____Day 1: Waiting on a trailer until 7 o'clock on a Friday evening. It is coming in from Alberta, destined for Mississippi, an easy three day drive but the late start doesn't help. Down to Fargo for a night at the Stamart Truckstop.
____Day 2: A ten hour break, a good breakfast and then a solid 11 hours driving with just a 30 minute break and a tankfull of fuel at Clear Lake, Ia. To the Flying 'J at Wayland on the four-lane US Highway 61.
|Shelby Elliott's. Home of many big-sleepers. On the east side of Interstate 55 at Sykeston, Missouri.|
____Day 3: Through St. Louis, down Interstate 55 to Memphis, heading south to Jackson, Mississippi. Then east along I 20 to the small town of Newton and a small truckstop with good chicken called the Junction.
|The way to Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee.|
____Day 4: It doesn't take long to unload the machinery, a consignment from a Canadian factory to a sister factory in the US. Back to the truckstop for breakfast and an e-mail saying that the reload was at Birmingham, Alabama, but could not be loaded until Wednesday morning.
____Day 5: With just two driving before I get to the reload; I stop at most of the truckstops on the way. Keeping the cab cool in the sweltering southern heat and humidity. Rain showers are scattered throughout the day; but the pavement is steaming and dry within minutes.
|Highlight of a wasted day: Wrecker comes to tow a Freightliner at Meridian Flying'J.|
____Day 6: It doesn't start well at the furniture factory. I'm told to drop my trailer and come back for it at 6 o'clock in the evening. My half-trailer load of classroom desks and chairs are not ready for loading. As I have an afternoon collection at a plastics factory in Cartersville, Georgia; I arrange to come back for the 9000 lbs of furniture after loading the 24,000 lbs of plastic granules. It is always best to have the heavy stuff over the drive axles. Cartersville soon had me loaded and on my way back to Birmingham.
____Going to Cartersville soon turned out to be a big mistake. I didn't know that the furniture factory did not start to make a customer's order until they had the empty trailer backed onto a loading bay. I thought my stuff would be ready when I got back: wrong. It seems that Scholar Craft expects truck-drivers to wait while their goods are made.
____It used to be common in Romania during the 1980s for drivers to wait for days at furniture factories but this the first time I have come across such Third World work practices in the US. The Scholar Craft management said that they had a lot of problems from disgruntled truck-drivers; with many trucks failing to show up at all for their load. I wonder why? Once bitten twice shy? At 4 o'clock, I was told that production of my goods would start at eight the next morning.
|Trailer waiting for a load at Scholar Craft.|
____Day 7: There were four unhappy truck-drivers waiting all day for various desks and chairs, destined for various schools in North America. None of the others had seen such a factory with such a crowded, old-fashioned style of manufacture. One of the drivers mentioned that some of the workforce might not have the legal right to live and work in the USA and that a call to US Immigration might be in order. We quickly dismissed that idea or we would never get loaded.
____ It was a pretty hostile environment at the factory. Obviously the management were used to irate drivers. I went in to see how my load was progressing and Bo, the gang-master, was straight in my face; shouting at me to return to my truck. Somebody came along and told me to park the tractor unit out-side the gates and to leave the company property. With $75,000 worth of goods from Cartersville on the trailer; that was never going to happen. It was 4 o'clock in the afternoon when their shunter pulled my trailer off of the loading bay; 32 hours after I first arrived at the factory. I get $35 for a pick-up so that works out at just over a dollar an hour for waiting.
____But what made me really angry was the attitude of the company. Wasting drivers' time so selfishly. Also, these desks and chairs were for a school in the village of Hudson Bay, Saskatchewan. Paid for with Canadian taxpayers dollars and as I am a Canadian taxpayer; in a round-about way, I was a customer of Scholar Craft and they treated me with such disdain. The company management openly boasted that they were fully justified in treating all drivers like shit and entitled to keep them waiting as long as they wished.
____Day 8: After getting up to the Tennessee/Kentucky state-line on the Thursday night; it should have been an easy two-day run back to Canada. However, the linkage that joins the clutch to the clutch pedal became disconnected; the pedal just went straight to the floor. So, on the shoulder of an off-ramp, I went under the truck to have a look. It was easy to fix; screw the loose end back into the hexagonal rod. Unfortunately the problem happened again almost immediately. The thread inside the aluminum rod was so worn that the bolt kept pulling out. A bungee wound round the rod and attached to the bolts kept it together and got me home but not with-out a burnt forearm on a hot gearbox.
|Another year, another harvest.|
____Day 9: Nine hundred kilometres to get back to the yard on a sunny Saturday that saw combine harvesters working in the wheat fields of North Dakota. Just 5600 kilometres in 9 days is not good. Virtually four days of doing nothing. This added to the three wasted days from previous trip means I have lost 7 days in less than a month. With the old Flying Eagle, I never lost more than seven days in three and a half years.