Money Talks

Tim Barton
Equipment Editor
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Maybe this is the wrong outfit. Maybe I let dispatch run me too hard. Could be I just haven’t learned the system yet. More likely I just need the money, and it ain’t the wrong outfit at all.

I know this, know that experience sometimes makes you smarter, but then again, sometimes it doesn’t. Can’t rely on it, have to keep your wits awake. Even if I do, sometimes it doesn’t make any difference. Especially if money is involved.

Ran hard. Gonna drop at the terminal in Watkins Glen and pick up for Pittsburgh. Getting dark early. Where is that little pit stop on 219 in the Keystone? Be a good place to grab a couple of hours in the rack. Wind’s coming off the lake. Could get real bad real fast. Woods like these I might as well be north of Yellowknife. No shoulder, trees right up to the road some places, no salt shakers, no plows, no parking. Rain’ll freeze when the sun goes down. Might snow. Maybe I should hold off. Load like this is maybe 5,000 pounds tops and this old Diamond Reo has a cranky heater and a tag axle.

Got through the gate just before the office closed, backed her in and set the brakes on the 53-footer. Maybe it’d be an idea to drop this load and hook up to the westbound. Around this place, you never know. The plan changes all the time. Dispatcher, he waves from behind the big window above the gate. Big guy with a flattop and steel-rim glasses. Looks like a drill sergeant. Not real friendly.

“Good thing you didn’t drop it. I need you to deliver it in Canandaigua and get on back up here for your Pittsburgh load and get it down there for first thing in the morning. You’re the only road driver I’ve got,” he growls. “I need you to deliver this load.”

“Have you seen my log book lately?” I regret it as soon as the words escape.

“I don’t care what your log book looks like. It never looks right anyway. I need you to deliver this load. I’ll put an extra $50 in your pay.”

“Fifty dollars won’t pull this truck out of the ditch or scrape me off the hood.”

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“It is a very dangerous world out there,” he replies. “Now do you want the $50 or not? Take the money or go find the yard man and tell him to saddle up.”

I take the $50 in cash.

This is OK. This extra $50 gets me a room in Pittsburgh and I’ll hole up for a day. One night outside this cab and this coffin and a steak that isn’t road kill. Makes the road to Canandaigua easier than usual. Fifty in the hatband feels like two cups of coffee. Need it. Last time I slept was, hell I forget.

Weather’s clear most all the way. There’s Steel City and it ain’t even sunup yet. I’ll sleep in the yard for an hour before the forklift driver bashes on the door. Warehouse here is small. Yard’s fenced and plenty of trucks. Nothing going on. No one around. No help. Gotta get out and see if that hole is clear. Better be. It’s the only one. Someone’s coming out of the dark. Hey, how ya doin?

“Back it in. But I’ll need $50 if you want to get unloaded early in the morning,” he says.

“This load ain’t on the floor, man.”

“We have to get a crew in and take it off by hand. The forklift’s down.”

Don’t sound right. But the place is fenced and well lighted. And I don’t want to sit around all day. Here, take the $50. But I want a receipt. Thanks. I’ll get the $50 back in Watkins Glen.

What was that? Forklift’s hitting my trailer. It’s 8 a.m. Coffee. Gotta wake up. When did they fix that thing? The forklift jockey tells me he doesn’t know a thing about a crew or the man who took my $50. “Ain’t nobody here at night,” he says.

I’ve been had. Nothing I can do about it either. No sense even telling dispatch. Or anyone else. Still got the receipt. Evidence of my foolishness. Call in empty, I still need that steak and a motel. What can you do? I’m experienced. I’ll find another $50 down the road somewhere.

The drill sergeant/dispatcher is on the phone. “I need you to get over to River Rouge for a load of wallboard. They stop loading at 4. Hope you didn’t spend that $50 all in one place.”
Matter of fact I did.