Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

FAO Santa.
____ As the blog comes to the end of it's fifth year; I would like to thank everyone for their support and encouragement. 2014 has been different with a lot less truck driving and that looks as if it will continue for another three months at least. With nothing to write about; the blog is going into hibernation for the Winter. I wish I could take the snowbird route and head down to Mexico but the injured shoulder has to stay and attend physiotherapy sessions in Manitoba.

____ Surgery at the Pan-Am Clinic was performed on December 1st; left shoulder arthroscopy, where three small entry points were made and the broken bone from the rotator cuff was re-attached. My left arm has been in a sling for three weeks and the pain has only just started to ease; pain-killers have helped but sleeping has been very difficult. I was given a Cold Rush machine which pumps icy water through a pad that is strapped around the shoulder; during this treatment has been the only time
I have felt comfortable.

____ I went back to the clinic yesterday and they seemed pleased with their handiwork. They do know their stuff and are confident that I will make a full recovery. I hope so because at the moment I feel weak and wasted. I've been sitting about watching Netflix for two months. Lets hope the physiotherapy can get me up and about; out and about; anywhere away from the couch. Onward into 2015.

____All the best to everyone in 2015, Chris Arbon.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Immigrant : Statistics : 2012 - 2013 - 2014

____ One hundred and two months of driving in North America. 1,067,714 miles in seven different trucks for just two employers. The millionth mile coming up on 17th of March 2014; Trans-Canada Highway, westbound, just before Regina, Saskatchewan. Not far from the place where I broke down on my first trip; seven years and 9 months before.

  • Jan   2012    22396 km
  • Feb  2012    23504 km
  • Mar  2012    16091 km
  • Apr  2012    17956 km
  • May 2012    22104 km
  • Jun   2012    19775 km
  • Jul    2012    22915 km
  • Aug  2012    24452 km    Best of Year   14942 miles per month.
  • Sep   2012    22692 km
  • Oct   2012    23254 km
  • Nov  2012    22043 km
  • Dec   2012   15850 km
  • Total           253032 km    or    154630 miles per year.
  • Average        21086 km    or      12885 miles per month.

  • Jan   2013    20590 km
  • Feb  2013    18760 km
  • Mar  2013    23001 km
  • Apr  2013    23239 km    Best of Year    14201 miles per month.
  • May 2013    20766 km
  • Jun   2013    22960 km
  • Jul    2013    18948 km
  • Aug  2013    13353 km
  • Sep   2013    16963 km
  • Oct   2013    22548 km
  • Nov  2013    21353 km
  • Dec   2013    22730 km
  • Total           245181 km    or    149832 miles per year.
  • Average        20431 km    or      12486 miles per month. 

  • Jan   2014    19588 km
  • Feb   2014   18816 km
  • Mar  2014    21753 km
  • Apr   2014   18012 km
  • May  2014   21715 km
  • Jun    2014     3344 km
  • Jul    2014            0 km
  • Aug  2014    21917 km    Best of Year    13393 miles per month.
  • Sep   2014    21059 km  
  • Oct   2014    16104 km
  • Nov  2014            0 km
  • Dec   2014            0 km
  • Total           142768 km    or    87247 miles per year.
  • Average        11897 km    or      7270 miles per month.  

  • 2014    142768 km    or     88714 miles
  • 2013    245181 km    or   149832 miles
  • 2012    253032 km    or   154630 miles
  • 2011    197920 km    or   120951 miles
  • 2010    205538 km    or   125606 miles
  • 2009    186458 km    or   113946 miles
  • 2008    206624 km    or   126270 miles
  • 2007    173848 km    or   106240 miles
  • 2006    106904 km    or     65330 miles.
  • Total   1718273 km    or 1067714 miles
  • Av:         16845 km    or     10467 miles per month.
  • Av:       202149 km    or  125613 miles per year
All the log-books altogether on one table. Needed for tax refunds and Permanent Residency qualification. So, do not discard.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Immigrant : Statistics : 2009 - 2010 - 2011

____ The distances covered in the year before the blog started and the first 2 years of Roadtrip Chris Arbon. Fifty-nine months of Big Freight [ BFS] and seven months at Flying Eagle Transport [ FET ].

  • Jan  2009    16208 km.
  • Feb 2009    10032 km
  • Mar 2009           0 km
  • Apr  2009   17140 km
  • May 2009   16438 km
  • Jun  2009    20274 km
  • Jul   2009    18937 km
  • Aug 2009    20937 km     Best of Year  12794 miles per month.
  • Sep  2009      9699 km
  • Oct  2009    20331 km
  • Nov 2009    20655 km
  • Dec 2009     15807 km
  • Total          186458 km    or    113946 miles
  • Average       15538 km    or        9495 miles per month.

  • Jan  2010     18458 km
  • Feb 2010     17586 km
  • Mar 2010     17893 km
  • Apr  2010    18244 km
  • May 2010    19927 km    Best of Year   12177 miles per month.
  • Jun  2010     19067 km
  • Jul   2010     16688 km
  • Aug 2010     19238 km
  • Sep  2010     19762 km
  • Oct  2010     19643 km
  • Nov 2010     19029 km
  • Dec 2010             0 km
  • Total          205538 km    or    125604 miles.
  • Average       17128 km    or      10467 miles per month

  • Jan  2011              0 km
  • Feb  2011             0 km
  • Mar 2011     12159 km
  • Apr 2011      20263 km
  • May2011      17551 km     BFS:   9042 km  /  FET:   8509 km.
  • Jun  2011      20984 km
  • Jul   2011      20274 km
  • Aug 2011      23999 km     Best of Year    14666 miles per month.
  • Sep  2011      20086 km
  • Oct  2011      20579 km
  • Nov 2011      20115 km
  • Dec 2011      22748 km
  • Total           197920 km    or    120951 miles
  • Average        16493 km    or      10079 miles per month.

  • Grand Total : Jun 2006 - Dec 2011:    1077292 km    or    658345 miles.
  • Average       : Jun 2006 - Dec 2011:        16322 km    or        9974 miles per month.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Immigrant : Statistics : 2006 - 2007 - 2008.

____ The first 2 and a half years of my time in Canada; when emigrating as a British truck-driver was a whole lot easier. Here are the distances I covered in those early days.

  • July 2006    13058 km.
  • Aug 2006    19725 km
  • Sep  2006    22253 km  Best of Year. 13599 miles.
  • Oct  2006    20403 km
  • Nov 2006    19292 km
  • Dec 2006    12173 km
  • Total          106904 km or 65330 miles.
  • Average       17817 km or 10888 miles per month
  • C537          106904 km. Jun to Dec.

  • Jan  2007    19058 km
  • Feb 2007    17913 km
  • Mar 2007    19017 km
  • Apr 2007    19478 km
  • May 2007   10035 km
  • Jun  2007     2085  km
  • Jul   2007    19486 km
  • Aug 2007    19876 km  Best of Year.  12146 miles.
  • Sep  2007    19701 km
  • Oct  2007    11961 km
  • Nov 2007    16938 km
  • Dec 2007      8300 km
  • Total         173848 km or 106240 miles.
  • Average      14487 km or   8853 miles per month.
  • C537          79269 km  Jan to May.
  • C540            6232 km  March trips to Alaska.
  • C616          75168 km  Jun to Nov.
  • C596          23179 km  Nov/ Dec.

  • Jan  2008    13356 km
  • Feb 2008    20709 km  Best of Year.   12655 miles.
  • Mar 2008    17400 km
  • Apr 2008     18105 km
  • May2008     17075 km
  • Jun  2008     14824 km
  • Jul  2008      19504 km
  • Aug2008     19803 km
  • Sep 2008     16897 km
  • Oct 2008     14966 km
  • Nov2008     18971 km
  • Dec 2008     13013 km.
  • Total          206624 km or 126270 miles.
  • Average       17218 km or   10522 miles per month.
  • C596         206624 km  Jan to Dec.

  • 2006/07/08 Total :     487376 km or 297840 miles.
  • 2006/07/08 Average :  16245 km or   9928 miles per month.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Immigrant : Part Four.

The Interstate 94; week in-week out in Winter 2007/2008.
____ Five weeks passed before I returned to Canada after my father's funeral. My future now looked to be in North America and the exodus of British truck-drivers was peaking at the same time. Big Freight had mailed a LMO [Labour Market Opinion], the necessary paper needed for another year as temporary foreign worker. Two more new recruits, John and Kevin, were on the same plane. The Steinbach haulier was the main point of entry for a lot of Brits trying for a better future. Things worked out fine for some, some returned to the UK quite quickly.

____ The job was advertised as long-haul flat-deck work, which was hard work, especially in Winter. Those who hadn't done it before either adapted quickly or left to find something easier. Most drivers had a secret agenda based on the needs of their families. For some, Big Freight was just a way of getting into Canada. I felt sorry for Eric Slatcher as driver after driver came and went; but the company were just as much to blame for driver turn-over. If it had been a really good job with good wages then I am sure that a lot of drivers would have stayed. Then again; if it was a good job then the company would not have needed to recruit foreign drivers; Canadians would have done it.

____ There was a brand new truck waiting when I restarted work. C616, another Kenworth T800; the same as before but with the ceramic re-generation emissions filter and associated environmental advantages. It went well for a couple of months but then started to play-up; showing flaws in the engineering developments of the Caterpillar C15 engine. It was frustrating; endless engine-check lights and nobody who knew how to put things right. So frustrating to Caterpillar that they gave up completely and stopped making diesel engines for road-going trucks. I gave up completely in November; telling Eric that I was losing money due to all the down-time on the truck. Within a week, I was driving C596, one of the last batch before the emissions rubbish arrived.

____ There was not a lot of variety in the work at this time. The economic crash caused by the banks was starting to effect the road transport industry as the recession began to bite. Most of the trips seemed to be up and down Interstate 94, to and from the Chicago area. But one thing made me think that Canada and I were made for each other and I was in the right place at the right time. I had never thought of becoming a Permanent Resident of Canada as the paper work looked too involved. First you needed a nomination from the province of Manitoba; then a whole lot more paper work for the federal government. Then by a lucky twist of fate; I met Paula on an on-line dating site. The nice lady worked for the immigration department of the Canadian government. So much easier when the forms are filled in for you; I didn't even have buy a stamp and the envelope went straight on to the top of the pile. Some things are meant to be.

____ The closure of Canada's only glass-making factory was a big blow for Big Freight; along with the crash of the house-building and construction industry in the US. From a fleet of 160 units they quickly shrank to just one-hundred by March 2008. British drivers were leaving on a weekly basis; so many that I thought I was missing something but none were going to jobs that I would have preferred better than Big Freight. Any way I had another more serious problems than work; my health.

____ Although the Provincial Nomination Program had been a piece of piss; my Permanent Residency application was having problems because of my piss. During the rigorous medical examination; blood was found in my urine and further tests were ordered. There was a one in 7 chance that I had prostrate cancer and judging by the awful tests used to find the cancer; it must be pretty awful too. Sending in the camera crew to photograph the inside of my bladder was particularly disturbing. Although I was pleased that my first-ever body cavity search was carried out by medical staff  and not customs officers.

____July 2nd 2008 and my PR came through; the cancer scare was a false alarm. I bought a Mustang to celebrate. Big Freight finally got their act together and a hatchet man cut the office staff down to size. The complacency had cost them a lot of customers as competitors found easy pickings amongst them. Suddenly the "Welcome to Manitoba" mat had been whipped out from under the feet of any British drivers hoping to come to Canada. It was never going to be that easy again. I did have the satisfaction of knowing that I had finally arrived in the heyday of a particular job. Both in car-transporters and Middle-East work; I had arrived as things were tailing-off. Thinking about it; Middle-East and North American work have a lot in common: a lot of very hard work for not much better than average pay.  

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Immigrant : Part Three.

Never one for ladies of the night,
My profile went up on a dating site.
"New Guy In Town" didn't have to wait,
"Crazy-4-You" took the bait.
Soon we were on our first date.
My problem was my lack of wealth,
Her problem was her mental health.
So now I'm resigned to being alone;
Well anyway, I'm never home.
Longest Trip.
____ My first trip for Big Freight was to Calgary in truck C537, a Kenworth T800. Five hours down the road, at Whitewood, Saskatchewan, the fan-belt broke on the fifteen litre Caterpillar engine and I sat for 24 hours before it was replaced. 24 hour service, in Canada, means twenty-four hours before somebody can get out to the truck. The company's response to my delay was "Laid-Back." In fact, laid-back described every aspect of Big Freight. A lot of good paying work fell into the company's hands, there was no forced despatch. If a driver didn't like a job; then they would find him something else. If  a driver made a mistake; there was nobody to give him a bollocking as long as he didn't prompt an insurance claim. All the staff were easy-going, friendly and bordering on complacent. I had previously worked for haulage firms that had twice as many trucks with half as many office workers as Big Freight. They were top-heavy with no leader driving them on. I thought it was strange but maybe that was how all Canadian companies worked.
____ The Summer months of 2006 soon became my first "Fall" then my first Canadian Winter. The flat-deck work was varied; giving me new roads to drive nearly every day. This was the main attraction of the job. Steel buildings from Brandon went all over North America. Specialist lumber from Kenora went to most of the eastern US. The quad-bikes and snow-mobiles of Minnesota went to practically every town and village in Canada. Of course not every job was like French-kissing a princess and there were plenty of frogs that needed snogging; loads that needed tarping in temperatures of -20 and then un-tarping just a hundred miles up the road. But I took the rough with the smooth and never refused to do a job that was physically and legally possible.
____ One high-light of that first year was my first trip to Newfoundland; still my longest-ever. Industrial machinery from Winnipeg with a collection of similar pieces at Ayr, in Ontario; all destined for a paper-mill in Windsor, on Newfoundland. Leaving home on a Monday morning and delivering on the following Monday; plenty of time to muddle through at the ferry terminals and find the paper-mill on the Sunday afternoon. It would have been the perfect trip if I hadn't gone "Drinking for England" at Kelly's Bar. I still remember falling out of the bar-maid's sister's jacked-up pick-up truck and throwing-up whilst un-tarping the next morning. I told them I was still sea-sick from the crossing. That trip continued with peat-moss from New Brunswick to North Carolina; before coming back to Manitoba with a load from Georgia. Just the sort of tour that suits me fine.
Team driving trip to Alaska.
____ Another good one was Alaska in March 2007. I had been to Whistler in British Columbia which was to be the site of the 2010 Winter Olympics; a steel building to house the towns new re-cycling centre. The re-load was ply-wood from Vancouver, two drops, Calgary and Saskatoon. Then came a satellite message: "Wait for Neil Ramsden in C540 and double-man an urgent load to Anchorage, Alaska." I hate team driving as I suffer badly from motion sickness and can never sleep in a moving vehicle. We had to do the trip in a drafty, noisy, un-comfortable, single-bed Kenworth T800 during the heart of Winter. The rate for the job was 36 cents per mile; split between us. Neil was a good mate but he had no mountain driving experience; he had yet to drive a truck on hard packed snow and, of course, he had never driven on snow-covered mountain roads at night!
____ But Neil was dead keen for some adventure and pointed out that this might be our only chance of visiting Alaska. I decided to do it just for the craic; yet again I was letting myself by drawn into a situation where there was going to be a lot of hard graft for little or no reward. The story of my life. We left my truck at the Flying 'J in Saskatoon; setting-off just before dark. Snow-chains were needed to get out of the Smoky River valley, on Highway 43 just before Grand Prairie, but otherwise it was trouble-free as far as Watson Lake. By then, I had talked Neil  round to my way of thinking; he was keen to drive non-stop because of the urgent nature of the load, but I was knackered so insisted on a five hour break.
Alaska passport stamp in mirror image.
____ At Whitehorse, Yukon, we met the first of the Big Freight trucks returning from Anchorage; Steve and John, fellow Brits, parked-up with a trailer brake over the cam. They gave us valuable information about the rest of the route and the tip in Anchorage. In all, there were twenty-four 20 foot containers going to the Bema Gold Corporation mine in Russia; flying from Alaska in an Antonov cargo plane. But when we arrived, the next morning in Anchorage, the plane had broken down some-where on route from the Ukraine. There wasn't any room at the airport for our load; eventually getting unloaded at the port by the very helpful and knowledgeable Scotty. Into a hotel for the night and a look round the town, we had just missed the start of the Iditarod long-distance dog-sled race.
____During the run back to Canada, a message came through with details of another trailer on it's way to Alaska. It costs $300 a year to register a truck for use in Alaska; sending us straight back would save the company money. We did the switch at Fort St. John and were back to AK in 48 hours  but with still no sign of the plane; all that urgency for nothing. Worst thing that happened was when the rear axle brakes on the trailer locked up in the freezing conditions. Four tyres ruined, but BJ's at Watson Lake had us up and running again inside three hours on a Sunday morning. Remarkable service but at a price: $2200 charged to Kenworth Assist. I was surprised nobody at Big Freight said anything about it when we got back.
____ The job was going nicely up to the end of May when a phone call told me that my father had died from a sudden heart-attack. I had spoken to him on the Saturday afternoon and felt that he didn't appreciate me calling when he was watching the horse-racing on television; he died on the Sunday. Big Freight brought me straight back from Kansas and I was back in the UK before the end of the week. Just a few days short of being a year away.