As you slowly approach the yard Friday afternoon, you cannot help feeling a sense of relief. In front of you, is a somewhat organized yard, which seems odd compared to an average Friday afternoon that you have come to expect. You see, on a normal Friday afternoon, you would usually arrive at a yard fully congested, with pieces of equipment scattered throughout, as your colleagues rush home for the weekend. Thankfully, today was different. Today, you are able to roll up to your parking spot, safely pull ahead, and back in to park your trailer for the weekend.
After doing a quick check inside the cab, you grab your hard hat and safety vest and exit the tractor to complete your post-trip inspection. While inspecting the side of your tractor, you say to yourself that you are grateful to be home, safe, and you hoped the news of the current winter storm passing to be true, so you can have a more peaceful trip the following week.
By the time you inspected the driver's side of the trailer and were making your way around the passenger side, you see your supervisor waiting for you at the cab of the tractor.
"Hey boss", you say while walking up the passenger side of the trailer, inspecting your trailer along the way. As you approach your supervisor, you figure that they wanted to discuss the trip you were just on, probably to inquire about the road conditions and if you forecasted any delays in the week ahead. After the usual catchup takes place, your boss informs you that instead of completing your usual Monday highway trip, they would need you to stay local for the week and help out with the flat deck division as there has been an increase in business but a shortage of qualified drivers to complete the work.
As your boss walks towards the office, you stand there for a moment, processing the update. "No problem," you say to yourself, "after all, hauling flat deck is how I started, so it will be good to go back to my roots for the week."
Preparing for Change
It was like any other Sunday evening, as you planned for your Monday morning. For years now, you did your best to prepare Sunday evenings for the week ahead, as this helped you approach the week and mentally prepared for the challenges ahead. You knew you would set your alarm for 05:00 AM, which ensures you had enough time to hit the snooze button at least once before getting out of bed. You knew that your meals for the following couple of days would be made. You were excited to wear the new pair of steel toe boots when you pulled up to the office, as it would appease the safety personnel at the office as your old pair finally gave way.
The thing is your preparation that normally took place on Sunday evenings, changed this weekend. The updated information that your boss told you on Friday afternoon, although not drastic, had your mind wondering about how the upcoming week would go all weekend long. Normally, on a Sunday evening, you knew come Monday morning, you were going to be taking a load from Calgary, Alberta to Kamloops, British Columbia. This has been your route for so long, you could describe every dip in the road, every bend, and knew exactly how to complete this trip without issue.
Since you been operating on dedicated runs, you were assigned your own tractor, a 2019 International LT, with all of the bells and whistles. In your opinion, one of the greatest benefits of working for your company, is they reimburse you for all of the efforts you put in to ensure the tractor stays clean and in tip-top shape. In a way, you feel as if this tractor, is your tractor, and you treat it as such.
When you first started this route, you were hooking up and hauling a 40’ reefer full of palletized product. Recently, the shipper increased the amount of product being delivered and was now hauling a 53’ reefer. In your mind, this was a compliment, as it was in part of the excellent service you provided each week.
You knew that you were still expected to bring your A-game, regardless of the change in schedule, equipment, and where you would be hauling to. You were confident you could, as you have been at this for a long time, but you knew, things would be different.
"Monday morning felt like it came a little faster," you say to yourself while grabbing your lunch pale and walk towards the office. After speaking with a colleague briefly, you meet with your boss to find out which tractor you would be driving for the week. Your boss explains to you that the tractor you were supposed to be operating today is in the shop for a major repair and that you'll be riding with the flat deck team-lead for today.
Since you and the team-lead have worked together indirectly for years, you felt a little more comfortable about today than you had on your commute to the yard. While walking out to the yard, you see the team-lead hauling some chains from the storage container to a trailer, and walked over to give them a hand. After grabbing a couple of new chains, you're asked to grab the new boomers and a couple of ratchet straps that are currently placed next to the storage container, and bring them to the trailer as well.
While returning to the trailer, the team-lead communicates to you that before they can utilize the cargo securement tools, they needed to inspect the chains for any dents, facture points, or breaks. You are asked to inspect the boomers and straps for the same. A simple task, really, but at that moment you realized it has been some time since you have had to utilize these types of cargo securement tools.
When hauling reefer equipment, you have mainly utilized load bars. As you inspect each piece, you communicate that inspecting these cargo securement tools is quite a bit different than inspecting the load bars you have become comfortable utilizing. Your team-lead then speaks up, communicating that not only is it a legal requirement to ensure your cargo securement tools are in safe working order, nothing is tied down on his trailer without ensuring such.
After all of the cargo securement tools are inspected, the team-lead asks that you hang half of them on the chain hanger on the headache rack, and place the rest in the middle of the deck. While completing, you see the team-lead lowering the beavertail on the trailer and walk over to a fairly large excavator that will be delivered to a customer this morning.
Navigating the City Corridor
After loading and securing the excavator, you and your team-lead both enter the cab of the tractor. As you sit down in the passenger seat, you think to yourself "wow, it has been a few years since I have sat on this side of the rig". Your team-load logs into the dispatch system on the tablet and communicates to you that this delivery will be fun, with a sly smirk on their face. After entering the customer location's address into the GPS, buckling up your seatbelts, you depart the yard.
While heading North down the highway, you notice that your team-lead has maintained the exact speed limit ever since departing the yard and let them know that while out on the highway, you find most commercial vehicles are traveling at a minimum of 10 KM over the posted speed limit. They respond, communicating how important it is to monitor your speed and space while operating a commercial vehicle, regardless of where you go. It only takes a fraction of a second for something to happen, such as a vehicle cutting you off, or an animal jumping out in front of you. If you are not traveling at a safe and legal speed, the likelihood of you preventing an accident drops dramatically. Plus, by exceeding the posted speed limit, how much more fuel are you burning to only arrive maybe a couple of minutes faster?
Taking the off-ramp, you start to head towards the city corridor on the east side of town. If you were to take this route a year or two prior, it would have been nothing but farmers' fields and a couple of warehouses. Now, there are malls, residential houses, transit systems, and a handful of schools opening or about to be opened.
Your commute takes you further into the residential area, your team-lead communicates the importance of monitoring the signage in the area. They advise that certain areas have no-truck route signs, while other areas are fine with commercial vehicle traffic. They communicate that thankfully this customer provides very good instructions, as although the GPS in their tractor identifies truck routes, they do not often pick up new residential areas when we are delivering equipment. They reiterate the importance of monitoring where they take a tractor-trailer while working in the city, to ensure they do not end up in a spot they cannot get out of unscathed.
When you ask your team-lead where it is that you are taking the excavator, they point ahead and say about three more right-hand turns, through one school zone, and then a quick left. They explain the excavator is being delivered to a large landscaping contractor in town that is finishing the school's soccer fields. Additionally, the reason why they needed you to work locally during this week is to help deliver a long list of equipment to this exact site as the contractor is on a time crunch to complete the project.
Three right-hand turns later, your team-lead was correct, you see the brand new school in front of you. As the rig gets closer, you see the first initial warning sign of a school zone approaching. You quickly state that you are thankful it is still early in the morning, and there are no kids being dropped off for school yet. Your team-lead communicates the importance of keeping a very watchful eye while navigating through school zones regardless of the time of day, as you never know if kids are walking to school or possibly dropped off early for whatever reason.
As you crawl through the school zone, both of your heads are on a swivel to ensure you identify any possible situation that could turn bad. As you cross through the last of the school zone, you let out a small sigh of relief. Sure, you feel that your team-lead is a professional driver, but the mere thought of being involved in an incident with a pedestrian, let alone a child, makes you feel a lump in your throat.
Something to Think About
You do not even realize the left turn has come and gone, as your team-lead parks the rig at the job site. "Wow," you say, that commute was more action-packed than plenty of the trips I have completed over the last couple of years on my normal route. Sure, the highway brings a different set of challenges that we didn't face during this morning's commute, but so many others did.
First, it is extremely important to inspect your cargo securement tools prior to even loading a piece of equipment. You need to know in advance the tools you were planning to utilize meet the legal requirements in the first place. It is a legal requirement to understand working load limits, weight restrictions on your trailer, the height of your load, to ensure you can safely and legally complete your delivery prior to departure. If you feel unsure about any of these components, speak with your company to ensure you are properly trained.
Secondly, following the speed limits, regardless if you are operating within the city corridor or out on the highway is mandatory and not a suggestion. Operating a commercial vehicle that can weigh in excess of 65,000 KG is no laughing matter and as a professional driver, it is your responsibility to drive to the road conditions, to traffic conditions, and to your ability as a professional, to ensure you and others are safe at all times.
Finally, as a professional driver, you face such a large variety of challenges each day. It is important that you mentally prepare yourself each day before getting behind the wheel. This will help ensure that you are operating with a clear mind, and can focus on the tasks at hand, and are not distracted by other circumstances going on in life. We appreciate all of your hard work and dedication, thank you.
Did you know, the Pivotal Transportation Industry Solutions offers online compliance training that is designed by industry experts, to help ensure you meet your regulatory requirements?
We are all faced with different challenges as we live each day, and my encouragement to you is to ensure you are pushing through each and every one of them!
First off, I want to express my gratitude to the professionals working in the transportation industry.
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