Saturday, March 24, 2018

Alarm went off at 6 am.  I shut if off and went back to sleep. I was sluggish and didn't want to get up. 45 minutes later my brain said, hey, you wanna get home today?
Get out of bed!
It was a comfortable hotel room bed, the room didn't stink and I could have stayed there sleeping for several more hours.

I took a long, hot shower.  I just couldn't motivate myself this morning.  The hot water felt good.  I was in there at least 20 minutes.  I finally got out of there, got dressed, got all my stuff, headed to the truck.  Then went to try anything they might have that might seem appetizing at their breakfast bar. A couple of sausage links and a bowl of cereal with a cup of coffee.

After I had settled in for the night, last night, a couple of other cars showed up at some of the rooms.  But other than that, the place was still deserted.  If i were the dude that purchased the place, which I'm not, but if so and with that bad of a reputation, I would be all over the trucks with special truck rates. There is nothing there locally, it's a ghost town, it's totally an Interstate driven business and thousands upon thousands of trucks pass it on a daily basis.

I'll do my part.  Several trucking apps that show hotels and their customer ratings.

Anyway, I got out of there, started driving. Dog tired.
I climbed out of that phase, drove 400 miles before stopping again, and that only because I needed fuel. And the need to stop for fuel drove me past the point of being able to stop with a 30 minute rest period. So, I fueled, made lunch out of my refrigerator, threw away garbage, did paperwork, checked the truck and trailer and was out of there. I only had 76 miles to go.

I got back to the yard and spent quality time with my manager. We went out to the trailer and I showed her the various problems with it - the main one being the manual vent valve that wasn't closing fully and letting liquid Ethylene pass through it and - onto the floor of the cabinet where the valves are located. I figured she wouldn't like the pressure - especially leaving it over the weekend, so I opened up the valve and blew off 31 pounds of pressure.  Then she said there was another trailer that needed vented but she couldn't get the valve open. Got that vented off too and then? Home. For the weekend.

I got home, dogs went crazy. Gone 4 days, that's too much for Addler, he can't deal with that. I'm gone overnight or a couple of nights, that's fine, but beyond that he gets grumpy.

After that - lots of talking.  What went on here when I was gone and my buddy and his parents showed up.  Sounded like it all went well, though. The parents slept in my bed, which is fine, but my sheets are " dirty".  Lol, I don't like to sleep on sheets that someone else has slept on.  Just doesn't work for me. I didn't get them washed tonight, so I will be putting other sheets on there over top of them. They don't fit the bed or I would just change it out.  I'm going to go out and buy 2 sets of sheets for that bed because this is going to happen enough while I'm gone after they move back  in that I don't want to have to deal with it.

And then? My manager calls me.  I dreaded that, she told me I could have the weekend off to recuperate.  I'm dead tired. I mean, I am only staying awake long enough to ensure I will either sleep through the night, or if I do wake up, I will be able to go back to sleep. And I fully intend on sleeping in in the morning. But, she has a driver that is coming back on Saturday night. He won't be able to get the trailer loaded because he will still be out of hours.  Could I please load the trailer for him?  Or, if you want the load, you can have it as well. Brownsville. Tempting, but I'm exhausted. I got sick on this trip and I never had time off to get well.  I don't really want to take time off, per se, but that dude can have the Brownsville trip on Sunday and I will hope that she gives me a nice, long run on Tuesday. I had expected a trip on Monday, but that didn't happen.  \

She's out of enough trailers right now, I guess it works out that I haven't been feeling well - but still driving - and taking a couple days off isn't that bad for me.  Trailers are a constant issue. The one I brought back will have to be taken into the facility that built it down in Houston. There are 4 other trailers already out of commission. Remember, these are specialty trailers, there aren't thousands of them floating around.

So if Monday IS off, I will spend it getting other stuff done.  But, then I have 3 days coming up off on the next weekend.  I'm concerned about paychecks is all. After living with pathetic paychecks from 12 year employer, though, I can deal with it. I'm trying to get ahead, is all, even a nominal paycheck at this place is twice and  a half more than I made a the old place.


Now Saturday morning - late Saturday morning.  I slept in today.  I won't be able to do that tomorrow so I figured to take advantage of it today.  My manager didn't give me anything for Monday, so I'm assuming I won't be at work again until Tuesday.  I reminded her of the 3 days off I need next weekend - Saturday Sunday and Monday.  She had that down.  Just making sure.  I can't now have those days off.  It will not be any fun stuff, at all, excepting to see everyone moving back in again. And a bunch of their friends are going to show up to help them get moved back into the house, so that's a big plus right there.  It means I can focus on getting my old room set up again while they are busy getting their stuff back and and starting to unpack. 

Going to get out there today and offload the stuff that is on my trailer and get that ready to move my friends out of here.  It's only a mile and a half away, so not a long distance move, it's more just getting the stuff onto and off the trailer than it is the time spent traveling.  I'm really not looking forward to any of this, lol. 

Meanwhile, at work.  The other 2 drivers - that have yet to learn how to unload these trailers - are finally going to be thrust into it. Their days of ease are going to be over.  I didn't say anything to anyone about it, but I thought it extremely unfair that I was sent up to PA to battle it out with blizzards and sub zero temps and thrust into this world of unloading cryogenics while all this time, they have had to do none of that.  The point is that they get a lot of the gravy runs because of it. 

Well, one of them is going down to  Cheniere with another driver - tomorrow I think it is - and is going to be forced to learn how to unload this stuff.  It's only fair that they get the junk run along with the good ones.  I'm guessing tenured drivers have been complaining about it.  You get these short runs - they're good for a day's work, I guess, but you have to run hard, all 14 hours, all day long, to get it done and get back.  And then, the next day you don't get another run, so you've lost 2 days on a crappy run, basically.  Cheniere is worth close to $400 when you add up everything, which if you could do it every day of the week, great.  But you can't, the only way any of that is fair is if it's evenly handed out to everyone.  The El Dorado run is another example of a short run that doesn't really pay that much considering it winds up going into 2 days to finish it. 

And then, there's all this fun stuff like 2 days ago having Ethylene blasting out of a tube and haven't a freaking clue what to do about it.  It's not like I was trained on any of this stuff.  Even after calling an experienced driver and figuring out what was happening, he had no clue what to do either. The situation corrected itself. The product is so cold it must have froze up wherever it was escaping through that valve.  At least they did end up putting that trailer out of service.  It's being sent back down to the manufacturer in Houston to address the numerous problems.  The fact that these trailer are less than a year old and already having all of these problems is not a good sign. 

But, I"m getting tanker experience.  I need to stick there at least a year if possible before thinking about moving on to anything else.  I need to have that on my resume - that I have hauled the hazardous materials, the stuff that is extremely flammable, can blow up, freeze you or suffocate you and show that I am competent with it.  I feel like I handled myself pretty well a few days ago considering the gravity of the situation.  Fortunately, in those plants, there is no smoking allowed and sources of ignition are no where present the unloading site.  Well, they do allow smoking, but only in designated areas and nowhere in the vicinity where this product is being handled. 

Anyway, once this other driver is trained - and they will considered him trained after this trip whether he knows everything or not - he will be dumped into this system as well. There are a lot of nuances to learn, as I am finding out on each of these adventures, such as keeping the pressure up on a pump system versus keeping the pressure up on a pressure unload system. Vastly different. No one bothered to tell me that, either.  I guess they've been doing it so long, they don't realize that a brand new person isn't going to know any of this stuff, a lot is taken for granted.  And for all 48 hours of training I went through, literally none of it was hands on training.  None of it taught anything about how to unload the trucks or taught anything about the potential problems you might encounter.  So, I still get a little nervous every time I have to unload just for the problems I have already experienced and what unknowns might occur next. 

I'll tell ya one thing.  All that safety gear they issued me when I first started? I have all of that stuff on, every single time unless it's a drop and hook. Fire proof jump suit, solid leather shoes with steel toes, a hard hat with a plastic shield to protect your face and safety goggles under neath that, Welder style gloves that protection your hands from the freezing cold running through those lines.  I'm now leaving the face shield down the entire time.  I don't trust any of that equipment, if that stuff blows into your face, your face is basically going to come off.  I know various ways to shut off the flow of the Ethylene if there is an emergency. 

It still seems insane to me that this company has people operating equipment like this that they haven't fully trained anyone on.  In fact, I was given a "Class B" card when I started saying I can haul it but not authorized to unload it.  That never changed.  Not that I'm going to take any flak from the safety department over it, that wasn't my doings. When they sent me up to PA, I didn't learn until I got there that I would have to offload the LNG.  I was pretty well shocked, scared and terrified all at the same time when that manager started talking about that.  I flatly told him I have never unloaded any of this stuff.  He just gave me a look. Well I"m sure you'll do just fine.

WTH?!! I'm sure I'll do just fine, what?  Screwing up and dying? Those were thoughts coursing through my mind at the time.  I ate those words and thought, ok, it's come to Jesus time, deal with it Ben, get through it and after it's all over, you'll have learned a lot of stuff that you probably weren't going to learn any other way.  And boy did that prediction come true on that trip.  And ever since then.  It all unloads pretty much the same, all of these cryogenics.  Once you've learned on, you've learned a lot about all of it. There is a product they haul that ignites paper and wood and such on fire if it comes into contact with it - I"m really NOT interested in hauling that stuff.  And now I'm learning from drivers for other companies that hauling acid is a much more lucrative, well paying gig.  And, owning your own truck your profits triple. Not expenses, profits. These are people that have been in the business for decades, I'll take it they know what they're talking about. 

I even brought that up yesterday in the manager's office. Maybe I should just get my own truck.  The Safety Officer immediately chimed in, yes you should!  I don't know why he responded like that, but Ann just looked at me funny. Lol. It's a thought I will entertain for a while, tho not seriously until after I get a good amount of time doing this stuff under my belt.  I'm not really interested in being responsible for the maintenance on a truck just yet.  It costs a lot more of your personal time and tho the money may be awesome - $160 k per year - it's really quite the sacrifice, especially if you end up having problems with it.  And, I can foresee myself driving for another company somewhere down the line because I really cannot get used to this idea of 65 mph.  I'm sitting there with 90%  - actually more than that - of everything other vehicle on the Interstate passing me.  I've driven minimum 70 mph all my trucking life.  I thought by now I would be used to this 65 stuff, but it annoys me.  I could get much farther down the road in the same amount of time.  You drive 10 hours, that's another 50 miles.  There are many occasions where that 50 miles would have made the difference in getting a much nicer place to park or a better hotel room at a better price. 

Oh, forgot to say, I see other tankers cranking on down the road at minimum 70 every day, all day.  The solace I take in 65 mph is that even at that speed, I'm making far more money than a large percentage of other company drivers cranking down the road like that.  They have to go as fast as that truck will let them because those trucking companies put them on impossible time sensitive assignments with appointments that are near impossible to keep on-time.  If one thing goes wrong - accident that holds up traffic, rush hour traffic - whatever - you are not going to make that appointment and you are going to be shuffled to the end of the line and you are likely going to sit there waiting for hours and hours until they get enough free time to get to you. 

Well, I am rambling.  On and on, lol. Just the thoughts going through my head.  I probably ought to get busy.  I have a lot of prep work to do for next weekend, I guess these days off I probably should be happy with. I was just so tired last night, I went to bed - well I fell asleep in my computer chair, woke up a couple hours later, went to bed and then didn't get up to almost 10 this morning. 

Off to the races.

Interesting day. Up early - 4:00, jolted out of deep sleep by the ridiculous phone alarm - annoying as all get out but that's the inten...