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.

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