Mommy, what does “Service Failure” mean?

I got up this morning rested and relaxed, had a banana and an apple then reviewed my trip planning for today. Just to be certain I had the times right (east coast vs central time and all) I looked up the dispatch on my sat unit, only to find I was due to pick up this load yesterday afternoon instead of this morning.

We get several messages with times on them when we get dispatched, but the only real important one is the dispatch itself — it has the “official” times. I was looking at what the system calls a stop summary, which had me in this morning at 10 AM EST. The dispatch had me in yesterday afternoon at 3:39 PM. Oops.

So, its my first “official” service failure. I was three minutes late to a customer a few months ago which kind of counts, though the customer was backed up and couldn’t even give me a dock for two hours after that so it didn’t make any real difference.

I called night dispatch this morning to let them know and get my scolding. I asked why it was that a message wasn’t sent on the dispatch time telling me I was late, as I could have picked up the load a few minutes late as I was literally 5 miles away. “The system” sometimes blows it too, apparently. Makes you wonder when an error would have been brought to someone’s attention if I was sitting at the truck stop all day today though.

I’m at the plant now getting loaded. The gate guard asked if I had any pets aboard and I answered truthfully. Apparently CFI hasn’t got around to telling these folks that many of our trucks have pets aboard, and they don’t officially allow them into the plant. Blaze didn’t seem to care much though.

One good aspect to all of this is that I will be loaded a few hours earlier this morning than I would have been if the time had actually been 10 AM, so I can run a bit further with my sleep schedule.


This guy gives me the willies (Willieb, that is)

I got a call this afternoon from WillieB, a member of the forums who I met last month as he was finishing up Crowder college. He subsequently graduated, passed the CFI orientation and just now wrapped up his 7,500 miles out with a finisher and got his first truck. His is a 22xxx series 2007 T600 with about 100k miles on it. He didn’t know if it had a bunk heater in it or not, though 😛

He plans on getting on the board this friday so if you are in the Joplin area stay OFF the sidewalks!

(congrats man!)

Dispatched back to My Favorite Terminal&#153

After a few more hours of waiting, my masters bade me to travel about 150 miles south near Florence, SC for a load picking up tomorrow morning at 10 AM eastern time. I’ve been hoping for a load with a lot of miles on it, since I’ve had nothing over 800 miles in a few weeks. I simultaneously got my wish (1,450 miles) and smacked myself on the forehead as I note it is back to My Favorite Terminalâ„¢, Laredo.

I suppose there is a load planner at CFI with a vicious sense of humor who is giggling like a little girl right about now. Thanks a pantload!

The trip down from North Carolina was fairly uneventful. I did take a series of smaller highways in places and its always interesting to see rural communities contrasted against the larger towns and cities I pass through. There was one field in particular that was odd to look at: there were wide swaths of violets (I believe) with a bluish-reddish color and the road had a series of dips and ridges and as the truck went up and down the angle changed on the flowers and they went from brownish, to bluish, to violet, then back to blue then brown. There was no place to pull over or I would have tried to capture the effect with my camera.

I’m parked at the Petro truck stop in Florence due in large part to a billboard of theirs advertising a 20 oz. ribeye steak for $9.99. I was planning on eating some onboard food tonight but after that percolated in my head for a while I had to give it a try. Now, at many truck stops, offers like this get you some pretty dicey meat with lots of fat and gristle but this was not the case here. I’ve eaten at some nice steak houses in my day and this steak would not have been out of place at any of them.

Currently, I’m on my bunk typing, Blaze is up front doing her best to intimidate trucks going by (I think that is what she’s doing when she crouches down and peeks at them over the dash, anyway), the truck is idling (88 degrees, after all) and I’m relaxing after that great meal and a shower.

Oh, that reminds me: when I went to take my shower I really appreciated the extra cushion of safety that Petro provided. Upon opening the door to the floor-to-ceiling tile shower stall I noticed a sprinkler in the roof. Just in case, you know, it caught fire or something.

Essential Electronics

One of these days I’m going to resume work on my website, and as part of that I want to run down a list of items that I find useful aboard my truck. Also a few items I’ve bought that haven’t been useful.

Topping the list of pry-if-from-my-cold-dead-fingers items would have to be my Nuvi 660 GPS unit from Garmin. There are many ways to get usable GPS directions on your truck, including standalone units from Magellan, Tom-tom and others as well as add-on software and hardware like Microsoft Streets & Trips, Delorme, and Co-pilot. No solution is perfect, but I consider the Garmin standalones to be head and shoulders superior to the others for the following reasons:

1) The unit itself is compact and light — it fits on my dash easily, plugs into one of my DC sockets below. That’s it. No laptop, no extra cabling, nothing. The display is extremely bright and can be seen easily under all conditions. At night it can dim itself and the user can select a range of brightness levels for day and night time.

2) The unit is almost shockproof, with no moving parts. Laptops have easily-busted hinges (for the screen), fans and of course hard drives. The read/write heads in a hard drive hover .001 of an inch off of the platters so every bump you encounter going down the road gouges the surface of your hard drives and will eventually cause data corruption and/or loss.

3) If you miss a turn the unit detects this in a few seconds and automatically recalculates a route from the new direction you have chosen. Some other units require you to hit a key, which isn’t always possible in the midst of missing important turns in heavy traffic.

4) The unit speaks in dozens of different voices (and languages). Approximately one minute before each turn it will say something like “In one mile, turn left on Telegraph Canyon road, then stay right.” As you get closer it briefly repeats critical turn information so you rarely even have to look at the unit.

5) The unit is bluetooth compatible and has an enormous database of the millions of businesses in the US. It will interface with your cell phone such that if I’m somewhere and want to order a pizza, or check movie listings or the like I look up the closest pizza joint and it automatically dials my phone with the number with the push of a button.

There are some limitations for truck drivers, most of which are shared by every GPS unit and program. First, the map database is never completely up to date so occasionally you will be sent down a road that has been closed, or turned into a one-way street, or the like. Just make a turn and it will recalculate on the fly and navigate you around the issue.

Second, it doesn’t attempt to cover truck routes, low bridges, hazmat routes or the like. If you are hauling hazmat, for instance, you will still need to navigate around some cities by hand. However, it will recalculate every time you make your own turns so this really isn’t a big deal.

Third is the cost. I purchased mine for about $700 at the start of 2007 (it is probably $100 or more less than this now). If you already have a laptop, adding on a simple program like Streets and Trips will run you about $100, and they include the GPS receiver you will need to plug in. But, see point #2, above, about durability issues.

I still occasionally miss a turn or get “lost”, but with the Garmin I don’t sweat it so much. The unit will figure out a way to correct the problem so as long as I keep my eyes open for low bridges and the like it works spectacularly well.

Blocked, and blocked

This morning when I woke up I noticed I was blocked in by other trucks. During the night a number of trucks had some and parked “ghetto” style taking up every nook and cranny of the parking lot. Unfortunately, there were about a dozen of us in a line who were unable to make a tight right turn around one truck and since I was first out I had to wake someone up to move their truck. He was a pleasant young guy working for Knight and I eventually maneuvered through the mess and got out to the street.

I-40 across North Carolina is in pretty bad shape. Lots of potholes and rough areas. Plus three weigh stations — none of which with Prepass so I had to enter each of them! Lines were pretty long in each case, even though it was 5-7 AM.

Arrived in Browns Summit, NC about 9 AM eastern time for a 10 AM delivery. Got a message as I was pulling up that Proctor and Gamble was running short of the stuff on my trailer and I was to work with them to get it into a door for unloading ASAP. Finding the right P&G warehouse was a bit trying (its tough driving by a big warehouse with your customer’s logo on it, no matter what the directions may say…) but eventually I arrived and sure enough they had me crack it open and back it into a door.

CFI had preplanned an empty trailer at this location for pickup, but the folks here decided I needed to help them by taking a different trailer at a different door instead. I sent in my empty call with the new trailer number and fired up the laptop. Thank goodness this part of NC has heard of the internet!

After a few hours, I checked my board status online via our employee site and was alarmed to find that I wasn’t on the board. I called my dispatcher and she nonchalantly mentioned that was because I didn’t enter the trailer number they had assigned so the system didn’t put me on the board automatically. I wish “the system” would at least send a message to this effect instead of relying on guessing on my part. If I didn’t have a laptop and internet access I guess I would have remained here until someone noticed that truck in NC not moving, with no load.

More than you wanted to know, I’m sure

For lunch today I had a pouch of hickory smoked tuna; appropriate, considering I had just passed the birthplace of President Andrew Jackson — “Old Hickory” as he was known. The reason I mention this is because of an interesting observation I made regarding my cat. I often share bits and pieces of tuna, ham and such with her (well, she insists, really) and occasionally something she eats doesn’t sit well and up comes the contents of her stomach. Usually either on top of something valuable or in a spot that is difficult to access.

I’ve noticed that if I follow the tuna or ham with one of her Whiskas treats she likes so much she doesn’t toss her cookies. Or if she does, its in a place I have yet to see, which isn’t completely out of the realm of possibility.

On a related note, her automatic cat water dish is teaching me to be a better driver. The water is only a half inch or so below the lip of the dish, so any sudden movement can cause a bit or a lot to spill. The “back” side of the dish is high enough this isn’t a problem so I have that side facing forward, so braking isn’t a problem. I used to have a problem with taking turns a bit too rapidly, given the load in the box. This isn’t much of a problem any more.

East to North Carolina

My satellite buzzer went off just after 6 AM this morning and I schlepped inside to see what was available to run. Basically, a crappy short run, a really crappy 1,000ish mile run with two drops that was a high value load with no time to spare, and a load of soap going to a Proctor and Gamble facility in North Carolina. That ended up being the winner.

Realizing I had to drive through morning rush hour in Memphis I grabbed the trailer, fueled, pretripped and got out of there in a hurry. I was rolling by 7 AM and fortunately the bulk of the morning traffic was going the other way and there were no traffic jams. There was a guy in a tan minivan who decided he really, really needed to take an offramp he had just passed and did a bit of off roading to get up on to it.

There was enough rain along the way to clean off the windshield, which is always nice.

I’m parked tonight at a smallish TA truck stop just inside North Carolina. I barely have internet connectivity here; probably not surprising given the rural nature of this area.