*If you haven’t read part 1 you can find it HERE Then he began with the verbal abuse – accusing us of stealing jobs and union busting. Mel was taken aback but she stood close and said nothing. I knew what was happening here and had expected this treatment but not quite so vociferous. We were hauling European engines into GM – and by doing so were reducing the demand on their engine plants. The forklift operator started on how much he made ($80 per hour on overtime – which he was currently doing) and how that made him so much better than truck drivers and scabs. His operating skills were poor and he frequently dropped skids and ran one skid into another. He was also slow – likely deliberately. I just bit my tongue and let him ramble on with his abuse. My thought was that he sure wasn’t adding the value he was being paid and that if there were many more like him, they likely would cause the company to fail. This was some years before the industry reorganization – and turned out to be true. I still have a hard time feeling bad for auto workers who have lost their jobs – much of it was their own doing. We were empty in about 2 hours, got our paperwork signed and headed to Kentucky.
Crates Containing Engines http://www.reusabletransportpackaging.com/images/
After about three hours of driving – maxing out my log hours and enough to get us well away from Detroit- we found a hotel and had a good night’s sleep. I would normally sleep in the sleeper berth for the whole trip but it held only one person and the steering wheel was not comfortable. The next morning, after sleeping in and having a good breakfast we got on the road about 7 am.
We took our time and stopped for an early lunch – as I was sure there wouldn’t be food at Ingersoll Rand. We also picked up some sandwiches and some drinks to go. Along the way we passed a nuclear power plant which Mel had never seen before. At 1pm we arrived at Ingersoll Rand in Campbellsville, Kentucky. We were directed to the loading docks but told not to back in. Mel and I went up to the dispatch desk and announced ourselves. We were early and that was fine, so they told us we’d have to wait for our turn to load as dock space was limited. I inquired as to how the units were to be loaded, how many, what weight, etc. An escort took us out onto the dock and showed us flatbed trailers being loaded and the units we were going to load – which were staged on the dock along with about 10 or 12 other trailer loads. We had 9 two-wheeled air compressors – the type you often see being hauled behind contractors’ trucks. They would be staggered on the trailer so the nose of one would be beside the tail of the other, then wooden blocks would be nailed to the deck around the wheels and we would strap each compressor down individually.
Making sure that the IR dispatcher and the supervisor knew we would be waiting in the parking lot we went back to the truck. While we waited, I showed Mel how to disassemble the rack and tarp and build the pen in the front of the trailer – converting it to a regular flatbed. This is heavy work and takes about ¾ of an hour. These compressors would spend their lives out in the weather and so didn’t need any protection on the flat-bed deck. At 2 pm, we went back inside to see if our loading position was ready. It was not. At 3 pm we tried again – still not ready. This time I alerted the supervisor and IR dispatcher that our company charged for any time over 2 hours after the appointment time. Mel was standing listening as I did this. At 4pm we tried again and again they weren’t ready. I informed them that they were now on the clock. I got paid a chunk of any waiting time to the tune of $25 per hour for waiting, so I was fine and would have been happy to wait all night of necessary. We continued to do this until at 8 pm they asked us to back in. The loading went smooth and by the time all was secure and the paperwork done it was 10 pm. We had 1700 mile trip ahead of us – which was about 32 hours of driving or almost exactly 2 ½ days by the log book. I could squeeze a few hours out by paper logging but it would still be late the day after tomorrow when we arrived home. I called our dispatch and let them know our schedule and we set out for home.
I had logged the waiting time as off duty, so I still had enough log hours to get well into West Virginia before we had to shut down to sleep. West Virginia is very mountainous and as we drove in the dark I pointed out the truck runaway ramps to Mel and explained how they were used by trucks that had lost their brakes in the steep mountains. To underscore this we came to a part of the road where a landslide had covered the eastbound lanes and all the traffic was rerouted onto the west bound, making it a two lane road. All of this was in the dark and I couldn’t gauge what Mel was thinking as her face was just a shadow in the glow of the dash lights. Then I happened to glance over as we were going down a steep grade and she was leaning forward grasping the dash with both hands. She hadn’t said a word for quite some time. “Are you OK Mel – do you need to stop?” There was a pause before she answered. “I’m just concerned about how steep this hill is. Can we stop if we need to? Hmmm, I may have overstressed the danger somewhat. “I’m sorry, we are fine.” “Didn’t you have to disconnect some brakes yesterday?
I had actually backed off one brake because it was overheating. However, that left us with 9 brake drums – essentially 16 out of the 18 wheels with good brakes. The compressors only weighed 2,000 pounds each for a load total weight of 18,000 pounds. With the empty weight of the truck being about 35,000 pounds, we were grossing about 53,000 pounds. We were rated for much greater than that – at least 80,000 pounds, so we were running at less than 70% of rated weight and we had 90% of our brakes, so we were fine. I explained this to Mel, who, being an accountant, felt much more comfortable once she knew the numbers. It wasn’t long after that we found a motel in a truck stop and stopped for the night. I planned to sleep over the steering wheel the following night and push for home after that. There is a log exception that allows you to start 2 hours earlier on your last day.
*Stay tuned for Part three!