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.