Swift - Starting the New Year training with Swift 1/7/13 - A long read...
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Wow, maybe it's time to continue this story. Funny how life keeps moving on and time passes. This thread and looking back at the date when I last posted reminded me of that.
So to continue...
It is indeed funny how things in life can turn around.
I just went back to my original post and realized that it has been five years and two and a half months since I started this thread. Addtionally, my last real post was on March 22 of 2016 - almost two years ago.
I'm thankful that I posted so much back then as it gave a pretty accurate chronicle of those early days of a new and unusual career and a fair depiction of what else was going on outside of driving. Now those same posts give me something to look back and reflect on.
I'm still driving...
More to come as I need to grab my dog Cannoli, a.k.a. the "panty dropper", and go throw my laundry in the dryer over on the next block. Gotta get that laundry done as I have a date with some 100 proof Vodka and cherry moonshine shots.
First things first: I'm still driving. I think where I left off I had just moved into an apartment in Eatontown, NJ with my girl and I was driving a day cab delivering bread. All of that is still true - same apartment, same job, different route and same girl.
I was in the bank today and was talking with one of the bankers about opening another savings account. I was sitting down talking with a his boss and the fact that I'm a trucker came up. The bankers were asking me about the life of an OTR trucker and I was telling them some stories. During the conversation that meandered between how we furnish out sleepers with TV's and the new Netflix documentary "Lot Lizard", I had mentioned that I had been chronicling the first few years of driving in a thread. That conversation made me think that maybe it was time for an update.
I think about this forum, the life of OTR trucking and those I have met fairly often but at some point in driving local route work, the previous excitement of OTR life kind of faded away as routine began to set in.
Every so often I'm asked whether I like OTR driving better or if I miss it. The answer is both "yes" and "no".
I like coming home these days to my apartment, my girl, my little dog and my bed. I like having a somewhat "normal" life like the rest of the non-OTR drivers. But I also will quickly state those things I miss about bouncing around the lower 48 in my own truck. I miss seeing new places and weird pickups and deliveries like a delivery to the Georgia State Prison or a pickup underground at the Springfield Underground. Absolutely. I miss being able to pick up another load that takes me away from the snow and cold and down to a taco truck in South Texas. It goes both ways. I never rule out going back to OTR life if this local thing doesn't work out.
But there's a catch to that. As time passes, the life of an OTR driver becomes more distant.
There are times when I stop off at a truck stop to grab something to buy or to run in and use the bathroom. It's not often that I even mess with truck stops these days as my truck is typically fueled up overnight at the terminal. Other times I fuel up at one of the various Penske dealers that I come across. But there are those times I will make a quick pit stop at a truck stop in Erie, PA or in Binghamton, NY and I try to make those stops as quick as possible. Just enough time to get done what I need to get down and take a little of the OTR life in. Then I'm back on the road. Quickly.
I take notice of the OTR drivers walking back to their truck to go to sleep and I get this crazy feeling inside of dread. This incredible feeling of terror comes over me and the thought of not going home that night and being in the shoes of those that return day in and day out to their truck, to their home on the road absolutely terrifies me. It's not a feeling I could have ever predicted just a few years ago as driving OTR was just my thing and what made me happy at the time. But now, it's the strangest thing. It's at that point cutting back across the parking lot at a Pilot or other nameless chain truckstop that I really can remember the life of OTR and I get this panic. It's just strange.
Those pre-Swift, pre-OTR days...
I think a good deal of this fear in thinking about the life of OTR trucking is that I was in such a worse position prior to driving with Swift. My whole life changed for the better when I started driving and the thought of OTR reminds me just how bad things were before I took that long bus ride out to Lewiston, Idaho to attend Swift driving school.
Back then I had no real address as I had been living on the floor of a buddy's extra bedroom, my meager air mattress constantly deflating over night. My lack of any real material possessions other than that cardboard box whereby I kept a couple of outfits. My second hand monstrosity of a laptop whereby I started typing out this very same thread from that same bedroom. My primary roommate (there was a second, quieter and less noticeable roommate) watching movies with girls he was trying to impress and court, the homemade surround sound system he had devised from an aged stereo system keeping me up late into the early morning hours. Those days of post-divorce, pre-Swift were tough ones. The thought of having to wake up under those circumstances to get on my motorcycle in the pre-dawn, freezing winter months to hope that the temp agency would send me out to work for the $55 a day throwing boxes of frozen pig parts down in the Tacoma tideflats are probably what contributes to this feeling of dread. It's not the OTR driving that causes these feelings, it's what had brought me to OTR that creates this feeling.
Now I walk back to my truck, this same truck that would never allow me to sleep comfortably within it and I am thankful for what I have and where I am at this time. I'm in a far different place than what had originally brought me to driving.
Some would ask what would bring me back to New Jersey. It's a reasonable question.
I've been back here now for just over 2 years. Definitely not an easy place to come back to, in all honesty. Don't get me wrong, my relationship with New Jersey has always been a love hate relationship. I love the food. I hate the bureaucracy. I love the money. I hate the taxes. I love places like Jersey City. I hate that I can't and won't buy a house here because of the property taxes. I love our pizza and I love the ethnic character of this state. I hate the insane amount we pay for car insurance. And it goes on.
When I started driving OTR with Swift I kept my Tacoma, WA address and used that as my base of operations as I spent anywhere from 3 weeks to 3 months at a stretch driving before I would take a break. Most of my time off was spent either in Tacoma where I would park my truck at the Sumner terminal, pack my over night bags onto my Suzuki and head off to a hotel for a few days of relaxation and Pacific Northwest riding. The alternate time off would be spent usually out in Virginia with my family there. Incidentally, I never spent any time off back in Jersey since none of my immediate family lived there any longer.
After driving for Swift for a couple of years I decided to change jobs and home location. My mom was getting sicker from cancer and I realized that seeing her once every few months, at best, was just not enough. Time is precious when you have a mom you adore fighting that battle. With Swift's impending cab cameras on their way and with my mom's time limited, I decided to find a job more local to Virginia and closer to my parents. That's when I signed on with Epes on the promise of a $1300 a week paycheck and a steady dedicated route. That promise by Epes ultimately was never fulfilled and I quickly became disgruntled as I spent more and more time sitting at the terminal in a Mexican standoff with the my driver manager, him stating that I must drive regional Northeast while we waited for my dedicated route to have freight. That went around and around for about 6 tiring months. I wanted to do the job that was promised and the job that I left Swift for and Epes wanted someone to drive around the Northeast. I see it as a bait and switch tactic. There was about 4 other drivers I encountered and spoke with that were promised the same route and that same dedicated Lowes route never materialized. The only positive is that I lived out of my truck in that terminal in Chester, VA and was only about an hour ride from my parents. So I got to see my mom at least once a week, if not more. That was worth the #### deal I had with Epes. I held on for as long as I could with that company and once I met my current girlfriend at the wedding up in Jersey, I decided to relocate up in the Garden State where I could make more money and still be a 7 hour drive away from my ailing mom.
I drove down to Virginia every chance I could get as my mom's health worsened. And just over a year ago she passed away somewhat unexpectedly an life has not been the same since.
What is your high note?
I love The Honeymooners. It's probably one of my favorite tv shows of all time. Ralph Kramden had sought for hitting that "high note" in his life - the moment where he would have his greatest success.
I can't believe that I'm still here driving and doing what I love. I say this because this field of work has treated me better than any other and had given me the life that I couldn't have imagined. Not a week goes by where I don't question how I didn't get into this earlier in my life. I think that if I had found this lifestyle earlier in my life and played things right I could be retired by now or at least running a trucking company. Who knows. What started as some new adventure almost 10 years ago is now just part of who I am and have become.
I'm no longer an OTR driver and have now been driving local for longer than I was ever driving OTR. And in three days I will be celebrating my one year anniversary at my second local driving job. The first local driving job ended when I took a 6.5 month sabbatical and left on a preplanned 12,000 mile long solo motorcycle trip down to Panama last year. While I was gone that company lost the contract and I came back to no job and a new job search. I searched for those jobs that were most similar to the job I had left behind - multi-stop route work, hopefully somewhat physical delivering and great pay. I applied to some that I thought would fit and while I waited for a response I spotted an ad on Careerbuilder.com for a local, hourly route driver doing a shuttle from Edison, New Jersey to Brooklyn. The pay and benefits were good, it was hourly, a company position with a well-established corporation and it was only a half hour north up the Garden State Parkway. And thankfully I live close enough to the GSP that I can hear the sportbikes racing down it at night.
A couple of months later and on the first interview I went on, I landed this current job which I love.
But always in the back of mind as I pass through the TA on I-78 West here in New Jersey, just a little past Clinton, I check out the OTR drivers in their trucks wondering where they are going next. If there's room, I park illegally along that curb closest to the Burger King to run in and grab a breakfast sandwich or maybe if I'm being particularly weak, a pack of smokes like a sucker. I'll stop and stand there just for a few minutes watching the truckers fuel or run inside with their shower bag and try to bring myself back to just a few years ago when I would be doing the same thing.
I drive local these days. My schedule runs from Sunday through Wednesday, 0700 to 1730. So a 4 day work week, 10 hours a day plus an unpaid half hour break. I pick up an extra 10 hours overtime on Thursdays and during peak times I'll work the Friday for some additional OT. Schedule is #### near perfect for me and it makes me feel like your regular Joe commuting the 30 miles up the Garden State Parkway to work. We don't have computers (yet) in our trucks so from Day 1 it's been paper logs. I guess the cool thing about doing paper is that I won't be rusty at it ever since I do it every single day. I'm not sure why the company doesn't have computers but there is a stipulation in the FMCSA green book that states that if you are within a 150 mile radius of your home terminal that logs are not required. There are some conditions which have to be met for this log exception but I won't get into it here. From everything I have researched, we are within compliance in not having to commit to logs, paper or otherwise. However, I just can't get myself to have no logs so like the other drivers, we go above and beyond and keep paper logs. I also have a log app on my phone where I keep another set electronically. This is all just to be safe.
I have a one bedroom apartment in a nice area of Monmouth County and life is as it feels it should be at this point in my life. My actual route everyday is either from Edison, New Jersey up the Turnpike's truck lanes (what I like to call "The Thunderdome") to North Bergen. A sometimes easy, sometimes dreadful drive where I drop and hook. I do the same thing driving out 287 and I-78 into Pennsylvania off of Highway 33 - this is about a 1.5 hour drive each way and again a drop and hook. I'm a company driver and I work within warehouses the company owns. It's easy other than the New Jersey drivers.
In summary I have an easy schedule, company benefits, competitive hourly pay for the NYC metro area, company uniform and trucks/trailers and I'm making three times the money when I started driving for Swift what seems like so many years ago. When I started this profession I left on a bus from Tacoma, Washington one chilly, wet and dark winter morning just after New Years January 5, 2013 heading for Idaho to Swift's Lewiston location with pretty much everything I owned on my back. I had a small storage unit with about 1000 books, some motorcycle gear and an old desk my parents gave me, the type whereby the actual desktop is located behind the curved wood seat the student would sit on. To use this desk properly you would need a second desk placed in front of you. But I kept it along with the rest and life was now stripped down to its most basic of needs and that is what I placed underneath in storage on that Greyhound as I nervously wondered what this new step in life would bring me. I had nothing at that time except ambition and what could be carried with me and now I feel like I have hit that high note.
But how do you define your high note? Where is it and is this pinnacle that which you have established from your own desires and sense of accomplishment or is it defined, at least partly, by society's expectations or those we have picked up from culture at large? This can become a muddled and confusing place as life marches on and a sense of security in life becomes more important. Where we could once float more freely through life with much more simplicity, life stripped down to it's most basics we now treasure the security of diversified savings and material possessions. I think these past few years I have been cognizant about maintaining the best balance of trying to get ahead financially while keeping material possessions to a workable minimum. I've often kept in mind that goal is to own your possessions rather than them owning me. But materialistically I have everything I personally need and want. To some that wouldn't look like much as those things I mostly treasure in a materialistic sense are electronics in the form of cameras and drones, a couple of cars and bikes and what I can maintain uncluttered in a one bedroom, 900 square foot apartment. I don't want more than what I own and I don't need more space. I like life this way so in this sense, I feel I have hit that high note. I want for nothing and I can save money. But is there something missing?
There is a place in your life whereby you look back someday lying either sick in bed or just too frail to do more than just exist and reminisce. This is a day I have thought about often. It is where we can do not much more than look back and think about what we did and what we didn't do. It's that place where we evaluate whether we have lived that life fulfilled or unfulfilled. Where was our high note and did we hit it? We have only a very limited number of days before that final sleep. Was it life lived complete or did we just do what we were supposed to do?
I feel like I'm back "home" here in New Jersey after so many years of living all over the country with that last long stint in Washington being about 10 years. I guess as far as fitting in somewhere, this has always been my spot in North Jersey. The people I work with both in the warehouse and the four other CDL drivers are cool and I vibe with them as only someone can do that is from North Jersey. All good. But this is also where I left years ago, once for Chicago for a two year adventure at graduate school and then again years later from Jersey City in a move to Tacoma, Washington that never really left me. I think it's where I thought I would spend the rest of my life possibly, I loved Washington that much. But then life changes, moms get sick, we relocate, we meet people and somehow we end up back in the same physical place we had purposely left so many years ago. That was the same place we left in search of greater, newer things that speak to us in a way that the current domicile cannot.
It's definitely not an issue of being thankful. I have a log I keep reminding myself nearly everyday of the things I am thankful for. I rarely ever focus on things I feel I need to do. But is there something in living life simply? Does the complexity in life muddle and cloud what we really want and what we know we can do? Subscriptions, apps, social media, payments, EZPass, computers in our pockets and forever tied to this grid that is supposed to make our lives better. I've checked all the boxes.
So why do I still look up the cheapest places to buy some land, focusing on those spots out in northern Nevada or in west Texas, maybe somewhere within riding distance of Big Bend? Why do I still price and research what a new to me truck would cost? With a sleeper. There must be something to it.
scottied67 Thanks this.
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