Immediately after the first haul, I knew we were in a different world, that really, I was not mentally prepared for this.
The first few weeks were a total shock to my senses, and I was on a roller coaster of really high peaks and low valleys.
During all of my research, no one talked about the daily living in a truck or what “forced dispatch” meant. My reading consisted of good companies, good schools, good equipment, and being paid on time. There was no mention of getting up in the morning and having to traipse across the parking lot to find a bathroom as well as, shippers and receivers not allowing you to use their facilities, and the difficulties of finding a place to park each night. There was no discussion I read, or maybe I did not understand about hours of service and the need to drive a full shift on paper logs. It was only after those first few weeks that I finally began to understand if the wheels were not turning; we were not making any money.
Sitting in the truck as Bob drove, watching scenery I had read about, was, at times, overwhelming. Never in my life had I dreamed there were cities that did not seem to end, which is how it appeared to me the first time we went through the northeast. We learned about toll roads. Stopping at all of the tolls booths to pay, get a receipt, and send in with our paperwork to be reimbursed. While I learned, Bob became a much better driver. Who in the world came up with business routes for interstates? I directed Bob down a few picturesque main streets that I enjoyed, and Bob drove with white knuckles. Then there is such a thing as a “beltway,” and that had me baffled. Remember, we were from the very rural area of southwest Kansas. The biggest city we related to was Wichita, Kansas, and Amarillo, Texas, which in reality, are not very large. One horror story I got us into was cutting across Baltimore, do not attempt this. I mean my gosh this street ran all the way through Baltimore and it was so much closer than driving all the way around, right? Bob immediately knew we had made a mistake when we turned off the “beltway,” and he immediately started looking for a place to turn around. While he was looking, I was watching the faces of people who were in awe to see such a big truck in that area. That was a mistake I only made once.
While I learned, Bob learned a lot about driving as I got us into some tight places with my misdirections. At that time, I was using the company’s directions, my hard copy map, and an outdated computer program, and at times I was using all three to try and find a location. While writing this, I have to laugh, thinking of the predicaments I got us into, and thankfully Bob was always watchful, and we never got into an accident. This one time, though… There was a detour through Asheville, NC, and it was taking us the wrong way. We needed to turn back, and I saw, what I thought would be a great turn around, I was wrong. We went once again through a picturesque area with people sitting outside at cafes in the evening watching us. Finally, we saw a sign pointing us in the right direction. As we approached the overpass, the trailer ran up on a little ramp, keyword little, and as it came off this little ramp, it rocked and scared us both to death. Luckily all turned out well, and we chalked that up as a lesson learned. We have not tried to tour Asheville, NC, again.
While at the terminal in Oklahoma City, OK an older lady who drove solo was talking about her experiences. She was amazing in everything she had done, but she was getting ready to retire and was looking forward to it. Then, she looked directly at me and asked if “we had a port a pot in the truck?” I gave her a blank look and said, a “what?” She then gave a lengthy reply of what a port a pot was and why I needed one immediately. She pestered us to go immediately to the store and buy one, which we did. Months later we were at the Oklahoma terminal and saw her again. We asked her about her retirement and she said she got bored and could not stand not going somewhere, so she was back. I was glad I had the chance to thank her for telling us about using a port a pot.
We traveled all over the country, and as the newness wore off, the problems became more prominent. The disrespect that was shown to us at the shippers and receivers, waiting at a payphone to talk to our dispatcher for sometimes an hour, no response on the Qualcomm to questions, and getting a different dispatcher every few months, started nagging at us. We dreaded going into a terminal if we were loaded as we would have to go through an inspection, and if anything was found wrong, the load was immediately given to another driver. We would often be on a great long run, and a team would need to get somewhere fast. We would then have to give them our load and take their empty trailer and wait to get a different load; knowing that while we sat, the team was making money. Once when on an excellent load, we received a Qualcomm message to stop at the next terminal, only to find that we had to change trucks. We needed to get out of our current truck, as it was getting traded in and we had to get into a used truck that a team had driven. We lost the load and now had a really hard day to move into a different truck, with the loss in pay. Finally, it got too much and we were really questioning why in the world did we ever want to become truck drivers?
We knew we did not want to go back to our old jobs. Our thinking caps were put on, and we came up with the grand plan to start a lawn care business in Elkhart, KS in the summer, and then during the winter, we would go back to truck driving. Lawn care worked out for a few years but we knew we would have to decide to either quit trucking or go back to trucking full time.
Continued in Part IV...