I just spent four months working at my seasonal spring job, working as a truck driver. I was talking with Paul a few weeks ago and telling him about about my job driving a brand new Hino box truck (Hino is a division of Toyota). I sent a few photos to Paul and he mentioned that a lot of CC readers enjoy trucks and truck stories. He also suggested that I write a story about what it is like to be a truck driver here in Oregon. So here goes.
Some 7 years ago after looking into my job options I ended up becoming a school bus driver, and getting a Class B Commercial Drivers License in the bargain. I drove school buses for 2 years, and then I quickly realized that I was suffering from a bad case of job burn out. So I started looking around for another place to work. That was when I found out about a local plant nursery that would hire truck drivers, or in my case bus drivers, to deliver plants all over the state of OR and WA during their busy season. (Which in this case is the months of March through June.) I applied with them and I was hired.
I love the job, but sometimes it gets a bit draining and tiring. The good things about the position are: I never go to the same place two days in a row. The scenery is always changing. Most everyone I deal with is happy to see me, ( or at least not mad at me.) The flowers I deliver to the stores are beautiful. I don’t have a boss looking over my shoulder, and as long as I make the deliveries in a reasonable amount of time, don’t have any accidents, and deliver the right shipment to the right store everything is good.
The bad things about the position are: I can spend up to 11 hours on the road. That makes for a very long day. The Hino box trucks have a good suspension system, but I still get jostled around in the cab as I head on down the road. And 10 -11 hours sitting in one place, doing one thing, can really be a drag. Another bad thing is not having anyone to talk to. I have a few words with the people who are at the garden centers that I deliver the plants to, but 10 hours is a long time to spend alone with just my thoughts, and the radio to pass the time.
The Hino weighs about 20,000 lbs empty. The maximum legal weight I can carry is 26,000 pounds. I have driven it at the maximum weight and I can tell right away when I am heavily loaded. With that much weight it takes longer to accelerate, and it takes longer to slow down.
The truck has drum brakes all around, and they are air brakes. As the driver I am always aware of the brake air pressure, which normally runs at 120 psi. (I have a gauge on the dash that I can refer to.) If the brake pressure gets down to around 60 psi a red light comes on and a warning horn sounds continuously. If the pressure goes down to around 10-15 psi the brakes will automatically be applied, and the parking brake knob will pop out of the dash. Then the truck cannot be moved until the pressure builds back up enough to overcome the brake application spring pressure. (Which would be around 15-20 psi). I have had several occasions when I had to use the brakes pretty hard, and when I could smell the hot brakes I knew that I was pushing them towards their limit.
The truck also has a Jake brake I can use and it makes a big difference when it comes time to slow down, especially on long grades.
The Hino 268 comes with a J08E 7.6 L six cylinder diesel, variable-geometry turbocharger and high pressure common-rail fuel injection. It’s rated at 220 hp @ 2500 rpm, and 520 lb.ft. of torque @ 1,500 rpm. An optional 260 hp version is also available, but I doubt that’s in my truck.
The Hino averages 9.5 mpg, empty or loaded. It has two 50 gallon saddle tank style fuel tanks. (ie one tank on each side). So I have a range of 950 miles. But I start thinking about filling the tanks up whenever they get down to around half full. (I do the same thing in my cars).
The truck also has a DEF tank for the SCR system that cleans the exhaust. The DEF tank holds something like 4 or 5 gallons. I have been told that the truck will stop running if I ever empty out the DEF tank while I am driving down the road, so I keep the tank very close to full on a regular basis.
Hino medium-duty trucks marketed in the US are made in Williamstown, W.VA., and have many components supplied by American suppliers. The even sell a diesel-hybrid truck in the smaller COE version.
My line of sight when I am sitting in the cab of my Hino truck is 8 feet off of the ground. (When I am sitting in my Mustang my line of sight is 3.5 feet off of the ground.) So I am spending all of my time when I am driving my truck looking a long ways down the road. When I seen something questionable going on up ahead I start slowing down. I can change lanes if I need to, but my usual response is to just start gradually start slowing down until I can clearly see what the situation is that I will shortly find myself dealing with.
Knowing that if I need to stop in a hurry it will still take a fair amount of distance and time makes me very aware that the slower I am going if a problem occurs the better off I will be. I try to keep close to the speed limit of 55 for trucks here in Oregon. My usual cruising speed is 61 mph. I have had the truck up to 70 mph, but I did not like going that fast, and I did not keep up that speed for very long. Also knowing that truck tires are speed rated at 75 mph keeps me from really pushing things. The Hino also has a 75 mph top speed regulator.
This truck, and almost all large trucks for that matter, have dual rear tires installed. As the driver it is my responsibility to make sure that the rear tires are properly inflated. The quick and dirty way to do that is to smack them with my tire thumper. I put together a few pieces of pipe, and I use that as a tool to beat on the rear tires at the start and the end of every trip I make. When I thump the tires I can tell from the sound if the tire has air in it, and by listening to the tone I can tell if the tires have something close to the same amount of air in them. The problem with dual tires is that one of the tires can be totally flat, and the other tire will be holding up the load. And the driver would never know about the flat, if it was the inboard tire, by just looking at the tires. (And the inboard tires have a greater load on them than the outboard tires.)
The truck is 13 feet tall. I always have to be aware that if I try to drive under anything that is not at least a little bit over that height then bad things are going to happen. I once drove under a railroad bridge that was 13 ft, 6 inches tall. I was sweating every one of those extra 6 inches that day. And I swore I would never do anything that stupid again in my truck. (And I haven’t.)
All in all I enjoy being a truck driver. It is a much better job that some of the positions I have had over the years. I don’t think I will be doing it forever, but I think I will stick with it for the foreseeable future.