Sunday, August 3, 2008

PLAYING THE NUMBERS GAME

Back home again, briefly, after a week on the road, following my knee trouble and final week of vacation for the year. Happy to report that the knee is fine now, just a little sore from exercising it Friday, when I was forced to help unload my trailer -- something I'm NOT supposed to be doing at all. I have a doctor's note to that effect in the company computer, but someone either didn't notice, or didn't know that I'd be asked to help with it. The knee held up, and it was my weak left shoulder that was aching afterward. I reminded them about my physical restriction and took the measly twenty bucks (slave wages) that they pay for driver assist in unloading. What the hell? I did do the work and even though a lumper would laugh at that pay, I ain't no fool. It's twenty bucks more than I did have. I'll take it any way I can get it, even if it's just petty cash to the company.

OTR companies get away with paying those slave wages because non-hourly waged drivers, like most of us, are not covered under the FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act.) They can, theoretically, require us to do the work for free, but they know that drivers would then refuse to do it at all, so they toss us some pocket change for doing work that a lumper would demand $200 for doing. Sounds like they get a bargain, huh??? Some drivers don't mind that sort of thing at all; do it with a smile. Of course, those are the ones who can just barely read and write (at least as far as I've seen), so go figure!

That load was an appliance load that delivered, of all places, at a construction site!! An apartment complex was still under construction -- part occupied, part vacant -- and I drove my monster truck right in there, around all those twisty, narrow little residential streets, unloaded at two different buildings, watched the workers until I got dispatched again, then headed to South Carolina, to get my go-home load, sore shoulder and all.

The load in South Carolina came from a paper mill in Florence, a regular customer, where I've been many times over the years. Knowing that the load typically has a 24-hour window on it, and can be picked up anytime, night or day, and that God only knew when it would be ready, I decided to take my break, then go over to the mill around midnight, get loaded and head home. That way, I'd be there early Saturday morning, have all that day and all day Sunday to do my thing before I had to leave back out for the delivery in Chicagoland Monday evening. But things, as usual, didn't work out that way at all. Of course. This is a Dawg's Life, after all, and if anything ever went my way, I'd faint!!

My company again put one of its best talents on display. Not for the first time and most assuredly it won't be the last. Star is very, very good at getting pickup numbers totally screwed-up on the load information message that they send us drivers when they dispatch us. Early Saturday morning, they struck again. I backed into the dock, swept out my trailer, pulled a few nails from the wooden floorboards (this time with no knee problems), and went to the shipping office to give the clerk my number and get the loading process started. Wrong pickup number, he told me. Gotta have the right one before we can load you. Why wasn't I surprised? Perhaps because that had happened at this mill before? Yep. So, back out to the truck I went, sent a Qaulcomm message to dispatch, informing the zombies on duty there that the pickup number was garbage. Fix it. Waited fifteen minutes for somebody on 3rd shift dispatch to wake up, read my message, and reply to it. Dum-dee-dum-dum-diddle-dee-dum. Twiddle fingers. Play idly with dashboard buttons. Hum-dee-hum-hum. Beep!

"That only # we have here. Hav 2 wait til morning and see if they put rong # in." 

Okaaaaaay. Third shift does not have access to the Customer Service Department, which is closed at night, and is where all the pickup numbers, etc., for the loads originate. "That means wait till 1st shift comes on, I suppose??" I asked, just to be annoying, since I already knew the answer."Yes."  Look at clock. 1:12 A.M., CDT. First shift comes on at 0700. Almost a six-hour wait. Then fuel, grab some breakfast, and make a six-hour drive from Florence to Knoxville. Wouldn't arrive till late afternoon. Crap!!! There goes half my weekend!!! GRRRRRRRRRR!!! I went back inside, to make good and sure nobody was on, in, or around my trailer, went back out and compared notes with one of our newbie drivers, who was in the same situation I was.Suggested we leave the dock and park on the mill entrance road until morning, then left, with him following  me. We both pulled off the road, turned out our headlights, and I crawled in the bunk, for a nap.

Dawn and 7A.M. came. Rubbed my eyes, threw on my clothes, went up front and sent another message in to 1st shift, informing them about my dilemma. Waited some more, while I read a biker magazine I'd bought somewhere. The newbie went back into the mill. Well, they'd gotten him straightened out at least. I had to be next, as we were the only two there from our company. I waited, watching log and chip trucks come and go. Another OTR truck came in, promptly drove in the wrong entrance, finally came back out and went in the right way this time. Beep! AT LAST!!!! Looked at the number they sent. Same number, with an extra digit added to it this time. Growled some more about missing numbers and all-night waits, while I jammed it in gear and headed for the guardshack. Backed into the dock again and went to shipping office. Trailer was already clean, so I could skip that step in the procedure. He printed out my load sheets, verifying that the number was right, this time. Hooray!!!

I finally got home a litte after four, eastern time, yesterday afternoon, just as I'd predicted I would. Too tired to do much last night, so I ate supper and went to bed early. Gonna exercise Velvet a little this morning, do laundry, and get ready to leave back out, early tomorrow morning.

Maybe they'll get the numbers right next week and I'll get a little more time at home. I can only hope so.

10-7

2 comments:

lanurseprn said...

Wow you barely have enough time to catch your breath when your off again running! Take care of yourself.
Pam

jeanniebuggz said...

Glad you did make it home, if only for a brief stay.  Dispatcher is not responsible for the wrong numbers is he?  Somone who is screwing up the numbers needs talking to about it.  I guess they wouldn't if their weekend was shortened like that.