A Husband And Wife Trucking Journey

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PJ's Comment
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Larry it’s been interesting reading your journey. First off I want to say you and your bride have done awesome. I feel your pain of the current situation also. I got my license and experience with an end game of working where I currently am. It’s a 4-5 day a week job and home every weekend, and making as much or more in some cases than OTR jobs. It’s a small company with top notch equipment and I am free to equip my truck any way I choose. They recently sold out to a international corporation and things are all up in the air. I initally was leaving so I didn’t have to go through the changes. They talked me into staying however with a 1 yr contract. I had some idea of some things that may occur and safe guarded myself to the point possible. Some days things go smoother than others, but overall its still good. You have found out that no matter the company size you actually have a handful or less of folks that you work closely with and determines your succuss. It always feels like starting over when shakeups occur. I wish you all the best

OTR:

Over The Road

OTR driving normally means you'll be hauling freight to various customers throughout your company's hauling region. It often entails being gone from home for two to three weeks at a time.

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.

PackRat's Comment
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Just read your thread from cover to cover. Very inspirational! Anyone with a spouse thinking about teaming should read it. Lots of great information.good-luck.gif

Kate K2's Comment
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Larry, thanks so much or documenting and sharing your experience. As one half of a couple considering taking this path, your thread was just full of great info and really seems to give a clear picture of your experiences. It also set my mind at ease about couples training together in the same truck.

I was looking at a video of those FL Cascadias and thought, "well, that looks very cool!" Hearing your experience with them changes my perception now. At least from a team perspective. What make/model truck did you drive to start out?

I feel like my favorite TV show ended with a cliff-hanger and I am hoping we don't have to wait until the fall to learn how things work out for you both! good-luck-2.gif

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Larry K.'s Comment
member avatar

Correction....It’s about the Planners!

Wow, time flies! I guess it’s time I give you guys an update. I’m glad to see that some of you folks are finding this thread informative and do apologize if I tend to let it go by the wayside for months at a time. I tend to write when time permits, such as the hometime we’re currently on, then it’s all drive, sleep, drive, sleep for weeks or months. As such this will be a lengthy, series of posts.

So I left off last with a major upset in our routine and a bit of a gripe session. Those who know my wife and I know that gripe sessions are reserved for friends and venues such as this forum. If we were to “gripe” to our company it would come in the form of a rational discussion seeking a reasonable resolution. As such we ultimately decided after my last posting to soldier on and see how things went for a few more weeks before we made any major changes based upon a belief that the grass would be greener on the other side of the fence. Ultimately it was the right decision.

My last post was entitled “In a big company it’s all abut the fleet team”. Well, I’m going to make a correction to that and say that, from a drivers perspective, in a big company it’s all about the planners. Your only point of contact may be a few dispatchers who think of you as just another couple of drivers, but if the planners love you those dispatchers are eventually gonna love you as well and, most importantly to you, you’re going to get the good loads and make the money. There is a lot about being a truck driver that can be deemed as difficult. The lifestyle, the pace, fatigue, foul weather etc. To be successful you have to be a self-motivated, self-regulating individual. That being said, what it takes to do this job successfully is an absolute no-brainer and rather easy to achieve. The big picture is as simple as it gets. Pick up a customers freight on time, deliver it to where it’s going on time, be professional and don’t be a pain in the arse while you’re doing it. Take the lousy loads and do them without complaint. (Count your money at the end of the month rather than load by load. We recently picked up a load for a new team that had run out of hours and ran it the whopping FOUR remaining miles just to sit for a live unload! Then it turned out to have a bunch of damage because the previous team hadn’t secured the load. The ONLY driver related damage we’d ever had!) COMMUNICATE! If anything is going to prevent you from accomplishing that ‘big picture’ inform those that need to know immediately (preferably documented in writing over the Qualcomm , not by phone). Not rocket science! Start by doing this on the first load and by the time you’ve done this fifty times in a row the planners look upon you as reliable and begin to count on you, which means you get the loads. If they’re happy they are not griping to your dispatchers about you, if your dispatchers aren’t being griped at they don’t need to waste their time griping at you. In the end your dispatchers learn you are a no hassle driver (or team) and you pretty much can do your own thing out here. Your “boss” becomes a trip plan sent over the Qualcomm. Receive trip plan, follow trip plan, move on to next trip plan. We often go a week, or even weeks, without even speaking to the company. I should note that this also includes the freedom to ignore some of the “rules”. For example, in our company, and I assume most, you’ll receive group messages with rules such as having to notify dispatch if you’re going to stop for more than hour while under load. If we contact our dispatch regarding these “rules” they will tell us to “disregard that as it’s for the drivers they are having service issues with”. Why? Because they know us well enough to know that if we stop we do so having made sure it will not effect on time delivery. We stop when we want, where we want.

So all this being said, we continued on with this philosophy after my last post. It wasn’t long before we were receiving messages directly from the planners regarding tightly scheduled plans stating things such as “Thanks for the on time service yesterday! You guys rock!”. Within a few weeks we were back to getting the miles and rocking and rolling. We had several months of 6000 mile weeks and, due to the way loads fell, had one particularly good week that we finished out at 7,824 miles. Then we hit a gnarly string of bad luck for a weeks. For a while it seemed like every load was getting cancelled. Of course when this happens you often end up sitting a while to wait for the next load. Then we found ourselves constantly needing to swap our reefer for a dry van , or a dry van for a reefer. This meant trailer hunting and, if you’re a driver who has had to play this game, you know it’s a massive time suck. These things led us into several weeks of lousy 4,000 to 4,500 mile weeks. Our dispatchers recognized that we were having a bad string and after the last cancelled load called us to offer an opportunity. Hurricane Florence was about a week out from hitting North Carolina and they asked if we’d like to volunteer to drive hurricane relief for FEMA out of Fort Bragg. Money wise the pay was equal to about 5,800 mile weeks but we jumped at the chance to both help and get the experience. We even put off our home time (twice in fact) in order to stay as long as we were needed (we have family in North Carolina).

~continued~

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.

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.

Reefer:

A refrigerated trailer.

TWIC:

Transportation Worker Identification Credential

Truck drivers who regularly pick up from or deliver to the shipping ports will often be required to carry a TWIC card.

Your TWIC is a tamper-resistant biometric card which acts as both your identification in secure areas, as well as an indicator of you having passed the necessary security clearance. TWIC cards are valid for five years. The issuance of TWIC cards is overseen by the Transportation Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Larry K.'s Comment
member avatar

Working with FEMA and Hurricane Florence

On the morning of September 11th we arrived at Fort Bragg amongst a sea of reporters all attempting to ascertain FEMA’s level of preparedness for the upcoming hurricane. We had been told by folks who had worked with FEMA in the past that we could expect a great deal of sitting around and watching Netflix, especially prior to the storm. Our company had 35 trucks/teams being dispatched to aid in hurricane relief however we were one of the very first to arrive. As such nobody really knew the check in process and my wife and I had to figure that out for ourselves and eventually report the procedures to dispatch so they could pass it along to others still incoming. FEMA’s staging area turned out to be on Simmons Army Air Field and we arrived to see a relatively impressive level of preparation. There were approximately 1,200 trailers loaded with either water, food or generators, all divided into rows based upon their contents, with more incoming at all times, just at this one FEMA camp. Estes was the company with the FEMA contract and who we were there with, along with other companies and owner/ops. We were instructed to park in a line of about 50 bobtail trucks that had already arrived and await further instruction.

As we had been on the road dealing with trailer hunting, cancelled loads and then the run from the Louisville, KY area down to Fort Bragg, NC we were actually looking forward to a bit of downtime. We had been told prior to arriving to stock our truck up with supplies, and had intended to do so anyhow. As such our truck was loaded with an excessive amount of water, food, new rain gear, towels, and anything else we thought may come in useful while operating in a hurricane. No sooner had we loaded all this junk into the front seats so we could clear the bunks when someone rapped on the door asking us if we were ready for a run. We were provided with a printout to be taped in the upper right of our windshield with the Department of Homeland Security seal and designating us as “FEMA - Disaster Relief”, a truck number to be taped in the lower left, and our company provided us with federal documents designating us as essentially being DOT immune (hours of service and weight restrictions were out the window). They then have all the selected bobtail trucks line up and follow a pilot car that instructs each truck to hook to trailers one at a time. After all are connected you are instructed to pull out into three rows pointing out of the facility and await your paperwork and destination instructions. Apparently the North Carolina governor and FEMA had decided to juggle supplies to different FEMA camps based upon the track of the storm and where they anticipated supplies to be most needed. Our first run was to take water to a FEMA staging area in Tarboro, NC in a convoy of around 20 trucks. Afterwards we were to head to one of the truck stops along the I-95 corridor and report back in the morning. As we drove into Tarboro residents we’re out on the streets in front of their homes waving at us and flashing us peace signs, it was quite the experience. This was repeated over and over up until the hurricane and we rode the hurricane itself out in the truck at the Petro in Kenly, NC.

By the night of September 13th (which happened to be my 45th birthday) we had finished our last pre-storm staging run and we’re sitting at the Petro in Kenly as Florence began making contact on the coast. This is a Petro that would normally be packed but was otherwise empty aside from FEMA drivers, lineman from all over the country, and fuel trucks. We were told to remain here throughout the storm and return to Fort Bragg on Sunday morning when we’d begin relief efforts. We watched various weather reports, including the visually based Windytv.com, and saw the disconcerting image of Florences projected track coming literally straight at us before it was projected to hook a left to the south and go around us. Winds were expected to hit 65mph with heavy rains in Kenly. My wife and I had spent a large portion of last winter running through Wyoming and routinely drove under the signs stating “Wind gusts 65mph+ ahead. 18 trucks blown over this week” so 65mph didn’t scare us, especially since we weren’t driving it it. In fact we told our family that we expected Wyoming wind with Arkansas rain. From our vantage point that’s exactly what it turned out to be.

On Sunday the 15th we departed Kenly at abut 4:00am for Fort Bragg. On the way we encountered downed trees and areas just beginning to flood on I-95, areas which we would be closed completely by that evening, but we managed t get around it. As most know, the true damage from storm was the rain and flooding that came both during as well as after. By 9:30am they had us hooked up to a load of water and staged to head right into the heart of in Wilmington. We sat waiting on paperwork for three hours before we were told that there was no route in and we had to park the trailer. At 8:00pm we were hooked to a load of MRE’s and staged to depart for Cedar Point only to again be told to park due to their being no route in. We spent that night on Fort Bragg disheartened because we couldn’t get anything to those who needed it most.

~Continued~

Bobtail:

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

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.
Larry K.'s Comment
member avatar

Finally on the 16th we were informed that a route had been found into Wilmington and that we were to be a part of a large, police escorted, convoy that evening. By about 4:00pm we were connected and staged to depart. While we were exempt from hours of service we had just changed drivers as we were trying to prevent the Qualcomm from showing violations as much as possible. A state trooper came to our window and instructed us to keep the convoy tight, keep lights and flashers on, and don’t stop for any lights or stop signs. My wife told them we had just changed drivers and were good to go, to which the trooper responded by saying “under these circumstances I don’t care if you change drivers while you’re going down the road”. My wife and I laughed as we figured that was something we’d never hear again! The drive into Wilmington was the most round about route one could imagine and, despite the police escort and no stops, it took 6.5 hours to get there...but we made it. To the best of my knowledge we were a part of the first convoy to make it to the coast. We were left on our own to make it back though and the total round trip took nearly 16 hours in total.

In the following days roads fell to flooding like dominoes. In all subsequent runs we were left on our own to figure out how to get the loads through. At one point my wife and I actually ended up leading a small convoy of five trucks in which she drove as I attempted to navigate the maze of closed roads. If the DOT said a road was flooded, you could bet it would be. If the DOT said a road was open, you probably had about a 30% chance of getting through. I have several stories from these runs but, as this is getting quite lengthy, I’ll refrain.

On September 22nd FEMA announced an end to night ops and therefore had no further need for teams. At that time we were released from FEMA duties and proceeded up to Washington DC, then New Jersey, and eventually arrived at home in California late on September 27th. We had not been home since our Fourth of July home time.

Our Status and Future Plans

Over the past few months we have had numerous job offers including several as a result of being around numerous experienced drivers while working with FEMA. These range from company driver positions with major companies willing to overlook the fact that we’re still under two years, to a pretty high paying job hauling military ammunition. Of these the one we are most likely going to pursue is running owner-op with a friend of ours. We’re looking at 80% of load gross with company dispatch while being trained to self dispatch. In a relatively short period of time (months) we will move to self dispatch at 85% of load gross. At that time we’ll call all our own shots regarding how much we run (team, super-solo, solo) and where we run. In fact we just received our official financing approval to purchase our own truck this past week. Now, I promised early in this thread that I’d report some real results for those husband/wife teams looking to follow in our foot steps. My wife and I will gross $125k for fiscal year 2018 if we maintain pace for the final quarter. With that being said I’ve run the numbers every way imaginable and done so very conservatively with a great deal of padding and still feel we can smoke that as owner/ops. We’ll likely make the official leap by January however there are still a few things which may put that out as far as summer of next year. Stay tuned!

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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Old School's Comment
member avatar
the (opportunity) we are most likely going to pursue is running owner-op with a friend of ours. We’re looking at 80% of load gross with company dispatch while being trained to self dispatch. In a relatively short period of time (months) we will move to self dispatch at 85% of load gross. At that time we’ll call all our own shots regarding how much we run (team, super-solo, solo) and where we run. In fact we just received our official financing approval to purchase our own truck this past week. Now, I promised early in this thread that I’d report some real results for those husband/wife teams looking to follow in our foot steps. My wife and I will gross $125k for fiscal year 2018 if we maintain pace for the final quarter. With that being said I’ve run the numbers every way imaginable and done so very conservatively with a great deal of padding and still feel we can smoke that as owner/ops.

Larry, I'll spare you one of my lectures on the folly of owning your own truck. I know you're going to do what you think is best for you and your wife. I just want to ask you a question, and I'm hoping you'll give me an answer. Usually nobody answers my questions on this subject. It won't hurt my feelings if you don't answer me. I've grown accustomed to future owner/ops ignoring me. smile.gif

This statement intrigued me, simply because I've done the same thing many times over...

I’ve run the numbers every way imaginable and done so very conservatively with a great deal of padding.

Since you've done your homework, here's what I'd like to know. What kind of number have you come up with as your "cost per mile" to run your own truck as an owner/op? I'm hoping I can help you out here. Either you've got it figured out or you don't, but the answer to that question will be very telling.

So, what can you tell us about that number?

Larry, I've enjoyed seeing how you guys took to this like fish to water. I'm not setting a trap for you. I'm genuinely hoping I can help you. And just to be perfectly clear, I think you would be better off as company drivers. Of course that decision is yours to make. But the one thing that so many new owner/ops fail to understand is their total costs.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Larry K.'s Comment
member avatar

Old School....Actually I welcome any correction to my thinking that an experienced guy might have. I am calculating a high end cpm at $0.91 per mile. As a part of this conservative calculation I am figuring running 3000 miles less per month than we’ve averaged over the past year, paying an extra $1000 per month on the truck payment to kill some interest and expedite payoff, $0.10 per mile for maintenance budget, fuel at $3.50 per gallon, 7mpg fuel economy (we averaged 7.9mpg for the first 50k on our current truck and 8.0mpg for the last 56k miles. About 7.8 over 130k on our last truck.). Insurance and trailer lease are also calculated into that number as well of course. I am then reconciling that against the average anticipated rate quoted by the company we will be leased to and then comparing that to the published average rates for various freight lanes over the past few years (Average outgoing rates for the worst five states vs average outgoing rates for the top five states.) If I’m missing something major by all means let me know!

CPM:

Cents Per Mile

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

Old School's Comment
member avatar

By the way, it really is important for you to break that number down to a cost per mile. You are going to be getting paid on a per mile basis, and the only way you'll ever know if your getting paid enough per mile is to know your costs per mile.

Old School's Comment
member avatar

Thanks Larry!

Now, how surprised would you be if I told you that you are way short from what most trucking companies say their cost per mile is? Right now most everyone is calculating their expenses at roughly $1.70 per mile. I think you need to sharpen your pencil, and do some research on this subject. It's going to be important that you get this one number right. Everything else has to be based on an accurate representation of your real costs.

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