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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

Sunday, September 11, 2005

First real entry for new job

First real entry for new job

Yes, I'm now working for a small local company, but basically doing the same thing as before. I pick up freight at one spot and deliver it to another. Most of what I'm hauling now is the output of a local aluminum recycler and consists either of ingots or "sows" (large ingots each about one ton) going to foundries, die cast facilities, or some such end user. All the backhauls (picking up freight at the other end for return to or near the origin) have consisted mainly of aluminum scrap of one sort or another destined to be melted into the aforesaid ingots or sows. I've been on only two overnight trips; all the rest of the time I've returned for at least the minimum required 10 hours off duty before going back to work again.

The first of those overnight trips involved stopping overnight at a truck stop in a truck without functioning air conditioning. That meant that until the outside air cooled off (it was above 90F when I stopped) the oven-like interior of the sleeper was unbearable. Well, about 11pm it finally got cool enough that I could get to sleep, where I stayed until about dawn, at which time I continued my journey. The freight involved over 40,000 pounds of chili beans going to a food distribution warehouse. Upon arrival and the ceremonial "breaking of the seal" unloading commenced. Uh oh, one of the large pallets of shrink-wrapped cans had toppled to one side, resembling a silver Leaning Tower of Pisa. Why, oh, why, couldn't I have been carrying a tomato-based sauce so I could have called it the "leaning tower of pizza (sauce)"? Fortunately, the fork-lift driver was fairly good and he was able to nudge it sideways into the trailer and thus make the bottom once again line up with the top so that it could be unloaded.

The second of my overnight trips was better...in a way. The air conditioning DID work on this truck, and it's later in the season so that the day (and subsequent night) was ever so slightly cooler. I figured I'd sleep easily. Uh oh, think again, Mr. Trucker Dude. The A/C works well in the cab, but the auxilliary unit in the sleeper didn't; it was hot as the proverbial place of abode of the bad dead. Oh well, I'll just prop open the curtain between the sleeper and the cab and direct a couple of the vents directly that way. Mission accomplished, I can lie on the bunk and feel the cool breeze waft over me. Uh oh, once more, this truck has an idle protection circuit in its computer. Very simply, that means that since the truck idles about 600rpm and doesn't have very high oil pressure at that speed, it automagically shuts off after 15 minutes. But, I've encountered this before, and know that you can set the cruise control so that it idles up and stays running. Uh oh for yet another time. The cruise works very well on the road, but fails to function while sitting still and idling. A quick call to the garage (over 300 miles away, so they can't come fix it for me) yields a makeshift solution: sit something relatively heavy on the accelerator pedal and move it so that it idles at the required speed. Yep, I can do that, and did. It seems to work well, so I get back into the sleeper berth again, feeling that lovely cool air coming from the front. I'm noticing the sound of the engine start to change subtly, but don't pay much attention since I'm close to being asleep. BAM! Like a switch had been thrown by an unseen hand (which indeed it had), the engine stops. It seems that as it idles, the overnight bag propped on the pedal had slowly, ever so slowly, been vibrated rearward changing the weight balance and causing the pedal to rise to the point where the automagic shutoff kicked it off.

Well, being a cooler day, about 8:30 or 9 pm it finally got cool enough outside that I could sleep. I awoke naturally (without an alarm, which I failed to pack) about 5 am, went inside the truck stop to get my oh-so-necessary cup of coffee and moved on down the road. I will try to remember tomorrow to turn in a repair slip on that A/C and/or cruise control, but I may indeed forget it. Someone remind me later....

Some leftovers

Here are a couple of short ones I wrote and forgot to post before changing jobs. Yep, I'm no longer with the major national company. Last month (Aug-05) I was hired by a very small local company to do regional deliveries. No longer am I out 3-6 weeks at a time; I'm home almost every day or night, depending on the schedule.

This is perhaps one that the prudish will not wish to read. With that warning in hand, proceed if you're brave.

I've talked before about HOS (hours of service) and their affect on my schedule. Yesterday I had to make a pickup in Virginia, going to Orlando. It's one of the strangest loads I've had so far: one hundred large stuffed toys, weighing a total of 2,000 pounds. Do the math, each one weighs twenty pounds, so yes, they are large, about five feet long. It's an evenly mixed load, with fifty each of Dale Dolphin and Wycliff Whale. When the loading was done, I had exactly zero hours left for today, so I pulled around the front and backed out of the way, preparing for slumber.

It's unfortunate that my body demands a certain function that normally requires the use of a flush toilet upon awakening since the toy manufacturer/distributor closes for third shift. This is the first time this particular bad coincidence has happened, and when it got to the point where it was about to reach an unwanted conclusion involving changing of certain items of clothing, I decided that I would take a walk behind the building. I grabbed my trusty roll of paper which heretofore had been used only for nasal purposes, my flashlight (an indispensible tool for a driver), and began the circumnavigation of the area. This particular place is at the edge of "the country" in that it's the last place on a dead-end road. I got all the way around to the very rear in the darkest area (another unfortunate circumstance--this place believes in plentiful security lighting!) and started scouting for a spot. I was about three seconds from beginning the job at hand when I heard a noise from very close by. Thinking that it was a racoon or 'possum but wanting to be sure, I turned on the flashlight and shined it in the direction of the noise.

It took a second for me to realize what was happening, or rather, what was going to happen soon. I saw the small furry animal with black and white lengthwise stripes begin to raise his (her?) tail and turn away from me. OOPS! A skunk had been checking out the trash at the rear and I was disturbing it. Now, I'm not much of an exercise buff, but I believe that I might have set some sort of running record a few minutes ago. I got as far away as I could in 10-15 seconds then stopped, listened, and smelled. I was fortunate that the skunk provided only the warning and didn't follow through with the attack. Yes, I did then find another, safer spot and conclude the business. And no, I didn't have my camera with me, so no photographic evidence exists of the skunk :)

PS: If you are now a truck driver, or ever become one, do NOT under any circumstances accept a load going to Gate 3 of Sea World in Orlando, FL! The gate is unmarked so I circled the LONG block twice looking for it, finally had to stop and ask a groundskeeper. He told me how to get there, and I would never have found it otherwise. Once inside the gate, the road is extremely narrow and very difficult to navigate with a 70+ foot vehicle. Once I backed into my loading dock (fairly easy), I discovered that pulling out was impossible going the way I wanted to go. So, I jockeyed around for about 30 minutes turning around, got a little yellow paint on my fender from getting about 1/2" too close to a post protecting a fire hydrant. Once that nearly impossible chore of turning around was completed, exiting was simple. Now, the next problem is that Orlando is not truck-friendly at all, only one truck stop and it charges for parking. So, I'm sitting in a Wal-Mart parking lot clearly marked "NO TRUCKS" and waiting for someone to tell me to get lost so I can wonder where to go next. I hope dispatch is quick on this one since I don't want to sit here very long at all. Should I not get lucky and have to sit a while, there's a restaurant I might check for lunch provided I get brave enough to leave the truck and risk having it towed away. Well, there's always the half-full one liter Coke from yesterday and the cheese and berries danish from who knows when I found under my seat. With the amount of preservatives put in food of that type, it's probably still very edible and marginally good.
A Hard Job?

On the way to the Sea World delivery mentioned elsewhere here, I had a truck pass me which was decorated with a famous name brand: Viagra. It carried something related to the NASCAR team they sponsor. I had an urge to rib the driver, so I called him on my CB radio. When he replied, I asked him if driving that truck was a hard job. He replied with a sarcastic tone saying that I was the first person ever to ask him that question.

Ah, my sense of humor is sometimes twisted, strange, and weird. Those who know me will attest to that fact, the rest of you will have to take it as an article of faith.