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A dry van trailer is the most common type of tractor trailer on the road. The trailer is simply a box on wheels, nothing more. You will haul anything and everything that can fit in the box. Dry van is the simplest form of tractor trailer
job because there are really no specialized concernsunique to it. You don't need temperature control, you can't haul open liquids like a tanker can, you can't haul anything that needs to be dumped or pumped out, and you can'thaul oversize loads. It's simply a matter of “throw it in the box and off you go”.You may at times have to haul hazardous materials, but that isn't unique to dry van.
Refrigerated Trailers (Reefers)
Refrigerated trailers aren't too much different than hauling a dry van these days. But there are a few
specifics to be aware of. Modern reefer units are very well built and reliable. They automate the temperature much as a refrigerator
or furnace would in your home. You simply set the temperature and ittakes care of the rest. Once in a while you will have a problem with one of the units and will have to take the trailer to a reefer repairshop to have it looked at. Your company will advise you on this. Reefer companies haul a lot of food as you would expect. They also haul a variety of products which may or may not require temperature control, like some hazardous materials. However you will often find yourself hauling the same products you would be hauling in a regular dry van. You aren't limited to temperature-sensitive products but they do tend to pay more to the company hauling them so they try to get a temperature-sensitive load if they can find one.
Flatbed drivers are in a click of their own. Their jobs involve more lifting and a bit more risk than most other types of trucking. here are several things to consider before taking a job doing this. First of all, there's tarping
your load. Any weather sensitive loads (and frustratingly enough some which aren't)need to be covered with a tarp. Tarping a load is a HUGE pain in the neck.
The tarps are big and can easily weigh up to 100 pounds. A large part of the time you are simply outside in a parking lot without any protection from the weather “throwing a tarp” as they say. You take a heavy tarp and add rain, snow, ice, and mud, and you have one miserable job ahead of you. The tarps are a thick, rubber-based material which gets very stiff when it
If your tarp gets wet and then freezes you'll have a layer of ice on it. Are you starting to see how much fun this can be? Most companies pay you to tarp the load, but whether or not it's worth the money for the trouble is something you have to decide.
Oversize and overweight loads are another concern. There is a lot to be aware of when it comes to hauling these loads. Every state has different rules regarding them, but there are some generalities that can be made.
Oversize loads often can not be moved at night or in poor weather. This is by law in many states. Depending on the size of the load and the state you are in you may or may not need an escort vehicle, or several of them. The really large or heavy loads often need police escort. You will also need special permits at times in each state you drive through. Your company will handle getting these permits for you but they will have to be faxed to you at a truck stop or at the shipper.
Driving a tanker is quite different from the other types of driving in a number of significant ways, many of which revolve around your driving skills and the type of tanker. You have 3 major types of tankers...food grade, non-food grade, and bulk solids. Food grade tankers do not have baffles in them. Baffles are walls, sometimes solid and sometimes with holes in them, which act either to divide the tanker into compartments or to minimize the sloshing of the liquid within the tank. Because of the health issues involved with keeping a food grade tank clean and sanitized they do not allow baffles inside of them. You can compartmentalize a food tanker, but you can not prevent sloshing with barriers.
A typical food-grade tanker can haul about 48,000 pounds of liquid. You can imagine the forces involved if you were to haul a very thin, heavy liquid, like salt water, which only fills the tank half way before you are maxed out on weight. When you accelerate or hit the brakes the liquid will slosh from front to rear. If you are not gentle it can be very dangerous.
Non-food grade tanks are allowed to have baffles in them to prevent sloshing so this is a bit of an advantage, but I wouldn't call it night and day. Let's call it a little bit better. The trade-off of course is that you are hauling chemicals, often very dangerous ones.
You can't mix food-grade with non-food-grade loads in the same tanker. You must haul either one or the other type of product by law. Now of course one company can own both types of tanks and have their drivers switch between them, but honestly I don't know of any companies that do this. They may be out there, but generally a company will specialize in one or the other.
Now all three types of tanks will require a bit of work from the driver. Often times you will be required to at least hook up hoses from your tanker to the shipper or receiver's tanks. Sometimes you will have a pump installed on your trailer and will be required to pump the product out of your tank into the receiver's tank.
Now with a chemical tanker, if you have a hazardous chemical, the receiver may ask you to wait in a safe area within the complex while qualified and well-equipped workers unload the product.
Another unique aspect of hauling a tanker is the fact that you must go to a tank wash and get your tanker washed out after every load, unless you are hauling the exact same product again. Larger companies will try to save time and money by having spare tanks at the tank washes that you can just swap out and keep rolling.
Now there are some unique advantages to hauling a tanker that I really enjoyed. For starters, you are ALWAYS heavy. Now this is a small disadvantage when dealing with mountains, but in the winter time the extra weight really significantly helps the truck hold the road.
Another advantage is that you don't have to worry about individual axle weights because the liquid will balance itself. Getting the axle weights to balance evenly can be a real hassle with other forms of trucking. Not having to deal with axle weights is a nice bonus.
The tanks, especially the liquid tanks, are much shorter than other types of trailers which means you don't have to worry too much about going under low bridges.
Doubles And Triples
We've all seen the double trailers and in some places triple trailer combinations. Doubles and triples can be extremely dangerous to handle especially on slick roads. Most of these companies will not, and SHOULD not, allow a brand new driver the opportunity to drive these trucks.
If by chance you do find a company that will I STRONGLY suggest you get experience driving a standard tractor trailer for at least one full year before considering making this move. These companies have excellent pay, benefits, and home time packages but again, the truck is extremely difficult to handle under adverse conditions.
The last separate category I'd like to talk about is dump trucks. I wanted to mention a few important points about these trucks in particular because they are so common and yet are surprisingly dangerous in a number of ways you may not be aware of.
First of all, the maximum gross weight of an 18 wheeler is 80,000 pounds. A tri-axle dump truck can gross nearly the same in most states, maybe a few thousand pounds less.
Secondly, a dump truck usually carries loads with a MUCH higher center of gravity which makes them much easier to tip over.
Thirdly, a dump truck is often operated in off-road conditions. If you can handle a 72,000 pound dump truck with a high center of gravity on a hilly, soft dirt road or driveway, you can handle anything. Not to mention you have to find stable, level ground to be able to hold you upright while you are dumping that load. Not at all an easy task.
Finally, like any local job, dump trucks are operated on normal streets in stop and go conditions. They are extremely heavy, not the easiest to stop sometimes, have a high center of gravity, and traffic is flying all around you. This is no easy job let me tell you.
Because of the difficulty of handling these vehicles, I don't recommend this type of job for a brand new driver. It can be done, but I would be more comfortable having a driver start out in a vehicle with a little bit less to worry about.
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