July 2000

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Hello, there. This bomb is a gift to the meat plant (IBP, Dakota City, NE) from yet another happy driver. Since I'd never really firebomb the place in real life, this is as close as I can get...but I mean it from the bottom of my heart. I'm now going on 38 hours and patience is wearing thinner and thinner. The load may be rescheduled for delivery on July 5th -- and I'll go home for a day.


This particular meat plant is a little bit worse than many. There are no facilities for the driver during his/her long stay. There is one telephone and one kybo. That is all. The way they treat drivers is horrible, horrendous and I again regret returning to hauling meat.




When it rains, it pours. This test of my patience has continued...on and on. I did not get out of the meat plant until I'd donated 45 hours of my time. I love it when they do that -- they expect it on time for the delivery but they don't want to let go of the load 'til the last second! (or later) I was told all three drops would come off on July 3rd so I went on.


I delivered the first drop on time and was then informed that drop #3 would not come off until July 5th -- what I'd feared all along. Now that is frustrating. As the driver, you do all the right things, call the right people, notify and document and whatever but if one person drops the ball, you're sunk.  I made layover pay but could've made more driving. Besides, spending the 4th of July in Elkton, MD (I-95, Exit 109B) isn't my idea of fun....nothing against Maryland, but I could've found better things to do..




I got my last drop off in New Castle, DE. It was a 4 hour wait for unloading. I tried to sleep but couldn't do it -- I've been up late too many nights in a row and am getting too used to it. I've always been something of a night owl anyway. The final drop is done by 4:30 AM.  I will reload down the street in Clayton, DE.


Upon arriving in Clayton, DE I discovered it was a drop & hook -- at least that's good news. The bad news is  (you knew there had to be some of that -- it's all I have lately)  that the previous driver dropped the trailer here with a busted seal cap. Oil is everywhere. It's a miracle he/she made it in here without it catching fire. On top of this nifty problem, the reefer fuel is nearly out. It's about 90 degrees outside and the load is to be at 10 degrees below 0. Swell. I called the breakdown department and they said they would send someone, but I was very worried about the reefer running out.  You do not want to run one out -- they are tough to get started again. (A truck is also -- for future reference, if you ever run one out, turn it off immediately and do not try to start it before there's fuel in it. If you do, you will most certainly have to prime it and that's a chore.)


Anyway, I guess the moral of this story is always check out your equipment before you hook up to it and drive away. I would have been in deep doo-doo had I driven with the seal like that -- most likely it would've caught fire very soon. That wonderful Pre Trip Inspection you learn in school isn't only to satisfy the DOT -- it is very, very important!!!!


After getting the seal fixed, I took off in search of reefer fuel. (Reefers take #2 diesel, just like the truck, but they're taxed differently, that's the only difference. It's the same exact fuel.)




Okay, I'm fixed up, loaded, fueled and rolling towards Rochelle, IL for a Thursday 11:00 pm appointment.




I've made my delivery in Rochelle, IL (about 2 hours to unload) and will reload in Chicago, IL. That load delivers in Williamsport, MD. I am already preplanned to drop & hook (again) in Clayton, DE and deliver (again) in Rochelle, IL. I'm not thrilled about heading out East yet again but at least they're not meat loads and they're not driver unload, either. All of this is no-touch, which is just how I like it. It's pretty unusual for an OTR driver to go to as many of the same places as I've been going to... The good thing is you know right where to go. The bad thing is it can get boring.  I will be heading home in about another week or so -- I haven't been to the house for time off since June 17th.


Chicago, IL

I'm sitting in Chicago, IL in a dock door waiting on them to load me. I just watched this poor guy embarrass the heck out of himself backing in to the dock next to me. This is an indoor dock and these can be tougher to back into because you're more or less backing into a "black hole". It's light ahead of you but nearly pitch black behind you.


He was backing too fast -- using too much throttle and he  slammed the back of his trailer (the metal part that goes around the tail & brake lights) into a yellow pole. The picture doesn't show it, but there are yellow poles where the beam is, between the trucks. I yelled "whoawhoawhoawhoa" on the CB radio, but he must not have had it on. He pulled up. He was still too close to the beam on the right side (blind side) but proceeded backwards anyway and scraped the yellow pole down the side of his trailer.


I'm hollering on the CB, but he keept going, so I laid on the horn. He didn't stop until he'd scraped a good 5 to 6 foot of trailer paint off -- right down to the metal. He pulled forward -- but he's still too close -- and hits the clearance light of the trailer against the pole, obliterating it. His trailer tires also rub hard against the pole. He does not get out to look even once. He damaged his trailer in three places in just one dock door. I can't believe this guy. He finally gets it in the dock door. He gets out of his truck and is shaking his head and smiling. I wonder if he'll be doing that when the bossman sees his trailer.


Sometimes it is stressful to back -- especially in tight docks, inside docks, etc, etc but don't be afraid to get out and look and take your time....I'll bet this guy wishes he did.


Advice for backing into an indoor dock:

  • Clean your mirrors first. Dirt causes worse glare and makes it harder to see.

  • Open the trailer doors AFTER backing into the building.. it's easier to clear the beams and/or yellow poles.

  • Get out 100 times if needed.



Some lives were irrevocably changed -- and some ended -- today on the PA Pike (I-76) near Exit #9. There was a 15 mile backup and the road was closed for several hours. I had a 2 - 1/2 hr wait to get through -- but the loss of my time doesn't matter... Rumor on the CB radio (take with a grain of salt) was that there were 2 killed and 8 injured. Life flight was there, as well as about 15 police cars, ambulances, wreckers & fire engines. It was total chaos.


Why would I want to put pictures like these up on the web like this? I'm not into gory details and in all truth, the entire incident saddens me. Perhaps this is a rude way to do it, but this is what happens out here...


The truck had been traveling westbound on I-76 when it hit and jumped the 2-3 foot tall concrete divider and landed on its side, facing westbound on the eastbound traffic side, on top of 2-3 cars. Drivers said it was such a mangled mess under the trailer that they couldn't tell how many cars were there. This photo is not very good but if you look where all the men are standing, that is where the truck lays on its side. The cars have been hauled away. The other photo is a close-up of the truck's underside.
I don't know the cause of this accident. I could speculate, and do have my suspicions, but the truth is I DON'T KNOW.

I can further tell you that where the driver left his side of the interstate was at the bottom of a small to medium sized hill, on a right curve. Just prior to the curve there is an advisory sign that says, "Curve Ahead, 55 MPH". When I came back by the accident scene a day later, I saw the skid marks -- that end at the concrete divider.


Did the driver miss or ignore the curve advisory speed sign? Did he blow a steer tire? Did he fall asleep? Did he get cut off by a car? Did he have a heart attack? There are so many reasons it could've happened. I send up a "thank you" that it wasn't me and a prayer for those who weren't so lucky today. I'm not glad it was this person, but I'm grateful it wasn't me.


This driver, if alive, will now have his entire life examined. Everything that driver has done over the past couple weeks will be looked at and his logbook will be gone over with a very, very fine toothed comb. The driver will likely go to prison. The company will pay millions and millions of dollars for this accident.


Please don't let my words scare you to death, but please take them to heart...these trucks require your complete & total attention, all the time....they are big & heavy, don't stop on a dime and can mutilate....in the end, whose fault it is doesn't change the outcome one little bit. Dead is dead. Hurt is hurt. I try to remember, and adjust my attitude accordingly, that other motorists out there have families, too. They drive terribly sometimes, but someone somewhere loves them.


Later in the day I make my delivery in Williamsport, MD and deadhead over to Clayton, DE. In Clayton, I dropped & hooked, went only about 50 miles and called it a day. It was a pretty fast unload, about 2 hours or so.


UPDATE:  OCTOBER 11, 2000:  From an Associated Press article in "The Trucker", National Bi-Weekly edition, October 9 - 22, 2000.


Trucker held for trial in three deaths


An Ohio trucker must stand trial on charges related to the deaths of three people in an accident on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, a district justice said September 22.  "Driver's name" , 56, of Columbus was held for trial by District Justice Roger Eckels of Norvelt, Westmoreland County.


He remained free on bond on three counts of vehicular homicide and one count each of reckless driving and careless driving.


State police alleged that "driver" lost control of a truck hauling 22 tons of beer July 8th in the westbound lanes of the turnpike near the Donegal interchange.




Up and at 'em, as they say... well, kind of. About 10 miles after leaving the little truck stop where I slept, I hit a traffic jam. The CB Oh yet another traffic jam... this one is on US50, a few miles before the bridge.radio said there was a bus accident, but I never did actually see that. There went about 1 to 1 - 1/2 hours -- in bumper to bumper traffic. Boy, I sure seem to be finding them lately.


My new load goes to Rochelle, IL. I seem to be on some endless loop - always going in the same circle. Very strange for an OTR driver to do this. My clutch is giving me fits and I believe it is giving me warning signs that it is strongly considering total failure soon. It's slipping pretty bad, growling and the clutch brake is non-existent. I'm dreading this one because a complete clutch job is a full day's job plus so I know I'll be down an entire day getting it fixed.


I hit another traffic jam just north of Washington, D.C. This time it was construction -- down to one lane and as always, the cars race ahead of you before the lane closes. It's really annoying to drivers when cars do this. What is so irritating about it is that you are in the proper lane and when all these cars try to race you to the lane closure, all they really succeed in doing is bottlenecking the start of the construction area and making it that much slower. Ever heard the saying "Queue Up"? It means "get in line, wait your turn" and that is what I wish people would do more often. Anyway, another half hour or so is lost.




I hit another good, long traffic tie up on I-294 going through Chicago. About 30-40 minutes lost. I make it to Rochelle, IL, delivered and then dropped & hooked a load going to Louisville, KY. Another relatively fast unload, around 2 hours. I called the company's Breakdown Department and told them that my clutch is facing impending doom. They tell me to go to the truckstop in Rochelle to have it looked at and adjusted. I tell them okay, but this clutch does not need adjusting -- it needs replaced. No, I am not a mechanic but I do know this.


Have you ever taken your car to a mechanic and tried to explain what's wrong and the mechanic just looks at you as though you couldn't possibly know what you're talking about? Well, that's what I was getting. Fine. I took the truck to the truckstop and surprise, surprise, they told me they can't do anything for me. I called Breakdown back and we discussed the definition of "Free Play" as it relates to a clutch and once the mechanic decided I really did know what it meant, and my truck really did have some, well, then, I'd better go to the Freightliner dealer after delivery tomorrow. Yikes.




Delivering in Louisville, KY today. I will head over to Lexington, KY after this to put the truck in the shop. It's likely to be a good 10-15 hours to get the clutch work done, so I anticipate a motel room tonight. To tell you the truth, I'm looking forward to having running water close by for one night. I'm completely out of clean jeans so I hope the motel I land at has laundry facilities.




Well, yes the motel had laundry facilities...in fact, I was happy to find it was a "Days Inn" so it was pretty decent. My anticipation of a motel room was on the money and the clutch was really and truly out. The mechanics did not want to believe it, but ? Clutches are very expensive to replace -- this bill was somewhere around $1300+. It's often a full day's work, also.


I escaped Lexington, KY and went to Lafayette, IN to pick up a load that someone else had dropped. This is often referred to as a "T-Called" load. If you load something, but don't do the delivery, they "T-call" that load. That load went a whopping 103 miles to University Park, IL.


When I was dispatched on the load, it was already late. Since my truck is not equipped with wings or jet packs, I could not make it on time. Upon arriving at the receiver, I was informed (rudely) that that particular load had been late not just once, but twice and yadda yadda yadda.


I said (respectfully) that perhaps the load had been late twice but I had not been late at all, considering that the first I'd ever heard of the thing was just a few hours previous. This did not do anything for me and I was told to leave and have the company make another appointment for later in the day. It is about 2:AM. I give up, call dispatch to inform them and go to the truck stop. They have absolutely no mercy whatsoever. Heck with 'em.




I guess it's more like "Heck with Me". They refuse to make another appointment until 6:00 PM. Bummer. I play on the computer most of the day and feel sorry for myself and this endless circle of crap. This past 6 weeks has been nothing but trial after trial. I can tell I'm getting very well acclimated, though, because all of the sudden, I just don't care. I've decided I want to go home and want to do so very much. Haven't seen the house since mid-June.


I delivered the load at 6:00 PM and deadheaded to Ft. Atkinson, WI to drop & hook.




Got the drop & hook done in Ft. Atkinson and this load goes to Grand Island, NE. Now this is rough. I have to go right through Des Moines, IA (HOME) but there's the kicker -- right THROUGH. There's not even enough spare time to so much as stop. I smile and wave at town, but keep on truckin' towards Grand Island, NE.




There's little holding me back from getting home now....I have dropped & hooked in Grand Island, NE and amA beautiful & awesome Nebraska sunset...the photo doesn't do it justice.  Quite possibly, the favorite part of the job...seeing such beauty. headed towards the house. I've picked a trailer up that was loaded here but they want it dropped in Council Bluffs, IA and then I'll bobtail home. Hallelujah!!!!


I got some good news today. I'll be switching fleets soon and it's something I've been waiting for. The fleet I'm going onto has a unique deal. You spend one week OTR and then you get out of the truck for a week. You share a truck with one other person. Basically, then, you're gone 2 weeks per month and home 2 weeks per month. It pays a salary every week instead of mileage.  I'm looking forward to it and have been on a waiting list since May.





I am currently enjoying my recliner, TV remote control and running water.




Wow, I've been off work, or at least off the road for awhile now... Getting back into the truck, though, is like getting back up on the horse -- it feels the same as it did when you left it in about 5 minutes. I've been home this whole time because the timing was screwed up as far as getting onto this new fleet. Since I share a truck with another person, it's down to nearly an exact science as to when to leave out and when to get back. When I came off the road last time, the other guy had recently gone home for his home time. I had to wait while he took part of his "off week" and then went truckin for a week. In all truth, I am not complaining because I had time to get a lot done and I also worked at the truck driving school for part of the time. (I worked there full time until I returned to driving.) Anyway.....


I picked up an empty trailer in Des Moines, IA and brought it up to Lemars, IA to load for GUESS -- I'll bet you can't believe it -- The East Coast! Yes, once again, I am going to South Plainfield, New Jersey. Nothing new I guess. Yet this time I have an entirely different attitude about it.. 

Since I've changed fleets I am now salaried. A tendency I've had that's not necessarily good is that when I'm sitting in a traffic jam for an hour or construction or whatever, I'll say to myself, "Good, you made .25 an hour for the last hour's work." It's a bad way to think because you tend to forget about the hours you make the good money and pretty soon, your attitude isn't so good.  I think I am going to really like this salary thing. I've never been paid any way other than mileage. Trucking -- especially on mileage pay -- is most definitely "performance based". A lot of people are starting to look harder at hourly and salary pay for drivers with this new HOS stuff. I believe the only way to change the cheating situation is to change the pay structure. If you haven't been following the new HOS, you probably should be. It may pass -- it may not -- but you can be sure that HOS are going to change in some way, shape or form before too long.


After loading (3 hours, hey that was quick) I had to run down to Council Bluffs, IA and swap trucks. That's because of the new fleet thing. That's all well and wonderful but switching trucks is a Drag (with a capital "D"). It just doesn't seem as though a sleeper can hold that much stuff but believe me, it can! I have been traveling "light" because I knew this deal was coming up but it still took me at least 1- 1/2 to 2 hours to get all my stuff out of one truck and into the other.


I'm glad I changed, though, because after driving just a few miles this morning, I started hearing an abnormal sound.... I checked it out and the stupid thing had a healthy exhaust leak. Just under the sleeper, where the "sleeve" of the exhaust " tube" fits into the other "tube", it had come off and sounded like a former Camaro I used to own....vvrroooom, go, racetruck!


The new truck is the exact same kind but rides nicer, shifts nice-n-easy and goes a whole 2 mph faster! Welcome to the world of "governed" trucks! Did you know that most company trucks are "set" (or "governed") for a certain maximum speed?  Sometimes they're even set for a maximum RPM within each gear. Ever wonder why two trucks get side by side and try to pull a hill, and stay like that for miles and miles? The drivers probably have their feet to the floor but the governor only allows such and such a speed and once you reach it, you can put your foot through the floorboard and the simple truth is, there ain't no more! I dislike playing "war of the governors" and if someone is that desperate to pass me, I usually back it off a bit and let 'em get it done.


I made it home to Des Moines, IA and will stay here for the night and take off tomorrow (Sat) for a Monday afternoon delivery in Jersey. This isn't counted as "home time" because I am home "under the load" -- i.e., I am responsible for a load that is not delivered as yet.


For what it's worth, here is a map of my recent travels...




IS THIS A FULL MOON OR WHAT? I left Des Moines, IA on Saturday late afternoon and not even 10 miles out of town I made a friend... let's see, how shall I say this... a friend who wanted to be instantly intimate by showing me things that are better left elsewhere --- anywhere besides on the interstate at 65 mph. That's how this trip started. All went fine until I pulled a "DUH" over in Indiana later tonight.


Some important things to notice here... I-80 runs into, and with, I-294 for awhile. It then runs into, and with I-94 for awhile. It then splits off from I-94 and joins up with I-90 and they run together for a good, long while. If you're not paying attention in these situations, your interstate will "split off" and you may end up on the wrong side of the split!


WHERE I SPACED OFF: I knew I had to catch US20E. I saw the sign for US20E, and I took the exit.


THE PROBLEM WITH THAT PLAN, THOUGH, was that the first exit for US 20 is not long after the I-80/ I-94 split. This exit takes you on a little scenic back roads drive ... which might have been nice under different circumstances. The exit I really wanted and intended to take was farther up I-94. Almost immediately I started feeling like something was wrong...that intuitive feeling isn't something to be ignored. I knew I was on US20, but I knew I'd never been on that stretch of road before. It didn't take long to realize what I'd done. As far as mistakes go, this was a very small one but could have been a lot worse. It cost me a couple of extra miles and about 20? extra minutes. Luckily, I could afford those minutes on this trip. Had it been the middle of the day -- or worse, on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, the time lost could easily double or triple. If I were running close on time, that could make the difference between "on time" and "late". If there's one thing you should do to impress your company, it is to always be on time for appointments. If you're paid a safety or productivity bonus, it obviously requires that you're involved in no accidents, fender/benders, moving violations, driver violations and last but not least, that you haven't been late for pickup/delivery appointments!! Yes, one late could possibly make you lose an entire bonus. One late could be several hundred bucks!

Just as a friendly word of wisdom: write down your route. Every time you make a highway change, look at what you've written down again to see what the next highway change will be. Include the exit number where you're supposed to catch that next highway or the town name. Okay, so now you know the importance of knowing where you're going and writing it out....

I'm running mostly two lane roads today. My company does not reimburse the IN or OH turnpikes so I rarelyjust gotta love those 2 lanes... run them. Instead I have to run this back roads maze kind of thing... it takes about 2 hours longer, even though it's only about 15 extra miles.  My other option is to run about 70 miles out of route.  Which I do depends on my mood -- as well as the time of day, day of week, etc.


It rained most of the day today. Hundreds of miles of rain. The shot to the left came out pretty well -- behind me it was very light and had been the sunniest and nicest weather part of the trip. In front of me was another story ... dark gray and foreboding. It doesn't take a meteorologist to see that I was leaving the good stuff behind..


I got into PA and hit a 15 minute backup... no big deal. A bit farther down the road, the radio was cackling that a four-wheeler had hit a black bear.... hmmm. Don't know about this one. There were 3 to 4 police cars, two trucks and a four wheeler or two stopped at the side of the road, but didn't see evidence of the poor bear. I'm now convinced it's a full moon. no, driver, you may not take it with you....


I pull into my fuel stop and see some damage done by a driver who must have been terribly distracted. The picture to the left is what is left of a fuel pump after the driver forgot to remove it from his/her tank after fueling. Try explaining that one to the safety department. Don't get me wrong -- I am not being critical -- lord knows what he/she was thinking at the time...? We all have our moments. Sometimes our "moments" -- especially my own-- can last for days at a time!




This is a very unfriendly & uptight NJ cop... Yes, I was lucky enough to meet him today. No, I wasn't misbehaving. I got myself a wee bit turned around getting to South Plainfield, NJ. In my own defense, I have a pretty good excuse... kind of. The problem is that the atlas doesn't show the exit number I was supposed to take as even existing. That's strange enough. To make matters worse, you can only take this "non-existent" exit from one direction. It just so happens that that wasn't the direction I was coming from! Take a look for yourself at the atlas. Look at I-287 in New Jersey, at the bottom of the loop. You'll be able to find an Exit #5, and you'll also find Exits #2 and #3, but where for art thou, Exit #4? Well, it's there, but only if you're headed northbound. I thought I'd be slick and tried a cool move rather than turn around and head back north. Well, the cool move got me lost. It wasn't too hectic -- only one 13'7 bridge to deal with. Hey, an inch of clearance is about as good as a mile! (not really)


It was kind of an experience, however, because as I was ever-so-slowly creeping under the overpass, watching my mirrors, holding my breath and praying, a train chose that particular moment in time to come over the tracks over my head.


BLAMblqamboomwhamsmackchoochoochoo!!!! I nearly had a heart attack thinking at first it was my trailer hitting the overpass making all that racket. I'm not pregnant but I had to do Lamaze breathing for the next couple miles to get my racing heart back under control!


I decide enough is enough. I know that pretty soon, if I keep "wandering" around lost like this, I will surely find an overpass that I can't eeeek my way under. I do what any good driver would do to prevent future harm and stop the truck on the side of the road with the four way flashers going. I am poring over the map, wanting to find my way back to I-287, Northbound this time, so I can start all over again. I am so into the map that when the officer pounds on the door I jump. He was very rude and asked me what I was doing sitting there. I thought it to be a rather dumb question, an out-of-state truck on the side of the road with an atlas spread out over the steering wheel... but I informed him that I was lost. He responded that I "couldn't just park in the street like this." He also wanted to know if anyone else was in the truck with me. I told him no, and that I just wanted back to I-287. He told me where to turn and damn near ran back to his car, jumped in and nailed the guy you see him with in the photo. I don't have anything against cops at all -- I really do not -- but this cop was a straight-up, power-hungry, young, punk jerk. So there~! Told him, didn't I??


Well, anyway all that fun is over and I'm sitting at the consignee in South Plainfield, NJ. I'm going on 6+ hours waiting to unload. The good news is, though, that since I am now a salaried driver, I don't care what stupid games they play... I still make my money. I get to reload right out of this same place for Jackson, WI. Hope they're not as slow with the reload as they are with the unload.


A few pics from recent travels...


shag truck, or yard jockey


This is a "shag" truck. (Also called "yard jockey") It is used to move trailers around a yard and is rarely used on the street. The driver can reach directly behind him and step through to hook up air lines/elec. Also notice the dollies are nearly a foot off the ground. That's because these have hydraulic lifts.







A truck escape, or runaway ramp. These are generally filled with sand and pea gravel and are intended to stop you in a real quick hurry. You can see this one extends quite aways. Some are built into the side of a mountain and go very steeply uphill.






The driver's favorite place to be (just kidding) The grocery store warehouse!!! These places are notorious for taking a long, long, long time to unload as well as making the driver do the unloading. From the driver's seat, where the picture was taken, there is a long line of trucks parked waiting for a dock door.






This is just one of the tunnels on the PA Turnpike. I'm not sure just how many there are but there are at least several. This presents a problem to the HazMat hauler because, as you know, HazMat is not allowed through tunnels. I have heard something lately, though, that PA is considering lifting some tunnel restrictions. It is hard to go around these tunnels.




Those of you from the East know all about these... commonly referred to as the "cashbox", it is where you pay your fee for running on a toll road. Out East, it seems you hardly go very far and it's time to pay another toll. Note that there are certain lanes for trucks vs. for cars. Also note that these lanes are somewhat "skinny". If you could look closer, you'd see many a mark where a driver has scraped against the concrete. Pay special attention to your mirrors when approaching the pay booth...look for yourself sometime to see the evidence of many-a-mirror scraped against these booths.



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