My 1st Year with USA Truck - Miles, Home Time & More

In our last post, we introduced you to Don Dennard who came through the Driver Solutions CDL training program and has been driving with  USA Truck for almost a year. Don won our Fan of the Week contest on Facebook, so we sat down with him and got to know a little more about what the industry's really like.

Last time, we talked about how Don's experience at truck driving school and OTR training. Today, he's going to discuss what he's learned throughout his journey so far. If you missed it, check out Part 1 here.

Q: How do you feel things have changed from the first 3-6 months to your last 6 months?
A: The whole first year in a truck driving job is really a learning process, but I think the turning point for me was probably around 6 to 7 months into it. I had my driving skills down pretty good in about three months or so and was feeling real comfortable backing and stuff, but learning to be patient…you know, patience is a big thing. Sometimes you’ll have to sit and wait for a load because there’s just not anything near where you are. Sometimes you’ll go to load or unload and you’ll have to wait. You have to deal with people that aren’t on your schedule. It’s about learning patience and not getting all bent out of shape when things don’t go the way you think they should go. I think I turned that on at about 6-7 months. Once I learned that, it all works out in the wash. Just this week I got a load that was 220 miles total. Took me 2 hours to get loaded on the front-end, and 5 hours on the back-end. Basically a WHOLE day for 200 miles. That sucked. But my next load was good. It all works out. You got to learn to be proactive. I got a phone number so I’ll call some guy and say, “I’m a driver with USA Truck. I got an appointment to pick up at 1600. Is there any way I can come in earlier and get it?” Call them and ask, that’s all you can do. If I can get a load picked up early I’ll call and ask if I can deliver it early! If you learn to be proactive, you get loads on faster, you get them off faster, and that’s how you make paychecks. Any time I know I can be early, I call my pickup or my final. Always do.

Q: How many miles have you been averaging?
A: I’ve gotten over 10,000 in the last 30 days. So….about 2,500 a week? 2,600 a week? It’s about 10,300 that I’ve gotten over the last 30 days.

Q: What kind of home time are you getting?
A: I go home every other weekend. I take a 34-hour restart at home every other weekend. I usually get around 2,700 miles when I stay out over the weekend, and 2,200 to 2,400 on the weeks I go home. I’ll usually take a load home with me and deliver it early Saturday morning or Monday morning if it’s down the road a ways. They work that out real good for me. When I first started I was staying out 4-5 weeks at a time. But I found out you can go home every other weekend if you have a fleet manager that works with you. Take a 34-hour restart home with you every weekend and you can still make good money.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about the relationship you have with your fleet manager?
A: I’m on my third fleet manager now. Every time I got near Van Buren, I always made it a point to meet my fleet manager – the first chance I got, I went to meet my fleet manager. It’s important to get that face-to-face time because you’re just a name and a voice on the phone until they see you face-to-face and you sit down and talk to them. Now, when they talk to you, they see a face, not a voice and a number. You just have to be honest with them. As much as it’s in your control to get loads delivered on time, they’re going to take care of you. Communication is a big thing. If I’m dispatched to deliver at 1600 and I can deliver at 0900, the first thing I do is send a message to my fleet manager and tell them I’m going to deliver at 0900. Now, she knows ahead of time that I’m delivering early, so she has a chance to get me another load set up for you know, 1200 as opposed to 1800 tomorrow night. Do your job, and communicate. Communicate, communicate, communicate. You can never give them too much information.

Some more great tips and insight from USA Truck driver Don Dennard! Stay tuned for Part 3 of our interview with Don, where we discuss what kind of lifestyle adjustment truck driving entails.

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