I’m hit, I’m hit!!

So I’m sitting in my truck in back on the bunk discussing the day’s events with my Rosie O’Donnell blowup doll (previously described here) when my tractor jerked to the side and I heard a dull crunch. I disentangled myself and rushed up to the front, where I saw:

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A driver in a US Express truck had managed to back into the driver’s side fender on my truck… the very same one that was replaced six months ago! The poor flasher light at the back is hanging on only by the electrical cable, and you can see the fairing between the steps on the side was bent outward as well. Oh, and my mirror has a slight scrape on it too.

The offending trailer suffered the indignity of a slight scrape to the steel plate in back. That’s the piece of black metal you can see here:

Steel meets fiberglass, steel wins.

Tomorrow morning I need to be up super early to drive a few miles to the local Petro repair shop to get some temporary repairs made, then I will deliver my load and get sent to Joplin. Where my truck will get fixed (the fender) and fixed (neutered back to 65 MPH).

Bummer.

What should have been an easy drive…

This morning I departed Richmond, Virginia and headed south along I-95. Pre-dawn traffic was non-existent and I cruised along merrily. An hour down the freeway I stopped to fuel up, and this is what it cost:

And you thought your fuel bill was big!

After another three hours of driving I pulled off at Florence, South Carolina to fill up my other tank with a 20 oz. ribeye for $9.99 at the local Petro. Yummy.

South of there the traffic was brutal, with wayyyy too many weekend warriors and their RVs clogging up traffic. On two lane roads, slow RVs in the right lane caused a lot of braking and lane changing to get around them and accidents were inevitable:

View all South Carolina Pileup pics

I came up on this one shortly after it happened, while the police and emergency vehicles were still on their way to the scene.

Traffic for the next 120 miles or so was pretty much bumper-to-bumper, with lots of slowing. Upon entering Georgia it went to three lanes and the traffic sorted itself out.

Anyway, I drove 555 miles today and stopped at a truck stop just before entering Florida, about 15 miles from my destination tomorrow morning. I expect I will be ordered down to Palatka, Florida after I deliver to pick up yet another load of paper products bound for the midwest.

Relaxin’ then headin’ to Jackson(ville)

I rolled in to Chesapeake around 0400 local time. The receiving folks at the Sam’s Club in question had heard nothing from our crack Customer Service people, so they just assumed I was slacking. Got me unloaded very quickly though.

The lot behind the warehouse was just big enough to shoehorn in one last semi, namely mine. I was blocking a row of bobtails in where I parked but I didn’t plan on staying long and they could always pound on my door if one of them had to move. None did, and I got a couple hours rest.

Around sunrise I drove around the front side of the complex to the Super Wal-Mart next door to refill my pantry. Hard to believe it, but I spent over $85 — I haven’t been able to stock up in a while.

Right when I got back out to the truck I got beeped with a new load picking up in Richmond, Virginia then delivering in Jacksonville, Florida first thing Monday morning. This would ordinarily be a craptastic 700 mile weekend waste of time, but in this case it will allow me to reset my hours and take a much-needed break. Plus, it won’t hurt to be heading south versus north at this time of year.

UPDATE: It turns out I’m loaded with 16 tons of Ramen noodle containers. College students rejoice!

Water, water everywhere

Yes, it is that time in this busy holiday season to take another huge (read: heavy) load of water across our roads. I got deadheaded to some unpronounceable town in Pennsylvania (Breinigsville… say that three times quickly) where I’m currently waiting for a Nestle plant to load me up with 46,000 lbs of water, destined for Chesapeake, Virginia.

They originally wanted me to get it there by 0100 tonight, but with my 10 hour break that would have required a governed speed of approximately 110 MPH. I petitioned for this small change, but was denied. Corporate believes it is better to just adjust the time out. They still can’t have my 70 MPH truck back!

The Devil is in the Details

Details like having a tight, blind-side back around the front end of a parked truck whose nose is about two feet into the space I need to use to back. Details like very slow warehouse personnel taking their sweet time unloading my truck.

They have a new load for me when this is done… going back the way I came into Pennsylvania then down through Delaware to the Chesapeake Bay area in Virginia.

911 miles to go…

Hopefully just a coincidence with the numerology there!

I treated myself this Christmas morning to no alarm clock, so I didn’t get rolling until 3 AM or so instead of 1 AM, the earliest the Hours of Service rules would allow. It has been freezing every morning along this trip so far, but since there hasn’t been any precipitation it really makes no difference. Since I have broadband internet out on the road, I use weather tools like this one to stay safe and plan my trips.

I arrived in Joplin around 0830 and the inspection bays were closed for the day! I trundled over to the fuel pumps, filled up and got the heck out of town (after getting my new IFTA sticker and other registration stuff for the new year).

Christmas lunch/dinner was at a rather busy Flying J restaurant a few hours down the road, and a celebratory shower.

690 more miles behind me

I actually thought I was going to crack 700 miles today, and I drove all but 15 minutes of my allotted eleven hours. Two more days like that and I will be in good striking distance for Thursday morning.

Tomorrow, about halfway through my driving day, I will arrive at our HQ in Joplin, Missouri and my truck will be inspected. If I lose much time at all there it might put the delivery schedule in jeopardy. Especially if they find the time to turn my truck down to 65 miles per hour.

2,895 miles

That is how long the load I picked up this morning has to go. It delivers Thursday in Saddle Brook, New Jersey at 0800 local time.

I was deadheaded from San Marcos, California down to our drop lot in Otay Mesa to swap my empty trailer for a full one. All total, just under 3,000 miles.

Today I spent a lot of time climbing hills and barreling down the other side. There are a line of mountains to the east of San Diego, and a series of long climbs from the Phoenix, Arizona area up towards Flagstaff. None very pleasant in a heavily-loaded truck, as mine is (21 tons of batteries, this time). The Cummins engine in my truck is very reliable and seems to consume less fuel than the Caterpillar alternatives most of our trucks are equipped with. However, it doesn’t have anywhere near the same torque under a heavy load.

I finished in Winslow, Arizona — about 620 miles. I will need to pick up the pace the rest of the way, but I won’t have many mountains to climb and aside from Illinois and Ohio, the rest of the states have reasonable truck speed limits. According to the GPS, I have 2,275 miles remaining to run. I need to have three very good driving days in order to be set up to finish it on Thursday morning.

We’ll see.

15 minutes

I left this morning from Blythe as early as I could, figuring I would see what the early rush hour traffic was like and decide where to stop further down the road. Surprisingly, traffic headed west on the I-10 was moving well and with a few slow-ups I was able to transition to I-215 north, then the 210 freeway west. Even though I wasn’t intending to, I got to the receiver only 15 minutes after the original delivery time.

Turns out that doesn’t even matter… they are presently inside having one of their daily meetings and myself and a number of other drivers are here waiting for them to start working. Bleh.

So tired

It doesn’t look like much, but today was one of the most tiring days I’ve had in my 13 months of trucking.

I got up early this morning and drove to my consignee in Huntington Beach, California through fifty miles of the best that LA could toss at me. Of course, at 0400 that typically isn’t much.

The consignee was a real treat to get in to. At one point I had to blind-side back out on to the street then make my way inside, where I had to wind my way around through muddy paths to the area where the trailer would be unloaded. By hand. A full 53′ trailer, filled top to bottom with heavy clay pottery, protected by an incredible amount of cardboard boxes.

It took two hours just to get started because the owner didn’t have a cashier’s check for the C.O.D. as instructed, and CFI doesn’t take plastic or company checks apparently. So, he had to run over to the bank and wait until they opened up, before I opened up the trailer.

Then his crew of about 10 workers went about unloading these huge clay pots. I’m talking big enough to plant a palm tree in, some of them at least. All made in central Mexico in the state of Jalisco in a town called Tonala, that I’ve been to before.

While I was watching this go on for three hours, I get a call from my fleet manager asking if I could pretty please help out with a high priority load (Conway, naturally) that hadn’t been picked up. Just need me to take it from the Los Angeles area on I-10 just inside Arizona then swap trailers with another driver. Oh, and deliver his load back in the Los Angeles area tomorrow.

I’ve been highlighted for ten days now. I spent all of this morning thinking of what I would do on my time off today and tomorrow. Then, I sighed and told them I’ll do my part, take one for the team, yada yada.

So now I’m in Blythe, California near the Arizona border. The other driver agreed to meet me here since traffic was absurd in Los Angeles and I got very much delayed. Also delayed will be the load of his that I’m taking in, that was supposed to be there at 0630 tomorrow. Try noonish, folks.

Nite nite.

Blowout!

Picture I-10, westbound in moderate traffic just at sunrise this morning. A heavily-laden truck rolling down the road in the slow lane, minding its own business. A strange sense of foreboding. The soundtrack welling up in the background, with the strings section providing sharp, dissonant notes.

Boom!

Suddenly, the truck weaves right, then left as one of the eight rear tires explodes. Rubber debris fills the road. Other cars and truck swerve, slow down, speed up — whatever it takes to avoid becoming part of this event.

Brake lights now, and the squeal of the brakes themselves above the hissing of the air valves. The noise of the Jake brakes and engine working together to assist. Tenuous directional control is regained and the damaged beast is brought over to the right side and out of the traffic lanes. Finally, it shudders to a halt.

Okay, so the real thing wasn’t anywhere near as dramatic. I’m minding my business chugging down the freeway when I hear a booming popping noise and I feel my trailer tugging a bit at me. Directional control wasn’t really a problem, and I pulled it over quickly and easily.

The tire, as you can see, is done for:

View all Blowout pics

The tire folks called in by our road service department were here in about an hour, and after about 30 more minutes it was taken care of.

Cue the end credits.

California vs Texas

No, its not a knock-down, drag-out tussle between the states. Its just that any time I highlight for San Marcos, California I inevitably get sent to San Marcos, Texas instead.

I dropped my load first thing this morning in the drop yard of a textile company near the Mexican border. Now, I thought that textile companies produced textiles (shirts, pants, socks, etc.) but this one doesn’t. It is a huge warehouse with folks sorting all the donated clothing that goes to organizations like Goodwill. I was surprised to see them using huge compactors to compress everything together into big blocks to make stuff easier to ship… ship to Mexico, I expect.

The guy in charge of the yard spoke muy pocito englais, and I speak muy pocito espanol. Eventually he showed me where to bring my truck into his dirt yard area and wait while one of his local chofurs (drivers) moved a few trailers around and made me a spot to drop my full trailer in.

Empty trailers are kept out on the street in long lines, nose-to-tail with the trailers on either end having kingpin locks so no one can swipe one. Unfortunately, the company across the street parked one of their trailers in front of this line and they didn’t want to move it aside to get at the rest. Eventually, I got on the horn with dispatch and we agreed I would bobtail over to our yard and our local yard driver would grab the empty later. Explaining and understanding all of this with two grown adults talking in two different languages was interesting.

Anyway, back to the Battle of the States. I get back to our yard and before I can even jump in the bunk my buzzer goes off. They have a super rush-rush load that has to be in San Antonio at 0500 tomorrow. About 550 miles. All interstate 10. Fantastic single day run. It also happens to be a great lead up to being dispatched home to San Marcos, Texas. You see my issue.

I called my dispatcher, Amanda. I mentioned that this happens almost every time I’ve highlighted out to California and she told me that she has a big note on the screen to make sure to not send me to San Marcos, Texas. The load planner, naturally, ignored that and sent me that load.

Perhaps I should have run it then mentioned the state mixup tomorrow morning when they try to dispatch me to the one in Texas. Would have had a nice, all-day, easy-breezy run, and I would have basically doubled those miles getting back to El Paso then points west.

It sucks being honest sometimes.

Delay, delay, delay

Yesterday morning started with a lengthy delay at the beer distributor as I waited in a line of trucks waiting to be loaded or unloaded. Afterwards, I went back to the local truck stop and attempted my patented system to ensure a quick dispatch (shutting the truck down, putting up my window coverings, taking off my clothes and getting into bed for a short nap).

Wouldn’t you know it, I got buzzed almost immediately. Must be something to it.

I was sent to Albuquerque, New Mexico to the local Goodwill center to take a load down to El Paso, Texas. About 200 miles deadhead to pick up, and about 240 to deliver. All in a day’s work, I thought.

When I arrived at the center they were undertaking a fire drill of some sort, but shortly thereafter I picked up a new trailer loaded with used clothes and did my pre-trip. Oh lordy.

One of the tires was flat. One of the mudflaps was missing. And one of the axle seals was leaking oil.

The first two are things the previous driver should have noted. The trailer had been there the better part of a week, and we have service companies that will come out and fix up such things for us. But noooo, easier for the next driver to spend his or her time taking care of it.

I went to the local truck stop and got in line for the repair bays. And waited. And waited. Eventually, I was next in line and got inside, and its break time. Then the local grease monkeys were fiddling with a truck in the next bay.

Some three hours later the tire was fixed (bad valve stem), the mudflap was replaced and the oil seal was patched up. By this time it was 4:00 local time and the traffic was starting to back up, so I quickly made my way south out of the city and drove as far as Anthony, Texas, right at the Texas / New Mexico border before shutting down.

A very long day, with delay after delay.

Nice day for a (700 mile) Sunday drive

I got up at my usual early hour and checked the weather. Cold, but not down to freezing where I was, and very dry. One good thing about cold fronts, unless it brings rain it tends to be very low humidity and dries things up.

I drove and drove, stopping in Weatherford, Texas to fuel and shower. Then I drove a bit further down I-20 and just before I angled off of it up towards Lubbock, I visited a super Wal-Mart to stock up the pantry and fridge. Got lots of good food, but they sure were out of most of the veggies and fruits I like to eat. Perhaps I need to widen my food horizons.

The timing worked perfectly. I rolled into Roswell, New Mexico at 5:30 which was right at the end of my driving day. I made my way to the local truck stop and shut her down for the night. Parked next to another CFI driver who has been here waiting for more than a day for his next load, after he brought a load of beer down from Colorado. Ominous.

Shreveport, Louisiana

Early this morning I picked up a new trailer at a beer plant in Cartersville, Georgia. I had the empty trailer I dropped there for a week or so, which is unusual at CFI.

Beer loads are notoriously heavy, and this one is no exception. With the 46,500 pounds of cargo on board my truck weighs in at 78,500 pounds. Fortunately, my route across the southern states is mostly flat so the weight isn’t as much of a bother as it normally is.

The drive today was easy, it being a Saturday. I took care of about half of the 1,250 mile journey and I have tomorrow and Monday morning to finish the rest. However, I overheard a Louisiana State Trooper discussing the weather when I shut down, saying it was likely going to freeze here overnight and there is quite a lot of water on the road from the heavy rains. Fun, fun.

Am I really highlighted for home?

I could have swore I highlighted for home back on December 10th, and my satellite system backs me up with a copy of that request. Yet this morning I get a dispatch taking me from the cozy warmth of Georgia up to Connecticut. That being just about the opposite direction to southern California you can get, I just had to call my dispatcher and ring her chimes.

Turns out my highlight was taken off at some point, by persons unknown. The good news is some other slob is going to have to take that load up there (doesn’t deliver until Monday, naturally), the bad news is I have to sit here north of Atlanta until Saturday morning to get a load heading west.

To Roswell, New Mexico, of all places.

Lazy days

I admit it, I was feeling more than a little lazy yesterday. I could have driven all the way to the consignee for this morning’s unload and parked it nearby overnight (no overnight parking at the consignee according to the satellite unit; the reality was a bit different). Instead, I packed it in early at Cartersville, Georgia then finished up the trip early this morning. Unloading was simple, given there were only 6 pallets of stuff, and now I wait for my next in the parking area of an abandoned warehouse with some other trucks from other companies.

30 degrees

About 40 miles north of Indianapolis, the temperatures started rising rapidly. First 40 degrees, then 45, 50… 55! Finally, by the time I shut down just to the south of Indy, my outside air temperature gauge reads 63 degrees, 30 degrees warmer than I was three hours north of here!

Icy mush

I was up and running as soon as I could under the Hours of Service regulations this morning, and sighed a sigh of relief when I made it to the east side of Indianapolis, Indiana just before 0600 so I could get on the board as instructed.

Then I waited, and waited.

After almost four hours, the buzzer went off and I was told to run up to Grabill, Indiana to pick up a load of PACCAR products bound for Georgia. PACCAR is the company that makes Kenworth and Peterbuilt, so these are things like hoods, doors and the like.

On the way up to the shipper the temperature went from mid 40’s to low 30’s in the span of about ten minutes. Plenty of snow in the fields alongside the highways, and a nice, cleansing, light rain falling. Fortunately, it didn’t get below freezing so while it is slippery for someone with an empty trailer, it isn’t impossible.

I’m waiting to get loaded now. I would ordinarily dance a jig for a light load, but running on ice, slush and snow calls for something with a bit more heft. Hopefully I can get out of here early enough I can run back south below Indy and avoid the freeze tonight.

UPDATE: Almost stuck not once but twice in the slushy parking lot of this place. Thank goodness I went through this mess last year and have a couple ideas of how to get a truck unstuck!