Yes, it is amazing how much worse roads feel in a truck than in a car, but that is not the “bumpy roads” I am referring to.
Since we made the move in November to the O/O (Owner Operator) side, things have not gone to plan very often. The 4500 to 6000 miles a week we were basically guaranteed has not happened. We have only had a few weeks over 4000 miles. The company we are leased on to had a contract to haul transmissions from Laredo TX to Wayne MI and we were going to pretty much run that route exclusively. For the first couple of weeks we got into that loop and then the loads dried up. We got different reasons from a number of people in the company. First it was just “the holidays” and then it was “the plant is re-tooling” and then we were told that “the contract ended and the consignee did not want to sign the new contract until the first of the year.” Then it was “there never was a contract” and then “we are getting it back”. Two and a half months into 2013 we have made this run a couple of times this year. It is not coming back. The problem is that the company was so used to having automatic loads they had no sales effort that I can identify and so they have been scrambling, without much success, to find loads for us. We have been running mostly solo loads of 400 to 600 miles and then sit……and sit……and sit, for 24 to 36 hours for the next load. We call to see if they have something for us and the response has become a very bad joke. They say “we are working on it” This translates into, “I have not thought about you at all today, I will get to you sometime”. I have gotten to forcing them to give me some kind of idea on time to the next load so we can enjoy life and not sit in the truck waiting on a load that is not coming. We can at least get out to a restaurant to eat, go to a movie or a couple of times, we have checked into a hotel. The big issue with not knowing is that I have to assume we are getting a load so I am rested to drive at night. So I sleep during the day while Anne is driving and then I am pretty much screwed at night when we are sitting and not moving. To give you an idea of how bad it has been, I got three Hours of Service resets in the last eight days on the road. I get a reset on my clock every time I do not go on duty for 34 consecutive hours. That is pretty horrible.
On top of this, we have been in breakdown status three times in the last couple of weeks. First we finally got the turbo fixed on the truck in Chattanooga as I mentioned in my last post. Then, after we came out of breakdown it took them 30 hours for them to find us a load that had been sitting at the terminal for a couple of days. We ran up to Saint Louis, sat for 30 hours were we got to play with our friends Bandit and Sandi who were on home time. Headed up to Michigan and straight back down to Laredo TX. Again we waited for about 36 hours for a load, finally got one to Wisconsin and we were off. Made it about 350 miles, I was sleeping and Anne calls out to me. The A/C is not working and the voltage meter is slowly dropping. I immediately realize we have broken a belt. I have her pull over and that is what it is. The brand new serpentine belt that was put on in November is gone. We are about 45 mile South of the Petro that did the work in November so we drove there. It is Sunday so they cannot get the belt until tomorrow. Also, the idler pulley and tensioner pulley are both kind of sticky and hard to turn. This is likely what broke the belt so I tell them to replace those also. In the morning they tell me the parts have to come from Dallas and there will be a $150 delivery fee. I called Steve (truck owner) and he suggested I call around myself looking for parts. I called the Peterbilt dealer in Waco about 35 miles South of us. He had the two pulleys for about $200 less than the Petro was quoting us and would deliver for free if we could wait a couple of hours. He needed to find a belt. I said sure. It turns out they could not find a belt and the GM and Assistant GM at the Petro worked their tails off to find a belt for us.
Now for the cool part of our job. We use Google latitude to stay in touch with a number of friends who are also drivers. When we got to the Petro I checked Latitude, I saw that our friends Bandit and Sandi who drive for Celedon were North of Dallas and heading our way. I called and they stopped and had dinner with us. As a joke they said “if you are still here on our way back North we can have breakfast. They kinda lied because it was lunch before they got back and we were still there. Always great to spend time with those two.
We finally got the whole thing back together and we hit the road in time to hit the evening rush hour in Dallas. I went to sleep and 92 miles later I here Anne calling me. The shift lever is blow air out of top and she cannot shift out of low range. I have her pull into a Love’s Truck Stop and try to take the thing apart to see what is wrong…….let’s just say I was not successful. However, we are now stuck in only gears 6, 8, 10 and 12. We called breakdown to report it and then call dispatch to tell them we need the load repowered as we needed to go back to Dallas and cannot haul a load with only four gears. They said they would send someone our way. I gave all the details including where we were and that the other truck cannot bring an empty trailer as we needed to bobtail to Dallas. I called a couple hours later and was told they were having a hard time finding another truck but they would keep working on it. We went to sleep. The next morning I called and I was told (yep, you guessed it) “We’re working on it”…..I said “what does that mean” and they say, “well, where are you?” and “do you need an empty trailer?” (you know, all the information they would really need if they had actually been “working on it”. A few hours later a very nice solo driver named Sally showed up and grabbed our load. We limped back to Peterbilt in Dallas and sat all day until about 4 PM when Steve finally called and raised hell with them for not getting us in. Ten minutes later they pull the truck in and 45 minutes later it is fixed. We call dispatch and tell them we are ready to roll, they said “we are working on it” Knowing what this means we headed out to dinner and then went to bed. 24 hours later we finally got a solo load headed to El Paso. I call Mark, my best friend from high school who lives in El Paso and we make plans for breakfast. Mark comes and picks us up and we have a gret late breakfast. We then proceed to sit all day and finally get a preplan for another solo load to Laredo the next morning. I call Mark and we make plans for dinner. I finally get to meet Mark’s phantom wife Gail. Gail works out of town and commutes so we had never met. Assuming it was not a struggling actress Mark had hired to pretend to be his wife I want to say that Gail is pretty awesome.
We get to Laredo and sit for 36 hours and I get into a big fight with the weekend dispatcher. I am very slow to anger but this guy is a total prick (yep, I said prick) he said “what do you want” and I said “I want to keep moving and not sit for a day and a half between loads” so he says “yeah, there are things I want I don’t get either”. Let’s just say the conversation went downhill from there. Anne is now convinced we are stuck in Laredo for a loooong time. The next morning I get a call from the same guy, he is now my best friend ever and he thinks we have a serious bromance going. This has happened because, I am sure, he does not want me calling into his supervisor on Monday to discuss our conversation. They give us a load that had been sitting at the terminal for 3 days. Heading to Michigan but it is now Sunday and we are supposed to be going home on Tuesday. Not wanting to get stuck in Michigan, we have them get us a drop at the yard in Kansas City, we drop the load, drive to Springfield to put the truck in the shop to get some work done on, rent a mini van and drive home.
We are taking a week off in Colorado, having a great time with the two kids that live here and relaxing. We are planning on staying with our current company for a little longer but there are very cool plans in the works. I will let you know when I can say more.