Intro, And A Possibly Naïve Question

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James H.'s Comment
member avatar

Hi all. I've been lurking on this board a while, and did the high-road online training. I'm vey impressed by the thoughtfulness, camaraderie, and positive outlook of most of the contributors. A few weeks ago I got my Class A CDL with tanker, hazmat , and doubles/triples and am weighing my next steps.

I'm currently in northern NJ, but lived in NYC most of my life. Just given the population density and economic activity around here, as well as proximity to Newark's air and sea ports, there has to be plenty of demand for drivers right around here. FedEx and UPS, as well as Amazon and Vistar, have facilities literally within walking distance. I'm sure I need some experience before these places would consider me. But driving around here doesn't faze me, so eventually that should be a plus. I'm sure it's a whole different ballgame when maneuvering a tractor-trailer, but decades' worth of traveling all over NYC by foot, bicycle, motorcycle, car, and the occasional U Haul has at least gotten me comfortable with traffic, pedestrians, double-parking, cabs that cut across three lanes of traffic to pick up a fare, etc. Quick story - several years ago when I was teaching my daughter to drive, She had to do a U-turn to avoid getting on the Triborough Bridge. There's an elevated subway station there, as well as on-ramps to the BQE, so she had to navigate through traffic, the swarms of pedestrians coming and going from the train station, buses pulling in and out, and the support columns for the elevated line. After she did it, I was in full-on proud papa mode and told her there were probably people from Kansas or somewhere who've been driving 35 years and would have pooped their pants if they had to do what she just did. So while I understand why a lot of drivers prefer to avoid this area, for me it's home, flaws and all.

I took retirement a couple years ago and have been keeping busy with various things, both paying and not. But like many (mostly) boys, I always thought trucks were incredibly cool, and admired the drivers who can handle these beasts with style. So in November my partner bought me truck driving school for my birthday! She probably thought this was just a one-time bucket-list thing like going sky diving, but now that I have my CDL and am talking about next steps, she's still supportive, although with a little skepticism. She says she's OK with me being out on the road while she takes care of the dogs, but I'm sure there's a limit to this, so getting back home frequently would be best. And we're fortunate to be in a situation where maximizing my pay is way down on the list. If I wanted to make money I'd go back to full-time work in my former field. I'm doing this because it seems challenging, adventurous, rewarding, and fun. So I need to balance my wanderlust with my responsibilities back home. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

My stupid question is about driver-assist technology. Back-up cameras have been standard on passenger vehicles since I think the 2015 model year, and blind-spot sensors and lane departure alarms are pretty common too. Do any carriers use these on their fleets, and if not why not? The only discussion I found on this forum was from several years ago, and seemed to be about whether an OO should invest in a camera, and the response was that you'd need to mount it on each trailer and might be too much hassle. So apologies if this is an old topic and I'm just not good enough at searching.

Anyway, thanks to everyone!

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.

HAZMAT:

Hazardous Materials

Explosive, flammable, poisonous or otherwise potentially dangerous cargo. Large amounts of especially hazardous cargo are required to be placarded under HAZMAT regulations

Doubles:

Refers to pulling two trailers at the same time, otherwise known as "pups" or "pup trailers" because they're only about 28 feet long. However there are some states that allow doubles that are each 48 feet in length.

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.
RealDiehl's Comment
member avatar

Unfortunately, there aren't any back up cameras that I know of. There are other safety features though:

-Lane departure warning

-adaptive cruise control (it slows you down automatically if you get to close to the vehicle in front of you)

-Brake assist (This will apply the brakes automatically if the radar detects an imminent collision)

-Hill assist (this prevents the truck from rolling forward or backwards as you move you foot from the brake to the accelerator if you had to stop on an incline or decline.

Old School's Comment
member avatar

James, welcome to our forum!

The question is not dumb, but it could be considered naive. A backup camera only shows you what is behind you. I have witnessed a good many backing accidents Most of them do not involve contact with something directly behind the trailer. Typically they involve the side of the trailer making contact with something or they involve the tractor itself striking something. Remember these gentle giants bend in the middle. A rookie driver may get so focused on the back of his trailer that he ignores all those other angles he is dealing with when his vehicle is articulating in the middle. That articulation creates a multitude of contact points that must all be considered. That is why we G.O.A.L. (Get Out And Look) There are just too many angles to deal with for a backup camera to take in.

am weighing my next steps.

You are a brand new CDL" holder. You need a rookie job. I would never recommend you take a local job in that area. My advice is to find a good OTR job where you go home once a month for about 4 days at a time. Do that for a year, and then look into something where you can be home more often. I know that is a sacrifice, but it is well worth it. Prudence is important as you start this career. Getting that first year in as an OTR driver will help you establish yourself in a way that gives you the needed experience to be looked at seriously by other companies.

Keep us posted and feel free to ask all the questions you like. We don't bite, and we will do our best to be helpful.

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.

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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

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

Although I haven't used it much, I bought a Gopro that I can clip to my trailer to use as a backup camera. The Gopro connects to my phone via WIFI. see below.

0489427001614533746.jpg

Turtle's Comment
member avatar
I bought a Gopro that I can clip to my trailer to use as a backup camera.

0156576001614534449.jpg

Penalty on the field!

Un-Trucker-like conduct! Unapproved cheating apparatus. Penalty of 15 blind side backs will be assessed on your next trip.

Sid V.'s Comment
member avatar

Hi James,

If you're just coming into the field, learning how to drive a semi just to see what it's like, then go right ahead and go for it, be careful and have fun with the experience.

If you're actually considering a career, I'm afraid you are coming in with unrealistic expectations as most people do. People give all the positives and none of the negatives. They don't tell you that most local routes require you to start at 3am, they don't tell you it's 14 hour days, snow, public bathrooms, and generally an unhealthy lifestyle.

Errol V.'s Comment
member avatar

Jim, a back-up camera like the one coming out on cars these days will not help. With getting your CDL already, you know the control you need comes from you watching in the driver seat. The camera, situated 60 feet behind you, will only show you the things you are backing into but because of the geometry of that tractor-trailer combination as you back it up, it won't help you guide the trailer all that much.

As for the other driver helpers, RealDiehl lists them for you. Funny thing, these are neat features on 4-wheelers, but some truck drivers feel they are losing their reason to do more than hold the steering wheel. I like being spoiled by them. They do keep me out of the Safety Office!

James surmises:

... now that I have my CDL and am talking about next steps, [my partner] is still supportive, although with a little skepticism. She says she's OK with me being out on the road while she takes care of the dogs, but I'm sure there's a limit to this,

Keep this very much on your mind. Even when speaking of our future, things may seem OK. But when reality strikes, opinions & feelings may change. Don't let that slide when you are gone for a month or more. Usually the minimum road time is around two weeks, but your company would prefer 4-6 weeks at a time. Also, with a two-week trip, you probably won't get very far from home (as in much west of Illinois kind of thing.)

I spent several weeks in Caldwell, NJ last fall teaching a driving course for Amazon. Let me just say the area is "different" from what I'm used to in Memphis.

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.
James H.'s Comment
member avatar

Hi James,

If you're just coming into the field, learning how to drive a semi just to see what it's like, then go right ahead and go for it, be careful and have fun with the experience.

If you're actually considering a career, I'm afraid you are coming in with unrealistic expectations as most people do. People give all the positives and none of the negatives. They don't tell you that most local routes require you to start at 3am, they don't tell you it's 14 hour days, snow, public bathrooms, and generally an unhealthy lifestyle.

I absolutely intend to have fun with the experience; if you're not having fun do something else. But it's my nature to be very conscientious - I wouldn't have been in a position to take early retirement if I made unhappy clients - and if an employer trusts me with this responsibility I will absolutely give it 100%. I think I've read enough here and elsewhere to have a reasonable expectation of what the job entails, but I do appreciate the heads-up. I think I'm torn because the OTR lifestyle actually sounds appealing, seeing places I've never been, tackling new tasks in new environments every day. And I've spent enough nights roughing it in the woods that a sleeper bunk and indoor plumbing at a truck stop seems pretty posh. It's more about being fair to the people at home. And in my case it's not like I need to be out on the road to provide for the family. But then again, my kids are grown, and my actual responsibilities are the least they've been since I was a teenager. But it's not that different from the same basic challenge lots of drivers wrestle with.

I have applications in with a couple carriers, and assuming they're interested, I'll see what they have to offer and go from there. Thanks again for the thoughtful reply.

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.

RealDiehl's Comment
member avatar

double-quotes-start.png

I bought a Gopro that I can clip to my trailer to use as a backup camera.

double-quotes-end.png

0156576001614534449.jpg

Penalty on the field!

Un-Trucker-like conduct! Unapproved cheating apparatus. Penalty of 15 blind side backs will be assessed on your next trip.

rofl-2.gif rofl-3.gif

Delco Dave's Comment
member avatar
I spent several weeks in Caldwell, NJ last fall teaching a driving course for Amazon. Let me just say the area is "different" from what I'm used to in Memphis.

I’m born, raised, learned to drive and still live in the Northeast just west of Philly city limit. We are used to the tight streets, congestion and chaos on the roadways, just normal to us. I understand why drivers from most of the country hate coming up here, it’s a very stressful environment. When I head just 20 mins, half hour west of home traffic severely dissipates, people seam more consciences on the road and my stress level drops way down

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