Intro to Trucking: What It’s Really Like, Part 4

April 15, 2012

Spring has finally ‘sprung’ as we continue our adventures in trucking with our two recent truck driving school graduates. If you’ve been following previous columns, we’ve had Adam and Eve (not their real names) providing us with an inside look at the challenges and experiences of being a new truck driver. Last month Adam, after running the road almost 4 months, decided the trucking life wasn’t his cup of tea. Eve, on the other hand, is forging forward, gaining her valuable first year of trucking experience.

Let me introduce our newest recent trucking school graduate, ‘Ben,’ as we’ll call him, allowing him to remain anonymous. (This provides a much freer flow of information for you, the reader.) He comes from a rural farming background, which gave him experience with maneuvering large equipment and an understanding of many of the maintenance and repair challenges he’ll face as an OTR trucker.

When we met with Ben, he was in the process of completing his orientation with his first carrier. He was just beginning his trucking career with his first step, being assigned a driver trainer. Here’s our first interview with Ben:

Why did you decide to become a trucker?

I wanted better opportunities. The area where I live has had a number of sizeable plant closings, so trucking has greatly broadened my earning possibilities. Plus I wanted to see the country and make money doing it.

How did the trucking company that hired you choose your trainer?

The company chose my trainer from the type of route I will be driving when I go solo. Also if I was a smoker or nonsmoker; other than that, I had very little input into who was to be my trainer.

What was the one thing you learned in your carrier’s orientation that caught you by surprise?

The one thing that caught me by surprise was the amount of rules and regulations of being a driver. The amount of fines; as an example, if a trucker gets caught using a hand-held cell phone while in the operation of a commercial motor vehicle, wham! a $2,500 fine. Makes you want to not even touch the dang thing when you’re in the truck. Bluetooth is in my future, my immediate future!

Our woman trucker, Eve, has just spent her winter learning the ropes of inclement driving, maneuvering 80,000 pounds through metropolitan areas and traversing mountain passes. At this point Eve is fully on her own; she’s completed her time with a driver trainer. Let’s find out how things are going as Eve looks forward to her first spring as a trucker:

At this point in your driving career, what has been the most challenging load you’ve hauled?

I had a load that was a double stack with 4 drops. Each drop was from about 35 to 90 miles apart. I had to drive through little towns with winding roads. If I’d had to hit my brakes for any reason or taken a curve too fast, my load could have shifted and my truck would have flipped.

What was the biggest lesson you learned from this particular load?

I learned to go slow and easy to each load drop, to maintain the truck’s equilibrium and balance. If the unloaders at the drop wouldn’t unstack the upper stack and adjust the load for better balance, then I would do like I did before, nice and easy on the turns, slow and steady. I kept watching the road and my surroundings. As each drop took off their portion of the load, the load would remain unbalanced. Instead of bringing the double-stack items and setting them on the trailer floor, they would leave it double-stacked, making the trailer have a high center of balance. Meaning I would have to watch my turns, braking, and not be in a hurry. Continue watching the road and my surroundings, everything so I wouldn’t need to make any sudden changes. Patience was the name of the game.

When facing a similar challenge with a load in the future, how will you handle it differently?

Next time I get a load like this, I’ll ask dispatch if they can arrange to have each stop off-load the decked pallets so it will balance out the weight a bit better. The other lesson I learned from this experience is to ask detailed questions about the load, especially when there are multiple drops and particularly when the load is double-stacked.

Here’s to your future great loads and great roads.

© 2012 Timothy Brady

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