What To Expect... My First 2 Weeks At Prime

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Carter's Comment
member avatar

Hello all. I have been hanging around this here site for the last 4 months, or so (in fact, the information I received here went a long way in helping me to decide to make this my new career), but I haven't really felt that I had a ton to share.

Well, I'm 2 weeks into my training with Prime and I now feel that I can add to the conversation. If you are looking at giving this truck driving thing a go, this could be your experience.

When they tell you you will be tired, they don't ever really paint the full picture. You will be "falling asleep at the urinal" tired. You will drive for 11 hours, learn how to fill out paperwork and logs for hours, try to cook and eat while your trainer is cruising down the road and then try to sleep as you get bounced around the cab and while your trainer does what they can to stay awake towards the second half of their shift. You will be miserable and question your decision at least daily. It will pass. You will learn how to adapt and how to find small moments to regain your sanity. Don't panic, but be prepared.

There is so much more to driving the truck then just shifting gears and backing up. If you don't have a well thought out plan clear in your head before you turn the key to start the trip; you are already sunk. I honestly thought that downshifting and alley docking would be my biggest challenges. Turns out, it is learning the 20 million little things that you need to do between point a and b that are the real killers (getting fuel the right way is actually something that can cause a brain cramp when you are tired and it is cold outside). It is completely and totally overwhelming, but it gets better; don't panic.

Your trainer will push you to your limits, smile and wave at them as they drive you past them kicking and screaming and then let you know that you are off to a good start, but now it is time to start working. You see, at least where I am, my trainer is a lease operator. I won't get into the positives or negatives of that here, but it is a pretty common scenario from what I understand. These guys want trainees, not because they love to train (though they very well might), but because a trainee keeps their wheels turning constantly, making them twice as much money. My trainer (you can refer to him as Satan, it's ok he doesn't mind) and I put in nearly 8000 miles last week, and we had to put a reset in there as well. They will ride you hard and squeeze every ounce of millage out of you that they can, because that is how they and their families eat. Don't get frustrated, it is just how it is, but you will learn more in 10 days than you did the entire time you were in school. And if your trainer is a good one (yes, Satan is a good trainer) they will prepare you for the things that a book, or YouTube video never will. No matter how much you hate this part of training, cherish it for the learning experience that it is. Don't leave any knowledge sitting on the table. As they squeeze you for miles, squeeze them for the tips that will help you survive. The good ones won't mind.

This is the most challenging thing I have ever done. It is harder than I could have ever imagined just reading these forums and it is more rewarding than I can say. I am proud to say that I am becoming a truck driver and if this career office guy can suck it up, you can too.

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.

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.

Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar
Best Answer!

That is one serious dose of reality and I hope everyone takes it seriously. Now you say reading the forums didn't really clue you in to how bad it would be but I say you weren't taking it as seriously as it was being said. It's common for us to say:

- you'll want to quit trucking on a regular basis.

- you'll feel you've chosen the wrong company or the wrong industry altogether

- life on the road is completely overwhelming but hang in there for a minimum of one year

- only about 2% of what you need to know will be taught in school, the rest you learn on the road, usually the hard way

- rarely does anyone drop out of trucking because they can't drive a truck. They drop out because of the stress, the erratic sleep patterns, the time away from home & family, and the overwhelming difficulty of life on the road

Does any of that sound familiar? I know it does. In fact, all of that has been mentioned many times in this forum, in my book, our Truck Driver's Career Guide, and throughout our Truck Driving Blog.

But to read those words and to live them is two entirely different things which is why I'm so glad you came back to emphasize this to people.

Be prepared for a long, difficult adventure getting your trucking career underway. You'll be challenged to the core on a regular basis.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

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

Carter, this one goes to the top of my list of great posts!

We try so hard to prepare folks, but it just seems that there is no way to put that dose of reality in to it no matter how we try. People read what we say, they try to prepare themselves, but still there is that mysterious romantic lure of the open road that kind of blinds us to the reality of the rigors of a "life on the road." You expressed it well.

Just getting started is such a huge hurdle, that it hits most people like a slap in the face, and sends many an unwary potential truck driver home with a bad taste in their mouth for the whole industry. Now you have a much better understanding of why there are so many negative things posted on line about trucking companies. People point their finger at the trucking companies and blame their misguided fault finding on something that they really had no understanding of to begin with, and yet thousands have made that same journey with success. That initial baptism into this business is a serious dose of reality, it is not for the faint of heart, but neither is this career. It takes a lot of "I really want this" to make the transition from dream to reality.

I'm glad to see you had what it takes to make it through the initial shock of all this. That is usually indicative of a good start in the business.

Welcome aboard, and please, keep us posted on your progress.

6 string rhythm's Comment
member avatar
Great Answer!

Carter, I agree with the sentiments of Old School. One of the best posts I've read in regard to expectations and actually getting started in trucking. You expressed yourself very well. My experience was a little different, since I was hired at an LTL company right out of school for a linehaul position. But, I still can very much relate to the exhaustion, amongst other things.

I stayed out for a few days at a time when I first started, and I would mingle at the truck stops with the OTR drivers while I was on the road, so between my limited experience being away from home, and reading posts like yours, I can pretty much fill in the blanks and realize what it would've been like starting out as an OTR driver. I too had my share of interesting experiences with trainers - I had about 5 of them, my company pairs newbies with a different trainer for each week of training. I had to learn how to navigate around the 5 boroughs of NYC, and that "6th borough" they call Jersey City. I had to get used to running hard - bumping up against my 14 hours frequently from the get go, running as close to 500+ miles a night that I could. I had to get used to running linehaul at nights, and sleeping during the day.

Don't get me wrong, I believe I'm pretty spoiled and will never know what it's like to be away from my family for weeks or months at a time, being cooped up with a trainer and a truck that's constantly rolling - trying to sleep and cook meals. I can only imagine. I feel like I caught enough of a glimpse of what it would be like to start out OTR without having to actually do it, so I can really appreciate the opportunity I have, and also come pretty close to empathizing with you OTR rookies.

I can tell you're a smart guy and have a great sense of humor. I'd really enjoy hearing more from you. Prime was one of the companies I could've easily seen myself rolling with, if I had to go OTR and didn't have my LTL opportunity. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to roll in my own assigned truck, traversing the nations highways and byways, but I'm seen just enough and read just enough to know that I wouldn't trade my daily hometime and paycheck for the glamour of the road. Perhaps if I was single. It does cross my mind. But I'm a family man. I'll live vicariously through you Carter. smile.gif

Glad you're enjoying it! It is a rewarding career!

LTL:

Less Than Truckload

Refers to carriers that make a lot of smaller pickups and deliveries for multiple customers as opposed to hauling one big load of freight for one customer. This type of hauling is normally done by companies with terminals scattered throughout the country where freight is sorted before being moved on to its destination.

LTL carriers include:

  • FedEx Freight
  • Con-way
  • YRC Freight
  • UPS
  • Old Dominion
  • Estes
  • Yellow-Roadway
  • ABF Freight
  • R+L Carrier

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.

Linehaul:

Linehaul drivers will normally run loads from terminal to terminal for LTL (Less than Truckload) companies.

LTL (Less Than Truckload) carriers will have Linehaul drivers and P&D drivers. The P&D drivers will deliver loads locally from the terminal and pick up loads returning them to the terminal. Linehaul drivers will then run truckloads from terminal to terminal.
Terry C.'s Comment
member avatar
Great Answer!
of

Terry, yes I had my cdl in hand. No shenanigans going on, I promise.

That makes me feel much better. It wasn't long ago someone on the forums here was talking about a trainer sleeping while she drove and she was a PSD student if I remember correctly. Which is a big no no.

That being said welcome to the wonderful world of trucking!! When I used to team in the 90's, then again when I had to retrain last summer a couple things that helped me to sleep while co-driver was behind the wheel was #1 wearing earplugs. The soft kind that you squish together and put in your ears. This was the only way I could drown out the noises of the stereo up front or the CB. If I heard either of those I couldn't sleep what so ever. Also the squeaking the cabinets in the sleeper made would wake me up. #2 was I made sure not to eat shortly before I went to sleep. This always made me ill or sleep light as having food bouncing around in my stomach while sleeping was not conducive to a good sleep. Your body metabolism slows way down when you sleep so eating before bed is never a good thing to do. #3 I'm not a big proponent of energy drinks to stay awake as they typically make you "crash" or get sleepier than you were before you drank them. Some guys swear by them and more power to them I guess. However there was 1 that did give me a boost for those wee hours driving and that was 5 hour energy. It's the only drink I found that doesn't make me "crash" after drinking it.

In the 14 years I didn't drive tractor trailer from 2000 to 2014 I was a very regimented sleeper. Strict 8:00 PM bedtime, wake up at 5:00 AM. I got very used to sleeping 9+ hours a night. So when I came back to trucking last summer I also was put with a trainer that only took TNT students out for the extra log book basically and keeping the wheels turning. Don't get me wrong, he would answer my questions but right off the bat wanted me to drive nights. He asked me the day we met if I'd mind driving nights and I agreed thinking that I could quickly adapt like I used to in my 20's. After the first couple of nights I asked him to re-evaluate that if he valued his life as I was having a very hard time in the early hours just before the sun came up. So I started taking over later in the afternoon so I wouldn't have to drive those grueling hours just before sun up. I also only drove 8-9 hours instead of 11. After a week that trainer had to go home on emergency leave and I got put with another trainer. The second trainer was a very great trainer. We split our times every week. One week I'd drive nights, the next week he'd take them. He taught me the qualcomm inside and out and basically by the end of my 40k had me doing the entire operation so I was completely prepared to take my solo time running. We still talk frequently on the phone and are long distance friends now. I was extremely lucky to have him as a trainer. His philosophy on training I believe is what every trainer should have and that is to teach (or re teach) a person to operate by themselves, not just to get by but to excel.

Lastly I don't know anything about your trainer other than he's a LO but I'll give you this friendly piece of advice. If he tries to sell you on the idea of Leasing as a much more lucrative way of making money be careful. Also many LO I run into try to tell me how much more "freedom" they have as opposed to company guys. While there is some truth to both, it's not that much more than you'd think. My first trainer pushed lease and lease only and very hard. He showed me the wonderful settlements and told me how bad they micro manage you as a company guy and pretty much had me convinced leasing was the only way to go. Then I started asking about leasing here on the forums and had the truth to that given to me. My second trainer told me the opposite. Go company first and develop a a report with the company before taking on the financial burden of a lease. If you want to know how many miles I average per week and where I get dispatched I'll be more than happy to share that information here. After 6 months with my FM , I have a pretty darn good working relationship with him. I've made every delivery safely and ON TIME. Not once have I been told exactly what routes I have to take and where I have to break or any of what I was told was "going" to happen to me if I went company.

Good luck with Prime bud!!

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.

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.

Fm:

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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

PSD:

Prime Student Driver

Prime Inc has a CDL training program and the first phase is referred to as PSD. You'll get your permit and then 10,000 miles of on the road instruction.

The following is from Prime's website:

Prime’s PSD begins with you obtaining your CDL permit. Then you’ll go on the road with a certified CDL instructor for no less than 75 hours of one-on-one behind the wheel training. After training, you’ll return to Prime’s corporate headquarters in Springfield, Missouri, for final CDL state testing and your CDL license.

Obtain CDL Permit / 4 Days

  • Enter program, study and test for Missouri CDL permit.
  • Start driving/training at Prime Training Center in Springfield, Missouri.
  • Work toward 40,000 training dispatched miles (minimum) with food allowance while without CDL (Food allowance is paid back with future earnings).

On-the-Road Instruction / 10,000 Miles

  • Train with experienced certified CDL instructor for 3-4 weeks in a real world environment.
  • Get 75 hours of behind-the-wheel time with one-on-one student/instructor ratio.
  • Earn 10,000 miles toward total 40,000 miles needed.

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.

Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar
Best Answer!

That is one serious dose of reality and I hope everyone takes it seriously. Now you say reading the forums didn't really clue you in to how bad it would be but I say you weren't taking it as seriously as it was being said. It's common for us to say:

- you'll want to quit trucking on a regular basis.

- you'll feel you've chosen the wrong company or the wrong industry altogether

- life on the road is completely overwhelming but hang in there for a minimum of one year

- only about 2% of what you need to know will be taught in school, the rest you learn on the road, usually the hard way

- rarely does anyone drop out of trucking because they can't drive a truck. They drop out because of the stress, the erratic sleep patterns, the time away from home & family, and the overwhelming difficulty of life on the road

Does any of that sound familiar? I know it does. In fact, all of that has been mentioned many times in this forum, in my book, our Truck Driver's Career Guide, and throughout our Truck Driving Blog.

But to read those words and to live them is two entirely different things which is why I'm so glad you came back to emphasize this to people.

Be prepared for a long, difficult adventure getting your trucking career underway. You'll be challenged to the core on a regular basis.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

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

You are absolutely correct Brett. These things (and much more) are discussed here, but you never really understand the true dimensions of it until you live it.

"Drive for 11 hours?!? That's no big deal, I do that all the time when we go to Florida for vacation; and I don't even need a break after 8 hours..." The funny thing is, the actual driving from a to b is actually the easiest part.

They say it is a 14 hour work day, and maybe itsis for some, but at this early stage of my development, I would hazard a guess that it is typically closer to 16+ and you should probably eat and shower occasionally as well ;-)

Sleep is definitely a "catch as catch can" sort of proposition at this point and don't even bother trying to schedule it.

Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar

I think you've described it perfectly. I mean, if someone asked me what life will be like out there in the beginning I'd be happy to point em to what you've said. That's the reality of it right there.

Old School's Comment
member avatar
Great Answer!

Carter, this one goes to the top of my list of great posts!

We try so hard to prepare folks, but it just seems that there is no way to put that dose of reality in to it no matter how we try. People read what we say, they try to prepare themselves, but still there is that mysterious romantic lure of the open road that kind of blinds us to the reality of the rigors of a "life on the road." You expressed it well.

Just getting started is such a huge hurdle, that it hits most people like a slap in the face, and sends many an unwary potential truck driver home with a bad taste in their mouth for the whole industry. Now you have a much better understanding of why there are so many negative things posted on line about trucking companies. People point their finger at the trucking companies and blame their misguided fault finding on something that they really had no understanding of to begin with, and yet thousands have made that same journey with success. That initial baptism into this business is a serious dose of reality, it is not for the faint of heart, but neither is this career. It takes a lot of "I really want this" to make the transition from dream to reality.

I'm glad to see you had what it takes to make it through the initial shock of all this. That is usually indicative of a good start in the business.

Welcome aboard, and please, keep us posted on your progress.

Carter's Comment
member avatar

OS, thank you very much! As with most people that have chimed in about you and your posts, you have taught me a great deal without even knowing it.

I have reached the point where passing (or getting passed by) another rig on the interstate doesn't bring on abject terror. Heck, I even did morning rush hour across the GW bridge to get to Long Island (did i mention that my trainer is Satan?).

Each time I reach a milestone, it just reminds me of how much more I have to learn...

Today's lesson, bobtailing in the snow on the interstate... not a whole lot of fun. Just sayin.

Thanks again, for ask of your insight.

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).

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Mikki 's Comment
member avatar

Great post Carter! Thank you. Good timing for me. Be safe, and as a wise man once told me don't forget to enjoy yourself too.smile.gif

Robert B. (The Dragon) ye's Comment
member avatar

Carter, you hang in there brother because you're going to make it. You have the motivation and a great sense of humor to realize, hey you know what? Some of this really does suck but oh well and laugh it off as a lesson learned. It's always good to read things like this, especially when they have a bit of a lighter side to them.

6 string rhythm's Comment
member avatar
Great Answer!

Carter, I agree with the sentiments of Old School. One of the best posts I've read in regard to expectations and actually getting started in trucking. You expressed yourself very well. My experience was a little different, since I was hired at an LTL company right out of school for a linehaul position. But, I still can very much relate to the exhaustion, amongst other things.

I stayed out for a few days at a time when I first started, and I would mingle at the truck stops with the OTR drivers while I was on the road, so between my limited experience being away from home, and reading posts like yours, I can pretty much fill in the blanks and realize what it would've been like starting out as an OTR driver. I too had my share of interesting experiences with trainers - I had about 5 of them, my company pairs newbies with a different trainer for each week of training. I had to learn how to navigate around the 5 boroughs of NYC, and that "6th borough" they call Jersey City. I had to get used to running hard - bumping up against my 14 hours frequently from the get go, running as close to 500+ miles a night that I could. I had to get used to running linehaul at nights, and sleeping during the day.

Don't get me wrong, I believe I'm pretty spoiled and will never know what it's like to be away from my family for weeks or months at a time, being cooped up with a trainer and a truck that's constantly rolling - trying to sleep and cook meals. I can only imagine. I feel like I caught enough of a glimpse of what it would be like to start out OTR without having to actually do it, so I can really appreciate the opportunity I have, and also come pretty close to empathizing with you OTR rookies.

I can tell you're a smart guy and have a great sense of humor. I'd really enjoy hearing more from you. Prime was one of the companies I could've easily seen myself rolling with, if I had to go OTR and didn't have my LTL opportunity. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to roll in my own assigned truck, traversing the nations highways and byways, but I'm seen just enough and read just enough to know that I wouldn't trade my daily hometime and paycheck for the glamour of the road. Perhaps if I was single. It does cross my mind. But I'm a family man. I'll live vicariously through you Carter. smile.gif

Glad you're enjoying it! It is a rewarding career!

LTL:

Less Than Truckload

Refers to carriers that make a lot of smaller pickups and deliveries for multiple customers as opposed to hauling one big load of freight for one customer. This type of hauling is normally done by companies with terminals scattered throughout the country where freight is sorted before being moved on to its destination.

LTL carriers include:

  • FedEx Freight
  • Con-way
  • YRC Freight
  • UPS
  • Old Dominion
  • Estes
  • Yellow-Roadway
  • ABF Freight
  • R+L Carrier

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.

Linehaul:

Linehaul drivers will normally run loads from terminal to terminal for LTL (Less than Truckload) companies.

LTL (Less Than Truckload) carriers will have Linehaul drivers and P&D drivers. The P&D drivers will deliver loads locally from the terminal and pick up loads returning them to the terminal. Linehaul drivers will then run truckloads from terminal to terminal.
Carter's Comment
member avatar

Great post Carter! Thank you. Good timing for me. Be safe, and as a wise man once told me don't forget to enjoy yourself too.smile.gif

Thanks Mikki. Congrats, by the way,on graduating. Hold on tight, it's a hell of a ride, but well worth it. I look forward to hearing about your first adventures.

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