Interested In Truck Driving

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Ben A.'s Comment
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Hey guys,

This site is awesome, and I don't know any of you guys, but you are all awesome as well. The information you provide to everyone is invaluable (and I've been reading this entire site for 3 days now, so I've read alot!).

Anyway, I am interested in getting into trucking myself, after having learned (from this site, mainly) that it does seem to be an awesome fit for my personality.

Just a few newbie questions, though: 1) I've never driven anything bigger than a mini-van. I know I will learn what I need to learn from trucking school, but is it a huge adjustment? Is it comparable to "knowing how to walk and run, then learning to iceskate" kind of thing? Ice skating isn't hard, but it is different than walking and takes some getting used to.

2) Mechanical knowledge. I know next to nothing about cars, how they work, or anything. I'm a computer guy, and therefore am not real mechanically inclined. Once you become a truck driver, how much knowledge do you need to drive your truck safely? Do you need to be a guru, or is it like with a car where I can call someone if something happens? What if I'm in a sticky spot and need to fix my truck NOW to deliver on-time, is that a big deal? Something I can learn from the school?

Again, I'm mainly worried about my lack of mechanical knowledge being in the way. I did watch some videos from TruckerMike (great guy, btw, love his attitude and videos) and I heard in one spot where he mentioned he didn't have much mechanical knowledge, but knew something was up with his truck, and he was just gonna stop by the shop to check it out. That sounded like me, since when a vehicle breaks, I shrug my arms and have no clue what's wrong, so I just take it somewhere.

3) I'm a type 1 diabetic. I've google'd and saw that I'm still able to be a truck driver, but does anyone know in more detail what I need to do with regards to medical issues? I think I need to provide records from my doctor/endocrinologist that say "I have my diabetes under control and I know what I'm doing" ... does anyone know of anything else? If you don't know, can you point me to a resource that would help me out?

4) After reading this article: Choosing A Truck Driving Job: Talking With The Right People... I was wondering, where can I find company drivers to talk to? The article is great on who I should talk to, but where can I find them? Should I go to a terminal of whichever company I'm interested in and approach random people (I haven't even looked where one is around me, lol) ? The article mentions calling a company mechanic if I can't find one to talk to, but where can I find a number to call? I don't think they exactly have "Mechanic for Schneider" on their front doors for anyone to find, right?

That's about all I got for now. Sorry for the long text, but I look forward to hearing from all of you.

Regardless what happens and whether I become a trucker or not, please do know that I appreciate all of you guys time and effort into a site like this. I would probably be quite lost right now if I was doing what I'm doing now in 2008, when this site wasn't around. I'm sure you all have helped out a great many truckers, and are directly responsible for more than a hand-full of truckers out on the road as we speak. Thanks to you all for your help, now and in future to come.

- Ben

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.

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.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

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

Welcome aboard Ben! Glad you're enjoying the site!

As far as learning to drive a rig, your "ice skating" analogy is a good one. I mean, if there are 3.5 million people out there doing it right now and tens of millions have done it before them, it's certainly not rocket science. Pretty much anyone can learn enough in a month or two to pass the CDL exam and land a job. The hardest part of the job is adjusting to life on the road - the erratic sleep patterns, the solitude, the stress, the tight schedules, etc. The other tough part is remaining focused at all times and not making any bad decisions. Most of the worst wrecks I ever saw were on beautiful, sunny days in light traffic on big, open highways. You let your guard down for even a moment and it can be disastrous. But learning to shift, steer, and back up well enough to get your license and land a job isn't that bad.

Mechanic knowledge - don't sweat that a bit. You'll have the pre-trip inspection drilled into your head repeatedly and you'll have no problems memorizing that. The pre-trip will teach you how to identify critical safety issues from one of the truck and trailer to another. Everyone learns it and that's all you'll really need to know. Drivers rarely even change a headlight. You won't have to work on the vehicles at all unless you choose to bring some minor tools with you for some routine things that you could easily fix in a few minutes.

As far as being diabetic - as long as you don't need insulin shots you're fine. If it's under control with proper eating and medication, you're ok. If you get to the point where you need insulin shots they may not give you medical clearance. So watch it closely. Any medications you're on will need to be approved for commercial driving. Any doctor that gives DOT physicals can tell you over the phone whether or not your medication will be ok. If not, your doctor can simply switch you to something else.

As far as speaking with company drivers, the best place to go is a local truck stop. It's very common for drivers to ask each other how they like working for the company they're with while a driver is fueling up or walking inside the truck stop. So nobody will think anything of it if you tell them you're considering working for their company and you'd like to know how they like it over there. Just don't knock on people's doors. Approach them at the fuel island or as they're walking inside the truck stop.

Hope this helps!

Pre-trip Inspection:

A pre-trip inspection is a thorough inspection of the truck completed before driving for the first time each day.

Federal and state laws require that drivers inspect their vehicles. Federal and state inspectors also may inspect your vehicles. If they judge a vehicle to be unsafe, they will put it “out of service” until it is repaired.

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.

DOT:

Department Of Transportation

A department of the federal executive branch responsible for the national highways and for railroad and airline safety. It also manages Amtrak, the national railroad system, and the Coast Guard.

State and Federal DOT Officers are responsible for commercial vehicle enforcement. "The truck police" you could call them.

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.

Old School's Comment
member avatar

Ben, welcome on board!

Hey, it's not that different as far as just driving goes, but it requires a more intense level of concentration, and even a level of anticipation of what just might happen or develop all around you. Sure it takes some getting used to, but time at driving school helps a lot with that. I was recently in Salt Lake City Utah delivering something and I saw a lot of trucks from the C.R. England driving school cruising around on back roads and highway frontage roads where there wasn't hardly any traffic for them to deal with while they were getting their first taste of driving that big rig.

Look, don't let your lack of mechanical knowledge hold you back. There are lots of drivers with no mechanical knowledge. I had to show my trainer where his brake shoes were - I'm not kidding - after ten years of driving he didn't even know where to look to check his brake shoes. Whenever you have a mechanical issue you just call breakdown at your company and they will get someone out there to fix that truck. Most companies don't want their drivers tinkering with their trucks anyway.

Diabetes is only a problem if your on insulin injections, as long as it is controlled by oral medications or diet then you will be fine. They will check the sugar levels in your urine when you get a D.O.T. physical. All you really have to do is list the medication you are taking on the paperwork when you take the physical, and if your sugar levels are OK then you are good to go.

The best way to talk to a truck driver is go to a truck stop and talk to them while they are fueling their truck. Don't go around knocking on their doors or stopping them inside the truck stop, sometimes they get a little testy about that, but usually they will talk to you more than you actually wanted while their fueling, plus while their fueling you have the added benefit of knowing where they work by the logo on their truck, so if you want to talk to someone from "Bubba's" trucking company you can easily identify them. Don't worry about talking to a mechanic, the driver can and will tell you how well their trucks are maintained if you ask.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Old School's Comment
member avatar

Sorry, I think I just echoed Brett's response, but it wasn't up there when I started typing! I guess I'm too slow.

Brett Aquila's Comment
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Sorry, I think I just echoed Brett's response, but it wasn't up there when I started typing! I guess I'm too slow

smile.gif I knew you were in here from your other recent responses and I had a feeling you were typing answers to this the same time I was. Well, Ben gets twice the value for his money.

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.

Ben A.'s Comment
member avatar

Man, I knew you guys rocked. Such great responses and so fast.

Brett & Old School, thanks for the help. Yes, it did echo but that's not bad, only good, because it simply confirms what Brett is saying (not that anyone would think Brett doesn't know what he's talking about.. :P).

For the driving and mechanics, no problem, sounds like I'll learn all I need to along the road, so I'll let that part take care of itself.

For the diabetes, there is a type 1 and a type 2 diabetic, as I'm sure most people know. The type 1 diabetic's pancreas makes no insulin (like mine), and you need either insulin shots or an insulin pump to live. There is no oral medication, or any other medication, for type 1 diabetic, since pancreas makes no insulin + body HAS to have insulin = medication not an option, only insulin will work.

The Type 2 (the far more common type of diabetes) is when the pancreas doesn't make enough insulin. It's a slight difference in the definition of the disease, but it makes all the difference. Type 2's can take medication to help them out, in addition to insulin if they need it.

With that said, I obviously have to have insulin, but I have an insulin pump (which I've had for almost 10 years now) which makes controlling my diabetes easy, as long as I watch it. I don't take any insulin shots, I only insert a new pump site every 3-4 days (= 1 needle needed every 3-4 days), so it's alot better than insulin shots. I also have a CGM (Continuous glucose monitor) which checks my sugar levels and graphs it out on a device for me in real-time, 24/7.

The question is whether that's going to be enough for the DOT physical? If that's where the holdup, I'll call my doctor and if he does DOT physicals like Brett said, I can just ask him if I'll be ok or not.

All the definitions and medical talk aside, you wouldn't know I was diabetic unless I told you, even if you spent 24 hours with me. It's under control to the point where I just live a normal life, I do very very "extra" work outside just living in relation to my diabetes. If you asked me, my diabetes will never be a problem while trucking. I've had Diabetes for 14 years, in that entire time (starting at age 10), I've only had 2 incidents ever where I didn't know where I was (1 was while on bus going to school, other while walking in town with my sister). Obviously, nothing major, and I've never once had any issue while driving. I know my word that "I'll be fine" isn't exactly what the DOT will rely on, but I hope the doctors will say I'm ok.

Thanks for the help.

@Brett: I did buy your online copy of your book last night, and entered my e-mail for it, but never received it. Should I shoot you a quick e-mail with more details? I bought it at 5:13 AM on July 4th, if you need to check your records. E-mail is same one as I used to register this account. Thanks in advance.

DOT:

Department Of Transportation

A department of the federal executive branch responsible for the national highways and for railroad and airline safety. It also manages Amtrak, the national railroad system, and the Coast Guard.

State and Federal DOT Officers are responsible for commercial vehicle enforcement. "The truck police" you could call them.

Ben A.'s Comment
member avatar
It's under control to the point where I just live a normal life, I do very very "extra" work outside just living in relation to my diabetes.

Whoops! "I do very little extra work outside"! Forgot a word.

There's no edit function, is there?

Old School's Comment
member avatar

Ben, I'm familiar with the insulin pumps since I have a friend who uses one quite successfully. I can't say that I know the definitive answer to that question, but before you get too deep into this truck driving stuff I would definitely contact a physician who does D.O.T. physicals and ask about whether you would be eligible for approval. You say that you googled it and found out you were eligible to drive a truck, but I'm curious where you found that information. I'm seriously concerned that this may very well be something that keeps you out of the industry.

Man, I hope I'm wrong on this, but please check into this a little deeper and come back and let us know what you found out. I've seen people get denied their medical cards because of insulin injections, but have never come across this particular scenario where a pump is used to control it. I'm seriously interested in what you find out so that we can help inform others in your same situation.

Brock Monday's Comment
member avatar

You will have a K2 restriction on your CDL. Which limits you to intrastate and greatly restricts where you can drive.

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.

Intrastate:

The act of purchasers and sellers transacting business while keeping all transactions in a single state, without crossing state lines to do so.

guyjax(Guy Hodges)'s Comment
member avatar

Yes please check with a DOT certified doctor. In the DOT eyes insulin injections and insulin pumps are no different. In either case if you run out of insulin for injections or somehow the pump fails and you go into shock the "why" of it will not matter so much as it did happen.

I would not want you to waste time or get your hopes up till you confirm that you can get a dot medical card.

If money is not an issue($65 to $75) go get a DOT physical from Concentra or another place that does DOT physicals as that is all they do and will be up on the latest DOT regs. Normal doctors,while they can get DOT physicals, may not be up on the latest regs.

DOT:

Department Of Transportation

A department of the federal executive branch responsible for the national highways and for railroad and airline safety. It also manages Amtrak, the national railroad system, and the Coast Guard.

State and Federal DOT Officers are responsible for commercial vehicle enforcement. "The truck police" you could call them.

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