Trailer snatch and grab

I got unloaded between 0300 and 0400 this morning (Pacific time) in Victorville, California. Surprisingly, when I put in my empty call I was immediately sent a preplan for a load from our terminal in Santa Fe Springs, California to Omaha, Nebraska. Oh hell yeah I’ll take that.

A nearby Pilot truck stop served as a staging point for me to get some paperwork done and sent in, get breakfast and take a shower. Once traffic died down a bit in the Los Angeles basin I headed down there and did a trailer snatch and grab switcheroo with my empty staying and a new fully loaded trailer coming with me. With cargo that only weighs about 24,000 pounds I didn’t need to scale and could run the tandems as far forward as possible for maneuverability.

My fuel stop was back in Vegas and I was there around 1700 local time so there was some traffic to deal with. For the first time ever the actual fueling went quickly with no line of trucks to worry about and I was back on the road in under ten minutes.

Tonight I ended up in Cedar City, Utah. My logbook is real thin for tomorrow (just 3.75 hours to run) so I’ll probably not even make it out of the state before the federal regulations will tell me I’m tired and have to pull over until midnight.

Amulets of Protection

The trip out to Victorville, California was mostly boring. For a bit of spice I decided to take I-80 out to Utah then turn south on I-15, rather than I-76 to Denver then on to I-70 (and over the Rockies). This added about fifty miles of Out of Route to the trip but the mountains my poor engine had to climb weren’t as steep or high.

Last night I stopped in Provo, Utah and this morning I set out first to Las Vegas, Nevada to fuel up then on to Victorville.

Little did I know that a gigantic traffic snarl awaited me from the south side of Vegas for almost 100 miles. I kid you not, bumper-to-bumper traffic for hours and hours and hours. I never saw any wrecks or police presence so I don’t know what the problem was, other than the sheer quantity of traffic heading out of Vegas.

I stopped at the last rest area before Barstow and took care of business. I noticed some Native Americans selling jewelry and out of boredom induced by four hours of my life just being squandered in a long traffic jam, I studied their wares. An assortment of styles, colors, stones stared back.

Now, anyone who knows me knows that I’m not a jewelry person. I don’t own any rings, necklaces or any other jewelry. For some reason, I took stock of what they had and decided on a hematite necklace with an azureite arrowhead. The arrowhead is the symbol of protection in this culture, though I purchased it more for its artistic look rather than its protective aura.

I didn’t even try it on at the dealer, instead I pocketed it and walked back to the truck. Didn’t put it on then, either — I stuck it in one of the cup holders. Then, about ten minutes later while I’m driving in heavy traffic I get the impulse to put it on right then, and I did so even though this meant undoing the clasp and redoing it behind my neck.

As I mentioned, I’m not a jewelry wearer. I’ve never had a necklace, or any Native American jewelry for that matter. Still, it felt kind of… neat wearing it and I drove on towards Victorville.

The last time I delivered at this consignee I went to the south side of Victorville and backtracked a bit. On a whim, I decided to follow the GPS instructions which brought me down from the north side of town. As soon as I turned off the freeway I realized this may get interesting.

The road in question wasn’t lit and there were stop signs instead of stoplights. Narrow and twisty as well. Still, I followed my GPS helper along and it did seem to be getting me to my destination by a shorter if not speedier route than I used previously.

Then it tells me to take a left turn and it is over a narrow bridge with a stop sign out in the street for traffic coming the other direction. I have a bit too much velocity on me as I enter the turn so I have to scrub some of that off by braking hard and turning left as rapidly as possible. This is definitely not a turn that I would want to make at any time and I barely missed the stop sign and the guard rail to my right as I straighten out.

My amulet seems to work.

Carpet delivery and a Dingleberry

That load of carpet I picked up in Calhoun, Georgia had three stops. Two in Des Moines, Iowa and the final one just a few blocks away from our HQ in Omaha, Nebraska. I arrived Thursday at the first delivery spot, set for 0400 the following morning.

Naturally, a worker banged on my door at 0230 in the morning and told me which dock to stick the trailer in. He was only grabbing a few rolls of carpet and one pallet so it didn’t take long before I got everything buttoned up and departed for the other side of town to await my 0600 appointment.

0600 rolls around and the new consignee is still closed, the gate chained and padlocked. By 0615 I’m getting a bit concerned so I dial the number given to me via my satellite unit and I reach an answering machine. I also notify dispatch via satellite and they try calling and get the same result.

After a variety of hijinx 0700 rolls around and this place opens. They have been opening at 0700 for the past year, I’m told emphatically, and they have no idea why our trucks keep getting sent for 0600 appointments with them. I’m in agreement and make a note for dispatch.

By 0800 or so another small portion of my cargo is gone and I’m on the road to Omaha. Now, it will take at least 2.5 hours to reach the next consignee and since that appointment is two hours away (1000 hours) I send in an updated ETA macro and indicate I’ll be about 30 minutes late on the last drop.

Soon, a message comes back to me berating my lack of foresight in updating my ETA. Now, realize that if the 0600 appointment was a valid appointment (which it wasn’t) then I would have had an extra hour or so and would probably have made the final 1000 appointment.

I send in something to the effect of:

“Tell the Dingleberry who sent that last bon mot that if they could get me valid appointments I could make deliveries on schedule.”

The message itself was longer, but that was the gist. A short time later, a dull reply comes back with a veiled threat of getting fewer miles if I don’t keep my ETA updated regularly with that macro. I send off another witty riposte and my new dispatcher eventually calls a truce.

It turns out the Dingleberry in question is my old dispatcher Cory.

Anyhow, put my truck in the shop for some routine maintenance and had a face-to-face meet with the new dispatcher. Hopefully that is settled now.

Got a new load while truck was in the shop: pick up a preloaded trailer across the river in Council Bluffs, Iowa and unload at 0330 Monday morning in Victorville, California. An excellent 1,450ish mile weekend.

Foiled again

The trip out from Russellville, Arkansas to Atlanta, Georgia was ordinary in all respects until I neared the destination. I had been listening to traffic and weather updates via my XM radio for about half the trip, hoping that I-20 would be open by the time I arrived in late afternoon. Even a single bridge across the raging Chattahoochee river would have done, but alas, I was out of luck. Calls to Georgia’s 511 travel service confirmed that I would have to make an enormous end around to the north or south to avoid the flooding and I didn’t have enough hours left to accomplish that.

I stopped for the night in Villa Rica, Georgia, less than twenty miles to the consignee. This morning I got up at 0400 just to check 511 and I-20 was still blocked. Went back to bed for a couple hours then checked again around 0600. Still blocked. Crap. I waited a few more hours then reluctantly charted a course southward around the blockage.

Two hours of stop-and-go traffic later I arrive at the consignee after having driven under electronic billboards announcing I-20 was now open. I really must find a solution to my teeth grinding problem.

Then the new wrinkle: dispatch beeps me and tells me that another driver needs an empty reefer from AmeriCold so once I drop off my full one, grab an empty and swap with him (he has a regular van trailer). Since my next preplan is for a load of carpet out of Calhoun, Georgia, everyone would have ended up with the right kind of trailer. Only, when I arrived it was revealed that the only Hill Bros trailer of any kind at AmeriCold was the one that I brought, and it wouldn’t be unloaded until 2330 tonight. Amazingly, even after telling dispatch this they insisted I look again to see if there weren’t these two other trailers there after all. I contemplated sending them a message indicating that I found two magic trailers and everything was spiffy (to be followed by a “PSYCHE!” message a minute later) but thought better of it.

So I ended up with the empty van trailer and the other driver went bobtail, and I hightailed it north to Calhoun to wait for my load of carpet to be loaded.

A new dispatcher and his first turndown… on day one

So the last load I got went through the house, ending with a delivery first thing Monday morning. It was a bit far to do it then, so I left Sunday afternoon after finishing my 34 and arrived in the evening. The first time I arrived they kindly mentioned that the reefer wasn’t 3/4ths full, so I had to head back to the Pilot and take care of that, then arrive a second time. I’ll get that done correctly the first time one of these days.

Come Monday morning and nothing happens for a few hours. Eventually I get a *BEEP* from the satellite unit and it is the first dispatch from my new dispatcher (see here for backstory). A load that doesn’t pick up until 1930 that night in Green Forest, Arkansas and delivers first thing in the morning up in Missouri.

Now I went to Green Forest, Arkansas once and never… ever… again. Coming from Russellville, Arkansas you go like this:

I call your attention to that squiggly line heading roughly northward. That is Arkansas Highway 7, a “scenic” route. This translates into a 55 MPH two-lane road with no shoulder with turns so tight there are 15 MPH blind corners and a lot (and I mean A LOT) of hills to climb and descend. Great views, true, but no place to take a big rig.

Accompanying the dispatch was a short note telling me that was the best they had. In this case, their best just wasn’t good enough and I had to kick back the first load he ever offered me. Ah well, one to grow on (he looks fairly young).

Later in the day I get a fresh dispatch: grab a loaded trailer from the same ConAgra plant I delivered at yesterday and take it to Atlanta, Georgia. Hmmm, wasn’t there something in the news about Atlanta recently?

Murky water swamps Georgia homes, roads

This should be interesting.

Short time at home

After attending the safety meeting on Friday I was given two trips to get me home. The first was picked up at the Tyson plant in Council Bluffs, Iowa and went down to Olathe, Kansas to a different Tyson plant. The second picked up in Independence, Missouri in the caves and delivers Monday morning in Russellville, Arkansas.

By the time I was able to deliver the first load and work out some problems with the second it was very late and I didn’t arrive in Springfield until after midnight. I slept in my truck and went to the house Saturday morning.

Since the load that I’m under delivers tomorrow at 0730 I am just taking a quick 34-hour restart at the house then I’ll deliver tonight and be ready to run first thing Monday morning.

While at the house I got some furniture delivered, installed three blinds (including two motorized with remotes for the master bedroom!), put together a computer table and printer stand, then mowed the overgrown lawn. How relaxing.

My first three-way — and I think I like it!

Now don’t get all up on your high horse until you finish the post, please.

Last week a driver from a message board I frequent emailed me to let me know he was attending orientation at Hill Bros this week and he put me down as a reference. Like many trucking companies, the company I drive for rewards current drivers when this happens. If he finishes orientation I get $500 and should he remain a driver for two months I’ll get another $500.

On Wednesday I spoke with Jason in recruiting and he mentioned that there was that driver and a lady driver as well that mentioned me when they were recruited. “Oh realllly?” I breathed.

Then, after I arrived in Omaha and flipped on my computer I read a post on the same message board from one of the drivers in the orientation class who tells me there are THREE drivers in that orientation who have put me down as a reference.

Three referrals? It turns out there was a recruit who didn’t know my details that had used that same message board to decide to come on board. He updated his application and cha-ching!

I’m happy to report that all three new drivers (Brad, Shirley and Andrew) finished orientation and next week’s paycheck should be quite large.

(Next time we meet up I owe you a full-on trip over to Red Lobster, Shirley! Ditto for you two guys as well!)