Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Bit of a milestone...

I was scheduled for a road test on Monday. I wasn’t terribly confident that I’d meet the ‘experienced driver’ benchmark required for freedom from trainers, mainly due to last week having had a depressing sense of one-step-forward-and-two-steps-back about it. In my defence, this was mainly due to a couple of dirty tricks that Dispatch chose to play on us by way of annoying trips. Not that I minded much, I find that smiling and doing as I am told helps with the stress levels, unless the other person in our confined space is fuming long and loud. 

Cincinnati was the crunch. They asked on Thursday if we would like to go Ohio as a change from Michigan. The run sounded ideal, heading south with enough time to get close to the customer before dark, take a legal 10 hours off, deliver at 10 in the morning. Plenty of time and daylight for a return load that should get us home by early afternoon on Friday.

Dispatch knew about the return load that couldn’t be picked up until 7 o’clock on Friday evening, they just didn’t tell us until we were over the border. Now this is a bit naughty, but then, if they’d said we’d not get home until 5 on Saturday morning we wouldn’t have said yes, would we? And I understand that everyone else is wise to this stunt now. Things were not improved much by the unwelcome discovery that Cincinnati has no truckstops. None. Somewhere to while away a day, mayhap a shower, a meal, some gentle shopping, might not have been so bad. As it was, we were stuck having to camp out in the shipper’s drive in the heat and humidity and badtemperedness of a day gone horribly wrong.

Suffice to say that if I never see Cincinnati again it will be too soon, and I was mightily surprised to pass Monday’s road test. I have been issued with a whole heap of plastic cards, for tollbooths, bridge crossings, diesel purchases and phone calls. I have been issued with another heap of paperwork and another heap of, well, stuff. Bolt cutters, logistics straps, trailer seals…but mainly I have been handed the keys to my very own truck. It’s a bit elderly, rookies get the crappiest stuff in case they bend it, but it is mine and it will be retired in a month or two anyway and I will be able to trade up a little.

I moved in today. It may be a bit noisy and bouncy and cramped, but it has one brilliantly endearing feature; nobody else occupies it too. The move in took hours. That is partly my fault for deciding to try and be a bit organised about where everything goes. It’s an old ambulance habit, I like to know exactly how to put my hands on every item before I head off anywhere, and the occupying of other people’s vehicles has driven me nuts with living out of bags and boxes. So, I am sort of settled in. Clothes here, food there, tools in handy places, torches, books, maps, chargers all neatly assembled. It will all change around of course, as I discover just how impractical the initial system is bound to be, but there is a system.

There were mutterings about sending me out on a run today as soon as I’d stowed my stuff but I decided to take my time, get some sleep and start tomorrow with a fresh mind. The elderly truck played into my hands (I am fond of it already) by requiring some servicing. I’m not sure who had it before me but it would appear that they hadn’t checked their brake adjustments or emptied their air tanks for an extremely long time, necessitating a bit of tinkering to make it safe and legal. A couple of round trips to the mechanic’s shop for this and that took up the afternoon nicely, and offered the additional bonus of a chance to ‘bobtail’ it around for a while, getting used to the gearbox before I have to haul anything with it. What with one thing and another I have been working in the heat and humidity all day and am feeling remarkably unstressed, untired and unfreaked out. Maybe not being shouted at does that.

My first solo run will be tomorrow, Wisconsin and back, a two day trip. Am I terrified? Um, yes


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