Saturday, May 31, 2008

Shit Happens

Well since my last post things haven't been going so well.

After spending the night in Denver I was tasked with doing some local work around the Denver area shuttling trailers. That in itself wasn't too bad, I get paid by the hour for that kind of work instead of by the mile.

Once I was done I headed up to Fort Morgan to pickup a load of beef heading back to Texas. Which in itself is a good thing, needed to take care of a few things including paying the all mighty evil bills.

Unfortunately, this trip took a turn for the worst once I got loaded and headed out, I had an accident leaving the Fort Morgan Cargill plant.

Now let me preface by saying that I wasn't hurt, and it really wasn't an "accident" but an "incident" which the state and my company are calling mechanical failure, because basically that is what it boils down to.

As I was turning the corner from the road that leads onto the service ramp of I-76, a guy in a pickup truck ran the stop sign and cut me off causing me to hit my emergency brakes to keep from hitting him. The unfortunate side effect was that my kingpin lock on the tractor's fifth wheel disengaged and dropped the trailer off the back of the tractor into the road.

Now, unfortunately this is a known problem with the current series of fifth wheels from Freightliner I was told, and they have been recalled several times to be fixed. Mine alone has been in the shop twice to advance correct the problem. As well, I was also told that this was the third or fourth trailer the company has lost this way in two months.

The trauma of the incident alone was rough initially till it was proved that I did not do anything wrong, and that helped me out a long way.

Statistics show that three out of five new drivers have an accident of some sort in the first six months, guess I'm now part of that statistic and at least I wasn't one of the one in three who were involved in a fatality.

Once the Colorado HazMat team has cleaned up the diesel spill from the damaged reefer fuel tank, a wrecker reattached the trailer to my tractor and I took it back to Cargill to be unloaded.

Once that was done, the company had me dead head back to Texas (800 miles) to bring the trailer back to our yard.

After I got back I was told that I would be moving into a new Tractor as the insurance company wanted to return mine to Freightliner, my new one is much nicer than my old one and in better condition. And even has an aftermarket ergonomic drivers seat with lumbar supports, which is infinitely more comfortable than the factory installed seats.

[Miles Driven Since Last Post: 1093]

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


You know, I'm usually pretty good about remembering to do stuff regularly ... I didn't forget this blog, I just wasn't paying attention and didn't realize it had been three weeks since I posted.

Since my last post I've literally been running my ass off (I've lost 15 pounds, most drivers gain weight ... but not me.) and making money.

I'm not going to try and talk about everything that has happened over the last three weeks, but I will give a brief summary.

Not much bad happened other than the fact that since my last post I've still been driving in the rain. But then again we've been getting a ton of rain all over the country this month. Just like last spring the country is soaking wet.

Currently I'm in Denver, Colorado (my second favorite place to be when laid over, 1st is Amarillo). I'm not really laid over, but I ran out of hours when I made my delivery this morning to the Kroger/King Sooper distribution center in Aurora, Colorado so I headed over here to the TA Truckstop to camp out for the rest of the day and night. I like this TA cause they have IdleAire, and is the only location in all of Colorado to have it.

Over the last three weeks I have been everywhere, and I do mean it. Here is a list, in order, of all the places I've picked up and delivered to in the last three weeks (with the items I was carrying).

(Delivery) Wheeling, WV - Apples
(Delivery) Wilder, KY - Apples

(Pickup) Ottumwa, IA - Beef
(Delivery) Shannon, MS

(Pickup) Shannon, MS - Snack Cakes
(Delivery) Fort Worth, TX

(Pickup) Fort Worth, TX - General Groceries (Canned Goods)
(Delivery) North Platte, NE

(Pickup) Hastings, NE - Pork Ribs and Bacon
(Delivery) Fort Worth, TX

(Pickup) Fort Worth, TX - General Groceries (Canned Goods)
(Delivery) Loveland, CO

(Pickup) Fort Morgan, CO - Beef Trimmings
(Delivery) North Baltimore, OH

(Pickup) Ottumwa, IA - Beef Shanks and Steaks
(Delivery) Oklahoma City, OK

(Pickup) Amarillo, TX - General Groceries (Canned Goods)
(Delivery) Denver, CO

There you go, that's a very quick rundown of what I've done. In that time I've driven over 8000 miles, covered fifteen states in driving and got a lot of pictures which I'll post later.

Tomorrow morning I'm doing a local run from Fort Morgan, CO back to Denver, CO and then will pickup again in Fort Morgan, CO and head home for the weekend.

Love ya, and thanks for sticking around. I promise to try and make more regular updates, but that is at the whim of my Internet connection.

[Miles Driven Since Last Post: 8051]

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Manual Shift Commando

Things have been going pretty well since my last post, I've been running my ass off and building up my calves by driving through the mountains.

My load at AWG was ready about 8pm and the run to Amarillo was pretty uneventful. I've gotten so used to driving US287 now that I don't even pay attention to the landscape along the highway any longer. I'll probably start paying attention again next time the seasons change.

Got into Amarillo around 5am and took a break after getting fuel at the Love's, then made my delivery at 6am. Once I was done I headed up to Cactus, Texas as I had already talked to dispatch and had my load information for my trip to Syracuse, NY.

However, once I got there they said the load wasn't ready yet (it was supposed to be ready at 6am) and they would call me on my cell phone when it was. So since I was tired and out of hours I hit the rack for some sleep.

Around 1pm they called me and said it was ready, I told them that I'd get it after I finished my ten hour break. So around 8pm I strolled in and picked up the trailer and went over the paperwork. It was going to be a nice long run, with three days to deliver and two stops. The first one in Columbus, OH and then in Syracuse, NY the next day. Plenty of time ...

Now on my previous run up that way to Indy I drove through the southern part of the Ozarks, but this time I got to take the nice route across I-70 instead of on I-44. I think I like the I-70 route much more, it seems much prettier than the I-44 route. There are still the steep inclines but the road is much nicer and a severely easier drive.

The run itself into Columbus, OH was just great. Smooth and no problems, I even stopped a few times just to enjoy the view at some of the rest areas.

I stopped in Concordia, MO to sleep on the 5th, and took advantage of the IdleAir again. I tell you, that is probably one of the best tax deductible expenses I could have decided to take. Being able to keep the truck off, saves the company money on fuel which raises my MPG because I am not idling the truck.

I get TV other than my Directv which I do not hook up unless I'm going to be sitting for more than ten hours and not sleeping. The AC/Heat system keeps the truck comfortable and I get additional power instead of having to run my inverter. Almost like living in a dorm room.

After getting some much needed rest I got up and made the overnight run into Columbus, OH for my first stop. They were pretty quick getting me unloaded, however I had quite a bit of trouble with ComData and getting my ComChek authorized to pay the lumpers. Finally after waiting two hours I just paid cash for the lumpers and had the company rewrite the check to me which I could cash later to get the funds back.

I crashed out in Sunbury, OH about an hour north of where I did my partial unload and was thankful once I got there because it started to rain as I parked the truck. Unfortunately where I stayed didn't have IdleAir so I ended up having to idle the truck on and off to keep the humidity at a manageable level.

That evening the rain tapered off and I hit the road on my way to Syracuse, NY. I've never driven into PA and NY so I was kinda looking forward to it. Boy did that change quick.

All of I-90 in PA is under construction, especially around Erie, PA. Half of it is either under construction and only one lane, or needs to be. The ride itself was so rough I was popping Dones every two hours to settle my back pain to a manageable level.

And I-90 in NY, oh my God ... talk about driving hell. You would think that a dedicated interstate toll road would be a good decent road, they are in Texas, but not in New York. I guess the government there takes the toll road funds they collect and buys crack cocaine or something because they sure are not investing it in asphalt.

[Looking across the lake at Rodchester, NY from the I-90 Tollway]

After spending $75.00 on tolls to get to Syracuse I pulled into the receiver with a sigh of relief and exhausted, not to mention just barely on time.

This time I didn't have any issues with ComData so I knew I could finally cash that ComCheck the company issued me so I'll have cash again to pay for more tolls as I know that New York loves money and toll roads.

I called dispatch and told them I was done and was going to sleep. They said they were working on finding me a broker load to get out of NY and head back to Texas so I could be home for mother's day. I told them that's fine by me, I was going to bed.

Around 2pm they called me and told me they found me a load that was going to PA and then to Kentucky and would get my half way home, I told them cool beans and called the broker to get the info.

By now I was in a much better mood after getting some sleep and was looking forward to getting back on the road.

The broker told me I would be loading Apples in upstate New York and I needed to watch how they loaded me because they have a tendency to overload trucks and cause overweight issues.

So I headed up to North Rose, NY to the Apple Grower's Co-Op to load. Now, I've seen some beautiful places in my time, but this place takes the cake. The views are just incredible, and it was just overcast enough to make it even more lovely.

Once I got there I even ran into one of the Amish crop growers and had a great conversation about the orchards and the countryside. Now I can see why some folks love to live up here, it is awesome, to bad it is still yankee territory :)

[Amish Apple Orchards - Upstate New York]

After picking up my first load I headed over to another co-op in Albion, NY for the rest of my load. The area around the second pickup area was just as nice, but North Rose was much better. And unfortunately it was starting to rain again.

[Gas station in Albion, NY - Fuel prices are insane!]

Once loaded I started my way to Pottsville, PA, and after getting to Carfu, NY I decided the route that PCMiler gave me. The system has to be insane, soon as I ran the route for shortest distance it gave me every one lane road through the Appalachian Mountains it could think of.

So I called dispatch and told them I was taking the interstate even though it would put me about 100 miles out of route. I wasn't comfortable with trying to take all the backroads highways through both NY and PA in the weather I was getting.

They approved my route change, so I hit the toll road on I-90 to get to I-81. Unfortunately, even though the weather was coming in from the west and I was going east I wasn't outrunning it. By the time I got to Binghamton, NY on the PA border it was coming down.

I would imagine that the drive through the Appalachians is beautiful, however for me it was a white knuckle ride the whole way to Pottsville, PA. Between the rain, slick roads, hellacous hills and crazy drivers (some of them driving full size doubles) I was frankly terrified at times.

However, I got to Pottsville, PA in one piece just as the rain started to let up and the heavy fog settled in.

The Wal-Mart distribution center got me in and out in under and hour and that was a blessing as I was exhausted and in desperate need of sleep. So I headed over to the TA here in Harrisburg, PA for some much needed sleep.

So here I sit, biding my time. I'm pretty short on hours and I have a double delivery at 6:00am in Kentucky tomorrow. Once I get there it looks like I'll have to reset and won't make it home for Mother's Day.

But my mom understands and I'll take my two days off once I get back in on Monday.

[Miles Driven Since Last Post: 2636]

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Indy 500 with a Pit Stop

Friday morning (April 25th) dispatch called me and asked if I would not mind doing a long round trip. Of course I told them "hell no I don't mind". So they asked me to go over to AWG and pickup a load there at 4pm and take it to Midland and once I unloaded I'd get the rest of my trip info and that I was pre-planned.

I said ok, and got ready to run.

The trip from AWG out to Midland was pretty uneventful as I've made it numerous times already. The only big difference between this one and other ones was half of it was in daylight for once.

This particular run had two stops, and I got to the first one around 10pm and the second one around 11pm. Both were nice and quick unloads which is unusual for grocery stores. They have to sit around arguing for twenty minutes about where to put the crap while they get it off the truck to sort it. Not my problem, just get it off my truck :)

Once I was done with the unloads dispatch gave me the rest of my information. I was going to head up to Friona, Texas and pickup a load of beef and take it to Indianapolis, Indiana. And I had two days to get it there. And once I got there I would get another load going back to Ft. Worth, Texas.

Now, I've never been to either Missouri or Indiana, but I have been to Illinois but it has been ten years since I went there and I only saw a small part of St. Louis while there. So I was definitely looking forward to the trip, especially the drive through the Ozarks.

I arrived in Friona about 5:30am and immediately picked up the trailer and headed into town to find a place to sleep. I found this little rundown truckstop that was half closed near the edge of town and packed it in for a nap.

Well my nap ended up being a bit over ten hours of solid sleep, that happens to me when I'm awake over 24 hours.

Once I got up I started my dash to Indy, with a pit stop in Amarillo for fuel and lunch.

The drive through the panhandle was nice and even went through Shamrock, Texas (home of Bill Mack) and got into Oklahoma with no problems. However, once I got into OKC I remembered that I-44 is a toll road, and of course I didn't get any cash from the bank before I headed out because I forgot.

Not that that is a problem, the world is loaded with ATM's but I hate paying fees, even if the fee is tax deductible. I looked and looked and never could find a Chase ATM let alone a branch (that I could get into with the truck) so I had to take money off my CommData card. I just hate doing that because it comes out of my check. Yes, the reimburse the toll fees and all that, but I hate messing with my check.

I got my money and made my run up I-44 in the middle of the night, I figured it would be beautiful going through there, especially since there are only like ten exits for over two hundred miles, but I'll never know (at least not right now) because it was dark as hell the whole drive.

I got to Joplin, MO around 4am and packed it in, man I was tired, driving forty tons for eleven hours straight is tough. Once I got up that afternoon, I was ready for my six hour drive through the Ozarks, and I was really looking forward to it. Even if I was gonna have to drag my ass up the hills in sixth gear because my truck sucks on hills.

[Driving I-44 through the Ozarks]

Once I got into Illinois I was happy, running the hills is difficult because you can not use the cruise, your shifting to much so my legs were hurting and was looking forward to getting to Effingham, Il to I could sleep.

However, my truck had other ideas.

If you remember a few posts back, I've been having trouble with the cooling system in the truck, it keeps overheating for one reason or another. Well this time it wasn't overheating, but just about five miles short of Vandalia, Il the truck shut down again while going down the freeway. Talk about pissing me off, again.

I limped the truck to a literally brand new truckstop there off the freeway and called dispatch and told them the problem. They said they would call TA and get someone out to look at it.

Now, Effingham was only about forty-five miles away, but TA road service took till 9:00am (12 hours later) to show up. They went over the truck, and checked the computer and they could find nothing wrong other than a sensor error saying the coolant level was dangerously low and that was shutting the truck off.

Well, the coolant level wasn't low, hell it was full. And we tried for an hour to get the truck to shut down again but it wouldn't. So the TA truck followed me and I drove to the Effingham shop and they looked at it some more but they couldn't figure it out and said I had to go to Freightliner. Which the only one around that was close was in Indianapolis. Hell I'm going that way anyways.

I told dispatch that I was gonna make the delivery and get to the Freightliner shop afterwards to have the thing looked at, they said no problem so off I went.

It never did it again. All the way to Indy and to the receiver it was just fine, never a problem.

Unfortunately I was late to the receiver but thankfully they didn't seem to care. Hell they were actually happy about it because they had been overloaded all morning and they were able to get me unloaded in about thirty minutes.

Afterwards I headed to Freightliner and checked it there, only to find out the minimum time I would have to wait would be three days, if not four before they could even check the computer to see if that was the problem with the truck since nothing else seemed to be wrong.

Well, to hell with that I said and told dispatch that I wasn't sitting in Indy for a week. They agreed and gave me my load information for my return trip to Ft. Worth, and they said they could look at it when I got into the shop.

So, I headed out and picked up my load on the north side of town and started my run back to Texas.

I got back to Effingham, Il that evening and crashed out. I even signed up for IdleAire while I was there. I'm tired of idling the truck to stay warm or cool when resting, and that system is going up all over the country and everything I pay while using it is 100% tax deductible.

So I spent a nice warm night in the truck without having to idle at all, and even got to watch real TV. (I have a Directv receiver and dish for the truck but hadn't had a chance to install it yet).

The next morning I left early and had a nice long drive through southern Illinois, part of Missouri and into Arkansas. Now Arkansas is a beautiful state, but it is tainted because it is the home of the Clinton's. But I'm definitely not going to go into a political rant right now :)

[Bridge span over the Mississippi River from Missouri into Arkansas]

I stopped in Prescott, Arkansas for the night and since the IdleAire facility at the TA there was full, I parked on the end of the lot and took the time to actually set up my Directv dish and stuff. Ah real TV while on the road ... what a blessing. Thankfully it was a comfortable night so I didn't have to idle at all, didn't sweat and didn't freeze.

The next morning (Wednesday the 30th) I set out for Ft. Worth. Got 100 feet down the road and the truck shut down again. Dammit.

I called dispatch and talked to them about it, and since I now knew how to pull the codes from the computer using the dash controls I told them what the thing was telling me. They looked it up and sure enough the code was for low coolant.

Well it wasn't empty or low at all. We finally came to the conclusion that the sensor was bad, and they told me how to bypass it so it wouldn't go off any more. Sure enough the fix worked and the truck has been running fine ever since.

I got to Ft Worth and made my delivery around 10:00am and took the truck to the shop. They confirmed our findings, unfortunately they didn't have any more sensors in stock and would have to order one. No problem, the fix is working I'll just have to keep an eye on it myself till they get the part in.

Once at the yard they said they didn't have anything for me so I'd have to wait till Thursday for a load and I said ok, so I went to the house to spend time with the family.

Once I got home they asked me if I could leave out at 4:00am and take a load to Houston that had to be there at 11:30am. I said sure, I needed the money.

Unfortunately, I went to bed at 10pm intending to get up a 3am to start the run, but I have chronic insomnia sometimes and something about the load was bugging me. So I kissed everyone goodbye at midnight and went to the yard.

Sure enough, I got there and looked at the paperwork for it, and it was a two stop load, the first stop being due at 6:00am. Crap, I had to hook up and leave now if I wanted any chance of getting there on time.

Well, it was not to be. The drive down I-45 was pretty uneventful till I got near Huntsville where the one lane construction started. Another truck had lost control or something and crashed dumping it's load. I sat in backed up traffic for four hours and only went about ten miles.
I finally got to the first stop at 9:30am and was positive that I would be late for the second one, but luckily other than bitching about me being late the receiver unloaded me quick and I made it to the second stop with ten minutes to spare.

After I was unloaded they told me that I would have to wait as they didn't have anything for me but was looking. Unfortunately I said ok and went to a small truckstop to wait.

Just as I was settling in they called me and told me they got me a broker load going to Arapho, Oklahoma and it was due the next day. No problem for me, Oklahoma is only ten hours from Houston so I could make that trip easy.

I got to the shipper and sat, and sat, and sat. Then after three hours of waiting was told that the load wasn't processed and would not be ready till Monday because of an error with the manufacturing plant.


In told dispatch and they told me to find a place to sleep and they would get me out in the morning, and that since the load was cancelled I'd get a day of layover pay for it. Fine by me, not as much as the original load would have payed but close enough.

The next morning they called me and told me to pickup in La Porte, Texas and bring the load to the yard and they would give me something else for the weekend.

I've picked up at AmeriCold before so it was nothing, I got loaded and started heading back. Only they waylaid me and asked me if they could get me to do some local work in Houston for a few hours and pay me hourly.

I said fine, and shuttled and loaded trailers for three hours in the Houston area before going back to our Houston yard to grab my trailer and head back to Fort Worth.

I got into Fort Worth about midnight, dropped the trailer and went to sleep.

I got up this morning to find out that they didn't have anything decent for me, so I was going to have to run an Alberston's load tonight to Amarillo, then pickup my load in Cactus going to New Jersey (yea! 3000 mile round trip) on Sunday morning.

So, here I am sitting at AWG waiting for my load.

Sorry the post took so long, I'll try and be better about getting something up every 2-3 days.

[Miles Driven Since Last Post: 3246]

Haven't Forgotten

I haven't forgotten to update folks, just been running my ass off and my national internet access has been to slow to post. I promise I'll have something up here later today.

Love ya