Featuring the “Battle-Axe”

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Tuesday 4th September. Colton, Walnut & Anaheim CA

54 miles only. 14 hours ( I love my job)

After a relaxing Monday afternoon, I woke on this day in a fantastic mood. That was soon to be tested.  I went to report to the warehouse early, that I was on site, hoping they would assign me a loading bay and would soon be on my way .

“Nothing ventured, nothing gained” right?  Well , not in this case. I was met by the rudest, most ignorant person I can remember meeting in a long, long time . I would hate to think what they would be like if you were late for your appointment . This woman ripped me up cos I was early!!!. Now there is an opportunity for all sorts of funny comments and jokes at this point, but I have decided to leave those today,  but I’m sure you know what I was thinking at the time.  I took this as another test of the new calm me. Hey I passed!!!!

The most pleasing part was seeing her reaction, when I told her I agreed with her and should have been more considerate and not turned up so early.  Left the building and waited in my truck, before returning to the building at my scheduled delivery time. Impressive.  Well I was anyway. Later I found out she goes by the name of “Angel”.

I think the true meaning of this name was wasted on that “battle-axe.”

So after that rocky start, I eventually got rid of my first delivery and headed back to the freeway to find my second stop.  I think “battle-axe” had actually done me a favour , because by the time she decided I was worthy to get off loaded and my paperwork was processed and I handed over $30 cash “lumper fee” ( Never done in Europe by the way ) , the early morning rush hour had passed and the freeway was running fine .

At the start of the trip I was looking into purchasing a navigation system for heavy trucks. I eventually decided  to save my money and use the google map app on my cell phone. Today would be the first test of that decision hopefully I won’t regret it .

Having entered the companies details into my phone I headed West towards LA, paying full attention to the instructions given.

The directions given by my phone were spot on.  Apart from trying to send me down a no-truck route ( not her fault as there is no way of me letting the clever little thing know that we were travelling in a semi) I arrived at the second warehouse, which was owned by the same company as my first location.  It was here that I found out that the lovely Angel spoke to all drivers in the way she had spoken me earlier. Oh well, there was me thinking I was specially selected for her abuse .

I am not sure why warehouses give appointment times for their deliveries. Possibly the only reason was to fine companies if they are late for their scheduled times, so bringing an extra source of income ( maybe they could pay to send Angel to charm school). Although I arrived exactly on my delivery time slot, I was told it would be at least two hours before they got to my load . One poor guy had already been there for four hours and they were going to get to him after me, all because his load broker had screwed up making the appointment.

Test number two. In the past I would have come “un-glued” at the warehouse manager demanding to get off loaded at the time I was given, paced the yard and probably smoked ten cigarettes while waiting.  I would not have got on a bay any earlier and would be in a bad mood all day. What a Muppet!

Today? I decided to park the truck, lock the doors and take my dog for a walk and check out the neighborhood. Test passed .

Some two hours later, I managed to finally get on a warehouse bay and my dog was now exhausted.  I had an interesting maneuver to carry out, so testing how rusty  I had become during my time away from trucking.  This reversing exercise would have been a lot harder had I entered it in an angry frame of mind.  Due to fact I was a lot calmer, it presented no problems and I was soon being unloaded. After an hour and a few more stories about the behaviour of the now infamous Angel, I was leaving and off to my final destination for this load.

My mind was also beginning to focus on what or where I was going for my load back to Canada.  The only thing I knew is that it would be back to Canada. This is because a truck registered in Canada,  cannot carry goods from a US state and deliver it to any point in the US. It can only do cross border work.  In times gone by  I have had bad experiences when it comes to waiting for a reload.  Sometimes being sat for days.  I was told by this company that this wouldn’t happen again, but this yet to be proven.  Most companies don’t book your re-load until  they know you are empty and ready to go.  This means you cannot make any plans, or even know your destination, Canada is a really big place!  Not an ideal situation and not for everyone.

For now, I can only focus on getting my last delivery done and worry about that later. As it turned out, much later

Arriving at the third warehouse of the day (all the same company) I was greeted by the familiar sight of a long line of trucks in front of me.  The warehouse had four loading doors, but only one was working. Great . Looks like its going to be a long afternoon.

When I was finally done, it had taken over five hours to take the remaining three pallets from my trailer.  It also meant that I had run out of hours on my electronic log , done very few miles and when I did the math , probably earned less that the minimum wage for todays work. Another reason why companies struggle to find drivers.  It also meant that I did not receive any news on my re-load and had to negotiate with the warehouse manager to be able to park at the facility that night as I could not legally drive anywhere till the morning.

He agreed that it was their fault my day was screwed and kindly let me use their facilities for the night. It turned out that there was a great little restaurant down the road, so I finished my day writing my notes for this blog and having a great supper of Sweet and Sour chicken, Rice and Salad.

Happy Days , despite battle axes best efforts !

Mellow Monday Drive

IMG_0363Mon 3rd September.

Primm NV to Colton CA

189 Miles Driven.

To find confidence, we must first find the courage to act .

Up around 5 am local time.  Despite my hope that many of the weekend party goers had left on Sunday to get back to suburbia, the interstate was already getting busy.  So morning routine complete, I left the truck stop and entered the steady stream of traffic.

When leaving Nevada into California, all trucks have to enter the largest scale and inspection station I have ever seen.  Firstly your’re asked what your load is.  Frozen Fries clearly was not an issue, as I was waived straight through. Maybe the fact it wasn’t even 6 am  and the inspection guard could not be bothered to take it any further.  Secondly, you are then guided through a series of control lights as to which of the many scales you drive across.  Having just fueled up, I knew I would be close to my maximum weight allowed, especially on the front axle, so it was with a little relief when the green arrow flashed for me to leave the facility and re-enter the freeway.

California, is not a truck friendly state.  Not only do the fuel prices drastically increase here, but the speed limits drops to a ‘ granny paced” 55 mph (88.5 Kmh for everyone else ) and there are plenty of officers waiting on the side of the highway with their electronic devices to remind me of that fact.  So progress was leisurely, however it was steady as everyone seemed to be satisfied following the new speed limit and there was little in the way of delays.

I am determined in this latest venture back into trucking,  not to get as stressed out while driving.  In years past the idiots you see every day in this job, would really have a negative effect on me.  As previously mentioned, I used to be a fairly heavy smoker . The amount of cigarettes I smoked would greatly increase as soon as I got behind the wheel of a big truck.  After several unsuccessful attempts to kick the habit, I finally managed it around 3 years ago. This would be the first time I’ve driven professionally since quitting the disgusting habit .  Maybe its the fact I’m older and eventually realized that there will always be idiots on the road, so screaming and yelling at them makes no difference.  Maybe its the fact that I’ve eventually come to the conclusion that life really is too short and its better to enjoy it , than to fight it .

That’s one of the reasons why I came back to trucking.  I can make a lot more money working in my previous profession, but just hated it. So now I’ve decided that its better to make what I now refer to as “Happy Money ” What I mean by that, is its better for me to make $150 and enjoy what I do, rather than $200 and totally hate what I do to earn it.  I think in the long run I will actually be better off .

When working in a job I hate, I purchase things I don’t need , just to cheer myself up. These are purely emotional purchases done for a short justification for working in a job that makes me miserable.  So to summarize, I had to do a job I didn’t enjoy, to make a certain amount of money, so I could buy things I didn’t need, in order to make me happy, if only for a short time.  Strange but true.

Bet I’m not the only one, am I ? Let me know, by completing the contact form below.

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When the interstate dropped down to the San Bernardino region and the traffic finally thinned out I was still calm and collected and to be honest with you , very proud of myself . There was also a sense of relief, because I was concerned that I may slip back into old habits and the blood pressure would be through the roof on a regular basis .

Finally, it was time to find  the location of my first drop and suitable parking hopefully close by . Now this was another occasion that new technology has made life easier . In the past to find an unfamiliar location would involve , maps , notes and possibly asking strangers for directions or using the CB radio to ask other trucks local to the area. Not today . Simply copy and paste the address on to my Google maps app and the automated woman’s voice guides me into position . My issue is just one of trust . I was considering purchasing a trucking specific GPS system, however, the $400 to $500 price range put me off making that purchase so early on, so I decided just to use my smart phone.

To my surprise it guided me, without issue, right to the building. I was equally pleased to see a large open yard with plenty of room to park for the night. Not only that, there was a truck stop ( full of trucks waiting out the holiday as suspected) within walking distance, several fast food joints and believe it or not a coffee shop . Happy bloody days mate !

So with in the warm September sun, I nice gentle walk of the neighbour hood was in order, smug in the fact we had successfully got here without incident ,fuss or bother .

Home made supper ( not a fan of fast food , except after too many beers) , make some notes for my blog and that was my day . Tomorrow , we face 3 drops all in the LA area . Probably going to be a test of my middle age Karma.

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Sunday Lunch in Vegas

IMG_0338Sunday 2nd September

Mona, Utah to Primm, Nevada

388 miles .

My plan to spend the night in a smaller parking area had paid off . The first good nights sleep since I left home , meant I felt fresh and prepared for the day . Well , I was after my compulsory 2 cups of freshly brewed coffee and a bowl of  porridge  . Having my dog with me on this trip, meant a walk is required every morning to allow him to do his business.This he did  by  marking every available post or tree. I found that the twenty-minute walk really helps wake me up and by the time my pre-trip inspection was done, my electronic log updated with a the relevant information, I was keen to get going .

Now this weekend is actually a holiday weekend , which  meant I basically had an extra day , as my first delivery was not until 8 am Tuesday morning .Because of this, I had decided to do two relatively short days , rather than getting into the Los Angeles area a whole day early, as I do remember parking in the area is likely to be full of other trucks seeing out the long weekend .So my plan today was to get somewhere south of Vegas.

Once passing by Cedar City , the I-15 goes into a twisty section, when concentration levels need to be increased .A look out for traffic cops is also a good idea, as the speed limit  is reduced on this section of the highway.Although I haven”t been on this road for nearly 11 years ,I recognized this area immediately and I find it a welcome break from the normal “straight line” highway driving. The scenery then opens up as you cross the border into Nevada, giving you a view of vast open space , with the occasional empty derelict building serving as a reminder of years gone by, when people actually lived here , before moving to the city

I was considering taking an alternative route, highway 93 south, as I was informed by a friend of mine who ran this route some years ago , that it was a beautiful drive and very popular with commercial drivers, mainly due to the fact there are no scales and inspection stations going this way. As it was my first trip, I decided that this would have to wait for another time and  stuck to the I-15 south.IMG_0333

I-15 southbound . A sign of things to come ?

 

After a relatively un eventful mornings drive I was once again planning where I was going to spend the evening . This time fuel does come into the planning . Due to the cost of fuel in California companies require you to be smart and fuel up in Nevada, as this can greatly reduce running costs . I also remembered that this highway becomes very busy on a Sunday afternoon with all the weekend party goers leaving Vegas and heading back to their Los Angeles homes . So with this in mind, I decided to park up earlier in the day at the last truck stop before entering California, a flying J at  Primm Nevada  .

It seems that they are forever doing road repairs in the party town and my Sunday afternoon drive was slow and boring  through Las Vegas, but it didn’t affect me too much as, like I’ve said, I have “plenty of time” on this trip . Even so , I was glad to get through the remainder of the always present road works  and park up half an hour later , before the crazy traffic started .IMG_0342

Primm Truck stop , Clark County , Nevada.

 

Now the truck stop here at Primm is a little different in the fact that not only does it have the usual  fuel station, restaurants, lounge and wash facilities, but this one has hotels, casino, an outlet shopping mall, theme parks and most importantly to me a Starbucks . As you can probably guess, I am a bit of a coffee fan . Up to now I have been brewing my own morning boost juice myself in the cab, as generally speaking ,coffee in most truck stops is frankly disgusting and worthy of the title .

So after a short, but hot walk with my dog ,its in to the cool air-conditioned building for a much-needed shower , followed by a fresh cup of Americano. The showers were old but clean , much the same as the towels provided, however it did the trick . Feeling fresh and ready for coffee . Well , I am not sure whether it’s the water they used or the coffee itself is different to Starbucks in Canada , but this did not taste anywhere near as good . What a let down. Oh well , not to worry , with the current exchange to US dollars rate not in my favour, it made this coffee quite expensive . Brew my own it is .

After catching up on some news from home , cooked supper of fish , rice and a salad ,I spent the rest of the evening reading , before taking an early night .

Now, I know there is mixed feelings amongst drivers over E logs . These devices record all the movements of the truck over a 24 hour period . I for one, have already realized that I am a fan . Under the old paper log book system , it was very easy for drivers to cheat the system and drive a lot more than legally allowed. Most drivers , including myself, have done this on a regular basis . However , the load Gods ( my term for the dispatchers) agents , shippers and receivers all knew this . So , if a truck was sat waiting to be loaded or unloaded for hours on end, the driver was then expected to drive all night in some instances , in order to get to their next appointment .No surprise to see truck stops full of energy drinks!

Aside from the obvious dangers to themselves and other road users , these practices were also extremely un healthy for the drivers . I can remember in my younger days driving through southern France , heading back to the UK , driving all day and night , surviving on endless cups of coffee and packs of cigarettes ( Yes I still do the coffee, but limited to two or three cups a day , thankfully, I”ve managed to kick the smoking habit finally). In a world of increasing awareness of health issues caused by excess stress, poor diet and irregular sleep patterns , this new system introduced to regulate drivers hours, will only improve the industry in the long run. It may also help to attract much-needed young blood into the trade and decrease the driver shortage problem.

Please let me know your thoughts, I welcome all comments by completing the contact form below .

 

Where Did Summer Go?

Great Falls MT to Mona UT

Saturday Sept 1st 

644 Miles drivenIMG_0321 (1)

Cool old D11 dozer parked up near the truck stop in Utah.

After a terrible nights sleep ( Fridge motor , see previous blog ) I was up at 6 am.  The driving hour regulations meant my compulsory break period ended in one hour . Just enough time to make breakfast . Porridge loaded with fruit and a freshly made coffee, followed by another coffee and a walk with my dog , meant it was  time to leave my overnight parking area .

Pre-trip inspection completed and breakfast packed away, quick clean of the cab and interstate 15 southern bound by 7.30 .

Within an hour of leaving the truck stop the views from my office window  changed dramatically . The section of the highway from Great Falls to Butte takes my breath away. A stunning mountain backdrop combine with twisting sections of road , following a river basin, provides me with a great morning drive and I soon forget about my lack of  sleep . I am wide awake now and determined to enjoy every moment . Whether it’s the scenery or the two large cups of coffee I had early I’m not sure , but what a start to the day.

A beautiful mornings drive comes to an end with a lunch break taken at a great rest stop at Pocatello IdahoIMG_0319Under the new regulations in effect in the States , a driver has to take a minimum of a half an hour break within the first 8 hours of the working day . This is an improvement in my book . I was grateful for the opportunity to take a break on this first day of September . This particular rest area has a nicely laid out trail which took about twenty minutes to stroll around , providing myself and my dog the opportunity to stretch our legs giving us both exercise and fresh air.

I don’t actually eat lunch as I find its makes me tired in the afternoon, I prefer to snack as I drive to keep awake and hunger at bay .

After my break , I pass through the remainder of Idaho and enter the second state of the journey south, Utah . This State brings me into the first large city since leaving Calgary . Salt Lake City on a Saturday afternoon gave me refresh into the joys of  heavy traffic when driving a semi truck. Something I had not experienced for over ten years . This was fun . Seriously I enjoyed it . I had forgotten how people behave when in their cars .  Driving a truck,  you are quite a bit higher up than cars and this elevated position gives you a bird’s-eye view into people’s vehicles as they pass you . I am amazed that people don’t think they can be seen or no one is watching when they are driving . This provided me with some  funny and other  stomach turning sights when driving through Salt Lake on this sunny warm afternoon . “Hey Lady in the fancy SUV stop picking your nose and wiping it on the dash !” Seriously .

Once the free entertainment had died down I was beginning to think where I was going to stop this evening .As I had fueled the previous day it wasn”t necessary to do the same today . This truck was fitted with two very large fuel tanks and I could easily drive for two days without the need to refuel . This gave me the option to park in smaller rest areas . While having no facilities , they offer a peaceful evening and a different experience altogether .

My Saturday  afternoon cruise through Utah was interrupted by a vehicle fire on the side of the highway, causing traffic to come to a halt for around an hour . Thankfully it didn’t appear as though anyone was hurt and I passed the time away talking to a fellow trucker from Nevada, who had pulled up next to me during the incident .

Already in my second day , I have noticed how much modern technology is making life easier . Firstly, my hours of driving , resting and sleeping are all recorded automatically my a machine connected directly to the electronic management system on the truck . This has replaced the need to manually record each event in a log book and hope you did it right when inspected by the  DOT. Secondly, my border crossing paperwork is now done via an electronic log process , making the whole process easier for the driver . Lastly , the days of driving and looking at the map and a directory of truck stops to figure out where you are going to stop for the night or get fuel etc have been replaced by a very useful app called “Trucker Path”.This app tells the driver  where the parking areas are located, gives to directions via google maps if required and even shows you space available ( although this does rely on drivers inputting this information when the get to that particular rest area so this  information could be unreliable ). This gives the driver the opportunity to pick the truck stops of their choice depending on what type they prefer or what services they or their truck require .

So armed with this information at lunch time , combined with the knowledge of how many hours I had left to drive , I picked a small rest area near Mona,Utah. So it was with an hour of day light remaining I pulled in a small gravel parking area next to a new BP gas station with a Subway attached . Treated myself to a large sub and an ice tea for supper , followed by a nice evening walk with my dog to finish off a great second day .