On Tuesday afternoon June 26th after winding up my 42 days of mentor training and getting the paperwork and road test out of the way, I was directed outside the terminal building to a Freightliner truck looking for a new driver. My new Driver Manager (DM) handed me the keys and said “Here, go and check it out and see what you think.” Well to say the least I was excited but that quickly waned when I climbed inside the just freshly detailed cab and, after a couple of minutes figuring out how to start it, I realized it had nearly 756,000 miles! I was bummed! I hadn’t seen or heard of a company truck with as many miles. So after talking with a former fellow student who checked it out with me I decided to return to my D.M. “What do you think?” she asked. “Well, you know it’s got like 755,600 miles on it, and I was hoping for something a little newer, something I could look forward to fixing up and having for a while.” (I was hoping for something with maybe 300,000 miles or so, but as they say, “beggars can’t be choosers”). She mentioned that if I had a truck with that kind of mileage that I would be high on the list to get a new one (not necessarily a brand-new one), but she wasn’t sure when that might happen. It could be a month, or three or more months down the road. I wasn’t happy with the uncertainty, which of course wasn’t her fault, but I’m not one that likes to deal much in uncertainties.
So, I asked if there were any other options, and not batting an eye she said she’d speak to the guy in charge of assigning new drivers their trucks and see what other possibilities there might be. That didn’t take long as “the guy” sits about ten feet away. Within a few minutes the three of us got together and a number of options were reviewed. First, the company would pay me to ride a bus down to the Swift terminal in Lathorpe, CA., where there was a truck available. (Not the most pleasant thought – a bus ride of that length). Secondly there was another truck down near Mountain Home, Idaho. They could probably get me a ride with another driver to rendezvous with it. There was another truck scheduled to come in to Lewiston later that night, but they knew nothing about it. “The guy” suggested I shouldn’t stand around waiting for it, as it could have a number of problems and be in the shop for days before it was drivable. So, I asked, “What would you do if you were me?” He suggested that I go pick up a truck somewhere, being pretty confident that at least it would be road worthy. (If your truck is moving you’re making money … otherwise nada!)
Then my DM spoke of a truck in Caldwell, Idaho that had been left there by a driver. Neither knew much information on any of the trucks. At least two of them were Freightliners and you could bet they were all high-mileage, as it’s been several years since the company had purchased any. Then my DM told me she knew the Caldwell truck was a “fairly new” Volvo and she remembered that the driver was very happy when he got it as it didn’t have a lot of miles. She knew too that the driver had taken “meticulous care” off it. Weeelll … that sounded like the best bet for me! So after one night and another half a day of trying to secure a ride down to Caldwell (a whole ‘nother story!) I was finally on board an older Freightliner with a driver named “Norm” for the five hour ride down south. Norm was headed for California and would drop me off along the way. My truck had been left at a truck stop that also serves as a “drop yard” for Swift trailers. I was told I would find the keys at the stop’s fuel desk. Once I had it, I could spend the night there and in the morning hook up an empty trailer and make the trek back to Lewiston. I needed a day to get my things in it and spend a little time setting her up. My DM was more than accommodating.
We arrived at the truck stop at about 10:30 p.m. Wednesday. It was dark as we drove the long line of trailers but in the short distance we could see a Volvo, which most likely would be my new truck. Confirming the correct truck number, that it was indeed the truck I had come to retrieve, the first thing I noticed was that it had a skylight above the cab. Not all of them do, but this one did and that was a plus! As we drew closer I could see that it appeared, from the outside anyway, to be in very good condition.
Finally after unlocking the front driver’s door I climbed in. I was shocked! This truck looked and smelled like a new rig! Plastic still protecting the top bunk mattress and on the carpeting below. Quickly I started her up and fumbling with the in-dash electronic read-out I found that it had 117,914 miles on it. Now that may sound like a lot but with a long-haul truck it’s really very little. Just barely broken in! For all intents and purposes this truck was brand new! I was giddy! I couldn’t believe my luck! All the way down I worried whether I had made the right decision, as this was one I would have to live with for a while. My worries, as all of those so far during this journey have been, were a waste of time! I was so excited that my plans to spend the night before returning to Lewiston were put aside. I wanted to drive my new truck right now! I wanted to feel the freedom that was in store for me and experience what it all would be like to hit the open road with no one calling the shots, ‘cept me. Unfortunately I had forgotten to bring my flashlight and it was just too dark to find an empty trailer. I resigned myself to organizing what few things I had brought along, reading up on the truck manuals, and bedding down for the night.
I didn’t get much sleep as I kept waking up and checking out things I hadn’t thought of before. How do I get the idle to stay on? How does this work? Where do I put my things? What do all those symbols on the bright dash display mean? What am I going to do with all this space!
Finally the next morning on Thursday at 6:45 the moment I had waited for, for so long had finally arrived. I gingerly hooked up an empty trailer, checking and double checking the connections, and, after getting my log book in order, I slowly drove truck #300294 the short distance across the dirt lot and onto I-84N beginning the mostly scenic 270 mile trip back to Lewiston.
Today Friday the 29th was spent getting all my belongings from my car and organizing them. Among other chores I had the truck washed (on the company dime) and then got to spend some time with my Academy roommate Thomas who just finished up with his mentor. He’ll be taking a week or so off to return to his home in Montana before getting his own truck assignment. We’re still planning to hook up together on a number of excursions around the country in the months ahead. Once we’ve got our feet on firm ground, and a few weeks behind the wheel, we’ll look at making some firm plans.
I’ve spent nearly all that I have for some food and other supplies from Wal-Mart (Yep, my life has deteriorated to this) with just a few dollars left for some shopping at a truck stop along the way. I need a road atlas, a three pound hammer, and a couple of other “tools of the trade” to get me through the next few days until payday on Tuesday.
The road beyond looks bright and I’ve got my sunglasses on for the miles that lie ahead across the northern Nevada desert. The oldies keep coming from my radio with the Beach Boys in the background. Wow, and to think I get paid for this!
The truck pictured above is very similar to my own, except mine is white in color. Would have preferred the red but Swift thinks otherwise. Hope to have a good digital camera soon, so I can show the real thing. Thanks for checking in, there’s more coming soon!