Former Truck Driving Instructor

former truck driving instructor

IamA Former truck driving instructor. Truckers are killed more often than any other job in America, Ive personally been hit three times, and one of my former co-workers was murdered by his own student. I’ve been to 48 of the states. AMA!

My short bio: Former truck driver trainer, oversize, flatbed, and hazmat certified. Also instrument rated pilot.

Trucking kills more workers than any other industry, and regularly kills more workers than the worst year in Iraq. Ive been hit three times, had one of my own co-workers roll his truck over in front of me, and one of my former co-workers was murdered by his own student. Ive been to 48 states and driven around 750,000 miles.

I spent the last two winters in the rocky mountains, including hauling oversize loads all over the Pacific Northwest.

Ask me anything! My Proof

A small gallery of pictures Ive taken, from all over the country

Why was your coworker murdered by his student?

He had been reporting that something was “off” about the guy, who was actually a full grown middle aged man, not some kid. He was going to drop the student off for some disciplinary reason and the student stabbed him in a rest area in front of all the other truckers.

The poor guy was on his last student before retiring from teaching, and was going to tour the country with his granddaughter, who just got her CDL before it happened.

There are a lot of arguments due to the stressful nature of trucking, and I always tried to give my students a lot of room and make sure they were well fed and hydrated. There is a reason trucking has a 100% annual turnover most years. Its difficult to adapt to such a changing environment and to deal with office personnel who are often unwilling to do their jobs correctly.

There is very little margin for error, and students are immediately held to these standards. So the first few weeks can be extremely stressful. Its not so bad once you become adapted. Its actually pretty enjoyable.

Do truck stop diners really have the best food?

The old mom and pop ones are usually pretty good. In very rural areas, truck stops can be the ONLY restaurant in town. The further west you go, the more common this becomes.

One of the best things about being a trucker is that you have a constantly changing option of places to eat.

Do you have any back problems or anything related to how much you’ve been driving?

The seats on trucks are actually a lot better than cars, they are much more upright, legs are in a much healthier position, and they have form fitting airbags in them if you want to use them.

They also have a suspension system you can adjust to make it as hard or soft as you would like, and to control the height.

The arm rests are actually in a much more comfortable position and can be adjusted in small increments. Most trucks ride pretty well, and have double suspension. One set of suspension on the truck, and another set between the mechanical parts/chassis and the cab.

One of my nursing teachers says truckers always end up with “Floating kidneys.” Driving for long hours with your body jumping up and down causing your kidneys to flail and possibly cause problems? Do you know anything about that or have these new seats changed that?

Huh, I have never heard that. But there could be some truth. When I was first training, a trainer made me sleep on the top bunk, which is absolutely terrible to ride in, let alone sleep. I ended up putting trash bags filled with clothes on each side of me to keep me from rolling, but I wasnt thinking about my stomach. My body would stay in place, but by stomach would get thrown side to side (and Im not overweight at all, its just that there is no bones to keep your intestines in place).

Welp, I ended up basically getting an Indian sunburn inside my gut, from my intestines rubbing against the wall of the cavity. 1/10, would not recommend.

Sometimes when I see a truck I act like I am honking a trunk horn and then the trucker will honk his or her horn. Does this happen to you and/or other truckers often?

This happens once in a while, but we have to be careful about it. When I was a new driver, we were sitting next to a car with a kid asking us to honk. So we did.

And so the car in front of us freaked out and drove through the red light.

How much sex really happens at truck stops?

I guess that depends on what you are into. There are an increasing number of women getting into trucking, and since all truckers require federal background checks and many have security clearances, its generally very safe.

There are actually a lot of couples getting into trucking, and the pay for teams is extremely high for similar levels of education. Couples usually make over $100,000 a year, before signing bonuses.

The couples are often some of the happiest couples Ive ever met, so Im pretty sure somebody is getting something.

Do you guys watch DVDs while you’re driving?

Haha, not while we are driving. But most of us have XM radio or have headsets so we can talk while driving. There is also plenty to think about, as well.

How do y’all fake logs where you say you’re sleeping but you’re really driving?

We actually cannot. All companies over a certain size require electronic logs that automatically log all movement of the truck. So its impossible to do so.

This is a major problem because a lot of customers are rude enough to waste 4-8 hours loading us, then expect us to be able to drive illegally somehow. We simply cant. The federal government had access to the qualcom records, and it gives automatic violations for going over our time.

We actually have to perform online classes if we make too many mistakes on our logs, and some people can even be sent back to trucking school again.

The law is incredibly strict when it comes to trucking. We are the only industry that regularly has to deal with law enforcement inspections.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever seen? I have a job as a delivery driver and I always see the strangest things.

There have been some weird ones, like a guy wearing a top hat with dream catchers woven into his handlebar mustache.

Or 6 people getting smashed between two trucks mythbusters style in southern Indiana.

And Ive seen some interesting optical illusions. At high altitudes the snow can turn headlights so they beam partially upwards into the sky. Basically looks like a line of cars being abducted. This is most common on the New Mexico/Colorado border, which is high altitude and just failry unique terrain in general.

Then are you glad to hear that trucks will be automated in the near future? Making shipping more reliable and safe.

Im glad somebody asked this up front, and its a lot different than most people would expect.

Trucks are actually already partially automated. Many trucks have radar that applies the brakes to attempt to stop a collision, and will also automatically adapt to follow the vehicle in front of you. Not all trucks have this, but they are very common.

The main reason things cannot be automated completely is because customer service reps are often unwilling to communicate properly with the customers, which leads to an unreasonable level of confusion and mistakes, and so the driver serves as a way to overcome problems. The driver is there to adapt to situations, which severely hampers the ability to automate the industry.

Trucks actually cannot be completely automated, as its actually a lot like trying to automate UPS or the mail. There are a lot of tasks that require outside human intervention, such as doing paperwork, talking with customers, and most importantly… inspecting the truck for mechanical problems.

The most successful trucking companies are something called “LTL”, which is basically the trucking equivalent to UPS. They pick up entire pallets instead of boxes, and take them directly from one place to another. These kinds of companies will continue to exist because their main advantage is their ability to adapt to small customers. An automated truck could not replace the human interaction required for small business transactions.

Truckers actually have a lot of training, and we are one of the only industries where people routinely deal with the authorities. We drive through inspection stations and have to interact with DOT or public safety officers. We have to verify the safety of the truck and loads, so very little of our jobs is actually driving.

One of the biggest reasons automation will have problems is because office workers routinely send us to the wrong addresses, and businesses often are not marked clearly. Trucks also have to enter businesses very cautiously because we can become stuck incredibly easily. My truck once sank into the ground with another truck stuck right next to me in the same place. Automated trucks would need to be able to overcome all the random problems and paperwork issues that plague the trucking industry in general.

TL;DR:

Drivers are mainly required for non-driving tasks involved with business and regulations. Driving is only a very small amount of the work.

Do think automated trucks could be used for long haul hub to hub shipments and drivers would be hub to destination?

Yes, for LTL companies. They already have the resources in place, but often contract out to long haul for their hub to hub long distance stuff. More than likely, they will keep a driver in the truck just for contingency.

OTR trucking could not operate without drivers, as they do not have proper hubs to make a transition like that. LTL has a huge heads up in this regard.

I’ve heard allegations (rumors really) that long distance truckers sometimes do amphetamines or cocaine in order to stay awake and do long distance hauls. Has this ever happened to you/Anyone you know?

We are actually regularly drug tested, and sometimes given hair tests as well. So there isnt much we could get away with in the first place.

Truck stops have a pretty good variety of energy drinks, and I prefer the cranberry Red Bulls. They might as well be crack anyways. Haha.

What’s the thing that you should remember most when driving a truck?

Pay attention to the posted speed limit on turns. There are an absolutely absurd number of truck rollovers on turns that are clearly marked.

Just in Atlanta alone, there are THREE different interstate ramps with over 30 truck rollovers EACH YEAR. And about 5000 truck rollovers in the State of Georgia in the last decade.

I recently got my learners permit so what are some things that other motorists should be aware of when driving close to large trucks (that you don’t learn from reading in a book)? All advice is welcome.

The very most important thing for people to know about trucks is that the right front side is a blind spot. And that they cannot stop very quickly at all. The daughter of my family pastor was killed when she pulled out in front of a truck and was T-boned by it. So try and keep a safe distance, and avoid passing on the right.

The left side is the pass side. The right side is the “sui-side”

I like Werner drivers, never had a problem with them. But why are all Swift drivers dicks? Also, have you ever had any problems with LTL drivers? Certain company you dislike? How much do you hate your dispatcher(s)? Everyone hates the dispatcher. I’m a dispatcher.

Werner is actually one of the better large companies, and they actually have had several HUNDRED drivers go over a million miles without an accident. They even have one guy named Charley… that has 5 million safe miles over 38 years.

They have a wall with all the names on it, which includes a few of the owner’s own family members.

LTL companies are excellent, and I worked alongside many of them while at Werner. Conway is awesome, and ABF is also a good company. Each pay their workers very well, and are great to work with.

Most people are unaware, but instead of fedex or UPS large groups of packages, they can put them all on a pallet and have an LTL carrier transport the entire thing together. They also treat the packages much more gently.

The problem with dispatchers is that they are responsible for things out of their own control. I can personally like somebody, but if they cant do their job because the authority belongs to somebody else… it makes working with them a nightmare.

Like If I need to know the hours of operation of a customer, there is no reason we should have to go through a dispatcher just for him to ask the customer service rep.

Dispatchers have basically become the punching bag for other office workers mistakes. They are held accountable for performance, when they have no authority over the people who cause the actual problems.

What was your favorite part of the job?

It can be really rewarding to see how much people improve both as drivers and as people while they are being trained. The students often chance substantially for the better by the time they get off the truck, and any standards they are taught usually get applied to their personal life as well.

Ive had a lot of students who I had to really tear into, and then discipline, who then turned out to be very successful. They might not like me, but its still rewarding to see them successful, while other are failing.

I would rather see them succeed and have a successful life than to be liked and see them fail.

But personally, my favorite parts of trucking itself are the sights, and the constant change of food. And the massive selection of energy drinks at most truck stops haha.

There is also the long stretches of open highway where all you do is think and sip on a red bull. Thats one of the best things, actually.

What do you guys think of RVers? Are they regarded as assholes for taking up spots at rest areas and places like Loves or Pilot? Are they seen as grossly underqualified to be hauling massive amounts of vehicle, and are they viewed as reckless? Or are they just another driver on the road?

RV’s are in their own special category. Ive seen a lot of them get killed driving up in Montana and the Pacific northwest in the winter, including one that detached from his camper on a hill, dropping it in the road and driving off an extremely tall cliff and near the opposing lane of traffic. One of the pickups didnt even hesitate and immediately drove full speed off the road and directly to the pickup.

There are also a lot of jackknives with 5th wheels. And a lot of RV wrecks in Texas on Friday nights.

But as far as what we think of them, they rarely take our spaces, and they often have their own parking (Thanks Flying J).

Some RV drivers have a hard time controlling them, usually motorhomes in high winds. And entire sections of I-80 and I-90 can become completely impassable to them for weeks at a time.

In general, most RV drivers are pretty safe and cautious. The only tip I would give them is to try and drive at least as fast as the trucks, or a little faster. Its both good manners, and trucks/RVs typically get their best MPG around 65. Mid range RPMs are the best, and MPG will go significantly down if the truck has to downshift.

Oregonian here… During the winter it isn’t far from the damp valley to some really treacherous mountain roads. Do folks here drive worse in the mountains than people in Colorado or other places like that? Also, how long does it take to learn how to start and shift gears etc, to drive well enough to be able to get on the road without immediately getting stuck or stalling out (not talking about backing i to loading docks or driving safely)?

Mountains take a bit of work to get used to, I have something like 3000 miles of mountain experience alone, just counting the grades above 5%. Which will reduce most trucks to about 30-40mph depending on how heavy they are loaded. Or slower in some cases.

It takes about 3 months to really start to get the hang of it, but most of my students are pretty good by the end of the first week because I just try and simplify things as much as possible. There is no reason for any additional stress or anything.

If you go to a decent school, you should have little problem getting into docks at all. Its more precise than school, but you also dont have limitations and cant fail because you pull up too far.

Which company did you work for, and what products did you deliver?

I’ve actually worked for several of the major companies, and Ive hauled anything from paper to 8 tons of explosives. Ive done oversized flatbed, hauling larger pieces of machinery, and Ive done refrigerated (which we call “reefer units”). Ive done cross border refrigerated on the Texas/Mexico border, as well.

Do you need any special training or certification for things like explosives or other unsafe material?

Yes, there is a federal clearance for Hazmat, and some programs are on a need to know basis only, so we cant talk about it very much. The industry has lost a huge number of hazmat drivers because they do not pay them any extra and expect us to deal with the extra responsibility for free, after putting the effort in to study and pay for our own certification. Its pretty easy to get a felony, and we get absolutely no compensation for this kind of thing. Im not sure when businesses started to think they can require people to get certifications and not compensate them for it. Especially when they are desperate for more of them.

There is such a shortage of Hazmat drivers, the best way to ship is actually to use an LTL carrier, as most of their drivers are required to have it. Otherwise it will be difficult to find somebody willing to take it.

The test actually requires a pretty good attention to detail, so Hazmat mandatory LTL companies usually have much sharper drivers with better attention to detail. They usually have the highest company CSA scores as well, which reflects this.

You say that many drivers have security clearances. For what reasons are these clearances needed? Does the DoD/government ship commercially a lot or something?

Every student who goes to a trucking school gets a federal background check, and drivers are required to present 10 years of work experience. Its both a security issue, and to keep violent felons out of trucks.

Since the CSA 2010 and background checks were implemented, driver deaths and violence have dropped dramatically.

Are the sleeper cabs in trucks pretty awesome? I’ve always thought that would be awesome to pull over and take a nap.

Its actually really nice to have a sleeper right behind you. And yes, its nice to be able to take a nap when you have the time.

I just think of it like my little tree house on wheels, actually. And once you get used to it, anything else feels like a palace.

A lot of couples will buy 122 inch extended sleepers because the truck is actually their home. It will sometimes have a queen bed inside, and often has a bathroom or showing installed. And many have a stairway on the back (since there are actually disabled truckers, and parking spaces for them)

Might be a weird question, but do you ever get scared at night sleeping in the truck alone, in the middle of nowhere? I live in a rural area and everytime I pass a parked truck at night I wonder about that.

I personally do not, but the truck becomes like a little home, or kind of like a rolling tree house for grown men. And the engine tends to keep you company when you arent surrounded by 200 other trucks in the Flying J.

And of course, you can always have a team driver.

I sell trucking insurance and am licensed in 46 states. Insurance has gotten extremely strict in the last 3 years. Driver shortage is the most talked about problem. Insurance companies are starting to not like new ventures, drivers under 23 years old, and also aren’t willing to take drivers with less than 2 years of experience. What are your thoughts on these issues?

Many companies are self insured for the first few million dollars, and have to put down a bond with the government to cover it. One of the drivers I work with cannot insure himself, so he has someone else driving his truck while he is forced to drive for one of these self insured companies until he can qualify to insure himself again.

Insurance wouldnt be so bad if there weren’t so many mistakes, and if there were more strict standards. Many truck drivers only have a week of training before being licensed, and so have huge amounts of accidents.

If insurance companies wanted to reduce claims, they would lobby for proper training, and for government subsidies for trucking schools (which would be very small for the huge returns). In fact, insurance companies would probably save a lot of money by certifying what schools they will take drivers from, and monitoring them.

Ive seen students from every major school in my region, and the difference in quality is astonishing. Some schools put a huge amount of effort into their training, while others put very little.

Small schools are often dramatically better than their large corporate competitors. For comparison, I had completed over 300 Alley docking maneuvers in the month I was training (about 10 a day on average, very reasonable). The majority of schools do not even train for this kind of maneuver at all, so the drivers have dramatically different levels of experience depending on which school they come from.

Company training programs should also be certified by insurance companies as well. With both safety and behavioral training on how to improve safety of trainees.

There is a huge potential for reducing accidents and saving capital, with very little additional investment of resources.

Can you explain if there is a speed limiter in modern big rigs?

Nearly all corporate trucks will have speed limiters, usually set between 62 and 65. This is why truck pass each other so slowly, because they will often only have the ability to pass at 1 to 3 mph.

Its often called “Elephant racing”

Do you still use CB radios?

Yes, some of us do. My current one was handed down to me by my last co-driver when he retired after 30 years. They are still available in any truckstop.

But for a $200 setup, its not really worth the money just to have people tell you to go eff yourself or to suck their you-know-what.

But its very useful as a way for other drivers to alert you to danger or a malfunction on your truck. Sometimes the bearing go bad and they shoot a shower of sparks out under the truck, sparks you cannot see yourself. I see this a few times a year, and CBs help to inform drivers of this.

Theyll also come on the channel and tell you if there is an accident ahead, and the trucks at the front of a traffic jam will relay back information for those in the rear.

So it can be a very useful tool, especially in urban areas that experience regular traffic jams.

Ever looked into driving entertainment? Some of the best people and drivers I know, drive for tours.

Ya, somebody actually gave me a recommendation to drive for one of them once. I’m thought about it.

Have you ever been killed?

No, but Ive seen 6 people get smashed between two trucks Theyre getting ready to lift the truck off the last victim, and you can see the helicopter coming in to get her. 1/10, would not recommend.

Also witnessed two paramedics find a driver who was ejected from his pickup. The first paramedic drops to his knees and starts beating on the guys chest, and the second paramedic goes into shock and stands there with his hands on the sides of his face.

1/10, would not recommend.

If he went into shock, he was probably just an EMT-B, (basic) not a paramedic (EMT-P). If you’ve gone all the way to your EMT-P, not much is going to shock you, unless it involves kids.

Ya, and it was a pretty rural area where more of the responders were clearly volunteers in fightfighting pickups.

The guy’s truck rolled over with a camper behind it, and it just blew into chunks. They found the guy just feet ahead of the remains of the camper, it missed landing on him by just a few feet. There were several dozen puzzled looking responders looking around, and they found him in the grass right as I was going by.

What’s your honest reaction when a vehicle passes you in the open road at a high rate of speed? Like an exotic doing 120mph+ without any traffic in sight. Entertaining, or complete asshole?

Since its usually the local police, its a mixture of the above.

But seriously, the police are incredibly professional with us, and there is a reason they sent the DOT to Ferguson to calm things down. Because they are very calm collected people.

I actually dont see that many people really speeding recklessly. The biggest problem is actually in the areas of the south that are right on the edge of snow territory. I was in Nashville and pickup trucks were driving like 80mph in the unplowed left lane, and there was something like 30 wrecks in 8 miles.

When you see reckless driving or obvious speeding, do you report it?

Its actually not that common, and yes, sometimes I report it. Like the one time a truck forced one of our boat carrying flatbeds off the road in front of me.

Considering you have been to 48 out of 50 states, can the sites while driving sometimes feel distracting?

Sometimes the mountains can be distracting, as its impossible to take a picture of this endless mass that is just surrounding you from every direction. Its something everybody should experience in their lifetime.

The Rocky mountains are actually pretty wide, it takes something like 12 hours to drive from Montana to Seattle, with mountains continuously the entire way.

What truck stops (in terms of runaways, thefts, fights, other crimes) are the most dangerous?

The ones that really stand out are anything in West Memphis, which is like the second most deadly city in the US, but St.Louis has truckstops far away from the bad areas that there are no problems usually. Chicago is the same, very few problems.

But in Dallas we had to close the rear entrance with concrete and barbed wire, and put up retractable spikes and everything, as well as full perimeter barbed wire. There are routine shootings in truck stops all over Texas, I have no idea what the hell it is about that state.

One of the guys stepped into the wrong truck (which are very similar and it happens to a lot of company drivers every year or so) and the guy inside didnt even hesitate and shot hit co-worker in the face as he was climbing in.

I was in Waco and a local smashed an old man’s legs in a door like a pair of scissors because he wanted a parking spot, and so the old man kicked him in the nuts. Well, some third guy pulled out a gun and pointed it at the old man and yelled “Stop or Ill blow your (effing) head off”

The police and an abulance come for the guy who was kicked in the nuts, and they talk to him for about an hour. The entire truckstop is locked down by the manager, so nobody can do anything while she is out there dealing with it.

The cop walks up to the old man who got attacked, and says theyve decided not to press charges against the old man. Ya, they thought this old like 75 year old guy had attacked this local moron. And then everybody about goes out of their minds hearing that, “What do you mean the other guy chose not to press charges? He was the one who started it!”

Is it common to run into runaways or people trying to run (from anything)?

Every once in a while youll come across people. We try to be nice to them, but a lot of places simply arrest people. Places like Arizona put up signs clearly stating that panhandling is a crime and they will be arrested. What the hell is wrong with some people?

And there are a lot of truckers who take along people who want to get away from life. I know a guy who routinely just puts ads online and rides around with someone for a few months at a time. You know, after getting a rider’s permit from their company. There is a law against picking people up randomly.

What do you have against the Dakotas that kept you from going there?

Hahahaha. I actually really like North Dakota, and the area around the oil fields is not even remotely as bad as they say. There is actually a really nice town with all sorts of national chain restaurants and bars. I once delivered a load right up to the Canadian Border, basically right where Montana, North Dakota, and Canada come together. Nice little town there. Needed a piece of heavy equipment.

What’s your opinion on trucks having cameras that not only point out, but also point in the cab?

The Cameras are often abused. Trucking attracts some of the most mentally unhealthy business people, who seemingly cannot control their urges. Ive never seen an industry where so many managers get sent to prison or sued so often.

Perfect example? Qualcom took away authority for trucking companies to shut down their trucks because companies would use it to try and manipulate drivers into breaking the law. Which is a class E felony if its across state lines.

So now if a company wants to force a driver to stop, they must send qualcom a police report proving that there is some legal reason why the truck should be stopped.

If there is a way for something to be used for abuse, it will be. And there are already cases where managers have been calling drivers and micro managing their personal behavior, when the behavior is specifically ADVISED by their own guidebook. Like using a hands free headset with their phone.

As for forward facing cameras, placing a simple mobile eye warning device (which cannot record) reduced reckless driving tickets by 85%. So there is little reason to install something which is so routinely abused.

You work for a trucking company and I assume they give you reviews with scorecards and metrics. Like.. number of times over the speed limit, maybe hard breaking spots, number of times late to appointments or not entering reason codes for being late.. and so on. Do you actually get anything out of those? Is there any metrics that just piss you off because they’re unfair to the real world situation you’re in?

We do not even see the metrics. But we do have something called a “DAC report” which companies use to record the driving history of drivers, and which other companies can pull up during the hiring process.

Ive seen mine, and its not wrong, but its highly inaccurate. The main problem with metrics is that they require people to enter them correctly and accurately. And frankly, most of the people who get into business didnt do it to be accurate or fair.

Do truckers really get paid a lot? Would you rather be a police officer than a trucker because statistics show its safer?

I have actually considered becoming a police officer because we become adapted to the constant stress. I had a truck roll over in front of me and the man was ejected but alive. His arm was broken with the bones sticking out, and he went into shock in front of us. The other witnesses were really in shock, and I ended up having to direct people what to do. After that, I really did consider becoming a police officer or joining the military, because trucking has apparently helped me adapt to this kind of thing.

There was an even worse case where one of our drivers witnessed another truck driver hit a bridge and tried to get the driver out, but she burned to death in front of a crowd of people trying to save her. A lot of the people went into shock, but our driver remained calm and ended up having to take people’s phones and call out of work for them because they were so shocked by what they saw. He ended up yelling at one of the the employers who kept saying his worker needed to come in anyways.

The industry is so random and unexpected that it really builds up a pretty good resistance to shock. And its actually pretty common for high level executives to have been truck drivers in the past. Ive been approached several times by successful businessmen who told me they started out in trucking.

The long hours and randomness really build a resistance to stress and help improve problem solving skills substantially, which helps a lot of truckers to become successful after they get out of their field.

You would really be surprised at how often I get approached by police or businessmen who use to be truckers. Two of the three billionaires in our state started as truckers, if that says anything.

Do you like pants?

I have nothing against pants, but some drivers treat them like its their mortal enemy. The secret is to get pants a few inches too large, and to get one of our secret ratcheting belts. They sell belts in truckstops that have a track on the inside, which allows you to press a little button that automatically adjusts to whatever position you are in. When you stand up, all you do is tug the end of the belt and it automatically adjusts.

These things are a lifesaver.

Edit: Okay, so here it is people. This one is a little worn, and there are more than one kind.

How it looks from the outside

The actual mechanism behind it

The hidden track on the back

And the little hidden release button on the bottom

It looks a little wonky from behind, but trust me, you dont feel any of it. Its very balanced and nothing sticks out or into your stomach. Its also a little more rigid, just enough to make it slide in and out much easier than typical belts.

Its also impossible to insert it the wrong way and get it flipped or twisted when you put it on. Makes changing belts SOOOO much easier.

Are those real? I want one

Yep, they sell them at “Loves” truckstops. If you look on the inside of the belt, youll see a little groove. It slides through the ratchet on the belt buckle. The ratchet is removable, and you can cut the excess off and connect it back to the ratchet to make it the perfect size for you. The cut is hidden inside the buckle/ratchet. It also has no holes, and has a pretty clean appearance.

What are your thoughts on motorcycle riders?

Every once in a while a motorcycle will get halfway past us and then just freeze there looking at us in panic. But usually they arent so bad.

Every once in a while Ive have to avoid running a few over and they wave at me like I was being nice. No dudes, I cant go any further without running you all over. And they just run off like nothing ever happened.

If you go outside of Sturgis, there are crosses EVERYWHERE from dead bikers. Like 30 within a few miles. Wear your helmet, and drive safe!

When I was 18 (im 31 now) i got into a car accident w a big rig. I was in the first lane, he was in the third lane and we were both eyeing the second lane. So we both went for it, but not right away. We both hesitated. The damage was non existent to his truck but my driver side needed fixing. The insurance blame was put on me because the trucker saying he didnt see my Toyota Solara was a lot more believable than me saying I didnt see his 18 wheeler. I remember it being a budweiser truck, and i remember being grateful the driver was so nice – he even stood up for me when the cop yelled at me. He saw i was a scared young girl that made the same mistake he did and didnt deserve to be yelled at. Have you been in any accidents with a small car before?

I had a nearly identical accident, but the girl was drunk. And she was from the same small town a thousand miles from where we were. They let her off, but she tried to blame me and filed a hit and run report the next day because there was no police report proving it had been the day before, or how it happened. Luckily we have satellites on the truck, and they cleared my record when it was brought up.

I was also hit by a retired Airforce officer who seemed really emotional and I think he was trying to off himself. I helped the guy put his bumper back on, and the officer gave me a $300 dollar ticket for bad company paperwork. I asked him where to pay it and he looked really surprised. I told him I was just happy nobody died, it could have been a lot worse. Never heard anything else about that ticket.

How common are hit and run incidents with trucks? I was involved in one, but I’ve never met anyone else who was. I’m told that in a truck, you damn well know you hit something, and licensed drivers don’t pull that crap, so it must have been unlicensed. I guess two questions, then. How common are no-CDL truck drivers, and how common are hit and runs?

I was hit by a drunk driver on the side of the trailer and it was barely noticeable. Car was devastated, but I barely felt it. Left a little smudge on the skirt of the trailer and some of the car was inside the rims. But it could be very easy to be in a collision and be unaware.

In fact, one driver sheered off a telephone pole and had the stump grab his rear wheels. He couldn’t see what was holding him and the top of the pole had shot on top of the truck with the wires, so he couldn’t even tell until he got out. Sheered it completely off.

I was standing outside in Miami and another driver ran over a steel light pole like it was a toy, pulled it right up out of the ground with no damage to the truck, laid it over and ran over it like it wasn’t even there.

Trucks are a lot tougher than people think. 40 ton vehicles.

What kind of initial investment and potential commitment do new truckers have to look forward to? What kind of setbacks are common that drive people out of the industry so quickly?

There is little investment, most schools will either front you the money and get paid back by your company, or will put you on a payment plan. Some companies will train you themselves, but require a 1 year commitment or longer. Avoid these companies like the plague, as they have immense fail rates and will charge $5-7000 for a week of training.

Local schools and community colleges are where its at. Local schools for people who need to get a job within a month. They will often front you the training for a reasonable price, and you may be able to just get it for free.

We have something like 50,000 openings right now, which is nearly as much as the entire state of New York has ALL job openings. There is a HUGE need for drivers, and training is very easy to come by.

The most common setback is not being able to back the trailer, or shift. But many companies have automatics, and if you are willing to team there are automatic straight trucks doing expedited.

The main reason people fail is that the first few months is usually pretty rough, both in pay and stress, and that your trainer will probably be exhausted and you probably wont like him much because of it. We are required to work our own shift, then get up any help trainees anytime they need help, like at customers or getting fuel.

Once you get a year of experience, things get easier and easier, and its hard to make less than a grand a week. Especially if you become a trainer yourself, or decide to team.

The best way to succeed is to team with somebody, and to stick to a set shift, like 5pm to 5am, or the inverse. The pay is excellent as a team, and you get better runs, as well as better treatment.

I heard one that if someone with a CDL ever blows more than .04% BAC regardless of if they are in a regular car, of the clock, whatever, they lose their CDL. Is this true?

There is no tolerance at all for CDL holders while on the job. None at all. But outside of work it should be the same as any other driver, as long as their isnt a state law saying otherwise.

The laws are actually not on a national level, but state level. The feds just get them to comply by twisting their arm with funding. So the majority of laws are the same, with minor differences here and there.

Any advise for a new dispatcher?

Yes. The most important thing is to take your job seriously because when dispatchers cannot even be bothered to make a 30 second call to check delivery appointments or hours of operation, it gives the impression that drivers are not being treated seriously. We are routinely delayed 8-16 hours because of a 30 second office mistake.

Try and keep drivers on a set schedule. If they are delayed and then have to drive, they can be up for 24 hours at a time, and past 16 hours of sleep deprivation is equivalent to DUI. If a load requires a 10 hour break, the timing of the break is usually not important. If they do it after loading or do it closer to the receiver, the total time of transit plus break is going to be the same. But one combination will have them well rested, and the other will cause severe sleep deficit.

When I was teaming, we would keep to the same shifts for exactly this reason, and came just short of 30,000 miles one month. If our last load had not been disrupted by a port strike, we would have made it. So a predictable sleep schedule really helps drivers really make the most miles.

Also, live loads all need a delivery windows if possible, because they get delayed so often. It severely effects driver performance if live loads keep changing their sleep schedule.

If the managers know about this waste of time why don’t they control the dispatchers better?

That is not really what most managers are worried about. And many managers dont like to fix problems because the existence of the problem makes them look like they werent doing their job.

Any manager can tell you, when they fix a problem, they very first question is: “Why didnt you find this before”.

One of the reasons aviation is the safest form of transport in the world is because self reporting can not get you in trouble. So people are honest, and the results are generally unbiased.

We had a similar program on one of our accounts. If drivers found a trailer with a mechanical problem, they could report it after they dropped it, and they would not be held accountable. After a few months, every bad trailer had been reported and the fleet improved dramatically once the drivers knew they wouldnt get in trouble.

We would tell each other “Be the last person to haul it like that”, because there were probably 30 drivers before them who had. And overall, it was a huge success. Yes, they hauled it illegally with a mechanical problem, and so did the 30 guys before them. But now there werent going to be another 30 people hauling it illegally until it got caught.

So being more open and understanding allowed the maintenance problem to be handled with far more success. We used to have to bring them in and inspect them in the terminals to catch people doing it. Now, they self report and it gets fixed far more quickly and with fewer violations.

Does being a pilot help your driving visa versa?

Driving a truck actually helped my flying. There is very little to hit up in the air, and trucks require very fine control to keep such a massive object in the lane. Anybody who can drive a truck can fly a plane. And it should be a requirement.

How long have you been flying for? And what made you pursue your instrument rating? Do you feel the amount of standards and regulation you had to learn/memorize for the trucking industry helped you a lot when you studied for your aviation ratings? Did you rent planes from random airports during your down time on the road? Because I could see that being a huge perk of the job. Drive all over the country and fly all over it at the same time!

I actually was studying engineering and aviation before the economy tanked and I had to care for my dying father. So I ended up in trucking.

The regulations in trucking are at least a magnitude worse than aviation, and I received a 4.0 in both Private and Instrument flight, and completed all the ground classes for everything up to and including Commercial.

The oversight in the trucking industry is the most overbearing thing Ive ever seen, and Ive actually worked for a lawfirm before. There is nothing Im aware of that has this much regulation.

Its as if a business had an inspector tour every day, or at least walk by. There is constant supervision by the government, and the companies are even given “Grades” by the federal government, something called a “CSA score”.

But to get back to the flying, Ive been flying for nearly a decade, was one of the first to learn in the G1000. There are actually pretty large areas of the country where planes would struggle to operate because of the altitude.

Where is the worst town to deliver and why?

Besides ports, Chicago is the worst. Very few truck stops, very small rest areas, and its difficult to even weigh your load.

Sorry Texas, but basically anywhere in that entire state is a nightmare of some kind.

Most drivers are intimidated by Jersey, but its not that bad. Anything on I-95 south of that is a traffic nightmare. Baltimore, DC, Virginia beach, its very difficult not to run out of hours just sitting in traffic.

Otherwise, most of the country is pretty good. And of course you must know about Florida. Many owner ops will run empty because the freight prices are insultingly low, they would rather take a hit for the miles than to feel like they were manipulated.

Pilot/Flying J, TA/Petro, or Love’s?

Flying J because Denny’s, drivers seperate restrooms, and lots of parking. TA second, because their food isnt as good, but otherwise very similar. Pilots and Loves are hit and miss. Wilco is actually pretty nice because they often have Wendys and those mini Dunkin donuts, and a good selection of special snacks you dont see anywhere else.

Um, aren’t Alaskan crab fisherman killed more than in any other job in America?

The per capita rate changes every year, truck driving was first for something like 30 years. But as for volume of people killed, trucking is always the number one, ever since the Korean war, anyways. Even Vietnam didnt kill as many soldiers as truckers died during the same time period. It uses to be absolutely insane numbers of deaths before the safety standards and driver training requirements. There was a time where no training was required at all.

That 4th picture down in your album, that’s from somewhere around the New Mexico/Colorado border right?

New Mexico or Arizona. Arizona is absolutely gorgeous, and the north actually has some really nice forests. New Mexico has some plants that look like they are out of 1960s star trek episodes, but the north is also pretty nice, up near Los Alamos nuclear facility.

What’s the most beautiful place you’ve seen?

By far, California is the most gorgeous state. But Montana is also stunning in the winter. Idaho as well.

Kentucky is great this time of year, they have the perfect rolling hills and a great mix of foliage in the fall.

And Wyoming looks like they banished Windows XP there when they stopped supporting it. Harrison Ford has a place in Wyoming, and no wonder. It looks like friggin Hoth in the winter time.

But California definitely holds first place by a clear margin. Its everything Texas thinks it is. Sorry Texas, maybe another day.

What company makes your favorite truck? I prefer Volvo or Peterbilt.

Freightliner is pretty reliable now that they figured out their DEF system. With a 600,000 mile warranty, you can’t go wrong. The cummins powers trucks pull like mad, but those failing EGR coolers are like a plague.

Do you have any plans to visit Alaska And Hawaii? Assuming those are the two on your list you haven’t been to.

Oh ya, definitely. I would like to actually get to take a trip in a Bush plane near the mountains. I already took a flight in one in Florida, and it was awesome.

Bush planes take off faster than most powerboats can, they can skim the water at 70 or 80 with very little power, and the ride is very smooth. So its surreal compared to riding in a boat.

What are your thoughts on brokers? Is there certain brokerages that you refuse to accept freight from?

Ive dealt with brokers directly, and they are usually all better than dispatchers, because the information is direct and can be dealt with in just one call. Dispatcher have to ask CSMs and other departments to assist them, which causes all sorts of misunderstandings from communication issues.

Dealing with brokers is more of a math problem than a broker problem. Some loads can appear to be poorly paying, but actually be more profitable. Others can be highly paying but have terrible margins if they are so long that little money is left over.

How many of those deaths are caused by truck drivers exhausting themselves but refusing to rest or due to drugs they took to keep themselves awake?

Very few, actually. The vast majority are being hit by cars or run over by customers. Only something like 15% of accidents are at fault of the truck.

Most accidents also occur around the time school gets out, not in the middle of the night, as many people believe.

I’m a Navy Veteran. Spent all my GI bill on film and acting school. My dream now is to drive over the road for a year, pack away all that money and get a local route after in California. Then buy a nicer camera and film a few short films, a Webseries, and a feature. I was thinking about taking an actual course and then applying for a company. The other side of me wants to get into a class with Prime and take their course and get on with it. What do you think is my best option?

Prime is not a bad company, they have good trucks and APUs, but the trucks are speed limited pretty severely. Otherwise, Ive only heard good things. And I used to be dedicated to a DC a block away from their main terminal.

If you can get in with Crete, they are a really good company. High pay, very nice people.

Werner actually has an excellent team program, and I made $34,000 in a 6 month period and put $10,000 of it in the bank, got another $5000 back from taxes.

You might like the open road, who knows? And there are always a lot of LTL jobs open, especially if you end up liking night driving. There is ALWAYS work.

If its not the job you want to be doing, its definitely the best job you dont want to be doing.

I talked to a guy who drove a truck for a couple years. He said it was responsible for his worst fear: loneliness. Do you ever have problems with so many hours alone? If so, how do you cope with it?

I always loved it, and its always easy to find a team driver or to start training and always have a student with you. There are so many kinds of trucking jobs, you can always find something you like. If you stick with it.

Have your brakes ever gone out? I see a lot of sand ramps in the mountains that have trucks have clearly had to use. Has this ever happened to you?

The brakes would have to physically suffer a failure, since they have springs that deploy when pressure is lost. Its a very rare failure, and the ramps are usually for people who have accidentally popped out of gear at too heavy a weight for the brakes to hold.

We typically use engine breaks that block the exhaust and build up pressure inside the engine. If it can pull it forward, it can take enough pressure to hold it back as well.

What’s the reason you became a (truck) driving instructor?

I was sitting waiting for a load and there was a student driver stuck across the yard blocking everything, and the instructor was just standing at the back of the truck with his arms folded. I said to myself “Even I can do a better job than that!” and called my dispatcher about it.

Kind of personal, but just curious. How does the pay work? Is it salary? Do you get paid per load? Per week? How much does truckers usually make. Also your days off, do you work a couple months then get a few weeks off?

OTR trucking, where most people start, is paid per mile. We usually receive pay every week. Owner Ops can get paid daily in many cases.

After a year, there is no reason you should be making less than a grand a week. And after that year of OTR you can go to LTL and be home every night, and be paid hourly starting about $19 an hour or higher, and the pay scale tops out after 3 years around $23-27 an hour. There are all sorts of companies with all sorts of schedules, and Werner itself has something like 200 accounts with 9000 something trucks.

So there is a lot of demand.

What are your favorite/must-have technology-related items? Mobile apps, devices, whatever.

Google maps is irreplaceable for both addresses and because we need to know the layout of facilities so we dont inadvertently get stuck and have to back out.

But for trucking specific things, a trucking GPS to keep us from going over weight restricted bridges or under low ones. And for their ability to find truck stops, which is imperative.

If they would just create an APP version of it and windshield mount for a phone, I would prefer that.

My Blue Tiger headset is also irreplaceable. Its worth the extra money, and I can both talk while I am driving, and listen to music from my phone. And without interrupting any driver or student who may be sleeping in the bunk.

I absolutely recommend Blue Tiger over Blue Parrot. Absolutely worth the money. Ive used it so many thousands of hours, I probably havent paid more than 2 cents for every hour. And the battery still works great. Excellent sound quality as well.

How do you deal with drowsiness while driving?

You actually adapt to it pretty well over time, but taking regular vitamins, and sticking to smaller energy drinks like Red Bull helps to avoid a sugar crash. I feel much better after a few years of cranberry red bull than I felt drinking pop or coffee. Those fresh fruit/vegetable smoothies are actually a pretty good source of nutrients compared to everything else on the road, and I feel noticeably better after including a few of them in my diet each week.

But fresh carrots are a great energy source, and available at many truck stops now.

Combined, I have little trouble working 14-16 hour days and overnight shifts after a few years.

My dad was a truck driver with road rage. He put his right front wheel into the drivers side door of another vehicle going down the highway and pushed it off the road. Can you relate?

The lack of sleep that instructors experience can completely boil the blood. I was 25 and had the blood pressure of a 70 year old man. Back in the day, this was just normal. And so I can understand if he just snapped. There is a reason they limit us to 14 hours a day and 11 driving. Because thats the scientific limit before the body begins to go haywire.

On a scale from 1-10 how much would you want to drive a truck made by Aston Martin if they made one?

Of course it would be a 10, but it would be hard to drive with the other truckers constantly trying to impregate it.

What are the major issues with Customer Service/office personnel truckers have to work with?

Honestly, that they will not complete very basic tasks like checking hours of operations or proper delivery times. Things which require nearly no effort on their parts, but cause huge delays to drivers as a result. I was yelled at several times in just two weeks by customers complaining that they repeatedly told our reps important information and they ignored it each time.

What’s your take on the rising use of brokerages?

Brokerages should lobby for minimum rates per mile, because anything lower both effects the driver, and their own profit margin. It helps nobody when owner ops have trouble surviving. And it only serves to lower brokerage profits. Anything that is good for the trucker is good for the brokerage.

But operationally, every brokerage and dispatcher should be required to ask basic questions like hours of service. The small details are often the most important ones to drivers, and we need that information to plan our logs in a legal fashion, or to even find proper parking at a given location based on the time.

Do you ever watch Ice Road Truckers, and does it give you intense anxiety to watch? Are those guys just nuts?

I spent the whole last winter driving along I-90, and its actually a lot worse than that. There are destroyed trucks EVERYWHERE and there is this constant wind that just seems to never stop. There are entire days when you drive and dont see the ground. I wold prefer to drive on the ice road and get paid what those guys do!

Is poor health something common among truck drivers? How common are medical issues such as blood clots from sitting for hours at a time almost daily? If medical issues such as these are common, is there training to prevent such a thing?

There was this poor Canadian driver who pulled into a spot near me in Cheyenne Wyoming, and ended up passing away in the seat and falling over so nobody could see him. His family called the police and I was the only witness to him being there. He unloaded his flatbed, pulled into a spot, and just passed away in his seat. Poor guy.

He could have saved a lot of lives by making it back to a parking spot before he finally gave in. I hope his family sees this and takes some comfort in it.

There have been a few times where Ive seen ambulances come and take away team drivers who had strokes or heart attacks while their team drivers were on duty. One guy was driving with his teammate in the passenger seat and kept trying to wake him up, only to realize he had suffered a stroke. Poor guy.

Earlier in the thread, you recommended Werner to someone. In the past Werner was considered one of the worst companies in the industry, even as far to having a website dedicated to how bad they were (Big Blue Screw). I’ve heard rumors of Werner attempting to turn themselves around and fix their image, even going as far as losing the blue trailers for a newer white one. Do you feel they have actually turned themselves around and became a better, more driver friendly company?

They are and have always been significantly better than other “starter companies” and have more experienced drivers and million milers than most companies have drivers alone.

Ive met the CEO, he is a good guy and willing to make thing better. He recently fired a huge number of officer workers for blatantly doing bad jobs. The company has really improved.

Its a good place to make a living if you are solo, but as a team… its really a pretty good company. My last 6 months of teaming paid $34,000, and they arent too overbearing.

I went to another company that wanted paperwork every day and wanted you to write out every street we took, and would write us up for going over 65. It was absurd.

Werner has very few rules besides staying safe, its CSA scores and accident rates a much better than most other large companies, and students from most of the other starters have always told me how much better it was.

But trashing other companies isnt really good edicate on reddit, so Im not going to name any names. But we all know them.

Why do trucks have such large gaping blind spots? It’s an obvious safety issue that’s existed for decades, but no one has come up with a more comprehensive vision solution with better mirror placement or cameras?

The mirrors are actually pretty good. Its just that we cannot see through the truck itself, so the right side of the hood needs a “bug eye” mirror to see anything there. Its our biggest blind spot except for directly behind the trailer itself.

Have you or your colleagues ever had anyone try to take their own lives by jumping out in front of your trucks? I’ve heard it’s not entirely uncommon, especially out in Nevada where gamblers lose it all at the tables.

One of my students was rear ended by a family while we were pulling into a truckstop, and they tried to blame it on us. It turned out that the cop who was responding was a former truck driver who had been driving over a hill and a woman was standing in the middle of the road. He couldnt do anything and had to run her over. So thats when he decided to become a police officer.

Why do truckers, at least in the Seattle/Tacoma area at least, want to drive their vehicle like a car? I cannot count the number of times. See a truck driving on the inside lanes, impeding traffic. Is this something we can write the teamsters about?

The reason is because the right lane is unpredictable. Its “the idiot lane” and the trucks actually record if you have to smash on the brakes too hard. So we just avoid the right lane in urban areas as much as we can. People often forget their is a truck behind them and do erratic things, sometimes causing absolutely horrific rear end accidents because the truck cannot stop in time.

You would be surprised at how often people will come to a near complete stop in front of a truck while they turn into stores.

I’m sure you’ve driven I-70 through the mountains of CO or at least something similar. Can you explain why trucks will impede traffic and put other motorists at risk by passing their comrades in the right lane all while both trucks in either lane never pass 35mph in a 65mph zone?

One a truck loses speed on a hill, it cannot regain it. So they would prefer to inconvenience you shortly in order to avoid a massive inconvenience to themselves. As time is extremely important in trucking. A few minutes can be the difference between a good delivery and being in a hell of a lot of trouble.