Calendar year 2009 Financial Results

2009 was the first full calendar year I finished as a lease-purchase operator. I began my lease June 6, 2008 and track my fiscal results from the first week of June each year to the first week of June the next, but I thought it might be of interest to show some of the numbers just for the year 2009.

Note that these numbers don’t exactly align with the calendar because the start of 2009 didn’t align exactly with the payroll cutoff day each week, but it does represent the 52 week period as closely as possible.

I drove 126,330 paid miles during ’09. I didn’t note my starting and ending actual truck miles during that time period, so I don’t know how many more miles I drove Out-of-Route.

My truck grossed 147,016 and my net, after all truck expenses but before taxes, health care or other personal expenses, was 62,121. Dividing my paid miles by my net pay shows a CPM of 49.17, just shy of my 50 CPM target. I also saved an extra 5,000 in an escrow account during this period, so the actual net would be 67,121 and CPM of 53.13.

These numbers are close to the numbers I posted for my first full fiscal year: 67,121 calendar vs 67,739 fiscal.

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Lying thieving bastards

The rest of my trip out to my first stop in Phoenix, Arizona was uneventful.

My cargo this trip was 32,000 pounds of various meat products, with all but 3,600 pounds going to my first stop, a company I will decline to mention by name. I checked in three hours before my appointment time and waited around until I was assigned a door.

The unloading and breakdown of the product took an inordinate amount of time, not unusual at a food warehouse. Eventually, I was given the paperwork and I went back out to my truck. Even though the parking spaces were narrow, I only needed to move forward eight or ten feet to swing my trailer doors since the spaces next to me were empty. I did this, and as I brought around the first door I noticed that the trailer was completely empty. About 3,600 pounds of product (and a different type of product that this first customer didn’t order as well) was gone.

I went back inside to chat up the dock manager and he looked at the paperwork and consulted his computer. They got exactly 586 boxes of product that they ordered, he insisted, no more and no less. By this time the product was long gone from the dock area itself, having been sorted into the various pallets the warehouse required.

Several hours of hilarity ensued, as I called our folks, they called the Cargill folks, no one could get a hold of the dock manager by phone, etc. “They must have left it off of the load in Nebraska,” I was told by the dock people.

The only thing is, this particular shipper video tapes every load that leaves their facility so they had proof that what they said was on the truck was on the truck.

By an amazing coincidence, after a long wait one of the lumper types points at two pallets stacked in an out-of-the-way location and asks if those were the ones I was looking for. The labels matched those printed on the bills for my last stop and they quickly hustled the pallets on to the back of my truck.

Lying thieving bastards.

By this time it was mid evening and I still had a long six-hour drive into Los Angeles for an 0500 appointment the following morning. I had to take two power naps along the way to keep me going, but eventually I arrived ahead of schedule. I was feeling good enough I saved $50 by taking the pallets off of the trailer myself instead of leaving it to the lumpers. Thank goodness I didn’t have to restack anything.

The glow grows and grows!

I managed to knock out over 550 miles the day I picked up in Schuyler, Nebraska, despite traveling along a series of narrow state highways with some snow drifts up to and above the window of my rig.

By the time I reached Kansas the snow was much less noticeable and I made decent time, which allowed me to continue onwards to Guymon, Oklahoma for the night. I hadn’t parked at this particular truck stop before (it is a Shell station with considerable truck parking) and I hadn’t used their restrooms before, either.

Now believe it or not, I am not the sort who buys condoms from restroom vending machines. I could not help but laugh, however, at the advertising for one brand presented for my viewing, er, pleasure:

A bad parking decision

That was my little mistake. The Sapp Bros truck stop was packed to the gills when I arrived but there was one spot left in the parking area just west of the pumps. It had a bit of grade to it but I didn’t feel it would be a problem departing in the morning so I took the spot and went in for a shower and such.

The following morning I was ordered west to Cargill in Schuyler, Nebraska for a load of meat heading first to Phoenix, Arizona then Los Angeles, California. Ordinarily, a long run out to the left coast is a blessing but the state highway I needed to take to Schuyler then the ones I needed to take south were closed the day before due to snow and would be challenging to navigate.

Before I got to that I had to move my truck and that is where I discovered I was stuck, yet again. I tried a variety of things but eventually concluded I needed a tow of roughly 20 feet to get me off of the sheet of ice the snow on top had obscured when I was parking and in a couple hours that was taken care of.

Then it was off to our yard to get an empty reefer and some fuel. The HB yard in Omaha is a bit basic and during the wintertime heavy snowfall makes it quite a challenge to get around in. For instance, this is what our pump looked like:

This was actually the better part of the yard, as far as snow piles go.

Anyway, fueled up and headed out to the snowy and icy highways. Ninety minutes later I was in Schuyler trading trailers and preparing to head south along a series of state highways from Nebraska to Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico before joining up with I-40 westbound.

The day after Christmas

The rest area parking lot added more snow as I spent the night snoozing so leaving the following morning was a bit challenging. After some quality time spent bulldozing through a few smallish snow drifts I was free, free at last, and navigating northward on I-29.

Of course, the electronic signs I passed telling me that I-29 was closed northbound at mile marker 84 in Missouri didn’t raise my spirits. I sent in a brief message to our HQ folks to see if anyone knew what that was back and got back a message telling me they don’t do highway updates. This is clearly untrue, as I show below.

(It turns out the Interstate was open by the time I arrived)

About three hours later I arrived in Omaha and made my way to the western edge of town, noting numerous electronic billboards telling me that I-80 westbound was closed from the west side of Omaha past Lincoln. One of the last open exits was the one that I needed so I carefully made my way on to side streets towards the Omaha Steak warehouse I’ve delivered to before.

Snow was piled up quite high at this point, some drifts actually blocking my view (10+ feet tall). Narrow two lane roads became wide one lane roads with the encroaching snow. Vehicles coming from opposite directions had to find places for one to edge over a few feet and let the other one by.

The Omaha Steaks parking lot was a big mess and I had to wait about 30 minutes before I was even at the dock area. The Hill Bros driver in front of me was told to drop his trailer in the lot opposite the docks so I did the same. Hell no I was not going to volunteer to unload those stupid containers. Ten minutes later, having secured the signature of the dock manager on the bills, I was a free man once more. Minus a trailer, though.

HQ dinged me around this time and ordered me west about 60 miles to Schuyler, Nebraska. I responded that the roads to the west were closed, and they responded that they would be opened later in the afternoon. AHA, I snorted: they DO issue highway updates when it suits them! Hoisted on their own petard!

I very carefully bobtailed to the nearby Sapp Bros truck stop for a long overdue shower. This is where I made my own little mistake, but I only realized it the next morning.

Xmas Eve video repost

Several folks wrote in to let me know my last video was still marked “private” on YouTube so it couldn’t be played. I’ve corrected this problem and repost it here for those if you who don’t like that whole “scroll down” thing:

Christmas Day

I wanted to include a video with this post but I haven’t had the time to edit together the various shots I took and I don’t happen to be in a location with speedy internet service, so the baby Jesus weeps yet again.

On Christmas Eve I had delivered in Lawrence, Kansas and I was tired. Since the Bud distributor there lies next to a dead-end street with enough room for me to park my rig out of the way, I asked if anyone would blow a gasket if I snoozed there until morning. They had no problem with this so that is what I did.

I awoke to find several feet of snow drifts on the street in front of my truck. There was some room to get moving, though everything was a bit icy, so for a while I tried to carefully play battering ram to see if I could make my way through the snow. No joy, so I backed off and regrouped.

The side of the street away from the Bud distributor had a curb and a narrow sidewalk, but the lot beyond was just weeds. The snow was only a few inches deep there so I decided to see if I could inch my way around the mess on the road just long enough to get clear and get moving again.

This… almost worked. During one of my backups I managed to get stuck well enough that nothing from that point on got me moving and I needed a tow. My folks called our nationwide tow folks, they called around to local Kansas tow folks and found a wrecker about 30 minutes away. I intentionally avoided asking the bill for a wrecker to come out on Christmas Day and will be opening my next month’s settlements a bit gingerly to help dampen the monetary shock when it gets deducted from my maintenance account.

Anyway, the video I shot is priceless. Wrecker shows up and wrecker driver tut-tuts at my super single drive tires. “No wonder you got stuck, can’t get any traction with those!” I have several minutes of video showing wrecker driver subsequently getting stuck into the same snow drifts I did and eventually deciding the only way out was my sidewalk maneuver. Eat that, doubles driver!

30-40 minutes later and I’m rolling again after being winched forward about 200 feet. My next load was a very light shipment of Styrofoam containers heading from Kansas City, Kansas to Omaha, Nebraska for the Omaha Steaks folks. The shipper in KC was shut down (naturally) but I knew they leave all the trailers outside the gates of their facility which is tucked underneath an overpass in the industrial section of town. I also knew the roads getting there were secondary in nature and thus poorly plowed, and the storms had dumped quite a bit of snow over the past few days.

The exit ramp from I-70 to 57th street was the single scariest piece of driving I’ve ever done in a big rig. The ramp is fairly long but steep and I was skidding for about half of the distance, even though I was doing less than 20 MPH. I am pretty good about keeping my trailer in line and I keep plenty of extra sets of underwear on the truck, so it turned out okay.

The two miles from there to the entrance I needed was bad, but mostly level and I’m used to being empty or bobtailing on snow and ice now. The turn into their entrance was interesting (narrow driveway, curving away to the left and descending pretty rapidly at the beginning) but I managed that.

The fun began when I dropped my trailer along a line of similarly empty trailers that faced the gate along their long driveway. I know since I was here last winter that the loaded trailers were the ones facing away from the building and there was just one there, which happened to be mine. The problem came when I had to turn my bobtail tractor around on a narrow road with snow piled up on either side. After searching for a while I made the best of a slightly less bad section of road underneath one of the overpasses and very carefully got my rig turned around so I could hook up to my new trailer.

After all that I barely made it back up the driveway with my new trailer (Styrofoam hardly weighs anything) and back on to the road towards the Interstate. About thirty hair-raising minutes later I parked my rig at the northbound rest area just north of KC, having dodged deep troughs of snow in the parking lot to do so.

About thirty minutes after I arrived I hear a commotion outside and take a peek. It is a Werner truck that tried parking near me in a marginal spot, then tried pulling forward as if to leave. The combination of the deep snow and the turn was enough to get them stuck and the pair of drivers spent several hours spinning their wheels and digging out before I had enough and went to bed. The following morning they were gone, so apparently whatever they did worked.

That was my Christmas Day 2009.