Sunday, July 18, 2010

Thoroughly oriented...

Another company, another orientation day. Odd how the work can be so much the same and so different. Although some things are bound to have changed in the 18 months I’ve been trying to get fit enough (and employable enough) to climb back into the cab. And of course some things have been, well, to be brutally honest, sort of forgotten.

It took a full day to learn Linamar ways. They are not Challenger ways but that’s fine, much will be simpler. Challenger was a freight company with a wide portfolio of different clients, we were hauling chicken soup one day, sofas the next, followed by beer and then auto parts…but mainly mail. Linamar is a manufacturing corporation with a freight transport wing, mostly shifting its own products. This will make the paperwork simpler. No FDA documents, meat certificates, alcohol clearances, just a bill of lading that says ‘auto parts’ or possibly ‘dunnage’.

Simpler is good, but some things have got more complex. The US has discovered terrorists, as we all know, but it took a few years for the discovery to become a new regulation. Time was when the only things anyone smuggled from Canada to the US were drugs, and the only things that the US smuggled into Canada were firearms. Well, there were a good few illegal migrants travelling north as well, but Canada doesn't seem to mind that very much. It’s probably still the same, but CNN, Fox News et al have convinced Americans that Canada is a breeding ground for terrorists, therefore homeland security must be seen to act.

There is a fancy new 17 point anti-terrorist check that must be performed every time you leave the rig unattended on its way to the border. That’s every pop-in for a coffee, and every re-pop-in for a wee. In my case, the aging bladder will necessitate a good few terrorist hunts. In practice of course, it’s not going to make a huge amount of difference. It’s always been wise to jog round the rig whenever you get out, checking for strange occurrences; damaged tyres, duff clearance lights, packages strapped to stuff and a sneakily pulled ‘pin’. The pin pull is a particularly high risk stunt for female drivers, so I’m told. This is the release catch for the fifth wheel, which holds the trailer in place. If someone yanks it open while you aren’t looking, you will drive off leaving the trailer behind without its landing gear down. It falls on its nose, much broken stuff, winches are required, jobs are lost.

Why are women prone to this little trick? Well we are allegedly unpopular with Lot Lizards; ladies of the oldest profession who consider a truckstop to be their personal turf. Despite the fact that none of us are remotely interested in their line of work, we are deemed to be a threat to business. A pin-pull takes a matter of seconds and can cost you your job, so I am a fanatical checker-around anyway. The main difference will be remembering to write it down.

Next in the orientation whirligig; a day or two with a local driver, learning where places are and getting my hands dirty again. My left knee has had a bit of a workout. All the plants, 20 or so, are located within a couple of miles of each other in the North end of Guelph, Ontario. Since they are all Linamar owned, everyone knows everyone and the atmosphere is positively friendly, unlike the frostiness I got used to at Challenger pick-ups, where drivers were the lowest form of life. But, running bits of this and that here and there all day within a tight radius was hard work. Much traffic, a lot of tight turns, way too much reversing for my liking and a whole lot of climbing up and down and in and out of stuff. There are things I had forgotten. Like the difference between driving a light and a heavy load. At least it was a familiar gearbox, so as soon as I'd recalled that you need to start in a different gear for each weight it all came flooding back.

It was a little tractor too, no accommodation unit behind you to extend the wheelbase so everything moved differently. My first reverse was a disaster. My charming companion, guide and trainer, Luis, saw the frustrated horror on my face. “It’s ok, if that had been a highway cab you’d have got it first time. Daycabs behave differently” My confidence fell to bits at that point and the rest of the afternoon was a bit of a disaster. Luis was nice about it. “You don’t have to impress me, you’ve already got the job, just drive, you’ll be fine.”

Another day or two beetling around town loom, then a trip or two with a highway trainer to make sure I’ve got the border paperwork down, then I really will get my own truck. Can’t wait. Checking Ebay for CB radios…

1 comment:

  1. Perhaps the reason female drivers are not so popular with the Lot Lizards is that you're far less likely to want their, um, "services" than the male driver whose job they think you've taken. :)