Stuck in a rut

Apparently my dispatcher has a thing for FedEx going on… for the third time in a row I’m planned on a FedEx load. This time it is heading back out of Phoenix first thing tomorrow morning to Henderson, Colorado.

Blizzard in Albuquerque

The drive from Wichita southwest was cold, windy and interspersed with icy rain and snow. Just west of Dalhart, Texas it became a real storm for a while with blowing snow but I was soon through to the other side and soldiered on. After a short fuel stop in Tucumcari, New Mexico I drove west along I-70 with the aim of ending up in the western half of New Mexico at the end of my driving hours.

Along comes Albuquerque, New Mexico and a localized blizzard that almost stopped me and thousands of my closest friends in the metro area. The snow was very light and flaky and the wind whipped it up into almost blinding sheets so I had to crawl for several miles before getting back up to speed.

I managed to make Grants, New Mexico by the time my driving hours expired and in order to deliver this FedEx load on time I had to start up again at 0030. Thankfully, the snow storms had moved off to to the east though it was still in the 20’s outside.

Six hours later I pulled into Phoenix a few minutes before the load delivery time. The message coursing back to HQ over the satellite unit? “When FedEx absolutely positively needs a load delivered safely and on-time… they call unit 8836 baby!”

“Head to FedEx Wichita, we’ll get you a load to Arizona”

Such was the information from dispatch this morning and off I went. An hour into the two-hour trip south from Salina, Kansas, the trip information arrives along with a fuel recommendation that tells me I can complete the 1,050-mile trip from Wichita, Kansas to Phoenix, Arizona with just the 3/8ths of a tank of fuel that my gauge is showing.

I was touched by the confidence the folks in the rear with the gear placed on my fuel economy but just as a backstop I sent a code in via the satellite unit to redo the math and get me a real fuel solution. A message pops up shortly thereafter telling me I should fuel in Salina, which I departed an hour ago. Why do I bother sometimes.

The trip to Phoenix has an absolutely tight schedule on it. I pick it up 0400 tomorrow morning and deliver it 0600 Friday morning in Phoenix, though I do benefit from a two-hour time zone change in my favor. The weather system that brought snow to Colorado and Wyoming has brought high winds and dust storms to Arizona and New Mexico so my fuel economy should be poor on this run.

Short stuff

My truck has been leaning a bit towards the driver’s side for a while now and I had the shop take a look at it. A while later the problem is identified (worn out bushings on a torsion bar) and fixed and I’m out another $166. Such is the life.

Late in the morning my dispatcher surfaced with a short run down to Olathe, Kansas from Omaha. Before I could reply to the satellite unit another trip showed up, this one going from Edwardsville, Kansas to Henderson, Colorado picking up last night and delivering this morning. A separate message asked if this was doable (about 200 miles for the first trip and 600 for the second, a total of 800 miles) and I spent little time establishing that it wasn’t.

The second run was from FedEx and dispatch was desperate to find drivers to cover so they offered to t-call it in Salina, Kansas if I’d pick it up. Sigh, okay.

I delivered in Olathe around 1930 and my FedEx load was supposed to leave at 2000 so I hurried north to Edwardsville and checked in. For some reason it wasn’t ready and I was forced to wait until midnight for everything to get straightened out and I was sent on my way. I arrived in Salina at 0300 this morning and the transfer was made, my full trailer for an empty and the new driver headed off to the Denver area.

A First Time for Everything

Imagine my surprise when I get loaded and let loose in under two hours at Buske in Springfield, Missouri! I asked the office people why that was and they said it was due to few trucks showing up early. I mentioned that when I arrive early I normally wait 5-7 hours so I don’t bother, but I’m not sure the point got through to them.

This left me in the unusual position of leaving Springfield around 1300 instead of three or four hours later, so I motored up MO-13 towards Kansas City. I was about halfway around the edge of the city when the traffic got bad at the beginning of rush hour but the northern part of KC is always a breeze so I didn’t even have to slow down.

All three scales along the way to Omaha were closed for a change, though it didn’t matter to me one way or the other since I scaled out at a little truck stop between Springfield and KC. I even stopped at Rock Port, Missouri (I-29 exit 110) to have a very fine steak dinner at the Black Iron Grill — highly recommended.

The drop at the Pepsi place in Omaha was routine, and my cat was surprisingly cuddly last night… the 38 degree outside air temp may have had something to do with that.

Here and there

The Fayetteville load wasn’t preloaded, like I was told. Nor was it 30,000 pounds, like I was told (it was over 40,000 pounds). The planners didn’t even bother including the confirmation number I needed to make the pickup, causing me grief at the shipper.

Worse, by the time the load was ready and I left the shipper I was no longer able to make the delivery appointment on time. Which, by the way, was set before I even arrived.

I wasn’t feeling too great when I got up this morning in Neosho, Missouri but I plugged ahead and got the load to the destination when I said it would be there.

Unfortunately, the bridge along the tiny state route I had to take from I-44 to Warrenton, Missouri had a weight limit of 20 tons and I was near twice that, so I had to divert to some absolutely tiny side roads. One stretch of about 18 miles was so steep I was having to double downshift — going from fifth gear to third, for instance, a first for me. Just a nightmare.

Dispatch wanted to preplan me first on a load out of St Louis to Omaha that would require me to run all night and I nixed that. The next plan had me running a very tight FedEx load overnight to Kansas City and I nixed that as well. Fed up, I just told them I would deadhead home.

My dispatcher did manage to sweet talk me into first dropping an empty trailer near St Louis at the FedEx facility before retracing my steps, grabbing a new trailer then heading home.

Life of the trucker.