Friday, October 18, 2013

Things You Should Know Before Getting on a Semi

Life on the road is... different. There are things that you should know before you even contemplate doing it.

1. If you are on a truck with someone, you can't really get away from them. The best you can get is being on the other side of a curtain or being apart during bathroom breaks (unless you are the same gender, then I don't think that will happen). You are going to have to figure out how not to make the other person want to hurt you and how to deal with the stress of seeing/hearing/being around someone practically 24-7. Ace can't do much that I don't know about. I can't do much that he doesn't know about. We are constantly around each other and there is almost no break from that. If we hadn't already gotten used to it, we'd probably have had some fights by now.

2. If you have an APU (alternate power unit), it helps keep you cooler or warmer. It cannot make you comfortable in 90+ degree weather. It is too hot to handle all of the cooling on it's own. You will have to idle the truck or you will have to stay hot. There are no other options.

3. There are temperatures that are impossible to sleep in. 100+ degrees outside makes it difficult or impossible to sleep soundly inside.

4. People in 4-wheeled vehicles drive like they are nuts. Especially around semis. They cut a big truck off and then slow down. They pass on the right. They slow way down from in front of a truck to get behind it when they are entering the interstate, just to zoom around it afterwards. They have almost no idea how long it takes a truck to stop, how wide the turning radius is, or where a driver's blind spots are. Given the number of crazy people on the road, there is a surprisingly lower number of wrecks involving semis and most of those are not the truck driver's fault.

5. Some companies don't care about their drivers. Some companies do. Some companies are good to start with to get enough experience to get to a company that will treat you right. Be careful who you work for. Talk to truck drivers to find out what they've heard, but take their information with a grain of salt. They have probably mostly heard other drivers complaints if they are talking about a company they have never worked for.

6. Sometimes you will have to stop somewhere you don't want to because you don't have any other options. Hopefully it will be a place that is open 24-7 and has decent bathrooms. Hopefully you will never be yelled at for using a bathroom at a truck stop (if it's one of the chains, they won't yell ever because that's what the bathrooms are for).

7. Playing make-a-space sucks. If you get hit, even if it's not your fault, you could be blamed by your company for not being in a legal space. Sometimes you may not have other options. If you can buy a space, cough up the money instead of making-a-space. It's safer and then you are covered. Plus it's tax deductible.

8. As much as you may hate it, you will eventually have to pee somewhere without a toilet (or one so nasty you don't want to use it). If you are male, use a bottle. If you are female, buy a pitcher with a lid and pour said contents into a bottle. You will probably always have a bottle around, because it is ridiculously easy to find 1 liter drinks at truck stops.

9. Eating out is expensive. The truck does not have any type of kitchen appliances. The two end up being related. You will either buy a microwave and a fridge, or you will constantly overspend on eating out. The microwave/fridge option is probably cheaper in the long run. Heat and eat meals are a lot cheaper at Walmart than at the truck stop.

10. You will not get to shower every day. There are plenty of times you will get to shower. You will probably have plenty of showers that expire before you use them. But after driving for 10+ hours a day, you will usually want to go to sleep. Sometimes, you won't be at a place where you have a shower available because it was the best place to stop for the night. You won't get to shower every day, and that's just a fact of life on the road.

11. Most truck stops have laundry rooms. Most of those laundry rooms are available to the general public. Sometimes the general public will take up all the washers and you will just be pissed off about it. Unfortunately, you can't do much about it but wait to do laundry, either at that stop later or at another stop.

12. Some loads take forever to get loaded. Some loads take forever to get unloaded. You will be stuck waiting at a shipper or receiver at some point. You will get stuck calling like you are obsessed to check on a load. This is especially bad when it's meat being hauled, but Ace and I just waited 2 extra days for a load of gum and life savors (which was still not fully right).

13. Deadlines for delivery (DLDs) are sometimes just given to make you laugh. I know because some shippers treat them as suggestions instead of actual deadlines. All you can do is tell your company and hope that either someone else will be able to swap trailers with you (so the load gets there on time) or that the receiver is willing to change their appointment so that you can get it there on time. If the load is ready by DLD and anything happens, the load is going to be late (unless you can swap trailers).

14. The internet is key to trip planning. Google maps, while not wholly appropriate for trucks, helps give you a good idea on what ways are likely to be good ones to travel. Pay for internet availability. It's not optional.

15. Verizon seems to have the best coverage for phones and internet. You will need a cell phone to contact people at your company. I've already talked about the internet. Most of the big name truck stops have apps for smart phones and there are other services that are useful with apps too. Smart phones are optional, but well worth the money. Plus, then you can play games while waiting to be loaded or unloaded.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but I have some more pressing needs to take care of.

Stay safe and be careful around semis if you are in a 4-wheel vehicle. We'd like you to all stay alive out there.
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