June 2017 update

I’ve not updated this site since I finished my lease in 2012. I’m still driving the same truck (though for a different company).

I moved the site back to free WordPress years ago and my custom theme is broke so the links above (Financials, Video, etc.) no longer work for whatever reason.

Still, there are nearly 1,100 posts here covering the four years of the lease portion of my truck experience you might find useful or informative.

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$260,773.09

The big goal I set for myself when I began leasing my truck in June of 2008 was to net, before taxes, at least a quarter-million dollars during the four year lease term. After 210 weeks (208 weeks is four years, plus two weeks extra because I had Hill Bros skip two weeks of truck payments which is an option they provide) I had racked up $252,433.58 in money paid out via weekly settlements and I ended the lease period with an additional $8,339.51 in the form of my lease completion bonus and various escrow accounts.

During my lease I averaged 51.9 CPM for all my dispatched miles, and ended with a 13.29 CPM adjusted cost for fuel (that is, the price paid at the pump minus the FSC paid, divided by the dispatched miles run). Minimizing fuel expense was the primary driver of my profitability during my entire lease and particularly in the final year, which was my most profitable on a per-mile basis at 54.3 CPM.

My truck had just over 526,000 miles on it at the end of the lease which reflects my philosophy of fewer but more profitable miles and the attendant easier workload and greater time off. I rarely spent more than a month out on the road between home time and most often worked 11 days followed by a 3-day weekend, or 18 days followed by a long weekend at the house.

So, what now? I had a variety of options at the end of the lease and explored them. After much consultation and conversation I made an offer to purchase the truck from Hill Bros and continue driving for them, which they accepted. I took nearly five weeks vacation after my lease concluded and am now back on the road hauling frozen foods around the midwest.

Nothing I did is beyond the capacity of anyone who wishes to lease a truck successfully. If you work for a good company that you can get along with, manage your expenses like a hawk and focus on efficiency rather than miles you can do very well for yourself out on the road, as I have.

Good luck,

Jim

Six Months To Go

Hello everyone!

I’m here with a short update now that I have reached and moved past the six month remaining point in my lease.

2011 finished with a whimper, financially, due in large part to an extraordinary amount of time off. I was up to almost five weeks time off (in addition to every second or third weekend) by mid summer and I took another nine days off around my birthday and I just returned from yet another eight days off for Christmas and New Years. The 52 weeks ending just before Christmas when I departed for the year shows 109,936 paid miles in calendar 2011. Five more weeks of work would have resulted in approximately 12,000 more miles which is where I normally run at.

The truck has been running well since my last update, with the usual hiccups you get with any vehicle operated for the miles (and along the roadways) we travel. I again got lucky with a large repair still covered under warranty as my turbo went out at about 460k miles and the warranty good through 500k! If you look at the financials you’ll see a large whack to my maintenance account on December 2 but almost all of that will be repaid in a few months once the warranty paperwork gets ground through the system. I lost another windshield or two along the way, as well as a few trailer tires, various lights and the other smaller things that go wrong here and there. Still, I can’t complain about the downtime or expense — both have been in the expected range and my maintenance account has yet to go dry.

I remain surprised over the durability of this blog, to be honest! The last time I looked at the figures they showed 500 or so unique readers per month, this more than a year after I stopped updating all but the financial section regularly. This post is the 1,085th according to the stats for WordPress, so apparently the power of internet search remains strong.

My cat Snow White remains resolute that she is, in fact, the prettiest pet over the road. She has over a quarter million miles on her now and you’d hardly notice the wear and tear!

Hill Brothers has recently moved away from Volvos, investing instead in some Kenworth T660’s and International ProStars. I don’t care for either of these vehicles and wouldn’t consider leasing them. More recently, management decided to buy another thirty Volvo 780s, but I don’t care for the way they are specced. I’ve already decided that I won’t be making the balloon payment on this truck so by early June this adventure will be finished, one way or the other.

Hiatus

Some of you have noticed that blog posts, uh, slowed down quite a bit of late. I got a few days behind, then a week went by, then a month… it isn’t easy fighting inertia sometimes.

On the other hand, I have kept the financial information up to date each week so if you are here with an interest on how many miles I run and such forth then your happiness should remain unabated. I’ve made a few small improvements to the spreadsheet, most notably a section on the first page that estimates what this year’s haul will be.

Will I continue blogging regularly? I don’t know honestly. It consumes a lot of time (more than it may appear to if you haven’t tried it before yourself) and for a while now it has felt like a struggle to relate the difference between this trip from Omaha to Phoenix in a way different than the last twenty identical trips.

If you get your OTRjournal fix via news reader there is no reason to change. If and when a new post is made you’ll get it. If you check in occasionally via a bookmark in your browser, that works too.

Unsatisfying hometime

After my delivery in Omaha I was given a load to t-call at our Kansas City lot then a different load to take home that delivers in Memphis, Tennessee first thing Monday morning.

I don’t mind taking loads through the house when they don’t impinge on my time off, but this load in question meant that instead of spending Sunday night in my very comfortable king-size bed and enjoying all the other luxuries of the house I had to head out Sunday afternoon to make it down to Memphis. Boo on the planner types.

Boo also on the 250ish miles of state highway driving from Springfield, Mo to I-55. Eighty percent of it was nice, two lanes each way road and the other twenty percent was hilly, narrow, jam-on-the-brake-then-pound-the-throttle type driving we truckers like so much.

My load out of Memphis was preplanned last week as well just a few miles south in Mississippi. Only one catch: the appointment was fixed at 1700 and can’t be changed. This introduces some logbook issues that I would have preferred to avoid but at the end of the day I say screw it, the load gets to Macon, Missouri as soon as I can legally make it.

It would have been easier if the consignee for this first load had overnight parking, but as I just found out they don’t. They are also located in a bad area of town. Still, I spent a good 30 minutes of my time (and fuel) looking for someplace close enough to park so as to not start my clock in the morning before I get unloaded, but to no avail. This was a mile or so away from a pair of Pilots on highway 78 that I avoid at all costs so I settled on a Loves a few miles north. Wouldn’t you know it, the nighttime security guard was parked in front of the last open space on the lot and when I pulled up with my blinkers on he gave me the universal gesture for “Do you need me to move?”

Oh hell yes and thank you very much. Keep me safe tonight, my brother.

Perspective

My worst week ever.

It may not have been my worst week since I started trucking, but it was certainly the worst week since I have been operating my own truck.

I delivered the load from Georgia to a consignee on the west side of Chicago, and it took four hours for them to get around to unloading my trailer. In the meantime I was given a preplan for a load heading to Omaha, Nebraska but due to the delay it made that delivery an hour late, even though I made use of the split sleeper rule which I avoid using more than once or twice a year.

The rest of that day was spent with the truck in the shop but they couldn’t do the overhead or put on my new front shocks since apparently Volvo doesn’t make that design any more (my truck is an ’07 for crying out loud) and Monroe hasn’t started making them either.

My next load picked up any time that same evening heading to Texas. All I had to do was travel west an hour or so to Schuyler, Nebraska and pick up a load of meat, then put a couple hours of driving in to get me into range for delivery.

Everything was going fine after I arrived, I dropped off my empty and went to grab the loaded trailer. It was set at 26 degrees and I thought nothing about it as I hooked up and inspected it. Pull it out to the gate and the guards find out the load should be at zero degrees instead. No problem, I turn down the freezer to zero and ask for my paperwork.

“Sorry, can’t let you out of the yard until you are within five degrees of load temperature.”

Now, it is almost 100 degrees in their parking lot, and very humid. Since the load had been sitting for hours at 26 degrees the twenty tons of meat didn’t want drop 21 degrees in a hurry and I waited for, I kid you not, three hours before it hit five degrees inside.

Back to the gate and the guards hand me a different set of paperwork. “Oh, turns out the load needs to be set at 26 degrees.”

I look at one guard dumbly (it is 0230 at this point) as his buddy walks outside and adjusts the temperature on my reefer. No problem, I’m definitely cooler than what they need so hand me the paperwork and I’m off…

“Sorry, can’t let you out of the yard until you are within five degrees of load temperature.”

At this point I went off and told them to blow a goat, I’m turning down the freaking load and putting it back out in their drop lot and they can work out their damned temperature problems with their management in the morning. Jump into the truck and am grabbing gears as I do a tight 180 around their guard shack and back into the lot, even though I know I’m contending with very narrow spacing between trailers. I’m halfway backed in when one of the guards is dispatched to my location and explains they screwed up again, the paperwork in question with the different temperature was for a different load.

Mother of freaking pearl, sometimes.

I grab the real paperwork and blitz out of their lot before they could screw it up again and scale out across the street at which point I stay the night since it is half gone already.

The delivery in the Dallas area goes off fairly smoothly two morning’s later but the next plan has me waiting around almost an entire day for an 0400 pickup heading to the Denver area. This equates to yet another blown day followed by one full day of frantic driving to get as close to Denver as possible then a few more hours on the following morning to finish the load.

All of that transpires, and the load is there on time. Eventually, I’m dispatched to Fort Collins to pick up a heavy load of beer heading to Omaha. I clean up one of our trailers and drop it off there and grab the reefer trailer that is waiting for me with the load already aboard. I notice that there is at least 12 feet of empty space at the back of the trailer and since this is a reefer it almost certainly means that whoever loaded it didn’t bother noting the huge fridge up front or the heavy diesel tank below and the load would be too nose heavy to take and be legal. My instincts are spot on as the on-site scale reveals 35,150 pounds on my drives with the trailer tandems all the way up.

This unnamed beer company decides it isn’t going to rework that load, hoping another truck in our fleet will drop by and by some miracle make it out of the lot legally. If they were thinking that then the load is still there since there ain’t any truck in our fleet that can make that happen.

By the time our incredulous weekend dispatchers and planners are on the case it is too late for my driving hours since I had to be up incredibly early to finish off the last part of the Dallas-to-Denver run. Thoughts of getting 3-4 hours down the road and a nice steak and shower at the Boss at exit 107 in Nebraska go bye bye, replaced by a new bobtail parking area a football field jog away from the restroom and the stink of hops or barley or whatever crap they are putting into their suds nowadays.

Another day down the drain.

Next morning I get a load assignment to Independence, Kansas and Pittsburg, Kansas, of all places but I need to get the repairs finished at our shop so I see if they can’t find me something other than the heavyweight load going to Omaha. Finally, such a load is found and I scale out legally.

I manage to work out the timing so I could still grab a shower and steak at the Big Springs Boss, leaving just enough time to make it to Omaha for the night. Along the way traffic began to slow down and back up and I rolled past this:

Less than a minute before I arrived this tractor trailer was on the opposite side of the freeway. An automobile cut into the driver’s lane forcing a quick stomp on the brakes and an evasive maneuver, which resulted in the driver losing control, crossing the entire median and ending up on its side where you see it here.

If you look at the larger version of the photo you can see the lady driver sitting on the edge of the grass between the trooper’s car and the trailer.

In a few seconds her day (and week, and month, probably) went from some sense of normalcy and routine into chaos, terror and probably a new set of underwear.

My week was tough but I’d still rather have it than her week.

Naturally, my mouth-breathing cat would rather have her week out of any of the above:

Recent travels and trevails

After my QualCOMM unit was repaired I was given a load from Omaha down to Russellville, Arkansas. My hours allowed me to drive to Lamar, Missouri before shutting down and I took advantage of shopping at the nice Super Wal-Mart there with nice truck parking before going to bed.

The next day got me to Russellville where I had a preplanned load leaving from the same place I delivered to. Said load was 43,000 pounds according to the documentation which was almost immediately proven false when scaling revealed my truck was over 81,500 pounds gross. This would mean at least 47,000 pounds in the box. I’ve never understood how a shipper moving their own boxed goods could not know the actual weight of their cargo to the decimal place.

Back to the shipper for a rework and 1,700 pounds were taken off in under three hours, a record. I very carefully scaled out and set my axles properly then headed down the road, ending in West Memphis, Arkansas for the night.

Up early Friday morning and through Memphis before traffic got shitty, then south along highway 78 (“Future I-22 corridor” according to the signs). Survived Birmingham, Alabama and arrived on the west side of Atlanta mid afternoon.

Somehow our folks didn’t have the load marked as a drop and hook so the receiver wanted me to park elsewhere for a few hours before returning for a live unload. Oh hell no. A quick message over the QualCOMM and our people and there people did whatever these people do and I was allowed to drop off the full in a door and take out an empty. I happen to know of a warehouse a mile or so away that has been closed for some time and parked there for the night.

Up and at them early again (0400 local time) on a preplan from Tunnel Hill, Georgia to the Chicago area. Load picked up any time after 0300 and delivers noon the following day. I arrive around 0600 local to find there is no such load any more, though there is an identical load set to head out the following morning for the same location. Back and forth with our company’s inside broker department until it is eventually revealed that the shipper claimed we didn’t have a trailer there when they needed it so they put it on a different company’s trailer and let them have it. Surprising, given the fact there was an empty HB trailer there when I arrived, but I’m just a driver.

I’m told to stick around for the day and pick up the new load heading out Sunday morning for a first-thing Monday delivery up in Chicago. The princely sum of $75 is deposited into my account for layover, an amount I note doesn’t even cover my fixed expenses on a daily basis. The rest of the day is whiled away playing the StarCraft II Beta, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, Runes of Magic and getting caught up on various Hulu shows.

Yesterday morning I bugged out early towards Nashville, Tennessee where I fueled up. The shorter interstate route to Chicago was to continue north along I-65 through Louisville, Kentucky and Indianapolis, Indiana but I instead chose to add 30 miles of Out-of-Route heading west along I-24 into Illinois then north on I-57. No big cities to go through and fairly flat terrain, resulting in 8.1 MPG for the trip.

I finished yesterday in Monee, Illinois, just 13 miles from the consignee.