Happy Mid-November to all. I’m on the road, but sidelined for snowy weather/roads for a couple hours, so, candle glowing, bunk heater heating, and football game on the radio, the only thing that’s missing is hot cocoa and a candy cane! The snow sure is pretty and has certainly boosted my Christmas spirits. :0)
How have things been in your world since my last post? I hope all of the joys or difficulties you go through every day keep you strong.
I wanted to tell you a bit about my new gig at work. You may have read my other post about FlatBed Training (Schneider internal training) After training, I transferred to a dedicated account moving PODs containers around the whole country. I’ve mostly still been on the eastern side of the US these initial weeks, but I will have opportunities to go out west. I have to tell you all though, I have found a great fit here now at Schneider. The ironic thing though to me is that when I was in CDL School at BRCC in January of 2020, they had a couple of recruiters visit our class to tell us a bit about their companies, and TMC a well known flat-bedding company was invited one day and although I loved the unique challenges to flat bedding, I had to face the reality that one physicality associated with flat-bedding (tarping in inclement weather) would force a pass to this type of trucking for me. Yet, here I am today hauling a flat-bed! The caveat is that the dedicated account I joined does not require tarping. It has a physical component though, which is strapping. You saw that in my flat-bed training post. We need to toss straps over the containers for load securement.
There are federal rules of load securement. One is the strapping used. There are different working load limits (WLLs) on straps, and the weight and size of the cargo being secured will determine how many straps of which size need to be used. Across the board I will be using 4″ straps with WLL of 5,400 lbs. The larger containers (16′ length) will take three straps, and the smaller ones (8′ length) will take two. These are the top tools I use for the job: Hard hat, strapping, gloves, winch bar (“Cheater-bar”), and winder.
Well, tossing straps is not easy! It’s not necessarily the weight of the straps, but getting the height — up and over the containers. Not all find this challenging in the least, but some do, myself included! There are tips and tricks, and as I’ve been on this account now for about 3 weeks, I’ve tried a few things, and nothing fit my physique. I tried praying before each toss “God, please help a sista out.”, only to have the rolled strap bounce a foot or two shy of the top, and plunge back to me. I’d gotten a few up but not completely over, as my heart leapt that it was high enough, then sank as I heard the tell-tale thud followed by silence which meant it had landed flat out on top. The goal is to toss it in such a way that the inertia unrolls the strap after it hits, thereby unraveling across and then down the other side. I’ve known men who told me that they’ve thrown their shoulders out in the endeavours to conquer this feat. Being a gal supported me a bit in these past 3 weeks, as a few fellas saw my struggles and tossed ’em for me, lol. I was successful on a few occasions, but yesterday’s pick up was the FIRST I did all on my own, and with confidence! Funny enough as well: I did it in the pouring rain! Funny because after re-boarding my awesome house on wheels, drawing the curtains to change from drenched clothes into dry clothes, I found myself smiling! Smiling that I had just tossed what quickly became muddy straps, in the pouring rain, and it didn’t even bother me?! Pretty profound… Here’s why:
There’s no doubt that I was blessed to get on this account. Ever since passing training (during as well), and even with a bump on my very first assignment, my stress levels have come down, and my morale has come up. The challenge of the strap tossing remained my largest challenge to conquer. This is where The Angel comes into my story.
Sunny, dry, and in the upper 60’s F at one of the Ohio PODs depots, and a jolly, mid-50’s gentleman with white hair and whiskers and of shorter stature, took it upon himself to spend time teaching me to fish.
Twenty plus years in the biz, a Military Veteran, and having been a driver instructor at one time, he freely helped me. Afterwards I felt as though I was in an episode of a Christmas movie on the Hallmark channel!
Other drivers, as well as the depot staff & forklift operators at these locations have all been quite a friendly lot. I feel comfortable greeting everyone with a smile and it’s returned. I mention my newness and ask what their procedures are. Most of the time I watch the other drivers as I approach the scene so I can see what they are doing regarding where they park, orienting their trucks for loading, whether they move their rigs to perform the load securement, or strap where they are… simple common sense things… This day was no different. There were about 4 other drivers as this was a larger hub, so I chatted up this one fella to see “What are the procedures here…” kind of thing. He was next in line as there was a truck in the designated loading spot. He told me how it goes at that hub, we chit-chatted a bit. The superficial and somewhat predictable, ‘I’m new, and he’s been out here 20 something years’ kind of thing, and then he offered me a “Do you want to learn the easiest way to do the straps? I can show you how I do 3 at once.” to which I enthusiastically replied “Heck yeah! I’ll take all tips I can get! Thank you so much!” He said “Okay, I gotta pull up now; after you check in come over and I’ll show you.” By the time I checked in, the forklift wizard gal was loading him, so I watched. When she finished, and as he climbed his rig to move it out of the loading zone, and he tossed me a “You’re next, so after I pull forward, line your rig up here…” I diligently obliged. We used the time it took Gina (the forklift wizard) to retrieve my assigned containers in that big ol’ lot for him to demonstrate how he did his straps.
He stacked the clip sides of three straps one on top of the other along the rub rail on the flat bed, and then just loosely pulled the straps out so none were tangled. Then he showed me the “tosser” he made. I need to come up with a name for it; if he used one, I cannot recall that detail. As you see in the photo below, he took a metal clip from a spent strap, and in essence tied a long enough rope around it so that when tossed over top, it hung low enough to grab on the other side of the container, and with a loop tied around the three stacked clips (above), he now had a pulley to tug those 3 straps over the top of the load! I was amazed! The metal clip had a nice medium weight to it and with very minimal effort it can be slung up and over the thirteen foot-six inch tall by eight foot wide boxes pulling the rope along with it, have it drop to the other side, without damaging the cargo!
After Gina loaded me up, I pulled my rig off the loading zone pad to stage it so I could continue assisting my new friend while he taught me his strapping method. Then we went to my rig and true to the 3 step training methodology:
- Demonstrate the steps to the trainee (which we did at his truck).
- Trainee does it while the trainer assists (box 1 at my truck)
- Trainee executes by themselves (box 2 at my truck)
I was just amazed at how this fella gave of his own time to teach me to fish. I was almost gushing like a school girl in way because until him, I did not know how I was going to master this key that set me free in this new role. Relying on others is not my best forte, nor would I be a success on this new account if I wasn’t self-sufficient. Thanks to the kindness of this gentleman, I am now self sufficient in this role. Here is the *Hallmark Moment*:
After I completed the ‘doing it on my own’ step of the above process, he said to me, “Now this is yours.” as he handed me his tosser tool! “Whaaaaaaaat?!?!” my jaw dropped. “Are you serious?!” I quizzed in surprise. He replied, “Absolutely; I have others in my gear box.” I’m not used to being on the receiving end of things, being the empath and giver in most of my daily interactions. I think I was just overwhelmed at the whole experience which in its entirety was maybe an hour or slightly more, because I knew before he even gifted me with what amounts materialistically to a string and a clip, that God had indeed “helped this sista out” as I had earnestly prayed with each roll toss up until that day. I know that God heard me the first time, but for some reason, just muttering it under my breath over and over, helped keep tears at bay at my growing number of unsuccessful tosses, and fears of being without someone to help get the straps over at some point, which would be inevitable. I tried giving the man a few gift cards that I carry around and gift to colleagues anonymously… he blatantly refused them. I climbed into my cab to get one of my books, and I tried on the spot to scribble some kind of amazing thank you on the front page, but as I stepped back out book in hand, I saw his truck rolling out! Wait!! What??! This is the moment in the movie where the mystery angel disappears and the scene is filled with a sparkly trail, and the star is left shaking their head, mesmerized as to the gift left to them, wondering “Was this real, or did I dream this?” haha.
I wasn’t dreaming… At my next pick up, I did indeed still have the tool, (haha) and secured my load all on my own — in the pouring rain –but all by myself.
I hope you enjoyed this little tale of joy. I’m grateful to this fellow driver, and find it funny how he “Artsy’d” me. LOL What he did for me is what I try to do for others. Being on the receiving end felt pretty darn good, I must say.
I wish you all a great Thanksgiving, and soon thereafter an amazing Christmas. I will be out here on the road, with my new goals of delivering folks’ personal treasures safely and securely. If you see a PODs hauler, send me a thought or two… I think of many of you much more often than I’m ever able to communicate to you.
Love, Hugs, Miles & Smiles,