Rookie Solo Adventure, Thoughts, Questions, Vent, And Ramble.

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Spoonerist 's Comment
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Good evening all,

I’ve been driving solo for a grand total of 6 days. What a strange career I’ve chosen...

I’m hoping this thread will be a spot to share some of my experiences. I enjoy writing.

This came out (written) yesterday: This truck trolled me. The 5th wheel release handle wouldn't lock. I kept thinking the trailer was too high. I must've gotten out 10 times before I realized that's what was going on.

The last truck trolled me similarly. The handle wouldn't stay open. Or it would pretend to, I'd get back in the truck and put it in gear to pull out and it would close. Usually the third time was the charm. As I walked around the front of the truck I’d pat her on the hood and say soothing words.

My first solo run was a short 40 mile trip. It was a high value load with a specific delivery time. When I pretripped the trailer there was a padlock on it. I figured, ok, high value, the receiver will have the key... yeah, not so much.

My first trip included getting talked to about pretripping the trailer (I did). Trying to cut the lock off with bolt cutters (with permission), scratching the chrome of the lock was all that happened. Calling dispatch a bunch. Eventually submitting the breakdown macro and coordinating a repair truck to come and grind off the lock.

I was given permission to drop the trailer and bobtail back to the terminal. Rush hour traffic in the Seattle area is not my favorite. My 40 mile trip took 2.5 hours.

I cut my teeth on a chrome lock. The lesson was: if the trailer has a lock on it that I didn’t put there, use the skeleton key at the terminal.

I started my 10 around 6pm to be bright eyed and bushy tailed for Xmas tree delivery the next day. I’ll write about that another time.

Cheers,

G

Bobtail:

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

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.

BMI:

Body mass index (BMI)

BMI is a formula that uses weight and height to estimate body fat. For most people, BMI provides a reasonable estimate of body fat. The BMI's biggest weakness is that it doesn't consider individual factors such as bone or muscle mass. BMI may:

  • Underestimate body fat for older adults or other people with low muscle mass
  • Overestimate body fat for people who are very muscular and physically fit

It's quite common, especially for men, to fall into the "overweight" category if you happen to be stronger than average. If you're pretty strong but in good shape then pay no attention.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Errol V.'s Comment
member avatar

You got it, Spoonerist! There are several people here who have posted about those first few days. It's like Murphy (Murphy's Law) had set up an initiation party!

For your entertainment, you can check out the eleven "problems" I wrote about in My First Week Adventure As A Swift Driver. Funny, all those experiences were repeated over the next year or so, but by then I knew how to handle things.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

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

I suppose now is a good time to write about the rest of my week. I’m home for a 34.

Happy Thanksgiving all!

My second load was delivering a Tcall trailer to 3 Fred Meyer’s on Kitsap Peninsula. I hooked the trailer in Sumner around 0500. No problems there. It was early enough that the roads were fairly empty!

My first stop was in Shelton, WA. I pull into the FM and ask where they want me. Right in front and “Jonathan” will meet new there. The front lane is certainly not truck friendly. Some time waiting for ‘polite’ drivers to move. Yes, I’m waiting for you. No, I will not back out of your way.

I park right in front of the door. Jonathan and his manager were there... freezing (it was 30). I pop the seal and they ask if I’m going to supervise the unload (24 trees). They complain about why the trees are at the front of the trailer (53’) and if all the trees are theirs. They load it that way for safety. No, I have 2 more deliveries. The manger was quite rude when I explained that I was just the driver. My driver leader expressly forbid me from helping unload.

A bit later a customer asked how long I was going to be there, as I was blocking their “easy” departure. She got uppity when she thought that I was ignoring her. I explained that I had people in the trailer and that I couldn’t move it. She had about 10 feet ahead of her SUV. I offered to help her get out of her spot. I watched the light come on in her brain as she realized that she could get out just fine.

I kept my cool. Enjoyed the smells of fresh cut wood. When Jonathan and the manager were done I helped her climb out of the trailer. Made sure she printed and signed her name on my BOL and off I went to Port Orchard.

Fairly uneventful drive, 1 wrong turn and a drive through town. I’m glad there weren’t any overpasses! I arrived early to FM and asked the receiver where they wanted it. The garden center. Ok. Does that road go all the way around the store? Yes. Is it truck accessible? Yes. Ok. I head back there. The road does go around, but it deposits on a street and I have to go in the next entrance. I do and pull next to the garden center. Blocking a row of parked cars (all with the same question: how long will I be there?).

The garden manager came out and assisted with the traffic. I backed down the driveway and aligned my trailer as far left as possible so that I could make the 90 degree narrow right. I swung as far out as possible. Saw the whites of many eyes and took the turn. The trailer curbed a little. Parked the truck and waited for the 2 doods to unload 196 trees.

Getting out of the parking lot was challenging. I did a blind Y backing to turn around. I goaled it and scoped it out before attempting it. I pulled as close to the fence (garden center) as possible and made my sharp left. I kind of enjoy messing up traffic ;). When I got out with no curbing a panhandler was applauding me! Off to Bremerton.

The truck route ran through town. The inbound route was fine, plenty of room. Outbound, not so much. I arrived at the store around 1030, it was quite busy. I parked near the edge of the parking lot and asked again where they wanted it. Of course, the other side of the store.

Meandering through busy parking lots is not my favorite. (Again, I do enjoy messing up traffic and I like a challenge.) Holiday shoppers made this really lovely... I made it around the store without too many trouble. Wedging the trailer where they wanted it was challenging.

Bremerton was the most sophisticated with their unloading. 2 people in the trailer, a forklift, and 2 people in the garden center. The rest of the trees were theirs. Getting out of the parking lot was very challenging. I drove behind the store and tried to take a right that would have made my egress easier. Uh... nope. I got most of the way through my turn and realized that if I continued I would crush a car. I stopped (blocking much traffic), as I was goaling a contractor offered to assist! I showed him where to stand so I could see him and the signal for stop. I slowly backed out of that mess. Many thanks to the helper!

On my drive back to the terminal I informed my DM that I was fine doing these day trips, but the truck needs work. It had no inverter and that I was out of compliance with the company when I don’t use my CPAP. Also, that it pulls fairly hard right and has a loud whine of belt.

I was only in this truck to transfer it to SLC. Rather than put $$ into it my DM found a load going to SLC. I took a 10 and headed out. More about that later. My second load took most of my 14 and drove through some of my favorite places. I received detention pay on top of my miles.

I feel rather overwhelmed, but know that the things that are confusing now will become standard in a short amount of time.

Cheers,

G

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.

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.

CPAP:

Constant Positive Airway Pressure

CPAP is a breathing assist device which is worn over the mouth or nose. It provides nighttime relief for individuals who suffer from Sleep Apnea.

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.

Fm:

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.
Rob T.'s Comment
member avatar

Man that sounds like a rough assignment in your first week. Shopping center parking lots and impatient drivers never fun to deal with. One thing you'll notice is often times unless they drive for a living they're absolutely clueless if something is "truck friendly". It seems like everything worked out well, great job! I'm glad it worked out using a helper to get out be I'd be cautious of using that in the future unless its somebody you personally know and trust. Unfortunately there are people out there that get enjoyment out of others misfortune and they could intentionally set you up to fail. If your spotter is telling you to keep coming it's still your fault. I've had people approach me asking if I needed a spotter and I politely declined. It's easier for me to picture exactly what needs to happen to get into the spot. You need to know where every part of your truck and trailer will move when you move another part and when your tandems are all the way forward you must pay even more attention to the back end. I've seen many people help getting into a tight spot, personally I'd just rather G.O.A.L.

Glad it all worked out Spoon, much more adventure is ahead!

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".

Spoonerist 's Comment
member avatar

Good morning all,

I think a lot of my issues come down to not knowing what I don’t know.

I delivered a load to Costco this morning. When I parked I had an inkling that I was going to jam up the works, but didn’t really know how to sort it out.

I got a talking to. The receiver was cool after venting and it all worked out. I’ve been experiencing technical problems with my QualComm. Upon research I now know a great deal more about trouble shooting and simple solutions. I can see how this will benefit me in the future.

In another life I did some alpha/beta testing for hardware and software. This smacks of that.

If I had known how MUCH there is to know in this industry I would have (still done it) entered cautiously. The overwhelm is real. Breathing and taking my time is the best bet.

Thanks all that have replied to my posts, I really enjoy the feedback.

Cheers,

G

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.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Robert D. (Raptor)'s Comment
member avatar

Well, I'm back in the shop again for Qualcomm problems. No one seems to be able to fix it. It froze again yesterday for the umpteenth time. But maybe I'm hopeful for a good outcome at West Valley.

Raptor

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.
Spoonerist 's Comment
member avatar

I wrote the post above while my QualComm was getting reset. That apparently fixed it!

I’m down for my 10.

Cheers,

G

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.
Spoonerist 's Comment
member avatar

Hello all,

My need to stay close to home has come and gone. I’m finally OTR! I’m wrapping up my first long trip. Sumner to Denver.

My next is Denver to PA. I’m really enjoying this choice of career!

Have a great afternoon.

Cheers,

G

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.

Old School's Comment
member avatar

Spoonerist, I love your enthusiasm! You're obviously enjoying yourself out here. That's great! You've got a great attitude, and that alone is a large part of what enables people to succeed at trucking.

Thanks a lot for occasionally updating us on your journey. I'm sure new drivers and curious wannabes are enjoying hearing from you as much as I am. Keep up the good work.

Spoonerist 's Comment
member avatar

Thanks OS!

I took a queue from this site and called my receiver to see if they could take me early. My appointment was for tomorrow at 10, they said “yes” enthusiastically! Some needle threading in parking lots and wrong turns and a bunch of GOALing and a drop and hook later I got to move on early for my next load!

Unfortunately, my next one is a live load and it won’t be ready until 0600. That’s 4 hours before my original appointment!

Overnight in the industrial part of Denver is fine with me. :)

I love the challenge of this.

Cheers,

G

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.

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