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jlanthripp's Journal: New job 2

Journal by jlanthripp

Well, I left USA Truck after 26 months there. They were okay for a while, then Jerry Orler retired. The guy they put in the CEO spot used to be the CFO - in short, he's a bean counter who has never seen the inside of a big truck.

The first thing he did was lay off all the senior mechanics at all the terminal shops. Then he did away with 3rd shift at the terminal shops altogether. The result is that if a driver wants to put his truck or a trailer in the shop, he has to make an appointment 3-5 days in advance at the terminal in question. Also, the work done takes twice as long and is almost never done right. Since the operations model at USA Truck is such that a driver never knows where he'll be 2 days from now, that basically made it impossible to get one's truck or trailer serviced or repaired.

Then they reassigned me to a different truck when the one I was in hit 480,000 miles - barely broken in for an International 9400i with Cummins ISX 435hp diesel engine and Eaton-Fuller 10-speed transmission. Their policy is to sell them off before they hit 500,000 miles, to maximize book value. When I changed trucks, there were half a dozen brand new trucks with the plastic still on the seats, prepped and ready to go, sitting on the terminal yard in Vandalia, Ohio. I spoke with another USA Truck driver on the phone who had just left the main terminal at Van Buren, Arkansas and passed through the West Memphis terminal. He said there was a total of about 30 brand new trucks, also prepped and ready to go, sitting on those yards. But the company put me into a beat-up, abused 2005 model with at least 2 DOT Out-Of-Service equipment violations (large air leak and a drive tire showing belts) and a worn-out transmission.

The truck they moved me into lasted exactly 4 days before it broke down with transmission problems. The shop said they could have it fixed in about 5 days. USA Truck policy is, if your truck is down for more than 2 days, they put you in another truck. Operations, however, told me they had "no trucks available for assignment at this time". Bullshit. USA Truck has 2600 or so trucks, and a turnover rate of over 100%. That means that on any given day, an average of 7 or 8 trucks become available as drivers quit.

Fine. I packed my stuff, rented a car, and came home. 2 days later, they found another truck for me at a dropyard in Atlanta. I had to get myself there. No problem; I've ridden a Grey Dog once before, and that's one time too many. Besides, Atlanta isn't that far away, so my wife and I loaded up the pickup truck, drove down, and she drove our pickup truck back.

When I got there, the truck was nasty on the inside. It also had at least 2 DOT Out-Of-Service violations - the #2 air gauge didn't work, and it had at least 2 separate audible air leaks, such that the compressor could barely maintain pressure at idle. It had other problems as well, and to top things off, it had a pushbutton automatic transmission that shifted like a rookie dumping the clutch in every gear, and would not upshift below 1700rpm no matter what (normally I shift around 1500rpm unless I'm pulling 45,000 pounds or so up a hill like the ones on I-81 South leaving Wilkes-Barre, PA - it saves fuel, and those Cummins engines don't make much more horsepower at 1700 than at 1200).

I cleaned the truck, moved my stuff in, got a load and headed to Saginaw, MI. I stopped at the terminal in Ohio to try to get a new #2 air gauge installed - no luck. Then I noticed that a driver was moving his stuff into one of those brand new trucks that weren't available when I was broken down 2 days earlier. I talked with him for a few minutes, and discovered that he had just completed his 4 weeks with a trainer. He'd had his CDL less than a month and they were putting him in that brand new truck. Meanwhile, they stuck a driver with 2+ years of experience and 320,000 accident-free miles (namely, me) in broken-down crap.

That night I used the terminal's wi-fi to fill out an online application with Crete Carrier Corporation, based out of Lincoln, NE. They checked my job history and references out and offered me a Southeast Regional job with a $0.02/mile raise above what I was making at USA Truck. Plus, NO NORTHEAST!!! HALLELUJAH!!!

Now I'm driving a Freightliner Century with the bigass condo sleeper and double bunks, 475hp Series 60 Detroit engine and Meritor 10-speed. It's like a Cadillac compared to the "13 Letter Shit Spreader" I drove for USA Truck. I'm always within about a day's drive of home, I'm at home every weekend or two, and I'll pretty much never see the northeast again as long as I'm in this job.

So far, so good. The only drawbacks I can see so far are shorter hauls and the fact that due to being home more often, I'm home for less time each time (6 days out, 1 day home or 12 days out, 2 days home as opposed to 24 days out, 4 days home for the national fleet). Also, since I don't leave the Southeast, my loads tend to be shorter hauls (400-600 miles instead of 800-1200 miles). That means more time sitting at the customers' docks, less time making the big wheels turn. Since truckers are paid by the mile, this means less money than if I was with the national fleet, and 1-2 days at home is just enough time to do laundry, spend an evening with the Mrs, and head back out. But I think I can deal with all that, so long as I don't ever have to see the George Washington Bridge (or the People's Republic of New Jersey, for that matter) again.

Who knows, maybe I'll end up wanting to be on the road for longer stretches at a time, then have longer stretches of home time, and transfer to the national fleet. They do have "Load-Select" dispatch on the national fleet, meaning I'd rarely be truly forced to go to the northeast, but I doubt I'd be willing to put up with having to go up north for the extra money and longer periods of home time.

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  • Sorry you got screwed over on your last job, but it sounds like you're happy where you are now. Don't neglect the family!

    Best of luck.
  • He'd had his CDL less than a month and they were putting him in that brand new truck. Meanwhile, they stuck a driver with 2+ years of experience and 320,000 accident-free miles (namely, me) in broken-down crap.

    Maybe they figured that a veteran would be more capable of handling the crap vehicle. Sometimes experience is a detriment.

    Good luck. And may you continue to successfully avoid New Jersey.

I tell them to turn to the study of mathematics, for it is only there that they might escape the lusts of the flesh. -- Thomas Mann, "The Magic Mountain"

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