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.