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).

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.


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,


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.


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.


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.

Do you recognize these cars?

I shot this pic a few months ago in Arizona heading north from Phoenix towards Flagstaff, if I remember correctly. There were two cars with identical decal jobs heading north and I suspect they were either going to be used for a movie or commercial someplace.

Anyone recognize them?

QualCOMM issues… solved?

Yesterday after delivering my (fairly expensive) dog chow in Omaha I went by the company yard to have our shop look over my QualCOMM unit. After discussing my issues briefly with the guy who does many of the installs he had me open up my passenger door and took a look at some of the boxes of circuitry behind the seat. A light that should have been green was instead blinking red, indicating a problem with the antenna or the cellular modem.

After a few hours of waiting he was able to take a look at it and replace whatever wasn’t happy and even changed around the electrical system so I can turn on the unit by turning my key to Accessories! This has bedeviled me since the beginning with this new unit, as it turns off quickly after I shut my rig down and doesn’t seem to realize there is plenty of power coming from the APU. Now I can turn it on (and not interfere with the APU, as was the case before) whenever I need it while my truck is off.

If they fix the issue with messages being missed when the unit is off I think I will be in nirvana.

201 more reasons to dislike shippers

The load out of the house was a familiar one: head west to Pittsburg, Kansas to grab a load of dog chow heading to Omaha, Nebraska. Since I was set home before the weekend bobtail I was also instructed to pick up an empty in Carthage, Missouri along the way to the shipper. There actually was an empty there when I arrived… be still my heart.

This particular shipper loads trailers very quickly and this time was no exception. About fifteen minutes after I backed into the correct dock there was a tap on my door and I went inside to finish up the paperwork. I noticed an unusually light gross weight — 24,000 odd pounds — and mentioned this.

“Oh,” the clerk said. “They put a partial additional load on the back to fill it up, no more than 34,000 total.”

Lying sack of excrement.

The empty (now loaded) trailer that I picked up was one of our newest, with nice fat super-single tires which not only roll much nicer than duals but also weigh about 400 pounds less, in total. A few minutes pulling it down the road and the weight given seemed to me to be in the right ballpark and I headed off.

Now, Pittsburg, Kansas isn’t exactly the be-all and end-all of the known universe and there are no commercial scales there, to the best of my knowledge. The company I was loaded at has a scale at a different plant a few miles out of route. I figured I would drive with it up KS-69 up to Kansas City and if it felt heavy I’d weigh it somewhere up there, perhaps in Edwardsville (which is the only commercial scale along my route, as far as I know).

By the time I reached KC I knew I couldn’t possibly be over the limit on my total rig’s weight. One advantage to a smaller engine (if it can be said there is an advantage) is that it makes it very clear how heavy my total rig is by just pulling a few familiar hills and watching my tach and spedometer.

The trailer tandems were in the fifth hole which is a bit further forward than normal, but the combination of my super singles and the super singles on the trailer should have made up 800 pounds “net” in my favor.

How far off could I be under these circumstances?

As I moved north along I-29 from KC I came across the North Platte City scale and was pulled in along with a handful of other trucks. One by one the rigs moved through and were on their way until it was my turn. Steers… fine. Drives… fine. Trailer tandems…

“Driver! Set your brakes, exit your truck and come in to the office!” I hear over the loudspeaker. I’m guessing it isn’t to present me with the Missouri Truck Driver of the Year award.

As I enter the office I glance at the scale display and groan inwardly: 36,040 pounds, more than a ton over the legal limit for my configuration. Before I could turn on the charm the officer told me to head back out, move my truck off the scale and out of the way and bring back all my paperwork.

It is a long trudge out to your truck in these situations, I find.

Paperwork was easy, in part because I’m now using electronic logs. I have yet to find a DOT officer that wants anything to do with them. Driver’s license, medical card, truck registration, proof of insurance, etc. He immediately sets to writing out a ticket and asks if I know how to slide my tandems to make my trailer legal. I slouch back outside and take care of it, running through the scale again to prove the weights are now right.

Missouri uses a system where a certain weight is this many cents per pound, and more weight is on a higher scale. The math came out to be $201.50. Sign here and here, here’s instructions to mail in your payment, have a nice day. Blah blah blah.

After having all the weights listed I realize that the shipper took a 24,000 pound order and added on not 10,000 but 18,000 pounds of dog chow, all the way back to the rear of the trailer. Yes, I would have realized they were lying sacks of shit if I had elected to scale, but I didn’t so the boo-boo is on me.

Now, before you go all “Don’t cry for me Argentina” on me, let’s keep things in perspective: this represents about 1/6th of my average weekly take so while it stinks in the short run in the long run it doesn’t really matter much.

Does sting a little, though.

July 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th

From Russellville, Arkansas I took a load north to our drop yard in Kansas City, Missouri and t-called it there for some other lucky driver, then was sent home bobtail. This is unusual since it means the planners need to do some extra thinking to get me out of the house to first get a trailer somewhere, but I didn’t mind the extra fuel economy.

The flu bug, or whatever it is, has gradually weakened to the point where I have a cough and a stuffy nose part of the day. A few more days should mean a full recovery and I’m back on the road this morning.

My new QualComm unit is having fits and tells me that there is a sensor problem. This means I may need to go to paper logs temporarily until they can get me through Omaha which would kind of suck since I haven’t done a log by hand in more than three years and I didn’t feel like adding another laptop and laser printer to my truck just to run the Driver’s Daily Log software.

The joys of trucking.

One flu under the cookoo’s nest

I was told on the way to Plano, Illinois that I could drop my trailer and take an empty over to Rochelle, Illinois for my reload. This was news to the consignee who was adamant we had no empty trailers there, we weren’t permitted to do drop-and-hooks and oh, by the way, dock 18 needs you backed into it soon.

Our HQ was convinced they were right, even giving me the number of a trailer that had been left there. I looked after I was unloaded just for giggles and no trailer. On the plus side, they let you park overnight there so I took care of my snooze break.

The Rochelle part was unusual as we bring in many loads to that plant but I’ve never taken a single one out of there. My trailer was one of three HB units on the ready line set to go and despite a balky slide I managed to get it out and scaled then heading south without too much trouble.

That night I stopped just inside the Missouri border in Charleston at a Pilot I hadn’t been to before. One of the older, more run down stops that I’ve seen so I won’t be back soon.

I woke with a stuffy nose, sore throat, fever and headache so some bug bit me a few days previous. Driving isn’t that much of an issue with the flu so long as you’re not swapping trailers or the like.

Arrived in Russellville, Arkansas around 1300 and by 1330 the trailer was in a door and I was off to the nearby Pilot (nicer one) for some rest. My logbook is pretty much shot, having spent the last three days using what I got back at midnight to take care of business.

How rude!

(Say in your best JarJar Binks voice).

Another thing I hate about screwing up my sleep schedule is the toll it takes on my creativity and desire to blog. Its hard out here being a pimp, yo.

I slept much of the following day and HQ got me a trip heading from KC to Council Bluffs for early-early the following morning. Getting up there wasn’t a problem but it was several hours after I delivered they got around to asking me to help them out with a very, very short load.

It seems another HB driver had picked up a load the previous night near Memphis, Tennessee and drove towards Omaha. Despite his best efforts, his driving hours were exhausted about 20 miles away and for some unknown reason he decided to continue on to Council Bluffs, passing up a perfectly usable rest area in the process. Since he was already at least 20 minutes over his legal driving limit I didn’t understand why he didn’t drive the ten additional minutes to Omaha before shutting down. Either way you broke the rule, why not at least finish what you started?

Anyway, they had me deliver the load all of eight miles. Since my satellite unit wasn’t receiving for some reason I had them read off the name of the consignee and the address over the phone. I hadn’t been there before and I asked for directions. They sounded awfully familiar and then I realized that they were to a warehouse a block from our own terminal, just on the next street over. The name of the place was Rude, so I wasn’t pleasant when I arrived… just to fit in you understand.

After taking care of a few matters at the terminal a trip presented itself heading to Atlanta. I finished up in Boonville, Missouri for the night.

Since the load wasn’t due until the 30th I was told to drop it off at a facility we use in Calhoun, Georgia and grab a reefer for my next load, originating in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Sunday morning found me dropping off my trailer and finding no empty reefer to take, so the minds at HQ sent me 75 miles south to grab an empty then 75 north back to where I started looking.

The very simple process of swapping my new empty trailer for the preloaded one was made difficult trying to find the bills to go with the new trailer and various delays here and there for construction, but I finally end tonight in Richmond, Kentucky on my way to Plano, Illinois.

Another overnight sensation

I hate overnight trips. Hate them.

Not because there aren’t virtues of traveling in the wee hours (think traffic), but as someone who stays away from stimulants on a regular basis I find it very difficult to go from waking up early each morning to take care of my business to then staying up all day trying to nap and running all night and delivering the next morning.

I delivered a load from Kansas City, Kansas to Elwood, Illinois yesterday morning. I had been to this particular facility before and wasn’t concerned the appointment time was open. Upon arrival I learn they are backed up and while I can drop my trailer there, they have no idea when an open appointment trailer might be unloaded. No big deal, I drop it off, send in the appropriate codes to dispatch then wait for my new orders. This was around 0930.

I was asked via satellite to keep checking to see if they had unloaded my trailer. Heck, they never even touched my trailer while I was there (it wasn’t in a door). I bobtailed a few miles away to a nearby Pilot to take a shower only to find this was one of the few they have without any such facilities. That stinks.

In the afternoon my new dispatcher calls and asks if I will take an overnight trip from Elgin, Illinois back to Kansas City. I turn him down and explain why, reinforcing the conversation we had at HQ a few days before. Dispatcher goes back to his work and I go back to waiting.

Eventually he rings again and asks, pretty please, if I will help them out of a jam and take this overnight load that will be preloaded and ready to roll by 2000 over to KC. I can bobtail there, it will be ready to go and I’d be helping out the team. The freight is overbooked and they could really use the help. This despite the fact I’d been sitting more than six hours since I dropped my previous load — how overbooked could we be?

I did the math. Since the trailer would be ready to go I figured I could roll in at 2000 and be done in KC by 0400, 0500 at the latest. I could stay up until midnight easy, what’s a few more hours… especially since I could grab a catnap or two along the way since the load wasn’t due until 0700.

There are a variety of ways to run this load. I decided to take state highways back to I-88 then west to Davenport then west on I-80 to I-35 south to KC. Been on these highways a million times, no surprises.

The first roadbump was the realization I couldn’t leave Elwood until 1930 hours to satisfy the requirements of a 10-hour break (yes, I’m aware I could have gone for an 8-hour split, but that doesn’t turn out to be important). Dispatch didn’t care if I arrived late in Elgin, so long as the load was delivered on time.

Between my late start and lots of stop-and-go traffic along the way (IL-59… GRRRRR!) I roll in just before 2100. Remember, part of what sold me on this trip was that the trailer would be preloaded and ready to go. It comes as little surprise then to find out the trailer was just starting to be loaded at that point. I get the usual “Check back in 30-45 minutes” dodge from the staff and retreat to my vehicle.

Sleep eludes me at this point and I mentally pace the time away.

By 2215 I’m rolling. I’m upset as well, but at least I’m rolling. Cue a tedious 45 minutes of state highway driving until I get back to I-88 at which point my GPS is showing an arrival time of 0715 in the morning.

Most any reader of this blog knows that I cruise at 60 MPH to save money on fuel. I decide to do something out of character and ratchet it up to 65 while I’m in Illinois and eventually bump it up to 70 in Iowa. Seventy freaking miles per hour, in my rig! The ETA slowly starts marching backwards and I feel a little better about the situation.

Before I make it to Des Moines I have to pull off for a 40-minute power nap. I’m so sleepy I’m out like a light as soon as my head touches the pillow and the unwelcome klaxon of my phone alarm seemingly goes off immediately, though it is 40 minutes later. Groggily I get up, restart my rig and head out down the road.

Now, I know when I’m tired and when I shouldn’t be driving. My body has various autonomic signs that I watch for and over the next few hours they are hollering at me something fierce. I press on, the stupid GPS showing 0745 arrival time in KC and only very slowly winding backwards even while I’m dumping fuel out the exhaust at 70 MPH. I resent Des Moines and its puny 65 MPH speed restrictions… something that never bothers me as I drive normally.

By the time I make it south on I-35 to the Missouri state line my body is in open rebellion. I know I need to pull off but I keep pressing, staying focused on that stupid GPS staring brightly into my eyes as I thunder down the road. My eyelids droop on their own accord and I find my hands moving on their own to rub or scratch my arms, legs, head. I try the normal stupid stuff (cold air, singing along to loud music, flexing my leg muscles to promote a higher heartbeat) but none of them really help.

A few miles before I reach the Missouri welcome center my body finally calls it quits and my head droops down, my eyelids closing. “NO!” I scream inside, realizing how close I am to switching off and driving my rig off the road.

With one last effort I snap back awake, adrenaline providing one last burst of alertness which gets me to the turnoff to the welcome center. I actually had a second thought about heading off the road to take a nap, realizing I would be even later at my delivery. If I skipped fueling in Kearney, Missouri and ran at top speed I might still make it close enough to on time that no one would notice. That on-time delivery is important, especially for this kind of load.

A few minutes later I’m in my bunk with my alarm set for 20 brief minutes of rest which I hope will be enough to restore my constitution for the final leg of the trip.

I did end up fueling at Kearney, which put me further behind, and I arrived at my destination 1.5 hours past the delivery time. A figure less than the delay on the other end, I note.

If you want to know what truck driving can be like, some times, please reread the above. I’m not going to be doing another trip like that again.

My second-hardest back… ever

Word from HQ was to boogie up to Independence, Missouri for a load of boxes to be dropped off in Macon, Missouri. About three hours drive time to get to the load and another two-and-a-half to run it. Afterwards, boogie back to Kansas City, Kansas for a load heading up to Omaha for the night. It sounded remotely possible when I got it (670ish miles, depending on the route) and I kicked Ole Bessie into top gear as I headed up from Springfield.

I would be loading at an underground facility I’ve been to many times before. The docks are a bit difficult to get into but once you know a trick or two it makes them uncomplicated. See, here is my truck at one of the normal docks that I’ve been to before:

(This is my old company truck before I switched over to my leased truck)

What this picture doesn’t show is the area in front of my truck that I use to turn around in. This isn’t a great shot but suffice it to say there is a dock similar to the one I’m backed in to across the “street” from where I park that I first pull in to nose first then back across the “street” to get into that dock:

It is nicely lit, the “street” is a bit narrow but it works, there is room to work with.

When I rolled up last night outside the caves I called in, as is custom, and they told me I would be at a different set of docks. The instructions were illuminating: (various turns) then “You’ll have to turn the wrong way, ignore the ‘No Trucks Allowed’ signs and back down this street about 75 yards to the docks. Good luck.” Oh baby.

Eventually, I back down the correct street and find the docks I’m supposed to be at. Only, the width of the street in front is about 75% of what you see above and worse, there not only is no dock facing my dock that I can use to pull up in to, the way is blocked with low clearance signs hanging from the ceiling:

I know the image is blurry (my hands were still shaky), but note the yellow hanging sign in the foreground and how narrow the dock area itself is.

What I had to do was a standard alley dock but in extremely close quarters, beginning from where I took this photo:

And a better view:

It was such a tight back that I was completely jackknifed on the turn to barely eek out enough room to pull forward a few feet up to the hanging sign in the first blurry pic to get lined up. This took almost 20 minutes of backing-and-filling and even though I’m an experienced driver with a strong clutch leg, it was like spaghetti at the end.

Let the record reflect, however, that I hit nothing on the way in or out.

What, pray tell, was my hollaback girl doing this entire time? Watching my blind side? Helping me out with soothing advice or a nice cup of chamomile tea? Noooo, she was enjoying the 90-95 degree heat in her slum condo:

The load was only 22,600 pounds, a rarity and it was easy enough to run up to Macon, Missouri and drop off, only to find there weren’t any empty trailers there. Orders came through to bobtail back to KC for my next load and away I went.

The shop recently replaced my load leveling valve and I have a new set of tires and Oh Baby, my truck drives like a Caddy again!

By the time I reached Kansas City, Kansas it was nearly midnight and I had been working without pause for almost 12 hours. I had a quick snack when I had my original trailer washed out and a few personal need breaks here and there but otherwise it was door shut and hammer down. Unfortunately, I needed another hour or so to complete a run up to Omaha that didn’t have enough time on it to fit in a break so that trip got canceled.

Leaving the house… I think

I was able to attend the Friday safety meeting so I’m qualified for my safety bonus for yet another quarter. This comes out to two cents per mile run in the previous quarter, so it is a decent chunk of change.

The surly gate guard at the large food conglomerate across the river in Council Bluffs, Iowa didn’t dampen my spirits as I was headed home for the weekend. He has a definite case of Small Penis Syndrome coupled with a fake badge and a nasty mouth. I just walked by him as he was bitching at me in the parking lot. The load was heavy (43,500 pounds) but even with the reefer I scaled out at 75,500. Quarter tank of fuel and half a tank in the reefer helped there.

The Friday KC traffic was beastly along the southern edge of the city. I usually take I-435 around the east side instead of I-29 through downtown because I don’t like the traffic lights you have to suffer through on highway 71 on the south side. Alas, they are adding more lanes on I-435 at the I-70 interchange and it is a zoo now so I went around on the west side, which was fine until I passed I-70.

About ten miles south of KC the traffic was moving smoothly and the last two hours to Carthage were cake. The security guard there had the glint of $100 penalty in his eye as the load originally had a 1700 drop, but our crack CSR team had it pushed back to 2000 and I was there by 1945. Dropped the full one in a door, grabbed an empty and went home.

This morning I’m back in the truck. I phoned in to see if there was a preplan and was told the system didn’t have me coming back out until tomorrow. I reviewed my macro log and determined that I had indeed put down this morning as my return to service. They are working on it now.

Need to rework that

After the tire change I headed north about 40 miles to Dekalb, Illinois for a load heading to Omaha.

The plant in question was backed up so bad there were trucks lined up out of the parking lot and on to the street. By the time I made it up to the guard shack to check in there weren’t any doors available and I was sent off to a parking spot to hang tight for a while. After about 30 minutes a door opened up and I was sent back.

I was hoping to make it at least as far as Walcott, Iowa for the night but my 14-hour clock was down to less than an hour by the time they were done. Worse, the scale they had wasn’t working so I had to take a guess on the tandems and roll west to Rochelle to make sure I was legal.

Alas, I wasn’t legal. Almost 35,000 on the drives with the tandems all the way forward and by then my hours were close enough I couldn’t chance getting stuck at the plant and ordered to leave. I called it a night then turned around first thing in the morning to get the load reworked.

Four hours later everything was in place and my reweigh showed legal weights so I blew out of town.

The load wasn’t due in Omaha until Thursday, anyway, so I dropped it off around 1500 and puttered back to our yard for the night.

Today I got all four tires changed (my three old original Michelins removed and the Bridgestone super single sold to Hill Bros) and four new Michelin super singles installed. The bill will show up in a few weeks.

There is a safety meeting I need to attend tomorrow so unless an emergency crops up where operations needs someone to cover a short load I’ll be off until tomorrow when I take a load home for the weekend.


The title was the sound that closely followed my truck as I exited the consignee’s lot in Ottawa, Illinois this morning. By the time I got it to the side of the road and parked this is what that sound resulted in:

A closeup of the metal object lodged in the tire:

Here you can see that it completely broke through to the inside, making repairs unfeasible:

Snowie was completely broken up over this turn of events, but only on the inside:


The past two days have been busy driving most of that “7” pattern you see on the map. Yesterday I went from Russellville, Arkansas to Batesville, Arkansas and swapped my empty trailer for a full one heading to Illinois. I made it as far as Champaign, Illinois before shutting down with one minute of driving time left on the clock. Glad there was a spot at that truck stop.

This morning it was up and running as soon as possible to get that load delivered in Rochelle, Illinois then to run to nearby Ottawa, Illinois bobtail since there were no empties in Rochelle. A preloaded trailer awaited with drops in Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska for tomorrow morning so I ran west along I-80 the rest of the day. I tried to make it all the way to Omaha but ran out of hours about 50 miles out so it is an early morning tomorrow as well to get the first delivery off at 0530 and the second off at 0730.

Repairs and Russellville

My truck’s clutch has been acting more and more finicky the past few weeks and since it has been around 100,000 miles since the last time it was adjusted I figured it was time for a checkup. While the mechanics were at it they also found that my rear air leveling valve wasn’t working properly and replaced that as well.

Unfortunately they didn’t do a great job verifying their work since my truck was losing air pressure pretty quick, even before I got out of the lot. A different mechanic and 30 minutes of tinkering resolved the issue and I collected paperwork and a new trailer to take down to Russellville, Arkansas.

Now, my dispatcher had originally run this load by me and it had an 0800 delivery this morning, meaning I would have to fake rest until about 0100 or so and rush, rush, rush down to Russellville, drop off the trailer then get real sleep during the rest of the daytime, then presumably take to a night schedule. Alas, since I don’t drink soft drinks (caffeine) or smoke (nicotine) there isn’t much to keep me awake with weird schedule changes like that. After I passed on the load someone at HQ called the consignee and told them it would be there by 1800 hours today and they seemed happy enough. The power of communication.

I ran the load down to just south of Kansas City last night, stopping at the southbound scale along with a handful of other trucks. By custom, once you’ve passed the scale (parked on the far side) you’re pretty much in the clear for that scale at least… though I was perfectly legal anyway.

The next preplan rattled in before I arrived in Russellville. My next trip will be over to Batesville, Arkansas to a similar plant, this time bound for Rochelle, Illinois for Sunday.

I broke the iPhone

So I’m in the bunk of my tractor taking a 30-minute power nap and just as the alarm I’ve set goes off, my dispatcher calls. Good timing, I know.

Much to my amazement and his annoyance, because there is now a phone call I’m on I can’t shut off the alarm. Yes, I can go back to the main menu of the phone then to the Alarms app, but no matter which of the smart icons I use at the bottom none will give me the option to shut off the stupid klaxon I use as an alarm. I end up having to hang up on my dispatcher (oddly satisfying) then turning the phone off to get it out of alarm mode.

Today I caught air

I’ve been driving a semi since 2006 but today is the first (and hopefully last) time I can honestly say I have caught air in my rig.

After dropping off my loaded trailer at our Kansas City yard I spent over an hour trying to find an empty reefer for my next load. Finally, my dispatcher came through with the location of one at a nearby musical instrument distribution center and I sped off. Then it was off to tiny Atchison, Kansas to get a load heading north.

Now, the most direct route was to take MO-237 north from I-29 and there was a helpful sign just before the turn that said no trucks over 20 tons allowed on that route. No problemo, I’m empty and my rig comes in at about 18 tons so I’m in the clear. Of course, I turn the corner and once I’m committed to the turn I notice another sign placed such that you can’t read it until you are on this route heading north saying No Thru Trucks. Naturally, this is a basic country road with one skinny lane each direction so there will be no turning around.

What is the worst that can happen?

A few miles up the road I start to see signs about there being a detour ahead. Soon enough I am in fact detoured from this windy, skinny country road to an even windier, skinnier country lane, for lack of a better term that bobs and weaves its way across the countryside. The speed limit is 55 though, so how bad could it be?

Now, some of you are aware I’m a pilot but most of you are not aware that I’m not a huge fan of roller coasters or wild rides. The hardest part of my pilot training wasn’t getting my instrument rating (which most pilots find to be the hardest) but stall training. This involves putting the aircraft into various situations that come close to or actually induce a stall, then recovering normal flight. The feeling of dropping, of the seat beneath you suddenly moving away from your buttocks as it falls away isn’t a rush for me as it is to most others.

This windy lane had very steep hills and when I crested one at about 45 mph the other side kept dropping off, and dropping off… and dropping off even more until the far side was, I kid you not, past 45 degrees. If there was the least bit of water on that road it could well be a death trap. I realized I could not hit the brakes as that would work towards breaking traction on the road so I held on glumly as I felt my body rise up against the seatbelt and my seat extend to its fully raise position. I swear, my tractor tires came off of the ground for a brief moment.

A lifetime later I managed to arrive in tiny Atchison only to find the shipper’s dock facing a busy city street and no place to get set up for the back other than that street. Directly across the road was a Sonic and the customers watched as I stopped traffic for a few minutes as I got lined up and backed in.

An hour later some 20 tons of horse feed in 1-ton sacks were loaded in back and I was on my way north to Council Bluffs.

Thunder and lightning, very very frightening

It turns out there were no loads in Missouri to be had so I was dispatched to grab a load from Russellville, Arkansas instead. That load was due in North Platte, Nebraska on the afternoon of the 10th so provision was made to t-call it in Kansas City instead of taking it the entire way.

Everything was uneventful until the very end of my day around 2100 when I was trying to park at the Flying J in Peculiar, Missouri about 30 minutes away from our yard. This, due to the fact that I had less than 15 minutes left on my clock for the day. Anyway, the skies were very dark and it was raining, with thunder and lighting going off frequently.

It didn’t help that an entire line of trucks parked in the middle of the lot had taken up an extra five feet or so of room behind them to give themselves more space to back in and pull out. This left myself and dozens of other drivers in back with very narrow spots to back into — so much so that half of the spots were inaccessible just to leave enough room to maneuver.