26 September 2010

The next six weeks .... what to expect

Okay, so now you're headed for California on your first trip, but you have to get loaded.....Get loaded, what's that? Well my friends, it's what you're going to be doing for a living for however long you have chosen to be an over the road truck driver. You're going to be moving all kinds of commodities all over the United States.

Hopefully, your partner is going to give you a break on this first run, so sit, watch and ask questions. While you're at the dock getting loaded you might take a nap, it would be a good idea. It's probably going to be a long night. It isn't long before the shipper knocks on the door and says it's ready to go. You follow your partner inside and watch while the shipping documents are signed. Whew! That was not so bad, eh? Down the road you go in the passenger seat. Piece of cake. Not so fast. Hopefully, you had questions during the loading process. Ask questions, if you don't ask then you can't learn. Hopefully, you grasped some of the idiosyncrasies of backing into a tight space. Probably not, that will come, so don't get frustrated just yet.

The load gets delivered the next afternoon, but whoa you're really tired, hungry and need a shower. But your partner tells you 'we don't have time' and 'you need to get some sleep, I'll be driving us out from the next shipper, but it will be your turn to drive very soon'.

Into the bunk you go. Sleep? What's that? Nope, not happening. The rig is moving, can't sleep behind someone you don't know or trust, or whatever it is, you just can't get to sleep, so you get up and sit in the passenger seat again. Your partner looks at you sideways and asks what's up? Answer, can't sleep.

Okay, the rig gets pulled over to the side of the road as soon as it's safe. Partner says, 'Your turn to drive...not going to sleep you drive!' Shit, it's pitch black out there and you have to have flashlight in hand to inspect the equipment. Partner says, 'no just get under the wheel and lets get after it'. Red flag! Reality check! Harsh! Do something that wasn't drilled into your head at the school? What's this? Partner reminds you, you will do safety checks and inspections, but since he/she has already done it...it's not necessary. The rig needs to get down the road.

There's no point in arguing, they're the boss, so it isn't going to be a partnership at all. He/she assists you with your logbook and settles you into the seat, reminding you to check the adjustment of the mirrors, reminds you to have cigarettes, lighter, drink, and anything else you need close at hand. Scared? You bet. Hands are shaking, you don't know if you can shift this rig, it isn't the same as the one in school. Panic sets in. Then the crowning blow, he/she suggests you're going to drive 350 miles before you can swap drivers again. Mind is spinning with what ifs ....ask questions.

Okay, your partner has relented with instructions and tells you they're going to be right behind the drape if you need something or feel like you're going to fall asleep. Waits until you get the rig rolling and into the flow of traffic. Fortunately, the traffic is light, but it's pitch black outside and you can't see anything around you. Fear, major fear! Grinding gears as you struggle to get up to speed with out getting run over by another big rig, or run under by some little four wheeler. Down the road you go, hands with a death grip on the steering wheel. White knuckles. Partner reaches through the drape for a pillow and settles into an uncomfortable position in the passenger seat with one eye open...you get the message that that person is not going to sleep either until you prove you can get down the road. This is just the first lesson of many you will learn in the days and weeks to come. But you've made the start and you're on the road.