By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 2/28/2020
Topics/Keywords: #18-Wheeler #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver #TruckDriving Page Views: 270
An entry from Alternate Roads: Paul S. Cilwa's Truck Drivin' Journal

Wednesday, September 4, 2002

I finally received my truck assignment today, and my first load assignment, I'm told. My new STL (Service Team Leader, basically my manager) gave me the information on the phone. I would find my truck in the Phoenix "drop yard", a place where Schneider keeps trucks and trailers. I had met Jack there two weeks earlier, so I knew where it was.

However, the truck wasn't there. Finally, after making sure I wasn't simply overlooking it (which would have been very embarrassing) I called. My STL, Larry, promised to get back to me; and, when he did, I was informed that, somehow, the truck had been taken (by mistake?) to the Checkers auto parts distribution center. I knew where that was, since Jack and I had worked out of it during my second week of OTR training.

Traffic was bad, and it took 45 minutes to get there. When I did, a search revealed the truck wasn't there, either. So, I made another call, and again, Larry promised to get back to me. When he did, it turned out that the truck was back in the drop yard—someone from Checkers had "borrowed" it.

So, back to the drop yard. There was the truck…and, to my horror, I realized it was the very same one I had driven at USTDS in Phoenix for my CDL test. It smelled, the transmission was ornery, and it was filthy.

Moreover, it was already too late to pick up the load I had been assigned.

So , Larry said to wait until morning, and he'd have another load for me then.

Thursday, September 5, 2002

Michael and I arrived early armed with $18 worth of cleaning supplies—including a $5 bottle of Febreeze, half of which we used almost immediately in an attempt to neutralize the odor of whatever victim it was of Phillip Morris who had died in there. It was a frantic, quick scrub job, but what an improvement! Michael tossed up to me the rest of my supplies: clothes, sheets, snacks, etc., and then I was off on my first job.

My pickup was a loaded trailer filled with Styrofoam cups, headed for something called Ralph's Grocery in Riverside, CA (that's quite near Fontana). That would get me to the OC without my deadheading; I approved. I bobtailed to the cup manufacturer; hooking up to the trailer took a matter of minutes. This was going to be easy!

The only weird part was the delivery time: It had to be delivered at exactly four a.m. Why? Who knows. That was the instruction. I envisioned some little mom-and-pop grocery store taking early morning delivery so as not to get tangled in daytime traffic.

Another problem was that I had never received my "fuel card". My STL, Larry, was surprised at this as I was supposed to have received it at the end of JumpStart. However, I didn't; and now I needed to buy fuel for the tractor, which was down to a quarter tank. (Actually, a quarter of two tanks; each tractor has two, hundred- gallon tanks. I had about fifty gallons of diesel in them, total.) He gave me a ComCheck number and told me to buy fuel anywhere along the way.

Friday, September 6, 2002

I got to Ralph's grocery at 3:30 am. Did I say Mom and Pop grocery? No Moms and Pops here. It's a major, major operation, a huge warehouse with dozens of docks and trucks parked around the block waiting to get in…even at that hour of the morning.

I thought they'd appreciate my getting there early. I was wrong. They made me turn around and drive around the block until my appointment time! Then, and only then, was I allowed in. I was assigned to a specific dock, backed into it, and waited for them to unload the trailer.

Except, the people at Ralph's Groceries don't do that. I was expected to unload all those pallets of Styrofoam cups! What's more, Ralph's had a list of rules and regulations you'd have to take a course in, just to do the loading correctly.

A man came up to me. "You'll be wanting us lumpers to unload?"

I had heard of lumpers. A lumper is a person who unloads a truck for money. But I didn't have any to give him, and I knew Schneider wouldn't pay for lumpers unless they pre-authorized it.

I sent a message on the Qualcomm, the satellite communications system in the truck, explaining the situation. Even though my STL, Larry, wasn't yet at work, there were supposed to be third shift operators on duty to handle this sort of thing. Except that, after half an hour, I still hadn't gotten a response; and Ralph's was anxious for me to unload to free up my dock for another truck and the lumper guy was anxious to get starter. "Schneider uses lumpers all the time, here," he said. That didn't calm me, because it's exactly the sort of thing a lumper would say, even if it weren't true. "You keep trying to get in touch with them," he said. "We'll get started. I know we'll get paid."

So, I went to the drivers' lounge, where there was a phone and I could try calling the 800 number. Finally, I got someone on the line who listened to my story, then put me on hold while she checked with Customer Service. Finally, she came back on line. "Go ahead," she said. "This customer does use lumpers all the time. Just be sure and check with your STL in the morning for an authorization number." She then gave me a magic ComCheck code so I could pay the guys when they were done.

It took them five hours. Heck, they were Styrofoam cups; I could have unloaded them all at once just by backing into the dock really fast with the trailer doors open. But, finally, they were done, and it was time for me to take the empty trailer to the Fontana OC…and, finally, to meet my STL.

Well, not exactly my STL. Larry, as it turned out, was taking the day off to ride in a truck…apparently, he'd never been in one. So another STL from the same group was scheduled to meet with me.

We were supposed to meet at 1 pm. He came out and apologized, he was really busy, and arranged for us to meet at 2. At 2, he pushed it up until 3. At 3, he delayed it until 4. Finally, at 4 pm, I was invited back to his cubicle so we could discuss what it was that would be expected of me, a Schneider driver.

I found it ironic that, high on the list, was my timely arrival at customer sites.

It was so late when we got together, in fact, that the problem of my missing fuel card couldn't completely be solved. He had a card to give me, which he did; but when we tried to activate it, the computer did not have me listed as an employee.

"How can that be?" I asked. "I've been getting paid!" But, it didn't matter. Apparently the two databases did not speak to each other…more indication that Schneider is using a truly antiquated and not-well-designed computer system. What's more, nothing could be done about it until Monday morning.

"But I'll just give you an advance via ComCheck," the replacement STL assured me. "That way you'll have money for the week." And he gave me a ComCheck number for $100, which I could cash at any truck stop.

There were several problems I had noted with the tractor, and the STL agreed they should be looked at. So, instead of getting another load immediately, we put the tractor into the shop and I was allowed to spend the night at the dreaded Days Inn. The STL gave me two more ComCheck numbers, one for each night at the Days Inn if I should need to be there for two.