Saturday, September 08, 2007

Another Load....

from Gehenna.

Or in the current vernacular...a difficult load.

Dispatch finally......FINALLY....got tired of having me sit and wait on the customer to make up their minds and DO something.

Wednesday.

Five days I sat there.

I'm just about panicky with worry. It's been about two weeks since I've made any money and bills are coming due. So...when the boss said "go back to the customer, get your chains and stuff, and come on back to the yard and get another trailer".....well it didn't take me long to do that thing.

It didn't hurt any that I was told there was a really good load available for me. Really good. Like $12,000 for fifty eight miles good. Unbelievably good ....(if it sounds too good to be true...it generally is)

So I get on back to the yard and it's raining. Not just a little drizzle either. It was raining hard enough for about an inch of water to be flowing on flat cement parking lot. REALLY raining. Frog drowner raining.

As my luck would have it "stuff" had to be done...by me....in the rain....to the trailer. Which I proceeded to do.

The first thing was that the "stinger" had to be "decked". That is, the spreader bar and booster axle (in combination called a stinger, wasn't loaded on the trailer....it needed to be). Which I did. This involved a fairly large fork lift and chains. I eventually managed to accomplish that, and chain it down, AND to "flip the neck". (It's a 53 foot trailer....with a 3 ft. neck extension...56 with the neck down. With the extension down the trailer wasn't illegal without a permit.)

If I'd jumped into a river I'd not have been any wetter. I was Soaked...it was raining that hard.

So....I'm ready to go? Nope...not so lucky. I'd noticed that there was no license plate on the trailer. It's seems that when the trailer had been in the Houston yard some weeks ago it was supposed to have had license tags attached. Didn't happen. No one noticed until (lucky me) I did. The "temporary " registration period had run out. I couldn't legally use that trailer until it either had tags attached or we got another "temp". (This is a brand new , just out of the factory trailer you see)

Also...the (new) customer hadn't made up his mind yet. Is this a go or not?

Well...says dispatch....we're 99% sure it's a go. And by the way...it doesn't pay as well. It still pays really, really good...but not AS good.

And it's still raining. And I'm soaked. And since I wasn't raised in a "Barn"....my childhood training argues against going inside the office and dripping all over everything. So I'm mostly standing in the doorway talking to dispatch while all this is going on.

I mentioned to dispatch that I didn't think we had enough trailer for the load. They said everything would be OK. "Trust Me". (yeah...right)

Finally it's decided that I'd "head that-a-way". And I do. (changing into dry clothes first) I'm to pick up the temporary registration enroute..by fax.

I stopped at a truckstop in Big Cabin Oklahoma.... to eat...and grab a shower.

Walking across the parking lot back to the truck..in the rain... I get a call. It's from someone I don't know who claims to be involved with the load. It turns out it's a "brokered" load...this was the broker....and that I'm already late. In fact I was supposed to have already been on location...two hours ago.

Oh really?

Yup....hurry now.

I hang up and immediately I get another call....from dispatch. The temporary registration is in... the load is a "go".. an "emergency" super-load permit is being ordered ...and the load is HOT. (And I'm already very, very late).

Hurry now.

But not tooo much.... click on picture to enlarge

..................bad things can happen if you hurry too much....

....in the rain....in a construction zone.



So I'm off. Partway there I top off the fuel tanks at Midway Truck Stop in Columbia Missouri about eleven PM. From there on out it's country roads and I don't like the idea of being lost in the dark.

I get in touch with the customer contact. He gives directions to the site and I head out. It turns out I'm going to a Power Plant to pick up a rotor for a generator. I didn't know all that. Amazing how information can get lost when it trickles down the "pipeline".

I get to the PowerPlant about two am. They're waiting for me. In fact they said I was about a day late. (the furtherer I go...the behinder I get it appears). Regardless....I back into the loading bay and we proceed to unstack and assemble the trailer.

click on picture to enlarge



All went well (I thought) and it's done by about four a.m. I was a little tired so I tried to get a little nap. I didn't sleep too well...if at all. Too wired. I hate it when I'm late. Also I was worried about weight. To the best of my knowledge AND according to several reference works I just happened to have in the truck with me...I was going to be overweight. The max weight that Missouri would allow on eight axles was a hundred and fifty two thousand pounds. I was going to be at LEAST a hundred and SIXTY two thousand. So I didn't sleep too well.

About seven a.m people started to show up and it's time to load. I was already up...on my third cup of coffee and fourth ceegar....having given up on any possibility of sleep.

click on picture to enlarge

This is inside a multi-gigawatt coal-fueled power plant. It makes electricity. It's very VERY loud inside. So loud every one wears hearing protection....ear plugs in other words. This is the rotor from one of the generators. It's 36 foot long. Thirty two inches in diameter at the largest point, and weighs fifty TONS. It's also very, very, fragile.
click on picture to enlarge

Things went relatively well loading. (or so I thought). I was bound and determined not to repeat mistakes from the last load. I kept a close watch on the tractor air gauges not wanting to be over on my drives like last time. We repositioned the rotor several times. We even "stretched" the trailer (it's a stretch trailer and I stretched it a notch) in order to get it to load "just so".

That done....it's time to chain down. (it was about 9 am or so). About that time I notice an "oops". Something wrong with the suspension on the trailer.

Also no permit.....yet.

Well....what followed was a nightmare. Very stressful.

I tried and tried to determine what was wrong with the trailer. I reshimmed the booster repeatedly....nothing worked. I called dispatch, corporate, maintenance and the driver who had this trailer before I did in an effort to determine the problem.

It was a recently acquired problem too. I'd used this exact same trailer on the windmill tower move from Galveston Tx. to Grover Co. some weeks ago. (check archives....pictures even) It worked fine then.

I finally determined that someone...somewhere...between the time I'd dropped the trailer off and when I'd re-acquired it....had removed shims. Not just any shim either...but some very critical shims between the trailer deck and the wheel area. (this is not only a "stretch" trailer it's also extendable ..that is...it can be taken apart and a deck extension can be inserted...to make it even longer. In the process shims must be either removed or added...depending on the load. The heavier the load...the more shims.

Well shims were gone...there were none there....zip...nada. The trailer would not "axel" right..... (overloaded on the trailer axles....no weight at all on the booster).......and about every hour or so one of the big-wigs, would walk up and ask when I'd be ready to go. And we still had no permit....and I was STILL worried that I'd be overweight.

The loading guys at the powerplant were wonderful though. The workers...not management....management acted like what unions make out management to be in those commercials. (several times the message was relayed to me..."if he doesn't have that thing out of there in THIRTY MINUTES we'll take if off the trailer. Loading "that thing" was a dangerous job....having it loaded wrong was dangerous for anyone else on the road with me. Rushing me was criminally stupid. ) The loading guys though...they helped a LOT. By about three thirty or so we had the trailer re-shimmed.....the load chained down ......tarped....and ready to go.

In the process they'd blown the gaskets out of about three....one hundred ton hydraulic jacks.. (this load was HEAVY) .but they didn't seem too concerned.

The permit finally arrived. Special provisions were indeed made for Superload status and I was OK on the weight. Relief. This was even a "continuous travel" permit...first one of them I'd ever had. It meant I could travel during darkness, curfews, holidays and weekends. Just no bad weather.

But there's always a gotcha......I needed escorts. Front and rear...it says so right there on the permit.

Ooooops. We didn't know about that...not having had the permit....no escorts had been ordered.

Escorts were then ordered...guess what. None available close by so it'll be about four hours till they get there.

Hurry now.

So....about five o'clock I pulled out of the bay and around to the Gate...where I hurried to wait for the escorts. They showed up about eight pm or so and we left. At this point I'd been on this load for a day and a half...and was two days late.

It was a high pucker-factor trip. I don't like to drive at night. I most especially don't like to drive at night when it's spitting rain (still raining...never quit the whole time..but not bad enough to be "bad weather")....and I'm a hundred foot long and a hundred and seventy thousand pounds heavy.....in hilly country.

And Missouri is hilly country.

About midnite we got to the customer.

No one there.

*************************************************************

This was discouraging. However...about that time someone showed up. I cut the escorts loose and then proceeded to determine how I was going to get "that thing" unloaded.

It wasn't easy.

For one thing they weren't ready for me.

Unbelievable isn't it? Here all this time it's "hurry, hurry, hurry" and they're not set up to unload?

Be "just-a-minute". In the meantime I had the task of turning around and getting set up so that I could back into the factory door.

In the dark.....on a hill.....with it raining.

I did it.

Then they wanted me to make a hard left turn...while backing up...INSIDE the building...and not run over anything. That was fun.

Then they all gathered around like school kids while jabbering to each other. Must have been twenty people. I left it up to them...I went over and sat down on a crate. (the whole factory was littered with machines, pallets, crates....etc. etc. )

Eventually they decided it could be unloaded....and I took the tarps off and unchained.

Eventually they got it off ....they needed TWO....overhead cranes...getting into position so that two cranes could both reach the trailer was the reason for the inside turn. You'd think that a company that was going to work on heavy objects would have heavy cranes?

Nope.

They got it unloaded and trundled on off...leaving me there to clean up. I did. It took over an hour, to roll the tarps, to put up the chains, get the booster stacked (they did help there) and the neck flipped, and all tied down.

I finished that...they signed the Bill of Lading....and I drove out the gate.

For about a hundred feet....then I pulled over to the side of their driveway and went to sleep.

I didn't wake up till almost noon....then I drove sixty miles to a Flying J truck stop on 44 . Stopped, ate...and went to sleep again.

Today I didn't do nuthin. Two days without sleep is hard on an old man. Tomorrow I'm heading back to Tulsa. They've got another compressor for me to move monday.

Should be a fun move....the Raging Cajun will be there. He's moving the Cooler.
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