Still Pursuing That Flat-bed Dream

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Old School's Comment
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Well after some disheartening set-backs, I'm back at it again. I've been in orientation and training for the last four days at Western Express Trucking in Nashville, TN. Now I'm going to say that these guys were not high on my list of prospective employers, but they were on the list, and they had promised me a job. After being here for four days I want to report that I have learned a great deal while here and am favorably impressed by their equipment, and their maintenance facility here. Their training in load securement is top notch as far as I can tell. I would imagine they could spend some more time on it, but if you pay attention, take notes, and study the materials they have already prepared for you then you will gain a great deal of insight and knowledge into the art of flat-bed load securement. I already had some basic knowledge, but have learned a great deal about working load limits of chains, binders, straps, stake pockets, etc. We've put a lot of effort into understanding how to calculate what it takes to legally and safely secure all types of cargo.

They told me today to bring all my gear to the terminal tomorrow, because they are trying to arrange for my trainer to be there so I can get out on the road with them. So, I'm pretty pleased to finally get this whole thing started. This company has a lot of freight and it appears that we can get some great miles in. The pay here is somewhat lower than some of the other companies I had looked into, but the miles seem to be more available, so we will just have to see if it comes out in the wash or not. I'm not really thrilled with everything here, but who is at any trucking company? I'm gonna give it my best shot at proving myself to be a professional driver, and a reliable employee. They gave me a shot when others wouldn't, so I'm going to do my best to prove myself an asset to them.

Just one more thing as a side note to those of you who are just starting in on this journey. When you go off to a driving school or to a company orientation: try and put a little planning into it, by that I mean try and have a little money set aside. The people at Western Express have put a roof over our heads and been feeding us two ample meals a day, but there are still people here begging others for money, food, cigarettes, or whatever else they might have need of. It surprises me that people jump into this not really knowing how they are going to manage it, but apparently it's not uncommon. I knew full well before I came here that I wasn't going to be making any real money until after I completed my time with my trainer, and that's five weeks from the time we first started. God help those poor trainers who get some of these poor starving refugees on their trucks with them.

There's a lot more to learn and manage when you go into the flat-bedding side of this business, but I'm thoroughly enjoying myself so far, and I will try and update you as soon as I can.

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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

G MAN's Comment
member avatar

Well after some disheartening set-backs, I'm back at it again. I've been in orientation and training for the last four days at Western Express Trucking in Nashville, TN. Now I'm going to say that these guys were not high on my list of prospective employers, but they were on the list, and they had promised me a job. After being here for four days I want to report that I have learned a great deal while here and am favorably impressed by their equipment, and their maintenance facility here. Their training in load securement is top notch as far as I can tell. I would imagine they could spend some more time on it, but if you pay attention, take notes, and study the materials they have already prepared for you then you will gain a great deal of insight and knowledge into the art of flat-bed load securement. I already had some basic knowledge, but have learned a great deal about working load limits of chains, binders, straps, stake pockets, etc. We've put a lot of effort into understanding how to calculate what it takes to legally and safely secure all types of cargo.

They told me today to bring all my gear to the terminal tomorrow, because they are trying to arrange for my trainer to be there so I can get out on the road with them. So, I'm pretty pleased to finally get this whole thing started. This company has a lot of freight and it appears that we can get some great miles in. The pay here is somewhat lower than some of the other companies I had looked into, but the miles seem to be more available, so we will just have to see if it comes out in the wash or not. I'm not really thrilled with everything here, but who is at any trucking company? I'm gonna give it my best shot at proving myself to be a professional driver, and a reliable employee. They gave me a shot when others wouldn't, so I'm going to do my best to prove myself an asset to them.

Just one more thing as a side note to those of you who are just starting in on this journey. When you go off to a driving school or to a company orientation: try and put a little planning into it, by that I mean try and have a little money set aside. The people at Western Express have put a roof over our heads and been feeding us two ample meals a day, but there are still people here begging others for money, food, cigarettes, or whatever else they might have need of. It surprises me that people jump into this not really knowing how they are going to manage it, but apparently it's not uncommon. I knew full well before I came here that I wasn't going to be making any real money until after I completed my time with my trainer, and that's five weeks from the time we first started. God help those poor trainers who get some of these poor starving refugees on their trucks with them.

There's a lot more to learn and manage when you go into the flat-bedding side of this business, but I'm thoroughly enjoying myself so far, and I will try and update you as soon as I can.

Thanks for the post Old School, very interesting, even though I'm not a flat bedder type of guy! But I learn from you and that's what counts!!! Thank you. Keep us posted. Be safe!

G MAN

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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Roadkill (aka:Guy DeCou)'s Comment
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REALLY been looking forward to this post OS..glad to know you're back in the game..keep it up...will definitely be looking forward to your training posts..good-luck.gif

Old School's Comment
member avatar

Well today we finished up our training. All week the weather has been nice and calm and today was the day we got to actually tarp some loads. If you're a flat-bedder then you know what that means: the wind is gonna blow like it knew what you had planned. Mother Nature has a strange twisted sense of humor in her personality. You guessed it, we had some exciting moments, more like para-sailing lessons than tarping. Oh it was exciting (Starcar, I know you can relate) we managed to get er done though. Of course it's way easier when you've got a whole group of people working together. But, those of you who aren't flatbedders don't realize how flatbedders usually help each other out anyway when they are lined up at a shippers location waiting to get their trucks loaded.

For what ever reasons they are just a little different than the van drivers, sort of an old school brotherhood thing, always helping out the new folks who are green, and teaching them that they need to help out someone else down the line, so that they can kind of keep that good Karma thing working. Some of the drivers that I've met here are a little rough around the edges, but more than willing to help anyone who is in need. I don't mean to go on and on about the flatbed culture, but it is what it is, and there is a difference among those drivers that I happen to be fond of.

You'll be glad to know that I finished out the week at the top of the class with the highest score on our final exam today. We had three people fail, and two people quit today when it slowly (or perhaps it was abruptly) dawned on them during that tarping exercise that "hey I'm not sure this is what I thought it was going to be). I got assigned my drivers code, and fuel and comdata card today, and if everything works out right, I will be heading out tomorrow with my trainer after some classroom training in the morning on the qualcomm and EOBR (electronic communication and logs).

I'm really excited to finally get this second career off the ground now, and will be trying to update you when I can. Thanks to all of you for all the help and encouragement I've received from each of you over the many months we've shared our common interest in truck driving together.

Roll on!

EOBR:

Electronic Onboard Recorder

Electronic Logbook

A device which records the amount of time a vehicle has been driven. If the vehicle is not being driven, the operator will manually input whether or not he/she is on duty or not.

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.

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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Roadkill (aka:Guy DeCou)'s Comment
member avatar

Man, you have no idea how happy I am to read this post...dancing-dog.gif All the trials and tribulations you went through to get here and now you are on your way...I am very happy for you, man...keep these awesome updates coming..I know they might slow down a bit as you get busier and believe me, I KNOW you are going to get busier..so roll on safely, brother..good-luck.gif

Jason C.'s Comment
member avatar

Ditto to Guy's post, you could have gave up old school but you are a perfect example of hard work and determination. My last week of school is next week then plan on heading to TMC, can't wait to learn flat bedding. It sounds tough, but its better once you kesrn it I'm sure plus its a workout everyday. Can't wait to see more of your updates old school, keep it up! Awesome job!!

Old School's Comment
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I left out of Nashville, TN with my trainer and a load of Railroad track headed to Shreveport, LA. It's kind of funny but my trainer was headed for some home time in Jackson, MS, so I'm sitting up in a hotel until early Monday morning when we will head to the customer to get unloaded. I drove about four hours, and even though I haven't been in a truck for about six months it felt really good. I had a few mishaps on shifting right at the beginning, but after about fifteen minutes when the excitement and nerves settled down I started hearing the right RPMs and feeling the right spot for the gears to fall into place.

I think the trainer and I are going to get on well with each other. He's sort of a "bull in a china cabinet" type of personality - a little harsh at times, but a great driver, and so far seems to be a good teacher. He expects a lot of you, and wants you to catch on quickly because there's a lot to cover in a short amount of time. I'll definitely have my work cut out for me, but I've all my life been a very hard worker and a fast learner, so I'll do my best to make his job a little easier if I can. It's funny how we see so many noobs on this site stressing over what their trainer is going to be like, but did you ever consider what kind of angst the trainer goes through wondering what his next trainee will be like? We heard recently from Tessarae about on "odd" character that didn't make it, and I've heard some interesting stories from my trainer already. You just have to realize how a truck driver gets somewhat attached to "their" truck - it's their home, their livelihood, and their personal retreat. Now when they become a trainer they are inviting someone they don't know anything about to come in and live with them for a period of time that just might possibly turn out to be a negative experience for both of you. Of course it can be a very positive experience for both,and often times that will depend a great deal upon the willingness of the student to accept criticism and correction while learning the manifold details of the industry.

Hey, Starcar, just wanted to let you know that I met a couple of "lady flat-bedders" here at Western Express. It's something that we don't often see, so I thought I'd tell you about it. I've also found that this company went through some pretty rough times after the founder died of a heart attack, and they ended up having really high CSA points against them. They are currently involved in a massive effort to get that reduced with an improved training program, newer equipment, and better recruits. We'll have to let time be the judge of their efforts, but I hope they have success with it. I was impressed with my orientation and load securement training while at their main terminal , and of course the training continues while with my driver trainer.

We'll talk again when I get the chance.

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.

CSA:

Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA)

The CSA is a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) initiative to improve large truck and bus safety and ultimately reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities that are related to commercial motor vehicle

Old School's Comment
member avatar

Wow! That's all I know to say... we've been running as a team since we dropped that first load. Got dispatched to Rochester NY and then to San Diego CA, then to Norwich CT. My trainer is turning out to be a nut, but fortunately this doesn't last too long. I'm sitting in a Pilot TS just outside Norwich waiting to see what awaits us. Maybe I can send an update next weekend. I should be on a small break then.

Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar

Wow, you're really rackin up the miles!

Hopefully you can hang in there with that trainer and just get through it. Once you get on your own you'll likely never see him again the rest of your life. Unfortunately, a lot of truckers are nuts rofl-3.gif

Old School's Comment
member avatar

Hello everyone, I'm on a four day break at a hotel in Moss Point MS while my trainer takes some home time. I've had to endure some ridiculous things with this trainer but at the same time I'm learning a lot with a ton of information being forced on me all at once. Now that is not unique to me, but unique to getting started in this industry. For all of you that are just beginning your journey into this business please let me share with you my perspective after getting halfway through my "on the job training" period.

Driving School does not prepare you to be, or magically transform you into, a truck driver. It is merely a means to getting your CDL license, yes it's definitely part of the process, but more like taking your first baby steps. I'm sure my experience isn't exactly normal, but it has taught me that it takes a tough skin, a humble attitude, a willingness to learn from someone who may not be the best at teaching, and a tenacious attitude that can accept and even look forward to new challenges and learning experiences every day. My trainer was pleased enough with my abilities to start driving as a team as soon as we dropped our first load, and we have turned a lot of miles since that day, and he will be making considerable amounts of money off the miles I drive. That's the way they have the training program set up here so that they can keep trainers interested in training.

Having said that, let me also say that there's nothing like driving a truck when you're trying to learn to drive a truck. There is no substitute for everyday experiences on the road when it comes to getting you prepared for being a truck driver. The challenges of dealing with weather, road construction, four wheelers that freak out every time they get near a big rig, bad directions from dispatch, delays at shippers and receivers, receiving clerks sour attitudes, a trainer who is wound up so tight that you're concerned they're going to blow a gasket every time the slightest mistake is made, problems at home, fatigue while trying to press on to your destination, and a myriad of other things that rear their ugly heads every day, can only be faced and overcome by experiencing these things first hand and maintaining a professional, calm, "can do" attitude. There is a lot of incoming "stuff" for the professional driver to process every day, and this is why your training time is so vitally important. Of course when you get through the training period that only means that they consider you an acceptable risk at taking one of their trucks from point A to point B, so they're going to give you a shot at proving yourself to be a safe and reliable driver.

This is why we stress on this site about sticking with it for your first year. That first year is what helps to transform you into a professional driver. That first year is where you are going to learn the things that you need to adjust to life on the road, to be constantly vigilant, to never let your guard down, to be aware of your surroundings, to be safe and efficient with your time management, to plan your trips well, and to always conduct yourself in a way that protects you and the other motorists on the roadways. Training is all well and good, but don't even begin to think you're a professional now that you've got a truck assigned to you - you're just another rookie who will probably quit before six months goes by. Personally, I have always loved a challenge, and truck driving does that for me. I don't see it as a career that will not be challenging to me, and therefore it keeps my interest. Every day I look forward to conquering what ever raise it's head, and so far the trucking gods have not let me down with any slow days where they didn't throw something new at me.

Enough of my ranting, let me tell you about some of my crazy experiences with my trainer. He's a high strung guy who is so ADHD that he's driving me crazy. He's done some things that are so ironical they make me laugh, and then he gets mad because I laughed at him.

Here's two examples:

We have this training manual that he is supposed to use each day of our training. Basically each page has a little lesson planned out that he is supposed to go over with me while we are driving. This particular day he is driving and I'm in the jump seat. Here's the whole picture: he is driving while eating his lunch from a paper plate delicately balancing on the steering wheel, he is also communicating on the quallcomm which is in his lap, and he is arguing with his wife on the phone (he is using his hands free headset), while reading to me out of the manual that you should never engage in any activity that distracts you from your driving while going down the road. I couldn't help but grin at him, and he gets all upset like I'm looking at him like he's an idiot or something. Maybe my grin said it all, sometimes I just can't help myself.

Another day while I'm driving and he's in the other seat, he starts reading to me our daily lesson about how it is illegal to have a radar detector in your commercial truck, but I can barely hear him because his radar detector is beeping so loudly that it's drowning out the sound of his voice! I start laughing (I mean this kind of stuff is comical to me) and he gets mad at me for not paying attention and laughing so much when he's trying to teach me something! Yeah this guys a nut, and it bothers him that I know it.

Trucking can give you some great stories to tell!

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.

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.

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