Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Orientation

The waiting game continues.  We arrived in Dalton on Saturday evening.  Check-in was smooth and we met other potentials in the lobby of the motel.  We drove around and familiarized ourselves with the area and found the terminal so that we would be able to drive there easily in the early morning.  The terminal is large and modern with large parking lots of trucks on both sides of the road.  A sign over the gates to the lots says: "Welcome home Drivers".

We took our road test on Sunday.  The trainer that tested us was very friendly and personable.  Zygote was first; he came back with a smile on his face and visibly less stressed.  Despite the fact that my stomach was in knots with the waiting, by the time I was actually in the truck, I was calm.  It was an UltraShift, which has no clutch at all, as opposed to the semi-automatic that I trained on that does have a clutch. The man being tested with me had already been driving for 9 months.  He tested first; when he pulled out, he pulled into the left lane on the wrong side of the double yellow line.  The trainer didn't say a word so I relaxed about my own abilities.  My road test consisted of a few right turns, a few left turns, some interstate driving at 65mph, one straight back in the lot once we returned to the terminal, and uncoupling the trailer.  I passed.

Monday was the physical abilities test. We all had our blood pressure taken at our seats; the nurses circulating around the room from person to person.  Then we all stood in a line and did the eye exam one at a time.  Then we went down the hall and stood in line for the lifting, etc.  The nurse asked about my heart it was pounding so hard with apprehension.  Each person was given a choice between the dedicated account test or the OTR test. Dedicated acct required you to push 100lbs, pull 200lbs and lift/carry 70lbs.; OTR required you to push 50lbs, pull 120lbs and lift/carry 48lbs. The 48lbs seemed like nothing after my working with the 53lbs at home.  The push/pull was a contraption that digitally measures the force of your push/pull by you placing one end of it on the wall and then pushing against the handles on the other end as hard as you can.  What really caught me by surprise was that the tape mark for where the nurse wanted it placed on the wall was at approximately 6 feet high.  So the test was measuring the force of your push at a level above your head.  Had I known this ahead of time, I would have felt there was no way to prepare for this and would have been even more worried.  As it was, I had no time to think about it and just did it.  The nurse said that my push was 51lbs and my pull was "a little over 120lbs.  I just barely passed both. 

Behind me in line was a woman who has driven for 24 years. She owned her own truck but had recently sold it because of the cost of upkeep and fuel.  She was unaware of the physical abilities test before she came and was very apprehensive.  She was in her mid 50's, I would guess, and heavyset.  As I stood in the room waiting for Karl to finish his test, she came in and began gathering her things.  She had been unable to pass the step up part of the test where you must step up a step that was 24 inches from the ground; her foot had brushed the lower step before it, and she was disqualified.  There were men that were disqualified for high blood pressure readings, and more men who were disqualified for not being able to duck walk under a cord stretched out at a height of 44 inches.  Everyone was discussing the fact that this physical abilities testing was a new thing in the industry.  The older men, who have been in the industry for years, were commenting on how much easier it used to be to be a trucker.

The actual orientation was long, boring and mostly comprised of waiting for various pieces of the hiring process to be executed for each of approx 80 people.  Gradually, as the testing wore on and more paperwork was completed, people were eliminated and the number was reduced.  In the first day alone we lost approximately 20% of the class.
 
This same process was repeated both Tuesday and Wednesday.  Zygote and I practiced our new lifestyle of being transient by bringing our laundry to the terminal and using the free washing machines and dryers and by using the treadmill and workout equipment in the driver's lounge.  And we waited. 

Ultimately, after 3 days of waiting, Zygote has been unable to be approved due to his sleep apnea; they are requiring a doctor's note that signs off on him being able to perform the duties of an OTR driver.  The doctor's office that first performed his sleep study two years ago is refusing to sign off without him coming in and completing what is called a "waking study". He was quoted a cost of $2700 for this study.  Another experienced driver is also in the same situation;  sleep apnea, has all her documentation, but no waking study and no recent letter from a sleep clinic.  Zygote called another sleep clinic and was quoted a cost of $700.  Now we need approval from the recruiter for him to leave and go home to have this study completed so he can provide the letter they are requiring. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

Weight/Wait

The task at hand is all that matters.  Right now, this week is spent on investment in the idea/reality that I will pass the next physical abilities test.  I constructed a shelf 50 inches high from the ground using two ladders and some boards & cinderblocks.  Then I filled a crate with cinderblocks and set it on the scale; I changed out the blocks until I had 53lbs in the crate.  I figure if I work with 53 then 48 pounds will seem easy.  Three times a day I go outside and lift the crate onto the shelf and back down to the ground.  My thighs are completely covered in bruises from the crate. For the push/pull test, which will be 120lbs of pull and 50 lbs of push, I've divided the yard into 3 sections, one of which I mowed with our push mower, each day.  I left the self-propeller off so it was harder to push.  For the body to build muscle in such a short period of time, it has to have excess protein, so I've been drinking two protein shakes a day and eating steak and burgers and beans & rice.  Yum.  not so bad after all.   

Intermittently, we've both been sitting on the couch with the heating/massage pad on our backs, as the kilogram incident left Zygote with a pulled back muscle, and my whole body just hurts.  We were grateful that my son had already filled up the hot tub and set the chemicals right so that we could just come home and soak.  The weeping cherry tree is in full bloom over the deck/hot tub and the spring nights have been divine.

We leave tomorrow for Dalton, GA.  I will attempt to make it through the tests and orientation for USExpress this time.  There have been many phone calls back and forth between our recruiter and us this week as we provide them with all the paperwork they have asked for.

Just a note to anyone reading who may be applying, you must have a dr's release letter from any dr whose care you have been under within the past 5 years.  This can be hard to obtain on short notice.  They also asked for our W-2s from the past 3 years of employment, which I thought was an odd request, but I'm assuming that they are using that as a cheap way of "employment verification".  That way they don't have to pay someone to make phone calls.  From me they asked for paystubs for the current year, but they did not ask for this from Zygote. 

All I can do is do my best on the tests, and wait and see how that turns out. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

If at first you do not succeed

Well, our first attempt at employment as truckers was not a success. We had our pre-hires from our first company approved before starting school; and our first day, which included physicals, drug tests, and road tests were set for this Monday.  We left Sunday night to stay in a motel the company had reserved and payed for in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Monday we ate a quick breakfast and arrived at the terminal at 8 AM.  First we filled out paperwork for our upcoming physicals. We knew that we would have to perform some work aptitude tests. Tests that involve lifting and carrying certain weights, squatting , etc.  There were not very many specific details available from the recruiters about all the tests we would need to pass, and in hindsight we should have asked for those details.  That morning we found out that one of the requirements was lifting 75 pounds above your waist and then from waist level to shoulder level, this had to be repeated 3 times.  That can be a lot of weight even from someone my size , both of us were concerned about Willow handling close to  3/4 of her body weight.

We drove out to the testing location , both of us apprehensive. The work tests were first and Willow was called to take her tests.  Her balance and range of motion tests went well, and then came the lifting. First the height of the shelves were well above Willow's waist and shoulders. She was able to handle the initial weights of 25 and 50 lbs, but when it came to the 75 lbs she was not able to set the weighted crate of the first shelf because it was so far above her actual waist.  She was not allowed to complete any more of the work tests.  She came out dejected and very upset, there was little time to console her.


I went next, hoping if I could complete the tests successfully, that when we returned to the company that  Willow would get a chance to re-test or we we get some allowance due to the fact we would be teaming on a truck.  I was able to pass the tests, the 75 pound tests were difficult for me, but I have the advantage of being so much larger.

There were several pulling and pushing tests, where you pull a handle and rope attached to a force gauge.  I was passing but when watching my scores, I was pulling much lower than I thought I should be. One final test I was not able to pass, I was pulling from a crouched position, with the handle between my knees and the other end attached to a plastic plate between my feet.  The pull was to be 100 lbs but I was not making it. I was pulling so hard that the plate between my feet was bowing upwards. There was no way this could be right. My male nurse questioned another nurse who took one look at the force gauge and determined it was set to kilograms rather than pounds. So I was actually pulling twice what was needed to pass. I found out then that this was the first time this nurse had performed these tests. I was not pleased; mistakes like that can easily lead to injury.

After passing the work tests I went ahead and took the rest of the physical and passed.  We returned to the company. They were inflexible on Willow's testing; she could not test again for 6 months, and they would only offer me a position with them, despite knowing our intention was to team up. We discussed our options, and I declined to proceed.  We returned back home that afternoon, we were both very discouraged, probably the most we had been since starting this journey.

We have backups, however. We had already been in contact with our second choice company, but our full approval had not been completed before we left for the first company. We called the second choice on returning home Monday. On Tuesday we were approved and scheduled for orientation next Monday in north western Georgia.  We still both have to pass their work screens, but the lifting requirements max out at 50 lbs.  We are getting paperwork together and repacking for leaving Sunday night.  Hopefully by the end of  next week we will have passed the testing and be in company training.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Unknown

Part of excitement is the element of the 'unknown', the surprise of what may come to pass, the zero point field of possibility.  This transition right now has more unknowns than knowns for Zygote and me.  We leave for Spartanburg this afternoon.  We were given a list of items to bring with us and told that there will be a physical, a road test and a drug screen.  The physical will include a lifting test but they did not specify the number of pounds that they will require us to be able to lift.  This may or may not be an issue for me.  That mystery number is on my mind--at least if I knew the number of pounds I would know whether or not it was worth worrying over. 

The other unknown that looms for me is the manual transmission vs the automatic.  Last Tuesday we made a trip to the other campus of our CDL school specifically for picking up a few more hours on a manual transmission.  The trip worked out great, as their manual transmission truck was in better condition than the one we had originally tried, and the trainer was very helpful.  We both learned alot from working with him.  But there was one small catch for me.  Zygote was the only one of us that got any drive time; he did really well and was obviously much more comfortable with the clutch afterwards.  The truck seat did not move forward far enough for me to be able to push the clutch in all the way to the floor (necessary for stopping).  These are 50lb clutches; I have to have the back of the seat to leverage against in order to even push in the clutch in the first place, so without the seat behind me, there was not going to be any clutch action happening.  This leaves me going into the road test for the company with only 45 minutes of questionable time on a manual transmission.  Enter stage left my convincing demeanor and undeniable charm...?  If the purpose of their testing is solely to determine where a trainee is so they know who to pair them with for driving, then all is good.  If the purpose of their testing is to weed out those who only got 45 minutes of questionable drive time on a manual then we may be coming home much sooner than intended.

In an attempt to manufacture a training opportunity out of thin air, I contacted a different CDL school, one that we had originally thought we would attend that is farther away from home.  They could offer me a few hours of time on their manuals for a small fee but they did not have a truck/trainer available in the few days I had before leaving for Spartanburg.  That remains a backup plan if the testing at Spartanburg does not go well.  We also have a pre-hire offer from another company that we will utilize if something goes wrong in Spartanburg.  This other company uses all automatic transmissions anyway, so there will not be an issue there.

Meanwhile, we've been wrapping things up at home.  The yard is cleaned up from fall/winter debris; the lespedeza I planted as a cover crop for the garden is mowed closely. The tomato bed is plowed.  The house is clean, the refrigerator stocked for my son, and clean sheets on the bed for when we come home.  Our bags are packed and piled by the front door.  We eaach ended up with one duffel bag, one satchel, one daypack, a cloth bag and our pillows. 

Tidbits for those of you reading because you are considering embarking on a similar venture into the trucking world:  I purchased a towel set for each of us on campmor's website-they are super lightweight, super absorbent quick dry towels used for camping.  I'm taking my sleeping bag instead of bed sheets for simplicity.  I use a silk bag liner as a "sheet" inside my bag or as "covers" if it's a warm night.  For those of you who are backpackers, trucking is a world of luxury simply because gear weight is not an issue--i.e. I'm bringing my pillow!!!!  I've got a week's worth of clothing for hot & cold weather, including rain gear (my Marmot rain gear left over from my AT hike in 2006 is still in awesome condition and works great-best $99 I ever spent).  I've got my Lavilin, the best kept secret ever in the realm of deodorants--works by killing the bacteria that causes the odor in the first place; it's expensive but one container lasts for months because one application lasts for 5 days--backpackers/truckers you should definitely look this one up if you don't already know about it.  Other miscellaneous travel trivia:  Crown Royal bags make great luggage organizers (I have lots of them...hmmm); there is a book called "the Next Exit" that lists all available services at each interstate exit across the U.S.; and last but not least, do not wash your angora sweater with your polarfleece!!!!

Friday, March 11, 2011

CDL Testing

Well it all comes down to this: 3 tests to get our commercial drivers license. The first test involves a thorough inspection of the truck, referred to as the pre-trip; next is a field skills test, which requires driving backwards and forwards in a straight line and stopping in a 2 foot box; then setting up and executing the "Alley Dock" maneuver,   backing towards an imaginary dock, a rectangular piece of real estate marked out by cones about 12 feet by 20 feet.  The object is maneuver the truck at a 45 degree angle to the dock and back into it again putting the trailer bumper in a 2 foot box.  Last is a road skills test driving on city streets and interstate, going up a grade, crossing railroad tracks, pulling off to the side of the road as if in an emergency, etc.

Willow and I both are pretty confident in the pre-trip and road driving tests. Backing in straight line took some getting used to, but we are getting consistently better. Backing at an angle brings a whole new dimension that both of us have struggled with.  On the practice range at school we can back consistently for a whole day, then come back the next day and struggle to get the trailer in the cones.  There is limited space at school, and  only so many ways we can set up.  Generally when we try to express the need to set up in different scenarios, the response is " It is all the same, just follow the trailer".  That is a valid point in principle.  It is the same theory, but any change in position requires adjustment to follow the trailer.

Jacking is turning the tractor wheels while backing to move the trailer into position.  You make minor adjustments to the wheels when backing straight, but jacking involves more drastic movements, but also requires a subtle sense of when and where to apply the angle. That subtlety can easily allude you.  Following involves turning the wheel the opposite way after you have jacked to the correct angle so that the tractor comes around behind the trailer and appears to follow the trailer while actually pushing it.  The combination of moves is intricate and requires moments of subtle turning followed by periods that require  more drastic and quick turns of the wheel at the correct time.  While you can jack and follow to correct some mistakes, eventually you reach a point of no return and must pull up to make corrections.

So with limited jacking and set ups, we learned to back  more by rote than with full understanding of the method.  We made some attempts on the road in empty parking lots, but generally a strange truck with "Student" plastered on it draws attention and we would need to leave after a couple of tries.

Thursday is testing day.  Our school uses a third party tester at a local beer and wine distributor. We rolled out around noon to take our tests in the distributor's lot. First there is a tractor trailer broken down essentially in the middle of the testing area. So we have to wait for it to be towed. While we wait we both do the first test.   Willow and I nail the pre-trip without any points counted off for errors. Our stomachs are in knots with nervousness and we still must wait for another 30 or 45 minutes while the broken town tractor is towed away. Finally the lot is clear and Willow can start her skills testing.  I wait in the company's break room as she does her backing.  I was too nervous to  watch and  observation is not allowed to prevent distraction of the person testing. Willow is out for a good bit of time, and when she returns to the break room I see bad news in her expression, she has not passed the field skills test, failing on the alley dock.

Now it is my turn. When I head out I notice immediately that the setup is significantly narrower than what we had practiced. There is less room to maneuver between the "dock" and a line of parked beer trucks and trailers at a fence. The beer trucks have been coming in all afternoon and there are 2 parked at the actual dock  near the coned "dock" area for the test.  We also have to set up from a very different approach than what we had practiced. I get the setup as close to the 45 degree angle from practice and make my attempts. I am intimidated by the close proximity of the beer trucks and trailers. I pull too far up and after backing realize I have left myself little room for  pulling forwards to correct my backing angle and straighten up. Only a few pull-ups for correction are allowed before you begin loosing points on the test; and encroachments outside of the dock area, hitting cones, or failing to put the trailer bumper in the box also cost points. Moving past the back limits of the dock cost even more  points.  I make several attempts, but after pulling up a number of times I know I have failed.

The examiner, who is very friendly and understanding, waves me off, letting me know I have failed. He takes time to explain some of the wrong moves I have made and lets me get the trailer backed in so I can learn from my mistakes. We head back to the school, I feel dejected and incompetent. Amy is more confident, "We will get it". We talk with the director of the school about retesting and he calls to arrange it for the next morning. We get with the instructors and rearrange the practice field to match the tighter turning area. We practice until dark and then head home.


Friday morning arrives and we go by school for more practice on the field with the new setup.  After an hour or so we go on the road in the truck to do some more highway practice and head out to the testing location.  When we arrive we can see that all but two of the beer trucks are out and we have more room in the testing area. The increased space makes me feel better, even though I felt our additional practice sessions made us better prepared for the tighter space.  The testing examiner jokes around with us about how nervous we look and assures us we can complete the tests. Willow goes first. As I wait, I do my best to calm myself and focus on completing the test successfully. When she returns she is smiling , she passed, only having a few points taken off for corrections she had to make.

As I head out the door, Willow tells me she loves me and that I can do it.  I am nervous but I feel centered and more confident.  The straight driving and backing tests go well.  When I line up for the backing, I am able to get set up in a much better position this time.  My initial backing is  a little wide but very close to getting in.  It takes 2 more pull ups to correct my position to the point where I feel confident that I am going to get the trailer into the dock area and I go for it.  When I stop and beep my horn to indicate I have finished, the examiner gives the thumbs up.  I have passed the skills test.

The road test is our final hurdle. After simulating a railroad crossing and pulling over to the side of the road in an emergency stop near the testing site, the course takes us through a busy city road and down through a mall. There are some extremely tight turns here.  After passing through the mall, you make your way to the interstate.  You must constantly scan for traffic and hazards, and maintain speed.  Both of our road tests go well, and we have passed all the testing to get our commercial licenses.

Willow and I were  really impressed with the examiner, he is tough and notices everything, but he is helpful and friendly.  He jokes that the DMV will not believe our scores, we scored the same on all 3 tests, though we did make different mistakes.

We head back to school to get our paperwork and eat hamburgers and hot dogs that the school director prepared to celebrate our graduation. I feel so much better being able to relax after completing this hurdle.  After lunch we drive over to the DMV and get our commercial licenses. The next part of our journey is about to begin.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Manual Transmission

So, all this glorification has been a smokescreen.  Our Volvo training truck is an automatic.  We were afforded the luxury of learning the basics of maneuvering without the headache of having to learn double-clutching at the same time. But, our company uses all manual transmissions, so it is only a matter of time before we must humble ourselves before the real deal.
  
We each had a brief turn on the one manual available.  I went first.  It was a cold morning and the gears were sticky.  The instructor drove me a few miles to get everything warmed up before trading seats in a large parking lot near an Ingles.  I did ok with finding the gears on my first loop around the lot perimeter, but when the instructor then said, "ok you're good, let's head out", I refused without more practice first.  The next time around the lot, I could not find third if my life depended on it.  Then, suddenly first disappeared when I came to a stop and needed it.  I was pushing the clutch all the way to the floor just as often as not--no real groove happening here at all. 
Truck clutches have a clutch brake on the last two inches(or so) of the clutch pedal, so when you're clutching to change gears, you don't push the pedal all the way to the floor.  To upshift, you push it about three quarters of the way in-shift to neutral-release the clutch-push the clutch back in-shift into the next gear-release the clutch again.  To top it all, if you synchronize the engine speed and the your road speed just so, you don't need the clutch at all.  Seriously? It would be funny if it wasn't so damn infuriating.

So about half my attempts were hitting their mark and the other half-mostly 1st and 3rd were falling miserably short, resulting in some drifting around the lot a few more times. Oh, and one more thing: this is the the truck previously featured whose clutch takes about a third of my body weight to push in.  Don't want to leave that little gem out of the mix (yes, I had the air-ride seat strapped down).  So, after four turns around the lot, instructor says I have to get out on the road and "wind it out".  Hmmm.  Judging by the rattle and hum of this dinosaur, I'd suggest winding it up before winding it out, but ok--I'll willingly embarrass myself in front of mobs of impatient motorists in the middle of a few intersections--what else did I have to do today?  Away we go towards the nearest light to turn right.  I'm able to find first while the light is still red-so that's one problem gear behind me-don't push the clutch all the way to the floor (even tough that's what you've always done your whole adult driving life).  I'm thinking about old dogs and new tricks at this point.  I've made it to second with a bit of coasting in between as I cleared the curb with the trailer.  No, where the hell is third?  There, no; there, no; losing road speed now-running out of time-third.  Ok, now fourth--that one's easier.  We've traveled all of 40 feet in this time--remember trucks have lots of gears.  Time and space have warped.  I am only vaguely aware that cars are going around me--they are only cars to me, not angry/impatient drivers, I'm too busy for that awareness.

So, now you've completed the "H" pattern of the lower gears so you flip a button on the gear shift handle to repeat the same "H" pattern for the higher gears.  Flip the button while you're still in 4th.  Clutch, shift to neutral, clutch shift to 5th.  Wow! 5th exists!  It's an oasis, a veritable full service truck plaza as compared to the single diesel pump w/a vending machine of 3rd gear. This is way better.  6th-ok, I get it.  7th-yes.  8th-nice.  Like I've said before-the highway now is like "home base".

We went down the interstate to the next exit, turned around and came back.  On every turn, I was so engrossed in gear drama, I never turned off my turn signal after completing the turn (truck turn signals don't default back to off after the steering wheel is straight).  So anyone driving near me had no idea which direction I was really going to go.  I'd realize about the turn signal after each fight with the lower gears.  

We only stayed out about an hour, then headed back in for Zygote's turn.  I was so relieved, and yet simultaneously disappointed to not have more opportunity to make friends with this new/old beast of a truck.  But, when I tried to walk into the building after getting out of the cab, my whole body felt like jello from the physical exertion of pushing in the clutch, especially my left leg.  So, maybe there is no need to make friends with this particular beast just yet.  I'll wait for the 2010 model at our company.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Night Driving

Our night drive session was on a Friday night.  We arrived at the school at 5:45pm.  Our classmate drove first, then Zygote.  It was pitch black out in the countryside where we were navigating small two-lane highways.  There were no streetlights, no store lights.  Nothing.  The only light at all was what emanated from the truck lights.  Obviously, we could see forward of the truck--we're all familiar with the tableau of the highway in our front windshields at night.  That's not where the challenge lay.  Consider this: when you are driving one of these monsters down any road in daylight hours, your line of vision is constantly moving, from the road in front to your wide-angle mirrors on the front corners of the hood, to the side mirrors on either side of the cab.  You're checking for the position of your trailer as it follows you around sharp curves on country two-lanes or for its placement in the middle of the lane on a wider highway.  You're looking at traffic around you, mentally noting if a car has entered any of your numerous blind spots, if one is hidden completely behind you or if your trailer is tracking to clear the curb on that corner you're turning.  Well...most of this "vision", which is already compromised by the nature of the beast itself is suddenly no longer available to you at night.  You cannot see your surroundings any longer in the wide angle mirrors because all they are reflecting back to you is darkness or maybe (if you're lucky) the faded glow of a white line receding behind you.  You can no longer see in your side mirrors for the same obvious reason-and suddenly I'm asking myself, um, exactly why did I expect to be able to SEE in the dark?  In your side mirrors you can see the trailer lights.  This particular trailer happens to be a 48' reefer(refrigerator trailer) so it has several lights down each side.  Dry vans, it seems, generally only have 3 lights down each side--front, middle and rear, unless it's some fancy owner/operator custom job with running lights all over it.  Now I know why they deck them out like that--not only does it look bad ass, but they can actually see more of what's going on behind them.  So, you're watching only a line of 5-6 trailer lights as visual markers for what's happening behind you.  In the pitch pitch black of a mountain country night, the glow from these lights just barely illuminates the white lines to the side of your trailer tandems.  I found that the main reason I know where my back wheels were tracking when I turned a corner was from knowing what I'd done with the tractor to make the turn in the first place, and knowing where that should have placed the back tandems for coming out of that turn. 
   This vast black void where there was once the lovely flash of mirror silver changes when you are driving through areas with street lights and/or traffic headlights.  Then, there are new players, dim lighting and shadows.  At least I could see my back wheels though. 
   Most of our night driving was done on dark country roads.  The time spent on the highway was not difficult.  The highways are already like "home base".  I find that I relax into a rhythm of awareness that makes me very happy once I've turned onto the interstate, and I was relieved to find that same rhythm at night.  Night will be my time to drive once we are teamed up with each other.  Zygote is a morning person; I, very decidedly, am not.  Of course, it didn't occur to me until the advent of our night driving session that if I'm only awake at night that I wont see any of the country we travel through; I'll only hear about all the cool stuff Zygote saw during the day.  But, I"m pacifying myself with the idea that I'll see what can be seen from roughly 6pm to dark--more in the summer than the winter, and figure on the fact that there's no way I'll sleep all day with Zygote making pickups and deliveries, etc.  I'm sure there will be plenty to see--and I'm sure I'll see it all more than once. 
   To all your car drivers out there (four wheelers) that never gave this a thought:  next time you're driving at night, recognize that visibility from a tractor trailer cab is even more limited then than during daylight hours and drive accordingly.  The blind spots from the cab of a truck are HUGE and numerous.  Don't assume the trucker sees you.  Don't tailgate--you're completely invisible.  Don't hang out next to the trailer in either lane unless you absolutely must due to traffic flow.  I've realized now how much it is needed for DMV to make tractor trailer awareness training mandatory for all licensed drivers.  Love your truckers!!!!