How rude!

(Say in your best JarJar Binks voice).

Another thing I hate about screwing up my sleep schedule is the toll it takes on my creativity and desire to blog. Its hard out here being a pimp, yo.

I slept much of the following day and HQ got me a trip heading from KC to Council Bluffs for early-early the following morning. Getting up there wasn’t a problem but it was several hours after I delivered they got around to asking me to help them out with a very, very short load.

It seems another HB driver had picked up a load the previous night near Memphis, Tennessee and drove towards Omaha. Despite his best efforts, his driving hours were exhausted about 20 miles away and for some unknown reason he decided to continue on to Council Bluffs, passing up a perfectly usable rest area in the process. Since he was already at least 20 minutes over his legal driving limit I didn’t understand why he didn’t drive the ten additional minutes to Omaha before shutting down. Either way you broke the rule, why not at least finish what you started?

Anyway, they had me deliver the load all of eight miles. Since my satellite unit wasn’t receiving for some reason I had them read off the name of the consignee and the address over the phone. I hadn’t been there before and I asked for directions. They sounded awfully familiar and then I realized that they were to a warehouse a block from our own terminal, just on the next street over. The name of the place was Rude, so I wasn’t pleasant when I arrived… just to fit in you understand.

After taking care of a few matters at the terminal a trip presented itself heading to Atlanta. I finished up in Boonville, Missouri for the night.

Since the load wasn’t due until the 30th I was told to drop it off at a facility we use in Calhoun, Georgia and grab a reefer for my next load, originating in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Sunday morning found me dropping off my trailer and finding no empty reefer to take, so the minds at HQ sent me 75 miles south to grab an empty then 75 north back to where I started looking.

The very simple process of swapping my new empty trailer for the preloaded one was made difficult trying to find the bills to go with the new trailer and various delays here and there for construction, but I finally end tonight in Richmond, Kentucky on my way to Plano, Illinois.

Another overnight sensation

I hate overnight trips. Hate them.

Not because there aren’t virtues of traveling in the wee hours (think traffic), but as someone who stays away from stimulants on a regular basis I find it very difficult to go from waking up early each morning to take care of my business to then staying up all day trying to nap and running all night and delivering the next morning.

I delivered a load from Kansas City, Kansas to Elwood, Illinois yesterday morning. I had been to this particular facility before and wasn’t concerned the appointment time was open. Upon arrival I learn they are backed up and while I can drop my trailer there, they have no idea when an open appointment trailer might be unloaded. No big deal, I drop it off, send in the appropriate codes to dispatch then wait for my new orders. This was around 0930.

I was asked via satellite to keep checking to see if they had unloaded my trailer. Heck, they never even touched my trailer while I was there (it wasn’t in a door). I bobtailed a few miles away to a nearby Pilot to take a shower only to find this was one of the few they have without any such facilities. That stinks.

In the afternoon my new dispatcher calls and asks if I will take an overnight trip from Elgin, Illinois back to Kansas City. I turn him down and explain why, reinforcing the conversation we had at HQ a few days before. Dispatcher goes back to his work and I go back to waiting.

Eventually he rings again and asks, pretty please, if I will help them out of a jam and take this overnight load that will be preloaded and ready to roll by 2000 over to KC. I can bobtail there, it will be ready to go and I’d be helping out the team. The freight is overbooked and they could really use the help. This despite the fact I’d been sitting more than six hours since I dropped my previous load — how overbooked could we be?

I did the math. Since the trailer would be ready to go I figured I could roll in at 2000 and be done in KC by 0400, 0500 at the latest. I could stay up until midnight easy, what’s a few more hours… especially since I could grab a catnap or two along the way since the load wasn’t due until 0700.

There are a variety of ways to run this load. I decided to take state highways back to I-88 then west to Davenport then west on I-80 to I-35 south to KC. Been on these highways a million times, no surprises.

The first roadbump was the realization I couldn’t leave Elwood until 1930 hours to satisfy the requirements of a 10-hour break (yes, I’m aware I could have gone for an 8-hour split, but that doesn’t turn out to be important). Dispatch didn’t care if I arrived late in Elgin, so long as the load was delivered on time.

Between my late start and lots of stop-and-go traffic along the way (IL-59… GRRRRR!) I roll in just before 2100. Remember, part of what sold me on this trip was that the trailer would be preloaded and ready to go. It comes as little surprise then to find out the trailer was just starting to be loaded at that point. I get the usual “Check back in 30-45 minutes” dodge from the staff and retreat to my vehicle.

Sleep eludes me at this point and I mentally pace the time away.

By 2215 I’m rolling. I’m upset as well, but at least I’m rolling. Cue a tedious 45 minutes of state highway driving until I get back to I-88 at which point my GPS is showing an arrival time of 0715 in the morning.

Most any reader of this blog knows that I cruise at 60 MPH to save money on fuel. I decide to do something out of character and ratchet it up to 65 while I’m in Illinois and eventually bump it up to 70 in Iowa. Seventy freaking miles per hour, in my rig! The ETA slowly starts marching backwards and I feel a little better about the situation.

Before I make it to Des Moines I have to pull off for a 40-minute power nap. I’m so sleepy I’m out like a light as soon as my head touches the pillow and the unwelcome klaxon of my phone alarm seemingly goes off immediately, though it is 40 minutes later. Groggily I get up, restart my rig and head out down the road.

Now, I know when I’m tired and when I shouldn’t be driving. My body has various autonomic signs that I watch for and over the next few hours they are hollering at me something fierce. I press on, the stupid GPS showing 0745 arrival time in KC and only very slowly winding backwards even while I’m dumping fuel out the exhaust at 70 MPH. I resent Des Moines and its puny 65 MPH speed restrictions… something that never bothers me as I drive normally.

By the time I make it south on I-35 to the Missouri state line my body is in open rebellion. I know I need to pull off but I keep pressing, staying focused on that stupid GPS staring brightly into my eyes as I thunder down the road. My eyelids droop on their own accord and I find my hands moving on their own to rub or scratch my arms, legs, head. I try the normal stupid stuff (cold air, singing along to loud music, flexing my leg muscles to promote a higher heartbeat) but none of them really help.

A few miles before I reach the Missouri welcome center my body finally calls it quits and my head droops down, my eyelids closing. “NO!” I scream inside, realizing how close I am to switching off and driving my rig off the road.

With one last effort I snap back awake, adrenaline providing one last burst of alertness which gets me to the turnoff to the welcome center. I actually had a second thought about heading off the road to take a nap, realizing I would be even later at my delivery. If I skipped fueling in Kearney, Missouri and ran at top speed I might still make it close enough to on time that no one would notice. That on-time delivery is important, especially for this kind of load.

A few minutes later I’m in my bunk with my alarm set for 20 brief minutes of rest which I hope will be enough to restore my constitution for the final leg of the trip.

I did end up fueling at Kearney, which put me further behind, and I arrived at my destination 1.5 hours past the delivery time. A figure less than the delay on the other end, I note.

If you want to know what truck driving can be like, some times, please reread the above. I’m not going to be doing another trip like that again.

My second-hardest back… ever

Word from HQ was to boogie up to Independence, Missouri for a load of boxes to be dropped off in Macon, Missouri. About three hours drive time to get to the load and another two-and-a-half to run it. Afterwards, boogie back to Kansas City, Kansas for a load heading up to Omaha for the night. It sounded remotely possible when I got it (670ish miles, depending on the route) and I kicked Ole Bessie into top gear as I headed up from Springfield.

I would be loading at an underground facility I’ve been to many times before. The docks are a bit difficult to get into but once you know a trick or two it makes them uncomplicated. See, here is my truck at one of the normal docks that I’ve been to before:

(This is my old company truck before I switched over to my leased truck)

What this picture doesn’t show is the area in front of my truck that I use to turn around in. This isn’t a great shot but suffice it to say there is a dock similar to the one I’m backed in to across the “street” from where I park that I first pull in to nose first then back across the “street” to get into that dock:

It is nicely lit, the “street” is a bit narrow but it works, there is room to work with.

When I rolled up last night outside the caves I called in, as is custom, and they told me I would be at a different set of docks. The instructions were illuminating: (various turns) then “You’ll have to turn the wrong way, ignore the ‘No Trucks Allowed’ signs and back down this street about 75 yards to the docks. Good luck.” Oh baby.

Eventually, I back down the correct street and find the docks I’m supposed to be at. Only, the width of the street in front is about 75% of what you see above and worse, there not only is no dock facing my dock that I can use to pull up in to, the way is blocked with low clearance signs hanging from the ceiling:

I know the image is blurry (my hands were still shaky), but note the yellow hanging sign in the foreground and how narrow the dock area itself is.

What I had to do was a standard alley dock but in extremely close quarters, beginning from where I took this photo:

And a better view:

It was such a tight back that I was completely jackknifed on the turn to barely eek out enough room to pull forward a few feet up to the hanging sign in the first blurry pic to get lined up. This took almost 20 minutes of backing-and-filling and even though I’m an experienced driver with a strong clutch leg, it was like spaghetti at the end.

Let the record reflect, however, that I hit nothing on the way in or out.

What, pray tell, was my hollaback girl doing this entire time? Watching my blind side? Helping me out with soothing advice or a nice cup of chamomile tea? Noooo, she was enjoying the 90-95 degree heat in her slum condo:

The load was only 22,600 pounds, a rarity and it was easy enough to run up to Macon, Missouri and drop off, only to find there weren’t any empty trailers there. Orders came through to bobtail back to KC for my next load and away I went.

The shop recently replaced my load leveling valve and I have a new set of tires and Oh Baby, my truck drives like a Caddy again!

By the time I reached Kansas City, Kansas it was nearly midnight and I had been working without pause for almost 12 hours. I had a quick snack when I had my original trailer washed out and a few personal need breaks here and there but otherwise it was door shut and hammer down. Unfortunately, I needed another hour or so to complete a run up to Omaha that didn’t have enough time on it to fit in a break so that trip got canceled.

Leaving the house… I think

I was able to attend the Friday safety meeting so I’m qualified for my safety bonus for yet another quarter. This comes out to two cents per mile run in the previous quarter, so it is a decent chunk of change.

The surly gate guard at the large food conglomerate across the river in Council Bluffs, Iowa didn’t dampen my spirits as I was headed home for the weekend. He has a definite case of Small Penis Syndrome coupled with a fake badge and a nasty mouth. I just walked by him as he was bitching at me in the parking lot. The load was heavy (43,500 pounds) but even with the reefer I scaled out at 75,500. Quarter tank of fuel and half a tank in the reefer helped there.

The Friday KC traffic was beastly along the southern edge of the city. I usually take I-435 around the east side instead of I-29 through downtown because I don’t like the traffic lights you have to suffer through on highway 71 on the south side. Alas, they are adding more lanes on I-435 at the I-70 interchange and it is a zoo now so I went around on the west side, which was fine until I passed I-70.

About ten miles south of KC the traffic was moving smoothly and the last two hours to Carthage were cake. The security guard there had the glint of $100 penalty in his eye as the load originally had a 1700 drop, but our crack CSR team had it pushed back to 2000 and I was there by 1945. Dropped the full one in a door, grabbed an empty and went home.

This morning I’m back in the truck. I phoned in to see if there was a preplan and was told the system didn’t have me coming back out until tomorrow. I reviewed my macro log and determined that I had indeed put down this morning as my return to service. They are working on it now.

Need to rework that

After the tire change I headed north about 40 miles to Dekalb, Illinois for a load heading to Omaha.

The plant in question was backed up so bad there were trucks lined up out of the parking lot and on to the street. By the time I made it up to the guard shack to check in there weren’t any doors available and I was sent off to a parking spot to hang tight for a while. After about 30 minutes a door opened up and I was sent back.

I was hoping to make it at least as far as Walcott, Iowa for the night but my 14-hour clock was down to less than an hour by the time they were done. Worse, the scale they had wasn’t working so I had to take a guess on the tandems and roll west to Rochelle to make sure I was legal.

Alas, I wasn’t legal. Almost 35,000 on the drives with the tandems all the way forward and by then my hours were close enough I couldn’t chance getting stuck at the plant and ordered to leave. I called it a night then turned around first thing in the morning to get the load reworked.

Four hours later everything was in place and my reweigh showed legal weights so I blew out of town.

The load wasn’t due in Omaha until Thursday, anyway, so I dropped it off around 1500 and puttered back to our yard for the night.

Today I got all four tires changed (my three old original Michelins removed and the Bridgestone super single sold to Hill Bros) and four new Michelin super singles installed. The bill will show up in a few weeks.

There is a safety meeting I need to attend tomorrow so unless an emergency crops up where operations needs someone to cover a short load I’ll be off until tomorrow when I take a load home for the weekend.


The title was the sound that closely followed my truck as I exited the consignee’s lot in Ottawa, Illinois this morning. By the time I got it to the side of the road and parked this is what that sound resulted in:

A closeup of the metal object lodged in the tire:

Here you can see that it completely broke through to the inside, making repairs unfeasible:

Snowie was completely broken up over this turn of events, but only on the inside:


The past two days have been busy driving most of that “7” pattern you see on the map. Yesterday I went from Russellville, Arkansas to Batesville, Arkansas and swapped my empty trailer for a full one heading to Illinois. I made it as far as Champaign, Illinois before shutting down with one minute of driving time left on the clock. Glad there was a spot at that truck stop.

This morning it was up and running as soon as possible to get that load delivered in Rochelle, Illinois then to run to nearby Ottawa, Illinois bobtail since there were no empties in Rochelle. A preloaded trailer awaited with drops in Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska for tomorrow morning so I ran west along I-80 the rest of the day. I tried to make it all the way to Omaha but ran out of hours about 50 miles out so it is an early morning tomorrow as well to get the first delivery off at 0530 and the second off at 0730.

Repairs and Russellville

My truck’s clutch has been acting more and more finicky the past few weeks and since it has been around 100,000 miles since the last time it was adjusted I figured it was time for a checkup. While the mechanics were at it they also found that my rear air leveling valve wasn’t working properly and replaced that as well.

Unfortunately they didn’t do a great job verifying their work since my truck was losing air pressure pretty quick, even before I got out of the lot. A different mechanic and 30 minutes of tinkering resolved the issue and I collected paperwork and a new trailer to take down to Russellville, Arkansas.

Now, my dispatcher had originally run this load by me and it had an 0800 delivery this morning, meaning I would have to fake rest until about 0100 or so and rush, rush, rush down to Russellville, drop off the trailer then get real sleep during the rest of the daytime, then presumably take to a night schedule. Alas, since I don’t drink soft drinks (caffeine) or smoke (nicotine) there isn’t much to keep me awake with weird schedule changes like that. After I passed on the load someone at HQ called the consignee and told them it would be there by 1800 hours today and they seemed happy enough. The power of communication.

I ran the load down to just south of Kansas City last night, stopping at the southbound scale along with a handful of other trucks. By custom, once you’ve passed the scale (parked on the far side) you’re pretty much in the clear for that scale at least… though I was perfectly legal anyway.

The next preplan rattled in before I arrived in Russellville. My next trip will be over to Batesville, Arkansas to a similar plant, this time bound for Rochelle, Illinois for Sunday.

I broke the iPhone

So I’m in the bunk of my tractor taking a 30-minute power nap and just as the alarm I’ve set goes off, my dispatcher calls. Good timing, I know.

Much to my amazement and his annoyance, because there is now a phone call I’m on I can’t shut off the alarm. Yes, I can go back to the main menu of the phone then to the Alarms app, but no matter which of the smart icons I use at the bottom none will give me the option to shut off the stupid klaxon I use as an alarm. I end up having to hang up on my dispatcher (oddly satisfying) then turning the phone off to get it out of alarm mode.

Today I caught air

I’ve been driving a semi since 2006 but today is the first (and hopefully last) time I can honestly say I have caught air in my rig.

After dropping off my loaded trailer at our Kansas City yard I spent over an hour trying to find an empty reefer for my next load. Finally, my dispatcher came through with the location of one at a nearby musical instrument distribution center and I sped off. Then it was off to tiny Atchison, Kansas to get a load heading north.

Now, the most direct route was to take MO-237 north from I-29 and there was a helpful sign just before the turn that said no trucks over 20 tons allowed on that route. No problemo, I’m empty and my rig comes in at about 18 tons so I’m in the clear. Of course, I turn the corner and once I’m committed to the turn I notice another sign placed such that you can’t read it until you are on this route heading north saying No Thru Trucks. Naturally, this is a basic country road with one skinny lane each direction so there will be no turning around.

What is the worst that can happen?

A few miles up the road I start to see signs about there being a detour ahead. Soon enough I am in fact detoured from this windy, skinny country road to an even windier, skinnier country lane, for lack of a better term that bobs and weaves its way across the countryside. The speed limit is 55 though, so how bad could it be?

Now, some of you are aware I’m a pilot but most of you are not aware that I’m not a huge fan of roller coasters or wild rides. The hardest part of my pilot training wasn’t getting my instrument rating (which most pilots find to be the hardest) but stall training. This involves putting the aircraft into various situations that come close to or actually induce a stall, then recovering normal flight. The feeling of dropping, of the seat beneath you suddenly moving away from your buttocks as it falls away isn’t a rush for me as it is to most others.

This windy lane had very steep hills and when I crested one at about 45 mph the other side kept dropping off, and dropping off… and dropping off even more until the far side was, I kid you not, past 45 degrees. If there was the least bit of water on that road it could well be a death trap. I realized I could not hit the brakes as that would work towards breaking traction on the road so I held on glumly as I felt my body rise up against the seatbelt and my seat extend to its fully raise position. I swear, my tractor tires came off of the ground for a brief moment.

A lifetime later I managed to arrive in tiny Atchison only to find the shipper’s dock facing a busy city street and no place to get set up for the back other than that street. Directly across the road was a Sonic and the customers watched as I stopped traffic for a few minutes as I got lined up and backed in.

An hour later some 20 tons of horse feed in 1-ton sacks were loaded in back and I was on my way north to Council Bluffs.

Thunder and lightning, very very frightening

It turns out there were no loads in Missouri to be had so I was dispatched to grab a load from Russellville, Arkansas instead. That load was due in North Platte, Nebraska on the afternoon of the 10th so provision was made to t-call it in Kansas City instead of taking it the entire way.

Everything was uneventful until the very end of my day around 2100 when I was trying to park at the Flying J in Peculiar, Missouri about 30 minutes away from our yard. This, due to the fact that I had less than 15 minutes left on my clock for the day. Anyway, the skies were very dark and it was raining, with thunder and lighting going off frequently.

It didn’t help that an entire line of trucks parked in the middle of the lot had taken up an extra five feet or so of room behind them to give themselves more space to back in and pull out. This left myself and dozens of other drivers in back with very narrow spots to back into — so much so that half of the spots were inaccessible just to leave enough room to maneuver.

Second year ends on a high note

Wednesday was the cutoff for returning load packets for completed loads and Friday I received the results of the last week of my second year as a lease-purchase operator. The second half of my second quarter safety bonus appeared (some of my logs weren’t complete when they issued the first half, which I since fixed) to boost the net for the week over $2,100 for just over 3,000 miles.

The past three weeks have been awesome for fuel consumption. I spent about $2,500 for fuel and received $2,000 in FSC, meaning I ran about 6,800 miles on just $500 worth of fuel, after adjustment. This helped drive down the Adjusted Fuel Expense since I began my lease to just 12.77 cents per mile — almost to my goal of 12.5 CPM.

More results and a recap in a few days when I have had some time to recover at the house.

Phoenix to Albuquerque to Amarillo to Emporia

I got up at 0300 local time in Phoenix to pick up a load heading to Colorado. The Powers That Be decided to swap it with another driver in Albuquerque, New Mexico which suited me just fine — 460 miles was enough for one day. So I thought.

Before I made it to the t-call location I had a preplan to pick up a load from Amarillo the following day and take it to Emporia, Kansas. This added 280 deadhead miles and 450ish loaded miles to my log and I realized I would have to run as far as possible to the east to get within range of delivering on time. So, off it was and I nearly made it to Tucumcari, New Mexico before shutting down with less than 15 minutes left on my driving clock.

Up early as usual, but I couldn’t begin my run until noon, as the load wasn’t ready until 1500 or so and I didn’t have much time to spare waiting around. By the time I arrived (at 65 mph the whole way to conserve time) it was ready and I spent a while jumping through the hoops that one normally finds at a meatpacking plant. The scale there was seriously old school and it took me a while to figure out how to run it. Thank goodness the load was only 40,000 pounds.

Then came the choice. My first choice was whether to run east along I-40 to OKC then north along I-35 to Emporia. This was the longer route, right at 500 miles, but it was interstate the entire way. The shorter route was along state roads from Amarillo into Oklahoma then over to I-35. This was about 50 miles shorter but with at least half of the trip on the slower, less-traveled path.

Ordinarily I would have taken the shorter path and dealt with the hassles of small towns I had to drive through but I barely had enough hours to make it either way, I estimated, and decided the safer route to ensure delivery was the interstate. Teeth gritting, I set the cruise at 65 and let the fuel burn to give myself more of a cushion.

I arrived with about 20 minutes to spare on my clock and did the arrival dance with the natives. While I was dropping off the trailer I noticed a significant amount of oil had built up along the front of the reefer and below the reefer unit that wasn’t there when I picked up the trailer earlier. My first thought was my turbo was leaking oil or something like that, but my tractor was clean. Closer inspection revealed some oil leaking down from the chiller unit on front of the reefer, though it was still running. I didn’t have any more time to deal with it and the unit was running and keeping temperature so I messaged our breakdown folks and called it a night.

Made it to Phoenix… barely

It took driving 65 most of the way instead of 60 but I made it to my consignee in Phoenix with less than 30 minutes to spare on my 11-, 14- and 70-hour clocks. After dropping the trailer I headed out to the street and parked.

Today I used one of the new features with the electronic logging to do some Off-Duty Driving. Basically it is a new line (line 5) that companies can elect for their drivers to use. When I’m not under a load I can drive for up to an hour a day Off-Duty to take care of personal matters, like shopping, eating, etc. There is a Claim Jumper restaurant about a quarter mile from the Pilot in Phoenix so I bobtailed over there for lunch — yummy! I even wore an old CJ t-shirt I bought back in 1997 in southern California where I was first introduced to the chain.

Since I only got back four hours today I told dispatch over the weekend to show me on duty tomorrow for a load and they’ve put me on an 0400 departure up to Henderson, Colorado. I can’t deliver it on time so they’ve arranged a swap in Albuquerque, New Mexico after which I hope there is a load heading towards the house for this weekend.