The time is looming for me to get back out on the road. This is a job that I love and I hate, in equal parts. One day I love the job the next day I hate it. Come to think of it, that just about sums up every job I’ve ever held in my entire life.
I’ve searched Google for other blogs on Drive-Away and can only seem to find the companies that hire. Maybe I’m just not putting in the right combination of search words.
To be fair this is a job that allows me to travel our beautiful United States and see, first hand, the changing landscapes. It is a solitary job which leaves a lot of time to think about life, love, and other pursuits. I am THE one and only bookkeeper in this operation and need to have downtime to do that task. Winter is when I take off to do that, along with my passion for paper crafting and gift making.
The crux of Drive-Away is it is “Slip Seat”. Which means you don’t drive the same truck day in and day out. You will be in one truck for a day or three then be in a totally different truck next. Being a Drive-Away driver means you have to be flexible. No, not twist your body into a pretzel flexible. You have to be able to drive a standard transmission truck with 10 to 13 speeds for a while then be plopped into an automatic transmission the next.
Each truck brand has their own cab design which includes the instrument and switch panels. This means some trucks have just the minimum of gauges on display, such as only an RPM, speedometer, air, fuel, oil, and battery gauges. Then there are the trucks that have gauges for primary and secondary air, rear and front axle temperatures, a pyrometer (which indicates the temperature of heated air leaving the exhaust stack…I think that is what it is anyway), water in fuel, right fuel tank and left fuel tank, turbo pressure, and the standard RPM, fuel, speedometer, and battery gauges. These multiple gauges are spread out across the dash panel and all need to be monitored and looked at from time to time.
The headlight switch and wiper switches are never in the same place. Fumbling around for the headlight switch in a different truck is maddening.
Check out the dash on this Kenworth if you want to see the different types of gauges that need to be monitored and you will understand what I’m talking about.
Check out this wrecked Freightliner Century Class instrument panel to see the difference.
Check out these photos of an International 9400i and the instrument panel.
Enough said about the various instrument panels.
The seats in the trucks we drive are, for the most part, air ride. There is a shock absorber under the seat that helps with the up and down bouncing that happens frequently. When the shock absorber is old, and in need of replacement, driving becomes a chore. Each bump in the road is followed by a raising of the seat and a whopping hard slam to the bottom of the cylinder. This causes backs to ache, muscle strain, and in some cases kidney damage from prolonged exposure to the hard banging the body takes.
With the advent of air ride seats, kidney damage has all but been obliterated. The truck drivers of long ago that had to spend endless hours in a solid seat had extreme lower back pain, disk compressions, and kidney bruising. That kind of damage doesn’t happen much in the trucks of today.
Being a Drive-Away driver a person has the opportunity to drive nearly every truck type that travels the interstates. Singles operators have a more diverse exposure to trucks that range from dump trucks, cement trucks, school buses, U-Haul trucks, cranes, wood chippers, fire trucks, ambulances, and a myriad of other types of equipment.
The Drive-Away industry is just a bit more laid back than the regular trucking industry because we don’t have produce that will spoil within a short time frame, livestock that has a very limited amount of travel time due to the weight factor. That is every hour livestock is being transported they poop more and weigh less than when they were originally shipped. Therefore, the less they weigh upon delivery the less the rancher or feedlot gets paid.
The trucks we move across the country are going to a dealership. Once in a while the trucks are already sold and do have a “HOT” time frame for delivery. We are under a bit of pressure to get the trucks delivered but not so much that we are behind the wheel in excess of 10 hours a day every day of the year.
We do get to have more time to see the sights than normal truck drivers do. And we have the bonus of having our personal, or “chase”, vehicle that we can use to go see the sights and not get a ration of trouble because we are taking up lots of parking spaces with a bobtail or tractor/trailer combination.
In short, other than having to work out in the elements, drive a different truck nearly every day, spend half the time trying to find the headlight switch, and the other half figuring out the shifting pattern of the transmission, or grabbing for a non existent gear shift because the truck has an automatic transmission, this job is not that bad to have. The pay is pretty good, the hours are lousy, the hotel beds are a whole other story with the firmness factor, and the places to stop and relieve a bladder are few and far between.
I’m trying to psyche myself up for my impending return to work. All I’ve done is make myself want to run into my craft room, shut the door, and when my husband asks “What’s for supper” he will get a muffled “Knock yourself out” as my answer.