Posted by: fringe62 | October 7, 2011

Road Test

To say I was nervous was putting it lightly. My mouth felt as though I were chewing on cotton and my heart was thumping in my chest so hard I thought for sure Dave could hear it. I had just climbed into the driver’s seat of a Kenworth W900L at the Blue Mack Transport terminal in Pottstown, PA.

 I had applied for a driving job there and even though I had a clean MVR they wanted to road-test me.  When I had started driving 3 years earlier, it was in a cabover… a flat-nosed truck that had me sitting up over the steer tires so far I felt I could almost see the road right under my feet.  For the couple of years I’d been with Southwest Motor Freight I had driven a Freightliner that had a nicely sloped hood that was easy to see over.

This was going to be a different story.  At the time, these Kenworths had one of the longest hoods in the industry.  As I gazed out of the windshield it was almost 6 feet to the hood ornament.  I felt like it went on forever.  A 275 inch wheelbase meant that it would take a football field sized parking lot to turn the tractor around let alone with a trailer hooked on.

Dave was the guy in charge of hiring new drivers.  He was tall, probably about 6’4” and lanky with steel-gray hair styled a bit like Pat Boone.  Not a bad looking guy but as we walked out of the office he confirmed what I had suspected – that his gravelly voice was that of a smoker.  He lit a cigarette, inhaled deeply and with a smoky exhale, pointed out a truck that was already hooked up to an empty trailer.  We spent the next 15-20 minutes walking around the rig so I could prove that I knew what I was looking for when I did a pre-trip inspection.

“Alright,” he said as we came back around by the driver’s door, “let’s take a ride.”

I climbed up into the truck as Dave walked around the front of the truck I realized with a sinking stomach that not only was this hood extremely long, it was also tall.  For a split second he totally disappeared!  I took a deep breath and exhaled slowly as my eyes wandered over the dash to make sure I knew the location of all the switches and knobs I might need.

“Oh no” I groaned to myself as I glanced at the shifter, “an 18 speed?  What in the hell am I doing here?”

The other door opened and Dave climbed into the jump-seat.  As I rolled down my window I hoped he wouldn’t notice that I was sweating profusely.  I tried to swallow the dry lump in the back of my throat and I seriously debated whether I was going to throw up.

As he settled into his seat he repeated once again what he had been telling me since I’d met him earlier that afternoon, “You know, we’ve never had any women drivers at this company.  You could be the first!”  I glanced over at him and started to wonder if this was just something he says on a regular basis or if he was trying to hint that he wanted something else in order for me to get the job.  I became extremely aware of the yawning, black, hole between our seats that led back to the sleeper behind us.  I decided that if he made any moves I’d be parked, out of the truck and walking back to this yard so fast it would make his head spin.  This would be, of course after I’d punched whatever body part was the most convenient at the time.

I licked my lips and dug into my pocket for a packet of gum.

“Want one?” I asked him as I unwrapped two pieces and shoved them both into my mouth hoping it would help to calm my queasy stomach.

“No thanks” he said, “you ready to take a ride?”  I nodded my head and he pointed to a space between some trailers further down in the yard.  “See that hole down there?  Before we hit the road let’s back the trailer in there and see how that goes.”

“SHIT” I thought to myself, “this can’t be happening.  I should just get out of the truck and go home!  Just tell him sorry, this was a mistake and GET OUT!”

I gripped the steering wheel, and after a few seconds of furious chewing got the gum down to a manageable lump, took another deep breath and turned in the seat to face him.

“I hope you have most of the afternoon available” I said, “ ‘cause that’s how long it’s going to take for me to get this trailer into that hole.”

He looked at me a second and then asked “Why is that?”

It all came out in a rush, “Because, when I drove team for Southwest my partner wouldn’t LET me back up!  In the last two years I have literally only backed a truck up 4, maybe 5 times.  He was a perfectionist and I never did it fast enough, smooth enough or I was taking too many pull-ups.  Even if I was driving when we arrived at a customer, if he was sleeping I had to wake him up so he could back in.  It wasn’t worth trying it myself because it would just make him even more mad if he woke up and found me backing up.  So, I can’t back up.  I’ve never driven a truck this long.  I’ve never driven an 18 speed.  And for the record I really don’t care whether you’ve never had a woman driver work here.  If you think I’m going to sleep with you or give you a BJ to get this job you’d better think again and….” I clapped my hand over my mouth…  “OH MY GOD did I just say that?” I thought to myself.  His face had turned a bit red although I was pretty sure it wasn’t nearly as red as mine!

I turned back to stare out the windshield over that impossibly long hood, gripped the steering wheel and took a few deep breaths.

“Look” I said.  “I’m sorry and that was un-called for.  I don’t even know you but I’m extremely nervous.  The thing is… I’m a very good driver.  I love what I do and I would be great for this company.  I’m conscientious.  I take good care of my rig, I run hard and do what I’m told.  Everything I just said was the truth.  There’s going to be a bit of a learning curve here with this truck.  My ex-teamdriver was mentally abusive and I could do nothing right.  I CAN back this rig into that hole, and I CAN take it down the road but it’s going to be ugly.  I can also promise you that I don’t take chances and I won’t wreck your truck.  Bottom line – I’m a great driver and you won’t be sorry you hired me”

Dave pulled out another cigarette, fumbled in his pocket for his lighter,  lit it and took a few deep draws.  As he shuffled thru my paperwork, he looked at me and started laughing.  “Well, now that we got that out of the way, let’s hit the road,“ he said as he pointed out the gate.

I did pretty good on my test drive.  I think I only hit a few curbs on the turns.  It only took me 3 pull-ups to get the trailer backed in to the space Dave picked out when we pulled back into the yard.

Several hours later I pulled out of the gate and onto that same highway, only this time with truck #535 and a load in the trailer.  I rolled down the window, turned up the radio and smiled as I shifted through those 18 gears again.  I’d show them why they should hire MORE women to drive for Blue Mack Transport!

Road Test Certification Card

Road Test Certification Card

Advertisements

Responses

  1. I drove for Blue Mack in 95. I ran one of the old Mrs. Smith’s corn binder cabovers. That was a triple digit truck. They used to run me out to Texas. Only problem was little 80 gallon kegs. Long legs but short leash. Have a great day!!
    Mike Chambers
    Windwalker

    • Nice to meet you Mike. I loved Blue Mack. I had Candy Weney as my dispatcher. I would’ve never left if they hadn’t sold out to… can’t remember the name. It wasn’t bad even when they sold out to Carpet Transport but the next company was horrible. Heather


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories