Friday, July 20, 2007

TCC: The Ninth Crumb, Part I

January 4, 1987 was the day when I started to work for a large trucking company out of the great state of Arkansas. The name of which to be withheld forthwith. For there are times when it is prudent to also protect the guilty.

Anyway: I found myself in unfamiliar surroundings again. For all of my previous experiences with hauling livestock, grain, hay and heavy equipment did little to prepare me for such things as: bills of lading, log books, load distribution, weight scales, hazardous materials, DOT (Department Of Transportation) checks and full inspections, and a number of other things critical unto the timely pick-ups and deliveries of merchandise and materials.

Therefore: I took it as a double-edged sword when told that I would be teamed with a trainer for 6 weeks. For that meant that I would have someone around to teach me what I needed to know (I hoped); but that also meant that I would have someone around to keep me from getting any good sleep on a regular basis.

No, it was not that I was required to frequently stay-up and observe the trainer when it was their time to drive. For the trouble was over my inherent inability to go to sleep quickly and easily; and with all of the noise and motion going-on (not to mention: holes in the road that could bounce a person off the ceiling if they were not braced for it): the only way I could go to sleep while the truck was in motion was to pass-out from sheer exhaustion.

Alas, if only I was much more like Danny. For he could fall asleep while sitting in the jump-seat (passenger seat) of a truck without an air-ride suspension with his head banging against the window on his side; and if this was accomplished through the ingestion of pharmaceuticals (illicit or otherwise): he never shared any with me.

No, I have never abused drugs. That is: except for ephedrine; but that is a tale for another time.

On the other hand: that is not to say that there has never been times when I wanted to; and such was the case with my 42 day sentence. For aside from sleep deprivation: my jailer seldom failed to deliver his daily reminder unto me that he had a lot to say about whether I would be released on the scheduled date or held-over for more rehabilitation.

Yes, rehabilitation played a part in the process. In fact: it played a very big part. For the company wanted their drivers to be as indistinguishable (one from another) as their trucks and trailers were.

In other words: they did not want a bunch of individuals (let alone: cowboys, in the worst sense of the term) driving for them; and this was on the low end of the scale. For their ultimate goal was to make their drivers indistinguishable from their trucks (for all practicable purposes).

More simply put: drivers would be subject unto the same conditions as their trucks. For they were to be recognized as being nothing more than merely an extension (just another part) of their trucks by the company.

No, we are not talking about the weather. That is: at least not directly. For weather conditions do factor-in; but there is more unto it than just that.

Perhaps it would be helpful to look at this from the other side of the issue. For there is usually no reason for a truck to move another inch after making a delivery: other than to go get another load or just in order to clear the dock for another truck; and if it takes a week or two to get a good load close by: so be it. For the only thing that the truck requires is a safe place to park.

Not so for most drivers (most of the time). For aside from a safe place to park: the driver also requires a nearby telephone (in order to stay in touch with their dispatcher) and food, along with drinkable fluids, of course.

Yes, there is more than one way to skin a squirrel. For some sort of a mobile phone would take care of the need for a nearby phone; and having a stockpile of food and drinkable fluids on-hand is not at all impracticable.

There is, however, another matter to address. For a parked truck does not need to be running: except for when being in very cold temperatures (#2 diesel starts to gel at 10 degrees Fahrenheit). Whereas: a driver needs to be kept relatively cool in higher temperatures and relatively warm in lower temperatures (even if only for health reasons).

There is also the matter of comfort that should not be ignored. For an uncomfortable driver is a distracted driver; and a distracted driver is an accident waiting to happen.

Yes, there were such things as block heaters and portable generators available; but they had problems of their own. For I did not know of very many places to plug-in a block heater away from certain truck stops way up north; and fumes from portable generators can put a person to sleep for a very long time.

Last (but not least) is the matter of financial gains. For a driver is not making much money (if any at all) when their truck is not moving.

Neither is the company; but it is often more cost-effective to wait on a load nearby than to go after a load farther away as soon as a truck becomes available. For after totalling-up driver wages, fuel, general maintenance, wear and tear on equipment and tires, road taxes, and state permits: getting in another load or two a week may not be worth it; and this would be especially true of large discount-rate companies.

Such was the case with the company that I went to work for in 1987. For they booked an awful lot of loads for 50-75 cents per mile when a dollar a mile was generally considered as being a fair rate for most dry (non-refrigerated or live) freight.

Suffice to say: the company was hated by their competitors; and that hatred was sometimes visited upon their drivers. For I was the object of some of that a couple of times myself.

Even as bad as that was: what was worse was the almost constant harassment over the CB radio. For when one bucket-mouth would finally go silent: another one was more than ready to chime-in with something or another about clearing the road because of one of our trucks (usually me) being in the area.

Okay, in all fairness: there were plenty of good reasons to be cautious around their trucks. For it was not at all unusual for 25% of the fleet being out-of-service at a given time because of being wrecked while I was there.

Yes, I could have just turned-off the squawk-box; but it did help to ease certain fears. For it served as a source of news about traffic problems, weather conditions, and other things that can reach-out and bite a driver on the buttocks at very inopportune times.

No, I did not know any better than to sign-on with such an outfit; but even if I did: what other choice could I have had? For all of my previous experience (even as extensive as it was) was not recognized as being acceptable by the various insurance companies involved; and that meant that if I had not of went to work for who I did: I would have had to go to work for another outfit not so unlike them if I wanted to go "Over-The-Road" (OTR) trucking.

Besides: it was not all bad. For 6 months after I signed-on: I was made a trainer myself, which meant that I got paid up to 24.5 cents per mile on even the miles that my student drove; and by the 31st of December, 1987: I had grossed over $40,000 for around 243,000 miles of travel (some not payable).

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