Meandering Musings And Misadventures From The Road

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Paul H.'s Comment
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So I’ve been in the TNT portion of training with Prime Inc for almost two weeks now, and it’s been an experience. TNT is team driving, with a trainer. So unlike PSD , where I drove just enough to learn how to pass the exam, I’m driving just as much as my trainer. Backing at truck stops and shippers and receivers (it’s a lot harder when you’re aiming between trucks instead of cones), and driving on city streets in places like LA, Oakland, and Cleveland (two of those were by accident, and one was to go to a truck stop in Oakland that I decided to pass on once I saw it). I’ve gotten lots of good pictures (Utah is the most consistently photogenic state I’ve seen so far), and the list of states I haven’t been to is rapidly dwindling.

My trainer is really cool. We get along great, and he’s pretty laid back about things. However, shortly after I got on his truck he decided that he was going to quit Prime as soon as my training is finished. Like so many people, he got suckered into leasing when he started at Prime. Not a good deal. He’s not doing well. Unlike my PSD instructor, who is a company driver and does VERY well. He warned me not to lease, and I told him I had no intention of leasing. I told him that I’d never heard anyone say anything good about leasing, and told him that Truckingtruth.com was one of the main places I got that from. He said he wished someone would have told him that in the beginning. So while he’s a great guy, and laid back towards me, he’s got a short-timer’s attitude now and he’s pretty much fed up with everything. Yesterday didn’t help that at all. We dropped off a load of bread near Oakland that we had picked up in Michigan, then were told to get to this place near LA as fast as possible to pick up a load of strawberries. No other information, no appointment time or anything. So we start down there, sacrificing things we needed to do like shower and do laundry (I spilled soup all over my last clean pair of pants, so now I’m down to shorts – not going to cut it now that we’re out of California). We figured we’d get loaded that night and be on our way to Ohio. Well, our dispatcher didn’t tell us that the place closes at eight, and didn’t tell us that we weren’t picking up until the next day anyway. She just wanted us to hurry up and get there, just because. Not giving any consideration to the fact that we need all the information in order to plan the trip properly. Especially since California hardly has any truck stops (that state is a big middle finger to truckers). So we slept at the shipper overnight, expecting to get loaded early in the morning. We got checked in third, yet somehow sat there all day waiting to be loaded while we watched truck after truck come in after us, get loaded, and leave. My trainer kept going to the office to see what was up, and it was always “Your load’s not here yet,” or “The load is being cooled. How long? I don’t know. Half hour, an hour, I don’t know.” All day we sat there and watched strawberries brought in on little trucks, pallet after pallet. Apparently we were waiting on special strawberries just for us. I don’t know what the problem was. It made no sense. So we finally got out of there around six in the evening, so I had to drive through LA during rush hour, which is more like rush five hours.

You know, there’s a lot of land in this country. I really wish the people of LA would make use of it and spread out. I drove for almost three hours through endless cities during rush hour in the LA area, and it was NOT FUN. At one point, the GPS told me I was out of route (even though I did what it said), and when I hit “Reroute” it sent me off the freeway and through Hollywood to get back on track. That took a few years off my life. The freeway is bad enough, with rush hour traffic and people who don’t know how to merge and don’t have a healthy fear of trucks or respect for their own or anyone else’s lives. I can handle that, though. Moving straight forward is easy. But driving a truck on congested city streets is like navigating a giant spaceship through an asteroid field, if asteroids had middle fingers. Apparently the GPS wanted me to get some shifting practice. My trainer says that I maneuver the truck well, I’m safe and aware and laid back, but that shifting is the one thing I still need work on. Downshifting is supposed to be the hard part, but I’m pretty smooth with that. But upshifting for me is like arm wrestling with a rusty robot. That doesn’t mix well with California’s bumpy, broken-down roads. The one good thing about the roads is that the lines are painted so badly they look like Stevie Wonder’s musical notation, so they don’t put you to sleep. As soon as I crossed over into Arizona, the perfectly painted lines started to hypnotize me. So I’m done driving for the night. There’s a lot I’d like to do in California, it’s a beautiful place (minus Oakland). But I want to go there in a car.

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.

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.

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.

DWI:

Driving While Intoxicated

PSD:

Prime Student Driver

Prime Inc has a CDL training program and the first phase is referred to as PSD. You'll get your permit and then 10,000 miles of on the road instruction.

The following is from Prime's website:

Prime’s PSD begins with you obtaining your CDL permit. Then you’ll go on the road with a certified CDL instructor for no less than 75 hours of one-on-one behind the wheel training. After training, you’ll return to Prime’s corporate headquarters in Springfield, Missouri, for final CDL state testing and your CDL license.

Obtain CDL Permit / 4 Days

  • Enter program, study and test for Missouri CDL permit.
  • Start driving/training at Prime Training Center in Springfield, Missouri.
  • Work toward 40,000 training dispatched miles (minimum) with food allowance while without CDL (Food allowance is paid back with future earnings).

On-the-Road Instruction / 10,000 Miles

  • Train with experienced certified CDL instructor for 3-4 weeks in a real world environment.
  • Get 75 hours of behind-the-wheel time with one-on-one student/instructor ratio.
  • Earn 10,000 miles toward total 40,000 miles needed.

TNT:

Trainer-N-Trainee

Prime Inc has their own CDL training program and it's divided into two phases - PSD and TNT.

The PSD (Prime Student Driver) phase is where you'll get your permit and then go on the road for 10,000 miles with a trainer. When you come back you'll get your CDL license and enter the TNT phase.

The TNT phase is the second phase of training where you'll go on the road with an experienced driver for 30,000 miles of team driving. You'll receive 14¢ per mile ($700 per week guaranteed) during this phase. Once you're finished with TNT training you will be assigned a truck to run solo.

Paul H.'s Comment
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Our destination got changed. I have to pick up my hard copy CDL from Springfield, and the APU is scheduled for maintenance, so we’re dropping off the special strawberries at the Prime terminal for someone else to take to Ohio. Since he’s quitting when my training is done, and I should be done the middle of February, my trainer decided we’re not doing our scheduled home time on January 27th. He wants to just get this done as quickly as possible. So by the time I finally go home I will have been gone for three months. I’m not happy about that. But whatever. There are advantages to putting it off, the details of which I won’t bore anyone with. However, we will be running through my home soon just long enough for me to transfer my CDL. So although I won’t actually see anyone, at least I’ll get to be in my part of the country for a minute.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the windstorm. We were making GREAT time getting to California, way ahead of schedule. But we had to stop at a truck stop in Cheyenne, Wyoming because of wind. Up to 65 mph gusts. We stopped because it obviously wasn’t safe, but then soon after we stopped they closed I-80 at several points. So we were stuck in that truck stop for a day and a half. Not only was it extremely boring, but the trip was broken up so that it wasn’t all on one paycheck. That doesn’t affect me so much, because I have a guarantee, but my trainer was not happy. I kept checking online to see when the roads were open, and the second they were we left. I drove, and it was still really windy. That was a hair-raising drive, but we made it out alive. Wyoming is another beautiful state I’d really love to see more of.

That’s all for now. I’m going to sleep.

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.

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.

APU:

Auxiliary Power Unit

On tractor trailers, and APU is a small diesel engine that powers a heat and air conditioning unit while charging the truck's main batteries at the same time. This allows the driver to remain comfortable in the cab and have access to electric power without running the main truck engine.

Having an APU helps save money in fuel costs and saves wear and tear on the main engine, though they tend to be expensive to install and maintain. Therefore only a very small percentage of the trucks on the road today come equipped with an APU.

Paul H.'s Comment
member avatar

1531982_10201229902291320_2108365958_n.j

Utah

Paul H.'s Comment
member avatar

1525431_10201368081865723_608355324_n.jp

Wyoming

Paul H.'s Comment
member avatar

1173614_10201368086705844_255552730_n.jp

Utah

Roadkill (aka:Guy DeCou)'s Comment
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Paul, happy to hear you're doing well with Prime..that's where I am aiming for as well..Keep your updates coming and love your pictures...I was in that very area around Thanksgiving with a driver who was giving me a chance to ride with him and, yes, that is some absolutely beautiful country..I drove through Hollywood as well, but in a car, and man, you did well to drive a rig through that area..hope your new trainer is as good as your present one..

Paul H.'s Comment
member avatar

Thanks Roadkill. You'll like it here, I think. You have to have a lot of patience, but it's a good company. I'm actually sitting in the truck in the Springfield terminal right now. I drove 11 hours last night for the last leg of the trip here from LA. Got my actual CDL (the DMV initially gives you a temporary paper CDL, and they mail the real one to Prime) from our dispatcher , we got the truck washed, did laundry, ate a good lunch (the food at the terminal is really good, the food at the campus is ok), and now I'm about to sleep until we get a load assigned, and then I'm going to sleep some more. I want to get a few hours of non-moving sleep in before we leave. When are you starting Prime?

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.

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.

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.

DMV:

Department of Motor Vehicles, Bureau of Motor Vehicles

The state agency that handles everything related to your driver's licences, including testing, issuance, transfers, and revocation.

Ray F. (aka. Mongo)'s Comment
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Great pic's there Paul. Glad everything is going good for you there. I will be there next month.

Paul H.'s Comment
member avatar

Thanks man. Maybe I'll see you around. I'll be the guy in the Bama hat.

Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar

Awesome pics!!!! Love em!

All the confusion at the shippers over when you're supposed to be loaded, why it's taking so long - all that stuff is normal. You won't always be able to figure out what on Earth they're doing that's holding you up. The only productive thing you can do is be super kind to the people working at the customer, try to instill a sense of urgency in them a little bit, and make the most of your downtime. If you stew over it, you're going to lose years off your life quickly.

In trucking you have no control over anything other than your own mind and your own truck. Other than that, you're pretty much at the mercy of everyone and everything. It's one of the toughest aspects of trucking - learning to roll with the flow of things and not get all bent out of shape when things beyond your control cause you grief.

So when things aren't going your way, remember it's all just temporary. Before you know it that bad weather or slow customer or snarled traffic will be in the rear view mirror and you'll be cruising along on a sunny day with beautiful scenery before you know it!

smile.gif

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.

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