My First Week Adventure As A Swift Driver

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Errol V.'s Comment
member avatar

I have posted my experience with Swift's training program from the Academy through road training. It all went well, but my first week out on my own I had NINE problems that may happen to any driver, but not all at once!

Right at the start, I'll say I'm not angry, just supremely frUsTRateD. (I would be the second fellow in A fable for our time.)

Last Monday I completed all testing to join Swift as an OTR driver. The Truck Assignment lady offered me a Kenworth (See previous topic). "Well, sure!" I said. I met my Driver Manager , "Alice". She said go and get situated in the truck, and let her know for my first dispatch.

 Bing! A new message has arrived. I'm going to San Antonio! First pick up the load locally and hit the road. Pick up is tomorrow at 8am.

 1. A Trailer: You don't just go find an empty one, the T-call window will sign one. But there are no empty trailers available! " Come back tomorrow," the T-call guy says.

Tuesday morning I'm there at 5am, don't want to miss the pick-up appointment! "No trailers yet, but you're #2 on the list." Later I get a QC message, go to this warehouse and look for this trailer (by number). I bobtail over, get the trailer (they were expecting me, it's not like I was trailer rustling!) and go to my pickup.

 2. Load Not Ready: 8:00 pick up, I get there at 9:30, the trailer is not loaded yet! (Ok, so I'm not really "late".) All on board by 11, and Texas here I come!

I get almost to Texarkana and stop early at a rest area for Tuesday night. Stopping early, there's plenty of parking spaces. It's only after about 7pm things start to get tight. My delivery isn't Thursday morning.

About 3am, Wednesday, I start west. I know about the -

 3. Bad Weather. A snow storm is heading eastward. I get into the cold rain before sunrise, and it steadily gets worse. My first experience driving a loaded semi in snow. Well the snowing was over by Dallas, and as I continued it got drier, until you wouldn't know it has snowed.

Headed into San Antone following my GPS. Had almost enough time to deliver this afternoon instead of tomorrow! Except my GPS had the

4. Wrong Address! Literally the opposite side of S.A. than where I was supposed to be. Being 4:30, the next step was to get to a truck stop before my time ran out. Got to a Petro, and there were still many spots.

Thursday morning, got to the delivery right on time. There was only one person there, and he had to unload the whole trailer of insulation himself, with the forklift. Being by himself, he often had to stop to handle the phone or to help a customer get his own supplies. This stop became a really

5. Slow Unload. 3 hours of sitting. Well, trailer was empty, so I pulled out of the dock and got set to move the tandems. (Oops! I had not moved the tandems at all on this trailer yet!)

6. Broken Equipment: My next load was 45,000 pounds so I did want to make sure the tandems could be moved. They would not budge! Turns out the pull-rod for one lock pin had pulled out. My Swift's roadside service told me to go to a Petro, she would call them with a PO.

7. Waiting for Something To Happen: I get there around eleven, the service writer said "four hour wait". Four hours ... tick tick tick ... pull into shop ... another hour before the mechanic gets to looking ... tick tick ... by 4pm I was ready to scream - er - roll. But the next pickup would not be ready till 1am the next morning (Thursday). I had put myself into sleeper during all that wait time, so I just finished out my ten hours at the Petro.

8. Too Far for One Day: The delivery was 600 miles away in southern Mississippi. Too far to go in one day (especially in a Swift truck governed to 60 mph.) I had planned to drive several hours, and would have plenty of time to make my 5:30om firm appointment.

That had evaporated while waiting for the trailer fix. Well, I got to the pickup, hooked the new trailer, and headed east on I-10. Nothing else to do but drive!

My 11 drive hours ran out 50 miles short of the destination. My DM , trying to meet the appointment, tried to find another driver who could get the trailer delivered. No luck. I stopped at a Love's 50 miles away with no choice but to sit out another ten hour break.

9. Delivering When the Dock Is Closed: My ten hours expired at 1am so I headed that last 50 miles. Note this is a huge distribution center, I thought it would be open 24/7. I thought wrong. I had started my 14 hood day as soon as I did my pre-trip. Drove to the DC, and the friendly guard told me  that, being Saturday morning, there was nothing to do till 10am. (This was at 2am - 8 hours of waiting ahead.)

I drove 24 miles to a Walmart parking lot (with a Waffle House close by) and wrote this novelette. So here are NINE things that can go wrong for a driver. I've blown a week with only the Memphis-San Antonio run of 730 miles on the books. (And this return 580 miles not yet complete.)

Bobtail:

"Bobtailing" means you are driving a tractor without a trailer attached.

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.

Tandems:

Tandem Axles

A set of axles spaced close together, legally defined as more than 40 and less than 96 inches apart by the USDOT. Drivers tend to refer to the tandem axles on their trailer as just "tandems". You might hear a driver say, "I'm 400 pounds overweight on my tandems", referring to his trailer tandems, not his tractor tandems. Tractor tandems are generally just referred to as "drives" which is short for "drive axles".

Tandem:

Tandem Axles

A set of axles spaced close together, legally defined as more than 40 and less than 96 inches apart by the USDOT. Drivers tend to refer to the tandem axles on their trailer as just "tandems". You might hear a driver say, "I'm 400 pounds overweight on my tandems", referring to his trailer tandems, not his tractor tandems. Tractor tandems are generally just referred to as "drives" which is short for "drive axles".

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.

Driver Manager:

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.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Jolie R.'s Comment
member avatar

Errol, I am still pretty new so I can SO relate! I am a few days shy of 3 months solo and it is amazing the things that have gone wrong and the lessons I have learned from them. Sounds like you are handling things well though!

Errol V.'s Comment
member avatar

Errol, I am still pretty new so I can SO relate! I am a few days shy of 3 months solo and it is amazing the things that have gone wrong and the lessons I have learned from them. Sounds like you are handling things well though!

Yes, lots of things have happened this week. Experienced drivers may foresee & handle some. I don't have that luxury yet.

But all this "at once"? C'mon! wtf.gif

Daniel B.'s Comment
member avatar

I disagree with #8. Even governed at 60, 600 miles is easily doable.

Here's my secret chart I use to determine how many miles I can drive in what amount.

2 hours - 120 miles

3 hours - 180 miles

5 hours - 300 miles

7 hours - 400 miles

9 hours - 520 miles

11 hours - 665 miles

This is running hard and only stopping for a 30 minute break. You'll hit all of these numbers if you drive hard.

But everything else sounds typical for a first month! smile.gif

Errol V.'s Comment
member avatar

I disagree with #8. Even governed at 60, 600 miles is easily doable.

Here's my secret chart I use to determine how many miles I can drive in what amount.

2 hours - 120 miles

3 hours - 180 miles

5 hours - 300 miles

7 hours - 400 miles

9 hours - 520 miles

11 hours - 665 miles

This is running hard and only stopping for a 30 minute break. You'll hit all of these numbers if you drive hard.

But everything else sounds typical for a first month! smile.gif

Thank you, Daniel! I'll copy this into my secret list of secrets I got from TT!

My clock also had the drive to shipper , drop/hook and drive 3 miles west (for an east bound trip) on I-10 for scales & tandem. Otherwise I coulda made it! I coulda!

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.

Tandem:

Tandem Axles

A set of axles spaced close together, legally defined as more than 40 and less than 96 inches apart by the USDOT. Drivers tend to refer to the tandem axles on their trailer as just "tandems". You might hear a driver say, "I'm 400 pounds overweight on my tandems", referring to his trailer tandems, not his tractor tandems. Tractor tandems are generally just referred to as "drives" which is short for "drive axles".

Rick S.'s Comment
member avatar

Sounds like a typical week...

The only thing REMOTELY "on you" - was the GPS screwup. And I've had GPS's screw me up more than once.

Overall - despite the short miles - YOUR time management looks spot-on, and you faced all the typical screwups (no empty, slow docks, broken equipment) that you're going to face pretty much EVERY DAY - like a PRO.

Only thing I could think of perhaps doing differently - was to get right onto line 2 and stayed at the DC - then "slow-rolled" it into the dock, so I could stay on line 1 or 2. That way - even if it was only 8 hours (2-10), I could have gotten that back on my 14 - or if it stretched to 10 hours (2-10 + the unload), gotten a whole daily reset out of it.

Loved your training blog - keep us posted on how things are progressing.

Rick

Errol V.'s Comment
member avatar

But wait! There's More!

Now for, you guessed it, #10. Dead Battery in the Morning

My 14 hour clock has been started when I first headed for that DC. So the number of hours spent in the WM were my days hours! (I wish I had known to wait till 10am!)

Back at the DC, it was a live unload, so another hour just sitting in the truck. I am getting so much practice waiting in my truck! Heading south, I figured I'd just plain run out of time again, so I stopped an hour south of the DC on I-55 at a Love's. It's a small one with only tire service for trucks.

I am driving so that my off time (10 hour break) is afternoons to midnight. Lots of advantages there. So, 10 hours in a truck stop parking lot. You'll get used to it.

Midnight. Fire 'em up! Er - er -er. Nothing. Even the dome lights begin to shut down. 9 volts. This is Saturday night, I send in the BREAKDOWN macro and wait. To make a long wait short, I finally got a phone call at 6:30 saying their authorize the Love's to jump start.

The guy came to work at 8 (it's Sunday), and after my truck started, he said jump starts on the property are free, and someone could come out in the middle of the night for that. (*$% &¥π¶!!!)

Drove the rest of the way to Baton Rouge for the next pickup. I had about 3 hours left of my day. Parked the empty trailer, moved the tandems , dropped the landing gear, pulled the fifth wheel, and had a noobie equipment malfunction. (what's missing from the drop trailer procedure?)

Couldn't pull any trailer now, told the shipping office that I had to get the air lines repaired, and left. Found a truck stop, my 14 hours evaporated again, sent the BREAKDOWN macro, and waited for a service tech to repair the lines.

Now are the problems over? Tomorrow, taking this load to Chattanooga, TN.

Tandems:

Tandem Axles

A set of axles spaced close together, legally defined as more than 40 and less than 96 inches apart by the USDOT. Drivers tend to refer to the tandem axles on their trailer as just "tandems". You might hear a driver say, "I'm 400 pounds overweight on my tandems", referring to his trailer tandems, not his tractor tandems. Tractor tandems are generally just referred to as "drives" which is short for "drive axles".

Tandem:

Tandem Axles

A set of axles spaced close together, legally defined as more than 40 and less than 96 inches apart by the USDOT. Drivers tend to refer to the tandem axles on their trailer as just "tandems". You might hear a driver say, "I'm 400 pounds overweight on my tandems", referring to his trailer tandems, not his tractor tandems. Tractor tandems are generally just referred to as "drives" which is short for "drive axles".

Rick S.'s Comment
member avatar

Forgetting the disconnect your air/electrical lines?

That's like driving away from a fuel pump with the hose still in the fill hole.

Bet THAT WON'T HAPPEN AGAIN.

Rick

HOS:

Hours Of Service

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

Forgetting the disconnect your air/electrical lines?

Bet THAT WON'T HAPPEN AGAIN.

Rick

FIRST WITH THE CORRECT ANSWER! ding ding ding ding

I wrapped the remains of the blue line around my driver seat pedestal. I'll see it when I get back in. shocked.png

Old School's Comment
member avatar

Errol, welcome to the school of hard knocks, where the lessons learned gradually diminish in their frequency as we begin to store them up in our memory bank. The problems are a long way from being over yet, but you've made a great start at knocking them out at a rapid pace!

Welcome to the "real world" of trucking. It only gets better from here.

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