Trucker Tom

I've been a trucker for the last ten years but now I am back home at "Camp Chaos" and I will be working at the Fontana terminal as a safety specialist. I hope now that I'm home I'll have a lot more time for blogging!

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Thursday, June 14, 2007
It has been since Oct 06 that I posted my last blog. I see KniteryKate wonders where I have gone so I have to bring everyone up to date.

I am working in Fontana CA at the Werner Terminal. Currently I am teaching the Orientation Class. I am enjoying teaching. I have found that I have always wanted to be a teacher, I just didn't know it!

Lord willing, Sue and I will be in Walla Walla this year. We haven't been there since 1978! Looking forward to seeing everyone there.

So, I'm not driving a truck any more. I am really enjoying being home every night. We have a large garden going this year and I enjoy working in it whenever I get home early enough to do something before the sun goes down.

My day starts around 4:10 am when I roll out of bed and find my way to the shower. I am usually out the door and on my hour drive to the terminal before 5:00.

I like to get to the terminal as close to 6:00 as possible so I can get a least a bowl of cereal or something before I start class at 6:30.

A new class starts every other day. I have 13 students in tomorrows class.

A couple of weeks ago we had 29 students scheduled but only 21 arrived.(thankfully, we wern't sure where we were going to put everyone, we can only fit about 24 at our tables.

I took a picture of the room full of students, our biggest class ever. When I get a moment I will upload the picture to the blog.

Generally I am able to leave the terminal around 5:30 PM and get home around 7:00 or later depending on rush hour traffic. Sure ends up being long days.

I do have help with the class. My boss Dennis, and the other teacher Lynn(he had full knee replacement April 2, 2007 so he's not able to do too much yet) help out checking students into the computer and lots of other little chores I am not able to do since I am in front of the class most of the time.

It's 9:30 PM and I have to get to bed. 4:10 comes too early. I will try to blog more regularly.


Thursday, October 05, 2006
I'm down to my last day!! Saturday morning I take the hotel shuttle to the airport and I'm on my way home!
Tomorrow I have to run the whole orientation class all by myself. I think we only have about 5 students so I think it will be easy. I have to log all the students in the computer, get them going on their paperwork and then run all the classes from winter driving to operating our paperless log system to learning to read maps.
I have a new friend to acompany me to work. He is from the Lakeland FL terminal. His name is James and I'm glad to have some company. Last Saturday my two other friends I met here left to go to their respective terminals so I was by myself for the weekend. James arrived Sunday night.
I am going to my hotel room, the Dodgers are about to start their playoff game against the NY Mets and it has been years since I have seen the Dodgers play so... goodnight.

Sunday, October 01, 2006
One week to go!!
This has been three weeks of cramming information into my brain. Sometimes I think I'm 'getting it' and other times I'm on brain overload.

These last two weeks, I've been in the orientation dept. New drivers have to go through a two day orientation class. We start a new class Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

They start the class by filling out about an inch thick stack of paperwork. The application, W4's, a bunch of papers our Human resources dept needs, then we have a gum pack(like a tablet) of papers that is page after page of lawyereze. What makes it worse is I have to read the whole thing to them and they have to initial each paragraph. Takes the whole morning! After the paperwork is filled out then we have to go through each stack looking for mistakes and blank lines. The company won't accept any application that isn't completely filled out

When we finally get the paperwork right, the applicants have to watch a number of videos.

In the afternoon, I get to teach a course on map reading. As a truck driver, we have to know where we are going. We have to know where restricted routes are, low bridges and how to determine the mileage between any two points in America. Drivers have to be able to estimate their time of arrival and be accurate within 15 minutes. That means a driver could leave Sacramento CA to deliver a load to Philadelphia PA and know before he leaves what time he will be in Philadelphia. That requires some map reading skills.

I enjoy teaching the class. The students seem to appreciate the class.
On Friday, I was sharing the teaching duties with Charlie. He is a nice guy and easy to get along with, but he has never been a driver.

The second day of the class, I do a class on operating our Qualcomm. That is the computers we have in our trucks that use satellite communication. We have 63 macro's that we have to send communicating our load information and lots of other things like "I am delayed by 'weather, accident, or a mechanical breakdown"... And they are not in any logical order. The Qualcomm is a nightmare to a new driver, so we try our best to give them at least a basic idea of how the system works. Then they have to pass a Qualcomm test on our computer based training computers. A lot of the new drivers really struggle trying to pass the test. The worst part is we can't leave till all students pass the test. Saturday I was there till 6:30 in the evening.

I hope I won't have the same kind of schedule when I get back home to California.

The weather has been beautiful here in Omaha. Today the temperature was around 80 degrees, sunny skies and only a little bit humid.

Today I barbecued a steak, broccoli and cauliflower, and Idahoan instant mashed potatoes for dinner. Generally I have been eating quite well, but I am sure looking forward to coming home next Saturday.

There were two other men who came to Omaha about the same time as I did. Ed is going to be the terminal manager at our terminal at Laredo TX and Chris is going to be a safety specialist at our Dallas Tx terminal. We had a good time here in Omaha. Together, we helped each other get through this training thing. Yesterday both of them left Omaha to go back to their respective terminals, so now I am by myself.

I understand there is another person coming to Omaha from our Springfield Ohio terminal. I am not sure when he will arrive but I will do my best to help him.

I think I have bored everyone enough with the details of life here in Omaha.

I have enjoyed reading all of the bloggs from the family. It makes being away a little bit easier.

Till next blogg... goodnight

Sunday, September 17, 2006
I have been here in Omaha a week now. What a week it has been.
I had expected to sit in on endless classroom boredom. I was really surprised to find out how Werner trains their people. I had trained students for almost 10 years in my truck. Now I was going to find out how the people in our terminals are trained for their jobs.

Have you ever called a big company and heard..."This call may be monitored for quality assurance" ??
Well, when you call Werner you will hear.. "This call may be monitored for training purposes."

At almost every workstation at Werner, there is the main phone headset that the person at the computer uses, then there is another phone that only the earpiece works. There I was sitting beside the very person I had called many times from my truck when I had questions about something.
Many times I had problems with my log book. I would call the Log Dept and I would hear "Logs, this is Andrew how can I help you..."
So Wednesday I was sitting along side of Andrew, a 23 year old kid who has been working in the Log Dept for four years now. I was able to listen in on the calls as drivers would call in with their problem.

Out satalite technology makes it possible for our logbook to be created at the company headquarters because the computer knows more about my truck than I do. Our GPS technology knows where every truck is. On Friday, I saw a picture on a computer screen of the USA with something like 10,000 little dots each one showing a Werner truck as they go up and down our Interstate system. So every time a truck moves, or stops, a log record is created.

On Friday I was priviledged to sit with Marie in the Safety Hotline Dept. Next time you see a Werner truck you will see a phone number the back of the trailer asking you to call Werner. We say we only hire courteous and professional drivers. Some of the calls I listened to make me wonder.
A lady called from somewhere near Atlanta. A Werner truck had just cut her off and now He was weaving back and forth from one lane to the other. She demanded we fire the driver NOW!! Marie was calm and asked the person if they could read the numbers off the back of the trailer. The lady gave us the numbers and Marie said 'Thank you for calling, we know it isn't fun having a big truck scaring you on the highway. We will contact the driver immediately." I thought to myself, sure, she's not going to do anything... I was wrong! In about 10 seconds Marie had traced which truck was connected to that trailer and she was sending a message to the truck instructing it to 'Contact Marie at ###-###-##### ext ### Safety Hotline Immediately'
About a minute later the driver of the truck called us. We found out that the student was driving and the trainer had been sleeping in the bunk. Marie told him we had just received a call from a motorist complaining about his truck. Marie told him he needed to watch his student better and that the student needed to work on his 'lane control' . The trainer assured us he would find out what the problem was and they would work on it.

A little later, a driver from another company called us to tell us one of our drivers had his laptop computer up on his dash and was using it while he was going down the road. Not only was he distracted, it was blocking his view of the road! He gave us the truck number and Marie sent him a message saying it was dangerous to use a laptop while driving and that the large screen may block his view of other traffic. I bet the driver was surprised to hear his Qualcomm(that's the name of our satalite communication system) beep and then read that message!

Another motorist called us to tell us a Werner truck's brakes were smoking. We sent him a message to 'STOP and check your brakes, a motorist tells us they are smoking!...'

Just a half an hour before I arrived at the Safety Dept on Friday, we received a call that one of our trucks had just caused a fatality accident. The people in the Safety Dept are well trained for these emergencys and had the whole thing under control when I got there.

Needless to say... Friday was a very interesting day! I got to listen in on every call.

Yesturday, I was again in the Safety Hotline dept. until noon. Then in the afternoon I helped out with the 'orientation' class. New students and new hires coming to our company have to go through a two day orientation class. Then they go out on a 'trainer truck' for several weeks. Probably when I get back to southern California that is what I will be doing most, teaching the orientation class. So far I haven't done much with the class here in Omaha, but I expect I will be doing class teaching the last two weeks before I come home. The other two guys I am here with are learning the class now and they will probably switch with me. They will do the 'phone listening/learning how the dept works' thing and I will be doing the class.

Saturday night our hotel was under a tornado warning. Sirens were going off for a whole hour. The main part of the storm passed just north of us. The National Weather Service said there was a tornado on the ground at Harrison and 130th Ave. We are off 108th so we wern't that close but watching the television, it looked like the whole area could have a problem at any time. The wind was blowing hard, lightening was hitting close around us and it was hailing... I think I'll take the earthquakes.

I have some cool pictures of truck trailers. They are European trucks. The artists are amazing. I am e-mailing them to Brenda from my Yahoo so she can put them us on this blog. Since I am using the computer in the Hotel lobby I can't save the file to this computer.

Till next time...

Tuesday, September 12, 2006
I arrived in Omaha Sunday afternoon around 1:30 PM. I had a 1 1/2 hour layover in Salt Lake City. It was nice in SLC, around 60 degrees. As the plane flew east toward Omaha the clouds kept getting thicker. When we began our descent into Omaha I was somewhat alarmed as we kept going down and yet I couldn't see the ground! Down, down we went through white cotton. I felt the landing gear come down but I still couldn't see the ground. Then suddenly we broke out of the clouds and we were only a few hundred feet above the ground.
It rained on and off all the rest of Sunday and part of Monday.

I am staying in the nicest Hotel I can remember. I have my own studio apartment. I have a full kitchen with cooking utensils, dishes and silverware for four; microwave and full size refrigerator. There is a living room with a fireplace! Reminds me of the houses at Pine Summit.

Every morning the Hotel has a complete hot breakfast. A waffle iron, scrambled eggs, sausage long with fruit and juices.

At night they have a mini-dinner. Tonight was baked potato night. There is also a large electric skillet like thing full of cooked broccoli. Warm melted cheese too!

Werner is treating us (there are three of us here for training) like royalty! Everything is paid for by Werner. If I do spend anything they will reimburse me on my next paycheck.

This computer I'm typing on is pretty old, but the Internet is free. The hardest thing is the space bar doesn't work very well. I type a sentence and then look at the screen and find I have put the whole sentence together like some horrendously long e-mail address! I just found out the 'Delete' key doesn't work at all!

I am having a great time. A little nerveracking though. Today I spent most of the day with one of Werner's head Safety officials. He is teaching me how to use Werner's computer system. I think there at least five or more programs running simultanously. I'm sure that's not unusual but I have to keep track of what each one is doing and what it does.
Besides e-mail, there is the program that keeps track of all the drivers in each of the ten or eleven terminals around the country. Then there is the main program that keeps all of the data about all 10,000 drivers and some 20,000 trailers and the loads they are carrying around the country.
I have to know how to access the drivers info instantly. Each time a driver has an accident or any incident from a logging violation to a student complaining about his trainer, he is brought into the terminal and must see a safety specialist. That is what my new title is. I have to know as much as possible about how everything operates because I will have to make decisions that could affect a drivers whole career.

So, here I am sitting next to Al, head safety man. He put together a training program that uses some data from drivers who no longer work for us. Then using Exel, he created numerous fields holding data about how many accidents a driver had, how long they were employed, how many log violations they had, how much training they had received etc, etc. My job was to look up the info for each of about 20 drivers and fill in each of the fields. This required me looking into just about every nook and cranny this huge program has! To make things worse the programmers wern't always consistant with their commands. On some screens, I have to push F12 to exit out of a screen, others I have to remember F3 does the job. If I hit F3 on a screen where I should hit F12, I exit out of the whole program and have to start all over! It's great fun... really!

This afternoon, I got to do some actual live data entering. Several drivers were in the Omaha terminal today and were due for their annual reviews. I got to enter all of the info, then we had to look up their motor vehicle record from the state they live in and check to see if they had lied about anything. All drivers have to report all tickets, accidents and also have to keep their commercial drivers licenses current. We have to make sure all these things are correct.

I think I have covered most of what's going on here. Today the weather cleared up and it's beautiful here in Omaha.

I am going back to my apartment, it is getting late and I have to get to bed early. I have get up around 5:30 because I have to be at the terminal at 7:00.

Friday, September 01, 2006
My cell phone rang around noon today. Unfortunately I was already on my phone talking to my last student. By the time I got him off the incoming call was gone... I looked at the screen on my phone and it said '1 missed call... unknown caller'. Bummer. Pretty soon my phone beeped and it said 'voice mail message' so I called my voice mail and the message was from Lynn from Werner in Omaha. "Call me, as soon as you receive this message, we need to speak to you."
I called the number, waited for Lynn to answer his phone and then I said "Hi Lynn, Tom McConnaughy here, I understand you wanted to speak to me."

Yes Tom, we wanted to notify you that after viewing your video that was sent to us, we would like to offer you the Safety Specialist position at the Fontana Ca terminal."

Whew... I got the job

Today, Friday Sept 1, was my first day in my new job. I wasn't even out of my old truck yet! Sue came to the terminal to pick me up and we unloaded the truck. Then we went to Fuddruckers for dinner.

I asked John, my new boss, when I would start my new position?... and just then his phone rang. It was Lynn from Omaha, telling John that I had accepted the offer and I was now on the payroll as of today. So... John hung up, looked at me and said "well our questions are answered... you start today, but after you clean out your truck, go home for the holiday, enjoy your time with your family and we'll see you 7:00 tuesday!"

Wow!! I'm getting paid to be home!! First time that has happened in ten years!!

So, I'm home now to stay! Yea!

Well... I still have to go to Omaha on Sept 10 for 3-4 weeks on training, but after that I will be home for good.

I can be at all the meetings again... that will be nice!

I can sleep in my own bed every night... that will be nice!

Tomorrow, Saturday, and Monday, we get to work in the yard. I think I'm really going to like being a homebody again.

So, with a contented sigh.. goodnite!

Thursday, August 31, 2006
Today was job interview day. I had to be at the Fontana (small city just east of Ontario CA) terminal at 7:00. I was going to be interviewed by the head hauncho from Omaha NE.(Werner's headquarters) I also was going to have to stand in front of a video camera and give a talk on any subject I chose. The purpose of the video is so the people in Omaha can see if I have the necessary skills to conduct a classroom. I had to put on a tie!

I chose to talk about how important it is to be alert and focused when behind the wheel of a big truck. This is one of my favorite subjects because I love to drive and don't have too much trouble staying alert because I am doing something I thoroughly enjoy. Many drivers I have talked to over the years look at me and think I am crazy. They are just doing a job and driving is not something they particularly enjoy. I believe that when you are doing something you don't enjoy and it is repetitive like mile after mile of Interstate, it is easy to get bored and the 'alert and focus' is gone... a very dangerous condition! ... so I talked for about ten minutes and the terminal manager sent the video cassette overnite to the 'head hauncho's' in Omaha. We'll see what they have to say...

John, the terminal manager, said he thought the interview went well and he thinks I have the job. Oh, ... also he said I am being considered for a higher level job than I was first advised of. I guess I will be sort of a personnel manager. I am not sure I am qualified for the job but I will do my best. The pay scale will be higher than I was first quoted, so that will be good.

I answered a lot of hypothetical questions... like what would I do if one of my former students came into our terminal and beer bottles were found in his truck. What if I was the only manager on duty at the time and had to be the one to administer the discipline! Not a fun position to be in, but I said I would have to treat him the same as I would treat any other driver. Having alcohol in the truck is a major Federal Motor Carrier violation. It is also strictly against company policy. I stated I would terminate the driver.

If I am chosen for the job I will spent a couple of weeks learning the ropes at Fontana then I have to go to Omaha for 4 weeks of intensive training.

The next few weeks are going to be interesting...