Barely legal and entirely tiring

The PetSmart folks did their thing at 0300 and by 0400 I was rolling up to Fort Collins. I needed beer: specifically, 44,300 pounds of Bud and Busch Lite headed off to a distributor in Kansas City, Kansas.

The Bud facility has scales and even though I had the tandems as far forward as possible, I was still over several hundred pounds on my drives. Not a huge problem since I do get an extra 400 pounds over the limit for my APU (in some places) and my gross vehicle weight was around 79,200. Still, I only had a half tank of fuel and orders were to fuel in Colby, Kansas.

My solution was to just fill the left tank, adding 75 gallons or about 500 pounds. Most of the scales to Kansas City were open and I got the green PrePass light on all but one. That one had a nice repeater setup so the driver can see his weights as he puts each set of tires on and it showed my drives at 34,200. Didn’t get stopped.

The way I drove was 680 miles from start to finish and I logged 12 on-duty hours after also accounting for the pre-trip, trailer swapping and fueling.

The consignee in Kansas City is off a small side street that leads down past train tracks then into a small business park area. None of it intended for semis and 53 foot trailers. I made use of the deserted parking lot of a nearby business to get turned around properly to make the dock the parked along the side of the street until this morning when they opened and the unloading took place.

No preplan for a change. They have been doing better with them of late but no one is perfect, apparently.

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Driving, driving, driving… then waiting

Since my last update I made it safely to Phoenix, Arizona to drop off my load of pet food at the PetSmart DC then late the following morning picked up a new load heading to the Denver, Colorado area.

There are several unusual things about this new load. First, almost all of our loads out of Phoenix have at least two stops and this one is headed to just one store. Stranger yet, the 21 pallets of goodies in back only weigh a combined 17,000 pounds.

Heading up I-17 to Flagstaff has never been so easy and once I reset my trip computer in Winslow, Arizona after I fueled it showed an average MPG of 7.9 for the rest of the way up to Colorado to the small northern suburb of Denver called Brighton.

I arrived yesterday afternoon hoping the store would be able to unload me early. Another strange aspect of this load is the Monday 0300 unload — three full days to drive under 900 miles. As I’ve said before, weekend dispatches around here tend to be less than optimal.

The manager on duty informed me that the truck couldn’t be unloaded any sooner since this store has a very small storage room. This means an impromptu 34-hour restart and a rare Sunday off while I’m out on the road. There are worse things, I suppose.

I was preplanned to take a load of beer from Fort Collins to Kansas City today to deliver first thing tomorrow morning but that will be pushed back a day to accommodate the PetSmart folks.

Off to Tucumcari

Today’s journey south was less windy than yesterday, but much warmer. By the time I entered Oklahoma the outside air temp was approaching 90 degrees and my air conditioning was in full use. This presents something of a dilemma for my cat, as she doesn’t like the cold air but very much likes the warm dash when we’re headed south. Her compromise is to lounge around on the dash until the sun is obscured by clouds or by a direction change, then a quick hop down and some foraging in the back of the truck to find someplace warm to cuddle up. Poor thing.

Some days zip by and others slog; today was one of the zippy ones. I stopped twice to squeegee the windshield and still ended up with a bug-splatter mosaic. The insects were hitting so rapidly in Oklahoma and Texas it sounded like rain.

Secede, please. Go Galt while you’re at it.

Slow

Yes, I’ve been slow to update lately.

I dropped off my load last week in Council Bluffs, Iowa and was sent home with a load that I got to drop off at the AmeriCold facility in Carthage, Missouri. Since they normally take a long time to unload, this was no hassle.

Before I even left the truck I was planned to pick up the same load of Pepsi products at the same Buske facility in the Springfield, Missouri underground cave system that I got the last time I came home. I waited five or six hours last time, and about the same this time.

Even with the slow load I managed to drag it up to Omaha that night and drop it over at the Pepsi place. With no preplan on me I made use of my time restocking my truck and taking care of some cleaning.

Queue late morning and now I’m ordered to rush back over to the same Pepsi facility, grab a loaded trailer and rush rush rush it to Grand Island, Nebraska for a 1400 delivery appointment. Why this couldn’t have happened earlier is beyond the mortal ken of this driver.

I rush rush rush and make it there by about 1420 and get situated in the dock they want me in. By the top of the hour I’m empty and heading to nearby Aurora, Nebraska on a preplan to take a heavy load of dog chow down to the PetSmart folks in Phoenix for Thursday.

Now, being only three or four hours into my driving day at this point I could have closed the left door and headed south. There were heavy winds, however, and though I know I could have made it at least a few hours down the road my innate laziness once again reared its craggy head and I drove a short distance to the Bosselman’s Pilot in Grand Island.

Ditched

A few weeks ago I was up in Kansas City picking up a load when I saw this CFI / ConWay Truckload trailer in a ditch. Not sure what caused him to run off the road.

Wal-Mart gives Hill Bros the finger… and gets away with it

All too early my door is being pounded on and it is the dock workers, there to get the trucks that have arrived already unloaded early. This is one of those laid back places where they sign the paperwork before you even open the doors of your truck, and they were fairly fast unloading as well.

I finally broke my streak of brokered loads at three with a plan this morning taking me up to Fort Worth for some frozen meat to be delivered in Council Bluffs Friday afternoon.

Since I have a van trailer on me, I am directed to head a few miles away to a Wal-Mart Distribution Center where we have an empty reefer and switch trailers, then head up to grab my new load. This was okay with everyone except the decision-maker at said DC who let us know it is Not Company Policy To Swap An Empty For An Empty. I explained that I had a plain van trailer and I needed a reefer for my next load, but they weren’t buying that entire need argument.

Having secured from them the name and phone number of the person to be contacted, I used my trusty satellite unit to zap that to our headquarters. Certainly someone there would push the “easy button” and keep my day uncomplicated.

A while later, the results: forget getting the reefer a few miles away at the DC. Instead, travel to the farthest part of the DFW metroplex from you (Garland, Texas) to our drop yard and exchange trailers there. More than an hour’s drive across town then back across town to Fort Worth to get to the shipper.

Wal-Mart extends finger, gets way.

I arrive a few minutes late for the appointment after a quick trailer wash-out. We’re charged a certain amount per hour at this particular shipper when we’re late, some the company encouraged me on to get there expeditiously. I personally think Wal-Mart should get billed for the extra 80 miles of shit I had to put up with but this isn’t fantasy land.

Usual rigmarole at the shipper and I’m loaded. I’m spending the night here to get a good sleep cycle set up again then I’ll do most if not all of the trip up to Council Bluffs, Iowa tomorrow.

Wichita + Coke Plant = HELL

So I dropped my load off on time in Wichita (at the Love Box paper company, no less) and by that time I had a preplan taking me a few miles away to the local Coca Cola bottler up to Lenexa, Kansas. The plan had my appointment time as 1530 and I showed up at 1526 — a squeaker, but I was there on time.

Then everything went downhill. I checked in with the Coke folks and they took down my information and gave me directions where I needed to take my truck (a nearby side street) to wait with “the other trucks”. Never a good sign.

Worse, I pull around a corner to find a long line of trucks snaking back several city blocks in a quasi-residential area. By odd circumstance, the truck driver that unloaded just before me at the paper place was here waiting in line, again just before me.

Slowly, trucks were called to the docks and the line edged forward. Sundown came and went and the trucks kept creeping forward every hour or so. The guy just in front of me gets called to the dock and now I’m ready to go get loaded, even though its 10 PM or so. But no, a truck behind me gets called up. Then another. I complain to the Coke folks and it turns out they didn’t find the order number I gave (it is a brokered load, ’nuff said for any truck driver) and I was arbitrarily dropped from the list without notice.

Now slightly pissed off I harangued night dispatch at HQ, the broker and the Coke folks until eventually we decided what load number I would actually be pulling. Jesus on a T-Rex this business is so retarded sometimes.

I get called to the dock, only to realize that I’m the only truck LEFT at the place. I didn’t need blood pressure drugs before I started, doctor, why do I need them now?

My bumper touched their dock around 11 PM and I was loaded and ready to go right around 1:30 AM the next morning. Effing brokered loads.

I had been waiting around all day, though unable to sleep because the trucks had to inch forward periodically. The load itself had to be about 180 miles away by 0600, meaning I had to head out exhausted and head down the highway with a couple 30 minute power naps to revive me.

The Coke place in Lenexa (suburb of Kansas City) got me into a door right away and unloaded pretty quickly… I was so tired I was in the bunk the minute my truck was situated and didn’t even feel them unloading the plastic bottles and only awoke with them pounding on my door to give up the paperwork.

Another preplan arrives and I’m ordered across the river to Kansas City, Missouri to pick up a load heading to Cleburne, Texas, just south of Fort Worth. The load picks up that afternoon, giving me just enough time to fit in a legal break but has to deliver 0800 the following morning.

By now my biological clock is all jacked up and despite my lack of sleep I can’t nod off for a few hours, ensuring I’m tired when I have to go grab my next load. I regularly curse few things in my life, but I make an exception for the rule makers at the DOT.

Semi-functional, I drive about thirty miles to pick up my load at a dilapidated industrial site on the east side of KC. They have a super rush-rush order for a certain type of plastic bottle used by a chemical company in Texas that just has to be there tomorrow morning. I was about to suggest using FedEx, but thought better of it.

This is one of those cases where they are literally taking the product off of the production line, boxing and shrink wrapping them, then taking the result and loading the trailer one pallet at a time. About eight minutes per pallet, eighteen pallets. Whatever the hell that comes out to.

I’m required to use one of my load locks to make sure these shrink wrapped pallets of empty plastic bottles don’t move around in the trailer and injure someone. Whatever.

I scoot before the afternoon traffic gets into full nastiness, heading south along highway 71. Stopped once for some food and a nap. Drove some more. Made it to Muskogee, Oklahoma. Fueled the truck and napped again.

Drove south long into the night, taking a break every few hours. I had to make it to the far side of Fort Worth before the morning rush hour or I would be screwed, and the DOT regs basically required me to stop droving by 0300 so the amount of rest I got was limited by regulations, as happens so often in this industry.

Drove some more, got to and through Dallas and eventually made it to Cleborne at my consignee around 0300. Parked the rig in a safe spot and crashed in my bunk, utterly exhausted.