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Sunday, March 4, 2012

Deciding on a Trucking Career, Part I

Diesel Truck Driving School - Sun Prairie, Wisconsin
Part One
Back in the late 1970’s living in Milwaukee, I was a franchised gasoline station dealer with an ice making business on the side. I was tired of living in the BIG city and wanted to follow my buddy and his wife who had moved to the small northern Wisconsin town of Crivitz. I was spending all of my free time and week-ends driving back and forth. The problem was, what to do about employment? There were not a lot of well paying jobs in that rural area. The oil company (Clark Oil & Refining) (See "The War Between Clark Oil and it's Dealers") I had a franchise with was trying to force out the dealers and replace them with salaried managers at every location they could get control of. Seeing the “writing on the wall”,  I decided that a career change was in order. In the Army Reserve, I was trained as a truck driver (up to 5 ton) and decided I would look for a school to get trained and qualified.

The school I chose was the Diesel Truck Driving School in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin and turned out to be a good choice.  That was in 1980.  They have been in business since 1963 and still operate today, not only training truck drivers, but crane operators as well. I will never forget one of the trainers named Red (older, kind of moody guy). He would be in the passenger seat as you were driving and whack you on the shoulder when you did something wrong. Scared the heck out of me, but he was effective! I've been tempted to whack of few of the guys I've had to train over the years, haven't done it yet though!  After graduating ranked number 1 in a class of 29, I set out to find someone to drive for, which was NOT easy. My initial goal was to look for a company near Crivitz, where I wanted to relocate, but that was not to be, as there were not that many opportunities for a rookie driver in that area.

So, back in Milwaukee I started knocking on many doors and filling out numerous applications.  Finally, after a few months, someone tipped me off to a small cartage company with a driver that had just resigned. I raced over, filled out an application, interviewed with the owner, and he decided to give me a chance.  To this day I wonder if he was testing me, as they assigned me an old Consolidated Freightways half cab cab-over (like the one in the picture) that they had just painted.  Problem was, they had removed the side windows for painting and no one had put them back in!  As I did not know how to install them, I drove that tractor for two weeks in September Wisconsin weather without windows!  I was freezing my butt off, but I didn’t complain.  I think the mechanic finally started to feel sorry for me and put the windows back in! After having been there only about 6 months, the owner bought the first brand new tractor he had ever purchased. After hearing a few drivers complain that it was a day cab, he assigned that brand new tractor to me! Man, was I proud, but I'm sure it ticked off a few drivers!

As most all of you veteran drivers know out there, you have to pay your dues and gain safe driving experience before you can land a good job.  So I spent a year hauling piggy-back containers back and forth from the rail yard and Lake Michigan shipping docks to customers.  The job was based on 25% of gross and there was not much money to be made.  Everyone has to start somewhere and I will always be grateful to owner Jeff Long of Harry H Long Moving, Storage & Express and Montana Trucking.  As far as I know they are still going at 960 W. Montana Ave in Milwaukee. I safely completed my first year (1980 to 1981) with no accidents!

So began my Trucking Journey!
I’ll have more in Part II
Link to Part II

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

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