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The Best Laid Plans Usually Fall To Pieces

by Becky Prestwich

The day from hell started Wednesday and helped itself to three days, just to make it interesting. Dee and I got a pre-plan for a trip from Ohio to New Jersey. We have tried to avoid going to any state east or north of Pennsylvania, and honestly, we could have even avoided Pennsylvania and been perfectly content. Alas, it was not to be. We had just dropped a load in Ohio and they had one that needed to be picked up just 40 miles away and hauled to the Garden State.

As is always the case, we planned our trip according to the hours we had available. The plan was to go to the shipper and get loaded and get a couple of hours down the road before we had to shut down for the night. We had a good seven hours. We needed about an hour to get to the shipper , and we estimated, as we usually do, that we would need two hours to get loaded. That gave us a couple of hours to drive and locate a truck stop.

The Problems Begin

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We got to the shipper and checked in and were told to bump the dock right after another truck pulled out. It didn't take long before we were up against the dock so it seemed as if things were going well. That was the end of that. We sat there for two hours before they even began to load the trailer. Then, they stopped. And we waited. And waited. They didn't start loading us again till an hour and a half later.

Four and a half hours after we arrived, we were loaded. Finally. We had just enough time to limp into the closest truck stop, a filthy little place that had not seen a woman in years. Problem was, Dee had heard an air leak coming from the trailer and had determined it was from a leveler valve in the rear so we had to call Fleet Support. They ended up sending a man out to the truck stop to fix it so we had to wait up for him. Four hours after we got there, the truck was fixed and our day was over. We crawled into bed without even eating any dinner.

The next morning we left the abominable truck stop and headed east. We knew the day was going to be a lot tighter because we had not made any progress towards our receiver the night before, the drive was a solid ten hours after the forced break and fuel stop, and the appointment was for that evening. We had eleven hours' drive time, true, but an hour leeway in consideration of traffic jams and accidents does not leave you with a lot of confidence. By the grace of God, we made it to the receiver with thirty minutes to spare and this was a drop and hook.

Dee dropped the trailer at the appointed dock and went in search of an empty. There was not one Company empty trailer in the whole lot. Dee had to go back into the shipping office to inform them of this and, blessedly, they immediately went to unload a Company trailer at the dock for him. They had it empty lickity-split, and Dee hooked up. But we were out of hours and could not go anywhere to find a truck stop. We ended up sleeping there on the receivers property. Fortunately, they did not complain. Unfortunately, neither of us got a shower. They also had no bathroom facilities that were available to us so if we had to "go", we were out of luck.

Our next pre-plan was a pickup in Pennsylvania for a load going to Ohio. We had the hours, no problem. We got to the shipper and bumped the dock immediately. No sooner had Dee set the brakes than they started to load the trailer. Oh happy day! In no time at all they had us loaded and ready to go. We set off for the six hour cruise with ten drive hours. With a fuel stop and forced break, I figured we would arrive with two and a half hours to spare. Our appointment was not till the next morning but this was drop and hook so we could go in as soon as we got there. I told Dee, "I think we should go straight to a truck stop and knock off early so we can get showers in. I'm not going one more day without a shower." He agreed. I spoke too soon.

Just When I Thought.....

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Our first delay came when we were about ten miles from our next exit onto the next highway. Traffic came to a sudden halt. As truckers do, we immediately turned on the CB to hear the chatter and to see what the delay was. In short order we learned that there was an accident about eight miles ahead of us. Apparently a dump truck driver skidded into the center island and they were trying to pull him out. We listened to an argument between drivers while we slowly crawled along. It took about thirty five minutes from our cushion. (In case you're wondering, one driver impatiently asked two in front of him why they were pacing each other and holding up traffic behind them to which the more seasoned driver replied that this was how truckers keep the four wheelers from zooming around and holding up traffic. They exchanged pleasantries by calling each other rookies, and the rest of the conversation is unprintable.)

And It Gets Worse

The next delay came when we entered Pittsburg during rush hour, taking I 376, which goes right through town. The traffic was extremely congested and we were in stop and go traffic for what seemed like hours. In reality, we probably lost another thirty minutes. Tick, tick, tick. The clock never stops ticking. The most harrowing moment, though, was when we saw a sign that alerted us to a tunnel with 13'6"clearance. Another sign warned us that if the light ahead flashed that we were too tall we would not be able to take the tunnel. And the last exit had a sign that said no trucks over 20 tons. How's that for city planning? When we got to the tunnel we saw that any truck that got "flashed" had to do a U-turn right there in front of the tunnel and go back the way he came. Fortunately, we cleared. But I was sweating it.

We finally did arrive at the receiver with about 40 minutes left. We went in and dropped the trailer and hooked up to the only empty we saw. 35 minutes left and all we had to do was check out with the guard shack and make our way a mile and a half to the closest truck stop. It was a small place with only a hand full of parking spots and no showers, but we were both so ready to be done that we didn't bother to care.

Dee found the only empty Company trailer in the lot, as far as we could tell, and started to pull it out of the spot and I'll be darned if the thing would not move. The brake was frozen and Dee could not get it to budge. Back and forth he went, all the while trucks and hostlers drove by, and that trailer was stuck tight. After twenty minutes we finally broke free. We had just enough time to check out and get to the truck stop if the brake would break free.

No amount of backing up and going forward worked. No amount of driving was thawing it out or breaking it loose. Dee went and talked to the guard, who told Dee he could park the trailer and pick another one from another area. As he pulled the truck forward to turn around, he discovered that it would no longer move forward. So he ended up having to back it all the way to a parking spot and then he had to find another empty. By the time he got that hooked up we were out of service hours (though we had an hour of drive time left) but we couldn't stay at the receivers yard so we had to make our way to the truck stop. We started the day with a two and a half hour cushion but ended up going over our hours of service by seventeen minutes!

So here we sit, backed into a tight little corner spot beside a car that decided it was a good idea to park in truck parking, hoping the guy on the other side can get out if he leaves before we do. We had a crappy, convenience store dinner and, once again, neither of us was able to take a shower. Thank God for personal wipes. They aren't a perfect solution but at least we can take what I have heard referred to as a "whores bath". Gross, I know, but if you are a trucker, or you know one, I know you'll understand.

Shipper:

The customer who is shipping the freight. This is where the driver will pick up a load and then deliver it to the receiver or consignee.

Drop And Hook:

Drop and hook means the driver will drop one trailer and hook to another one.

In order to speed up the pickup and delivery process a driver may be instructed to drop their empty trailer and hook to one that is already loaded, or drop their loaded trailer and hook to one that is already empty. That way the driver will not have to wait for a trailer to be loaded or unloaded.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

OOS:

When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

by Brett Aquila

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