Journey With Wilson Logistics - Springfield, MO

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Eugene K.'s Comment
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My apologies to those following along from home, please ignore my esteemed colleague PackRat; he's the "curmudgeonly sort." Actually I believe they may be relaxed fit, my quads are just that massive.

UPDATE from a service plaza somewhere in spooky Maine. (Yes, I drove an 18-wheeler in Maine today and didn't send anyone's Fido off to the Pet Sematary.) Recap from the last two days. So much has transpired I'm actually having to pause for a moment to remember where and how I started off yesterday morning!

Wednesday 6 Jan 2021 - 0530 - Woke up at 0430; Left the Love's just outside Indianapolis after a shower and some McDonald's and far too many Monsters to wake me up. I've been eating like absolute garbage for the last two weeks, but am not particularly stressing it, because having worked in fitness for a decade I know exactly what to do for myself nutrition-wise after giving countless thousands counsel on how to do the same for themselves. I just need to remind myself that at almost 39, I'm hardly a spring chicken anymore and can't expect to guzzle down truck stop food every day and hope to maintain razor abs. It ain't gonna happen. Inertia has set in and though I may sleep fitfully, my metabolism is down for the count.

(Speaking of which, I slept, shockingly, even better than Monday night. This was our first night after picking up the reefer unit, which, though extremely loud, sounded just like a jet engine and effectively served as the world's best white noise machine. I definitely had to have earplugs in to reduce the volume, but otherwise it drowned everything else out. I slept like a log and only woke up twice to us the restroom.)

Since it was dark and foggy, my trainer drove us for the first few hours until we reached another Love's near Columbus. That's when I took over, and stayed behind the wheel for about 4 and a half hours until we were just shy of Niagara Falls. According to my trainer, I was MUCH better and smoother than Monday. I didn't feel like I was significantly better, but she mentioned that they can always notice huge differences from day to day that we may not necessarily. One thing that I did notice was that my turns in and out of the truck stops were much smoother and cleaner, and that going up and down inclines was much smoother as well. I felt like I was applying the gas intuitively at just the right time to give it a boost up the next hill coming out of a decline, and finding the right balance between the service brake and the jakes. It was very smooth sailing -- coasting up and down. My steering was also MUCH less jerky, and I finally felt like I knew what my trainer was talking about when she said to let the truck drive itself (a figure of speech: we obviously grasp the immense responsibility and know the truck isn't REALLY driving itself), and to just guide the wheel to follow the lines. She said that the day before, any truck coming up behind us would have said "yeah, that's a trainee" judging from how jerky I was within the lane. She also said that explains why my wrists and arms were so sore at the end of my first day.

Skies were grey and gloomy for most of Ohio, until a sudden lake-effect snow squall blew in horizontally just outside of Cleveland and battered us pretty brutally, then after five minutes, it was over as soon as it started and the clouds broke. Cresting the last hill in PA and down into New York State, we had a gorgeous view of Lake Erie just over the treetops on our left for a few miles. As it started to darken, she took back over for the final 45 minutes or so because our stop was nearly full and the back would be difficult. Had a gargantuan chicken fried steak and blissed out in the massage chair for a bit at the truck stop, then sauntered up into my bunk to sleep.

Thursday 7 Jan 2021 - 0600 - Woke up at 0530; slept extremely poorly unlike the first two nights, but wasn't bothered by it, because truthfully it's the best I was expecting all week anyway. I was too excited to be driving for the majority of our third day into the customer to be bothered by it. My trainer refuses on principle to pay $15 for showers at a truck stop when our company has a free account with Love's, so we drove about 3 hours to a station just shy of the Massachusetts state line to take our 30 and shower. Then we fueled up the tractor and reefer, and I took over to bring it on in for the rest of the day.

Experienced my first 6% grade for six miles downhill on I-90 in western Massachusetts. I'm not saying this to sound like a badass, but truthfully it was nowhere near as jarring as I thought it would be. The weather was clear, and though it was very cold out, there was no ice and the roads were in good condition. I safely and smoothly alternated between the jakes and the service brake and following the winding snake down the east side of the mountains into Amherst, maintaining about 50 - 55 as my flow. Plenty of trucks were speeding past us, and my trainer says that with experience I may eventually feel safe maintaining about 55 - 60 down a grade with good weather and road conditions, but that there's no room for daredevils in this business. Especially not with 31,000 in the box at a 6% grade. No freight is worth my life.

As we neared closer to Boston, all of the rumors I heard about god-awful drivers quickly came true. While we were shown significant space and courtesy by nearly all the 4-wheelers in more trucker-friendly states in the Midwest, CONTINUED

Reefer:

A refrigerated trailer.

TWIC:

Transportation Worker Identification Credential

Truck drivers who regularly pick up from or deliver to the shipping ports will often be required to carry a TWIC card.

Your TWIC is a tamper-resistant biometric card which acts as both your identification in secure areas, as well as an indicator of you having passed the necessary security clearance. TWIC cards are valid for five years. The issuance of TWIC cards is overseen by the Transportation Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

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.

Eugene K.'s Comment
member avatar

CONTINUED, everyone in the Greater Boston area drove like a bat out of hell. There were no near-misses, but I saw ridiculous levels of tailgating, speeding, zipping in and out of traffic without lane changes, cutoffs, you name it. I backed off my speed and made sure to give plenty of extra following distance. I love how the Cascadia shows a distance meter in terms of hundreds of feet for vehicles in front of you, so you're able to quickly calculate a safe following distance.

Traffic on I-95 remained heavy, as I was expecting, all the way into Maine, a state I immediately fell in love with. The scenery is absolutely gorgeous: thick evergreen firs that come right up to the road, pristine frozen lakes, and a gorgeous cotton-candy sunset as we pulled into the Walmart DC right outside Lewinston at 1600. I executed a perfect straight line back (under my trainer's watchful eye) and we dropped and hooked it, then headed about 20 miles north for a service plaza for the night. We pick up our new load in the morning and head back pretty much exactly the way we came to Louisville KY.

What an amazing journey it has been the last 3 days! 1570 miles, 9 states, nearly perfect weather besides some fog and the snow squall, and extremely good luck with parking spots at the truck stops each night. Saw some gorgeous scenery, especially in upstate New York, Massachusetts, and Maine. Enjoyed every minute of the ride, and made sure to be present and grateful. This is what I signed up for, and I'm going to enjoy it! Stay tuned until next time.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Andrey's Comment
member avatar

What an amazing journey it has been the last 3 days!

It is especially interesting for me to read about your first trip - I live in New Hampshire and 95 as well as 93 are my daily roads. Good that it works so well for you! At Roehl we have a different schedule - we test first, then go OTR with a trainer. My test is scheduled for next Wednesday, and after that I will hopefully be pulling a dry van in a North-Eastern regional fleet, covering ME, NH, CT, NY, PA, all the way south to Virginia. There is a good chance that we can meet at some truck stop one day!

Regional:

Regional Route

Usually refers to a driver hauling freight within one particular region of the country. You might be in the "Southeast Regional Division" or "Midwest Regional". Regional route drivers often get home on the weekends which is one of the main appeals for this type of route.

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.

Dry Van:

A trailer or truck that that requires no special attention, such as refrigeration, that hauls regular palletted, boxed, or floor-loaded freight. The most common type of trailer in trucking.
Eugene K.'s Comment
member avatar

Hey Andrey! Yes looking forward to it, I hope to meet up with many drivers from the forum eventually. Here at Wilson we spend a week on the pad backing and at HQ for orientation, then we head out for two weeks with a trainer as a D seat driver. Then we come back and test, then are assigned a new trainer for 30,000 miles of team driving.

QUICK UPDATE today, as I’m currently incapacitated in the sleeper berth while my trainer drives. Starting yesterday morning when I woke up at the service plaza in Maine, I felt like someone had dropped a ton of bricks on me: chills, aches, sinus headache, congestion, and a gnarly cough (productive, not dry). My symptoms progressed throughout the day, but I managed to drive us just over 5 hours from our next pickup in Maine (a dry load of paper products—pulp? Processed? Who knows?) to a truck stop in upstate New York. For what it’s worth, the weather was beautiful and the scenery gorgeous. Traffic was heavy, so I got lots of practice dealing with merging traffic. It’s fun trying to anticipate what someone is going to do as they merge. Speed up? Maintain? Slow down? 9 times out of 10, they slow down and ride out till the end of the merging lane, only getting over at the last second. Come on, people! That’s why it’s best to always expect to slow down at any on ramp and prepare accordingly.

After showering and bunkering down for the night, that’s when things got awful. The heater in the sleeper berth gave out, so I had to suit up in almost every clean layer I had left. On top of the worsening symptoms, I had to pee constantly all night (of course), so had to trudge back and forth in 15 degree weather outside. I may have logged only about 2 hours of sleep, but such is the life.

When we headed out this morning from Canaan NY, my trainer volunteered to drive all day. At first I was hesitant in spite of still feeling like absolute garbage, but she insisted I take the time to recover: if I drove and made myself worse, AND she also got sick, then we risk the load not arriving on time. She says that it’s normal for trainees to fall ill during their first few weeks of training, especially in winter and when crossing through multiple climates. It’s havoc enough on your sinuses without the added stress of adjusting to a completely new lifestyle. I suppose you can say this is my immune system “rejecting” the transplant to a new lifestyle (lol jk). Also she says I’ve been doing well, and there’s nothing wrong with taking the day to heal. I’ll have PLENTY of opportunity to get better!

Will check back in soon!

Sleeper Berth:

The portion of the tractor behind the seats which acts as the "living space" for the driver. It generally contains a bed (or bunk beds), cabinets, lights, temperature control knobs, and 12 volt plugs for power.

DAC:

Drive-A-Check Report

A truck drivers DAC report will contain detailed information about their job history of the last 10 years as a CDL driver (as required by the DOT).

It may also contain your criminal history, drug test results, DOT infractions and accident history. The program is strictly voluntary from a company standpoint, but most of the medium-to-large carriers will participate.

Most trucking companies use DAC reports as part of their hiring and background check process. It is extremely important that drivers verify that the information contained in it is correct, and have it fixed if it's not.

Guy B.'s Comment
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You're getting so much valuable experience quickly! Winter driving, east coast. Get well soon!

Anne A. (G13Momcat)'s Comment
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Hoping this finds you feeling a bit better, as well, Eugene.

Following happily along in your diary~!

~ Anne ~

good-luck.gif good-luck-2.gif good-luck.gif

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Eugene K.'s Comment
member avatar

Hey folks! Sorry for the delay in posting. I wish I could be more positive with this one, but unfortunately I’m having a thoroughly miserable time this week.

We have seen some gorgeous scenery traveling from Louisville to Anderson SC via I-75 for an early morning drop, then were quickly routed to Charlotte to pick up a load from another driver whose 70 is about to run out. Currently I’m in the top bunk as we wait on him to arrive before rolling out at midnight under a tight clock. My trainer has also gotten sick, although nowhere near its badly. Some good news is that it migrated from my chest to my head, so for a day or two I just had awful sinus congestion and headaches, and now just a residual sore throat (though a flaming one) from the drip. In a day or so I’ll be as good as new.

The bad news? I haven’t slept any more than 30 minutes for two nights in a row — and I haven’t even been driving! We were dispatched on some extremely tight deadline loads that involve night driving, and during our D seat phase we are only allowed to drive during the day. That’s fine with me as I understand it for safety’s sake, and the priority of getting loads delivered on time. There’s still plenty to learn through observation. Unfortunately I just cannot fall asleep, and I’m in a virtual state of delirium. If I don’t get some sleep soon, For safety’s sake I’m not sure I would feel comfortable taking the wheel next time it’s my turns.

The irony is that my body and brain have been pushed to the point of near complete exhaustion as a PASSENGER in a tractor trailer, without any of the added stress from even driving the truck. If I can’t even sleep in a parked truck, I’m gravely concerned about how I’ll do during the C and B seat phase for 30,000 miles. I’m afraid I may have bitten off more than I can chew and will simply be stuck with a $3700 bill because I can’t adapt to the lifestyle. Considering how I am a chronic insomniac who struggles to sleep under perfect conditions in a comfortable bed in a house, I’m not quite sure what convinced me I’d be able to take on the responsibility of OTR driving while completely unslept.

I am not going to give up because that’s not in my DNA, and hopefully this passes. It just doesn’t bode well. My apologies for derailing my own thread with negativity, but I have to keep it real about where I’m at!

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.

DAC:

Drive-A-Check Report

A truck drivers DAC report will contain detailed information about their job history of the last 10 years as a CDL driver (as required by the DOT).

It may also contain your criminal history, drug test results, DOT infractions and accident history. The program is strictly voluntary from a company standpoint, but most of the medium-to-large carriers will participate.

Most trucking companies use DAC reports as part of their hiring and background check process. It is extremely important that drivers verify that the information contained in it is correct, and have it fixed if it's not.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

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

Hopefully once you get to feeling better you will be able to sleep. I found sleep to be a huge challenge during training, but it was much easier after I was solo. I can't help with insomnia. I have never really had that problem, but sleeping in tight quarters with a stranger and dealing with the noises at the truck stops, or the vibrations and jarring of the moving truck, made it very difficult for me to sleep. I found that extreme fatigue helped to bring on sleep, but you sure don't want that to cause you to fall asleep at the wheel.

Be safe, and don't be too proud to admit if you are too tired to drive. Safety first!

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.
Eugene K.'s Comment
member avatar

Thanks for the encouragement Old School!

I know it’s going to get better and my excitement for this opportunity is still through the roof. Being sleep deprived and ill at the same time just isn’t much fun. This too shall pass!

Eugene K.'s Comment
member avatar

Update - Thu 14 Jan 2021, 0948, a DC in Lexington NC

HALLELUJAH! Not only did I sleep, I slept like a sedated baby on elephant tranquilizers. It was glorious and I’m feeling 100%, save for the slightest aftermath of a sore throat. Feels great to have that out of my system.

Backtracking to Tuesday night at a Pilot outside Charlotte, where we picked up our reset load. This load had four drops on it: 3 back over the border into SC and this last one here in Lexington. We switched trailers with the other driver at 0006 and arrived at our first DC (Walmart) in SC about an hour later, where I was up in the bunk and out like a light napping for the one-hour unload.

Then we got to our next DC around 0530, and things got .... interesting. We wound up not leaving until 1330, eight hours later, with the last two loads late by default and needing to be pushed back another day. I had read countless horror stories of insanely long unloads here on the forum, so I was prepared for this and took it in stride. Mercifully I was able to catch even a few more hours’ napping in until around 0830, when the yard just got too noisy. At least I was catching up meaningfully, though. It took long enough to get them started on the unload, though nothing out of the ordinary. It wasn’t until we were still sitting 3 hours after they were finished that my trainer started to get a bit frustrated. It turns out that the customer was rejecting a pallet of brisket from Tyson’s that they claim had the wrong date on it, and they’d been haggling with Tyson’s sales department for hours trying to figure it out, instead of letting us know so we could contact claims and be on our way. Once We finally found out what the delay was, it took another two hours to straighten out, but by then we only had 30 minutes left on our clock.

We went to a pilot just one mile away from the receiver and bunked down there for the night, with no alternative but to stay put. Not only did I hit the bunk and pass out around 1600, but we got to sleep in until 0415 today (Thursday) before rolling out to drop the last two stops. My trainer cannot wait to get this cursed reset load off of our hands, whereas for me I’m just taking it in stride as a learning experience. I’m certainly not arguing with the extra time in the bunk this has granted me, as frustrating as the delays have been.

I’ve now learned perhaps the most crucial rule in trucking: sleep when you can. Given my chronic insomnia and difficulty adjusting thus far, I’ve decided to take what many may consider a drastic step and abandon caffeine completely—it’s been 48 hours since I e had any. My consumption was through the roof when we rolled out and it was causing me nothing but difficulty, least of all with constant bathroom breaks, which don’t exactly jive well in trucking. Since we aim to be back in Springfield by Saturday, and I don’t test until Tuesday, this gives me a relatively stress-free week or so to detox and keep withdrawal symptoms to a minimum (it certainly helps I’m starting off fully rested).

Will keep you updated!

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