How To Put Your Career Into Overdrive

Topic 20171 | Page 1

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Old School's Comment
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I spend a lot of time trying to help people understand how to succeed at Trucking. Goodness, just a brief little bit of research online into this career will make you realize that a lot of people are not doing very well as truck drivers. It is a much misunderstood career. People hear about how you can make some big money at this, then they see a few of those misleading ads on the back of semi-trailers and they go jumping in completely unprepared for what they are about to get into. From what I can gather there is approximately 5% of the new entrants into this career who go on to be successful at it. That's pretty bad statistics.

Many of the larger trucking companies have instituted Paid CDL Training Programs to help people obtain a CDL and get started in the career simply because they need drivers. It seems they have a slightly little better chance at keeping a driver whom they've trained from the very beginning, but it is a costly endeavor.

The big problem with truck driving is that it is so demanding. There are long hours. There is the separation from your family. There is the sometimes surprising reality of being all alone out here. A new truck driver seldom is accustomed to having a job with so little supervision. New truck drivers learn very quickly the results of their own decisions, and they usually regret their own choices when something goes south for them. It is a whole lot easier to have a job where you have a foreman who tells you to take that stack of materials over there and re-stack it over in that other building on the south end of the property. Anybody can handle that. It is specific, and it is easy. Having clear cut directions and objectives makes a job easy to do. But... what if your foreman allowed you to make more money by taking your own initiative and getting more things accomplished by using your own head?

I was once on a construction site when I was in the sign business, and I heard a foreman telling a common laborer on the job some things he wanted him to do. The young fellow was kind of complaining and wanting to know why didn't the foreman just have some of those other guys do that particular task. The foreman kind of squared off with the recalcitrant helper and looked him in the eyes as he made this statement, "Young man they hired me from the neck up, I'm supposed to be using my head out here to get something done. You were hired from the neck down, and I need you to start using the strength of your young body to accomplish the things that I need to get done - Is that clear enough?"

Just the other day we were having a discussion in here with a person who just doesn't seem to get this whole adventurous lifestyle thing that we call "Trucking." He seemed to think that trucking is going to be so easy. You just have your directions from the dispatcher , you follow them and show up so they can unload you, then you rinse and repeat. He was so worried about what he was going to occupy himself with during all those long hours of just cruising peacefully down the road. He unrealistically assumes that he is going to be bored. I tried to break it down for him just a little, and one of the things I mentioned was you will be needing to spend some time communicating with your customers so that you can move your appointment times up. He scoffed at my suggestion stating he was pretty sure the dispatcher will have all his appointments set and he will just follow the directions in the paperwork they give him.

Well, yes you can do that if you like, and you may end up being one of those people who were just hired from "the neck down." One of the keys to making money in the trucking business is efficiency. That is as true for the larger corporate picture as it is for the individual driver. I make a practice of moving my appointments - it is a big part of why I am considered one of the top drivers in my fleet. If one wants to turn some big miles consistently, and have dispatch trusting them fully to be able to handle what ever they have to dish out, then they have got to establish a track record of "gittin er done."

Continued...

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.

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.
Old School's Comment
member avatar

Here's an example of what I did on this last load to give you a picture of how this works to your advantage. I picked this load up late on Friday night in Cressona, Pennsylvania. It had three stops in Florida. Here's how they lined up in consecutive order according to the paper work...

✔ Thomas & Betts in Ormond, Beach Florida (appointment at 0800 Monday)

✔ TW Metals in Orlando, Florida (appointment at 1100 Monday)

✔ Alro Metals in Orlando, Florida (appointment at 0800 Tuesday)

Well, my first impression with my appointments is, "That doesn't look very efficient. I should be able to get all three of those stops done in a single day if I am ready to go at that first stop and have hours available to me to work a full day."

Here is where the problem lies. My third and final stop at Alro Metals has a cut off time for the receiving department of twelve o'clock - noon! Actually the latest appointment they will give you is eleven a.m. If you have an eleven o'clock appointment and you are running late, they will not take you past twelve o'clock. Well, I don't like this whole scenario, and I am convinced I can remedy it. But wait... the paper work also states that at Alro Metals you have got to make an appointment 48 hours in advance! So, the average person who was hired from the neck down says, "Well, I will just take my time on this one, there is no way to get around it."

People, we make money by moving freight. Sitting and waiting is one of the biggest complaints I see when people are posting on line about their frustrations with this career. I do everything I can to keep myself moving. I got everything delivered on this load by Monday afternoon at 1400 - that is two p.m., and then I was able to knock off another 200 miles toward my getting back to Delhi, Louisiana a day earlier than my dispatcher was expecting me. When I sent in my MT (empty) call my phone started ringing. It was my dispatcher of course, and the following conversation ensued...

Dispatcher, "Are you serious? You are already empty?"

Driver, "Yes sir, I will be back a day early."

Dispatcher, "That is so awesome dude, how did you pull this one off?

Driver, "Well, I just took a chance and first thing Monday morning I called Alro to see if they could move my appointment to ten o'clock on Monday. After looking at their schedule they said that would work. Then I called TW Metals and told them I was running just a little bit late, and I needed to see if they could receive me at about 1300 (1:00 p.m.) They said no problem. With the way my truck was loaded I could get Alro's material off without affecting TW's materials so I just flipflopped my schedule and did Alro second and TW third."

Dispatcher, "Thanks for letting me know, this is really great. Now I can get you updated in our system and get you planned for you next load a full day ahead of what we had planned."

That is how you put your career into Overdrive. You take some initiative out here, and you always do what you say. You try to be that guy who was hired from the neck up. We actually have customers up in the Northeast who request me to be the driver on their loads. They have come to know that I will be there at the time agreed upon, and they appreciate that. My dispatcher knows that he can count on me, in fact he ended that little conversation with this statement, "Dale, I wouldn't have expected anything less from you, but it still is a surprise. I don't know of another driver in our fleet that would have thought to do what you just pulled off."

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

Daniel B.'s Comment
member avatar

Super Moderator Old School never disappoints!

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.

John C.'s Comment
member avatar

Old school, Thanks for these great tips! Communication is one of the keys to success in any business, and you're a natural at it.

I have a somewhat related question: You seem to have it down as to who long it will take you to get anywhere. How many months of driving did it take you to get this wired?

I ask this because I can picture me coming up with the same solutions, making the calls, than being off on my time, and screwing up on the new appointment times. Three appointments near each other seems fairly easy, but I've read your accounts of doing the same thing with the appointments hundreds of miles apart. How do you pull it off consistently?

Old School's Comment
member avatar

I have some advantages as a dedicated driver. While I am still pretty much running over the road , I am often times delivering to customers, and in parts of the country, that I am familiar with.

As far as your question as to how many months it took me to get this "super power" of punctuality down? I'd say the answer would need to be in terms of years. After a couple of years at this I began to get good at being able to guesstimate travel times fairly accurately.

I still screw it up occasionally, I just don't tell you guys about it! smile.gif

Over The Road:

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.

Shiva's Comment
member avatar

I've done the similar things old school suggests. I'll give you an example. I picked up at RR DONELLY in York, PA on Saturday, with 4stops at USPS facilities . 1 in West Virginia on Monday morning 7 am, 3 in Ohio. 2 on Monday at 11 am and 2 pm on 2 ends of Cincinnati and the last stop in Columbus on Tuesday at 6 pm. On a chance, I decided to try and deliver to my first stop on Sunday afternoon. The person in charge had an hour left on his shift. He told me to wait for 2nd shift manager and most likely she would unload me a day early, but it was up to her. So I waited till she started and she gladly unloaded me. Then I went on my way to Cincinnati to deliver my next to stops on time and again I tried to deliver my last stop a day early. When I got to Columbus the manager told me that they had too stick to appointment times, but I could try and get it changed to today because they had an opening at like 7 or 8 pm. I forget, it was over a year ago. So, first I tried calling my fleet manager and was put on hold. I was looking at the bill and saw a phone number. So I hung up, called the number, told that person I needed to change the appointment to today, they did it. I walked back in, the computer showed the change in appointment and I got unloaded a full day early. My fleet manager called me back later, I told him what I did and he said " good job". So I was ready to go the next morning with a full clock.

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.
John C.'s Comment
member avatar

I have some advantages as a dedicated driver. While I am still pretty much running over the road , I am often times delivering to customers, and in parts of the country, that I am familiar with.

As far as your question as to how many months it took me to get this "super power" of punctuality down? I'd say the answer would need to be in terms of years. After a couple of years at this I began to get good at being able to guesstimate travel times fairly accurately.

I still screw it up occasionally, I just don't tell you guys about it! smile.gif

Thanks, I was hoping you would say a few months, but it is what it is. I see how non-dedicated would take longer to get wired due to the variety.

I won't tell anyone about your occasional screw-ups. Oh wait you just did! rofl-3.gif

Over The Road:

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.

Big Scott (CFI's biggest 's Comment
member avatar

Thanks to all I have leaned here I am off to a flying start. After sitting for almost one week with my truck in the shop, I made sure I got paid for that down time. They gave me a choice of two runs. I took the one one I'm on because it sounded interesting. There were very specific instructions not to call the shipper or receiver directly. As it was I showed up early for my pick up and the load wasn't ready. I am shut down for a much needed long break of almost 24 hours. Newbie planning error. I will get to my delivery tomorrow early and hope they can unload me quickly. The interesting part about this load is I am pulling the customer's trailer and have to bring the empty back to them. Here's the good part. 1124 miles hear and 1124 miles deadhead back. All paid miles. I have been working hard to condition myself to drive for long periods. The pickup was for 22:00 and the delivery is 07:00. I drove the last two nights and shut down in the morning. I did not have the hours left on my clock to try to get this delivered today. I'll get a good night's sleep. Once I'm unloaded tomorrow, I start the drive back. Also, with CFI, I am preplanned for my next load and and get that before I arrive at the end of my current load. It's Wednesday, this will deliver Thursday in VA and I will be back in MO Friday evening. My down time is filled with talking to my wife and trip planning. I found an awesome station on the SXM radio in my truck and jam out while driving. I also, talk to family and friends. I got into trucking because I wanted to be in charge of how much money I made. I would say I'm 80% or betting in charge of that. I don't have time to complain and have nothing to complain about. I also believe my years of research through this site helped me to better prepared than most for trucking. It's surprising to me how many people I have met who jumped into this on a whim and have no clue what this is about.

Deadhead:

To drive with an empty trailer. After delivering your load you will deadhead to a shipper to pick up your next load.

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.

Old School's Comment
member avatar

Glad to hear all of that Big Scott!

I'm convinced you'll do very well at this. You are correct about your knowledge going into this. Fortunately you have gotten a lot of great exposure to not only the realities of this career, but also to a lot of the tips and tricks that make for success.

It's like having your PhD in trucking!

Robert B. (The Dragon) ye's Comment
member avatar

As always, OS comes through with excellent tips and advice. I did want to add for newer drivers to be careful about calling ahead, make sure you're allowed to do so. I can't say it's true for all companies but many times you may not have a customer contact number. I was with Knight in the dry van division and had a load going to a dollar General DC. I didn't have the contact info in my notes so I used good old Google and called myself to see if it would be possible to move my appointment forward a day. Doing so gave me time to get my truck into a terminal for a quick fix on my trailer and still arrive on time for my next pickup. I called, the customer was actually happy because they needed what I had on board but Knight was not. I received a call the following day from my dispatch and the terminal manager criticizing me for doing so and telling me that's why I have a dispatcher to get with customer service and make those arrangements. I'm not saying don't do it, just verify that you're allowed to before doing so.

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.

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.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

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