My first day as an employee of J Rayl Transport was a year ago today, when I began the training program for new CDL drivers. I had taken a short CDL upgrade class (upgrading from a Class B to a Class A), and I ended up with J Rayl mostly because their Sunnyvale, Texas terminal is just a few miles from my house.
I have to admit that I was a little bit overconfident, I thought making the transition from coach bus driver would be easy. And some parts were, driving down the highway in a truck isn’t all that different from doing it in a bus. But backing up a trailer is nothing like backing up a bus, and 20 years of driving automatic transmission-equipped buses didn’t prepare me for the 10 speed split shifter, either! I can admit now that I almost washed out of training. I had a really good trainer for my last two weeks, though, and that was the difference.
After finishing my training, I was assigned a 2014 Kenworth T660 with a CNG engine, and I started OTR, mostly taking tire loads for Goodyear, Cooper, Continental/General, and Michelin. I generally ran from Texas via Texarkana up to Franklin, Indiana, and then on to our company HQ in Akron, Ohio, then running a load of furniture to Houston, finishing up with a load of tires to Fort Worth. Or I’d run tires from Terrell, Texas to Houston or Austin, then run a load of raw synthetic rubber to the Goodyear plant in Gadsden, Alabama, and then bring a load of tires back to Terrell. There were a fair number of other runs, too, to Chicago and St Louis, once even back to Maryland (where I grew up) where I got to see a bunch of old friends.
I should note that, while I liked the idea of CNG engines, which pulled just fine when in good tune, I did have some issues, partly because these trucks (I went through several) had been run hard for five years and all had over 400k on them, and our mechanic in Texas wasn’t worth a bucket of warm spit. He’s gone now, glad to report!
In September, I got promoted into a dedicated position, running for Georgia Pacific. I like it, I’m on salary and the work keeps me mostly in Texas and Oklahoma, with the occasional run up to Kansas City. The best part for me is that it came with an almost new 2019 International LT diesel tractor, which feels like a palatial estate compared to the cramped quarters in the Kenworths.
So that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!