My First (and Only) Week Of Training

Topic 2308 | Page 1

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Julian Ellison's Comment
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Hey all! Good to be back!

I've been on the road with a trainer for the last week. Friday (12/20) I left the yard in Fargo, ND bound for Rancho Cucamonga, CA. Well, let's back up a minute. I got a call Thursday morning from my safety supervisor asking if I had a bag packed. I told him I did, and he told me i'd be picked up by a driver coming up from Chicago the following day. I said ok, gave him my phone number, and then he said the driver would be giving me a call when he's an hour out from the Pilot in Alexandria. Friday came, and I waited. Then I waited. Finally I waited some more. When 1pm rolled around, I had enough patience. I called my supervisor and asked him what the deal was. He said he wasn't sure, and to just keep waiting. So that's what I did. Until about 3pm, when my trainer gave me a call, asking when i'd be in the yard. I told him the situation, and he informed me that the driver was stuck in St. Paul, and hadn't even begun to get his trailer loaded. He was stuck at the Dock. Then, my trainer told me that if we didn't get this load out of California by 3pm on Monday, we'd be stuck in the state until after Christmas, which neither of us wanted. So I made the executive decision to drive up to the yard and worry about the gas money later. I needed to get out on the road.

So we left the yard in Fargo approximately 6pm on Friday. I was driving, and the training truck was a 2013 Mack with about 150k on the clock. Overall a pretty nice truck, but seriously lacking on interior space. One thing that really worried me right off the bat was this: How was I going to spend a full week in a space the size of a walk in closet with this complete stranger? He seemed kind of outspoken, and kind of an idiot in my opinion, so I knew personalities were going to clash. I just didn't know to what extent. In school, I had driven 9-speeds, 10-speeds, a super 10, 13-speed, and even an Auto Shift (with a clutch). Imagine my surprise when this truck was a two-pedal automatic. Learning how to drive it to get the best fuel economy took a little bit of time, but no big deal. The trainer said we'd stop in ****inson, ND for the night, which we did. Roughly 6 hours of drive time. No big deal.

Next Day: We're going into South Dakota, headed towards Wyoming. My driving is spot on, but i've never dealt with driving in blowing snow before. Essentially, he just told me to stay out of the cruise control/engine brake and keep speed 3-5mph below governor speed (62mph) so we would have some power if needed. Other than some blowing snow, we were all good in SD, and we crossed over into Wyoming, where it started to get interesting. The difference in "Winter Maintenance" that some states have vs others is just amazing to me. For example, North Dakota? Clear as could be. Wyoming? Eh...not so much. I didn't use my cruise control THE ENTIRE STATE. Random patches of black ice, snow drifts in the road..it was pretty sketchy to drive on, until we get to WY-220W headed towards Rawlins. There's a Flying J down there, and we were going to stop for fuel, and drive a few hundred more miles to the WY/UT Border before we shut down for the night. No problem right? We get onto 220 and i've got 5.5 hours of driving time left, and 8 hours on my 14 hour day. No problemo!I NEVER KNEW HOW WRONG I COULD BE. There were message signs every 3-4 miles saying "Slick Spots, No Cruise Control". But the road was completely dry and clear! I was cruising along doing about 50-55, just to be on the safe side. I did that for about 10 miles, until I hit this bridge. It was completely covered in ice, and so was the entire roadway for the next 120 miles. It was slow going. I'm talking like 25mph in a 65. Flashers on the whole way. Trucks were passing me, but the joke was on them, because I saw about 3-4 of them spun out in the ditch. It took me 6.5 hours to get down that mountain. There was nowhere to pull over, except for a rest area that wasn't plowed out, and we were afraid we were gonna get stuck. My second day on the job and I had to drive over my hours due to inclement road conditions. I made it to the fuel island with 45 minutes left on my 14 hour clock. When we got out to fuel, my trainer patted me on the back and said, "You became a truck driver today. I wouldn't have driven in that ****, but i'm glad you have nerves of steel. We needed to get off that mountain". I was very proud of myself. But exhausted, so we hit the sleeper.

Third day: The day of the Rockies. Honestly? I wasn't too worried about them. The way I see it, they take damn good care of the mountain roads, because they wouldn't want a spinout. The worst thing I could imagine was wet roads. Still can't use your engine brake, but it's better than ice. And that's exactly what we encountered. Wet roads. My trainer didn't have to say a single word to me going down the pass, and he said I did a really good job. I ran out of time when we hit the Virgin Mountains on I-15 through Arizona, so my trainer drove until we got into California.

4th Day: I woke up just as we were pulling into Rancho Cucamonga. I told him i'd take over, because I wanted real-world dock experience. Got my door number, backed in perfectly with only one pull up, and we were good to go. We deadheaded about 20 miles to do a D&H at Ashley Furniture. Only issue was, the tandems were slid too far back on the hook trailer for California. No big. We would just slide them. Only, they wouldn't slide. Will continue in comment

Deadhead:

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

Tandems:

Tandem Axles

A set of axles spaced close together, legally defined as more than 40 and less than 96 inches apart by the USDOT. Drivers tend to refer to the tandem axles on their trailer as just "tandems". You might hear a driver say, "I'm 400 pounds overweight on my tandems", referring to his trailer tandems, not his tractor tandems. Tractor tandems are generally just referred to as "drives" which is short for "drive axles".

Tandem:

Tandem Axles

A set of axles spaced close together, legally defined as more than 40 and less than 96 inches apart by the USDOT. Drivers tend to refer to the tandem axles on their trailer as just "tandems". You might hear a driver say, "I'm 400 pounds overweight on my tandems", referring to his trailer tandems, not his tractor tandems. Tractor tandems are generally just referred to as "drives" which is short for "drive axles".

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Julian Ellison's Comment
member avatar

So the tandems wouldn't slide. We were really getting on them too, and nothing was working. Finally, when I was about to take it over to the international dealership, I decided to try locking the trailer brakes up at about 20mph. That did it. We got the trailer California Legal and took off. One thing I can say about California is that people need to learn how to drive. Anyone that's been there will tell you the same. We drove until we hit Vegas, and took our 10 hr break there. At this point we weren't in a huge time crunch anymore, so we decided to head over to Freemont Street for a few hours, and I ended up walking out of there 300 dollars richer from playing craps. We hit the sleeper for the night right after that.

Next day: This day was pretty uneventful. Drove from Las Vegas straight up I-15 through Utah and stopped at a small Flying J in Idaho. Merry Christmas at this point. One thing I noticed was that there were very little trucks on the road. Maybe one every 5-10 miles. It was crazy.

Sixth day: We drove through Idaho and into Montana. Montana was BEAUTIFUL. We hit Yosemite National Forest, and the roads weren't too good. Took her slow, maybe 10-15 under the speed limit, and D&H'd in Bozeman, MT. Now, I spent about 20 minutes coupling to the hook trailer, because in school, we didn't have loading docks that were on a slant. But I got it coupled up, and I looked at the e-log, and my trainer had put me off duty the whole time, when I was on duty at first. So I though he was trying to cheat me out of my 30 minute break. I very calmly and coolly told him that I didn't agree with that, because you can't be doing anything work related on your 30 minute break. He was a bit of a hot head, as I found out at that minute, because at that moment, he flipped out on me, just screaming about how if I didn't like it, I could pack my stuff up and get out of his truck, then told me I wasn't driving anymore. Seeing as I was only his second trainee, I don't think he should be a trainer, simply because of the fact that he can't get along with personality types that are different than his. About 15 miles down the road, I swallowed my pride and apologized, and he let me take back over when we got to Billings. Night was starting to fall, as was the temperature, and we started seeing black ice really bad underneath the overpasses. We hit two patches. I saw both, slowed way down, and gently accelerated through them in order to prevent a jackknife. On the first patch, the entire combination slid to the left two whole feet. On the second, the drive wheels spun out under 1/4 throttle. I decided to pull over at that point, and we spent the night on an exit ramp, even though I didn't agree with that. We were taught in school that if you do pull onto a ramp, it should be an entrance ramp, because people are going a lower speed, and if they do hit you, it will be far less damage/injury. However, seeing as I realized he was a hot head that day, I bit my tongue and climbed in the sleeper.

Final Day. We get into ND and get a call from our safety supervisor, saying I need to pick up a truck at our Bismarck Terminal , and that it's gonna be assigned to me. It's truck number J405. The way trucks are numbered is this: J(Year it was bought)(what number truck they bought that year). Obviously, I was ecstatic that I was being assigned a brand new truck after a week of training. I also got my first load out of it. From Bismarck to Page, ND, delivering Talcum Powder to a business on a farm.

Note: I realize the industry standard time for being with a trainer is 5-8 weeks. However, being that I went to a school that was a 16 week program, and the quality of the education that I received, my trainer felt that there was really nothing else he could have taught me. He recommended that I be put on my own, after only 6 days, because I was ready. It was definitely a good feeling, and it really made all my hard work pay off.

Right now i'm on my first long run. Fargo, ND to Warwick, MD. I'm very nervous about going too far out of route, just because it's tough to read my dispatch directions, but i'm sure i'll figure it out. If I learned one thing this week, it's that even if you don't really get along with someone, you still need to just bite your tongue and get along sometimes.

I hope you all enjoyed reading this. I'm really loving this career choice. I know it'll be a great thing for me, both in the short term and the long run. Stay safe out there guys and gals

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.

Tandems:

Tandem Axles

A set of axles spaced close together, legally defined as more than 40 and less than 96 inches apart by the USDOT. Drivers tend to refer to the tandem axles on their trailer as just "tandems". You might hear a driver say, "I'm 400 pounds overweight on my tandems", referring to his trailer tandems, not his tractor tandems. Tractor tandems are generally just referred to as "drives" which is short for "drive axles".

Tandem:

Tandem Axles

A set of axles spaced close together, legally defined as more than 40 and less than 96 inches apart by the USDOT. Drivers tend to refer to the tandem axles on their trailer as just "tandems". You might hear a driver say, "I'm 400 pounds overweight on my tandems", referring to his trailer tandems, not his tractor tandems. Tractor tandems are generally just referred to as "drives" which is short for "drive axles".

Starcar's Comment
member avatar

Julian, you did an excellent job while with your trainer. Sometimes, you just haveta lose the battle to win the war.....Stay safe out there, and keep on posting...you are an excellent writer, with an eye for details...I truly enjoy reading your stuff !!!

Steven N. (aka Wilson)'s Comment
member avatar

Great posts, Julian.

Glad to hear that you are on your own now. Stay safe and keep the updates coming.!

Old School's Comment
member avatar

Great job Julian! You did the right thing - just go with the flow and try not to rock the boat to severely when with your trainer. Once you're on your own you can manage everything just the way you see fit, and after you've been doing this for a little while you may change your mind about how it should be done and you can act accordingly from that point until you change your mind again.

The beauty of this job is that you get to manage it the way you like. Be careful and cautious out there and you will learn a lot of important lessons during your first six months. The further along you go the easier it gets and you will start building efficiency into your routine. Keep us posted.

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