Monday, March 27, 2017

Unusual Circumstances

There are no limits to the new challenges you will face or the unusual circumstances that will arise with each day's responsibilities as a new truck driver, or even as an experienced driver.  It is in how you handle them that will often determine both your success and/or your contentment with this job.

Allow me the liberty to insert a little story here that goes all the way back to 1978, during the days when I started college.  This story comes to mind because I realize that I often use the word success in here, and I want you to understand how I define success.  I still remember the look of bewilderment on a certain young college student, who was leading a small group of us in an orientation class, as they read my response out loud to the group of us whom they had asked to give a one word definition for the word "success."  Most of the respondents had used some such word like "wealth," or "affluence."  I put down the word "contentment," which was something I had already thought through, and aspired to have this one attribute as a firm foundation in my life and future career.

Now, if you have been around many truck drivers you have surely come to realize that most of them are far from being "content," in fact many of them are much like the recent Knight driver I came across while picking up this current load I'm under at the SAPA plant in Cressona, Pennsylvania.  He felt compelled to come over to me and start slamming the company that I am very satisfied with and telling me how they were a bunch of Bozos who can't seem to get anything right.  He was at the SAPA plant to pick up a load to get him home, and he wasn't happy about some ridiculous detail about the load that was not even remotely related to Knight's ability to run a successful trucking operation.  He actually sent a message on the Qualcomm to weekend dispatch telling them he was not going to take the load, and he was heading home on their fuel and coming back on their fuel because he didn't like this one small (insignificant in my opinion) detail about the load they gave him.

If you are new to this, you might as well be prepared to encounter these types, they are everywhere.  I took a minute to ask him a few questions, one of which was, "How long have you been with the company?"  I thought maybe his answer would establish the fact that he had little knowledge of the company and he might reconsider his authoritative declaration of their incompetence.  Boy, was I right!  Two weeks was his response!  I also found out that he was going to drive a total of 1,260 miles to get home and back without being under a dispatched load.  I advised him against it, and warned him that he might not be there much longer than the two weeks that he was already complaining about, but he left in huff anyway, looking at me as if I were some sort of an idiot who puts up with all the nonsense that these trucking companies will dish out to the fools who will take it.

Okay, back to my subject of unusual circumstances.  I picked this load up on Saturday.  It is an assortment of different shaped extruded aluminum pieces with six different stops on the load.  Four of the customers that I should deliver to today, Monday morning, require a 48 hour notice to schedule an appointment, impossible to do when they are not even there on Saturday.  I'll let you know on my next post how that turns out, but I can tell you now that I am going to put to work my good customer service skills and see if I can get myself into those four customers and deliver today.  Here is a look at the load...

Recently I ran up on an unusual circumstance while making a delivery in Houston, Texas.  The final customer on my load was on a very narrow residential street (houses on one side, and businesses on the other) with no place to put a big truck on their property.  I had to get unloaded while parked in the street.  They had to get product off from both sides of the truck because their fork lift only had four foot long forks.  I parked facing one direction on the street so they could get their stuff off from the safety of their parking lot, and then I had to go down the road and find a place to turn around so I could come back and park facing the other direction so they could get the final part of their load off.

Here's a look at what we did...

This current load will deliver to the following places...

✔O'neal Steel in Mobile, Alabama

✔Aluminum & Stainless, Inc. in New Orleans, LA

✔Ryerson Procurement Corporation in Saint Rose, LA

✔Samuel Son & Company in Baton Rouge, LA

✔Aluminum & Stainless, Inc. in Broussard, LA

✔AFL Telecommunications in Lake Charles, LA

Six stops on a flat-bed load is an unusual circumstance on it's own, but serving this dedicated customer requires this type of delivery often times.  There is additional pay for each stop you make, and once you get the hang of how to handle these multiple stops it really can go quite well.

Of course some of the unusual circumstances we come across are very pleasant ones.  This sunrise scene from the parking area that I slept in at Yarde Metals in Connecticut last week was a pleasant surprise to witness as it took shape, and it is unusual for most folks who work a "normal job" to enjoy just such a sight as this while they are out there making a living.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Another Daughter Married, And I Am Back At Work

I'm parked tonight on the premises at Yarde Metals in Southington, Connecticut.  I have a four a.m. appointment here to get my day started tomorrow.  This is Thursday night, and I started back to work on Tuesday after being home an entire week for my daughter Esther's wedding.  I have three more stops after this one, and then I already have a back haul load waiting on me to pick up at the SAPA plant in Cressona, Pennsylvania.  That one has six stops on it and will final out down in Alexandria, Louisiana.  My first day back on the job this week was spent training a new driver on our little specialized fleet, and then I left out on the road late that night so that I could get here tonight with time to make my deliveries tomorrow, and then move on down to Cressona for my ten hour break before leaving out of there with my next load.

The snow on the ground up here is still fairly heavy.  It is such a contrast to the scenes I was enjoying while at my home in Nacogdoches, Texas...

I tried a Barbecue restaurant today that had been highly recommended to me by another Knight driver. It is located across the street from our terminal in Carlisle, Pennsylvania,  I tried the ribs, which I was told were really good, but I guess my being from Texas has just about spoiled me on enjoying food from the pit.  I will give them another try just to be fair with them, but the ribs I ate today, though tasty, were as tough and dry as a piece of jerky.  Not the way to impress an old hand at coaxing the best texture and flavor out of a piece of meat with smoke and low heat.  I was amused by this wall decoration inside the building though...

We had a really nice time at Esther's wedding.  It gives me great pleasure to see her so happily settled, but it is troubling having her move so far away from us.  She was our first child, but not the first to marry.  She took her time in being discovered by the right sort of fellow, but she seems quite enthralled with her man, and I was happy to give her away to him, as he seems equally enamored with her.  It is a bitter sweet thing to give your daughters away, but it is part of life.  The circle keeps growing, and it will be nice one day to see our children raising their own little brood of babies.  I and my wife look forward to being grandparents.  Here is a shot of Esther and I as I escorted her down the aisle to her new life as a wife...

If you are ever in need of a good wedding photographer, my daughters highly recommend Peter Mahar.  They have followed he and his wife online for years now.  He did a great job for us and was very pleasant to work with.

Man, I am already missing my family.  It is always difficult for me to get back into the rhythm of life on the road after taking an extended stay at home.  When I do get back on the road it always makes me realize how much I miss them all.  I do enjoy what I do, and I don't plan to stop anytime soon, but I really miss this gal when I am on the road...

We are hoping to be together on the road a little bit later on this year.  I'm not sure she will enjoy being on the road so much as I do, but I am sure we will enjoy being together.  She is planning on riding with me some, and I am planning on spoiling her rotten while she is with me.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Eating Humble Pie!

I will tell you two things about me.

✔ I am not too proud to admit when I am wrong.

✔ I despise arrogance in myself.

So... I was clearly wrong when I declared which direction El Centro was from Tecate, in fact I am embarrassed for making myself look like an idiot.  I don't need to be trying to do this stuff from the seat of my pants, especially when I am dog-tired at the end of my day and not willing to consult a map!  My mistake.

I am not happy with myself in this little exchange with Mr."Unknown" as I keep sounding arrogant, and that is not the kind of person I want to be.

So I am going to try to re-set this little conversation if I can, and we can continue it if it is helpful.  If it proves to be a waste of time I will move on from it.  I am no snow flake who can't participate in a legitimate debate, or admit when they are wrong, but it is not the purpose of this blog.  If I find a little diversion like this to be worthy I will pursue it, but if it is not then we will drop it.

Let's try and address some of the concerns raised...

"you still have chosen not to answer my question, so I'll ask again; I'm curious how you differentiate between a driver that "creatively problem solves" and one that's an intentional criminal who should be heavily fined because he chooses to ignore weight limits that are inconvenient to him?"

Specifically where I draw a line of demarcation in these matters is in the driver's volition, or his choice in the whole matter.  Let me explain what I mean as it pertains to my particular experience with this load from Tecate, because "the devil is in the details," as they say.

First off, let's establish some facts:

My empty weight (tractor & trailer) was 30,760 as shown in this scale ticket.  This was weighed after unloading in Texas, because our customer wanted it as evidence that I had been overloaded.

My loaded weight was 82,380 as weighed in Yuma, Arizona, where we have established that I could have weighed earlier in El Centro if I had been doing a better job of it all.  Where I weighed it makes no difference in my argument or our contentious friend's.  I still would have been breaking the law just to get myself to the scale.

The difference in those two scale tickets establishes that my load of rocks weighed 51,620 pounds.

My bills were clearly marked indicating a weight of 48,000 pounds.  There is almost an extra 4,000 pounds in this freight, and let's not forget that I was loaded at a Mexican drop yard, approximately a football field's length from the actual border.  There was no scale, and I got to this yard by driving on two dirt roads and a very curvy paved road through the local mountains.  Here's where I make that differentiation that you keep asking about.  Had I been able to weigh the truck on the shipper's premises, or had my bills shown an honest weight, and I made a choice to run the load as it was, then I could agree with your assessment - that would be willfully criminal, but not under the circumstances that it all took place.

"Please let me know which laws you believe are a "grey area" and OK to break in order to keep moving. I truly am curious as to where you draw the line."

I have never said that "the laws" had grey areas - I simply referred to trucking as having grey areas.You see, I was loaded with false information on my bills, and had no way to confirm my suspicions until I had broken the law.  Furthermore, I couldn't even form my suspicion until I had gotten off the dirt roads and the twisty mountain road onto a decent highway where I could get a feel for how the truck was handling the load.  And even if I took your worthy advice of stopping at El Centro I would have traveled approximately 80 miles, illegally!

"You not only chose to break the law, you chose to continue to intentionally break the law, and went out of your way to drive at night and around weigh stations in order to continue breaking the law. You apparently did so in order to keep moving so as to not lose time / money. It's not creative problem solving any more than someone who robs a bank to acquire cash is creatively problem solving to resolve their cash flow problem or someone who shoplifts a candy bar is creatively problem solving to resolve their hunger issue. There's a difference in severity but not in equivalence."

Actually there is a huge difference in equivalence, and you are smart enough to recognize it.  I was performing my duties as an employee - duties that were assigned to me.  I was working and earning my money, not stealing it.  I actually came up with a way to solve a problem that was causing me to have to break the law when I did not want to.  I didn't come up with the solution that you would have, but then again you refuse to offer any solutions of your own, because you are enjoying ridiculing mine.  I never claimed that mine was the only way to do this, in fact I could have handled it a dozen different ways, but I thought it through, and settled on what I considered the best way to deal with it so that my customer's needs were met without delays in the process.  I also tried to be efficient with my time, which I consider to be most valuable.

It has been fairly obvious from your tone that you are mostly interested in establishing your superiority in matters related to both your knowledge of the internet, and all things trucking.  I'll take the blame for that because I probably provoked you with my own tone, which I apologize for.

I am happy, as I said, to discuss these things, but if it continues along the same type of discourse where we are only going to be trying to "one up" each other, then I am done with it.  I am fairly certain you and I have crossed swords before, and I know you will not back down when you are convinced you are right. That is fine, but I am not here to argue the finer points of trucking, but rather to share my experiences with those who are interested in knowing about this lifestyle we call trucking. One of those experiences is getting yourself into what I may have ill advisedly termed "grey areas."  I know you have experienced things similar, and you may solve them differently than I.  There is certainly no intention on my part to declare my practices superior to anyone else's.  I share what has worked for me, and folks may do with it what they want.

Monday, March 20, 2017

A Time For Learning

Okay, I have been away from the internet for about a week now.  I was at home for my daughter's wedding, and the various preparations thereof.  I do have a real life, and some very real people whom I cherish, outside of my trucking acquaintances.  I was quite surprised by this little tempest in a teacup that is going on here in the recent comments on my last post.

Now, let me say that I really don't consider myself any sort of a teacher, but I do share my experiences and the things I learn from a life on the road.  Some folks seem to learn from them, while others have even claimed to be inspired by my drivel, which always amazes me.  All of a sudden we have someone here who has made some unusual claims of my willingness to act in a criminal like manner, when I was merely trying to illustrate how there are "grey areas" in trucking, and you will need to be prepared to deal with them.  I gave you all one of my recent experiences and how I chose to deal with it, and I even made this statement in that post...

"The last thing you want to be doing is sneaking around all the time hoping that you don't get caught, but you also don't want to waste your time sitting and waiting for someone else to come up with a solution."

I have always been willing to learn from others, especially those who are more experienced than me. One thing I learned from all of my years in the sign business is that there were often times when I would learn something from a totally new employee who just happened to look at an issue from a different perspective.  It is easy to get yourself locked into some sort of tunnel vision when you've been doing something for a long time.

So.... I am offering for Mr. Unknown a chance to tell us how he would have solved the same dilemma without breaking the law.  I am giving you the floor, so please make it good sir!

Oh, by the way, I need to admit to a mistake I made in the post.  When I stated it was almost two hundred miles to the place I scaled at in Arizona, I was pulling numbers from my memory without double checking them.  It was actually about 140 miles - sorry about that.

Also let's keep in mind that I was headed East, going to Texas with that load.  Mr. Unknown derides me with some degree of bravado and declares this...

"I was especially unimpressed with your claim of "a couple of hundred miles to a truck stop with scales" when it took me all of 2 minutes to find cat scales 78 mile east of Tecate on I8 at the Super Stop Travel Center. But maybe you didn't drive past that as you were "sneaking past the scales as they were closed."

Well sir, you are correct on one account, and that is that I didn't drive past that truck stop.  The reason I didn't is because it is not East of Tecate, but rather it is West, which would have put me 156 miles out of route.  A minor mistake for you I'm sure, but I'm confident you can do better with the free explanation of how to handle just such a situation that I am allowing you to give us.  And for the record, there is nothing illegal or even unsavory about driving past a scale house when it is closed.  I certainly would have pulled in and taken my punishment if they had been open, but only a fool would intentionally try to get himself a ticket after a shipper lied to him about the weight they were loading him with, which is why I chose to pass those scales in the middle of the night.

I am leaving your rude and arrogant sexist remarks to my friend Annemarie because they are indicative of your character, which you don't seem to mind exposing online.  You may take them down if you like, or I will do that little task later after we've given others the chance to think about your remarks.

Please sir, we await your expertise on how to handle just such a situation as I found myself in...

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Dealing With Issues In A Way That Keeps You Moving

Please, forgive my brief absence in here.  I've actually wanted to jump in here and say a few things for some time now, but it just seems that when I get a chance to take a little break I am just too tired to work on this, or I've got other things I need to be doing.  My wife and I have got so much going on just now that we have been excessively busy.  On February 24th we buried my Mother next to my Father's grave, in the little community that they chose in their retirement years as their hometown, Glenwood, Arkansas.  It was just three days before what would have been her 84th birthday.  She had been living with my wife and I for the last three or four years due to her own frailty and her difficulties with some mild dementia.  My brother and I would share time having her in our homes, since it was one of her final requests that she get to stay with her children during her final days, rather than in some form of institutional care.  I have three sisters, but it just seemed to work out best for her to be with my brother and I who both live in Texas.

At this point in life it's easy to realize how much of an influence my parents and my upbringing had on me.  There are characteristics in my nature that I recognize were influenced heavily by my parents, and those can be both for good and bad, and I believe them to be both a mixture of genetics and environment.  It makes me glad for the way in which my wife and I raised our own children in a somewhat non-traditional way by most standards.  While my siblings and I were all together during the time of the funeral, (something we don;t get to do often due to the fact that we are dispersed broadly) my oldest sister complimented my wife and I on how "sweet" our three girls turned out due to the way they were raised.  It was a high compliment, and one that I truly give most of the credit to my wife's intense labors in that formidable task of child rearing.

On the 26th of February I was back on the road heading from Glenwood down to Delhi, Louisiana to pick up my next load which was some stadium seating bound for San Diego, California, and one small bundle of extrusions going to a manufacturer of solar power panels in Temecula, California.  I should note here that when I started out from North Collins, New York making an attempt to get to Glenwood, Arkansas in time for the funeral, I had on my mind a little truck stop right there in Glenwood that was adjacent to the Cattle Auction yard in town.  I didn't know of any other places around there to park a truck.  I arrived there at something like nine o'clock at night only to discover the Truck Stop was out of business, and the parking lot was roped off with no parking signs everywhere.  I noticed someone running a skid steer loader over at the Auction Yard moving bales of hay, and I went over to ask them if there were any other places in town that I might park a truck.  The young cowboy directed me to go over to the office and said the owner, who happened to be there at the time, would probably let me park it on his property if I paid him.  When I told the owner that I was in town for my Mother's funeral, he inquired, "what was your Mother's name?"  When I told him, he responded, "I knew both your Mom and Dad, they were great people.  You just back in over there on the East side of the property and stay there as long as you need."  Small town America, it's a great place to be.  That is just the kind of thing about this town that caused my parents to choose it as their place to spend their final days enjoying their life together.  I still remember my Dad telling me about this town when they decided to retire here,  "Dale," he said, "the folks in this town don't even lock the doors on their cars when they park in town.  You can walk down the streets and look at the cars, and all of them are unlocked!"  He thought that was just the coolest thing.

I've been so busy since the funeral.  Keep in mind that I came down from upstate New York to Arkansas, then I went to California.  After that I carried a load of rocks to Round Rock, Texas, and then got dispatched to Miami, Florida.  That means I criss-crossed the country twice - New York to California, and then California to Miami, Florida.  I love the adventure of this job, but it makes it difficult to leave everything at home up to my wife, and I don't think I've even mentioned yet that my oldest daughter is getting married on March the 18th.  Today I am at our terminal in Gulfport, Mississippi getting my truck serviced.  I'll do a few short runs this week just to keep myself close to home so that I can get home for both the wedding and some of the preparations.

Here's a look at some of what I've been up to lately.  I carried those extruded stadium seating sections to this football stadium in San Diego...

It was sort of a crazy job site to try and get a big truck into, but I managed getting into the tight spot where they unloaded me, and then I had to back out making two ninety degree turns just to get back on the very busy street where the school was located.  Here they are unloading me with a construction lift...

When I picked up this load of rocks in the border town of Tecate, California for my back haul load to Texas, the shipper did not have a scale on the premises, and it was a couple of hundred miles before I could get to a truck stop with a scale.  The load seemed to be over weight to me, and I let my dispatcher know that I was going to park at a nearby casino and sleep so that I could leave out around two in the morning and cross the line from California to Arizona, hoping that the scale houses would be closed.  I was fortunate that they were closed because once I got over into Arizona I scaled my truck at a truck stop and found I was grossing 82,380 pounds!

So, here's how I handled the situation.  Of course I started by sneaking by the scales while they were closed, and then I got my certified weight so that I knew what I was dealing with.  Then I made a plan as to how to deal with it.  The last thing you want to be doing is sneaking around all the time hoping that you don't get caught, but you also don't want to waste your time sitting and waiting for someone else to come up with a solution.  I made my own plan to stop at our terminal in Phoenix and have them unload a pallet of rocks and that got me to a legal weight.  I spoke to the customer and let them know that they would just have to find a "hot shot" freight company go to our terminal and get that other pallet to it's destination.  A rookie would have more trouble with a situation like this, but as an experienced driver, I just decided to take my own approach to a solution.  My dispatcher sent me an email later that said "I love how you dealt with that situation - that was awesome!"

Anytime a driver can be creative at problem solving and keep himself moving while relieving his dispatcher of having to handle all the little details, will endear him to his dispatcher and keeps him on the top of that dispatchers mind as a "go to guy" for the better loads that come available.  If you have to get your dispatcher involved in the solution it will mean that you will probably be sitting for a day. Your dispatcher is involved heavily in daily crisis management, and anytime you can stay off that list of drivers who he is solving problems for, you are adding extra dollars to your paycheck.  Every driver knows the frustration of sitting and waiting, it means you are not getting paid, and while I do not recommend that a rookie take charge of a situation like this, I did want to point out how a more experienced driver deals with issues like this when they arise.  Everything we do out here and every choice we make has an effect for ill or good on our bottom line - our paycheck, and that is one of the most common things we see drivers complaining about.  Recently I had an exchange with a new member on who wanted to try and convince me that complainers are the folks who get things changed in this industry.  It is not complainers who bring about change in this industry, but folks who have solutions get the change they need, and they get it instantly, they don't have to wait around for years.

Here's a look at what the countryside looks like near Tecate, California.  It is a mountainous area that is very rocky.

Sorry this post is getting lengthy, but here's one more interesting sight.  Next to the casino truck parking area was a large wind power generating plant.  Check this out, a wind mill right next to the parking lot - those things are huge!