In our “Dispatches from the Road” feature, the KANE blog will periodically publish interviews with our drivers – the men and women who live and breathe the transportation topics we often write about. In our newest installment, we interview KANE driver John Shepherd, III.
How long have you been with KANE?
Nearly 8 years.
How did you get into trucking?
During high school and after I graduated, I drove a pickup and delivered tires for a local tire company. I also worked in the warehouse. Being up in the Tunkhannock, PA area, I saw a bunch of Schneider National trailers servicing the P&G paper plant. I looked into it and decided to get my CDL through their training facility in Carlisle, PA. I worked for them for five years and then came to Kane Is Able. A company the size of Schneider can make you feel disposable. You feel like your replacement is hired before you either leave or are let go. That’s not the case at all at KANE.
Describe your typical day.
Currently, I run loads for Sam’s Club Wednesday through Sunday. It’s drop and hook – clean and easy. I start around 11 am and run to Club stores in PA, CT, and MD. I finish between 8 pm and 11 pm. The steady start time and consistent runs make my day predictable and less stressful. When I drove over-the-road (OTR), I started at different times each day depending on the customer’s needs. A huge plus at a place like Kane Is Able is having different divisions and customers offering something that fits with drivers’ schedules. The move to the Sam’s Club account has been excellent for me.
What’s the best part of your job?
Besides driving, which I love, the best part of driving for KANE is the freedom. You are not being micro-managed. There is a professional respect for all drivers. Dispatch knows I’m going to do my job without incident or issues; I know that they are there for me when I need them. It’s that trust and good working relationship that makes this a great place to work.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
Traffic, by far, is the most challenging. The motoring public’s increasing use of mobile phones for talking and texting while driving makes the job stressful. I know I will have no issues driving, but I worry about my fellow drivers not paying proper attention. I don’t want to put my job in jeopardy because of an irresponsible driver. I’m not concerned with driving in the weather, especially the winter weather.
What technologies do you use to make your job easier?
I use my phone often for Google Maps. I check before I leave each day to see if there are any delays, road closures or construction on the route. Interstate 81 goes to one lane at times in the spring and summer for repairs. It’s great to have technology so I can plan accordingly. Plus, I love the street view. If I’m going to a new location, that level of detail lets me know where the truck entrances are located. I like being fully prepared and informed before heading out.
How are you challenged by ELD and Hours of Service regulations?
There is a ‘beat the clock’ aspect to it that’s nerve-racking. When I was an OTR driver, that 14-hour clock is always ticking in your head. Shippers that are not carrier-friendly push that clock, as well.
Describe the worst consignee location.
Anything in the New York metro area. I used to go there often. The roads, the traffic – it’s just not set up for large tractor-trailers. It’s so tight and incredibly demanding.
What’s the craziest/most unexpected thing that’s ever happened to you while on the job?
I’m always amazed at the exhibitionist behavior of people. It’s like they want to perform for truck drivers. I’ll leave it at that.
What’s your favorite food while on the road?
When I was an OTR driver, I stopped eating at truck stops and started focusing more on wellness and eating right. Many years ago, the company put refrigerators in the power units. That was great. I pre-make food for the week and bring it with me on the road. The company rewards those good choices in our insurance package. Plus, a benefit of my schedule now is that I have time to get to the gym (shout-out to Planet Fitness and their 24-hour facilities) and undo my old bad eating habits.
What do you think of the driver shortage?
I don’t see it changing any time soon. Younger people, in general, don’t seem to have the desire to work hard. Those few that do and choose to drive are receiving training that is not as comprehensive. I’ve observed novice drivers not doing the little things. It appears that schools are training them only on what they need to know – accelerating the process to get them behind the wheel faster. The training is missing some of the important nuances. What happens then is that a good portion wash out because of that lack of training or accidents. Some are lured in by the sign-on bonuses only to discover that it’s not just a job, it’s a life.
What advice would you give to those considering a driving career?
It’s a rewarding career. Even if you go to the same delivery locations, like I currently do, it’s different every day. The people, the environment and surroundings are always changing, and that keeps it fresh. For those who choose the profession, I would say the biggest piece of advice is don’t rush. Don’t let outside forces, whether nature, traffic, or anything else take you off-task. Be prepared and be thorough in your pre- and post-check inspections.
If you could change one thing about the job, what would it be?
Well, in a perfect world, the ability to start at times that match up with drivers' schedules would be excellent. I know what we do is dictated by the demands of the market. However, if that flexibility existed, it would be optimal to match loads knowing your drivers’ preferred timing.