Tuesday, December 19, 2017

It's - uhhh - Tuesday night.  I'm at a truckstop in a very small town named Calhoun, in Louisiana.  This truckstop is rather obscure, I only found it because I was hungry one day on my former job and decided to get off the highway and see what's here. Turns out, a large truck parking lot, a convenience store, diesel fuel aisles for trucks and a restaurant that puts up some pretty good food.  It's a go to place if having to stop in this area that I know there will be room for another truck, which at 7 pm on any given night, is not necessarily true at any of the big truckstops.  It's very much likely that they are already completely full and  good luck finding a place if you are almost out of hours.

This is why you see trucks parked on off and on ramps or wherever they can find, really  Drivers want to drive out their full hours and only leave enough time for the post trip inspection and to find a place to park, which means half an hour at the end of the day at most.  I've chiseled it down to 15 minutes at times.\

I didn't make it very far today.  I got the call for this run last night, be on the scales at 6:30 am.  Okay. I was there and I got to the rack where the truck is loaded, got the truck loaded up and then.....everything went south.  This dude comes walking in with the key to my truck - they take them away from you when you park the truck now. Undoubtedly, some idiot/s came along (truck drivers) and took off with the hoses still hooked up to the truck, causing untold amounts of damage and putting the entire plant at risk of explosion.  This is the world we live in today.  If one person screws up, everyone pays for it. I suppose it's always been that way, but I really don't believe to the degree we see it today. 

Well I got sidetracked but worth noting.  He didn't give me the key and he went to the back office where the manager is.  This office is a 40 foot long, explosion proof cargo container.  Anyway, they talked for 20 minutes and then he came back in, sat down on a chair.  Ummm, can you back that big long thing in front of that rail car over there? Gesturing to a near impossible backing maneuver that I agreed to without hesitation instantly - I love a challenge. 

But it wasn't really that hard and I didn't even have to do a pull-up to correct the angle.  And there it was, parked in front of this rail car. The rail car is full of the same chemical we are hauling and also was rejected by the plant it was sent too - too hot.  Not exactly sure yet all of this terminology, but it means that it is getting too warm because it was in the car too long and is now heating up, causing too much vapor and therefore causing too much pressure. It was the pressure they didn't like and they had no way to cool it back down.  Send it back to the plant. 

It was explained to me that there is a "travel time life" for this chemical. It is down to the hour.  One trailer might say 1,771 hours and another less than 1,000. It depends on the trailer and the insulation used - but now they have jackets of space between the inner tube and the outer shell. They draw the vacuum down and that insulates it.  I'm no expert, just explaining it how it was explained to me.  Anyway, those hours mentioned are how long this stuff can travel before it begins to heat up.  And once it does that, it starts turning to vapor and the vapor causes pressure and yes, there are pressure limitations to any of these truck trailers or even the rail cars. 

What they decided to do was pump the stuff into my trailer and see if it would cool down - which it didn't do. The pressure went WAY up high.  Like, no thanks, I'm not hauling that high, though I never had to say that, they determined that before I even knew what was going on.  You can assume that I am asking a LOT of questions to anyone that knows anything about this stuff and how it is handled. 

The day went to hell after that.  I mean, I can handle waiting, but for 10 hours? I was going stir crazy.  They were waiting on another specific truck to show up to pump half my trailer's worth of ethylene into and then pump plant made ethylene into the rest of it to see if that would work. They wanted to deal with this rather than burn it.  Oh yes, they have those giant burners you see at some plants standing way up in the sky.  Well it turns out, that truck never showed up and the dude started making phone calls, first to Groendyke (100% sure if you have spent any time on an Interstate you have seen their trucks). The lady said no, that's not on our list. Then to my manager. I was sitting there listening to all of this.

The guy said, well, do you have a trailer to be loaded for Baker for the 19th? No, she said, but she started looking. Nope, I have one for today, the 20th, but I didn't have one for the 19th.  Well, the problem with that is that today IS the 19th, not the 20th, she had her days messed up and I can only imagine the mess she must have had to clean up with that one, besides what happened here today. Anyway, she found a truck to come get loaded. Well I dunno what that driver was doing, but it doesn't take 2 and a half freaking hours to get to that plant. 

The workers eventually gave up on it and hooked the rail car up to my tanker through their rather elaborate system of pipes and it...took...forever. Hour after hour.  Driver after driver coming in, getting loaded on the regular rack.  I was getting tired of talking. I mean, I like to talk, but these drivers would get in, sit down and start it up. This went on for 10 solid hours.  I was dead. I didn't sleep that well last night, it happens often enough and I don't even care anymore except making for a long day and likely not wanting to talk to 10 different people for that length of time. But, I didn't want to be rude and we are in this confined space. You are not allowed to walk around the facility unless you are using a port-a-potty or going to the designated smoking area.

Whatever. They finally called it good to go. Are you sure? Cause' I sure has heck don't want problems on the road. Yup, the pressure is holding steady.  I was a bit nervous about that, but I left that area, went to their scales, weight out at 77,940 pounds, parked to go get my paperwork from inside but instead went to the back of the trailer, opened up the doors and looked at the gauges. 33 inches and 22 pounds of pressure.  The pressure is what I'm interested in, I don't care about the inches.  I don't know if I should be, but that's just the liquid level.  Nobody cares about that, it's the vapor pressure that is the concern. Cause' honey, if it gets to a certain level, the release valve will open and it won't stop. Not only do you lose a huge amount of money into the thin blue air, the trailer has to be put out of service, sent into a shop and a large bill attached to repairing it. I'm looking to avoid that at all costs. They would rather you find a place away from civilization or at least any people and vent it.  It's highly flammable, explosive I am told and a cigarette butte thrown out a car window can ignite it. 

Moving on.  I have a little while left. I was trying to figure out where to connect my new inverter, couldn't find anything, couldn't find anything on the internet besides a bunch of people that want to make videos to assert how much they know but impart zero knowledge to you and then decided to just hook it up to the main batteries so I can run my computer.  Turns out the computer's power cord reaches that far.  I couldn't fire this laptop up. It was at full charge when I shut it down so I'm a bit perplexed how it got to zero power. 

Anyway, I did end up visiting my friend in Atlanta on Saturday night, on the way back from a plant. It worked out well for my hours of service.  I didn't have to be back by any particular time and I knew I wouldn't be back before Sunday evening, so what the heck. The toddler remembered me after about 5 minutes.  We hadn't seen each other since they left - which has been over a year now.  It was very cool to hang out with them, I took them out to a steak house and we had a great time for a couple of hours.

The problem, however, was the places she said I could park a truck? No truck parking signs everywhere.  These were within a stone's throw of her townhouse.  Uhh I didn't say I was there on texting, I just started driving around, looking for a place.  It was Saturday night, surely there must be some business, somewhere, that is shut down for the weekend. I struck gold when I turned into an industrial park - the entrance directly across the street from 6 Flags delivery entrance.  I drove through there once and found a huge place for trailers, but no trucks in there and green lights flashing at dock bays. Meaning to me I couldn't park here.

My second run through, I saw a "truck entrance" at a Christian day school center. Huh? I drove in there. A bunch of trailers in the back, but the entire place was deserted.  I had found my parking spot.  It was cold enough outside - 34 degrees - the entire trailer iced over. This stuff is 130 degrees below zero, it is going to greet outside cold weather with open arms. Taylor, can you come pick me up? She was there in 2 minutes. I had found a place only a quarter mile from her house. 

I got to their place, greeted everyone, and then we went out to eat. It was about a 3 hour visit. Much too short, but I couldn't spend the night, I needed to stay with the truck.  You have to check the pressures every 5 hours, and anyway, I was leaving early.  6 am. She wouldn't have wanted to get up to take me back there, she has a routine with those kids and I wanted to respect that. 

It was a great visit, it was so good to see them, I can only wish they can come back sometime soon. It will be a whole different lifestyle than what I have now, but that is the lifestyle I was living with before they left. 

Okay.  I"m running out of steam and so much I want to write. But, the next shocker for me: my brother actually texted me, thanking me for the Omaha Steaks! I just can't go into all of that right now, but I will say that he went into the fact that he is a juror on a case about a man that left his 2 year old son in a car in Phoenix in the hot summer for 2-1/2 hours. The kid died.  My bro would only give me info that the news has already reported, as such as he is bound to do so.  Didn't try to pry him for more info, I thought cool, he's actually talking to me.  I might expand on all of that on a future post, but it's past my bedtime now, which isn't a big deal.  I can go to bed an hour late and be fine the next day.

There's more, much more actually, but this fatigue has suddenly caught up with me. I learned long ago, when you get hit with that? You have a window of opportunity to go to sleep. Maybe half an hour or so. If you stay up beyond that, you are likely not going to have a very good night's sleep. It's taking me time to get used to the feel of sleeping with a truck engine on, but I am not going to turn the truck off either when it's hot, warm or cold. Right now, it's muggy and warm outside, which is amazing being we are in December.

Well, Merry Christmas to whoever reads this and I will post again soon.

Well enough of that - the previous post that is. Excepting that I found out the hard way this morning that there is ammo hoarding going on, ...