How Western Went South in Easton

The phone rang, and it was my recruiter – she had been calling for weeks, and I finally relented and took the call.

“Western Express would love to have you onboard,” she asserted.

“That’s great, but I have to organize a fun run in Washington, DC in mid May, and I want to be home for that a couple of weeks in advance to plan.”

“No worries,” she assured. “We’ll get you trained, tested and released for home with plenty of time to spare”

So I was done with training and I returned to DC just in time to organize another fabulous run.

After the run, I rushed back to Easton in my personal vehicle.

The only thing left was my test drive around town and a couple of backing maneuvers in the yard.

The test went well, but my tester, John, recommended I take a 3-day backing training.

“No worries. In fact, I was looking forward to it.  Who wouldn’t not welcome more training.”

On Saturday, May 26, 2017, the Lead Examiner came to pick me up along with all my luggage from the Days Inn Easton and dropped me off in the Bethlehem terminal to pickup my truck.

Since this was a three-day Memorial Day weekend, I was instructed to stay in my truck and wait until Tuesday when my Driver Manager would contact me and issue my first load assignment.

After completing the walk through, getting a few things fixed and then signing out the truck, I drove to Nazareth to get dinner and then to the Western Express terminal in Nazareth to spend the night.

As instructed by the Lead Examiner, I was to stay and watch my truck through the three-day weekend.

After I had taken possession of the truck, I received a dispatch from my Driver Manager to contact him. I then informed him that my CPAP machine was ready to be picked up near DC at which point he allowed me to return home in my personal vehicle. He also instructed me to pick up an abandoned Western Express tractor in Baltimore, MD and drive it back to Bethlehem.

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On May 31, after I picked up my CPAP and making preparations to drive to Baltimore to pickup the abandoned Western Express tractor, I received a call from Ms. Barnhill not to pickup the truck and to catch a Greyhound to Eason PA ASAP.

When I arrived in Bethlehem, PA on June 2, Ms. Barnhill informed me that I would need to take a three-day Backing Class, despite the fact that I had been assigned a truck for a whole week.

While I waited for my Backing Class, I continued to keep my possessions in my assigned truck and spent time in the truck while waiting for my trainer who was always busy with multiple assignments.

I volunteered to take a one-day backing class because I wanted to improve my backing skills.  Backing is a skill where every driver, young or old, always needs to improve and refine.  My trainer would not have released me from the week of on-the-road training if he wasn’t satisfied by my skills. And that is why I volunteered to take a one-day backing class.

A Backup Class should be exactly what the name implies — a 1-3 day class to refine backing skills.

It should not be used as a means to discriminately eliminate trainees since this is what the 3-day indoctrination, the 3-day in-house flatbed training and the 1-4 weeks of on-the-road training time with a qualified truck driver is intended to do.

I satisfactorily completed all of the above including the Final Road Test with the Lead Examiner.

On May 31, after I picked up my CPAP and making preparations to drive to Baltimore to pickup the abandoned Western Express tractor, I received a call from Ms. Barnhill not to pickup the truck and to catch a Greyhound to Eason PA ASAP.

On Monday, June 5, Jose was so busy that he could only give me training for 1 ½ hours after I waited all day. On June 6, I waited in my truck at the Bethlehem terminal all day for Jose who was busy doing other tasks. Finally, I ran into the Safety Officer at the terminal who agreed to test me on my backing.

The first two backing maneuvers were perfect. I conducted two difficult alley dock backing maneuvers in two different locations in a very busy terminal satisfactorily, within time and with no incidents.

At which point I felt I had satisfactorily demonstrated my backing skills to the Safety Officer. He then surprised me by directing me to do a Blind-side alley dock maneuver.

I was very surprised when the Safety Officer then asked me to do a Blind Side Backing.

Blind Side backing is a maneuver that Western Express doesn’t teach. From my indoctrination to my on-the-road training, all my trainers instructed me never to attempt it since its challenging, risky and thus should be avoided. As instructed, I never once attempted the Blind-side alley dock backing maneuver.

Additionally, both the Lead Examiner as well as my Backing Class Instructor told me that they don’t test trainees on Blind Side Backing.

That’s why I was shocked when Why the Safety Officer asked me to attempt it. Perhaps he wanted me to attempt Blind-side as extra credit since I already satisfactorily completed my maneuvers.

The role of the Tester is to also serve as the spotter and to prevent the trainee from hitting anything.  As the name implies with Blind-side, the driver cannot see the truck next to him and thus a spotter is always required.

That’s why I was further surprised when the edge of my trailer nicked the side of the truck behind me.  It was the job of the Safety Officer as the tester and spotter to ensure this would not happen.

The Safety Officer made it appear like it was my responsibility when clearly it was his, and he had failed in his role as Tester and Spotter.

Shortly after this incident, the Safety Officer informed me that I was released. I was shocked since I was asked to do an unapproved maneuver and no one else was trained or tested on this.

This was not the first time I was terminated by a trucking company.  Coastal Transportation fired me last year for overspeeding – going more than 72 mph (on a downhill)

This is not a DOT mandate and most trucking companies don’t even care
Companies today can install sensors in their trucks which will measure speed and will send an alarm to the terminal.  Some are accurate, some give false readings.
My company chooses to fire drivers that go over 72 mph (I did it 3 times over 4 months)  i felt rushed because my terminal manager was calling me to tell me to hurry up to make the deadline – this is after driving all night.
But its fairly easy to do (when loaded w/ 80K pound), its not illegal (this was company policy, and its questionable whether this is even unsafe.
I have no problem with them firing me but they wrote on my DAC report that I’m unsafe and now I’m unable to get a job (with that report) — they didn’t have to say anything because it’s a company policy — not DOT.
its questionable whether going over 72 is unsafe because after a downhill there’s an uphill and you need the momentum so that you don’t slow traffic behind you
Also not all trucks are the same. 40% of the trucks are the newer MACs that don’t overspeed. The rest of us have the old Internationals that do.
So if the company is going to fire us for Overspeeds than they need to make sure that everyone gets the same type of trucks.

So as soon as I left Easton, I stopped at the state capital and filed a complaint with the EEOC.  The office was responsive and easily took my report – they would get back to me in a few months.

A year later, all 5 of us met in Harrisburg with the EEOC officer to discuss my claim.

My position was that they had already cleared me for training and issue me a truck for which I slept in and drove around in.  I also asserted that the test that the Safety Officer gave me had to be the same test that they give all trainees.  None of the trainees were tested for blind side backing, and neither should I.

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