Archive for November, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Hope everyone had a good time. We made it to Maryland although even that simple trip had some strife. I haven’t seen my family in a couple of years and that was great but we all missed Dad. I think everyone moved a little closer to accepting he is gone. We got to see the house my oldest niece and her husband had built recently as that is where we celebrated. Mostly family but also a few of her friends. It was a great time.

My DM was off last Monday so I sent in a reminder that we were supposed to be headed for Maryland. A planner messaged back that it was under control. We finished our Monday delivery and went to a truckstop. We then got a load going to Columbus, OH picking up Tuesday morning. We didn’t have to be in MD until Friday so no big deal. Shortly after we loaded we got redirected to NJ to relay the load and pick up a Costco reefer going to MD. This was perfect as we would be done early Wednesday morning and could go out to Hagerstown. The trick was that the reefer had to be brought back to NJ after it was empty. However, the notes in the trip said to bring it back “whenever” which said to me after home time was over. We finished the two Costco live unloads and went to the truck stop in Jessup, MD. City truck stops are a whole ‘nother post. We sat and sat and sat. I tried sending a message but it wouldn’t go. Never did figure out why not. I finally called. I was all set to thank everyone for getting us home for the holidays when I got a big dose of attitude. I explained how I was unsure of my status. Was I on home time or waiting for a load? Kris (the DM) pointed out that the reefer needed to go back to NJ. I pointed out “whenever.” She then asked if just taking one day off would be OK because the reefer needed to get back to Costco. I said no we were owed three and we were taking then. She got pissed, said fine, and told us we were now on home time.

We drove to Hagerstown, 75 mile trip that took over two hours because of traffic. There are two truck stops within 10 miles of my mother’s place so that worked out great. Turned out gas was much cheaper at the one we stayed at so we filled her car up a couple of times.

Saturday morning we got back to the truck fairly early and let people know we were ready to roll. After much confusion we got underway about two in the afternoon. When we got to Costco there were so many empty reefers in the area we were supposed to drop we ended up just leaving it in front of others and not in an official slot. So glad we didn’t rush back.

We are now headed for Pueblo, CO and glad to be getting west to the wide open spaces.

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Catching Up

It has been a long nine days since I have written.

We made it to Portland. I slept most of the way and Liz got to drive through snow and fog in the dark in the mountains. Western Oregon is everything I have ever heard. Very beautiful and wet. After that we headed to Butte, Montana with a FedEx load. Lots of FedEx freight is carried by other carriers. Some of their locations are just like in the movie Castaway and others are a little smaller. The guy who accepted our load in Butte was also the same guy running the forklift. Of course it was 11:00 at night. Next we took rolls of paper from Missoula to near Salinas, CA. Ran nearly 150 miles unpaid. We then picked up empty boxes for Bose and took them to Phoenix. From Phoenix we got a reefer (refrigerated truck) to take to Albuquerque, NM. You are supposed to get some training on how to take care of a reefer and we had never had that. I got a phone call with a brief statement on what to keep an eye on. Fortunately nothing went wrong and once again Liz got to drive up mountains in the dark. We are supposed to deadhead back to California but our truck is making funny noises so we are sitting in Albuquerque waiting to see what the problem is.

Getting paid. We are paid based on a the Rand McNally Household Movers Guide. This is the definitive document that the large trucking companies and moving companies use to bill customers. However it rarely covers all the miles required to actually drive the route. The trip from Missoula to Salinas is listed as 1085 miles. In reality given a route that a semi can drive on in any kind of reasonable time, including the route we were instructed to use is 135 miles longer. Typically we get screwed out of five to eight percent on a trip but this one was over 10%. Some companies pay “practical miles.” These are the miles that it really takes to make a run and is one of the criteria we have for finding a new company once we both have six months done here and get our tuition money back.

Jerry is a bit of nut about driving as his last comment proves. 😉 I’ll try and cover a few things he asked about.

Meals: We eat a wide variety of ways. We have some food in the truck that we heat up in the microwave at the terminals we stop in. Last night we actually had chicken breasts with spaghetti sauce and cheese on it. It was really good and made several drivers jealous. Other days we eat in a truck stop. That is a real crap shoot. There are five major players in the truck stop business. Pilot, Flying J, Loves, Petro and Travel Centers of America (TA). Or at least it looks live five players. Petro and TA merged several years ago and Pilot is taking over Flying J in January. The big problem with this is that Flying J has nice little restaurants with a good variety of food. Pilot’s on the other hand are all fast food. They are the single biggest franchiser of Subway but also have other fast food restaurants. The current rumors are that the restaurants in the Flying J stops will be taken over by Denny’s.

Fuel bills. Fortunately we don’t pay for the fuel out of pocket. We have a ComData card that we use like a credit card. When we fill up we typically put in 100 to 175 gallons at about $2.75 a gallon. A $450 bill is not uncommon. Heck, topping up the tanks puts more fuel in them than you typically can put in your car.

Other expenses. Tolls and scales are the most likely expenses. We submit the receipts with the other paperwork from the trip and get paid with the next check. Up to two weeks later since we get paid a week behind.

Hopefully they will call us shortly and tell us the truck is OK so we can get going. Not driving is not earning.

First Week

Today was the end of our first week out together. Right now we are in Flagstaff, AZ and tomorrow we will head in to Los Angeles. We are scheduled to pick up at 9:00 PM CT and deliver in a suburb of Portland, OR at 6:00 PM CT. It is going to be a tight run. The plan is that Liz will get us to LA with an hour to spare and then I’ll drive while she sleeps and then she will take over and finish it off.

Neither of us have been this direction before so hopefully we will get to see a little of it.

Things are beginning to slip in to a routine and will have to as we transition to true team driving. That probably means that the frequency of updates will drop. Sorry about that but I’ll try to find things to write about. It really amazes me the number of people who read this. Not like it is even 20 but I figured at best it would be my immediate family.

Delivering the Dog Food

A fairly simple run. We had to go to the terminal in Columbus to fuel and from their to a location I had actually been to before. The one near Alum Creek Road. The problem there was getting an empty trailer. There were none where we were supposed to pick them up. Finally someone told us to check in another lot. There we found a bunch of trailers but they were packed in tight. Took a bit but I got one out and made it much simpler for all the other Swift drivers needing trailers.

Tomorrow we take this empty trailer nearly 2,200 miles to southern California because there are not enough drivers there. I don’t understand this business.

P. S. I love you Dad and am going to miss you.

Long Day

Thursday was a very long day. As I said in the last post we had four deliveries to make. The first two were just inside Indiana and next door to each other. I drove there and had to do what is called a blind side back. Most of the turning is on the passenger side and you simply can’t see much of what is going on. That took awhile but I got it done. The unload took a few minutes as it was only four or five pallets. I didn’t even bother to close the doors while I drove next door to a much simpler docking. Liz took over at this point and had to drive to Indianapolis where she got two much harder dockings. One was a tight space with a pond on one side. The other was a blind side back in a space more condusive to delivery trucks than semi trailers. After all that we drove about 130 miles to pick up dog food in Illinois. Our route took us through a town with the county court house in the middle of the road and across two bridges that were under construction and limited to one lane. We got to the shipper with one minute to spare. Not that the shipper would have cared if we were five minutes later.

We picked up 40,000 lbs of dog food. We had to move the tandems (the wheels on the trailer) forward to adjust the weight evenly. This is known as sliding the tandems. There is a lever to pull that releases pins that hold the wheels in place. On this ancient trailer the lever was not hooked up properly and I had to use vice grips to make it work properly. Prior to figuring that out I had a close call where I had the lever spring back and slam my finger. Fortunately I only broke some skin and not the finger.

Finally we went to a truck stop and shut down for the night. A very long and tiring day.

On The Road Again

Today was the second day out for Liz and I together. Yesterday I did all the driving but Liz did park in a place I was having troubles. Today we split the distance pretty well. She did s few more miles than I did. I got all interstate driving with a little construction and she did a lot on a small U.S. highway (51) with lots of small towns. It did help her figure out the eight speed compared to a 10 speed.

So far so good. No blood in the cab.

We are in Henderson, KY tonight and then make four deliveries of tile tomorrow. Two in Evansville, IN. The stores are literally next door to each other. After that we go to a suburb of Indianapolis called Fishers were the stores are within a half mile of each other.

The Adventure Never Ends

Even when I am supposed to be on home time. On Monday Liz and I got up very early and were in Houston by about 9:00. We went into the terminal and were told to go out to the guard shack to get the keys. Walking up to the truck we saw it was damaged.

Then we got inside.  Several upgrades lacking in my truck and a lot fewer miles.  However it was filthy and the permit book was incredibly out of date.  Good thing the driver never got stopped for anything because he would have had a massive number of tickets. The registration was no good, the liquor permits were out of date, even the self insurance form was out of date. I called Lancaster and they pointed me towards the terminal manager.  He handed me a list of trucks that were “ready to go.” The first one we looked at was a beautiful Volvo with only 85,000 miles on it.  Unfortunately it also had no upper bunk. No way Liz and I are sleeping in a 36″ wide bed together.  We hadn’t noticed at the time but there does not seem to be a place to put a 12 volt cooler in a Volvo.  We looked at several and agreed that the person getting paid to clean the trucks was not doing her job very well.  In the end I asked for the keys to my old truck back and that is what we have been packing today.

We did make it to LibreDigital to visit as well.  That was great.  I do miss the people even if I don’t miss the stress. A few people were not in and that was sad. I was surprised by the number of people who are reading this blog.  I hope I can keep it interesting for them.

In the morning we should receive our instructions on where to go so now things should get really interesting.

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