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Trucker's Journal

I've been a trucker since November, 2004. Before that I was an accountant for many years. I'm having fun and actually making more than I did before. Go figure....

Location: Midwest, United States

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

I've moved!

I've purchased my own domain and will come "out of the shadows" and tell you to go to the new blog here or my homepage here.

I became a former trucker last June and now drive a desk and a computer. The choice to change was made when a friend I had worked with in the past called and offered regular hours (Monday through Friday, 7am through 4pm) and more money. The money wasn't the real reason, and I told him I almost would have taken a pay cut to get a "normal" job. I still have the highest respect for truck drivers and give them every courtesy on the road, but was just getting too old to be working the odd and many hours required. I'm happy where I am now and think perhaps I might even retire from there in ten years or so.

Happy New Year to all!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

More on weight

It's funny how things work. I can go for weeks and never have a bad weight, either total or on axles, then get a couple in a row. Last week I had a load assigned to me which had been loaded by a new employee who thought the object was to stack things as high as possible and pack it all in the front of the trailer. BZZZT! Wrong!

This trailer gave me steer axle weight of 13,880 (legal limit 12,000) and 28,160 on the trailer tandems with them moved ALL the way to the front to redistribute weight to the back. The balance of the 76,720 total was on the drive axles. With no way to move anything (even the sliding fifth wheel) to get it legal, the only option was to unload and have an experienced loader do it correctly. After it was done, my weights were: steer-10,580, drives-30,680, and tandems-35,460. But, remember, I had them slid all the way front, so I could adjust them back. At about 400 pounds per adjustment hole, I needed to move about 9 as a starting estimate. With that trailer, that was about 3 feet, so I slid them and ran over the scale again. Voila! Now, steers-10,620, drives-33,940, and tandems-32,160. You'll notice that moving the tandems does affect the steer axle very slightly, but it's very noticable on the drives and tandems.

I did get a load on Friday where I was overweight totally and they had to take off some of the load. I didn't get axles weights but do have an air gauge on my dash showing what my drive air bags have, and they were probably overweight, but I knew I wasn't going far (couple hundred miles) and there were no scales between start and stop, so I just didn't worry about it. Yeah, I could have been stopped on the road for something and been weighed on portable scales, but that's a rare event, so no sleep lost.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Moving tandem axles

In response to a request, here's the lowdown on weight distribution on the trailer. Each type of axle/tire combination is allowed a certain weight limit and the overall limit for the truck/trailer combination is also regulated by law. For most trucks with single steer axles and twin drive axles together with a trailer with tandem axles, the limit overall is 80,000 pounds. The steers are allowed 12,000, and both the dual axle sets are allowed 34,000. You may very well be at or under your allowed gross weight but have one or more axles overweight. I'm sure you have driven by the weigh stations on the interstate and seen the parking lot behind the building occupied by a truck or three and wondered why they are there. From the scuttlebutt I've heard, the most common reason is a log violation and the second most common is weight violations. Most truckers are aware of their "tare" or empty weight with a truck/trailer combination (mine is about 32,500 pounds most of the time) and can add their freight weight to that to see if it's legal. However, many don't bother to get their axle weights to see if they are axle legal also.

Here's where the moving of the axles comes in. If you are legal overall but your rear axles are overweight, you need to redistribute it toward the front. How can that be done? Well, remember when you were young and played on a see-saw which could be moved in the middle? If you and your friend stayed there on either end but moved the middle, you would have to work harder on one end to push and vice versa on the opposite end. So it is with the axles. If you are over on the rear, you need to reduce the rear weight by moving the axles back, placing more of the total trailer weight on the front of it. You do that by setting the trailer brakes and pulling the pin which locks the axles in place. You then move the truck and trailer forward while the axles sit still. The holes are generally placed so that each one changes the weight by about 400#, so if you're 1,000 over on the rear, you would move forward about 3 holes. If you're over on the drive (dual truck) axles, you do the opposite by backing up.

After you move them and relock the pin, you need to reweigh to see if you are indeed legal now. At many truck stops, the scales give you axle weights with separate platforms, but on a single platform scale, you need to get a total weight, then progressively pull off the scale with one axle or set of axles at a time to get weights and then do the math to see if you have done what you need to do.

Many states allow up to 1,000 over on any axle or set but some don't, so you're best to get it right. If you can't move it enough, then you have to get reloaded with the freight moved around inside the trailer and start the weigh/move process all over again.

On older trailers, you sometimes can't unlock the pin and move them, so many truckers try to avoid scales. The problem with that is that if you are caught doing it, your fine will be higher!

Another thing to remember is that some states regulate the length of the wheelbase of the trailer--in Michigan where I'm based, the distance from the kingpin (on the trailer where it mates with the fifth wheel on the truck, usually 3 feet from the front of the trailer) to the center of the axles at the rear can be no more than 40' 6". There's a lot to "juggle" to get your weight and length right.

Friday, April 06, 2007

End the Presidential/Congressional impasse

End the Presidential/Congressional impasse

OK, fair warning: this one's totally political! Exit now if you don't want to read it....

Congressional elections put Democrats in power with the premise that the American people were tired of the Bush war in Iraq. He (Dubya) doesn't seem to get that message. Our system is republican (small "r") which means the people govern by electing Senators and Representatives, but that isn't good enough for Georgie-boy. I think a direct democratic (small "d") system would work to show him what we really think, in a way he can't refute.

I propose that the President end the veto threat by adopting an NPR plan for funding the war. Put Dick Cheney on Fox News and call back Don Rumsfeld from retirement as guest-host on Rush Limbaugh and have them ask for money. If we take out the pork and say the President wants $100 Billion, then 100 Million Americans need to pledge only $1,000 each. It can be taken out of their weekly paychecks, so a family of five would contribute only $100/week.

Also following the NPR model, I propose a premium of a techno-coffeecup with a constantly updating numeric display of the number of American soldiers dead in the war over the picture of a flag-draped coffin, and a speaker playing "Taps" on every new death report. The other side might display smiling Dubya in his flight suit on the carrier deck under the infamous "Mission Accomplished" banner.

Here's something you'll never hear on NPR: "This is Dick Cheney and I tell you that if you don't pledge, you're supporting the terrorists! All you people with stickers on your car saying 'I support the troops' need to call now and put your money where your mouth is."

What happens if the full $100 Billion isn't pledged? Well, perhaps Halliburton could provide some matching funds out of their ill-gotten gains from the war. If the total still isn't reached, then withdrawals begin so that it's proportional. If only half is procured, then the troops come home in six months, or we withdraw the Air Force and Navy and leave the Army and Marines to fend for themselves. You get the idea, I'm sure....

I did pledge to NPR last week, but I won't be pledging to this drive.

If you have a better idea, please let me know. I do welcome comments, compliments, and complaints.

I'm back :)

When it rains, it pours. I had a virus/trojan/worm in my computer which kept me off-line for a while last year, then the real storm started. My cable company and I got in a little dispute and I told them to take their service and put it where the sun don't shine.

So, I'm still without a home internet account, but a friend allows me to bring over the laptop. I hope to be back on with some more regularity (more Metamucil needed?) now.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Jesus jes' ain't gonna like it!

The counter with stools is present in almost every truck stop in the country with a sit-down restaurant. It sticks out like a peninsula into the tables and booths, and attracts those who wish to talk to others while they eat. I generally sit in a booth or at a table since I'm almost always reading a book or a magazine while I eat, but I'm sometimes close enough that I can overhear the conversations with ease.

One day last week I overheard an older man expounding on the good things happening in our country since George W. Bush became our beloved leader almost six years ago. He was generally delivering a monologue, but every once in a while, someone else at the counter would interject with a quick "That's right" or something of that sort. I was intrigued with what he was saying even though I agreed with none of it. If you've read the previous posts here, you know that I'm a liberal and a Democrat and have little use for Bush or his cadre of liars and thieves. This man got on a minimum wage roll, telling how it should not be raised and that anyone in the country could get rich if he or she really wanted it and tried. He said the poor were poor only because they were lazy or stupid. He then very loudly proclaimed, "And I say piss on the poor!"

Everyone listening was silent at that pronoucement until a younger (30 or so?) black man across from him asked if he was a religious man. The older (60 or more?) man spouting politics said, "Yes, I'm a Christian." The black man then said loudly, "No, you ain't no Christian. Jesus said in Matthew 25:40 'Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.' So, when you say 'Piss on the poor,' you're really sayin' 'Piss on Jesus.' I think Jesus jes' ain't gonna like it!"

The older gentleman wiped his mouth, picked up his ticket, and walked off toward the cashier without speaking another word. I just sat there and grinned at my newest friend, the truck driving Bible scholar :)

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Some pet peeves

Everyone has some irritations in his or her life which can be extremely annoying even though they are relatively small things. We know these as pet peeves. I have many related to my truck driving job and I'll list a few of them here. If you as a four-wheeler are guilty of any of them, please think about changing your habits. These are in no particular order, so don't think number 4 isn't as bad as number 1 or vice versa.

1) I'm cruising down the interstate at the speed limit and a four-wheeler passes me, quickly darts into my lane in front of me, then just as quickly moves right into the next lane over or the exit lane. What would it hurt if you just stayed behind me and took that extra second or two to move over?

2) As above, I'm doing the speed limit and I'm passed on the left and then the vehicle moves in front of me. He or she suddenly realizes that the speed is too high and slows down to below what I'm going. Of course, I then have to disengage my cruise control or otherwise slow down. You may not know it, but once I lose speed, I can't regain it nearly as fast as you can. If you aren't going to go faster than I am, or at least the same speed, please don't pass me.

3) I'm coming up to an entrance ramp and see that you are entering and that there's nothing near me to the left and I move over a lane to be nice. You enter the right lane and match my speed exactly or nearly so, trapping me in the left lane so I can't move back over. Most areas have laws and sometimes explicit signs posted keeping trucks in the right (or 2 rightmost) lane and I'm technically in violation because of your speed. Please either slow down and heed my right blinker or speed up so I can move back over.

4) I'm in a city and need to turn right at a fairly tight intersection and you're coming from the direction I need to turn and you're in the left turn lane. You have moved up past the white line and are eagerly awaiting the color change of the light. I begin my wide right turn and it comes to the point where I don't have enough room to complete the turn. You will notice when a truck/trailer combination turns, the rear trailer tires always follow a smaller radius circle than the steer tires on the tractor. Perhaps there's a fire hydrant or utility pole right there which I will knock over or hit if I come too close, so I have to go wide. Back to the story, you're in front of the line (which is placed where it is solely for this purpose) and I get to the point where I can't go any farther without hitting your vehicle. Please back up, pull over to the right, do something so I can finish the turn. I will just sit there until my way is clear, blocking several lanes of traffic. I was at a particularly tight intersection several months ago when this happened. A driver was fully in front of the line and I got about half-way turned and waited for her to back up. The vehicle behind her was well behind the line and left lots of room for her to get back far enough so I thought everything was OK. She put it in reverse and started backing, watching only the front of my tractor, not looking behind her. Oops, she just "rear ended" the car behind her after backing much too far. He didn't see it coming in time to avoid it. Usually when a rear-end collision occurs, it's 100% the fault of the driver in the rear. This time, I'm sure he didn't get the citation. Yeah, I indirectly caused that accident, but I wasn't involved and wasn't at fault in any way. I continued on my way, leaving them to sort it out by themselves. When you see that white line, stay behind it and please be prepared to move slightly so I can turn.

5) Passing on the right is usually wrong, but I'm forced to do it when you're in the middle or left lane and insist on driving too slowly. If you want to view the scenery or look for an exit sign, please get over in the right lane and do it. It makes everyone happier that way.

6) I'm coming up on a vehicle going to slowly and desire to pass on the left. I put on my turn signal indicating a lane change to the left and you, driving in the left lane far behind me decide that you don't want to be behind me and speed up to the point that I can't change without hitting you or forcing you off the road to the left. I'm forced to slow down. Here again, I don't like to slow down so please don't force me into this situation.

I'm sure I'll remember more later, and when I do, perhaps I'll write another entry about them.

I also have other pet peeves related to shiping/receiving clerks and/or dispatchers, but that's another whole story :)

Thursday, August 03, 2006

CB Radio

I had an email from a reader asking if truckers still use CB radios. Yes, indeed, they do. But I don't. I have one and used it for a while, but it raised my blood pressure more than it helped me, so I just didn't re-install it in my new (well, different) truck when I changed companies last year.

Most of what you hear is one liners like "Come on back in, you're clear of my front bumper now," or "Look at the seat covers in that VW!" For those who don't know, seat covers are females seated in a four-wheeler. When you see that VW go by, you don't know until you look if that enticement from another driver was an invitation to feast your eyes or prepare to vomit.

Most of the truckers or companies where I pick-up/deliver who use CBs are amazed when I tell them that I don't have one. They all wonder how I get along without one. I will admit that there are times when I do wish I had it installed, such as when you see a "brake check" ahead (all lanes stopped and red brake lights showing on everything) and wish you knew which lane to get in to avoid having to merge into another lane later, or whether or not you need to be in the right lane because there's a weigh station ahead and you can keep cruising in the left if it's closed. But, I've found that all in all, the plusses for having it don't outweigh the minuses.

If you really want to know how most truckers think and act, get yourself a CB and sit near a truck stop for any length of time and just listen to channel 19. You will hear literally everything you can imagine, from sexual propositions to items for sale to invitations to fight. The first is usually called "commercial company" and is scorned by most. The derogatory name is "lot lizard". They are almost always old and ugly. I hate judging people by sight alone, but let me tell you that I've seen none in truck stop parking lots that would even get in the back door of a beauty contest, let alone be a contestant. As for items for sale, many truckers live from paycheck to paycheck and will sometimes come up short and wish to sell their road atlas, their refrigerator, their CB amplifier, etc. I've heard that you can buy some good items for next to nothing that way, but I always wondered when I heard them selling if they weren't just ripping off some of their cargo and I'd be discovered in the possession of stolen merchandise if I bought. Sometimes you hear strange things like "I have 6 cases of frozen lemonade concentrate at $5 a case. Come see me at the reefer (refrigerated truck) next to the back fence." What has probably happened in that instance is that the BOL (bill of lading) said there were 300 cases and when they unloaded, there were 306 cases. You're stuck with the extra 6 cases to dispose of as you wish some of the time when that happens. Third item: fights. "Your momma......" "Don't you talk about my momma like that." "Yeah, I'll talk about your momma any time and any way I want." "Come to the red Pete (Peterbilt) behind the garage and say that to my face." And it goes on and on.

Yeah, it's entertainment more than it's worth having, but that's just my opinion. Who knows? I may yet decide to dig it out and install it one more time. But until then, I'll listen to my CDs and my Sirius radio when the commercial radio isn't worth listening to.

Hope that answers the question to your satisfaction. If not, then remember: you got what you paid for :)

The email address is longhaul48statetrucker@yahoo.com if anyone out there wants to email me. I don't check it every day, but if you write, I'll eventually see it.