Trucking Digest

Republik Trucking, Bakersfield, has expanded quite a bit since those early days when there was just Jed and I. With three other drivers joining the company after Mille, we’d bought a second depot over in Flagstaff. That’s a handy location for east-west work along I-40 and also south to Phoenix and Tucson. It was also good in the early days of the company’s growth because I could easily take a load between our depots in a single shift, allowing me to handle any challenges we were facing personally. We bought several older trucks back then to save money but now we’re gradually modernising the fleet. Nowadays we have a lead driver at every depot we own to keep things running smoothly and dispatchers at key locations like Jed in Bakersfield. I just move around between them doing whatever jobs are given me by a dispatcher – helps me keep my finger on the pulse and I ain’t ready to swap the wheel and truckstop for a desk just yet. We now own depots in Sacremento and Medford as well, stretching our reach northwards.

Logically, I should be thinking of another depot in northern Oregon or in Washington but logic doesn’t always play in trucking. That run out to Roswell I told you about showed me an opportunity hauling Grain in that area – so we have a out-station depot down there. More recently I took a look at Utah for our next expansion – there’s a lot of freight potential up there. I decided that we should buy a depot in Price and tap into the mining and fracking industries. We then bought another depot at Elko, just half-a-shift of driving away. With more mining over there for gold and silver, we pick up a lot of machinery transfer work. I’ve been based up in Elko for a few weeks now helping our latest employees and getting to know them. We have three trucks based there now – all Kenworth W990’s sourced from the local dealer. I brought our old K100 with me from Flagstaff… and I’m currently working to the Elko dispatcher, Carmel. She’s a Shoshone and proud of her roots. There’s a little less banter than I have with Jed but she’s doing a good job marshalling the troops and keeping the trucks rolling. Although she’s based in Elko depot she also manages Price for me.

I’m using one of our flatbed trailers and Carmel sent me south to Barstow with a load of reclaimed iron pipes – that’s nearly a 10 hour drive in a car but longer in a truck with a top heavy load……so I took my time and had a break in Mazany Creek. Barstow is Jed’s territory and the day before yesterday he set me up with a light but valuable load of farming machinery back up to Salina. That was a very good run and showed what Kenny’s Cummins 444 engine can do – 9.61mpg is not to be sniffed at, even if we can’t get anywhere near that on most runs! So I was back to Carmel for another job yesterday and that was the job I was going to tell you about before I got to talking so much about the company!

When I called Carmel that morning she was happily chatting with one of our Elko drivers in the office – so she can do banter, just not with me! She’d sourced me a long distance run which was paying pretty well – fertilizer. “I hope that’s not liquid”, I quipped but she didn’t take the bait – just gave me the collection and destination details. We’re off to sunny Portland, well I hope it’s sunny – last time I was up there on a run it was misty and wet. The collection point was a large farmers supplies depot just outside of town. With the sun setting and night drawing in, I set off north towards Salt Lake to pick up I-80 westbound.

I settled into the night drive along I-80, cruising at 55 with the steady throb of the Cummins blending with some music from a country station as we crossed Bonneville Salt Flats. I got to thinking about all the speed merchants I’ve met in this job. Most of them have gone now, either slowed down under the weight of legislation or left trucking altogether. Then my musing was inturrupted as I got called in at the port of entry weigh-station. That’s usual – I think I’ve only passed through here twice without getting checked over……then it was back out on the interstate.

Having passed the inspection at Wendover, I was very surprised when they yanked my chain again at the Elko weigh-station, more so because there were several bears there and a lot of other trucks weren’t getting called in. The DOT man checked my manifest and showed it to a cop – he shook his head. “You’re good to go.” said the DOT man. My curiosity was peaked – no check of the truck for faults? So I had to ask, “What’s up?” Seems the bears had an intelligence led operation in progress. Some gang was setting up a very large cannabis farm in the Reno area – they didn’t know where. So they’d hit on the idea of checking large consignments of bagged fertilizer heading westbound along I-80. So that’s why I’d been called in. I had to laugh at that one – needle in a haystack but sometimes you get lucky! But there was another twist as I told the DOT man – “They won’t get much Cannabis and definitely no magic mushrooms with this stuff – it’s a faulty batch – been recalled by the manufacturers!”

I turned off at Winnemucca and made my rest stop at McDermitt to sleep the day away. Then, after a late afternoon breakfast, I was on my way once more..…picking up Oregon Route 20 and passing through Riley, between Burns and Bend……in the gloom of a cloudy evening. We picked I-5 at Salem and then found our way through the spaghetti of Portland’s road system to the chemicals depot where the manufacturers seemed very relieved to have got the whole batch back – it could have cost them a lot in litigation if some farmers had used it! I thought they could have shown how me how relieved – by giving me an easier parking spot though!..

This was the 50th edition of Trucking Digest – I hope you enjoyed the story! Till next time… 🙂

Trucking Digest

Today was a fairly normal day on the road for me. I’d delivered a load of drinks to Santa Fe the previous evening before driving down to the truck stop outside Albuquerque to rest up. Thought it’d be busier really but it was only half full. So, this morning I took the chance of a quick wash and brush up before breakfast in the grill. Then it was time to check in with Jed, my dispatcher. I brought Jed on board not long after I got my first rig, the Peterbilt 579. Back when I was a hire-rat it didn’t matter if the office was a mess but once I became an owner driver I quickly realised that some organisation was needed at home base. Jed’s an ex-driver – gave it up because he wanted to spend more time with his family – so he jumped at the chance to get back into the business without having to spend long nights away from home. Together, we’ve started to build the business.

I remember the look of surprise on his face when I came back to the depot in a Freightliner FLB a few months back. I saw her at a Kenworth dealership in Los Angeles and fell in love – old school cabovers have a certain appeal and she was in beautiful condition. I reasoned back then that the time was right to expand the business. We advertised for a driver the next day and spent quite a while looking over the applicants – Jed said we should go with a young lady name of Mille. I wasn’t sure but she had the best credentials of the applicants so I agreed. It was a good decision and Mille has quickly become one of the Republik family!

I rang base – “What’ya got for me today Jed?” It seems the weather in Bakersfield is bright and sunny – funny how a question about consignments and manifests starts off with a weather report – but that’s Jed all over! “Yeah – it’s a sunny morning over here too! – now quit stalling.” It turns out that jed has sourced a load of white goods – Toasters, Kettles and Microwaves – going south to an outlet in Las Cruces. “You’ve remembered I’m in Albuquerque, right?” “Yeah – collection is just across the interstate from where your at. They’re open and ready for you, said you can come ahead!” So that’s my first job of the day. “And…” Jed continues “I think the receiving company will have a follow-up consignment – I’m just negotiating that at the moment.” Now that’s good news – nothing costs a company more than dead time.

I haven’t told you but I’m out in a new truck – well I’ve had her about a week. We were ready to expand again so I popped into the local Pete dealer thinking about a second 579. I’ve been really pleased with the first one – reliable and economical. Mille certainly seems to be getting the best out of it. I told the dealer my thoughts – I like the 579 but I’d like something a little a little more traditional. He suggested the 567 – it’s a 579 but with a heritage twist. In fact they even do a Heritage model! I liked the idea and decided to get a special paint job – whilst Jed didn’t agree with spending the extra money I’m sure he’ll like her when he sees her first hand. You see, the Bakersfield dealer couldn’t source the special so he put me in touch with his fellow dealer in Flagstaff who was happy to help out. He even took a photo of her as I drove her around the block for the first time……579 inside but traditional outside – I like it!

So back to now – I picked up the load for Las Cruces and set off down I-25. Traffic was light until I reached Socorro. It was like night of the living dead driving through there and we came to a stand on a couple of occasions for no good reason other than people not knowing what lane they needed to be in. Losing momentum is frustrating for truckers and it gave me an excuse to test the air-horns – Yepp, they work! I was just crawling into Las Cruces when Jed called back – “That follow-up is confirmed – You got used packaging to take over to Roswell – I’ll fill you in while they unload you.” When I arrived at the delivery point it seemed like the only guy around was security……but I’d caught them on their coffee break and they quickly found me a bay to back into…

Jed came back with details of the used packaging consignment – it’s destination was unknown until just before he called me because the consigner was looking for the best price for handling the stuff. Now Roswell was confirmed. Used Packaging doesn’t pay very well but as a load to fill in the rest of the driver’s hours it’s a good option. My concern was whether I’d make Roswell inside my remaining hours. Jed said “You’ll be fine.” – and promptly hung up! With the cargo unloaded I had to shuffle to a different bay for the old boxes to be put on board. It always amazes me how empty boxes weigh more than full ones – close on 39000lbs to drag east.

Loaded up with a quick bite and some coffee I set off into the evening……skirting Alamogordo and up to Carrizozo before turning east once more. It’s quiet on the road late evening and you get to thinking. Names of places en-route remind me of the Westerns I saw when I was a kid – the Rio Grande that we crossed near Las Cruces. There’s the Pecos River over at Roswell – There’s no law west of Dodge and no God west of the Pecos. And we’re riding the Billy the Kid Trail – now hows that for a liturgy of westerns?

By the time I reached the outskirts of Roswell I was starting to feel tired. It’s funny how the signals seem to stay red for longer when you’re reaching the end of your drive and looking for a nice warm bed! I made it to the delivery just within my hours and the handlers unloaded the trailer pretty quickly. Then it was time to head for a motel – I needed a proper night’s sleep!..…I’ll tell Jed about the westerns in the morning and get a weather report too 😉

Farmers Blockade D941

Jam on D941 as farmers protest halts traffic in Bromont-Lamothe.

Yesterday French Farmers blockaded the D941 in several of the towns along the route in protest at falling grain and milk prices which have left many local farmers on the verge of bankruptcy.   Traffic built up on the surrounding Autoroutes and rail traffic through Létrade was also disrupted when a combine harvester was used to obstruct the crossing barriers.   Drivers passing through the area expressed their anger – German Trucker Ernst Martin stuck in a jam and sharing coffee with a group of fellow truck drivers at a roadside bar in Bromont-Lamothe said “Always there is some protest in France!  The Gendarmes do nothing!”  The protest lasted for much of the afternoon with traffic finally getting moving again as dusk fell.   The Gendarmerie were unavailable for comment.
From our Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes reporter