Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Over the rockies

My load being as light as it was I decided to take the shortest route back east, over the Rockies. Due to the vagaries of Hours of Service rules I could only drive about four hours on Tuesday, so I ended up at Green River, UT and spent the day being bored.

View Larger Map

This morning I left early and drove and drove and drove until I arrived in North Platte, Nebraska. Since this load has to be in Omaha tomorrow morning by 0700, the alarm is set for 0100 and I'm off to bed.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Trailer snatch and grab

I got unloaded between 0300 and 0400 this morning (Pacific time) in Victorville, California. Surprisingly, when I put in my empty call I was immediately sent a preplan for a load from our terminal in Santa Fe Springs, California to Omaha, Nebraska. Oh hell yeah I'll take that.

A nearby Pilot truck stop served as a staging point for me to get some paperwork done and sent in, get breakfast and take a shower. Once traffic died down a bit in the Los Angeles basin I headed down there and did a trailer snatch and grab switcheroo with my empty staying and a new fully loaded trailer coming with me. With cargo that only weighs about 24,000 pounds I didn't need to scale and could run the tandems as far forward as possible for maneuverability.

My fuel stop was back in Vegas and I was there around 1700 local time so there was some traffic to deal with. For the first time ever the actual fueling went quickly with no line of trucks to worry about and I was back on the road in under ten minutes.

Tonight I ended up in Cedar City, Utah. My logbook is real thin for tomorrow (just 3.75 hours to run) so I'll probably not even make it out of the state before the federal regulations will tell me I'm tired and have to pull over until midnight.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Amulets of Protection

The trip out to Victorville, California was mostly boring. For a bit of spice I decided to take I-80 out to Utah then turn south on I-15, rather than I-76 to Denver then on to I-70 (and over the Rockies). This added about fifty miles of Out of Route to the trip but the mountains my poor engine had to climb weren't as steep or high.

Last night I stopped in Provo, Utah and this morning I set out first to Las Vegas, Nevada to fuel up then on to Victorville.

Little did I know that a gigantic traffic snarl awaited me from the south side of Vegas for almost 100 miles. I kid you not, bumper-to-bumper traffic for hours and hours and hours. I never saw any wrecks or police presence so I don't know what the problem was, other than the sheer quantity of traffic heading out of Vegas.

I stopped at the last rest area before Barstow and took care of business. I noticed some Native Americans selling jewelry and out of boredom induced by four hours of my life just being squandered in a long traffic jam, I studied their wares. An assortment of styles, colors, stones stared back.

Now, anyone who knows me knows that I'm not a jewelry person. I don't own any rings, necklaces or any other jewelry. For some reason, I took stock of what they had and decided on a hematite necklace with an azureite arrowhead. The arrowhead is the symbol of protection in this culture, though I purchased it more for its artistic look rather than its protective aura.

I didn't even try it on at the dealer, instead I pocketed it and walked back to the truck. Didn't put it on then, either -- I stuck it in one of the cup holders. Then, about ten minutes later while I'm driving in heavy traffic I get the impulse to put it on right then, and I did so even though this meant undoing the clasp and redoing it behind my neck.

As I mentioned, I'm not a jewelry wearer. I've never had a necklace, or any Native American jewelry for that matter. Still, it felt kind of... neat wearing it and I drove on towards Victorville.

The last time I delivered at this consignee I went to the south side of Victorville and backtracked a bit. On a whim, I decided to follow the GPS instructions which brought me down from the north side of town. As soon as I turned off the freeway I realized this may get interesting.

The road in question wasn't lit and there were stop signs instead of stoplights. Narrow and twisty as well. Still, I followed my GPS helper along and it did seem to be getting me to my destination by a shorter if not speedier route than I used previously.

Then it tells me to take a left turn and it is over a narrow bridge with a stop sign out in the street for traffic coming the other direction. I have a bit too much velocity on me as I enter the turn so I have to scrub some of that off by braking hard and turning left as rapidly as possible. This is definitely not a turn that I would want to make at any time and I barely missed the stop sign and the guard rail to my right as I straighten out.

My amulet seems to work.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Carpet delivery and a Dingleberry

That load of carpet I picked up in Calhoun, Georgia had three stops. Two in Des Moines, Iowa and the final one just a few blocks away from our HQ in Omaha, Nebraska. I arrived Thursday at the first delivery spot, set for 0400 the following morning.

Naturally, a worker banged on my door at 0230 in the morning and told me which dock to stick the trailer in. He was only grabbing a few rolls of carpet and one pallet so it didn't take long before I got everything buttoned up and departed for the other side of town to await my 0600 appointment.

0600 rolls around and the new consignee is still closed, the gate chained and padlocked. By 0615 I'm getting a bit concerned so I dial the number given to me via my satellite unit and I reach an answering machine. I also notify dispatch via satellite and they try calling and get the same result.

After a variety of hijinx 0700 rolls around and this place opens. They have been opening at 0700 for the past year, I'm told emphatically, and they have no idea why our trucks keep getting sent for 0600 appointments with them. I'm in agreement and make a note for dispatch.

By 0800 or so another small portion of my cargo is gone and I'm on the road to Omaha. Now, it will take at least 2.5 hours to reach the next consignee and since that appointment is two hours away (1000 hours) I send in an updated ETA macro and indicate I'll be about 30 minutes late on the last drop.

Soon, a message comes back to me berating my lack of foresight in updating my ETA. Now, realize that if the 0600 appointment was a valid appointment (which it wasn't) then I would have had an extra hour or so and would probably have made the final 1000 appointment.

I send in something to the effect of:

"Tell the Dingleberry who sent that last bon mot that if they could get me valid appointments I could make deliveries on schedule."

The message itself was longer, but that was the gist. A short time later, a dull reply comes back with a veiled threat of getting fewer miles if I don't keep my ETA updated regularly with that macro. I send off another witty riposte and my new dispatcher eventually calls a truce.

It turns out the Dingleberry in question is my old dispatcher Cory.

Anyhow, put my truck in the shop for some routine maintenance and had a face-to-face meet with the new dispatcher. Hopefully that is settled now.

Got a new load while truck was in the shop: pick up a preloaded trailer across the river in Council Bluffs, Iowa and unload at 0330 Monday morning in Victorville, California. An excellent 1,450ish mile weekend.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Foiled again

The trip out from Russellville, Arkansas to Atlanta, Georgia was ordinary in all respects until I neared the destination. I had been listening to traffic and weather updates via my XM radio for about half the trip, hoping that I-20 would be open by the time I arrived in late afternoon. Even a single bridge across the raging Chattahoochee river would have done, but alas, I was out of luck. Calls to Georgia's 511 travel service confirmed that I would have to make an enormous end around to the north or south to avoid the flooding and I didn't have enough hours left to accomplish that.

I stopped for the night in Villa Rica, Georgia, less than twenty miles to the consignee. This morning I got up at 0400 just to check 511 and I-20 was still blocked. Went back to bed for a couple hours then checked again around 0600. Still blocked. Crap. I waited a few more hours then reluctantly charted a course southward around the blockage.

Two hours of stop-and-go traffic later I arrive at the consignee after having driven under electronic billboards announcing I-20 was now open. I really must find a solution to my teeth grinding problem.

Then the new wrinkle: dispatch beeps me and tells me that another driver needs an empty reefer from AmeriCold so once I drop off my full one, grab an empty and swap with him (he has a regular van trailer). Since my next preplan is for a load of carpet out of Calhoun, Georgia, everyone would have ended up with the right kind of trailer. Only, when I arrived it was revealed that the only Hill Bros trailer of any kind at AmeriCold was the one that I brought, and it wouldn't be unloaded until 2330 tonight. Amazingly, even after telling dispatch this they insisted I look again to see if there weren't these two other trailers there after all. I contemplated sending them a message indicating that I found two magic trailers and everything was spiffy (to be followed by a "PSYCHE!" message a minute later) but thought better of it.

So I ended up with the empty van trailer and the other driver went bobtail, and I hightailed it north to Calhoun to wait for my load of carpet to be loaded.

Monday, September 21, 2009

A new dispatcher and his first turndown... on day one

So the last load I got went through the house, ending with a delivery first thing Monday morning. It was a bit far to do it then, so I left Sunday afternoon after finishing my 34 and arrived in the evening. The first time I arrived they kindly mentioned that the reefer wasn't 3/4ths full, so I had to head back to the Pilot and take care of that, then arrive a second time. I'll get that done correctly the first time one of these days.

Come Monday morning and nothing happens for a few hours. Eventually I get a *BEEP* from the satellite unit and it is the first dispatch from my new dispatcher (see here for backstory). A load that doesn't pick up until 1930 that night in Green Forest, Arkansas and delivers first thing in the morning up in Missouri.

Now I went to Green Forest, Arkansas once and never... ever... again. Coming from Russellville, Arkansas you go like this:

View Larger Map

I call your attention to that squiggly line heading roughly northward. That is Arkansas Highway 7, a "scenic" route. This translates into a 55 MPH two-lane road with no shoulder with turns so tight there are 15 MPH blind corners and a lot (and I mean A LOT) of hills to climb and descend. Great views, true, but no place to take a big rig.

Accompanying the dispatch was a short note telling me that was the best they had. In this case, their best just wasn't good enough and I had to kick back the first load he ever offered me. Ah well, one to grow on (he looks fairly young).

Later in the day I get a fresh dispatch: grab a loaded trailer from the same ConAgra plant I delivered at yesterday and take it to Atlanta, Georgia. Hmmm, wasn't there something in the news about Atlanta recently?

Murky water swamps Georgia homes, roads

This should be interesting.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Short time at home

After attending the safety meeting on Friday I was given two trips to get me home. The first was picked up at the Tyson plant in Council Bluffs, Iowa and went down to Olathe, Kansas to a different Tyson plant. The second picked up in Independence, Missouri in the caves and delivers Monday morning in Russellville, Arkansas.

By the time I was able to deliver the first load and work out some problems with the second it was very late and I didn't arrive in Springfield until after midnight. I slept in my truck and went to the house Saturday morning.

Since the load that I'm under delivers tomorrow at 0730 I am just taking a quick 34-hour restart at the house then I'll deliver tonight and be ready to run first thing Monday morning.

View Larger Map

While at the house I got some furniture delivered, installed three blinds (including two motorized with remotes for the master bedroom!), put together a computer table and printer stand, then mowed the overgrown lawn. How relaxing.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

My first three-way -- and I think I like it!

Now don't get all up on your high horse until you finish the post, please.

Last week a driver from a message board I frequent emailed me to let me know he was attending orientation at Hill Bros this week and he put me down as a reference. Like many trucking companies, the company I drive for rewards current drivers when this happens. If he finishes orientation I get $500 and should he remain a driver for two months I'll get another $500.

On Wednesday I spoke with Jason in recruiting and he mentioned that there was that driver and a lady driver as well that mentioned me when they were recruited. "Oh realllly?" I breathed.

Then, after I arrived in Omaha and flipped on my computer I read a post on the same message board from one of the drivers in the orientation class who tells me there are THREE drivers in that orientation who have put me down as a reference.

Three referrals? It turns out there was a recruit who didn't know my details that had used that same message board to decide to come on board. He updated his application and cha-ching!

I'm happy to report that all three new drivers (Brad, Shirley and Andrew) finished orientation and next week's paycheck should be quite large.

(Next time we meet up I owe you a full-on trip over to Red Lobster, Shirley! Ditto for you two guys as well!)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A boring trip to Omaha and Robert DeNiro

It really did take until the next day to get my unloaded at that Kraft warehouse in Huntington, West Virginia. It also took a tight blindside back to get into the smallish parking lot and oriented towards their docks but that is par for the course sometimes.

On the way out of town I had a retarded guy steering a large tricycle (complete with basket on back) almost commit Suicide by Trucker by jumping out from behind a parked panel truck right into the lane I was using. Screeching to a halt, I was more than a little amused to see that this guy bore an incredible resemblance to the actor Robert DeNiro.

I boogied west to Louisville, Kentucky to pick up a load of Appliances from GE heading to Omaha then spent the night at a rest area in Indiana. Yesterday I drove the rest of the way up to Omaha only to find that Nebraska Furniture Mart didn't want those appliances until the very end of the delivery window, 0500 this morning. So mote it be.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Sometimes it is hard to know what to think

The folks at the Kraft DC in Morris, Illinois couldn't get my trailer loaded in less than five hours so by the time they were done and I was rolling it wasn't possible to finish the trip out to Huntington, West Virginia without a break. This meant the original 0900 delivery time went out the window and I notified dispatch that I would be arriving about 1500 instead.

My next calculation was to figure how far I would drive last tonight and how far I would drive today. Since I was taking the most direct route and there were more than 100 miles of narrow state highways to run from Cincinnati, Ohio to Huntington I pulled in the horns at Greensburg, Indiana and called it a night (at the last semi-legit parking spot at the Petro there).

This morning I arose to find yet another preplan, and it was a bit vexing: after I deliver my load in West Virginia, head back over to Trenton, Ohio and pick up a suspiciously light (11,000 pound) load of beer from the Miller plant there and take it to Joplin, Missouri for a Friday morning delivery. The better part of three days for roughly 800 miles. Bletch.

I'm not really looking forward to that when I roll into Huntington this afternoon and find the Kraft warehouse. As I'm parking the rig to use my satellite unit to tell HQ I'm there, a warehouse guy comes out and purposefully strides to my door. "Great," I think. He's going to get me in right away.

Um, nope. "You can't unload today. We closed at 3 PM." (some five minutes before my arrival). Oh, and: "I have an appointment at 0800 and 1200 tomorrow and you're late so you'll be a work-in. Don't know when you'll get a dock." Greatttttt.

On top of all of this my preplan was changed to a different one, now going to the GE hub in Louisville to pick up a load of appliances headed to Omaha, Nebraska. PLUS, a separate message telling me the trailer has to be clean and dry before I go to pick up the load.

To which I naturally reply: "I guess the pagan goat sacrifice / goat sashimi trailer ritual is out then?"

More news as it becomes available.

Lord of the Flies

Ten freaking hours wasted at the Cargil plant in Nebraska City, Nebraska. There were another handful of Hill Bros drivers being loaded delayed while I was waiting and no one was too happy about it. One driver was halfway through being loaded when the plant had him leave the dock, close up the trailer and park off to the side while they prepared the rest of his load. And here I thought Swift meat plants were bad.

Meanwhile my truck was assaulted by a crack battalion of flies. I literally could not open the door without some of them slipping inside, much to the delight of Snowie.

I finally left around 1830 hours for the seven hour trip out to Sterling, Illinois. The delivery time was scheduled at 0503 hours this morning and ordinarily when we see a time like that it means that the delivery is open... but not in this case. After a few hours my trailer was empty and I finished snoozing.

My next preplan arrived during the trip. After delivering in Sterling I was to head back to Aurora, Illinois to pick up another load heading to Kansas City. But by the time I finished my break in the late morning the preplan had gone away. After a short wait a new plan comes in: head over to Morris, Illinois and pick up a load heading to West Virginia.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Year Two, First Quarter Results (June 09 to September 09)

This post covers the first quarter of my second fiscal year as a lease-purchase operator at Hill Bros. I'm going to be comparing numbers from each quarter this year with the corresponding numbers from last year, with the previous year in parenthesis.

Paid miles for this quarter were the lowest yet, just 29,917 (33,898). With 32,090 (37,000) total miles driven, it comes to 7.26% (9.2%) Out-Of-Route miles which isn't bad.

Total fuel expense this quarter was 10,975 (22,533), FSC was 6,774 (18,587), leaving adjusted fuel cost of 4,201 (3,946). Holy crap look at those numbers! I had almost triple the FSC a year ago because fuel prices were so high.

My adjusted fuel expense per mile was 13.09 (10.66). In other words, that super high FSC helped me out by about 2.5 cents per mile last year compared to my most recent quarter.

Average paid miles per week was 2,301 (2,608), compared with 2,564 average miles per week across all of last year. July was a brutal month for miles this year.

Total revenue for this quarter was 34,879 (50,585), or 1.17 (1.49) per mile compared with last year's average of 1.26. The difference here, by far, was the difference in FSC.

Average gross revenue to the truck each week was 2,683 (3,891).

My net pay for the quarter was 14,644 (14,433), or 1,126 (1,110) per week.

Up until the last line you may have been thinking how dismal a quarter I had, but despite everything I still made more per week in net profit than I did in my first quarter last year. I did have some extra escrow payments deducted last year that I didn't have this year, but I'm also currently paying 10 CPM towards my maintenance escrow now that I was only paying 5 CPM then so it is something of a wash.

I'm glad that my OOR is below 8% again -- those miles really take a lot of money out of my pocket. I'm also glad that even though my average weekly miles dipped by about 250 over last year's average my weekly net income remained just 28 dollars off of last year's average.

My second quarter last year saw an increase of net weekly pay of 17 dollars over the first quarter. My goal for my next quarter is to increase my net weekly pay by 74 dollars, to 1,200 per week.

Net Pay By Week:

1: 1916
2: 769
3: 1811
4: 61
5: 985
6: 1475
7: 1201
8: 1425
9: 1105
10: 1344
11: 1303
12: 535
13: 714

Another day, another preplan... but no trailer

The food warehouse trailer lot in Kansas City was full way beyond overflowing... ordinarily we park loaded inbound trailers on row 4 or 5, with row 6 as an overflow. The yard driver saw me looking for a spot and saved me some time telling me to take it over to row 3 since every other spot was taken. He hadn't seen it that busy ever, including Thanksgiving. I'm guessing there were 150-180 loaded trailers in the lot, not counting the ones that drivers doing live unloads had on the other side of the building.

Hill Bros had six trailers on the lot including the one I brought but all of them were full. I had a new preplan but it requires a clean reefer and I got nada. Told dispatch I'd camp out until morning and take an empty if AWG managed to unload one.

No joy there: this morning all of our trailers were still there and still full. I drove over to Nebraska Furniture Mart on the west side of KC and found a single empty reefer so I grabbed it. It had quite a bit of debris on the floor but I stopped on the way to Nebraska City, Nebraska and swept it out (not an easy task in a reefer with a ridged metal floor).

Here I wait after having checked in at a Cargil meat plant. My preplan has me taking a load from here to the Walmart DC in Sterling, Illinois with (praise Jeebus) an open appointment at the other end.

I'm going pretty good on miles this week. After I deliver this tonight I should have about 2,500 miles and the cutoff isn't until Wednesday, so it could be 3,500-4,000 by then.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Another day, another preplan

The rest of the trip up to Rochelle, Illinois was uneventful and I swapped my full trailer with an empty. The next trip was already lined up: deadhead east about forty miles to Aurora, Illinois to take a load heading to Kansas City for delivery any time Saturday. I like it.

I checked in several hours early in Aurora to miss some of the Friday evening Chicago traffic and even with that extra time they still managed to take almost five hours to get me loaded. Since that was more than two hours after the appointment time I punched in the macro for some detention; maybe I'll see a buck or two in a few weeks.

The lazies kicked in on my way back west and I ended the day back in Rochelle.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Whoops, my bad

Russellville, Batesville, thisville, thatville. What is the difference?

I misread the communique from headquarters last night before I went to bed and thought my next load was coming from ConAgra in Russellville, Arkansas. Apparently, the computer lied to me or something because the load actually originated from Batesville, Arkansas, about 150 miles away. Whoops.

Dispatch was notified of my boo-boo and I motored as fast as I could to the real shipper. Upon arrival, the shipper dithered for four hours before finally getting their act together. I departed in a pouring rain to start four hours of driving along a series of crappy state highways in Arkansas and Missouri before reaching civilization.

I know that the consignee in Rochelle will let me drop and hook so there isn't any real hurry to get there. Because I didn't knock out the deadhead miles to Batesville yesterday I can't complete the entire trip, so I have to stop someplace along the way and Troy, Illinois won the mental battle.

Independence caves to Russellville, Arkansas

By the time I regained consciousness in the (late) morning a preplan had arrived: head over to nearby Independence, Missouri and grab a load of boxes for the folks at ConAgra in Russellville, Arkansas.

The loading itself was uneventful, though it was interesting to watch a newer driver trying to get backed into a nearby door in his first time "down below". Tried to help, but he wanted to do it his way. At least he didn't scrape anything.

Lots of rain heading south and I went slightly out-of-route to fuel in Joplin, Missouri. Quick quiz: the price of fuel in Joplin was 4 cents lower per gallon than anyplace else on my route. Was it a smart idea to drive 16 extra miles to get that fuel, assuming I needed 160 gallons? I'll answer this tomorrow if I remember.

Anyway, dropped the trailer in Russellville last night and I already have a preplan heading to Rochelle, Illinois for today. Seems like things are picking up.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Lumpers and TiHi's

My out-of-the-house load this time wasn't from Buske in Springfield, Missouri, but a refrigerated load from Baxter Springs, Kansas up to Kansas City. The load info said it didn't pick up until 2000 hours, but I got there around noon anyways and the lady at their office told me "Oh, we never get out of here that late."

Yeah, right. I finally get called back to the docks around 2300 and was loaded with a whopping three pallets and the wheels turning by 2345. The load was due at a food warehouse in Kansas City by 0230 and I barely made it on time.

We deliver plenty of loads to this particular place and the times I've been there before have all been drop and hooks, but not this time. Me and my three pallets of goods had to get in line, grab a door and do a live unload and this is where I made my mistake.

Mistake, you ask? I figured I would bypass the usual lumper routine and just scoot those three pallets on to the dock myself then turn and burn. Mistake.

It turns out there is this terminology in lumperdom called "TiHi". Basically, it means when you get a big pallet of different kinds of goods it has to be separated into individual pallets, and each of those pallets needs to be organized in a certain way. For instance, there might be a TiHi for a particular product of 24x4, meaning that you're supposed to put 24 boxes on a single level in a pallet and you can stack up to 4 levels high of that product before you need a new pallet.

Now, I was only dealing with three pallets of goods on my truck with a combined weight of just under a ton. How tough could this be?

After getting the paperwork from the receiving drone I was given the news: there were a dozen different items on those three pallets, meaning I would have to break it down to a dozen different pallets. This being a refrigerated load, I'm on a refrigerated dock in my shorts and t-shirt during this little adventure.

By the time I have everything sorted out (boxes kinda look like other boxes -- you have to read the labels and sort them into their own groups) stacked up and "TiHid" it is after 0400 and I'm pooped. The back aches and I'm sweaty, even though it is right at the freezing point where I'm working. Finally, everything gets tagged and signed off on and the paperwork completed, and I retreat to the truck... slowly.

Miracle of miracles, there is actually a parking spot that just opens up at the nearby small truck stop right as I drive in so I quickly park and toss my carcass into the bunk and go to sleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Some ridiculousness over the Labor Day weekend

The load of salt heading from Kansas to Nebraska went okay but by the time I arrived in Omaha it was late and I was tired, so I bobtailed to the local Sapp Bros truck stop and snoozed the night away.

Saturday morning rolls around and as soon as I was legally able I was rolling with the new load down to Carthage, Missouri.

Originally, the load was scheduled to deliver there at 1800 on Friday but I was still on the previous load at that time so that didn't happen. I did send in a message to HQ asking them to make sure they have taken care of a late delivery with AmeriCold and was told they would accept the load when I got it there.


Oh, they were happy to accept the load all right but not until I ponied up a $100 Comcheck for the late fee. Now, all our people had to do to avoid this charge was to pick up the phone the previous day and say "Hey, our guy is going to be late." That's it. Somehow this step got omitted. Ridiculous.

Anyway, after an extra 45 minutes of paperwork and time spent waiting for HQ to approve the Comcheck, I dropped my loaded trailer in a door in one of the underground tunnels and picked up an empty up top.

View Larger Map

I deadheaded home for the weekend where I and my checkbook (and my good friend Visa) romped across the greater Springfield area purchasing significant quantities of furniture. Places were just about giving away the stuff!

Friday, September 4, 2009

My least favorite part of trucking

Some days, my least favorite part of trucking is a tossup. Yesterday, for instance, it was between being delayed at a shipper from 0800 to 1845 (almost eleven hours) waiting on a load or having to still run said load into the wee hours of the morning to get it to its destination on time so I wouldn't be late.

Other things that bother me about this particular load include the realization that I probably won't be paid anything for my wait, and because it was so late it has subsequently jeopardized my weekend plans because I won't be home until Saturday now and there is something that I have to take care of Saturday morning that will impact my entire Labor Day weekend.

Today's satellite tweets from The Overlords include instructions to deadhead to Hutchinson, Kansas to pick up a load of salt heading to Omaha. Once there, drop that trailer at the consignee then head across the river to Council Bluffs, Iowa to pick up a loaded trailer headed to Carthage, Missouri. From where I am now is 741 miles, and even if I were able to run all those miles it would still leave me 50 miles from home.

Ah well, the paycheck will be nicer for it I suppose.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

700 miles

It is a long way from Green River, Utah to Kearney, Nebraska. Seven hundred long miles, in fact. I know, I drove them all today.

The Pilot in Denver was exactly halfway on my journey and I filled up the tanks there. A couple hundred miles or so down the road I stopped in Big Springs, Nebraska for a steak and some soup at the Sam Bass saloon; very good as always.

Already have a preplan for tomorrow: as soon as I drop off this load of clothes I head back east about 30 miles to the Tyson plant in Lexington. They have a loaded trailer ready now that is heading to Emporia, Kansas.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Dispatching the dispatcher

I've been through three regular dispatchers here at Hill Bros since I started: first was Ross who was quickly replaced by Cory. Then a month or so ago Cory moves over to planning and Bryan enters the picture. Today I had to let Bryan go.

A couple weeks ago I was getting ready to head home after having delivered a load on the south side of Kansas City, Missouri. There isn't anything headed towards the house for the rest of that day, so my dispatcher tells me to pack it in and we'll do something tomorrow. Okay, no problemo.

Since any load heading south will probably be dropped in our yard, I deadheaded there and called it a day... until my dispatcher calls with a problem. Turns out, there is a load there at the yard another driver has left that has to be over at the Coca-Cola plant in Lenexa, Kansas at 0300 the following morning. All of fifteen miles for less than twenty bucks in pay, and I pay for the fuel and everything else. Not a bad deal for an independent truck, skilled driver and the early hour. And no one but me can possibly get it there in time. Oh my.

Naturally, I call horse hockey. We go back and forth for a while until eventually I agree to take the load over so long as I can deadhead home after the trailer is empty and the miles will be counted as deadhead towards my next load, the load I will pick up in a few days from the local Buske operation. This is agreed to and I set my alarm for 0200 and I make everything happen as planned.

Last Friday I got my settlement emailed to me and, as usual, I go over it line-by-line. I don't see any deadhead on that load to Lenexa, nor the one that follows. Where's the beef, I ask.

Yesterday morning I'm told the miles were added to the previous load (where I went to Milwaukee, Wisconsin for that load of Miller beer kegs) and it is in the system. Yes sir, its right there. If you don't see it on your settlement, talk with payroll they will get it straightened out.

Well, I double check and it still ain't there so I call the nice lady in payroll. She says she sees the notation for deadhead miles to Springfield when I went home and they are on the previous trip, just like the dispatcher said. Only, there are 242 deadhead miles on that trip and those were what I was paid for running from Eau Claire, Wisconsin to Milwaukee to pick up the load.

I confront my dispatcher (via satellite unit) again, supplying all the trip information and the like which is kind of a pain-in-the-butt with the goofy keyboard. Still, he eventually responds that he's getting together with payroll to get me the miles.

No problemo, I settle back and putter down the road. A while later an unsigned message arrives with a Beep (unsigned messages usually come from the higher-ups) telling me I won't get paid for those miles because after I delivered the Lenexa load I went home. I patiently explain that this was the agreement and I'm still owed my miles.

More puttering and another Beep, and its my dispatcher. Now, remember, I've been on him over the satellite unit since last Friday about these miles. He's told me that they were appended to that other load, that he's getting with payroll to get it straightened out and suchlike, and I have a photographic record of his "tweets" to this effect.

Now the story is different -- I couldn't have made that deal with you; that wasn't the agreement; we only talked about getting more miles, blah blah blah. I didn't bother mentioning I have a record of his remarkable 180 degree turn on one of my cameras.

So, the final message to him is a kind of Trump ending: You're fired. Don't pass go. Get your boss to assign a new dispatcher, blah blah blah.

I was going to post pics of the screen grabs I have but for some reason my $2,000 Nikon can't grab pictures of the satellite screen anywhere near as well as my $200 dinky point-and-shoot I have at the house. I had to settle for videotaping the unit while I page forward through the messages. Regardless, I have the evidence I need, the dispatcher has been dispatched and I will have my satisfaction.

Departing SoCal

As soon as I put in my empty call at the Ralph's DC a new mission presented itself: head 45 miles southwest to Irvine, California and pick up a load of clothes going to Kearney, Nebraska for Wednesday morning. About 1,360 miles and less than two-and-a-half days to get it there. Groovy.

Afternoon traffic heading south and west along 71 and 55 was surprisingly light and I made the trip in under an hour. If you had told me I would do 45 miles in under an hour in Los Angeles on a workday I would have called you insane. Ah well.

The shipping people for the load were frantically finishing up some FedEx and UPS loads when I arrived but I eventually was waved into a dock. Then that was changed and I was waved into another dock. Whatever, I just drive.

The usual bumping motions commenced with the pallets being moved on one by one. Then that ceased and I went in to see if the paperwork was ready. Only, someone hadn't counted the actual boxes on the pallets and they only thought 498 boxes were aboard and there were supposed to be 503. Heads were scratched, people consulted and eventually the entire freaking trailer was emptied and everything counted. The box count was right this time and everything was moved back into the trailer. Not a very organized place.

Good news: the load only weighs 15,000 pounds so heading back over the Rockies won't be a huge deal.

I only had enough time to run to the Pilot in Hesperia, California then it was lights out.

Today's trip started mid-morning after a refreshing shower. After three or four hours I pulled into an incredibly backed up Pilot in Las Vegas, Nevada (cheaper fuel there than the one in California) and managed to waste a lot of time before I ever got to the pump. Nevertheless, I got in and out as soon as possible and continued northeast along I-15 until reaching I-70 where I turned east towards Denver.

Tonight finds me in Green River, Utah with exactly 700 miles to go to my destination. I may knock all that out tomorrow, or I may leave an hour or two to finish up on Wednesday morning. Dang lazy bug, never gives me any warning.