August 14, 2016
The load from Dallas to was destined for Ohio. It was overdue at the shipper about 12 hours before I was assigned to take it. There was no new appointment, so I planned to arrive at thirty minutes after midnight. That would be August 11, almost exactly 48 hours after departure. I was sleeping and waiting for my driving hours to resume that evening when they managed to book a delivery date that would leave me sitting for roughly 40 more hours in that truck stop in Benton, OH.
Above: This really has no relevance to the story, but I didn’t have any other photos. What you see is the price and amount of fuel for a typical “fill-up”. That is about half the fuel capacity of the tractor and I burned it in one (admittedly long) day.
I made a request for an earlier date and they told me to show at 8:00 AM local time the next morning. Then word came that I should take a load from another driver when finished with this one. When I arrived at the delivery, the receiving office was closed and locked and the sign said receiving hours are midnight to 8:30 AM. So, I am just in time, yes? NO. According to the loading dock personnel, the receiving people all went home early. Now, had I been there at 30 minutes after midnight – as I had planned – everything would have come off like clockwork.
So, I dragged the still as yet undelivered cargo 50 miles down the road to Youngstown and swapped trailers. The other guy would now have to go back to the receiver at the appropriate time and I would deliver his load to a Costco distribution center in Morris, Illinois – just West of Chicago. It was a one day trip of about 500 miles and I pulled it off nicely. They have an efficient operation and I was out of there quickly. This is how the business should operate. But now back to reality.
The next step should be to get my trip to Texas for my preplanned (a month ago) “home time”. That did not happen. I got a load to Maryland from Chicago. Not a terrible trip, but now at the end of it, I will wait 25 hours in a truck stop for the appointment to unload on Monday afternoon. I will call the receiver tomorrow when I get my driving hours back and mention that I am available earlier. But I doubt that will have much effect.
Above: Another unrelated photo. This was the view of sunset at Canton, Ohio on Saturday – taken from the drivers side running board.
I can manage to put together two days of driving ten plus hours when I can make a decent daily income. But, after that is a dead day waiting either at a shipper or a receiver (or both, making it two days out of four) with miniscule pay or none at all. And how do I get these two days out of three – or four? By living in the truck 24 hours a day, seven days a week for two months at a time.
As for my home time request, I asked about this and got an anonymous text on the satellite system that can only be called a vague and empty promise to get me home at some point in time.
West Virginia has some difficult hills that leave me geared down from 8th to 4th and cresting the top at 15 miles per hour. They mercifully have put in climbing lanes for us where we can let the traffic zip by. But, those lanes end right at the top of the hill, so now the lumbering truck has to merge with traffic at 70 mph. This was not well-thought-out. The result is a stressful few hours to get past all that. I looked forward to a nice, restful time at the truck stop.
I got to this truck stop in Hagerstown and drove through looking for a parking spot. I find that most of the apparent gaps are really hiding lesser trucks or bobtails. I go out to the street and around again for another try. I find a spot and begin to attempt backing. In my set-up I wind up blocking the exit and traffic is building, so I exit again. I wind up back out on the freeway, but quickly realize that: A. This is denial. And B. I checked two days ago on various online sources and I know that the truck stop I just left is one of a very few places I will have a chance to park. So, back I go and the few remaining spaces are gone now.
I pull into an empty fuel aisle where I know I will have five or ten minutes of peace to look at my i-phone for other truck stops (there are “truck stop apps”). Before I get far, a driver on foot knocks at my door. He is a contractor for the same company and he offers the spot he is about to vacate. I gratefully accept. It would be easy since there is a long run-out in front of it. Except, as the Good Samaritan pulls out, a truck stops across my “long runout” and the driver disappears into the store, making it another “high angle” situation. High angle and “blind side” – I will be backing into a space only visible in the passenger side mirror. And remember the space is like 80 feet behind me at this point. Add to that, a tourist with a travel trailer has now pulled up beside the blocking truck and makes the approach even tighter.
But, the Good Samaritan gave me this space and I won’t give it up! I back up (out the exit -got to be quick, here) enough to turn the rig and pass (barely) the blocking truck and tourist and put the space on the driver’s side where I can, at least, stick my head out the window and look directly at my trailer. I get the back of the trailer in to the gap, but the angle will take it into the passenger side-neighbor. I have to pull up again and again. But each time I pull up it gets a little easier, because the angle is reduced. Finally I am at an angle where I can see the space, my trailer and the driver’s-side neighbor all together in the driver’s side mirror. I can’t see the passenger side of my trailer or the gap between me and the other rig because the trailer is still not straight behind me. But if I stay close to the driver’s side neighbor that I can see and slide in parallel, I can take it on logic that the other side will work itself out.
By the time I can shut off the truck, forty minutes have passed since the Samaritan knocked on my door.
It seemed much longer, of course.
Above: During the night some more refugees find no room at the truck stop. So, they hide out next to the scale