Saturday, October 14, 2017

Four Day Week.

____It is not often that I do just forty hours in for days and then have three days off. If this was a regular run then i could quite understand how a Canadian truck driver would have no qualms about electronic logs. A dedicated run to Edmonton and Calgary, then back to Steinbach is about as stress-free week of work that one could wish for. Very little traffic on the four-lane Trans-Canada Highway, plenty of driving hours to do 2200 miles. But not enough earnings to be a well paid job and as boring a piece of landscape that can be imagined. Endless Saskatchewan every week is just not for me.

____ The living skies are full of geese as I make my way to Saskatoon with tractor parts in a brand-new Vanguard trailer. After unloading the dry-van goes to Trailer Wizards at Edmonton. Bobtail, I head for Calgary as snow falls on the busy Highway 2; not an easy drive but easy to find a parking spot at the busy Roadking Truckstop with just the unit. Thursday morning dawns with confusion and plans that are quickly changed. Eventually, I'm headed North, back along Highway 2 with a rental trailer from Maxim, trying to get to the wood-chip baling plant at Acheson before they close.

____ Arriving late has the advantages of the product being ready for loading and the fork-lift driver is eager to get the trailer loaded and go home. It is a late finish by the time I get back to Saskatoon; five hours across the Prairies where the last of the wheat fields are being harvested. Possibly the same combines that were working down in Texas at the start of June. Friday is a late start with the route through Regina being chosen for the return journey, it was the Yellowhead and Yorkton on the way up. Back to the yard after dark with the load going to La Broquerie with a local day-cab on Monday.


Monday, October 9, 2017

Cresson, Texas.

Six Days Work.
____ The luxury of knowing where I am going; the day before I leave. So away from the yard, bright and early on a Tuesday morning; making it to Cubby Bear's Truckstop at Norfolk, Nebraska. Second night-out is at the Flying'J at Ardmore; giving me the chance of a free breakfast buffet at the Winstar Casino on Thursday morning. The early traffic queues of the Interstate 35 in Fort Worth can dissipate while I eat. I am unloaded at the peat-moss bagging plant before midday; gaining a full day on a Laredo trip.

____ Then it is on to Waller for one of Ruby Truckline's regular trailer switches. A load for Burnaby in British Columbia but with instructions to bring the load back to Steinbach. A long time ago, I gave up trying to work out the logic in logistics; I don't even ask office workers to justify their decisions any more. Just get on with the job and realize why truck driving is so poorly paid. I'm back up to Hillsboro by the end of the day but with the knowledge that I am just short of getting home in two shifts of driving. Friday night at the Sac and Fox Casino at Powhattan, Kansas, and Saturday at Fargo. Home before Noon and out again on the Tuesday. Cutting back on the rest days and  getting some good miles done before the onset of Winter. I always reckon September, October and November are the best months for driving a truck. Plenty of loads on the run-up to Christmas, less tourist traffic on the roads and the roadworks finishing before the weather turns nasty in the North. There certainly seems to be fewer trucks sitting in the truckstops during the day.

This week seemed to be dominated by wind turbine towers and their blades. Every where on Interstates 29 and 35.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

The ELD Makes Me Drive Faster.

4727 km in Fifty-eight and a half hours work.
____ I have been using the electronic logging device for a few months now; alongside the paper ones. The office sent a message to say all was good and I could discontinue with the book; but I need something for my income tax returns and for my Canadian residency, so I'll continue writing it out until the end of the year at least. So how has it been? It hasn't been a problem; but my trips are very much the same and I have a good idea where I will be going and what I will encounter. So it should be easier than a driver who is new to trucking or one who does different trips every time.

____ One thing I have noticed is that I am driving faster. There is a big clock on my right that is ticking down and a speedometer on my left that is clicking up. Everything now seems like a race to get as much mileage done before the driving hours disappear. Early in the day; I go faster compensate for time I might lose later. Later in the day; I have the pedal to the metal, trying to make up for lost time. On paper logs; any time lost to delays was clawed back by cutting short the rest breaks by five minutes or so. Now every second counts on the rush back to Canada from the US. So far I haven't run out of time at a critical moment and put the timely delivery of the jeopardy.

____ But if the authorities think that Electronic Logs will make trucking safer then they have made a mistake. Driving faster cannot be safe. The heightened levels of stress cannot be safe as drivers strive to cope with unforgiving parameters. If I am noticing difficulties with an easy job then rookie drivers and those with more demanding jobs, such as flat-deck and heavy-haul, will be tearing their hair out. The answer to the problem has to be the end of Cents-per-mile as a pay structure. The dangling-carrot that makes drivers go faster and cut corners has to be replaced by hourly pay. There is now no excuse why trucking companies cannot pay drivers by the hour. The electronic logs will make sure drivers do not cheat the system and it is about time drivers were paid for all the hours they are on-duty.

____ But haulage rates are so low that companies cannot afford to pay drivers for when they are waiting to be loaded/unloaded or broken-down or waiting for the office to find their next job. But who's fault is that? No wonder that the industry is in such a bad state with a chronic driver shortage and so much disillusionment among those who have seen things go from bad to worse through bad company management and over-regulation by mis-guided governments. No wonder the youngsters of today do not consider truck-driving as a possible career.

____ Rant over. My cell-phone went full-cycle in the front-loading automatic washing-machine and died. Phones can do so much these days but why the hell aren't they water proof? It took most of Monday morning to replace my trusty old projectile-vomit-green I-phone with a nice new black and silver model. I lost all my contacts and a load of photos, so rolled into work without knowing what they had planned for me. Something different from South Texas; bobtail to Monon, Indiana, and collect a brand new trailer from Vanguard Industries.

____ Across the border at Warrord, into Minnesota and then Wisconsin for the first time in a long time. To Osseo for the night before crossing Chicago and down to Monon for the shiny-new tandem-axle dry-freight 53 foot box van. Sadly not a new addition to the Ruby Truckline fleet, but for a trailer rental company at Milton in Ontario. A load of cable for Brampton has been organised from the nearby town of Lebanon; loading Wednesday afternoon and delivering Thursday morning. A fast moving trip grinds to a halt once I have delivered the trailer to its new owners. Only mid-morning but the reload for my recently collected Ruby trailer is not until Friday. It all makes sense when I see that the customer is Ruby's next door neighbour in Steinbach.

____ But it does make for a difficult drive across the Greater Toronto Area and north to North Bay; pushing on to Kapuskasing but knowing I needed to get to Hearst if I was to complete the trip in just one more shift. Saturday is Kap to Dryden is long enough and par for the course; half a dozen trucks from the Flying'J at Kapuskasing are parked with me at Dryden after a day of constant leap-frog. Sunday is just a three and a half hour sprint back to the yard.

Weeks work

Bobtail miles per gallon.
Autumn colours starting to come through.
Armoured Humvees

Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Mack Motor-Home : The Story So Far.

Mack Fire Truck Motor Home.

____ Here is a link to a video I made of the truck while out on a camping trip at Bird's Hill Provincial Park in Manitoba, Canada......Click on the link to watch.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Running Together.

Nine Day Trip.
____ Two loads of peat-moss to Laredo with my long-time buddy from Sunderland taking the other one. But he has already gone when I get to the yard. I am an hour behind him all the way to Vermillion, South Dakota. When I arrive it is almost mid-night; a ten hour break and I'm back behind the wheel heading for the Cowboy Travel Plaza at Orlando in Oklahoma. The Mackem is already there; we go and have a bar-b-q meal in the Hokey-Pokey Restaurant where he tells me that his idea of "Running-Together" is to meet up for a meal every evening while doing your own thing during the day. Suits me; we both know the route well enough. Third night-out is at Pearsall, a hundred miles north of Laredo.

____ Friday morning and I'm up and away early; first into the yard at the delivery address after overtaking a third Ruby truck at the last set of lights. First unloaded and away across Laredo for a trailer switch; a bonded load from Mexico, going to Calgary, Alberta. Twenty-five thousand pounds of cargo while the Mackem phones to say he has 44,000 lbs of fruit juice, also, going to Calgary. We arrange to meet at Cooper's BBQ Restaurant, at the junction of Interstate 10 and US Highway 83, in the town called Junction.

____ The food is good although an extra rib and an extra slice of brisket would have made it prefect. We sit under an old oak tree, beside the six barbeque pits and watch the world roll by as hordes of feral cats come creeping around as dusk descends. Back at the trucks; we have two oversize loads as neighbours. Lonny and Brad hauling roof-top air-conditioners from California to Houston on double-drop low-loaders. They have a barbeque set up on the back of a trailer and a case of ice cold Budweiser. They call us over for a beer and a chat. Brad has his girlfriend, Heather, with him and is in his element; holding court and telling stories while the rest of us make half-hearted attempts to catch the cutest feral kitten for Heather.

____ Another three long days are needed to get to Calgary for Tuesday morning. The evening meals are at Hickory House, Lamar, Colarado, and the Country Kitchen at Sheridan in Wyoming before the A and W burger bar at Vulcan, just south of Calgary. Another trailer switch and I am heading East; to Saskatchewan but also straight into a police speed-trap. An oasis of 80 kph in the desert of 100 kph where the Stoney Trail joins the Highway X22. A money-maker for the police and it is easy to see why so many drivers despise the tactics of law enforcement officers. One hundred in an eighty limit and a $160 fine; an occupational hazard. Hookers and truckers: the only two professions that go to work knowing that they will get fucked.

____ Just a few miles along the X22 is a huge billboard on First-Nation land warning about the dangers of crystal-meth; such irony. Why don't the police show such dedication to catching drug-dealers as they do for catching speeding drivers? Then maybe such vast tracts of North American society would not consider them as the enemy? On to Moose Jaw for the night before loading salt at Belle Plaine; then back to Steinbach to complete the triangle.

Three Ruby Truckline on the bank at Laredo, Texas.

Harvest is nearly over for another year.

Yellow truck with yellow log shifter.

First six days mileage and hours.

Drilling rig on 11 axle heavy-hauler.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

After Hurricane Harvey.

9753 Kilometres in 13 Days.
____ My usual routine of Tuesday departures and deliveries on a Friday in Southern Texas was broken by my attendance at a wedding. I had the whole week off and a very good choice it turned out to be. Hurricane Harvey came ashore just when I normally be unloading and going for a reload. I left Sunday morning with television pictures showing floods and destruction. Nights-out on the way down at Norfolk, Nebraska and Thackerville, Oklahoma. Then down to Edinburg, Texas, close to Donna and south of the disaster area.

____ It was only after I was unloaded and on my way to Waller that I encountered Harvey's damage. Miles of power-lines with broken poles. Billboards ripped to shreds and then in the town of Refugio, I came across a town of roof-less homes and shattered businesses. From there to Waller, the carnage continued with detours to avoid flooded roads and fallen power lines. The factory at Waller was closed due to a power-cut but re-opened on the Thursday morning and I did the trailer switch before setting-off for Burnaby in British Columbia.

____ To Amarillo, followed by Monticello in Utah and on to Boise, Idaho, before the weekly driving hours were exhausted. 3983 miles in sixty-six and a quarter hours driving with just an hour of duty time left from the seventy; an average of just over 60 mph. Thirty-six hours of relaxation at the Boise TA; just over the road from the Flying J and a big retail park. It was the Labor Day Long Weekend in both the US and Canada so it didn't matter that I arrived in Burnaby on Tuesday morning after battling with the holiday traffic on a long hot Holiday Monday in Washington State.

____ The next leg of the trip was an empty run up the Coquihalla pass and across to Kelowna. If that was easy going then the 50,000 lbs of fruit juice put a stop to any flying-about on the Rocky Mountain crossing to Alberta and then onto Saskatoon, in Saskatchewan. Plenty of time to meet the Friday morning delivery appointment but fuel consumption rocketed. The office couldn't find a reload for the Manitoba region so I ran back empty to Steinbach; getting home just before mid-night.

Devastated Shell station in Refugio, Texas.

On the way to Albuquerque.

Cotton; harvested before Harvey.

Grim-looking reaper.

Weeks work.

A job for the Apostrophe Police

Heavy-haul load waiting for Houston floods to subside.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

British Car Night At The Pony Corral On Grant.

____Plenty of old British cars in amazingly good condition plus all the American marques and Japanese tuning machinery on another sunny Sunday evening in Winnipeg.

Saturday, August 19, 2017


10 Day Trip.

____ Out of the yard at midday on Tuesday with one objective in mind: free food. Having a regular run down to Laredo with the peat-moss has let me fine tune the journey to include a free breakfast buffet on Thursday morning. Tuesday night at Vermillion, Wednesday at the Oklahoma City Petro Stopping Centre and down to the Winstar Casino by 8 o'clock in the morning. It's not for everybody; you have to be over 55 and a member of the casino's Players Club but it is a massive free buffet and even coffee and fruit juice are included. I reckon everybody over 55 who lives within twenty miles car-pools to the Winstar for free grub. It's a half mile walk from the truck-park to the restaurant through a maze of a thousand slot machines but I avoid the temptation by leaving my wallet in the cab and just take a couple of dollars to tip the waitress.

____ Unloaded on Friday morning and as usual, there is a pre-loaded trailer that has come over the Rio Grande and is waiting to go to Mississauga, Ontario. It is a struggle to get to Hillsboro, just south of Dallas, as traffic on Interstate 35 is stop and go all the way. But the delivery is not booked-in until Tuesday afternoon, a whole day on the trip longer than necessary. I do need a few bits and pieces from the truck-superstore at the Joplin 44 Petro; so that's the way to go. From Joplin, it is the old Route 66 to St. Louis and then all the way to Chicago. Now Interstates 44 and 55 with every truckstop selling 66 memorabilia.

____ I am in the Flying J at London, Ontario, just after lunch on Monday and have time to checkout the new Blue Beacon Truck Wash that is now on site. The Kenworth always looks good after a wash and I have a whole day to admire it. There is another Ruby Truck Line waiting with the same load as me; he reached London before me and has an appointment for a Wednesday afternoon delivery. I'm sympathetic but glad I'm not him. Eventually, I poodle up to Mississauga and get unloaded at the RDC. Good news is that there is a reload from Sudbury, Ontario, loading at 8 o'clock in the morning and going to Winnipeg.

____ A charity load of clothes for the National Diabetes Trust and the second charity load of clothes in my career. Sudbury figured in the first load too; I was living at Sudbury, Suffolk, England at the time. The load was ex-military nurses' uniforms from a government store in Hertfordshire and they went to Warsaw, Poland. The only difference between the loads was that the clothes in the first load came in brown paper parcels tied-up with string and the second lot were in black bin-bags. Both trailers were packed to the roof, front to back and took all the morning to be loaded by hand.

____ From Sudbury, it was west on Highway 17; slow going to Sault Ste. Marie with more roadworks than ever. From the Soo, traffic thinned and at last I got moving. Early evening on the ups and downs of the Seventeen where the Shield slips under Superior. The roar of the Detroit alternating with the bark of the Jake. The lake, a mirror of calm. Window open, stereo blasting with the Jam's Entertainment; thinkin' bout me holidays. Through Wawa; pushing on to White River while avoiding the night danger; knowing that if I made it, then home would be only one day away and the start of a week off work.

Hillsboro TA; where the heavy-haul rigs have their own over-size parking spots.

The new Blue Beacon Truck Wash in the grounds of the Flying J at London, Ontario.

Bit of a Puzzle : a long-sleeper Peterbilt being used as a wrecker.