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....

Jan 8, 2012

Days Inn, Albany New York

One of possibly the most insignificant details in my new car-hauling adventure, that can cause a slightly less insignificant amount of anxiety in my day to day routine is finding a motel that can accommodate my truck without damaging my cars. I have mentioned before that I am now, more than ever, aware of low hanging trees and tall (or even standard) curbing. So even if a truck CAN fit, it doesn't always mean that I can fit.

I try to pick my destination early enough in the day so that I can call ahead to verify whether there is actually truck parking and secure a reservation. I know it will happen eventually, arriving at the end of my day with no where to park. Thanks to the GPS tracking in my truck, I don't exactly have the free reign that I use to with the flatbed. In fact, there was the time in Virginia Beach when I may have over extended myself by several hours in order to find a suitable bed for the night. Not sure if I even blogged about that one.

After dropping a few units off just south of Albany, I made my way to a local Days Inn. I made the appropriate phone call and was told there was plenty of truck parking. After arriving at the address, I was concerned before ever pulling into the driveway. I called again, while sitting in the turn lane to ask specifically where I was to park. The lot was barely big enough to get into, but after checking in with the front desk, I began to make the journey out behind the second building "where all the trucks park with plenty of room to turn around".

 After dodging a few low hanging pines, I begin to feel confident as the driveway opened up behind the next building. I could see signs of this parking area. But when I made the final approach, I was dismayed to find the lot itself was only about 60' wide. I could see tire tracks, where perhaps a daycab had made the jack-knife turnaround. But there was no way in hell I was going to get out of that lot. Even empty, my truck while not turn in a 45 degree angle no matter how hard I try.

So, the only thing left to do is start backing up. It only took me about 45 minutes to get back out from behind the building. All the while dodging the vehicles belonging to the patrons of the little Mexican dive out in front. Once I managed to back through the lot, I then had to back out into the highway while blocking traffic and waving at the local residents who apparently did not appreciate my plight. After the 45 minutes of anger induced ranting, because I had already checked in to the room, I then had to back back into the parking lot and make my own parking spot. I was quick to inform the lady at the desk that if another driver called to ask for parking, the correct answer would be "NO".

All in a days work, but I would prefer to eliminate these little unnecessary moments of frustration if I could. I still have so much to learn and would prefer to focus my attention on the truck itself. I spent 7 hours focusing on it just recently in Corry, Pa. But that is another post...

Jan 4, 2012

Damned if you do....

I have had intentions of sitting down and writing several blog posts over the past few days, but with the end of the Holiday Season, work beckons.

It seems that I always have intentions of posting! Well, tonight, I have the luxury of a 15 hour break, in the motel room, of course. So after a nice hot shower, dinner and a little it of relaxing in front of the television, I had decided to power up the ol' laptop and get to it.

The laptop will not cooperate. I tried to play one of my workout videos to get a little toning in, but that too would not function properly. So, until further notice, my posting may be a bit sporadic. Let's just pretend that the last statement implies that I have been blogging me arse off lately. Damn those intentions.

Now, watch me.... I will probably have a dozen new posts before the week is out. Time to sync some photos and possibly buy a new laptop. Oh, the joy!!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad