Crappy brokered loads

I told my dispatcher when I was in Omaha the other day after being assigned the load to Mississippi that the three times I was down there were all followed by crappy brokered CH Robinson loads. I considered declining the trip, but flipped a mental coin and took it anyway.

Yep, it was followed by a crappy brokered CH Robinson load.

The trip distance wasn’t bad, going from Tupelo to pick up in Olive Branch, Mississippi, then delivering near Minneapolis, Minnesota the following day. The first problem was that they stopped receiving at noon and the load wasn’t scheduled to go until 3 PM, so only 21 hours to go 900ish miles (deadhead included). That simply wasn’t going to happen.

I moved up to the shipper and went through a needlessly complicated check-in process then was given a dock. The security guard (at the “welcome center”, as the guard shack was euphemistically called) told me to back it in then “get comfortable.” I took this to mean that it would be a while, and I was right. Oh, a few pallets were put on board during my first hour… then an hour or so went by and a few more, then a few more… Five hours later, all 11,000 pounds of whatever was aboard and I was allowed to move out.

I drove up through Memphis and across the river to West Memphis where I got my grimy truck washed and fueled up. I met a down-on-his-luck driver at the Pilot while I was fueling who was either what he said he was or a damn good liar. Either way it was worth the two bucks for a couple Wendy’s Value Menu burgers. I stopped yesterday at a truck rest area (meaning, a rest area that has no facilities; normally a closed weigh station) just north of West Memphis.

This morning I was up with the sunrise and heading north through snow flurries. Most of today’s drive and almost all of tomorrow’s will be along state highways — always fun in the snow. Luckily, none of the occasional snow I ran across seemed to want to stick to the roadway even though it never got above freezing.

So the delivery got pushed back a day and I can deliver as soon as 0630 tomorrow. I stopped tonight at Waterloo, Iowa and just got back to the truck from an honest-to-goodness buffet dinner.

I feel like such a trucker.


The 17th Freaking Hole

So I get planned on a trip to the Birthplace Of The King, Tupelo, Mississippi from Council Bluffs. I don’t accept it immediately since I wanted to brace my dispatcher in his lair office and see what happened to that California trip.

“Don’t have anything headed that way,” I’m told.

Now, the problem going from Omaha to Tupelo is the Ozarks between them. There are a variety of state routes that take you from the Kansas City area down around Springfield, then over towards Memphis but they aren’t really designed for big rigs, and especially not during winter. Thus, the 740 miles you’re paid for doesn’t come close to the 800 actual miles you end up driving to deliver the load.

Then there is the shipper. For some reason the people at Plumrose USA can’t manage to figure out how to load a trailer properly. The one I was stuck with was so heavy towards the rear I had to move back my tandems three times to get the weight right and it took the freaking 17th hole on the slide to even out the weight. In non-trucker parlance, that means the tires on my trailer were damn near the very back, making turns very wide and potentially giving me legal grief since some states don’t allow tandems back past a certain point.

I was called in to scale twice in Missouri but the weights were (barely) within limits and I don’t think they care about where your tandems are unless they really want to bust your chops.

This load also had an usual 2100 delivery time. I arrived an hour early and am currently on the dock ahead of three other Hill Bros trucks waiting to be unloaded.

Hold up in Kansas City

I made my delivery at FedEx 30 minutes early and grabbed the last empty trailer we had on their lot before calling it a night. Yesterday morning it took our crack team at HQ a while to figure out where they would deploy my driving skills, so I waited. And waited. Then, I waited some more.

BEEP! Went the QualCOMM. Head north to Fort Collins for a beer load. No big surprise, and I headed north.

Half an hour later, BEEP! Nope, we were wrong, don’t go there. Instead, head back south to Denver then hang a left and head east a hundred miles to the charming little village of Arriba, Colorado. Grab a load (“LOAD WILL BE HEAVY” the satellite unit indicated) and take it to Kansas City, Kansas. I get turned around and head off again.

A few hours later I arrive in the tiny village of Arriba, dirt streets and all. I follow posted Truck Route signs to the grain silos that sit next to the freeway and am told I’ll be taking about 22 tons of Hard Red Wheat to Kansas City. The truck and I are scaled to determine the empty weight (remind me to lay off the Fritos next time I ask, k?) then I’m directed around back to the loading facility.

I was expecting some kind of dock setup and heavy, pallet-size bags of the grain. Oh no, that would be too easy. Instead, they have me back up to what looks like a giant nozzle apparatus with the doors on the trailer open and they proceed to jet 23 1/4 freaking TONS of wheat in the back! Right on the floor in a big heap!

That isn’t a misprint… the net weight of the load was just over 46,500 which is the heaviest load I’ve pulled yet for Hill Bros. My gross was nearly 80,000 so it took a while to get the tandems slid to the right spot. The load shifts by itself as it bumps down the highway but I wanted a nice legal scale ticket to show John E Law in case I get pulled in.

This morning as I was pulling in to KC it was 15 degrees out and moderate to heavy snow coming down. I-70 eastbound was a mess and I got delayed for about 30 minutes or so passing a succession of cars involved in accidents on either side of the road. My trusty super singles kept me on the straight and narrow and I made my way to the consignee, only to find out the one piece of equipment they need to unload a van happens to be broken.

No problemo, they tell me, there is another facility a few miles down the road that I can use. Great, head on down there only to find out I can’t get my trailer tandems slid back because of the snow everywhere doesn’t give me enough force to break the friction and let the slide move back. I eventually figure out a way to solve the problem involving a number of curse words, some neat-o backing and a one-legged duck. Well, minus the duck.

Once my trailer was set, I drove into this offloading building with extremely tight doors (like three or four inches on either side of my truck), got weighed, then backed the trailer on to a special lift device. I detached my tractor and moved it out of the way then this hydraulic lifter thing took over and tilted the entire thing up 35 or 40 degrees! The wheat poured out the back into a large pit and in a few minutes all but about fifty pounds of the cargo was offloaded.

My dispatcher asked if I was still looking for a load out to California… well DUH! I never turn those down. Anyway, he said he’d look into it and while my trailer was doing the unloading tango a new trip zapped in. Do a live load in nearby Independence, Missouri then head up to Council Bluffs, Iowa. Did he confuse CA with CB (Council Bluffs)?

The shipper was one of those in the caves that I’d been to before so I headed over. I don’t currently have a broom on my truck and there was a lot of wheat chaff in back still, so the shipper loaned me one of theirs. After carefully sweeping the floor twice, I dumped as much as I could in a trash barrel they provided and it came out to at least 50 pounds. I guess as a percentage it is no big deal to the folks on the last load.

They shoved their cargo on board and I grabbed the paperwork and shoved off.

I didn’t have enough hours to make it up to CB, so instead I stopped in St Joseph, Missouri for the night and a tasty Chicken Cordon Bleu sandwich from Arby’s. At least I’m staying away from the Fritos.

The Wheel in the Sky Keeps on Turning

Turns out, I was wrong about the trip. As I detailed before in the My Wray or the Highway post, there is a potato processing plant in Wray, Colorado that we occasionally haul from. I was sent there, complete with an invalid load number from the folks at HQ to get a load heading to the far side of Kansas.

After a round of calling my HQ, the potato people doing there thing and some extra hand wringing the problem was resolved and I was still given a load to haul. The deadline was the following morning between 0500 and 1100, so I shot for 0900 since I was about 450 miles out after I made it to Wray and got loaded.

I was unloaded before 1000 and as I was pulling out from the dock a trip plan came in over the satellite unit: run down to Kansas City and grab a FedEx load heading to Henderson, Colorado. In other words, head back to where I started yesterday at, oh and you’re picking up two hours late and it still needs to be in the greater Denver area by 2200 tonight.

I boogied down to exchange my empty trailer for the full one then put on a 65 MPH head of steam to the west along I-70. Yes, I really did pull out all the stops in order to deliver on time.

The weather in Kansas was cold, between 15 and 18 degrees with a nasty bit of wind chill. As I approached Denver it warmed up, eventually reaching 31 degrees.

1200ish miles in the books for the first two days of this pay period. Can’t beat that by much.

Blizzard in Denver

This morning I had a delivery at 0500 in Castle Rock, a southern suburb of Denver. I arrived an hour or so ahead of schedule in nice, clear weather, 37 degrees and little wind. During the next hour it changed to blowing snow, 25 degrees and about 4-6 inches of the white stuff hit the ground.

Worse, the first stop took all but six pallets from my trailer, leaving me light and with no extra weight on my tandems. My Michelin super-singles performed flawlessly as usual, but on the drive to my second stop I caught the trailer “walking out” to the passenger side four or five times and had to correct it.

Ah, the short little jaunt across town. I had to deliver those last few pallets in Wheat Ridge, a western suburb and about as far away as you can drive from one side of Denver to the other. It meant joining thousands of four-wheelers during the morning rush while another 6-8 inches of snow poured down. Most people minded their business, though there were a few accidents and one memorable scene with a bobtail semi caught on a bridge at a 45 degree angle and unable to move due to the bank of the curve.

Near the destination there was a street I turned down that belatedly informed me that trucks over 7,000 pounds gross weight were forbidden. If they would have mentioned that before the turn I would have honored the rule, but since I was already on the stupid street I kept everything under control the best I could and moved through. City streets in Denver along the way had a few places with big dips and corresponding hills to climb on the other side that had to be taken very carefully but I managed.

I arrived at the second PetSmart to find another Hill Bros truck uncoupled from his trailer and having trouble hooking back on. Yesterday he had arrived, dropped the trailer and went off to the local truck stop. In the intervening time all the snow and ice had developed and he didn’t have enough traction to get back under the trailer. I suggested dropping his suspension enough to help get under it and he was hooked up in short order.

Finally, my turn came and they removed the last six pallets from the trailer. Instructions came across my satellite unit to head over to a drop yard of ours, drop off my trailer, bobtail about eight miles then pick up a reefer. With the problems of traction the entire city was facing, it was an easy call to turn it down. This meant no load for the day so I found a spot at the local Pilot, only because I had to fuel up there.

I’m guessing tomorrow’s load will be the same one I was supposed to pick up today, only with the deadline moved back a day.

Three for the road

I haven’t blogged for a few days because, frankly, there hasn’t been much going on. I finished the trip down to Phoenix and immediately picked up a PetSmart load heading to the greater Denver area. Yesterday I drove halfway, stopping at Albuquerque, New Mexico then shut down for the night.

The scantily-dressed lot lizard pounding on my door at 0330 got me moving 30 minutes early. She moved down the line of trucks where I was parked and I noted my (temporary) next door neighbor let her in so she could warm up. Or something.

A quick shower and pretrip and I was off to Colorado Springs, Colorado. I’m about 45 minutes south of my delivery tomorrow morning but I had to take care of something.

I’ll enlighten everyone more tomorrow.

The Return of the Lazies

Okay, so I’m a slacker today.

The beer load took a few hours to depart the trailer, courtesy of a slow dock worker. At least I had time to chit-chat with a newer Hill Bros. driver while we waited. Both of us got preplanned to the same Iams pet food factory in nearby Aurora, Nebraska, to take loads to the PetSmart DC in Phoenix, Arizona.

I got unloaded first so I moseyed over to the Iams plant, did the drop-one-trailer-grab another shuffle, then shoved off. The new trailer is one of the oldest in the fleet with the frumpy spring suspension I abhor. At least the miles are good.

Taking a slightly different route south from Nebraska, I found a bridge with a 30 ton weight limit out in the middle of nowhere. My 38 ton semi magically teleported to the other side I think.

I’m fairly certain that I will have another PetSmart weekend run after I deliver so the lazy part of my brain took over and calculated the hours and distances involved. If I stop tonight in Dodge City, Kansas, the logic goes, then the next four days will all have about eight hours of driving so that will keep me moving at a good clip but not cajones-to-the-wall. The other part of my brain was bored with driving and wanted to park it for the night and I couldn’t find more brain to fight with so here I am in Dodge City.