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

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Rob D.'s Comment
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12/6/2020 Update

I’m on another 34-hour reset, because as I’ve mentioned I burn through my 70 pretty regularly. I’m in Packrat’s neck of the woods. Morgantown, West Virginia.

Delivered my load of sheet rock early Monday morning. Next load was an easy one. Tamko shingles, out of Joplin, Missouri going to Herrin, Illinois.

I have mentioned before that with flatbed you get a lot of variety in receiver locations. The actual receiver for the shingle load was not a difficult back, but the town of Herrin, Illinois itself was difficult maneuvering. The streets are about a lane and half wide, no shoulder, ditches on both sides, and stop signs or utilities poles very close to the corners. And the route my GPS wanted to take me had a sign that said no trucks, so I had to wander around the town until I finally got to the receiver.

Next load was metal channels that they use in electrical applications. Picking up in Highland, Illinois the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and delivering to Tyler Texas the Monday after Thanksgiving. Nothing to eventful regarding the load. Two steel tarps, which I’m getting better at throwing, and then off to the Prime terminal in Springfield, I had scheduled an appointment for them to look at my bunk heater while I was on “home time” for Thanksgiving. I put home time in quotes because I’m under a load, it technically doesn’t count as home time. In fact, I have only taken one actual home time since I’ve gone solo. My second home time, I was loaded and just sat on it a few days while I was at home. And, based on the message from my FM , he will do the same thing for Christmas. Load us Tuesday or Wednesday for a Monday or Tuesday delivery.

After home time for Thanksgiving, I drove back to Springfield in my POV that Sunday and got going early Monday morning. In addition to fixing my bunk heater (said the alternator on the APU was not charging) the Prime tractor shop fixed my mirrors, and put new bolts in my deer guard.

Next load is shingles again, going to Kansas City, Missouri. As the door swingers rightly say, most flatbed deliveries are in industrial areas and don’t require difficult backing or maneuvering. This receiver was in an industrial area, but the entrance was tighter than normal. On the right side there was a chain link fence that had been run over several times and on the left side there as a battered utility pole.

Easy unload and then off to Columbia, Missouri to pick up a load even easier than shingles. Large PVC pipe, of three tiers, and three rows. And the forklift operator even lifted the top pipe off so that I could throw a belly strap over the second tier. This load was going to Tiverton, Rhode Island. Providence area. Although, Rhode Island is so small, almost the entire state is Providence area. The Qualcomm GPS, Navigo, wanted to take me on I-80 and through the NYC area. But after asking advice from Turtle and Packrat, I decided, as per Dana Carvey’s George H. W. Bush impersonation, “Not gonna do it. Wouldn’t be prudent.” So took I-90, through Turtle’s stomping grounds. Pretty uneventful delivery at about 1400 CST, Friday. So what would I get next after a string of easy loads. I was thinking Nucor, Slinkies. Or maybe Charlotte Pipe, out of Muncie, PA. Nope.

Terminal:

A facility where trucking companies operate out of, or their "home base" if you will. A lot of major companies have multiple terminals around the country which usually consist of the main office building, a drop lot for trailers, and sometimes a repair shop and wash facilities.

Qualcomm:

Omnitracs (a.k.a. Qualcomm) is a satellite-based messaging system with built-in GPS capabilities built by Qualcomm. It has a small computer screen and keyboard and is tied into the truck’s computer. It allows trucking companies to track where the driver is at, monitor the truck, and send and receive messages with the driver – similar to email.

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.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

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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12/6/2020 update continued

The infamous Novelis, Oswego, NY going to Fairmont, West Virginia. 369 mile deadhead , and 431 miles loaded. To be picked up Saturday, delivered on Saturday, and then a preplan 92 miles away from the receiver. Not the easy pickup Friday, drive Saturday, and deliver Monday “weekend” load that I expected.

I made it to the Schuyler Service Plaza on I-90, leaving 531 miles to cover to the receiver and then 92 to the next shipper for a total day of 623. Quite the challenge.

Early the next morning, I got a text from Turtle who said he could meet me at the Schuyler Service Plaza at about 6:30 EST. Exactly when my 10-hour break was over. And then got a follow up message that he was more like 7:00 EST. Because I could start my clock whenever, and had the whole day and night to pick up and deliver, I waited and hung out with Turtle for about 45 minutes. The calm before the storm.

The first time at Novelis, you take a safety quiz after you scale in. I passed. Went to the “cold mill” where I was to pick up 2 aluminum coils weighing about 23,000 lbs each. Got there, backed in the bay and got the coils loaded shotgun orientation. You completely secure inside the bay behind closed doors.

Chaining wasn’t’ bad. I did two “x” chains through the coils with Prime issued 5/16” chains. I had bought two 25’ 3/8” grade 70 chains that I cut in half to make two shorter chains. The 3/8” chains have a working load limit of 6,600 lbs. I put two of those per coil. So, I had over 22,000 lbs of securement per 23,000 lb coil. The coils had cardboard on the top edges and hard plastic through the center. The plastic looked substantial enough that I didn’t use metal edge protectors. Before, I put my tarps on, one of the workers there looked and my coils and said “where’s your edge protection.” I pointed to the plastic rings. He said “that’s just plastic. You need metal edge protectors.” We both went to the window to talk to the other Novelis guy. I told them that I would undo the chains and put on edge protection if that was required. After some discussion, the first guy said “hurry up and put a tarp on it. Just use metal edge protection next time.”

Tarping was another story. The coils are about 6’ tall. So, one steel tarp just barely came down to the deck. Not enough to pass muster. The second guy from the edge protection discussion said “just throw a lumber tarp over that one and you’re good.” Easier said than done. The lumber tarps are about 100 lbs and I couldn’t get it lifted up on top of the coil from the deck. So I got my ladder out and after struggling several times, managed to get it perched on the top wrung of the ladder. From there I could get it on the coils. While I was getting my tarp secured, the first guy before saw my ladder on the deck and said “put that away. You can’t have a ladder on the deck, for safety purposes.” He rolled his eyes when he said it. After, I’m almost done, one final challenge. The back of the tarp had too much open space exposing the coil, so I had to redo it. Total turn-around time 4.5 hours. Not looking good to make all my appointments.

I plug the receiver into my Garmin and the fuel stop into Navigo and head out. After a while, I decide to set my fuel stop as a waypoint on my Garmin. When I do, it adds 45 minutes to my “arrive in” time.

Driver’s talk about “blindly” following your GPS, which for the most part I do. I look at the general overview on Google maps but then simply follow the GPS directions. I run both Navigo and Garmin for redundancy. If they are both taking me the same way, it gives my confidence I’m headed in the right direction. However, I do pay attention to where the GPS leads me. I would never drive onto a lake or dirt road because the GPS told me turn there. And I Always pay attention to each turn. If the GPS wants to take me down aa minor road, I won’t turn there.

The problem with just looking at the overview to my destination and then adding my fuel stop later, is that the fuel stop was not on the general overview route. And while the mileage was about the same, it was a lot of “cross country” to get to the fuel stop. And then more cross country after the fuel stop. U.S. 219 was one of the more major roads yet Turtle’s Walmart trainer’s referred to it as a goat trail. So in addition that goat trail, I drove down PA 28, PA, 66, etc. Very curvy and hilly. Many 35 mph curves, along with a few 25 mph and even a few 10 mph curves thrown in there. And snow on U.S. 219, north of I-80. All through the Allegheny National Forest. To give you a flavor the back woods character of the roads, I noticed a side road on my Garmin named Pig Ear Road. So, by the time I get to the TA in Brookville, I’m really cutting it close on my remaining drive time. I end up making it there at 0023, only to have the guard at the shack tell me that they don’t have anyone to unload my coil. Come back Monday morning. Well, that solved one problem with my preplan. I can’t get another load until I unload my coils. I send a message to dispatch with the information I was given, which message the night dispatch acknowledged.

Deadhead:

To drive with an empty trailer. After delivering your load you will deadhead to a shipper to pick up your next load.

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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Rob D.'s Comment
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12/6/2020 update fin

So I head to K & T Truck stop, like a mile from the receiver and park for the night to start my 34-hour reset.

The next morning about 11:30 I get a message from dispatch saying that another driver just unloaded their coil at the receiver and I could get unloaded today. I message back with the problem with my hours. I only have 3:40 left on my 70. And, because I burn through my 70 by Saturday, I don’t even get recaps back until Monday at midnight. So, if I interrupt my 70 to deliver and then pick another load, I will be out of hours and will have to sit all day Monday anyway. Dispatch messages back to finish my 34-hour reset and then deliver on Monday.

As usual, I cleaned the truck, did some laundry, caught up on my diary and cooked some pork rib meat in my Aroma Grillet.

So tomorrow, I’ll unload and then get another load, going somewhere. As per Flatbedder’s Rhapsody, “Anywhere the load goes . . . .”

Tortuga 's Comment
member avatar

Great update Rob! No one can accuse you of being a slacker for sure! I like keeping up with your adventures.

One question though, if you are 3hrs from your 34hr reset and can't drive does your 34hrs become 37hrs?

Rob D.'s Comment
member avatar

Great update Rob! No one can accuse you of being a slacker for sure! I like keeping up with your adventures.

One question though, if you are 3hrs from your 34hr reset and can't drive does your 34hrs become 37hrs?

No. The three hours was what I had left on my 70. 34 hours resets all your clocks so I have 70 hours now.

Tortuga 's Comment
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Oh Okay! Thanks for the explanation Rob.

Rob D.'s Comment
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12/15/2020 Update; Bumper car edition

I delivered the steel coils on Monday. I felt like a dry van or reefer driver. All day to unload. After I checked in with the guard, they sent me back to the K & T Truck Stop to wait. They call you down. About three hours later. I get the call. Head down and untarp and take most of my chains off. Then I move from the lower parking lot to the upper parking lot. Then after about another hour, I actually unload. Check in time was 1100, and I didn’t leave until 1900.

Next load is plywood going to Tampa, Florida. The shipper stops loading at 2100. I make it there at 2130. After talking to another driver, I back into the empty bay. Similar to other places where we need to load inside you back into a bay, which is more like a chute, and there are platforms on each side for the forklift operator to load you. The forklift driver says something about 9 o’clock, to which I respond “can I still get loaded.” He says “I’ll load you. They called and said you would be late.” I half secure, straps and tarps, but finish securing outside in the snow. There is not enough room in these “chutes” to stand beside the trailer. After that, I park at shipper for my 10-hour break.

It’s 820 miles to the receiver, so two days of driving. I make it to Georgia for the night. Next day, I have a somewhat leisurely day because my appointment is not until 1600 and driving straight through I would get there about 11:30. My FM tries to get the appointment moved up, but the best he can do it “show up at 1300 and they’ll try to get you in.” So, with the extra time I decide that I’m going to stop for lunch at Sonny’s BBQ, Turtle’s hometown favorite. And it just so happens that there is one at exit 341 on I-75.

After lunch, I’m rolling along fat and happy, when I hear something like a buzz saw coming from my driver steer tire. I look to my left to see a Mazda, CX-7 in the lane next to me and pulling forward. I realize he had just hit me and pull over to the side of the road behind him. We assess the damage, which on my truck is metal shavings on the driver steer lug nuts and scrapes on my lower step. The passenger door, right at the door hinge, on the CX-7 looks like it was opened with a can opener.

0723025001608061480.jpg

The guy doesn’t want to leave because he says he has an appointment. I tell him no way, I need to fill out a report for Prime. I convince him that we need to do a report and also go to the next exit so we are not next to high-speed traffic. By the time we get there, he has conceded that he will miss his appointment and also that we need to have police respond with an accident report. I don’t object, but by this time, I had saved and reviewed my dash cam footage that shows me maintaining my lane and you can see him in my hood mirror coming into my lane. Regardless, I get everything filled out for Prime on this accident report card. So, we are now just waiting for the Florida Highway Patrol to show up.

This very young FHP officer shows up and looks at my truck and says “they told me it was a ‘work truck.’ I didn’t realize it was a semi.” The FHP kid takes our information to fill out a DOT report. In the process, I give my version of the story and say that I have dash cam video showing that I maintained my lane. The other driver, who doesn’t speak English well, gives his version of the story where he says “I came close, then looked back, then hit him.” The FHP officer says “you DO realize you just admitted to coming into his lane.” “Yes.” They guy replies. So, when the FHP officer comes back with our copies of the accident report, he has a citation for the other driver.

I fill out the MACRO for an accident and then get rolling again. Then when I get a message from road safety that says call us, I stop at a rest area to call them. I give them the information I have on my card. They tell me to upload the pictures I took of the 15damage ASAP, then e-mail them the video later. I get back on the road and still make it to the receiver by 1530. After unloading I get my next load assignment 500 miles away in Calvert, Alabama.

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.

SAP:

Substance Abuse Professional

The Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) is a person who evaluates employees who have violated a DOT drug and alcohol program regulation and makes recommendations concerning education, treatment, follow-up testing, and aftercare.

DOT:

Department Of Transportation

A department of the federal executive branch responsible for the national highways and for railroad and airline safety. It also manages Amtrak, the national railroad system, and the Coast Guard.

State and Federal DOT Officers are responsible for commercial vehicle enforcement. "The truck police" you could call them.

Dm:

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.

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.

Dry Van:

A trailer or truck that that requires no special attention, such as refrigeration, that hauls regular palletted, boxed, or floor-loaded freight. The most common type of trailer in trucking.

Reefer:

A refrigerated trailer.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Rob D.'s Comment
member avatar

12/15/2020 Update continued Ice Road Trucker Edition

I picked up two steel coils and 7 steel plates headed for Salt Lake City, Utah. 1800 loaded miles for a total 2300 mile run. Three solid days of driving, but, after making it a little way on Thursday, I have to cover almost 600 miles per day to make it there by Sunday night. I end up making 596 miles Friday.

But about 1630 on Friday, I get a message on the Qualcomm about repowering my load. I don’t completely understand why, but after I’m able to stop and read the message, I am not being repowered, rather I am delivering two loads on Monday. There is a load at the Salt Lake City terminal that needs to be delivered Monday at 0700, then after I deliver that load, I’m to come back to the terminal, pick up my original load and deliver that also. And I’m going to be running on fumes on my 70-hour clock when I get to the Salt Lake City terminal. I started Friday morning with 33 hours left on my 70-hour clock.

Saturday was pretty uneventful. I ended up planning to take I-40 to US 491 because there were more options to shut down for the night as compared to the route the GPS wanted to take me which was US 550. Plus, the weather forecast north called for snow. I end up making it to the Petro at exit 79 in New Mexico. 630 miles on the day, leaving 540 to the Salt Lake City terminal. Shortly after I shut down the snow comes rolling in. Good, I think. The roads should be fine by the time I get rolling at 0430. Ha.

When I wake up at 0400, a couple of inches of snow and trucks parked EVERYWHERE in the truck stop. The only way you can get out of the parking area is the wrong way through the fuel island or the CAT scale. I choose the CAT scale. There are trucks parked on the side of the road leading to the truck stop and truck parked in the middle “no mans” lane on the main road. I had checked the traffic conditions and it looked clear all the way to US 491. Shortly after, I get on I-40, traffic comes to standstill. There is a semi in the left lane stopped. Stop and go for a good 1:20. So, I decided to wait for two hours off-duty to pass for a two-hour extension under the new rules. I figure, let the traffic clear out some that way I can make better time. At 1:55 on my off-duty clock, I hear on the CB, “two jack-knifed trucks at exit 42.” I check on Google maps to find out the road is now shut down again because of the accidents. Estimated two-hour delay. So, now it looks like I’m going to use the 3-hour extension under the rule. After 3 hours sitting by the side of the interstate , Google maps is still showing a 2-hour delay for the 40 miles I need to cover to US 491. Not looking good.

After some discussion with Turtle, we collectively decide that New Mexico 371 is my best bet. So, I get rolling the 3 miles to the exit. As soon as I get down the off ramp, the road surface becomes that hard packed snow/ice. And it’s the same when I turn right. After a couple of miles of this, I begin to wonder if I’m better off turning around and heading back to I-40. The only problem is there is no place to turn around on this two-lane road. And there is no place to pull off and stop. So I just gotta roll.

I’m doing about 35 to 45 mph. The route generally is not too bad at first, but then I start getting into some twisty and hilly areas, including caution signs for downgrades. Great. So now I have to keep up my momentum because you can see the glazed over ice from cars that started spinning trying get up the hills. So, on the longer inclines, I’m going about 50 mph down hills to maintain momentum. And while there are not many cars on the road, the few that are on there are going like 25 to 35 mph, which I can’t get stuck behind them because I won’t have enough momentum to get up the next incline. So, I’m passing these cars at 50 mph. But at the top of some of these hills, I see a downgrade warning sign. So, now I have to slow down to 15-20 mph and maintain a slight steady pressure on the brakes to keep from gaining speed, all the while hoping that the transmission doesn’t decide to downshift on me while I’m creeping down the hill. In fact, I’m very gingerly with my foot on the pedal, both up and down hill, so that all my shifts are as smooth as possible.

After about 40 miles of this, I’m drained and decide that at the first stopping spot, I need to pull over and take a nervs break. At about 60 miles in, the road changes from the uneven packed snow to a more even packed snow. And then shortly thereafter, red slushy snow, which I can decide I can handle. As I’m driving a long, I can see a good inch of red slushy snow covering my tarp and freezing along the rub rail.

0443753001608062013.jpg

Terminal:

A facility where trucking companies operate out of, or their "home base" if you will. A lot of major companies have multiple terminals around the country which usually consist of the main office building, a drop lot for trailers, and sometimes a repair shop and wash facilities.

Qualcomm:

Omnitracs (a.k.a. Qualcomm) is a satellite-based messaging system with built-in GPS capabilities built by Qualcomm. It has a small computer screen and keyboard and is tied into the truck’s computer. It allows trucking companies to track where the driver is at, monitor the truck, and send and receive messages with the driver – similar to email.

Interstate:

Commercial trade, business, movement of goods or money, or transportation from one state to another, regulated by the Federal Department Of Transportation (DOT).

CAT Scale:

A network of over 1,500 certified truck scales across the U.S. and Canada found primarily at truck stops. CAT scales are by far the most trustworthy scales out there.

In fact, CAT Scale offers an unconditional Guarantee:

“If you get an overweight fine from the state after our scale showed your legal, we will immediately check our scale. If our scale is wrong, we will reimburse you for the fine. If our scale is correct, a representative of CAT Scale Company will appear in court with the driver as a witness”

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.

Rob D.'s Comment
member avatar

12/15/2020 update continued

Before long, the road surface gets good enough that I can resume 62 mph.

I end up making it to the Salt Lake City terminal very late. And much to my delight, the trailer I have to pick up and deliver in the morning is strapped and tarped well enough to drive the two miles to the delivery.

I roll out of the terminal at 0630 and am back at the terminal at about 0900. I had gone through the truck wash last night when I got in to get all the red slush off my trailer. However, the rub rail and winches are still covered with frozen slush. So, I go back through the truck wash to get all of this off. They balk at using the high-pressure wash on the rub rail because of the potential damage to straps. After some discussion we’re are both using the high pressure wands to get the frozen slush off the trailer. After we’re done, the attendant says “now I know where are the red dirt came from. I had to wash out the entire bay when I can in this morning.”

I deliver my second load and get back to the terminal about 1400. Send a message to dispatch that I plan to take a 34-hour reset and then ready to roll Wednesday morning. Response: “10-4.”

Terminal:

A facility where trucking companies operate out of, or their "home base" if you will. A lot of major companies have multiple terminals around the country which usually consist of the main office building, a drop lot for trailers, and sometimes a repair shop and wash facilities.

Anne A. (momcat)'s Comment
member avatar

Good LORD after all that, I'd need a 34 also, Rob D.

Wow, just wow. Great job, man!

Wow.

~ Anne ~

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