My First Load Driving a Big Truck

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Finished up orientation on Friday and by Saturday morning, I already had a trainer waiting for me at the terminal. How cool is that!? I met up with him at 8 am and had breakfast. I was glad to see that he was a really nice guy. I'll be sharing a truck with him for about 15 weeks (longer training program than most companies), so I hope our personalities don't clash. But so far, we've been getting along great.

My trainer had to get a windshield replaced due to a crack in it, but he didn't expect it to take long. We just needed to wait for that to get done, then we already had a load going out to Florida. Well, the replacement on the windshield took just about all day, so our load was given to somebody else. We were given another load in my favorite direction...West! About as far West as you can go in this country. Delivery was set just outside of Los Angeles.

First, we bobtailed (no trailer) around for a bit so I could get used to the truck. The truck is much different than the ones we used in training. These shifters have a much shorter throw, so I kept grinding and putting it in the wrong gear. Not a huge deal. I was harder on myself than my instructor was. Anyway, he felt I was good enough to drive, so we picked up the trailer.

My trainer hooked the trailer up and went to the weigh scale. We came in at 78,000 pounds of plastic tubing. That's legal, but it's a heavy load (80,000 pounds is the max allowed). We finally hit the road about 7 pm, even though we thought we'd be out of there by noon. That's truckin' for ya.

After about an hour of driving, my trainer pulled into a rest area and told me I was up. So, I hopped into the drivers seat and hit the open highway. Surprisingly, I wasn't too terribly nervous. I couldn't find 4th gear for whatever reason on the on-ramp, and got a very slow start onto the expressway. Again, I was beating myself up over it, but my trainer is really good at calming me down and helping me out. It's just frustrating since I was doing so well at school. I feel like I'm learning all over again on this new truck.

The drive was fairly uneventful. My trainer stayed up with me for a couple hours until we were way out in the middle of nowhere. He felt comfortable enough to hit the sleeper and let me drive all by my little self. If I needed anything, he was only a loud screaming cuss word away.

So there I was, all by myself cruisin' down the Oklahoma Turnpike. It was a strange feeling. When I was a kid, I'd watch all the trucks flash their lights at each other when changing lanes. Now maybe some kid is watching me do that very thing. I still can't believe I'm actually out here doing this. I must be crazy!

I got to the first toll in Oklahoma which required me to stop and pay, then shift through the gears after that. I started in 3rd gear and shifted all the way to 10th with absolutely no problems. YES! I heard my instructor in the sleeper say "See, as long as I'm not up there lookin' over your shoulder you do just fine!" I think the main thing right now is building confidence in myself. I'm still a bit timid, but for every feat accomplished, I feel a little better behind the wheel.

Then I had to do some navigating on my own. First Tusla, OK, then Oklahoma City. Traffic wasn't too bad, I just had to read my signs carefully and be in the right lane so I stayed on route. I made it through both cities with no problems at all. After Oklahoma City, it was easy. Just listen to the tunes and drive.

Needless to say, I didn't get much sleep the night before and was up at 6:30 AM. So about 2am, I was starting to get a little too tired to drive any further. My instructor came up and asked if I wanted to switch. As much as I actually wanted to keep driving, I told him we probably should.

Thankfully, I've discovered that I sleep pretty well in a moving truck. I was exhausted as it was, but was glad to get a good night's rest in a moving vehicle. I woke up about 10 am, opened the curtains, and got to see a window full of desert, rock formations, and snow capped mountains in the distance. Hello New Mexico!

My instructor was a bit tired from driving all night and into the morning, so we switched off. It was an extremely enjoyable and interesting ride. There was a "High Wind Advisory" in effect where I was driving, so it made for a tight grip on the steering wheel. Luckily we had a heavy load, so it wasn't too bad for me. But some of these lighter trucks had their trailers being blown around pretty good. Kind of scary to watch! I was still able to keep the truck in a pretty straight line even with the high winds. And no, I didn't try to dodge any of the 12-million tumbleweeds blowing across the expressway. Being passed by another truck called for an extra grip on the wheel, but all in all I feel I handled it very well and never felt in danger.

At about 5 pm, my instructor woke up and told me to pull into a truck stop that was coming up. We got fuel, had some dinner, then went back to the truck. My trainer decided it was best to wait out the winds, so we just hung around and got some rest until about midnight. This also allowed us to bypass the weigh stations in California since they are usually closed at night.

My instructor drove through the night and into California. We had to go just outside of Los Angeles so I'm glad he took command. It was bumper to bumper at 5:15 AM. Apparently rush hour starts early in Los Angeles! We finally got to the receiver and had to wait about an hour to get unloaded. Since we don't have any dispatched load yet, we're just sitting at a truck stop out here waiting to be dispatched.

So now is probably a good time to get some rest!

Until next time, drive safely!


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