Long Haul Truck Driver, and recounts his experience.
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A BIG RIG STORY
By Craig W.O. Henry
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2009 Craig W.O. Henry
All right reserved.
Chapter One"Ok class! Listen up! Sit up straight close your eyes and use your imagination ... Walton you may begin ..."
"My Dad, Charley Edison, is a long haul truck driver. He delivers freight all over America. Dad is gone a lot from home, sometimes weeks at a time. He drives a huge tractor he calls the 'Running Hamster.' It never stops running, like a hamster on a wheel."
One day, early in the morning, Dad and I had a special delivery road trip. A few miles from home, we heard a strange, knocking sound coming from under the hood of Running Hamster. Dad pulled over to the side of the road.
"Ah, this is the problem, the oil pressure gauge is below the normal range ..." he said.
Dad had to call a tractor tow truck service to take Running Hamster to the mechanic. We rode in a huge tow truck together with the driver.
Luckily, because it was early in the morning, Running Hamster was the first tractor serviced by the mechanic. Pretty soon, we were on our way to pick up our load assignment. Dad got his assignment from his dispatcher on his computer satellite system.
As we drove along, Dad said we were "bobtailing." "What's that?" I asked. Dad said it was when the trailer was not connected to the tractor ... I was so excited to ride with my Dad.
My father is a really good driver. He has been driving a tractor-trailer for a long time, even before I was born. When I ride with Dad, he always tells jokes. I know he loves his job. He had other jobs before but he likes this one because he felt free. No boss was hovering nearby. I miss my Dad when he is on the road.
We drove over a rusty old bridge. Another bobtail tractor was directly in front of us. Dad said that sometimes other bobtailing tractors heading in the direction as we were, were probably going to the same freight pick up location. There are many trucking companies and they compete with each other for business. Dad said it is important that he pick up load assignments and deliver them on time or he could lose business.
Finally, Dad and I arrived at the freight pick up location. Dad was handed the paper work, called Bills of Lading, for the freight and shown the trailer which was on site ... Dad slowly backed his tractor onto the trailer.
Dad checked all the connections on the trailer carefully. He used a flashlight to see if the trailer was securely coupled to the tractor. Did the lockjaw bar of the fifth wheel secure the kingpin? Yes, yes, it was ... and the release handle was all the way in.
The electrical and air hose lines were then connected to the trailer.
Next, he raised the landing gear legs of the trailer and secured the handle. No more 'bobtail ...' We were a full tractor-trailer now.
After looking over his map route to the delivery destination, Dad sent his pick up information over the satellite system to dispatch. He updated his log book and soon we were on to the shipper's security gate check. The guard checked the paper work and the trailer seal on the door ... Dad was cleared to leave. We were ready to roll.
En route to our destination, as Dad was telling one of his many jokes, another tractor-trailer came roaring by. It startled us. Dad picked up his CB radio to chastise the other driver: "Buddy, I guess gas is cheaper for you than for the rest of us!" With a sarcastic tone the other driver replied, "Time is money pal!" Dad looked at me and said, "Son he's right but money does you no good when you get hurt going too fast." We kept on trucking.
An hour into our trip Dad and I came upon heavy traffic. Curious, Dad got on his CB radio to get more information. It turns out a tractor-trailer was on fire in the oncoming lane further ahead. The lanes in both directions were congested. "Rubberneckers ..." Dad said. These were drivers who slowed down to gawk. As we came closer to the scene of the accident, we heard a loud BOOM! Thick black smoke filled the sky. The driver looked ok. Firefighters were already on the scene fighting the blaze. Dad and I drove by astonished.
The fiery tractor-trailer scared me just a little. I kept asking Dad what he thought happened ... "Sometimes bad things happen ... I am not sure myself son ..." he said. He kept going, driving and driving. It seemed like forever. I was getting tired. Dad was telling more jokes but I did not hear them to tell you the truth. I nodded off ... I found myself on a throne with a crown made of gold on my head. I turned to the right and could not believe what I saw! My toy cars were zipping by me on the freeway! Wow, I thought!
"Walton. Walton. Are you hungry? I don't know about you but I am. Let's go get something to eat." Dad said.
The needle on the fuel gauge had reached the halfway mark. Dad usually fills up Running Hamster at this point. At the next exit, we got off the highway to enter a huge truck stop. While Dad re-fueled the tractor, I tried to clean the windshield but I did not do a good job. I was too small. Dad cleaned the windshields and re-checked the entire vehicle for any unusual wear and tear.
Dad had planned for us to get some food and take a little break while at the truck stop. I got to play some video games before leaving.
As we left I saw a group of soldiers, about to be deployed overseas, come through the doors. Dad wished one of them a safe journey and a safe return. I gave one of them a high five. We were on the road again.
The sun quickly fell from the sky while Dad drove and the moon slowly made its appearance. It was getting late and dark. When driving for as long as Dad had been, the government requires each driver to take a ten hour rest. Dad usually takes his at one of the truck stops or highway rest areas nearby.
At the truck stop dad had planned to stop at, he saw that it was full. We kept going until we came upon a highway rest area. We were lucky! There was one last slot left! Whew! Dad eased Running Hamster in. We were shut down for the night.
Running Hamster's cab is huge! It had a bunk bed inside along with a television set and DVD player. Dad normally sleeps on the bottom bed, but for safety, Dad slept on the top and I on the bottom. If I were on top, I could fall and hurt myself. Dad and I talked for a little while mostly about nothing, but it was nice to talk to my Dad about nothing. It was still fun ... We then watched a DVD we picked up at the truck stop and had some hot chocolate which Dad had heated up on his portable oven. We then fell asleep.
The sun came up the next morning, its rays gleaming as we woke up. Again, Dad ran his preliminary checks on Running Hamster. We both cleaned up inside the rest area. Dad filled out his log book, and before you know it, we were off again.
As we drove down the highway, the clouds became thicker and darker. It began to pour heavily. We came upon congested traffic. We could see a long mountain bridge far off in the distance. On the CB radio, Dad heard that another tractor-trailer had jackknifed. As we approached the scene, Dad realized it was the same trucker that had sped past us the previous day. "With roads this slick, it's better to be late with freight than to not get there at all." He said. As we passed, we saw that the driver was speaking to a stern state trooper who was taking notes.
The accident put Dad behind schedule but only slightly. However, it did not help matters much that we were nearing rush hour traffic. "Besides black ice in the winter, unknown low bridges and overweight loads at the weigh station, nothing makes me more upset than rush hour traffic, Walton!" Dad said, in his booming voice. There was no choice but to inch our way on the highway. "We were about 25 minutes from our destination," he continued. I went back to the bunk bed and turned on the TV to watch my favorite cartoon while Dad battled traffic.
Once we passed the ramp that merged onto the highway, traffic flowed freely once again. A few passers by gestured to Dad for him to pull the tractor horn but he declined.
Dad typically does not like to blow the tractor horn. It frightens other drivers on the road around him. However, he does it sometimes when the kids in other vehicles gesture for him to do so. He gets a kick out of them going bonkers in the back seat.
We finally made it to our destination sometime in the evening. Dad checked with the Receiving Department and got a dock location to park the tractor-trailer. He slowly backed up and eased the trailer into the dock, bracing the wheels with a chock block, a tool that prevents the wheel from rolling when the forklift goes into the trailer to unload the pallets.
The forklift operator unloaded the trailer in just under an hour. He signed the bill of lading and gave it to Dad. "All the items on the pallets are accounted for. You and your son have a safe trip." Dad and I swept the debris out of the trailer. The dispatcher then thanked Dad for completing this special delivery of medical supplies on his satellite communication.
Pretty soon, we were on our way to pick up another load that would take us in the direction of home. Dad would start his vacation then.
"Excellent story Walton." Said Mrs. Heckler. "Fantastic job ..."
"Now somebody volunteer before I pick someone ... Steve! Lori!"
Excerpted from A BIG RIG STORY by Craig W.O. Henry Copyright © 2009 by Craig W.O. Henry. Excerpted by permission.
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