Thursday, May 26, 2011

Atlanta, Georgia.

____Prologue: Orientation took about an hour; partly due to my reluctance to ask questions and appear stupid, partly because the office assumed that someone of my age would know everything already. I shall employ the age-old technique, used by all drivers in new jobs everywhere: muddle through. Two days were then spent putting all my stuff in the new truck and reading the multitude of booklets, relating to different things in the truck. Auxiliary power unit, power inverter, CB radio, fridge, bunk heater, audio system, built in Bluetooth system. It also has a truck specific satellite navigation system installed in the dash board. It didn't take me long to get lost; but that was just wandering around in the sleeper compartment.
____Day 1: Normally, with three days in which to do 1600 miles; I would roll in the yard about 10 o'clock and get going at noon. But as it was my first trip, I decided to show willing and went in at seven to hitch up to a trailer loaded with used truck parts. Another driver was going to the same place for a delivery at the same time; he had already left. The only possible reason for that? He wanted to avoid running with me. If that's the measure of the man; then he's not the sort of person I would want to run with. All alone, I made it down to the Minnesota/ Iowa border for the night.
____Day 2: The truck has a 13 speed constant mesh gearbox and it was twenty years ago that I last drove such a vehicle. A Foden 4300, Cat engine, Eaton-Fuller box. Before that: a W-reg Fiat 17-350 with a big non-turbo Vee-8. My first 13 speed crash box was in a MAN 16-280 and because of the turbo being in the way; the right-hand drive cab had the gear changer on the steering column. I can  still remember the pain when I pulled a muscle in my left shoulder; half an hour up the road. But no such problems with the cogs in the Peterbilt 386; another 900 kilometres down to Mount Vernon, Illinois, and a packed-out TA truckstop on Interstates 57 and 64.
____Day 3: A lot of the switchgear in the new truck is familiar, as Peterbilt and Kenworth have the same parent company; Paccar. There is also some electronics borrowed from DAF; one read-out shows 6.4 mpg; that's the 3.5 litre US gallon. There are 17 gauges on the dash and a whole host of other statistics that can be dialled in at the touch of a button. But basically the truck can carry 20 tons of cargo and likes to cruise along at 65 miles per hour. It's another nine hour day to reach my destination, just south of Atlanta ,Georgia, where Flying Eagle 03 is already backed on to a bay waiting to be unloaded in the morning.

Flying Eagles, #31 and #03, on the dock in Georgia.
 ____Day 4: Unloaded by 9 o'clock and I already have a reload to pick up from Athens, 70 miles east of Atlanta. Fifteen foot long rolls of Geo-textile material, a load I have done on a flat-deck; where pipe-stakes are needed to keep the stuff in place. With a dry-freight van; a forklift just runs in the back and dumps the rolls in three tiers. I'm ready to go in 40 minutes and no strapping. It's for delivery to Morden, Manitoba, so I retrace my route back to Mount Vernon.
____Day 5: Tornadoes, severe thunder-storms and hail, the size of golf-balls, are hammering the southern states. A klaxon, followed by a strange disembodied voice, interrupts radio programmes with warnings. It gives the relevant county as the location; which to out-of-state drivers like me, is no use at all. I  need the Interstate number and the mile-marker. Luckily, the worst I have to deal with is a couple of rain storms; while headline news shows the devastation of the city of Joplin in Missouri. Heading home with plenty of driving hours to spare; I put in a big 1100 kilometre day, pushing on to Hasty, Minnesota.
____Day 6: In 2010, truck engine manufacturers were required to cut emissions from diesel motors. They solved this problem by injecting DEF [diesel exhaust fluid] into exhaust gases, rendering them harmless. This system needs an extra tank on the truck to carry the DEF and as it was the first time I had driven such a vehicle, it was interresting to see how far I could go on a tankfull. It was after I had come back into Canada and unloaded at Morden when the red, low fluid, warning light came on at 5300 kilometres. Only 78 kays from base and a re-fill from the bulk container. First trip for the new truck and it went well, there is always a worry that a nut and bolt, somewhere, hasn't been done up tight; but it all held together as it should.
____Overall Distance: 5378 km.

Back in the yard, #32 and #31, with bugs on the bumper.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Show Trucks

Big Freight Systems Dodge Show-Truck

Flying Eagle Peterbilt Show-Truck


Brand New Wheels

Monday, May 16, 2011

Movin' On.

____I read somewhere that if Phil Collins now wants to play the drums, he has to strap the sticks to his hands. I know how he feels. After tarping a load in sub-zero temperatures; the only way I can write out the log book is by taping the pen to my fingers. Arthritis is the body's way of telling me to give up the flat-deck work. Recovery time for my hands has been getting longer and I decided some time ago that it would be my last winter on decks.
____So after 59 months and 937445 kilometres, I've finished with the sewer green Kenworth T800s. Just short of five years is a lot longer than the average time I spend anywhere: either at a transport company or with a woman. BFS are one of the few companies that will send any driver, any where at any time. Vancouver Island twice, Newfoundland twice: as far north as Anchorage, Alaska, twice and as far south as Tampa in Florida.
____At times, things have been so dire that I've nearly walked off the job; minus 40, on top of a stack of steel beams, trying to unfold tarps that are stiffer than a 14 year old's bed sheets. Plus 40 C, tarping in full personal protection equipment. But there have been plenty of times when the craich has been good. My everlasting memory will be of standing on an empty trailer at 3o'clock on a Sunday morning, March 2007. Minus 25 on the Alaska Highway up in the Yukon; watching the Northern Lights. Like dark green velvet curtains rippling across the sky in the breeze from an open window.
____I could have done another summer with BFS but when you see a chance: then take it. Now it seems I will have to reconsider my long held belief that real men don't pull vans. But if I don't look after my body, then no one else will.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


____Day 1: There is a load of lumber already in the yard, waiting to go to Saint Peters; a suburb of St. Louis in Missouri. But the trailer has a punctured tyre, so it's 4 o'clock in the afternoon before I'm ready to leave. Paul Wilby in CSJ 563 has a similar load for the same area. We leave together; but by the border, I'm through and away before he arrives; I don't see him again for two days.
____Day 2: From Sauk Centre, around the Twin Cities and down into Iowa. Taking the four-lane mix of US Highways 18, 218 and 61. A good flowing route that brings me out on the Interstate 70, two junctions from my drop. The small truckstop at Exit 222 doesn't have a space for the night, so I make do with the road on the industrial estate outside my lumber yard.

____Day 3: Unloaded straight away in the morning and already having my reload instructions; straight down Interstate 55 to Jackson for a shipment of the wire-mesh shelving that I did a couple of months ago. Mr. Wilby turns up as I am loading; he too is going to Edmonton, Alberta. We leave together and are still together when we stop for the night at Farris in Faucett, a major truckstop on the Interstate 29, north of Kansas City.
____Day 4: CSJ 563 stands for Company Super Jumbo 563 and is one of the trucks that was specced for a glass hauling job that no-longer exists. The Canadian glass manufacturer closed and the Super B double trailer 63,500 kg combinations cannot run in the US. Paul's truck has 40 extra horsepower, 5 extra gears and about 1 mph extra on top speed. One thousand kilometres during the day, each, to reach Carrington in North Dakota.

____Day 5: We have both been given four days to do the two thousand miles from Missouri to Alberta; but with only 20,000 lbs of shelving, we decide to deliver a day early. Finding a puncture at Weyburn loses me two hours and by that time Paul has long gone. But  North Battleford leaves just a short run in the morning.
____Day 6: The load is safely delivered and it proves to be my last load for BFS. I sit all day at the Husky Truckstop in Acheson before being told to return empty to Steinbach; totally uneconomic but I said in my letter of resignation that I was leaving on Friday the 13th and the company sees no other way of getting me back home. Getting to Saskatoon leaves me with just enough driving hours to finish the job.
____Day 7: CSJ 563 turns up during the night; loaded with lumber from Drayton Valley, going to South Dakota for a Monday morning delivery. Paul and I run back to the yard, calling in at Yorkton and Gladstone for cups of tea. I don't often run with an other truck and prefer generally to do my own thing. But with some one like Paul, who is so like minded, we never discussed anything; just ate, fuelled and stopped at the same places automatically. But it took the whole week to get tuned in to Paul's broad Yorkshire accent; without asking him to repeat himself. I think he mumbles.
____Overall Distance: 6312 km.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


____Day 1: On the way to Selkirk for a load of steel blades; the destination changes from Chattanooga, Tennessee,  to seven drops en route to Ohio. Less miles and more work, as the load will have to be re-tarped six times. To compound my unhappiness, there is still  flood water around Morris; sending me on a 200 kilometre detour to the border, via Winkler. Finishing the day at Sauk Center, still three hours from my first drop.
____Day 2: The blades are the replaceable sharp edges of snowploughs and are going to various County Highway Departments in four states. With five hours driving between the drops; I only get two deliveries done on the Tuesday. Le Center, Minnesota and Wautoma in Wisconsin. But multi-drop work always gives you the chance to drive new roads, which is good.

 ____Day 3: From Rochelle, Illinois, to Tinley Park as the rain continues into a second day. Then two drops in eastern Ohio before stumbling upon the TA Truckstop at Lodi. Cutting across country on unfamilar roads can play havoc with re-fuelling; The tanks were getting very low when I came along a side road that crossed an Interstate just at the right time.
____Day 4: The last two drops are either side of Cleveland, then south to Youngstown for the first of two pick-ups for Calgary, Alberta. Steel from Canada to the USA, now steel from the USA to Canada. This time it is tubes; the second lot coming from Shelby, Oh. A good days work with two drops, a pair of pick-ups and back to within an hours drive of Toledo; which is a triumph.

 ____Day 5: A thousand kay day, south around Chicago and up to Black River Falls in Wisconsin. Truckstops are never quiet places; there are always motors running: APU's, fridges and trucks idling. But the noise at the Flying'J sounds like the screaming of a thousand disintegrating bearings; about to send the cooling fan blades through the radiator. The mating call of a pond full of frogs, just over the fence at the back of the trailer.
____Day 6: West-bound all day on Interstate 94; in pleasent sunshine until Jamestown, ND. The lady at the Superpumper Truckstop tells of a blizzard to the north-west and she's right. It's a stuggle all the way to Minot in near whiteout conditions. On the positive side; it's half-past eight in the evening and still light; the first time I've driven that late, in daylight, while it's been snowing.

 ____Day 7: The Schatz Truckstop parking is jam-packed and whilst turning at the bottom of the lot, the trailer wheels drop into some soft ground. As the drive  wheels are on snow, I'm stuck. But the big payload shovel, that has come to clear the snow drifts, soon pulls me out. Much to the relief of the six truckers that I had neatly blocked in. Others had a worse time than I did, but by Weyburn in Saskatchewan, the roads are bare and dry. On to Redciff for the night, leaving just the final three hours for Monday morning.

 ____Day 8: The steel tubes stayed dry under their polythene wrapper, even with the blowing snow. Unloaded and off across town for a load of lumber, going to Manitoba. The fork-lift driver is an old guy and gives the impression that he owns the company and knows what he is doing. But I just know he's got the axle weights all wrong. Most times I'll argue with anyone; but something tells me that this guy could be a problem. So I go off and scale the truck; then armed with the evidence of 1100 lbs overweight on the trailer axles,  I ask him to shift a pack to the front. A  lot of time lost; but enough hours left to get to Swift Current.

 ____Day 9: Prairie Forest Products treat a lot of lumber with preservative and work at it all day long; which is good because there is always somebody to unload a truck. It's a long day, but with just a half-an-hour at Neepawa, I'm back in the Steinbach yard by early evening.
____Overall Distance: 7727 km.