Melanie-Part 2

*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.

Lift truckCrates 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.

425 mile map683 Kilometers (425 miles) Google Maps

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.

air compressorAir Compressors http://www.ritchiewiki.com/wiki/index.php/File:Ingersoll_Rand_PW185AWIR_Air_Compressor

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.

1685 mile map2712 kilometers (1685 miles) Google Maps

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?

steep_grade_ahead10183Mountain Warning http://eteamscc.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/steep_grade_ahead10183

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!

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44 thoughts on “Melanie-Part 2

  1. kerbey

    Goodness, you have more patience than I do. If I were supposed to back in at 2pm and had to wait until 8pm and then not be done until 10pm, I would lose it. Inefficiency can drive me nuts. And I would have been as scared as Mel, going down a steep grade. I’ve never seen Kentucky or West Virginia, but I can just imagine. Sleeping on a steering wheel does sound painful, but there are no limits to what a young body can endure.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Paul

      That is one of the hardest things Kerbey – and when i came to manage drivers , it was the hardest to deal with, On one hand you want a driver who will go go,go because there are huge amounts of money that leave the bank account for every hour that that truck is owned – payments, insurance, wages, fuel, maintenance, administration, registration (this alone used to cost me over $7,000 per year when I had my own), etc, etc. On the other hand there were often long periods of forced idle waiting for loads, loading time, even waiting required by customer or load (customs, agricultural inspection, truck inspections, etc). Finding drivers who could do both- waiting and driving efficiently – is difficult and most do one or the other best.

      And yes, it can be a young man’s game,although there were times that required all the wisdom and patience of a person much older. Trucking in the mountains is a good example – start down a steep slope too fast loaded and you are as good as dead, you just don’t know that you will not live to see the bottom.

      Thanks so much for dropping by Kerbey – stay tuned for part 3.

      Liked by 3 people

      Reply
  2. List of X

    Wow, it sounds like this forklift operator was thinking that not only you drive a truck but also make purchasing and outsourcing decisions at General Motors. Clearly, he’s not being paid $80/hour for his logical and reasoning skills.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. Paul

      You got that some kinda right X. That was not an uncommon situation. In a way transportation is just a higher dimensionality of communication. Instead of transmitting data we transmit the physical results of that data. The mentality of “shoot the messenger” still applies – you would be surprised how often. We often ended up innocently in the middle of labor unrest and sometimes even violence. It is very easy to blame someone else for your problems and a lot harder to look at the man in the mirror.

      Thanks so much for coming for a visit X – i hope you will enjoy the ending

      Liked by 2 people

      Reply
  3. Exile on Pain Street

    This story flows so beautifully. He must have been extraordinarily comfortable with you to allow his wife on such a long journey. How come nobody ever asks me to accompany their pretty wife on a journey? Your’re saying there was no tension between you? Is that correct?

    Okay. Part three, please. Get it posted.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Paul

      Ha! She was fun to be with Mark and when you know a woman is off-limits, it removes a lot of the tension. There were a few moments though. One night we stayed in a motel, they only had rooms with a single king sized bed. I told Mel we should look for another motel but she insisted it would be fine. I slept with my clothes on so she would feel more comfortable – not that she asked that, she didn’t.

      It is hard to find people who travel well in a truck – most are spoiled and are used to stopping when they want. Maybe “unused to it” would be a better way to put it. It is a lot more comfortable in a truck than a car but still many have a hard time with it. Stops have to be for all purposes – food, toiletries, fuel, etc. And the god has to be miles topped only by safety. In other words to be successful the humans have to serve the truck. Most non-truckers don’t get that. Maximize the effectiveness of the truck and you maximize productivity.

      Part 3 will surprise you – it posts Wed morning about 10am eastern time. Thanks so much for reading and commenting Mark. i am pleased that you are enjoying it.

      Liked by 2 people

      Reply
  4. markbialczak

    You have the rhythm of the road, sir. I’m read to be jolted by part three, Paul. I’m trying to figure out if it’s brakes or a compressor on the loose or Melanie losing patience with some rude chap met at a road stop. Thanks for the entertainment with your wisdom learned, my friend.

    Love this no-bloggers’ blog, Huckster and List of X!

    Liked by 3 people

    Reply
    1. Paul

      Thanks Mark for your patience. Tomorrow morning you’ll get the final segment. You are right though, all the possibilities you mentioned are real concerns daily – keeping equipment maintained and catching failures, load security and issues with others on the road- they constitute the big three, equipment, load, people.

      Liked by 2 people

      Reply
  5. Melanie

    Those mountains in Kentucky are no joke. I get nervous doing mountains in my car as the driver; I can’t imagine doing it as a passenger in a truck.
    Looking forward to the finale!

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. Paul

      You’re not kidding. I used to run the Rockies and they were not as challenging as Kentucky and West Virginia and, of course western North Carolina. The Rockies had much longer grades but not as sharp – on the main highways. Most trucks at the time had drum brakes, not discs. The steeper the grade, the greater the heat buildup when braking. The temperature will only get so high between the drums and the brake shoes before the shoes release a gas as they start to melt (at thousands of degrees). That gas forms a micro film between the shoes and drums, that acts as a lubricant reducing friction and braking power. With air brakes, you can’t pump the brakes like you can for a hydraulic system in a car. If you try, the brake air pressure drops faster than the air compressor can replace it and as the pressure drops, so drops your braking pressure. So the bottom line is if you crest a mountain going too fast and start down the other side – you can reach a point where your brakes are creating heat faster than they can radiate it and you are out of control. As your speed builds, your braking reduces until the brakes are doing nothing. The only way to survive that is to either find a runaway ramp or open the truck door and jump. Each year there are novice drivers who die because they don’t understand or respect this.

      It can be challenging Mel.

      Liked by 4 people

      Reply
      1. Melanie

        Wow. I never realized. Now I have even more respect for the trucks I see when I’m trying to get out of the mountains as soon as I can.

        Liked by 1 person

        Reply
      2. Outlier Babe

        I’m sure Mel considered herself extremely lucky to be sharing that ride with you and having a ringside seat for your stories, Paul!

        I had never before driven in the hills of West Virginia until my second cross-country trip (2012). My little ten-year-old RAV4 is fun where hills are concerned–think I’ve commented to you before about how large pickup owners would look smugly upon the little lady in her little car and then eat my dust a bit further on–but those West VA hills were…hills indeed. And they do go on a bit, don’t they? I cannot imagine doing them in a big truck.

        On our first trip back to Chicago from NY–I would have been 5 or 6 years old–my father explained to us what the runaway truck ramps were for. I was impressed for all time, and as an adult driver, have never strayed near a big truck on a big hill (either before going downhill or behind going uphill) if I can help it.

        I am curious, Paul: Do you know if there have been more big-truck accidents since NAFTA?–if the drivers and rigs are held to the same standards? Then again, with U.S. train and bus drivers and pilots texting and playing video games while on the job, who knows?

        Liked by 1 person

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        1. Paul

          Oh OB, jurisdictions are a nightmare, an absolute nightmare. No two governments at any level can ever agree to normalization when it comes to trucking. **Holds face in hands** They all have their little rules and regulations as they see fit. The only thing that they have agreed on is fuel tax and registration. Quite often the enforcement agencies don’t even know their own rules: truck lengths, weights, axle configurations, log regulations. A few years back i was the Regional Director of Safety for a tanker company hauling gas and petroleum products in Ontario and Quebec (that’s a lot of turf, about 2,000 miles side to side and from the US border to the North Pole). The Canadian federal gov’t legislated new logbook regulations ( these control how many hours a driver can drive, work, rest,etc and are enforced by the provinces). So we had semi-annual general Safety meetings that was mandatory for all personnel (paid time). My terminal manager and i had gone to training and meetings and workshops (all gov’t certified) to prepare for this and learn the new rules and get certified to do our training. One of the main sources for this was the material legal dept at the Trucking Association- which had been certified to train the trainer. Anyway, we decided to have a guest lecturer at our Safety meeting to lecture the drivers on the new log regulations and we chose the head of the Transport Enforcement agency at the Ontario Ministry of Transport – the man to who all truck enforcement personnel reported. he arrived, delighted to have an audience, and was a very likable guy with a sense of humor. He had been in transport enforcement for 20 years and was an excellent and engaging speaker. So he got up in front of 80 drivers, and proceeded to tell them the wrong information. My terminal manager and i looked at each other in horror – and she had to interrupt him, go up front . show him the legislation and the proper interpretation and the reasoning. Oh, it OB it was embarrassing. And so typical of regulation in trucking.

          To answer your question there has been no noticeable difference since NAFTA in regulation or enforcement or accident rates. And not only are US rules different from Canadian, but there are special rules in every state, province, county, and even city. For instance in most places in Canada a driver can only be on duty 70 hours in a week (approx – there is a reset rule). Because the oil companies can’t get enough qualified drivers in the oil sands in northern Canada, drivers can drive 15 hours a day, 7 days a week to eternity – or 105 hours a week with no days off. And a company can insist that a driver do exactly that. And there are exceptions like that all over the place.

          Texting or operating any device while driving is illegal in most jurisdictions, but hard to enforce. Most guys don’t do it. Statistics indicate that professional truck drivers have a much better safety record than the average car driver. It is just so hard for a trucker to get out of a car’s way if the car makes a mistake. So trucks are involved in a lot of accidents, but are not at fault in most. I did a post on that at Cordelia’s Mom called Death http://cordeliasmomstill.com/2015/04/06/death-guest-post-by-paul-curran/

          It is good for you to stay away from trucks on hills OB. thanks so much for the read and comment. Please drop by again.

          Liked by 1 person

          Reply
          1. Outlier Babe

            I knew truckers used to be among the safest drivers, but didn’t know that was still the case. It’s reassuring, and also a relief, personally, to hear that about NAFTA. I had visions of dangerous trucks and drivers who had flooded our roads.

            I did know that in most car/truck accidents the car driver was at fault. I see car drivers all the time tailgating trucks or pulling back in directly in front of their bumpers. How stupid is THAT? OTH, when I was growing up, there were little messages on television about things like stopping distance, so one learned these things growing up. Kids today learn nothing practical growing up–not from television, because it doesn’t exist in the same form, and not from their parents, because neither do they. I even took Driver’s Ed, and trucks were never mentioned in there, so where would children learn this stuff if not from PSA’s, parents, or…gasp!…common sense?

            I will try to get back soon to read more of your posts. Certainly the Death one. Right now, I’m supposed to be writing legal letters (my own) before a small surgery in the morning, but am catching up on blog posts instead!

            Liked by 1 person

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      1. Paul

        Ha! I had a good friend and colleague – Eugene – who had his own tractor trailer and leased on where I worked. He used to fly around the world as an expert helping to build golf courses. This is very seasonal work and he would put a driver on his truck while he was gone. He had just come back from a trip to Dubai and met his driver in Boston to hitch a ride home in his own truck – it was loaded for Newfoundland. It was fall and the nights were getting very cool – resulting in black ice quite often. Coming north through Maine in the wee hours of the morning, Eugene was asleep in the bunk while his driver drove. This driver was not very experienced driving in winter, so when he saw the black ice forming, he decided to pull off into a rest area. Ramps are a big danger with black ice and as he drove down the ramp to the parking area, the road turned to the left. he turned the wheel and the truck kept going straight. it slid off the roadway and then slowly rolled over on its side on the embankment. When Eugene told the story, he said that he was sound asleep and woke up standing up as the truck came to a rest on the passengers side with a thump leaving Eugene standing on the right wall of the bunk . ha! Very little damage was done to the truck or load and it was uprighted with air bags intact enough to drive away..We teased Eugene unmercifully for that – waking up standing – what was your first clue there was a problem? ha!

        Liked by 2 people

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        1. Gibber Post author

          Number one: There’s nothing much that scares me more than black ice. Number 2: Wow standing up! Lucky he wasn’t hurt and there wasn’t more damage! Number 3: All these responses would make for awesome blog posts!

          Like

          Reply
          1. Paul

            It’s a trick Gibber. you see I had to cut a lot out just to get Melanie down to 3,200 words. I count on large comments to fill in the rest. You know if I had a 5,000 word post no one would read it, ha! (just kidding!)

            Liked by 1 person

            Reply
  6. philosophermouseofthehedge

    Some of the mountain roads are dark and scary enough in a car, much less a big rig. I’ve seen those emergency braking ramps around the Rockies. That kind of driving (not only the road grades, but the black ice, and winds….and tourist drivers) isn’t for the feint of heart or those without experience)

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. Paul

      Indeed Phil – it is not a place for a novice. They are challenging. When I was young and foolish, i lost control of a loaded truck in Newfoundland. I managed to keep it upright and get it stopped, miles later. believe me it was a learning experience.

      Liked by 2 people

      Reply
  7. Pingback: Melanie- Part 3 |

  8. ~ Sadie ~

    When I lived in the Ozarks in Arkansas, the mountain roads were quite winding and steep. First time I saw the runaway truck ramps full of gravel, freaked me out a little, too! Having said that, for the safety-minded person I am, once I got used to it, there is no place I love to drive better than in the mountains!! Ready for Part 3 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Paul

      It definitely keeps the interest up Sadie.ha! I tried to be well rested and well fed before tackling mountain roads. I love the adrenaline rush too – always interesting.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

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