Thursday was my first night sleeping in the truck and I couldn’t be happier. No the bed was not comfortable. No it was not easy climbing in and out of the top bunk gracefully. No the bathroom was not less than 100 feet away from me. I didn’t care. I was now on what would be my home for the next 30,000 miles.
After spending the night at the terminal, we played the wait around for our delivery time. We were scheduled to drop off our load 40 miles away at 4:15pm. At 1:00 we entered the wash bay (which was just a giant car wash so my inner child was all giddy).
From there it was on to the receiver. We were hauling a load of Bar S hotdogs from Oklahoma to a Walmart distribution center in Utah.
There is a process to everything we do. It’s not as easy as just rolling up and they take everything off your truck and your done.
First, there is the guard keep that you have to stop at so they can check your identification and make sure the seals are intact. Then they tell you what door to pull into and how they want you to park (attached, detached, landing gear up or down, out of your truck entirely or stay with your vehicle, etc). Then you slowly make your way to the appropriate door, back in, and park given the receivers instructions. Now begins the waiting game.
This is not a situation where as soon as your backed into your door the unloading or loading begins. Rather this is one of many instances of “hurry up and wait”. It can take a receiver 2-4 hours to fully load or unload a truck. Anything over 4 hours and we get what’s called detention pay, which is a premium on our time but really only a small recompense for the time lost. While sitting around may not seem like a bad gig, you need to remember that I’m only being paid if the wheels are moving. Plus any time sitting, while not detracting from my drive time, does detract from my hours of service time.
Let’s go over that a bit.
This is what my clock looks like. The basic breakdown is that I can only drive 11 hours in a 14 hour shift, and can only have a maximum of 70 hours worked in a week before having to take a 34 hour reset (not shown). Basically, I have to account for all my time to be compliant with FMCSA. Now if I’m at a shippers or receiver, I’m going to be on duty but not driving. The time spent waiting to be loaded or unloaded will eat away at my 14-hour on duty clock but not my 11-hour drive clock. So if a receiver takes 4 hours to load me, I only have 10 hours left on my on duty clock which means even though I have 11 hours left on my drive clock, I can really only drive for 10 to be compliant with my 14 hour day.
All of these clocks come into play in the life of a trucker. For a full breakdown of hours of service check out FMCSA’s website.
So, back to unloading. Being that this was my first experience, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I should have banked on total boredom because that’s pretty much what I got. I wasn’t able to read because I haven’t found a book to lose myself in after finishing my last series, my cell signal was too low to adequately stream anything, and I don’t have any of my crafty goodness with me because I’m not on my own truck.
Some use this time to take a nap, clean their trucks, watch shows, or even cook. Not being in my own space meant none of these options (besides sleeping) were available to me and quite frankly I was too geeked up to sleep.
After 2.5 hours we were fully unloaded and I was able to get my paperwork. Have I mentioned that I don’t look like a normal trucker? I’m reminded of this every time I am around others of my profession and sometimes it makes me giggle. Someone needed to get some style and sass up in this mutha…
After logging the end of our trip we immediately get another load. We head back down the road back to Salt Lake City and pick up a load of bacon (mmmmm bacon) heading to Eastern Washington. This is all part of the plan to get me to my home state so I can get my permit changed to a full license.
After sitting getting loaded for almost 4 hours, we are finally off and headed out.
I started driving but because of all of the waiting I had to do at the shippers/receivers I was quickly out of hours left to drive. We made a quick switch and then I jumped in the lower berth to sleep while my trainer drove his 11.
I woke up in Idaho near the Oregon boarder. As soon as stumbling my way into the passenger seat my trainer asked “do you need to go to the restroom?” Hell yeah I did. We made a quick pit stop and I did my business and grabbed a cup of coffee. We were off again with the next stop being the tri-cities area of Washington.
One of the reasons I decided to enter this profession was that I have one of the best views from my office. As we made our way through The mountains of Oregon I was reminded that no matter what happens today or the next, there is always something beautiful to see and all I have to do it open my eyes and heart to bask in it.