Running, running, RUNNING!

I’ve been meaning to update the site, I really have. Its just that I’ve been running my socks off the past few days and I will be running my socks off tomorrow as well before I run completely out of hours and take a day off (I think).

After I finished my two pet store drops in Denver I was sent to nearby Aurora, Colorado to pick up a load of mail heading to Des Moines, Iowa. It had plenty of time built into the load but I still got as far as I could manage Friday night (Grand Island, Nebraska) and delivered before noon on Saturday. The good folks at HQ had already sent me a preplan picking up in Crete, Nebraska and heading down to Phoenix, Arizona.

I thought I was getting back more hours than it turns out I am so what would have been a lovely little holiday run forced me to finish out yesterday with a full eleven hours behind the wheel and forces me to run today and tomorrow at 65 MPH instead of my usual 60 MPH so I don’t run out of hours before I drop my trailer tomorrow night in Phoenix.

At least the wind has been cooperating: today it has been mostly out of the north instead of in my face so the MPG hasn’t been dreadful.

“One trucking thing after another”

(Seen on the back of a truck heading towards Denver)

The drop at the Walmart DC in Casa Grande, Arizona went off without a hitch and I spent the night in nearby Chandler, Arizona with a preplan in hand to run from Phoenix to Denver in the morning.

The trip up to Denver was uneventful and not anywhere near as windy as the trip out to California I just made, thank goodness. I did get a few interesting pics I’ll share later if I get the chance.

This morning finds me making the first of two drops and getting ready to head to the second one.

Delays, headaches

The planners gave me a preplan on Saturday that I couldn’t run according to the hours of service. Basically, it had me dropping off in the morning on Monday then loading around 1330 that afternoon, then delivering in Casa Grande, Arizona 0515 the following morning. Even using the split sleeper provision in the HoS rules I wouldn’t be able to move after shutting down in Casa Grande because I would still be on break.

I went over this Monday morning with my dispatcher and he worked to get the unload time moved back. Then, as I was pulling away from the dock on my unload the trailer developed an air leak when the PSI check valve for the trailer tire automatic inflation system decided it has had enough and ripped right off of the frame.

My truck compressor was able to keep up with the leak enough for me to get it to a nearby repair shop in Whittier, California. Some hours later it was replaced and the paperwork signed off on and I finally headed off for the reload out to Arizona.

The load of chicken I had dropped off in the morning left some unpleasantness in the trailer and I had to do my best to clean the trailer before getting loaded (got rejected the first time I approached the gate). More huff and puff later, it was acceptable and more hours went by as I got loaded in Ontario, California.

Finally, just after 1700 the load was ready and I headed out to join the exodus of traffic from the Los Angeles basin to the east along I-10. I drove nearly as far as I had hours for, parking last night just inside the Arizona state line.

The windy, winding way out to California

I took an empty van trailer down to a Purina plant in Crete, Nebraska then bobtailed to a nearby chicken processing plant for the preloaded reefer. This place has two different shipping and receiving spots and I naturally went to the wrong one (the “right one” I was at the last time I was here). After waiting in line for about fifteen minutes I made it up to the window and discovered my error.

The new computerized Hours of Service system in the truck has an interesting, clarifying side effect: it makes a driver paranoid every time he or she stops (to, for instance, use a restroom) about having set the unit to Off Duty status. It should change over automatically after a short delay, but each of those minutes is precious against both the 14-hour and 70-hour clocks.

There are also several new hoops that a driver has to jump through each day, like approving all the computerized log entries for the previous day. On the plus side, there is no searching for the name of the city you’re in when you stop, as the GPS system in the unit makes note of it at each duty status change. All in all, the jury is still out on the new system.

After grabbing the new trailer and paperwork it was off to the southwest for the rest of my driving day, ending up in Guymon, Oklahoma. It was getting windy about the time I stopped driving and the gentle rocking helped me off to sleep for the night.

Back up and at them Saturday morning for a long day’s drive through the rest of Oklahoma, then Texas, New Mexico and on to Arizona where I was stopped just short of Winslow by a combination of being nearly out of hours (“Bitchin’ Betty”, as I call my new computerized assistant, starts to freak out an hour before you will run out of drive time) and the fact that I-40 was shut down until late that evening by high winds. More rocking, this time more forceful, as I spent the night at a Love’s.

Sunday morning found less forceful winds and I made my way almost due west towards the Los Angeles area. Fuel economy was pretty poor for most of the trip due to the wind but there was a lovely stretch of down grade on the western side of Arizona that produced this:

Better than 20 MPG baby!

At least Snowie is enjoying the warmer weather, and the warm floor in the truck:

Upgrading is a bitch

After I delivered my load of GE appliances at Nebraska Furniture Mart I bobtailed back to the yard and spent the rest of the night peacefully. The next morning the planners were a bit slow and I was yakking at my dispatcher when he asked me if I had time to change over my satellite-based communications gear to the newer cellular communications system Hill Bros is implementing.

Aw heck, and I wanted to get some miles behind me that day.

The install process wasn’t that difficult, though I had to take a box of electronics over to the other side of town for the installers to plug in, hook up and drop out. Our shop guys estimated 3-5 hours before I had the truck back and the installer handed me my keys in two hours flat. By the time I returned to the yard, got various placards, stickers, logbook certificates and an hour or so of training time it was getting near the end of the day and I told my dispatcher to find me a load out to Southern California for the next day.

I often joke about this (“I’m not picky, anyplace in Southern California is fine!”) because I like long runs where I don’t have to constantly interact with HQ as I get loaded, unloaded, swap trailers and the like. If you have been reading my blog for a while you know I very rarely get this request, which is why it was a surprise when I got called back after 5 PM by my dispatcher who announced he had just such a run lined up for me.

The load originates in Crete, Nebraska and delivers on Monday in City of Industry, California. At 1,500ish miles it is one of the longest I’ve had in quite some time and may well result in another long run back from the left coast to the midwest.

I asked if I could pick up the load (it was already on a trailer) in the morning and they checked and that was okay so long as it delivers on time. I needed some extra time to go over the new system we have that merges the Hours of Service functions from paper (or, in my case, the Driver’s Daily Log program) with the QualCOMM unit and includes several extra macros and things I have to handle each day — an annoyance.

Oh HAIL no!

Interesting video from some kids in Oklahoma City last week when the huge hailstorm hit. It starts getting good around the one minute mark and the screams start around minute two.

(Watch the water in the pool)

You’re going to: Springfield, Springfield, Omaha…

My orders this morning were to pick up a trailer from the Tyson plant I delivered at last night then head east 30 miles or so to Minooka, Illinois for a Kelloggs load heading to Springfield, Missouri. Only, the load picked up yesterday and didn’t deliver until Friday morning at 0400, quite a waste for less than 500 miles.

Along the way the satellite unit went off and I was switched to a load that was done the previous night and delivered the following morning; much better.

Alas, the Kelloggs folks were having none of it. When I gave the pickup number to the lady at the guard shack the computer spit back that it would have to be rescheduled since I wasn’t here to accept the load last night. This came as news to me (no one told me to be anywhere in particular last night, though I did have the hours) and the staff at HQ (since we keep empty trailers spotted there for the Kelloggs folks to use whenever they feel like it).

After some back-and-forth I was given a new assignment: head another 50 miles east just inside Indiana and pick up a load of GE appliances going to Nebraska Furniture Mart in Omaha. Just 17,000 pounds vs 30-35,000 pounds for either of the other loads. Sweet.

The south side of Chicagoland on the I-80 was congested and had some construction but I made good time, though the three miles of side streets I had to take to the DC were much slower. The loaded trailer was thoughtfully left with no more than six inches of clearance on either side from the trailers that flanked it so I got to play underneath the neighboring trailer for a while to ratchet the gear up. All in a day’s work.

The trip back west to Omaha was boring but profitable. My steady 60 MPH pace yielded 8.9 MPG on the dash display and I was able to drop the trailer as soon as I arrived just after 2000 then motor over to the company yard.

Hoisted on my own (fuel) petard

Yesterday I left the house for a short drive over to Pittsburg, Kansas to pick up a load heading to Omaha. This morning it was unloaded and by noon I had a load heading to Ottawa, Illinois on board.

The helpful satellite system suggested I fill my tanks at the yard in Omaha but it has been my experience to this point that somewhere in I-70 in Iowa normally has cheaper fuel. You guessed it, not this time.

I could have fueled for $2.73 at the yard and instead paid $2.76 along the way, or about $4.50 more at the pump for the amount of fuel I took aboard. Ah well, try better next time.

The load of Tyson meat was delivered in Ottawa this evening and while I was there I used the restroom… and saw this cute sign:

The Interregnum

My last post was a week ago, an unprecedented lapse in the three years or so that I’ve had this journal. Nothing dire happened, and I’m still here picking up and delivering freight as before. I guess I just needed a brief respite from the grind.

The trip from Henderson, Colorado to Kansas City, Missouri really did take all night. I arrived at the consignee around 0415 for an 0500 appointment. This is what I saw as far as any “dock” went for me to back up to:

This small grocer was located in a “quaint” neighborhood obviously not designed with the likes of full-size semis with 53′ trailers to maneuver:

Yes, I (obviously) got it backed in and yes, I got out of there in one piece, by a small margin.

Driving overnight like that really knocks the stuffing out of me so I put off my next trip until the following morning and slept most of the rest of the day and much of the following evening as well. The Powers That Be decided I should then head over to nearby Lenexa, Kansas to load at one of the numerous underground facilities with a load heading to Omaha.

While at our primary yard in Omaha I noticed something odd about the truck facing mine. Upon closer inspection, I believe one of our drivers is moonlighting as a backup for NASA to keep in contact with the space shuttle or space station in case their puny systems go belly up:

Here is a picture of his dash area:

And here I thought I was the lazy one…

The planners did me one better this week by giving me a load from Phoenix to Denver on Friday morning that didn’t deliver until Monday at two PetSmart stores in the Denver area. 900ish miles for three full days, bleh.

To top that off, now that I’ve delivered I learn my next load picks up late this afternoon and needs to be in Kansas City by 0500 tomorrow. This entails running until 0300 or 0400 to get there, then get unloaded, then sleep the rest of the day away.

Trucking.

Windy, windy windy

I spoke too soon about the wind in my last driving update. When I drove from Santa Rosa, New Mexico to Phoenix, Arizona the winds were horrendous — almost too much to drive in! At least it was coming mostly out of the south so on the last leg from Flagstaff down I-17 it helped keep my downhill speeds in check. I began the day later than normal so I could arrive in Phoenix after sunset, as the temps were pushing 100 degrees during the day.

All in all, the winds and taking a handful of stops along the way for various reasons made the 590 mile trip one of the longest, subjectively, I’ve endured.

No preplan when I arrived, so I dropped the trailer at the PetSmart DC and parked out on the street for the night

They are dropping like flies

Weeks ago, the blog run by HiwayMama goes blank. Yesterday, VBob announces his retirement (good luck buddy!). The folks over at America Through the Windshield are talking about changing careers.

People, you gotta help me out here! Pretty soon I could be left all alone with the Blogfather guy and I’ve seen too many movies to not know how that typically turns out.

Do you have any favorite trucking-related blogs you’d like to see me link to? Use the contact page and suggest some.

Off to Phoenix

While I was in Omaha I met up with the new class of recruits and chatted for a while about leasing. Afterwards I tagged along to a local Chinese restaurant for some yummy buffet before heading out with my new load down to Phoenix.

This trip is just like the last one I took to the Southwest, with only 28,000 or so in the box. I have until midnight Thursday to deliver which means I could choose to run it down there like a demon in two days (650ish miles each day) or a more relaxed three days (430ish miles each day). Yeah, if you’ve been reading this blog for more than a few weeks you know I’m going to be down there Thursday.

Last night I only made it as far as Salina, Kansas before shutting down which left about 1,100 miles to Phoenix. Tonight I’m stopped in Santa Rosa, New Mexico, about 610 miles out. It was windy much of the day but most of it was behind me for a change and it wasn’t too gusty so my MPG isn’t doing so bad.

Plusses and minuses

Because I came home a day early last week I was off the truck for almost four days. The plus side was more time at home (mostly to recover from mowing my overgrown lawn) but the minus was losing a lot of miles and revenue, so my next settlement will probably be nothing. All things considered, though, I’m glad for the time off.

My dispatch to get out of the house was another plus and minus situation. It was local (plus) and it was heading to Omaha for delivery tomorrow so I’ll be back in the thick of our freight lanes (plus). On the other hand, it was 42,250 pounds (minus) and didn’t load at Kraft until 1530 (minus). I arrived five hours early on the off chance that I could get loaded early but that went nowhere and I wasn’t loaded and rolling until 1645 (minus).

The trip up to Omaha was nice in the early to middle evening hours and I will drop the load first thing in the morning then see to some other business.

Teams, teams, TEAMS!

The folks in recruiting are being hounded by the folks in Ops to get more teams into the mix. There is an abundance of team-only freight so if you are in a team and interested in running hard you might want to chat up Erin or Abby in recruiting at 1-800-228-4455. You’ll need at least a year OTR, a fairly clean MVR / DAC and HazMat.

I just learned that the yearly longevity bonus has no cap… each driver gets 1 CPM paid annually for all miles run in the previous year, and that bonus goes up half a cent each year. For a solo this means about $625 more each year and for a team it is about $2,500 a year (both drivers get the bonus, so effectively it goes up by 1 CPM a year).

Home early

When I worked for CFI I was never really happy with their home time system. You would tell HQ at least 10 days in advance when you wanted to be home and they had a five day window in which to get you there. So, on the first of April I could ask for home time and I might be home from the sixth through the fifteenth.

Hill Bros has been a breath of fresh air in this regard. In the past two years I’ve only had two occasions I can remember where they weren’t able to get me home on the actual day (the actual day!) I requested, though sometimes I’ve had to deadhead home 150-200 miles which I find to be excessive.

I had asked to be home this weekend from Friday to Monday and ordinarily that would mean I would get a load Friday morning heading to Kansas City, or Carthage, Missouri or even Springfield, where I live. Instead, I was planned for a series of short runs (Ames, Iowa to Omaha, Nebraska, then Omaha to Olathe, Kansas, then Olathe to Carthage) that got me back to my haunts on Thursday.

Good news on the money front: my latest settlement shows 3,837 miles for the week and just over $2,000 to the bank account, despite a higher-than-average fuel bill. I saw a message over the satellite unit the other day saying they were backed up with freight so it would seem the economy is picking up smartly.