Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Playing Trucks With The Big Boys.

I love what I do. 

Many days I feel like a kid out playing  trucks in the sandbox.

It is fascinating to see all of the different kinds of trucks the other kids have.  Every once in a while I get to see one that is especially unusual or different.

Specialized carriers each have a different niche in the trucking industry.

Recently I pulled into one of my favorite secret parking spots to sleep for the night, and I saw a big truck parked along the edge of the lot, with guys climbing all over it working on something.

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I took a couple of pictures and went to bed, wondering what was going on.

In the morning when I got up I found out.

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One of the fields of specialized trucking is called “Heavy Haul” and I met a  crew that was assembling a Heavy Haul Rig in order to move a large crane truck from Illinois to Texas.

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This was a crew from Ocean Work Cranes, an aerial lift platform company that specializes in wind tower blade and turbine repair, in the USA, Canada and Mexico.

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The Crew Foreman, Craig took some time to talk to me, the other guys, Richard, Wade, Ceo and Lucas,  were all to busy working to talk.

They had to put the rig together and then load the crane onto it.

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The crane they were hauling weighed 100,000 lbs and has a boom capable of extending 400 feet in the air. The specialized trailer they used spreads that weight out over a longer distance and distributes it between more axles so as to keep the load legal and allow it to move on the highway without damaging the road surface.

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I parked my truck in front of it for perspective.  As you can see there is plenty of their truck sticking out at both ends.

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And from the other side my truck almost disappears.

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It kind of makes a regular tractor trailer rig look kind of insignificant in comparison, doesn’t it?

My Truck                   The Big Boys Truck

2015 Peterbilt             2015 Peterbilt

70 Ft long                   150 Feet Long

13. 6” Tall                    14’ 7” tall

18 Wheels                   50 Wheels

5 Axles                        13 Axles

44,000 lb capacity         250,000 lb capacity

10 forward gears            36 forward gears

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A big Thank You to Craig and his team, from Ocean Work Cranes for letting me come out and  play trucks with the big boys for a day.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Pumpkin Trucking

In a world where everything from Oreo cookies to Ramen noodles is suddenly inundated with pumpkin spice and where pumpkins are everywhere you turn, it was inevitable that I would get at least one Pumpkin Spice flavored load.
I usually like my job, but sometimes, I get a load that I really enjoy. One where I go someplace new, see things I have never seen before and learn some new things.

I have always been fascinated with the process of things.  From start to finish, how they are made, how they are grown, where they come from.

This week I got to to pick up a load of pumpkins, from a large pumpkin grower in Illinois, and take them to a small local farm, in Missouri..

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I picked up at Frey Farms in Keenes Illinois.  Frey Farms had over 3500 acres of pumpkins this year, 400 of them in Keenes.  So I was picking up at a 400 acre pumpkin patch.

It was fascinating to watch as the field hands picked the pumpkins and loaded them into “pumpkin buses.”

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The buses were then driven to the processing facility where they were unloaded, washed and sorted by size





Then they are boxed up and loaded onto trucks,






Once I was loaded I headed to Mikus Farms in Wright City Missouri.


Mikus Farms operates Pumpkins Galore, a seasonal spot where friends and families can see the animals, pick their own pumpkins, shoot the pumpkins cannons, and enjoy a a fun outing.









Dave Mikus explained to me, as they unloaded my truck, that usually they grow all the pumpkins they need, but this year with the flooding in Missouri all spring, they lost a big part of their crop and ended up having to supplement with locally grown pumpkins.



It was a great day for me.
I got to see a big farm in operation, visit a small farm, and even stopped to pet the horses.
Some days I really love my job.


Saturday, October 3, 2015

Who’s Making All That Noise?

I admit it, I am one of those people who likes it quiet when I sleep. I used to be one of those who couldn't sleep at all in a noisy environment.  In this job, I had to adapt.  I have finally learned to sleep with the rumble of a diesel engine, but it wasn’t easy at first.

My first trucking job, I drove a day cab for  about seven years, about 1/2 million miles. I was hauling laundry back and forth, from the hotels and motels, casinos and ski resorts, to the laundry facility to be cleaned and then  back out to the end user.  It was a learning job and boy did I learn.    Not in any school, either.  They sent me on a local run with a veteran driver, then the next day I was on my own.  I learned most things the hard way, by trial and error, or from talking to other drivers.  To this day, I will take the time to help a new driver with something they are struggling with, because I remember the frustration of not knowing what I was doing, and how grateful I was when someone with some experience showed me the ropes.  I learned how to handle a rig, shift the gears, back a trailer, buttonhook my turns, watch my mirrors and keep it between the lines .How to swing wide, to avoid the flowerbeds and utility poles, and how to allow myself the extra following distance necessary to stop a truck that big.  I learned how to couple and uncouple a trailer, watch my gauges, fuel the truck, check the fluids, and bleed and adjust my brakes. I learned how to chain up in the snow, and how to avoid a jackknife on ice.  I learned just about everything I needed to know to drive a big truck safely and efficiently. I could shift on a hill and use the gears to keep my speed down on the way down. But I never learned how to sleep in a truck stop.  I went home each night and slept in my own bed.  I never slept in the truck.

When I switched to over the road driving, got my first sleeper cab, and set out on a long trip, I had a lot of driving experience, but over the road trucking life was a brand new world.  Make no mistake about it, long haul trucking is more than just a job or a career, it is a lifestyle. You have to learn a new way of life, from your schedule to your family life, from your diet to your daily routine, it’s a brand new experience. 

My first night out, I drove all day, then parked in a truck stop and tried to sleep.  It was miserable.  Trucks were coming and going,  The hiss as air brakes were being set and, the rumble and roar of engines starting, and stopping, people yelling, horns honking, Jake brakes blowing. There was no quiet.  I tried, I really did, but I just couldn’t do it.   It was just no use.


After a couple of hours, I gave up.  I left the truck stop and drove until I found a big empty dirt lot.


Out west there are big wide places all over where a truck can pull in and park, and back in those days parking was a bit less of a problem than it is today, so I was the only one in the lot.  I parked in the corner and shut my truck off, so I could sleep in silence.  20150906_020204


Oh, it was nice.  No engines, no horns, no slamming doors, no air brakes, no truck stop noise.  I closed my eyes and was out like a light. Glorious, peaceful sleep!

That didn't last very long.  Shortly after I fell asleep,  I heard a diesel engine start up right outside my cab.  Someone must have pulled in  and parked next to me.  I pulled my pillow over my head and tried to ignore the sound. After a while it stopped.  Blissful silence.  I was happy.  But it didn't last.  An short time  later it started again, and ran for a little while and stopped.  This went on for several hours.  I was miserable.  Why would that diver do that?  Why would he park right next to me and then start and stop his engine over and over?  It was a great big wide open lot, why couldn't he park on the other side of the lot if he were going to be so inconsiderate?


As the night wore on that blasted engine starting again and again, revving, running, then shutting down, I got more and more worked up over it.  All the things I had heard about truck drivers ran through my mind.  Some people claimed truckers were the “Knights of the highway” while others claimed they were nothing but trouble.

I wasn’t sure which one was right, but I knew one thing.  This guy was a world class jerk, and I wasn't going to put up with  it any more.  I was going to go ask him, as nicely as I could,  to either stop with the engine, or move to a different spot.  I was here first.  This was my quiet place.  He was intruding.

I got up and pulled on my clothes, and slipped out the drivers door.

Nobody on that side.

I walked around to the other side.  There was nobody there either.


I couldn't have possibly scared him away just by thinking about him could I?  Where could he have gone?

But there was nobody there.  I was thrilled.  I had avoided a confrontation, and now I could finally get some sleep.  As I turned to get back in my truck, I heard 3 soft beeps and then that infernal engine started again.

This was the first time I had pulled a ‘reefer’ trailer.  I didn't realize that the refrigeration unit mounted on the front of the trailer had a diesel engine and that it would start and stop all night in order to maintain the temperature of my load. I suppose it had been doing this all day, but amid the noise of the other trucks I was unaware of it.


I felt ridiculously stupid, and yet I was glad I was alone. 

Think how much more stupid I would have felt waking up a fellow truck and complaining about his truck, only to have him point out to me that it was me making all the noise, and not him?

How often do we jump to conclusions?  Blame someone else for something that goes wrong?  Get ourselves all worked up and angry at someone, when in fact, if we take the time to investigate, the problem lies , not with someone else, but with ourselves? 

Having learned a valuable lesson, now when I get upset by a situation,  I try to take a minute and examine my own behavior, before I get upset at others. 


**Note, This story happened many years ago, the pictures are recent and have been included simply to help illustrate the story.