• May 2019
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  • Visited

    States I have been to

    37 states so far

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On the road again.

Well here I am back in Texas heading to Laredo.  Can’t complain about the weather…about 25C today which is a lot warmer than it is back home…and NO SNOW!!!!  🙂  Started off pretty rough again though.  Had to wait over 4 hours in Winnipeg for the paperwork on this load and then headed south.  Border crossing was weird…barely even asked me anything and passed me through.  Wasn’t busy at all, so he had lots of time, but just rolled me through.

Crossed the scale at Sissketon, South Dakota and got called in.  My trailer axles were overweight by 1200lbs.  They give you 1000lbs to play with, so I got hit with a ticket for the 200lb excess.  They charge 5c per pound…so the ticket was $10.00 but the minimum fine is $170…so the total came out to $180…to be paid on the spot!!!!  No opportunity to defend myself…pay now…complain later!  That is my first fine in almost 1 year of trucking, but it still sucked big time!  Oh well I have put it behind me.  Amazing thing is that I am hauling the same trailer that I have been hauling for about a month, axles set in the same position, load about the same as usual and yet I still got dinged!  In future I am gonna have to pre-weigh to make sure I am legal!!

Driving through Texas today was hell.  On the 35W, which bypasses Dallas but goes right through Fort Worth, I hit a major back up!  Over 50 miles long!!!  Took three hours to drive a section of Interstate that usually takes about an hour.  There was no reason for the backup, just really heavy traffic!  Next weekend there is a NASCAR race in that area so its gonna be much worse…hopefully I am no where near that area when the race is on…unless of course I can stop and see the race!!!

So now I am in Waco, Texas, heading out in the morning to Laredo and hopefully a quick unload on Monday morning.  The place I am going to, however, is really slow and hard to get into so I expect to be there all day!

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Murphy’s Law!

You know the one: “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong!” … well I am living proof!  I should have known that this load was doomed from the start, turned around and headed home, but common sense (and my bank account!) got the better of me!  Not long after I started on the load heading south out of Winnipeg, I put my truck to the “fuel test”… just south of Grand Forks, ND, my low fuel light came on with about 60 miles to go before I hit my next fuel stop.  By the time I arrived in Fargo, ND to fuel up, my truck was running on fumes …but I made it!  (Lucky for me, because running out of fuel would be a really bad thing to have to explain to my company!)

The rest of the south-bound trip was pretty uneventful, I arrived on time and got unloaded really quickly.  I also had an immediate reload available and figured things were going well.  By the time I arrived at the reload, I got the news that my first grandchild had been born so I was anxiously looking forward to heading north back to Canada and meeting him!  Alas, that is where my luck and good fortune came to an end.  😦

I left Laredo, TX on Friday evening and began the trek north.  After driving for a couple of hours, I pulled it into a rest area and stopped for the night.  Saturday morning arrived and I hit the road again, did a full days drive and parked for the night in Tucumcari, NM.  For the most part, things were going well.  AND then Sunday arrived!  Once again I hit the road, driving north.  Just north of Monument, CO…I began to feel a slight vibration in my truck.  I slowed down a little, did a quick tire check (in my mirrors) because I thought maybe I had a flat tire, but I didn’t see anything wrong.  Over the next couple of miles, the vibration seemed to come and go, so at first I put it down to poor road conditions.  BUT the vibration returned and gradually got worse, so I figured it was time to stop and check.  As soon as I hit the shoulder and began to slow down, the vibration got really violent and actually shook things off the passenger seat and dash board!  I now KNEW something was seriously wrong, but still felt it was a tire issue.  I got out of the truck on the shoulder, with vehicles passing within inches of me at 65MPH … people PLEASE give a little room.  I checked along the driver’s side and saw all my tires were good, and then did the same on the passenger side.  I couldn’t see anything wrong at all!

As I walked back to the front of the truck, I could smell oil, and figured something was wrong there.  As I got between the truck and the trailer, I noticed FLAMES coming from the bearing where my drive shaft enters my differential!  I quickly grabbed my fire extinguisher and gave it a shot, the flames went out, but immediately burst back to life.  A few more shots of the extinguisher accomplished putting out the fire and minimizing the damage.  I still had lots of extinguisher left (all that fire fighter training did me well!)  🙂  So now here I was, at the side of the Interstate with a completely disabled truck!  A tow truck was dispatched and towed my truck (with trailer attached) back to the Kenworth dealership in Colorado Springs, CO …which unfortunately is not open on Sundays.  So it was time to find a hotel and grab some rest.

Monday morning arrived, and I was at the dealership when it opened, in anticipation of getting the truck fixed and back on the road soon … but of course, that didn’t happen!  The failure of the drive shaft bearing and fire had completely demolished the differential … now remember this is a brand new truck with only about 13,000km (8500 miles) on it!  The dealer had never seen such a catastrophic failure on a new truck before.  From their diagnosis, it seems that there was very little oil in the differential and therefore it was only a matter of time before this failed.  The lack of oil was either from when the truck was produced, or when it was inspected prior to delivery to my company!

Now we had a full diagnosis, it was time to find a replacement.  The closest differential was in Waco, TX which was two days away!  And so it was back to the hotel for another night, while my company attempted to locate a rental truck for me, so that I could continue on with my load.  So Monday was shot!

Tuesday arrived, and just prior to check out time, I was informed by my company that there were no rentals available in the area until later that afternoon, AND the differential for my truck should be delivered on Wednesday morning, so it made sense to just sit and wait until the part was delivered and get my own truck back!  So Tuesday was spent in the hotel.  By this time, however, I had been advised that I would be fully compensated for my time and expenses, so things were looking up!

Wednesday arrived, and I checked out of the hotel in anticipation of an early differential delivery, and therefore an early return to driving!  Oh but of course, Murphy’s Law says “no way!”  The replacement differential was finally delivered at about 4:00pm and it would take about 2 1/2 hours to get it installed!  FINALLY it was installed and once again I hit the road.  I passed the point on the road where my truck had broken down, even noticed the marks on the shoulder where I had used my fire extinguisher 3 days earlier!  All seemed to be going well.

Thursday arrived and my miles were flying by, and I felt like I actually would make my delivery, get reloaded back towards home and finally meet my grandson!  But then it turned into Friday.  I got an early morning call from my dispatch, that sounded troubling, but really wasn’t saying too much.  Just wanted to know where I was, but something about the call did not seem Kosher!  I continued along my way, trying to keep on schedule, but as the hours passed with no word from Dispatch, I had this nagging feeling inside that something was not quite right.

During this time, however, I had bigger fish to fry, as once again, my low fuel light came on.  I had planned on a fuel stop about 90 miles away, but now realized that since I was climbing the mountains of Montana and Idaho, I should really look a little closer.  I found a fuel stop that was only 30 miles away, and relaxed a little.  As I approached the exit for that fuel stop, however, things went bad again!  The place was closed up, deserted and abandoned!  My fuel gauge was seriously in the “E” range, red light blaring in my face, and I had about 60 miles to go!  😦  Time to go into fuel conservation mode and lessen the impact.  So I slowed down and did very soft and subtle speed and gear changes.  BUT Northern Idaho is NOT a place to conserve fuel, as I had a number of major climbs to do, all the while watching my fuel gauge drop lower and lower.  Now I knew from my experience in North Dakota, that even when the fuel gauge actually hit “E”, there was still quite a bit of fuel left, but how low does my “pick up” line go?  Also, all that ascending and descending causes the fuel to move to the front or back of the tank, which could possibly affect how much fuel is available.  North Dakota is pretty flat, whereas Idaho is far from flat!  I sweated my way through the miles, counting down the mile-posts and unbelievably, I made it to my fuel stop …. maybe things were finally going my way!

Once I was full of fuel, I parked my truck and went inside for a bite to eat, prior to hitting the road again, along to my ultimate destination of Vancouver, BC!  At this point, I thought it was probably a good idea to contact my dispatch for any updates, and boy did they have an update!  It seems that the company that I was delivering to in Vancouver, had canceled this shipment in JULY!!!! Nobody seems to have notified the shipper or the trucking company however!  So now they were refusing delivery.  They do, however, have a subsidiary in Vancouver, Washington, which is willing to take the shipment off our hands!  The problem is, though, that as a Canadian carrier, it is illegal for me to pick up a shipment in the USA and deliver it within the USA … I MUST deliver it to Canada!  If I was to deliver it within the USA, I could lose my access card that allows me to enter the USA and my company could lose its’ running rights within the USA…so therefore we cannot deliver the load to Vancouver, Washington, even though they are willing to accept it!

So here I sit in Northwestern Idaho, waiting for Monday to arrive.  On Monday I will take the shipment across the border to an unaffiliated warehouse in Vancouver, BC.  They will break the seal on the trailer and sign for the load.  Then we will reseal the trailer, prepare a completely new shipment and take the load BACK into the USA for delivery to Vancouver, Washington!  Hopefully sometime Monday morning I will see the end of this load, get reloaded and begin to head home to meet my grandson!

Now I have one request for all of you…WHOEVER has the voodoo doll of me (or my truck)….PLEASE pull out the pins and leave me alone!  Somewhere along the way, if I did you wrong, I am sure you have got even with me by now!!!!!  😉

Not always easy on the road.

Been a while since I updated, so here is the scoop. The last load started with car and a quad in Kingsman, AZ and then we added some oil and air filters in Salt Lake City, UT and then drove across country to add some trailer axles in Orange City, IA and then headed north back to Canada. We spent SIX HOURS at the border trying to get the load cleared, and luckily for me the US Border Agent was in a good mood, because the quad had not been properly pre-cleared for exit from the USA, but she pulled a few strings and got it cleared for me. Then we off-loaded the axles in Winkler, MB and dropped the remainder of the trailer in our yard in Steinbach, MB. The car and quad survived the trip, which was a good things since they were for the owner of the company!!! 🙂

From there I took a few days off to visit my parents. They knew that I was coming, but what they didn’t know was that my brother was flying in from Vancouver Island to help celebrate their 50th Wedding Anniversary! My kids also joined in and we had a great weekend and dinner at The Keg.

Then it was back to work and I headed down to Hidalgo, TX with another load of pork headed to Mexico. Then over to Laredo, TX for a reload headed to Langley, BC and that is where I am headed now.

While I was getting loaded in Laredo, I got a message from my oldest son that my first grandchild was born, Wyatt Robert Croft joined us on October 8th 2010 at 3:48pm. Unfortunately, for me, I don’t get to see him for a while and that is not easy.

So far since I began trucking last November, I have missed two funerals of very special people, and now the birth of my first grandchild. So, while I get the glory of seeing North America, and visiting locations that I had only dreamed of seeing, I also miss out on some important things. Being on the road is great, and I love my job, but there are other things in life too. I am looking forward to seeing Wyatt when I get back to Manitoba, but for now all I can do is wait and get updates from the family.

Weird Stuff

So here I sit, early morning in Las Vegas, NV with a partial load on my truck. On Thursday, after unloading in Nogales, AZ, we headed north west and spent the night in Eloy, AZ where I enjoyed a visit (albeit short) with a couple of friends. Friday arrived and we then began the next part of our trip. Moving up towards Kingsman, AZ and the first part of our load.

The load is a 2009 Chevy Cobalt and a Quad. Now this may not seem too strange to you, but trying to secure a car and a quad inside a reefer trailer is an interesting concept. The trailer does not have any “tie-down” spots and we usually secure a load using “loadbars” or “loadlocks.” This would not work on this load, so it was time to improvise. We rolled the quad to the front of the trailer and turned it sideways, setting the parking brake. The car was then drive into the trailer, placed in park, and also setting the parking brake. We then set “chocks” all around the front and back wheels and secured those chocks in place using a rope. As a final piece of security, I added a loadbar in behind the rear chocks just to stop them from sliding at all. Part one of our load was complete.

We then continued northwest to Las Vegas, I had hoped to cross the Hoover Dam, but due to construction, that route is currently closed to trucks and we had to take an alternate route. This route took us through a forest of Joshua Trees, which was interesting and beautiful and beyond description. Luckily our load is relatively light, because there were a number of large hills to climb, but our truck handled it easily.

In Vegas, on Friday afternoon, we parked and later today will be heading off to Salt Lake City, UT to pick up part two of this load. I am not 100% sure what this load will be, but it consists of 16 pallets that will be double stacked, so it only takes up 8 places in the trailer. We had originally been told that from Salt Lake we would head to Calgary, AB to unload the back of trailer, but have since been updated.

The next drive will take us from Salt Lake to Iowa. Now this is really strange because it is a cross-country drive with a partial load. In Iowa, we will pick up the final part of this load, of which I have no information at all. From Iowa, we will back track to Manitoba to remove the FRONT of the load (the car and the quad) from the trailer. The logistics of doing this means that we will have to somehow remove all the pallets in the back of the trailer, remove the car and quad, and then return the rest of the load onto the trailer, ready to continue to their intended destinations. The final part of this load will be completed by another driver, because by that time I am going to be taking some much needed time off. 🙂

This load has really given me some confidence with my position within my company. First off, I was given the new truck (remember my 2010 Kenworth), I was entrusted with a trainee driver (who is working out really well), but most important, the car and quad were purchased by the OWNER of our company, and placed in my care, which really shows how the company feels about me. 🙂

So along with pork, produce, electronics, furniture, and other various freight loads, I can now add a car and quad to my resume. 🙂

Big news all around

Well lets see, where do we start? Well first off, on my last trip, I had my wife, Judy, along with me for the whole trip from Winnipeg to Texas to Vancouver to Washington to Saskatoon and back to Winnipeg. We had sort of kept it under wraps because we didn’t really want people to know that the house was empty for that length of time. But everything I experienced over that trip was also experienced by Judy AND it was the first time she had seen many of the states and some really interesting sights. I KNOW she will be along for another trip soon.

Then, just as I was thinking about taking some time off, my company phoned me and asked if I would take a run to Nogales, Arizona and take a trainee along with me. So this is the second trip in a row that the passenger seat had been occupied (this time either by him or me). I had heard rumours that I was getting a new truck, but (on Friday) when I talked to my company, that didn’t seem to be the case. So I planned on taking my regular truck to Nogales.

Well it is amazing how quickly things can change, on Monday while I was waiting at my loading point, I received another call from my company and was told about the change in plans.  I was now to return to the yard to pick up my brand new 2010 Kenworth T660 truck!  🙂

Well as great as this was, all was not good.  My new truck had 155km (about 100 miles) on it when I picked it up.  It had that new car smell that only a brand new vehicle has!  BUT on the way to Fargo, ND a warning light lit up on the dashboard, advising about high fuel pressure.  The gauge would max out and then return to normal and then repeat.  We stopped at the Kenworth dealer in Fargo,and after a couple of hours was told that it was a faulty sensor, and not critical, which is lucky because there was no replacement part available.  We were told to continue on, and it was time to play “catch up” on our time.

However, that certainly was not the end.  As we continued down the highway, just south of Denver, CO, another light and gauge issued arrived.  This one looked much more serious because it was an “High Oil Temperature” warning.  After pulling over to the side, silencing the annoying chime, we checked oil and continued on our way once the light had extinguished.  As we climbed hills, we noticed that the truck was now seriously lacking in power and the oil temperature gauge would slowly climb.  We limped our way into Albuquerque, New Mexico and went to the truck stop to contact our company.  We were told to go to the nearest Kenworth Dealer, which luckily was just a few miles away.  But on arrival, we were told that the tech had gone home for the night.  This did not please my company and the phone calls were under way.  Not quite sure what transpired over the next couple of hours, but a tech was dragged into the shop and eventually went to work on our truck.  This was an amazing thing because I was told the tech would NOT work after hours…but someone somewhere had a lot of pull.

After looking at the truck for a couple of hours, it was determined that a $5.00 disposable part had basically disabled a $130,000+ brand new truck!  This part was a screen in the oil cooler that was supposed to be removed at the first oil change, which was over 20,000 km in the future!  This screen was plugged completely, preventing anti-freeze from circulating through the oil cooler, setting off the gauge, light and chime!  Once the screen was removed we were back on our way, but extremely far behind and HAD to be in Nogales in approximately 12 hours and we were at least 8 hours away.  With some luck, good planning, and shared driving by my trainee and I, we made the delivery on time!

So now empty, we headed up to Eloy, Arizona and took a much needed break.  Which also allowed me to visit some friends in Phoenix.  One whom I have known since 1999 (hi Keli) and one who I had never met in person, but finally got the opportunity (hi Mark – I know you are reading this!)  🙂  But that is all for the next update…along with the strangest load I have had to carry so far.

Texas to Vancouver and then…..

Wow, been out of touch for a while…my last post was about Hurricane Hermine, and I have done a ton of miles since then. I was still loaded with my Texas load at that time and since then I have moved north. Survived the hurricane, was little more than a tropical storm and I have seen much worse.

That morning I headed to Hidalgo, TX to unload and spent most of the day waiting. There were only a total of FIVE trucks getting unloaded, but it still took from 8:00am until about 3:00pm before I was empty. At that point, I contacted my dispatcher to find out what was happening with a reload, and he told me not to expect one that night and head for the truck stop.

The truck stop was about 15 minutes away, and I parked, went inside for a bathroom break, and my phone rang, telling me to head BACK where I just came from and pick up my reload, they were waiting for me!! Now it got interesting, the place I had to reload, was the highest security place I have ever been into. Guards on the gate, and they gave me a little security tag to prove that I was supposed to be there. I then had to travel a maze of loading docks to find my location and then backed into a really really tight dock to find out that my truck was about to be HAND loaded with office furniture heading to Vancouver, BC. Now anyone that knows me knows how much I LOVE driving in Vancouver…NOT!

So now it took them about 2 hours to load my truck, and jigsaw puzzle the pieces into my trailer. They had never loaded a truck like mine before and I basically had to instruct them in how to load it, (can you say the “blind leading the blind!”) 🙂

So after loading it was off to Vancouver…over 3000 miles (4800km). A really nice paying trip, but with a nasty city at the end of the road! My initial destination was right in downtown Vancouver and I took one look at the location on Google Maps and thought “Oh-oh…this is not going to be fun!” I then found out that my actual destination was a little outside of downtown Vancouver, but not by much. The plan was to park my truck in a “parkade” behind the building and unload there, that plan was great until I arrived, took one look at the parkade and access points and said “Nay Nay…that just ain’t happening!” I parked on the street, called my contact and advised him that we would have to street unload because there was no way my truck was going to get into the parkade. I called my dispatcher the next day, he took one look at the location on Google Maps and agreed 100%!

It worked out well though, the next morning arrived and so did a forklift and a helper and after about 2 hours we got the truck unloaded. My only concern now was to exit Vancouver as soon as possible and I was told by dispatch to head back to Washington for a reload on Tuesday.

The border crossing at Blaine, WA is CRAZY! I was in line for more than 2 1/2 hours! Crawling along, one truck space at a time and getting more frustrated by the second. When I finally arrived at the border, the officer asked me the usual questions and then asked me “Where I was headed?” When I told him I didn’t have my pickup info yet, and was just heading across the border, he proceeded to give me a lecture on how trucking and border crossings work. As a Canadian trucker I cannot move freight between states (I know that!), or interstating, and can only move from the US to Canada. When I didn’t have a pick up location to provide him, he accused me of interstating, and told me to prove otherwise, which of course I could not do. He was half-joking with me though, and just advised me that in future, I MUST have proper information, or they could refuse entry!

So now I sit in Ellensburg, WA on Tuesday evening and my Tuesday load did not materialize. I won’t get loaded until tomorrow and then will be off to Saskatoon. I’ll try to update a little more often, hadn’t realized that it had been so long.

Close Encounter with Hermine

So when I arrived in Edinburg, I checked the weather to see where Hurricane (Tropical Storm) Fiona was and she was off the coast of Florida and in no danger of coming close to Texas and therefore I thought I was out of the woods in relation to having any hurricane issues. The local weather had “Rain and chance of Thunderstorms” listed, which is nothing to worry about. When I went into the truckstop, however, I saw at the bottom of the TV screen, a Hurricane and Flash Flood Warning for the area where I was stopped. So it was back to the net to try and find out what was going on.

Seems that Hermine, a fast forming hurricane, had formed in the Gulf of Mexico, just south of the Texas border and was heading my way. Was listed as a Tropical Storm with a chance of increasing to Category 1 Hurricane strength. Since it was now dark outside, there wasn’t much to see, but every so often it would rain really hard and the wind would blow. The “eye” was supposed to hit at approximately 4:00am, and so there was nothing to do except go to bed.

Through the night it rained on and off, and again the wind would blow really hard, but other than that it was pretty mild. Nothing compared to the visions I have seen of hurricanes on TV and honestly I have seen much worse storms in Manitoba. There was still the risk of isolated tornadoes and thunderstorms throughout the day, but the sky looks pretty tame and I think the worst is passed.

Its funny how people react down here though, because the guys in the truck stop were not the least concerned about the storm at all, compared to me, who mildly freaked when I heard about it. So now I can say I have been through a hurricane, albeit a very small one and survived!