Monday, May 13, 2013


I was on my way to picking up a load from a shipper in Ft Worth, TX. On the way there I got lost. This is not a big deal, it happens all the time. I usually make my way to the nearest main road, re-orientate myself and proceed to my destination.  This time was no different. While trying to get to the nearest highway I came across an 18 wheeler that was pulled over by the police. I didn’t give it much thought. I thought to myself there might have been an accident or something.  I slowed down and tried to pass. The cop walked out in front of the truck and blocked my path.  I let down my window. It looked like he had something to say to me.  After I came to a complete stop he walked over to driver side, he told me this was a no truck zone and to pull off to the side in front of the other truck he had already pulled over.
I snapped a pic of the cop in the driver side flat mirror while waiting for him to finish with the first driver.

 Later on while holding a small note pad he asked me what kind on g.p.s.  I had. Then he went on to say he was trying to get the g.p.s. company’s to change that road to a no truck zone.  Then he went on to say he had some prior success with Garmin. This must have been a fairly recent addition to the no truck zones is this area.  I thought he was going to give me a warning. I was wrong about that. Not only did he give me a ticket, he stopped a third truck for the same thing prior to finishing up with me. 
This is the truck he stopped while finishing up with me.
To make a long story short, briefly getting lost cost me and at least two other truck drivers more than $200 each.

 

There is a no truck sign there. However many shippers and receivers are in the middle of residential areas as a result of poor zoning. Then no truck signs end up getting abused and overly used. Then us truck drivers find our self’s in a position of being incapable of making a delivery or pick up without passing at least one no truck sign. No amount of trip planning is going to get around that. Nine days after getting the ticket I had to make a delivery on South Victoria Street.



 








The truck on the right is the truck I drive. The picture was taken with my shoulder blades parallel to the dock plate.

 

Once again the same street I was delivering on was a no truck zone. I’m dammed if I do, I’m dammed I don’t. No matter what I do I can’t seem to go more than a few months without getting a ticket. It’s obvious I need some kind of protection if I want to continue driving commercially. P.T.L. offers discounted legal services for a weekly fee. It is called drivers legal plan. I signed up for that legal service. Hopefully that will be enough to keep my professional driving career a float.
 
 
 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The D.O.T and P.T.L.



Brownsville,TX has a history of deadly racial turmoil . Evan now more than a century later  this still remains though out there community. Sharyn Kane and Richard Keenton wrote an interesting article about Brownvilles' history.For more on the history of Brownsville, TX go to http://www.nps.gov/history/seac/brownsville/english/index.htm .The primary focus of blog is truck driving. Every time I am in or around the Brownsville,TX area I see the local law enforcement pulling over an excessive amount of 18 wheelers. In this post I will tell you about my most recent experiences in Brownsville,TX and the activities  that accompanied these experiences.




On Friday October 05 2012 I received a ticket from TXDPS Commercial Vehicle Enforcement in Cameron  County near the  border of  Brownsville, TX. The inspection was conducted by R. Gonzalez and inspector Noyola assisted. One of the violations I was cited forwas : fuel line protection. The inspector wrote: fuel line chafing county Texas. This location is close to the  under hood left hose to hose. At a later datesurf I for got the fuel repaired at theTravel Centers of America shop in Laredo, TX. When the mechanic looked at what I was cited for he said this is stupid. Then he explained to me the fuel line was intentionally wrapped in that manner to allow movement of the vehicle on uneven aces. Then he went on to say many other trucks are arranged in the same manner and it does not interfere with the operation of thevehicle.




The way the black tie wraps in this photo is similar to the way it is on my truck.

 I lost $290 in income and the company lost two day’s in revenue getting this so called violation fixed.


On the same day I got the ticket I ran out of time on my hours of service, so I stopped at the TX welcome center in Harington, TX for a ten hour sleep brake. Harington is about 28 miles north of Brownsville, TX. .  . Then I Shortly after going into deep sleep I awoken by a thump, followed by the truck rocking. I got dressed ,got out of the truck and walked around the vehicle while still rubbing sleep out of my eyes. I didn’t see any damagee to the conclusion that a gust wind must have made the truck rock . Everything looked as if it was ok, so I went back to bed. The next morning I got up did my pre-trip inspection and started the for run that day. There is a border patrol station on US in Armstrong, TX on the north bound side of us 77,  it is a  little bit north of Haringe .

When I arrived at the border patrol inspection station a middle age male agent with salt and pepper hair instructed me to pull off to the side. When I pulled off to the side a female agent with neatly arranged black hair told me to put the truck in park, turn the it off and step outside. When I got out of the truck she and another slender short male agent instructed me to put my hand behind my back. Then they shackled me with hand cuffs, and said they needed to cheek the air duct on the truck.


 Then a muscular agent with a shiny freshly cut bald hair cut pulled out a latter and clime to the top. Then he shined a flash light on top of the tractor. Then he started saying something in Spanish. After that I saw the truck rock and the head of what appeared to be a Mexican man pop out from underneath the hollowed out air duct.


Then the lady with the black hair and the short man escorted me into the precinct while I was hand cuffed. The small man held my left elbow and the woman held the right. I told the man he was pulling me to the left and hurting my wrist. Then I said I’m not going anywhere. Once inside we came to two walls at a 45 degree angel forming the shape of a V. Both walls had a door on each. The doors had thick metal frames, and the middle portion was made of a thick bullet proof transparent material.  When inside I saw a long green counter with hand cuffs evenly spaced apart mounted in front of a seating arrangement that was parallel to a long line of desks. Between the counted and the desk was a tall vertical bullet proof transparent sheet of material. The muscular agent had already made his way inside. They pulled out a small clear zip-lock like bag. The front had paint in the shape of a rectangle on it. The illustration on the front of the bag had a white back splash, it was bordered with a bold royal blue rectangle and evenly spaced horizontal thin blue lines from top to bottom. It was kind of like what you see on a sheet of note book paper. They told me to take everything out of my pockets and put it into the bag. Then I had to face the wall, place both of my palms on it, and spread my legs while the muscular agent frisked me. Then I walked over to the counter and sat down. Then they cuffed me to the counter. Over the course of about the next three hours multiple agents asked me a small range of questions in a wide range of ways. After the questioning was over they gave me bake the small plastic bag with my belongings in it. Then the agent with the salt and pepper hair showed me a poster mounted on the wall that illustrated how illegal immigrants use hollowed air ducts to get into the U.S.   Then he went into a bit of a rant about pre-trip inspections. I was thinking to myself I could not see the guy from the ground, and I could not cheek the air duct without creating a fall hazard for myself. P.T.L. has a history of denying employees worker compassion. This particular issue is not specifically addressed in the federal motor carrier safety regulations pocket book. Furthermore prior the current truck I’m driving, I’ve never been assigned a truck with a hollow air duct before.  This ordeal ended up costing me about $ 43 dollars from the nearly three hours of driving time I lost.

 
 The next time I was required to go the Brownsville, TX area for work purposes was on Saturday January 19, 2013. I was pulled over by Officer   R. Gonzalaz on the shoulder of FM-511.

 It was less than four miles from the P.T.L. drop lot in Brownsville, TX, (My final destination for that particular run). He pulled up his black s.u.v. patrol car behind the P.T.L. truck, got out of his car , and walked up to the driver’s side door of the truck. Then he extended his hand for a hand shake. I shook his hand. Then he asked me when was the last time I had a dot inspection was.  I replied the last time I was in Brownsville. Then he asked to see the inspection report in addition to some other documents. I was thinking to myself I just had I just had an annual inspection done by P.T.L.  On Thursday January 10, 2013 I lost about $290 and the company lost two days of revenue waiting for the mechanic to get done with the P.M. If he finds something wrong, we have a serious problem. Then he told me he was going to do a dot inspection. Earlier that morning on my way to Brownsville I acsidently hit a bird with the truck.( For more information on the bird's found in Brownsville,TX visit/RGV http://www.digitalphotovisions.combirdPhotos.htm This is song bird and there is a recording of it on the following web site: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Eastern_Kingbird/id
 
I think the bird was a baby version on this one
 One of the birds’ small legs got caught in the grill of the truck. Officer Gozalaz saw the bird while conducting the inspection. He said you have a little friend on the front of the truck. When he finished he showed me the violations he found on the truck. Then he told me to close the hood and latch it bake down. That bird was still there just dangling from the grill of the open hood. I keep a ball pin hammer beside the driver’s seat for trailer maintains purposes. I open the drivers’ side door and grabbed my ball pin hammer with the bright green handle and gray rubber grip. Then I walked bake to the front of the truck where the diseased bird was located. I took a brief moment to admire the birds’ natural beauty. It was about the size of a tightly clinched human fist. The breast was bright yellow, and its wings where the shade of a dull silver. Then I took a gulp, tried not to grimes too much, and nudge the bird with the top of the hammer until its small body fell to the ground. Then I put the hammer back in the truck, closed the hood of the truck and latched it bake down, then officer Gozalaz motion for me to get in the passenger seat of his patrol car. When I arrived he had some most paper towels in the car and offered me one so I could clean my hands while he did the same. He needed to get a digital signature from me. The electronic equipment for that was connected to the car. Then he printed out the ticket and gave it to me. He confirmed there was a PTL drop yard in Brownsville and asked me if that is where I was headed. I said yes. Then he told me I could take the truck there but once I arrived in the yard I had to get someone to fix some of the violations. I got out of the car and back into the PTL truck. Then I took a minute to absorb what had just taken place.
 
 
Then I drove to the PTL yard less than four miles away. When I arrived in the yard I drop the trailer and closed out the run. I put a copy of the bill of lading in the metal clip board mounted to the front of the trailer. I do the same thing at the more than half of doze other PTL drop yard across the country. Then I sent a message to the office saying the truck was out of service. Their response to that was to debate rather the truck was or wasn’t out of service. Then I called road service.  Road service said they would get someone out there as soon as possible. After hung up the phone I got a message saying call road service. Then I got a message saying get the personnel in the yard to page the PTL maintenance
guy in Brownsville. As I am walking toward the building from the truck I see a pickup truck with the PTL logo on the side of it. The pickup was flying down highway FM802. Then the truck made a sharp left turn into the dirt parking lot I was in, and then expeditiously scurried across the yard leaving a cloud of dust and dirt behind.

With the window already down, the truck stops directly in front of me. I asked the driver if he was the mechanic. He reply’s yes. Then he verified the number of the truck I drive. He already knew about the inspection that took place earlier.Then he asked me if the inspection lead to a warning. Then he asked to see the ticket. After that he attempted to convince me the truck was not out of service. Then I showed him on the ticket where it stated the opposite. Then he got agitated and reluctantly said he would fix it. There was a signal wide cream colored flat top trailer with a green roof on the lot. A small PTL staff uses this trailer as there office.
 
 
 The mechanic asked me to request the old women inside to make a copy of the inspection report and put it on his desk.  There were two doors on the front side of the trailer. Both of the doors had a red rectangular signs with bold white letters on them. The signs are the same with  as the door ways.  There are some clusters of decorative palm trees in the front of the single wide trailer. I went through the door marked drivers .I saw a vacant desk in the corner of a room with random documents and slips of paper scattered all over. I heard the voice of an older woman with a heavy Spanish accent in the back ground.  I  followed the sound of the voice until I saw the woman. Her face was wrinkled and her face sagged a bit. She had a traditional hair style and was warring flamboyant office attire. Then she verified what truck I was working on. Then she requested the bill of lading for the load I had just dropped in the yard. I was there to get a copy of the inspection made. That particular load was a load of hazardous materials. The shipper gave me some additional documents because of the load being hazardous. I asked her if she just wanted the bills or did she need the whole package. She said just the bills. Then I went outside and removed the bill that I had placed in the clip board earlier. I had to fold them in half in order to get them to fit in the metal clip board. Earlier that day I taped each receipt onto a blank sheet of paper, pulled out all the staples, neatly stacked one sheet on top of the other, and placed a shiny paper clip on the top left corner of the stack of paperwork. We truck drivers are required to find a truck stop with trip-pack or trans-flow scanning available , so our employers have a digital copy of the paper work with all the appropriate signatures. These truck stops are often filled with tired disgruntle truck drivers. When I pre-pair paper work this way it minimizes the amount of time I am in the truck stop environment. I picked up my neat paper work in addition to the bills that where on the metal clip board. The bills in the metal had a crease down the middle and become discolored from dust flying around in the dirt parking lot. I walked back into her office. In my left hand was the paper work she requested, in my right was the paper work I had pre-paired for scanning into the office. I extended my left hand with the paper work she requested in it. She took that paperwork. Then she re-extended her hand while staring at the documents in my other hand. Then she took the remainder of the paperwork. Within a matter of seconds my neatly arranged package was scattered from one side of her desk all the way to the other side.  Then she took some information from the bills and typed it into the computer. I saw the information the company had on the load pop up on the commuter screen. During the course of the run I sent a message about the trailer number. That conversation was documented in PTL’s computer system. When the old woman saw that in the computer, she went into this rant about trailers.


 I was thinking to myself I really don’t want to have this conversation a second time.  Then she waddled her way to the fax machine. As I am waiting for her to return my paper work, she went into another rant me scanning paperwork into the office. Then she preceded to try and convince me that I didn’t need to scan anything in because of what she had just faxed into the main office. I didn’t say anything. I pressed my lips and waited for her to return my receipts and what not. Then she reluctantly returned my paperwork one sheet at a time. PTL has made it clear that drivers do not get paid unless we scan in the paperwork with all the correct signatures and receipts. Any time that does not happen in the designated amount of time, that message is reinforced with a message on the QUALCOMM .Then there was a brief awkward silence. Then she started talking about the weather in an effort to ease this situation.  I replied with a brief one word answer and quickly made my way to the nearest exit.
 
 
 
At that point I had enough. Two days later all the issues that put the truck out of service had been addressed, however the truck was still showing out of service in the PTL system. The company would not let me drive until that was changed. I called road service to tell them everything was fixed. The guy on the other end of the line lowered his voice and increased his volume. The next sentence he said started with the words: You need to... I went inside the trailer on the PTL drop lot, and asked the mechanic what he did to fix the truck. He said he would put it in the system. He was eating lunch at the time.

 
 
There has been a long series of unfortunate events on this truck; the windshield cracked, the QUALCOMM brock, I got an overweight ticket that cost me about $100 dollars, I have been having problems with the maintains department, I’ve been having problems with hazardous materials loads, I’ve been having problems with after hours fleet managers, and the list just goes on and on. It doesn’t help that I’ve been on a diet since Friday November 30, 2012 (the day after thanks giving). I’ve lost 32 pounds so far however I am still having trouble managing my mood.  I’ll write about the diet experience on my other blog http://fluffy-carter.blogspot.com/  in the near future. I put in for some home time.

Hopefully some relaxing me time will give the strength to endure this adventure. I’ve only taken two brakes from driving prior to now in the past year.




I think it’s time for a mini-vacation, so, hakuna matata until next time.