Off to Indiana, with a scare

I managed to snag an empty trailer at the Walmart DC I dropped at yesterday and got on the board, and shortly I was given a deadhead back up to our Atlanta drop yard (wasn’t I just there?) then to take a full trailer up to Carmel, Indiana.

The trip up to Atlanta was mostly I-75, though there was a good amount of traffic most of the way. About a hundred miles into Georgia there was yet another construction zone which had the two right lanes of a three-lane highway shut so everyone got funneled to the left lane.

They had just recently paved the left lane and there was drop off of about three inches of asphalt on the far left. The cones were arranged such that you had to run your left tires on the shoulder and your right ones on the fresh asphalt.

When I got to that point I was minding my business and obeying the speed limit and all of a sudden my tractor drops off to the left rather abruptly. I swerve back to the right and get off the accelerator only to see my trailer follow me over then violently whip four or five feet further to the left. If I had given it a touch of acceleration instead it would have kept the trailer in line by taking out the “slack” between us. A slight overcorrection or two caused my trailer to oscillate behind me both left and right which brought my heart up into my throat for safe keeping.

Anyway, I made it through without a scratch though there may be a new skid mark or two in the Fruit of the Looms.

Here is my route for today and tomorrow:

Brooksville, Florida

I made it to my consignee ahead of schedule, as usual. After I dropped my trailer I looked through the empty trailer area and there were no CFI trailers to be found. Turns out there are only two CFI trailers at that Distribution Center and both are full yet.

I ran bobtail a few miles up the interstate to a rest area where I’m parked for the night.

Load Craziness

I was assigned a load this morning with two pickups, one in eastern Alabama and the other in northern Georgia, then the job of running the completed load down I-75 to Florida. Only problem is, I brought my full trailer to our drop yard in Atlanta and there are no empties here for me to take.

This was the proposed trip I was to take:

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After some consultation, the Powers That Be have decided someone else with an empty trailer will run the first two stops then bring me the full trailer to move down to Florida, like this:

Unfortunately, the load isn’t due to be here until after 7 PM tonight, meaning I have to run it overnight for delivery, most likely.

Accident in Tennessee

Yesterday, while I made my way to Atlanta, I came upon an accident moments after it happened. Two vehicles traveling northbound mixed it up, causing one of them to veer off into the center median where it crashed, ending up in the southbound lanes.

After a short wait, the police, EMTs and fire trucks roll up to the scene and close off the highway:

This is where it occurred:

Soon, the whirring of a helicopter is heard as LifeFlight arrives at the scene:

After a few minutes on the ground, the occupant of the car has been transferred to the chopper and it hustles off:

Traffic is routed around the accident scene by taking up half of the northbound road for the southbound traffic at a conveniently-placed crossover point:

Even the big rigs are sent over to the other side, though it is a bit dicey:

A passing glance at the front of the car in question:

Off to Hotlanta

… or perhaps Warmlanta, this time of year anyway.

I was buzzed around 0900 to go back over to Illinois and pick up a load for Walmart, destined for Ft Pierce, Florida. My instructions have me grabbing it this afternoon and running it down to our Atlanta drop yard where it will be relayed to another driver. Too bad about that — I would have loved the rest of the miles.

A bump in the night

Around 5:15 AM I felt a soft bump from the trailer and got up to check on things. Turns out a flatbed driver was trying to get into the spot next to mine but because the rest area is so packed he couldn’t get a good shot in to the spot around the guy parked behind me against the curb. I pulled up so he could make it into the spot then backed up and parked. After everyone was settled in I went out and took a look at the back of the trailer… just very minor scratching of the aluminum.

Good news and bad news

Well, the good news is my fifth wheel is just fine… the bad news is the cool little kingpin lock the Dick’s folks were using kind of got all ate up and spit out.

They were using a kind of fifth wheel lock that fit snugly around the very bottom of the kingpin… up to this point the only kind I’ve seen were the sort that look like concentric tubes that fit around the entire assembly.

Guess I owe them a lock.

Anyway, headed back whence I came to the Dicks distribution center in Plainfield tonight.

Those Dicks broke my 5th wheel!

I don’t usually swear much, but read on and you’ll get why I did it this time.

I was ordered to Plainfield, Indiana yesterday morning to pick up a load of merchandise for the Dick’s Sporting Goods chain with three drops in Iowa then returning back to Plainfield with returns from the stores.

The first stop in Davenport, Iowa went fine and I drove up the road to Cedar Rapids, Iowa for the second stop. The store only has a single truck dock and they keep a trailer of their own in the dock for extra storage, so we have to unhook from our trailer, hook to theirs, move it out of the dock, drop their trailer, rehook to ours then push it back into the dock. It is even more laborious than writing it out, I assure you.

Anyway, I dropped my trailer and when I went to pick up their trailer I first made certain they didn’t have anything blocking the kingpin, like a kingpin lock. It was just a normal kingpin so I bumped up against it once and it didn’t catch properly, so I pulled up then backed up again while making sure I was aligned properly. Then I hear a crunch and I pull up and see a big chunk missing from the equipment under the fifth wheel plate. Oops.

What I suspect happened was that the angle my fifth wheel was connecting to the kingpin was off a bit because the dock angles down towards the doors. When the kingpin and the locking mechanism on my fifth wheel came into contact it was off just enough to hook up incorrectly and put pressure on the mechanism in an unusual way, and it snapped.

Anyway, I’m at the local Kenworth dealership waiting to get into the shop and get it fixed so I can try moving that trailer again…

The Global War on Terre… Haute?

Apparently, the good citizens of Terre Haute, Indiana are about to be menaced by my 18 wheeler. My satellite unit just went off with the news that I need to deadhead there by 6 PM tonight, which should at least help my fuel economy compared to the 42,000 lbs I just got rid of.

Alas, I have to cross the molasses-like state of Illinois at 55 MPH for most of the day…

Today I am making use of a little-used (and difficult to use correctly, I might add) provision of the Hours of Service called the Split Sleeper berth rule. Basically, instead of taking 10 consecutive hours off, I will take eight hours “now” (from 1 AM to 9 AM this morning) then another two later. The rule is kind of funky to follow correctly, and I’m only attempting it because I use the computerized log book software called Driver’s Daily Log. Highly recommended, by the way.

Off and running hard…ly

So I get back on the board yesterday morning before 7 AM, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. As soon as I get to my truck and start her up, my satellite unit comes to life and I have a message from the shop: she needs maintenance. Why this wasn’t taken care of in the three days I was taking off is beyond mortal ken.

I wait and wait and wait for the shop and finally around 3 PM my truck is taken in and an hour later pronounced hale and hearty. Back on the board and eventually around 9 PM I get told to take a trailer from the yard up to Jefferson City, Missouri because the tractor that brought it in (from its nice long run) was broke and someone needed to step up and cover it. Lucky me.

A whopping 206 miles later and 1 AM I arrive to await my 7 AM unload.

Going to West Memphis, or going to Joplin?

After waiting until early in the afternoon, I got a load picking up tomorrow morning in Louisville and headed out to Mexicali. It is a team-only load, but there aren’t any teams in the area so I am dispatched to take it from there to West Memphis, Arkansas. I noticed when I was plotting my course that taking that load through Joplin, where I’m trying to get to now anyway, is almost as direct a route. So, I spoke with someone who is speaking to someone to see if we can get tomorrow’s destination changed.

After dropping this morning I moved west out to civilization the nearest interstate then south a few miles to a fuel stop. Then, to get myself prepared to take the run I moved north then west to near Louisville thusly:

You can keep Kentucky

As a trucker, you know right off the bat when a town is over 100 miles from the interstate that getting there is going to be a bitch. It took me three hours of creeping up extremely steep grades, then using my Jakes and brakes down the other side, winding and weaving my way up narrow state highways to get to Hazard, Kentucky. In short, it sucked.

The beer distributor in Hazard was difficult to get to, with very narrow residential streets and two active railroad tracks to get in and out. Both sides of my trailer got scraped by trees, and believe me, I was taking the corners as wide as possible.

Naturally, a remote spot like that didn’t have any Sprint access so I have been cut off for a day.

On the way west from Hazard I almost got caught in a random truck inspection spot by a pair of Kentucky D.O.T. folks. The truck in front of me got to speak with them, and I got waved on.

The Route From Hell:

Blooming Idiots!

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I’m parked at a truck stop in Virginia over the weekend, waiting to pick up a load of suds for Budweiser going to Kentucky. When I got up this morning to go inside and brush my fangs, I see a truck near mine with its hood up and a mobile repair vehicle in front of it. Then I took a closer look at the name, and here we are…

(View the archive of pics — get a load of the license plates!)

Heavy Duty

Our trucks are equipped with a suspension load gauge which measures the PSI inside the tractor’s rear suspension. It isn’t exact, but you can tell most of the time when you need to scale a heavyish load and when you’re still legal, on that set of axels at least.

When my gauge reads just over 50 I’m at my limit, so as you can see in this pic, this particular load of beer I took from St Louis was rather heavy. Fortunately I was able to slide the tandems forward far enough to even out the load — on my first try even!

Tight Back

Yesterday, when I picked up my load in New Jersey, I had a fairly difficult spot to back in to. I was in an industrial park area with buildings next to each other sharing a central alley for the docks. The workers at the next building had their vehicles parked in my way and weren’t interested in moving them for little old me.

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This isn’t the toughest back I’ve had to do so far (this is one that was more difficult, for instance) but certainly one that makes a relatively new driver like myself work hard to make without hitting anything.

The one saving grace for this situation was I had room to maneuver next to the trailer you can see here; if there were trailers packed in on either side it would have been miserable.

Traffic up the Wazoo

Well, I got loaded and headed south along the I-95 corridor. Went through Philadelphia, Baltimore, around D.C. then south into Virginia but eventually the traffic got so bad it wasn’t worth driving any further today. I’m 150 miles out from my drop for tomorrow at 0600. I can probably make it by getting up extra early (something like 2 AM my time) but I’m going to see if my new fleet manager can get the deadline bumped back a bit.

UPDATE: Amanda is on the ball and the delivery is bumped back to 0800, so I can leave here between 0400 and 0500 and make it with plenty of time.