Team drivers?

Hill Brothers is about 95-98% solo drivers. When I was in Omaha a few days ago I did notice they were hiring teams for some new semi-dedicated FedEx runs between Salt Lake City and Chicago. Semi-dedicated meaning the teams would run that route a few times a week with other loads from either end of that route to keep them moving.

If you and your team driver have hazmat and a couple year’s experience you might want to give Erin in recruiting a jingle at 800-258-4456 for more information.

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Midnight versus 2 AM

Since I knew that yesterday I would have to run all the way to Emporia, I left Denver and headed up the highway an hour or so to a rest area at Wiggins, Colorado. This gave me fewer miles to drive for my Kansas load.

I’ve run this trip before. We regularly take meat from a Tyson plant in Lexington, Nebraska and shuttle it down to Emporia, Kansas to yet another Tyson plant. The problem usually comes on the shipping end where they don’t have the load ready until mid evening and still expect you to deliver by 0230 in Emporia.

For some reason I was sleepy after a couple hours of driving and stopped in Big Springs, Nebraska to take a power nap. Then, for some inexplicable reason I spent the next couple hours watching video and basically being lazy and that bit me in the butt.

DING! Goes the satellite unit: “Your load is ready now on trailer 579124.”

FUDGE! I was still two hours away and it was about 1615 so by the time I get there, get checked in and swap trailers I will be leaving the shipper around 1900, putting me in Emporia around 0200. If I had just kept going after my power nap I would have arrived when the load was ready and would have arrived in Emporia at midnight.

Fuming at my own laziness I drove to Lexington, swapped trailers then headed to Wood River, Nebraska to top off the reefer. Driving non-stop from then took me right to 0200 when I dropped off the trailer in Emporia.

The late-late show

Ah, the evening routine. It was last night around 8 PM and I was relaxing in my truck, basking in the warmth of my bunk heater and taking care of some chores. The cat was snoozing away (in her castoff cardboard box bottom scavenged from a case of bottled water; her $30 fuzzy cat bed lays unused now), the dirty clothes neatly bagged up, the floor vacuumed.

I had just polished off a nice salad and was in the process of getting ready for bed.

BEEP! I wish I could turn that satellite unit off sometimes.

“Can you run to Ames, Iowa and bring back a load tonight?” This was shortly followed up by a phone call from one of the night dispatchers, my old fleet dispatcher Ross. We went back and forth over the details and I eventually acquiesced.

As I got dressed my log nagged at the back of my head then I remembered. I arrived yesterday morning with only 2.25 hours left in my book and I picked up nothing today. At midnight I would get 7.5 hours back to run with but this would mean this little side trip would scotch my 34-hour restart and force me to sit all tomorrow after I delivered the load. This would be a cluster of the first order so I walked over to dispatch and braced the monster in his lair.

So, late this morning I was put on a FedEx relay from our yard in Omaha to Henderson, Colorado. It was a nice 525-mile run due in tonight and I had a couple hours to spare. One of those hours was burned up waiting for a small trailer repair then I was hooked up and on my way.

The fuel plan for the trip had me filling the tanks at our yard at $2.56 a gallon. Since I get a daily preview of the next day’s fuel prices I knew (from yesterday’s report) that fuel in Denver was six cents cheaper but at midnight local time it would rise by about six cents. Therefore, after I finished the FedEx festivities I dropped down into Denver and filled my tanks. I also swapped out my locking fuel caps for the regular kind as winter is upon us and enough ice and other gunk makes its way inside the locks to be quite a pain.

Along the way to Henderson I was preplanned with a long deadhead out to Lexington, Nebraska for tomorrow to deliver a load late tomorrow night to Emporia, Kansas.

Numbers

After Rochelle I was given a preplan to run from Monee, Illinois to Omaha, Nebraska. The timing was just about perfect to use up the rest of my 70 hour clock and will allow me a 34-hour reset in Omaha as an added bonus.

The pickup in Monee was a complete pain in the rear. Imagine a stack of fifty or seventy Bills of Lading and a booklet of preprinted labels you need to peel off and attach to each and every page. Bleh.

At least the load was light. On the way west to Omaha my MPG rose from 8.0 where it was when I arrived in Monee up to 8.2, then 8.3, then back to 8.2, then back up to 8.3. Something for a driver to watch as he goes down the road, I guess.

Anyway, by the time I arrived in Omaha and dropped off my trailer this is what it looked like:

8.4 MPG, yay.

Today I’ve been taking care of some maintenance items, including:

New coolant filter
Two new cab air filters
A leaky seal in my air pressure system
A full PM for the truck

I also replaced the original left steer tire, which gave me 207,700 miles of service during its time on my truck. I calculate this tire traveled 1.095 BILLION feet in the past 17 months, without complaint. My four drive tires continue to impress with between 7/32 and 10/32nds of an inch tread remaining and should all surpass the distance from the Earth to the moon (approximately 250,000 miles) before they are replaced. Think about that for a moment.

In addition, the tire guys did a 3-axle alignment and corrected a couple minor issues there.

To top everything else off, I got new blank comchecks, seals, got my logs up to date and finally purchased a pin puller called a STA-RAT that helps with balky tandems.

No, I really have trailer 579107 in my mirror

So I get to the Pilot in East St Louis, Illinois this morning and swap (heavily) loaded trailers with my trucking counterpart. We exchange paperwork and make some small talk then head off to the scales then back to the open road.

As part of this process we also use our satellite units to indicate we’ve made a switch and we each enter information from the paperwork so the system knows we’ve got the right paperwork for the right trailer. Only, my dispatcher is sure I have trailer 589860 on board and a simple glance at either of my side mirrors confirms that I have trailer 579107 in tow behind me. Paradox, again.

I send off a message telling him I’m sure that is the trailer behind me and go about my business. Four hours later I arrive in Rochelle, Illinois where I drop said trailer at the consignee and by this time my dispatcher has gone home. Soon after I punch in the proper codes into the system the weekend dispatcher sends a message asking what happened to trailer 589860.

I almost didn’t respond but eventually I typed out another message and even phoned in to make sure they were reading it left-to-right instead of the reverse. My simple question: “Is there no way to ask the system what truck currently has trailer 589860 hooked up to it?”

“Nope.”

My lord.

Then I’m told that the system says there are three trailers at this consignee that have been there for a week without any further updates. Having just left said consignee bobtail because there are no empty trailers I think our trailer tracking system is full of poo poo.

Free at last, free at last…

Thank God almighty, I’m free of this Pilgrim’s Pride load at last!

To finish up I had to depart Washington Court House, Ohio at 0400 which was kind of a bitch. I wanted to get through Dayton, Ohio before traffic got bad but I was a bit tired and sleepy afterward so I pulled in to a rest area and took a thirty minute power nap. A few hours later I was in Novi, Michigan offloading 10 tons of chicken products for the Little Caesar’s pizza people.

A few hours and 100ish miles later I was in downtown Lake Odessa, Michigan trying and failing to find the right tiny side street to take for my next load. It sucks when the address of a place doesn’t put you on a street that actually goes to that address and it took someone explaining to me exactly how to get there before I found it.

Two more hours and 22 tons of frozen veggies later, I’m back on the road. In the meantime my load has been shortened to a swap with another driver in East St Louis, Illinois tomorrow so he can take it the rest of the way to Oklahoma then go home for some time off. His load is headed up to Rochelle, Illinois and I should just be able to get it there before my hours run out.

Tonight I’m holed up at a Flying J in Benton Harbor, Michigan.

Take these wing ding things… please

Up bright and early and on the road after a brief chat with the driver who parked next to me. He told me he was coming west last night and was stopped for three solid hours around mile marker 150 while the police were in clearing a very nasty multiple fatality wreck out of the way. By the time I got to mile marker 151 this morning they were still in the process of cleaning everything up, including the trailer of a semi that looked like an accordion.

Our people and the Walmart people weren’t able to come to an agreement as to when I should show up with the load until late in the day, but eventually I got a satellite message that I’d be worked in so long as I got there by 1900 local time. At that point I was 130 miles out with about 2.5 hours remaining, but Cincinnati, Ohio yet to go, and it would mean running through there at rush hour. Or, as it turns out, crawling through there.

I did the best I could, even hitting 65 and 70 along the way where possible. Still, by the time the last traffic jam faded behind me in the suburbs I was 45 miles out and only had 35 minutes or so until 1900. I rolled up to the guard shack at Walmart at 1905 and hustled the paperwork inside.

Despite the assurance of a late work in via satellite I was told in no uncertain terms the load would have to get another appointment made. I took down the name and phone number of the boss person there and texted it to HQ while I parked nearby. About 30 minutes later I was called by one of our CSRs and she’s on a conference call with whoever needed to be massaged ever so gently. Shortly thereafter I was told to boogie back to Walmart and there would be a message left at the gate in my favor.

A few hours later I’m beat and back on the street, minus six pallets of “wing dings.” I kid you not.

Tomorrow is shaping up to be another humdinger with another late delivery to finish this load up in Michigan and a new preplan heading to Oklahoma.