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.