Early on, I knew today would be a bad day.
On my way from Big Cabin, Oklahoma to Garland, Texas to drop off the trailer I picked up yesterday I was passed by a pickup truck towing a trailer with some construction items piled on top (trusses, two by fours, sheet rock, etc.). A few miles up the road I see that same pickup pulled over to the side of the road so I do the safe thing and pull into the left lane to give them ample room and I go about my business.
A while later, the same pickup passes me again but this time it is swerving slightly from side to side and it seems like the driver is having difficulty keeping it on the straight and narrow. Pickup pulls to the side of the road again, I go around again.
A short time later I’m passed again and the pickup is having a hard time of it and I’m getting worried they are going off of the road or they will ram me or another vehicle. Suddenly, the pickup swerves to the right shoulder and the driver slams on the brakes just as the right rear tire departs for the greener grass on the far side of the shoulder and the rear of the truck droops down to the right, ending in a shower of sparks. Three or four people pour out of the truck as I go by again and this time it is for good.
The thought went through my mind right after this that I hope my day today won’t come apart like this. Then my satellite unit beeped and I received a preplan.
Now, I thought when I left the house yesterday I was heading down to our Dallas yard to drop off one trailer then pick up a different one and take it to Springfield, after which I would be grabbing a load from Buske to take up to Omaha on Wednesday. This preplan has me doing a live load in Irving, Texas then driving the whopping 420ish miles up to Springfield and sitting on it for a day, then unloading at a local food warehouse the morning of the 12th. Oh. Hell. No.
I write one of my usual witty sonnets to the dispatcher explaining my position and shortly thereafter I’m told the preplan is banished to the netherworld. Score one for me.
Then my phone rings and it is a friend who tells me that one of my ex-girlfriends has been in a big scrape and could use some money sent to her via ComCheck. For those of you not in the industry, ComChecks are typically used to pay for things like lumpers, washouts and other miscellaneous items on the road that are reimbursed to a driver. Some drivers also take some or all of their pay in this form while on the road, though I myself never have.
For good reason, as it turns out. In order to get a couple hundred bucks shorn from my next paycheck and advanced to me via ComCheck took my dispatcher going to his boss, the head of operations, and the lady in charge of the owner-operator and lease-purchase program at Hill Bros. I almost felt dirty, like being required to prove I had money to be seated at a restaurant. We’re in tough times, I’m sure, but c’mon I’ve been here for more than 18 months and I have a fairly good track record of making money. How humiliating.
My dispatcher finally got the go-ahead on the ComCheck and I sent a SMS message to my ex (another first) with the details. That sorted out, I arrive at our Dallas yard and drop my trailer only to find out the only reefer we have at the yard has a red tag on the air hose connectors saying not to use it because it has been sold to another company. Being in a rush at that point, I had naturally hooked up to it and had the gear up, so I got to winch it back down and disconnect. Bad driver.
Sent in a message asking for guidance and waited. This new trip they offered after the first aborted preplan has me picking up in Pittsburg, Texas at 1630 and also picking up in Fort Worth, Texas at 1630. Clearly paradoxical. My dispatcher is on top of the game and tells me to go ahead and take that red-tagged trailer and the folks in Fort Worth will load me when I get there sometime in the early evening hours.
Wonderful, I don’t have to traipse across the hell of the Metroplex to find a trailer and I can make my own hours. Better yet, my fuel stop is along the way and the fuel there is just $2.48 a gallon for us today, compared to a nationwide average of $2.80 or so this week. I decide to hold off fueling until I return from Pittsburg and putter on down the road.
After narrowly avoiding an accident on the freeway I arrive in Pittsburg at the Pilgrim’s Pride meatpacking plant. Oh no, I’m informed, that trailer is not clean enough for our products, go down the road a few miles and there is an industrious fellow who will wash it out for you. Thirty minutes and thirty-five dollars later, this is done and I’m given the paperwork for my new load, and I exchange trailers.
Now I’m heading west to Fort Worth which is an odd direction considering my first drop for this load is east of here in Ohio. I’m being paid to make an almost 300 mile u-turn so some of the load can be put up front in the trailer and the rest in back. Whatever, I’m not paid enough to drive and think.
Back to the fuel stop where the next problem rears its head. See, for the past few months every time I take home time my ComData card gets shut off. I assume our crack team at HQ does this so it can’t be used if its stolen when I’m away from the truck. Anyway, this means that unless I forget to tell my dispatcher to turn it back on I roll up to the pumps and it will refuse to take my card. Like tonight, for instance.
I get that resolved only to find that the stupid pump I’m at will not pump, even after I’ve entered all the information it asked for. After a bit of trial and error I determine that the pump on the passenger side of the truck is the master pump and the one on the driver’s side won’t start until that one has its handle lifted. Since I was also filling up the reefer tank (which at our company is always located on the driver’s side) this made for a number of circuits around my truck to turn off and on the pump at the proper time.
But wait! It gets better!
After driving 150 miles or so west to the far western side of Fort Worth I arrive at the facility that will load the other half of this load on to my trailer. Naturally, even though I’m given no fewer than six different sets of pickup numbers, P.O. numbers, confirmations numbers et cetera absolutely none of them is relevant to this particular location. After a tedious series of round-trips to my truck to send in satellite messages to HQ then back to the shipping department of this company it eventually comes out that the Pilgrim’s Pride people have made a boo-boo and haven’t set up this part of the load to leave until … wait for it … wait for it … Thursday.
So now I’m back in the truck parked down the street munching on a bag of six dollar grapes telling the world about my bad day.
There, now you know.