After months of research, one month of CDL truck driving school, and 4 months of company training, I'm now going out on the open road as a solo company driver. Wow, sometimes I think back and it's taken forever to get here, while other times I think back and it's gone by in an instant. My research into becoming a truck driver began nearly one year ago. I like to compare my truck driver training to when I obtained my Bachelors Degree and PrivatePilot License. If we break down my training, hour by hour, I'd say truck driving probably took more training than either of those. This has without a doubt been the most mentally challenging thing I've ever done. And I'm not afraid to toot my own horn andadmit that I'm extremely proud of how far I've come. This was hard work, but I've finally made it. When I first started driving, I was almost a little embarrassed to say I was a truck driver. I now tell people I'm a truck driver with pride, and I take a lot of pride in what I do. If you bought it, a truck brought it. We sacrificea lot tokeep this economy rolling, and I couldn't be more proud to be a part of that, especially with how hard I worked to get here.
I've already written a bit about what it's like to be with a company trainer, so I won't go into much detail here. But I've gotta say, I had a fantastic experience with my trainer. I think I was very lucky. Our last trip brought us to the company terminal. I took a defensive driving class called the "Smith System" and did my upgrade driving test. Once I passed that (which was very easy), it was time for me to get all my stuff out of my trainers truck. Believe it or not, I wasa littlesad to go.
I remember first meeting my trainer. I was so nervous. Without ever meeting this person before, I'd be spending 4 months of my life in a confined space with this stranger. I had no idea what to expect. In the coming months, we would spend nearly 24 hours a day together. If I was on the phone, he was right next to me listening. If I was sleeping, he was only a few feet away in the drivers seat. If he was sleeping, I couldn't play my music too loud and anytime I hit the brakes or jerked the steering wheel, I'd wake him up. When people asked me to blow the horn, I couldn't, or else I'd wake him up.He knew each and every time I slept, ate, took a shower, and even went to the bathroom. There is almost zero privacy when you're driving a team truck. That was probably the hardest thing to deal with. Even husband and wife teams have achallenging time sharing a truck.
But luckily, our personalities were a perfect match. While I'm from Chicago, IL, he was from smalltown, North Carolina. A typical southerner. But somehow, it just worked between us. He tried his hardest to make me talk with a southern drawl, and I tried my hardest to make him say "Illinois" without pronouncing the "S" at the end of it. We constantly gave each other a hard time, but it never went overboard. We both enjoyed running hard, and that's exactly what we did. It was an experience I'll never forget and I had a blast sharing it with him. It's the close of yet another positivechapter in my life.
However, sharing a truck with somebody is very tough. You see the best and the worst in the person you share a truck with. And there were a few things I really did not like about him. Strangely enough, it was his driving habits that got to me the most. One of my major annoyances out on the road is when trucks tailgate. There is absolutely no excuse for this dangerous behavior, but it was one thing my trainer was very good at doing. It was almost as if he got enjoyment out of tailgating. If we were in heavy traffic, hewould do anything possible to avoid having somebody cut in front of us, even if they were coming from an on-ramp and had no choice.Also, when coming down hills, he'd actually ask me to speed so I didn't have to use the brakes as often (he's a lease operator and pays for his own brakes). Sometimes his anger would get a little out of control. Not towards me, but towards other drivers on the road. One of his favorite phrases on the road was "yeah, you're number one in my book buddy" as he flips off whatever vehicle he's upset with. And if he'd have thechance later on, he'd purposely "block in" or slow down whatever car made him upset.Very unprofessional.He also treated some of our customers in rude ways if he wasn't treated exactly the way he wanted to be treated. I'm convinced this caused us to sit more than we had to.
For the most part, my complaints are very few and far between. The experience went better than I could have ever imagined. I expected a few bumps along the way. But with that said, I'm definitely ready to move on. I'll miss the good times and the laughs I had with my trainer, I'll miss crossing the entirecountry in all but 3 days. I'll miss having some company with me when I went to grab a bite to eat, or the times we were able to spend some time in places likeReno, and many other things I'll miss. Yet, I feel so ready to be out there on my own. I'll get to write the rules. I get to decide when I run and when I sit. I get to decide when I shower or eat. I get to decide how fast to run. I don't have to worry about waking somebody up. I can sleep in a truck that isn't moving all the time.Ican crank up the tunes whenever I want.And best of all, I get some privacy again!!
I'm currently sitting here at my company terminal waiting for orientation to start. Since my trainer was a lease operator, I have to go through a company driver orientation. Things are a bit different on the company side in terms of paperwork, what routes we can take, where we canfuel,rules with company trucks, etc. Once that's over, I should get assigned my truck. I've already met my new dispatcher, and he said I should be off on my first solo run in 2 days.
Yesterday, I took a walk through the lot with trucks sitting, waiting for company drivers. So many beautiful trucks. Some brand spankin'new, some older. It's going to be luck of the draw for what truck I get. But it'll either be a Freightliner Cascadia, Freightliner Century, or Peterbilt 387. I dont' really care which one it is, as my company keeps their trucks in very good condition and all 3 of those trucks are nice. But it wasa strange feelingwalking around and looking at those trucks, knowing I'll be in one of them within a few days. Which onewill it be? Which one will be my new home? What will we go through together? Where will she bring me? What will we see?How long will we be together?
It might sound dumb, but I think I speak for most OTRtruck drivers when I say a certain bond is formed with the truck. Since we drive our trucks at least 8 hours per day, we learn everything about it. Weknow when the truck is having a bad day.We learn what the truck does in certain situations. We know how to sense when something is wrong with the truck. We know when a screw comes loose or a bolt is missing. We know how to hit the fuel just right before that hill. We know that a certain gear needs some special attention, and maybe a certain technique. The truck almost becomes a part of us.The truck is not only our workplace, but it is also our home. I plan to take very good care of my truck, even if it really belongs to the company I work for. During the time I have it, I'll act as if it's mine. Which one could it be???
Until next time, drive safely.