Thoughts After My First Week Solo

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Mountain Matt's Comment
member avatar

Well, other than a short hop to get me some home time after training, I've just completed my first official week of solo driving: I had two loads, totalling 3,286 miles (northern Illinois to Cheyenne; deadhead to Kansas; Kansas to Rhode Island). That last load was so tight in terms of timeline that, even days out, I knew I had only a couple hours' margin. I would drive for 10-11 hours, take precisely a 10 hour break (no more), and roll again. In the end, I made it with an hour to spare... Whew! I hope to have not quite as tight a timeline in the future.

Here are my random thoughts and observations after this week:

-It is SO NICE having the whole truck to myself--the privacy, the space for my stuff, the ability to keep it clean to my standards. Sure, I miss my trainer's experience, but man is this nice! Not to mention sleeping in a non-moving truck EVERY NIGHT!

-I proved to myself (and perhaps a little to my dispatcher) that I can trip plan and manage my time, even over a tight, multi-day trip. This both reassured me and taught me how I can better trip plan in the future.

-I'm learning what schedule I like best: approximately 4am until 4pm or so. I like getting a jump on things, and then parking is never a problem when I'm shutting down that early. I get some night driving in, but also get to see the daylight (both driving and on my break). Last, rest areas are actually options for a quick break during the late morning or early afternoon, unlike when driving at night. Of course, my schedule has to adjust based on the load (and this time it crept earlier and earlier by a few hours each day, since I had to drive/break/drive).

-I was surprised to learn I needed to plan my stop (at least every other night) around where I have shower credits. I hadn't thought of that. Maybe in time, I will accumulate a little surplus of credits and/or shower on my 30, when I don't have as tight of a load.

-This doesn't pertain to just driving solo, but: I have been pleasantly surprised by the shipping and receiving clerks. I know I will eventually, but I've yet to encounter a truly rude clerk. Some are indifferent or seem to not like their jobs (I don't blame them), but many are friendly, helpful, and I enjoy chatting them up a little as we do our thing. For some reason, I didn't expect this.

-There is so much to buy when you start out!! I've bought my road atlas, a tire gauge (I was getting a weird dashboard reading), other tools, bedding, supplies, etc. But I can't yet afford a GPS (though we have one built into our Qualcomm), so I've been using various apps, none of which I love. Even those Blue Parrot headsets are really expensive. I'd like to get a CB for when they're needed, but that's yet another expense. The start-up costs, even as a company driver, can be a lot.

-Safety and caution: I realize that there is no one looking over my shoulder now, so I have to take double-measures to make sure I'm always safe. Can I make that corner as I turn? How is my set-up for my back? Did I remember to check the settings on the reefer? etc. etc.

In short, I'm exhausted (I worked 66 hours off my 70 in the last 7 days... I'm on a reset now), but I'm loving it! This is why I pushed through the grind of the last months.

Deadhead:

To drive with an empty trailer. After delivering your load you will deadhead to a shipper to pick up your next load.

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.

Dispatcher:

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.

Reefer:

A refrigerated trailer.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

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

CONGRATULATIONS!

Sounds like you’re doing it right. 😎👍

PackRat's Comment
member avatar

Very impressive and doubly so getting Rhode Island crossed off right off the bat, too! I've only been there once.

Keep doing what you're doing.

dancing-dog.gif dancing-dog.gif good-luck.gif

Turtle's Comment
member avatar

Matt, that's a fantastic summary, and will serve as an inspiration to other new drivers. I'm especially impressed by the fact you knew days out that you'd be tight at the receiver. That's heads up trip planning.

Congratulations on going solo.

G-Town's Comment
member avatar

Well done Matt!!!

Congratulations!

Mountain Matt's Comment
member avatar

Thanks, everyone--I appreciate it! Yes, I was excited to get to Rhode Island... I've never been here before, let alone in a truck.

The trip planning appeals to me as a puzzle to solve and then execute. I'm just glad it translated into the real world properly this go-around!

Anne A. (and sometimes To's Comment
member avatar

Thanks, everyone--I appreciate it! Yes, I was excited to get to Rhode Island... I've never been here before, let alone in a truck.

The trip planning appeals to me as a puzzle to solve and then execute. I'm just glad it translated into the real world properly this go-around!

Major kudos from me (and Tom) ALSO, Mr. Mt. Matt MacK! (LoL !)

Love following your journey, good sir. Stay safe & let us know if life ever routes you to Ohio when you've got time on a load, or a similar/close destination, would be awesome.

~ Anne ~

ps: Keep her 'purdy' .. she'll serve ya well! ;)

dancing-dog.gif good-luck.gif dancing-dog.gif

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Robert N.'s Comment
member avatar

Matt, I am a newby looking at schools. Uncertain about things and reading your post was very encouraging. Your 1st week was phenomenal. I'm sure you gotta be proud and your family too. Thank you for taking the time to let all of us behind you read a victory story. I pray that every week is as good and even better. You were very detailed in your post. Felt like we were riding with you. I wish you much success, $$$, and above all a flawless safety record. Be safe my friend. God's Speed... Robert N.

Well, other than a short hop to get me some home time after training, I've just completed my first official week of solo driving: I had two loads, totalling 3,286 miles (northern Illinois to Cheyenne; deadhead to Kansas; Kansas to Rhode Island). That last load was so tight in terms of timeline that, even days out, I knew I had only a couple hours' margin. I would drive for 10-11 hours, take precisely a 10 hour break (no more), and roll again. In the end, I made it with an hour to spare... Whew! I hope to have not quite as tight a timeline in the future.

Here are my random thoughts and observations after this week:

-It is SO NICE having the whole truck to myself--the privacy, the space for my stuff, the ability to keep it clean to my standards. Sure, I miss my trainer's experience, but man is this nice! Not to mention sleeping in a non-moving truck EVERY NIGHT!

-I proved to myself (and perhaps a little to my dispatcher) that I can trip plan and manage my time, even over a tight, multi-day trip. This both reassured me and taught me how I can better trip plan in the future.

-I'm learning what schedule I like best: approximately 4am until 4pm or so. I like getting a jump on things, and then parking is never a problem when I'm shutting down that early. I get some night driving in, but also get to see the daylight (both driving and on my break). Last, rest areas are actually options for a quick break during the late morning or early afternoon, unlike when driving at night. Of course, my schedule has to adjust based on the load (and this time it crept earlier and earlier by a few hours each day, since I had to drive/break/drive).

-I was surprised to learn I needed to plan my stop (at least every other night) around where I have shower credits. I hadn't thought of that. Maybe in time, I will accumulate a little surplus of credits and/or shower on my 30, when I don't have as tight of a load.

-This doesn't pertain to just driving solo, but: I have been pleasantly surprised by the shipping and receiving clerks. I know I will eventually, but I've yet to encounter a truly rude clerk. Some are indifferent or seem to not like their jobs (I don't blame them), but many are friendly, helpful, and I enjoy chatting them up a little as we do our thing. For some reason, I didn't expect this.

-There is so much to buy when you start out!! I've bought my road atlas, a tire gauge (I was getting a weird dashboard reading), other tools, bedding, supplies, etc. But I can't yet afford a GPS (though we have one built into our Qualcomm), so I've been using various apps, none of which I love. Even those Blue Parrot headsets are really expensive. I'd like to get a CB for when they're needed, but that's yet another expense. The start-up costs, even as a company driver, can be a lot.

-Safety and caution: I realize that there is no one looking over my shoulder now, so I have to take double-measures to make sure I'm always safe. Can I make that corner as I turn? How is my set-up for my back? Did I remember to check the settings on the reefer? etc. etc.

In short, I'm exhausted (I worked 66 hours off my 70 in the last 7 days... I'm on a reset now), but I'm loving it! This is why I pushed through the grind of the last months.

Deadhead:

To drive with an empty trailer. After delivering your load you will deadhead to a shipper to pick up your next load.

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.

Dispatcher:

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.

Reefer:

A refrigerated trailer.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

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

Robert,

Thank you truly for your kind words! I'm glad what I wrote was helpful. Training was a challenge, testing my grit even more than any skills I developed, but I am seeing it pay off and loving where I'm at now. Keep reading up here to get a sense of the reality of life on the road as you think about your own future and decisions.

All the best to you! Matt

George B.'s Comment
member avatar

Ah the nostalgia! Way to go! Just keep in minds the ups and downs. Glad to hear its going well! Hammer down!

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