Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Just an Update

So, I haven't posted to this thing in a while, as you can see. I ran out of B.S., basically (who, me?)
I've been spending a lot of time on Twitter lately, so, if you're on there, hit me @insanetruckdriv.
I've been thinking about some phrases I've used, not only to describe other "drivers" out there, but stupid little rhymes I say to myself. For example, when backing the truck into a door, I'll say "Easy there, Stevie Square," or "One-shot Charlie is in the house!" (if I back up perfectly, without pulling up.) Of course, if I don't get it right (nobody's perfect) I'll say "One-shot Charlie doesn't live here any more. Sometimes, I'll say "Break it down, Charlie Brown," if I'm on an exit ramp, see a cop, that kind of thing.

Here are some expressions I use when describing other drivers: Warning! Explicit!
1) "Perhaps you'll grow a brain some day - not today, fortunately"
2) "Please don't be a Douchebag. Ooops, too late!"
3) "If you have the cojones to pass me, go ahead! Otherwise, get off my ass!"
4) "Slowpokes in front, Speed Demons riding my ass"
5) Various other unpleasantries

Hey, am I the world's best driver? No, but at least I use a little common sense. You know, I've said this before: 55mph is an antiquated system, we all realize that. I try to be some where in the middle, between the "Nervous Nellies" and the "Speed Demons." More and more, it seems, I'm the one being passed, rather than passing others.
George Carlin, one of my all-time favorite comedians, described driving perfectly: "Anyone who drives slower than you is a moron, and anyone who drives faster than you is a maniac!" I've modified that to: "Anyone that drives faster than me is a Douchebag, and anyone that drives slower than me is a Turd Ferguson"
Crazy drivers, we all have to live with them. If you are one of them, I only have one thing to say: SIMMER THE FUCK DOWN, ASSHOLE!

More soon?

Steve

Monday, August 24, 2009

Time & Space

"If you have the space, take it!" - old truck driver's axiom

I know I've used the phrase above before, but it's actually very important; we, as truckers/drivers are managers: of our own time and space. It's important as we're driving down the road, to make sure we are aware of everything around our vehicle (Trucking 101). Even moreso with me, I have to manage the space inside my trailer, since I'm in there half the time I'm working (probably more). So, I'm constantly moving empty pallets out of the way, clearing out garbage, cardboard, etc. to allow more room to maneuver. It gets especially important during the winter months, when your footing becomes absolutely crucial. The absolute LAST thing you want is to lose your balance as you're bringing a heavy load down the ramp.
Time is another thing. I know most of you experienced drivers out there know how to manage your 14 hours/11 driving, and it's very important. Of course, if you run paper logs you can always fudge the numbers. Heck, I've done it myself. Just don't get caught! ; )
Recently, I've had a different problem; we use onboard recorders, so it's impossible to cheat. I mean, my routes are usually 10-12 hrs at MOST, so I sometimes "pad" my hours, by staying on duty, once I get to the truckstop. Problem is, I get distracted, and forget to go into the berth (on the computer), and by the time I realize it, it's too late. So, I wind up starting too soon, which puts me in violation for TWO days, not just one. There's a pretty tight timeframe that we work with, so having to wait the 10 hours (computer time) would throw things all helter-skelter. Here's an example: I did this the other week, and I didn't realize I hadn't hit the "berth" button on the computer til about 4 in the afternoon (my shift should have ended about 12:30pm). So, you hit the berth button, but now you can't start till 2am. Screw that - I gotta get moving by midnite, so I'm in violation for that whole day, plus having "worked" 3.5 hrs too much the first day. It's a stupid mistake, but that's what you get when you deal with computers. If I were on paper, then it would be no probs to change the numbers accordingly - see what I mean?
Anyways, even the best of us make mistakes like that. I hit an overhanging storefront a couple months ago, busting up not only the overhang, but putting a nice dent in the front of the trailer as well. It was again, a stupid mistake - I was trying to avoid an island in the parking lot, and didn't look to my left, and crunch! One of our top guys rolled his unit in Indiana not long ago, coming back from MI - said it was due to the wind, but some of us think otherwise. Even empty, I've never had it so windy that the truck rolled (or even came close). I've heard of those who've
been "blown over," but those incidents were in open areas, where nothing shielded the trucks from the wind. Ths was on the 80/94 corridor between Michigan City, IN and the southeast Chicago burbs. Something fishy there - I think he fell asleep...

More soon,


Steve

Monday, July 6, 2009

Back to the Grind...

Yeah, I've been on vacation this past week, and, as usual, got squat done. I dunno what it is, but I have absolutely NO motivation when I'm off. I make a long list of things to do ( I know I've whined about this in the past), and, before you know it, it's time to get back to work, and the whole list is still there. The wife is very supportive - "You should relax, you're on vacation," she
says, but it's of little comfort. Then I get down on myself for not accomplishing anything.
So, I wanted to talk about drinking: I "quit" drinking a few years back, a conscious choice on my part. It really had nothing to do with outside influences, social or otherwise. I just decided that I really didn't need alcohol to make me feel good. Besides, alcohol depresses the brain, which is the last thing I need (being depressed and all). Why not choose stimulants, one might ask. Well, most are illegal (caffeine is my drug of choice), and I really need to be more aware of what I'm putting into the ol' body, a know? Of course, this past week was also the week I was to quit smoking - HA! I always refer back to the saying "If at first you don't succeed, quit, quit again..."
See, the difference is that nicotine is highly addictive, where, at least for me, alcohol is not. Just like when I gave up smoking pot in my 20's, I had no "withdrawals" or even missed it that much. Same with booze. I realize it's a big part of our society and culture. "Hey, let's get together for a drink..." But, I guess I try not to put myself into those situations, consciously or un.
There are occasions when I'll have the random beer; my wife's aunt & uncle used to have a big party Christmas Eve, called the "open house," where relatives and friends would gather for great Italian cooking, and, of course, a couple of cocktails. That was the one night of the year when I would indulge. They didn't live far from us, and all the food absorbed most of the alcohol anyway.
Do I sound like an addict? I dunno, my wife would drive home if I ever drank too much, which was rare. However, in recent years, her uncle passed away, and her aunt was a little too frail and overwhelmed to continue the "open house" tradition. It's kind of sad, 'cause it was a really fun occasion. So, I have to find another day to have my one beer. We went out for father's day, and I had a Sam Adams Summer Ale. Boy, was that good.
I guess I believe that drinking is part of the "dumbing down" of our society: I'm not a prude, and moderate consumption of alcohol is OK with me. It's just these people every weekend, and every holiday, who have to get liquored up, just to have a good time. We just had Fourth of July, and mixing alcohol with high explosives is a sure way to get into trouble. I don't wish harm to anyone, but people just don't THINK! Same is true for those who get behind the wheel after drinking; I just don't understand it. I suppose growing up with an alcoholic father has something to do with my attitude. He recovered, thank God, but the just horrific stories and incidents I could tell you has left me a bit jaded on the whole "partying" scene. I came to learn about, and be on the fringes of 12-step recovery milieu. I never really got into the whole ACOA/Al-Anon life, but perhaps I should have, I don't know. Anyway, all I know is, I don't miss the "sauce," and can have a nice time without it.

More soon,

Steve

Monday, June 22, 2009

You're Getting Sleeeeeepy!

Part of the schedule I keep involves, of course, sleep. I'll go through an average week for ya, then you tell me if it's normal, fair enough? Sunday, being my only "real" day off, is usually filled with catching up on stuff I haven't got around to during the week, again, because of my schedule. And, this time of year, add mowing the lawn to the list. Of course, if it's Father's Day (yesterday) or if it's rained in the recent past, then you can kiss that one goodbye. So, I putz around, and try to get stuff done, as much as I can. After dinner, about 7:30 - 8:00pm, I start to get REALLY sleepy. So, after watching "Ice Road Truckers," I'm done, off to bed (9:00). I sleep a few hours, and I'm up Monday am about 2-2:30. On the computer all night, in the morning, run around and do errands, get ready to go out Monday night. I usually hit the sack about 2-3:00pm, and sleep till 9:00 or so. Get ready, and make it over to work by 10:30 or thereabouts. My Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday route takes me until about 6:30-7:00am, and I'm done for the day. Then comes the tricky part: trying to sleep in the damn truck!
I can't remember how long this has been going on, or if I have EVER slept in the truck, but I JUST CAN'T DO IT! I don't know why; I've tried pills, potions, herbal supplements, you name it (almost). No luck; in the 12-14hrs I spend in the berth, I'm lucky if I can manage 1-2 hours of sleep. That's it. So, needless to say, when I "wake up," I'm groggy as hell, just draggin' ass.
Once I get to my first store, and I'm actually moving around and working, I'm ok, but the coffe and other (legal) chemical stimulants need to be working. Of course, I've already spoken about truckstop coffee previously, so no more; beggars can't be choosers. I've found that, as daylight breaks, I get a little bit of a "second wind," but still, when you think about it, it's pretty dangerous having me out there in my condition. Get home Wednesday, and I sleep from noon till midnite? I mean, it's insane, really. Then, up all night on the computer. So Wed. is a wasted day. Thursday is a repeat of Monday, basically, except I don't have to start as early, so I can go to bed an hour later, if I choose (about 3:00pm). Then I repeat the process; get done with work on Friday, off to the truckstop, where I pop my pills & eat, then try to rest. Sam story for Friday night; go to work, get done about 7-7:30 Saturday morning, go home and collapse. For some reason, I don't sleep as long on Saturdays as I do on Wednesdays. So, I get up at 2 in the afternoon, watch sports on TV (I'm useless for anything else), eat dinner, crash, and up all night again. It's not a fun schedule, but I can't really do much about it.
I've talked to other drivers, some who have the same problem, most don't. One guy summed it up perfectly "It's not home..." Same holds true for a motel, which I rarely do anymore. Can't sleep there, either, because it's just not home. Well, I might have to resort to one final trick (and this leads up to my next post): drinking. Yeah maybe a couple of beers will do the trick. Hell, I've tried everything else...

More soon,

Steve

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Weights

So, I've been focusing a lot on my internet marketing - for those of you interested, click on the "Rolling into money" link to the right ; )
Ok, so we're not talking about how much truckers weigh, although I've seen a few "fatties" out there (hey, can't take a joke?). And, of course, it's not about "Weight a minute!" No, this post is all about truck (axle, to be more precise) weight, of course. Now, I want to again distinguish between "truck driver," (which I am) and "trucker." Truckers have to deal with the weight issue much more than people in my end of the business. I know, because when I first started out, it was with an over-the-road company, and we had to scale our loads pretty much every time. I had a trainer who was very meticulous, and would make sure it was correct, if we had to stay there all day. We went so far as to move the fifth wheel, and I don't think I've ever had to do that since. So, my sympathies to all you guys & gals who have to deal with that on a regular basis, "I feel ya."
When I went to work for this company, I DID have to deal with scaling the loads, at first, when going to MI. I remember taking overweight loads out (40k +), and, in the ice and sleet, trying to pull the damn pin, and slide the frozen, rusted slider. Not fun. In fact (and I'm sure others discovered similar tricks) I would purposely take the toll-road (I90 in IN) to US 31 north at South Bend, then back to 94E to get to Grand Rapids, or Detroit. Though there's another scale at Grass Lake, I believe, so, in that case, I ride either US20 or the Ohio turnpike over to Toledo, then jump on US24 north, up to 94 or 96, I can't remember. Better to pay $7 for the toll-road, than $10 for a scale ticket, then possibly have to re-scale several times. That scale at New Buffalo would ALWAYS be open, too, and no pre-pass. They STILL don't have it in Michigan. Even Wisconsin has pre-pass now; I mean, I don't mean to belittle someone's home-state, but c'mon, let's get with the 21st century here. I guess they just want to be A-holes...
Anyway, I recall many an instance of slippery, wet roads, and watching all the Amish in Indiana, coming toward me in their covered horse-drawn carriages. Quite a sight. When I reached my destination, I'd usually have some down-time, get reloaded and head back, but this time it would be like "screw it, I'll just scale the load, and take 94 back..." I'd generally have less weight coming back, so not as much to fret about.
About 3-4 years ago, my company re-vamped their equipment, giving us new Freightliner trucks, and brand-new 48 foot reefers with the nice Thermoking reefer-units. Until then, we pulled 45-foot trailers, which were beat to hell, with these Carrier units that sounded like small aircraft engines. I've discussed these before in my "Reefer Madness" post : ) The stories I could tell. So, now I don't worry as much. These days, my only concern (and it really isn't one) is when I go pick up cheese in WI on Wednesdays. It's not a big deal, though, because I know EXACTLY how much weight I have, so I know exactly how many holes I have to go back to make the load scale out perfect. I usually do the "dicking around" with the tandems the day before, either at my last stop the first day, or at the truckstop. That way, it's all taken care of far in advance of me running into the weigh stations. Only problem is: either way we come back, there's a scale.
I generally come back via Madison, WI, and just south on 90 is a nice new "scale-in-motion" weigh station. Depending on the time of morning I'm cruising past, about 50/50 chance of them being open. But, like I said, if I've been able to get my "9 holes back" then it ust becomes a pain in the ass, nothing more. I HAVE had a couple of times, where, for some reason, the slider just would not budge, or the pin wouldn't come out. In that case, it's the back roads - always have a back-up plan, a MUST for any "trucker," or "truck driver."

More soon,


Steve

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Sickness

I've decided to make a concerted effort to post more often on here, so stay tuned...

Yeah, I've been sick the last couple days. It's weird, not like other jobs, where you can take just one day off (mental health day?). No, I have to take 2, because 80% of what we do are 2-day runs, so you use up your sick days pretty quick. Don't get me wrong, it's nice to have the extra time to recuperate, but I only get 8 hours for each day off, as opposed to the 10-12 I put in while working. Sure, sometimes there's other local stuff to do, but it's usually "bottom-of-the-barrel" B.S., so I really don't want to deal with it. I'm pretty much a creature of habit, and when the habit gets broken, I get angry.
I won't mention the gory details, suffice to say it was a "gastro-intestinal" issue, for lack of a better euphemism. I woke up to a sharp pain in the gut, and the rest is history. As I write this, I'm still not 100%, but good enough to go tonight. It feels strange, being around the house, watching daytime TV, hanging with the family unit. The same is true on vacation, which I just wrote about. You make a list of things you want to accomplish, then after the week is up, look at the list and say "Well, that didn't go so well..."
At least the "sickness" didn't come during the run; I've had that happen. In fact, I think I've already blogged about it, so I won't touch too much on it here. The same symptoms, though, and it has happened not only in the sleeper, when you can actually do something about it, but on the road as well. I've made good use of my milk carton (pee jug) and my knife, if you know what I mean. Hey, it's better than doing it all over the inside of the cab. How do you explain that to your boss? If you own the truck it's one thing, but having to spend a couple hours cleaning up after yourself, so the next driver doesn't choke on the stench is quite another.
A rule of thumb: bring an extra roll of toilet paper. It should be in every trucker's cab, because
you never know when you'll eat that bad piece of ______, then you're literally "up shit's creek."
Having some Gatorade or water handy is probably a good idea as well. I bring that stuff to hydrate myself during the sweaty summer months. That's my main problem - my diet. I eat a lot of crap (I know a lot of truckers do), and don't take proper care of myself. Not enough fruits & veggies (don't preach, I've heard it all before), too much fried, processed, junk. That, along with the smoking, are probably going to do me in.
See, my eating/sleeping schedule is all out of whack, and has been since I started this friggin' job. When you're eating lunch at 10:30 in the morning, and your next meal doesn't come till the following morning, it screws your body all up. The wife wanted me to go to the doctor's office; she even looked the number up in the phone book. However, when I called, they didn't have a chart on me (it's been more than 4 years), nor could they even see me this week anyway - so much for that idea. I mean, since the other night, my body has clenched up, and I have the opposite problem - yep, I can't go! So, better pick up some laxative at the drugstore today...

More soon,

Steve

Monday, June 8, 2009

Summa Time

Hey yo,
It's that time of year again, when the coolness of winter/spring gives way to the heat & humidity of summer. One more note on vacations: It's really nice to be able to actually get away for a week, to go (drive or fly, doesn't matter) somewhere you've never been, or some favorite place. That's why Florida was such a big deal for me. I hadn't even flown since '04, when I flew to Ireland for my bro's wedding. Having said that, it's good just to be away from that friggin' place for a week, even if you don't go anywhere or do anything. This year was the first time I got three weeks vacation, so I'm able to spread things out a bit. The next one, coming up in a couple weeks, we're just going to stay around Chicago I think. We might go downtown for the Taste of Chicago, but it's always so damn crowded. Haven't been in years, though.
Summer is always a time when you worry about two things: thunderstorms and street people.
Don't get me wrong, driving in a thunderstorm is ten times more preferable than a blizzard, but it still kinda sucks, not to mention delivering in a downpour, that's the absolute worst! I always make sure I have a change of clothes handy, and plenty of towels, because I've been literally soaked to the skin before.
Street people come out when the weather gets warmer, that's just a fact of life. And, if you think it's only in the large cities, think again. Most of my encounters have come either in suburban areas, or in towns not far from Chicago (Rockford, Madison, etc). See my older post on "Night People" for examples. Yeah, I got propositioned by a hooker about 10 days ago. I was just about to start my delivery, when, seemingly out of nowhere, she comes shuffling down the sidewalk. I was flabbergasted when she suggested what she did, but not entirely surprised. In fact, I actually thought about it for a second. But, with my luck she'd either have been a cop, or had some horrible STD. Besides that, I only had about $20 on me. I dunno if you can even get anything for that these days. Still, it made me feel, in a strange way, wanted, ya know?
So, it's that time of year: BBQ's ,baseball games, amusement parks, fun stuff. The work is the pain in the ass (as usual).

More soon,


Steve