Saturday, May 30, 2009

... and ugly weekend loads (see title of last post)

It took a while this morning but eventually the weekend crew gave me what looked like a fine run: a 450ish mile deadhead (!) from Denver to Seward, Nebraska to pick up a load of auto parts heading to Kansas City. It wasn't scheduled to deliver until Monday at 1300, but the proper pronouncements were made about t-calling at our KC yard and I was contemplating running the entire 670 miles today if everything worked out right.

It didn't.

This is a brokered load so I had to call them and get the load number and other details. As part of that I gave them my name, truck number and cell phone number then went about my business, driving the long deadhead to the shipper.

An hour or so later, the bad news: the shipper shuts down at 1400 on Saturdays and I can't get there until about 1800. Neither can the other three or four Hill Bros trucks also coming from Denver to pick up these loads. On the plus side, someone promised to be at the shipper on Sunday at 1500 to load trucks so we can still deliver on time Monday.

Of course, this means that I will have spent all of Saturday and Sunday running 670 miles; not a good showing.

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Only two things come out of Colorado (for us): Steers and... beers

No preplan showed up Thursday, but my phone was ringing off the hook Friday morning from around 0300. A pity I didn't hear it since my iPhone was out of juice.

The caller was my old dispatcher, Ross, who now does some evening and night dispatch work for the company. He was looking for someone to repower a load from our yard out to Chicago for the morning and thought of me. Brings a tear to my eye.

Once I awoke and realized my phone was dead I started it on the charger, and realized I had missed some calls and had some voicemail. Just as I was listening to those, Ross calls again and I agree to take the load even though it was supposed to deliver in Chicago 30 minutes ago.

By the time I steer my truck from the Sapp Bros truck stop on the west side of town to our yard it gets called off: by the time I get there they will be closed, for the weekend no less. A different short repower is briefly considered and rejected, mostly because my miles this week kind of suck.

The long wait begins.

It is after 1000 when I get beeped to repower yet another load, this one heading to the Denver area for FedEx. I'm told the load won't be on the yard for a few hours so make plans to head to a nearby WalMart and stock up, but then I pinged My Overlords and it turns out the trailer has just now arrived. Grab paperwork, hook up and inspect rig, get fueled up, get logbook straightened out, get on road. The usual drill.

It is only 530 miles and I have until midnight, so there isn't a huge rush. I manage to stop in Lexington, Nebraska at My Favorite WalMart (lots of truck parking!) and spend $40 on food, which is unusual. Normally 30-40 bucks will handle most of a week for me and I didn't think I was getting that much. I did get more snacks than normal and those things are a bit more expensive, it seems.

Anyway, a few hours west of Lexington is Big Springs, Nebraska and the wonderful Sam Bass Saloon. I love their steaks and fantastic steak fries, and the bread... mmmm, to die for.

Three hours further gets me to Henderson, Colorado where I drop off at the FedEx facility, then a few miles further to our dropyard where I parked for the night. Not a bad day's drive, and the load was light.

Most of our loads heading out of Colorado are either meat or beer (or beer can) loads, with the occasional bunch of spuds thrown in. I grabbed a van instead of a reefer so hopefully I won't have to deal with the congenital screwups at the Swift Greeley plant again.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

(Short) Mission Accomplished

I took my ten after getting loaded in Hutchinson, Kansas then drove north to Lincoln, Nebraska for the first drop. What should have been an easy trip turned out to be difficult when the road towards my destination was closed to trucks. This meant heading a dozen miles around to the northeast side of Lincoln then south ten miles on a feeder road then a few other detours to finally make it back to where I was supposed to be.

The Lowes staff took care of the unloading at a respectable pace and I drove northeast to Omaha for the final drop.

Now, the address I got over the satellite sent me to a large bakery building with absolutely jacked-up docks -- so bad you had to use a narrow 2-lane street up front to back into the parking lot then back about 200 feet to the docks. Just as I was maneuvering to make this happen a rather portly baker fellow ran out with the paperwork and told me they needed this salt at their other warehouse, about a half mile away. By this point my rig was jackknifed in their driveway and a dozen or so cars were watching my mad backing skillz. Gee, thanks mister, would have been so nice to hear this when I gave you the paperwork in the first place.

Minutes later I'm at the other warehouse and on the bitch end of a verbal bitch slapping because our people at HQ don't ever call to let these people know loads are showing up. I explain I'm just the driver, I've sent in an update via the satellite, WTF do you want from me, etc. Finally the guy lets it go and I'm free at last, free at last!

I'm also bushed since I had to get up very early to make it to my first drop on time. Coincidentally, the Lowes people couldn't have cared less when I showed up from 0700 to 1600, but that is part of the life of being a driver sometimes.

There isn't much going on for us in Omaha so I take the rest of the day off, hoping my dispatcher will get me preplanned on a nice load for Friday.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Two In One

I realized today wasn't going to be a good driving day by 0900 or so. I was listed as being ready for a trip as of 0400 but basically, if you don't have a preplan on you the night before then you'll be waiting until the planners get up to speed the following morning.

Eventually the details came over the satellite: a 172-mile trip from Kansas City, Missouri to Salina, Kansas. I told my dispatcher it was kind of like french kissing one's sister (ewww) and he helpfully pointed out that that is what makes for close families the trailer was preloaded and it was a drop and hook.

Despite my misgivings I took the trip, grabbed the trailer and headed off. It was missing the cover over the electrical junction box where the power line comes from the tractor, but nothing a couple twisty ties weren't up to. Surprisingly versatile little buggers, those.

After I dropped, the other shoe did as well: travel to nearby Hutchinson, Kansas and pick up a (heavy) load of salt going to Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska for first thing tomorrow morning. Two piddly short runs and heavy loads to deal with. At least the trailer I picked up in Salina was in good order.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Kansas City

Nothing too terribly exciting to report about this trip. It was cloudy and rainy almost the entire way from Denver to KC, and quite windy the first half of the trip.

I stopped in Colby, Kansas to fuel, eat, get a shower and suchlike. The card reader on the pump decided to take the morning off so I had to go inside and reel off all the numbers and codes and such to the attendant to get authorization.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Denver, and rain

Made it up to the Denver area without much trouble this afternoon. I thought there would be more traffic on the drive this weekend, but aside from a few slow spots there really wasn't much to write home about. I assume people are perfecting the 'staycation'.

My first drop was in Parker, Colorado on the southeast side of Denver. I only had four pallets going there and the manager was kind enough to take them off my hands. This let me move on to my second stop in Arvada, Colorado on the northwest side of Denver to park overnight for my 0500 live unload of seven more pallets. The final 16 pallets are heading south almost 120 miles to Pueblo. Why they were loaded like this I have no clue, I just drive a truck and don't get paid enough to drive and think.

While I was at my first stop another Hill Bros truck pulled up. Turns out the lady driver had a full load for just that store, to be unloaded in the morning. She is also preplanned to the same place in Windsor, Colorado I'm heading to, and we're both going to Kansas City on Tuesday.

Lots and lots of rain this trip, unusual for New Mexico in particular. I got some video of a very dark set of clouds as I was coming into Denver and earlier I saw dozens of hot-air balloons lifting off from Albuquerque and letting the wind push them east.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Albuquerque, ah Albuquerque

Yesterday I departed Albuquerque on my way to Phoenix and today I departed Phoenix on my way to Albuquerque. It is about 465 miles each way, so a nice easy 8-hour day, minus the part in the hills between Phoenix and Flagstaff.

This particular PetSmart load has three stops. The first one has only four pallets, so I'm going to try to get them to offload them tomorrow afternoon so I can head to my second stop, set for Monday morning. Yeah, I know, the holiday.

Our crack administrative staff back at HQ set me up with a load picking up Monday afternoon. It is the same Windsor, Colorado to Kansas City, Missouri run I did the last time I was through here. It is a nice light load and 619 paid miles on a fairly straight path once you get through Denver so I won't complain loudly.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Almost screwed

I noticed a shiny round object about the size of a dime on my left steer tire, and it turned out to be an inch-long screw. It was right up on the edge of the tire and went in vertically so all it hit was rubber, thank goodness. A little to the inside and it would have popped, a little diagonal in the sidewall and it would have been a set of new steer tires. Whew.

The planners got me a load down to Phoenix that delivers anytime Friday. This normally means that a) I will take a PetSmart load up towards Denver, and b) the rest of Friday will be wasted, due to a Saturday pickup. Late this afternoon my suspicions were proven on both counts.

It has been very windy on the way from Omaha to Albuquerque, New Mexico where I decided to stop tonight. My original plan was to push on to Jamestown or Gallup to give myself more available time tomorrow once I get to Phoenix, but now that doesn't matter since I can't pick up the next load until Saturday. They will get their 36,000 pounds of dog chow when I decide to show up, so nya.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I won't take that load! I won't! ... Okay, I'll take it

Last Friday before I went home the planners at HQ gave me a preplan to take a load from the Springfield underground for Buske to Omaha, Nebraska on Monday. I immediately messaged back to decline the load unless they would allow me to drop off the trailer when I went home and picked it up on Monday. They wouldn't allow that, so I turned it down.

Monday rolls around and I call my dispatcher to see if he has a different load. "It still shows you on that load from last week," he said. I gave him the short rundown and was told that he'd find me something else for the following day.

Tuesday rolls around and it turns out the choices are that load, which simply wasn't picked up the previous day, or to wait all day then run a load overnight down to Amarillo for 0600 delivery Wednesday morning. Comparing various amounts of suckitude, I eventually gave in and took the trip up to Omaha.

The reason I dislike this particular load so much is that I don't get paid detention for the time spent waiting on Buske to get their act together. Twice before I arrived between 0600 and 0700 for an 0730 appointment only to find out they don't have appointments and because they give our planners a window of (say) 0730 to 1400, they aren't considered late until two hours after the end of that window, no matter what time I show up.

In short, I usually wait six hours to get loaded then drive six hours to the destination and this annoys the crap out of me, honestly.

I didn't make any special effort to arrive early and showed up at the site around 0945. There were a long line of trucks waiting to get in and by about 1030 I was parked and checked in. Something really had a burr under their saddles, as it was no later than noon when I was given a door to load out of and by 1315 or so the trailer was full and I was on my way.

Another thing that grates on my nerves is sitting in traffic jams. I was about three hours from the north side of Kansas City so I wasted no time and skipped lunch to get ahead of the traffic. It was busy but still moving and as I was leaving town the crest of a wave of traffic was forming behind me.

If my day ended another three hours later when I arrived in Omaha that would have been great. This being trucking, it wasn't the case.

First, the Pepsi folks receiving the load told me to drop off the trailer at our yard as they were getting full and expecting more product. Not unprecedented, but it is annoying to get into and out of their property due to the way the streets are designed.

Second, my APU wasn't cooling so I had to go to the shop after dropping the trailer and finishing up the paperwork to get them to call over to ThermoKing to see if they could fix it tonight. They said sure and I bobtailed over.

Three hours later the problem is found (my aftermarket chainbox had moved slightly forward, causing the leading edge to rub against the line carrying Freon for the condenser), I'm tired and I have something else to get fixed.

Just before going to bed I notice my left steer has caught a nail or a screw as well. Will worry about all of that stuff tomorrow.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Three for the road

Here is a picture from a few days ago showing a train entirely made up of engines. Must be fun to run with all that power and no extra cargo slowing things down.

Yep, crossed it twice earlier this week.

I went straight through the US of A last week when I went to Holcomb, Kansas.

Windy day

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This entire week has been very windy and today was no exception. For some reason the winds were out of the south instead of the west so me and my lightly-loaded trailer were blown around pretty good. Fuel economy wasn't the greatest, either.

The actual route itself was easy after leaving the greater Denver area and I stopped a few times to nap, fuel the truck and eat.

I had been to this particular consignee before so getting there and checking in wasn't a problem. After a few hours the cans had departed my trailer into their warehouse, and the planners have me a load tomorrow down to Carthage, Missouri then to the house for some time off over the weekend.

You Are Under Observation

Snowie likes to peer down from her perch on the overhead console as well as sun bathing there.

She is quite the little navigator as well.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Oh, for an undamaged trailer

I was warned if I did not show up on time at the beverage distributor in Aurora, Colorado there might be a long wait for unload. Damn their honesty, it was a 5-hour wait for unloading.

The plywood front bulkhead of this particular trailer had a few holes punched into it along the floor from overeager forklift operators. My next load was to pick up from a company in Windsor, Colorado that I've been to before and I know they are very, very picky about the trailers used to haul their product. Thus, the search for an undamaged trailer was underway.

I was ordered to drop my current trailer at our yard in Commerce City then head about a mile away to the Estes yard for a van trailer. No joy, nothing there. Then the orders came to head over to the Watkins yard in Henderson to check there. The only empty van trailer was worse than the one I had just dropped, and dirty besides. I did note one slightly newer van of ours still on their crossdock so I went inside and pestered the operations folks. They checked and it turned out to be empty so I took it. It was dirty and there were some holes in that bulkhead as well, but it wasn't as bad as the first one.

I shot up I-25 to Windsor and checked in. After some energetic sweeping it passed muster and the loading began.

Now the trailer is full with over 220,000 (not a misprint) empty aluminum cans for various beverages that I'm hauling to Kansas City tomorrow. But for now, it is lights out for me.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Today, my 800th blog post along this journey in trucking.

I was thinking recently how hard it was keeping up daily blog updates when I realized how hard I've been running this week. My average weekly miles hovers around 2,500 and I've run that many miles in the past four days to and from California.

Two days ago I did finish my trip out to California down Donner, which wasn't too bad when there is only 25,000 pounds of freight in the trailer. Yesterday, I swapped my loaded trailer for an empty and ran out to Menlo Park, California to pick up 43,000 pounds of alcoholic beverages from Diageo heading to Aurora, Colorado. The truck struggled up from the coast to Sacramento then up the long, long slog of Donner. Much more difficult with a full load on board.

I ended the night in Winnemucca, Nevada after first trying to fuel in Fernley, Nevada. The Pilot there was out of fuel and half of their pumps were closed for remodeling anyway. Even though I was running very low on fuel I had to head back out to the freeway and keep on going. Several hours later a newish Pilot in Winnemucca presented itself and I spent the night there after filling up.

Yesterday was a bit breezy and today was gale-force gusts up to 50 MPH (mostly) behind me. There are some twists and turns heading east on I-80 and the truck shuddered convincingly whenever the wind hit broadside.

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Tonight I ended up in Rawlins, Wyoming, leaving 240 miles or so for tomorrow. I very rarely miss appointment times on loads but this will be one case where I will show up an hour or two late. I already let my dispatcher and the broker for the load know, and I was told they do accept loads up to noon so I should still be able to get unloaded.

Saw something new today: a train composed entirely of 13 engines, nothing else.

Oh, last week my driver's seat developed an air leak that the shop fixed when I was there. Today, the passenger seat developed a similar leak. Poor design on the manufacturer's part. Some electrical tape made an effective short-term fix.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Go West, WAYYYY West

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Yesterday morning my dispatcher hooked me up with a load out to central California. It has been months since I've been that far west so this is a nice change of pace.

I sat in on the weekly safety meeting and got caught up on Hours of Service, logging, CSA 2010 and other fun stuff. Oh, and the free pizza didn't hurt.

The trailer for the load was already at the yard and ready to go so I hooked up, pre-tripped and grabbed the bills from dispatch. My dispatcher told me it was 15,000 pounds which would be a great weight to take over Donner but it turns out he must be needing a new eyeglass prescription since the weight was 25,000. Still, better than most of our loads that are 40,000 plus.

Before I even left he bounced a pre-plan off me to pick up Monday after I drop in Cali. It is a two-day 1,300 mile trip back to Colorado with 22 tons of alcohol on board. The pay and rapidity of the trip are nice, but the thought of hauling a max weight load up Donner AND Vail AND Eisenhower with my wimpy engine gives me pause.

Yesterday I finished in Big Springs, Nebraska at the Pilot there. Had dinner at the excellent steak house then hit the sack. Today was one of the longest single-day drives I've ever logged, 704 miles from there to Wendover, Nevada. Tomorrow will be another long slog, just over 600 miles with the last third or so in California as I come down Donner. The following two days will be similarly busy getting that other load back out to Colorado.

UPDATE: I finally punched in that next trip into Google Maps and I won't be going over Vail and Eisenhower after all! Schweet!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Omaha, the shop and the hotel

Short run up to Omaha ended with a bit of trouble finding the receiving docks for Nebraska Furniture Mart, but that eventually sorted itself out. I gave a list of things to be looked over or fixed at our company shop and was told it would be a few hours, probably in the afternoon. No big deal, I was planning on taking the night off anyway.

Drove over to the local Choice hotel we use to check in. Plopped the cat, some clothes, a laptop and her stuff (catbox, food dish, etc.) into a nice room then went back over to the yard. A mechanic came out to the truck a while later as I was organizing stuff and told me which bay to park in.

The air leak turned out to be easy enough to fix. One of the numerous air lines in my seat was twistie-tied to the metal frame and eventually the bumping and shaking that goes on rubbed away enough of the line for air to start leaking out. It was the only one of perhaps six or seven air lines done up that way which makes me wonder why they bothered tying it off in the first place.

I got back on the board late in the afternoon but there wasn't anything heading out first thing in the morning. Thus, I got to sleep in at the hotel.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The rest of the day

I blogged my last post early yesterday morning, which was pretty much wasted by the planners at HQ. It was late morning before I got orders to head some 300 miles northwest to tiny Holcomb, Kansas for a load of meat going from a Tyson slaughterhouse to their processing plant in Emporia, Kansas. Yes, the same place (and the same cargo) I would have hauled the previous day had my hours not run out.

Three hundred miles over state highways is tiring, probably at least as much as 600 miles along the interstate. Many places with just one lane each way and little or no shoulder. Scattered rain showers didn't help much, and the wipers got a workout. Can you believe I'm still on my original set of wipers 11 months into my lease? They aren't in great shape but they do the job for now.

Arrived at the plant, got the trailer washed out then dropped it and bobtailed out front for the night. The load wouldn't be ready until 0430 this morning so I plugged away for a while on the computer, got caught up on the Daily Show and Colbert Report and suchlike.

Picked up the new, loaded trailer this morning and ran along US 50 most of the way to Emporia. Unfortunately, I found out that a 20-mile stretch between Newton and Hwy 77 was closed and I somehow managed to get through to the road itself from a different direction and ran it, right up to the point the state police officer and the barricades stopped my forward progress. He was puzzled how I got to be there (thanks GPS) and I was puzzled why he was there if he had reason to be puzzled how I got there. Puzzled yet?

It ended up that I had to turn around and eat 40 miles of out-of-route back to Kansas 15 then north to Hwy 56 then back east. I had some extra time on the delivery so I wasn't late, just perturbed by the money I just lost doing all that backtracking.

Oh, another first for me: I thought I heard a little hiss last night before I went to bed and this morning I found it. My driver's seat has developed an air leak so at first when I sat down this morning it was like I was in a low rider. Nothing against my Hispanic brothers, but it just looks retarded to me.

My dispatcher duly notified, it took only one load rejection after Emporia to get me something heading up to Omaha. I'm running a load from the Nebraska Furniture Mart in Kansas City and delivering it to the branch in Omaha tomorrow morning, after which it will be shop time for the truck.

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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Round trip

It took a few hours for my dispatcher to line me up with a load. The plan had me heading west about 250 miles to a Tyson plant in Amarillo, Texas to pick up a load of meat heading to a Tyson plant in Emporia, Kansas. Unfortunately, it had to be there in just 20 hours and the total distance was 730ish miles, and the load wouldn't even be ready until late afternoon.

After a bit of juggling I was sent out to pick up the load as the planners arranged a t-call. That wasn't ready by the time I arrived at the shipper, got the trailer washed out then dropped it on their yard.

The ready time came and went, but I did get instructions to take the loaded trailer back the way I came to Oklahoma City and pass it off to another driver who would see it to its destination.

Time kept ticking away until just after 8 PM when I cleared the gate and headed east.

I hadn't paid much attention on the way in from OKC and figured I would scale at the first truck stop I ran across. Since the Tyson plant is about seven miles northeast of Amarillo from the closest truck stop there, I just kept going east. And going. And going.

Dummy me, it turns out there are no scales heading east until after you cross into Oklahoma! Luckily, the weigh stations were closed along the way and I finally got that taken care of.

Got into OKC just after midnight only to find I-44 in midtown shut down so that required a bit of rejiggering along side streets. The other truck was at the J on the east end of town and the driver had even saved me a spot, as he was on his break and wasn't leaving immediately.


I didn't think much of it at the time, but the empty trailer I picked up in Oklahoma City had two large Styrofoam barriers left in the back from the previous load. This is fairly unusual -- its only the second time this has happened to me.

The next morning as I was getting up I noticed a homeless guy wandering about. He was being smart about it, waiting to see drivers get up and start their day before coming by to ask for work or money. He asked me if I needed my chrome polished or windows cleaned and I said no, and he hustled away down the line of trucks looking for his next pitch.

Suddenly, I remembered the Styrofoam barriers in back.

On his next lap around the parking lot I asked if he would dispose of them properly in dumpsters a few hundred feet away in exchange for a couple bucks. This was amenable to him and soon the trailer was empty and he had some pocket change.

Odd how these things work out sometimes.

Sunday, May 3, 2009


The trip down to OKC was easy, in part due to the 9,500 pound load that made climbing hills a breeze and in part the two days allotted to finish the 850ish mile trip.

I awoke around 0230 on Saturday morning and couldn't get back to sleep so I took advantage of my insomnia to head south, putting Chicago behind me. A few hours later I stopped for a nap then continued through the rest of Illinois and into Missouri where I stopped in Springfield to see the relations.

The rest of the journey took place today and the consignee let me exchange my loaded trailer for an empty that I took over to the nearest truck stop for the night.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Where oh where have I been?

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Let's see. Starting in Kansas City (A), I was given a load down to Russellville, Arkansas (B), then the following day a load up to Omaha, Nebraska (C). The next morning I unloaded there then ran over to nearby Schuyler, Nebraska (D) to grab a load bound for Milwaukee, Wisconsin (E).

Makes me tired again just listing the trips!

After all of that I was directed about ten miles south of Milwaukee to Oak Creek, Wisconsin to grab a load of garlic bread (and other goodies) heading to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Only, our system had the load heading to Kansas City and I had to message in to confirm... turns out OKC is the winner this time.

Anyway, loaded this afternoon and since it is Friday I think I'll pass on the hell of the Chicago traffic. I have a 2300 Sunday appointment which I can make easily starting out tomorrow morning.