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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, June 25, 2006

Time to change the underwear

I'm sure if you're familiar at all with the US Interstate system, you've seen many of the small dirt or paved areas between the separate directional lanes. They all have a sign posted saying something to the effect of "No U-turns. Authorized vehicles only." They are mainly used by law enforcement, construction crews, and other official people. They aren't supposed to be used by the "normal" motoring public who needs to change direction. But they are.

Yesterday I was heading home for the weekend on I-69 North of Indianapolis, IN when I saw that I was rapidly overtaking a four wheeler in the right lane. I checked my mirrors, turned on my left turn signal, and moved over a lane to pass the minivan going slowly. As I passed, I saw that the driver had a map spread over the wheel and was trying to navigate while driving. Uh oh, that's dangerous stuff! I was almost ready to complete my pass and return to the right lane when he suddenly gave a burst of speed and turned on his left signal, then pulled into the left lane ahead of me. Before I could even begin to take in all this information, he applied his brakes quickly and forced me to do the same. Alas, his brakes are much better than mine and I'm coming up on him rapidly. I can only see one thing at a time and didn't have the resources to check the right mirror to see if I could move over safely without possibly hitting him in the rear. I finally slowed enough that I knew I wouldn't hit him immediately and checked the right mirror. The lane was clear far enough back that I could pull over the 75 foot long/40 ton behemoth, barely missing the minivan as he turned left into one of those "Don't use this" turns.

Yes, occasionally things happen so quickly that you don't have time to do anything except wonder if you have indeed filled your underwear with unwanted substances. I didn't, but I wasn't far from it yesterday.

People, have some common sense and don't pull in front of a tractor/trailer combo doing 65 miles per hour in the left lane and then put on your brakes! My underwear could be the least messy part of that if you stop quickly enough.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Ray family

I'm sure the intent was good when this sign was made, but there's a big difference between a "censor" and a "sensor" even though they sound the same and are somewhat related. The large vertical white box behind the sign is a radiation sensor, used so that radioactive scrap isn't melted into good scrap and contaminates the entire batch. It's located at an aluminum recycling plant where I make deliveries at times.

"Censor" in the dictionary says: a person who is authorized to read publications or correspondence or to watch theatrical performances and suppress in whole or in part anything considered obscene or politically unacceptable.

"Sensor" in the dictionary says: An electronic device used to measure a physical quantity such as temperature, pressure or loudness and convert it into an electronic signal of some kind (e.g a voltage).

This brings to mind our old friends, the Ray family. The father is Light Ray, the mother is X Ray, with their three children being Alpha Ray, Beta Ray, and Gamma Ray. As we begin our little play, we see the children playing in the front yard of the Ray home.

Alpha: How about that HBO show last night with the nude woman? Did you see her *****?

Beta: I'm more interested in talking about how much I think Congress is full of b***s**t these days.

Gamma: I'm gonna tell Mom and Dad what you two are talking about. They don't like us discussing sex and politics. I'm the Ray family censor, you know!

Gamma leaves the yard to go tell Light Ray and X Ray about what Alpha and Beta are discussing, whereupon he returns with Mom and Dad bearing bars of soap which are liberally applied to the mouths of Alpha and Beta.

The Censor triumphs again :)

Saturday, June 10, 2006

The Canadian Curse?

The company I'm working for has several customers in Canada. Since I'm based in Michigan, it's not that far and I don't mind going. Yes, the customs/immigration can be a PITA (pain in the a**) at times, but not terrible most of the time. I've been four times now and the first three all had something unusual happen so I was beginning to believe that Canada was cursed for me. The first time I was within an hour of re-entry to the States when I passed a scale. I've been by hundreds of them and passed through almost as many. However, in over a year of driving, I had never been pulled out of line and brought around back for inspection. Well, the OPP (Ontario Provincial Police) must have decided I looked ripe for the picking and I got the dreaded right-arrow at the end of the scale. An officer met me around back and told me to bring all my paperwork inside. That includes shipping papers (invoice/bill of lading), log book, truck and trailer inspection paperwork, registrations, insurance, permits, etc. They want to see everything. After he checked all my papers and told me they were OK, he said, "Now, let's look at the rig." We walked outside where he retrieved his scooter and tools and started looking at everything. He checked all the obvious things first such as the lights, then proceeded to open the hood and check everything there. Now it's time for him to lie down on the scooter and run up and down underneath the truck and trailer. Every brake self-adjuster was measured, all the tire treads, all air hoses, etc. The trailer passed fine and got the sticker which allowed it to pass through such an inspection next time (within a year, I think) without being given the fine-tooth comb treatment. All he found bad on the tractor was a small (1/2") cut on the inside of one tire. That wasn't enough to "red-tag" it and make me sit until repaired, but it was enough to keep the tractor from having the coveted sticker. Maybe next time, huh? Of course, that lasted over an hour and kept me from getting back across the border before I ran out of hours for that day, so I stayed overnight in London, ON and made it back the next day.

The second trip wasn't quite as eventful, but Canadian Customs didn't clear me after the requisite few questions (What is your citizenship? How long will you be in Canada? Are you bringing any weapons or firearms? Etc.) as they did the first time. They wanted to X-ray the trailer and inspect the tractor. So, I pulled forward until motioned to stop next to this huge truck with a long arm off to one side. He proceeded to lower that arm over my trailer and drive slowly down the length of it. I'm guessing the gadget on the arm was the sensor and that the X-ray source was on the truck. After he finished that, the agent got into my cab and checked it. I was sitting on the bench watching in my shirt and I wish he had told me it was going to take a few minutes so I could have put on my jacket--it was cold that day! Finally, he got out, walked over and told me to proceed to my delivery and to have a nice day. It was only later that I discovered that he had inspected my bottle of aspirin in the overnight bag and failed to replace the cap properly. Oh, yeah, I had about 150 little white tablets all over the bottom of that bag.

The third trip was the one which was most memorable for me. The delivery was completed, I was within 15 minutes of the border, and an oncoming driver fell asleep after working the overnight shift, crossed the yellow line on a two lane road, and skidded down the side of my tractor and trailer. I saw him start to cross the line but could not swerve very far since we were on an overpass and there were guardrails very close to the traffic lane. No one was hurt, he did wake up, and the police were called. I spent three hours being interviewed by them and getting my trailer tire and rim fixed. He had hit so hard that he bent two rims and one of the tires was even ejected from the truck and rolled away. Like I said before, when you get in a fight with a big rig, you don't win. He will never drive that beautiful new pickup truck again because of the damage done. I was informed that he would be charged with reckless driving, giving him 6 points on his license and a fine of almost $500. I can't emphasize enough how nice the people were there. One witness willingly stayed to talk to the police and was late to work. The officers were very businesslike but not overbearing or haughty in any way. They assured me that with all the witnesses and the physical evidence (skid marks, etc.) they had, they probably wouldn't need me in court in case he decided to fight it. In any event, since I'm a resident of a foreign country they couldn't even send me a subpoena, only a request to appear.

So, after three unusual incidents related to three trips to Canada, I was within my rights to be somewhat apprehensive when told I had another trip over there last week. I was on my best behavior (spelled behaviour in Canada!) and made it to the delivery and back to the border without incident. The trucking gods must have been smiling on me since I didn't even have to wait in the usual two hour line for the bridge crossing due to the backup at US Customs/Immigration on the far side of the bridge; the wait was only about 5 minutes, which amazed me later since I learned that was the day the RCMP arrested the "home grown" terrorist cell in Toronto. I'm hoping that any further trips will be as uneventful as that last one. The Canadian Curse is done!