Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Road Goes On Forever, And The Highway Never Ends

I am in the middle of a load that keeps making those words come to mind.

Before I get into that let me show you something.  I was thinking recently about how I am being dispatched.  I've really been getting some nice loads.  This post was going to be one where I tell you about some of the problems I'm facing on a particular load.  It is not meant to be a diatribe on the problems in this career, or to sound like a typical whining, complaining truck driver.  Just a reminder that there can be issues out here that you will have to face.  Stress and problems are going to happen out here, the key to success is how you handle the stress.

I have literally been running basically coast to coast lately.  I've been on the West Coast twice, and back over on the East Coast twice in just the last few weeks.  It's really some unusually consistent long runs for a solo driver.  Here's a look at how I've been dispatched lately...

✔ Delhi, Louisiana direct to Hermiston, Oregon = 2,127 miles

✔ Hermiston, Oregon with six stops back to Delhi, Louisiana = 2,848 miles

✔ Delhi, Louisiana direct to Farmington, Connecticut = 1,406 miles

✔ Farmington, Connecticut with two stops back to Delhi, Louisiana = 1,615 miles

✔ Delhi, Louisiana with two stops to Farmington, Connecticut = 1,442 miles

✔ Farmington, Connecticut with five stops back to Delhi, Louisiana = 2,411 miles

✔ Delhi, Louisiana direct to Alexandria, Louisiana = 133 miles

✔ Alexandria, Louisiana back to Delhi, Louisiana = 133 miles

✔ Delhi, Louisiana direct to Hermiston, Oregon = 2,127 miles

✔ Hermiston, Oregon with nine stops back to Delhi, Louisiana = 2,829 miles

That amounts to basically a little more than 17,000 miles in a six week span!  Those are some great miles when you consider that I went home twice during that time period.

If you'll notice, you will see one of the beautiful things about being on a dedicated account. Every time they send you out somewhere, they have got to get you back as quick as possible so that you can get onto another load for your dedicated customer.  There is very little sitting and waiting for a load when you are a dedicated driver for someone.

Okay along on that same subject, they find us back haul loads so that we can get back to the SAPA plant in Delhi as quickly as possible.  Most of our back haul loads are actually SAPA loads due to the fact that they have about 25 plants all across the country.  We are usually close enough to one of them to get a load out of that plant.  Just the other day, I delivered in Phoenix, Arizona, and although there is a SAPA plant in Phoenix, they couldn't get me a load that was headed toward Delhi. So, they settled for a third party load (a load that comes from a freight broker) that picked up in Santa Teresa, New Mexico and delivered to Dallas, Texas.  It really seemed like a perfect back haul for me because I had requested to go home this weekend.  The load delivered on Saturday morning in Dallas, and my home is right on the way to Delhi from there.  Sounds like it should be so simple, just deliver the load, go home for a few days, and then show back up in Delhi when I am ready to get back to work.  But wait...

This is the load that had those words I titled this post with on my mind.  This load was a first for me...
It is an edible load.  I am a flat-bed driver, I've never hauled food.  While I have seen other flat bed drivers hauling these loads, I have never had the privilege of hauling a load of onions...

What you are looking at is 45,000 pounds of purple onions.  They haul onions on flat beds because they will go bad if they are not ventilated properly.  They put off a gas that will cause them to spoil if they are not ventilated properly.  It is the same gas that causes your eyes to water when cutting onions.  They are normally tarped to protect from the rain, but the tarp is just laid on the top with the sides being open for ventilation.  I had a Conestoga cover, so I just drove it down the road with the back flap open for some ventilation...

I also had to "bump a dock" on this load, another thing that a flat bedder seldom does.  It wasn't a problem, it's no different than backing into a tight spot at a truck stop for the night.  Normally our flat bed trailers are loaded from the side with the fork lift driver being at ground level.  But here at National Onion, they drove their fork lifts right up on the flat bed.

The destination for these onions was in Downtown Dallas, Texas.  I figured it would be challenging, as I had already looked at a satellite view of the location on Google Earth.  It was dark when I pulled in there at about five thirty in the morning, but I knew I was there when I saw this scene...

I feel for some of you guys who drive a reefer unit.  I know you guys see places like this all the time, tight spots where you have got to back into a dock, and block off all four lanes of traffic just to get in where you need to be.  It can really be nerve racking for the uninitiated, or the rookie driver, but it is just another day in paradise for those guys who regularly haul refer loads.

I had to wait an hour and a half just to get in a door, and as you can probably guess, there is no where to park while you wait.  So, what do you do?  You park right out there in the street with the other guys who are waiting.  Several of us just sat there in the street waiting for our door.  In this photo I am the only truck sitting there, but I sat there for a good while with other trucks ahead of me.  I made a block and got myself turned around so that I wouldn't be doing a blind side back into the docks. Here I sit waiting my turn...

You can see from this view outside my windshield, that I am sitting right in Downtown Dallas.  I am very near to the Deep Ellum area if you are familiar with that...

When I finally got in there and got unloaded, I went right in to get my bills and get moving.  HaHa!  That's how we do it in a flat-bed - Not with an edible load!  They started opening up bags of onions and smelling them, squeezing them, removing the dry skin, and even tasting them!  Oh my goodness, when I deliver a load of metal, they unload it, sign my bills, and I am gone - I am spoiled rotten.  I waited for about an hour and a half just to get my bills signed, and then they told me they were rejecting the load!  What?  I don't even know what to do now.  It is Saturday and my dispatcher is unavailable.  I call claims and explain it to them, and they act like this is an everyday experience for them.  Okay, so what are we to do?  I am a dedicated driver who needs to get back to Delhi.  Well, after going through what seemed like hundreds of phone calls (the broker was blowing up my phone!) they determined that they had another customer who would take the onions - the only problem is that they are up in Byron Center, Michigan!  After getting my dispatcher involved we agreed to run the load up there, but I have got to get my truck serviced somewhere along the way, so that puts another delay in the mix.

I am seriously hoping this next customer will accept this load, because I don't want to have to go dump all these onions in a landfill somewhere.

Reefer drivers, you have a new found respect from me.  You put up with stuff that would drive me crazy.  I know some of you think I'm crazy for driving a flat bed, but I guess after all, it takes all kinds of folks to make the world go around.  This job is demanding, but I guess each of us has our own limits on the things we are willing to deal with.  I'd throw tarps in 125 degree heat any day over having to deal with a perishable food load.

I hope Michigan will be the end of the road for this load.  I'm starting to feel like this load has been energized with that brand of batteries that advertises "it keeps going, and going, and going..."


  1. And this right here is why I love reading your blog/posts wherever they are, "...but I guess after all, it takes all kinds of folks to make the world go around. This job is demanding, but I guess each of us has our own limits on the things we are willing to deal with."

    You get that there are different strokes for different folks. Please keep the posts coming as time allows, I love to live vicariously through you until I'm actually able to join you as a driver.

  2. I also had a question. While I realize food stuff isn't your forte, I was hoping that maybe you learned the answer from this experience.

    You were contracted to take the onions to Dallas from Santa Teresa, NM. When the load was rejected, are you then paid mileage to haul the onions again? This time you said they were going Byron Center, MI which is not right next door. How does it work when a load gets redirected like this? Are you paid all the mileage, out of luck or paid a flat rate due to the rejection status? Thanks.

    1. Hey Paul, I can answer your question as it pertains to my situation, but I am not sure about the bigger picture, which seems to me to be what you are wondering about. How do the folks who regularly haul perishables get paid on a load that is rejected, and what do they do with the product? I will be paid for all the miles I run on this load. FYI... the folks up in Michigan thought the onions were beautiful, and were glad to get them! I'm gonna ask some of my friends at Trucking Truth about this situation of a having a rejected load, and I will post their answers here for you in a few days.

    2. Sounds good, Dale. I'm "Han Solo Cup" over there so I'll just follow along on TT. Thanks.

  3. O/S... this is one of the most interesting blogs and posts at TT. What a paradigm shift, huh? You handled it like a pro, as always. Kudos, man. I REALLY need to sign up over there, I know. Be safe. Hats off to ya!

  4. Another fantastic blog entry!

    We've started our 1 year boat trip. Day 1 is posted. We had a rain deluge last night and we're stuck in Waterford in a nice safe place in the shadow of Erie Lock 4. If anyone wants to follow us here's the blog: