Ah, Chicagoland

I stirred before my alarm went off and shortly thereafter headed out to complete the journey to the Pepsi folks in Elk Grove Village, Illinois. In just under three hours I arrived and wandered around their facility for a while until I found someone to give me instructions.

My instructions: head back to the street to park and wait. When I see a particular truck pull its trailer out from one of their inside docks, put my trailer into that dock, disconnect and pull forward so they can close the doors again. Oh, and be prepared to wait ’cause its almost lunch time.

The real thing I was waiting on was a preplan. No such luck yesterday, and no such luck today. As the trailer was being ignored slowly unloaded I did get several messages telling me to pick up a load about 35 miles south and bring it back to our yard just a few miles away from the Pepsi folks to stage for someone else. WTH?

After some back and forth with HQ I agree to help them out with this load and I’m told after I’m done shuttling trailers hither and yon to head over to Ottawa, Illinois for a PetSmart load. I did pick up a bump fee of $50 for helping out, but it didn’t do much to assuage my righteous indignation over having the rest of my day ruined waiting to get loaded.

Anyway, I end up tonight in Ottawa, having bobtailed down from near O’hare airport where our yard is located. Tomorrow I get to pick up an empty at the local Kohls DC and run it approximately four blocks to the PetSmart DC where I will exchange it for a full trailer that I’m now told will be heading to Odessa, Texas.

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The USS Lazy Butt

Monday morning came and went, as I delivered my load an hour early in Springfield, Missouri. I was hoping for a preplan to get me rolling as soon as I was done but this was not to be and I sat for three or four hours before The Powers That Be decided to give me a Buske load from Springfield that I figured was in my future as soon as I signed on for my last load.

The thing is, it had to deliver this morning (Tuesday) in the greater Chicago area and here it was after 1400 hours already. I went over to the Springfield Underground to be loaded, pleasantly surprised to find no line for a change and I was in and out in less than an hour.

Many drivers will tell you that it is difficult to remain motivated the first day or two back on the from a break. Sometimes I feel it and other times I don’t, but this time I definitely felt it and by the time I was passing Springfield, Illinois I was ready to hole up for the night. I took a stab at a nearby rest area and parked the USS Lazy Butt in the last legit spot.

Oh, while I was at the food warehouse getting unloaded I caught another driver giving me the eyeball. You know, staring at you, flashing gang signs, that kind of thing. I thought maybe I was in his way but he pulled his rig around mine just fine then set his brakes. Hmm, fight or flight?

It turns out Bruce emailed me a while back to comment on the site and the fact that Hill Bros doesn’t hire from North Carolina at the moment. He went with a Springfield company called O&S and says they have been treating him well. For my part, I noted no obvious bruises or lash marks.

1000th Post!

I made my first blog post on March 21, 2007 and since then 999 more have joined the first for a total of 1,000!

Back then I was a company driver for CFI just a few months out of school, driving a 2005 Kenworth T-600 tractor. Since then I changed over to Hill Bros where I did a three-month stint as a company driver, then became a lease-purchase operator which is what I’ve been doing ever since.

It has been a long journey so far and I expect there remains a longer journey still before me.

What part of the country am I in again?

What is this state? Iowa? Nebraska? Wisconsin?

(Answer: Arkansas)

And these?

(Answer: Both are Louisiana)

The rest of the way from Calhoun, Louisiana to Dallas was a bit slippery, as these trucks (and numerous four wheelers) found out:

Despite arriving at the appointed hour at the consignee there was a general cluster going on at the time and I was sitting on a dock for five hours as my shoes and socks dried out from wading through 3-6″ of snow mush. Dispatch really wanted me to pick up my next load before calling it a night, so I made my way over to a company called Niagara (not a misprint, and not the geographic location you may be thinking of) for 43,000 pounds of bottled drinks.

The weekend run itself is very sucky. I’m to take this load from Dallas to Springfield, Missouri and deliver it Monday morning, a whopping 420 miles or so. On the plus side, I happen to live there so I took advantage of a bit more hometime.

Calhoun to Calhoun via virgin freeway

I spent last night in Calhoun, Georgia and tonight I find myself stopping earlier than I had wanted at Calhoun, Louisiana.

Finding the shipper in Chattanooga was no problem, but it took the poor lady in shipping almost 30 minutes to figure out the correct set of paperwork to go with the load. After straightening that out and swapping my empty trailer for the loaded one I took one of the few interstate freeways left in the nation that I’ve not yet traveled down, I-59 from Chattanooga to Birmingham, Alabama. For some reason our handy fueling software told me I should fuel up near Nashville on my way to Dallas (!) and I decided that was crazy talk.

My plan was to get as far as possible today since I knew a nasty storm was heading from the west through Dallas and towards Atlanta. Alas, 90 minutes before my driving time ran out I was in the middle of a moderate blizzard and passing a truck stop in Calhoun, Louisiana. The vibe felt right and I pulled it off for the night.

“I swear, I’ll never go hungry again!”

Sometimes I swear there is an inner gremlin in my body that just can’t pass up bad food. Like this morning when I stopped in West Memphis, Arkansas to take a shower I just couldn’t avoid grabbing a pair of 99 cent Double Stacks from Wendy’s. Pure greasy junk food, yes, but for two bucks? C’mon. My lack of willpower is disturbing sometimes.

In the interest of complete disclosure, I also snagged four of those damn Cadbury egg things. One or two a day, what could that possibly hurt? They had disappeared by the time I crossed to the far side of Memphis. So sue me, everyone’s gotta have a vice.

I waited until 2200 last night for my load to be reworked but my trailer sat off to the side, forlorn. My alarm set at 0400, just in case they forgot to wake me, and I was off to dreamland.

BEEP BEEP BEEP at 0400. Drat.

They not only forgot to wake me, they also took off only 650 pounds… I was hoping for an entire pallet (2,500 – 3,000 pounds). More paperwork, guard house shuffle, scaling out… I’m right at 80,000. I move the tandems to the right spot and hit the road.

After Memphis I drove straight through to Atlanta. I wanted to take a lunch break but I had pigged out in the morning and took rather perverse pleasure in denying myself more wholesome food I keep on the truck. Plus, I was up against my (new) delivery deadline and didn’t want to be any later.

I dropped the loaded trailer and grabbed an empty around 1730 this evening and headed north towards Chattanooga, Tennessee. Tomorrow’s preplan has me taking a load of candy from there to Dallas on a schedule I can’t legally meet, but my dispatcher called to let me know he’d work something out.

A tale of three weights

I spent Thursday through Tuesday at the house, in part to watch the Saints beat up the Colts (take that Manning!). Yay team.

My dispatcher called and wanted to know if I could bobtail to our yard in Kansas City then pick up a loaded trailer and take it to Bolingbrook, Illinois in one day. Let’s see, 670ish miles over mostly snow- and ice-covered roads in eleven driving hours. Probably not.

But wait, I’m told. The Ops folks have a meeting each morning to figure out what parts of our service area have too many trucks or too many loads and I was told to hold on for a bit, plans might change. I was in the process of retrieving my truck from the local ThermoKing people at the time, so no problemo. They have, in theory at least, fixed the leaky fitting that was dripping radiator fluid each night.

The phone rings and brings a new plan: we’re short on trucks in Arkansas to run freight, so could I pretty-please relocate to Russellville and take a load to Atlanta? The preplan shows the weight at 34,000 pounds, to which I automatically add about 5,000, which still seems suspiciously light for ConAgra. Since there was a major storm that just passed through and lots of snow left on the ground I said I would do it only if I could take highway 71 down instead of taking my chances on the Ozarks, and they agreed to pay most of the additional deadhead miles.

The roads in Springfield where I live were a bit of a mess but almost immediately after leaving town the pavement cleared up and the only thing causing me fits were some strong winds.

A few hours later I make my grand entry at the ConAgra plant in Russellville at which point I’m presented with paperwork describing a 44,600 pound load. You might remember a few paragraphs above where I discussed the 34,000 pound load. Worse, once I found the trailer, hooked up and went through the guard shack shuffle then scaled, I found out the load is really about 45,500 or so and my total weight is 80,600.

Now, under the right conditions I can legally run with 80,400 and I was several hundred miles away from the first open scale I would have to cross. The intervening distance would burn off roughly 200 pounds of fuel, so if everything went perfectly I would cross the scale at the absolute maximum. I debated all of this for about three seconds before sighing and heading back to ConAgra for a load reshuffle.

Alas, the people loading my trailer apparently mugged a few other drivers as I found myself sixth in line to have loads adjusted. You would think that ConAgra would prefer to get loads right the first time, perhaps by leaving 500-1000 pounds of weight off each load to ensure that any truck could scale out legally. After all, if I was running with duals instead of my trusty super singles it would have put me at 81,000 pounds when I scaled.

This issue will likely cascade onto tomorrow’s preplan and timing, since I had arrived today with six hours to run which would have put me more than halfway to Atlanta. The only thing the shipping people told me was: “It will be done sometime tonight, and we’ll send out the yard driver to wake you up.”