Yes, I’m Driving a Yard Dog
I’ve only been driving a yard dog for a couple of months, but I’ve been trucking for 19 years. I’m starting to think I did things backwards. Driving a yard dog and spotting trailers isn’t hard work, but it’s detailed. Miss one detail and something can easily be damaged, lost, or cause some other kind of mayhem.
This post is about 9 common blunders I see truck drivers do repeatedly. Sometimes it’s a rookie making the mistake. Other times it’s just plain laziness. And honestly, some drivers just don’t care.
So here we go, nine lessons learned driving a yard dog.
1. Never Leave The Landing Gear Handle Sticking Out
Really! How long does it take to drop that handle down after you’re done lowering the landing gear? If you can measure it at all, it’s tenths of a second. Remember, that driver parking a trailer next to can easily hit it while backing in. He may never even realize he’s damaged the handle. Even if he does, he’ll probably ignore it.
Don’t give me the excuse that it might get bound up if you drop it. I’ve yet to have a landing gear that I couldn’t easily raise into position unless it’s already been hit a time or two.
2. Remember To Lower The Landing Gear In The First Place
I’ve already seen this twice. The truck driver backs a fully loaded trailer into the designated spot, but forgets to lower the landing gear. First, it’s not the spotter’s job to stand there and crank that thing 2,000 times in low gear. Second, in both instances the trailer received too much damage from the drop for us to touch it.
3. Glad Hands Are Useless If They’re Hanging On The Trailer
Glad hands are designed to break away if the driver forgets to disconnect them. This actually works about half of the time. It stretches out your air lines, and it’s tough on the equipment. But you might get away without damage.
When I back up to a trailer and there’s still a glad hand connected, I have to wonder how the driver dealt with it when he went to pick up his next trailer. I can only imagine the excuses they try to give when they call this one in.
4. Lock Those Tandems
First, it’s not the spotter’s job to slide those tandems back. It’s the trucker’s job. If we catch you not sliding them to the rear of the trailer, we’ll remind you.
What’s really irritating are the amount of drivers who will slide them back and not lock them in. I always check, but why would anyone in their right mind not lock them in. It’s just asking for damage.
5. Those Lines Are There For A Reason
It’s not your prized 68 Camaro. It’s a freight hauling trailer. You don’t need two spots in the drop lot. If lines are painted, stay between them.
I’m lucky enough to work where there’s enough room that we don’t have to crowd the trailers together. We’ve all been to those lots where you can’t get between the trailers. I’ll save that rant for another post. If there’s a designated spot, put on your big boy pants and center the trailer in the spot. The guy parking in the spot next to you could be 2 weeks out of trucking school. Give him all the room he needs.Do I have to remind you that beating on your trailer with a sledge hammer isn't the spotter's… Click To Tweet
6. Container Doors Always Suck
Even a shiny new container can be hell to work with when it comes to opening and closing doors. One trick that helps is to stop about 8 feet from the door and lower the landing gear. It’s not unusual for the bow in the container frame to be enough to bind those doors.
I’ve had guys complain that we’ve left one or two of the four door latches undone. They end up beating the latch into the locked position with a small sledge hammer. Do I have to remind you that beating on your trailer with a sledge hammer isn’t the spotter’s job?
7. It’s Always Easier To Get Into That Tight Spot With Your Tandems Back
I can’t count the times I’ve seen someone spending several minutes trying to back their trailer into a tight spot, then slide those tandems back. The spotter glaring at you while he waits for you to get out of his way only makes things worse.
Slide those tandems first, then put the trailer away. Now the rear overhang isn’t going to rip up that landing gear handle the last driver left sticking out.
8. If You Drop A Damaged Trailer, It’ll Come Back To Bite You
We look before we hook. If that trailer is in need of service, it may not ever get loaded. You’ll probably be getting a call from your dispatcher asking why you dropped it there in the first place. Why would you turn in a good post-trip inspection on a trailer that is obviously out of service?
I get it when it’s a light bulb or a borderline tire, but when you drop a trailer with a hole in the side, or a flat tire that’s off it’s bead, it’ll result in a call to your load planner.
9. It’s Not Okay To Drive Down The Road With Your Swing Doors Open
I’ve seen this one hundreds of times in my career. No, thousands. You’re empty. Your reload is a few blocks away and you’re too lazy to close and reopen the doors?
The most common system failure on semi trailers is the fastening device that holds the doors open. Bouncing them down the road just ensures they’ll fail sooner. And when they fail, they will manage to find that prized 68 Camaro and bust up a window or two. Who needs the paperwork?
I could go on and on with this list, but you get the point. Driving a yard dog is fun, and it’s a good workout. It also gives me a chance to talk to a bunch of you guys. In fact, I’ll leave you with one more tip. If you’ve got a question, ask the spotter. He just may know the answer.