Running in Circles

Stories from the Road, Trucking
Rewind to two days ago.
On my way from Salem, OR to deliver a load to the northernmost region of Idaho, I get my next load assignment. It is a pre-loaded trailer to be picked up in Oregon 10:00am that very morning and delivered to Sacramento by 7:00am Wednesday. A little difficult to do since I will be delivering my current load at 4:00pm that afternoon in Northern Idaho and unable to get back to Oregon Tuesday morning. “No problem” my dispatcher says, “just do the best you can.”
Ok, so no problem. I deliver my Idaho load, go as far as I can, and then go to bed.
The next day, I get up and head to the shipper. Upon arriving I am told that my load is not ready and that they will be loading my currently empty trailer. I am told to wait in my truck until they call me to assign me a dock to be loaded at.
Ok. Fair enough. So I wait. For several hours. Finally I am assigned a dock and loading commences – and continues for several more hours. By the time they are finished and finally give me the appropriate paperwork, I have been there for about six hours. My dispatcher realizes this and instructs me again to do the best I can and there is some talk of relaying the load to another truck to at least get it there on the same day it was due. So, ok. No problemo. Can do.
As I am getting ready to leave however, I notice that my tail lights are out on one side. Okey dokey. Not a problem, I have a spare in my side-box. Except that its not compatable with this particular trailer.
Ok – not a problem – there’s a truck stop less than a block away that will surely have a compatable tail light. Or not.
Ok, so now the Over-The-Road assistance department (OTR for short) gets called in and apprised of my situation. Is there a repair shop nearby? Um, well no not exactly since Portland is over 100 miles out-of-route, so what we need is a for a mobile mechanic to come out. To fix a tail light.
By the time this is all done and Im ready to roll again its been 8 hours since I got there. This is actually works out well because of an infrequently used exception in the federal hours of service rules but thats a little complex so I’ll skip it. So anyways, I get rolling and manage to get a couple hundred miles south before going to bed, confident that I have indeed done my best.
Oh did you think this story was over? Nope. Got up wednesday morning to find a few urgent sounding messages on my Qualcomm (on-board trucker computer thingy).
This next part is going to require a little explanation. You know potato chips that come in plastic bags? Ok, so you know that, besides potato chips, there’s a bunch of air sealed inside those bags, right? Right. So what happens when you take said bag of chips up in an airplane or even up into the mountains? Less atmospheric pressure, the air inside the bag expands, and POP! Your sealed bag of potato chips is no longer sealed.
Well, it turns out that I was hauling about 10,000 lbs of potato chips and/or other assorted snacks similarly sealed baggies. And since the manufacturers of these goodies know about this relationship between altitude and potato chip bags, they have given instructions to someone at my trucking companies home office regarding which routes any trucks carrying their product should take – i.e. no routes involving mountain passes.
This being done they saw no need to include this info on any of their paperwork or have anyone mention this fact to drivers picking up these loads.
It must be said at this point that the information was actually passed along in a round about sort of way so that it made it into the load notes at the very bottom of the somewhat lengthy dispatch form that gets sent to dispatchers and drivers when the load is assigned. In this case however, two dispatchers and one driver (me) failed to scan all the way to the bottom and read through these notes. The result was that my dispatcher gave me a route (which I dutifully followed) straight south towards the beautiful heights of Northern California which include such breath taking vistas as Mount Shasta and other peaks. Only on Wednesday morning, the morning after I had proceded 200 plus miles down this route did she catch the mistake. Thus the urgent Wednesday morning messages.
The upshot was that I had to turn around and retrace my path 200 plus miles back up the road in order to avoid any potato chip bag popping mountain passes.
Then, once we both started looking more closely at the details of this load, some other things came to light, namely the destination. The dispatch info said this load was destined for Sacramento. The paperwork in my hand said Colton. These are not the same place. Not even close. Well, ok same state, but California is kind of a big state. Anyways this was about the time they said I should just take it to the yard in Salem and drop it for another truck to relay. Then they changed their minds becausr the next load they wanted me to pickup was in Portland and bound for Washington and there wasnt time for me to go all the way to Salem and then back up to Portland, so to speed things along they said just swap loads in Portland.
At this point I should express how grateful I am that I am a driver and not in the planning and logistics department.
Anyhow, the new load wasn’t in Portland when I got there. It was still in Salem. So after informing my dispatcher that thus load too was now beyond my powers to deliver on time, I was instructed to head to Salem and again, do my best. Of coarse once here in Salem there was some confusing discussion about breaks and hours of service – again not something I am going to even try to explain here – which ultimately resulted in me calling it a day and resolving to continue doing my best tomorrow. Meanwhile I feel very satisfied that despite all the twists and turns, I’ve done a good days work. I did make some good mileage, even if it was sort of in the wrong direction, and I communicated pretty well with my dispatcher. I think we make a good team. So all in all I’m having a good time. I’m very happy with my job. It’s nice to work for an employer who, when all is said and done, asks only that I stay safe, stay legal, and as for the rest, do the best that I can; and you know what? I always do.

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