Sunday, July 22, 2007

TCC: The Tenth Crumb, Part I

Needless to say: it would have to be with another company if I was to get behind the wheel of a big rig again. For about 2 weeks after my bail was posted: the legal department of my previous employer deemed it safe to make my termination "official".

No, I would not have gotten back into one of their trucks after the way that they had treated me; but it still stung to be informed that my services were no longer needed. For I have always had a problem with rejection.

Much unto my surprise: I found-out that I had a powerful ally a couple of days later. For I was contacted by (of all people) the insurance company responsible for any claim over a million dollars against my previous employer for the purpose of securing my cooperation.

Yes, I was most willing to cooperate with them in any way I could. For the trucking company had dumped the mess upon their doorstep; and then they just washed their hands of it.

No, I did not ask the insurance representative if the trucking company told them what they told me: "nothing personal, just business". For I assumed that this was understood at the level that they were playing at.

Nonetheless: I did notice that the insurance company appeared to be taking it quite personally. For they were not at all happy about being placed in such a position; and I got the definite impression that their hiring of an attorney for me was not just because of it being in their best interest to do so.

When contacted by the attorney: I was informed of the truth of the matter being that the only reason why I was being charged was because of politics. For there was plenty of evidence indicating that I was not at fault; but since the man who died was a local hero of sorts: it would not bode well for the county prosecutor (in the next election) to just drop the charges.

He also informed me that there was no reason why I could not go back to driving if I wanted to. For I was "presumed innocent until proven guilty": after all.

A couple of weeks later: I got to experience "when one doors closes, another one opens" first-hand. For when I went to fill-out an application at another trucking company in the general area of my previous employer: they acted like I was just what they were looking for.

So were they unto me at the time. For they hauled similar freight; but that was only thing that they had in common with the other company.

No, the new company was nothing like the old one; but I cannot say that it was all that much of an improvement. For the company was headquartered out of northwestern Arkansas; but most of their freight picked-up and delivered within a 500 mile radius of Carlisle, PA (around 100 miles west of Philadelphia).

Yes, that would have been a good thing for someone from that area; but for someone like myself: it was not. For I was a stranger in a strange land up there; and I was not being very successful at making any new friends.

Thankfully: there were some loads that allowed for a furlough from my post at Carlisle; and it was on one of those passes that I was able to make my final court appearance about a year after it all started, which resolved the matter as well as could be hoped for. For 5 out of the 6 parties involved came out of the mess relatively satisfied (all things considered).

No, my new company was not very happy with me. For I had to take a little detour in order to make it unto the court in time; and that turned into pure, unadulterated outrage when I informed them of my intent to go to work for another company a couple of weeks later.

Hmm, what was that verse? Oh yeah: "He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone [at her]." {John 8:7 NAS}

How was that relevant? Well, it had to do with the hypocrisy of that trucking company being outraged over my impending move. For less than a month after I left their employ: the business closed without notice, which stranded all of the drivers of trucks without enough fuel to make it back unto Arkansas far from home (in many cases).

No, I did not see it coming. For the reason why I went to work for someone else was so I could be with my new wife for at least 3 days every week.

Yes, I have failed to mention something that may be pertinent; and I do believe that some will find the details interesting. For when I first heard about her: it was around midnight, and I was headed north on I-81 near Staunton, VA (around 120 miles west of Richmond).

Perhaps it was because of it being so near unto the "Witching Hour". For I rarely stopped to get some coffee with someone when I had a good head of steam built-up; but after Ginger made me an offer that I thought I should not refuse: I found myself sitting at the table with Miss Ginger, her co-driver, and a driver of another truck (who was eavesdropping on our conversation over the radio) in the coffee shop of a rather nice motel that had adequate truck parking.

No, Miss Ginger was not after me. For she had an idea that her sister would like to meet me; and after talking unto "Sherry" a few times over the phone: I wanted to get a load going through Columbia, MO as soon as possible.

Yes, it was almost like coming full circle. For it was while a student at Mizzou (in Columbia, MO) that the wheels came off of my express train unto the top; but it remained to been seen whether the circle would be actually completed or not.

The year was 1989; but I do not remember just exactly when the mission was accomplished. What I do remember is that more was accomplished than expected (or even hoped for). For instead of merely getting to meet Sherry: she invited me to also meet her daughter, father and mother; and by September of that year: I was "officially" welcomed into her family.

The wedding was something to behold. For Sherry wanted to get married outside in one of Columbia's beautiful parks; and it all went-off without a hitch.

Then came the honeymoon; and it was a disaster for the most part. For against her better judgment: Sherry agreed to go out on a run with me.

No, she did not appreciate the sights that she was being shown as much as I thought she should; and then I got way too drunk at "The Gables", which was not all my fault. For the owners and patrons of the bar in Southington, OH (around 20 miles northwest of Youngstown), which had adopted me during a blizzard a couple of years before, were very glad to see us; and it would have been quite rude (of me) to refuse to drink everything that they were buying for "us".

Yes, it got rather ugly after the lights went out that night; and as if that was not enough icing on the cake: we had to drive almost completely across Pennsylvania on I-80 the next day. For I-80 was the last road that someone with a hangover would want to traverse at that time.

Put it this way: I have actually seen a trailer break in two on that road. For the holes were just too numerous to dodge them all; and forget about slowing down. For it was better to go as fast as possible in order to avoid falling all the way unto the bottom of the holes that could not be missed.

Anyway: there were a couple of bright spots. For my first drop was in the Boston, MA area; and that allowed us to take a tour of the U.S.S. Constitution (U.S. Navy warship commissioned in 1797), and eat a fabulous lobster dinner on a restaurant docked in Boston Harbour, after the days work was done.

What was gained in Boston was lost the next day. For my final drop was in Clinton, NJ (in the middle of the metropolis across the Hudson River from New York City); and Sherry did not leave the sleeper until after we were safely out of the urban jungle that is that part of the "Garden State".

No, it was not that bad unto me. For Clinton was where I always emptied-out on that run; and I had gotten used to the area.

In fact: I got to where I rather enjoyed going there. For the workers on the dock treated me like one of their family; and that is more than I can say about most of the places I have been.

Yes, the company that I was driving for at the time was not like the others. For they specialized in LTL (Less Than a Truckload) freight from the St. Louis, MO area; and they ran only 2 trucks: one unto the east, and one unto the west.

The western truck ran as a team: with the owner of the outfit being one of the drivers. For it went too far for one "normal" driver to complete a run on time.

Whereas: I was the only driver of the eastern truck; and I would regularly finish my run in around 60 hours (depending upon how many drops and pick-ups were scheduled). For I would leave St. Louis Sunday morning (or so), and drive straight through unto either Fulton, NY (around 25 miles northwest of Syracuse) or Clinton (usually); and be back in St. Louis by Tuesday evening.

No, that could not be done legally. For according unto the "Hours Of Service" regulations at the time: a driver must take a break for (at least) 8 hours after being on-duty for (at most) 10 hours; and they could not exceed a total of 60 hours on-duty in 7 days, or 70 hours in 8 days.

By definition: being "on-duty" included a host of things. For aside from driving (obviously): handling freight, making repairs or improvements on the truck or trailer, performing safety checks, fueling, and anything else that could be construed as being truck-related work must also be accounted for.

Therefore: it would legally take around 78 hours to complete a run unto only Clinton and back; and even at that: not everything would be logged as it really should be. For it usually took more that 15 minutes for fueling; but that was all that would be logged for each fuel stop.

Yes, that was generally acceptable when it came time for a DOT audit of a company's records; and that was also true of other on-duty entries. For what they really focused upon was going over 10 hours, speeding (logging more than 50 MPH in states with a 55 MPH speed limit, 60 MPH in 65 MPH states, etc., etc.), and failing to log a full 8 hours "off-duty" (on break) after 10 hours on-duty.

It was sometimes different out there on the road, however. For some states required at least 4 hours logged in the sleeper during an 8 hour off-duty period; and an awful lot of inspectors took their job and themselves way too seriously (if you know what I mean).

There were some exceptions unto the rule around; and I had the pleasure of meeting one of them on U.S. Highway 51 a few miles north of Covington, TN (around 40 miles northeast of Memphis). For after he pulled me over for a spot inspection: he asked if he could sit in the jump-seat for a little while; and then he proceeded to entertain me with story after story about some of the things that he had experienced on his side of the road.

One of those stories was an absolute classic. For after checking the log book of a wild-eyed young man: he asked him if he could take a look under the hood of his truck; and when the driver asked him why he would want to do that: my favorite Tennessee DOT inspector told him that he wanted to see how his jet-turbine engine was mounted. Obviously shaken: the driver then told him that he did not have a jet engine of any kind under the hood of his truck; and in reply: the inspector told him that he must have one, maybe even two. For that would be the only way that he could have driven from Salinas, CA unto Memphis, TN (around 2,038 miles) in only 10 hours.

Yes, I thoroughly enjoyed hearing the inspector's stories; and I sure hated to see him go after only an hour. For I could have listened unto him go on for a lot longer than that; but he said that the great state of Tennessee needed him to generate as much revenue as he could for them.

Talk about generating revenue: thinking about such most definitely soured my relationship with the LTL freight company that I was working for at the time. For after I figured-up what I would be making for all of the stuff that I was doing if I was getting union wages (around $1800 per run): I concluded that my $400 a week salary was a little on the low side.

Suffice to say: the owner of the outfit vehemently disagreed; and that precipitated a move unto another St. Louis-based trucking company. For they offered almost unlimited miles and much faster trucks (90-95 MPH); and I believed that I was ready to join the ranks of the true heroes of the highways: the "chicken-haulers".

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