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.