My First Post From The Open Road!

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The Persian Conversion's Comment
member avatar

Well I did it, I'm finally on my own. I am now on my first trip as a solo flatbed driver.

I left Missoula, MT with a load of lumber Friday late morning, got in about 540 miles and stopped at a parking area 30 minutes south of Buffalo, WY. Then today I made it to the Love's in Lamar, CO, about 560 more miles. I gotta get to Oklahoma City by tomorrow night (less than 500 miles) and deliver first thing Monday morning, then I have a reload about an hour away in Wewoka, delivering in Springfield, VA, almost 1300 miles away, on Wednesday by 3PM. It's gonna be tight, but I think I can pull it off. That'll put me at almost 3,000 miles in my first 5 days! The only thing that scares me is how close to Washington D.C. that second delivery is... in the middle of the afternoon...

I have to say, I'm loving this experience so far. The freedom, the solitude, the independence, it's all quite nice. And the truck is sweet! A 2013 Kenworth t660 with built-in navigation and Sirius radio, plus it's an automatic. I was a little bummed about that at first, but I think that was only my pride making me feel that way. I had wanted to be a "real trucker" and drive a manual, but they needed to send me out and unfortunately my shifting wasn't progressing as fast as they had wanted it to. So they put me in the automatic. Now that I have it though, I'm so happy for it. It's so nice to have one less thing to focus on, especially considering it's my first time on my own ever. There's enough to deal with just trying not to hit anything.

I feel like I've experienced a lot in just my first two days. I went through Denver (I-25 to I-270 to I-70) at around 4:00 PM today, which was pretty eye-opening. I thought since it was the weekend traffic wouldn't be that bad, but boy was I wrong! That, combined with all the road work, made it one heck of a harrowing experience. Thank goodness for that automatic though!

Then tonight on my way down to Lamar, I could see this crazy lightning storm ahead of me. I drove right into it, and while I could see sunlight way off to the west, all around me it was like night. I drove through that leaning forward in my seat, with both hands up on the top of the wheel and both my elbows resting on the bottom. I got stuck behind a Swift driver who was going exceptionally slow, but I think it ended up being a good thing, because it kept me safe, and it actually bumped my mpg up a tenth to 6.3. We get paid a 50/50 savings bonus for everything above 6.0, and considering that I've climbed about 2,500 feet in elevation since I started and gone over countless hills and grades, I'm pretty proud of my 6.3 right now. Hopefully when I get to flatter land I can boost it even more.

Our company has Prepass and a good safety record so we tend to get a lot of green lights, but I got my first red light today. My heart practically jumped when I saw that. I was imagining a white-glove, 2-hour inspection, an out-of-service and an embarrassing call to dispatch. But all I did was roll through the scale and that was it, I was on my way again. No sweat.

One thing I've noticed right off the bat is how poorly designed a lot of truck stops seem to be. For example, I fueled up in Casper, WY this morning, and there was only one way to pull in to the pumps. No problem, but when I pulled forward and went around the building to exit, I came to a dead end! I had to back up, turn around and go back to the pumps and squeeze by along the side. I can't help but think I missed something somehow, but if I didn't, then every truck that pulls in there has to go through the same thing.

Anyway, I'm pooped and gonna call it a night. I found a church in town that I'm gonna crash tomorrow morning, then I'm off to Oklahoma City!

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Out-of-Service:

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.

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.

JJ's Comment
member avatar

Congrats ! im looking forward to my first solo run. its probably 3 months out still but nice to hear what your experiences are on your first run.

Jetguy's Comment
member avatar

Great info TPC... Keep your posts coming. 3000 is super great. Good luck

Skydrick (Brian L.) 's Comment
member avatar

Congratulations on getting out solo! Sounds like a rocking first week. I'm from just south of Springfield in VA, PM me if you have any questions about the area. If your delivery is at 3:00pm on Wednesday and you do your DC area driving between 10:00 and 2:30pm you shouldn't have too much of a problem especially if you are coming I-66 to I-495 outer loop, then it depends where in Springfield but it shouldn't be too bad. Of course I'm still thinking like a car so some drivers here probably have better options.

Things to keep in mind in DC, rush hour is from 5:30am to about 9:30 or 10am. and 3:30pm to 6:00pm or so. Wednesdays are the worst day of the week in the morning and Fridays are the worst day of the week for afternoon. If you have a conventional radio with you and want to hear local traffic 103.5 fm traffic on the 8's however they won't always talk about normal volume only accidents and delays but they do a good job.

There are several industrial parks right in Springfield but I don't know if any are friendly to overnighting if you are getting in Tuesday night. And a few that I am familiar with have no parking 7:00pm-7:00am such as General Washington Dr. off Edsall on I-395N which is a shame. Anyway good luck and safe driving!

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.
The Persian Conversion's Comment
member avatar

Congratulations on getting out solo! Sounds like a rocking first week. I'm from just south of Springfield in VA, PM me if you have any questions about the area. If your delivery is at 3:00pm on Wednesday and you do your DC area driving between 10:00 and 2:30pm you shouldn't have too much of a problem especially if you are coming I-66 to I-495 outer loop, then it depends where in Springfield but it shouldn't be too bad. Of course I'm still thinking like a car so some drivers here probably have better options.

Things to keep in mind in DC, rush hour is from 5:30am to about 9:30 or 10am. and 3:30pm to 6:00pm or so. Wednesdays are the worst day of the week in the morning and Fridays are the worst day of the week for afternoon. If you have a conventional radio with you and want to hear local traffic 103.5 fm traffic on the 8's however they won't always talk about normal volume only accidents and delays but they do a good job.

There are several industrial parks right in Springfield but I don't know if any are friendly to overnighting if you are getting in Tuesday night. And a few that I am familiar with have no parking 7:00pm-7:00am such as General Washington Dr. off Edsall on I-395N which is a shame. Anyway good luck and safe driving!

Thanks for all the info!!! My plan is to unload Monday as soon after 8:00am as possible, roll up the tarps, drive to the reload and load that, tarp it up and then get in as much driving as I can that day. If I can hopefully get at least 400 miles by 10:00 pm, that leaves 900. Maybe I can rock out another 600 on Tuesday which would leave about 300 Wednesday. That should put me in there right around 1:00-2:00. Perfect timing to avoid rush hour! Of course, that's without anything going wrong... The more I think about it, the more I'm thinking my dispatch is trying to test me and see how I handle this situation... It seems next to impossible to make this delivery on time.

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.
Skydrick (Brian L.) 's Comment
member avatar

Yeah that sure does sound tight! Good luck and have fun! Check your map before going through the I-495 I-95 I-395 interchange (known to locals as the mixing bowl) the signs are pretty good but its best to have a visual maybe off google maps first, just so you know which lane you want to be in especially if you are actually exiting at exit 169A/B for Franconia or Old Keene Mill Rd. Your lane decision for those exits is actually on I-495 not I-95, about a mile in advance. Let us know how it goes! I can't wait to be out there with you in about a month and a half.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

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

Well I did it, I'm finally on my own. I am now on my first trip as a solo flatbed driver.

I left Missoula, MT with a load of lumber Friday late morning, got in about 540 miles and stopped at a parking area 30 minutes south of Buffalo, WY. Then today I made it to the Love's in Lamar, CO, about 560 more miles. I gotta get to Oklahoma City by tomorrow night (less than 500 miles) and deliver first thing Monday morning, then I have a reload about an hour away in Wewoka, delivering in Springfield, VA, almost 1300 miles away, on Wednesday by 3PM. It's gonna be tight, but I think I can pull it off. That'll put me at almost 3,000 miles in my first 5 days! The only thing that scares me is how close to Washington D.C. that second delivery is... in the middle of the afternoon...

I have to say, I'm loving this experience so far. The freedom, the solitude, the independence, it's all quite nice. And the truck is sweet! A 2013 Kenworth t660 with built-in navigation and Sirius radio, plus it's an automatic. I was a little bummed about that at first, but I think that was only my pride making me feel that way. I had wanted to be a "real trucker" and drive a manual, but they needed to send me out and unfortunately my shifting wasn't progressing as fast as they had wanted it to. So they put me in the automatic. Now that I have it though, I'm so happy for it. It's so nice to have one less thing to focus on, especially considering it's my first time on my own ever. There's enough to deal with just trying not to hit anything.

I feel like I've experienced a lot in just my first two days. I went through Denver (I-25 to I-270 to I-70) at around 4:00 PM today, which was pretty eye-opening. I thought since it was the weekend traffic wouldn't be that bad, but boy was I wrong! That, combined with all the road work, made it one heck of a harrowing experience. Thank goodness for that automatic though!

Then tonight on my way down to Lamar, I could see this crazy lightning storm ahead of me. I drove right into it, and while I could see sunlight way off to the west, all around me it was like night. I drove through that leaning forward in my seat, with both hands up on the top of the wheel and both my elbows resting on the bottom. I got stuck behind a Swift driver who was going exceptionally slow, but I think it ended up being a good thing, because it kept me safe, and it actually bumped my mpg up a tenth to 6.3. We get paid a 50/50 savings bonus for everything above 6.0, and considering that I've climbed about 2,500 feet in elevation since I started and gone over countless hills and grades, I'm pretty proud of my 6.3 right now. Hopefully when I get to flatter land I can boost it even more.

Our company has Prepass and a good safety record so we tend to get a lot of green lights, but I got my first red light today. My heart practically jumped when I saw that. I was imagining a white-glove, 2-hour inspection, an out-of-service and an embarrassing call to dispatch. But all I did was roll through the scale and that was it, I was on my way again. No sweat.

One thing I've noticed right off the bat is how poorly designed a lot of truck stops seem to be. For example, I fueled up in Casper, WY this morning, and there was only one way to pull in to the pumps. No problem, but when I pulled forward and went around the building to exit, I came to a dead end! I had to back up, turn around and go back to the pumps and squeeze by along the side. I can't help but think I missed something somehow, but if I didn't, then every truck that pulls in there has to go through the same thing.

Anyway, I'm pooped and gonna call it a night. I found a church in town that I'm gonna crash tomorrow morning, then I'm off to Oklahoma City!

Don't worry about the Washington DC traffic you won't be affected if your delivering in Springfield VA, I actually live in northern Virginia just 30 minutes from DC. So you will be fine traffic wise.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Out-of-Service:

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.

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.

The Persian Conversion's Comment
member avatar

I thought I'd give everyone an update. It was a long first week!

Monday morning I unloaded my load of lumber in Oklahoma City. I felt like a bumbling idiot through most of it. I pulled off the tarps and foolishly started spreading them out and rolling them up before I even unstrapped the load. I also did it right in the path of other trucks. In hindsight I should have just dragged them out of the way and unstrapped immediately so they could start unloading. First lesson learned.

blue Jones flatbed truck loaded with lumber

Anyway, once that was done I drove about an hour to my pickup. It was at this factory way out in the middle of nowhere, with a dirt driveway leading up to a covered loading area with room for one truck at a time. They loaded me up with 850 steel grates:

steel grates loaded on flatbed trailer

Once I was loaded, I had to tarp it. I pulled out into this dirt lot across the street and got to work. It was around midday at this point, and hot as heck. I was instructed to use our blue tarps underneath the black ones to keep the metal edges from cutting them, which basically doubled my work load:

steel grates loaded strapped and tarped on flatbed trailersteel grates loaded strapped and tarped on flatbed trailer

By the time I was done, I was sunburned and dehydrated. Next lesson learned: buy sunscreen.

I drove the rest of the day and made it to West Memphis, where I stopped for the night. My first experience with late night truck stop parking near a big city. Joy. After a couple of failed attempts, I resorted to parking along a curb next to a fence way in the back corner. The lesson here? Stop early whenever possible, and avoid the congested truck stops.

The next day was my biggest driving day so far. 649 miles to get to Troutville, VA. Then drove the rest of the way to Springfield, VA the next morning. Traffic wasn't horrible but still pretty rough. Made the delivery and one of the forklift operators actually helped me fold my tarps. I don't know if I looked like I needed help or he was just being nice, but either way it made things a lot faster and was much appreciated.

Got my next dispatch that morning. Two bulk containers in Chesapeake, VA heading for a tank washing facility in Louisville, KY. Picked them up and had to use chains for the first time. And no tarp—sweet!

empty container tanks being loaded and chained on a flatbed trailerempty container tanks being loaded and chained on a flatbed trailer

Drove those out and delivered them Friday morning. Then I got the load which I'm on now...

I picked up a load of automotive lifts from Challenger, also in Louisville. This load... oh man. I'll just let the pictures speak for themselves:

flatbed trailer loaded with automotive lifts strapped all crazy-likeflatbed trailer loaded with automotive lifts strapped all crazy-like

I had to strap it and tarp it. I must have been out there for a good 6 hours in the sun and the heat, getting up and down, climbing over the load, trying to get straps in the perfect positions to cover sharp corners and protect the tarps while not damaging the shipment. Then dragging the tarps up and down through that maze, climbing over straps and boxes while pulling it... that was the first moment where I really started to get angry and frustrated with my job.

But with a little sweat, a little luck and a little "eh, that's good enough" attitude, I finished the job. I then drove about 20 miles north to a truck stop, took a shower and just went to sleep.

This load has 5 deliveries on it: Center Point IA, Rockford IA, Kimball SD, Snohomish WA and finally Tacoma WA. Going from Kimball to Snohomish will bring me right by my home city of Coeur d'Alene ID where I can visit my wife and kids for a little while. The first delivery isn't scheduled until Monday, and I loaded Friday afternoon with about 500 miles to go for that first drop, so I took a nice leisurely drive yesterday. I set the cruise at 55mph to try and boost my mpg and just relaxed on the way up. I'm sitting at a solid 6.8mpg right now. I'm aiming to get on the 7mpg or above "hall of fame" within the company.

I got here in Center Point yesterday afternoon, after stopping to check out the Iowa-80 truck stop. My initial reaction was "dang, this place is huge!" but after going inside and checking everything out, my final reaction was "meh." No big deal. Just more of everything. And overpriced. Anyway, I called Costco in Cedar Rapids and got permission to park in the back by the loading dock, so I was able to stock up on food and beverages. LOTS of beverages. I got Vitamin Waters for when I'm tarping in the heat, San Pellegrino sodas for a nice treat, and Starbucks Frappuccinos for those early mornings.

The best part now? I get to take a restart before Monday morning. Then I'll have a fresh 70 to knock out all the deliveries, probably finish in Tacoma on Thursday afternoon, and have 3 more full days to do the next load. My first week saw about 3,500 miles, and this load has about 2,500. I'm happy with that.

SAP:

Substance Abuse Professional

The Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) is a person who evaluates employees who have violated a DOT drug and alcohol program regulation and makes recommendations concerning education, treatment, follow-up testing, and aftercare.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

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.

Skydrick (Brian L.) 's Comment
member avatar

What an excellent update! Glad to hear all went well through Virginia. I love the pictures. Thanks you for letting us know how its going.

Jetguy's Comment
member avatar

WOW 8 PICS. You get an A+ for this post. Thanks for sharing. Who do you drive for?

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