March was NOT a good month. The sign of the devil certainly fits.
After sub zero temps and snow earlier in the month I followed up with two tickets and a tire incident.
Let me start by saying I am OVER any below zero temperatures. Forever. While I am looking for a regional, possibly a local, gig, I feel I can hang with Roehl through the summer. In fact, I kinda look forward to driving in the north country when it’s in the upper 90s in Texas. Howsomever, I’d rather deal with the upper 90s a Texas summer rather than again experience supersub zero temperatures in Wisconsin in the winter.
Oh, the 666 refers to the first three digits of the seven digit load numbers I had been assigned for most of the month. Thankfully, as I write this the load numbers now start with 669. Good riddance to 666.
Ticket Numero Uno
On my first run east carrying a load of coffee that was listed on the bill of lading at 36,000 pounds I was just 40 miles from my drop south of Atlanta when I was red-lighted into a weigh station on I-85. I say red-lighted because I have a PrePass device that allows me to blow by many weigh stations. I’m not sure how they know, in some cases I can see scale-like devices in the pavement on the freeway. In other situations I think the authorities figure if somebody has a PrePass they are less likely to be violating Hours of Service laws. In any event, I get green-lighted by many more weigh stations than red-lighted into them.
Once into a weigh station, most facilities there is a clearly identifiable scaling device on the drive into the station and after calculating your weight, you are either arrowed (green arrow to bypass and a red arrow to direct you to the official Fairbanks-Morse scale right in front of the official who will either be your buddy or your nemesis.
In this case, I was red-lighted up to the shed where the smokies record your weight down to the microgram. On this occasion, a dude actually came out of the shed and, using a tape measure, measured the distances between my axles, after which he told me I was 1,500 pounds heavy on my trailer axles and directed me to a parking place. Once parked he said I could feel free to rearrange the load if I liked. I think I had 28 pallets of coffee. I didn’t think that even if there were room to move the pallets forward (which would take weight off the trailer axles) I could move an almost 2,000 pound pallet of anything anywhere. When I informed him that I would not be messing with the load he invited me in for a conversation. Oh, and could I bring the truck registration and proof of insurance, please. How could I refuse?
Inside, the nice young man gave me the weight details. Turns out I was about 5,000 pounds heavier than my empty weight plus 36,000 pounds of cargo. The shipper had misinformed me. I arranged the trailer tandems so that I was in good shape if the load was indeed 36,000 pounds. I could have been even more conservative and placed the tandems so that the maximum weight was on the drive axles but, alas, I did not. Bottom line? My fine would be $79. The fine would be assessed against my company, not me. Of course, I would pay the fine in the end, but Roehl would be fronting this financial transaction.
I pulled into the next truck stop I came to because I foolishly thought the state’s scale might be wrong. Not so. I wasted another $10 in order to learn that the state’s scale was indeed accurate. Well just POOP.
Ticket Numero Dos
After some tooling around in the eastern U.S. I picked up a load in southeastern Pennsylvania bound for central Indiana. I like to get as far down the road as I can every day. It is not uncommon that I will do 600+ miles in a day which takes most of the driving hours that are available to me. On this particular trip I was wanting to get as close to the Indiana border as possible. As I was driving through the heart of Columbus, Ohio, I saw flashing lights on an official-looking vehicle and slowed to let him pass. Instead of passing me, he started waving frantically. I think the SOB wanted ME to pull over. WTH???
I didn’t think there was room along the side of I-70, but I thought, if he was so insistent, I better get over and stop. After I was over and stopped, I noticed he was right behind me and that there was another semi parked behind him. The SOB got two of us. I couldn’t wait to see what I had done this time.
The nice young a$$hole in a uniform walked along the passenger side of my truck, around the front, and then climbed up to my open window. He somberly stated that he had clocked me at 59 miles an hour. Could he have my driver’s license and truck registration please? Well I knew where those items were. While he was back in his truck I was thinking, “He pulled me over for 4 mph over the limit???”
I later learned that he allegedly clocked me at 59 in a 45 mile an hour zone. When he came back he handed me the citation and informed me that I could either come on back for a court date on March 31st or just pay a fine of $149. He said he did me the favor of not doubling the fine. I wish I could have felt better about that. To further complicate my day, I was instructed to not reenter the freeway but to take the next exit (which was just a hundred yards ahead) and then reenter the freeway a couple of blocks down.
While I was waiting a the light at the end of the ramp, the trooper finished dealing with the other truck he had pulled over and was passing me on the ramp. Apparently, after writing two tickets to mean ol’ truckers he was just getting warmed up. As he passed me he drove his SUV OVER a little traffic island and motioned two motorcycles over to the side of the street so he could break a record for number of tickets written in a 20 minute period.
My hours were clicking down. I was going to have a hard time getting to my target truck stop in western Ohio. But damned if I was going to speed. And here’s the thing. I NEVER speed. My stupid truck is governed at 63 miles and hour so 90 percent of the time I am physically incapable of driving faster than the speed limit. As I drove west on I-70 I second guessed my decision to not ask to see the radar reading of my alleged speeding. In the end, I figured that if the speed limit was 45 (How stupid is that?!? On a stinkin’ freeway!?!), there was a very high likelihood that I was going faster than 45. If I had gone back to his troopermobile and he was able to show me that I was, in fact, going 59 miles an hour, he might be offended and WOULD HAVE doubled the fine because the infraction took place in a construction zone.
It further hacked me off that he was targeting out of state trucks because he knew we would never come back for a court date. Aw hell. This was my first moving violation in more than 10 years. I would just suck it up and put my trooper detection senses on high alert for the next three years.
On a pickup in beautiful (snort) Pine Bluff, Arkansas, I was looking forward to a quick drop and hook and then two and a half hours to an overnight in West Memphis. Alas, it was not to be.
This was another one of those paper plants where you get the white glove treatment on your trailer. That is, the trailer you drop off has to be spotless. In this case, I did not have an opportunity to sweep out my trailer after unloading at a Sams distribution center in Searcy, Arkansas. Unlike most paper plant inspection stations that have a dock that will accommodate four or five trucks at once, this was a low budget operation with a lone dumpster and a step ladder.
But I digress.
With a freshly swept trailer, I found a place to park it and then bobtailed to the shipping office where I would get my paperwork and be directed to my already loaded trailer. As the clerk was about to hand me the Bill of Lading, he took a second look at the weight of the lad and asked, “You wouldn’t be able to handle 45,450 pounds would you?”
So he instructed me to go get the loaded trailer and back it up to Door Number 1. Great! more work.
So off I went. I found the trailer at the far end of the disgustingly dusty gravel lot, hooked up and started back to Door Number 1. It seemed to pull kinda hard but I had been toting an empty trailer for the last couple of hours and figured a heavy load, would naturally pull a bit … heavier.
But I got it back to the loading dock and as I was chocking the trailer wheel, I noticed a huuuge gouge out of the rear tire on teh driver side. For the record, this was a super single. Instead of duelies, and the trailer having eight wheels, some of the newer trailers have one big fat tire that replaces two normal tires. I believe that I have previously mentioned that I have super singles on my tractor. This means that, technically, I have not driven an 18-wheeler for more than six months. Technically, I have been driving 14-wheelers. In this case I would be driving a 10-wheeler.
At any rate, I thought, “Hunh! I wonder who did this.” About that time the worker who had inspected my trailer came tooling up in his white pickup. He explained that I had drug the trailer a quarter mile across his large gravel lot. He told me to hop in and he would show me.
Sho nuf. There was a very clear, very long shallow trench that indicated the path of the locked wheel as it skidded across the expanse of sharp little stones (and dust). Evidently when I released the air brakes, three of the four wheels released, but the one stubborn wheel had another idea. That stubbornness doomed that tire. So I called it in, but nothing is ever simple with our road breakdown unit.
They wanted photographs and I could tell they just wanted me to just take the load and get it repaired in West Memphis. Uh, no, I said. This was not a road worthy tire and given that I had already been cited by the authorities twice in the last two weeks, I did not feel comfortable going anywhere with this trailer. Plus, given that I had woken up in Ina, Illinois, that morning, I only had a couple of hours driving time left.
There was a debate as to whether they would take me off this load or leave me on the load and just move the gigantic rolls of paper to another trailer. In the end, they took me off the load. They moved the freight to another trailer that would be picked up by another driver. It was left to me to get the trailer to a truck tire store that would be waiting for me four miles away. That ended up being the right decision. By the time I got to the repair facility, the super single, which had a 10 inch by 10 inch square section that was gouged down past the metal cords when I left the paper plant, now had significantly less rubber given that a few more huge chunks of tread had spun off the tire on my four mile drive. Driving anywhere with a 40,000 pound load would have left chunks of rubber all over the highways of Arkansas.
After the repair, I found a crappy truck stop on my way back to the interstate – it had a disgusting mens room with no soap and no towels> I figured I had experienced enough misery for the day and even though Iwas down to less than 15 minutes drive time, I boogied another six miles up the interstate and found a decent, no-name truck stop where I spent the night.
Phshew, what a day.
And what a month.