Nov 23, 2009

Murphy's Law

When I chose my route this week, I already knew I was at a disadvantage with it being a Holiday week. I was secretly hoping some of the customers would be closed and that would help me shorten my route. It has happened before, in fact, I am suppose to also make a pick up of damaged goods, but that customer is closed all week.

It is in my nature to reassess my route as soon as I pick up the trailer, to make necessary adjustments for a more efficient delivery schedule. The pencil pushers at the plant never seem to grasp that there could actually be a better way. And I have proved it time and time again. I could just go with the flow and follow the route, but that is cutting into my personal home time. So, I thrive on the frenzied melee that ensues as I completely reroute myself several times throughout the journey. The end result is that I regularly arrive home at least a half of a day ahead of schedule.

I made the initial 950 mile trek to my first customer with only one slight delay. It seems aliens had crash landed in the median..or at least that was the story told by another truck driver. I was feeling pretty good about the week. I figured if I unloaded stop 1, then stop 2, 4, 3, 5, 6 and 7, I would be at 9 the next morning and finishing up with stop #8 by lunch time. These changes were necessary due to hours of business. With a strategy in place, I snuggled in for the night.

So here is a quick timeline of how my Monday went.

  • 7:00 AM unload stop # 1
  • 7:17 AM miss turn for the Jersey Turnpike, rerouted myself to 287
  • 7:58 AM Interstate shut down for offloading of cattle
  • 8:19 AM Delays for merging (3 left lanes closed on a 4 lane hwy, construction)
  • 8:40 AM Arrive at stop # 2 (61 miles in 1.75 hours)
  • 9:06 AM Depart #2
  • 9:23 AM Delays for accident on George Washington Bridge
  • 10:02 AM Reroute myself to Queens, to avoid further delays
  • 10:23 AM Arrive at stop #4 (24 miles in 1.25 hours)
  • 10:41 AM Depart stop#4 after purchasing unidentifiable lunch item from Roach Coach

  • Reroute myself to avoid fore casted delays on BQE

  • 10:53 AM Delays due to lane closures on Bruckner Expressway
  • 11:13 AM Delays due to worker falling from Throgsneck Bridge
  • 11:14 AM Place call to stop#5 to notify of rescheduling
  • 12:02 PM Delays due to idiots not knowing how to merge
  • 12:41 PM Arrive at stop#3 (52 miles in 2 hours)
  • 12:57 PM Depart stop #3
  • 3:12 PM Place call to stop#6, begging for mercy. They agree to wait for me.
  • 3:36 PM Arrive at stop#6 (143 miles in 2.5 hours) not bad for Connecticut
  • 4:04PM Depart stop#6
  • 4:08PM Place call to stop#7, They refused to wait Grrrrrrrr!!

  • More delays for evening rush hour in Hartford, CT and Springfield, MA

  • 6:21PM Purchase FIRST cup of coffee for the day
  • 7:17 PM Arrive at stop#9 (104 miles in 3.25 hours)

Settle in for the night.....

So, it seems, when I normally am able to reconfigure my route on a weekly basis, the reward is getting home earlier than expected. During the one week when I want to get home, Murphy's Law takes affect. There is no way I can recover from the delays today.Tomorrow's goal, unload stops 9, 8, and 7. I will not be able to finish out until Wednesday morning at 4:00 am...That makes for one long ride filled with Holiday congestion...Guesstimated home arrival...2 hours after the Holiday dishes have been washed and put away. I hope somebody saves me a Turkey Leg.

Really, it is not so bad. Just for clarification purposes, I will not miss all the festivities as my Father throws his annual bash on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, so I will still be fed and able to see the whole gang.

Nov 19, 2009

Welcome Home

As is with every week, I just cannot wait to make that 20 mile trek through the last construction zone of my week. Normally it isn't too bad. But then again, I do not consider rush hour on the South Side of Atlanta to be bad either... Or New York? nope! I guess it is all of what you are accustomed too. Progressing at 20 mph in New York is considered to be good. 45mph is flying. But this construction zone, minutes from my plant, usually flows at or above the mandated 50 mph.

This week they had it shut down to one lane, and anywhere near Atlanta, one lane is never enough. There was an 8 mile back up which grew in proportion as rush hour loomed near. Thankfully I got through it before the evening stampede, but it still took me over an hour to get past the 1/4 mile closure.

Regardless of the fact that I may be an aggressive driver in other locales, such as NYC, I always abide by construction zone limits. I think I may be the only one doing 50 mph in Coweta County. I also will merge into the appropriate lane as soon as I know which lane is open. This usually means it takes longer to get through the zone, but it irritates me when folks run to the head of the line and cut into traffic at the last minute, especially Stupor Truckers !!

and the best part.... those Stupor Truckers....are usually the ones with slow trucks riding in the middle lane on open interstate. They will not respond to any radio chatter, acting oblivious, and usually claiming they had no idea that lane was closed. Regardless of the large orange signs that were posted for the previous 3 miles indicating such a closure...Once the zone opens up, they are back to impeding traffic in the middle lane. Hey, shouldn't literacy be mandatory for truckers?

but I digress.....

So where was I? Oh yeah.. Eight mile back-up, one hour delay, and a little trucking female who can do no wrong *smirk*.

I was already in the right lane (unobstructed) at the end of the line. Traffic was piling up, and I watched truck after truck jump to the left, to race to the head of the line. After about 20 minutes, guess what I did.... I jumped left, too. So out of characteristic for me, but then again, I had been following this guy for almost half an hour and I was starting to feel disoriented.

I have heard that once your body has been poisoned by exhaust fumes, it is highly susceptible to future reactions with only minimal exposure. I have been poisoned twice! Seriously exposed, and I do not mean just a raging headache. The first time, nearly ended with loss of life. The second time only resulted in severe disorientation. I was not about to chance it. So I dived left and proceeded to clear the offending six-wheeler. Rest assured, I merged back to the right almost immediately, thanks to another trucker understanding my predicament. And no one yelled at me :)

Nov 13, 2009

Take It To The Limit

Took these a few weeks ago when I was running around Michigan. I have no idea why, but I am always impressed by the site of the local trucks of Michigan. Heavy Duty, indeed.

and how is this for the American version of a road train. Wish I could have gotten a picture of the guys hauling double 48'ers. Since I do not get to see these too often, and never on the East Coast, I thought I would capture a few to share with you.


Yes, I am guilty. But what else are you going to do when you have been sitting for an hour.

That must have been one hard hit!

Up Close and Personal

I thought I would give you a breather, as I have noticed my rants have been very long winded lately. And this would be a good time to clean out the memory on my camera.

Here are a few shots I took while heading into Ringtown, Pennsylvania last week. It is a beautiful drive over a scenic ridge and the valley below could be the back drop for one of those Hidden Valley Dressing commercials.

Okay, so the only thing I captured was the windmills, but I have seen so many of these being transported, it was the perfect opportunity to get up close and personal with the fully assembled version.

The Results Are In

I really never seem to be able to muster any enthusiasm when it is time to head back into work. But then, who does? However, this week, I was a bit anxious to find out whether any of the repairs had been made to Frankentruck. We normally have a 2 day wait period on ordered parts, and as far as I know, the Stooges had not properly diagnosed any problems to necessitate the need for placing that order. I did call in the previous Monday and issued a demand for certain items. I just figured they would have to assess the situation for themselves before following through. I did entertain the thought that something might possibly be done, because when I rolled in at the end of the week, I was able to place my repair request with the only mechanic who seems to be able to get things done correctly.

As I drove into the yard, late Saturday evening, my first reaction was a feeling of dismay. I am very over the idea of continuing to drive malfunctioning equipment, but it appeared as if my truck had not even been moved.

I grabbed my flashlight, and upon further inspection, my fears slowly subsided. First , I noticed the telltale signs that someone had been at least lingering about the frame of my truck. Then I spotted the new leveling valve. Ohhhhh, if only.... You see, this is the 4th valve installed on this particular vehicle. Maggie had at least another 4 placed on her. Why is it that NO ONE else has these problems?? I think perhaps the rough terrain of New York and New Jersey may play a role, that and the fact that I do not keep up with other driver's repairs. LOL

With mounting excitement, I quickly made a tour of the outside of the truck and noticed the shiny glint of new wheel hubs on my steer tires. This is not something I had previously written up, so I was shocked to see this repaired so efficiently . I had lost the rubber plug on one wheel the previous week, which almost seems suspicious. And the other one was apparently beginning to show signs of leakage. This is one of the requests I had made via phone call...

Next, I pulled back the hood and was even more pleasantly surprised to note that the air boot had been replaced.

I also noticed that the missing bolt was , well, still missing. After finishing my inspection, loading up my gear and warming up the engine, I decided to take him for a quick spin. Yep, my deductions had proved to be correct. The horrible air sucking screech was no longer present. Glad I made the judgement call and phoned in my repairs, otherwise they would have just replaced the bolt and I would be wearing ear plugs to work.

With renewed enthusiasm, I decided to test my suspension. It was a simple test actually. Simply hooking to the trailer. You see, for the past 3 months, whenever I pulled under the trailer, my bags would not inflate and I would have to work overtime trying to raise the dolly legs. So I pulled into place, watched my gauges for a moments and noticed there was virtually no change. I climbed out, hooked up the lines and raised the landing gear...still no change...

At this point, even with all the repairs having been made, I was completely deflated, as were my rear air bags. Anxiety set in. Should I call the Stooges and wait for a spare truck? This would take hours...My first stop was 16 hours away, and I did not have hours. But, I cant pull a load with deflated bags, and knowingly cause immense damage.Anxious and angered, I decided to make a few laps around the yard just to see if I could wiggle a response out of it.

It felt okay when moving. My gauge showed inflation. I stopped to check out the progress and my bags were responding appropriately. HUH? That is when I remember something minutely important to this scenario. Our trailer drop line has a few points that are significantly raised. Humps, if you will. I was parked with the rears perched atop one of the humps... Yeah, no wonder it was not responding. In order for a raised frame to appear to be level, the bags have to exhaust air. Okay, I feel like an idiot. But in my defense, it was 9pm and very dark out.

Anyways, in an extremely long nutshell, all my hopes and prayers had been miraculously answered. All repairs were made. As is with consistency, I also was aware that some new malfunction would occur within a short amount of time, and I should embrace the positiveness of my current situation, as it would not last long.

Lo and behold, my next dilemma appeared before I ever even made it out onto the asphalt. The faux toggle switches began to fall out of my dashboard. Well, two of them. I am thinking, if I do not actually tell anyone, then this could be my last malfunction. I gathered up the parts, which do not control anything, and tucked them away in a cubbyhole. Keeping my fingers crossed that this assures me some much needed relief from actually needing legitimate repairs. Besides, as long as I do not stare at it, I will not even notice the abysmal holes leading into a snakelike labyrinth of wiring....Right? Oh well, at this point I will settle for a good ride, rather than a good looking ride.

Nov 5, 2009

A Bad Impression

I have decided that I cannot let you think that I am always this wonderful person, full of sunshine. So, I have decided that I should probably share one of my Not So Shining Moments, and because it happened this week, and that makes it very convenient.

One of my particular pet peeves, is that I absolutely cannot stand to listen to someone whine. While I am very aware that we all have our moments, myself included, it just absolutely infuriates me to listen to someone complain, just for the sake of complaining. Sure, if you have an issue and need a shoulder for a moment, I am there. If you are struggling with situations in your life that you cannot change fast enough, I will listen. But to mutter nonstop about how EVERYTHING in life is horrible and unjust, I would just as soon shoot you as to listen to another word.

Tuesday evening, as I was leaving New Hampshire, I ended up cruising along behind one such fellow. Everything he commented on was derogatory. His truck, his trailer, his load, his paycheck, his boss, the traffic, roads, cities, food, truckstops...Grrr. He had an opinion on everything, and they were all negative.

After the first few minutes, I simply turned off the CB so as not to have to endure his rant. But due to traffic delay, I turned it back on and he was still just a fussing. At one point he told how he needed new wiper blades. He works for a small mom and pop company, and his boss did not have time to get any for him. So the boss handed him $20 and a handful of tools and told him to replace it himself the next time he got to a truckstop. The fellow then came unglued and supposedly told his boss that he was a DRIVER, not a MECHANIC and under no circumstance whatsoever, would he ever be making any repairs to his equipment (This is one of the things that is wrong with the new breed of driver, in my opinion) and he still has bad blades. He then commenced to griping about having to use his driver reward points to purchase showers, and cleaning supplies and foodstuff. He thought his boss should provide everything for him. EVERYTHING, because it is too expensive to live on the road.

Well after about 50 minutes of picking up his conversation periodically, I just about had my fill. Another driver had now joined in and was encouraging his negative speak. Just as I was about to turn the radio off again, he finally pushed my button. The next thing I heard over the airwaves was " I do not think I am cut out to drive for this company... "

The rest of what he said was silenced in my mind as my hand reached for the microphone.

Normally, I do not interject my opinions onto other people. I will simply tune them out, if I disagree. I never butt into a conversation that does not apply to me, but when I have had enough, I cannot be held accountable :)

In an instant, the mic was in my hand, and after he finished his next statement, I quickly spoke up.

" I would have to agree with you driver, I do not think that you are cut out to be a truckdriver period. After listening to you complain for almost an hour, you make me want to open the door and fling myself out on the asphalt. I have heard you complain about everything under the sun. Life is not that hard out here. You can buy a cooler and fill it with food, you can purchase fuel and claim your free shower. If your boss is so terrible, you could search for another job. It takes all of two minutes to attach new wiper blades, be thankful he handed you the tools and money If you really want my opinion, I think you should use your driver reward points to purchase a bigger pacifier, because honestly, you need to find some contentment, or get out of the industry."

He never said another word, at least until I was out of range.

Nov 3, 2009

A Picture IS Worth A Thousand Words...

And when it comes to getting repairs made on my little truck, well, I have wasted thousands upon thousands of words...

In the past, I have tried several different methods in order to get work done. There was the eyelash batting method (only works at other shops). There was also the direct approach, the indirect approach and finally, my latest method, the IN YOUR FACE approach.

The Direct Method. Simply put, I would tell the Stooges exactly what the problem was, and which parts needed to be repaired or replaced. How much more simple could it be, but yet, this method failed.

Thinking it was a matter of masculine pride, I then altered my approach to be indirect. By playing the role of the uninformed female, I decided to let the Stooges figure it out for themselves. My requests would be simple. "There is a funny noise" or "My truck is broken". Surprisingly, the big tuff guy mechanics still did not get it.

My newest method will be fool proof. I think.

A few weeks ago (no surprise there) I requested an exhaust leak repair. It is still not repaired...(no surprise there, either) The head stooge did inform me that he thinks it might be missing bolts on the intake of the motor, as our little Volvos are constantly losing these. He Thinks.... Okay, so why not look and see.

Well, I did look. In fact, I have looked several times to make sure the damage is not getting worse. So far, so good. And even though I would like to have the missing bolt replaced, me thinks that if THIS

is replaced, then maybe my screeching exhaust leak might disappear too. Hmmmm, maybe??

I figure if I actually leave a picture with the request repair, they might just get a clue.

Nov 2, 2009

Just The Right Moment

Whoops, There I am in the left lane , yet again!!

8:30 AM
Who says NYC traffic is horrible?

It was just another day making my way into New York, but it turned out to be my lucky day. Normally, while traveling through this section of the Country, I have my radio tuned to AM. I figure since I know some really good shortcuts and 'go-rounds', I figure I just might need to know if I need to use them. With real time local traffic reports every 10 minutes, this usually spares me some unnecessary delays. Of course, as an added bonus, I get the scoop on all the major events happening in NYC. Today there was a major event.

There is nothing like the view of the George Washington Bridge displaying Old Glory. This signifies a celebration of Nation, of Pride, Of the People. And the sight always gives me a feeling of warmth.

Today's tribute.....The arrival of the USS New York. The construction of this vessel includes the use of more than 7 tons of steel from the Towers that fell on 9/11. Upon arrival, the voyage halted in front of the site of those attacks and paid tribute to all who were lost. It then continued north on the Hudson towards the GWB, before turning back to the port. And guess where I was when it was making its way to the GWB.... I was on the Bridge.

Just another reason I love running this route. The opportunities that arise !! There was a very limited window of opportunity to actually be on the bridge and see her sitting in the foreground of her namesake.

I only wish I had a better camera.

Rebel Without A Cause

My buddy AA always gives me grief about the actions I take and the deductive reasoning behind it. For example, most states have a regulation in place that states that if there are more than 2 lanes, Trucks are restricted to the right two. Great, no problem. Except, when someone does something stupid directly in front of you and the left lane is your only means of avoiding a collision.

For example, a few years back, I was cruising the middle lane in Connecticut passing the slower traffic in the right lane, when a lady in a four wheeler decided to dart in front of me. I slowed to accommodate for her erratic decision. But then, every 100 yards or so, she would slam on the brakes, slowing to well below the posted speed limit. Eventually, she is able to maintain a constant speed and we are flowing nicely. But, I suppose her phone must have rang, because, after a few minutes, she really locked it down. I know, you are probably thinking I should have left more space between vehicles, but lets face it. That is just not possible on the 95 corridor around NY/CT. So, rather than plow into her, or slam into vehicles on my right, I dodged and weaved my way into the VERY RESTRICTED left lane. I was in it for maybe 30 seconds, but it was 30 seconds too long. In an instant, there were blue lights behind me. I received a very lovely driving reward, and of course, preventing an accident was not a good enough excuse to be there.

Another example would be the time I was empty running up a steep incline into the Allentown area of Pennsylvania. I was in the middle lane, again. But, I was empty, and it was a steeeeeep grade. About half way up the hill is a high volume traffic entrance ramp, usually filled with heavy trucks trying to merge into traffic at 20 mph. That was exactly the case this time. Except, it was two trucks. Both were heavy, but the second truck was moving 3 mph faster than the lead truck. So what does he do. He comes off the ramp directly into the middle lane at 25 mph. Now, at this point I am flying up the hill at about 65 and could have never stopped in time. SOOOOOO, my only option? Go LEFT. Yep, another 15 seconds too long. As soon as I passed the idiot in the center lane, I immediately cut back over in front of him, but it was too late. I pulled off at the next exit and although I had just saved my own life and prevented the interstate from being closed extensively, my reasoning was not good enough for the Officer.

Therefore , I do NOT EVER resort to using the left lane in Connecticut or Pennsylvania. Been there, done that, paid for the experience. And the Pony Car insurance was not cheap to begin with. But here is where my logic becomes the topic of AA's amusement.

I will not run the left lane in CT or PA, but since I have not been busted in NYC.....LOL.....Well, you get the idea. Heck, the left lane is the only way to fly on the Cross Bronx.

But of course, I am not stupid, so no, I dont abuse the "privilege" on the other expressways around the city. However, today, I managed to try out a new left lane. That being the one belonging on the Long Island Expressway... Definitely a NO NO. Supposedly, the two right lanes were blocked ahead for a Pothole Patrol, and well, by deductive reasoning, that only leaves the HOV and left lane open. Right? Not being one to dilly dally, I quickly jumped left along with a few more brave souls and we got through the back up with very little delays, but only a few others followed. The rest were busy telling us we were not allowed over there. Until a few miles down the road, when they figured out they had to be there.

Oh, and I wish I could have got a picture of Saturday Night's big adventure. Little Trucker riding the HOV lane in Atlanta... This time I was the only truck to do it. Accident ahead, and we were merging from 7 lanes down to 2. One of them being the HOV. Will naturally, I am there.

I personally do not think that in an emergency situation, the Law Enforcement Officers are going to penalize you for riding in a restricted lane, especially if the only lanes available are restricted. Might as well, go for broke. But I can guarantee you that it will be a long time before you catch me in an HOV lane again...