Thursday, March 5, 2009

Welcome to my little corner

Hello and welcome to my little corner of the blogosphere. My name is Jeff and I am an over the road truck driver trainer for C.R. England which is the largest refrigerated truckload carrier in the U.S. – according to C.R. England themselves. I have decided to start blogging as sort of a tribute to my last year in trucking as well as to assist anyone who might be thinking of getting into this wild and wooly field. I have been a driver since the spring of ’96 and a trainer for the overwhelming majority of that time. One of the things that I noticed when I (and my lovely wife who drove with me in the beginning) were investigating this field and one of the things that I often hear from my apprentices is how difficult it is to get accurate info on this kind of job from the outside – especially what it is like living life “on the road”. So, I am gonna do this in an effort to educate, entertain and shamelessly pander to advertising dollars.. J The format will be sort of a daily diary sort of thing (but probably not every day as that would be entirely too structured for my crazy life) interspersed with a good deal of commentary on the industry, lifestyle and anything else that might (or might not) be remotely interesting. Okay, hang onto your hats -- here we go…

3 March, 2009 – We began the day in a highway “rest area” on I-44 in Missouri (which I affectionately call “Misery”) after I had shut down for the night last nite at 1 am or so. We loaded out of the Chicago area yesterday afternoon on a load that delivers in Laredo, Texas at 8am tomorrow. Right now I have a student who is really an early bird so I have been leaving him a note telling him where we are and which way to head. So he’s been getting up at around 4am and taking off shortly thereafter. You might say, wow, that’s only 3 hours of sleep. Yup. I have decided that I will do this blog thing with non-truckers in mind. So I will have to ‘splain that according to DOT regulations, truck drivers may drive 11 hours during a 14 hour “window” every “day” (sort of) and then they must “rest” 10 hours before they can drive again. This rest period can be in “the sleeper” which is the bunk area of the truck or anywhere outside the truck. My truck has two bunkbeds in the back so a “team” (we’re introducing all kinds of terminology here) can sleep (or not) without getting overly friendly. So, in trucking, “team” driving is where 2 people share a truck so that truck can keep moving continuously and stay compliant with the regulations. This allows two drivers to legally move freight far and fast. So, with a trainee and a little caffeine I can go coast to coast in about 2 and a half days. But in this case we had a little time to stop and get a little “motion free” sleep and still make our delivery appointment and that really helps me at this point. One of the really dangerous things about team driving is the expectation that teams should be able to drive all night and as I get older (I’m 47) it has become more and more of an issue – especially with the crumbling infrastructure that we seem to hear so much about. A lot of roads are bad and you really can’t sleep on them much. But shippers are generally paying extra on team loads for fast service and I am also getting paid very well (we’ll get into that at some point) for getting it there on time. But, as you can imagine, fatigue becomes an issue. So, you gotta be careful and shut it down when you can. If you are the prayin’ type you can pray for me – I’ll take all the help I can get… J

The day itself was relatively uneventful. My student drove down I-44 then took U.S. 69/75 to Dallas then 35 south to Italy, Texas where there is a nice little truckstop with a McDonalds and some stuff around it. I drove during the evening through Austin and San Antone before shutting it down again about an hour from Laredo at around midnite. I didn’t figure it out exactly but we did about 800 miles for the day which is about average for days that we are under a load. It was a nice warm evening after freezing our you-know-what’s off up in Chicagoland. I got out and walked around a bit before I crashed (maybe I shouldn’t use that term). The Milky Way was on full display and was quiet and beautiful out in the middle of nowhere. See, there are things I like about this job… J