By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 6/24/2018
Topics/Keywords: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver Page Views: 793
An entry from Alternate Roads: Paul S. Cilwa's Truck Drivin' Journal

Wednesday, December 4, 2002

Talk about unfinished stories…!

My little adventure in Madera, when I was stuck in the mud, had resulted in an unexpected cost. I was scheduled for "remedial backing".

I should have suspected this when I mentioned it to Pete, the second shift support guy I had spoken to before. You might recall, he's the guy that wanted so badly to find out how I had damaged a trailer that turned out to have been reported damaged days before I ever saw it. I bumped into him in the hall at the Fontana OC and told him what had happened.

"What's the First Rule of Trucking?" he demanded in his most intimidating voice.

I stared back. If they had ever introduced "rules of trucking" in class, I didn't remember it. I tried to imagine what the "first rule" might be. "Um, don't hit anybody?" I guessed brightly.

"Don't leave the pavement!" he intoned, sounding like Karl Malden reminding us to never forget our American Express Cards.

"You're kidding!" I said, half hoping he was. However, my experience with Pete is that he has no sense of humor.

"Not at all," he replied. "Never, ever leave the pavement. I never do."

I thought about it. "So, you've never parked a truck here at Fontana, where half the parking area isn't paved?" I asked. "Or the Phoenix drop yard, where none of it is paved? Or the Portland OC, or the…" He stared furiously at me, repeated, "Never leave the pavement!" and stalked back toward the locked solitude of his cubicle area, turning for one, final, parting shot. "And I'm sick of hearing you drivers whine about bad directions!" he declared. "93% of the directions are correct!"

I've heard 83% of second shift support is made up of assholes, I thought. But I don't believe that statistic, either!


When I had received this load, in Ogden, I had been so pleased with myself that my initiative in calling the shipper had bought me eight hours by picking up the trailer that much earlier than the originally scheduled time. I was hoping to do the same on arrival. The unloading was scheduled for 11 pm. Surely, if I got to the consignee at 11 am, they'd take the load sooner, freeing me up to do more driving. I really wanted this to be the week I finally, actually, drove the promised 2600 miles.

I called the "Load Adjustment" number and explained the situation. Unfortunately, there was nothing they could do. The consignee did all their unloading at night; no one was even there to unload during the day. So the appointment would have to stand.

Larry, my STL, was my last hope. Maybe he could turn the load into a relay. He'd done it before. However, this time when I called, he informed me that I was scheduled for "remedial backing" tomorrow at 7 am! He hastened to explain that I shouldn't be upset; no one was saying I was a lousy driver or "anything like that". "Schneider spent money on a tow," he explained. "That cost them money. They want to make sure it doesn't happen again; so they send you to this little class. It'll just take an hour or so of your time," he added.

"If Schneider wants to make sure this doesn't happen again, why don't they send the directions department to remedial? They're the ones who sent me down the wrong street in the first place. If it hadn't been for them, I wouldn't have gotten stuck in the mud."

Larry laughed, an honest laugh choked back quickly as if he'd realized he was giving away too much. He then told me there'd been a cancellation and I could go today if I wanted to. Well, I thought, better get it over with so I can get back to driving.

At one o'clock a guy named Louis told me to meet him in Classroom 2. There were two other guys there when I arrived, and a third shortly followed. The class time was called Safe Track. I had been there before. I mentioned that to Louis, in fact. He looked surprise. "Why are you here now?" he asked. I explained the situation, and he frowned. "You shouldn't be here," he said.

"Bingo!" I replied.

But, there I was. Louis made a clear presentation of the material, enlivened by his own driving stories. He, too, knew the hazards of Madera, California. "I was supposed to pick up at this warehouse," he said. "I saw it, too. But there wasn't a sign, and there wasn't one solitary car in the parking lot; so I figured, they was closed. I kept going. Next thing I know, I'm at the end of a dead end, and I have to straight-line back three miles. When I went into the warehouse, five guys are in there, they saw me pass and they're betting on whether I get stuck! I said, "Why couldn't one of you have gone out and waved at me if you saw me going by?" He grimaced. "I will not tell you how I got turned around, so don't ask."

After the class, I had to wait for a driving test. Louis thought it would be "a couple of hours". It was five. Dan Smith got in my passenger seat and we took a half hour drive. During it, I explained why we happened to be there. "But it wasn't your fault," he said.

"Bingo," I said.

My Qualcomm started to beep. I, of course, made no move to look at it as we aren't supposed to work with the Qualcomm while driving. Dan offered to read it for me. "That would be helpful," I accepted. It was my next load assignment, impossibly scheduled for six the following morning. It was impossible because my 11 pm unload was estimated to take four hours, and when I returned to Fontana I would have to take my eight-hour DOT break.

For my driving test, Dan decided to make a dry run to the consignee with which I had an 11 pm appointment. He read the directions from the Qualcomm as I drove. And they were wrong. "Hmm," Dan muttered. "You have to turn left here, but there's nothing about that in the directions."

"Welcome to the world of Schneider directions," I said.

I passed the driving test with no problem, and when we got back to Fontana demonstrated that I could back into a slot. In the office, Dan put my driving scores into the computer. "I don't know what to do about the remedial stuff," he said. "This whole thing doesn't look like it was done right. I'll have to check in the morning."

"Now, the only thing I have to worry about is that load they assigned me that I can't take."

"Oh, right," Dan said, helpfully. "Let's go get second shift support to fix that."

I was about to agree, provided we didn't involve Pete; but before I could say a word Dan was telling no one else about the load.

"Well, here's the problem!" Pete exclaimed as Dan ducked out the door. "You said you'd have ten hours to drive after delivering your current load!"

I didn't bother correcting that to "eight". "When I sent the MAC 29, no one had told me about the remedial training I would be doing today."

"You should have told your STL!"

"My STL is the one who scheduled me on remedial."

"It's your responsibility! You should have made sure he put it in the computer!"

I had been wondering why I hadn't been notified over the Qualcomm, myself. It sounded like something funny had been going on—I still didn't have all the information. But I certainly wasn't going to get it from The-Driver-Is-Always-Wrong Pete. So I just shrugged. I've noticed Pete is good at confrontation, but seems to give way under meek acquiescence. Sure enough, he tried making a few calls to get the impossible load sent elsewhere, but didn't seem able to do it. "You've still got the load," he said. I decided not to argue with him; but I couldn't legally run the load and wouldn't. I decided to send a Qualcomm message to Customer Service, myself.

He looked further. "And see—you said you'd be here at 11 am today. But your appointment isn't until 23:00!"

"I got here early," I said.

"Gennipher would rip you up one side and down the other!" Pete cried, referring to the very nice training instructor who had given me my original Safe Track driving test. "Never, never put any time on a MAC 29 but the appointment time, if you have an appointment."

"My STL, Larry, told me to do that if I was coming early, to give him a chance to reschedule."

"I doubt that. And you certainly know better. Gennipher emphasizes it in class."

I nodded. "Perhaps she does. She was not my classroom instructor."

Pete glared at me. "Who was?"

"Bob."

"He has the same syllabus. He taught the same thing."

(The next morning, I checked with Gennipher. You do, in fact, use a MAC 29 to report an early estimated arrival, even with an appointment. She said she'd "have a talk" with Pete.)

There was, obviously, no point in belaboring this topic, either. So I nodded noncommittally, thanked him, and returned to my truck. To his credit, Pete apparently didn't stop trying. When I got in and activated the Qualcomm, a new message was waiting: I had been taken off the load.

Next, and last, chore of the day: Get to the consignee in Colton for my appointment at 11 pm.

It wasn't a problem, since Dan and I had already made a dry run. Thank God, since the directions were faulty. When I got to the shipping office, I was informed that I would need lumpers, and Schneider "always" pays for them. I knew we have to authorize it, though. I called third shift support—by now, Pete had gone home and support was handled directly from the home office at Green Bay, Wisconsin—and in just a few moments, the woman who answered had solved the problem. "Your load was set up as a mechanical unload," she explained. "That would have only paid you $40. I changed it to a hand unload. That pays $70."

"But they only want $60," I told her.

"That's fine. You can keep the rest," she said.

As the lumpers unloaded the trailer behind me, I tried to nap but an unsettled feeling fluttered around my gut. I made a mental list:

  • The day I received my permit book from Paul Mendoza, he'd pronounced it complete. Nevertheless, a week or so later, when I received a ticket from the State of Oregon for not having a fuel permit, it was deemed my fault. Schneider paid the ticket, but it became a "service exception" on my record.
  • Larry Howe, my STL, had told me he would "aim" at 2600 miles per week. His aim wasn't very good; the most I'd received through the end of October was 2,423 and the average for that time was 1,787. There were a variety of reasons: the truck breaking down, Canadian customs not having received the proper paperwork in advance, bad directions from Schneider causing me to take extra time locating a shipper or consignee. But it was always something.
  • When more bad directions got me into a mud puddle, instead of trying to make the directions more accurate, I was forced to spend a day—a day, not a couple of hours—attending classes to improve my performance.

Was something wrong with this picture? I began to suspect I had discovered the First Rule of Trucking, after all:

Take Anything Schneider Tells You With A Big Grain of Salt

But maybe that's too strong. Maybe that's only the Second Rule of Trucking.

Perhaps I would feel better after exercising the true First Rule of Trucking. Laid back in my bunk and closed my eyes:

Never Miss A Chance To Take A Nap