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?