I broke the (memory) bank

Mid morning rolled around and I was given a load from nearby Schaumberg, Illinois to Texarkana, Arkansas. Weird instructions too — its a load of rejected products heading back to AmeriCold and consists of six pallets.

I find the shipper and that is a doozy. Think a city block with a narrow path around three sides of the building for trucks and cars to squeeze by as they make their way around. Some of the shipping docks, including the one I used, are actually inside the building itself. Inside, dozens or hundreds of workers are working to package and distribute pizza ingredients going to make the Tombstone pizza brand, for instance.

The labyrinth was traversed and those six pallets hustled aboard. All 5,400 pounds of chicken knuckles (I kid you not) that apparently didn’t pass quality control. How bad a chicken knuckle has to be to fail such a test is unknown to me.

Chicago traffic wasn’t bad at all as I made my way south to I-57 for the rest of yesterday’s trip that ended at Mount Vernon, Illinois.

Along the way a curious thing happened: I have my electronic DID (Driver Information Display) on my dash set up to show my current MPG and the MPG averaged since the last time I reset it. I normally reset each time I fuel so I can get a rough idea how well I’m doing.

Glancing down I saw that it not only reset itself but failed to restart the “since the last reset” value. It would show me what I was doing that moment, fuel-wise, but the running total wouldn’t display. I even took video. Eventually I reset it as if I had just fueled and that seemed to satisfy the beast.

Today’s drive was very routine to begin with. I fueled in Hayti, Missouri then headed west along I-40 in Arkansas in intermittent heavy rain showers. There were a number of cars and even a big rig spun out in the median or along the shoulders on both sides of the interstate; surprising how many people don’t understand basic driving principles.

Anyway, my trusty tires kept me on course and I made it safe and sound to Texarkana and was unloaded without delay. The preplan for tomorrow could well be a doozy… but I’ll leave you hanging on that for a bit.

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Second day, second fuse

I mentioned a few posts ago that my dispatcher has cleared out and now helps with the trip planning. The new dispatcher needs to be broken in a bit, like trying real hard to get me a load early in the day instead of late for maximum productivity.

Around noon I was ordered to pick up another brand new trailer we have at the yard and take it a couple miles away to be loaded at a local pork processor. During my pretrip inspection I noticed that the upper marker lights on the trailer were dead so I brought it to the shop. The obvious culprit on a new trailer would be the fuse in the cab of my truck controlling such things, but as it turns out the trailer wiring was messed up. Trailer gets a red ticket to indicate its a downer, and I return it to the yard.

Go to dispatch, get another trailer to take and eventually make it over to the pig place by 1300 or so. Get in line, sign in, get directed to waiting area. The appointment time for the load was 0800 to 1700, which usually means to settle in for a good wait. The load was put aboard about two hours later, then I waited in the shipping office while the warehouse folks shot the shit for the better part of an hour before handing me my pre-printed bills and seal.

“Make sure you seal that up now,” I was told.

Yeah, right.

Anyway, drove across to Council Bluffs to fuel up and scale out then headed east into the evening hours. As it got darker I turned on my truck lights only to discover my chicken lights (the row of lights on the side of my cab) and the upper trailer marker lights wouldn’t come on. Great.

I pull in to a nearby rest area and crack open the fuse panel. It would help to have a pair of needle-nose pliers to take out the fuses, but I make do with a screwdriver and my fingers. The offending fuse is located and replaced and the lights work again. It is my last 20 AMP fuse so I’m hoping it lasts a while.

The drive drags on and on through Iowa, then into Illinois. I have Google mapped the consignee already and know they have a smallish parking lot available, so I’m not too concerned about parking. Just after midnight I pull in to said parking lot, only to be met minutes later with a roving security guard who tells me they don’t allow overnight parking.

“But is a load for you guys first thing tomorrow morning,” I cry.

They don’t care and I had to settle for a very iffy exposed parking spot until morning.

I’m coming off of hometime, so it must be Buske

Yet another Buske load out of Springfield, Missouri up to Omaha, Nebraska. I showed up around 1030, got called down for loading around 1400 and was finished loading at the second warehouse in the complex by 1515.

The trailer I took home with me is brand spanking new — still has the temp plate even! The tandems had super singles on them with an automatic air system and an air slider. Boy is that a piece of cake to use (I’d say about 30-40% of our other trailers have this system as well).

The ride up to Omaha was easy enough but expensive. I didn’t have any food along with me so I did what I very rarely do and stopped at the Flying J in Peculiar, Missouri and had the buffet. The food was okay and it was filling, but overpriced.

My tractor had a blown fuse that was replaced by our shop guys then the trailer was dropped off at Pepsi to be unloaded when they want. I like customers like that.

Two quick trips then home

I finished out the week with a load of pallets (a first for me) from Omaha to Lawrenceburg, Indiana. It rained most of the way and was coming down in buckets while I was at the consignee’s outdoor docks. Wet, very wet.

My next dispatch had me heading to Louisville, Kentucky to grab a preloaded trailer filled with GE appliances for Nebraska Furniture Mart in Kansas City, Kansas. The address was vague (try looking up “S10-288” on your GPS sometime) but I eventually figured out where I needed to be. The dilapidated warehouse itself was part of a much larger facility built probably fifty years ago. Water leaked from the ceilings, the bathroom was a real mess and everything screamed “its hell on earth working there”, unless you’re living in a recession of course.

There was a cute sign directing drivers that referenced those “trailors” again. Difficult to imagine a company the size of GE letting that slip.

Anyway, grabbed that load and got to Haubstadt, Indiana then yesterday finished out the trip and headed home for the weekend.

Hasta La Vista, baby

My dispatcher wound up getting me a load by 1100 — I had three hours to travel 75 miles east to Munster, Indiana to grab a trailer filled with GE appliances. The last couple miles were a bit of a pain (hint: when you’re in a big rig and see signs saying “No Thru trucks” pointing in the direction you need to go, things aren’t looking up).

I found the distribution center and they even had a trailer preloaded and waiting for me. A quick sign off on the paperwork, drop my empty trailer, hook up to the full one then out the gate and on my way. Back to the “No Thru trucks” route back to the interstate.

The load delivered this morning in La Vista, Nebraska, a suburb of Omaha. An easy trailer drop was made a bit more complicated by the consignee only having one dock and a different truck that needed to offload half of its cargo before I dropped my trailer. Never mind, eventually I came out on top.

Saw the dispatcher in person just now and I learned two things:

#1: I’ve managed to run him off… next week he’s going to change over to be a planner so when I get a bum load in the future I know who to blame at least.

#2: There isn’t a lot of freight at the moment in the area so I may be here for a bit.

A do run run run, a do run run

Since I unloaded in North Plate, Nebraska on Friday afternoon I’ve been running pretty hard. First, I got sent an hour east to Lexington, Nebraska to pick up a load of meat heading to Emporia, Kansas that I had to get there that night. The following morning, Saturday, I got a short dinky load that at first I thought was going to screw me: 240 loaded miles and a delivery of 0200 on Monday. After conferring with The Powers That Be it was made clear that the load could be dropped at any time.

So, off to Wichita, switch trailers for a full one and run it up to Crete, Nebraska. Along the way was another preplan, this time to bobtail across town to the Purina plant in Crete and grab a preloaded trailer heading to Ottawa, Illinois.

Scary satellite info: the load weight might be 45,900 or so. Even in a van trailer this is pushing it, so I was glad to find once I arrived the actual loaded weight was 44,000 or so. I made use of the scale at the plant to get the weight legal then headed off into the early evening darkness, ending up in Shelby, Iowa.

This morning I simply got up and drove the rest of the 365 miles to Ottawa. Along the way another beep from the QualComm: drop the trailer at the consignee and grab an empty, then call in for a dispatch Monday morning (tomorrow) at 0800.

One down, five to go

I was saddened this morning to let the first original tire on my truck head off to the Great Tire Factory in the sky. My left steer tire had been wearing unevenly for a while now and the pros at the Boss shop in North Platte told me it was a goner.

Given its condition, it was not possible to tell if the tire itself had a balance problem or whether my truck might need an alignment. The other steer is fine and was rotated into the left spot (just in case there is an alignment problem, better to scrub the older one until I get it fixed).

My four drive-axle super singles are all doing great, including the one that was losing air pressure a week or two ago. I’m hoping to get another 100-120k out of them but you never know when you’ll find something to run over and shorten that.