Se7en

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.

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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.