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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

Thursday, May 26, 2005

some more random thoughts

Automatic toilets

Have you ever seen one of the public toilets which flushes automatically? There is a sensor built into the wall behind where you sit; I'm not sure if it's heat or motion activated, but they work most of the time.

This seems at first glance to be a great idea for several reasons: 1) You don't have to touch a potentially dirty handle of some sort; 2) You don't forget to do it; 3) Odors are cut down since the source disappears very quickly; 4) Cleanup is easier since material which might stain the bowl doesn't linger long; 5) Probably others which you may add as you think of them.

However, I have discovered one major flaw in this process. While bare skin overhangs the water, it's sometimes necessary to reposition your body in some small way. Maybe you need to lean forward to reach the paper dispenser. Right at the time when you do so, the flush process starts. Water enters at a high rate of speed and pressure, swirls around, and inevitably some of it splashes around. Remember the purpose of the toilet and what might be in there, and think about all that splashing up on you. Yes, it's part of the process that you will get "dirty" on at least one small portion of your body, butt (intentionally misspelled--if you don't "get it" then your sense of humor has been surgically removed at some time in the past) most people don't wish that small dirty area to be enlarged beyond to the total exposed posterior section of your body. I've seen bidets but never utilized one, but I'm thinking that the automatic flusher emulates one, although in an unexpected and unwanted way.

Let's realize that automatic isn't always better and work toward a return to the manual flush.
Should you be nice to others?

I stopped for the night at the Welcome Center/Rest Area on EB I-64 in West Virginia last night. When I woke up and made the mandatory trip to the facilities, I noticed that a split-axle flatbed trailer had a brake chamber hanging loose and dragging the pavement. I went to the cab, but the driver was either out of the truck or in the sleeper berth. I returned to my truck and wrote a note telling him/her of the problem. I wedged it tightly into the gap between the driver's window and the rubber seal, knowing that it would be seen. While I waited for my mandatory 10-hour rest period to end, I periodically looked to see if the driver had seen the note. As I looked, I saw the driver open his door, remove the note, and read it. I then expected him to walk to the rear and inspect the fault. Instead, he wadded up the note and threw it to the pavement, started the engine, and drove away. The broken brake chamber was sparking as it dragged the concrete.

I have had many instances where I was nice to others and had it ignored or worse. Was this a bad fault? Well, having any of your braking system non-functional is not good, but on this trailer, it was only 25% of the capacity, and of course, there is more braking available on the tractor than the trailer, so it was a small loss. But, who is to say that it might not be the difference between stopping two feet short of a school bus or an elderly pedestrian in a crosswalk or stopping two feet past that hazard? I fulfilled my moral obligation to inform him of the problem. If something bad happens, I don't have any guilt. I suppose that if you wanted to be a real stickler, you might say I should have called the local authorities and reported it. That would have caused the trailer to be "red tagged" and immovable until repaired.

Did the other driver fulfill his obligations? To that I say an emphatic "NO"! Regulations require that every day you do a complete vehicle inspection, and even a cursory walk-around would have seen that problem. This is the type of driver which gives the entire profession a bad name to the four-wheeler community, and should be removed until properly trained. Would I want another driver to tell me of an obviously visible fault such as this? Of course, and it has happened, with the identical problem as described above. I was pulling an empty at the time, so I just used a bungee cord to tie up the hanging brake chamber and immediately went to a repair facility to have it replaced. Cost to me was an hour of down time, to the company, about $125 in parts and $100 in labor. Possible savings are as listed above: injuries or deaths prevented at the worst, fines and/or red-tagging at best.

Will I continue to be nice to others in such circumstances? Yes. It's not just the right thing to do, it's the only thing to do.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Ooh, I hope I never have a pickup or delivery at the bottom of *this* one.

OK, think this one through. The slope is 5% and you can't stop. Does it make any sense to go down a 7% ramp? Terror and disaster wait at the bottom if you do.

Here's what the runaway truck ramp looks like. It's very steep and covered with loose rock and gravel. I've been told that it does slow you down very rapidly. The downside is that once in, you don't get out by yourself--it requires a wrecker. Then, of course, you need someone to come out and repair/replace your brakes before you can continue.

It's an order not a suggestion. Do not try going down in high gear--you will not be able to downshift later. Trust me on that one.

Hmmm, 7%? That is *steep*. And notice the sign next to it. You do NOT want to try that one out.

A grade of 5% may not sound like much. Believe me, it is, especially if you have a heavy load. And 3 1/2 miles is a LONG way down. Now maybe you can see why they wanted all trucks to check their brakes!

When the limit is posted for trucks, they really do mean it. Too fast and you will "smoke" your brakes and not be able to slow at all. To paraphrase Martha Stewart, "It's a bad thing."

This one and the next few go with the one below. Yes, I found out that they post in reverse order. Next time I'll go from last to first.

Mandatory Truck Stop 1 mile. Yes, there's a real good downhill grade coming up and the authorities want to make sure you can stop safely.

Notice the logo above the bunk emergency exit. I thought it went well with the company name, "Keyboard Carriage."

This lighthouse on top of a Maryland mountain on I-68 has been successfully keeping ships from running aground for many years.

First Post

I'm a trucker now. What a change in lifestyle for someone who spent decades behind a desk pushing a pencil and using a computer. But, when life gives you lemons, you either make lemonade or watch them turn green and moldy before you throw them away.

I'd welcome comments from other truckers on their take on my writings, either to differ with me on details I may have gotten wrong or to relay similar experiences.

Since I'm on the road 7 out of every 8 days and not every truck stop has wifi access, the postings will be sporadic. Every day is out, maybe every week, but I might write every day and just post when I can.

I'm new to blogging and don't even know if I can include pictures. Well, even if I can, most will be shot while on the move and through a windshield, so don't expect Ansel Adams quality if I can do it.

Incidentally, some of you might know who I am, but I'm not exposing myself to the world here by name just in case I write something that offends my company or other truckers. I hope you understand my caution in that regard and won't share anything except the content, not my name.

Thanks for reading and happy trucking :)