My First 45 Days As A Truck Driver

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Grumpy Old Man's Comment
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My first load was 3/22. I left Wolding’s terminal , went to Neenah, WI and picked up a load of paper, and delivered it to Denmark, NY, a 944 mile run. I delivered it with no problems, other than pulling up a dozen times to back in.

My first mistake I already documented here, when I followed my GPS and it dropped me in downtown Portland, ME, even though I checked the route 3 times beforehand. The strange part is, I have picked up there 5 times now, and the GPS has worked flawlessly every time. I popped the brakes and flashers, saw that I needed help, and called the police non-emergency number. I ended up being escorted through Portland by a very nice police woman. I sent her a gift basket the next day to show my appreciation for very likely saving my job.

On that same run, I went to Lewiston, ME first. When I got off the exit, I turned the wrong direction, and the GPS wanted me to make a turn from a two lane, onto a 2 lane, going back to my left at about a 60 degree angle. No way I could make that turn, so I popped the brakes and saw an industrial area ahead where I could turn, came back and made the turn from the other direction, and continued to my stop.

Since then, I’ve had a few blunders, hopefully I can remember them all, but no major issues. One was a really tight back with limited room in front. No problem, I had to do exactly that at test out for my company. Except my tandems were slid way forward. When I GOALed, I was about 1/4” from hitting the trailer on my blind side due to the overhang. I pulled out, slid my tandems back, and got it in. Then realized I needed to open my doors. No way I was going to back in again unless I had to. I pulled forward until I was an inch from the trucks in front of me, and just barely had enough room to open them, and backed back in.

I dropped a trailer, hooked to an empty, started to drive away, and realized I forgot to slide the tandems on my dropped trailer. They will not unload it without the tandems all the way back, so I had to rehook and slide. Hooked to the empty again, and couldn’t get the tandems on that one to slide forward. A yard dog finally saw me struggling and came over and helped by holding pressure on the release while I rocked the trailer. Told me how to use a bungee to do it by myself.

Delivered in Nashua, NH. Retraced my steps to get back on the freeway, only to find myself facing the off ramp I used, with no way to go anywhere else. Saw a business to my right, with no room to turn around, and an exit to my left from another business. Pulled in to the right, backed across the road into the other driveway, and went back the way I came. Luckily, no one came screaming down the off ramp. Still not done though, I got to the on ramp I needed to get on, and couldn’t get over due to traffic. No problem, I’ll take this route to the next exit, get off then back on and be on my way. Except in 100 feet, I found myself on a two lane road with nowhere to turn around, or even pull over to look at a map. I continued following state roads through backwoods MA for 2 hours. I did look briefly at my phone at a red light, so I found a route that would get me back to the interstate , but had no idea what was along that route. I prayed I didn’t encounter a low bridge. I did find myself at an intersection where I could not see traffic coming from my blind side. I couldn’t swing my nose to the right without entering traffic, and I couldn’t tell in my fender mirrors how far away the traffic was. I sat there 5 minutes, terrified to pull out until a driver took pity and stopped traffic and let me out.

On I90 through MA, was crossing the mountain by Blandford rest stop in pouring rain. When I topped the mountain, suddenly found myself in fog, with visibility about 50 feet. Went down at about 50, as slow as I dared, scared to death the whole time someone would rear end me in the fog, since no one else slowed down. Saw a DOT truck on the shoulder, looked in my mirror to get over. When I looked back, saw traffic had almost completely stopped to look at the two cops at an accident on the right that was hidden in the fog. Got on the brakes and started to jackniife, but luckily slowed me enough that I was able to get off the brakes to stop the jacknife and steer around the other traffic. Almost needed to change my underwear on that one.

On I90 through NY, saw DOT on the side, looked in my mirror and moved left. As I did, the DOT guys ran out in the road and tossed down a few shovels of blacktop in potholes. Looked in my right mirror to be sure I was clear to get right, looked forward, and traffic had almost stopped dead in front of me. I assume because they heard the blacktop hitting their under carriage. Got on the brakes as hard as I dared, because I was hauling paper rolls, and there is a void in the middle of the trailer. Hard braking is not an option. Luckily, they must have saw me in their mirrors and they floored it, because I avoided killing them.

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".

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.

Interstate:

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

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Grumpy Old Man's Comment
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Delivered to Philadelphia. Parked under I95 in a dirt lot ran by Russians. Parked where they showed me. Just as I was about to sleep, they came out and told me I had to move (through a phone call to an interpreter), into a spot so tight in the daytime I would have had trouble. Again, limited forward clearance, as well as tight side to side, in the dark, pouring rain. Took forever, but I finally got in without hitting anything. They said the cops were complaining because I was right under I95

Had a brake chamber go on my truck while climbing a long hill in PA that I couldn’t get out of 5th gear. Had to keep driving, nowhere to pull over until I got to the top. Sat on the side of the road for 10 hours. At safety’s direction, o0n duty the whiole time, then drove in violation 45 miles to nearest parking. I was at -4 hours when I got there.They had someone swap loads with me the next day, as I could no longer make my appointment, but after he hooked, he noticed two tires had flat spots, apparently from when the brake chamber went.

I’ll add to this as I remember things, but I think that was about it.

I have driven 13,712 miles, for a total of 370.75 hours. I am paid hourly. Most of those hours were driving after the first week or so, if I can drop and hook , I do, because I hate sitting to load/unload. If I were paid by mileage, my CPM would equal .54/mile.

I just asked for 3 days off because my wife is on vacation (1 extra day from my normal weekend). No answer on the QC, they just changed my delivery by one day to accommodate my request.

For the past 3 weeks, I have been preplanned for a week at a time, home time has been exactly when I asked, and I couldn’t be happier with my choice of employer. I head out again today at 3 PM, delivering more pet food to Lewiston ME.

CPM:

Cents Per Mile

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

Drop And Hook:

Drop and hook means the driver will drop one trailer and hook to another one.

In order to speed up the pickup and delivery process a driver may be instructed to drop their empty trailer and hook to one that is already loaded, or drop their loaded trailer and hook to one that is already empty. That way the driver will not have to wait for a trailer to be loaded or unloaded.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
PackRat's Comment
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Great post! That’s quite an adventurous 45 days to say the least. The first year IS THE HARDEST TIME OF ANY DRIVING CAREER. Hope it gets better for you, Grumpy. good-luck.gif

Jeremy's Comment
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Phew tired me out reading it

Grumpy Old Man's Comment
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Great post! That’s quite an adventurous 45 days to say the least. The first year IS THE HARDEST TIME OF ANY DRIVING CAREER. Hope it gets better for you, Grumpy. good-luck.gif

This last week went great except for the I95 parking incident. And had they had me park in the right spot in daylight would have been no big deal.

This week I’ll be going back to Lewiston and S Portland ME, Syracuse, then Mt Pleadant, PA (the only new stop on my route).

I did forget above that my truck Defrates 25% while I was driving. I thought the engine died. Did a regen to get home and they put it in the shop, and put me in my first trainer’s filthy truck, which I posted about here.

I also forgot that my engine did actually die while I was driving down I95 leaving Lewiston ME for no apparent reason. It just suddenly went silent. No lights, buzzers, nothing. I almost panicked, then decided to try a hillbilly jump start. No idea if it worked with a Diesel engine.

Turned the ignition off and back on, after the gauge sweep, it started right up without any further incident.

Army 's Comment
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Great post. You seem to like hanging out in my neck of the woods lol. Enjoy home time.

Junkyard Dog's Comment
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Grumpy I loved reading your post. So many things that happened to you happened to me. And we lived to tell about it...

Keep moving forward buddy. I think we're going to make it. Can you imagine how the truckers made this happen without the devices we are blessed with / sometimes cursed with? Again great post. Hopefully the new drivers will learn from this. When you realize you were in a spot get off as soon as possible and reassess the situation and don't be afraid to call and ask for help. It will save your job and your career.

Grumpy Old Man's Comment
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Great post. You seem to like hanging out in my neck of the woods lol. Enjoy home time.

Close. I mainly shoot up I95 to ME from MA (495)

Grumpy Old Man's Comment
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Grumpy I loved reading your post. So many things that happened to you happened to me. And we lived to tell about it...

Keep moving forward buddy. I think we're going to make it. Can you imagine how the truckers made this happen without the devices we are blessed with / sometimes cursed with? Again great post. Hopefully the new drivers will learn from this. When you realize you were in a spot get off as soon as possible and reassess the situation and don't be afraid to call and ask for help. It will save your job and your career.

Absolutely. The police in Portland were absolutely professional and helpful.

And I forgot to mention that as usual I was racing my clock to get to safe parking when I took that detour through backwoods MA. I had 20 minutes to spare when I started. Ended parked with 7 minutes to spare.

My record so far is 2 minutes. I see that red exclamation point a LOT!

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Army, I’ll be headed past you possibly you possibly tonight, but probably tomorrow. I will most likely have to live unload the load I currently have, then load at Purina and drive as far as I can tonight. Hopefully to the truck stop on the NY/ MA border so I can get to Lewiston and back without having to park in MA. Maybe I’ll get lucky and find an empty when I deliver.

I think the fact that I would rather D&H than live load/unload is one reason I am getting so many loads and miles. I see other drivers complaining they are sitting. I just keep my mouth shut.

G-Town's Comment
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Really good stuff Grumpy.

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