Rookie Solo Adventures Of A Knuckle Draggin Primate (Rob D.)

Topic 28708 | Page 11

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Bird-One's Comment
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Think it’s safe to say we’re all proud of you Rob. Awesome stuff man.

Rob D.'s Comment
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2/21/2021 update; frozen tundra edition.

I’m back in the truck after some semi-unplanned home time, as I’ll explain below, and in Hearne, Texas on another 34-hour reset. This week I reached the 6-month solo benchmark. I will post my numbers at the end of this update.

Drove from Salt Lake City through Idaho to Umatilla, Oregon where I stayed at a mom-and-pop truck stop. It was cold and snowy, which seems to be the national weather pattern lately.

Finished the drive the drive next morning to Kent and Auburn, Washington. I had washed the truck, but the snow/slush on Snoqualmie pass pretty much undid that. This time of year, with the weather we’ve had, it just doesn’t seem worth it to wash the truck. Two-stop load in the Tacoma, Washington area. Delivered my first load and got to see, for the first time, the load. Long aluminum beams with lots of sharp corners. Took a while to unload, because they have to pick these off piece by piece and make sure that they aren’t taking items for the second stop. My second stop was 7 miles away and before I tarped the load again, I called to ask if I could roll with just the plastic. “I can’t make that call,” said the guy at the 90. So, full resecure and retarp to drive 7 miles.

Got to the 90, and apparently, there were two orders, going to different places, but only one bill of lading. Took a while to “sort that out.” Finally get unloaded and get my next load.

Rough cut lumber going to Hill City, South Dakota. No tarp though. There was a driver in front of me securing who asked me about his trailer air bags, which had yet to inflate. I explained that he just needed to wait until the pressure builds up in the tanks. I also helped him secure his load because he was in the loading spot, so I was not going to get loaded with him there. Got loaded, secured and made it to the other side of Snoqualmie before shutting down. All in, a pretty good day of over 200 miles driving to the receiver, two drops, including a full resecure and retarp, pick up another load, and then get about 180 miles away from the Washington coast. Wednesday was all day driving across I-90, Washington, Montana, and Idaho. Mainly, the road surface was clear, with varying degrees of snow cover: full lane, narrow lane, or just tire tracks that were clear. A couple of mountain passes that called for slow and easy. One in particular was packed snow/ice covered and the dry paved speed limit was 25 mph. Crept down that one.

Next day was mostly the same, except I experienced some “draft snow” whiteouts. Started driving in the dark and the winds had blown snow across the road, which didn’t really affect traction, but did affect visibility. When another truck passed me, it created a cone of “draft snow” behind it causing zero visibility. The first couple of times I kinda freaked out, because I couldn’t see the road. But then I developed a strategy to deal with this draft snow whiteout. As soon as the passing truck got to the driver rear corner of my trailer, I put on my flashers, slowed WAY down, and then found reference points on the side of the road to be able to know where I am in the road when the draft snow whiteout hit me. During this time, I saw two trucks in the ditch, which I assume that they had the same problem but weren’t able to find the road. Once the sun came up, it got easier to see through the whiteout and also to use the side of the road reference points. I had messaged my FM later in the day saying that I would still get to the delivery, but it would be later. Essentially taking the whole day. I got an immediate response “if the roads are bad shutdown.” This was the same day at the Ft. Worth pile up, which included a Prime flatbed. I assured my FM that roads were fine now, but that the delay was earlier in the day. Got to the receiver, delivered, and got message from my FM: “get some rest.” Went to a nearby truck stop and settled in. I had to idle the truck all night because my APU and bunk heater were not working properly.

Fm:

Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.

APU:

Auxiliary Power Unit

On tractor trailers, and APU is a small diesel engine that powers a heat and air conditioning unit while charging the truck's main batteries at the same time. This allows the driver to remain comfortable in the cab and have access to electric power without running the main truck engine.

Having an APU helps save money in fuel costs and saves wear and tear on the main engine, though they tend to be expensive to install and maintain. Therefore only a very small percentage of the trucks on the road today come equipped with an APU.

Rob D.'s Comment
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2/21/2021 update continued:

My next load picked up right next to Mt. Rushmore. While waiting to get loaded, I looked on the map to see if there were some truck-friendly road I could take to get a picture, but looking at the satellite view it appears that it is really tucked away and you need to take these windy park roads to get to where you can see. Plus, it was pretty late by the time I got rolling. I had a step deck and the load was tall enough, and long enough that I needed all four of my tarps. So, needless to say, it took some time to secure.

Now this load was going to Chester, Illinois, the home of Popeye, so St. Louis was right on the way. I ended up taking an extended 34-hour reset. I got there Saturday night late and parked close enough to my house to where I could walk home. Spent Saturday and Sunday night at home. Because the APU was not running long enough to charge the batteries, I would drop by during the day and run the truck for a while to keep the batteries charged. It snowed Sunday, and then more snow was forecast for Monday. And my delivery required me to drive two-lane roads in Missouri or Illinois. Monday morning, the Illinois road conditions report showed snow all the way to my delivery. I had scheduled home time for the coming weekend, so, I sent a proposal to my FM: I take my home time now, deliver Wednesday, and then cancel my weekend home time. When he finally got a hold of the receiver, I got a message “Wednesday delivery ok. 90 says roads are terrible.” So, I get another couple of days at home, which I did end up going “back to work early.”

On Tuesday, I took the truck to the St. Louis Thermoking repair shop to have it checked out. I have my wife take me to the truck, which after several attempts, won’t start. The batteries are dead. So, I end up jumping it with my Jeep Wrangler. After letting it charge from the Jeep for about 30 minutes, it cranked right over. Drove it downtown and got the APU fixed. So, now I’m good with 1) APU, including charging the batteries, and 2) bunk heater running all night without any shutdown. I end up driving to the Ozora Truck Stop down I-55 that Tuesday to get closer to my 90.

The next morning, I drive to my 90, who tells me that this load is supposed to go to their other store about 30 miles away. After communication with my FM , I get there and get unloaded, which was difficult because frozen tarps don’t really roll up as much as fold up.

Fm:

Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.

APU:

Auxiliary Power Unit

On tractor trailers, and APU is a small diesel engine that powers a heat and air conditioning unit while charging the truck's main batteries at the same time. This allows the driver to remain comfortable in the cab and have access to electric power without running the main truck engine.

Having an APU helps save money in fuel costs and saves wear and tear on the main engine, though they tend to be expensive to install and maintain. Therefore only a very small percentage of the trucks on the road today come equipped with an APU.

Rob D.'s Comment
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02/21/2021 update conclusion

After this, I get my most challenging tarp job to date. It’s electrical cable trays, that are sharp aluminum, but the load was tall enough that I needed two lumber tarps and one black steel tarp. Because my tarps were not really rolled up, they were pretty unwieldy. The preloaded trailer had a space next to it, so I ended up backing my empty trailer right next to it to use as a platform. The lumber tarps were not that bad, but the black steel tarp was difficult. I ended up using bungees to hold it up and then climb on top of the load to pull it up. A video of me tarping the load would served well for one of these industrial safety videos of what NOT to do. Not only is the aluminum slick by nature, but it was covered with snow, and I’m up there on top pulling up this 70 lb tarp. It took a long time, but I got it done.

Drove to the Oak Grove 70, near Kansas City for the night, which drive across I-70 had its own challenges. The drive lanes on I-70 were shiny, but I couldn’t tell whether it was liquid or ice. The many cars that had slid off into the ditch, plus the eastbound driver, who came on the CB saying “east bound MM 157, black ice, black ice, slow down, slow down,” made me think that shiny road conditions were ice. But I made it, and as Turtle would say “But I didn’t die!”

These cable trays are going to South Dakota, just across the Iowa state line. Most of the day Thursday driving, and in fact, I debated whether I wanted to deliver that Thursday or Friday morning. I was, and still am, sore from rolling frozen tarps followed by throwing those same frozen tarps over the cable trays. I ended up delivering that Thursday. It was at the end of the shift, so I had about 5 helpers unload, which was a welcome relief.

As soon as I sent my arrival, I got a preplanned load going from Boone, Iowa to College Station, Texas (near Houston). It’s another tarped load, which I didn’t appreciate. I ended up getting most of the way there that Thursday night and then got there about 0830 Friday morning. To my pleasant surprise, got loaded indoors and the forklift operator put my tarps on. In fact, he said “the highest we’ll let you go is the deck.” So, all I needed to do was straps and bungees. I roll a good ways after that, stopping in Oklahoma, hoping for a shower. Unfortunately, because of the ice storm, no shower that night.

Saturday, I drove most of the way to my 90: I’m about 30 miles away. Got the truck washed on the way and went to Walmart in Denton, Texas, to stock up on groceries. After arriving at the Love’s in Hearne, Texas, I cleaned the inside of the truck, cooked fish and shrimp in curry sauce, and took a welcomed shower late last night. It’s 60 degrees right now and the high today is 69. I had chicken and waffles at Penny’s Diner and will go find a geocache here shortly.

6-month solo numbers:

Dispatched miles: 64,309. Gross pay: $34,823.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

PackRat's Comment
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Congratulations on that solo milestone although Rainy, Turtle and I are wanting our cut of the proceeds.

Turtle's Comment
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James J.'s Comment
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Just curious how you liked the Denton area?I know you just passed thru and didn't spend much time there.Thinking of moving there to that area or Dover ark area.

Tortuga 's Comment
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Hey Rob you weren't to far from Waco. I wa busy working but had i not been i could have met ya in Hearn.

Tortuga 's Comment
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Hey James J, Denton area isn't too bad to live as far as i know. Good thing about Texas is we have no state income tax where Arkansas does. But our cost of living is a bit higher so they may even out.

Rob D.'s Comment
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Hey Rob you weren't to far from Waco. I wa busy working but had i not been i could have met ya in Hearn.

Maybe next time

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