When I'm stopped and don't have internet, I type up my experiences from that day. Here is how my adventure is going so far.
So, 3 weeks after starting training, I received my first load information on a Monday afternoon. They gave it to me so late in the day on Monday that I decided to wait until Tuesday before heading out. I still had no clue what to do, how to request the empty trailer on the Qualcomm, where to even find the empty trailer, etc. Another student told me they said they would help us with trip planning in the morning, too. So that night I spent my first night in the sleeper of my truck. I didnt sleep very well, I was nervous, to the point of my stomach feeling pretty queasy.
The next day once the instructors and DBLs and everyone else arrived I went in looking for the guy who said he would help us with the trip planning never saw him. Some of the instructors that we worked with during the first week were there and saw me and took a look at the load I had planned for me.
It was about a thousand miles, taking an empty from the OC in NC to a facility near the NC/VA border, and picking up my first loaded trailer there, weighing 46,000lbs. Its a good load they said, as each rambled off about a route they would take. If you drive 11 hours today, and 11 hours tomorrow, that puts you right on time. The leader of the group overheard us talking about the load and some of the questions I had and told me he had about an hour before he had to start doing anything, so he offered to show me how to get the empty trailer, basically get me started so I could get out of the gate.
I ended up at the fuel island at the OC with the empty trailer behind me. He hopped out of the truck.
At this point I was on my own. So much for help with that trip plan. I have absolutely no idea what I am doing.
So, I fuel up my truck, add some washer fluid to the empty tank, and headed out the gate. For the first time I got to use MY driver number instead of one of the instructors.
My load was waiting about an hour and a half from where I left in Charlotte. The Qualcomm told me I was at the destination so I turned in the first truck entrance I saw. I ended up at a small lot, saw a man walking towards me and figured I was at the right spot. He asked are you here for so and so? Yeah I told him. Then he points down the road. Wrong spot, it must happen a lot because he saw the Schneider truck coming from down the road and was already waiting to point me in the right direction.
So, I head out of that lot, find the right one Im supposed to be at and go up to the entrance. Someone warned me about having to slide your tandems back before theyll even let you in at this place, so I stopped on the side and did so. Pulling up closer to the gate, I see the sign. Im glad I got that heads up.
After getting my paperwork I head through the gate to drop my empty and pick up my load 2 spots away. After hooking up to my load, I tried to call the guy who was going to help with our trip planning for our first couple loads. He wasnt there, I left a message. Never did hear back. So, I called my DBLs number she wasnt there either, but someone else answered. I asked about scaling a load for the first time, do I leave the tandems all the way back or slide them? Try the 14[SUP]th[/SUP] hole she says. At this point I learn the importance of having a bar to stop the tandems when they get to the right hole. I dont have one. It took more than a few tries to stop in the right spot. Finally, though, I got it and headed to the scale at the facility. 8 bucks out of my pocket later, Im on the scale for the first time. I sat and waited and waited, finally someone comes out with some paperwork. Over by quite a bit on the drive axles. She says I have 2 free re-weighs, so I pull off the scale and start digging through my books that Schneider gave me. I couldnt find anything about how much weight each hole changed. Was it 250 pounds? 500? Or was that on the 5[SUP]th[/SUP] wheel? ####. I got on my laptop and did a quick Google search and saw a various range of 250-500 pounds per hole. Oh well, lets try 250 per hole and adjust it.
So, after a little bit more fighting to get aligned to the right hole again, I pull around for my re-weigh. Still over on the drive axles. Ok, one free re-weigh left. Adjust 1 or 2 holes, then go back around for the last time. Got it. Guess what I weighed in at? 78,000lbs. Wow. I was not expecting that for my first load. Nor to have to take it 900+ miles. Nor to have to go through the Northeast.
So, I head out. I drive until I have about 3 hours left on my 14 and start looking for a spot to park. I cant find any. Everyone told me its hard to find somewhere to stop. The leader of the instructor said stop before it gets dark. Yeah, OK, when you send me off at 9am its gonna look great for me to have a total of about 6 driving hours for the day, then have to magically drive 700 miles the next to get the load there on time. I finally run across a rest area, I pull in ####, no room. I went to the end and stopped in the no parking area and decided to call the after-hours service and get some help. She looks up where my truck is and offers some suggestions, but to be honest I really had absolutely no idea where they were. I have no clue where I am in the first place. So, I get on my laptop and see there is a rest area about 50 miles ahead, and the route matched what my Qualcomm wanted me to take.
After really considering staying in the no-parking zone, I decide to go ahead and try to reach this next rest area. I was mentally exhausted from the first day. I had asked the after-hours lady about what could happen if I stayed the night in the no-parking zone. Her response was simply I dont know. I searched on Googleparking in no parking zone at rest area and the first thing that came up was something about trucker being found guilty in the death of a motorist because his truck was parked in the no-parking area of a rest stop and a car lost control on the freeway and somehow ended up hitting his truck. Because he was not supposed to be stopped there, it was the truckers fault. Yeah, Im gonna keep on going.
After what was by far the longest and most stressful hour and 15 minutes of driving for me so far I reached the rest stop entrance. Trucks are parked on the entrance road where there was a big paved shoulder. I didnt see any no parking signs. Good enough for me. Minutes later, another truck pulls in behind me. Well, at least if Im doing it wrong, Im not the only one. I definitely wasnt about to risk driving through the rest area and find it completely full and then what run out of hours? Nope, Im done for the night.
Day by day adventures of a new solo OTR driver
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I start out by looking at my mileage for the previous day. Only 400 miles... getting everything scaled right took me longer than expected, and 78,000lbs had me dropping gears on even the slightest hill. I called my DBL and explained that I would be cutting it too close trying to get this load there on time today. She says "just keep driving" and tells me to call her when I get about 4 hours down the road.
My driving adventures today took me over the George Washington bridge. I had no clue what to expect. Dear God. Talk about getting thrown right into the gauntlet. 78,000lbs of bright orange Schneider truck going through lanes that felt like they were an inch wider than my truck. At one point I look up at a tunnel I'm about to go through and read "12'6" or something similar off to the side. Oh ****. I didn't see any signs about this earlier! I glance back in my mirror and see other trucks following behind me. Hmmm... OH WELL TOO LATE NOW. Hey, it fit. The next one comes up and I see these signs again. I now realize that they are probably talking about the outer lanes of the curved-roof tunnel. It's a good thing I'm in the center with my 13'6" trailer huh. I finally clear the bridge, tunnels, and traffic and keep heading north on I-95. The roof is still attached to the trailer, I'm not dragging along any cars, but I'm pretty sure that event took about 10 years off of my life.
Today, I also learned about TOLL BOOTHS. Being from the south I have no clue how these work other than this giant purple sign that reads EZ-PASS matches what is written on the little blue box on the windshield of my truck. So I aim for those lanes. No one else is stopping, so I just slow down and roll through the first one. I see a lot of lights, and finally see PAID come up on this monitor. Was that for me or the guy in front of me? Oh well, slam it in 5[SUP]th[/SUP] gear and begin my 20 minute climb back to 60mph with this God-forsaken load.
I finally reach my first fuel stop. Its jam-packed. There is someone there guiding trucks into pumps. Another yelling over the intercom for drivers who aren't fueling to get out of the pumps. Great, let's see how many stopped trucks and fuel pumps I can take out with my trailer on this first try. Luckily, I get fueled without issue. I pulled out of the pumps and went inside to look for some kind of a truck stop/rest area guide. Didn't find anything. Oh well, I'm burning daylight at this point so I head back out to my truck and call my DBL to give her the update. I didn't reach my DBL, but got to someone else. "This is your first load? Oh you poor thing." she says. I told her my situation and she tells me to drive until about 1800 (*counts on fingers.... That's what, oh, 6pm) and start looking for a place to stop, then get up at about 4-5am and have it there by 9am. "Oh but wait, they only have a delivery window of a few hours in the evening" I tell her. "Don't worry," she says, "Your DBL knows that and has it taken care of". Yeah, right.
Later on that day I learn about TOLL BOOTHS AGAIN. At this point I've been through several and realize that while the North doesn't want to admit that they like redneck stuff such as drag strips like we do in the south, this is basically what a toll booth is. A giant 10 lane wide drag strip that narrows down to 3 and the loser gets cut off. So this time I follow the other trucks through the EZ-PASS lane figuring that that's kinda where I belong too. Except as I'm doing so I realize at this particular toll my exit is across all 10 lanes on the other side and there is almost no room left to get over. GREEN LIGHT = GO says the toll booth PAID sign. I mash the throttle to the floor as the cab torques over to the side in the old Detroit Series 60's best attempt to get this trailer moving faster than 10mph. "WE ROLLIN NOW!!!" I laugh to myself as I remember my buddy I used to work with yelling this every time he balanced tires at the shop. I don't know why it reminded me of that. I beeline diagonally across to my exit on the other side watching my mirror waiting for someone to cut me off like they've been doing all day long. I MADE IT! I glance in the mirrors at the line of angry cars swerving behind me realizing that they're going to have to deal with me taking these curves at 30mph for the next ¼ of the on-ramp. Jesus. What have I gotten myself into.
So, at 6:30 pm (wait, that's uhh... 1830, right?) I find a rest area to pull off in. There is tons of snow piled up, but trucks are parked alongside the snow so I do my best to get out of the way and call it a night here. Its 24* outside, so I can't idle. #### you ambient temperature sensors. I make myself a peanut butter sandwich and then climb into bed. I turn on my bunk heater and realize that if I trap my blanket in the slide-out tray it funnels all the warm air from the vent into my sleeping bag. The cab might get cold, but, I will say, I have had no trouble keeping warm when sleeping in my truck so far. However, getting dressed in the morning is pretty chilly even with the bunk heater left on all night. So far my batteries haven't given me any trouble and I can run it as long as I need. But I also don't use the bunk lights much, nor my inverter at all at night.
I wake up at 4:15am and pre-trip my truck. Its 20 degrees out now. I walk over to the building to use the bathroom and brush my teeth. CLOSED FOR RENNOVATIONS it says. Great. So, I get back in my truck and take off. Driving adventures beside, I reach the destination after missing it the first go-round. I found a place to turn around it. All the puddles were frozen. It was an interesting ride for someone who never grew up around ice in parking lots. So, I head inside with my paperwork and they tell me I'll have to use their lumper service (I still have no clue about this at all really other than to call the lumper hotline, I give them some information, they give me some to put on a check, and then these guys unload my trailer) and that I won't be able to unload until 9:30. It's about 7:45am now. Ok, can I park here until they are ready? "We mean 9:30pm" she says. Great, now I've got to sit around for 13 hours. So I call my DBL and after a lot of sitting on hold she says "sorry I can't find someone else who can deliver it for you, so you'll have to wait, but I'll compensate you for the time." So, I figure I'll at least be able to get on the internet with my Millinecom modem. Nope, it picks up some network that's on the roaming list, and I'm not gonna rack up a $350 bill for 5 minutes of internet usage. It's getting cold in the cab, can I idle? It's 20* out, not 19*, so NOPE says the ATS. Off to the sleeper, curtains closed and bunk heater on while I type this. I built a lego model I threw in my bag at the last moment when I left home. That took all of 15 minutes. The realization that I'm on my own hit after that pretty hard after building that lego truck. It's happened a couple times over the past couple days. That's a real crappy feeling. I guess I'll get used to it. Now what? My DBL wants me to drive for 2-3 hours after I get unloaded, which is supposed to be a 2 hour unload, so that means I probably won't get moving until midnight, and then have to drive to 3am? How am I supposed to sleep now when I just slept for 9.5 hours 4 hours ago?
Overwhelming. That describes how the past 3 days have been. Unbelievably overwhelming. Hopefully things get easier, I know they will, but its seemed like a real rough start for me. I got thrown right into it it feels like, but maybe everyone does.
It's been 3 days since I've had a shower. Luckily I have clean clothes and a hat. I'm used to finding truck stops right off the side of the interstate. This Northeast US is all completely new to me. My diet has consisted of peanut butter sandwiches, chips, nutri-grain bars and water. Oh and a recently purchased Gatorade bottle. I have a free shower on my Pilot card now. Sure wish I was at one with room to stop now. I slept for almost my entire 10 hour break last night but I'm still exhausted.
Later that evening...
Finally my phone rings... but its about 2 hours earlier than expected! She tells me to back up to dock 4. I go inside and borrow some bolt cutters to cut the bolt seal (yet another item to add to my list of stuff I should buy for my truck). I back up to the dock and sit while they take about 2-3 hours to unload. I lost track of time, to be honest. I ended up sitting in the sleeper half asleep watching the hood mirror for the dock light to go green. Finally it does, I collect my paperwork, close up my trailer, and got the heck out of there. It was nice having an empty trailer - my truck seemed to have a new skip its it's step.
Driving through this northern part of Maine was really eerie for me - I've never seen anything like it. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and the blue light reflected off the snow and everything had this... well... glow to it. I'm glad I don't live there - way too cold for me.
So I finally reached the yard to drop my empty in and pick up my relay. Another heavy load - maybe more than the last. The driver left the scale ticket with a note with "LIGHT TRUCK" scribbled on it.
Great. Hope my truck is a "light truck" too. Oh well, time to call it a night. I'm all hooked up and ready to roll after pre-tripping in the morning.
Last night I looked up truck stops along my route with a shower. There's a TA not too far away from my start point, I decide to stop by. Until this, I have been afraid to leave the highways. What if I get lost? What if I can't find a spot to turn around? What about a low bridge? WHAT ABOUT SHOWERING FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 4 DAYS? YES, I'M GOING.
12 dollars later I finally feel human again. Totally worth it, even though I have a free shower at the Pilot I'm fueling at later that day. A fresh change of clothes, a nice hot shower, a good start to the day. I browse around and see the Garmin Dezl 760 in the shelf case. I decide to buy it. I feel like I've earned it and it will help me find some places to stop. I also pick up a truck stop and rest stop guide book too. Today is going to be a good day.
Slow-going in the hills aside this trip was made without incident, I arrived and dropped the loaded trailer then searched around for an empty. I remember everyone saying to look for the nice new trailers when you have lots of empties to pick from, so I cruised around until I found one. Everything checked out good until I went around back and noticed the 4000 empty pallets inside. Nope. Back to the crappy old trailers. Found one, sent in the macro on the Qualcomm for an empty and it came back good. Hooked up and took off back to the Pilot I fueled at earlier to grab a spot before everyone else. Haha suckers I'm not sleeping at a rest stop tonight. A storm is supposedly coming and I still haven't received a pre-assignment, so they must know and are gonna let me have a break! I call home and chat for a while, watch everyone else coming into the truck stop trying to grab a spot before everyone else. I'm literally just about to sit back and relax when the Qualcomm squawks "NEW PREASSIGNMENT BLAH BLAH BLAH HAS BEEN MADE AVAILABLE." DANGIT. COME ON. I look it up and sure enough they want me to go drop my empty and pick up another load and then take it down to PA tomorrow. Really? I call up after-hours and ask about this, the weather, my remaining hours and should I do it, what if I can't find parking, etc. He puts me on hold then explains that the delivery date can be pushed back if needed due to the weather but they do need the empty picked up tonight. He goes on about safety and that that decision is up to me about the weather and I need to feel safe. I think about it for a second and then decide to go get the load. Its 24 miles away. I have 3 and a half hours left on my clock now. I could make excuses and be lazy and want to stay put, but... I've got time, it's not snowing yet, COME ON MAN DON'T BE A BABY. I angrily go back into the Pilot, use the restroom, grab 2 protein bars in case I'm stuck in the middle of a blizzard with no food and can survive like Bear Grylls by drinking my own urine and eating my protein bars to stay alive, burning all 18 of my tires for heat and smoke signals.
I finally reach the shipper in the middle of BFE. The man-child of a clerk has his face covered in spicy hot wing sauce as he takes a swig from his gallon bottle of Kool-Aid. "Sup" he nods. We go through the paperwork, the other clerk reminds me to double check the trailer seal to the paperwork as they've already had 4 not match up today.
I go outside, drop my empty, check out the new trailer, pick it up, do the Qualcomm crap and head off. I found another Pilot on my new GPS and head towards it since my spot at the previous one has definitely been taken by now. Man, I have to turn this one wide. It must just be me though, it's the same as any other trailer, right? After reaching the new Pilot with 30 minutes to spare on my 14 hour clock, I find a spot and back up. Man, everyone must be hauling 48' trailers, I'm sticking out kinda far. Get a real trailer, I think. I head in towards the store to browse the same selection I see at every other Pilot in hopes that maybe one will have some loaves of bread. I look at my trailer and then realize I never moved the tandems up. OH, THAT JUST MIGHT EXPLAIN MY PROBLEMS. OOPS. Luckily I only had to go a few miles and didn't get a ticket. I head in and grab some hot dogs, and come back out. After fighting the tandems to actually get sliding I put them somewhere other than all the way back. I wonder how many drivers are sitting there at their steering wheels staring out the windshield after a long day, laughing, thinking to themselves WAY TO GO ROOKIE. All I can do is laugh about it myself and write about it here.
Bunk heater on attempting to keep me from freezing, working internet on my USB modem, a full stomach... all things beside today was a good day. I'm almost hoping that I get snowed in tomorrow so I have a day to relax and recollect myself from the adventures of the past 4 days.
Today was a good day though. I wasn't as nervous and uptight about everything. I laughed at the mistakes I made. The pre-assignments still show me running around the Northeast. PLEASE, SCHNEIDER, GET ME OUT OF HERE. I hear straight pipes and the burble of a jake as someone rolls into the truck stop. Please, park next to me. I sleep like a baby with the white noise of straight pipes on high idle.
keep going like this man, u re doing great. my first week solo was the same , i was so nervous, dont worry its like this for everybody the first times. but u should have got more practice with weight repartition, because its important if u dont want to spend your life at the scale trying to make it legal. try to avoid driving with the tandem all the way to the back. u got more chance to have to way right with the tandem to the front.
in most states weight are
steering: 12000 lbs
driving: 34000 lbs
tandem: 34000 lbs
and always stay focus , never hurry for others drivers, like on the highway or in the truck stop to park. take your time.
good luck and remember, it will get better , in a few month, all this will be a piece of cake !
lol...brought back memories. dunno how much you know or dont know about the low bridge signs in the northeast, but just in case you dont....(no one told me when i first started)
YELLOW bridge clearance signs are a big fat lie. why they lie i was told is because they account for the possibility of snow accumulation. wait til you go to long island..thats where i had the most fun with these. thats a darn good example... theres a bridge going into long island (throggs neck?) that warns "all vehicles over 12'9" take next exit". if you do...as i did with slightly more experience than you...you end up in brooklyn, and every friggin sign there says 12'6 or 12'9. i was told they are off by at least a foot (they warn of a lower clearance than it actually is in every case). if you have a doubt, watch for the other van trailers going under..theyre all 13'6 same as you. easier said than done sometimes...maybe you need to pull off on the shoulder to wait and watch for another truck.
now a WHITE sign is accurate...dont go thinking a 12'9 white warning sign has any flexibility to it. but again, in general, when in doubt, wait it out. watch for that other truck that in most cases should be coming in a few minutes. much better than losing your job because you peeled off the top of the trailer.
sounds like youre having LOTS of fun. hope everything goes well for you. welcome to the wonderful world of disn...i mean driving. dont let the 4 wheelers getcha down!
Oh brother that was great I really enjoyed reading your introduction into the trucking world. These bumps you incur will most always get your goat but must be taken in stride to keep your cool. Keep posting , that was like I was there on your great adventure. Stay safe dodnt over drive it .
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