Thursday, April 16, 2015

When In Florida, Watch Your Step!

A few weeks ago I got dispatched on a run way down to Miami Florida.  I knew we had a fairly regular run going down that way and a driver who handled it most of the time, kind of like I handle the loads going into Connecticut.  I asked my dispatcher why he was sending me on it this time and he only said that the other fellow couldn't make it this week.  After I completed the load I stopped in at the terminal in Gulfport, MS to get my truck serviced and spotted the fellow's truck who normally goes to Florida sitting there in the yard all messed up from an accident.  It turns out that "Hurricane" (the only name I've ever known this fellow by) had an accident after running illegally for nine hundred miles without stopping to take a break!  Well, that explained why he couldn't do that run last week - he was no longer employed at Knight.

I've tried to explain in here before about the competitive nature of this business.  If you are a good producer and can do it legally and safely you will find yourself at the top of the food chain in the industry.  You will get preferential treatment from your dispatcher, you will land the best runs, and you will make a better paycheck than your peers.  At Knight they have a tiered system of measuring your performance as a driver.  It is a three tiered scoring system with certain benchmarks you must meet to move up to the next level.  If you are a "Three Star" driver you are producing at the highest level.  This measurement is reassessed each quarter of the year and you receive quarterly bonus pay based on the level of your performance.  Out of about five hundred drivers at my home-terminal I made the short list of "Three Star" drivers during my first full quarter of being employed here.  That's me, third name up from the bottom of the list.  I was the only SAPA driver to make the cut.

Okay, enough bragging on myself.  Let me tell you about this next trip I'm starting in the morning.  It is a combination of Florida and Connecticut.  That's right, I'm leaving out of Delhi, Louisiana in the morning and heading to Nokomis, Florida.  Then from there I am going over to the opposite coast to Saint Augustine, Florida, and from there I am heading up to Farmington, Connecticut.  This is an extra sweet assignment.

When I made my last foray into Florida I almost got myself into some trouble without realizing it.  I had driven my way to one of the places I was going to deliver to and gotten there the night before I was due, so I was going to sleep on the premises and get unloaded first thing in the morning.  That is a great way to stay ahead of the game in this job.  Well, when you drive this truck all day like that you just want to get out of it for a little while to stretch your legs and get a little fresh air.  There was a little slough of water right beside me where I had parked and so I got out in the night air and walked around along the edge of the water enjoying the cool of the night air and the peaceful quiet of the evening.  In the morning after I got unloaded and was about to leave I took another little brief walk over by that slough of water and here is what I discovered lying along the edge warming himself in the morning sunshine.  I don't know if he was there the night before, but if he was I'm glad he wasn't hungry enough to let me know of his presence.

After delivering the rest of that load down in Miami I shut down for the evening at a Pilot truck stop.  I got there just before the sun began to set and was able to enjoy it's lovely descent as it painted the heavens with it's fading light.  I have some more things to share with you about that trip, but I need to get to bed tonight, so as soon as I take the chance to make another post I will fill you in on a few more of the details of my first trip into Florida while working on this new job.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

I'm Back

I'm a pathetic blogger! I'm a good truck driver, but man is this job demanding. I really like to blog about my experiences, but lately I've just been beat at the end of my days. Consequently, I've been just taking it easy and trying to get sufficient rest for the next long day ahead. Truck driving requires some very long days, and I think just the stress of being away from home and the people you love adds to the toll it takes on you physically. Well, I'm back, but I hardly know where to start. In my last post I mentioned that I was in Springfield, Missouri. So, I will start off by showing you an unusual photo I took as the evening began there with a mild hail storm pelting my truck with it's small pieces of ice that were being cast from the heavens as if they were not wanted up there anymore. This photo shows a stormy looking sky with a little bit of a rainbow shining through it. Much like the difficulties we walk through in life there is always a glimpse of God's promise there for those who will look upon it.

A couple of weeks ago after making my usual run from Louisiana up into Farmington, Connecticut, I picked up this back haul load in Ansonia, CT. This was picked up at a 145 year old foundry which is still in it's original location. The buildings were very old. To get to the area where they would load your truck you had to enter a tunnel that had a 12' - 6" height clearance! When I protested they said, "yeah most of these modern trucks won't clear that tunnel, we're glad to see that you are an observant truck driver, and if you will go three blocks down this street, take a left, then go to the third light and take a right, then to the next light and take another right, then keep going until the road narrows there will be a man there to meet you and he will show you where to back into the pit - we will have to load you there." So, as I'm headed to "the pit" I'm starting to wonder what I've got myself into. When I finally get back there it is more like a large garage looking structure made of old stone. It is very dark inside with no lights, and the door is at such an odd angle with the building that the combination of not being able to see inside "the pit" and entering the doorway at about a 45 degree angle with the door makes me have to get out and look (G.O.A.L.) several times just to get inside this crazy hole and still be somewhat square with the walls.
Now that I'm inside "the pit" I'm thinking how in the world am I going to get loaded in here? There's no room in here - there's about two feet of clearance from the sides of my trailer and the rear, and my cab is still out in the daylight. As I'm contemplating this mystery, I start hearing a groaning and creaking noise like old gears beginning to turn and ancient timbers moving and very slowly light begins entering "the pit". I looked up to see the very ceiling above me slowly opening up and soon I see an old white haired Chinese man cranking a large wheel up in the next level of this building above me - I'm amazed, and kind of feeling a little creepy about this whole situation, but I'm keeping my game face on, looking like like I do this every day! Next thing I know an overhead crane on that next level above me is lowering my pieces of freight down through the ceiling and onto my trailer. When we got finished with this ordeal here's what I had. Two impellers used to mix the rubber compounds in a vat that produces the rubber that goes into the tire manufacturing process, and two end walls for the vat. The end walls have the the large holes in them that hold the bearings in place which the impellers will spin within.

Due to the sharp edges of the load I am using edge protectors to keep the straps from getting cut through as I navigate my trip down to a Cooper Tire manufacturing plant in Tupelo, Mississippi.

Here's an "insider tip" for any aspiring flat-bedders who might be reading this. Sometimes if you have a situation where your regular edge protectors wont fit or sit just right because of an unusual angle, or even if you don't have any regular edge protectors, you can always save your old out of service straps that are torn and cut them into 18 - 24 inch lengths, and they provide excellent protection. You may be wondering why they don't get cut, like your strap that you are securing with will, and the reason is that they are not stretched taught like your strap, that is what causes it to get cut during the vibrations of the trip. Here's a look at what I'm talking about. I've doubled mine over for a little bit of extra cushion, but it really isn't necessary.

And just for fun, here's one final shot of the entrance to "the pit". Even flat-bedders sometimes have to back in to get loaded. I don't care what kind of big truck you are driving, you are going to learn to back that thing into some pretty unique situations at times.

I recently got an overweight ticket in Louisiana. It was an unfortunate accident that occurred when I picked up a pre-loaded trailer at the SAPA plant at night and it was not loaded properly. I was able to adjust the rear axle and make it on up to Connecticut without getting any more tickets for the load, but it is just a reminder of how many things we have to deal with as commercial drivers out here on the road. Being over weight is one of the many things that can cause you to have problems or unnecessary delays.

Speaking of being over weight, I came across this sign above the toilet at a truck stop that I spent the night at. Now, I found this comical, and I wondered if they would write you a ticket for being over weight! I wasn't too worried about the weight limit, but that bit about leaning from side to side and making sure your weight distribution was even caused me a little concern. I seriously tried to finish up quickly before someone came in there to give me a level three inspection - I mean this toilet experience was more nerve racking than going across the weigh scales in my truck!