Are we ever going to get out of here?

Updated Mar 5, 2012

I learned today about a truck repair facility that is located near our Florida vacation house. Learned by visiting it for the first time.

Diane and I woke up this morning in our Florida vacation house where we have been since early January. I am beginning to wonder if we will ever get out of here.

We were all set to leave on March 1 but Diane woke up ill. In the interests of safety, it made sense to stay. We are team expedite drivers and never know how long or short our next run will be or if we will have to drive in shifts around the clock. If one or both of us is sick, we stop the truck to get better. There are drivers out there that would push through to get those miles and money. Diane and I are not cut from that cloth. Safety takes priority.

We were glad to be offered a load that would have picked up on Monday (notice I am talking past tense). That would give Diane time to recover while leaving us in service and dispatched on a load.

Our vacation house is in a gated community. It includes a secure boat and RV storage lot where we park our truck when here. This afternoon I took the seven minute walk from the house to the truck to do a little work on it and check it out for the trip. When I started the engine, an air leak could be heard and I went on the hunt. The sound surprised me. We had driven the truck not long ago and everything was fine. It has been parked since then. Why would it be leaking now, and from where?

It did not take long to find the leak. Bad news. Air was hissing through a hairline crack in one of the truck’s four air tanks. This was not something that might be fixed by tightening a fitting or replacing a hose. The tank will have to be welded or replaced.

I knew about this local truck shop from seeing it as we drive by. I called to see if they could look a the truck this Friday afternoon. Yes, they said, and I drove there. If we could get the truck quickly repaired, we could stay on the load.

I hated to do it because Diane is still down with a head cold but I put her to work at the house while I drove to the shop. She got online to identify Volvo dealers in the area and get their phone numbers in case they were needed. We might have to move fast to get parts on a Friday afternoon. While she did that, the shop owner and I took a closer look at the tank. Welding might be possible but the tank would have to be removed to do it. This would not be a quick fix.

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My next call was to the agent who had put us on Monday’s load. It bothered me some that the truck needed repair. It bothered me much more that we could no longer guarantee that we would make Monday’s pick up. Yes, the truck might be fixed in time but you never know for sure until the job is done. It often happens that when repair work begins, it takes longer than anticipated to complete or something else is found that requires more work. The responsible thing to do was to call the agent and let her know that our Monday availability had changed from a certainty to a maybe.

My attention then shifted back to the truck. A weld might work for a while but the air tank was clearly defective. If we welded that crack, how long would it be before another developed? Diane and I don’t take shortcuts when it comes to truck maintenance and repair. Replacing the tank was the best thing to do. The shop owner called the Orlando Volvo dealer and the needed parts were in stock.

I then called Diane and told her to quick borrow a car and leave immediately to pick them up (driving a car 70 miles is different than driving a truck overnight). The parts counter would close at 5:30. She could make it in time if she left right away. Off she went.

The shop is open on Saturday (tomorrow) and an appointment was set. I called the agent back to let her know that we could probably cover the load after all but I could not promise it. Until the repair is complete, “probably” was the best I could say. I was relieved to learn that she had already found another truck to cover the load.

The absolute last thing you want to do as a Landstar BCO is leave an agent in a bind. Diane and I did not get to haul this load, but by communicating well we gave the agent time to react to our unexpected truck defect and keep the customer happy.

I drove the truck back to the boat yard and did the work I intended to do before the leak was discovered (change a fog lamp, generator oil change). Because of rush hour, it took Diane over two hours to complete the 70 mile return trip. She earned her pay today.

I got back to the house before Diane. When the parts telephone call was made, I did not ask about the price. We needed it. Volvo had it. End of story. When Diane got home and showed me the receipt, I was shocked; $530!

That got me wondering if welding might have been the better option, and if the dealer gouged us on the price, and if the tank could be purchased cheaper elsewhere.

A call to other Volvo dealers settled the price-gouging question. That did not happen. Orlando charged the same price other dealers do (give or take a few bucks). As for the rest, time is money. Saving maybe a couple hundred bucks by finding the part someplace else or running one down at a junk yard might be possible, but at what cost? Better, faster, easier and safer, I figured, to put a new tank on and be done with it.

Hopefully, we will be done with it tomorrow. Hopefully, the repair will go well and we can go back in service soon.

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