Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Alma, Arkansas: Spinach Capitol of the World

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According to the sign I saw along the freeway, the small town I stopped at tonight is, indeed, the Spinach Capitol of the World. Since I frequently enjoy salads featuring spinach I thought it appropriate.

The remainder of the trip down from Omaha was uneventful, at least the driving part. My dispatcher was angst-ridden when I turned down a lovely 210-mile run back up to Kansas City and didn't buy the explanation: my religion proscribes dumbass loads on my 40th birthday. Since tomorrow is that glorious date, I made the best of my beliefs and turned it down. Soon after popped out a new trip starting at about the same place and heading to McDonough, Georgia which is just south of Atlanta. Not a real charmer, either, but the timing is much better than the original trip.

My Garmin 660 GPS unit has been acting odd for the past few weeks and today, despite my best efforts, doesn't seem to want to find any of those wonderful satellites in the sky. I know the route between Omaha and Russellville backwards and forwards but it was amazing how... naked I felt driving without my GPS. Unable to see at a glance what my ETA was. Unable to push a button and find out my distance. Unable to zoom in a bit and find the next rest area. I know there are truck drivers out there who don't think much of GPS units but frankly, you're wrong in the head people.

A quick virtual trip to Amazon turned up a slightly larger Garmin model, the 5000. I bought my 660 a few years ago for roughly $700 and this newer, larger model for under $500. Progress, my friends.

Until I get through the house to collect my packages and mail I'll have to get along with Google maps on my laptop or my new iPhone. Yeah, picked one of those up last week, too.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Four trailers

After I dropped off the Petsmart trailer in Ottawa, Illinois and grabbed an empty, I took my tractor over for a wash and spent the night at the conveniently-located Wal-Mart. Got some shopping done, did the snooze thing then headed out this morning to nearby Minooka, Illinois to pick up a load of Kellogg's stuff heading to Colorado.

The unload for the trip kind of sucked, being Wednesday morning at 0200 at a freaking food warehouse but it turns out that didn't matter as I was told to t-call the load when I got to Ottawa and was given a new load to run.

I started with one trailer in the morning, then swapped in Minooka, swapped again in Omaha, went across the river to Council Bluffs, Iowa and swapped again, ending with the fourth trailer on my truck that day. Yetch.

At least the load was only 32,000 pounds so pulling it over the hills in Arkansas won't be a problem.

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Safely taking a day off

I gave up my load when I reached Omaha, Nebraska and in the morning I sat through a safety meeting. It had to do with winter driving tips mostly. Nothing earth shattering.

My sleep patterns were still a bit jacked up from the overnight run I had to make a few days back, so I pushed out my PTA (projected time of availability) to Sunday morning. That will give me just enough time to squeeze in a 34-hour reset of my hours so hopefully I can get some good long runs in this next week.

The satellite unit went off before I hit the sack with a run out to the Petsmart DC in Ottawa, Illinois I've been to many times before. The trailer was already sitting in the yard which makes it a nice milk run.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

"We don't make that product here"

After the six-hour unload from hell, I was sent from Carroll, Iowa to nearby Denison, Iowa to pick up a load of meat headed to (hallelujah!) Southern California. Better than 1,600 paid miles -- a great weekend run. I drove the thirty minutes or so in a happy place.

When I arrived at the meatpacking plant I got through the gate security and into the dispatching office. Turns out, the load of pork products that I was to get loaded with aren't made at that plant any more. The plant that makes them? Why that is located back in Carroll, Iowa, where I started this morning at. Grrrr.

Denison is way out in the boonies and I don't have cell coverage, so I had to use my satellite unit to contact HQ. Our people yacked with their people, I was sent back to Carroll and after a delay they finally got me the street address so I could find the (small) plant.

Unfortunately, the plant in Denison had looked up the order and that caused the shipping system to not want to let the Carroll plant look at it or fulfill it. More time wasted as they and their people killed the first order and put in a new one, an exact duplicate of the first one except for the plant I loaded at, into the system.

More hours go by as first I waited for another trailer to get loaded and pulled from a dock, then after I backed in and they put on the 30,000 pounds of ham and whatnot.

I've been trying to get back to Omaha to attend a safety meeting all month. My quarterly bonus (about $750) requires that this happen. If I had been loaded anywhere near my original appointment time, I could have made it to Omaha and went to the Friday meeting. Instead, it was too late so I had to T-call the load in the yard and wait until this morning to attend the last one of the quarter. This also meant I had to give up my run out to California.


Friday, September 26, 2008

Dog Chow and Oreos

I got hooked up with a load on the yard in Omaha heading out to the PetSmart distribution center in Ottawa, Illinois I've been to so many times before. Not quite a full day's work, being 470 miles or so, but it will do.

Delivery was quick and easy and I parked at the nearby Super Wal-Mart to rest, take care of some shopping and await the next load.

Turns out, my next load was about twenty miles away in Morris, Illinois. A bunch of Nabisco products (Oreos, crackers, cheese, etc.) heading to a small town in Iowa. Now, I've berated the Nabisco folks before, as their shipping policies are, well, insane. Hours and hours of lost warehouse time searching for the two missing boxes of corn flakes with a wholesale value of a buck or less. Product that I had to store in the cab of my truck to be returned to our headquarters then later packaged up and sent back to them. It would have to be diamonds or bank notes to make it worthwhile to do this for the quantities I'm describing. But no, Oreos and corn flakes get the ritz treatment.

I hoped for a better outcome, I really did. Even though I got to tiny Carroll, Iowa ten hours early, parked across the street in a tiny truck stop, made it to my appointment time of 0300 early and was docked and ready to be unloaded by said time it still took the warehouse people SIX FREAKING HOURS to unload half a trailer of product... on pallets.

You remember The Grinch Who Stole Christmas? Remember the Grinch's little dog that pulled that humongous sled? That freaking dog and a quadriplegic on a skateboard could have beat that time hands down.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Overnight Urinary Tract Infection

One of the things that I like least about trucking is the occasional load that requires you to change your sleep patterns. I normally get up around 0400 or so and run for the day, shutting down in the afternoon. The load I was buzzed with next picked up that evening about a hundred miles away and was due in Omaha the following morning at 0600. A night trip, in other words.

I don't use caffeine or nicotine so altering my sleep to the other side of the clock like that is a problem. I could have turned the load down and waited for another but I flipped a mental coin and decided to give it a whirl.

The facility I was sent to is for a company called UTI, thus the title of the post. Seems we haul tires for them out to Nebraska for the LTL operation of a company called NTC. Yes, I know, too many acronyms.

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I had to finagle my logs a bit to be down during the day then run the night trip. The trip itself was uneventful but tiring: I had to pull over several times for power naps when I began to feel woozie. My arrival in Omaha was on time and I took the rest of the day off to recover and reset my sleep patterns.

Some potential good news: the $4,000 tire bill is looking more like $1,500 when the return of the tires and rims my truck was originally equipped with factored in. I may have to adjust my target weekly income up a notch or two to compensate.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Back Early

I was planning on taking the entire weekend off but stuff changed and I came back a day early.

The weekend dispatcher had me grab an empty reefer in Kansas City, Kansas then run it up to Omaha to exchange for a full trailer headed out to northern Indiana. The timing of the load was very tight, as it delivered the following morning at 0800 (which turned out to be an hour earlier, since that part of Indiana is on Eastern Time) so I had to use all my available hours to get there.

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Turns out it was a load of shredded carrots for Del Monte Foods.

The trip itself was ordinary, and the weight was light enough I didn't have to do much foot driving in the hills of Iowa.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Buddy, is that a F-16 behind you?

So I'm driving down the road the other day and this flatbed passes me. I casually look over and do a double take, as the wing section of a fighter jet is strapped on back. I used to be able to identify aircraft fairly well so I'm guessing it is from a F-16 but in any event it is something you don't see every day.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Second Marmon Sighting

I happened across a rare Marmon truck about six months ago (blogged here) and a week or two ago I spied another one down in Georgia.

While I was taking pictures the driver came out and we chatted a bit. His Marmon was built in 1990 so it is one of the later ones and according to him, fewer than 200 Marmons roam the road today.

Two down, fewer than 200 to go.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Put Your Faith In Jesus

It did turn out I was heading south to the Dallas suburb of Arlington, Texas to deliver a refrigerated load of egg products to a food distributor. I was given the load to pick up a day late, and the original delivery time was impossible to make so it got rescheduled 14 hours later. It kind of sucked for me but I was there on time at least.

Jesus unloaded the trailer. I can report he was quick, efficient, and didn't charge as much as I had feared for the service. Kind of scruffy-looking, though.

Afterwards, it was a short drive to Grand Prairie, Texas to pick up a load of GE appliances heading for Kansas City, Kansas. That load I ran today and dropped off at the Nebraska Furniture Mart complex on the west side of the city.

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I'm talking the weekend off for a change so I'll see everyone on Monday.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Running Into Someone

I slept in late this morning: 0700. I couldn't stay in the bunk any longer, so I went over to the shipper for my next load and grabbed the paperwork and trailer then headed out.

About four hours later I was entering Joplin, Missouri, preparing to turn east on I-44. There is an onramp there for 32nd street which leads to the headquarters of Con-Way Truckload (used to be CFI) and it just so happened a Con-Way truck. It was a Con-Way Cascadia truck, the same kind my friends Paul (Croc) and Ellen (TWT) drive. It was a Con-Way truck with "Croc & TWT" decals on the door. Amazingly, just as I was passing the ramp they were departing to pick up a load.

I immediately called Croc and scolded him for waving only one finger at me as I flew by. They sped up and caught me on I-44 and took some video of my beautiful (and much better running, apparently) truck.

Today has been a day of numerous loads being offered, rejected, changed or otherwise modified. I've been planned to go to three different places already and I just got a call telling me the one load I thought I was on has been changed and now I'm on a different one. I think I'm headed to Dallas, but I just don't know any more.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Back up to Missouri

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I waited almost 20 hours from yesterday's drop before I pestered my new dispatcher for something to run. Almost immediately, I was ordered to take a trailer that was sitting next to me in our Garland drop yard up to the AmeriCold folks in Russellville, Arkansas. Afterwards, they wanted me to run a load out to Georgia but I passed on that.

Instead, tomorrow's load takes me up to the all-to-familiar AmeriCold facility in Carthage, Missouri. From there, who knows?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Quick Trip Down To Dallas

After waiting a while I was beeped with a load heading to Dallas to deliver the following afternoon. The trailer was at our yard in Kansas City, Missouri and so was I, so I grabbed it and started running south. A few hours later, I ran out of drive time for the day and pulled in at a regular stop I make at the Wal-Mart in Lamar, Missouri.

Shopping and sleeping done, I headed out this morning and knocked out the rest of the run. The destination was a warehouse just down the road from our drop yard in Garland, Texas so I holed up there overnight waiting on my next load.

Before that, however, I had to spend almost 20 minutes watching a hapless Swift driver trying to back his trailer between two other trailers in about as plain vanilla of a backing situation as you will ever find. Eventually, he gave up, disconnected and had the yard jockey handle it for him. Poor fella.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Lazy Weekend Trip

Yesterday I drove to Walton, Kentucky to pick up 18 tons of Macy's advertisements headed to USPS processing centers in Kansas City (both in Kansas and Missouri). The folks at the printing plant were agreeable and it didn't take long... and they actually knew how much their load weighed. Always a plus.

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My goal was to drive to the western side of St Louis then park it for the night but the dreaded lazies hit at exit 95 on I-64 in Illinois at a town called Mt Vernon. Further analysis reveals that a contributing factor was the local T/A truckstop and its Popeye's restaurant and the box of chicken strips that somehow made it on my truck. After that, it was game over!

I got up this morning without the help of an alarm and headed off again. Everything was fine until I got to the greater St Louis area when all heck broke loose. Rain was coming down in buckets and huge gusts of wind were pushing my truck around from the north. I wrestled the storm for an hour or so but when the first small truckstop presented itself, I pulled it over and told dispatch I'd be a bit late. No big deal, as I'm just dropping the trailer in our Kansas City lot for a local driver to handle in the morning.

I made it to KC with nearly empty tanks and I'm waiting for my next dispatch.

Friday, September 12, 2008

What do you do with a cop behind you for 20 miles?

Occasionally, I override my GPS and decide what the best route between A and B is. Like today. Instead of going up to Cincinnati then east over to Jackson, Ohio, I kept going east from Lexington, Kentucky then up Ohio HWY 93. Bad choice.

The first reason it was a bad choice was that there were some narrow streets on the Kentucky side of the border and plenty of traffic. Oh, and some road destruction as well. The second reason it was a bad choice was the road was twisty, hilly and narrow which made it slow going and a bit exciting taking the turns in a truck with a heavy load like mine.

But the big reason it was a bad choice was the Ohio State Trooper who decided to park his squad car on my tail for twenty miles. Talk about 45 minutes of my life I would like to get back. He eventually high-tailed it around me and went about his business, thankfully.

The consignee was a bit weird, with a big, obvious gate for deliveries that wasn't really for deliveries and a small, narrow alley along the other side of the building for deliveries. That got straightened out and I waited a while to get a dock. Finally, everything was done, paperwork in hand and I left.

I got a preplan for tomorrow heading out to Kansas City from Kentucky. It will take just a smidge more than a full day's drive to get there so I'm going to live it up a bit and set my alarm at 0500 instead of 0300 like I've had to do the past few days.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Double Switcheroo

The alarm went off at 0400 this morning and I checked my truck then headed north. I was through to the other side of Atlanta long before dawn, avoiding any significant traffic delays. The path up to Chattanooga, Tennessee was similarly quick and by 0700 I was checking in at the plant.

The first switcheroo of the day was that this WAS NOT the stinky-butt chicken plant about a mile north, but a much nicer one with a distinct lack of aroma. They sure do go through a ton of chickens each day: my load was one of many, and it was something like 50,000 thighs and drumsticks in big industrial-sized containers that other plants use.

Better yet, when I checked in they were just getting done with one of two trucks at their loading docks and I was told to take the place of the one that was leaving. My appointment time wasn't until 1100 but I got lucky and they needed the trailer space so I got elected. Even better (!), they had the next load ready to go and the loading only took about 20 minutes before I got the paperwork and they set me loose. Doesn't get much better than that.

The second switcheroo happened on the way towards Arkansas when I was asked if I could repower a load heading up to Ohio. We went back and forth for a while over the details, but eventually I agreed to meet another driver in West Memphis, Arkansas and swap loads. Turns out his birthday is this Saturday and he doesn't work on his birthday. Good on him.

Anyway, I pulled in to West Memphis in the early afternoon and we swapped trailers. I then scaled out, fueled and started heading back east through Memphis hoping I was early enough to avoid the start of their afternoon rush. The roads were busy but everything moved along at a good clip so I skeedaddled as fast as I could.

Odd coincidence of the day: This morning I awoke in Jackson, Georgia. My new load is heading to Jackson, Ohio. Jackson, Mississippi is near Memphis, and I have ended my day in Jackson, Tennessee. I mean, I know he's the King of Pop and all but that is a bit much you easterners! Since Thriller his stuff has been pretty bland to my ear.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

An Inconvenient Load

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I arrived at the consignee in Americus, Georgia at 0915 this morning and I was glad I didn't push any harder to arrive earlier. There was another truck on the dock already and he had been there since 0700 and they were just now getting him unloaded. After several hours of waiting that guy was done and I got backed in. Then I waited. And waited. And... well, you get it.

Four hours later I was done and on my way first east to I-75, then north. The timing was inconvenient, since by the time I reached Atlanta the evening rush would be in full tilt and I work hard to avoid traffic jams whenever possible. I would have preferred to gone past and parked someplace north of there but it just wasn't in the cards, so I stopped in Jackson, Georgia.

Tomorrow, I have to face the horrors of the Regurgitated Chicken Ass factory I've been to before. Full details of my previous experience here.

First Figures

I am now past my first quarter (13 weeks) with Hill Bros as a lease-purchase operator and will be posting various numbers below and in subsequent posts. Before I do, though, I'd like to make a few points.

First, YMMW: Your Mileage May Vary. My numbers, miles, time off, breakdowns, MPG, etc. will almost certainly vary from what you will achieve should you decide on a similar route. I'm not in competition with anyone but myself, and you shouldn't rely on any one (or two or three) sets of similar figures to calculate "how much money I could make." Toss a large grain of salt over your shoulder and just use this as a sample.

Second, these numbers start a bit differently than most people who do a lease-purchase. I instructed HQ to take all money that would have been due me in the beginning to fully pay off all of my escrow accounts except my truck maintenance fund (which grows over time at five cents per mile up to $5,000 in its separate escrow). I also passed on their offer to defer the first two truck payments, opting to make those payments from the beginning. Thus, you will see the first month or so doesn't show much net income (and that which is shown was actually a payroll mistake; they forgot to take care of some of the escrows one week).

Third, my total weekly "nut", assuming you were to take all escrows and divide those yearly contributions by 52 instead of the irregular schedule that is used, is just under $800.

Fourth, what I show as "net pay" is money deposited into my checking account after all truck-related expenses. It does not include taxes taken out, the cost of health care, or my addiction to DQ Blizzards. So there.

Fifth, I round off all dollar figures to exclude any change.

My economic objectives for the first full quarter as a lease-purchase operator were as follows:

1) Completely pay up all escrow accounts except for the maintenance, as noted above. This has the effect of temporarily reducing my net pay.

2) Maintain an Adjusted Fuel Expense Per Mile rate of less than 15 cents. This is calculated by taking all the money I spend on fuel, subtracting that which I get back via FSC and dividing my total miles run by the result.

3) Achieve a weekly net pay rate to myself, after all truck expenses, of at least 1,000 dollars.

NOTES: My quarter started on June 6, 2008 and ended September 5, 2008. All numbers below, unless otherwise noted, are in whole dollars.


Total paid miles run: 33,898
Approximate* truck miles run: 37,000
Approximate* Out-Of-Route miles: 3,102 (approx 9.2% of total)

* This is approximate since I didn't note my exact mileage at the end of September 5, 2008. It is close, however.

Total Fuel Expense: 22,533 (avg 1,733 per week)
Total FSC Paid to me: 18,587 (avg 1,430 per week)
Adjusted Fuel Expense: 3,946 (avg 304 per week)

In the average week, I purchase $1,733 in fuel, get paid $1,430 in FSC for the miles run using that fuel, leaving a total of $304 per week out-of-pocket fuel expense.

Average paid miles per week: 2,608

This includes all time off I have taken.

Total Revenue Paid To Truck: 50,585
Revenue Per Mile: 1.4923

Since I haul cargo for one of several fixed mileage amounts (depending on length of haul), my revenue per mile is mostly affected by the price of fuel and the resulting FSC. Smaller contributors include ancillary pay for multiple drops, layover, detention and trailer shagging.

Average Revenue To Truck Per Week: 3,891
Average Net Pay To Me Per Week: 1,110

Note again that my election to make truck payments starting the first day and fully fund all escrow accounts effectively decreases my net pay during this period. As of September 5, this amounts to almost $5,000 paid up in this fashion. It also does not reflect less than a hundred dollars in ancillary pay I believe I'm owed for loads covered during this period and detention pay that should be forthcoming for some of those loads as well.

Net Pay By Week

1: 0
2: 80
3: 0
4: 1,071
5: 0
6: 874
7: 1,309
8: 88
9: 3,096
10: 1,175
11: 3,938
12: 1,268
13: 1,534

Again, note that the slow start is due directly to my choice to start fixed payments from the beginning and to direct all net pay to my escrows until they were fully funded. Also, the spike in week #11 was due to two trips that were run previously being accounted for later.


My first goal, to fund all my escrow accounts, was taken care of in about a month, though there was a paycheck issued in weeks two and four by mistake instead of applying those monies to the escrows.

My second goal, to complete the quarter at less than 15 cents per mile fuel expense was accomplished with the mind-boggling 10.66 cents per mile for all miles including Out-Of-Route (3,946 in adjusted fuel expense divided by 37,000 approximate miles run). Considering that I spent several weeks in the middle of summer with my APU offline and having to idle constantly, I'm damn proud of that number.

My third goal, to end up with at least 1,000 dollars per week paid to me after all truck expenses, was accomplished with an actual weekly net pay rate of 1,110. The actual amount was 14,433 dollars over 13 weeks.


I was recently informed that I owe something on the order of 4,000 dollars for the super single tires and rims I ordered my truck equipped with. Since this is close to what I paid in the first quarter towards my escrows, my first goal is to pay off this additional amount during the second quarter.

My second goal is to attempt to achieve a sub-10 cent adjusted fuel expense over the quarter. I will try to accomplish this with a vigorous concentration on keeping Out-Of-Route miles to a minimum, using my APU whenever possible to avoid idling and maintaining a top speed of 60 MPH.

My third goal is to raise my pay after all truck expenses to 1,200 dollars per week even after including the thousands extra I will be spending for my first goal.

My second quarter ends in the first week of December, 2008.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Off to a Slow Start

0800 Monday found me at the docks of the local Pepsi distributor in Joplin, Missouri being unloaded. Talk about being conveniently located: it is basically behind one of the big Super Wal-Marts in town. When I was empty I drove over and stocked up on fruits, veggies, some frozen stuff and (sigh) some junk food. Gotta have some Fritos sometimes, you know?

Anyway, a while later I get beeped with my next load. It is the same run I've done before from ConAgra in nearby Carthage, Missouri to a food warehouse in Americus, Georgia.

Unfortunately, the timing is very poor. It isn't scheduled to pick up until tomorrow morning at 0100 and delivers the following morning at 0700 eastern time. I messaged in trying to get the load time moved up by six hours or more since I was already in the area but the answer was the usual noncommittal mumbo jumbo about our folks talking to their folks.

I did get sent to the loading docks around 2330 but wasn't through loading until 0230 or so. In other words, no real change in the load time... not that I expected any.

After getting sealed up I departed through the main gate and headed across the street to the tower lot where they keep a bunch of spare trailers. Nothing doing: the yard driver banged on my door an hour or so later, telling me they don't let us drivers park there any more. Thanks a pantload, dude.

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I figured it would be a smart play to drive to the other side of Springfield, Missouri early to miss the morning traffic. A parking place presented itself an hour or so later and I took another 90 minutes to nap. Amazing what a difference that makes!

The rest of my driving day today was spent motoring through the back country of the Ozarks, since I decided to try a more direct route than my usual Hwy 71 south to I-40 then east. It was rough in a few spots and I did have to do a lot of work shifting but it wasn't too bad. Definitely won't be doing that route in the winter, though.

I fueled in West Memphis, Arkansas then pushed on, ending the day in Winfield, Alabama. I'm about 250 miles from the consignee and I already let our folks know I might be a few hours late.

Bonus: my next preplan has arrived and I get to go back to that super-stinky chicken plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee the day after tomorrow. Oh goody.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Homeward bound

The destination for the 45,000 pounds of jalapeno nacho concoction I was carrying had a long, narrow parking lot only 20 feet or so wider than the trucks as you backed into the docks. So tight that they sequenced the trucks so first one truck would park, then the next truck to his left would park, then the next truck to his left, and so on.

I got in late at night (for me) and just took the first open dock I found and hit the sack. Once we were set up properly, the actual unloading didn't take long and they didn't even charge us for lumping the load off!

My next trip was already set up for me. I went around to the eastern side of Dallas to the local Pepsi distribution center and picked up yet another 45,000 pound load. This one delivers on Monday in Joplin, Missouri which will let me go home over the weekend for some time off then get rolling again.

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I was so zonked from the previous late night of driving I didn't get very far on Friday, only just into Oklahoma along Hwy 75. The rest I finished up this morning after a good night's sleep.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Another wasted day... almost

So I arrived back at the consignee for the load the following morning before 0800 and waited. Eventually, the workers arrived and I queued up with a handful of other drivers and they went over our paperwork. One of the guys ahead of me in line was a bit miffed that they wouldn't take his load that day, and I commiserated on our shared lament.

My turn arrives and I talk with one of the supervisors. "Sorry. This load is heading to Tyson and their receiving inspector won't be in until tomorrow."

He called in to verify this with the Tyson folks as I waited, fuming. "Edgar," he said, "is the man your people have to lean on."

I trudged back out to my truck, commiserating with myself this time, and sent in a text message with the details to our folks in the rear with the gear at HQ. Various encouraging messages flowed back and I waited, using my time patiently putting the final touches on my generic meatpacking plant voodoo doll.

Knock, knock, knock goes my door. "Put it in to door 16, we'll take your load," the man said. Even though this meant backing up in an "S" pattern through a tight parking lot filled with trucks, I got right on it. The head lumper was there to see if I wanted to partake of his services and I couldn't nod my head fast enough.

An hour or so later the load was taken away and I was off to a nearby truckstop for a shower and a meal. Both much needed.

When I returned to my truck my next load was waiting on the satellite unit. I'm to pick up a load in El Paso and take it to a suburb of Dallas, Texas for tomorrow morning. It was already past noon and the distance was a cool 640 miles, or roughly ten hours of driving.

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I was a bit tired from the morning's activities but I had to get loaded and moving quickly so I could make the destination around midnight to get some sack time before I deliver in the morning.

My Pet Can Beat Up Your Pet

Check out this video of a lion raised by humans then reintroduced to the wild. One day, the humans return to see their (now grown) feline friend.

Read more about this amazing story here.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Waste of a day, a two-fer!

Where to begin...

Well, the following morning I returned to the Swift plant in Greeley, Colorado and the trailer was right where I had left it. I parked my bobtail next to the guard shack and went in to see if the paperwork had been reprinted yet. Yep, they were happy, I was happy, everyone was happy!

I hooked up to the trailer and pulled it back up to the parking lot exit and they did their final walkaround inspection. I signed a few more documents and I was on my way to the local truck stop to get scaled out.

Even though the tandems were slid all the way forward the trailer was perfectly balanced. This is great, as the further forward those rear wheels are the shorter your overall wheelbase is and the better you turn corners. I punched in the proper codes for HQ to know I was loaded and on my way and set out.

The first stop for this load is Lubbock, Texas so I motored down a number of state highways from Colorado through Oklahoma and into Texas. Finally, I stopped on the south side of Amarillo near a small truckstop I had been to before. It was full, but there was plenty of side street parking and I chose a spot next to a Whataburger outlet. No, I couldn't pass up one of their delights so I didn't eat in the truck last night.

Up early this morning to finish the last couple hours of driving down to Lubbock along I-27. Very easy miles, light traffic and the consignee wasn't hard to find. After a few quality hours there spent doing the Super Lumper Tango I was on my way to El Paso, Texas for the final drop on this load.

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Now, when I left the Swift plant yesterday they gave me a big package of paperwork for the load. There was one large manila envelope with an inventory of every single box in back, then there were individual envelopes for each stop. Plus the Bills of Lading for the first stop. For some reason, there were three even though they were all going to the same joint.

What I only realized after dropping the first load was that the brain trust back at Swift had left out the Bills of Lading for the El Paso drop! This could potentially be a fairly big no-no since you aren't supposed to carry a load without the paperwork for it. I messaged in to our crack team at HQ to let them know and to have the Bills faxed to the last consignee.

Now, we were told by someone at the consignee that they would take the load today if I arrived no later than 1530. I got there 45 minutes early only to be told they hadn't received the fax yet and it had to arrive in the next 15 minutes or they would make us wait until tomorrow to unload. I quickly phoned our folks and they made sure the fax was coming.

At the last minute, the office guy I'm sitting with gets up and retrieves the fax. He calls over to whoever he speaks with on their docks about the order and after several minutes of consultation I'm told that the order was originally supposed to deliver yesterday and since no one rescheduled it they wouldn't take it until the morning. This is, of course, complete horse hockey since the delay in question was because Swift was late with the paperwork by a day.

I'm invited to return at 0800 tomorrow morning, which nearly distracts me from finishing my voodoo doll that looks like the office worker. Several truckstops are a few miles away and I motor over to one and park it for the night.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Waste of a day

The unload at the Wal-Mart DC took a few hours but that wasn't unexpected, and I got the trip I was expecting out of Colorado: head a few miles up the road to the Fort Collins Budweiser plant and take a load heading to Grand Island, Nebraska for the following day.

I brought my empty trailer to the facility, dropped it and got weighed bobtail, then went back in to the trailer lot and rummaged around for the one I was looking for. There were probably 300-400 trailers there and mine was one of the very few on the back portion of the lot away from the main bunch.

The trailer itself was old. As in, doesn't even have an air suspension. Everything seemed okay with it after I hooked up and inspected it, so I went to move the trailer tandems forward from their back position and couldn't. The pin release lever itself worked and the pins kinda sorta moved back off the track but not far enough for them to disengage. Plus, the parking brake s-cam was so wimpy it wouldn't hold the trailer very well. I played with it for several hours (!) before giving up.

Our crack team at HQ decides that I'll do another run instead: head over to nearby Greeley, Colorado and make two pick-ups then head down to Texas and make two drops. I'm first sent over to the south side of Greeley but when I arrive the plant in question is locked tight, shut down for Labor Day and our trailer is nowhere to be found.

I decide it is time to issue some over-the-phone smackdown to the weekend staff, but when I call a familiar voice comes on the line.

"Luuuuke. I... am... your... father."

"Noooooooooo!" I sob.

My old dispatcher Ross is back, and now working nights and weekends.

I ask what is the deal with the trailer and he promises to get back with me via my satellite unit after he gets it sorted out.

After more than an hour, I'm sent directions to the second stop in Greeley which I don't need because I was there before for a very long time. Yes, that same damned Swift meatpacking plant.

Apparently, someone had already moved the trailer over from the first stop in Greeley to the Swift plant and hadn't mentioned it to the driver. Since my divining ability was on hold out of respect for Labor Day, it never occurred to me.

So, I bobtail over to the Swift plant and as I'm heading into the parking lot I see the trailer number that I was looking for at the other place. Great, already loaded. There's no stopping me now!

I chat with the guards. I sign in. They have me pull the trailer up. They do their walk around with the paperwork and seals in hand...

Oh, wait. The trailer number doesn't match the paperwork. I am pulling trailer 579144 and the paperwork has it down as 57914. Yes, some dodo dropped the last digit. That won't do, I'm told.

I suggest penciling it in. Heck, use pen if you like. I mean, who gives two craps about the number on the outside of the trailer? Particularly if the shipper seals said container with their own seals before it departs the premises.

But nooooo, this is not the way things are done. So I'm told to wait in my truck which is at the exit of the lot. The nose of my tractor is almost to the street. I sit. And wait.

Eventually I get tired of waiting so I go back to the guards to find out what is up. Well, it turns out that since it is Labor Day the data entry people are enjoying themselves at home and the (alleged) supervisor is unable to rouse any of them to come in and fix their mistake. No paperwork, no load, me no move.

Since they don't come back in until 0600 tomorrow, I back the trailer up to a convenient parking spot, drop it and head down the street to the small mini-mart that I got used to the last time I was there.

The bottom line is, I spent almost all day running around, grabbing trailers, messaging HQ, burning fuel, and actually doing nothing constructive. Such is trucking sometimes.