As I was completing my one year sentence with Stevens, I gave a lot of thought to where I would go next. I eyeballed every truck I passed, scoping out their equipment, their home terminal and the other “come work for us” verbiage on their trucks. I paid special attention to the tankers out there although they didn’t have much in the way of “come work for us” messages.
I tried to connect with the 10 companies at the top of my list. Some of them required more experience than I had (sorry, we need a minimum of two years) and others didn’t offer the pay or equipment I thought I needed. I felt I had to have 40 cents a mile, a nice truck no older than two or three years old, and home time every two weeks. Oh, and I needed a tractor with an APU (auxiliary power unit) and power inverter that would support a microwave and a refrigerator. While several of the companies didn’t offer the pay, only one of the companies could guarantee the APU and power inverter and it was a reefer company.
While I was considering a couple of refrigerated companies, they were at the bottom of my list. One of the companies actually had a pretty good offer: 39 cents a mile (to start) and newer trucks that included in-cab refrigerators and inverters. Even better, they guaranteed $950 a week. I had ruled out flatbeds since everything I had heard pointed to more work than I had in my mind. Schlepping all over a flatbed trying to secure a tarp in wind, rain, snow or 100 degree temperatures just wasn’t my idea of a cool driving job.
My other possibilities were going hazmat tanker (generally better pay) or dry van. I signed up with a tanker company and would be going over the road with them after a two week training period. Two weeks was long enough to tell me I didn’t want to be in that business. Actually it only took a week but I gave it the “old college try.” Kind of a non sequitur for a trucking job but …
The main drawback for me was having to don the full monty rubber hazmat suit. I only had to do this a couple of times, but both times in 100 degree Houston heat. Rivulets of sweat were cascading down every inch of my skin. I nearly swooned. And it wasn’t just me. My trainer – a younger, stronger man – was nearly passing out as well. Granted, I might only have to suit up every couple of months, but for me, one time was too many.
The other drawbacks to this gig included:
- The SURGE – The liquid sloshing in the tank either slams you in the back or causes you to lurch forward. This was unnerving at first, but I think I could have handled it over the long haul.
- Tank washes – After most loads you have to take your rig to a facility that washes out the tank. The tank part was not a big deal because other highly paid professionals did the dirty work. Howsomever, often I would have had to pull the 3 and 4-inch, 12-foot-long hoses off the truck so they could be washed out. The various fittings as well. More hard work I wasn’t up for. And don’t even talk to me about what armpits tank wash facilities are. Hundreds of ugly, smelly tank-trailers wedged into not enough space.
- Dirty, old, beat up equipment – My first truck was an 8 year-old Volvo with no APU.
The only thing that made it difficult to quit was the people. They were very nice. The terminal manager was even an oenophile (wine aficionado) and I think there might have been some pretty nice wine tastings in my future. But I just didn’t think it was worth the trade-off. I told them that I always believed the probationary period was a two way street. The hazmat tanker business just wasn’t my cup of formaldehyde.
They seemed understanding.
I, of course, had my next gig lined up and so it would be off to the dry van trucking business.