Heading out OTR…

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Welcome and thanks for your support by visiting my blog!

Wow! I graduated orientation at my new job. Cake and all, haha. Figured I’d share my experiences with it. It was after all, the first two weeks of my new job, new career, and let’s face it; new lifestyle. Being an OTR (over-the-road) truck driver is not just a job, it’s a lifestyle. You’re living in a Truck House.

There are many different ways to earn a living as a truck driver, such as Regional Routes, where drivers are usually home every few days, or at most out probably only a week. There are also Dedicated Routes, which basically deliver to a certain customer, and could be home daily. Not to mention the type of freight you haul. Refrigerated Units, Dry Units, Tankers, Flatbeds, and Container Freight to name the general top five. I’m starting off in Dry Van Truckload, which means non- temperature controlled commodities, and that my van/box will be full of freight.

My employer, Schneider National, is a very safety oriented company. “Safety First and Always” is their top core value. I’m pretty excited to be employed with them!

Orientation,

as you may imagine, was a mixture of classroom, road, backing, and slow maneuvers.

Class:

paperwork on company-specific policies, federal regulations, logistical ways of planning your routes, technology use (Electronic Logs and Tablets)

Road Driving:

The particular job I am hired into is 95% drop and hook, so I learned and practiced how to couple and un-couple trailers! LIKE A BOSS haha. I can’t wait to make some videos of this stuff for you all! I didn’t do any yet, coz orientation was my main focus (pun intended) these past two weeks. As for road driving, CDL school was mostly just basics – you know, enough to pass the test to get my license. I hadn’t ever done a button-hook turn, nor did I do big-city driving. So, we did that all here. I drove past the Carolina Panthers stadium a few times! I can’t say that I’m 100% consistent yet on my turns, meaning sometimes I can be spot-on and sometimes I can be a bit wide, but that will tighten up with continuity. I didn’t hit curbs; that’s a big no-no.

One funny (or not so funny) thing with city driving is that the lanes are extraordinarily narrow, and in downpours, I cannot control where the puddles are. So, there was one day a pedestrian even tho well onto the sidewalk, may have felt a bit of a splash as I drove by…I slowed (only because there were no cars behind me in my lane) to minimize the impact, BUT I am just not able to drift nilly-willy in between lanes, nor slow and speed up confusing drivers behind me just to avoid those unfortunate splashes, and I’m regulated to the right-most lane in most cases anyway.

So, they were training a new trainer and I ended up with two trainers in my truck, which is a definite drag – especially when the two of them disagree on something. Not bickering disagreements by any means, just the one didn’t know the routes exact yet. I just rolled with it, but there was one time near the end when I just grew a bit weary of the dual confusion method, and one told me turn right at the next light, the other said gently, “I think we wanna go straight here” So, fortunately, approaching the light I was in a straight or right turn turn lane, you know with those huge white directional arrows on the tarmac, so I just said “Well, I’m in a straight ‘or’ right turn lane, so I’ll just continue here until you guys decide”. LOL! It actually worked in my favor a bit coz, it demonstrated I was scanning far enough and knew what the road signs were telling me, which is very crucial when driving a 70-foot and up to 80,000 lb missile.

Backing

at first was a struggle which frustrated me a bit, because I had done so well at school. I realized that by the trainer continually asking me to articulate what I was doing before I did it, disrupted my flows. For me in particular, I’m a nervous test-taker, so being constantly asked “What will you do here?” was like taking 50 mini-tests an hour.. Ahhhhh!.. lol… FINALLY! The senior trainer dude caught on to that and very professionally told the other guy to shut the heck-up and leave me be. Once they did that, I did 4 successful, back to back parking maneuvers at an avg of 15 minutes each. The slow-course maneuvers I did well.

I got a driving review after week 1. The trainers scored me on a point system and gave remarks. I was a bit short on all. But I’m like the pony at the races who breaks last and finishes strong haha. That’s the first time I’ve ever put it that way. Hmmm. I’m hoping I will remember that next time I feel I’m falling short, because it takes me on a bit of a roller coaster along the way, experiencing doubts and fears usually accompanied by me declaring “I just don’t get it!” lol. I laugh now, as I’m writing this, but it’s not always so funny as the tears of confusion and frustration roll down my cheeks in discouragement and despair.

BeStillI also need to remember that “If it’s supposed to be, it will be”. Biblically, a scripture that fits here is Psalm 46:10.  10 Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.

Shortened, I often see art that says “Be Still and know.”

 

This piece of art available on Pinterest

Kind of interesting that at this time of writing we are in a time of a Co-Vid19 virus pandemic. The earth has implemented a social distancing policy, stay at home orders, curfews, and similar protocols to curtail the virus’ spread. If you read the context of Psalm 46:

46 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High.God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted.The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he hath made in the earth.He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire.10 Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.11 The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.

Meditate on that as you will.

I haven’t taken many photos, but here are a few of the area.  Downtown Charlotte, I snapped only a few from when I first arrived.  Like many of you, we are now on pandemic lockdown, and even though I have an “essential worker” pass, I’ve been so busy with orientation.  Maybe tomorrow before I head to Myrtle Beach…

Where I go from here…

I travel to Myrtle Beach, SC to meet my Over-The-Road mentor-trainer! At my company they are called Training Engineers. I’m so excited! I will be doing 90% of the work, while he guides, teaches, corrects, provides feedback, tips – all that! We will be in his truck. I will sleep in the truck and he in a hotel (because of the gender mix). His name is Dean. Even though we will be 2 in the truck, we are running it as a solo – not a team. The easiest way to explain that is “teams” move the trucks [basically] 24/7 where 1 drives, the other sleeps, then they switch spots, but are still moving. So theoretically double the miles that a solo might run. Solo trucks drive their 11 max hours per day, and the truck is then parked. I know before I really knew, I always pictured a “team” as two drivers in the front seat. Not so! Which also may make me re-consider the team thing down the road a bit. I know that my employer has a program usually during November-December (heavy freight moving months) where you can team up for that temporary time-frame – more $ to the drivers and temporary experience, to try it out. I am strongly considering it!

We will be running actual freight assignment(s) / route(s) – Dean’s actual assignments – and he will communicate to corporate how I am doing, in order to correct and refine my challenge-areas so I can get into my solo truck after that week.

What will it look like going solo?

I’ll learn much more of course, after experiencing next week with Dean, but here are some definite bits from orientation as far as how things might look once I’m in my own truck.

  1. I’m the captain of my ship. To be concise? I run when I feel safe, I stop if I don’t, and I manage my own time clock.
  2. Managing my time clock is going to be a fun part for me; as I love figuring things out like that and continually streamlining the process. But what this also means is that I have the ability to give myself a breather after an assignment, or not. Say my assignment lands me in an area I want to visit a couple of hours. I manage that by making my NAT (Next Available Time) a few hours after my delivery.
  3. The way dispatching works is that the computers are going to search for the loads according to what is programmed all across the 12,000-something drivers. Now, don’t misunderstand, I am a company driver, so there is an expectation for me to run as many loads as fast as I safely can, because if I’m not running freight, no $ for company or for driver, so it’s going to be an art to productivity both for the company and for me! I like that type of freedom! We use tablets in our trucks, so I communicate those details each and every time I receive a pre-assignment.
  4. Trip-planning is a critical component to my success. We all trip plan, but in a truck there are some additional considerations.
    1. Bridges (heights)
    2. Road Axle Limits (weights)
    3. Approaches (street) at the customer pickup and delivery points
    4. Where to park (showers/food)
    5. Where to take federally mandated breaks
    6. Forecasted En-route Weather
    7. Time Zone Changes
    8. Pre-Trip Truck inspections
    9. Meals
    10. Scaling loads

There is way more, but just kind of giving you an idea of timing and regulation-type things we need to look for that will determine our ETA’s to a customer pickup/delivery.

I truly appreciate

all the kudos you guys are sending! I’m excited to be launching into an industry that is pretty critical during this time of pandemic. Shelves need to be kept stocked for all of America. We (as truckers) need to be safe while doing it. Not only care for our health, but care for all the drivers out there who are distracted due to the extreme measures in effect during this time. Agreed; the stay-at-home orders have lightened the traffic on the roadways, however, there are still a significant amount of [possibly distracted] drivers out there. Did you know that a good truck driver is driving as much for their safety as for yours?

When you see a Schneider Truck on the road, know they were trained to drive S.M.A.R.T. (My notes are in parentheses)

  • S – Scan Far and Wide (know what’s ahead)
  • M – Make my space safe (speed / following distance)
  • A – Anticipate Actions (of other motorists)
  • R – Remain Focused (remove distractions, be rested)
  • T – Tell others my plan. (signaling, horns, 4 ways) etc.

These 5 rules for defensive driving avoid a multitude of accidents. Accidents with a Tractor + Trailer are often quite horrific.

Thanks for reading or listening, and see you next time – Looking forward to sharing about my first week on the road living a real Trucking Life! If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments! I may be a little slower than usual to respond, but I will! I love that you are supporting me, and hope you find these blog posts informative and maybe even a bit inspirational!

Be well, Stay Safe, & Cheers!

JJ

xx

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