Story by Luke N.
On my back porch I drew a deep breath of air. It was warm, balmy, loaded with the scent of inner city: greasy spoon diners, donut shops, coffee houses, and early morning cigarette smoke swam in the atmosphere with hot asphalt, the metal scrap yard, and bus fuel exhaust.
It was Monday, July 19th, my first day as a regional driver. I was a rookie wholesale truck driver, full of excitement and anxiety regarding my future.
I had been “trained” by the relief driver which wasn’t much training at all. A relief driver covers when the route driver is sick or on vacation. After three years of helping everyone else, he was ready to stop relieving and start his own route. Unfortunately for him, the boss thought otherwise, and gave me the route.
My primary concern with my lack of training was our handheld Point of Sale (POS) system. It was fairly simple, but my supposed trainer hadn’t let me use it, so I knew that it would generate challenges.
My Pre-Trip Inspection
I hoped the short drive to the warehouse was enough to soothe the nerves of a rookie driver. I entered the garage, walked into the office to retrieve my beginning day paperwork, and headed to the truck for the pre-trip inspection and load count. The load count is the paperwork that details what exactly is on the truck.
I hadn’t had to do either in “training,” because the relief guy assured me we were ready to go. On my first try, however, I immediately found problems with the truck, which I called to the warehouse boss’s attention.
“There is a gash in the sidewall of this drive-tandem tire,” I pointed out.
“Well,” he slurred over a sip of steaming coffee, “make sure to drive slow.” Not the answer I had anticipated!
“Um, this exhaust stack has a serious crack in it!” I replied.
“You’re in-town, aren’t ya? Just don’t get pulled over.” His response worried me because, though I was unlikely to see any highway patrol only driving in town, a cracked exhaust stack was an offense worthy of a ticket – which would go on my license.
“Oh. Okay,” I mumbled. As a rookie driver, I didn’t want to rock the boat. I then offered weakly, “The battery box is missing too.”
“Yeah,” he began again as slowly as the other times, “they’re on back-order.”
“Okay. Well, now that we have that out of the way, I am missing two cases,” I said, ready to get a move on with my day. Ready to get out of the warehouse.
“Yep. I saw that, too. Just wanted to make sure you caught ‘em before I fixed it.” He was testing me.
I wasn’t sure if this was his everyday attitude or not, but I left him alone, so he could go into the stacks, where all the product is warehoused, and retrieve the two cases while I started pulling down doors on the trailer.
Heading Out as a Regional Driver
Just as I finished, he came back with the two cases, put them on the truck, and I headed back inside the office to grab my POS and print off the day’s load.
Keep in mind, this was the device I wasn’t properly trained on. Anyway, I left out the big bay doors on my first solo day as a route driver.
The air rushing through the windows as I headed south increased the sense of freedom filling the cab. I had made it! I was on my own!
Having been driven to all the accounts by the relief driver, I was comfortable with the transit and how to park.
Nonetheless, I slowed on the approach to the first account and surveyed the lot to insure a safe entry. The best spot opened as I entered and I nosed in—perfect!
Rookie Driver Mistake
That’s when I noticed there wasn’t a hand-truck strapped to the bumper of my rig. I couldn’t move the truckload of product into all the accounts all day without the hand-truck!
My heart sank. I was flustered and angry with such a rookie driver mistake. I glowed red with embarrassment as I slowly pulled through the lot because I knew everyone saw me and I would have some explaining to do upon my return.
Which I did… thirty minutes later… with the hand-truck. Now I was anxious to get moving to make up time and arrive punctually at all my accounts. I had to hurry.
The Point of Sale System
I staged all the product inside the off-premise chain C-Store, printed a pick sheet, and got the manager’s attention. The manager used the pick sheet to see the invoice number, total cases being delivered, dollar amount, number of lines of product, and she entered them into her POS.
Naively, I anticipated no problems with the order, so I pushed through the sales screens to the signature screen while she scanned each stack.
“Uh-oh,” she murmured to herself before turning to me.
“What’s up?” I asked, forcing a smile. I was sweating and in a hurry.
“This product isn’t in our database. Is it new?” she inquired, looking up at me over her dark-rimmed glasses. She could tell I was a rookie.
“Uh, I don’t think so, but . . .”
“Well, either way, you’re gonna hafta take it off the invoice.”
I already pushed through the sales screens, so taking a product off the invoice meant redoing all the invoice numbers. Which meant starting all over with a new PO number.
She walked off without a word.
Still in a rush to get out of there, I was stuck waiting.
Finally, she returned five minutes later, announcing her presence with a sigh of disapproval.
“Alright, let’s try this again.”
This time, everything worked! I had her sign, printed a valid receipt, thanked her for her patience, and put the product away.
The remainder of the day rolled along more smoothly, despite playing catch up.
Looking back, I would warn myself that there will always be bumps and potholes in the road that I won’t always see—slow down a bit, think about what challenges may arise and outfit my mind, the rig, and cab with the little things.
Keep smiling, and keep on trucking!