Back to Omaha

The long slog over the mountains of Utah and Colorado is at an end, as this afternoon I arrived at our Omaha, Nebraska terminal and T-called the load. I’m back on the board for tomorrow morning but it being Labor Day Sunday there might not be a lot of freight moving.

Coming over the Eisenhower pass just west of Denver brought one of the few disappointments with my truck to the fore: the jake brakes on this Volvo engine are woefully underpowered compared to trucks equipped with CAT or Cummins engines I’ve driven. I had to gear much further down to take downhill slopes in my truck instead of dropping just a gear or two and letting the jakes pick up the slack. The tradeoff seems to be that I do get excellent mileage, which is a bargain I can live with.

Swift Spy Pics

A few weeks ago, I took some pictures of an unusual Swift truck: a reefer! For those of you who don’t drive big rigs, Swift is the largest over-the-road trucking outfit in the US but they haul 90+ percent dry vans, intermodal rail and the like. As you can see, they do at least a little reefer work as well (album here):

I almost forgot the spy pic I took of a Swift car carrier a year ago:

Richfield, Utah

The tubes of the internet barely, barely stretch out here to Richfield so reception is spotty. Nothing much to report for today’s drive. Tomorrow will be fun going over the Eisenhower summit (at 11,110 feet it is the highest spot along the interstate system I think) and in to Denver.

Ridiculous and Coincidence

Today was all about those two things.

I departed Santa Nella, California very early and drove to San Luis Obispo, California mostly in the dark. By the time I arrived the sky was brightening and I got a good look at the building this shipper was using.

On the west side were a pair of docks that you could only get to with a blindside back and there wasn’t enough space to do that because of a locked gate. On the east side were three docks and an easy sight-side back with more than enough room. I chose the second set of docks then went inside to find the shipping people.

It turns out that they ship through the other docks, naturally.

(I realize, belatedly, that the picture doesn’t illustrate the point very well. Basically, I had to drive my tractor through the gate shown in the picture then carefully jackknife my trailer towards the blindside to hit the dock).

The shipper makes all things that you use for pet reptiles: enclosures, heating lamps, etc. Eleven tons of that kind of stuff made its way on to the back of my truck and I shoved off.

On the way from San Luis Obispo out towards the coast along HWY 101 there was a stretch of tight turns and my satellite radio was playing the Kenny Loggins hit “Danger Zone”. Coincidentally, a few minutes later I reached the coast and, for the first time, saw an actual flock of seagulls slowly floating in the breeze. Over the radio came “I Ran”, by Flock of Seagulls.

I figured if I could make a run into the Los Angeles area around noon to 1 PM, get loaded then get out of town at the forefront of the daily wave of traffic. Surprisingly, everything went my way and I reached the other shipper for this load around 1 PM and I was on my way thirty minutes later.

Barstow, California is where I ended up tonight. If I get up early (early in central time) I will try to run through Vegas before its morning rush. Otherwise, I’ll delay a bit and let that situation sort itself out before I get there.

Donner’s Pass

There are some mountain passes that most truck drivers treat carefully. One called Cabbage in Oregon along I-84 east of Portland. Monteagle or Lookout Mountain in Tennessee along I-24. The Grapevine along I-5 in California. And Donner’s Pass in California along I-80.

I have never been over that pass before, and if my luck holds I will avoid that sum’bitch for the rest of my life. Steep, curvy, terrible pavement and lots of road workers running around. Narrow lanes. Did I mention steep? I fueled just across the border in Nevada and I reset my fuel monitor when I did. By the time I hit Sacramento I was registering a bone-chilling 4.1 MPG. My jakes were acting up a bit, making a weird sound when they first engaged after being put under heavy strain for the better part of two hours.

This morning I finished the rest of the run in to the Safeway distribution center in Tracy, California and got unloaded. Food warehouse, lumpers, slow unload. The usual drill in such places.

I alerted my dispatcher that I only had about three hours to run for the rest of the day and it took a solid eight hours to work out my next load. I’m to head south then out to the coast to pick up in San Luis Obispo, California then run further south to the Los Angeles area for a few more pallets then take the whole thing out to Ottawa, Illinois.

One Long Road

After I got back on I-80 from Schuyler, Nebraska I’ve been on I-80 ever since. I kind of like it when my GPS says something like “Turn right on I-80 then continue 514 miles.” Comforting to know there aren’t many turns to miss.

Wyoming and Utah are very hilly so the MPG isn’t up to where I want it to be, but the truck is running fine. My APU is running fine as well, which is a good thing as it is over 100 degrees here in Salt Lake City, Utah this afternoon. Last night in Cheyenne, Wyoming was very nice with temps dipping down to the 50’s so I didn’t have to idle at all. Our fuel solution had me filling in Omaha, picking up the load, topping off again in North Platte, Nebraska in order to make it out near Reno, Nevada where I will fill just before I head into the Golden state. I debated doing it that way but instead I passed up the extra stop and am trying to get to Reno on one tank of fuel. If you don’t hear from me for a few days, then I will probably be stuck in Nevada somewhere cursing my sense of thrift; fair warning.

I’m not having to run hard because I left Omaha with only about 26 hours in my logbook until Tuesday morning. Basically, three 500ish mile days will get me close and the rest I will finish Tuesday for my 0400 appointment. Since this is west coast time, its really 0600 on my body’s clock so that works very well.

Go west and some monster numbers

It was still windy this morning when I left Minnesota, headed back over to North Dakota (visit #2!) then straight down I-29 to Omaha, Nebraska. The load of pork rinds in the trailer was the lightest load I’ve ever hauled: all 211 pounds spread across 63 boxes. Of course, the one time you really hanker for a heavy load is when it is windy out so that didn’t work my way.

Despite the light weight and slow speed I selected, I still only managed around 6.4 MPG according to the truck computer. With no winds it would have been something closer to 8.0 and I wouldn’t have stopped off in Sioux Falls, South Dakota to put on an extra 30 gallons of fuel. Our trip planning software is a bit screwy with the fueling instructions… it tried telling me it was better filling up in Sioux Falls at $3.94 a gallon instead of just getting enough to get back to the yard in Omaha where it was $3.80 a gallon. Naturally, I chose the solution of my own design.

I asked my dispatcher to remember that I gave up going to GATS this week/weekend to do these runs for him so if anything out to California fell out of the sky I would be all over it. Before I arrived in Omaha to drop off all 211 pounds of pork rinds, a preplan showed up. I’ll take a pre-loaded trailer from nearby Schuyler, Nebraska out to Tracy, California tomorrow morning.

When I checked my email I got more good news. Each Friday, owner/operators and lease-purchase operators get emailed the settlement that covers the previous week and is paid the following Tuesday. I mentioned in a post from a few days ago that there were some accounting issues with two loads I had run earlier and the accounting folks had added that pay (and FSC as well, nice catch) to this week’s settlement.

The dollar amount itself was large but that wasn’t really what grabbed my attention. Since I had paid for the fuel used to make those runs over the course of other settlements, my adjusted fuel cost (that is, my cost minus the FSC paid) was artificially high. Now that I’ve double checked everything it turns out that my adjusted fuel cost per mile to date is 10.45 cents. To say I’m thrilled is an understatement — this is a MONSTER number!

Over my first eleven weeks with my own truck I’ve purchased a total of $18,725 in fuel. The trips that I have run with that fuel have paid out an aggregate of $15,786 in FSC, leaving a difference of $2,939 I’ve paid for all my fuel. That is about $267 a week that covers an average of 2,557 miles, for right around ten-and-a-half cents per mile.

Heck, that even covers the two or three weeks I was without my APU and idling all night.

Anyway, once I have a full quarter (13 weeks) of settlements I will put everything together and let everyone at it.