Friday, June 23, 2017

The Longest Of Days.

Ten Day Trip.
____ Accidents caused by texting now out-number accidents caused by drink-driving by 4 to 3. Trucking companies all have a no-alcohol policy and do random drugs and alcohol testing but they still send texts to drivers when they know they are driving. It is pretty much the same as the company buying a driver "One for the road" when they know he has to drive home from the bar. Nobody has ever been prosecuted for buying someone their last drink before an accident or for sending the text before they crashed; but it takes two to tango.

____ A drinking culture at a transport company can cause problems but so can a low alcohol threshold brought on by zero-tolerance of drivers having a beer of an evening. Alcohol has always been part of my life. I was brought-up in a pub where my brother and I shared a bottle of Mackeson stout every night before bed-time while still at primary school. I lived in Bavaria where "Beer is Food" and many work-places have vending machines selling alcohol. In France. I have spent many lunch-times, dining in Les Routiers with fine food accompanied by a glass of vin rouge. To my mind, there is nothing better than knocking the froth off a cold one at the end of a hot day behind the wheel.

____ I also know that excess can cause cancellation; the free-pour Cuba-Libre of Spain and the Ef-Es Controls of Turkey. But a couple of Bud-Lights with a chopped brisket sandwich at the Cowboy Travel Plaza in rural Oklahoma is what long distance truck-driving is all about. The second night-out on a trip to San Antonio with another load of peat-moss. Delivered on a Friday morning before running empty to switch trailers in Laredo. A bonded-load for Bolton, Ontario, a familiar job but without a Louisiana detour. Crossing over into Canada by way of the Blue Water Bridge at Sarnia on the seventh day of the trip.

____ About the worst thing that can happen to a driver who has just done a long trip into the US? To be asked to go "South" again without a log-hours reset. But this is what the office expects me to do after I am unloaded. There is a load  for Winnipeg waiting at Clawson, a northern suburb of Detroit; it has to wait another day before I can legally go and get it. When loaded, I have 5 hours 30 minutes to do the 528 kilometres to the Canadian border at Sault Ste.Marie. A thrash north-bound on Interstate 75, crossing with 2 minutes to spare; slowed only by the 20 mph limit on the Mackinac toll bridge. Once through customs, the more liberal driving hours of Canada allow me to get to White River in a sixteen hour spread-over; all in day-light on the longest day of the year. But I am within a days drive of Steinbach and a city-driver will deliver it on Friday morning.

Stormy night in South Dakota

Tornado warnings from the cell-phone.

Made-to-measure tarp on oversize load.

Another day, another unloading bay.

Useful hours information on tablet.

The locks at Sault Ste.Marie.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Burnaby Blitz.

Six Day Trip to the West Coast.

____ West bound with a light load of only twelve tonnes; so no need to check the weights at the scale at the end of the road, like I would with a load of Texas-bound peat-moss. Yet it is open for business and I have to roll-over any-way. A reminder that it is MOT Inspection Blitz Week; the first week in June, an annual event that sees most government scale-houses open all day, all week. My fear is that an eighteen year-old truck may be an inspection magnet, but I get a green-light at every out bound weighing. Bizarrely, all the scales were closed on the return leg of the journey.

____ The load has come up from Waller in Texas and going to Burnaby, BC, via Steinbach; which is an awful long way round. I can only assume that the driver had an emergency situation at home and that the company brought him straight back to the yard.There is no other way that it is logical logistics. But the mileage for me is roughly the same as a trip to Texas; just a mountain range to drive over instead of an all down-hill south-bound cruise.

____ First night-out is at Swift Current, after a long sunset. Second night at Golden; leaving just a short day into the Greater Vancouver Area. The regular parking spot for a night at the Delta Petro-Pass before leaving early to get across town to the Burnaby delivery on Friday morning. While unloading; news comes through that the Trans-Canada Highway is closed between Revelstoke and Sicamous. Heavy rain has caused landslides and wash-outs; snow-melt has also swollen the rivers. The reload is from Kelowna and the office suggests a return route via Jasper and Edmonton.

____ Fruit juice from Kelowna and it is heavy; right up to the maximum Canadian weights. 87,000 lbs and across the Rockies by the long way home. On the way back to Kamloops; the road is closed by a fatal accident at Falkland. Detour is by a dirt road towards the town of Chase, totally in the wrong direction, loose surface, clouds of dust and impatient traffic trying to make up for lost time. A fourteen hour day for three hundred miles before reaching Kamloops for the night.

____ Two big days are needed to get the load back to Winnipeg. It starts with a rain-soaked run alongside a raging North Thompson River; past a mist shrouded Mount Robson and through a RV saturated National Park at Jasper. Cloudy skies until Edmonton and onto North Battleford for end of an eleven hundred kilometre day. I reckoned on an eight hour break; but sleep took hold and stretched it to over ten. Thanks to the light-nights of June; I was still able to finish before dark. Dropping the trailer in Winnipeg and bob-tailing back to the yard.

Kenworth W900 in British Columbia.

Manitoba dirt roads are straight and flat: BC dirt roads are winding and undulating.

Fresh snowfall on high ground in the Jasper National Park.

Cedar log delivery at a Delta sawmill.

We've had bigger than that in here, driver.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Louisiana Purchase.

An Idea Of Distance.
Ten Day Trip.

____ The first trip using the e-log tablet while still doing paper logs. A lot more office-type work; so I take a passenger with a good grasp of Information Technology and give her the  button pressing job with strict instructions not to forget the all-important work status changes. Surprisingly, the difference between the two sets of figures is never more than a quarter of an hour during the whole ten day trip. A good example of how Ruby Truck Line is an employer who gives plenty of time for their work. The log-book brinkmanship  at Flying Eagle would never have aligned the numbers. But with my present employer I am not taking home the regular bi-weekly pay-cheques of over $2000 and probably won't see such pay-packets in the foreseeable future. Not that I ever ran bent or anything like that.

____ There are three types of driver that falsify their logs. "Innocent mistake" is the one who doesn't know they haave done anything wrong until it is pointed out to them. It may be ignorance of the law, bad mathematics or a lapse of concentration but they gain nothing from it. "Death Wish" is another violator. This driver does not care about the rules and regulations, they just do what they want and will often not even bother to start a daily log-sheet. Disenchanted with the job, problems at home, possible drink and drug addiction; this driver might well have done a good job in the past but now the loss of their licence would be a happy release. The third group and by far the biggest group is the "Percentage Driver." The thinking driver who weighs up the risks of detection against the gains in time and money. The zero% chance of getting caught when unloading-before-logging-on when parked at a customer over-night versus the nailed on certainty of getting done for over-weight at a scale which boasts that they will still be open for the fortnight after hell freezes over. This a driver who will often start to manage his log-book days before when he sees a hiccup on the horizon; but he will be quite liberal with his timings when he has hours to spare. This driver knows the law and just how far he can bend it. What is their chance of getting caught, after all their careful consideration, by an un-expected, out-of-the-blue log-book check when they are bang-to-rights, up-a-creek-without-a-paddle running dodgy? Once in a million miles or every eight years or so. Mr. Percentage will notice a drop in pay with e-logs and the company while notice a drop in their productivity.

____ A bonded load of peat-moss for the Home Depots of Mexico; trouble-free driving with nights-out at Norfolk, Nebraska, Thackerville, Oklahoma, and Encinal, Texas, before unloading at Laredo and finding that a pallet had toppled over at the front of the trailer. Mushroom farms and plant nurseries are never worried about split bags or wonky pallets but when the goods are for resale it's different. Luckily it can be re-built and re-wrapped before I get a clean signature on the bill of lading. Then it is off across Laredo for another bonded trailer; destination Bolton, Ontario.

____ Many people collect souvenirs from each and every state that they visit; for some it is fridge-magnets, for my passenger it is shot glasses. As a token of my appreciation for all her hard work with the e-logs; I swing by Louisiana and Arkansas to add to her collection With a cargo of just 13,000 lbs and a tail-wind; a little bit of non-Interstate driving doesn't add any time or cost to the trip and I enjoy driving new roads. The Indianapolis 500 is underway as we approach; fearing traffic congestion, I stay on Interstate 57 all the way to Interstate 80, south of Chicago. A night at a quiet Sawyer TA as American companies get their drivers home for the Memorial Weekend holiday; before crossing the Bluewater Bridge and back into Canada at Sarnia.

____ By the time I have unloaded in Bolton; the mileage for the 66 hours work in seven days is 3663 miles. As good as it gets. The reload is from Oshawa at 3 o'clock Wednesday afternoon. A wasted day at the Esso Truckstop on Dixie in Mississauga; playing crib with the passenger as thunder-showers come and go. Before loading, there is time for a stroll along the shoreline of Lake Ontario. Birds singing in the sunshine and if you look out across the water you have your back to the General Motors car plant; but can still hear the traffic roar from Highway 401.

____ A cross-country route avoids the GTA rush-hour as we leave with the load for Regina. To New Liskeard as a late setting sun finally out-runs the west-bound truck. The Eleven, all the next day to Nipigon; where a voice from the top bunk wakes me in the morning with "Can you turn the heater on, please." Ground frost as the  temperature has come down faster than a fat kid on a see-saw. It was 38 degrees in Laredo, Mississauga had a high of 30 and the swings and roundabouts of Canadian weather have Steinbach at 33 degrees centigrade by the time the truck is back in the yard. Somebody else can take the toilet rolls to Regina.
Peat-moss pallet needed re-building. [Always photograph any possible damage]

The passenger found this thing washed up on the shore of  Lake Ontario.

Un-exploded bomb? No. Naval flare.

British registered 2011 Daf Horsebox on Highway 11. West of Kapuskasing. Saw it again in Nipigon the next morning.