Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Getting things done... My way!

The old adage goes "if you want something done, you have to do it yourself." You would think that even paying out good money that things should be done correctly. I know when I do a job for one of my customers, it's to the best of my ability and how I would want to be treated. "Do unto others as you'd have them do unto you". It's all sound advice, why is it then no one seems to follow it?

Anymore, you can spend weeks, even months tracking down quality service guys that actually do the job right. You would think the shops that charge high dollar rates would be a good choice, but even there you'll find that those rates simply are to pad the pockets of the dealerships behind them. Nothing good comes cheap, nothing cheap is good... Throw it out the window, you want good and cheap, learn to turn the wrenches.

I'm still learning, but every time I use a shop, it convinces me more and more that older equipment requires more than a simple owner-operator, it requires a full service technician owner-operator. Tools get bought as needed, some things go out on the road, some things stay at home for the jobs that I'm not going to attempt to fix myself.

I've run into those guys, you know them. The ones who carry their shop with them (all the way from bottle jacks up to impact tools) and a rebuild kit stored away with ten gallons of oil. Maybe I haven't got there yet, but maybe there is some wisdom in those crazy guys.

Monday, January 6, 2014

I'm still here...

One thing that time has trucking has taught me is planning can be hard when you're running a truck that can't be fixed. After a lot of fixing over the past two years, the fall finally seen the Western Star with that cursed Mercedes motor in it parked for good. Picked up a 2000 Freightliner Classic with a Cummins N14, drove it for awhile, and it is currently in the shop probably to be rebuilt. It's life, but better than a high truck payment for the next five years. Sometimes it seems running company might be more profitable, but that wouldn't fit the independent spirit would it?

Good thing freight has been pretty consistent in the past 6 months, hauling bulk like before. It is familiar, and comfortable to be there again. It will probably be the last trucking company in this trucker's career. There will be a life after trucking, only can imagine what it will be like. In the meantime, hoping to work on a lot more content this year. Here is to a good year.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Certified Not to Enter the People's Republic of California

Sometimes you have an idea, and it grows. That is what happened when Todd Dills, editor for Overdrive Magazine, wanted to know where to get some stickers. I called my cousin Klinton Barnhill, who is the proprietor at BigDaddyStickers.com and had him come up with a design close to what Todd was looking for.
So I was pleased to see this week that the sticker was featured in an article by Kevin Rutherford on his Dollars and Sense column. If I had any sense I'd probably listen to everything that man has to say. You can find the article here http://www.overdriveonline.com/the-california-challenge/

But the sticker is more than just a gimmick, or a way to make a few bucks. It is a true statement, my truck, a 2004 Western Star with a pre-emissions MBE 4000 (go ahead and laugh, it gets pretty good fuel economy) is outlawed in California. I have no immediate plans to change that, my next truck will probably be a Western Star glider with a 12.7 Detroit. These large companies maybe able to swallow the maintenance costs and fight with manufacturers on warranty issues. Downtime isn't a big concern for these guys, and it probably pays off in the long-term with tax breaks, etc. I really am not sure. But what I am for sure of, a one man, one truck operation cannot afford the increase in the total cost of operation of these new trucks. We sure can't afford the downtime associated with the repairs, even if they are covered by warranty. And I personally like running California, there are good people there, despite all the ridiculous laws.

You can purchase the sticker here http://www.ebay.com/itm/200919192515?item=200919192515&viewitem&vxp=mtr, and we are also coming up with more designs for truckers, do you have anything as a trucker you'd like to see on a sticker? Let me know!

This one is also now available at this link http://www.ebay.com/itm/Certified-Dirty-Idle-Sticker-not-Clean-Idle-Sicker-/200926029614?pt=Motors_Car_Truck_Parts_Accessories&hash=item2ec81fe72e

Know when to fold 'em.

One of the most important things I've learned out here is to know when I have a losing hand, lay it down, and move on to the next game. Sometimes, you even move back a step. The carrier I was leased on to just wasn't panning out for me personally. There is just a lot that goes into a jump these days, and if the dice doesn't fall just right you can flounder really fast!

Now I'm back in my comfort zone, dry bulk, leased to Autumn Transport out of Woodbury, MN. This is the company I'd called home for 3 years since March 2010, and am glad they've so graciously accepted me back into the ranks. There is no worry of me flying out anytime soon either. I really hate changing companies, and it just doesn't seem as long as I am driving truck that I'll ever find that dream job like my neighbor has (you know 4 days a week on the road, bring home $3000 after fuel, we all know those type of people.)

I did learn some great lessons though, and being stubborn sometimes plays against me. I just have to go do it for myself, no amount of listening to someone else is going to help quench out the thirst for knowledge. Number one lesson, I HATE BROKERS! I am so glad to have people who are doing that for me again, finding loads, dealing with the calls, dealing with complete idiots who think that running my truck for a dollar a mile sounds like a "great load"! Lesson number two, I could probably make it on my own as an owner-operator... In twenty years once the kids are out of the house, everything is paid off, and I got so many connections that I don't have to deal with... wait for it... BROKERS! Lesson numbers three finally is, and I know I'm going to catch a lot of grief for it, but the days of the independent owner-operator is becoming short. I don't know how much longer that breed is going to exist, but without being leased to power house companies that have the bargaining power to get loads onto our trucks, you really are just a minnow trying to swim with a bunch of sharks! Large carriers swallow freight up left and right, and broker it back out as they see fit, of course taking their share of the pie. I understand some companies have to broker out their own freight to make up for truck availability... But come one, there are some companies out there that gobble it all up and hand it out, because in the end, it is a quick and easy dollar!

So forfeiting any vacations this year, going to be playing make up the next few weeks to get back to earning some dough and then I'll be back to my old happy laid back self. I'm not really too stressed out now honestly, maybe a bit perturbed. Let's check out this BBQ here in Sparta, KY!


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Cutting the technology umbilical cord

Technology is vital in our world now more than ever. Funny thing is I can remember using a flip phone just shortly before the advent of the first generation iPhone back in 2007. So when my Android quit functioning a little over a week ago, I decided to experiment a little and see what it was like to live off a non-smartphone and rely on wireless hot spots. Boy was I in for a trip.

The phone I used for my one week of torture was an LG Revere, much more sophisticated than the last non-smartphone I had, but not even 1/100th of the Droid Bionic I was use to. And wireless hot spots!? I got a one month subscription to TA/Petro internet (which I must say I had the best luck out of) and one month to Love's. It took less than a week to convince myself to go out and shell out the dough for a new iPhone 4s, but why you ask?

For starters, using a flip phone that is non-Android or iOS isn't so bad, as long as you have a good internet connection in conjunction with the device. This makes navigating daily business tasks a little more feasible. Honestly, I don't know how we all operated out here 5-10 years ago, seriously, did we get anything done ever!? And the wireless hot spot technology in truck stops is so outdated it isn't funny. In fact, Pilot and Love's uses the same company for their access which I'll leave unnamed. NEVER EVER WASTE YOUR MONEY HERE!!! That is all I am going to say about that.

So today I broke down while I was at the hotel, walked 3.5 miles (remember truckers, we need to be healthy these days) to the Verizon store and bought a new iPhone 4s (so glad to be back to the iOS environment) and will never again complain about the technology I carry around with me. Until next time, drive safe.


Monday, April 22, 2013

Loading an excavator and catching a sweet rig

So after much load searching Friday morning, the boss calls me up and has a load that is picking up in Baltimore going over to Michigan, and it's got the best rate anything had offered up so far. For some reason the northeast was a big pile of steamy crap this weekend for loads. So of course, what better to deal with that kind of stuff than a CAT 315DL Excavator!

Of course I get into Baltimore about 3:30 in the afternoon on Friday, so traffic was absolutely horrid. I had thought about going up around the 695 to get to the shipper, but after listening to the CB chatter, I decided to go back down and up through the tunnel to get to my destination in time, they were going to be closing at 5. I got there with about 30 minutes to spare, which was long enough to learn the fun part about this load, I got to drive the excavator up onto the deck myself!

The mechanic told me they weren't allowed to load the equipment for insurance reasons (first place I've ever heard such nonsense) so he lined it up with my trailer and gave me a quick lesson on operation. Left, Left, Right, Right, A,B,A,B, Start, Select... pretty much that's what I got, and like an old pro I put that thing up on deck expertly. Even when I later got that scale ticket a few hours later, I was really well balanced out on my weights. Guess learning to read that suspension gauge on my tractor while pulling dry bulk really helps out here. 

I chained it down and headed on up to Milroy, PA through a torrential down pour, and tornado warnings. Typical spring weather these days, and it wouldn't have been so bad if not for all the four wheelers! Took my reset at the Tom's Truck Stop and enjoyed a few beers and a meal next door at Smitty's Sports Grill, which has some excellent food and staff. Even met some lawyer who owned 15,000 acres in Bolivia and swore up and down he wasn't wealthy (yeah right buddy, I grew up in a single wide, I'm not wealthy). 

Saturday morning when I woke up I spotted this beautiful restored Freightliner cabover. I asked the owner if I could take a look over it, and spotted that red top Cummins N-14 engine, one of the most coveted of engines among today's independents. It was a great weekend, and this has been a great load! Going to get it off deck and look for my next adventure. The great thing about trucking, it's always something new. Keep it real and safe y'all.


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

One man jam and a trucker for a wife

I had only recently heard of Fifth on the Floor back in 2011 when my girlfriend at the time (whom is my wife now) went with me down to see one of our favorite bands, Reckless Kelley, a popular Texas band visiting Buster's Billiards and Ballroom in Lexington, KY. The joint is a popular place just off downtown down by the tracks, and we were pleasantly greeted by a stone Doberman Pincer at the door. I had just delivered a load of hops to Red Hook Brewery in Woodinville, WA the time out before this hometime. I was also happy to see that the bar had some ESB on stock, and was probably the only person who'd ever asked for the stuff. We stood around in an area where there were several pool tables where 8-ball was being shot by guys and gals all dolled up for a night at the honky tonk. The walls littered by posters of concerts gone-by and new shows coming up. Black Joe Lewis, Drive-by Truckers, Sharon Jones... the bar had a great variety of what I would call "indie", but now these days we are all hipsters, as "indie" is the in thing.

After about an hour of milling around the front part of the bar, the back was opened up and everyone filed back to an empty warehouse of a space with a stage all the way up in the front of the room. We moved right on up to the front, after all, we really love Texas. So it's been a few years and I can't remember all the little details of what happened next, but I'll never forget when the biggest man I'd ever seen with long hair and a guitar stepped out on the stage and placed his fifth of whiskey on the floor. He introduced himself as Justin Wells, the lead singer of the Lexington, KY band "Fifth on the Floor" and proceeded to lay down a one man show that to this day I've not seen another like. PBR breaks in between his songs, sawing out one song after another in his rough and gravely whiskey voice, it was pure glory. Reckless Kelly was good too afterwards, but this guy completely stole their thunder.

After his opening act, I shook his hand and bought the man a beer, same as many others who were admiring the performance. I walked over to the merchandise table and proceeded to lay down my hard earned cash on the bread that often supports budding artists. There was this man's fiancee (now I think they are married too) selling me the stuff, and I'm in a half-drunken ecstasy describing the sounds that had just overtaken me. And small talking as I typically do, I told her where I was from and what I did for a living, what I've done all these years and plan to do until my hands are too numb to grasp this steering wheel. Come to find out, she had been a driver too, 18 wheels and all. It's amazing how this profession winds and weaves us all together in ways we can never imagine.

Since then I've bought every album the band has released, but life on the road has kept me from enjoying the lead singer or the band in a live performance again (I've got to change that this year). Their new album was just released in March of this year and produced by Shooter Jennings himself. Ashes & Angels has some great tunes, my personal favorite being "January in Louisiana".  You can check the band out on their website http://fifthonthefloor.com/ and maybe you'll catch them live y'all. Until next time.