Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Few Pictures to Share

We had an enjoyable 2 weeks off between our old and new companies, and were able to spend some time with family (including attending Austin's First Communion)! Above are "the boys", Isaiah-Avery-Austin, piggy-backed on me-Ben-Andy. Below is our beautiful niece Izabel, "borrowing" my toothbrush and toothpaste.

Here is a lovely message found at the United Church of Christ in Akron, OH (no, I wasn't driving when I snapped this photo). Please heed this advice! :-)

Finally, what's under your bed? This is just a glimpse of what's under ours, with our monthly supplies of food and drink.

We're in the great mountain city of Denver, CO at the moment, with our truck just getting finished in the shop (we had a fuse keep blowing). We'll update you with where we go next! Have a blessed day!


Saturday, April 24, 2010

Leaps and Bounds Beyond

It is as if we have moved from the ghetto of Los Angeles to Beverly Hills (not that we would ever live in California, but you get the point)!

The differences between our old company and our new company are nearly astronomical, and has completely cemented our commitment to and desire for working with them. It has also positively reinforced our decision to leave our old company. A few comparisons:

Old: the terminals were dirty, dusty, and shoddy at best with trailers for showering (use your imagination), one driver lounge with one tv, cheap laundry at $1 a load to wash and $1 to dry, a bad-attitude guard and the gruffest maintenance people in the shop (including the foremen who were always covered in a layer of grime, shower habits unknown), etc etc etc
New: we've only been to the one terminal in Springfield, OH, but it is incredible: granite countertops, leather couches and seats, a flatscreen tv in any direction you look (including the laundry room), the laundry is free of charge, the shower stalls are all ceramic tiled with those great big showerheads, there is a driver shop to purchase company-logo attire and accessories, the shop foremen wear khakis and polos (and appear to shower on a regular basis), etc etc etc

Old: had we stayed, our pay would have topped out at 40cpm, after 5 years
New: our pay is 48cpm and will be until we leave this company (after the debt is all gone!)

Old: we drove the "economy" version of a tractor: the cheapest, easiest-to-produce, no frills or bells and whistles (Freightliner Columbia)
New: we get the upgraded version: a Freightliner Cascadia with clean-idle certification, a bunk warmer that produces low emissions, and closets with doors (!)

Old: the shop is a ragpile mess of parts, workers, and messes scattered about
New: the shop is immaculate with a well-organized separation between parts and service (it's as nice as a truck dealer, or better!)

Old: an outdated type-writer kind of communication device to get information to and from dispatch
New: a touch-screen interface tool to communicate between us and dispatch, with other perks of a gps system and multi-media safety videos

Old: the terminal lots were gravel, with more potholes than level surfaces
New: the terminal lot is one smooth and level slab of concrete and no potholes

Old: orientation was very unimpressive and very unprofessional with a lot of fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants mentality (and took 5 days), and handouts were copies of copies of copies with nothing organized or looking crisp in appearance; orientation was not paid
New: orientation was extremely professional and well-executed (and took only 3 days), with handouts bound with covers! We were paid $58/day for attending orientation

Those are just a few of the perks to whet your appetite of a new glimpse into the industry. We can't wait to get a load and start driving out on the road again! There are a few cosmetic things that need to be addressed with the truck while it's still at the terminal, so right now we're hanging out with family in the meantime. We're looking forward to sharing our new adventures with you!

Have a beautiful spring Saturday today! God bless you!


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Strife is O'er we just wait to see if the battle is won...

I feel free! It is such a relief to have taken those comps and now we're just in the waiting game to see if I passed! My apologies to the dear readers (Sandy) for not posting any updates since Easter, but I've been spending most of my free moments going over my notes for the big test!

We've been in Ohio for over a week now; on Monday last week we finished up our last load with CRST in Akron, then drove our rig to the drop-yard in Columbus where Joe and Andy picked us up and helped us unload our belongings. Some of you remember that my first load ever driven as a professional driver with CRST was 40,000 pounds of Bud Light. Not to be outdone, I suppose, our last load with that company was 42,000 pounds of Corona and Pacifica beer, with never a load of beer in between. Maybe one of these days we'll get a load of Guinness...

Right now we're hanging with the Wilker clan in western Ohio making our visits with family. Last evening's events included rolling down the "hill" in a cylindrical tile, the results of which had Andy running into a tree and Ben landing on his forehead earning a strawberry with surrounding hues of grass-stains. Tonight we'll join Grandpa, Uncle Tom and Aunt Esther for supper; afterward we'll head to Springfield for orientation to start in the morning with US Xpress!

We are so excited for this opportunity to be moving "up" in the industry, and are looking forward to sharing our new experiences with you from this company and the different places we will be going. Ben and I brainstormed one afternoon all of the various stories and topics we could cover, and came up with a list several pages long! If there are any curiosities you have of life in this business, don't hesitate to ask!

In other enjoyable news, we've been able to visit with some friends we'd been trying to get together with for quite a while! On Divine Mercy Sunday, we were able to visit with Steve, Dianne and baby Charlie in Front Royal, VA, and attend Mass (that made 3 Sundays in a row for Mass!!!). In the few days before comps, we spent time with the good people at the Apostolate in Bloomingdale, including Bob & Christy, Jim & Kay, and Mr. John Martin. After the big test on Saturday, we hung out with Sarah R. in Robinson, PA, attended Mass (4 in a row!) on Sunday morning at St. Peter's in Steubenville and saw a whole bunch of great people from the university at the donut social. We then headed back toward my mom's and stopped in Westerville, north of Columbus, to visit with Michael, Jennifer and John-Paul (Ben's godson). JP wanted to know "What are you still doing here?" after he woke up from his nap.

We've had a great visit with all of you and look forward to the next time we'll be able to spend time together again!

We've been out of a tractor cab for so long that (can you believe it?) we're itching to get back into that 8' x 8' box and just drive drive drive. It's time to see some more of the country! Spring is in full bloom everywhere (except for West Virginia) and we can't wait to see more of that seasonal beauty!

Have a beautiful Tuesday, folks! May God bless you abundantly!


Saturday, April 3, 2010

Two Weeks Notice

At last, I now have the time to deliver the good news!

It's been our plan ever since we first started trucking with our current company, to move on to another better-paying company when the time is right, and the time is finally right!

About three weeks ago when we were "stranded" in the Seattle area for 3 days straight waiting on a load, waiting on our home time, and with no entertainment options, Deb and I began to get antsy. We decided it was best to start calling some different trucking companies that we were interested in to see what they had to offer. Of those which we called, many we had spoken to before, several months prior, but we decided it would be a good effort to call again and see if anything had changed since we last spoke.

Of those former contacts, one proved to be particularly desirable, which hadn't been when we previously spoke. As I spoke with the recruiter, I was informed that certified and experienced team hazmat drivers were being offered a $5000 sign-on bonus and a starting pay of 48 cents per mile (cpm), which is more than one-and-a-half times what we are currently making. This is surprisingly and fantastic good news; it is like earning overtime pay for all the work we are currently doing. To say the least, Deb and I were very excited!

However, this opportunity did provide itself with one small obstacle to overcome: for our hiring area, this company required that we live within 50 miles of the I-5 corridor. We presently live within 100+ miles. So, as I spoke with the recruiter and she informed me of this news, she said that they initially wouldn't be able to take us on, unless we moved closer to the I-5, something that neither Deb nor I had any desire to do. But, as she spoke with me further, she encouraged us to still fill out an application and see what would happen, that maybe they would allow for an exception.

We submitted our application and waited several days to hear back from her, which we eventually did. She informed us that they would not take us on with us living in our present location. She informed us of this via email, and to say the least, Deb and I were quite disappointed. Nonetheless, we did not want to lose this opportunity, and still not wanting to move, I decided to call the recruiter and ask her if we could work out some sort of deal. I offered to them to waive the $5000 sign-on bonus or to decrease our starting cpm by a few cents, or to have us leave the truck and trailer somewhere along the I-5 and have us commute, or we would be willing to cover the cost of fuel to cover the extra distance in that commute (because their preference is that we take the truck/trailer back home with us)...pretty much anything and everything. Apparently my eagerness to come up with some deal that would be mutually beneficial, the recruiter decided that she would talk with her supervisor again and see if she couldn't make it work.

So, we waited a couple more days.

Then on one early morning as I was driving west on I-80 in Nebraska, I decided to give the recruiter a call to see where things stand. She simply informed me that they were willing to make an exception for us, and that they would take us on as is. To say the least, I was sitting on cloud nine! I was not simply tickled pink, because they were accepting us and taking us on, but also because a few years ago I never would have attempted to negotiate a deal. I would have simply and quietly accepted what they had to say and looked elsewhere. Acquiring this job is in some sense a great achievement that I'm thankfully proud of!

We've already submitted our two-week notice to our current company and have decided that the best time to make this switchover is while Deb is taking her comps back in Steubenville, OH. Our new company, US Xpress, has a terminal and orientation site located in west-central Ohio, Springfield, OH, and so this just made good sense to have the switchover during this time. It also provides the opportunity to visit with Deb's family for a couple of days. We'll have three days of orientation beginning on April 21st, then hopefully by week's end we'll have ourselves a new job (we're not technically hired on until we complete the orientation, until the company is satisfied with our performance), a new truck, and a considerably new income.

We were always hoping to make money this good in the trucking industry, but in many ways this is a goal fully come true. This is top of the market money, and most companies that we spoke with topped out at only 42-44cpm. So, we're making almost $12,000 more a year with this company than with other places. As we've spoken with other friends in the trucking industry, they are known to be a reputable company, quite large, and well-maintained. We are looking forward to this new adventure!

This money is as good as we could have possibly hoped for, and it is sooner than expected, and so we should hopefully be able to pay down our debt, establish a financial base and nest egg, in less time than originally planned. As Deb likes to bring up, we should be debt-free by her 30th birthday, and on our way to a new life of both business and employment opportunities.

Please keep us in your prayers and may this note find you especially well during this Easter Triduum. May God be praised for His love and goodness to us!

Peace of the Risen Lord,
Ben & Deb

P.S. A 48cpm pay and near 240,000 miles a year equates to a salary of $115,000. That's pretty decent money for 4 weeks of school training, 9 months of experience, and $10,000 to cover the cost of schooling.