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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Deciding on a Trucking Career, Part II

My tractor  #308

Deciding on a Career, Part II
(This is Part II of a series, “Deciding on a Career”.  I would suggest reading Part I first, it was posted earlier in this blog.)

So, my first driving job lasted from Sept, 1980 to Sept, 1981.  I wasn't making a lot of money, thankfully I still had the gas station to supplement my income.  I was able to partner with my buddies brother, who managed the station for me while he was still in college.  I was still trying to relocate and every chance I could get away, would be up north knocking on doors and filling out applications.  By sheer coincidence, I was up there one week-end and received a tip that two drivers from the Frigo Cheese company were fired very recently.  Well, I extended my week-end into Monday and drove down to Lena (20 miles away) first thing in the morning.  I filled out an application and was told I would be contacted, if they were interested.  I had listed my friend’s address and phone number as my address on the application.  I then drove 20 miles back to my friend’s house, wasn’t there more than a half hour and the transportation manager called, asking when I could come for an interview.  After telling him I could be back in 20 minutes, he laughed and said that the following day would be fine.  The next day I went down, interviewed and was hired as a local driver out of the Crivitz plant.  And that is how I was able to make the move to Crivitz!  

After a year and a half of running local, I made one of the worst decisions of my life, by leaving the Frigo Cheese Corp!  I had the itch to get on the road and see the country (also to make some good money).  There were no over the road positions available with Frigo, so I decided to go to another company called Bird Trucking out of Waupon, Wisconsin.  They were trying to compete with Schneider National and steal as much business from them as they could.  It turned out to be a disaster for me as they were paying a percentage of the load and empty miles were not compensated at all.  I quickly learned what it was like to work for next to nothing after road expenses and knew that I had made a bad mistake.  I lasted three months with Bird.  The breaking point for me came after I had spent half a day unloading (for a $10.00 stop pay), another half a day (no pay) waiting for the next dispatch.  Back in those days, it was before the cell phone era. Waiting a half day for a load consisted of parking in a truck stop and walking in to a pay phone and calling dispatch every hour.
Standard dispatcher response: "nothing yet, call me in an hour"! Then they wanted me to spend most of the night deadheading 400 miles to pick up a return load (once again, no pay and no real rest)!  If you add it all up, that is being away from home in a truck for almost better than a full day making $10.00!  I refused the load and was told to bring the truck home.  Thankfully I already had another job lined up with another company.  By the way, Bird Trucking did not last very long, as they went belly up not long after.

The next three months turned out to be just as bad an experience also. I went to work for a pretty decent guy that had about 5 tractors leased on to L.C.L. Transit out of Green Bay (refrigerated carrier).  Thinking that this would be a much better job, he was paying by the mile for “book miles” plus 10%.  And I only had to run the mid-west and no east coast.  Well, I quickly found out that at book plus 10%, I was still being paid for only about 90% of the miles I was running!  That and $10.00 per stop at grocery warehouses were a wake up call to me.  It was not at all unusual to get jacked around for a half day at a grocery warehouse to get a few pallets off.  It didn't take long to see I  was not going to be able to make a decent living with this guy either!  About three months into that job, the last straw came at Solon, Ohio at the “infamous” company called Stouffer’s Foods.  Yeah, that one, the frozen food maker that produces French Bread Pizza, Lasagna and hundreds of other items.

In more than 30 years of driving, I have never been treated worse by a company than that day at Stouffer’s Foods in the summer of 1983.  I was made to feel like their slave, as they treated all drivers.  I was assigned to pick up a load at their facility.  Being the middle of summer, all I had in the truck was a light jacket.  After checking in, I was told to pre-cool my reefer trailer to 0 degrees, which I did.  After backing into the dock and waiting, a supervisor came out to the truck, practically screaming that if I didn’t get in there to verify “load & count”, I would not be loaded.
OK, so now I am standing on the dock with the dock temperature at zero degrees, my trailer pre-cooled to zero degrees and the “loaders” bringing out the “products” from a huge freezer that is kept at 30 below zero.  Oh and by the way, the loads are taken off pallets and manually stacked in the trailer floor to ceiling!  So, it’s zero degrees with a light jacket and I soon discover that if I do not help “stack” the product, the “loaders” disappear for extended periods of time!  And me, poor sucker, can’t go anywhere because I have to verify load & count whenever they feel like coming back!  They would start out with two loaders loading and after you get the hint and start to help, one of them disappears! not to be seen again!  It took about 4 to 5 hours to load that trailer and I was never so cold in my life.
I damn near walked off that job right then and there.
And as icing on a frozen cake, the load had four stops of floor loaded product that the driver (me) had to off load by his lonesome self onto pallets at grocery warehouses!
If I remember correctly, there were over 4 thousand boxes to off load (but I’m sure it was more than 1,000)!

That day scared me, as I had responsibilities at home, a house payment to make and damn near quit a job with no prospects of employment.  I will never forget it.

Every word of the preceding statements about Stouffer’s are true to the best of my recollection.  They may be a different company now, I certainly hope so, writing this, I am still so angry after all  these years.  

Since that day in 1983, I have never, ever intentionally bought a Stouffer’s product at a grocery store.  It’s been my personal 29 year boycott.  Years ago, with my ex-wife, I found some Stouffer’s French Bread Pizzas in the freezer and we had quite a heated discussion about it.  Don’t remember what she ended up doing with that stuff, but I refused to eat any of it!

That day in ‘83 quickly ended my days hauling L.C.L. Transit Loads.  It wasn’t long after that, L.C.L. Transit folded up also.  Don’t know what happened to the guy I worked for.  I wish I could remember his name.  He was a decent guy with 5 trucks just trying to make a go of it.  I did give him proper notice so that he could find another driver.  On to the next stage of my career!

Check back for Part III

Link to Part III

Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII

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