Nice sunset to compliment a nice day

The trip up to Aurora, Illinois via state highways was smooth and I arrived at the shipper long before my 1400 appointment time. Since no one else carrying my particular cargo was there yet I got a door immediately and they started loading. It still took 2.5 hours but I was gone long before noon so I didn’t really care.

I took a long snooze in Davenport, Iowa and decided to bag on the seat air repair I was contemplating for Des Moines when I fueled. The vice grip seems to have things in order for the moment and I’ll probably be back through Omaha sometime next week when our shop is open.

Since this load doesn’t deliver in Omaha until 0200 on Monday I was allowed to t-call it for a local driver to deal with and I might get another load today to get me down the road.

Another 620 miles down

I misremembered the distance from Lexington, Nebraska to Ottawa, Illinois — including my deadhead it was right around 620. Which is a nice full day of driving along I-80 at a steady clip.

We’re supposed to take trailers through the Safety Lane at HQ in Omaha if we’re passing through and I did just that. It needed some minor work then I was let loose upon the unsuspecting public again. I was hoping for some free eats at the Friday safety meeting but this is the one week in the month without one, so boo.

Both my front seats developed air leaks last year and now my driver’s seat has developed a new leak at the site of the repair. The shop didn’t have anyone free that could handle it while I was in town so as a temporary measure to remain sane I clamped it off with some vice grips. Hopefully I can get it fixed when I fuel up today in Des Moines, Iowa.

Speaking of today’s trip, it is 500ish miles: head up to Aurora, Illinois then pick up a load heading back to Omaha. It isn’t set to deliver until 0200 Monday so I should be able to t-call it in the yard and get something else tomorrow.

So much for my settlement emails coming in like clockwork: yesterday I heard nada. I’ll have to ring someone’s chime on Monday to get it straightened out.

Hither and Yon

The Bud distributor in Osage City, Kansas took ages to get me unloaded, deciding instead that a load of pallets leaving on a Bud truck was more important to handle first.

The plan o’ the day was for me to head to our yard in Kansas City to trade my newly empty trailer for a loaded one that was dropped there the previous night, then take that trailer down to Carthage, Missouri. There, a third trailer was waiting that was loaded and ready to go, just needing my load locks to arrive so they could seal it up and let me have it. Then, that trailer was to go to a food warehouse in Kearney, Nebraska I was at before:

It almost went as planned. Because the Bud distributor held me up so long we had to push the unload time in Kearney until 1100 this morning instead of 0730. I pooped out last night around Nebraska City, Nebraska and parked the truck at one of the truck stops there, and this was some job as pretty much every spot was taken. Still, with a dint of perseverance I managed to get into a safe spot and snooze until this morning when I completed the trip.

I told my dispatcher my hours were running a bit low and I wasn’t feeling great and he found me a trip tomorrow from nearby Lexington, Nebraska (home of My Favorite super Walmart!) to Ottawa, Illinois. It is an easy 500ish mile trip over mostly flat terrain and the weather, while cold, doesn’t seem to be heading towards snow or ice.

Slow rolling

The third stop in the Denver area complete and my trailer empty, I sat around. I really wish I had been preplanned for a load since my 14-hour clock had been running for five hours by this time, so my available driving hours were draining away with each passing minute.

I queried my dispatcher and he was “getting together with the planner.” A while later, I eventually received a plan that would take me to nearby Aurora, Colorado to pick up a load of Budweiser products heading to Osage City, Kansas. Unfortunately, the shipper in this case is notoriously slow and I complained that my hours would run out by the time the load was aboard and sealed up. Our HQ team shifted the delivery back a day, which basically means I lost a day in the process.

Now, if I operated like most drivers this would be a serious financial hit. If they don’t maximize every available driving hour in every workweek it hits them hard in the pocketbook. Since I concentrate more on the efficient use of my time (and the efficient utilization of my truck) the hit is a bit less stinging.

In any event, the load was, indeed, six hours in coming and I was out of hours at the shipper. A night spent nearby turned into a beautiful driving day and I crossed over into Kansas and made my way to tiny Osage City without incident.

Of course, when I arrived at the Bud distributor that I had been to before, the building was vacant and they had relocated. No problem, I tracked them down via my GPS and drove to the new location. No dice, a vacant lot. This, interspersed with some very harrowing driving along narrow side streets with sharp turns and prominent stop signs to knock over.

I used my satellite to ask for better directions and the ones that came back were a joke. Finally, using my pair of Mark I eyeballs I spotted the Budweiser sign on a building and made my way there, where I’m parked tonight.

I would include a Google map of my journey but the internet connection here is about as spotty as I’ve ever seen and sites take ages to load.

Tomorrow I have not one but two preplans… and I’m going back to someplace I’ve videoed before that includes a very difficult back. Yay me.

Just barely hanging on

The trip from Grants, New Mexico to the greater Denver area took place under clear skies but very gusty winds. Snowie, as you can see here, was hanging on for dear life as I maneuvered my truck down the road.

I fueled up in Denver late in the afternoon then relocated to my first of three stops I need to make tomorrow morning.

There and back again

I-40 and I-29 were both open this morning and I headed out as soon as I could, since I already had a preplan heading back to Denver over the weekend. The roads were treacherous and I was glad to have 44,000 pounds of cargo in the trailer. Making the two big descents along I-17 in wind, fog, snow and ice does, in fact, make you pucker up.

By the time I dropped down to the Phoenix area the roads were clear and the temps in the high 50’s. The drop and hook at PetSmart took place like clockwork and I was heading back up I-17 towards Flagstaff. With a bit of trepidation, I don’t mind admitting.

But, things occasionally work out for the good side and I-17 was actually fairly nice:

By the time I turned east on I-40 the roads were clear and the traffic at full speed:

I ended the day at Grants, New Mexico with a respectable 620 miles behind me.

The craziest sumbitch EVER

Lets review. You live someplace with infrequent rain, much less snow and ice. The day you happen to pick to transport your boat from one marina to another happens to be one with blizzard conditions, heavy snowfall, ice all over the place, snow plows and who-knows-what else out on the road. But noooooo, gotta get that boat in the water!

Closed down

I was up bright and early this morning, enough so that I had to wait for a few hours until I was legal to drive again. As I was doing my pretrip I noticed that the interconnect between the coolant systems of my engine and APU is leaking again; when my truck was in the shop last week I had them change out all of the hose clamps so apparently the problem is a hose. A half gallon of coolant later and the truck was ready to rumble.

When I got to Tucumcari, New Mexico I noticed an electronic sign saying I-40 was closed at the Arizona / New Mexico border. I wasn’t too upset since I was still five or six hours away and by then the plows might have it opened up again.

As I drove west along I-40 I saw other signs, one telling me that I-40 was now closed west of Holbrook, Arizona. Further along, the sign had the closure at Winslow, Arizona.

Meanwhile, I was driving through some decent snow showers. At one point, I pulled in to the Petro at Grants, New Mexico to have something to eat and drop a deuce and in less than thirty minutes this is what my mirror looked like:

I plodded along until I reached the Loves near Holbrook, New Mexico then called it a night since both I-40 and I-17 remained closed and I didn’t feel like trying my hand at the Hwy 77 / US-60 detour to the south. Fortunately, the delivery appointment was bumped up a day so everyone will be happy if I can at least get the load down to Phoenix sometime tomorrow.

Weekly Financials updated and improved

I normally receive electronic copies of my settlements on Friday and mine rolled in like clockwork this morning. Even though I was down for five or six days I still came out with a nice paycheck, due to a couple late-posting trips from last week and my fourth quarter safety bonus.

The Weekly Financials spreadsheet has been updated with this happy information and I’ve added several improvements as well. There is now a separate sheet with YTD and average weekly totals and another sheet with several charts (all of which will update automatically as I add data each week).

Squirting southwest

I wasn’t feeling so hot when I got up yesterday morning, but my truck was ready and after a short ride from the hotel I got behind the wheel of my New and Improved truck. The engine sounds the same to my ear, though it does seem to have a bit more power now.

My dispatcher had arranged to hold a load that should have left the previous day from Crete, Nebraska heading down to Phoenix. It will be a tough, 2-day trip covering 1,340 miles to deliver on time no later than 2300 local time on Friday but I figured I had plenty of time off to rest and relax.

Out to the yard I went in search of an empty van to run down to Crete. The first van I tried to get under had so much ice in front of it (and rather hilly packed snow) that I wasted ten minutes before I concluded I couldn’t safely take it. Off to the next one I found in the yard and after some difficulties I got that one hooked up.

The Hill Bros safety lane was up and running by then so I took my rig through there and everything checked out on the trailer… except the fiberglass roof had a big honking hole in it. The trailer should have been red tagged since the shop noted it the previous day. A good 45 minutes was burned before I was back out in the lot searching for a third trailer.

The only other one I found was rather old and was sitting on a sheet of ice:

After some deft maneuvering and a bit of luck I got hooked up and ran the trailer back through the safety lane. This time it was fine, but I had to wait for 30 minutes or so for a trailer in front of me to have a series of repairs completed.

I still wasn’t feeling that hot but the trip out to Crete was simple enough. I made use of the bathroom there and discovered I have a pretty good case of diarrhea going on. Real good, in fact, as I pulled over in towns along my route the entire day to take care of business. Too Much Information (TMI), I know.

Me and my leaky body managed to finish just south of Dalhart, Texas for the night, barely within striking distance of Phoenix tomorrow.

New! Weekly financials

UPDATE: The original link to the spreadsheet was not made public; the new link is working now for everyone, no login required.

With all the free time I’ve had recently I decided to change and improve the financial reporting side of this site. Beginning today, the results from the second year of my lease-purchase will be updated will be posted as I receive each weekly settlement:

The new format is broken down and color-coded into five areas: Stats, Revenue, Reimbursements, Expenses and Escrows.

I will be adding some Year To Date information and various charts and graphs as time goes on.

NOTE: I can’t seem to find one of my settlements so you’ll notice a blank line in the middle of the report. Hill Bros is sending me another copy via email soon and I will update the spreadsheet then.

Engine problems, part 2 – Stranded

It is Tuesday morning and I just finished a phone call to the local Volvo dealer. The mechanics opened up the engine last night and rooted around, finding the two damaged rocker arm rollers. After some more inspection they also found the camshaft to be damaged, so it has been pulled and a replacement sought.

Two Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) valves and an EGR sensor are belly up as well and are being replaced. The good news is that these are warranty repairs. The bad news is the camshaft may have to be flown in from elsewhere and it may be several more days before the truck is whole again.

I continue to enjoy the pleasures of the local Comfort Inn but being out of the truck for so long has me antsy. Plans were laid to head home this weekend for some time off but this will be scrapped once I get in touch with my dispatcher; I’ve had enough time off already.

Engine problems, part 1

My truck finally made it into the shop this morning.

I had the engine cleaned a few days ago in anticipation of this service call, so it looks pretty nice:

The mechanic assigned to work on it pointed out a problem with the air intake leading to the turbo and I had it removed and replaced:

A closeup of the problem:

A while later he was in the process of doing an overhead when he noted that two of the rocker arm rollers had peeling chrome:

This means that the Volvo dealer will have to take out the camshaft and replace a number of parts. Unfortunately, they are very backed up today (Saturday) and closed on Sunday, so I’m going to be sitting here until at least Tuesday, assuming everything can be fixed on Monday.

It has been a while since I’ve stayed at the Comfort Inn that Hill Bros uses but the next three nights are paid up and my feet are up.

Omaha for a day

I arrived in Omaha in the middle of the night, enjoying 40-50 miles of freezing fog near the end.

The load was a whopping 3,500 pounds so fuel economy was great, though traction was a bit suspect for the last few hours.

The receiving folks at the consignee arrived promptly at 0445 and an hour later I was empty, and tired. Now I’m over at our yard until tomorrow morning to rest up and take a 34-hour break so my hours should run out next weekend just as I’m arriving at the house for a few days off.

Today there was one of the regular safety meetings, which always feature free eats so even though I attended last week I made a point at grabbing some vittles. Driver gotta do what a driver gotta do, after all.

700 miles down, 700 to go

Yesterday was a long, boring day. I started at the Georgia / Alabama border on I-20 and finished just east of Dallas, Texas, still on I-20. Seven hundred miles, more or less.

After I unload I’m to head to Dallas proper and pick up a load heading back up to Omaha.

Basically, I’m traveling in one big loop this week:

Downtime and income

I was told yesterday morning by my dispatcher that the planner was working on a brokered load to get me the hell out of South Carolina, or something to that effect. I called to pester check in a few times during the day but it eventually became apparent nothing was going to happen and I would be stuck at the same po-dunk dirt lot truck stop in Pageland for another night.

On the plus side, dodging the wigged-out hooker, dope dealers and fighting for a turn on “the throne” in the single-hole bathroom kept it real.

The broker on this load is to tight lipped that they wouldn’t even tell Hill Bros the actual address in Statesville, North Carolina to pick up at until the driver (that would be me) called in. Better, they wouldn’t even tell me where it was being delivered until after I called in to report I was loaded and rolling. I figure this load must be super secret, hi-tech military space surveillance gear that can monitor diapers on babies about to board planes for explosives, and kept my mouth shut.

I get to the company in the early morning hours and, ho hum, its a load of concrete plaster stuff. After an hour or so the truck is loaded and I sign off on the paperwork (leaving a copy in an outside drop box at least makes me feel a little secret agent-ish ala Russell Crowe in “A Beautiful Mind”). The destination is so secret that… wait for it… it is printed on the Bill of Lading. Just like every other load I haul.

I contemplated not calling the broker back to report I’m loaded just to stick it to the man, but hey who needs more grief from random people over the phone.

The trip back south along I-77 is interrupted by a horrendous crash scene on the northbound lanes… a big rig wiped so badly the trailer was split in half and the cab crunched up real bad. It must have happened between the time I arrived at Statesville and departed with my load.

I was really hustling to see if I could make it to Atlanta by 1500 and get a jump on the afternoon rush hour but after a while I realized I was calculating my arrival using Central time and since Atlanta is Eastern and thus an hour earlier… I would be arriving at 1600. Instead, I stopped en route for a DQ Blizzard then a few miles further down the road and got my truck washed off.

While I was waiting in the long line at the streakin’ Beacon I got a call and a satellite message from my dispatcher. I had been bugging him for dentention pay on a pair of stinker loads I handled a month or two ago (a one and a two) and by now Hill Bros concluded they weren’t going to get paid squat by either offender. This ordinarily means I get both squat and delayed for 30ish hours on those loads, but someone up top hit a button and $120 materialized on to my next paycheck. This tells me that while things are tight on the good ship HB, it isn’t to the point of switching the two-ply toilet paper to that awful single ply stuff.

Barely ahead of the storm

The Omaha Volvo dealer was backed up badly when I attempted to get some repairs made to my truck; so much so I didn’t hear back from them before I had to depart Omaha heading southeast.

My dispatcher wanted to know if I could take a load from Council Bluffs to Pageland, South Carolina and be there by Sunday night. Three days and just under 1,200 miles, easy sneezy. Especially when compared to staying in Omaha to enjoy overnight temperatures expected to be -24 or so.

The one snag in the plan came near the end when I couldn’t take I-40 from Tennessee to North Carolina. I recall there being a rockslide there a few months ago and apparently they haven’t figured out how to get it cleared up and traffic moving again through that neck of the woods. This necessitated a 58-mile detour to I-26 then down to Asheville, North Carolina.

The Wal-Mart folks were nice enough to let me enter the DC grounds a couple hours before my appointment time. I note, however, that I was still unloaded just under two hours past my original appointment.

Attention team drivers looking for work…

I mentioned that Hill Bros was looking for a few teams to help run loads between Salt Lake City and Chicago and now they are looking for four more teams, as follows:

One team to also run SLC to Chicago regularly.

Two teams to run pretty much everywhere we run, based in either Dallas or Kansas City.

One team to run for Pro Fleet, which is a subsidiary of HB in Kansas City.

Both team members will need 2 years verifiable OTR experience, hazmat or the ability to get hazmat and a clean MVR. Talk with Erin or Abbie in recruiting at 800-258-4456.

Out of the house and into the storm

My first load from home this time is the same Springfield-to-Omaha run I’ve done many times before, carrying 40,000+ pounds of liquid products for Pepsi. Springfield was cold and fairly windy, a challenge when you’re driving an empty rig across town but not so much after your rig weighs in close to 80,000 pounds.

I was loaded and rolling by 0930 and I only stopped once along the way to drop trou. By the late afternoon I was in Omaha with my trailer sitting in the yard at Pepsi and my truck in the shop at ThermoKing to get my regular APU maintenance seen to.

Last night was cold, about -10 or so. Tonight is supposed to get down to a bone chilling -24 and I’m hoping all the repair and maintenance I need to get done is completed in time for me to grab a load and run (hopefully) south.

“… lean back and think of England!”

Those of you who aren’t familiar with Bear Grylls and his TV series Man vs. Wild need to man the hell up. As in, what do you do if you’re out in the middle of the ocean and the only drinkable water you have is fetid and has bird droppings?

Hint: Hope you have some flexible tubing available. And stones the size of bowling balls don’t hurt, either.

The long trip home

After unloading those 47 lost and found cases of meat in Los Angeles I slept and in the morning I was told to go to City of Industry, California to pick up a load the following day heading for Omaha. I didn’t object to the delay, as my body was still trying to recover from the late night driving I had just completed.

There was no place to park at the shipper (strike that, there was plenty of places to park but the shipper doesn’t allow common carriers to park on their property) so I had to drive around for 20 minutes or so until I found someplace quasi-legal to park on the street for the night. The police didn’t bother me, but there was a lot of traffic that went by, some of it passing at a high rate of speed.

The loading was complete the following morning at 1000 and I was on my way back east. I was given until Sunday morning to deliver in Omaha but I wanted to be home earlier so I actually delivered Saturday afternoon.

My go-home load awaited some 40 miles south in Nebraska City, Nebraska where I picked up 20 tons of ham, turkey and chicken products heading first to Kansas City then to Springfield, Missouri.

The Sygma folks in Kansas City also don’t allow common carriers to park on their property so I had to drive around for a long time before I spotted a tiny cul-de-sac to park the truck in. Right outside the gates to the Harley Davidson factory, as a matter of fact. I spent Saturday night there then was unloaded first thing Sunday morning.

The drive down to Springfield was difficult and annoying. The snow falling in KC was the wet, slushy kind that sticks to the windshield as soon as it hits. Even with my defroster working at maximum the sheet of ice slowly crept lower and lower, requiring me to lower my seat bit by bit. By the time I reached Clinton, Missouri I was driving like a low rider.

I managed to stop and chip off the accumulation and by the time it started to build up again I was just far enough south that the snow falling was the dry, flaky kind that no one really minds.