My First Day

I didn’t want to get out of bed.

Fear of the unknown can be a paralyzing feeling.

I got up early, washed and dressed, organized my stuff for the twenty-seventh time, and waited to call my DBL*, Martha**.

I met Martha briefly after I had finished my SQT***. She is ex-military in that way that some ex-military are; stiff, terse, direct and to the point. No chit-chat. Our conversation that morning continued along those same lines. My truck was located at the Freightliner shop (bit of a red flag, that, but ok), and she’ll get me dispatched from there.

I knew my first truck would be a piece of work, but wow.

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The truck was obviously abandoned by the previous driver. I emptied out almost two and a half Wal-Mart bags of garbage, empty McDonalds drink cups, empty coffee cups, discarded food wrappers. There was a bucket that contained some kind of chicken, but I’m only guessing chicken because that’s what was printed on the side. Seeing the greasy residue inside the bucket, I would say “chicken” is a vague generalization.

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The doors of several of the cabinets were held shut by a mix of poorly applied Velcro and duct tape. They tend to pop open randomly while I drive, so I’m weary about putting anything in there.

There was a half empty box of Arm & Hammer baking soda, the rest of the powder leaked, or purposed spilled, over the inside of one of the storage compartments.

The previous driver was a smoker. God bless Simple Green.

There was no current registration or insurance card in the truck. Martha had to fax it over to the Freightliner shop.

The rear side wing was missing.

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I made sure to document everything I saw when I first showed up.

I did a complete, point-by-point pre-trip, like I was taking my CDL exam all over again.

After a few hours of cleaning, and waiting, I got the dispatch to my first load. Go to the Schneider drop yard in Vegas, pick up an empty trailer, and then take it to Flagstaff AZ, where I’ll drop it off and pick up a loaded trailer to deliver to another place. Simples. Except it wasn’t.

The thing about Schneider is that most of the Operating Centers and drop yards I’ve visited are just dirt lots. The Vegas yard is no different. As you drive up to the gate, I saw several large pot holes in the dirt. Instead of trying to drive around them, I assumed (yes, I know what “assumed’ means, this is the perfect context) that since other drivers must have driven over them, I could too. I was wrong.

stuck

After an hour of trying to dig out my two rear drive axles from an ever-growing sinkhole of soft Nevada dirt, using nothing but some discarded plywood and bits of lumber, I knew that I was wasting valuable time. I bit the bullet and called Martha.

“Oh, they haven’t fixed those yet?”
“So, you know about this?”
“Yes, they were supposed to fix them.”

Well, Martha, obviously, they never got around to it. She told me I had to call Schneider Emergency Maintenance and arrange a tow from there.

So, another hour gone. On top of the hours I spent cleaning out the filth from the previous driver and then waiting to get dispatched.

Trucking can be compared to a lot of things. Falling dominos is a good example. You knock over the first one, and that effects everything else.

After the tow truck pulled me to solid ground, I finally picked up my empty trailer, and hit the road.

After a few hours, I pulled off to a truck stop to grab some Subway, the first thing I had eaten all day. And then I called my wife. And then I cried. Yes, I cried on the phone to my wife. This blog is warts and all, people.

Only once before in my life have I cried because a job. Remind me to tell you that story at some point.

I got back on the road, got to my destination, dropped off the empty trailer, spent a disproportionate amount of time hooking up my loaded trailer, because I’m new and this is my first day and despite everything I’m still trying to be a good boy and make sure it’s all done correctly. Eventually I’m on my way. By that time I had 10 minutes left on my driving clock.

For those of you following my humble blog who aren’t familiar with the transportation biz, the very short explanation is that the DOT only allows drivers to work for 14 hours a day, and they can only drive for 11. My time was up. My mistake was that I had logged myself on duty in the morning, and then didn’t log off during my marathon cleaning session. Remember, dominos.

By some movie-miracle magic, just on the horizon was a brightly lit truck stop. 10 minutes. I can make this. Except, I didn’t. Well, I did.

I made it to the truck stop, however by now it was close to midnight. Truck stops start getting crowded in the early evening, and are often full by midnight. This was no different. Yes, there were one or two randomly placed spaces I should have tried to get into, but I was tired and scared and I had already cried on the phone to my wife so I wasn’t interested in having anyone else know what a pussy amature I was. I circled the parking lot a few times, then left. My on-board computer was reminding me every few minutes that I was out of hours, I shouldn’t be driving, and that this was a DOT violation.

Some first day.

I started cruising the side roads for a place to just park. Some times you will see big rigs shut down in random off-road spots. Either they are broke down or they’re getting some shut-eye. But the movie-magic was all gone.

After half an hour of driving around with this robotic voice constantly reminding me I was in DOT violation, I got back onto the highway. I knew there was a larger truck stop a few miles down the road. In for a dime, in for a dollar, I reckoned. I rolled the dice. And got jackpot when I arrived. A space, one glorious, easy to get into space. Hallelujah.

It was almost one in the morning. I shut down the truck. Then I shut down.

And that was my first day on the job.

_____________________________________________________________________________
* Driver Business Leader – I’ve talked about how Schneider likes their ridiculous corporate-speak.
**Obviously not her real name.
*** Skills Qualification Test. Dammit, Schneider.

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