Dec 20, 2009

To Err is Human...The Finale !!

The phone call was from my Office. They needed to inquire about a few particulars concerning my load.


Yes, Winona was on the way, saving at least 100 miles. Yes Winona was actually loaded next and not underneath the Minneapolis. No, no one reloaded any of my freight, except the pallets back in Tennessee. Yes, they agreed to wait on me.

It seems the Aluminum Company got a nasty little email from Minneapolis concerning my delivery. Of course, I feel that their complaints were legitimate, and I did do everything I could to help out with the situation. I run into this problem all of the time in New England, but because I know the customer's needs, I am able to accommodate them before arriving with an undeliverable load. I did not know this customer, so I did not know I needed to make alternate arrangements with the freight.

What ensued over the next few hours was a battle of laying blame. The load planner claimed it was my fault for changing routes mid-stream and That I was obviously having my freight moved around . She knows I do this in New England, but there was no need for it on this trip. It just wasn't loaded properly. My boss waged war for me, and in the end it was revealed that I was not to blame at all. Really?

Don't you just love the fact that almost everyone seems to throw the driver under the bus, when a mistake occurs. Luckily, I have a wonderful boss who will fight tooth and nail for his team of drivers.

The best part of this little battle...The original email from Minneapolis included a paragraph about me. It stated that I was doing my best to help them out. That I had physically helped them unload over 4000k of metal. That I was a great asset to my company. The final sentence advised my company to extend gratitude to me, the Driver....You know, the one the load planner was trying to blame.. LOL

I made it home early on Friday and was scheduled to be off for the next 2 weeks. But, I just had to volunteer to work the week of Christmas....Seems, I am a glutton for punishment.

Good news, however! When I finish my run this week, I am to send my truck to Volvo to have the new engine installed....YAY This could not come at a better time, because even though my problems were temporarily at bay with the regen situation in Wisconsin. They almost immediately returned when I got empty in Missouri. Only 1200 more miles and Frankentruck goes under the knife.. Let's hope he lives through it.

To Err is Human....Almost Done

I awoke at the crack of dawn and began my trek into St Louis. I could have chosen a shorter route, but my need for fuel had me sticking to the interstates.

Upon my final descent into St Louis, I witnessed an accident. Some people are just in too big of a hurry.

Riding south on I-55, the radio was full of chatter pertaining to a trailer tire w/rim laying in the southbound granny lane. Getting close to the obstruction, I moved left and watched as fourwheelers opted for flying around the right side in order to pass my slow moving obstruction. I then slowed even more, because I could tell they had no idea what was laying in the road in front of them, the distance was too great to discern it at this point. So, I slowed even further to allow them room to make a hasty left merge once they noticed it.

The two cars noticed it at almost the last second, literally jerking the steering wheel to avoid catastrophe. The Escalade, who became agitated when I slowed him down, decided to come around on my right also. He obviously had not noticed the actions of the other fourwheelers, because he had been behind me. I guess, my brake lights and four way flashers just angered him even more. So he darted to my right. I kept waiting for him to notice the wheel... and waited and waited......Oh crap, he never noticed it and centered it perfectly, lifting his entire vehicle at least a foot into the air before the sudden stop with a very large trailer tire wedged under his motor.

The truck behind him was a daycab, and also had not noticed the impending calamity, so he had to make a quick dive into onto the shoulder to keep from impacting the Escalade. The driver was not immediately injured, but I think he will be very sore for awhile. What is even worse, this tire did not fall off of a poorly maintained axle, it was actually strapped to the nose of a flatbed trailer and bounced out under the straps. That truck was sitting on the shoulder of the road with the driver on the phone while all of this happened. Seems he had been parked long enough to have removed the obstacle from the interstate, but he needed to make a few phone calls first..We had reports of the tire for 10 miles before we got to it... Hmm, can you saw LAWSUIT!!

So, after all that excitement had passed, can you guess my next delay...

I headed east on I-70, instead of the west bound 270, I was aiming for. Just a little distracted, folks, nothing to worry about. I have a great sense of direction...LOL

Well, I got my final 2 stops off on Thursday, and just as I started to breath a sigh of relief, the phone rang...

To Err is Human...Part Two

So...I am sitting in Mauston, Wisconsin after completing a 45 minute manual regeneration on my truck. I have 2 stops in Minnesota and time is of the essence. After contacting both locations I decided to flip my route around. Minneapolis was supposed to unload next according to my manifest, but Winona's freight was next in line on the trailer, and because it was literally on my way to Minneapolis, I headed there next.

I had received 3 sets of bad directions for the location in Winona, and ended up phoning in for turn by turn instructions after I got lost riding through town. Seems I took the very long way around, which did not help my timing. One pallet removed and I was back in action. I phoned Minneapolis and alerted them to my time frame. I would be arriving at about the time they closed. They agreed to wait for me up to one hour. So I pedaled forward.

I hit Minneapolis in record time, and arrived about 15 minutes prior to closing. I was already in luck because today was their annual Christmas Party. But the tide turned rather rapidly when I pulled into the lot and noticed this was going to be a dock unload.

After everyone assessed the situation, it was determined that the only way to offload this freight, was to hand unload. Never a good situation when they have equipment to use, but the freight is loaded sothat it is unattainable. In this case, the 12 ft bundles were placed in the nose, stacked directly on top of 26' metal. There was no way their boom was going to reach it without dragging metal on metal and damaging my St Louis freight.

So we cut the bundles open and proceeded to sandbag the freight off the trailer. My job was in the nose, because the men were too tall in fit in the cramped space. My body was going to pay for this later. After an hours worth of physical labor, a few mishaps, and several strained muscles, I was unloaded. Oh, it might also be noted..I was not unloaded by the receiving crew, they were gone for the day. I was unloaded by the office personnel, and they were not too happy with the situation as they were still dressed in party attire. But they had agreed to wait, so they did not feel they should refuse me at this point, even though I volunteered to stay overnight so the labor crew could handle this situation in the morning.

My final 2 stops were located in St Louis, Missouri and there was just too much distance to cover, so I could only hope to arrive before their 2pm closures the following day. I was anxious for my shower and in no great hurry at this point. In fact, I was so resigned to the fact I might have to wait until Friday to unload, that I took a few detours on my way out of town. Rt 494 was experiencing major delays due to accidents, so I tried to find a shortcut back to Rt52. I knew where it was, but because of the jug-handled ramps and multiple turns, I got confused and ended up heading straight for downtown St. Paul.... LOL, no I do not use GPS.

It only added about an hour, taking the side streets, to work my way back toward my intended southbound direction on Rt 52. By the time I reached the truck stop, I was more than ready to be finished for the day, and decided not to push myself getting to St Louis.

But I am not one to let opportunity slip through my hands, so I got up early the next morning, with the intention of getting my final 2 stops off and heading home.... be continued

Dec 19, 2009

To Err Is Human, To Forgive....

Well, that is just part of the job. My job, at least. With so many things that can and will go wrong, it is almost a requirement to have a forgiving temperament. Otherwise, life would be pretty miserable while out on the road.

This week had so many pitfalls, I should probably do a single post for each day of the journey... But I will try to keep this one relatively in check.

Sunday night was easy enough,only 140 miles to my first customer. Well, except for the fact that the loaders forgot to strap down parts of my load. Plus they also loaded all the palletized material on one side of the trailer. That could be a problem later in the week, but did I ever tell you how much I hate to get dirty before I ever even leave the yard? So, the first chink in my armor was having to work on my load. The second would be the fact that, while I spent a day in Tennessee last week having repairs made, my truck is actually running worse. I went from an average of 7.9 mpg while loaded to a staggering 4.1 miles per gallon.

Monday started out just fine, with the previous ordeal of the straps forgotten...until the removal of some freight left those pallets in a vulnerable position. Later in the day, a small pallet double stacked did in fact do a nose dive off of a larger pallet and onto some other material, but there was nothing I could do about it. The center supports had been left off of the trailer...I was not destined to get much done on Monday, but I knew that before leaving out. So, it was 4 stops in Tennessee. I finished "working" before noon. But the drive left me grumbling, because along with the heavy consumption of fuel, there was also a very noticeable loss of power. Let's just say I climbed out of Dunlap, Tn at a whopping 12 mile per hour, and that was after I dropped off 15,000 pounds of freight. I have never dropped into the low side of my gears for this pull, so I was not looking forward to cruising through Kentucky.

Tuesday morning finds me just south of Indianapolis, In. A quick glance at my gauges alerted me to trouble...Seems I had someone steal some fuel during the course of my overnight stay. Good thing I slept at a fuel stop, because I would not have made it very far with what they left me, now that I was rolling at 4 mpg. I am just happy that they left the fuel cap, although it was not secured.

Upon arriving at the Indy customer, it is now mandatory that I do something with the overturned pallet. Good thing it only weighed about a hundred pounds. I was able to flip it off of the bundles of metal to deliver here, and thankfully, the lift driver then helped me to reorganize the remaining pallets for safer traveling. After delivering Indy, I headed north to drop off a few goodies around the Detroit area. I finished my three stops there and headed west just in time to watch the arrival of the saltshakers (snowplows). Although, I never did witness more than a handful of flakes actually falling from the sky.

Wednesday morning I awoke to the glorious landscape of winter in Kohler, WI. After making my delivery and getting my shortcut planned out, I took off down a two lane heading for Minnesota. You might find this surprising, but I was already needing to look for fuel again. This continued all week, because I was not accustomed to running at 4 MPG !! Sheesh... The route was good. My truck, not so much! I have to regenerate my exhaust every 1800 miles, which also pulls down my towing capacity. Unfortunately, my truck decided it was not going to regen and began to show the telltale signs I was in for an even longer week than originally expected.

Holy Cow, did I even mention this before.. I am going to Minnesota... That will complete my tour of the 48 contiguous United States. I have now driven through all of them and it only took 13 years to do so.

But back to the main event. So, without regenerating, the truck will eventually smother itself because the exhaust filters will become clogged. While it is having a hard time exhaling, it also is struggling to maintain the feeble job it was already performing. But, on top of that, I am now blowing out so much exhaust that it appears my truck has blown a turbo. I like to call this fumigating, and the folks behind me on this two lane stretch of real estate were not happy about it. I managed to get to the fuel stop, and decided to run a manual regen, in hopes that I could delay the inevitable.

It worked, but it took 45 minutes to complete and I was already behind schedule. I needed to make a quick stop in Winona, MN, before heading up to Minneapolis.... be continued

Route 23 near Kohler, Wisconsin

Dec 13, 2009

Out With The Old...

What can I say... Last week was pretty typical, I suppose. My route took me through Kentucky, Indiana, and Michigan. Having checked the weather (because it is THAT time of year) I knew that I really should not have any weather related worries. However, on Tuesday, each and every customer began to advise me that I might want to get the hell out of dodge. Old Man Winter was strutting his stuff and I was directly in his path.

I surprised myself by finishing on Tuesday. But then again, (AA) always tells me that I underestimate my own skills. My response to that.."If you plan for the worst, then you will always be delighted when things turn out normal, or even exceed your expectations." But I am a glass is half full kind of girl.

I make it into Kentucky that evening after battling monsoon winds and torrential downpours. I swear at times it felt like I only had 9 wheels on the ground. Not a pleasant feeling, and truthfully, I think rough weather is one of the hardest things I trucker has to deal with.

Earlier in the day, I had noticed I was having mechanical issues. I had actually noticed hints of them the week before, but this time I was parked in a dock. A dock that is inside of a building. And I was jutting out of the doorway, so that it could not be closed. And my truck did not want to start. It took almost 5 minutes to get Frankentruck to submit to my endeavors. So when I arrived in Kentucky for the night, I knew I may be down for the count. I opted to stop at truck stop with a service shop, just in case.

The next morning, with even more effort, I coerced Frankentruck into cooperating. By now I had decided no more runs until this issue was resolved, but I was already on the board for a Florida run just as soon as I could get in.

Time to make an executive decision. I had alerted the Stooges and the newest member of our in house dispatch team to my troubles. They were going to get me another truck, and line up the repairs for this one. I did not want to play along, as I do not play well with others. So, I decided to manipulate this situation just a wee bit, for my own sake.

I headed down into Chattanooga and made a beeline for the local shop there. I knew if I showed my poor little truck to the mechanic there, he would pretty much shut me down. He is such a wonderful fella, really! As soon as he inspected my rig, he was on the phone to our Headquarters and got the okay to put me out of my misery. He then called Volvo and had them awaiting my arrival. Next, he loaded me and my gear in the company pick-up and took me to a nicer side of town for room and board. During all of this, our new dispatcher was frantically trying to figure out a way to get me back to Atlanta and in another truck that just did not exist at the moment. He rang my phone just before checking into the room. I convinced him that it would just be better if I stayed and waited on my truck, rather than borrow a daycab. My truck was in a bay within 2 minutes of my arrival and after the initial once over, it was supposed to be repaired and rolling by noon the next day. If I took the daycab, what was I going to drive to Miami? hmmmm?? And then I would have to bring the daycab back to the Nugget (Chattanugget) to retrieve my truck. Only to have just enough time to grab my next trailer and head out on next weeks load...Ugh..No thankyou! Last time I pulled that one, I kind of exceeded my hours just a tiny little bit and forgot about it. Only to be reminded of it later that week.

So while I did convince the new dispatcher to cut me some slack, I know he was fit to be tied..But, this is exactly the results I had intended when I first woke that morning. Sneaky, huh??

Now why would I do this, you may ask yourself. Because in order to pull off his plan of action, I would have had to swap trucks no less than 4 times last week...That would bring my total up to 37 .... Yes, I have jumped trucks 33 times since we got these big beautiful fully ripened LEMONS just over 2 years ago. And I just don't wanna do it no more!!

But, my friends, I do have some exciting news to conclude with. Volvo has decided to reward us for our substantial failure in making lemonade, by giving us 5 NEW ENGINES!! Yep, that's right...I will let you know how that pans out.. Until then.....Truck Em Up!!

For those of you who may be new to my blog. My scheming was not a result of not wanting the extra work. It is because I knew if I took my truck back home, the Stooges would send it to South Atlanta, and it would have been out of commission for at least a week. Also....The Stooges are my mechanics, and aptly named for all of the ridiculous repairs they have made, and the ones they cant seem to figure out.

Dec 4, 2009

End of The Line

I find it to be quite humorous.. My moods....

Last week, when nothing seemed to go according to plan, I got frustrated trying to get home for the Holidays. Most weeks, when I am at least a half a day ahead of schedule, I get frustrated... Knowing I am almost home, after a thousand mile ride, I enter South Carolina and get frustrated...(Hmmmm, 1000 empty miles after 2-3 days of unloading, that is)

Now, my frustrations are not lingering. They are more like short bursts of fury that vanish before I can properly express them. Well, except in SC.

This was another one of those weeks, when not everything went according to plan, as is expected in the trucking industry. Monday's deliveries were scattered out enough that I had only hoped to get 3 off. Duncan, South Carolina, and two Charlotte, NC's..The fourth stop was almost 300 miles away, but because I am so awesome, I made the fourth and fifth deliveries on Monday as well. That put me in Richmond, Virginia for the final that day. I will not bore you with all the obstacles I faced in getting there, but just know it was a hard fought battle to get the last two off, both within minutes of their daily closing times.

The next delivery was to be at a job-site in Norfolk, Virginia. I had made the necessary phone calls to ensure the time and location of expected delivery. My paperwork stated "Do Not Drive Past Parking Garage !!!" The fellow on the phone said it was necessary to follow the road until it ended... Hmmm , what to do?

When I arrived the following morning, I discovered that it did not matter about the " DO NOT" instructions, because I was already screwed before I got to the parking garage. So I followed the road to the end. Found that there was indeed NO WAY to turn around, pull forward, or even unload... I spent almost an hour with one of the contractors who eventually received word that the crew I was looking for had walked off the job the previous week and never returned. Oh Joy!!

Nothing left to do, except head for the next customer. First, I head to get out of there....With only one way in and no way for me and my 53' to turn around, I had to back out almost a mile to get situated...Dodging construction workers all the while. But I love a good challenge, and this was not challenging in the least. Just the obvious, I just wasted half a day..and could have been empty in Philly, had it not been for this little miscommunication. Oh well...

My point is this. The only time I got frustrated this week was......

Driving home through South!!