Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Running Fast or Slow

I have been doing this job in this career for about 15 years now and I have driven almost every make of truck. In saying this, I also say that the maintenance costs go up when you drive over 60 mph. There are statistics that back this up, but my first hand experience is what I am here to post about. I had a 1997 FLD 120 with a very bad problem. The truck had around 1 million miles on it when I decided to have the suspension springs replaced on the whole truck. OOPS!! WHOOPS!!

What a mistake I made as it turned out. The team that installed the springs was supposedly the most experienced team in the state and they managed to install the axle seats backwards on my front drive axle. This in addition to the fact that the truck had too many shims in between the carrier bearing and the bottom bracket of the truck. This caused the drive shaft to go down as it came out of the back of the transmission and up into the front differential. The angle of the drive shaft was very out of whack. I drove the truck for 300,000 miles this way and never drove faster than 60 mph.

The truck lasted two years with this faulty configuration until I had a load that needed to be expedited and so I ran 70 mph. in as many states as I could legally do so and that is when the transmission shaft failed forcing me on the side of the highway. So I successfully ran 2 years and 300,000 miles with a very poorly aligned drive shaft because I kept the rpm's low and the speed under 60 mph. I am not proud of the poor configuration that the drive line was in, but I had "experts" look at it with decades of experience and impeccable references from many people that I trusted. They turned out to be wrong in the end, but I learned a valuable lesson about how to to run a truck.

Slow down and save yourself a bundle on maintenance, fuel, and out of trouble with the law.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Eighteen Wheels to Ten




There is an old trend emerging again in trucking. Super single tires are replacements for dual tires on heavy trucks. They are supposed to lighten up the truck and/or trailer as well as being more stable on the highway and bring the fuel mileage up. I have talked with about twenty different drivers who have hauled several different types of trailers and the popular opinion has been that they don't really add that much to the fuel mileage. They also are less stable in wet weather with a tendency to lose traction all together on a very wet road.
The other downside is that if you have one tire and it picks up a nail and goes flat then you are stuck waiting for the roadside repair truck to come and get you back on the road. I would hate to be stuck on highway 50 in Nevada over a hundred miles from anywhere with possibly no cell phone service and have a flat tire that I couldn't fix or even limp up the road with just because some nitwit dropped a board with a nail in it out of his or her pick up for me to run over. A road call for a situation like this could range in the thousands. Yikes! Hardly worth all of the savings they are supposed to be offset with.
Super singles are being used on gasoline tankers and I am seeing them being used more on flatbeds and some dry vans. These types of tires are more dependable than their former models from thirty years ago and from what I have seen, many large carriers are using them more and more. I don't see too many owner operators with one or two trucks using them and I can't see how they would ever benefit from their use unless you were running the same corridor everyday and had constant access to the truck for inspections.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Running a trucking business that WORKS

Trucking is a "dog eat dog" cutthroat business and the only thing keeping the average truck owner from sinking like a rock into the abyssal plain is that most truck owners with any sort of experience will not work for a rate so cheap that their business cannot survive. In fact the industry has a cycle that ebbs and flows with world events and national situations.

When Christmas rolls around, mail order, manufacturing, and consumer goods shipping goes through the roof and truckers will find themselves running as fast and hard as they can to keep up. This is followed by January and a total wipe out of freight for a couple of months. There is still freight to be hauled, but mostly it is only the usual grocery stores or factory supply runs. In order to run a successful trucking business, you must market your business and follow up on sales calls with excellent service.

To give excellent service, you must know how to run a truck up and down the highway on time and without damaging the freight or causing an accident. You also must do so while maintaining the truck in such a way that your operating costs are kept to a minimum. To do this you must know which truck will accomodate your particular freight demands. You might need a day cab truck for local deliveries or for runs that allow the driver to stay at a hotel. A day cab is considerably less expensive than a sleeper truck and lighter than a sleeper truck. A sleeper truck will accomodate a driver or even a team operation and will be heavier and cut down on hotel expenses for overnight runs.

Since different runs dictate different styles of running, the industry has numerous facets which must be taken into account by the owner of the equipment.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Forward thinking

I have decided to take this blog in a new direction. Forward.

Today in trucking we are faced with some real decisions. Many of which are a result of the change in our world. By "Our World" I mean the whole world. I am talking about the internet. This thing that is and will be a part of everyone's life for the unforseeable future. Today you can find loads, book loads, confer with other drivers about loads and so much more. If you are reading this, chances are that you have seen most of these available services already. In case you haven't, then leave the cave because this is 2010 and we are here ........in the future.

I don't talk about politics here because I am not paid by any political party. I do have beliefs and values and those will be displayed here and they will most likely display and leanings that I may have, but since no political party pays me, I don't pitch for them. Otherwise, there has never been any politician that I believe in or follow and there most likely never will be.

The days of old for truck drivers involved adding oil, greasing the truck, changing your own tires, finding pay phones, visiting customers, hauling small loads with a small engine and being very careful going down the mountain passes. The average driver only had a map and whatever directions that the customer provided and maybe a cb with someone who would actually have helpful advice. Air conditioners that were mediocre at best and poor spring ride trucks and trailers that would beat your back to a pulp by the time you were 50. The trucks of old were poluting soot makers and would foul your lungs in a few years poisoning the driver and passenger with sulfer filled fumes. The trucks would idle endlessly over night and all day because fuel was cheaper than a buck a gallon.

Those days are gone for good. Today we have NO privacy as cameras are everywhere and cell phones relay our location to anyone who is interested. This is not cause for paranoia though as there are so many of us using these phones, our location and behavior is most likely never going to be of any interest to anyone unless we are involved in illicit behavior either voluntarily or involuntarily. GPS aids us in finding shippers and recievers. Electronic log books automatically keep out logs up to date. Greaseless tractors require less maintenance and single wide tires are only changed by people with the proper tools. Digital video recorders are cheap and plentiful so that we can record all that happens around our trucks 24 hours a day and easily broadcast it onto the internet. Air ride is on 99 percent of the tractors and air conditioning is mandatory on all tractors. Most trucks have APU's which keep the trucks from idling and sulfer has been decreased in the oil and fuel keeping the air around the engine and exhaust cleaner than ever before.

Welcome to the NEW Trucking industry! Lead, Follow, or get out of the way!