Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A dream ruined in one day, and a month in hell

**Sorry for the wall of text, I had to vent about this, it has been on my mind ever since**

I had always had a dream of becoming an OTR driver, ever since I was young, and was ecstatic when Central Refrigerated Service opted to send me to their school, even though I lived in a no hire zone. I left Fort Myers, FL on 12/15/2012 and headed to training in Conley, GA. I enjoyed the drive up in my 2004 Hyundai Santa Fe, it was fairly trouble-free and I spent a few days exploring before I headed to the motel that Central Refrigerated Service, Inc had provided as part of the training.

I attended class for 2 weeks here in Conley, GA at the Central Refrigerated Terminal before taking a final test and passing, I then parked my vehicle at the terminal and excitedly prepared to board the Greyhound bus to West Valley City, UT (In the SLC Metro Area) to the main headquarters/training grounds.

Here I learned how to drive a truck. My classmates and I were coached on proper shifting, turning, and pretrip inspections, needed to pass the CDL exam. It was about a month here for training, and I passed my CDL. This was at the time the happiest moment of my life, another step towards a dream come true for me.

I was sent out on the road with a trainer named Danny, who was a nice guy, yes, I had difficulties at first but I picked it up towards the end of the 30 day training period, and everything clicked. I passed the road test on 1/31/2013 and was assigned my own truck. I left on my first load and although I ran into a few bumps along the road, I loved every moment of the job. I was making good money and enjoying the freedom this job brought with it.

This all changed on 03/10/2013, I was near Grand Island, NE on I-80 headed Westbound towards Ogden, UT with a load of chocolate on. At the time there were a few weather issues, blizzard conditions which made it impossible to see 50 ft in front of my rig. I pulled off that night onto the get-on ramp, since there were no other places to park. There were several rigs lined up on the get-on ramp, so I decided to wait out the poor weather. About 4 hours later, conditions still poor, I was fast asleep in bed and started getting calls from night dispatch, can't remember an exact name. I was asked why the truck wasn't moving because I had plenty of hours to drive, and at the time I replied "The conditions are poor, I do not feel comfortable driving" I was rudely informed by the dispatch rep that if I did not get this load out on time I would be terminated and the truck disabled remotely.

The conditions were blowing snow, high winds and poor visibility, -10 degrees fahrenheit and roads were covered in hard pack snow and ice. I decided to try and clear the storm and try to save my job, so after pretripping the truck and draining my air tanks, waiting 20 minutes for them to refill, I headed out at a slow, steady pace of 10 miles per hour, with the emergency flashers on. I figured at the time since I had 7 hours left to drive I could clear the hazard and get on with my load. I made it approximately 3 miles down the road, where apparently several hours before, quite a few trucks had jackknifed and gone off the road. There was stopped traffic behind the wrecks.

Due to conditions I did not see the traffic stopped until the last minute, and tried to pump my brakes to slow/stop the truck. I heard a loud POP and my tractor brakes stopped working, I had no air pressure. The valve locked up and threw my truck into a forward skid. I attempted to steer the truck around the obstruction but I was unsuccessful and ended up plowing into the back of  a stopped vehicle. The vehicle was parked in the middle of 2 other vehicles, and that vehicle was pushed through the other 2 causing sideswipe damage to them. A minivan plowed into the rear end of my trailer doing almost 40 mph, thankfully no one was hurt, but all in the van were taken to the ER.

The vehicle I hit was a total loss but there was only minor cosmetic damage to the truck itself. I followed the company's procedure in reporting an accident and called them the moment it happened. I took several pictures of the scene and collected insurance information and made sure everyone involve was OK. After the wreck was cleared I proceeded on to deliver my load and headed to the West Valley Terminal as instructed by Safety. My truck was red-tagged awaiting repairs and after waiting several days for an accident review, I was given a chance to appeal. I explained what happened in painstaking detail to the safety department, and was advised I would be placed on a 1 yr probation, but due to the amount of damage caused in the wreck it would be labelled as preventable..I agreed at the time, happy to keep my job.

I was assigned another truck, and spent several hours moving my belongings over, and the next day passed a defensive driving course and was road tested. The instructor who road tested did not like the way I was shifting the truck, having an 18 speed transmission, I was unfamiliar with the shift patterns, but otherwise said I did a good job. I was assigned a load, ready to leave the terminal, and went in to check with Safety for clearance to leave. I was told at this point that my job was being terminated and told "You knew this was coming" I was devastated. I packed everything I could into 2 bags and asked for a bus ticket to Conley, GA to collect my car. I was provided with a bus ticket but this was taken out of my last paycheck.

Upon arriving in Conley, GA, I spent 2 days going around Atlanta area trying to find another job, after being unsucessful I decided to head home to Fort Myers, FL. On the way back I was running I75 South. About 60 miles from the state line started experiencing car troubles, I lost power and my car was throwing flames from the exhaust. I determined that the timing belt had jumped and damaged the valvetrain. I idled along the shoulder until I ended up in Tifton, GA, where I spent the next month at a rescue mission, until I could work up the money to pay for a ride home, leaving my car at the rescue mission.

I got home around 4/30/2013 and I have been looking for a job ever since. My car, left in Tifton, GA has since been repossessed, voluntarily, as I could not afford a new engine.

I am trying to find my way back into the trucking industry, but my experience with Central has left me with 3 months experience, my DAC report branded with "Unsatisfactory Safety Record"
No company I've applied with will hire me, and although I was offered a job with another major carrier, they will not hire out of Southwest FL due to freight availability. I have looked for non trucking jobs but have not had any success. I have included some pictures from this unfortunate incident. I apologize to anyone who was adversely affected by the equipment failure that caused this wreck.

If there is ANYONE out there that can help me find a job in trucking, I would greatly appreciate the assistance. I don't know what else to do other than put this experience out there.....

I am not in any way asking for handouts. I have been working for a temp agency for a month or so and while work is sporadic I am getting by...