The next to last and the last load for 2008

This morning began with instructions to head to the small town of Frontenac, Kansas to the Triple-T pet food processing plant for a load. The weather over the past few days has been unusually warm and most of the ice and snow has departed for now.

The loading went fairly quickly and they even had scales at the site so I made sure I was legal before I left.

The run north through Kansas City to Council Bluffs then over to Omaha went smoothly. Along the way I was told to t-call the load at our yard for delivery by a utility driver in the morning, then given a load heading down to Phoenix.

After fueling at our yard and swapping trailers I was on my way again, with a short stop to wash up.

The day ended in York, Nebraska at the crossroads of I-80 and highway 81 that I will take south in the morning to Salina, Kansas then southwest to Tucumcari, New Mexico.

Who would have guessed?

Nope, the Swift plant in Greeley, Colorado still managed to bungle calling me. I got up early the next morning, got the trailer and paperwork and left town.

Eleven hours later I dropped the trailer in our Kansas City, Missouri drop lot for another driver to take to his or her home and spent the night. The next morning, the day before Christmas, I got the go ahead to head home myself.

I’m planning to head back out either Sunday or Monday to wrap up the rest of the year so stay tuned.

“The only thing worse than drinking water from the toilet…”

“… is cheering for Kyle Busch.”

I swear, those were the words I saw on the back of a car I saw this morning. He had a lot of other NASCAR signs, stickers and such back there as well so I’m assuming this message has to do with that sport, but I’m not sure since I’m not a fan.

This load I’m on has two PetSmart stops, both in Colorado Springs, Colorado. It stands to reason that one of the stops has to be first, as the cargo is loaded in the trailer that way. Now, the printouts and seals from the PetSmart Distribution Center showed that I was to be at store A at 0500, then store B at 0700. No problemo. Of course, our own company computer system shows it the other way around, but who would you trust: the guys who loaded the trailer or the people who got an electronic copy of the details?

I arrive at store A a bit early and I get out and chat with the guy who will be doing the unloading. We break the seal, only to discover that the product in the back of the trailer really is intended for the other store, and his six pallets are wayyyy up in front. If it were the other way around he could have temporarily taken off a few pallets, gotten his stuff then put the others back on but no way with almost two dozen. I slam and lock the doors then head out across town to the other PetSmart.

Arrive at the other stop and quickly open the trailer doors and back up to the dock. No point in waiting for someone to break the seal — there is only the broken one in back now from Stop A. The guy at the other store said for them to call if there were any questions, but they were cool. While they efficiently removed twenty pallets from the trailer I spent some time inside checking out the cats in the Adoption Center. Too cute.

Finally, the load is off and it turns out they got shorted a pallet. No big deal, it is noted on the bills and we both sign. I head back outside, move the truck off the dock, seal it up then beat feet back the way I came to store A.

I get backed into their dock and they are waiting for me. There was another driver here earlier that left off a lot of cargo, so they aren’t unhappy that they only got six more pallets from me. They are off in a jiffy and I’m on my way.

That Digby trailer I’m hauling? Orders are to tow it up to Denver and drop it in their yard on the north side. Done.

My new orders are to grab an empty from the ConWay yard in nearby Henderson then head up to My All-Time Favorite Meatpacking Plant (NOT!) in Greeley, Colorado. Only, the trailer I pick up is low on fuel and needs a washout. I quickly head over to the local Pilot to take care of both problems, but there is a backlog of probably 20 rigs trying to get through the single-bay Blue Beacon wash there. The only other truck wash in town is over at the Sapp Bros truck stop a few miles away, but drivers confirm that it is shut down due to being out of water for one reason or another. Just great.

I head north about 15 miles on I-76 to a small Tomahawk truck stop that has a kind of rinky-dink truck wash bay at the end and wouldn’t you know it, there is a short line. An hour or so later the trailer is clean and I’m in Greeley, dropping off the trailer at the plant and being placed on their dreaded “will call” list. This means you leave them your name and cell phone number and, in theory, they “will call” you.

Who knows, it might actually work this time.

The First ‘Ho I’ve Picked Up

It is time to fess up. I’ve been a truck driver for over two years now and I have never engaged the services of any of the “commercial entertainment” available at some places we park.

This isn’t to say I haven’t been propositioned on occasion, either in person or over the CB.

Today I ran down to Phoenix, Arizona and dropped my loaded trailer at the PetSmart DC as planned. When I finished with the paperwork and satellite unit dance, it beeped again with the specifics for my next load, the preplan for Colorado.

I’m glad I scrolled down for the notes at the very bottom of the dispatch message or I would have missed it: we’re using someone else’s trailer for this load. The company in question is called Digby.

Now, Digby owns or is part of another company called Navajo (NAV-A-HO) so when I say I’ve picked up a ‘Ho that is what I meant. What were you thinking?

Oddly enough, my truck is just about the perfect truck to do such dirty work. It is plain white with the smallest-available company decals on the side so if you were to glance at my rig it would look like a Digby/Navajo setup. Hopefully I can stealth into Colorado past the eagle-eyed DOT officers.

Two other happenings to report: a rock has left a second small crack in my windshield, this one towards the drivers side. More of a chip, really, but something I could get hassled over.

Second, my dang locking fuel caps froze shut a few days ago! I went in to fuel at the Flying J in Peculiar, Missouri only to find that on one the key wouldn’t even go in and on the other side it would go in but not turn (which I leaned after I bent the crap out of said key). It is close to zero degrees and I need a nearby source of warm liquid to unfreeze the caps so I can fuel and continue down the road… Before you get any more incorrect notions in your head, I went inside the cab of my truck and used my microwave to nuke some bottled water then used that to unfreeze both sides.

A New Coat of Dirt

It took all of one day, but most of my truck is again coated with dirt, sand, salt and whatever other crap they are putting down on the roads nowadays. This was all up in Nebraska and Kansas, as my drive today was on nice clear roads with temps mostly above freezing.

I departed Dodge City, Kansas just before daybreak and ended the day in Gallup, New Mexico with one stop for a power nap and one fueling stop. I was a bit hungry and the fridge is mostly empty, so I went in for an Arby’s Crispy Chicken Cordon Bleu sandwich and some Potato Bites. Somehow the order got screwed up twice.

There were all these electronic billboards here in New Mexico touting a “Blizzard” of DUI/DWI enforcement, officers around every bush, etc. They must be avoiding my part of the state since I only saw two or three in more than 300 miles. Most of these holiday heavy enforcement notices are baloney, anyways, in my book.

I actually got a Shiny New Preplan for a change! I expected that this load I’m dropping at the PetSmart DC in Phoenix would be backed up with a store load out, and I was right. Up to Colorado Springs, Colorado for Monday morning with two stores in the same city (a first, for me). Since I am planned to be home by Wednesday, there will probably be a load out to Omaha, then one from Council Bluffs down to Carthage as there have been so many other times.

The House on the Ass-Edge of Civilization

I spent yesterday at the ThermoKing and Volvo dealers getting various parts of my truck and APU serviced, fixed, repaired, greased, examined, spindled and/or mutilated. My complaint list exhausted, the fine folks at the Volvo place even pointed out an indoor wash bay down at the end of their facility that I was welcome to use. It even included a heated power sprayer! Needless to say, I spent about 15 minutes getting the hang of it and washing off most of the salt, sand and other road grit off of my truck.

This morning I met with Ross C., head of operations to empty my spleen over that trip back on December 1st. The one where I had to wait eight hours at the shipper then another twelve at the consignee. Apparently, since no one called them about detention while I was at the shipper we (or should I say, I) am entitled to squat. We went over the particulars and he has sent out some feelers to others in our organization to see if there isn’t something can be done, as they say in the south.

I’m glad I went in to talk to dispatch and the planners, as my dispatcher had me off until tomorrow which would have been nice for the laziness factor but not so nice for the paycheck.

Soon after yacking with the locals at HQ a trip plan was sent out over the satellite. The instructions to get to the shipper were telling: (paraphrased) “Go west along a state highway from Omaha about 100 miles. Turn left down a gravel road. Go 6-7 miles and the shipper will be on the left.”

Making things ever-so-much-more interesting, the weather report for today is grave. A frosty ice storm is due to blanket much of the region starting in the mid-to-late afternoon. I departed Omaha as soon as I could grab an empty trailer.

The directions were actually pretty accurate, and a few hours later I arrived at a place I describe as The House on the Ass-Edge of Civilization:

I’m pretty sure if you were to follow that road around the bend there you would fall off the face of the planet or something. We’re talking the serious boonies here.

As is so often the case with these ad-hoc business locations, the dock situation borders on the ridiculous. Basically, you have to make a left turn into the property, thread your way between (live) power poles, avoid missing a shack on one side and a house on the other, then pivot backward around a stack of pallets obstructing your view to the dock while missing the one pole that other drivers haven’t seemed to be able to miss. To wit:

The house you see in the middle of the picture behind the trees has been converted into the office for this place. It is very homey, with a few cats and dogs underfoot.

Here’s a shot towards the dock (see how clean my truck looks?) and the poorly placed power pole:

It was 17 degrees when I arrived and there were snow and ice flurries flitting about when I left, plus a lot of fog. I boogied as fast as I safely could to the south to try to stay out of the worst part of the storm, and mostly succeeded. As I headed south into Kansas the temps slowly started to creep up until I arrived in Dodge City, Kansas and a balmy 42 degrees.

This load is due any time Saturday in Phoenix, Arizona. If I knock out 600-650 miles tomorrow I should be able to roll into Phoenix noonish or so with some hours left over to head out to the next load with.

Now where were we…

Ah yes. I parked near my consignee in Springfield, Missouri last night and was up before the dawn to get checked through the guard gate and get a door assigned. That taken care of, the lumper locusts descended on all of the waiting trucks and we made arrangements to get the freight unloaded.

My appointment time was 0600 and I was there almost an hour early. Eight hours later at 1300 the unloading was complete and I was allowed to leave. Freaking food warehouses.

I was assigned a load I had to pick up in Kansas City, Kansas and shuttle up to Omaha tonight. This involved about 190 miles of driving empty over snowy and icy roads, finding the shipper in a hard-to-get-at location, deducing that they place the shipping papers in back with the shipment instead of in the box meant for that very purpose on the front of the trailer, then hauling the few thousand pounds of styrofoam containers that Omaha Steaks uses to mail its products to its customers to Omaha.

Another four or so hours along snowy and icy roads and I arrived about 45 minutes ahead of schedule.

Now, when I was offered this load I was told it was a drop and hook at the shipper (it was) and it could be dropped at the consignee at any time before the shipping deadline. When I get to Omaha Steaks I’m told in no uncertain terms that not only can I not drop my trailer on their lot, I HAVE TO FREAKING UNLOAD IT MYSELF. Imagine 7-foot tall pallet-size bunches of styrofoam with a cardboard base and shrink wrapped. No real pallets under them, just the floor.

First, I had to wait for another unlucky Hill Bros soul to finish up unloading his 53′ trailer then I was allowed into the same door to unload mine. I had thus far been up approximately 20 hours, I was tired and really not interested in fingerprinting all this stuff off my truck. Night dispatch was unconcerned, but did inform me I would be paid $25 for my efforts, even though I was told over the phone and the satellite unit this would be a drop. Bunk.

I had the crap off my trailer in about an hour and then got to take my aching, tired, stinky butt off to the local truck stop and spend more time taking a shower.

My legs were cramping most of the night so I had to sleep stiffly, keeping them straight so I didn’t wake up in the agony of clenched muscles.

The Freezin’ Season

A Road Service truck came around after a few hours (they were busy) and had the recalcitrant trailer brakes operating shortly thereafter. One of the things I had tried before calling in for service was to take my regular-sized hammer to the brake drum with a few taps to see if it would pop open. The service guy came with a mini-sledgehammer and knocked the crap out of it and the brake gave up in short order. Must remember to add one of those to the truck soon.

The dispatch came. Not a preplan (what ever happened to those lovely preplans?) but a plan at least. Head east twenty miles to pick up at a Nestle plant then run it down to Springfield, Missouri for a morning unload. It meant a long afternoon and evening drive where the temperature never rose above 16 degrees but the load was moderately heavy so traction was good. I did manage to stop at the Pilot in Troy, Illinois to grab a hot Crispy Chicken Cordon Bleu sandwich at the Arby’s followed by an epic life-or-death struggle across the frozen parking lot to the Dairy Queen next door.

I swear, the only reason I risked life and limb is that this DQ makes THE BEST blizzard I’ve ever had. Consistently. Plus, the cups they use are about one size larger for each portion than anyplace else, so if you get a medium blizzard there you know the tummy is going to end up happy.

Arriving in Springfield before midnight I went through three truck stops that I’m familiar with on the east side of town but no luck. I even tried the lot next to a Waffle House that had truck parking, but the only thing available there was a very sketchy ghetto parking spot and I wasn’t that desperate (yet). I cruised by the consignee, a food warehouse with fairly strict rules, and knew I couldn’t get in until just before my appointment. I settled on a parking lot a few blocks away of a store of some sort that went out of business and who’s dock area was converted into some kind of trucking operation. No one was about, the lot was large and I parked off on the side.

I admit it, I left the truck idling last night for the first time since last summer when my APU was broke. When I started it yesterday morning the sights and sounds were unpleasant. Not completely unlike the sights and sounds of this trucker getting up on a very cold morning.

Get Truckin’

Lets say you park your truck one night with near freezing temps and in the middle of heavy rain. The next morning you get up to go deliver your load only to have your truck sound like Dom Deloise attempting to run a marathon. The engine takes several attempts to start and even then only grudgingly continues to turn over.

What do you do? Get truckin’.

You try to open your drivers-side door to do a walkaround in the 10 degree weather, only to find out it is iced shut. Window won’t roll down either, and the same goes for the passenger side.

What do you do? Get truckin’.

Eventually you force your way out and try to pop the hood of your truck, only to find that it, too, has frozen solid to the rest of the truck. Carefully, you wiggle it open and take a look, only to later find out that it refuses to latch back in place because the latch itself is frozen.

What do you do? Get truckin’.

The windchill is so low that it feels like -15 or -20 out and your fingers freeze almost as soon as you use them to punch in the codes you need at the pump, as the reefer needs to be topped off. The card reader doesn’t want to work, either (who does?) but eventually you get it sorted out and the reefer topped off. While leaving the parking lot of the truck stop, you find out that your transmission is stuck in the low range but that isn’t such a bad thing, as your fuel filters are jacked up anyway and your engine is starving itself.

What do you do? Get truckin’.

You manage to arrive a couple miles away at your consignee, via back roads, only to be directed across the street to another facility, then back to the original one because the guard at the first place didn’t understand what was going on. After eventually being assigned a door and told to wait for someone to cut the seal off, you proceed to imitate the Keystone Cops as you slip and slide around the back to open the doors.

What do you do? Get truckin’.

Orders are to drop the trailer and get an empty, so you disengage (almost leaving a strip of skin on the very cold gladhand handles) and carefully bobtail across the street where you are ignored at the shipping window for fifteen minutes before someone perks up and assigns you the one trailer in their lot that you could take anyway. Back up and hook up to said trailer to find that the lights work fine but the brakes lines are frozen solid. Attempt various ghetto fixes while waiting for our service department to open, all of which fail, then wait on them to send out Road Service to fix the problem.

What do you do? Get truckin’.

Council Bluffs, Iowa

I got running early this morning and made it in to the ConAgra plant in Council Bluffs, Iowa early this afternoon. The security guard checking me in was even nice enough to cut the seal on the trailer to let me get my load lock out of the back before sealing it up with one of their own seals. Didn’t have to do it, so good on him.

I figured I would run over to one of the nearby truck stops and decide what to do with the rest of my day, as my next load will be tomorrow. As I’m passing the Pilot I notice several CFI / ConWay trucks and wonder to myself if the white Cascadia belongs to my friends Paul and Ellen. I pull in and park in an open spot next to the truck and wouldn’t you know it, it’s theirs! I got Paul on the phone only to find out they were at the local casino filling their pockets (cough cough) and eventually we had some dinner across the street.

Wind today was bad from the south. Coming in from Illinois it was on my left side blowing me to the right, then after I turned northwest at Kansas City it was blowing from behind and the left so I got a bit of a boost but the trailer was still squirrely. Fuel was cheaper in KC than here at the yard so I filled up before heading north. I managed to forget to put in some of the anti-gel fuel additive I keep on board so I hope they are using a good winter blend. If you don’t hear from me for a few days, that may be why.

Party on, Wayne!

Yesterday morning I get beeped to run up to Waynesville, North Carolina super quick because there is a plant there that makes packaging for frozen dinners that we haul over to the ConAgra plant in Council Bluffs, Iowa and I’m set for a load. Great!

Only catch is, I’m about 190 miles away on the far side of Atlanta, it is raining cats and dogs and I have to be there no later than 1300 local time or they won’t load me until the following day. I get running as soon as possible and driving as fast as the laws will allow but traffic was terrible around Atlanta and the hills of North Carolina were slick and steep so I got there an hour late. No luck wheedling them for the services of a forklift for ten minutes and I had to park and wait. Again.

Now, I’m about to relay some fairly gross news so kids, listen up! Get your parents out of the room immediately and read on (then scroll down so they don’t realize they’ve missed anything). Okay, ready?

MAN, I had to use the restroom this morning. I’m not talking about a typical wee-wee, I mean get-the-plunger-ready emergency type of thing. I waddled inside, wincing with each step, only to find that the restrooms were inside the locked gated area and me being on the outside. I waited to catch the eye of a forklift driver and finally got let inside where I gingerly made my way across this largish warehouse to the facilities.

Neither of the stalls were occupied so I quick got down to business, and let me tell you — business was good! I have never in my life had such an encounter. I’m telling you, at the end there was Mount Feces in the bowl with its craggy peak poking up out of the water. I was a bit stunned (not to mention, light-headed from the exertion) and I fumbled for the flusher. Much to my relief, the trap on this particular model was fairly wide and eventually it went on its way.

(Now kids QUICK, scroll down a bit so your parents get lost in my usual blather!)


La la la.

Where was I. Oh, yes, at the warehouse. Well, it didn’t take them much time at all to get me loaded and soon I was on my way. The 36,000 pounds of cargo felt like a lot more going up and down the steep grades along I-40 in North Carolina and Tennessee, but eventually I muddled my way through, turning north at Nashville and ending my day in central Illinois.

I needed a shower pretty badly tonight. This happens when you spend nights waiting at shippers and consignees with no facilities. Remind me to take that up with my dispatcher next time we meet.

Waiting and waiting

Wednesday morning I delivered my load of cereal at the Kelloggs DC on the southwestern side of Atlanta. Since it was a Kelloggs load there was naturally a long delay, counting and recounting and a variety of other problems. My arrival time was 0645 (for an 0700 appointment) and I think I rolled out of there just before noon.

I waited for a while, doing paperwork and whatnot. Finally, I beeped my dispatcher but nothing doing there. After another wait I phoned in but he was in a meeting so the guy covering his fleet told me there were a number of our drivers in the area who were waiting on loads. Great.

Finally the news came down that I was stuck for the day and they’ll try again in the morning. I’m glad I had someplace to park.

Second Quarter Results

These are the figures from my second full quarter as a Lease-Purchase driver at Hill Bros. Note that my quarters don’t align with the calendar because my lease started June 6, 2008.

(A reminder from my first quarter results: Your Mileage May Vary. Your numbers would almost certainly differ from mine for any number of reasons, so do not use this as an example of “how much I can make”.)

In my first quarter results I mentioned three goals for this quarter:

First, pay off additional monies owed on the set of super-single tires and rims I ordered my truck with. At the time I wrote that report my understanding was that I owed the full amount but, happily, as it turns out that was the gross amount for the tires and did not reflect the refund for the ones I traded in. In short, a $4,000 hit became a $1,500ish hit. I paid this off in full from my maintenance account early on in the quarter.

Second, I had a goal of raising my take home net pay, after all expenses, to $1,200 per week for the quarter. In the first quarter I managed $1,110 per week. As I mentioned in my first quarter results, part of my net pay went to various escrows accounts earlier than required which had the effect of lowering my effective net pay. In the second quarter I not only paid off the tires but also finished filling my maintenance account to $5,000 and also set aside over $1,200 towards paying the balloon payment at the end of my lease.

My third goal was to attempt to average less than 10 cents per mile in fuel costs for my truck for the quarter. I noticed about three weeks from the end of the quarter one week where, up to that point, this number was 9.999 cents but two factors were working against me: first, one extra fueling near the end of the quarter would effectively put me over the mark because I wouldn’t have run the miles that fuel was intended for until next quarter. Second, the price of fuel (and the related Fuel Surcharge) has been plummeting which, perversely, hurts me since I make more money running efficiently and capitalizing on the extra money I get for mileage.

Total miles run this quarter were 35,583, as compared to roughly 37,000 for the first quarter. I attribute this to having taken more time off and a few loads I’ve turned down. Total paid miles are 33,355, giving an out of route percent of 6.68%.

Total fuel expense was 15,723, compared to 22,533 for the first quarter.
Total FSC paid was 12,145, compared to 18,587 for the first quarter.
Adjusted fuel expense was 3,578, compared to 3,946 for the first quarter.

Total revenue paid to truck was 44,381, compared to 50,585 for the first quarter.
Revenue per mile was 1.33, compared to 1.49 for the first quarter.

The price of fuel fell dramatically this quarter, along with the FSC. Since the pay I get per mile is mostly fixed, the largest variable in my revenue per mile is the cost of fuel, so it has naturally gone down as well.

My net pay was 14,645, compared to 14,433 for the first quarter. In addition, I paid an extra 5,249 into various escrow accounts for a total of 19,894. This comes out to 1,530 per week net pay, all told.

Those are the numbers, but what does it boil down to?

Total revenue fell by more than ten percent, but my net pay rose by about two percent before considering the extra money I spent on tires and paid towards escrows. Average miles per week fell by about two percent.

The bottom line is that I drove a bit less, made a bit less per mile but my expenses fell by a larger percentage leaving a larger net profit.


14: 1434
15: 2236
16: 1344
17: 1091
18: 1064
19: 1207
20: 2159
21: 1805
22: 0 (+ 1077 towards escrows)
23: 0 (+ 1676 towards escrows)
24: 0 (+ 1496 towards escrows)
25: 1491 (+ 500 towards escrows)
26: 814 (+ 500 towards escrows)

As you can see, every week this quarter I netted more than $1,000, though in some weeks that money went into maintenance or savings escrow accounts. Since my maintenance escrow is maxxed out, next quarter should show $500 per week going into savings for my balloon payment and the rest heading to my bank account.


My long term goal for my lease is to pay it off a year early (in three years instead of four). To do this will require a balloon payment of something on the order of $60,000 ten quarters or 130 weeks from now. In order to accomplish this I need to set aside approximately 500 dollars per week. I started having these monies withheld in the last few weeks of my second quarter. So, my first goal for the third quarter is to make at least enough money per week to cover this expense to keep the long term goal on course.

I managed to bring my adjusted fuel expense per mile down from 10.66 cents in the first quarter to 10.06 cents in the second. Mostly, this was due to lowering my Out Of Route mileage percent from 9.15% to 6.68% of total miles driven. The lower cost of fuel and resulting lower FSC reimbursement hurts in this respect, since my thrift isn’t as greatly rewarded when fuel is cheaper. Still, my second goal is to maintain or improve upon this number, keeping my adjusted fuel expense to no more than 10.5 cents per gallon for the quarter.

My third goal, now that all my escrows have been paid up in full, is to consistently average a net of at least $1,300 per week throughout the quarter. Since $500 of this is automatically taken out to go towards the balloon payment in 2011, that will leave at least $800 per week in net pay to my bank account. $800 per week for 52 weeks is $41,600 in profit to my bank account after having paid every truck expense and also arranged to take care of the buyout of the truck a full year early.

My next quarter ends the first week of March, 2009.

Good day for Dairy Queen, bad day for electronics

Yesterday I was handed a load from Omaha, Nebraska to Atlanta, Georgia and I stopped last night just east of St. Louis, Missouri. I awoke about an hour before my 0600 alarm was due to go off by loud rain banging off of my truck. It’s been a while since it has rained overnight where I’ve stopped.

I departed as soon as I could legally move and made a quick pit stop at Mt Vernon, Illinois at the Super Wal-Mart. There is an adjacent truck stop that is convenient. I didn’t bring in a list and picked up three things on impulse I don’t really need (read: junk food) and missed one thing that I went in for. Ah well.

Hour after hour I traveled southeast in moderate to heavy rain. Finally, just south of Nashville I stopped to fuel up ($1.97 a gallon for our company with a pump price of $2.39 — a 42 cent difference!) and the rain petered out. I hurried so I could miss the worst of the Chattanooga rush hour and I was through there around 3 PM local time.

My plan was to stop at the closest truck stop to Atlanta coming down I-75 in Cartersville. Actually, there are two of them there, a T/A and a Pilot. Anyway, as I was passing through Calhoun, Georgia I saw a sign for a Hess travel center that I hadn’t noticed before… and it had a Dairy Queen inside! I swear, they have grappling hooks or something tossed out on the freeway that catch my truck and force it to exit abruptly.

Now, I normally don’t bring my cell phone with me when I go inside a truck stop for a quick bite to eat but I needed to use the facilities and figured I would get caught up on the latest internet stuff via my new iPhone 3g. There I am, letting bombs drop and just as I’m all done and the toilet flushed, I butterfinger my phone and it flips, dropping down into the bowl. A perfect swish, even.

Thankfully it was still within reach and I grabbed it. I had just turned it off so I dried it as best I could then took it out to the truck where I gave it a 409 rubdown. Hopefully it will work when I go to turn it on next.

Naturally, I will be using hands free mode for a while. Sigh.

The spuds have landed

I dropped off the load of spuds in Chariton, Iowa on Saturday then deadheaded back to Omaha for the rest of the weekend. Got the truck washed as well — it was filthy!

My TriPac APU has really done a great job of late. I set it at 50-60 degrees in the cab and it has been keeping my Espar heater going enough to maintain the right temperature and cycles the diesel engine on when the batteries run low. Very convenient.

The second quarter of my lease-purchase is in the books and I’m working up a post to show all the numbers.

My Wray or the Highway

I finished the third and final delivery this morning then hung around for a while before the satellite unit beeped. There was another Hill Bros driver ahead of me for my third delivery and he is the one running back the returned items back to Ardmore.

My new task was to deadhead up to the town of Wray, Colorado and get loaded for another small town, this one just south of Des Moines, Iowa. We’re rarely told what kind of items we’ll be hauling ahead of time, but I did note that the shipper requires the reefer to keep 45 to 50 degrees, which is an unusual temperature for us.

Potatoes, lots and lots of potatoes. Big cardboard and plastic bin things on pallets. Twenty tons worth. Thankfully, the place had a scale on site.

I’m parked tonight in Lexington, Nebraska at a truck stop just across the interstate from My Favorite Wal-Mart. I’m going to head over for some shopping tomorrow before finishing the rest of my drive east.

Short Circuit

After I dropped my trailer in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma I was given orders to bobtail south to Ardmore, Oklahoma for a Circuit City load heading to Colorado. Three stops, all in the Denver metro area.

I spent yesterday getting to Denver through increasingly hairy road conditions. The load was only 12,000 pounds so my truck was skittish on the ice and snow. About 20 miles from Denver it got really, really nasty with ice built up on the roadway and I slowly made my way in to the Flying J truck stop on the east side of town for the night. Parking was a nightmare with the lot almost completely full and some drivers working hard at displaying their lack of backing skills.

This morning I made two of the drops and I’m currently at the third and final. The guys at the second stop asked if I was back-hauling their returns to Ardmore, but I wasn’t told anything about that. The trip sheet I got from Circuit City implies that I will be visiting all three stores again today then heading back to Ardmore but orders From On High haven’t been received to that effect.

My truck is a certifiable mess at the moment. I must have knocked off 200 pounds of ice and snow including huge amounts on the mud flaps. Each must have had at least 30-40 pounds hanging from them.

After a full eleven hours of driving we have… a cluster

I arrived at my consignee in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma right at the bitter end of my legal work day last night, 15 minutes before my appointment time. The food warehouse I delivered at is so huge, I saw it more than a mile away. As I glanced at my GPS for the distance to my next turn (on to the street next to the warehouse) it showed 1.3 miles and even at that distance I could tell that was one big-ass building.

Upon arrival I bring the paperwork into the guard shack where they punch in the proper codes to look up the order. It turns out, according to their system, this load was supposed to deliver two days ago. This despite the fact I picked it up last night, thus clearly paradoxical. The guards begrudgingly issued me a truck pass and showed me where in the lot I could park (wayyyyyy in the back along with the other appointmentless unfortunates) and they would “try to work me in.”

I quickly parked and went to bed for some much needed rest. I had been driving for much of the past twelve hours with one break to fuel and one other short break for personal stuff. Okay, it was to grab a DQ Blizzard, I admit it.

The phone goes off at 0430 with the news: they just weren’t able to work me in. Since this place takes deliveries only at night (then ships out during the day) I would have to wait until tomorrow night for another chance. Lovely.

I puttered over to a nearby truck stop and went to bed to finish my sleepy time.

This morning I’m told to just drop off the trailer there and bobtail out. Wish they had mentioned this idea last night. So, I trudge back to the guards who helpfully point out that my reefer tank is at just under 3/4ths and that isn’t “full”, technically, so I need to fix that before I can drop the trailer. I trudge back and forth to the nearest fuel stop and eventually they relent and let me drop the trailer.


I belatedly realized that yesterday was my second anniversary in the trucking business. On December 1, 2006 I found myself in a small Kenworth T-600 truck with a stranger named Rich in Joplin, Missouri and the weather was atrocious. It was snowing and plenty icy, and as we made our way out to California with a heavy load of boxes we saw dozens of cars and four big rigs off the road in various positions. It was so bad he drove all the way to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma before the weather cleared up enough to let the new kid try driving.

After two weeks of adventure, and just under 7,500 miles of driving, I got my first truck assigned to me at CFI’s Lancaster, Texas yard. Here is a picture of both of our trucks, with Rich standing next to his:

Where he is standing covers up his front fender, which ordinarily looks like this:

Each star represents a year of service with the company.

For one reason or another, I was Rich’s last student driver and last I heard he drives over the entire 48 states instead of mostly the southwest region he used to.

Happy trails, man.

Garlic bread and the Bong

I finished the journey to Kenosha, Wisconsin this morning in sub-zero temps and snow showers. I’m glad I didn’t decide to push on last night to try to arrive then take my break, given road conditions. It seems that every other pickup truck in the state of Wisconsin has a snow plow attachment up front, and for good reason.

There were several potential routes to take to the consignee but I settled on the shortest, even though it went over several state highways. I noted as part of my trip planning that near the end I would be passing through the Bong state recreation area.

Upon arrival I was told to cool my heels in a nearby parking area and “it will probably be a while.” I beeped dispatch over the QualComm to keep them updated and was given a preplan to load out of nearby Oak Creek, Wisconsin at noon. The plant took their sweet time, and the back into the assigned door was a chore (what is it with these backs of late?) but I departed around 1130 and made it to my next appointment right at noon. It helped that the shipper for this next load was at a location I remember having passed back when I worked at CFI.

It turns out that Joseph Campione foods manufactures garlic bread, Texas toast and other yummies for many private labels and apparently business is good: the workers I talked to mentioned they were adding a whole new building soon to keep up with demand. The entire facility smelled of buttery garlic to high heaven; dirty job, but someone has to do it.

Yet there was a snag, as there so often is in this business. A good portion of the 9,400 pound load wasn’t yet produced so my noon appointment was pushed back to 2000. I spent eight hours chilling out at the nearby truck stop before returning to find the order ready to go, staged on the dock and everything. I was in and out in fifteen minutes and some, uh, promotional samples somehow appeared in my truck fridge. Thanks guys.

They also pointed out that there was a thin ribbon of blood left on the floor of the trailer on one side from my previous load. Since the reefer hadn’t been above freezing for days it was essentially a vampire popsicle and was quickly disposed of with a paper towel and 409.

Now the fun part: this load was scheduled to be in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma at 2100 tomorrow night. At 870 miles, there was no way to run it legally in one day, necessitating a 10-hour break somewhere in the middle. The truck stop I was waiting at before loading was packed and the spot I left had vanished moments after I split. So, even though I was tired and the schedule opposite my norm, I carefully made my way out to I-94 southbound to run through Chicago, ending my driving hours around 0100 this morning.

Winter Wonderland

This is the route I’ve traveled during the past two days.

This morning I informed weekend dispatch that I was in Omaha with full hours to run, which I’m sure made his day. Almost immediately I was sent over to a small local meatpacking plant we haul from to grab a preloaded trailer and take it to tiny Kenosha, Wisconsin. This particular shipper has a very tight lot and finding a spot for my trailer required some creativity and patience. Oh, and a callous disregard for just about everything you learn when you begin backing in a truck.

Our trusty fueling software system informed me that my half tanks were sufficient for the 480ish mile run, which is true. It is also true that I don’t like ending up at a consignee very low on fuel, and even more true that I don’t like running low during winter. It knew something I didn’t, though, since when I scaled it out I didn’t have enough spare weight left over to fill my tanks.

I compromised by stopping briefly in Des Moines, Iowa to take on 50 gallons which should be enough to see me out of the Wisconsin / Illinois area before I need to fuel again.

Weather today was a brutal wintery mix. It never quite climbed up past freezing and there were patches of moderate-to-heavy snowfall for most of Iowa and all of Illinois. The wind was coming out of the east for most of my journey, which is damned strange, and the fuel economy was terrible.

On a normal sunny day I would have knocked out 480 miles with no problem. Today, after enduring numerous traffic jams, sketchy roads and annoying drivers I ended at Rochelle, Illinois where I made a second don’t-try-this-at-home blindside back into a spot right up front near the building (and more importantly, rest rooms). This consignee takes deliveries from 0500 to 1200 tomorrow and I was hoping to be there overnight and get unloaded first thing. Now it is looking like arriving around 1000 or so which will probably screw up my next run.

Stupid weather.