Pineapples

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Hauled Out in Baytown,  Kenworth Dealer  May 31, 2017

I am just returned from “home leave”.  This load of pineapples started from La Porte, Texas just to  the Southeast of Houston.  It will deliver to New Albany, Mississippi and there is plenty of time.

Every load must be weighed (with the truck, of course) to make sure we are legal.  This is especially important if the route includes the State of Louisiana, which this one does, almost immediately. The load checks in at 24300, which is a good eight tons lighter than the average.  Add in the vehicle itself and we have 61,200 pounds out of a maximum 80,000.  So no sweat, right?

A view in the trailer was enough to see that the pineapples were all stacked in the front.  So, “sliding the tandems”  to the forward limit will take more load on the trailer and come as close as possible to balancing the load.  The load must be weighed anyway and the nearest scale is in Baytown.  The tandem axle weights are 27120  (drive) and 20440 (Trailer)  – no worries, Mate!  The limit   for a dual/tandem axle is 34000! And while those are not exactly balanced, they are legal.  The problem comes when we look at the steer axle (the two wheels that steer the truck – hence the name) weight which is 13640.  That is 1640 (more than ¾ tons) over the limit of 12000.

MS_HeavyScale

The “Scale Ticket” with the bad news.

So, the load is light but not legal.  This makes an adjustment of the “fifth wheel”  – which connects the trailer to the tractor. – absolutely necessary.   If done correctly, this will move weight from the steer axle to the drive tandem. This is not often needed and there have been problems performing this stunt before – one of which that nearly killed your humble narrator (see Marooned at Brady’s Leap).

They actually managed to sell my “old truck” which was a Kenworth T680 built in November of 2013. The “new truck” is a Kenworth T680 built in February of 2014 and its fifth wheel is stuck solidly in the middle.  There is no possible solution for the load distribution until that is repaired.  The local truck stop kept me waiting for ten hours only to then tell me that they can’t fix it.  There is a Kenworth dealer nearby and I was waiting at their door as they opened at 0730.  They got the problem fixed in a few hours but The Company could not manage to pay them for it until 2 and ½ hours later.

Now there is not “plenty of time”.  We are trapped in yet another Marathon.  There are 629 miles to the delivery and 13 hours to get there.  That would not be a problem for normal transportation, but I can only actually drive for 11 of those hours.  I can stop the clock by stopping the truck, but I must maintain an average of  better than 57.2 miles per hour while actually moving.  If I run out of drive hours before I arrive, then the load will be 10 hours late – minimum – as I stop to reset my drive clock.  I have found that 60 miles average is possible, barring accidents, traffic, construction or weather.  So, the trip can be done.

At Baton Rouge, I ran into creeping traffic.  There was heavy rain to the East and an accident on the Northbound leg to Mississippi.  At 100 miles out I had a 15 minute buffer.  That began to disappear in the final approach as the route turns to state roads through 35-mile-per-hour towns.  I arrived – exhausted and shaking – with 4 minutes of my 11 hours of drive time left and twelve and one half hours of plain old sequential time after the departure from Baytown.

On Time Delivery.

Giant Carlisle Food Distribution Center Truck Parking, Carlisle, Pennsylvania, June 5, 2017

This load came out of Mississippi and ran to Pennsylvania.  Today was an eventful, hectic and quite long day.  I will employ the sequential format.  But remember, this is in retrospect.  Times are approximate, Eastern Standard Time and in 24 hour format (Military Time).

0400 – Pilot #179, Halfway Blvd, Hagerstown, Maryland.

The iPhone is Velcro-ed to the left of the closet.  This puts it where I can watch Netflix until I fall asleep and I awaken to the iPhone alarm.  The cabin lights are out because the Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) is not charging the batteries.  Nor does it supply cold air in the quarters.  We are up North just now and late night to early morning temperatures are bearable.

0500 – Before departing, the Refrigeration Unit’s (Reefer’s) fuel tank needs filling.  It runs continuously and takes about 20 gallons per day.  The Peace of the Open Road does not last long.

0600 – Arrived at the Giant Distribution Center.  The “drill” here is to park the truck and walk down to the guard shack at the gate to check in.  When they have a door, they will call on CB channel 15 or drive down to knock on your truck.  My appointment is at 0700.

0830 – Now one and on half hours after the appointment, it is time to casually check back with the gate.  They have 1000 as the appointment.  That was the original time, but when they added the second stop, The Company adjusted the time back to 0700 – and nobody told the gate.  I have a magic solution for this.  A message is sent to the Company:

“The gate still has 1000 as the appointment.  I will expect detention pay after 0900 nevertheless!”

Within minutes, I have a door.  A half hour of detention pay would cost The Company $6.25 – and they cannot have that!

1000 The truck is unloaded and I have one hour ($12.50) of detention pay to demand.   The only native-English speaking Lumper (unloader) I have ever met tells me there were 3 boxes of chicken missing.  They are multiple bags of eight pieces each – 50 pounds per box . This happens and they can accept the shortage, which they did.  There is one, little half-stack pallet left and I am off for Allentown – 108 miles away.  After Allentown, I will come back to Carlisle to pick up a sealed trailer from a distributor only 2 miles from here.  So, roughly thirty five thousand pounds of truck will make a 216 mile round trip to deliver 540 pounds of cargo.

No, it does not make sense.

1200 Allentown.

The front gate has a sign that says “one truck at a time in the gate – all others park along the street”.  Early on in this occupation I would have parked and walked in, figuring all these other truck were in front of me.  Now, I know that most of these trucks have delivered and are out of hours and stuck on the street.  There was no truck actually in the gate – so mine must be the “one”!  And, if not, what can they do?  Make me turn around and park on the street? Big deal!

The geometry of the front gate and the guard shack is about the worst I have seen.  I notice that a lot of the fencing is brand new and there are some freshly painted primeval yellow posts.  I had to pass the gate and do the “half-jack knife” to get in.  I nearly took out a fencepost anyway.  The gate guard confirms that a lot of damage is done.  We agree that the guard shack needs to be torn down and re-built to one side.

Going out, I missed a turn and asked Jill to re-route.  She sent me to a right turn at one of the narrowest streets I have seen in a long time.  The next re-route took me through a car-lined “old town” district.  Turns had to have cooperation from the local traffic.  I almost took out a roof overhang on one corner and hopped a couple of curbs with the trailer wheels.

Parked on Shear Drive, Carlisle, Pennsylvania, June 5, 2017

1430 Carlisle.

I returned to find out that Giant did not want those three boxes of frozen chicken.  They want me to “dispose of it”.  You see, this huge warehouse of refrigerated storage does not have room for three boxes of perfectly good chicken and furthermore they have no idea of any charity who might find a use for it.  Furthermore, they don’t have any place to dispose of spoiled (or unwanted) food.

Yeah, right.  The Driver – the man with the least free time and least local contacts – is expected to dispose of this stuff.  My beloved stepmother Gretchen was a volunteer who traveled around to such places to collect such unwanted food for charity.  Her ghost would haunt me if I threw away 150 pounds of perfectly good food.  Your mom wouldn’t like it either!

My clock was down to about an hour.  The next pick-up was two miles away so I drove there for help.  They managed to find the number for the Salvation Army, who I called.  They were eager to have this bounty, but had no transport to come find me.  I was down to fifty minutes and doubted I could get to them and back.  But, it turns out they were only 2.6 miles away.

CarlisleHistoricDistrictCarlisle Historic District.  The side street where SA was located was not so luxuriously wide.  I trimmed some trees.

It was a circuitous route through a Historic District.  More car-lined narrow streets.  I found the Salvation Army and pulled around the corner onto an even narrower street, only to be trapped behind a car in the process of parking at a meter.  My trailer is hanging out in the intersection behind me and the “traffic” is turning mean.  I got out to ask the  lady if she could go around the block while I quickly delivered some charity food for the SA.  She was quite composed and understanding – truly a Kind Lady – and agreed to help.  I admired her ability to remain polite despite my wild-haired, ill-shaven and overdue-for-a-shower appearance.  I was still forcing both directions of traffic to share a single lane.

The Salvation Army Officer helped me hustle the chicken out the trailer doors.  He was a bit stunned by the size of the truck and my ability to cram it into the available space.  If I had stopped to think about what I was doing instead of worrying about the time, I would have been impressed, as well.

There were some justifiably angry motorists trapped by my “has-no-business-here-in-the-Historic-District” truck.  To them and to all the poor blokes at the corners who had to back up to let me turn, I shouted “It’s for Charity!”  😉

The SA Officer points out that my trailer is in contact with a street sign. He will go pull the signpost to keep it from scratching the trailer as I pull away. As I ease back in motion and once again enable two-way traffic, I see in my mirror  that the Kind Lady who so graciously made room for me is just pulling in behind me to take her parking space again.  I hastened to beat the clock on the return.  I parked at Giant Carlisle ( I am not technically supposed to be there) again, with just 11 minutes left.  Another job-well-done for Captain Walkabout who will now take a well-deserved rest!

1840 – Giant Carlisle Receiving Clerk just came by to kick me out of parking.  There were five other refugees, so you see she wasn’t picking on me in particular.  In her defense, I can say that she gave us a street name (Shear Drive) where we could creep over (i.e., no Federal clock violations) and park to await Blessed Reset – just a few blocks away.

Carlisle_ShearDriveShear Drive – A tranquil sanctuary for resetting drivers.

That day is now concluded and this is as good a place as any to stop this post.

Over The Road,

Steve

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