Sunday, February 27, 2011

The trucker's test of patience

I'm only 2 weeks into my training and I'm convinced that there are many things of interest that I have yet to experience. However, there seem to be some reoccurring themes in the trucking life that I am sure I wil l have to deal with for the duration of my career on the highway.

Allow me to walk you through an oft repeated scenario, consider yourself behind the wheel for the following event.

You're chugging down the 4 lane trying to be mindful of safety and legal speed limits as well productivity and deadlines. While maintaining a safe and sane rate of speed, you find yourself gaining on a small car in the distance. As you approach the car you can see that the driver is driving with one hand on the wheel and is constantly looking down and to the right. A check of your speedometer indicates that this road bozo is traveling at about 52mph in a 55 zone. Once again, mindful of what you must accomplish in an allotted time frame, you move over to the left hand lane to pass the bozo.Once you get alongside this distracted driver, he suddenly decides to speed up slightly and match your speed. Now, bearing in mind that it is illegal for a commercial vehicle to travel in the left hand lane (except when passing), you decide to push legal boundaries and bump it up to 58mph in order to safely make it past your new nemesis. Yes, of course, bozo speeds up too. On the side of your truck is a large sign at eye level to bozo's car that reads "YOU ARE DRIVING IN MY BLIND SPOT". Bozo must not have graduated 1st grade because he takes the next 5 miles to study this sign in very close proximity. About this time, he gets another call/text on his phone and goes back to being distracted and slows down to 52mph. Finally, you get past him and are able to move into the right hand lane. As soon as you reach the right hand lane, you also reach the base of a hill. As you succumb to the forces of gravity that place an undo and unfair burden on 80K lbs, the bozo in the little car passes you. Being a small hill, you quickly negotiate the ascent and descent and find level ground on the other side. About this time, you once again find yourself quickly approaching the same bozo that you just took 5 miles to pass on the other side of the hill. Now, go back to the beginning of this paragraph and read it again, 5 times!

So, I guess I'm learning patience. But, I've always said "patience is for people that don't have something important to do".


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The biggest hurdle to becoming a trucker has been overcome

There are many steps that one must take to become a long haul truck driver. Some are easy, some are down right scary. To me, the scariest step, the one that almost turned me away from trucking, has now become the best part of my journey into trucking so far.

After completing trucking school and passing the necessary State tests, you must then select a company that you deem worthy of your highly qualified services. Once this company is chosen, you attend an orientation that lasts anywhere from 3 to 5 days. During this orientation, you are not yet an employee, it's more like a job interview. If you pass their interview process, they then pair you with a trainer who will take you over the road and show you the ropes. This was the hurdle that I wasn't sure I could get over.

The training period that the different companies offered varied greatly. One company wanted me to train for 8 weeks, one for 6 weeks and 2 others told me that their training would last about 3 weeks. Now, bear in mind, the sleeper berths on modern trucks are quite roomy. At the same time, you must also consider what exactly you would call "roomy" when sharing quarters with a complete stranger. For this reason, I selected the company that had the shortest training period. I knew that if there was one thing that would prevent me from making it through training, bunking with another trucker would be it. However, I knew I had to cross this hurdle, as difficult as it was.

On Monday I received a call from a Driver Manager informing me that they had located a trainer for me. She said the trainer would give me call and tell me when and where to meet him. I started packing my bags to prepare for my dreaded and disgusting road trip when the call from my trainer came in. Much to my surprise, and elation, he told me that he only ran local routes and was home every night. I can't even begin to tell you excited I was to hear that!!!!

The local gig is awesome! We are running mostly shipping containers back and forth from a mill in St Helens to a Rail yard in Portland. The trainer I got is a good guy, close to my age and he rides a motorcycle. The thing that I like best about him, I have no idea if he snores or not, and I'm OK with keeping it that way.

Sooo thankful for this!!!

Monday, February 7, 2011

I May be orientated

It's been over a week since I updated my blog. If there was anything exciting about the last week, I must have slept through it. I finished the truck driving school on January 27th and didn't really have a lot to do in the week off. I did go back to the DMV and take a few more tests for endorsements. As of now, I am qualified to haul HazMat, tankers and doubles/triples. I've decided that I don't want a passenger endorsement because I have NO desire to drive a school bus full of kids. Nothing against the kido's, I just don't want to deal with ya.

This morning I started orientation with May Trucking Co. I'm not officially an employee of May until I complete their 3 day process of being orientated. The day started off with me having to fork over all paper work they required. I had to prove to them that I did in fact graduate from a trucking school and that I was an American citizen. Then, they took me out on a road test in a tractor. Bearing in mind that all tractors are a little different and all transmissions feel a little different, I was put in trucks that I was completely unfamiliar with and told my future with company depends on my performance. I'm happy to report that the road test went well.

After the road test, they treated all the new guys to a free lunch at Hometown Buffet. This was an unexpected benefit. Tomorrow, I'm wearing pants with large pockets. When you're unemployed, free groceries are like manna from heaven.

After lunch, I was taken to the back of the yard were lots of cones were placed way to close to each other. I was then tasked with trying to navigate a tractor with 53 foot of trailer behind it through the cones in both forward and reverse. The object of the exercise was to negotiate your way through tight spaces without killing any of the cones.

Since I was not the cause of an untimely demise of any traffic cones, I was invited back to join them for a second day of orientation. We shall see what tomorrow brings.