I'm a... part time trucker? If there is such a thing

Discussion in 'The Welcome Wagon' started by War-Eagle, Aug 30, 2019.

  1. War-Eagle

    War-Eagle Bobtail Member

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    About me; upper 40's, married with a teen aged boy (I'll lease him out. Cheap!!!) I've been around the trucking industry since the late 80's. Dad was an O/O back then pulling tow-aways with an old GMC Astro cabover. I wonder what ever happened to that truck. When the money in tow-aways evaporated, he moved into hauling rock. That went on for a while until the money dried up there and he started pulling pneumatic tankers.

    Two of my uncles were also in trucking, one an O/O and the other with a small fleet. We also had race cars and hauled them all over the country with 18 wheelers. My uncle Gary let me drive his Pete out on a country road when I was 17, and I really thought that was a cool experience. My dad was mortified when he found out, and he chewed on me for a long time for that stunt!!

    In the late nineties, dad was in the tanker lane and to help him out I got my CDL so that I could take his truck and trailer in for service, move the truck if he ran out of hours and get it washed. During that time I worked in project management.

    I didn't go through a formal driving school (I don't even know if there were any around back then), but instead I went through "Dad's Truck Driving School". The way that worked... I could never quite reach the bar. The grouchy old man wouldn't allow me to get away with anything. I'm sure many of you can relate!

    -Going down the road and drift a few inches, still within the lane... "Where are you going? Which lane are you going to drive in?"

    -Couple a trailer to the tractor... "Did you check the fifth wheel? How are the air lines? How much play in the brakes? How much pressure is in the inboard tires? ..." Yeah, simply kicking the tires wasn't allowed; I had a tire gauge and I used it!

    -Going down the road... "How close is the car behind you? Watch your speed, you're not racing out here. Check your mirrors. Holy cow, how did you pass your driving test?"

    -Miss a shift... "Dang, boy, why are you mad at the transmission? What did it do to you?"

    -Oh, and Heaven forbid I missed backing into a spot and had to pull forward...

    What he did is forced me to pay attention to every minute detail. He forced me to learn the boundaries of the truck. There wasn't a missed shift that went "unpunished". LOL!! He taught me how to handle potentially bad situations without making them worse. He made me watch other drivers and identify what they could be doing better. In short... He taught me how to take care of the equipment, how to avoid accidents, how to survive on the road!! He passed away in 2003, but to this day I can still hear him getting on to me for whatever it is I'm not doing to perfection.


    Fast forward to today, I work in a unrelated industry as the general manager of a company, but I still have my CDL. I get to "play trucker" two to three weeks out of the year hauling what I'll call "specialized company materials" around the midwest. Flatbeds and dry vans usually behind a sleeper cab, sometimes a day cab, are what I get to pedal around. Every so often I'll move a truck from one place to another, but my bread and butter are elsewhere. Although there are days that I wished I could be OTR! I can't help it, trucking is in my blood even though it's not my vocation.

    Hang on, I know... It seems like a scary proposition (read: stupid) to have a "part timer" out there moving around in a semi two weeks out of a year. I get it. However, I pay attention to detail every bit as much, probably even more, than I ever have. Heck, you've got to with everyone in such a hurry and holding a cell phone in their hands these days!

    I'm in no hurry, the equipment I'm operating is thoroughly checked (yes, including tire pressures), my routes are planned, I'm well aware of my surroundings, my speed is safe for conditions, I'm not rearranging the headlights on your tractor while it's parked at a truck stop and I'm dang sure not on a phone!!

    That's not saying I'm infallible. I make mistakes. There's always something I could have done smoother, done a little better. I'm constantly pushing myself; it is a habit that was forged in me by my dad over the years. My goal is to do things better today than I did yesterday.

    I've lurked here for a long time. Part of being professional is being prepared for the task and this board, specifically the people here, have helped me in countless ways. While I am not a driver out there making my living, I conduct myself professionally during the few weeks each year that I am operating a truck. I'm courteous to the other drivers, I'm extremely cautious around the 4 wheelers, and I take pride in the job of driving.

    Keeping current on things, finding answers to questions, etc. have been possible through this site. I'd like to pay that back in some small way and that's why I'm here now.

    Sorry for a long rambling post. If you've made it here, then your 30 minute break is almost up! LOL!!!

    Be safe out there!!
     
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  2. D.Tibbitt

    D.Tibbitt Road Train Member

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    Awesome post, thanks for the story definatly made me smile. I have to ask , do u use elogs when u drive. ? If u do, do u hate them just as much as the rest of us ? Lol
     
  3. x1Heavy

    x1Heavy Road Train Member

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    What lane you want where you going from your Pa.

    Trainers and their ghosts spoke to me on that line. You are a trucker even if you think you play one now and then.

    The industry has gotten... how do I say this... anyone can play. You would have to be really horrible to fail, gimme that 6000 dollars. Or sign a year of your life. (17th century indentured comes to mind, but you do it free will negating the 13th amendment)

    Trucking has gotten to push button drive. I still hang on to my old iron. You really needed some connection with them. Sitting in a push button palace being spoon fed everything with just three gauges instead of 30 or whatever took something out of me. Almost a neutering.

    I guess robots will roll (And they do..) I'll still hang on to the old iron.

    You have a CDL A you drive a truck when you need to. Thats quite enough as far as I am concerned. It would be interesting to hear a dispatcher try to use simple talk to you not aware of your lofty position within the company structure. //teasing. I have to tease now and then. There were some good dispatchers I keep in mind and they were #### good.

    Other than that, grab a chair. One of these days you might want to come out of there and run the 48 and canada. I think that would be the biggest blessing in life to be able to range and travel that far out. I could never just be raised in one city and stay there on the block all my life. Not with the generations dying off to be replaced with a different .. set of residents and change in situation. Nothing against them. I can probably pick out a person from that area as easily as they pick me out deep in the south.

    Enjoy your time. You don't need a ... fairy god mother to say you are now a Trucker. you are already one when your Pa was making you choose what lane to stay in. Just needed the spurs to deal with today's licensing and technology horrors that have become apparent since those wonderful days.

    HEY! Mind that gear, shift it *PUNCH* yer in it. Get it up there... (Most people today would think that's abuse. its not for me.) But I did a little training and the few I put out did ok. My own wife though was the best student. She had some discovered limitations but she did well like a Marine should.
     
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  4. War-Eagle

    War-Eagle Bobtail Member

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    E-Logs... And really I have a mixed feeling about them. The pessimistic side of me dislikes them; and even the GPS! However, I do see an upside to them and that is it keeps everyone honest. Not only do the logs keep the drivers within boundaries, it also gives the driver leverage when it comes to a "bad hand" from a dispatcher.

    I lean old school, paper logs and paper maps. There's no problems with syncing, crashing, updates, etc. And I have never had a paper map give me a wrong turn! That always was me!!
     
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  5. x1Heavy

    x1Heavy Road Train Member

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    I had a spiritual warfare for a while about ELD's It would just say.. Stop here at the 11th hour. Not where i feel like end of day (Or days for that matter) and then stop. I don't know how many times Ive gone into say Petro in Knoxville out of Denver and just put one foot in front of the other to the counter. Coffee is already sitting there waiting, order please?

    "Mph, food. I don't care. plate here please. thank you."

    Worry about the billing later. Come out of there like a human. But it was a good run. Satisfying to the soul I guess. (The waitresses were not flappable or easily disturbed by strange humans asking for something wonderful gals...)

    ELDs would force me to run... precise. I do not do precise. But I will build in some safegaurds for it. If it's time for me to take 10 hours sleep time, I'll spend three at the tables in sky city and then get my regular 7 hours sleep. Easy.

    I am working on getting back into it. IF you asked me some years ago if I could, I would have laughed. The one doctor after surgery said after the one joint is in that a few got back to work in the mill or trucking whatever. You should give it a try, preferably after I get the other one.

    Some folks have had replacement parts. Then its possible to salvage something of life away from the Government Dole.

    That I think is motivating. But I have to be careful. It would be too easy to terrorize the tender new ones to the industry.
     
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  6. War-Eagle

    War-Eagle Bobtail Member

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    Unfortunately, I think society has become way too dependent on technology and that trend has "polluted" the trucking industry as well. My preference is to have gauges to determine the health of the machine over idiot lights. Well, actually a combination of both is probably best; a light to call attention to an issue and a gauge to quantify the problem (or potential thereof).

    I've been able to drive both the manuals and automatics. Let's face it, the automatics work pretty well (at least in my opinion) but I really think that it is a huge step in taking the "craftsmanship" out of operating a truck.

    From a fleet perspective, I definitely see the potential advantages to the automatics taking into account the diminished skills that seem to be the norm (hint: this isn't just in the trucking industry!!). The unknown for me is the issue of longevity and repair costs on the automatics versus the manuals. I'm assuming that since fleets are going automatics, the the cost benefits are there with the automatics.

    If I were to spec a truck, it'd have an 18 speed manual transmission. An 18 speed makes it much easier to keep the engine in the torque curve. I've only driven a 13 speed once, and it was okay. A 9 speed has too much of a gap in gear ratios for my liking. I'm not saying any of these are bad options or don't have a place, just my preference.

    I'm not so sure on the robotic truck thing. My thinking is this is an idea that is much like the flying car of the fifties and sixties. Yes, it's futuristic thinking and a cool idea (with exception to the loss of driving jobs). However the practicality of the system isn't there and I can see it being there for a long, long time; probably not in my lifetime. Heck, GPS sometimes tells me to turn in the middle of a bridge. My pick up truck has sensors on the front and I get collision alerts on roads that have sunny/shady spots... and let's not talk about it in the rain and snow! No, I really think robotic trucks aren't a factor for quite sometime.


    Thank you for the warm welcome!
     
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  7. x1Heavy

    x1Heavy Road Train Member

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    For whats its worth FFE gave us a automatic with 16 miles on the clock, we had a big 515 or so detriot mated to it, rockwell meritor I think the auto was. Paddle shift PthroughD with M (To stay in gear or paddle shift which I get to later)

    When I squawked about it they told me watch my spouse she will drive well with it. Fuel will take care of itself. 2000 century. 345 gallon tanks two.

    Took me weeks not to reach for the timing to shift with the engine working hard upgrade or down on jacobs. Winter came soon enough and she pretty much proved herself on ice. Which warmed me slightly. I guess the work load was greatly reduced to a point and it was not too difficult. She did accept certain hard treatment to avoid being hit or avoid hitting others intentional or not. Which I liked. I like trucks with big boots but a tolerance for that.

    They ran the hell out of us in the rocky winter. And some east coast. Wife did good. I would confess that particular year out of 210,000 miles on that thing two alternators, a couple of other tidbits a inverter install and bricked auto twice.

    Now the bricking.

    We were a team that never stopped never shut down and fixing to move. The truck manual says we must stop, shut off engine 30 minutes every 7 days. HA.... not just HA but HAH....

    Bricks. TOW time. The first time revealed two problems. FFE did not understand what it meant never to stop, causing a tow with that transmission. The other was the Veep having to go to Fort Worth to collect us with a very HOT JIT load for Iowa that must be there hell or high water. You cannot (Maybe do..) understand how people are seriously interested in that box being there at the time it must be there not late ever. Well they stuck another driver on it after they towed us back onto Lancaster. The Veep notice laundry not done. He stormed. We dont stop. We have ten days clothes all weather all year no worries except we never stopped.

    He issued a order to dispatch to every time we burn our 70 out in 5 ot 6 days each (140 total of 168 weekly hours, we get 12 to 30 hours to stop and stay away from anything related to work where the truck is. So we can have a meal laundry and so forth.

    That made it possible to run even harder. Burn out the hours.

    But here is the thing. I came out of a manual 9 with the same engine and can get around 1600 miles expected plus a estimated 2100 if I am very careful with manual on that fuel. The auto gave me the same 1600 and sort of welshed on the 2100 poaching a little reefer once or twice for safety when we skipped a fuel stop for schedule reasons cross country. Don't have the 30 minutes to waste fueling the second time after the Holbrook or Memphis.

    I have learned that autos evolved. I am horrified at some of the things they think they can do. One says it needs space satellites to know when to shift to save fuel. Any truck hitting a upgrade pulls RPM down and down the tree you go. Over the mountain and far away. No need for satellite spaceman to shift for you. Thats just a example.

    Robot trucks are rolling quietly here and there. And like a slow infection they getting into everything. (UGH... and am I sure I wanna get back in trucking? HA...)

    The engine computer in my time was basic. Told you the code and the trouble. Find it online and know whats what. Sprout "Fix this part..." to dealer shop boss and get a bad face in return. He huffs and puffs his feathers and plumage to tell us we need to diagnose...

    no diagnose. You fix this part. You can check the work and know if I am wrong or right. Cost me a few more in this and that out of spite. But I keep a eye on them. They don't like that.

    Gone are the days where I bust a heater core and sit by a iron shop stove feeding wood and sipping coffee with a little extra in it (Brandy) while Mr Fix it from back in the 20's shuffles around the cab fixing this that or other teaching me about history from grandpa's time... mind that stove more wood....

    Two complete opposites. One life and winter time to be happy and the other a cold hospital like dealer bay fighting computer wars. Spinning money. Ugh.

    Thats why I drive a old vehicle. I do keep a small OBD2 computer for it so I can understand what the boo boo is when cylinder number 5 smokes too much from misfiring to soot. That means I need to feed her some fuel treatment and give her a run up one of our ridges. 3 miles would do it for a good while. even though the 350 is a tired engine, but they build that one seems like forever. Easy fix. *Shrugs.

    I might just keep the thing.
     
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  8. "semi" retired

    "semi" retired Road Train Member

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    So, what are you asking, without reading these novels you guys write. You want more part-time stuff? rarely exists in the trucking world, does your "part-time" make you less qualified in any way? No, just be happy you don't have to do this all the time. The only part time trucking I did, was like seasonal stuff, where you go 25 hours a day for a couple weeks, but longer distance outfits can't do part time, the rest of the world doesn't work that way.
     
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  9. War-Eagle

    War-Eagle Bobtail Member

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    Fort Worth, Texas
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    The trucking I do is seasonal, without the long hours. For me, it is a break in the routine from my "day job".

    Would I like to be a full timer? In today's market and with all of the regulations; not really. Could I make it? Yes, most likely, but from where trucking was when I was introduced to it a few decades ago it doesn't look to be as fun and rewarding as it once was. It's sad, really.
     
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  10. x1Heavy

    x1Heavy Road Train Member

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    The fun part went over the board a certain number of years in. I remember almost perfectly what I would call a flawless run from Seabrook NH to Baltimore 9:50 on paper via GWB and DMB etc pulled brakes in the old Plaza by the FMH Tunnel downtown Baltimore about 1991 at 4:40 in evening. Sodas. Washington DC for Landover distribution. A bit of lumping the next morning, 48500 in cans by cases off pallets onto small wood.

    There would be other perfect runs I suppose in the rest of my time but not the kind with dispatch asking you going to make it as they stress over the satellite arrival.
     
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