Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Company And The Truck

I drive for what would be called a small family business, but it’s not as small as I suspected. There’s a row of 12 or so trucks under the shed that faces the highway, plus a few “spares” in the front edge of the lot, so I suspected they’d have about a dozen to 15 drivers. It turns out that I’m number 23, plus the owners still deliver as well, though it’s mostly for special orders, fill-ins or to finish up an order, so they can move on to the next one. They deliver over a much wider area than I realized, and once rolling, a truck rarely stops until the day is over. They actually have two businesses on the property, since the stone yard and the trucking business are run separately. Those who’ve been in business for themselves probably understand why. For those who don’t get the idea, let’s just say that it makes figuring taxes and some paperwork easier, though there would probably be other reasons as well, in a family business with multiple owners.

The two owners are brothers who grew up in the business started by their father. The elder appears to serve as manager, though I suspect all major decisions are mutual. Some days they appear to spend most of their time on management, while other days, they’re driving the same as the men. Most days seem a blend of both. As I mentioned in another post, it makes it easier when the boss actually knows what’s going on and how things work, instead of sitting in some office, on the phone, studying charts and sipping latté. If you describe a matter on the site, or about the truck, the boss knows exactly what you mean. I was amused to hear the eldest brother tell of his father’s first “tag axle.” He pulled one of his trucks into a friend’s garage, raised the extra axle (used rear end with the “guts” taken out of the “punkin ball”) one inch off the floor and welded it solid. When the springs settled the least bit, the tag axle began helping to bear the load. Technology and regulations were a little simpler in 1956, obviously.

I drive a 2006 Mack with an automatic transmission and a Mercedes engine. The “gearshift” is comprised of push-buttons on the dash, reminding me of the old push-button shift ’56 Dodge station wagon, with the two tone blue paint scheme and the white roof, that my folks had years ago. The Mack is burgundy and a WHOLE lot bigger, of course. Despite being an “automatic,” I’ve learned that if I don’t push the up and down buttons a little, I spend entirely too much time standing on the brakes. The engine brake doesn’t help much if you’re in too high of a gear. I wish I’d known how to lock the transmission in first gear the day that I came off that big hill at the well-site in Doddridge County! I soon learned how, and now the engine brake will bear most of the braking load on high or long hills. I need to google that transmission and see if there’s anything else that I should know. At one point, I was down to 80 pounds pressure that day and getting a little edgy. Going up into a couple of those places, I’ve kicked in the back axle and locked the differentials, in order not to spin out on the steep gravel roads. That’s the equivalent of four-wheel drive and positive traction at the same time. Semi drivers will know what I’m talking about.

Like most modern dump-trucks, the tag axle is in front of the drive axle. You only drop it when you’re loaded and on pavement. Off road or on the lot, it can make turning more difficult. It does distribute the weight over a larger area, and it may help keep you legal on the scales when you’re nearly at maximum load, too. The boss pays us by the hour, and overtime over 40 hours, so we have no need to try to squeeze by a heavy load, or drive like an idiot to get in that extra load for tonnage. We usually haul about 22 tons or a little over.

I have no real beefs with the truck, except that the dash lay-out looks pretty poor to me. The wheel blocks my view of most of the gauges. One thing is for sure, taking that thing down the road sure beats telemarketing! © 2014


Sunnybrook Farm said...

I had a boss that would constantly come and ask me what I was doing. I always thought that he should be able to tell what I was doing by looking at me. Sometimes I would say that I was working and now I am talking, that wasn't the right answer.
Sounds like trucks have changed, I figured they at least still had a clutch and a gear shift. Sounds like a hand full.

M.E. Masterson said...

10-4 good buddy.... as they used to tell me "stand on it girl wes got to roll"
Sounds like a pretty good company to work for...
Sounds like a nice truck too

Stay safe... see ya on the flipside!

Gorges Smythe said...

MOST trucks DO still have clutches, SF, I'm not sure but what I'd prefer one myself.

Thanks, ME, I literally believe that I'm blessed.

Ralph Goff said...

Sounds like it beats working behind a desk so far Gorges. There are a lot of auto shift tandems and semis here in the last few years. Makes it easier for the wife to drive the grain truck during harvest time. Compared to some of those older auxiliary transmissions with two shifters I think the auto shift is easier to learn than the old style.

Gorges Smythe said...

I hadn't thought about the farm scene, Ralph, but that makes sense.