Story by Jason H.
Choose Your Own Adventure
I’ll always remember my first assignment when I became a truck driver: I got to pick my own truck! A driver’s truck is about as personal as you can get. Think about it – You’ll sit in the seat for hours at a time, getting out only for deliveries, pick-ups, fuel stops, and potty breaks. You’ll not only drive the truck, but you sleep in it too. It’s more than your home away from home; it IS your home. For weeks at a time.
I can remember asking drivers pulling in to the distribution centers about their trucks. Some swore by Kenworth, some swore by Volvo, others by Peterbuilt. I think you get the idea.
When I got the chance to choose, the trucking company had some Peterbuilt 379’s and some Peterbuilt 387’s and one lonely Kenworth.
I went with the Kenworth, not because I was smart enough to know the difference, but just because I wanted to be different! They had all those Peterbuilt tractors and just that one Kenworth. I don’t know – maybe I felt sorry for it, all alone like that.
I got all my gear packed into my first truck, ready for my first solo load. What gear, you ask? If you’re going to be on the road for a week or two, think of what you’ll need. I packed water, food, sheets, blankets, clothes, and my GPS, to mention a few. And I can tell you now that after your first trip, you’ll have a whole list of what you forgot! Anyway, after packing up, I completed my pre-trip inspections and off I went.
Secure the Load
I picked up a load of spooled underground cable in South Carolina headed to somewhere in Ohio. I learned how to secure these cable loads at TMC, but I didn’t quite know how to pass a chain through the “eye” of two of the spools. The spool eye isn’t big enough to crawl through, and tossing that heavy chain through to the other side of the trailer was a chore and a half.
But, as luck would have it, right alongside me while I was securing my load was another flatbed driver securing his load. He could see my predicament and kindly offered me the use of his homemade “pass the chain through the eyes” tool. There’s a lot of driver comradery in this business.
The Right Truck
Now that I’m loaded I double checked the load, got on the scales, and weighed in around 78,000 pounds. Finally, head out onto the Interstate and only then find out this poor old Kenworth suddenly hasn’t got enough power to get up to speed, much less make it to Ohio. I guess I picked the wrong truck…
Back to the shop we go! The mechanics jumped right on the rig and in a few minutes advised me the turbocharger had seized. Great! Now what? So they got me another truck.
I move all my gear from one truck to another, and finally, late in the day, I’m off to Ohio. One thing about this second truck, a Peterbuilt 379, it had the most comfortable seat ever installed in a truck. It had at least 10 different adjustments. If you couldn’t get comfortable in this seat, you’d never get comfy-cozy in any seat.
And the cab had all the bells and whistles, bar none; lane departure warnings, collision warnings, heated remote mirrors, satellite radio and leather seats to name a few. I didn’t spend much time in the Kenworth, so I couldn’t really make a fair comparison between the two, but – be assured – TMC does all it can to make the driver feel at home in their trucks.
The Wrong Route
Being a rookie, I punched the route to Ohio into my GPS and went where it told me. Bad move! I did, of course, refer to my Motor Carriers’ Road Atlas to make sure I wasn’t on roads I shouldn’t have been on, but when you get into remote areas the atlas doesn’t help much at that point.
Again, being a rookie driver, I went to the wrong location. Why? Because, so many places have names for roads that are the same, except one is a street and the other an avenue, or one is south and the other north, etc. My GPS obviously didn’t know the difference, and as a result, instead of being where I should have been, I wound up in the middle of nowhere… somewhere in the middle of Ohio… in the middle of some farmer’s farm!
Fortunately for me, I wasn’t the first driver to have gone to the wrong address. This kindly old farmer came out and told me this happens all the time. He gave me directions to the address I should’ve been at. Luckily, I was only about 15 minutes away.
On the Road Again
Now that I knew the way, I made tracks for the other address and got there about five minutes to five in the afternoon. I was immediately told they close at 5:00 PM, and I wouldn’t get unloaded until the next day. I explained my delay caused by the truck change and the address fiasco, and the guy was kind enough to get me unloaded. I think he felt sorry for me, being a Friday and all, having to sit in a truck stop for the weekend. Phew.
What did I learn after my very first solo trip? First, no matter how much stuff you pack, you’re still going to have to use the truck stops for things you forgot. To give you an idea, I go to fill out my log book the very first day and can’t believe I don’t have a pen! Or, my very first night in the truck and I don’t have a pillow!
Second, make use of all the technology that’s out there. I learned on subsequent trips to use my cell phone and Google maps to get aerial views of the delivery locations and my pick-up locations to avoid the “middle of nowhere” location syndrome.
Lastly, don’t ever put yourself in a bad situation. If you’re not sure about something, pull over, work out the details, plan the trip. And always do like the mirror says if you’re not sure – GET OUT AND LOOK. Better safe than sorry. Happy trucking!