting yourself some fresh fruit instead. I will set some fruit over on the passenger seat well within my reach so that I can snack on it at times to help me stay awake. Fruit has natural sugars, and if you choose something crunchy, like an apple (or some celery or carrot sticks) it also helps. This was my bowl of assistance last night...

truck drivers bowl of apples and tangerines for natural sugar to stay awake

Here's the tip about the tarp that I mentioned earlier. If you remember I said that I had overlapped my second tarp section over the back one considerably more than usual. Here's why I did that. There were twelve bundles of freight on the very back of this load that all went to the first stop. By overlapping that tarp like I did I was able to just completely remove that third section and roll it up to be stored. That left my middle tarp section still covering what was left of my freight. What that accomplished was a time saver for me. Normally I might have to rearrange the tarps so that they would keep my freight that is left on the trailer protected from the elements. This way I just pulled the back tarp off and bungeed the middle section back down and I'm ready to roll without a lot of extra work. Here's a look at Julio, the fork lift operator unloading his material, and I think you can see what I mean about the middle tarp being in the proper position to cover the freight that was left after he removed his portion.

forklift driver unloading tarped flatbed in parking lot

I know all these fork lift operators by name, and they are usually glad to see me. It pays to be friendly and professional in this business. If you establish yourself as an impatient loud mouthed jerk with the people you are delivering too you will suffer in this job. Keep this in mind, that lowliest of employees, the fork lift operator, can often be your key to success. He is far more important to you than the CEO of the whole company. After all, you are a truck driver, and he has the power to make your day go really well, or really bad. Treat him like he is worth something and he will pay you back ten fold.

Remember, this load has 1,882 miles on it. I've done roughly 1300 so far, and gotten one stop unloaded. I have got another 582 miles to go with six more stops total. All the rest of it is up here in the Northeast, where it can be slow plodding at times. It helps a lot that I am familiar with these customers and I know my way around up here. Usually for most truck drivers the biggest problem in this area of the country is finding parking. I am very fortunate in that so many of my customers allow me to park on their property, so I don't struggle with the parking issue so much.

I'll be back in here tomorrow evening with an update on how it's going.

OOS:

When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

Truckin Along With Kearse's Comment
member avatar

For me trip planning started way before I even went solo. I started keeping a record of huge truck stops that always had parking. I wanted to make sure I had "go to" places on every interstate. As someone who SUCKED at backing this was crucial to me. I mostly tried to drive nights so I could avoid traffic and get high miles while having parking in day time but that isn't always possible.

Now that I have ten months solo, I take into consideration several things:

1). How long did it take for the shipper to load me?

If the customer took over three or four hours loading me, i look for parking either there or on the street for 8 hours in sleeper. Those hours they took are eating into my drive time now. So if do the 8 sleeper I roll out with the amount of drive time I had going in. It helps my pocket too, cause now instead of being off duty for four hours then driving a few hours and then taking a ten hour break, I'm now breaking for 8 hours AND getting paid detention for a portion of my break ;) I won't have a full clock going out depending on how close I parked the night before, but I'll get a a lot further than if I rolled out right away.

2) where are my "go to" parking spots along the way? As I write my directions, I make a list of my favorite parking spots with exit numbers. By now I know exactly where they are. So for example today I parked at a flying J on I-24. I only drove 425 miles and still had 3:40 on my clock. Why did I stop? Cause the route I was going only had little mom n pop stops on a back road type of area I have never been to. I'd rather stop where I KNOW I can park than try to squeeze in with competitors that might be tight places. Stopping earlier means leaving out earlier. It is just redistributing your drive time. While on this new route, ill take notes along the way of the TS and the available parking there. I have found some awesome spots at little known places.

3) When will I be driving through the cities and hit traffic? Today I was able to hit Knoxville right before the morning rush hour. Before I got to Nashville I took a 30 min break and I missed the rush hour there too. There are times I can take a two hour break between. 0700 & 0900 and miss the traffic completely. Then instead of a ten hour later. I can take an 8 sleeper if im on a tighter schedule. I NEVER park within 50 miles of a city. The trucks stops fill up earlier and earlier the closer you get to a city. St Louis can fill up by 1300-1400. If you can't park there you could be sitting in traffic and violate. better to shut down earlier than get stuck.

4). On my delivery day I ALWAYS check where my 14 hour clock will end. If you leave too early, your 14 could be up before you get to the customer. Sometimes it makes more sense to leave a little later and be assured you are within your clock than to jump up at 10:01 of your break and roll. If you can leave early enough to fit an 8sleepr before the delivery time to extend the clock that is great.

5) Giving ETAs. You might laugh... But I always give an "official" ETA and an "unofficial". This is because our dispatch gets loads from another Dept who often want to know our delivery times. So I tell my dispatcher " FYI my ETA is 1400, tell the other Dept 1800". And my ETA for the other Dept is always the end of my 14/clock. This allows me time to deal with traffic, construction, unexpected bathroom breaks....while at the same time giving my dispatcher a better idea of when to plan my next load. The other Dept is concerned with customer service and wants to convey ETA to the customer. If I always tell them a few hours later than I plan, I'll never be late.

6) When it comes to parking the night before a customer, if they dont have parking, I always try to park as close as possible before shutting down. This means once done at the customer you could have a nearly full drive clock and your dispatcher will love that cause it gives him a lot more possibilities for your next load.

7) Don't let dispatch ruin your plans. That sounds terrible, but night/wknd dispatch has told me several times when to roll or park and where. I've been told to roll out of a customer after six hours leaving me only three hours on my drive clock. Leaving at that point made no sense cause I'd have no parking plus wouldn't get far. Staying at the customer for two more hours gave me seven hours on my clock and more possibility for parking later.

And when dispatch has told me "the sales Dept/planners said you need to leave now..." I have messaged back "the driver says it makes more sense to leave in two hours and get back 7 hours of drive time. I'm going to sleep now so I can safely drive in two hours".

End of discussion. And my FM doesn't care what I do as long as I get there early, don't hit anything, and message problems ASAP.

If I have mechanical problems I message road assist and inform him of their response. If the reefer alarms are coding, I take pics of display to prove there is no temp issue on my end and email them. The less I bother my FM the more time he has to find me loads...and he WILL find me a load before I even get to my current receiver. Cause he knows I can handle it. As OS said, this is like self employment. Do what works for YOU

Bottom line: Plan well, run smart, earn more.

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.

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.

Interstate:

Commercial trade, business, movement of goods or money, or transportation from one state to another, regulated by the Federal Department Of Transportation (DOT).

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.

Fm:

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.

Reefer:

A refrigerated trailer.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
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