Monday, December 17, 2007

Ice and snow and wind, oh my...

Well, here I am again, almost 11 days from the lat update.  It’s been a BUSY time, we have been rolling every day, getting just legal breaks and heading out again.  This is the life of the dedicated run.

As the title might suggest, we have run into alot of weather - NOT.  Actually, it’s been high and dry most of the time.  Lucky for me in one respect, but unlucky, since I would like to learn to drive on snow and ice with Robert.  My time in training is quickly coming to an end.  Looks like I’ll be done Thursday with time.  I’ll surely miss having Robert around to help out, but you have to cut the cord sometime.  I just hope I have managed to remember half of what he has taught me.

I have managed to keep Robert amused with my visions of phantom ice on the road everywhere.  He has the patience of Job, thank god.  He gets a kick out of my over cautious-ness at times, but he is pushing me to get over it.  It’s working, albeit slowly.

Looks like I’ll spend Christmas at home, then go to upgrade after that.  Then I’ll be a solo driver, making money and trying to figure out what the hell is going on!  Luckily I have Robert on Speed Dial!  The poor guy is going to be haunted by me for a LONG time.

I find myself wondering what kind of truck I’ll get after I upgrade.  I like the Volvo, but Robert thinks I’d be better in a Freightliner.  He says they turn tighter and have better headlights.  I’ll bow to his convictions and hope I get one as well.

Sitting in a motel in Phoenix right now, watching MNF.  Not a bad life, I guess :)

Went and saw “I am Legend” today.  Not at all what I expected, but a good movie nonetheless.  Very good performance from Will Smith (again).  Worth a watch, methinks.

Oh well, time to study for my upgrade test.

See ya soon!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

WInd and Weather

Wow, a light trailer (4000 pound load) and STRONG winds outside of Flagstaff, Az made for a VERY white knuckle trip.  I did learn something interesting though.  The wind is just as nasty if you’re driving at 45mph or 65mph.  Robert had a great time watching me fight back the panic that comes with a 70 foot monster weaving all over the road.  Luckily he was filled with comments about how this was nothing, and we really needed to press on.  He was right, of course, as he always is.  You just have to keep the beast between the lines and press on.

Hell of a learning experience, I have to admit.  As the weather gets worse, I’m gonna have to get a grip and just drive the damn thing.  We’ll see what happens in the first snowstorm!

I learned that Volvo trucks have crappy headlights, I mean crappy.  They barely light up 75 feet ahead of the truck.  The brights are great, but you can’t just blind everyone in the other lane just to feel comfortable.  Oh well, live and learn.  Maybe when I get my own truck, it’ll be a Freightliner.

Yeeeeeeeeeeeehaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa, away we go....   (Winter storm warnings in effect...)

Monday, December 3, 2007

What I have learned so far

After watching the heart stopping game tonight, I thought I might try to recap what I have learned so far...

Driving a truck is not like driving a car.  Wind, traffic, weigh stations, idiot 4-wheel drivers all add up to making every drive nerve wracking.  You have to maneuver 70 feet of vehicle on the same lanes that cars use.  Usually you have less that 12 inches on each side of the line to play with, and if your trailer is light, any gust of wind tries to push it into another lane.  You constantly have 2 hands on the wheel and your eyes are always searching, the road ahead, the mirrors, the dashboard.  It’s demanding, challenging, but fun at the same time.

Loads... Picking up and dropping off trailers, or simply getting a load or off-load is sometimes an adventure.  You have appointment times that you need to meet, and you never want to be late.  Planning your trip is a huge factor here.  The paperwork is generally easy to keep up with, and with the trucks onboard computer, keeping everyone informed of your progress is relatively easy.

Backing...  Yep, still having heart failure almost every time, but it is getting easier.  Robert is a great teacher for this, and he is letting me make my own choices about approaches and letting me correct my mistakes.  I feel like it’s getting easier each time, and my speed is getting better.  One thing I need to work on is staying under the truck better (keeping the trailer in sight while correcting the angle).

Hooking up and dropping trailers is becoming second hand now, even though I don’t ever want to be the guy who drops a trailer with the gear still raised - DOH!

Weigh stations can be an adventure, our EZPass system lets us bypass most of them, but we have been brought in a few times.  We’ve always loaded legally, so we’re never worried about it.  The company stresses this, and it’s easy to do it.  I’ve learned how to slide the rear tandems and the fifth wheel to adjust the load, so I have no worries.  Haven’t been brought in for a full DOT inspection yet, but the trucks are well maintained and we pre-trip the truck pretty well, so no worries there either.

All in all, while it looks easy, it isn’t.  There is nothing difficult about it, but when you’re driving 18-40 tons of vehicle, you have a pretty big responsibility.  Cars never win against trucks, and it is normally the truck driver who needs to be on the ready to avoid the stupid things that cars will do.

ADVICE: Try to be a little more aware when you’re around trucks.  Yes, we sometimes pull out on hills, and yes we sometimes get in your way, but 9 times out of 10, if we hadn’t done that, we would be putting more than just you at risk.  You’ll never win, so don’t try it.  You might be amazed how long it takes a truck to finish even a simple lane change, and how may factors went into the decision to do it.  Try to be a little more understanding!

In summary, this job is going to fun, challenging and an adventure.  It’s going to suck to be away for so long at a time, but the payoff is the freedom that comes with being over the road.  Maybe it’s a little selfish, but I sure like the feeling!  Who knows what comes of this, but I know I will now be able to say, yes, I followed that childhood dream of driving a big truck.

See ya soon.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

What a long... strange trip it's been

I have skipped ahead a bit, mostly because since Tuesday when we left the yard, we have been haulin’ ass.  Traveling all around California, making pick-ups and deliveries.  I met some very interesting shippers and some really rude ones.  I guess it’s like anything else, there’s different folks everywhere.

I choose to blog today because of a strange confluence of events  that is about to befall us.  We were originally scheduled to take a load from southern California to Idaho.  We were pumped about it that’s alot of miles and a good, long trip.  Of course, such was not to be, and as soon as we had planned the trip, the load was taken away from us.  It’s a good thing too, since we later found out that the snow was falling and there 10 hour delays on the roads.  Pure chance, or beginner’s luck?

The upshot of it all was, out next load we a hellish nightmare.  We had to go all the way to Las Vegas, and then to Phoenix.  A real hell trip :)  So, with mopey faces and a few tears, we headed for the city of lights.  Coming in the I15 from California at night is a sight to behold.  Gorgeous!  Of course, we didn’t have alot of time to see the sights, but we did get a great breakfast (Steak and eggs, $5.99) and got our sleep in.  Then it was time to load up and head for the warmer climates.

It may be a bit before I blog this again, we have loads coming up back to back, and sleep will be precious!  See ya soon!