Now THAT is what I call efficient!

Saturday morning I woke up late and was given a series of instructions. Pick up a trailer that was being unloaded at one consignee. Take it over to another place, drop it and pick up and sign for a load, then park that trailer out on the street and go back into the same shipper and sign for another trailer and load that I would be taking. Very confusing.

Fortunately, the issues resolved themselves and I grabbed a preloaded trailer with 35,000 pounds of pet chow heading to Ottawa, Illinois. The load didn’t deliver for another week so HQ told me to t-call it in Omaha.

The route out to Nebraska from Utah along I-80 has a lot of hills, and some rather steep and long grades up out of the Salt Lake City area. Before I left I weighed my truck:

73,240 pounds total weight

MPG in Omaha, 920 miles later:

That is no lie, after almost 1,000 miles I had 9.3 MPG off of my trip computer!

Something you don’t see very often:

How would you like a 3,500 mile range in your truck?

Now it is true that I had a nice 10-30 MPH wind behind me most of the way but other than that, just clean living as I puttered down the road.

I arrived in Omaha Sunday evening and was nice enough to hold on to the trailer until the shop opened Monday morning so they could fix a broken spring hanger that I had to zip tie out on the road.

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We’ve got more drug use than Major League Baseball!

Yes, his brain was addled by some potent substance and I was dispatched first to Cheyenne, Wyoming to meet up with a truck bringing me the load to SLC:

Our folks were up in arms about it arriving no later than 0200 the following morning so it was a long drive with little time to stop and rest.

I arrived in SLC at 0155 and was checked in by the guard. Since there weren’t any FedEx employees there (and wouldn’t be until around 0600 I was told) that whole 0200 time thing was bogus. I dropped the trailer then bobtailed away for some snooze time.

Hazmat to Henderson

After dropping my load off in Omaha I had to wait around until early afternoon for a truck with an inbound load to make it to town. It is FedEx heading to Henderson, Colorado, coming from the Chicago area.

The load includes some Hazmat but not enough to trigger placards, so after another hour of trailer air line repairs I hook up and head out. I had plenty of cushion if I had left on time and even with the repairs I had enough time to stop in and have a steak at the Sam Bass Saloon in Big Springs, Nebraska along the way.

This morning comes a preplan to take a load of spuds from southern Colorado back to the Walmart DC in New Caney, Texas I was at last week. The miles are good (1,221 from where I’m at) but it has an 0345 appointment on Sunday morning which would require me to run 250ish miles to get loaded, then another 350 or so, shut down, run all day tomorrow and finish at New Caney, then be up at 0345 for the unload. I politely declined.

New plan comes in and it is another Fedex load, this time going from Chicago to Salt Lake City. The other driver will have it in Cheyenne, Wyoming at 1800 hours and I would need to take it to SLC by 0200 tomorrow morning. The dispatcher indicated that was the best of what remained in the area and we were short trucks, so I volunteered to sit until tomorrow unless he was on crack and they actually have more loads than trucks. Check back tomorrow to find out the results of his drug test.

The latest settlement came in and I’m $2,205.96 ahead of the game for now. I rarely run at the end of my log book but I covered 3,800 miles last week and hours have been a bit thin of late.

Can you help with this, can you help with that

The trip out to Kentucky was ordinary, though the triple homicide just before I arrived did make me wonder what kind of hell hole I was heading towards.

The Save A Lot warehouse people have their own way of doing things, like many other outfits. It would be great if someone could come along and organize all of these shippers and consignees to do things similarly; would save truck drivers a lot of time. On the plus side, there was adequate parking alongside the roads in the industrial park in which they were located which served as my overnight spot.

Yesterday my dispatcher sends me a load heading back to Kansas City, Kansas from Louisville, Kentucky. I have to wait at the GE shipping location for a long time before I can leave with the goods. It seems they needed to get a few last microwaves onboard for the Nebraska Furniture Mart folks.

An hour or so down the road and I get a cryptic message: “Do not pass the junction of I-57 and I-64.” Eventually a phone call follows and my dispatcher tries to see if I can relay a PetSmart load that a driver is bringing down from Ottawa, Illinois. After some calming talk and chamomile tea he sees it my way and I take a pass.

My energy petered out around Warrenton, Missouri last night so I grabbed a spot at the rest area. On the way in to KC to finish this load I’m preplanned on a load from Independence, Missouri to Russellville, Arkansas which gets switched over to a “Please help us by getting this load then t-calling it for a driver that needs to get home.” This is annoying for several reasons, including the difficulty of reaching this particular underground facility and the fact the run would have been a good use of my remaining hours. Not to be.

I do as instructed and after I’m given a trip from our yard in KC up to Omaha for delivery tomorrow morning. Not as nice as the Arkansas load but it is what it is.

In and out of KC

I finished the rest of the trip out to Lenexa, Kansas to drop off the trailer I got in Chicago. I had a load waiting at our yard on the other side of Kansas City so I ran over there and grabbed it, after getting a bite to eat at the nearby Denny’s.

I’m not a big fan of Denny’s but I will admit their food quality has improved over the years. I had a fairly tasty smoked chicken melt and a peppermint vanilla shake and the quality was actually quite good. I saw one of their new burgers and I think I’ll be giving it a try the next time I decide to stop for a restaurant meal.

My fuel stop for this run is Booneville, Missouri and I elected to park here overnight, exactly 500 miles from my destination for tomorrow in Winchester, Kentucky.

A trucker’s lament

When I accepted this load I was told it delivered any time today (Saturday), first-come first-served. Including the deadhead it was around 1,150 miles so I drove about 525 on Thursday and the rest Friday, ending up at a small truck stop across the street from Del Monte in Kankakee, Illinois.

This morning I got up and went across the street, arriving at the dilapidated guard shack right at 0700. I remember I was happy at the time to note that I was the only truck out on the street or on their lot, so I was at the head of the line, first to get started and first to get done.

My load details, bona fides and (I noted with some private amusement) the seal number was checked and noted. I was issued an 8 1/2″ by 11″ white piece of paper with the number one emblazoned upon it and told to put that on my dash. The guard pointed out where at the back of the lot to park until they were ready for me and when I asked what time they got started on the weekends he indicated he didn’t know, he normally works weekdays. No problemo.

I park my truck and the minutes tick by. Soon I’m on a laptop browsing some of my regular haunts and I notice an hour has gone by. Then two, and then three. No other trucks have arrived in the back lot where I am but there have been a few Del Monte trucks that have come and gone from another set of doors on the front side of the building. The broker, who was keen to call me several times each of the previous days with status updates, hasn’t called. So I called them.

“Oh yeah, we’re on it, just talked with the guy he should be out there shortly to get you in,” I’m told. Another hour passes.

I call again. “We hadn’t heard anything and thought they were getting you unloaded, let me try them again.”

Another hour passes. “We’re just getting voice mail, would you mind walking over to the guard shack and asking for a direct number to call?”

I do as they ask. Various numbers fly back and forth. Most people aren’t answering on Saturday, naturally.

After six hours of yammering back and forth the broker is nowhere to be found and doesn’t call me back. Instead, I get a call from our HQ telling me to take the trailer north about 75 miles to our dropyard near O’Hare airport to leave for another driver to deliver on Monday… when they will take delivery.

Six hours of my life down the drain because Bubba the Broker can’t keep his days of the week straight.

I put in for detention pay, which is normally a waste of time. This time, however, I’m going to follow up with a detailed phone call on Monday to the lady that handles such matters and I’m going to pester her each subsequent Monday until I get my satisfaction.

HQ had set me up on a Nabisco load up in Chicago headed to Lenexa, Kansas. It isn’t due to arrive until Tuesday but they said I could pick it up at any time and drop it off as soon as I got there. This is a bit unusual since I’ve been to this particular food distributor before and they don’t have a fenced lot or security of any sort that I could see and we don’t ordinarily leave trailers at such places.

Now, if I had actually been unloaded this morning I would have been in and out of Chicago before noon and in the KC area this evening. As it happens, getting delayed six hours then requiring me to first drop off the trailer before going to my next load caused me to depart Chicago at 1700 and run out of endurance a few hours later in Bloomington, Illinois.

I had plenty of hours to run (26) in my logbook this weekend and this screwed up load is going to cost me at least 500 easy miles I could have had Sunday, assuming I was in KC tonight. Yes, I could have played logbook games or tried messing up my sleep schedule but you know what? I just don’t feel like it.

That is my trucker’s lament.

TWIC debacle and Del Monte should be ashamed

The folks at HQ couldn’t get a preplan in place for me yesterday so I slept in. Around 0930 I got up to check messages and there were none. This isn’t unusual since my satellite unit tends to miss messages sent while it is in sleep mode, so I waited a while longer.

Finally, a call in to my dispatcher revealed no plans but a message in to the planners asking “WTF?” A few minutes later, I am given a number to call for a broker for my next load.

This time I’m traveling to the harbor area in Galveston, Texas to pick up a load of fruit for Del Monte foods. The broker asked if I had a TWIC card, which I don’t, then advised me it would mean a $75 fee to go in without on. Whateva.

TWIC, for the uninitiated, is the Transportation Workers Identification Card, sort of like a passport-level security document that truck drivers and others that work in ports can purchase. I only rarely pick up in ports so I haven’t bothered, as there is a workaround: when you go to pick up a load you can “hire” someone with a TWIC card to ride around with you to make sure you don’t do something evil.

So, when I checked in at the gate of Pier 18 in Galveston I was expecting some rigorous security checking going on. I was disappointed.

Oh, there was a gate guard on the inbound side who scrutinized my (regular class A CDL) driver’s license and wrote down some details. He pointed to a orange cone a few hundred feet ahead and told me to park there and wait for the TWIC guy to come and take me in. No problemo.

I’m behind a couple other trucks so I watch as a white pickup truck comes, briefly chats with the driver, then leads the trucks into the yard one-by-one. Each non-TWIC driver gets a neat-o blue vest and this escort… and that’s it. Seventy-five bucks for the temporary use of a blue vest and a guy you follow for, I kid you not, about 300 feet. You then park your truck, get out and go to a dispatch window and do the document shuffle for the load.

In an hour or so I’m loaded with 41,000 pounds of sliced Guatemalan cantaloupe, given my paperwork and seal then told to head out. No one watched me seal my trailer. No one verified that there was a seal of any kind in place. No one checked my paperwork. I did have to drive my truck through a scanning machine sniffing for (I assume) radioactive material but that was it.

They (Del Monte) couldn’t even get the exit routine down right. I was given two green lights and slowly rolled through with no one there to stop me from leaving while a lady from the US Customs & Border Patrol chatted on a cell phone. A guard should have stopped me there to get a copy of my bills to match my truck and trailer number with them, but get this: nowhere on the bills was the seal noted. I could have easily substituted a fake one of my own design, taken this “secured” container out of the port to some undisclosed location then swiped the contents and replaced them with 41,000 pounds of whoopie cushions or anything else then sealed it with the legitimate seal!

If this is representative of the security at our ports we’ve been swindled. Del Monte should be ashamed and held accountable for their own security, and the state and federal government should be all over them like bees on honey to make it happen, with stiff penalties for being lazy AND stupid simultaneously.

NOTE: I, of course, sealed it at the port with the proper seal and will ensure the contents arrive at their destination intact with the proper temperature maintained. But imagine if I had nefarious intent instead.