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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

Friday, November 11, 2005

Pickup and Deliverance

Pickup and Deliverance

All of my job involves three things: picking up freight, driving, and delivering it to the final customer's loading dock. The driving part is really pretty boring most of the time, but I've had some real experiences doing either the pickup or delivery portions. Earlier this week I had a pickup in Paintlick, Kentucky. Yes, there really is such a town, and after interfacing with the one of their residents which spoke English (or made a good attempt at it, given that he wasn't quite all there mentally, I believe), I'm positive that they really do lick paint there and that it's the lead variety which leads to brain damage.

My directions weren't very good: drive a couple of miles, look for the big gray building on the left and turn into the driveway. Well, if you've ever driven in Kentucky off the main roads, you know that with turns and hills, you can breeze right by something before you see it, even if only driving 20-25 miles per hour. Yep, I missed my turn. Oh well, I've done it before and there's always somewhere up the road to turn around. Oh, you four-wheelers have it so good; almost any two lane road is wide enough for you to do a three-point turn. But, with a 53 foot long trailer behind a big truck, I have about 75 feet of vehicle to manouver around. I saw several nice looking driveways, and all were gated. The open ones were too narrow for me to even think about it. So, I drove through the town of Paintlick with its one-lane bridge and finally came to a spot in the road West of town where there was a third lane for left turns, and some gravel on the shoulders. I was just barely able to turn around after locking my differential on the real axles so they didn't spin in the gravel. Then, back through Paintlick to my missed driveway after the 20-25 mile scenic detour. I finally got there and pulled in. When I walked inside, I was informed that I was in the right place, but there was no pickup scheduled for today. He called his boss and found out that there was, then told me that I should have backed in. Backing isn't my strongest point, but I'm getting better at it with more practice. Why do I need to back in? Well, there's not enough room to turn around there.

I asked for help and was given the assistance of two Hispanic young men to help me get out of the drive (narrow, no guardrails, running over a creek), onto the narrow road, pull up past the drive, then back in. Sounds pretty easy, right? Well, normally, when someone helps you back, they stand where you can see them easily in the mirrors, give hand signals to let you know which way to turn, how much, how far you are from obstacles such as the abrupt drop-off into the creek, etc. Well, these two took their stations about 200 feet down the road in either direction and put their hands up to stop traffic. I was on my own backing in, but eventually I managed it. But wait, there's more! The dock is around the corner at the back of the building, but at least I'm not worried about backing into the creek there.

The guy loading me drove the fork-lift as if he had just graduated from the NASCAR school, yelling at one of the Hispanic guys his estimated weight of each bundle. As he yelled, I could see the 3 or 4 teeth remaining in his mouth, and they were variegated. That's a polite word for multi-colored: some yellow, some green, some colors the rainbow has never seen. It was about then that I started thinking about the movie "Deliverance" (thus the play on words in the title here) and listening carefully to see if banjo music emerged from anywhere nearby. He finally got me fully loaded and started adding up the weights from the pad where he had dictated them. He approached the calculator with each bundle's weight as if he had never seen it before, or was expecting that the numbers moved around after every use, and finally got a total weight for me. Incidentally, the estimates were really close, because when I delivered it, he was off by only 200 pounds on a load that was over 40,000 pounds. Half a percent is pretty good in anyone's book, I guess, so he was good at something.

While he was filling out the bill of lading (a work of penmanship training's finest moments, by the way) I inquired of him about nearby truckstops. I had noticed a very small one with a restaurant nearby on the way in. He informed me that they were too expensive and had fancy food there. He recommended I drive about 20 miles up the road to one which actually had an Arby's, which was his preferred place to eat. It was cheaper and better food. Hmmm, a real restaurant (with fancy food in Kentucky) or an Arby's? I didn't take long making up my mind: it was the fancy place. Yep, real fancy, with hamburgers, beans and cornbread, and the special of the day: pork ribs. Expensive? Not really, I had the ribs and a Coke (I think it was really Pepsi, but in some parts of the U.S., everything dark and fizzy is a Coke) and it came to slightly over $10. It was nothing to write home about as far as quality, but it sure beat Arby's. The only real surprise there was the cornbread which was served with the meal. I must say I've had lots of cornbread in my life, having grown up in the South of parents of Southern extraction, but I'd never seen anything like this before. It was about 8 inches in diameter, about 1/4 inch thick, and looked exactly like a pancake. But, the waitress assured me it was fried cornbread, one of the specialties of that area. Yes, on tasting, it WAS cornbread, but the appearance threw me for a loop.

I never did hear the banjo music, but the idea of Deliverance keeps popping into my head every time I think about Paintlick, Kentucky. You really should visit someday :)

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Rules for four-wheelers

I've been paying attention to how "four-wheelers" drive in relation to the "big trucks", those with long trailers and many more than four wheels on the pavement. I will readily admit that before I started driving a truck for a living, I thought little about it. Now, even if I never drive a truck again, I will pay the utmost attention and give every possible break and courtesy to them when I'm a four-wheeler.

In the days/weeks/months ahead, I'm going to write several pieces about how the world looks from the elevated seat in front of 75 feet of moving vehicle. I will pay particular attention to items such as clearance, visibility, turning, lane changing, construction zones, entrance/exit ramps, starting and stopping, merging, and others as they occur to me.

I hope you as a four-wheeler will learn something which will enable you to realize the difficulty the big riggers have fitting in with their smaller cousins on the road. As always, comments will be welcomed.