So Many TCKs!

Hello readers! My second week of CDL school has been completed. I have truly been learning something new every day. Mostly, more of the details about what the DOT test entails and how many ways there are to flunk it. Ugh.

So, my backing skills have been getting better as I’ve gotten a better grip on setting my mirrors, adjusting my seat and what to look for in my mirrors to know when I’ve got the truck where I want it for each step. It’s a challenge each time I get in a truck on the range because the seats and mirrors don’t have exact settings and all of us students seem to need them in different places.

In case I didn’t clarify before, the range is the paved lot where we practice backing maneuvers. There are numerous cones lined up exactly the way they are at the DOT test site. We use the cones to get a grip on where our truck is and needs to be to straight back, offset park and parallel park. Yes, parallel park. I know, right?!

Anyhow, I got a pretty good bit of practice in on the range this week and I’m sure I made my instructors raise their eyebrows at some of my attempted position corrections. Thankfully, they’ve been very patient thus far.

I also made some progress on my inspection list. There are so many details we have to remember to tell the examiner when we inspect the truck for safety! From tire tread to the power steering reservoir to shock absorbers to hoses to torque bars to proper colored lights and on and on and on. Multiple times each day I find myself beginning at the front of the truck and working my way to the back describing what possible issues I’m looking for all the way to the back of the trailer and on into the cab. Little by little I’m finding myself able to remember more of those details each time I repeat the process with the goal to have them all down before test day.

On the road I’m learning to watch everything around me including my trailer position, changing traffic lights, bridge heights, bridge weight limits, bicyclists, pedestrians, traffic, school zones, etc. Mostly the usual things a four-wheeler driver has to watch for, but while up-shifting and downshifting in a vehicle that’s 80 feet long and can take more than the length of a football field to stop. When that driver in a four wheeler makes the stupid choice to cut you off to make a turn, it’s much easier for another four wheeler to adjust than it is for a semi. I’m not sure some drivers really get that, but I digress.

Now, about the title of this post. I believe I talked about TCKs in an earlier post, so I’ll just let you guys go back to that for an explanation of what they are. I’m a TCK, and I find it very interesting that I’m meeting a pretty high percentage of them here at school. I’ve got classmates with military brat backgrounds and those who moved to the US as children. I’ve met people who grew up in Haiti, Trinidad and Turkey to name a few. There are also quite a view Veterans here. Some who were in Iraq and Afghanistan.

When I was just a passenger on the road, I wrote sometimes about the way the culture on the road is unique, especially for those who drive long haul. Being in a different state from day to day, spending a lot of time in truck stops, shopping in stores you wouldn’t have ever heard otherwise, eating out a lot, seeing the beauty of this great country, spending a lot of time on the phone, etc. I wonder if it’s that wanderlust that seems to root itself in many TCKs that draws some of them to the trucking industry or there’s something more to it. I suspect there’s more to it for many of us. Perhaps I’ll research that one at some point.

For now, I shall enjoy the rest of my day off before turning my focus back to CDL learning again.

Until next time, readers, be safe out there ๐Ÿ™‚


New York, New York

Heading into the city after crossing the GW

Long ago I told my New Jersey native cousin that I wanted to go to New York city. She quickly informed me that I didn’t really. Of course, the New York city I was thinking of visiting included Time Square, the flat iron building, 5th Avenue, Central Park and the Waldorf. Like so many Americans, I had become enamored of the idea that the city was beautiful and had to be experienced by all. 

While I have yet to see any of the aforementioned, famous New York city sites, I believe I have now gained some perspective regarding my cousin’s reaction those years ago. This change has come due to the handful of times I have traveled I95 through New York state thus far.

On the George Washington bridge, the GW

From New Jersey, I95 takes us over the George Washington bridge into New York city. The first time I remember going over the bridge was during rush hour. There are actually two tiers to the bridge with tractor trailers allowed only on the top. In spite of two tiers and 3 lanes in each direction, there were vehicles of every sort packed together and nearly running over each other. The term “rush hour” is definitely misleading in that part of New York!

View of New York city from the GW

Admittedly, I did enjoy the view of the city skyline from atop the bridge. I even saw the tiny figure of Lady Liberty way across the water. 

Once we crossed the bridge, we continued on under several cross over bridges that seemed more like mini tunnels. The pollution from so many people and vehicles was obvious in the air and on the soot covered, concrete walls. 

Many of the buildings were 15 stories or more high and I imagined going home to one of those upper story apartments each day. No, thank you.

Exiting the bridge, entering the city

We did pass a good size park area along the way. I would likely spend a lot of time there if I lived nearby.

Some green space amid the concrete and bricks

Although I found it intriguing to actually see “Queens” on a a directional sign and to know I was truly in “the city that never sleeps”, I’m not sure now if I really want to venture farther into “the Big Apple” seeing as how I’m not much for being in huge crowds or breathing lots of carbon pollutants. I guess I’ll just wait and see what comes next. 

Until next time, friends, drive safely out there ๐Ÿ™‚ 

Nice Bridge

I know. This blog title sounds like a weird compliment. But, it’s actually the name of a bridge that spans the Potomac River connecting Maryland and Virginia. Its full name is the Harry W. Nice Memorial bridge in honor of the man who was Governor of Maryland when the bridge was built. 

According to the Maryland Transportation Authority website, the bridge opened in December of 1940 and was originally called the Potomac Bridge. It’s 1.7 miles long, two lanes wide and clears 135 feet at its highest point. That’s like 13 stories high! Shiver.

I’ve gone over the bridge a few times thus far. One of those times we spent several hours in traffic approaching the bridge because of an accident on it. Needless to say, that was incredibly frustrating. 

For anyone who wishes to read more about the bridge, check out the Maryland Transportation Authority website. 

Until next time, friends, drive safely ๐Ÿ™‚ 

Ports of Entry

One new experience for me since I started riding shotgun is going to ports of entry. I hadn’t really considered before what it might be like to visit a place that’s essentially an very wet entrance/exit to these United States. 

My first visit took place several years ago at a port near Corpus Christi, Texas. We had to go through a gate, show our photo identification and be escorted to to where we picked up our load and then back to the gate. 

Recently, we had to deliver a load to the port of Savannah, Georgia. Because of some security changes, we had to have a TWIC escort. Basically, that’s a person with a special security identification that allows them to move freely around the port. More specifically, according to, “The Transportation Worker Identification Credential, also known as TWICยฎ, is required by the Maritime Transportation Security Act for workers who need access to secure areas of the nationโ€™s maritime facilities and vessels.”

Our TWIC escort met us at the gate and had to physically be with us the entire time we were inside the gate. She even hung out with us while our trailer was unloaded. We were required to wear safety vests, as well. 

A few days ago, we went to the port of Albany, New York. The procedures were basically like the ones in Savannah except that I didn’t have to get out of the truck and our TWIC escort led us to where we needed to go in his security truck.

Apparently truck drivers who frequent ports for their jobs can apply for their own TWIC cards by paying a fee and submitting to a rigorous background check. They also have to meet specific requirements regarding their criminal history and citizenship status.  

I know we can’t guarantee that everyone crossing our borders or working around them is going to intend only good for our citizens, but it’s good to know someone in our government is working on it. 

Until next time, readers, drive safely out there ๐Ÿ™‚ 

Signs, Everywhere the Signs

One activity I enjoy out here on the highway is reading signs. I read them to find out where we are, of course, but I mostly like to see if they strike me as funny. Today, I have posted photos of some signs I’ve enjoyed recently.

Not really a sign, but I have to wonder about a driver who doesn’t know how he/she is driving

This takes me back to high school and 80s music
I read this and wondered why plants might need a speed limit in this area

This is still my favorite. Apparently they’re really serious about speed limits in Virginia
This sounds like a town for toddlers and kids going through puberty

There have been a few I failed to get photos of as well. One was meant to signal the end of a road. In big letters, it simply said “END”. I saw it and thought maybe it was about more than the road. 

Town names are intriguing, as well. Pennsylvania has towns called Climax and Intercourse which, perhaps, explains some of why so many of our ancestors had 15-20 kids. 

I hope you all got a chuckle or two out of these photos like I did. Perhaps I’ll continue my collection and post more in the future.

Until next time, readers, drive safely ๐Ÿ™‚ 

Things I’ve Learned on the Road #2

Recently, a change was made to the overtime law for employees in the USA. Apparently, it’s supposed to help more workers–including some salaried ones–to earn a bit extra when they work more than 40 hours in a week. Of course, how beneficial it will be remains to be seen.
The new law likely won’t affect many truck drivers, though. The majority of them are paid by the mile rather than the hour or salaried. This puts them in the unfortunately large group of American employees with sometimes seriously unpredictable paychecks.
Each industry has unique issues affecting their employee paychecks, of course. For truck drivers the main objectives are to cover miles and make money. To do this they need decent weather, open roads, a functioning truck, available freight and a well rested driver. Unfortunately, many of these are out of the driver’s control.
Obviously, they can’t keep snow, ice, floods and high winds away. Construction and rush hour can sometimes be worked around with trip planning, but they can be unpredictable, especially when accidents are figured in.
As anyone with a vehicle knows, no matter how well you stick with preventive maintenance, stuff breaks. Even the preventive work adds up to time off the road and not all companies pay the driver for that time.
Freight availability varies by season and consumer appetite. Along with the amount of freight available, the location of the freight also affects the driver. If there’s none where the driver is, the company has to pay for fuel to get him where there is some. And all too often, the shippers and receivers delay the driver with hours of waiting to be loaded or unloaded.
Being rested is certainly within the driver’s control most of the time. When the shipper unexpectedly takes 6 hours to load and the driver who normally drives during the day has to drive over night to deliver on time while obeying federal hours of service regulations, it can mess with the driver’s sleep schedule and require a shot of caffeine.
When all these things work together well, a driver will work 60-70 hours a week and earn a decent paycheck, but no overtime. When something goes wrong, he/she may get paid next to nothing and be stuck far from home to boot. Add in our healthcare laws and overpriced insurance and one can see why so many drivers leave the profession within a year or two.
I hope the new overtime law helps a lot of people earn a better living, but I fear it may continue the tendency toward the creation of more part time positions. Regardless, it isn’t likely to help any truckers.

Until next time, friends, drive safely out there ๐Ÿ™‚