Prime Flatbed; Springfield, Missouri; Spring 2020

Topic 27910 | Page 12

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Bird-one's Comment
member avatar

I read every entry. Have enjoyed this entire thread. Great read for any prospective drivers. Careful on those u-turns. I don't think I made one till my 6th month of driving. And that was after driving for 12 miles trying to find a comfortable turn around spot. Turned to early. Came up to a 4 way intersection in the middle of nowhere with no cars present and made my turn there.

Keep the updates coming.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
G-Town's Comment
member avatar

Turtle wrote...

Rob, these are wonderful entries- detailed, informative, and often quite hilarious. I assure you there is more interest in your saga than you may think. However, we understand your need to take care of your business before filling us in on the details.

Often in a diary, there will be moments where myself and others want to interject with advice for a particular situation. But you seem to be coming up with the right answers all on your own. Good stuff, man.

I was thinking the exact same thing.

Whenever I read about bad trainers; “da as I say, not as I do”, I count my blessings that my trainer was very good.

Great job Rob.

Andy Dufresne (a.k.a. Rob's Comment
member avatar

I didn’t realize how much interest there was in my diary. I kinda feel like Dr. Johnny Fever after he told people to dump their trash at city hall. So based upon the feedback here on the forum, from my son, and from my well-equipped, dare I say “prepper,” mentor, I will return to the Tommy Chong, “What I did on my summer vacation” format. However, I only have access to WIFI so often. Right now I’m connected to the Lowe’s guest wifi while I’m waiting for the to unload us.

June 6, 2020: Pilot Abilene, Texas

Didn’t get to take the walk that I wanted because I finally found the Garmin GPS that I had planned to get and spent much of the afternoon setting that up. I had originally tried to buy it in Oregon because they don’t have sales tax. But they were out. I soon found out, after asking at each Pilot where we stopped, that no one had any in stock. Luckily, this one in Abilene, Texas had it and at a convenient time when I had time to learn how to use it. But I couldn’t get it until noon because it rang up at $500 and the clerks didn’t have the authority to override the price So I had to wait until the store manager got in at noon.

I spent most of the afternoon trying to get it set up, but based on what I saw from the map view, I didn’t expect it to work very well until I downloaded the updated software and maps. Nevertheless, I took a test run to Walmart to see how it worked. Sure enough, it was worthless. The map had no detail beyond the interstate and major arterial roads and the truck icon floated over the landscape like a helium balloon that escaped from birthday party.

Near Walmart they had a Taco Casa and truck parking in between the two, which I didn’t see until I walked over there. There was another Prime flatbed there with two Bobcats. Upon entering the Taco Casa, I saw something I hadn’t seen for months: people dining in. Elated, I got my super taco and chelada and sat down to enjoy a meal somewhere other than the seat of the truck or leaning up against a tree outside the truck stop.

Afterward, I headed over to Walmart to do some shopping. I wanted to get a USB cable and SD card for the Garmin and some groceries. Just as I had oriented myself as to where I needed to go, I heard “Walmart will be closing in 2 minutes.” So much for shopping.

Headed back to Pilot where I was going to try to see if I could download the software and updates. I am bobtailing so, I park at the other end of a space where another bobtail tractor has parked, so I can be closer to the building for WIFI.

I get the WIFI connected and after about 30 minutes the Garmin registers maybe 2% complete. Not looking good. I let it run for another two hours before I see a message that says “download failed.” I figure if I have any chance to complete the download, I will need to get closer to the building, because I figure its going to take a REAL long time.

I had been instructed to leave the trailer parked if I went anywhere. But I didn’ want to leave the trailer overnight unhooked from the tractor. So I hook up to the trailer and move the closest open spot next to the building. I figure I’ll have all day to move it back and no one will ever know.

At about midnight, the download registered about 25% complete. I called it a night, just hoping that the WIFI would stay connected.

Bobtail:

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

Interstate:

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

Andy Dufresne (a.k.a. Rob's Comment
member avatar

June 7, 2020: Pilot Abilene Part Two

Woke up about 5 am to go to the bathroom. WIFI still connected and downloading at about 75% complete now. I wake up again about 7 a.m. and decide to get up for the day. I’ve got all afternoon to nap. The Garmin is still downloading and registers about 90%, so I decide to go for a walk.

There’s a couple of farm road nearby and I just walk down the road. No sidewalks. I don’t know the official boundaries of West Texas lie, but the landscape here is flat and semi-desert. In my photo album you’ll see the prickly pear cacti. As I’m heading back to the frontage road, a Deputy Sheriff passes me from ahead and then swings around to pull up next to me. I figure it’s the typical, “what you doing round these parts” inquiry. Nope. He says there is a snake up ahead in the road. He’s going to do me the favor of running it over. That’s West Texas hospitality for you. Sure enough, about half mile a head I see a dead bull snake in the road.

I get back to truck about 9:30. Probably walked about 3 to 4 miles.

The Garmin is done downloading. I click to install the updates and then go inside to get a brisket breaffast burrito.

Back at the truck, the Garmin is done so time to play with the features and set up some more. This Garmin is the Dezl 785, which has the built in dash cam. I also have a Blue Parrot B-450XT headset and had both my phone and Garmin connected, when I did my Walmart test run, but they didn’t play well together. I could only get one audio to play through my headset. Plus, my Bixby voice assistant wouldn’t work. So I decide to simplify it a litlte and just use the Garmin GPS straight up without all the phone/headset connection. I don’t really need to have make calls through the Garmin because I already have better functionality through my phone.

For those who have used the Garmin and complained about needing data connection, here’s what I found out. There are several different ways that you can connect the Garmin to your phone, but the simplest and best solution is to download the Garmin Smartphone Link.

The Garmin Smartphone Link keeps the GPS connected to your phone for data services, plus it has another benefit that I discovered. Many drivers like using Google maps, including satellite and street view, to find shippers and receivers. With the Garmin Smartphone Link, you can send the location you find on Google maps directly to the GPS. Once you confirm the location on Google maps, select “Share.” Below the list of contacts, are applications on your phone. Swipe until you find the Garmin Smartphone link, click on that. It will open the Garmin Smartphone link map and ask you if you want to send it. Make sure that the map view is showing on the Garmin and click send. It will pop up on your Garmin. Just click “go” and it will navigate to the coordinates that you found on Google maps.

And here’s the bonus hack. Google maps will show a “pin” in the middle of a building when you search for an address. But the shipping/receiving location may be a ways away from the building address. In Google maps, if you “long press” at the shipping/receiving entrance it will move the “pin” to that location. So when you send it to the Garmin, it will take you to the shipping/receiving entrance rather than somewhere along that street. One caveat thoiugh. After your share the pin with the Garmin Smartphone link, you will want to compare the two pin locations to make sure they match. The couple of times I have done it, it has worked well. Not perfect, but it enhances the precision of the Garmin GPS.

I pretty much spent the rest of the day messing around with the Garmin and took a nap. I did move the trailer back to its original spot.

I tried to Zoom with my lovely wife, but I couldn’t connect to the Pilot free WIFI for some reason.

Called it a night about 9 pm.

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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

EPU:

Electric Auxiliary Power Units

Electric APUs have started gaining acceptance. These electric APUs use battery packs instead of the diesel engine on traditional APUs as a source of power. The APU's battery pack is charged when the truck is in motion. When the truck is idle, the stored energy in the battery pack is then used to power an air conditioner, heater, and other devices

Rob T.'s Comment
member avatar

You have a lot of interest in your thread but diaries often don't generate much conversation. To be honest the diaries are my favorite thing to read on the forum. I love reading how excited most drivers are when they jump in. It's also interesting to see how they face the many challenges they're presented with. Your training definitely comes first but we all enjoy reading your (among everyone elses) diary

Andy Dufresne (a.k.a. Rob's Comment
member avatar

June 8, 2020: Deliver Bobcat; Gypsum from Acme, Texas.

Wake up about 7 am to get to the Bobcat dealer about 7:20. My trainer still had his rental car, which I drive to the Bobcat dealer. He then drives it to the airport and Ubers back.

When we pull into the lot, the other Prime driver that I saw near the Walmart/Taco Casa is backed up to the ramp they use to unload the Bobcats. We unchain, unload, and then head back to the truck stop to wait for our next load picking up sheet rock in Acme, Texas.

We drive on my trainer’s clock until he asks me to take over. I get the impression he did not get a lot of sleep over the weekend. We’re driving through some of the Texas back roads and I’m quite impressed with the Garmin. It tells you in advance of the speed limit changes and it’s pretty spot on.

If you’ve seen the movie Tin Cup, you’ll remember that Kevin Costner lived in an RV. When I saw the movie, I thought it was just to show how much of a loser he was. Nope. RV living as a semipermanent residence is a real thing in West Texas.

We get to the receiver. It’s interesting how some different procedures are among shippers. Here you park across the street and call the guard. The guard tells you where to go, which is you pull up to a stop sign, drop your trailer, tarps, and 20 bungees and then go wait until the yard dog brings your loaded trailer.

On the building they have a “beware of snakes sign.” But not just any snakes, vicious rattlers.

0647356001592106599.jpg

While we’re waiting, I realize that I forgot to roll up some of the straps we threw in the box. No problem, we’re just waiting. Except, when I pull my strap winder out, I realize I don’t have a trailer to hang it on. So I hang it on the chain link fence and wind up some of the 2 inch straps.

We get our loaded trailer, throw straps over the tarp, add some bungees and we’re on our way.

We’re still on my clock and going through Louisiana. My trainer wants to stop in Moblie to see family.

I’m beginning to hate concrete roads, and as I realized driving through Shreveport, they have some of the worst roads. Concrete roads are poured in segments and as they settle some parts settle more than others, so it creates a wave like surface that causes the truck to “porpoise.” The porpoise effect is worse depending on your speed, weight and load distribution. We’re about 77,000 lbs. During one segmet it gets really bad and at that the trailer is yanking back against the locking jaws and **** is falling all over in the sleeper.

I make it to Monroe, Louisianna where my trainer takes over and I crawl into the sleeper.

602 miles in 10 hours 30 minutes.

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.

Andy Dufresne (a.k.a. Rob's Comment
member avatar

June 9, 2020: Alabama, Florida, Georgia.

We get to Mobile about 11:30 and my trainer takes off with his daughter. I take a shower and get some coffee.

After my trainer gets back, he continues to drive for a while until he asks me to take over.

About 8 p.m., six hours into my clock, I decide to stop some place other than the big chain truck stops. And I want to try out another feature of the Garmin, which is the “up ahead” tool. Rather than Google maps, which gives you locations in a radius going all directions, the Garmin up ahead tool only gives truck stops, restaurants, or parking that are on your current route.

I find the San Jose Mexican restaurant at exit 385. While I assume there is truck parking, I cross reference the Truck Stop pocket guidebook to make sure there is a truck stop with parking. There is an Exxon.

While the Garmin took me to the San Jose Mexican restaurant, it was closed. And by the looks of it not just for the night. But there is a Chinese Buffet right next door to the Exxon. The Exxon is not the most up to date and only has about 10 spots. There are a few older tractor trailers parked in some of the spots and the rest of the spots are taken by a double/triples dolly and a few intermodal trailers that don’t look road worthy. So no place to park.

On the way to the Exxon we passed a Burger King that had a pretty good size truck parking lot behind it with plenty of open space. So I don’t have to worry so much about hitting another truck. Rather the parking challenge involves the fact that the lot was unpaved and had two large mud holes in the center. So I had to line up my angles to avoid the mud holes and getting stuck. Got it in without a problem and we walked to the Chinese Buffet.

They were just closing when we got there so, there was little left on the buffet. My trainer passed but I loaded up a to go container and we headed back to the truck. My trainer got something from Burger King.

We continued on our way to the Love’s in Savannah, Georgia. The parking lot was full, but as we circled the lot a few spaces opened up. But they were all single spaces. So I would need to park in a spot with trucks on both sides of me. No more empty spaces on either side for cushion. I got set up and pretty much executed the back flawlessly. My trainer even commented on how well I executed the back. Now, I will say that the aisles at this Love’s were pretty spacious so it wasn’t the most difficult back.

We both racked out for the night, since we were about 22 miles from the receiver.

Thoughts on backing:

My backing is getting better, to a large extent because, just like many things, I think a lot about it. I have fixed my problem of not pulling far enough ahead, but these are the things I focus on to get better at backing.

Setup: three main aspects.

First, the location of the driver rear corner of the trailer in relation to the parked truck on the driver’s side. My goal is to get about 2 to 3 feet away so that when I cut my wheels to back, my trailer gets “comfortably close” to that driver’s side parked truck. As an experienced driver told me recently, he still tries to get closer to the driver’s/sight side parked vehicle because that one you can see. If you’re closer to that parked truck, you’re further away from the passenger/blind side parked truck.

Second, the trailer angle. Ideally, it would be parallel to the parked trucks on either side so you just need to do a straight back. But that is not the nature of the alley dock. If you don’t have enough of an angle, you risk hitting the passenger side parked truck.

Third, maneuvering space on the passenger side. This is where I have to split the difference between a better angle for the trailer and maneuvering space. The goal here is to have enough space on my passenger side that I don’t have to worry about hitting the trucks on that side as I back up.

Execution:

If I got my set up right, then I should be able to cut my wheels all the way to the right and the trailer will go perfectly into the spot. As I back up, I watch the space between my driver’s side trailer and the truck parked on that side to see if I’m drifting too far to the passenger side. I will also watch the angle of the trailer for the same concern. About the time when I’m starting to chase the trailer, I will G.O.A.L. to make sure I’ve got good spacing away from the passenger side trailer. I might even G.O.A.L. before, during, and after I start chasing the trailer to make sure I don’t hit that parked truck.

I’ve learned that when to start chasing the trailer takes practice. For the longest time, I waited too long and my trailer would start angling toward the driver’s side. I’m getting better, but I can always fix it with a pull up. Also a pull up helps to line my trailer angle better if I’m getting nervous that I’m going to hit the truck on my passenger/blind side

480 miles in about 8 hours

Intermodal:

Transporting freight using two or more transportation modes. An example would be freight that is moved by truck from the shipper's dock to the rail yard, then placed on a train to the next rail yard, and finally returned to a truck for delivery to the receiving customer.

In trucking when you hear someone refer to an intermodal job they're normally talking about hauling shipping containers to and from the shipyards and railyards.

Old School's Comment
member avatar

Rob, you're obviously a "thinker." I like the comments you made on backing. Getting set up properly is the foundational thing that helps you execute any backing maneuver. Remember, there's nothing wrong with needing to do a pull-up. Oftentimes it's part of my plan or strategy to get my truck parked with limited parameters or space. Using that slight Jack-knifed position can help you get yourself lined up for a simple straight back after you started from an angled position.

I've listened to new drivers who are almost ashamed that they needed to do a "pull-up" to get parked. There's no reason for that. It's one more technique that helps you get the job done. It takes years to become really efficient at backing. You're doing a great job. Keep up the practice and don't get complacent about doing a G.O.A.L.

Andy Dufresne (a.k.a. Rob's Comment
member avatar

June 10, 2020: Deliver in Savannah, GA; Backhaul to Frisco, Texas.

Deliver first thing in the morning to Georgia, Pacific. I use the pin drop system and the Garmin gets us very close. Again not perfect, but definitely within sight distance. GP as a large company has very detailed policies and procedures. You have to check in at the gate and then proceed to the untarping, unstrapping area. Just like many other places, you can’t get on the trailer at all. They even have pictorial warnings with a guy standing on a trailer, with the words “not okay” and then the corresponding guy standing on the ground next to the trailer with the words “okay.” We’re pretty sure that we will get a backhaul from here, but we head to Walmart while we wait.

After we get our load assignment we head back. Similar procedure to unload, get in line behind the rest of the flatbeds leading into the building. It’s kinda like a drive through service. Two lanes lead into the building. The first stop is for loading. They have red lights shining on the floor in and “I” shape with the center of the “I” being your left and right alignment. You pull forward centering your truck on the longer red light then stop so the front of your tractor and trailer are lined up with the cross lines of the “I”. They load you there. They already have your tarps on the tarp machine.

0920443001592154395.jpg

The tarping machine picks up the tarps and your drive under them, dropping the rear one first and then the front one.

They actually did not overlap the tarps enough, which became a problem later on the heavy downpour.

We strap the tarps and my trainer is talking to another flatbed driver about these PVC pipes to put on edge protectors. The other flatbed driver gives him one. We had bought an extension pole with a small paint roller attachment at Walmart for pulling belly straps through. Now we’re pretty much covered with gadgets for that stuff.

We get on the road and I crawl into the sleeper. I wake up later to see my trainer putting on his rain gear. The tarps have separated and letting water into the load of sheetrock. I ask if he wants me to help. I get a half-hearted, yeah it would help. Now we’re on the side of the road and it’s a downpour. My trainer doesn’t have hi-vis rain gear and is not wearing his safety vest. I had bought this hi-vis rain gear, with top and bottoms, and I start putting them on. About halfway through, my trainer opens the door and says don’t worry he’s got it.

While waiting, I get out some towels because I know he is going to be drenched. After about 30 minutes he comes back inside. He put on a third tarp to cover the gap. He says he told me not to get out because he figured there’s no sense in both of getting drenched.

We get rolling again and before long the weather clears up.

I take over about 4 a.m. I get the pleasure of driving back through Shreveport. As we get close, the Garmin tells me that there is a traffic delay of about two hours. I begin a navigation with Google maps on my phone to see if it’s showing the same thing. Sure enough, they both are routing me off I-20 to the 220 Bypass. At this point, I plan to follow the reroute, but as we get to the exit for the 220 bypass, they have I-20 completely closed. The 220 bypass is not really any better than I-20 as far as the rough road, but there is about maybe two miles of smooth road reprieve.

I get to the swap out point and my trainer takes over.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Andy Dufresne (a.k.a. Rob's Comment
member avatar

June 11, 2020: Deliver to Building Supply, Frisco, Texas; Pick up misc Lowes goods, Ennis, Texas.

We get to the receiver and start untarping and unstrapping. It’s not a big space and we’re staged at the entrance to the yard which is right next to the parking for the building. So we’re folding tarps in the four wheeler parking lot. The sheetrock has survived the trip. And we’re waiting for a couple of other flatbed drivers get loaded.

Now, as has been mentioned on this forum, there’s always opportunities to learn in this career. One of the easiest ways is to watch other drivers and talk to them. My winch threading technique, which I continue to perfect, was based on watching someone thread a winch early on. And, after some discussions about securement, I have learned it’s the same technique that the President of the Hard-Shell Flatbedders Association uses.

So as I’m winding straps, kinda, out of the corner of my eye, I see this local driver put on an edge protector. It’s one of those situations where you see something in your peripheral vision and think to yourself did I just see what I think I saw. I watch him do it a couple of more times. He puts the edge protectors on by “throwing” them on top of the load. He pulls the loose strap away from the load to create a little slack. Then puts the strap in the “groove” of the edge protector. When he throws the edge protector up, it slides up the strap and on top of the corner of the load. The strap stops it at the top. I think that he flips the strap with his left hand so it opens a space at the top. It took him less than 5 minutes to do the entire side. I was pretty impressed to say the least.

We get unloaded and head to a truck stop nearby. Before long we get our next load, which we pick up at a drop yard in Ennis, Texas. We get there and inside the gate, but we don’t have any trailer number on our load assignment. There is another flatbed driver who tells my trainer that the load assignment details are in an office in the building.

A little side note on the nature of this job. By the time we get there, it’s later in the evening so our day dispatch is gone for the day. My trainer is calling dispatch, but they’re really no help in figuring out how to find our load. Now, we did have this other flatbed driver who helped guide us to find our load. But many times you’re not going to have someone there to help you. So when you’re in a yard like this, you just got to walk around the building, pulling on doors, to see if there is something that will tell you what you’re supposed to do. And that’s the tip of the iceberg with regard to being self-sufficient. The step deck we had only had about 4 functioning winches on each side. So we needed to use 4 inch ratchets to secure our straps.

We find out from the other driver that this place is like Charlotte Pipe. The bills are lading are in an office. You get your bills, pick up your trailer, and head out.

Our load is some miscellaneous stuff going to a Lowes in Harlingen, Texas. The bill of lading has a “P” on it which means partial tarp. Our load has a “yard tarp” on the front half of the trailer. You replace the yard tarp with your tarp and leave the yard tarp behind.

The other driver is helping us out. At the rear of the trailer is a bundle of ladders. The other driver recommends using two 4 inch straps in an “X” pattern over the ladders which we do. He uses the same strap threading system as me. After that, he helps me get the yard tarp off. He explains that getting up on the load and pulling one side of the tarp up makes it easier to pull off the load. We get in on the ground and he helps me fold it up. I roll it up and then he explains that you need to put it on our empty that we dropped, with a subtle emphasis on the “you”. Now this yard tarps are heavier because they are large enough to cover the trailer with just two tarps. Just flipping this thing up on its end is a chore. As I’m looking at it he says it’s easier if you kneel down to get it on your shoulder. I do as he says and get it on my shoulder. This thing is so heavy that just walking with it is a struggle. I get to our empty and get one end on the edge of the trailer and then flip it up onto the trailer. This other driver again emphasizes that this is one of the heaviest tarps Prime has.

We have to use some 4 inch ratchets again because there aren’t enough winches where we need them. This gives me a tip about the stake pocket winches, which fit into the stake pockets on the rub rail. He says before I upgrade, call Sean in the flatbed equipment shop and have him get me four used stake pocket winches. He said they are $25 used.

BTW, this other flatbed driver said he used to train TNT , but when they increase the mileage to 50,000 miles he said no way. He said 30,000 miles was fine, 40,000 miles acceptable, but 50,000 miles. No way. As many know, TNT can be grueling for both the trainer and trainee. And at least one trainer stopped training when it hit 50,000 miles. Maybe someone on the Prime Driver Advisory Board might want to suggest Prime reconsider the 50,000 mile insanity.

We get all secured and on our way.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

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.

OOS:

When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

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