Nov 19, 2012

Bombs Away....

Once again the Kia gods have got me in their sites.

Last week I was sent to load up some more of those disposable cars. I backed an Optima over the hood and raised the deck.  It was dusk by the time I finished loading.

I was making my way towards DC and after awhile I noticed the puddle of water on my hood was not dispersing. How odd!! I stopped for fuel after a few hours and that is when I noticed the puddle of water, was lumpy, almost taking on a solid form. From my vantage point, it appeared to be either A) Pterodactyl poo or, B) vomit.

The longer I drove, the more disturbed I became by its presence. I could actually begin to "smell" whatever it was on my hood. Amazing how the mind can play its on itself! It had no odor, but the longer I stared at it, the more it reeked.

The next morning, I decided to investigate further in broad daylight. It turns out, it is just a rust proofing agent that is used to lubricate the inside of the frame of a car. Apparently, the Optima was filled beyond capacity and when I raised the deck, it came spilling out onto my hood.

After an entire evening of dry heaving and smelling the nonexistent scent of regurgitation, I am even more convinced the KIA gods are angry... The busted windshield, the lightning strike, the "vomit", all happened whilst hauling those little jewels....

What makes it even worse, is that anytime I have a chance to do some baking while I am at home, the extras always make their way down to West Point. I have taken coffee cake and cookies to the guards. I have given a cake to the guys and gals in the transporters office. In fact, just last week, I dropped off a few slices a Pumpkin Roll to my own WP dispatcher, Jim.  You know, now that I think about it, I use to take goodies to a truck shop in South Carolina and it turns out that just about all of their repair work was bullshit!

Perhaps it is not KIA, but rather, Betty Crocker who needs to be appeased?

Nov 5, 2012

Venting....

I know..... it has been awhile!

So I am sitting here in my little motel room for the night and I can't help but wonder if my job just went to shit.

I have been hauling cars 14  months now, and have had very few altercations. The only thing that notably stands out is the time a co-worker cut straps on my load to get back at me for something that was out of my control to begin with. I have managed to stay out of the politics and bickering for the most part. I am reasonably content... Or I was.

My first boss was awesome. He knew his job. He kept me loaded and made me good money. I never had a problem with him. I ended up in somewhat of a routine and could easily plan out my week. But, alas, he was fired. The new crew stepped in and even though they had no previous knowledge of the car hauling industry, I  once again was able to get into a groove, make money and stay very content. But their lack of knowledge essentially caught up with them and they were also banished from the kingdom.

New Bosses enter the picture, along with the politics of the game. The terminal I am assigned to is now running on a forced central dispatch system. To be honest, this causes me a bit of anxiety. The way I worked in the past, if a load was available for an area I preferred, I could grab it and essentially know what would be in store for me the next few days. I was in a sweet little groove. Now, I am sent wherever someone else sees fit. Yeah, I know, tough shit! But it just seems to me that if trucks are making money, and drivers are happy, why not let them continue on the routes they prefer. So last week, it started. No more choosing the areas I wanted. I was able to work my way back into Greer, hoping they would leave me alone with the routes I have been running the past few months, but that didn't happen. I was assigned a load that would finish up in Syracuse. Normally this would not have been a problem, except for the minor discontent in running new areas and not knowing where my head would hit the pillow at night. The major discontent came from the fact that I had asked to be home on a specific date next week for a family function. I gave them 10 days notice for my desired arrival at home. The Syracuse load would have me scrambling to find my way home. I asked for Ohio or Kentucky because that would leave me plenty of wiggle room. Nope, no Ohio or Kentucky.. Not that there weren't any loads going there. Just not for me. Head to the Upstate. So with that in mind, I told them I was going to have to reset my hours over the weekend, hoping they would throw me a bone and hand over my desired run. Of course, I loaded for New York... After doing a reset and getting all cars delivered this morning, I was told to head to Buffalo and grab a load to Queens, NY. What the hell????

I wouldn't be able to load until Tuesday morning because of the business hours. I wouldn't be able to unload until Wednesday due to business hours. That would put me reloading Wednesday afternoon/evening if everything fell perfectly into place. Now, if I load in New York on Wednesday afternoon, how the hell am I supposed to be empty and home on Thursday. Then there is the imperfect scenario in which they couldn't find me a load south until Thursday... You get the idea. So, I called to remind them I was suppose to be at home....

As it turns out, this is all my fault. First, supposedly the reset threw off my schedule. BULLSHIT!! The 34 hour reset only set me back 2 hours, because the cars could not be delivered until Monday morning anyways. "Oh well, it wasn't the reset that hurt you. It was that we didn't know you needed a reset" BULLSHIT.... I sent messages early on Friday mentioning a reset in hopes that I could get something other than Syracuse... I was told that if they knew I needed a reset that I could have gotten the Ohio or Kentucky that I had asked for. BULLSHIT!! I told them 8 hours before I loaded that I would be taking a reset...

I am sooooooo frustrated. Not with this particular exchange or the way this week is shaping up. Yes, I still need to get home and there is still time. But the reason, I am frustrated is because I am fairly certain that I am now on the "shit list". Perhaps everyone is on the shit list? This is the first time I have asked for a specified date in 14 months. And the reasons they are giving me for the difficulty in getting me home are clever excuses based on knowledge they claim they didn't have... BULLSHIT, BULLSHIT, BULLSHIT!!!!! Yes, I do understand that everyone is heading northeast after last week's storm. Another reason that I did not want Syracuse, I didnt have time to play on the east coast.

Nothing pisses me off worse than lies, deceit and feigned ignorance... If this is the way the dispatch is going to be run, I fear I may experience an elevated level of discontent.. Now, again, if the trucks are making money and the drivers are happy..... WHY WOULD YOU CHANGE IT ?  I think I just became a truck number........

Sep 14, 2012

Fahrvergn├╝gen

Well, it has been a month since I experienced my first steer tire blowout. But that was not where the story ended. After having a used tire put on, I was able to make it to my dealership to get unloaded. The next morning, I was going to have to shop the truck to have some hydraulic lines replaced. Lucky for me, one of my routine motels was close by.

The next morning, after placing several phone calls, I was able to locate a shop that could do the required hydraulic repairs. Without replacing the lines that were shredded by the blown tire, I would not be able to lift the front deck and open my hood. Without opening my hood, I was unable to determine if there were any other damages that needed attention. Knowing the day would be financially unprofitable, I decided to sleep in. I never could pass up a good excuse.

Around 11am, I climb in the truck and begin my day. I pulled out of the motel and made the left turn onto the ramp to get onto the Interstate. The ramp lane actually continued forward and became the exit lane for 270 in Columbus, Oh. As I eased down the ramp, I was watching for traffic on my left to cut in front of me. Expect the unexpected, always! After a few hundred feet, another lane merges in from the right. This is typically an extremely heavy merge point, but there were no cars coming from my right. I am probably rolling along about 40 to 45mph because I had just started from a traffic light and was about to make a 25mph exit, so I never gained full momentum.

BOOM!!  Oh crap... Still in the left lane, with my right turn signal engaged, my first thought is that the USED steer tire replacement has just erupted. There was a slight jolt to the truck so I hit the brakes and check for cars on my right because I need to hit the shoulder. Seeing nothing blocking the lane,  BOOM!!!!!!  WHAT THE F#@K ??!!??!!  Now, I am thinking the tire has wrapped itself around my axle and just about that time, I notice the trunk of a Volkswagon Jetta about 2-3 foot off the ground going flying past my left headlight....

The Jetta slams into the wall on my left and I jerk the wheel hard to the right. There was not a whole heck of a lot of room between me and that wall and with the Jetta doing donuts down the left side of my truck, I feared the worst. She managed to bounce between my truck and the wall at least 3 times before we got stopped.



Basically, when she tried to cut me off, she did not allow enough room and the left rear corner of her car caught the right front corner of the step on my bumper. The impact immediately turned her to the left and I then t-boned the left side of the car. As I braked, she was then able to get traction and basically drove straight into the jersey wall on my left. As she bounced off the wall, she hit my truck again. Then the wall, my truck, the wall, my truck....

Both the driver and the passenger were physically okay with the exception of a few bruises and cuts. Emotionally, they were both a wreck. Well, literally too! The driver apologizes to me. I am still shaking my head because I have no idea where she came from. There were no cars on that ramp! A witness has also stopped and we continue to make sure the car occupants are okay. The police arrive, along with an ambulance and tow truck. Everyone is interviewed, except me..... The car is totaled. The occupants are transported to the hospital for standard tests and the witness offers me all his information before vacating the scene. The officer finally approaches me and informs me that with the witnesses testimony, the driver of the Jetta was issued a citation for improper lane change and improper passing.

I still have NO IDEA where she came from. I am thinking she just wanted to get passed the big truck and decided to pass on the right. But the accident report confirmed, along with the witness statement, that I did absolutely nothing wrong...

As for White Lightning, the truck is virtually unscathed...





Had this woman had the same accident with a regular high mount tractor trailer, the outcome could have very well been a tragedy. The points of impact indicate it could have indeed been fatal, but with my trailer riding inches off the ground, it kept her from being crushed by my tires.... Just something to think about, folks. Noting the damage to the Jetta, versus the scuff marks on my truck, I can assure you, I barely felt any thing.

Safe Travels!!

Sep 8, 2012

Customer Service

Several weeks ago I picked up a nail in one of my drive tires. But since I am quite meticulous in checking the air pressure, I saw no real need to rush out and get a new one. It was only dropping a few pounds per day and I keep an air hose with me anyways. This morning when I checked, the tire was flat. Saturdays are not the best day to try to and find a 19.5 tire. The majority of trucks run a 22.5 or 24.5 tire. So, I spent the majority of the morning calling around trying to locate one. This was after I unloaded my rear car to grab the air hose and try to re inflate it. I quickly realized that was not going to happen. So, I eased down the road to a local truck shop. They didn't have the tire either, but the mechanic also got on the phone and began to call around for me trying to locate one. I was able to get someone at Peterbilt Truck Care to start looking as well. I was able to find a set 300 miles away, but had no intentions of driving that far with the flat. PTC found something comparable just 15 miles from where I was sitting so I was instructed to head that way. Within 10 minutes PTC called me back and said to wait. I was told that the shop with the tires could not mount them because they were waiting on someone else who was 100 miles away. After that person had 4 tires mounted, they would try to fit me in before they closed in 2 hours.  Now, this is a first come, first serve type of situation and they were going to put me off because someone was 2 hours away and had an appointment? Well, PTC had issues with that type of service and decided we would take my business elsewhere. I headed back to the local shop and inquired about at least getting a plug that would get me down to Knoxville, where some more tires were located. After removing the flat tire, it was then determined that I was going no where. The inner wall of the tire had a huge split in it meaning a patch was pointless. Knowing that the truck stop down the road was now off limits due to the disagreement with PTC, I was getting ready to sit it out until Monday. That is when the local shop, who does not do business with the truck stop (over another disagreement) decided to head down there and grab the tires for me. I am sure he got his cut in profits from this, but it kept me from being stranded.

So what is my point? Well, I was impressed with PTC for their business ethics. Who cares if it would have cost me more time, I wasn't really in the mood to work anyways. I could have been at that truck stop in 20 minutes, but they were going to put me off because some other truck was 2 hours away.. I needed one tire changed!!  I was also impressed with the local shop for all the help (paid and unpaid). I am that person who is willing to pay more for better customer service. I am glad to see that PTC believes in that too. Yeah, I still have a hard time looking at a Wal-Mart after they ruined my wheels... And I am sure they don't miss my money, but it is about the ethics!

Has It Been a Year Already?

It has been a year. On September 6th, I celebrated my one year anniversary as a car-hauler. And a lot has happened in the past year.

I loaded small loads.
I loaded big loads.
I loaded even bigger loads....

I am becoming more confident with every load.

I received a brand new truck after only 8 months.
My new truck was hit by lightning after only 2 weeks.
I had my first steer tire blow out in 14 years of driving commercial vehicles.
I had my first major accident.
I damaged my first car.
I made a trip to California in a daycab.

Yes, a lot has happened. In my first year I loaded 116 loads with a total of 957 cars, ranging in size from the Smart Car up to a Ford F450.

I have made friends. I have made enemies...

After one year, I feel very confident in saying that I will do this until I am physically no longer able to load cars, or I just get tired of trucking altogether.

So what has 365 days of car-hauling taught me?  It has taught me that every load is it's own unique puzzle. Of course, hauling the same product lines, the puzzle becomes simplified. The auction loads are a different story. Every load IS different. Normally, if I have any questions about placement of cars, I will either phone a friend for advice or ask someone loading close to me if a particular scenario should work. I know I have said it before, but I still find it to be true... Car-Haulers are a different breed and genuinely look out for each other.

So, with my years worth of learning, this weeks auction load proved to me that I more than capable of being successful. I had to pick up in 3 locations and it is best if you don't have to keep moving units around to get it loaded properly. Armed with a basic knowledge of my vehicles, I was able to get everything loaded and only move one car twice. I was even able to add an extra unit. Still a little unsure  how close my axle weight would be, I felt pretty good about how it was loaded. I felt damn good about it!!!!



So this is what a year has taught me. Perhaps I shouldn't second, third and fourth guess myself quite so much? It could not have been anymore perfect. Sure it is still a little heavy on the steers, but I am always heavy there and my tires are rated for it. I am actually 11780 on the steer axle when empty, so it gets heavy quick!

Now, I am sure you are wondering about my California trip and perhaps the major accident? Yup, I have some blogging to do!

Aug 29, 2012

Rest In Peace....

WARNING
This is my account of a fatal accident.

There are some things that you never want to see. And some things you will never forget. Today I witnessed the scene of a fatal accident. The image will haunt me. This is the tenth time I have witnessed  the scene of a life expired. I feel the best way for me to find peace about this, is to write it down. Perhaps you may want to skip this blog post...

I was driving east when I noticed traffic began to slow drastically quick. Everyone began to merge to the right lanes and as with any delays in traffic, I began to look around for the cause. On the left shoulder, just beyond the overpass, I could see all sorts of debris including fiberglass, glass, metal and one of those large light poles used in the center of the Interstate. On the west bound side, I noticed several clusters of cars with people standing around holding each other, but none of the cars looked to be damaged. About that time is when I noticed a truck sitting under the overpass, pressed up against the jersey wall. There were no emergency vehicles there, so I just assumed the accident was being cleared up and any injuries had already been attended to. The truck was totaled. The hood was crushed in towards the cab. The cab was crushed down into the drivers seat, the windshield was pushed in to the steering wheel.

I wish this had been the only view I had seen, but I was heading east and passed by the driver's side. As I was stunned by the damage, I noticed something not quite right. The driver's door was literally ripped off its hinges and .....

He still had his seat belt on. 

The news reports say he was ejected. He was not fully ejected... One leg still in the truck, foot wedged in the steering wheel. Seat belt still wrapped around his waist, but his waist is now at the bottom of the door frame. His upper body hanging down over his steps. He still had his seatbelt on... I think that part bothers me the most. Something hit the truck so hard that it was peeled open and he was dragged outside, but he still had his seatbelt on. His shoe was missing, his blue jeans were ripped, but that seatbelt keeps haunting me.  I apologize if this post seems insensitive, but I am trying to remove the vision from my memory. The truck was pressed against the jersey wall, and all I can see is that seatbelt stretched around his waist...

Moving passed the scene, I immediately burst into tears, a deep heart wrenching sob. I am fairly certain, his life ended abruptly and without time for pain. But, my thoughts always extend to the family, the wife, the kids, the people who were standing on the side of the road, the ones who had run to the truck to see if he was okay, the ones who drove by and saw everything that I saw, the emergency workers... I have been told that people become numb to these types of tragedies. The people who attend the scene and clean up the debris, the emergency responders. I cannot imagine ever being that desensitized, but I sincerely hope that they do. I hope they all sleep well tonight and find comfort with their families. 




Aug 23, 2012



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Aug 13, 2012

Pucker Up

Just another one of those things I was able to check off the "First" list.

Last Tuesday, I had the pleasure of blowing my first steer tire in 15 years of driving. I was quite astonished to find out it was no where near as frightening as I thought it would be. Basically, I heard the noise, felt the front end raise as if I had run over something and then wop wop wop wop wop. It was not much of a struggle to keep control of the truck and ease off onto the shoulder out of harm's way. Perhaps, the low center of gravity on a car-hauler played a vital role in this.

And while I do seem to have exquisite luck, ( I will not indicate which end of the spectrum my luck tends to run), I was actually very lucky in the amount of damaged that was sustained.

Managed to keep my fender!


That is no illusion. With the dropped cab and blown tire, my fuel tank is hovering an inch above the ground.

Damage to the hydraulic lines for the front cylinder where the rubber slapped it a few times.



If you noticed in the first picture, there is slight damage to the fender, but I was able to reattach the mud flap and with the "new" used tire in place, I was able to drive away. No brake damage, no hood damage, no damage to any components under the hood.... At least that I know of. 

I am also very thankful that a few weeks ago, I took it upon myself to have my right fuel tank rotated. It has an aluminum elbow on the bottom which is attached to the hydraulic oil tank. Notice how low that tank is sitting? I would have sheared a good portion of that elbow off and perhaps caused a substantial oil spill.

The hydraulic lines did take a good punch. There will be no moving the front of the deck over my hood until those are replaced. I tested it to see if it was punctured and the 8' rooster tail of oil was a pretty good indication. What this means is I was unable to raise the hood to check for more damages from the blown tire. But at least I was able to unload that evening and had an appointment to get the lines repaired the next morning. Sure, I know it all sounds bad, but with minimal damages I was able to mark one more "first" off my list.

Aug 6, 2012

Old Dogs... and New Tricks

I often see pictures on the Internet of various loads on car-haulers and think "WOW"!

While I am getting very comfortable and perhaps a bit more efficient in the loading the standard 9 car, new inventory loads, I probably need to take a little more time to experiment and find out the limitations of my rack. Because most of the new inventory that I haul is small to average size, it is quite easy to throw them on and go.

Standard Load
The bottom of the trailer is pretty basic. Pull on the first car. Back the next over the tandems. And the last car gets pulled in to meet length requirements. Because the product lines that I haul are of average size, it always fits this way. Last week, I got a load of Honda Accords. While it is still not a big car, I did not have the luxury of mixing in a few shorter SUVs. And while I would have normally just shoved them in following this pattern, I thought it was a perfect time to learn to "stack the belly".

So I set about loading the truck and when it got time to place the last 3 cars, I asked the guy next to me for a little advice. I don't know, maybe it is just my personality, but when I ask a simplistic question I expect a simplistic answer. So the guy proceeds to give me a little advice. And then a little more advice. And some more... And another tidbit. Now, I already had 6 cars loaded and strapped, so it was starting to get on  my nerves that he was trying to enlighten  me on how to load the whole truck with various loads. And even more frustrating was the placement of the 7th car ended up being wrong and it would have caused me to tear up the trunk of that car whenever I turned. Somewhere during all of his narrative, another driver comes over and decides to throw in his one hundred and 27 cents worth. I don't mean to sound ungrateful, but I have been doing this almost a year now and I think I have the basics pretty well covered. I just wanted to learn something new. In the end, I ended up yanking the 7th car off and loading in my standard pattern. It worked, and the guys wandered back to their trucks.

The next morning, I decided to try again. I was in the middle of a reset on my hours, so I had plenty of time to figure it out, without an over abundance of unsolicited advice. While it wasn't necessary for this particular load, the knowledge will definitely come in handy with longer vehicles.


The outcome... With the first car backed in and raised, I can tuck the second car underneath which allows for a longer car to be loaded without having to run the load longer. Yay, another victory for me!!!

I guess I may sound a little ungrateful. But if I asked how to tie my shoes, then explaining how to put on pants, button, zip and belt them and which arm goes into which sleeve, and how to apply toothpaste to the toothbrush.... well, I am sure you understand. A week later, I took a chance on asking another driver a very pointed question, and he gave me a very pointed answer.. Perfect!!

Jul 23, 2012

The Perfect Storm?

(July 22, 2012)

It was just about 2 months ago that I  was travelling north on I-77 and experienced a one in a million lightning strike. While most of the truck is seemingly unaffected at this point, I do have a few minor complications that may or may not be a direct result of that event. I still have one side of the dash that remains dark, but most of those were spare switches anyways. Now my sending unit on my fuel tank has decided it no longer wants to function properly. The first few times that I noticed my fuel gauge in the critical range, I may have panicked a little bit. Considering that I barely hold 135 gallons, it is not wise to test the limits on my fuel consumption. I can't tell you how many times I  have pulled over and physically checked my fuel levels just to be safe. You see, the tanks sit extremely low. I would guesstimate about 4 inches off of the ground. I have heard that we have had drivers scrub, scrap and even puncture these low-riders. So, after the first few fill-ups, when the gauge dropped quickly, I feared the worst. There are no scuff marks on the tanks, no leaks! I now resort to calculating my next fuel stop by mileage. Of course, I tend to fuel more often than I probably need to, but with only about 450 miles between tank fills, I prefer to play it safe. I do need to hit the Pete Dealer and get that replaced because the NO FUEL light is starting to get on my nerves a little bit.

Like, I said, for the most part, the truck seems to be fine.

Today, I am travelling north on I-77, when I noticed dark clouds ahead. It slowly comes to my attention that I am in the same 10 mile stretch of road... I am hauling the same make of cars... I am delivering to the same customers... I am once again riding in the left lane to avoid ridiculously slow four wheelers as the bottom drops out and lightning fills the sky.  It is the most surreal sense of Deja Vu!  Oh wait, I have been there before

There is not a whole lot that instills fear in me, but for the next 15 minutes, you better believe I was suffering a mild case of the heebie jeebies!

I guess it is true.  Lightning never strikes twice in the same place!!

Jul 17, 2012

This is Spinal Tap

The one moment I have been dreading ever since I got my new truck has finally arrived. (In reality, it arrived several weeks ago.) With every load, I gain a little more confidence, but being that my rack will hold 11 smaller cars, I was slightly intimidated with the prospects of actually loading 11. I remember the first 11 car load I saw coming out of Greensburg, Indiana, and to put it mildly... I was fascinated, yet completely intimidated. I have "practiced" with several 10 car loads, but when I say practice, I barely did more than place the cars on the ramps and strap the damn tires. The first few loads where I had to stack the head rack, someone else grabbed the valves and positioned the cars for me. Now, if you knew me, you would immediately understand that I was not pleased with having someone else touch my truck or position my decks. But, with a timing issue, I felt it was best to just keep my mouth shut and go with the flow. I can assure you, there may have been a chip on my shoulder while this was going on. But with it being "load supervisors", I managed to step back somewhat gracefully.

When I was told to go load 11 units, I had 2 reactions.  The first being, "oh crap!". The second reaction was the realization that I was finally going to get to put this puzzle together with no help. I headed over first thing in the morning to allow plenty of time for trial and error. Surprisingly, the load went on the truck with no hesitation. It was almost as if it fell into place by itself and with it, all anxiety of the 11 car load melted away.

This one goes to Eleven
(Spinal Tap)
As easily as the load fell into place, there were several unforeseeable issues that managed to arise that day.

After getting loaded, I was informed that one of my cars had been placed on hold and would absolutely have to be removed from the truck. Bet you can't guess which one?

I had no intention of unloading the entire truck just to remove the first car, and thankfully, I was able to find another driver who had not started loading yet. So, he dropped his trailer and was able to back up to me in order to the retrieve the car.  Another first for me, and you know how I love the first time for anything. Well, except the first damage claim...

After getting positioned, we raised the decks to get the car backed off of my tractor with scrubbing the chin spoiler.


We were able to get the car removed and back on the ground with relatively no trouble. I was able to get a replacement car to put back on the load, and other than having to unload a few extra at one of my dealerships, this was definitely a time saver.

Have I mentioned that I am definitely enjoying my career change. It just seems that everyone in this division of trucking is more willing to lend a hand to other fellow car-haulers. I have had people help me find cars, loan me tools, and give advice when I appear to get stuck trying to figure out the load.

I was extremely grateful for this particular favor, as it saved me hours of loading time. And while he seemed happy to lend a truck, he ended up finishing his day right there in front of my truck just after helping get the Acura loaded. He blew the main hydraulic line after building too much pressure on the system and dumped all his fluid. I felt horrible....

Normally, I am the one with "exceptional" luck. I guess I should have warned him before he ever agreed to help out?






May 24, 2012

One In A Million

Into everyone's life a little rain must fall...

This week I decided it was time to address a few minor issues I was having with the new truck. Minor things really. The rear axle had a gasket that was leaking, typical after removing the axle for the new truck to be towed to its new home. I had also noticed that the truck was not efficiently greased after being built. So, I thought I would stop in and get those items marked off the To Do List. While I was waiting, a nasty little storm was rapidly approaching from the west and for a moment, I almost decided to call it a day. But, with it only being 6 pm and I didn't get started driving until 11am, I decided to proceed towards my destination.

Ohhhhh, how I wish I had stopped early!!!

An hour after leaving the shop, the storm was catching me and I was watching a magnificent display of lightning. In fact, I had a front row seat. Actually I became part of the show....

While traveling north on I-77 through North Carolina, I had a one in a million experience when,  SNAP CRACKLE POP, a blinding light filled the cab. Every hair on my body stood on end as the entire cab of the truck lite up. All lights and gauges glowed for a brief moment, before everything faded to black. I noticed that all the gauges had died, the engine fan was now running, the engine brake no longer worked and my four-way flashers were mysteriously flashing. Mysteriously, because the switch was not engaged.

What the............

The truck continued to run, but with everything in the cab no longer working, I decided I should pull over and check the fuses or relays. I managed to make it into a rest area 10 miles later and proceeded to survey the damages. The only way to cancel the flashers was to shut off the truck. All fuses were good and with no other ideas, I called in for road side assistance. Peterbilt informed me that I would have to be towed in if the truck would no longer crank. Oh, did I mention that? While the truck continued to run after the lightning strike, once I shut it off, it was completely inoperable.

After waiting for what seemed like forever, I was told that I could not get a tow truck until the next day, so in my complacent nature, I decided sleeping in the truck would be easier than raising hell until the wee hours of the morning. Perhaps, I could actually get some sleep. Um, yeah... not so much! But at least the tow truck arrived bright and early. By 6 am, I was enroute to Peterbilt. The driver was actually nice enough to pull off on the side of the highway so I could grab some breakfast.



It is now approaching my 3rd night since the electrifying event and I can honestly say that I am bored out of my mind. The good news is that all the cars seem to remain unscathed. I crawled in a few to make sure they would start. I am still concerned about the 2 on top of the tractor. The truck itself is baffling the shop. They have replaced the Cab Electric Control Unit and there is still no change. The truck is still dead. All the auxiliary power still works such as the PTO. Interior lights function but no gauges and no ignition...  Non of the switches work on the dash, but if you turn the key the four way flashers light up.

Hopefully, tomorrow will bring with it good news. If not, I am heading home because the shop is closed until Tuesday for Memorial Day. Ahhh, the joys of motel living!

Even after living the experience, and writing this post... I still cannot believe it

I got hit by lightning....  What are those odds????????

If It Won't Fit... Force It !!

My first load with the new truck was the standard KIA load which I haul every week. There was very little challenge to where the cars fit, but with learning a new trailer it took me 6 hours to load. Of course, a lot of that was spent positioning the straps and figuring out which levers moved which deck in which direction. Then was the fact that EVERY car is now driven through the posts, so I have to be a bit more attentive. With the sterling, there was nothing to hit loading the top of the truck. With the Pete, I have at least a dozen opportunities to rip off a mirror or side swipe a fender. So far, so good! Another excuse for the slow load, was the fact that several of my car-hauling acquaintances were in West Point that day, so there was plenty of socializing as well.

Each week, after delivering my KIAs, I typically head to one of the auctions for my next load. These loads are always mixed with a variety of units. You have seen some of my big trucks, as well as the tiny cars. And with each load being a puzzle, I knew the Pete's first auction load would be that much more difficult. However, I did not expect it to be as difficult as it proved to be.

When I picked up the new truck, I had mentioned to the terminals managers that I may need a few weeks to get adjusted, so please, no overwhelming loads to start. Everyone smiled and agreed to give me that time. How foolish I was to believe.

My first auction load had me picking up in 2 different locations. Naturally, everything I picked up at the first auction was going to end up riding in the trailer. Essentially, I had to load, unload, and reload. It took me 2 days to get everything situated. And the end result, was that the load was really too big for the truck to begin with. But once again, my determination got the best of me. Even as frustrating as it was, I did manage to somewhat learn how to stack the headrack...  And with all the learning and frustration, the only thing the load paid extra was experience.  I think the thing that infuriated me the most was the fact that there were 7 loads coming out of those auctions that week, with mine being the most difficult and with me being the least experienced with this type of trailer. So much for the promises of a grace period.


The benefit to being challenged so soon, is that the normal smaller loads will seem  a whole lot more manageable in the future.


Long Overdue

2012 Peterbilt 365
So, I have had the new truck for a month and slowly but surely I am beginning to love it. There was the necessity to downsize my travel gear because I lost over 50% of my storage space, but I have eliminated everything that is not extreme necessity. Everything personal fits into 3 small bags which sits on top of my battery box. Yes... my batteries are located into a modified box which is located in the passenger floor. I can imagine this is going to be a major inconvenience if the need should ever arise to get to the batteries. The box is bolted shut, so there is no easy way to get into it. And because of the lack of storage, I need carry all of my maintenance and repair gear in the only tool box that is provided to me. That box is located on the rear of my trailer, underneath the last car. Another inconvenience should I ever need tools while I am loaded, because I would have to unload the last car just to get to the box. I am just crossing my fingers that I am not inconvenienced too often.

So, I have my storage figured out. And I am tickled pink that the new Pete actually feels like a truck. It sounds like a truck, and for the first time in a decade, I can sit comfortably while driving down the road. I no longer have many of the aches and pains I have been dealing with for the past decade and I attribute that to the fact the the fuel pedal is on the floor and a seat that sits low. You may think that something so insignificant could play a major role in one's comfort, but for the past 12 years, I have been driving trucks with pedals suspended from under the dash. Little pedals which I could barely keep my foot on, especially with the higher elevation of the Volvo seat. This caused me to sit in an awkward position with one hip scooted forward. It affected my knee, hip and sciatic nerve. I am sure a lot of this has to do with my lack of height. But height has never stopped me before, so I lived with it. Now, I don't have to!!

Stepping outside of the truck, I am now attached to a 7 car NextGen soft tie trailer. With the additional 4 that my tractor carries, I have the potential to haul 11 cars. The Sterling could only haul 9. And those 9 were in a very limited configuration. I now have 25 valves which move and adjust the decks. I have been told by everyone I know who hauls cars that eventually, this new to me trailer will feel like the best thing since sliced bread because it is a lot easier to arrange the cars. After a month, I am already beginning to feel that way.


Apr 30, 2012

Easy Come, Easier Go

As I mentioned in my last post, learning the Quick Loader left little to the development of my skills and therefore, my only real challenge was to fit the bigger vehicles on the load. Okay, so I didn't mention all of that, but I mentioned the part where I get a little giddy shoving big pick ups on my trailer.

Last week, my newest boss (another post, perhaps) called me up and introduced himself. His reason for calling was to offer me a new truck. I have avoided this for the past 7 months, because I was really intimidated by the thought of learning a new trailer and I was already making good money anyways. But the more I pondered on it, the more I realized that I just needed to bite the bullet and further advance my newly acquired skills. Since I don't post with any regularity, I am not sure if I have mentioned any of the maintenance issues that have been ongoing with the Sterling. The oil leaks, the grinding in the transmission, weak springs and a very nasty smoking issue. Every time my truck sits for any length of time (be it 2 hours or 2 days), I get the pleasure of fogging out the neighborhood. This heavy smoke will last for up to 20 miles and then a light smoke continues throughout my journey. It was very tiresome! On occasion, the smoke would also fill the cab. Well, because it is spring and there are no more worries of ice and snow, I decided that turning down a BRAND NEW 2012 Peterbilt would be ludicrous. Sure, there is a fancy NEW NextGen high rail trailer behind it and that does bring with it new anxieties, but how often does one get offered a brand new truck.

So, it is with a not so heavy heart that I bid farewell to the little Sterling. It was a great truck to get me started in car-hauling, and while I am essentially increasing my loading/unloading time, while I decreasing my revenue during the learning curve, and while I am struggling with new anxiety, I look forward to new challenges!  But before we say goodbye, there was one more moment of uber excitement that came with the very last load I hauled in the Sterling.

The last hooray! Here we have a nice little Dodge Ram 1500. Sitting next to it, an F250. Little Dodge, me arse!!
Talk about a tight squeeze !!!


But that is the last one for my personal record book, or at least for now?

Apr 27, 2012

Big Time

I'm on my way, I'm making it....
BIG TIME, I've got to make it show Yeah
Big Time, so much larger than life


If this post could have a soundtrack, it would be Peter Gabriel's "Big Time" And you are welcome!!!  Because those of you who know the song will have a hard time not singing a few lines over the next 24 hours. Damn it! I hate when a song gets stuck in my head like that. Once again, you are welcome.

There is a natural progression to any car-hauler's career. After learning the basics and getting a good feel for the equipment, it is only natural to want to see just how much you can fit on your rack.

I took the first few months getting comfortable and developing my rhythm. Loading new cars is almost routine at this point. KIA, Honda and BMWs are pretty standard on my truck, but it is when I am sent to pick up some auction freight that things can get a little challenging. The buyer that I haul for likes to purchase big units and you better believe I was intimidated by some of my loads. It starts with a simple F150 or 1500 ( I forgot how big pickup trucks feel to me), and after I realize they go on the truck with no difficulty, I start to get a little excited about the F250 or whatever big units that will appear on my next load. After several months, I have found myself eager to load the big stuff...

Here are a few of my bigger vehicles and/or loads.

First time to stack trucks on the tractor
First Big Load at Adesa Long Island.
Ford Excursion... Just because I wanted to see if it would fit.
Sprinter Vans heading for Canada
F450... And I needed a step ladder just to get in this one.
For those of you hauling cars, this might not seem like much. But to a rookie, like me.... It's the Big Time!

Mar 20, 2012

Stuck In A Rut

Being my first year as a Car-Hauler, there as several things that I am dreading. It is said that anyone who hauls cars and claims to never have any damages is, well.... a liar! It is going to happen. I am not looking forward to this experience. There are many other "firsts" to be experienced as well, and I marked one more off of my list just this past week.


There are a couple of things I do before making a delivery at a new to me dealership. I call for specific directions, which would include whether there are low trees to watch for and if there is a certain driveway I need to use. I also use Google Earth to view the location as well. "Huge Lots" are not always huge and "plenty of room" means something different to the non truck driving crowd. So with a few units heading into Leesburg, Va, I follow my standard operating procedure. The first drop, I was told I could drive around the building and drop by service. I would have had a hard time driving a Ford F350 around that building, much less my truck. But even with specific directions and Google Earth, I always get a good look upon arrival. Yeah, the first drop, I had to back in with just enough room to unload in the lot. 

The second drop was just around the corner. The lot is "huge". Actually, from the street, the lot is fairly large and with multiple scuff marks in the driveway, I  knew other haulers had indeed been in the parking lot. I pulled in and 2 fellas immediately started checking out the cars. I was told where to park them (10 feet away) and one of the guys starts inspecting. When I try to get the delivery receipt signed, the guy admits he is not the one to inspect... What the hell, dude? Why are you climbing all over, in and around the cars then. At least he did work there.... I think. After folding up the truck, I asked if I could exit through the rear drive. I was told that trucks do it all the time. So I make my way around the building and indeed there is plenty of room. But what I didn't necessarily notice at first was the short slope in the lot and a small drainage cut out in the asphalt. Sure, I saw the slope and I did remark that  I could not make the grade if I turned to the right. So I started aiming towards the left but there was a few employees cars parked where I really needed to descend. 

Street Sweeping
The first rule of sloped driveways is, if you think you are going to drag.... accelerate!! Forward momentum will get you over the hump. And it helps to take it at an angle if possible. But this is not true in all cases. You will get stuck if the pitch is just too much for the low riding trailer, as you can see in this picture. I started down the grade, trying to get a good angle but I hesitated when I noticed I was a little closer to a Toyota than I preferred to be. So I angled back just a little and came to a screeching halt about 2 seconds before I was about to really hit the fuel pedal. Crap! Crap, crap, CRAP !!!!! I jumped out to assess the situation and with hopeful optimism, I decided to give her a good tug. You know, just to see. I actually was able to back up about a few inches, but then once again, all hope was lost. With Phone a Friend being utilized, I was given a helpful tip on how to elevate the trailer by disconnecting the leveling valve and increasing the air in the air bags. This should give me enough ground clearance to become mobile. I grab my tools and get to elevating. It should have worked. It would have worked....But it seems my circumstances were far more dire than originally determined.

Remember me stating that I was able to back a few inches? Well............  It just so happens, when I backed up that seemingly insignificant distance, I may or may not have consequently placed my drive tires at such an angle over a seemingly insignificant little dip at the base of the slope that allows water to drain off the lot. With the left front and right rear tires no longer making contact with the ground, I am done. Even with the differential locked, my tires are spinning effortlessly just above the little drainage cut out. That had to be like one in a million odds to get those tires perfectly aligned to lose total traction. I start looking around for boards or any other such useful item that I can shove under the tires in hopes to gain traction... Wait a minute. I think I have been here before. Oh yes!!  For any new readers, feel free to journey back in time for a little deja vu with this story... If I Had a Hammer.

So, with no where to go, it was time to call in the tow truck. He was able to use his winch and pull me forward just a few feet to freedom. Of course there was a little waiting involved. I had a lovely time commiserating with a few of the mechanics who were also busy trying to shove stuff under my tires. A couple of the salesmen came out and wished me luck. I even had one fella apologize to me for the bad advice given to me by the lot boy who directed me out the back lot. However, Daniel, the lot boy, was no where to be found. I did notice him at a distance trying to duck in behind a few cars once he noticed I was stuck. Good thing I did not get my hands on him!!

So, after it was all said and done, I was a little worn emotionally from the experience, but I did learn that I was the 4th car-hauler that had been pulled from the lot in a 2 month period. That actually made me feel somewhat better. And I learned a nifty little trick to prevent it from happening again. Well, as long as my drive tires are actually touching the ground!!

Mar 12, 2012

Exhausted...

Anyone that has been following me any length of time surely knows of all the issues I had with the Volvo during my flatbedding days. The most consistent one was quite possibly the exhaust problems. My body reacts very quickly to breathing fumes as I was nearly killed from exhaust poisoning over a decade ago. One of the most common reactions that I face is... I become EXTREMELY hostile. Everything pisses me off. I might even kick a puppy after get an extended dose of toxic air.

The Sterling that I am operating tends to smoke excessively during the first few miles after firing it up or idling for any length of time. A couple of months ago, I had some extreme smoking issues that would actually fill the cab. Ironically, no one can find an exhaust leak. Sure, there is oil and other fluids that drip on occasion, but no sign of exhaust leaking.

So, on my last tour of duty, I noticed the fumes getting stronger. Perhaps even noticing the air seemed a little cloudy at times in the cab. George ( who is in charge of all my repairs) suggested that my dog house insulation might be sagging and the fumes are coming in around the boot. So, I had that checked out and had some rubber installed to seal that up. It didn't seem to help at all...

After several days of driving with the windows down,  and stuffing towels around any crevices on the dog house, I am starting to think I might need to swap trucks.... I hate swapping trucks. Besides, this one is special.


I don't know why I decided to crawl into the firewall and look around, but underneath the edge of the rubber flooring, I noticed a 2 inch hole that was halfway plugged with a sooty paper towel. Quick as MacGyver, I check my pockets for supplies and although I did not have a paperclip, chewing gum or duct tape, I did manage to find some masking tape.

My fume problem is gone!!!

Okay, the truck still smokes, but I am no longer sucking fumes which is good news for the general public. Because, when I say I get extremely hostile, well... you better just trust me on that one.

Mar 8, 2012

Setting an example.


It's those little things in life that sometimes keep you sane. Yesterday, I had two such little things occur that put a huge smile on my face.

I stopped for fuel and while standing in line to make my purchases, I noticed a guy dressed in fatigues. I tend to have a very patriotic nature and while I may not always agree with our government, I can't help but think our Military is not thanked enough for their willingness to serve. So, I voluntarily paid for his purchases as well. I noticed the rest of the patrons looking at me like I had suddenly grown a third eye... I do this every chance I get. It is just my small part in showing gratitude. I am not posting this to make myself look good in any way, I can still be a major pain the the arse! My point rather is this. I spent less than $10 out of my pocket to say Thanks. As citizens of the United States, I feel we can never show enough gratitude. That is $10 that I will never miss, but hopefully, it will serve as a reminder to him that he is appreciated.

Smile Number Two..

I often complain about other trucks riding too close. Whether they cut over in front of me immediately after passing, or they attempt to rummage through the trunk of my last loaded car. There is no reason for riding that freaking close. So, after getting my fuel, I jump back on the Interstate and soon there is a Freightliner riding my ass. This is not because I was still trying to accelerate to highway speeds. This was after 10-15 miles. He could not have been more than 15ft off my posterior. And you better believe my toes were itching for an imminent brake check. Thankfully, Mr Smokey, didn't feel too comfortable about the situation either. As I passed an officer who was parked in the median, I noticed an almost immediate reaction from the driver behind me. Too late, sucker!! The officer pulls out and pulls over the truck who is no longer riding damn near in my trailer.

I have have giggled to myself for the next several miles. That is definitely better than damaging 2 of my cars!!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Feb 13, 2012

CAUTION: Detour Ahead

Auctions..... What can I say?

Last week after making the rounds on Long Island, I was sent to Adesa Auto Auction to grab a load. First off, I must say this is my favorite auction so far. Why, you ask? Because it is small! But, then I seem to have very good luck when it comes to the auctions, but that is another post. My directions were to grab 8 out of 12 and return to Mt. Juliet, TN. Being so new to this, I am finding myself looking to be challenged. So with the list of cars, I decide that I am going to load 9 if at all possible. After spending a little extra time jumping off batteries and airing up tires, I manage to get my chosen 9 cars pulled.

It was a big load... It was my first BIG LOAD!! And you better believe I was proud. I had several fellow car-haulers tell it me was a good looking load too!  Oh yeah, I am beaming! I manage to make it back to central PA before calling it a night.

The next morning, the boss calls and changes my destination. I have been told nothing is ever an absolute until the cars are back on the ground. So I am rerouted to Manheim in Grove City, OH. At this point I have only added a few extra miles, good thing I am no longer eager to jump out of bed and go to work. This job is going to make me lazy.... So I head west with the intention of getting unloaded that evening. My next load is waiting for me, and while I may not be up at the crack of dawn everyday, I still do some serious trucking (when I see fit)!

I make it nearly to Ohio when the CB comes alive with warnings of impending delays. There is an accident which has the Interstate closed near Washington, PA. After listening to several alternate routes around the melee, I opted to take my chances. After all, I have my handy dandy Rand McNally that likes to route me to 4 ton ferries, so how bad could it be?

I gingerly make my way to the surface roads and get a little nervous when I see the first overpass ahead. I still suck at gauging height with the naked eye, but at 13'11", I had plenty of room for clearance. I was beginning to enjoy my little scenic route of Washington. I had the CB on just in case any one had any vital information to offer, but I honestly don't really expect it anymore. I passed several other trucks en route and not a single peep was heard... But, the area around Pittsburgh is notorious for low clearance, and Washington is not that far away, so I was cautiously apprehensive. I make my final turn onto the road that should lead me back to the Interstate. I can almost smell the acceleration. That is until......
YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING

No where along this route was a low clearance ever indicated. Especially 2 miles back where I made the fatal turn. I pulled over to the edge of the road and pondered my next move. I could back into a gravel lot on the left, but this would require a little precision on  my part,  as well as a few irritated local residents. This little four lane was bustling with traffic between the traffic lights. There was also a road that eased upwards to the left, but I really had no desire to get become trapped in this area. I then noticed a fellow on the sidewalk just about to get in his car, so I jumped out of the truck to ask about the road on my right.

Oh what a nice man!! Introducing Mr Ed. Ed was kind enough to confirm that several trucks actually get wedged under that overpass every year. After determining that it was indeed 13'4", if not lower, Ed volunteered to help me find a more appropriate exit route. We jumped in his car and took a little trip around town. Every time we thought we found a route, it was culled due to one reason or another. We spent about 30 minutes driving around before determining my best option. Oh, Mr Ed, I think I love you!! I finally was able to make my escape and arrived at the auction just 15 minutes before the gate closed. I could have unloaded, but hey, the motel was right around the corner.. And it had been a very eventful day already.

Below is the route I took, if you care to watch it! And, it is set to a nice country song. Who doesn't love a good trucking video set to a nice country song? Well, at least the title is Country Song.


Feb 1, 2012

Dragging Ass

It was bound to happen...

Saturday evening I was delivering the last of my cars in Chattanooga. Everything just seemed to fall into place for me that day, and I do mean everything. I left the dealership and headed south on I-75. After a few miles, a car flashed his lights at me, but then quickly changed lanes behind me and exited the freeway. Not thinking much about it because a lot of motorists flash their lights for different reasons, I continued onward. Being empty, I was able to climb the hills pretty quickly and was passing the slower heavy trucks with ease. About 5 miles later, another car eases up my left side flashing his high beams. He catches up to me and is blowing the horn too. He then merges into the lane in front of me and engages the four way flashers as he begins to slow. Of course, by now, I realize something is amiss. He slows me to about 40mph and we ease off onto the shoulder. There was a guard rail immediately to my right and with very little room for comfort, I was hoping he would pull forward to the end of the guardrail. He didn't. He jumps out of his car and runs back to my truck. He is an older Korean man who does not speak a word of English, but his gestures were frantic. He is standing in the right lane ( due to the guard rail, I am sitting on the white line) trying to communicate with me when I noticed the truck blazing a trail directly at him. I throw open the door and grab him by the shirt and pull him to the truck just as the truck roars by within inches of us...

This absolutely pissed me off beyond all means of reason. There were no other vehicles to the left of this truck. I had my four ways on, so I was not invisible. That idiot should have at least made an attempt to give my truck some room. There was no reason for him to be that close. There was no other vehicles anywhere near him at all. He could have easily moved left!!! And to add fuel to the fire, the CB comes to life with "fuck, there are people standing in the road" I am sure the flashing car-hauler on the shoulder gave no indication that there might be human life form close by. I would never have taken that chance, standing in the road like that, but the man was doing a good deed and getting squished was probably not even on his mind. The look on his face when I grabbed him...

Oh sure, it was nice for someone to finally speak up and alert the crowd, but where was all the chatter for the last 15 miles when I was dragging my ramp down the highway throwing sparks, I am sure.

Why did it take 2 motorists in cars to alert me to the fact that I was dragging a ramp. I passed over a dozen trucks and not a single word. It was not until after the fact, that someone mentioned the car-hauler who was throwing sparks. By this time, I had been parked for a minute or two, so obviously that comment came from someone I had previously passed.

I am very grateful that this gentlemen took it upon himself to get my attention. He had no idea who he was getting involved with. But it almost cost him his life. I am not sure how I would have reacted, had he been killed and thankfully I don't have to deal with that nightmare. But, I am just about fed up with the new school of truckers. In my opinion, the industry is full of £&@¥^#€ morons!!!! Don't get me wrong, there are some great people in trucks, but they are fewer and further between.

Jan 27, 2012

Once, Twice, Three times a Freighthauler...

I have never been one to submerge myself in the lifestyle of an OTR truck driver. The idea of living in truck stops over the weekend and grilling out over my drive tires has never appealed to me either. Thankfully, once again, I have dodged that bullet with car hauling. You will only see me cruising through the truck stop for fuel and on a very rare occasion, perhaps for some food.

I guess I should explain that a good portion of my appreciation is based on the fact that the stereotypes of a truck driver are very real and can be found about one foot behind the steering wheel of many idling tractor trailers. And, well, I just have very little tolerance for stupidity.

Last week, I found myself lacking motivation for the long day's drive and thought it would be a good idea to park for a bit and take care of a few items on my "To Do" list. One of my speakers wasn't working, the windshield needed to be cleaned... So I start about my tasks and while I was sprawled out over my hood, a noticed a truck slowly easing by. Just a few minutes later, the same truck passed again. Third time around the lot, he decides to park directly across from me. There were possibly 100 open spots, but for whatever reason, it took this driver three laps to determine this was the perfect spot. Starting to feel a little like Tawny Kitaen in a Whitesnake video, I finished my task and climbed back inside the cab for a few more private chores. It didn't take Mr Truck Driver about 5 minutes to decide he no longer liked his parking spot, so he pulls out and circles the lot again. This time, he ends up beside me. I noticed him sitting.... Just sitting and staring... And staring some more.

What the hell? I am not sure what it is about driving a truck that cause some people to lose all sense of self respect or common decency, but you hear it most often on the CB radio. I am sure most of these idiots do not go home and behave in this manner when with friends and family. I have never noticed a nine to fiver changing his location in the Home Depot parking lot just to get a better view of the women buying plants for their summer gardens. But for whatever reason, a lot of truckers tend to forget how to behave in public. This guy was no exception.

I was very tempted to go give him a piece of my mind, but I think he might have liked the attention. So, I cut my break short and as I was headed out of the parking lot, I thought how funny it would be if this jackass had moved his truck again after I left.

He did.

You have to love it when they are so predictable. Thankfully, I am only amused by these idiots when I choose to be. Yes, it is back to the motel for me!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Jan 22, 2012

Smoke Screen

This year actually started off on a high note with my truck. I had dropped it off at one of our terminals on Christmas Eve along with a repair list of 21 items. These were not all major items. A new lock pin here, a little slip plate there.. But there were several big ticket items to be addressed, such as the perpetual oil slick and extreme in cab exhaust issues. I am happy to announce that in 2.5 days ALL repairs were completed along with a few additional tasks that I had not even asked for.

I made it exactly 5 days before my next issue became evident.


On a Saturday evening, I spent a few hours loading BMWs and as I pulled out of the loading area, my normal pre-flight exhaust issue became ridiculously absurd. This truck has always smoked a little bit for the first quarter mile. But this was equivalent to a blown turbo. It was so bad, that as I was exiting the facility, all of the guards had to come out and take a look at the truck. I pulled over twice before hitting the freeway, just to make sure I wasnt losing oil. After an extensive vacation through the holidays, I was not prepared for more shop time, but the smoke was so excessive that I decided to hit the motel and head for a shop in the morning. However, by the time I made it 10 miles up the road, the smoke was beginning to thin out. The next morning, there were only the original traces of exhaust that I have been accustomed to for the past several months. So.....  I made my way to New York.

On Monday, my return load was to be picked up at JFK in Jamaica, NY. I can assure you that I was not thrilled with the prospects as Jamaica has some of the worst roads in NYC. I managed to get the load on with no problems, but once again, as I was leaving, I fumigated the area. This time the smoke was so bad, that airport security showed interest. With no signs of it thinning out, I pulled over on the shoulder and a nice tow truck pulled in behind me to check it out. After determining that I might be able to keep going (with my head hung in shame) I decided the tow bill would be much cheaper on the Jersey side, should I actually become immobile. The smoke continued to billow from the exhaust pipes until I crossed the George Washington and then it diminished. My thoughts... I am losing an injector!

I was able to make it back to Nashville and get unloaded. I had scheduled an appointment at Mid-Tenn Ford to have the truck checked out. They ruled out the injector, but suggested there was one of three problems present. Each would put me out of service for nearly a week. My maintenance supervisor suggested I head to Atlanta so I could at least be at home during the repairs.

Peach State Freightliner had my truck for 7 days. During this time, I acquired a $1000.00 repair bill. The diagnosis was inconclusive. No repairs were made. No indications of any problems. I am still thinking injector!!  On the seventh day, I demanded that they release the truck back into my possession. I needed to get to work. I have been back in the truck for 5 days and nothing is amiss. Not the first sign of excessive smoking....  However, I would not be surprised if I have to get an injector replaced in the near future.

Loading beside the Air Train at JFK International Airport

Jan 18, 2012

Burgaw, NC

As I mentioned in my previous post, I may have had a little trouble finding my way through North Carolina after delivering the load of Chevy 1500s.

I have been driving a truck since the late 90s and I am one of those who is holding on to the old ways with every fiber of my being. I am the last to embrace technology, and with that being said... I finally put the old laminated Atlas in a cubby hole and acquired myself a GPS.

But before I get off the beaten path with this tale, I should probably mention that I have the absolute worst luck when it comes to technology and gadgets. Brand new items that will go haywire with in weeks of coming into my possession. With that being said, I shall now continue off the beaten path.

While hanging around Corry, PA, I was convinced to purchase a newer model of Rand McNally GPS. The main attraction to this particular unit was the POI listings which included damn near every car dealership in the the contiguous United States. How sweet is that?  After loading the pick-ups, I decided that I did not particularly care for the new routing on my trip so I decided to work my way back over to I-79 ( with a little help from Ol' Rand). Good thing for me that I am still attentive because my route included a bridge that may have been a little too low for me to creep underneath. But I still managed to find my way back along a very scenic route.

Getting from Pittsburgh, PA, to Burgaw, NC, was a no brainer and I employed Rand to help me find a local motel chain close to my delivery. Once again, very sweet!

After my Saturday morning delivery, I was scheduled to bounce back to Greer, SC and load up some BMWs to take to Long Island. Feeling adventurous, I decided to give Rand free rein. After all, it was such a beautiful day and who doesn't love a good back road journey?

You will notice, there are 3 suggested routes according to Google Maps that would guide me back to I-95. Mr McNally did not choose any of these options. Instead, I was directed onto a much smaller road, but having a little familiarity with North Carolina, I was not concerned (at first).  It was not until I was directed to make a left turn on what appeared to be a very rural county road bearing the name of Anytown, USA's many common wooded pathways such as Hog Hollow, or Burnt Hickory Road. The name itself suggested that I should hesitate, which I did (for a moment). But, once again, deciding to let the adventure unfold, I slowly made the left turn. I made it about 50 feet when I noticed the "No Outlet" sign. Just beyond this little foreboding rectangular message, there was an even larger sign which stopped me in my tracks.

Oh, now I remember why I hesitated before making the turn.. Elwell Ferry Road!  FERRY!!!!  What the hell are you thinking Rand? Seriously!!

Soooooo, given the fact that I was not going to get my 20 ton hauler onto a 4 ton ferry, I backed up to try again. Eventually I entered a small town and once again Rand pleads with me to ignore the restricted truck routes. Oh no, not this time! But I still would not grab the Atlas. This is supposed to be an adventure and there were really only 3 options. I would eventually back track towards I-40, hit the Outer Banks, or actually find I-95.  Which I eventually did... find 95, that is! After the 2 previous bad judgement calls on the GPS, I decided to stick to routes that I knew. It was Saturday afternoon, and Long Island is more than a day's drive. I can't tell you how many times I checked the route settings  to make sure that everything was accurate. Ferry (not allowed)...  Not really sure what happened, other than my incredible luck with gadgets and technology. But I am once again, a little gun shy when it comes to trusting the GPS. As a little pay back, I love to watch Mr McNally go absolutely crazy whilst I drive around New York City. I know better than to follow his suggestions in that concrete jungle. I have 10 years of NYC deliveries under my belt and I have often been overheard giggling when the local traffic report mentions a "misplaced truck". Yes, I am kind of an ass that way, but how do you miss those 7'10" clearance signs anyway? Silly freighthaulers! Hopefully, after updating the system, it will no longer lead me directly into the no man's land of truck routes.

I did make it back to Greer and get loaded with my Ultimate Driving Machines. Thankfully, no one was around to witness my departure...  Jiminy Effing Crickets!!!

Jan 9, 2012

Corry, Pa

I have been offered several loads in the past few months that would test my merit and challenge me. I was nervous, of course, but still eager to try to get them loaded. One load involved a F350 dually. I cannot remember what the other one involved. But with enough units and a quick loader trailer, the challenge can get pretty intense. For those of you unfamiliar with car-haulers, independent decks, drops pockets and sliding decks offer a tremendous advantage over my trailer. My top deck of the trailer is one piece, so if the vehicles are too long to fit, they are just too long. Split decking can also help with height and angles, but once again... no decks to split load on.

Last week, I was told to head to Corry, Pa, located just southeast of Erie. My load was 5 Chevy 1500s. I was told that if I could fit a 6th unit on the load to go for it. I immediately replied that if it could be done, I would do it! I was ecstatic!

After trudging through the back roads in the remnants of an earlier lake affect snowstorm, I found my dealer and set about my task. I was attempting to load 3 Extended Cabs and 3 Crew Cabs. I had hope in my eye, when I got the trucks placed, but I ran into a little problem. 14'2" !!! There were 2 things holding me back from successfully stacking the tractor. 1) the lower truck was too long to fit in the drop pockets over my drive tires, and 2) my #3 cylinder is fully extended. Had I been able to raise it higher, I could have dropped the bed of the truck and placed the crown of the windshield at a better angle for the height. As is, I couldn't drop the the second truck any lower because the windshield of the lower truck was in the way. With only 2 on the tractor, I would now have to try and squeeze 4 of them on the trailer. I called the previous driver of this truck and asked if it could be done. He said yes, and told me the positioning. I replicated his instructions, but decided that his configuration was all wrong.

Now with a little more experience, I would have known better to begin with. But, I have been so busy shoving cars on and delivering, that I have not paid a lot of attention to the actual potential of my trailer. Shame on me!! It is definitely time to get familiar with my truck. I am sure several of you can tell me what is wrong with this picture....

Wait for it

Yup, you guessed it. The top units should have been turned so that the beds were bumper to bumper, therefore creating the angles I needed with the windshields. It may not have worked anyways, but that is one of the few tricks I did not employ. And believe me, I tried everything I could think of at the time. Including chaining to the frame to suck down the suspension of the rear of the top. Just could not quit get it down. After 7 hours of playing with this load, I decided to throw in the white flag. My original load was 5 units, so I knew I was still good to go. But, damn it, I wanted that 6th unit. Just to get a little ego boost, I suppose. After speaking with my mentor and one of the higher ups, it was told that the odds of me getting that load to fit were slim to none with the quick loader. Not because of my lack of skill, but simply because of the lack on independent decks and appropriately placed drop pockets. Now, I am really eager to get a huge load..... But first, this one had to be delivered to Burgaw, NC.

Getting there was no problem, but getting back to South Carolina was a different story....