Intro to Trucking: What’s It Really Like Trucking, Part 7

July 15, 2012

By Timothy D. Brady

This month we see what our two first-year truckers do for entertainment/enjoyment on the road and their newest experiences. Ben’s just entering his second solo month. Eve’s in her ninth month, has concluded the training company she’d selected wasn’t a match, and she’s searching for her next carrier.

What’s your favorite thing to do after a long day of driving?

BEN: Take a hot shower; walk around, eat, talk with other drivers, call home – not necessarily in that order. Step one – get on the truckstop’s shower list. I’ve learned from around 6pm – midnight has the longest wait.
EVE: I like to find a truckstop with a Driver’s Lounge and watch TV or a movie to wind down. If I don’t have that option, then I read.

What do you do during a 34-hour restart?

BEN: I do laundry, get plenty of rest, go over my truck really good. If I’ve got repairs or maintenance issues, it’s best to know it at the start of the 34 hours, where the truck can go into the shop.

EVE: On a 34, I get laundry done, clean up my truck, watch TV and read. I like to hang out with the other drivers. I’ve learned a lot of things listening to veteran drivers.

Where’s your favorite place for a 34-hour restart?

BEN: Probably Petro, where they have the movie lounge and sit-down restaurant. Or a Love’s; they’re usually clean and their laundry room isn’t as busy as at Petros’.

EVE: I like to reset somewhere I have family. I also like to reset at truck stops with theatre rooms or other things going on within walking distance

Challenges in the past month? 

BEN: The biggest challenge? Knowing in what gear to drive down a mountain. The rule in trucking school says one lower than what’s necessary to climb the same hill. If I’m going down a mountain, how the heck would I know what gear I’d be in to climb the dang thing?! A veteran trucker recommended I should come to a complete stop at the top of a mountain and slowly shift to the next gear as I descend. Then check how the truck speed responds to each gear, taking my foot off the accelerator to see if the truck slows or maintains its downhill momentum without increasing speed. When you’ve reached the speed at which the truck neither slows down nor speeds up, you’ve arrived at the optimal gear for that grade and your truck weight. He told me over time this method would help me instinctively learn the best gear for all kinds of downhill runs. However, I think his last advice was the most valuable, “When in doubt, go as slow as you feel safe, regardless of that trucking cowboy behind you. This is one lesson you don’t want to learn from a mistake.

EVE: The only thing challenging me right now is finding another company. I’m weighing my options and really checking them out this time, asking lots of questions. My investigation would make a CSI investigator proud.

Any interesting experiences?

BEN: My first time with a loaded truck; Pigeon River Gorge on the Tennessee/ North Carolina border. At the top of the mountain, all trucks exit; I thought it was a weigh station. But as I moved up through the line, there’s a sign with a map showing all the turns and recommended truck speeds. I read the sign, wiped the sweat from my palms numerous times, started down the hill, and up-shifted gears as the veteran trucker told me. I reached that optimum gear; switched on the Jake Brake and never touched the brakes all the way to the bottom. (My palms continued to sweat all the way to the bottom, though.)

EVE: My favorite experience has been stopping overnight in Paradise, Pennsylvania, in the heart of Amish country. I read about it and the surrounding towns in my books, learning about the Amish and their lifestyle. I finally got to experience Shoo Fly Pie, and loved it!

Advice for someone just finishing driving school?

BEN: Talk to veteran drivers. Don’t get in a hurry. Don’t do anything you feel unsafe doing, even if your dispatcher tells you to.

EVE: My advice to new drivers is to really check out companies before signing on. Go to area truck stops and talk to the other drivers.

Make sure that company fills your needs. Some companies are full of empty promises.

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

© 2012 Timothy Brady

To contact Brady go to www.truckersu.com or call 731.749.8567