Old El Paso

I left Tonopah, Arizona early this morning to try to beat the traffic in Phoenix and Tucson. Phoenix was no problem but I did get caught up a bit in Tucson due to construction along I-10. Still, I managed the 500 mile trip in just under eight hours which basically meant it was cruise control at top speed 99% of the way. Just the way I like it.

It turns out the load was high value so I probably shouldn’t have posted my whereabouts before I arrived at my destination. Whoops. CFI hasn’t asked me to take any particular measures in this regard, but I think in the future I will resume the “Where in the US is he?” posts.

When I was pulling out of our El Paso yard I noticed the CFI truck number 30000 in the back row. This is a new Kenworth T660 with its experimental (and tempermental, apparently) advanced HVAC system. I didn’t see the driver when I started snapping photos of the exterior but it turns out he was there so we chatted for a bit. I will post pics when I get someplace with broadband, which isn’t something El Paso is equipped with at this time.

131,711 miles

With this load that I will finish up today, I will have been dispatched for 131,711 miles in my first year at CFI. According to the folks in the rear with the gear at HQ, my 12-month out-of-route mileage is 4% more, so I’ve actually driven about 137,000 miles between my truck and that of my finisher.

This is an average of 10,975 dispatched miles per month which is, to be honest with you, more than I thought I had driven. I’ve had a couple slow months and recently what seems to be a lot more short runs, but they have kept me moving overall.

Food warehouses

Suck. That is all.

I’m not sure why just about every one you go to has a messed-up parking situation. Slots are way too close to each other, backing seems to be designed for the 40-foot trailers and cab overs of yesteryear, and the personnel… don’t get me started.

Anyway, I eventually made it out alive and was deadheaded to my designated Time At Home spot. Be back first thing Thursday.

Mood swings

After three or four hours waiting yesterday, the shop opened up and they got to the business of taking off the other driver’s padlock. Boy, were we jipped!

Corporate has gone on and on about how tough these locks are, how rarely a load gets stolen if you have your lock in place. I’m here to tell you that it takes about 20 seconds (yes, seconds) to go through one of these things with a small blowtorch. And the kicker is, the guy didn’t even damage the door hasps or the door itself.

I have video of this on my camera that I will post soon if I can figure out how.

Anyhow, after this took place it was daylight out and I made my way west along I-10. I was feeling okay physically but I wasn’t in a good mood. It is amazing how much more difficult it is to drive long distances when your mind isn’t set on it. I droned on all day, looking at each truck stop along the way and asking myself “Can I stop yet?” but kept pressing on for 400 miles before I finally called it quits.

This morning I got up at my usual hour, didn’t have a lock to cut off and made great time through Phoenix and on in to California. There were a number of high wind warning signs along the interstate, but you could hardly fly a kite with the wind I experienced. The wind turbines in the Palm Springs area were hardly moving, even.

Thanks a pantload, driver!

So, I get this load out to the Los Angeles area yesterday that doesn’t deliver until Tuesday morning. This allowed me to spend the night at the local Petro down the street from our drop yard along with over a hundred other drivers, huddled up in the cold.

I carefully made my way back to the yard this morning to hook on to the trailer I will be taking for this run, only to find out that the previous driver who had relayed this load here has left his fairly expensive company-issued lock on the back. Our night dispatch folks rang him up and told him it would be $50+ bucks to replace the lock and apparently he took one look outside at the snow on the ground and said “hell yeah, I’m staying in bed”.

Now, I suggested we just have him Fedex one of his lock keys to the consignee in Los Angeles so when I arrived they could take off the lock in some sort of ceremony, showing our commitment to keeping their 20 tons of laundry detergent safe and sound. Alas, the DOT folks have this regulation requiring us to be able to open our trailers at any time (in case the white powdery substance wasn’t actually detergent) so that was out.

Instead, I get to wait here for four hours until the repair shop at the Petro opens up so they can cut or burn the lock off. Heck, I may video tape it just for giggles.

Speaking of giggles… thanks a pantload, driver!

Turtle Bob on the “down low”?

I collected this very disturbing evidence weeks ago and have wrestled with my conscience ever since… should I post it? What would my soon-to-be-ex-friend Turtle Bob say or do if he finds out I’ve revealed his secret?

Finally, the truth won out and I have decided to post damning evidence of Turtle Bob on the down low. Yes, I was suspicious when he hung up his driving spurs and became a dispatcher… he gave some fluff excuse about “true love”, “being lonely” or other such blather and I have to admit, I bought into it. I am, after all, twice* the driver he was.

Then, a few weeks ago I was picking up a load and I noticed this truck:

I didn’t think much of it for a few seconds until I looked closer, below the grill, and gasped out loud as I realized the extent of his betrayal:

I know night dispatchers at CFI don’t make the kind of dough he was accustomed to making, but I couldn’t figure out his scheme.

Now, I realize all this time he’s been on the down low, cashing in. Oh, the humanity!

* If measured by weight.

El No-Paso

Yesterday afternoon a message came across the satellite system ordering me to El Paso with a trailer full of something-or-other. I was a bit tired, having come in from Waco a short while before, so I sweet-talked the dispatcher into giving me a couple more hours to run it, which would allow me to start early today and run it in.

The shortest, and best, way to run between Laredo and El Paso is to take a series of state highways that avoids San Antonio entirely:

Until you reach I-10, the area you pass through is very rural and lightly populated… and the highways are 65 and 70 MPH most of the way. Just the kind of quick and easy run I like. I did the 600 mile trip in 9.25 driving hours, or 64.7 MPH the whole way.

The last third of the journey included a decent amount of snow falling. I recently purchased a video camera and I will upload some video soon if I can figure out how to make that work. Until then, there is this pic I took upon reaching our El Paso dropyard:

West Memphis to Waco, to Laredo

Yesterday I drove pretty much non-stop from West Memphis, Arkansas to Waco, Texas where I planned to enjoy a nice Thanksgiving meal at Hooters. Unfortunately, the bastards took the day off so I had a nice, but not as nice as I had hoped, meal at the Flying J truck stop.

The reason I even contemplated eating outside my truck was that CFI notified everyone they would reimburse you for a Thanksgiving meal up to $15. I like doing things just a bit differently than most others, so I figured submitting a $15 Hooters receipt would be right up my alley. Alas, no luck.

In order to make my arbitrary deadline in Laredo I had to be up at 0100 when I was still a bit groggy. After a couple hours I found a new Pilot that just opened north of San Antonio and pulled off to stop for a power nap. Fully refreshed, I breezed down to Laredo and was given the bad news that I needed to make my local delivery. I’ve been to the place before so finding it wasn’t difficult, but I had to wait for an hour once I was there for them to open up for the day.

Trucking and time management

I am a big believer in making the best use of my time during my workday. Like most truck drivers, I am paid by the mile or as we like to say: “I’m earnin’ when the wheels are turnin’.”

Outside of shippers and receivers, traffic and weather are really the two things that can trip me up while I’m driving. Yes, things like blowing a tire or having some other sort of mechanical hiccup can occur, but they are essentially unpredictable events that you have to respond to.

I love ending a driving day near a city that I have to drive through the next day, because I’m usually up and running by 0300 or 0400 and traffic basically doesn’t exist at that time. As the morning hours go by, however, there comes a time where another city before me needs to be crossed and I have to work out a schedule that will let me do this efficiently.

Consider today’s run:

I began today just north of Columbus, Ohio so even though the traffic there is dreadful in the mornings I wasn’t concerned because it would be behind me by the time everyone else woke up. But there is Cincinnati, Ohio as well, about two hours beyond. If I start around 0400 (local time) then it will be 0600 or 0630 by the time I get down to that area.

With few exceptions, I’ll head in towards a city before 0700 and not be too concerned with traffic (mega cities like Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, etc. excepted). I was in and out of Cincinnati by about 0645 just as the northbound lanes of I-71 were filling up with the inbound commuters.

Now I have to worry about Louisville, Kentucky. It is about 90 minutes further and this could be a problem: I would be approaching the city around 0830 or so which is the height of most traffic congestion. So, instead, I stopped short at Pendleton, Kentucky at one of the truck stops there, enjoyed a long shower, made breakfast and caught a nice nap. I got back on the road at 1015 and blew through Louisville, hardly having to touch the brakes.

Next is what I consider the worst of the lot, Nashville, Tennessee. For a city of its size it has massive congestion and the roads are very poorly laid out. It is one of the cities I use a feature of my GPS unit to memorize the lefts and rights (eg “Stay right to I-40” or “Keep left on I-65”) so I know when and where I have to switch over quickly. This time it was simple: right, left, right, left, like cadence.

Nashville is about two-and-a-half hours south of Louisville on a good day and today was a poor day, with lots of rain and a lot of holiday traffic. Still, I took a short 30-minute lunch break at a rest area in southern Kentucky in order to time my arrival after the lunch hour (gained an hour going from Eastern to Central time). By the time I made my arrival, the traffic was heavy but flowing well and I had no problems getting out the western side efficiently.

Finally, there was Memphis, Tennessee. I know from previous experience that afternoon traffic heading inbound to Memphis is light unless you come in around 1700, so I went directly from Nashville through Memphis and across the river into West Memphis, Arkansas in one shot, arriving at 1500.

Today, on one of the busiest traffic days I have seen this year, I didn’t get caught in a single traffic jam or come to a complete stop even once. There were delays here and there, but despite spending the first two hours or so in a 55 MPH state, I averaged 64 MPH for the day (615 miles in 9.5 driving hours).

That, to me, is effective time management.

Thanksgiving

I have a theory about getting dispatches: if I’m waiting on one, the thing that makes them arrive instantly is taking off my shoes and going in back to lie down on my bed. It seems like there is a pressure sensor or something under the bunk that forces our dispatching crew to come up with something in a nanosecond. Or, I could be imagining things.

This morning after I dropped off the 650-odd HDTVs at Sony I had just sat down when my buzzer went off with a new load… and a happy Thanksgiving we will have this year!

First, I’m deadheaded north about 160 miles to Erie, Pennsylvania to pick up a load going to my own personal favorite terminal (not, but it will do in this instance), Laredo, Texas! A whopping 1,715 miles across the midwest to the border:

I’m given until the morning of the 23rd to get it there, known in the retail sales industry as Black Friday.

Finally, a nice, long, don’t-have-to-load-or-unload-every-day, just drive it, make my own hours, set my own path, kinda trip.

Thanksgiving, indeed.

Merry-go-round

The Walgreens folks took their sweet time getting me unloaded, and once that was done the folks in the rear with the gear at HQ ordered me to St Louis first thing in the morning for a neat-o beer run down to West Memphis, Arkansas for noon tomorrow. Just the 357 miles I was looking forward to at the start of this weekend.

Great things come to those who wait


Where I parked last night

I got a long, uninterrupted, restful snooze last night and got up at my usual early hour to check if the load was finally ready. Not only was it ready, it turns out it only weighs about 9,500 pounds!

After an extended “I got a light load” dance — I’m pretty sure I busted a move there somewhere, at least I was aching afterward like I had — I locked on to my trailer, did my walkaround and blew out of town.

Waiting for a GP

No, not a doctor, Georgia Pacific. I finished my first run this morning up in the Jacksonville area then moseyed down to Palatka, Florida for my other run to Illinois. Turns out they are backed up big time and it will be a few hours before my load is ready. By then I will be out of hours to run for the day so I’m going to take my break here and get at it first thing in the morning.

I had an exciting morning. After I got loaded I had to fuel, but the only place to do so was up near Jacksonville so I spent the better part of two hours watching my fuel gauge. Last time I was in Joplin they rotated my fuel tanks so the spouts weren’t on top any more which solved the problem of the tanks showing empty after about 700 miles. It also created the problem of me not knowing exactly how far “empty” is any more, and whether or not the gauges are accurate now. My truck is happy to report that they are fairly accurate and I ran over 1,000 miles on this batch of fuel, to the tune of 150 gallons to fill it back up.

Along the way I got flashed not once but twice, and by women both times (for a change). This doesn’t happen to me that often, so it makes for an interesting day sometimes. When men flash it makes for an interesting day as well, come to think of it… bleh.