So long Schneider…

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

WOW, what a year it’s been!  I look on my experience as an over the road truck driver much like my time in the army; I learned things that I would never have learned, saw things I never would have seen, and will benefit from the experience for the rest of my life.  But if you want me to do it again you had better bring help and pack lunch.

As much as I wanted to leave on good terms, I’m afraid there was a bit of disappointment at the end.  I called my DBM 3 1/2 weeks before my anniversary date to give notice that I would be leaving, and while talking she decided that Sunday, Oct. 7 would be the best choice for my last day.  That was one day after my anniversary date and suited me well.

The rotating Home Run schedule had me going out for the last time on Wednesday, 10/4.  However since the previous driver was enroute from Florida that day the truck wasn’t available until Thursday.  My first load had me pull an MT to Charleston, SC to exchange for a loaded trailer headed for PA.  On Friday afternoon my next load came in;  picking up a loaded trailer near my previous delivery and taking it to a company in Charlotte.

This was a perfect load except for one small detail; it was a live unload with an appointment for Monday, 10/8 at 6 am.  Since technically I would no longer be an employee after the 7th I assumed they would have me relay the load at the Charlotte OC (my home OC).  But when I called my DBM she pretty much said “tough”.  Her take was that since it was a load for one of their largest customers, and since relaying costs the company I would just have to work another day.  While this was consistant with the “driver last” attitude I’ve experienced this past year, I found it surprising that her manner had changed so drastically.  While I had found her polite, considerate, and willing to discuss issues in the past, she was now quite cold and matter-of-fact and seemed to feel no regret for forcing me out another day.

At this point you may be thinking “it’s one day, and you’re at home, so what’s the big deal?”.  And normally I would agree; coming back in one morning to complete a load isn’t a biggie.  HOWEVER on two occasions she had assured me that I would be in and finished on the 7th, and based on that I had made specific personal plans.

I picked up the load as scheduled and headed for Charlotte, arriving on Sunday morning.  Once there I called support shift and explained the problem to them.  Wanting to be totally honest with them I also included the fact that my DBM had already refused to relay the load and told them the reasons she had for denying the request.  After sitting on hold for a few minutes the representative came back on the line to tell me that they had set up a relay and that I was free to drop it at the OC and proceed with my check-out process.  A few minutes later the necessary load messages arrived on the Qualcomm and all was set.  This last bit of drama was not the way I wanted to leave Schneider, but I felt forced to do what I had to do.

I offer my best wishes to those of you pursuing a driving career, whether it be with Schneider or any another carrier.  Hopefully this account of my year, along with the many other blogs and forums out there, will give you a pretty good idea of what to expect.

So long … until the next adventure!

Monday, August 6, 2007

Hello all.  I know it’s been a while since my last post, but I think we’re coming close to the end of this little saga so there won’t be that many more anyway.  My transfer to the Home Run team went off as planned, starting with a wonderful week at home.  Currently I’m in Texas and looking forward to a week from tomorrow when I’m supposed to be home again.

My new STL (or whatever they are now) seems to be a nice person, however I’ve had no direct contact with her so far this time out.  That’s actually a good thing, ’cause it means there have been no problems that I couldn’t handle myself.

Swapping trucks is a bit of a pain, but I did have all my junk packed in boxes or  bags so getting started the first day wasn’t much of an issue.  I did take a few days to ‘settle in’ though.

I have decided to come off the road as soon as my year is up.  I find driving enjoyable, but not so much that it’s worth the time away from home.  There are other issues that I find objectionable, and they helped with this decision, but it’s not worth going into details since basically the OTR lifestyle isn’t for me.

I am a bit surprised that I’m having trouble finding out exactly when Schneider considers my one year contract to be fulfilled.  So far I’ve gotten three different dates that vary from 9/16 to 11/6, and that’s from the office that supposedly does nothing but administer contracts.   This is particularly annoying since I sincerely want to leave on good terms.  Looks like I have a little more digging to do before I’ll know when I can submit my two week notice.

Otherwise things are well with me, and I hope the same goes for all of you.  Until next time…

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Let’s start this post out on a bright note with some great news;  my request to move to the Home Run team has been approved!  Tenatively I begin on 07/24 with a week off, and then go on the “two on/one off schedule”.  I can’t tell you what a lift that has been for my sagging spirit.  I’m out for 20 days this run and the prospect of a week off afterward (not to mention that I’ll not have to go out for this long again) has made the first few days fly by.

At the moment I’m in Graniteville, SC awaiting my next load, having just made a run to Paris, TX and back since Thursday.  And I wouldn’t mind a few more of those, ’cause it was a nice drive out and back.  It was wet in TX, as has been reported on the news, but I was fortunate enough to miss any problems with high water and/or washed-out roads.  There has been rain most of the way out and back though, and I suspect the rainy weather might be finally moving to the east.

There have been a couple of comments recently that I want to respond to at length, but that will have to wait until I have more time.  Until then happy days and good health to all…

Friday, June 22, 2007

Why yes, it has been a while since I’ve posted!  Sorry ’bout that; it’s due to a mix of being busy and/or lazy.  There also hasn’t been much of interest to post really.  The loads keep coming, and I keep driving.  Freight has picked up a good deal since the first of the year and I’m getting all the miles I’m willing to drive.  And as promised, the job is getting less stressful as I gain experience.

I have decided that being on the road two or three weeks at a time with only a few days off in between isn’t for me.  If that isn’t bad enough, Schneider doesn’t normally guarantee that you’ll even get home when your TAH is scheduled except in special cases.  My STL has been very good to honor my approved TAH schedule and I haven’t missed one yet (well there was one, but that was my choice).  But for some reason not knowing for certain that I’ll get home when expected really bothers me a lot.

I do intend to finish out my one year commitment, and to help make this last 3 1/2 months more bearable I’ve applied to be put on the Home Run Program.  That’s where three drivers share two trucks by working two weeks and taking one week off.  The down side is that you have to constantly swap trucks, and you miss one week’s pay out of every three.  The mileage pay is also .01 less, but to me these are minor sacrifices compared to the extra time at home.

On a personal note, our youngest son got married last weekend.  The ceremony and celebrations went nearly perfectly, and Terrie and I were thrilled to officially welcome a young lady we’ve known and loved for several years into our family.  Now that all of our younguns are married we’re almost finished with wedding plans.  I say almost ’cause it’s rumored that two old folks will be renewing their vows on their 30th anniversary in ’08 (assuming she says “Yes”).

That’s about all for now.  I’m currently in Chicopee, MA waiting on a load that’s headed to Terre Haute, IN.  I’ve been here since 11am this morning and it looks like it won’t be ready until late this afternoon.  The delivery isn’t due until Sunday, so I’ll probably just spend the night here and get a fresh start tomorrow.  Besides, there are very few truck stops along my route until I get through MA and CT, and I imagine they’ll be full by the time I get out of here this evening.

My best to all… I hope you’re well and happy.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Hi everyone,

It’s been almost two weeks since my last post, but I’m afraid there’s nothing to report but more of the same; get a load, drive, deliver the load.  I’ve been running around the same areas as usual, except lately I haven’t been up the I-95 corridor (and I don’t miss it).  I have been getting my fill of the Chicago area, but have been getting to the south as well.

This past weekend was another TAH, but it was over much too quickly and once again I’m on the road and looking forward to the next.  Only about 4 more months and I’ll be free of the contract and can hopefully get a local job.  In the mean time I plan shortly to try to get on the “Home Run” program.  I’ll let you know how that works out.

Hope you’re all well and happy.  Until next time…

Friday, May 25, 2007

Hi everyone,

 I have a rare couple of hours to kill waiting for a live load this afternoon, so I thought I’d check my mail and say hi to y’all.  In my mailbox was a comment from Larry that I thought I’d share… Larry wrote:

“I have really been enjoying your thread here. You seem a little frustrated at this point so I wish you well. I have a question…as you go chasing all over looking for empty trailers are you paid for the miles? Hang in there, Larry”

Here is my response:

Hey Larry,

Thanks for your comment. Yes, I have been frustrated often out here. And as I’ve said before, I try to write about each load as it happens (or soon after) so I’m sure what I’m feeling at the time shows through.

In all fairness though, while there is frustration there is also a good measure of enjoyment and gratification. I suppose I should write more about the good times, like driving down an uncrowded piece of Interstate highway early in the morning when the weather’s fine, or having my STL make a special effort to contact me to say thanks for making “On Time Delivery” for a critical load. But being human I tend to complain more than I should.

And to answer your question, yes I am paid for any miles assigned to be driven, including going on trailer searches.

Bill

While out here on the road I spend a lot of time by myself (a scary thought in itself) and I’ve found that I miss regular interaction with others.  The brief encounters with shippers and consignees is sometimes nice, but is often tense and hurried.

It has surprised me to learn that comments like Larry’s and many others fill in for that need for contact somewhat, and also help me be more fair with my often opinionated view of life as a solo over-the-road truck driver.  I am grateful to each and every one of you for taking time out of your lives to send me questions and words of encouragement.  I only hope I can someday relay how much they all are appreciated.

Here’s wishing you all a wonderful Memorial Day holiday, along with a reminder to say thanks to someone you know who has served our country.  They gave of themselves for us, whether the politics were ‘correct’ or not.

Bill

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Hey all…

My TAH was quite enjoyable; four days with Terrie (she was off Friday and Monday also), and on top of that we got a chance to visit with our sons and their ladies.  Our soon-to-be daughter-in-law graduated from NC State this weekend, and the ceremony and celebration was enjoyed by all. 

But all good things come to an end, and on Tuesday it was time to get back on the road.  And there was a most unpleasant surprise waiting for me when I returned from TAH.  First a little background…

Last week my STL made a point to get me on the phone to tell me that someone had called in with a complaint about my driving.  When she described the complaint I recognized the “incident” immediately; I was making a left onto a 4 lane road from a truck stop driveway.  About half a block to my right a young lady in a pickup was also making a left from the gas station onto the same road.  When the last of the traffic cleared (from my left, by the way) I started out into the road, and a few seconds later she pulled out.  The difference is that I was lumbering out at a snail’s pace and she nailed the gas.  Well what a shock… when she got to me she had to slow way down and wait for me to get up to speed.  I suppose since she had her cell phone handy and there is a large “1-800” number on the back of my trailer she took the opportunity to vent her frustration.

After relaying the facts to my STL we both had a little laugh over it, and she finished by saying “don’t worry about it”.

But NOW I was told that I had to go through a computer defensive driving course in addition to a driving remedial with an instructor!  The call-in that I “wasn’t to worry about” had turned into an incident that went into my driving record, along with the “corrective action” taken by the company.  Seems that my word as a trained driver and company employee means less to them than that of a stranger in a hurry with a cell phone.  To say that I was ticked off would have been putting it mildly.

Once again I held my tongue and “took it like a big boy”… but I promise when my year is up and I’m deciding if I want to stay with Schneider this little surprise will be on the tally sheet, along with the others!

  • Date(s): 5/15
  • From/To: Charlotte, NC to Bedford Heights, OH
  • Mileage: 501
  • Cargo:  Consumer Goods

After yet another remedial I was asked by my STL if I’d “save a load” for her; seems a driver had picked up a sacred load from BC (short for Beloved Customer) that was headed for Ohio.  He claimed he couldn’t make the 500 mile trip in time for the 10pm live unload appointment.  Since I didn’t hear his side of the story (maybe he just had a surprise too), and also since it wasn’t really any of my business I skipped over that part and said I’d take the load.

There was nothing special about it other than I needed to get going and make good time, which I did.  I was on time for delivery, and the unload went smoothly.

  • Date(s): 5/16 to 5/17
  • From/To: Euclid, OH to Murray, KY
  • Mileage: 601
  • Cargo:  Steel sheets

Wednesday morning I drove over to Euclid (only 17 miles away) for a live load, then headed for Murray.  Again just another load and trip, except this time there were several of us Schneider drivers there picking up the same material headed for the same place.

When I got to Murray and started looking for the delivery location I ran into (not literally) the others, who were also having a problem finding it.  After a few phone calls we discovered that the SNI directions had sent us to the south side of town when the facility was actually to the north.  Once we arrived we were all unloaded promptly.

  • Date(s): 5/18 to 5/19
  • From/To: Hopkinsville, KY to Orangeburg, SC
  • Mileage: 580
  • Cargo:  Cartons of Machine Parts

This was a load I’d done before, so finding the shipper and planning a route was simple.  It was a live load that went fairly quickly and I was on the road by mid day on Friday.

As I was just starting to go through the mountains on I-40 in TN I got a call on the CB from another driver; seems my trailer tandem was smoking!  I pulled off at the next exit to find that the tread had separated from one of the trailer tires and part of it had lodged against the brake drum, causing it to heat up and smoke.

Luck was on my side as there was a little diner right at the exit with a large gravel parking lot.  I pulled in, called Emergency Maintenance, and after getting a 1 hour ETA on the arrival of a mechanic with a new tire I stepped into the diner for a bite of lunch.

Soon after I finished the mechanic showed up, changed the tire, and had me on my way in about half an hour.  Like I said, luck was with me on this one.  This time tomorrow I would be wishing I could have saved some of that luck for later.  By the way, the fan for heat and A/C in the truck gave out this morning… that should have been a clue that things were going down hill.

Saturday morning I arrived at the destination for delivery, and instead of a live unload they wanted me to just drop the trailer.  Normally this is a good thing, but read the next load for the ‘gotcha’ on this one…

  • Date(s): 5/19 to 5/20
  • From/To: Beech Island, SC to Beckley, WV
  • Mileage: 685
  • Cargo:  Consumer Goods

Beech Island is one of the grand locations of our most beloved customers, who I will again only refer to as BC.  I was to pick up a loaded trailer any time on Saturday and deliver it 618 miles away on Monday morning.  Not only did I have plenty of time, but my expected stopping point on Saturday night would be Charlotte!  I would be able to get the A/C fixed on my truck AND spend a night at home.

The celebration lasted a short time before things started falling apart.  One of this customers strictest rules is that we have to arrive for a pick up with an empty trailer to leave.  Since my last load had me drop the loaded trailer there instead of live unload it, I now needed to find an empty before getting started.

From here the story is so long and involved that I’ll ask your forgiveness and just run through it quite quickly;

Called Support… told I could to directly to KC with no trailer… ten minutes into my trip got a QC (Qualcomm) message that I had to go back to Orangeburg to get an empty… the empty trailer number sent to me was the same one that I had just dropped… sent the necessary QC response message and waited… was sent another trailer number… got back to Orangeburg and found that the empty they wanted me to pick up was damaged… sent the necessary QC message and waited…

Bored yet?  We’re just starting… NOW I was to drive to a Sears warehouse in Spartanburg (130 miles in the wrong direction) to get another empty… got there to find that it wasn’t a warehouse, but a retail store in a mall… the delivery entrance (the only one trucks are allowed to use) was blocked by construction on a new store… made it to the shipping dept. of the store and talked to the store manager and mall security… they said the trailer could only be pulled out of the delivery area when the mall was closed and all the customer’s cars were out of the parking lot (and I agreed)… since there were special circumstances involved I decided to call support instead of just sending the necessary QC message… support wasn’t interested in the circumstances, and I was told to just send the necessary QC message… also told support that I was now running short on time and if there were any delays “On Time Delivery” would be in jeopardy… was told to call back if I was delayed… sent the necessary QC message and waited…

Honest, this IS the short version… by now it was clear that I would not make it to Charlotte tonight (mood quickly soured by several degrees)… new trailer assignment; pick up an empty at a Wal-Mart DC in Shelby, NC, another 40 miles in the wrong direction… drove to Shelby and got the trailer… got as far as Newberry, SC before I ran out of hours and stopped for the night…

Saturday morning: arrived at BC’s distribution center in Beech Island… dropped empty and picked up load… weather very nice, even without A/C… headed toward Ohio… 8 miles from the tunnel near the VA-WV border traffic came to a halt… VA DOT had one lane of the tunnel closed for construction… word on the CB was that it was taking one and a half to two hours to get through the traffic delay… stopped at a rest area to call support and inform them that I would not make OTD… suggested that they relay the load to another driver after I stopped that afternoon… they responded by saying the possibility of a relay was remote, and I would be charged with a “Service Failure”… I was to continue on as if I still had the load (no kidding?) and wait for further instructions…

As you can imagine my mood dropped a bit more at this news… weather was no longer nice without A/C… got through the tunnel 2 hours later… made it to Beckley, WV before hours ran out… called support and got an ANGEL… this person knew what she was doing, cared about the load, and was making an effort to get it delivered! … was told that a relay would be no problem… other drivers (team) showed up ~11pm and picked up the trailer.

So you can see my weekend was somewhat stressful, mostly thanks to unforseen circumstances but not without the help of several less than effective weekend support personnel.  But I won’t complain about them without also thanking Linda, my angel in support who, in a few brief moments, made everything happen that needed to happen.