Posts Tagged ‘weight limits’

Guest post: Benefits of Semi Truck Weight Compliance. By Noble McIntyre

September 12, 2012

Photo by Linda N. via Flickr

Hello, one and all. First, a quick update on the status of the new Web site. Things are coming along slowly, but surely. I recently fixed a major problem I’ve been having; so that’s good. But I’m still missing a major component, so you’re gonna have to control your giddiness. I’m sure you’ll manage somehow. Still, I have a feeling that I’m eventually going to have to crack this sucker open to the public with a few lingering quirks. It’s like choosing someone to marry. If you’re waiting for perfection, you’re never going to do it. The Evil Overlord is the exception to the rule. She really hit the jackpot there.

So what’s this about a guest post? Well, if you remember correctly, I told you in our last visit that I was working on providing a couple of guest posts to fill the Sandra Bernhard-sized tooth gap between the posts I’ve written.

Today’s treat is brought to you by a gentleman named Noble McIntyre. Now I’m not positive, but I think Noble may be a bit clairvoyant. A while back, I began playing with the idea of asking for submissions for a couple of guest posts to fill in the gaping hole that the blog was becoming. Not long after, I received an email from Noble asking if I accepted guest posts. I’m telling you people… clairvoyant. I’m guessing that skill comes in handy with his day job. You see, Noble is an attorney. That’s gotta be pretty darn handy to get into the minds of the opposing counsel. And before you say it, yes, I know it’s hard to believe a lawyer was perusing my blog, but that’s just further proof that I rock. I’ve been telling people that for years, but no one ever listens.

So let’s get on with today’s submission. Afterward, I’ll be back to share my thoughts on the subject. Here we go. And oh yea. You ladies may want to check out Noble’s picture at the bottom of the post. He’s a handsome devil, he is. Hands off though, ladies. He’s already been snagged off the market. Sorry to disappoint.

Benefits of Semi Truck Weight Compliance: by Noble McIntyre

It’s human nature to want the most benefit for the lowest cost. It may seem more efficient to load a semi truck to maximum capacity—or more—in order to transport more merchandise in fewer trips. That works in theory, but not always in practice. I’ve taken on semi truck cases that came about when someone was injured due to some sort of negligence on the part of a truck driver or a trucking company like, for example, overloading a truck. And accidents involving a semi have the potential to do much more damage when the truck is heavier than is legally allowed.

Surpassing truck weight limits can also cost more in fees and fines when trucks don’t pass inspection at highway weigh stations. But additional costs in fuel, maintenance, and safety must be considered as well. Here are a few of the ways ignoring trucking weigh limits can increase costs, and affect the safety of not just the truckers, but passenger vehicle drivers.

Road Fatigue

Highways are built to withstand a lot of wear—vehicles driving over them, harsh weather, heat, cold. They’re also constructed with certain weight limits in mind. When those limits are surpassed, the road suffers and begins to wear down more quickly than planned. This not only makes for uncomfortable driving, it increases road maintenance costs for the states the highways run through, and those costs are passed on to the taxpayers. By complying with weight limits, truckers and trucking companies can help roads last longer, and reduce maintenance costs, thereby saving states money that can be put toward other public needs.

Wasted Fuel and Time

It comes down to simple power-to-weight ratio—the heavier a truck is, the more power required to propel it. When a truck is loaded over its maximum weight, it will require more fuel to travel the same distance at the same speeds as a lighter truck. In addition to wasting fuel, this will also translate to higher costs for the trucking company because of the need to buy fuel more often. It also means lost time to stop for those fueling needs. Those costs are most likely passed on to the consumer. By adhering to weight limits, truckers can save time and money both for the trucking company, and for the people who buy the products being transported. For those of us concerned about the effect high food costs have on our communities, it’s frustrating to know that some of those costs could be more reasonable if weight limit regulations were strictly followed.

Safety

When loaded to maximum weight, the stopping distance for semi trucks is roughly 40 percent greater than that of regular passenger vehicles. This is assuming fair weather and road conditions. That distance will increase when roads are wet, for example, or when the truck is traveling above the speed limit. Now imagine how the stopping distance is affected when a truck is carrying more than the allowed maximum weight. Even in good weather, the distance is increased, not to mention, a heavier truck will do more damage to other vehicles and to property should an accident occur. Weight compliance promotes safety for the truck, its driver, and other drivers on the road. I would be more than happy to accept a reduction in the number of clients I have if it meant fewer people were being injured in trucking accidents due to poor practices.

The trucking industry remains the most effective tool in transporting goods from one location to another. There is plenty of room for improvement, to be sure. But until technological and mechanical advances come about that improve efficiency, current safety standards must be maintained. The benefits simply outweigh the costs.

Noble McIntyre is the senior partner and owner of McIntyre Law, a firm staffed by experienced Oklahoma City truck accident lawyers.

 

 

 

 

 

Good stuff, Noble. Thanks for entertaining and informing the peeps. Now from a trucker’s view, let me add a few thoughts of my own.

For quite a while now, my company has been sending out a satellite message about once a week reminding us to route around the Pawtucket River Bridge on I-95 in Rhode Island. It seems that about once a week one of my highly intelligent co-workers gets a ticket for crossing the bridge. You know, the bridge that has been marked as truck restricted since 2007. The one marked by those bright orange signs that are really hard to see. Yea, those. I just don’t get it. If a bridge is clearly marked as illegal, why would anyone cross it? Why not take the marked route? It’s not that far out of the way. Yet the coppers in Rhode Island have been picking trucker’s pockets clean for years. These fines aren’t cheap either. We’re talking maximums of $2000 plus. Ouch-a-mundo! But then there are times when things aren’t quite so clear-cut.

Now there isn’t a trucker out there who hasn’t come across a situation that can’t be avoided. Sometimes by the time you see the weight restriction signs on the bridge, you’re already crossing it. Oops. But hey, when you looked at the trucker’s atlas during your trip planning, the road was clearly marked in orange! For you non-truckers; roads highlighted in orange are supposed to be open to trucks. Most of the time, they’re right. But some of the time they neglect to mention that it’s okay to run the road, providing you’re under the weight limit. That would be the weight limit that isn’t posted anywhere in the atlas.

Other times, you find yourself stuck between an FMCSA rule-maker’s head and a hard place. There you sit, staring at a weight-restricted bridge in the dead of night. You followed your company-supplied directions to the letter. Yet there you are. You’ve got no place to turn around. What now? I wrote about this exact scenario in a blog post called Trucking in the Northeast. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. I find that prayer helps.

But what about running with an overweight load? Truck drivers do it all the time. But why do we do it? Because your dispatcher says to do it? Sorry dudes and dudettes, but that crap ain’t gonna fly here. Drivers, you’ve gotta think about this. It’s your license. It’s your ticket. It’s your money that’s gonna pay the fine. It’s not a point of pride to say, “I can find my way around any scale.” Okay great.

What good does it do? It takes more fuel to go around the scales. The back roads always take longer too. So why do we do it? Yeah, it’s a pain to take the load back to the shipper for reloading. Yes, it’s annoying to stop five times to fuel in a 600 mile trip just to keep your load legal.

But notice I kept saying “we” truckers. Yes, @DriverChrisMc, I just called myself a trucker again. Mark it on the calendar. The thing is, I’ve done all this myself. I routed around all the weigh stations once a long time ago. I found it stressful and never did it again. Sort of. What I will still do is route around ONE scale if I know I can burn off enough fuel before I get to the rest of the chicken coops (weight stations–a little trucker-speak there). But why even do that?

Well, I know why I do it. Because the places where I load, you either take that load or you sit and idle your truck until you burn off enough fuel to run the load. I’ve asked the company to cut the load. They won’t. I’ve asked to deadhead to get another load. Nothing else in the area. That’s not hard to believe when you’re in the wasteland known as North Dakota. And this is why I NEVER fill my fuel tanks any more. 3/4 max for me. Less if I’m anywhere in the vicinity of one of our 46,350 pound sugar loads.

I guess if you’re an owner/operator, I can maybe see the point of dodging all the scales on an entire trip. Maybe it was “take the load or don’t get paid.” That’s your choice I guess. Just remember that not only are we all breaking the law, but we’re also defying every reason that Noble just laid out. And shame on us all for dissing the Noble.

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Funkin’ Truckin’

November 8, 2010

If you’re here looking for a happy-go-lucky attitude, perhaps you should go see if Elmo has started writing a blog over at Sesame Street. As long as he’s not doing an audio blog, you should be able to visit without causing any permanent hearing damage. What you’re going to get here is what I call a “funk.”

Everyone gets the funk. Now if you’re George Clinton or Dr. Funkenstein, that’s a good thing, but for the rest of it, it’s a funking drag. The funk happens when you think your life sucks. Perhaps your life has always sucked, but you’re just now noticing it. In my case, I don’t really know how the funk crept on me. It just hit me one day.

I know my life doesn’t truly suck. For one thing, I have a wife that I don’t want to murder every day. Now The Evil Overlord may be thinking just the opposite, but as long as she doesn’t follow through with it, I can live with that.

I also have my health. I’ve got an immune system that could fight off the Bubonic Plague or a mean case of cooties. But if I wanted to show off my six-pack abs, I’d have to commission an artist to whip out the body paint. And so what if I can’t run 1/4 mile without coughing up blood and wetting myself? While that is kinda lame, at least I can walk into a truck stop without panting, and although I’m not exactly ripped, at least I can still look down and see my light saber (that’s for my perverted 😉 Twitter buds, @Dean0806 and @raysunshine77). Those are two things many truckers can’t do.

And then there’s God, who loves me and forgives me, even when I don’t deserve it. Thoughts of eternity, world-wide suffering, hunger, and disease helps to remind me that all of my problems really don’t add up to a hill of beans. I mean really, at least I’m not getting raped in Africa right now. I’d say that’s something that I’m pretty happy about.

And then there’s my job; truck driving. It may not be the greatest job, but in this economy, I shouldn’t be complaining. There are many who would love to have my income right now.

So, if I know all of this, why am I in a funk? What could possibly happen that could cause such a funk? No one close to me is dying. No one I know personally is going through anything that they haven’t been battling for years. It’s nothing really, yet it is.

As many of you know, The Evil Overlord is attending college again. I feel her stress as she studies day and night for her Anatomy & Physiology class. It’s kicking her butt, but she’s managing a decent grade. This class is all-consuming. Which makes her other two classes harder to keep up with. She’s making it, but her heart isn’t in it. And there is the crux of the problem.

I don’t know how The Evil Overlord and I managed to hit our mid-life without having any passions. It’s depressing to think that we are both trying to attend college for careers that we aren’t passionate about. Now I’m fully expecting everyone to tell me that I shouldn’t go back to school unless it’s something that I’m really gung-ho about. That’s easier said than done.

If The Evil Overlord and I had our way, we’d probably both be freelance writers. She’d go with fiction and I’d do non-fiction. That would be all fine and dandy if we were younger, but we’re a couple of old turds who have little experience as writers. Well, I guess officially, she’d be a turdette. Anyway, when you’re young, you can take a chance on a freelance career with unsteady income.  But when you’ve been a money moron all your life, you need to find a good occupation with steady income. Something that you can do until you’re an old fart who farts with every step. You old farts know what I’m talking about.

So let’s say we both start writing for a living. Everyone knows it takes time to become a good writer, and even longer to get noticed. How do the bills get paid all that time? How do we save money for retirement? How do we afford health insurance? Even worse, what if neither of us ever gets good enough to make a living out of it? I’m not a big fan of government-run old folks homes. Too many weird smells for me. And this coming from a guy who is locked in an enclosed truck with himself all day.

So, it’s off to school to pursue careers that we can tolerate. Quite honestly, it wouldn’t take much to top trucking. Just a job where you’re home every night would do the trick. You can say “Pursue your dreams” all you want, but in the end you have to do what is practical for your future. And without any true passions…

Now back to funky subjects. The Evil Overlord and I are both in a funk due to our lack of direction. Add to that, the fact that we are apart. Add to that the fact that I haven’t had more than 42 hours off in a row. Add to that, my company is installing e-logs.

Now tack on the fact that my company has recently banned all cooking devices from our trucks. All because of a couple of drivers who are dumber than a retarded camel. We already couldn’t have inverters. Now, it’s nothing but cold foods if we want to save money by eating in the truck. Now if we want a hot meal, we’ll have to eat fast food, or spend even more money to eat in the truck stop restaurant. Neither is good for your health or your wallet.

That’s not all. They have a policy that if you are going to be out of the truck for more than four days, you have to turn your truck into a yard. It used to be five days. Recently, they changed it to three days. The problem is, I live about 7.5 hours from the nearest terminal. That means that if I ever want a vacation, I’ll have to waste 15 hours of my vacation time driving to and from the terminal. Nice. How do they expect to keep any long-term drivers? I guess they just assume that everyone will move close to a terminal.

Let me ask a favor here. From the policies and new rules I’ve described here, if you work for the same company that I do, you now know what company I work for. Please don’t say the name of the company if you know who it is. I know a driver who was fired from this company for posting this kind of information online. The difference is, that driver mentioned the company name numerous times and I haven’t. Let’s keep it that way. Thank you.

I’ve voiced my opinion to my boss about e-logs, the banning of cooking units, and turning the truck in. I even moved above my fleet manager and spoke with her boss. When I asked to speak to the Operations manager, I was told I didn’t want to talk to him. I said, “Why? What’s he going to do? Fire me for voicing an opinion?” The answer: “Maybe.” Again, nice.

This is not the company I worked for in the past. But it is the one I’m stuck with for now. With school in sight, it’s not worth quitting and finding a new company. I’m not saying anything new. This was all covered in Sucking it up a while back. Problem is, I’m not doing a very good job with that title.

I’m not through yet. Sorry. To add to the funk, I recently had a load to Miami, FL, which is a place I loathe. I got reloaded quickly, but I knew I’d be back to the shipper. 45-46,000 pound loads of sugar can’t be loaded all the way to the trailer doors. Any experienced trucker knows that. Unfortunately, the entire non-English speaking staff at the shipper couldn’t understand what I was saying. A long trip across Miami to the nearest scale proved me right.

As I was heading back to get reloaded, I got a call from my boss telling me that these people didn’t understand English and even the Spanish-speaking drivers had been having trouble with them. Luckily, when I arrived back, I began talking to another driver there and he explained that it was Spanish, but it had a Puerto Rican accent that was hard to understand. Since he was Puerto Rican, he explained the situation to the shipper and I got reloaded.

When I reexamined the load, I saw that they had only moved the freight a couple of feet forward. That wasn’t going to cut it either and I had everyone at the shipper mad at me when I refused to move from the dock until they reloaded me according to my specs. They finally did, and after another drive across town to scale, I once again proved to myself how truly cool I am. Hey, it’s my story. So 5.5 hours from the start of my day, I was under way. As I pulled out, all I could think was, “Good thing I’m not on E-logs yet.” *evil grin*

To cap this all off, I just got a call from The Evil Overlord informing me that my ticket for being on a restricted road in my truck had finally been settled in court (the signs were only visible AFTER you were on the road with no place to turn around). I didn’t get any points, but the $150 ticket ended up costing me $372 plus the $100 lawyer fee.

All the above is what put me in a funk. When the combination of crappy things pile up on you all at once, funk ensues. I’ll drag myself out of it eventually. I’m not looking for sympathy. That’s why I stayed offline for the past week or so. We’ve all been through rough patches in our lives. This is no different.

It might help if I had something to look forward to, but for now I’m just going to try to make myself feel better. Since I don’t cuss anymore, I think I’ll start my journey out of funkhood by saying, “Funk lawyers.” Well, it’s a start anyway.

*Please leave your funky comments and click the pretty “Like” button. No sympathy please. I’m giving myself enough for all of us.” 🙂

Truckers Get Lost: The Do’s and Don’ts of Giving Directions

October 7, 2010

No wonder we get lost…

Truck drivers disagree on lots of things; like whether bathing is necessary or not. But they also agree on many things. For example, no driver will argue when I say that the driving directions our companies provide stink worse than fresh tequila vomit.

The average trucker will drive 120,000 miles per year, so you’d think we’d have this whole navigation thing down, wouldn’t you? Yet we don’t. Well, some of us don’t. So what seems to be the problem? Well, let’s see…

First, I should explain that most drivers receive directions to the customer when we receive our load information. Who’s responsible for supplying that information? Well, the majority of companies that I’ve worked for haven’t had a standard. Maybe that’s part of the problem.

Some companies ask the customers for directions when they book the freight. Other times, they tell the driver to call the customer to get directions. Still, other times, I’ve had dispatchers tell me, “Hold on while I Google it.” Oh boy, this is gonna to be a hoot.

Let me address this Google thing first. While there have been numerous occasions where Google Maps has bailed me out (see Trucking in the Northeast), there have been just as many times where it’s gotten me into trouble. Just the other night, I found myself in a quiet residential area in Rhode Island because my company didn’t have any directions and the customer was closed on Sunday. Well, the neighborhood was quiet before I got there anyway.

The fact is, Google Maps aren’t truck-friendly. It doesn’t know a truck route from a goat path. It doesn’t consider the weight limits of bridges or the height of overpasses. And it certainly doesn’t inform us of HazMat restricted routes. Like I said, Google has gotten me out of a few pinches by simply providing a map of the area I’m in, but it’s anything but perfect for trucks.

You may ask, what about GPS? Even regular GPS units won’t do the trick. If you want all the information relevant to trucks, you’ve got to buy a truck-specific unit. However, having used one before, I have to tell you that I wouldn’t trust one of those any more than a dad would trust his daughter’s date on prom night.

I was talking to a driver trainer the other day who told me he had a student that refused to learn how to read a map. The trainee said he didn’t need it because he was going to get a GPS when he got out of training. First off, this guy would’ve never made it out of training with me. I would’ve sat there like a stone-faced gargoyle when he asked me where to go and where to turn. He would have learned to read a map or found a new instructor. Why? Because map reading and following directions are essential to a truck driver. What happened to this student next is a perfect example of why.

Two weeks later the student got his own truck. He called the trainer and asked how to get to a particular shipper. The trainer said, “Where’s your GPS?” He replied, “Uhhhh… I don’t have it yet.” Frustrated, the trainer said, “Where are you now?” The new driver said, “I’m over at the yard where you dropped me.” To which the trainer said, “Look across the street.”

So, back to our problem. How do we get and give quality directions? Well, we can’t totally control how our company office people handle directions, but we sometimes have a say in the matter. Many carriers will ask the driver to provide them with the directions to the customer once they’ve established a good route in. Once they’re in the system, they send them out to every driver going there in the future. And herein lies my beef. Many truckers are just as bad at giving directions as Googling non-truckers. So here are some do’s and don’ts when supplying directions to your company or any other fellow human being that you don’t completely loathe:

  • Do give enough information to be clear.
  • Don’t give more information than is needed. Is it really necessary that I know that I’m going to pass a McDonald’s, a Wendy’s, a Burger King, a WalMart, and a Long John Silvers? I’d like to deep-fry the drivers who do this.
  • Don’t give directions from your starting point. Not everyone going to Pennsylvania is coming from Oklahoma… freakin’ moron.
  • Do start the directions from the nearest Interstate. Even if the next driver is coming from a different direction, they can look on a map and see how they need to adjust their route. That is, he can if Mr. Know-It-All can read a map.
  • Do give a compass point off the exit ramp or main road. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen something like, “From I-30 take exit 34 and go right.” Great. So if I’m going west, I’ll be heading north; if I were headed east, I’ll be going south. Or will I? What if the exit is a clover leaf to a stop light? Then it’s the exact opposite. See what I mean? You can be much clearer by saying, “From I-30 take exit 34 and go south.”
  • Don’t give the direction you are going on the Interstate unless it’s relevant. For instance, if an exit can only be accessed when going westbound, be sure to say something like, “From I-44 West take exit 15 (Duquesne/Joplin.). No access from I-44 East.”
  • Do give an exit number and the name of the town or street on the exit sign. If you’re not certain of the exit number coming from the other direction, say, “From I-44 West take exit 15 (Duquesne/Joplin). Unsure of exit # from Eastbound.”
  • Do use the term “right” and “left” once you’ve got your bearing off the main road. It sounds too confusing when you say, “Turn south at the exit ramp, go east on Naval Drive, north on Bellydancing Lane, and west on Bellybutton Circle.”
  • Don’t give distances off the main road if it’s fairly close. However, if your next turn is 6 miles down the road, say so. That way, a driver isn’t slowing down at every intersection for the next 6 miles. And all those 4-wheelers can refrain from cussing us for 6 miles.
  • Do provide street names. “Take the second left” just doesn’t cut it. How do you know a new street or two hasn’t gone in? “Take a left on Port-A-Potty Road” is much more precise.
  • Don’t use landmarks that could change. Providing landmarks can be good in the right circumstances. For instance, railroad tracks, bridges or the city hall rarely change, but Hardee’s, stop lights, and gas stations do. Not long ago, I got directions that said, “Turn east onto Route 126 and turn right at the Exxon station.” I happened to remember the customer, which was fortunate since the station had recently changed to a Phillips 66.
  • Don’t be too frugal with your wording. In-cab satellite systems have been in use since the mid 90s, so truckers have been doing the whole text-shortening thing a lot longer than you 4-wheeling punks. Satellite systems usually charge by the character, so truckers were encouraged to use as many abbreviations as possible. Substitutions such as 2 and # were used in place of the words “to” and “number.” I once got directions that said, “Go 4 mile and the customer is on the right.” I went 4 miles. Whoever had typed the directions had substituted the number “4” for the word “for.” Don’t do that. U-turns in a truck just flat-out suck.

Sometimes the directions that we get are perfect. Those have been sent in by yours truly. You’re welcome. Sometimes the directions that we receive aren’t wrong, they’re just extremely vague. One is just as bad as the other. When you’re driving a 70+ foot vehicle, the last thing you need to do is get lost.

So here’s how I plan to solve this problem. As soon as someone is willing to give me a million bucks, a computer programming whiz, and a list of every business in America, I’ll get started making a database that carriers can subscribe to.

On second thought, that sounds like an awful lot of work. What-say we drivers just pull our heads out of our tailpipes and use some common sense when we’re sending in those directions to our companies. And any dispatcher who gives me directions from Google should be coated with BBQ sauce and left in a cannibal-infested desert.

*Please click the “like” button if you enjoyed this post and/or give it a rating. Okay, folks. Tell me what I forgot. What are your suggestions to make directions more clear. Leave a comment for all to see.*

Trucking in the Northeast

April 13, 2010

Photo by wonderferret via Flickr

I’ve been needling the west coast for quite a while now. First, there was my blog post about Oregonians called “Too Stupid to Fuel?” Then, on Twitter I’ve been bashing California and Oregon for their ridiculous 55 mph truck speed limits. Washington state isn’t much better at 60 mph. Now let me aim my shotgun of disdain at the other coast. Let me further limit it to the Northeast.

I really don’t hate the Northeast all that much. Other than the heavy traffic, the road restrictions, the way the towns were built, and the occasional a**hole with a middle finger that has its own bicep, it’s really a lovely place. But for the most part, the Northeast can’t be blamed for all this. The fact is, the Northeast was mapped out long before trucks, or even automobiles were built. A**holes, on the other hand, choose to be a**holes, so I’m laying that blame right on the a**hole who chooses to be a**hole-ish.

Our forefathers had a lot of foresight when it came to that whole Constitution thing, but they were waaaay off the mark when it came to laying out towns. I’m pretty sure that ol’ Ben wasn’t anticipating a 70-foot long vehicle weighing 80,000 pounds. And I’m certain that he’d never seen a 13′ 6″ tall horse-and-buggy before. That’s why, when traveling in the Northeast, truckers must always be on their guard when they get off the beaten path. The roads are tight and there always seems to be a low bridge lurking around the corner. This was renewed in my mind the other night.

After receiving two different dispatches and having both cancel as soon as they beeped into my truck (I just love that), it was finally settled that I’d pick up a load in Pottstown, Pennsylvania at 1:00 a.m. As usual, my company sent me all the relevant information, including the directions. As usual, these directions were as trustworthy as a Hollywood spouse. Of course, I didn’t know that at the time. I should have anticipated it, but being in a hurry, I didn’t.

The fun began when I turned off the main road. The first thing I saw was a long, somewhat narrow bridge. Beside it was that sign that every trucker loves to see. You know, the one that inevitably posts weight restrictions that you can’t possibly meet. Well, at this point, there was no backing up and no turning around. Having an empty trailer at the time, I wasn’t that much over the weight limit. And since I didn’t see a fleet of cop cars, I proceeded slowly. Not falling into a cold, icy grave made me happy.

Figuring the worst was over, I continued to follow my directions. As The Evil Overlord was happy to later point out, I’m not real bright sometimes. I came to a T-intersection and took a left and then a quick right, just as the directions said. About a quarter-mile down the road I saw one of those glow-in-the-dark yellow signs. I immediately became leery, but since it looked close to the ground, I plunged on ahead. As I approached, I realized that the road started to go down hill. And that’s why the sign looked so close to the ground. Uh-oh. Last time I checked, a 13′ 6″ vehicle can’t fit under an 11-foot bridge. Nuts!

Being focused on that cursed yellow sign, I hadn’t noticed the two cars that had crept up behind me. As I reached for the trusty iPhone, the first car came up beside me. He stopped and rolled down his passenger window. Forgetting I was in the Northeast, I was expecting the guy to ask if I needed some directions around the low bridge. Instead I got, “Hey buddy! How ’bout some flashers?!” While it was true that I hadn’t bothered to turn on my flashers (it was 1:00 a.m. and there hadn’t been a car in sight), I hadn’t been stopped for more than 10 seconds.

Pointing at the low bridge, I said, “Sorry, my focus was on that.” In typical a**hole fashion, he said, “Oh,” and drove off. No, “sorry.” No, “You need a hand?” No, “Gee. Guess I’m an a**hole.” At least the next car just drove right past. No help, but at least I didn’t have to talk to another a**hole.

I called the shipper to get some directions that wouldn’t involve a truck decapitation, but of course, it went directly to voice mail. I found out later that the guard had stepped away from his desk for a few minutes. Of course he had. Nice timing. Next, I pulled up the directions on Google Maps. Ohhhh. So that’s where my company got those directions! Even though I couldn’t follow their recommended route, at least I had a map of the city. So I winged it.

Luckily, there was a huge empty parking lot right beside me, so I whipped a U-turn and took what looked like the biggest road on the map. When I got back to the street I was supposed to turn on, all I could see were houses. Since trucks and residential areas are normally as compatible as Bobby and Whitney, I kept on going.

I finally found another road big enough to turn onto and made my way back to the pinpoint on the map. It was there alright. Tucked in the middle of a town, surrounded by houses; but it was there. Now where to turn in? Nope. Not that first entrance. That’s the employee parking lot. There was barely enough room for a U-turn. Maybe on down the residential road a bit? Nope. No gate down there. So now I’m stuck backing up for a quarter-mile on a dark, residential street lined with cars. Man, I love trucking sometimes.

Holy crap! What was that? I swore I saw something move behind me. It seems that I almost backed over the security guard. I’m guessing this guy was a hide-and-seek master in his youth, as he went from hiding from a phone to hiding behind a moving semi in the matter of a few minutes. I’m also guessing he was about as bright as the street I was on.

He informed me that I was at the right location, but I was supposed to be at the back entrance. After getting directions and taking a couple of tight little nasty corners that had me dodging cars that were parked in front of houses, the gate finally came into sight. But wait.

Seeing what awaited me, I parked down the street and walked toward the gate. There were cars parked in front of houses on one side of the street and trucks parked on the other. At the gate, the intercom assured me that I was in the right place. On my way back to the truck, another fine citizen of Pottstown came out onto his porch smoking a cigarette. Once again, the naive optimist inside of me was expecting a witty comment about how tight it was going to be. Foiled again!

Shocking me back to reality, he said, “You gonna sit out here and idle your truck all night?” Why yes, dill-munch. That is exactly what I had planned to do. Here I was, walking back to my truck from the gate, while my truck sat in the middle of the road with its headlights on. Clearly that was my plan. I simply said “no” and kept walking. As they say, if you don’t have anything good to say…

Being evil and all, The Evil Overlord called him by his appropriate name. She didn’t use asterisks though. Gotta love her. She’s like that little red devil sitting on my shoulder. I’m the white angel that keeps getting jabbed in the face with her pitchfork.

Thank God The Evil Overlord was awake though. It’s times like that where you say a silent thank you to the engineer who designs these trucks. So that’s why our side mirrors fold in. It was that tight. With the mirrors folded in and both our heads hanging out the windows like a couple of joy-riding slobber hounds, we slowly crept forward. We had a whole six inches to spare on each side.

After getting loaded, we went back through the truck funnel using the same process. Once out on the street, I was tempted to take Mr. A**hole’s suggestion to sit idling by his house, but I went on down to where there weren’t any houses to do my paperwork. One point for the angel. Having gotten the proper directions from the shipper, we went back out a different way. So it seems that there was a way to avoid drowning and decapitation after all.

So anyway, I can’t blame everything on the Northeast. I’m guessing that weight-restricted bridge was built years before trucks got so darned huge. Same goes for the low underpass. Some good directions would have avoided that trouble; not that my company can be bothered with such trivial matters.

As for the a**holes… well, I’m afraid there’s no avoiding them. At least not until some enterprising young proctologist invents an a**hole detector anyway.

*I believe I may have just set a record on using the word a**hole in a blog post. So what do you have to say about the Northeast and its inhabitants? C’mon, Northeasterners. I dare you to leave a comment explaining why y’all are so freakin’ grumpy. Of course, I’m fully aware that I’m going to have to edit some astericks into it. 😉 *

Please, oh Please, Give Me the Bypass!

September 30, 2009

Have you ever seen a long line of trucks pulling off the interstate and wondered what the heck was going on? Either they’re heading into a weigh station or the Tropicana Tan bus is on the side of the road with a flat tire. Either way, it’s the law to stop…isn’t it?

I love me some PrePass!

Weigh stations are set up by the DOT (Department of Transportation) and are usually manned by state troopers and/or vehicle enforcement officials. Their main purpose is to check vehicle weights, but they also do vehicle and driver inspections when the mood strikes them, which usually just so happens to be when you’re behind schedule on a tight load. Also, I’m pretty sure some of them used to be biologists because during these inspections they seem to be looking for any molecules that are out-of-place.

Weight limits in the U.S. are limited to 12,000 pounds on the steer axle, 34,000 pounds on the drive axles, and 34,000 on the trailer, or tandem axles. Add them together and you get a gross maximum weight of 80,000 pounds, or 40 tons. If the trailer has single axles instead of duals, 20,000 pounds is usually the limit for each axle. Special permits can be purchased for oversize loads.

The weight of the vehicle itself determines how much freight you can haul. The typical company-owned truck/trailer combo that you see usually weighs in the 34-35,000-pound range, which leaves enough room for 45-46,000 pounds of freight. The trick is getting all that weight distributed well enough to avoid an overweight ticket. Truckers call this “axling out.”

Bridge laws determine how you need to distribute your weight (for a detailed explanation and a cute little visual of the bridge law, click here). In short, bridge laws determine how far your drive axles (on the truck) must be from the trailer axles to avoid damaging bridges. These laws vary from state to state, so you need to find out which states you will be traveling through and then adjust your tandems to meet the minimum requirements for your trip. You can find these distances in a trucking road atlas or sometimes the company provides them to the drivers. California has the shortest distance when it comes to bridge laws, coming in at 40 feet from kingpin (the knob on the trailer that hooks to the tractor) to the center of the rear most axle. If you’re going to axle out a heavy load going into California, it’s a must to get most of the weight between your axles.

There are three basic ways to get your load to axle out.

  1. Load the freight evenly – Most trailers nowadays are 53 feet long, but the weight of your freight determines how much of the 53 feet you can use. If you’re hauling styrofoam coolers, you can load it from floor to ceiling, all the way to the trailer doors. However, if you’re loading only nine-5,000 pound coils of metal, you’d better space those suckers out to avoid being over the 34,000 pound axle limit. Learning how to position freight comes with experience, but in general, if you can get a 45-46,000 pound load within the first 48 feet of trailer space, you can get it to axle out. Why do you need to leave 5 feet at the rear of the trailer empty? That’s where bridge laws and our next method come into play.
  2. Slide your tandems – Most trailers are built on a rail system that enables you to slide the trailer box independently from the frame. This is done by pulling a lever near the trailer axles or operating an air-powered switch, which in turn pulls 4 pins out of a sliding rail underneath the trailer box. You then lock your trailer brakes, release your tractor brakes, and start sliding your trailer along the rail system. When you get it where you think you want it, you release the lever under the trailer, jump back in the truck and slide the trailer a few more inches until it locks in place.
  3. Slide your fifth wheel – This is the part of your tractor that hooks onto the trailer’s kingpin. On some trucks the fifth wheel is adjustable for fine tuning an extremely heavy load. I’d rather be forced to watch reruns of General Hospital for days on end than slide a fifth wheel. They aren’t used nearly as often as the trailer sliding system and therefore are typically as cranky as the old lady down the street who smells like cat urine and mothballs. If you must do so, you slide the fifth wheel much like you would the trailer, however, you start by lowering the trailer’s landing gear to the ground. This is usually necessary to take most of the weight off the stubborn little fifth wheel. You then lock the trailer brakes, release the fifth wheel pin (either manually or air-powered), and start sliding the fifth wheel by moving the tractor forward or backward. Brace yourself before you start moving because when and if it ever unlocks itself, it’ll usually jar you hard enough to cause you to vomit up your spleen.

So there you have it. But how do you know if you need to adjust your weight in the first place? Well, again, that mostly comes from experience. I feel pretty comfortable guessing where the tandems should be on loads under 40,000 pounds. However, if something looks fishy to my experienced eye or a load is heavier, or is already sealed, I simply slide them to where I think they need to be and head for the nearest truck stop with scales, which is most of the major truck stop chains. The first weigh will run you $8 to $10, depending on the truck stop. If you’re over the 80,000 pound limit, you’re probably going to be heading back to the shipper for reloading. If you’re just overweight on one set of axles, you can pull off the scale, slide your tandems a bit, and reweigh for $1, as long as the reweigh is within 24 hours and it takes place at the same truck stop where you did your first weigh. If you can’t get legal on all three axles, you’re most likely headed back to get your load adjusted by the shipper. By the way, the majority of carriers reimburse the cost of scales. If not, save your receipts for tax time.

Although you can get most loads to axle out with room to spare, every once in a while you’ll encounter a load where the best you can do is 100 or 200 pounds overweight, either gross weight or on a particular axle. Before I head back to the shipper, I ALWAYS call my company first. I’ve had numerous occasions where they told me to run with the load because some particular weigh station you’ll be crossing will allow a little leeway. Don’t ever try this without permission and always get permission in writing (via satellite). If they won’t give it to you in writing, refuse to haul it. Overweight tickets are notoriously expensive, and it’ll be yours to pay if you can’t prove you were told to run with it.

Weigh stations are a pain-in-the-wazoo, but unfortunately, they are a necessary pain-in-the-wazoo. Luckily, some companies provide a wonderful little savior that sticks to your windshield. It’s called a PrePass. Just as a toll pass allows you to roll past toll plazas, PrePass allows you to pass weigh stations. At least most of the time. And that’s why I say, “Please, oh please, give me the bypass!”


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