Legal in Canada

A couple of uneventful runs passed by this week, and I was wondering what to write about. Perhaps I should devote a blog to how bizarrely complex the paperwork is, considering we live in an electronic age…and I will sometime because it is all truly odd but another issue overtook the mental ramblings in the end and that is the insane hours truckers are expected to work. I don’t think of myself as lazy, but yesterday’s 16 hours seemed excessive, even if it is legal in Canada.

The rules go; you can work for a shift of 14 hours at a time, so long as only 11 of those hours are actual driving. In the US that is. Over here, 13 hours out of 14 can be behind the wheel. In effect, what with loading, unloading, vehicle checking, strapping things down and fuelling etc, it’s not easy to drive for 13 out of 14 hours, which is just as well, one needs to get out and jog round the truck from time to time just to keep the blood pressure up.… Read on...

A trip of two halves

Finding a place for the first time only happens once. So some stuff will get easier as time goes by. When dispatch called to ask if I’d go out on Friday night it was by way of asking a favour, Linamar’s drivers appear to expect to have their weekends off. I could do with the Brownie points though and it didn’t sound too bad a run, drive over to some suburb of Detroit, sleep, deliver in the morning, collect a new load at lunchtime and be home before dark. Ok then. 

Then of course I thought it over. There are no truckstops or rest areas in Detroit. I called the company and asked whether they had any areas I could sleep. “Oh yes” the lady in the office told me, “just ask the guard, he’s very good, he’ll show you where to park.” I am realising that most of the anxiety around finding new places has less to do with getting lost than it does with not knowing where you will sleep.… Read on...

Is it wrong to exploit the accent?

I’ve survived another trip, and the anxiety levels are decreasing slightly. As the list of things I’m not sure if I can do decreases and I relax a little more (for the most part of the day) everything fits into place better too. Being less exhausted before you start helps of course, and I seem to be getting a bit of my intelligence back now there’s room in my head for things other than blind panic. When the directions on my trip plan didn’t coincide with either the road signs or what Betsy wanted me to do (that voice on the gps has to have a name) what went through my head was “Ah, the directions must be from Southbound, not North and she’s trying to route me on a divided highway” which is a generally more helpful thought than “OMG OMG OMG I’m going to get lost!”

I have now approached and crossed the border at both of our usual crossing points enough times that I have lost the need to panic about diversions, paperwork and traffic.… Read on...

Sliding the bogies

Trip two of the solo enterprise and things are still a little mixed. On the upside, there would appear to be a conspiracy of silence around my small incident last week. I ‘fessed up to the dispatcher on duty at the time but he would appear to have decided to let it rest. So, on to the next thing. An easyish jaunt across Michigan to deliver some empty bins and pick up new ones filled with something autopartish. I’d been there before, the place is easy to find and has a helpful guard at the gate. What could go wrong?

The only issue was the timing, I was due to start at 4in the afternoon, pick up the bins at 5 and deliver at 8 the next morning. Now there is no way to do this legally because you have to have 10 hours off after 14 on duty, so a little massaging of the books was required.… Read on...

The Curate’s Egg

Day 2 and things are going well. Minnesota is very pretty in the daylight, not exactly hilly but undulating enough to make a change from flatness and dozens of different shades of green. My trucker-specific GPS (what a great investment that was) seems to know where we are going and I am on time.

The foundry my load of empty bins was destined for was visible from the end of the street, which made a change from all the tiny Linamar plants in Guelph, which need to be identified from a crappy little diagram to be found. It had a well marked one-way system and a place to park and go make enquiries. Deliveries were back out to the road, left and left again. Then round the block and back here to load the pickup.

I have been having a bit of a hard time retaining directions recently, a sign of an aging brain I assumed, so I repeated this out loud to hammer it in.… Read on...

Anything To Declare?

Well, I’m somewhere north of Chicago, knackered and stressed but still in one piece. I decided to take yesterday one step at a time and not get anxious about the next thing until I got to it. This served me well right through sorting out the paperwork, checking over the truck, securing and sealing the load, fuelling up and getting over the border. So far so good. With the slight exception of a greengrocery-related bollocking at customs. When Canadian ossifers ask you ‘anything to declare?’ they would like to know if you are importing any alcohol, tobacco or firearms. The US counterpart asks the same question but he wants to know whether you are packing any fruit or vegetables. I declared my apple and my peach. He demanded that they be produced for inspection.

This took a few moments ferreting about in the cooler among the odds and ends of my packed lunches.… Read on...

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.
Read on...

Border guards and golf shirts

Two weeks of hard knocks and difficult lessons. Driving for the automotive industry after a spot of experience with a general freight company is a different kettle of fish altogether. (“A DIFFERENT KETTLE OF FISH”, I must be tired, lame Airplane jokes don’t generally feature in my blogs.)

A lot of the work is ‘less than load’; rounding up several shipments from a few suppliers in one region to bring back to different local plants. There is much checking that everything is loaded in the right order, and learning to secure stuff down so that it doesn’t shift about and get damaged on the way. There is learning to move the rear wheels of the trailer to and fro, and charging and dumping the trailer’s air suspension to account for the requirements of different shippers and their loading bays. In other words, a lot more actual physical graft. Clambering about, messing with straps and ratchets, getting grazed, bruised and dirty and ending the day looking faintly reminiscent of Pigpen (only without the little halo of flies, so far) was a lifestyle I associated with flatbed work, left behind when I finished training with Terry, but it’s back with a vengeance despite still driving ‘dry vans’.… Read on...

Oof…

Did I say I was tired last week? Stupid woman that I am, there was worse to come. Admittedly though, there has been some beetling down the Interstate with the a/c on and the radio playing; there has been some wearing of the baseball cap and feeling like a real trucker, but mostly there has been Too Much Information.

More places to find, new procedures, a trainer who yells about details and then tells me that she is only being tough on me because I am good. She is pleased with my progress and thinks that I will be ready to roll solo in another week. I am glad she is pleased. In the world in my head, I should not still be getting confused when I’m stressed. I have driven across the Ambassador Bridge from Windsor, Ontario to Detroit, Michigan four times now. How come I am still lost trying to weave around the bollards which mark out temporary truck lanes during the construction work?… Read on...

Reversing and more reversing.

Oof, tired, it’s been a long week. It looks as though we will be hitting the highway and crossing the border soon, but the remainder of week involved a lot more driving round in small circles. The new cab, you see. These people know a thing or two about getting you up and running and independent. The smaller wheelbase on the daycab was perfect for learning a bit about the tight spaces for manoeuvring in at all of the local plants, but once in a highway cab they had to be learned all over again.

The space taken up at the back of a long haul tractor by the bunks and living area adds several feet to the overall length of the truck. The two pivot points of steering axle and fifth wheel are further apart, things happen differently. So, I have had three days unlearning everything I learned on Luis’ daycab and relearning how to get into each dock with the bigger truck.… Read on...