Friday, November 17, 2017

Laredo Triangle.

12 Day Trip.
____ Four inches of snow to be brushed off the car before I can go to work. But the roads have been ploughed; just slippery sections and a temperature of -16 degrees C. The plan is to get out of the cold weather as quick as possible. A long day of a thousand kay gets me to Percival, Iowa, where the helpful tail-wind has brought the cold too. Another long stint on Day 2 puts me at the Oklahoma/Texas stateline  for a warmer night; just a touch of ground-frost in the morning.

____ An early start, a flowing run through the perennial roadworks on Interstate 35 at Fort Worth and I am down to the TA truckstop at Laredo before dark. Twenty-eight degrees C in the evening calm; sitting back with the windows open and a sweet iced-tea in easy reach. And that is the scenario for the whole of Wednesday; after unloading and running back to the truckstop. I am waiting for a trailer load of supermarket chiller cabinets to come over the Rio Grande from Mexico; expected Thursday at 08.00 hours. A day at leisure, a visit to the TA fitness room, a shower and then it clouds over and rain showers keep away the worst heat of the day.

____ With only four tonnes in the trailer and a destination of Port Coquitlam, British Columbia; it is journey of 4000 kilometres and five days to do it. The sort of run that I look forward to; a bonded load, so Customs are a formality too. Up to Sweetwater TA for a rendezvous with Mr. Ramsden; he's heading to Houston to swap an empty trailer for another BC bound load. That one is not due to be delivered before the following Friday; eight days away. Ruby Truck-Line can never be accused of not giving a driver enough time to do the work.

____ Into New Mexico; a night at Acoma Pueblo aka Sky City, then onto Ogden in Utah and the original Flying'J. It has an adjoining workshop, truckwash and tyre repair facility which is very handy because I wake up on Sunday morning to find a punctured trailer tyre. With no call-out and a patchable hole; $57 is a bargain and only a two hour delay. Then it's Utah to Idaho, through to Oregon and into fog. I constantly check temperatures on my phone's weather app but rarely scroll down for the details. Coming down Emigrant Hill at the Deadman's Pass; I drop into a blanket of thick fog. A surprise and scary too. There are heavily laden, slow-moving trucks descending the twisting Interstate 84. I am coasting down with just a little bit of Jake-brake; far too fast for zero visibility. It might just be one patch of fog or it might extend across the whole of the Columbia River basin; but I've done enough for the day and can stop at the nearby Arrowhead Travel Plaza.

____ The Arrowhead is the third truckstop on this trip that is owned by a Native American tribe. Night-out number two was at Thackerville, Oklahoma, where the Choctaw Nation has one of their thirteen truckstops. The Acoma tribe owns the truckstop at Sky City and the Arrowhead is run by the Umatilla people. All three have adjoining casinos. The fog hadn't gone by the morning and I eventually drove out of it in Washington State and the higher ground around the orchards of Yakima. Through the lands of the Yakama. I find a fascinating history of the First Nations as I travel more and more across America.

____ Back into Canada at the Pacific Highway, then a short run to the Petro Pass at Delta where I find myself parked next to a curtainside trailer. A rare thing in North America, but even stranger to find that the Volvo tractor unit is being driven by another British driver. Ex-Ralph Davies and a few other familiar names; we spend the evening chatting about the "Good Old Days" which we agree were bloody hard work and lucky to survive. Forty minutes in the morning, across to Port Coquitlam where it takes the rest of the morning to unload the eight chiller cabinets. Reload when empty: Edmonton, Alberta, for Monterrey, Mexico.

____ An eleven hour dead-head across the Rocky Mountains, good fuel consumption but I would have like a few tons on the drive axles when climbing the Coquihalla Pass. "Slippery Sections," it said on the matrix panels. No chains needed and through to Kamloops before encountering any snow flurries. A ten hour break at Valemount, then five hours to Edmonton where the twenty tonnes of paper make me feel a lot more  confident of traction as the snow fall settles in for the day. By Lloydminster, I am ahead of the snow-loaded weather front but into the icy blast from the North. By Radisson, Saskatchewan, it is minus 20 and a howling gale; the Detroit Diesel runs all night.

____ I pushed on late into the night to make the last day do-able; six hundred miles and 13 hours on the clock. I got home but it was touch-and-go at times. Two weather fronts battling each other across the Prairies as first I had warm temperatures and snow followed by cold winds and ice rain. It alternated between the two, all day as I pushed on relentlessly; trying to get as much done before darkness descended. Starting in the dark, finishing in the dark; bitter cold, blowing snow and still only November. I have brought the trailer back to Steinbach as instructed but I might get it again after an hours re-set and continue with it to Laredo.

US Army tow-truck; zoom in on the hi-tech door look.

Alberta is now having Winter.

Scraper on 8 axle rig.

Elk in Jasper National Park beside the Yellowhead.

Saskatchewan is now having Winter.

The Deserts of New Mexico.

Price Canyon, Utah, Short cut to Salt Lake City.

Friday, November 3, 2017


Seven Days Away.
3817 miles in 63.15 hours = 60.5 mph.
____ My early morning coffee on my day-off is interrupted by a one-word text message from a mate. "Jackknifed." The first snow-storm of Winter has claimed Ruby Truck Line #101. Written-off less than five miles from the yard on the last leg of a nine day trip; strong winds having blown snow over Highway 52 and heavy traffic having polished the road to a shiny sheet of glass. No-one hurt but a well-kept black Volvo bent beyond economic repair. I cancel my plans for the day and watch the Great British Bake-Off on the television; later making some savory scones and wondering if I have what it takes to be the proprietor of some tea-rooms or a cake-shop.

____ A look through the Job-shops on the Internet confirms there aren't any "Money-For-Nothing" jobs out there. Poor pay, poor conditions and un-sociable hours are available anywhere and not just in the truck-driving section. I could sell second-hand cars but don't want to be an arse-hole so I resign myself to putting in the long hours and earning enough to survive. By the time I get going on Friday morning; the roads are bare and dry. I push on South as far as possible hoping for warmer weather; it's still October.

____ Steinbach to Percival was a big punch, followed by another to Thackerville and a Saturday at the Winstar. Destination is Hidalgo, so ditto for Sunday; taking US Highway 77 from Waco. Avoiding the busy Interstate 35 and the road-works at Temple. At 1800 miles, this is the longest outward load and three hard days behind the wheel before I reach the TA at Edinburg, Just a few minutes from the drop.

____ Peat-moss unloaded and away to Pasadena for plastic granules; a more relaxing day. Getting into the Love's Truckstop at La Porte to find that Houston is well on the way to recovering from Hurricane Harvey and the Houston Astros baseball team are about to win the World Series. Nothing like a bit local sporting achievement to lift the spirits and get a place buzzing. Loaded and away to Big Cabin as the LA Dodgers force the final game of the "Best of Seven." But by the time I wake up in Watertown on Thursday morning; the Astros are World Champions for the first time in their history. Meanwhile, I have gone from sleeping under a light duvet to huddling under the duvet and two fleece blankets. Back into the Tundra and home inside seven days. Good miles, a couple of days off and back down for some warmth. It's going to be a long Winter.

Kenworth W900 with tanks X 3

Round Bales

Blade Runners

Refugio Shell Station still not repaired after  Hurricane Harvey.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Nice Day To Start Again.

____ There's nothing sure in this World. So let's sink another drink; cos it'll give me time to think. Nothing left to lose and nothing left to prove. I'm all out of hope; one more battle brave could bring about a fall. Hanging out by the State Line; such a human waste. I've been away for so long. When I'm far from home don't call me on the phone to tell me you are all alone.

____ Leaving late; it's dark at the border and Fargo is all I do. Third trip in a row that doesn't go to Texas. Oklahoma and the town called Prague; over thirty years since I was in the Czech representative. Memories of trams, cobbles and the fear of low bridges on a big seven hundred mile day; tail-wind friendly. Overnight in Iola, traversing Tulsa at dawn. Mid-morning drop with a young guy making his debut on the pallet-truck; it's like pushing a bit of string, you don't want to be pushing string, pull it. Then OK City, a Blue Beacon truck wash, early finish and wait for the morning reload.

____ More tail-wind, north-bound and heavy. Gypsum for Saskatoon. Brisket sandwich at Cowboy's and a long punch up to Cubby Bear's at Norfolk. Saturday and the wind changes; Nebraska and the Dakotas into a cold northerly. Start in the dark; finish in the dark; now and for ever. To Schatz Crossroads at Minot; leaving a lesser chunk to the 'Toon. Plaster gone and homeward bound, picking up seeds at Richardson, south of Regina. A load for the 'Peg, dropped in the morning and bobtail back to the yard.

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.