My PTL Experience Log

Discussion in 'PTL' started by Big Ugly, Jul 15, 2014.

  1. Big Ugly

    Big Ugly Light Load Member

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    Feb 9, 2014
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    Well since I've been around this particular carrier board for a while answering questions & comments I might as well chime in & start my own thread that details all of my goings on here at PTL.

    Just a short bit about your author. I came back to trucking after an absence of over 5 yrs due to both a self imposed ban & a true railroad job from a kangaroo court in Watkinsville, GA (I'll give full details on that some day, it's a whopper). I had almost 9 firm pre hires in hand once I got my CDL back all on my own with no school help or sponsored training from a company. Got the permit & used a friends truck & trailer to test & done. Previous experience? CR England (read about that here: http://www.thetruckersreport.com/tr...-my-cr-england-adventure-experience-hint.html), JB Hunt (haven't made an entry on them yet but I need to), & Truck Service, Inc (a small carrier in Forest City, NC that nobody in their right mind should work for... EVER :biggrin_25513:). How would I rank those companies? JB Hunt was the best for me. They treated me well & I made good money. I always had great equipment & good fleet managers. I left on good terms & have even considered returning someday. CR England, believe it or not wasn't all bad. I had an excellent trainer that I'm friends with to this day who really broke me into trucking the right way in my opinion. It was also the carrier that I got my CDL at & gave me the opportunity to be a driver. Yes for the most part it sucked & was a nightmare but it was tradeoffs. See the link above for all the gory details. Now Truck Service, Inc is one of the most despicable operations I've ever had the misfortune of dealing with. Perhaps a post on that experience is in order someday too but for now suffice it to say it was 10.5 months of Hell that nearly ruined me professionally & personally. But enough about all that.

    Onward with the PTL discussion.

    I've been here approximately 3 months now. That's not a long time but I can certainly advise on how things are going from my perspective with this company & maybe give a little insight about what others can expect. Let's talk about the company a little.

    It's located in southwest Kentucky in the town of Murray, the home of Murray State University. I mention that only for geographical purposes as this is where orientation & the majority of interaction with company operations occurs. They say you can tell a lot about a company by how they spend their money. If indeed that's the case, & experience has taught me there is some truth to that, then PTL certainly doesn't value ornate facilities. The home facilities in Murray for example are the North Lot & South Lot. North Lot is the main terminal & shop facility. Maintenance & operations are here, the company store & a laundry room, game room/TV/theater room/quiet room, & showers for drivers to use. South Lot is the company headquarters & it's a, well... its a dump. No seriously. It's an old school bus garage that was used & abandoned by the county that Mr Waller (the former owner before the company became employee owned) bought & turned it into an office building for all other company management to occupy. No fancy brick & mortar castles here. The company has only one other full service terminal & that's West Memphis, Arkansas. It's not really anything fancy either. There are other satellite terminals such as Indianapolis, El Paso, Laredo, Brownsville, Houston, & Memphis. But for the most part they are shared sites with other companies that pool resources. Now as for drop lots they number in the dozens & are scattered seemingly everywhere. I found out very early that the company employs a small fleet of city drivers to carry as much local freight in & around major hubs as can be feasible. A nice perk that allows OTR drivers to do plenty of drop & hook when we are near one :biggrin_255:.

    Equipment; overwhelmingly International Prostar+ & some older Freightliner Cascadias that are being retired. The Prostars range in age from 2010 to 2014 with 2015 expected to start arriving in August. Some Internationals have an automatic transmission if that's your preference too. Double bunks, like mine for example, are normally reserved for teams & Phase 2 training teams but you could find yourself in one if they are available. As far as condition they are all over the map. Some are exceptionally well kept such as my current truck. Others are torn to pieces. It goes to some of the companies policies & methods of operations that I'll get into more detail about later. All of the Cascadias are really old & I understand once they are gone that's it PTL will be an exclusive International fleet. All trucks are equipped with either Tripac APUs or electric APUs & 1500 to 1700 watt inverters. I can't stress how nice of perk that is :yes2557:. Trucks are governed at 62 mph on the floor pedal & 65 mph when cruise control is on. You'll live in the right lane & travel at a steady pace so get used to that. Engines are either Maxxforce in the Prostars or Detroit Series 60 in the Freightliners. They pull decently well & are torqued up pretty nice for getting up to speed but can really lug down under a heavy load in the hills. Trailers however are a different story. If there is an achilles heel to this company it's that a large number of their trailers, better than half would be my guess, are old & junky. I mean really old. Even the shop personnel get fed up having to maintain these crap trailers. Now there is an ongoing effort to buy new trailers & replace many of the oldest ones with reconditioned ones. But it's slow going to be sure. On the positive side the company does an admirable job of fixing these junk trailers when they are made aware of any issues. But that means drivers have to make them aware of an issue & not leave it for the next driver to discover as happens all too often here :biggrin_25510:.

    Electronic logs? Check. Get used to it since it's soon to be mandatory across the board. And speaking for myself I wouldn't go back to paper logs. The electronic log has the benefit of keeping load planners & dispatchers honest in my opinion since they have no way of overriding that time clock ticking down on the Qualcomm in front of you. As to company policies it's about the same as most any other trucking company. What is very refreshing is the absolute brutal honesty you'll get from managers & executives you meet here. The conversations are sprinkled with expletives of various degrees & a sense of just get on with it urgency. They won't jerk you around with lies & half truths from what I've seen & experienced.

    Oh & if you are the sensitive type look elsewhere too. Every screw up you make will be published in the company newsletter & will be sent out fleet wide to ALL Qualcomms for everybody to see. Yep you get made famous for your mistakes here. You can either use it as incentive to not be on those lists or a tool of anger once you are them to not get on there there again. Either way there aren't too many closed doors to the company's safety issues.

    There are a myriad other details I could cover but I'll get to them as this blog goes on. However let's go over just a few things I won't cover beyond this initial post.

    Miles per week. Why you may ask? Simple. The miles I run per week are my miles. They are an average of how I drive & how the company keeps me moving. No two drivers are alike & we all run our trucks differently in different areas at different times & on a different schedule. To get it off the table I'll say that I'm currently averaging 2500-2700 miles per week the preceding 3 weeks & last week was an atrociously bad 1800. Prior to that I had most weeks above 3000. I did have numerous problems with a previous truck that ultimately forced to me to change units last week so that played a factor in my miles decreasing. I felt lucky to get as many as I did under the circumstances.

    Pay. To discuss what my pay, or rate per mile-cents per mile is would be pointless too. Pay is based on experience & there again we all could be at different points in our career. Students will make less than experienced drivers & safety conscious experienced drivers will make still more. Of course there is also the issue of how many miles one runs to get that pay. The variables regarding ones pay are just too numerous to mention. I'll say this however. Pay starts out of training at .33 cpm which isn't too bad in my opinion. Pay tops out at .46 cpm with incentives. Again not too bad. PTL does have a split pay scenario that occurs any time you cross the Mississippi River. All miles after that drop to a flat rate of .33 cpm. I'm told it's because of the way they bill customers to haul freight but who knows. I rarely have crossed the 'Mighty Miss' myself as most drops I do are either in Indy or Memphis. Keep the left door shut & roll the wheels & most any driver can make a pretty good living here.

    Training. I didn't have to do any training once I came to PTL as I had previous experience. Yes my experience was over 5 years old at the time & I was to be scheduled to do a 'Refresher' course which was 6000 miles with another driver, but after my road test it was determined I was more than capable of going solo immediately. I can tell you, & my information could be wrong here so do your research & find out for sure, PTL has 2 training levels. New students go through a 6000 mile training phase with a trainer. I can't say much more about that since I'm not a trainer & didn't have to do it. After that is what's known as Phase 2 training. This is where it gets sticky. As in you will be stuck with another driver for 30,000 miles until you've earned that solo seat. Yep, 36,000 miles all told. It seems like a lot but if you want it bad enough you'll do it.

    Now about the training & equipment. It goes to what I mentioned above about condition of the trucks & trailers. PTL, for better or worse, has developed a reputation for being a place that new drivers go to get experience or drivers with a bad history can go get a 2nd chance. Screw up that 2nd chance & life becomes much harder but at least at PTL you'll get one. Now I have two views on this. It's good that students can come & learn the craft of truck driving. The training program here seems from all appearances to be pretty thorough. Drivers with bad driving records (not too awful bad mind you just a mistake or two) can also get a chance to drive again & wait out that history to clear off their record. This is both good & bad. Mr Waller, who still serves as president of the company, believes that everybody gets a 2nd chance unless you have violent felonies on your criminal record. And even then if it's old enough PTL might look the other way. Great. Everybody makes mistakes in life & all people deserve a break. Truck drivers too need a 2nd chance sometimes to keep earning a paycheck after an accident that went against them. This is a tough business as we all know. The rub of this philosophy is in how these people, & students with little to no experience, treat the equipment. They in many cases just tear it to shreds. The insides of the trucks get all kinds of tore up as well as scrapes, dings, scratches, & dents all over the outside from any number of incidents & accidents. It's a shame too that 2nd chance folks, & I've met any number of them here, take such a cavalier attitude about this company & the opportunity they have been given to correct & move on from the past. Not all of them mind you but a great many just use PTLs generosity as a stepping stone. But it's the chance you take when you consciously decide to be a 2nd chance carrier. And being totally realistic the upside for PTL is that 2nd chance drivers & student drivers command a far lower salary than experienced drivers like myself do. So for putting up with some hassles & headaches they get to move freight on the cheap quite regularly. But one look at PTLs current BASIC ratings (see those here: http://ai.fmcsa.dot.gov/SMS/Data/carrier.aspx?enc=48KxwPUoUV9hh0n4bJIhTA==) will also tell the tale of the risks involved in hiring new students & 2nd chance drivers. It's not as bad as many you can find. In particular there are a multitude of small carriers with 500 or less trucks that have all categories exceeding the intervention threshold levels. So PTL has work to do to clean this up.

    OK enough chatter. I'm quite long winded in my posts as can be seen from this & others in my history. From here on out I'll just give an outlook on what the days have been like & how it's all going for me out here with PTL. Ask whatever questions & I'll answer what I can when I can. If you want details I didn't cover here I'll give that as I know it or refer you elsewhere. But any questions about miles, pay, or training & I'll send you up here to the top or refer you elsewhere for the reasons I clearly stated.

    Enjoy reading should you choose to! :biggrin_25525:
     
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  2. Big Ugly

    Big Ugly Light Load Member

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    Feb 9, 2014
    North Carolina
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    To start out I'm about to leave Beaverdam, OH after a P&G (Proctor & Gamble for the uninitiated) load to take quite the little journey. I'm picking up in Findley, OH with additional pickups in New Bremen & Cincinnati. After all pickups I'm off to Houston, TX. Didn't I just mention I rarely have crossed the Mississippi river? Surprise surprise as Gomer Pyle used to say :biggrin_25523:. Onward.
     
  3. rcd127

    rcd127 Medium Load Member

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    Can you tell me what you mean by this and how does it work?
     
  4. Big Ugly

    Big Ugly Light Load Member

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    Feb 9, 2014
    North Carolina
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    Oh I'm referring to the 'list' I've been told that the load planners have of drivers who have perfect on time records, no load refusals, no safety list violations, no arguing with FMs, etc. Supposedly the drivers on this list get the best loads, most miles, quickest turn around for shop work. You know the drill by now I'm sure. It could be nothing but made up bunk. But I imagine there are a few butt kissers who can cry their way into just about anything. I'm not one of those people so I get what I get.

    I didn't mean to infer there was some grand bonus for safety or something. But something tells me if a driver gets on the speeding list they won't win the quarterly fuel bonus either.
     
  5. rcd127

    rcd127 Medium Load Member

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    Well I am currently on the Safety Awareness list for speeding and I got a fuel bonus...
     
  6. Big Ugly

    Big Ugly Light Load Member

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    I'm referring to the $1000 random drawing. I got my fuel bonus too but everybody who gets 6 mpg or better gets that regardless. But from what I hear if you have any violations... Logs, speeding, whatever you aren't eligible for the random drawing.
     
  7. Big Ugly

    Big Ugly Light Load Member

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    Feb 9, 2014
    North Carolina
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    And that safety awareness list is silly in my opinion. It's too easy to wind up on it. I was sure I would be on it after this last week because I know I saw my speed gauge trip 70 mph several times. But it didn't happen. Yet I know other drivers whose trucks have it set for them to be speeding over 60 mph on their Qualcomm. I'm not sure what gets you on it since I've never been on it but it seems fairly arbitrary not a set standard that everybody is held to.
     
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  8. OPUS 7

    OPUS 7 Road Train Member

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  9. OPUS 7

    OPUS 7 Road Train Member

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    Not related..but Your username reminds me of a gal I use to work with.
    She thought she was a prom queen,and loaded trucks.She could snag
    lightning in a rubber s-house.
    The drivers called her "Little Ugly" :smt061

    ohh ugly wimmins..
     
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  10. Big Ugly

    Big Ugly Light Load Member

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    Feb 9, 2014
    North Carolina
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    All they post is the truck number. It's not exactly detailed but if you see a truck & remember the number on it well there you go. Now in the company news letter it gets more detailed for major accidents. But hardly anybody reads that as is since it's generally only available at the headquarters or online.

    Boneheaded dispatchers get their heat too. Our VP of Operations will call them out in front of everybody there if enough drivers complain to him. I've actually seen that myself about a month & a half ago. He called a halt to all phone calls & everything & got on the FM that handles Phase 2 trainees. She apparently had a bad habit of putting degrading messages over the Qualcomm to those drivers & she was forced to send a fleet wide apology to all the trainees. I was meeting my own fleet manager that day & witnessed that. It was quite funny. I can't say how often it happens but it did happen that time.
     
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