Sunday, February 11, 2018

Sunday morning. Get up at 7am, usual routine in getting ready for work and getting there. Hook up to trailer, get to plant, etc.  Get to loading rack.  Dude goes out, bang bang bang bang bang!!! It's the normal noise you here when they are using a solid brass hammer to hit a solid brass fitting snug.  No sparks, is the point and easy on and off.  Just beat the crap out of the fitting with large ears to hit onto on and then the same thing reversed to get it off.

Well, I'm sitting in the driver's "lounge", I guess you could call it, playing on my cell phone and I keep hearing this banging.  After a while, I'm thinking, this isn't normal. You hear the banging for 2 rounds and that's it. I've heard this 10 times at least.  So, I put all my gear on, go out there and find that there is a bad fitting on the trailer.  He was attempting to get the thing off of there, which obviously wasn't going to happen without some help.  Some serious help at that.  He was trying to just push the thing off with a giant plumber's wrench, I knew that wasn't going to work after 2 seconds of looking at the situation.

I did do mechanics and I still do occasional plumbing for decades.  First off, the the entire thing had had 130 below zero liquid passing through it.  Second off, you know when something is that hard to break free, you are going to have to both muscle it with your hands and bang on it with a large hammer at the same time.  I suggested to him that's what he needs to do and offered my help, of course.  There was no way on earth anyone would have ever gotten that fitting off of there in those conditions by themselves.  We wrestled with that stupid thing for half an hour before finally getting it loosed.  It eventually came off. We're talking both of us pushing on that wrench - 3 hands and me banging on the thing with the hammer at the same time.

I was a bit surprised to see they actually had this particular fitting, a brand new one, sitting out there ready to be put into use.  He stated that he could have just said no and sent the trailer out of there, but decided that since we don't current have a mechanic (he quit last week) he would help us out.  Which was cool. Getting the fitting on there was easy.  But getting the plate that goes around the fitting, that perfectly fits the octangle it is?  Yikes. That took a while.  Then, the entire thing had to be bolted back to the floor, yet another muscle versus physics situation that we eventually won.

After that, it was nothing.  Just fill the truck up and go.  But, as this day didn't start out right, it wasn't going to get any better.  Because, the time it took go to from the loading rack to the scales, about 10 minutes, the truck started dumping engine coolant. I knew this because there was steam pouring out the hood of the truck.  I could smell it, I knew it wasn't a fire so I didn't quite panic.  In fact, I just got off the scale, ignored it and went inside to get the paperwork done.  Now that I had the truck loaded, I might as well get that finished and then deal with this nonsense.  I came back out when another helpful driver came up - hey, I saw a trail of fluid leading from the scale to where you are parked and that giant puddle under your truck.  I thanked him, he was trying to help, even though I already knew there was yet another fiasco coming that I didn't really want to deal with after going through that ordeal with the trailer.

Not that I would have wanted to deal with it regardless of if anything had occurred before that.  I knew that truck wasn't getting fixed today. This is not a major metropolitan area with at least a few truck repair shops that are open 24/7.  There are plenty of repair shops here, but they aren't going to be open on Sundays. You might get emergency service out, but it's going to cost you a lot more, if it's even available, than a repair shop during it's regular business hours is going to cost.

So, after having a conversation with my manager, who had called the dude over repairs, she instructed me to take the truck back to the yard, drop the trailer on the cement (heavy trailers can actually tip over in soft dirt), unhook and the repair coordinator would see about getting the truck fixed today.  Again, I knew that wasn't going to happen.  I figured I would end up going home and I was right.  So here it is, Sunday night and I've been home since 2:00 pm.

It is obvious that the "repair" the dealership did in Tulsa wasn't a good one.  I was happy that this didn't happen out in the middle of nowhere, and that I got to go home instead of sitting in a dead truck putting out no heat because the fluid had all but drained out of it.  Amazing the thing didn't over heat coming back to the yard, I suppose 32 degree weather helped with that.

Regardless, I went into the office and waited. She eventually called me back. You might as well go home and take the afternoon off.  Yup, I thought but didn't say, I knew this was coming. A lot of other thoughts that came to mind as well that I didn't mention.

Such as this hype that was given to all 3 of us new drivers endlessly that there were 10 new trucks ordered and that we would be in rental trucks for a short time until they arrived.  This little lie, I'm calling it a lie now, started before we ever got into orientation. It was told us during orientation. It was reaffirmed to us multiple times after  orientation.  I've not said anything to management about this so far.  But they are pushing it.  The other 2 new drivers are far more upset about this than I am and I have been through a lot more than them since starting work here. They have yet to unload a single truck, for starters, but that is minor compared to some of this other stuff.

I don't have any jobs lined up. I stopped looking after getting this one, hoping that this one would be "The One". Even if not perfect, good enough. I am capable of tolerating a lot of shit in this industry, but junk trucks are not one of them.  You go from one breakdown to the next. You live inside of someone else's misfortunes in breaking things, scuffing things up, tearing up interior, filthy carpeting, etc.   Basically, someone else lived in there before you and indelible marks to remind you of that.  Most companies are now actually giving drivers either new trucks, or late model trucks that are still in good condition.

Whatever. I've given my all to make a good impression, bust my ass, get the job done, to get this in return?  There are plenty of trucking companies wanting jobs out there. There is a huge shortage of drivers right now. This company included in the dilemma of trying to attract new drivers. 

I'm in the "whatever" mood right now. I'm tired of seeing companies treating their employees as expendable trash.  The 'if you don't like it, leave" mentality.  They can sit in their offices and make all kinds of dictations about how drivers are to run their lives in their trucks and fully forget that we are human beings and, we have life experience and, we have expectations of the companies we are working for.  Really, all it would take is a decent truck, with a nice interior that hasn't been trashed. 

Okay, well, it's night time, I'm just sitting here contemplating what my next move is. I'm likely to start putting out applications again. 

Very glad I didn't try to swap trucks yesterday.  I wouldn't even have gotten out of the Ryder truck rental place in time to get back to the dealership to get "my" truck.  I'm still very disappointed after being told by numerous beings in this corporation that they were getting 10 new trucks to find out yesterday they aren't getting any  new trucks, they had been given to "other" people and that was that.  Change that, I wouldn't have even made it TO the Ryder place after all the rigarmaroo at the Volvo dealership. Without going into all of that stuff  and ready to leave, I get a message on the screen on the dashboard about a light that has an open circuit.

I assume this means a burnt out bulb.  I checked all the lights, but admittedly didn't check the brake lights.  Yet, anyway.  They make it next to impossible to do that without having someone else out there looking at them.  I found something to prop the Johnson handle down enough to engage the trailer brakes, enough to turn all the brake lights on.  Sure enough, the passenger side brake light inop.  I was treading the waters of not having enough hours for the day to sit around waiting or "authorization" to buy a freaking sealed light and then have someone install it, so I just bought the thing and installed it myself.

The days of hotel stays are over.  Unless this truck breaks down again. What I found utterly hilarious is that the only thing wrong with it was the clamp that blew off the hose.  Yup.  I mean, I took pics of this shit and sent it to my manager who sent it to the dude that is supposed to "know everything".  Not my truck, not my money. I document everything with pics, if they want to ignore that, that's on them.

Wait, I shouldn't say over completely. In situations where I find myself having to sit for 15 plus hours, I likely will find my own place and it's whatever.  I guess I'll have to get used to this truck - or go find a new job, cause' they could care less about broken promises of new trucks. I didn't ask for a new truck, btw this came from them at the get go. I guess I good sign should have been that after orientation, they didn't even have trucks for us to drive.  Still, this thing has over 500 k miles on it, it was sitting in a yard for them to get rid of it, not for some new driver to have to come along and take. And now, these other 2 new drivers are going to get stuck in old trucks from the teams that got the new ones.

Saturday.  Day off.  Been doing laundry literally all day long.  Lots of back log in that stuff.  Put together my new office/computer chair.  I'm also going to buy a nice, new computer desk and also a dresser/chest of drawers set.  I found one that I talked down to $250, very nice looking set but I don't have the time to go up there and get it.  It's about 60 miles from here.  Well worth the trip, just no time today. I have too much to get done around here and then, off to the Port again tomorrow. That's Cheniere.  I don't really want to be sent there too often, tho.  I hope she doesn't make a habit out of it.  You make no real money on that trip. Other drivers warned me about it, but after actually doing one of those trips, I can see why.  It's basically a waste of time.  I mean, if I can do it in one day, then fine.  But last time, too many obstacles put in my way to get that done.

I'ts probably around a $300 trip, so yes, one day.  But, regardless of when I get back, either tomorrow night or Monday morning, it will cost me Monday of getting another load and getting out on a hopefully longer run. I'm making a minimum of $300 per day at this job, some days much more than that.

Well. Anyway. Upon looking at the closets in the tractor more closely, the one that is really narrow is a hanging clothes closet.  Which would be fine in some other setup, but not in a tractor where space is limited.  that closet could have been made much wider and accommodate for many other things than just hanging your clothes up in there.  Like a refrigerator?  I can keep my clothes in a duffel bag, thanks, I need the space for other things.  Volvo messed up on that one.

Uhh, I guess I'm stuck in the thing, that has an automatic transmission that I totally despise. After being in the rental truck and shifting gears, I didn't want to go back to this thing.  I found out at the rental place that they actually - allegedly anyway - have a thing on commercial licenses that's added if you aren't "qualified" to use a manual transmission.  The whole trucking industry is being transformed into something totally unrecognizable.  People that can't shift gears?

More and more stories about driverless trucks. They're coming.  I don't know when they will take over the industry, probably years down the road, but it's going to put a lot of people out of work.  Millions and millions of people aren't going to have a profession anymore.  So what's my take on this? I can't stop automation.  I can't stop technology.  I don't trust driverless trucks for several reasons but they are hell bent on putting them out there.  It's coming, sooner or later.

They can do most of the work I'm currently doing.  Excepting at places that the driver has to unload - but that can be accomodated for.  I just don't know.  I'm getting too old to try and switch to something new.  Well, not really.  I could if I were forced into it.   If I were ask my company right now if they were going to do the driverless route when it becomes available, they would probably say no. But given the opportunity? Sure, those trucks will cost a LOT more, but you aren't paying a driver and giving him/her benefits.

It's kind of sucky, really, that they are hell bent on going that route.  I just have to accept it's coming and what am I going to do about it?  Nothing.  I'll drive until they don't need me anymore and then?  I dunno.  Maybe I'll have property by then and can raise a small herd of cattle.  I was in an Uber today, the dude is older and doing it for extra income. But even that is going to go away to driverless cars.

This technology is being tested, it's only a matter of time.  The only question that remains in my mind is: will they allow this technology to transfer over to hazmat? And I can guarantee you, they don't have anyone at gas stations that can unload those trucks. There are situations I can think of where automation isn't going to work. Or, it will work to get the product there but after that, unless they also are going to have robots, it's going to need a human being to fulfill the rest of it.

Funny we're in an age where humans are being factored out.  I'm not 20.  I don't have my whole life ahead of me.  But, I will adapt if I have to, I'll figure something out.  Just kind of scary, really.  To think that in the near future, probably anyway, millions and millions of people's line of work will be eliminated.

Decatur, Alabama. Got there last night - decided I didn't have enough hours to offload - about an hour and 15 minutes on the clock, tak...