1 – The Correct Address is Never The Right Spot.
Simply put, you’re never in the right spot the first time you arrive someplace. It’s just how it is. There’s always a gate to check in, or a staging area to wait in for a little while, or an additional place you’ll need to move the truck to in order to begin loading or unloading.
2 – The Next Place to Turn Around Is As Far Away as Possible.
Even with GPS technology made specifically for trucks, a good set of verbal directions, and possibly even previous experience with going to a place, it’s possible to miss a turn for it.
This experience will sharpen your skills with profanity.
When this happens, the next turn around will be as inconvenient as possible. It could be a ramp that doesn’t have the ability to allow a quick turn around, a closed intersection, or a never ending plague of one way streets in the wrong direction.
It’s the reason I refuse to run Pittsburgh. For all the negativity New York City gets, much of it is arranged in a grid pattern and mistakes can be corrected. But missing a turn in Pittsburgh can genuinely be a career altering event. It may even shorten your life. Miss a turn in Pittsburgh and you’re likely to arrive at your customer long after they’ve closed. You may even be missing parts of your truck when you get there. Like a cartoon, Pittsburgh should be erased with a giant magic eraser, and redrawn so it’s navigable.
“Finally made it to the shipper!” – A veteran driver in Pittsburgh, circa 2021.
3 – Fuel is a Precious Commodity.
If you’re on time for your appointment and back into your dock perfectly, the forklift will run out of fuel* half way through working your load. The forklift driver will move as slowly as possible getting the tank changed. If the tank has to be carried across say, a Walmart DC or Amazon Fulfillment Center well, I hope you brought your own lunch. Or you’re content to live out of a vending machine for the next few hours.
*A note regarding battery or electric forklifts.
If the forklift is of the electric variety, the operator will stop an infinite number of times to check his text messages. Try not to make your head explosion too visible. They’ll say you had a poor attitude. Any delays from this point forward will be your fault.
4- All The World’s a Stage And All The Drivers Merely Players.
All the world’s a stage. But that doesn’t mean you’re good at putting on a display. In fact you’re probably not. It doesn’t matter if you’re the ATA National Truck Driving Champion of Champions of All Time. It doesn’t matter if you got Donna Brazile to give you the answers to the ATA course ahead of time. It Doesn’t matter if Donna Brazile is on the ground helping you back in. It doesn’t matter if you have hit this spot a million times before. You can blindside off Cicero Ave all night long if there’s nobody watching. But the moment some night creature emerges from the shadows to ask for money and can be seen standing under a street light gawking at you from half a block away like an errant zombie, your skills practically vanish. The mystery of vanishing skills compounds if you’re well rested with plenty of room and the audience is a group of other experienced drivers.
5- The Most Effort Pays The Least.Embed from Getty Images
Some of the worst loads have the most requirements. They require the most effort. They want an appointment and are super strict on the time. They want an empty weight, and will “load to scale” no matter how long that takes. They will tell you not to fuel before arriving to load. They will call you all day, every day while in transit. They will want your bills signed with a printed name and signature with arrival and departure times at both ends, but not be willing to fork over money when these times become long enough that you begin to ask if you’re too old to start a new occupation. And “Failure to comply will result in non payment”.
6- The Urgency of Need to Use The Bathroom…
…is directly proportional to the amount of traffic you’re about to sit in.
…is directly proportional to the distance to the next somewhat clean facility.
…is directly proportional to the roughness of the road you’re on.
There is no clear answer on this one, as it’s a problem as old as trucking itself. No helpful tip from any experienced driver is a slam dunk. My great, great grandfather was a Teamster from way back. I remember him telling stories about how much he hated Nebraska. I guess Omaha traffic was a lot worse back then. I guess there were a lot less places to stop in his day. He’d spent so many hours roughly bouncing along in his Conestoga driving those horses near to death trying to get to the next rest area. He’d say, “Have they finished that damn Oregon trail yet? Or at least repaved it?”
7 – The Bigger The Hurry You’re in, The Slower Everyone Else Moves.
The world simply doesn’t care about your problems. There’s a good life lesson here. Teach it to your kids.
8- A Bungee Cord That Breaks is Always Aimed at Your Nads.Embed from Getty Images
For the sake of gender inclusion first let me say that if you are sans nads, I hope you doubled up on those sports bras that have hindered so much progress during teenage makeout sessions since the dawn of time.
This is mostly true for the black “tarp straps” that many flatbedders use to secure tarps. Often, as these age the rubber they’re made of deteriorates and they snap when you need to use them. Sometimes these cuts and abrasions are plainly visible and a reasonable risk assessment can be made on how much to stretch them, but sometimes not. It’s always the ones with tiny cuts you can’t see that break first and the most severely, and hit you in all the wrong places. The ones that look like a middle school lunch lady’s moustache will last a good while longer if not tensioned too much.
Some of the scars I have from my flatbed days are not just visible, they’re emotional too. *sniff*
9 – Just Put it Anywhere.
If a car can be in your way, it will be. If the customer needed an extra dumpster, it will be placed directly across from the area you need to maneuver. It’s just like mathematics, folks. A universal, inarguable constant. If I could add anything to it from my days running the east coast I’d add that any time you have to go through the employee parking lot to get to the dock, you’re screwed.Embed from Getty Images
“Make a right and go through our parking lot to the docks”
10 – The Other Side of The Windshield Will Be Cleaner.
Imagine you are a young, up and coming automotive engineer. It’s the middle 1700’s in the muddy streets of a forgotten colonial town in New England. There is a nondescript wooden door in an alley on the side of a pub. In order to gain access through this door, you had to use a special knock, and know a complex password. Then you’d be led down a long, dark flight of stairs under the pub to a dark, wet basement lit only by gloomy lanterns. Awaiting you would be several ominous, robed figures. The stench of must and mildew fights with the sickening smell of strange incense. It could be “Vanillaroma” or “New Car Scent”, you’re not sure. Some of the figures seem to be chanting advanced mathematics problems in low tones, barely audible to the human ear. As you come to a stop at the foot of the stairs they encircle you, still chanting the mysterious, secret language known as “calculus”.
They would then make a small incision in your finger and put a drop of your blood into a pint of ale and all drink from it. The leader, recognizable only by a chain around his neck that held a pendant that looked like Peterbilt oval, would come forward and make you swear secrecy and allegiance to the Super Secret Dark Brotherhood of Secrecy and Darkness and Brotherhood.
But here is where it gets really interesting.
They’d make you bare your naked bum. With a large paddle they would swat you. With each swat you were required to say, “Thank you sir, may I have another!” and nothing else. If you uttered any other words, you were led upstairs and ejected from the Brotherhood for all time. If you successfully completed the “bum swat beer ritual”, you were then a life member of the Super Secret Dark Brotherhood of Secrecy and Darkness and Brotherhood.
Historians believe it was this shadowy, evil organization of engineers that decided right there in that basement a great many things that have baffled and frustrated both professionals and shade tree mechanics alike for ages. People this day are still finding mind boggling things about vehicles of all kinds that lead them to believe this evil organization still exists. The full scope of their evil deeds may never be known.
The right side defroster, washer and wiper will always work better than the left side.
An automotive engineer in 1742.