I had forgotten how lonely the life of a Trucker can be. I have been running as part of a team for over seven years and I think I had begun to take the presence of my wife for granted.
Ellen is always there, we are rarely apart and although I hate to go shopping with her, only sometimes finding a way out of it, even that ends up having some measure of fun. I actually ask other accompanying husbands what they did to deserve having to come shopping too? The odd one or two, who don't understand, are obviously so far under the proverbial thumb that there is no hope for them anyway, so I move on but even those have wives who look up and smile knowingly. Ellen glides along the aisles looking for bargains joining in the "poor husband" rhetoric with the occasional, "Heel! Sit! Stay!" command. Even after years of marriage we still sit side by side when visiting a restaurant.
So here I find myself running on my own. I can listen to the News on the radio and have it as loud as I want. Oddly, I enjoy listening to "Trance" music but don't when Ellen is around because she absolutely hates it - right now though, "Crank it up!" But she isn't here and something about that doesn't seem right. We spend so much of our time together that being on my own, only able to reach out on the phone, leaves a hole where a hole isn't supposed to be.
This week has been a little frustrating and has left me wondering how single drivers manage. A friend who I talk to regularly has always referred to the Driver Shortage as being perceived, unreal. I didn't understand what he meant until now but he is right.
On Tuesday I spent my day with a load that had a problem and was finally refused by the customer. The refusal had nothing to do with XPO except that we had hauled it, the fault was with the shipper who had loaded it in such a way that unloading would cause damage to the freight. After much messing around I took the load back to our yard in Dallas where I had begun and started work on another load to Tennessee. The load was delivered on time without any problems. Next I headed into Kentucky to collect a load going to South Carolina and picked it up early. The problem now is that I couldn't deliver it until the following night and had to sit only a few miles from that customer for 24 hours with nothing to do; so to make up the shortfall in the amount of freight that has to be hauled in this given period we will need to hire another driver to pick up the lost 24 hours of productivity.
A Driver who is left sitting around doesn't get paid enough to meet their bills and usually calls in to their Dispatcher only to be told that actually the miles they have received is only slightly below the average. When we quote percentages we are building mediocrity into the business equation. Slowly, over time, what is acceptable as only slightly below average brings the actual average down despite the above average opposite, productivity falls and is accepted because it is after all, "only slightly below average," eventually the company fails, unable to compete with others who have realized that averages in this instance are a fallacy and have acted to correct a deteriorating situation before it becomes unmanageable.
Basically my first week was a waste of time and ended by adding insult to injury when, under a 480 mile run with 2 days to deliver it the customer decided that they couldn't take it until one day later. So now I had 480 miles over 3 days. Hardly an acceptable situation. I felt as if I had been hung out to dry and fired off an e-mail describing the week I had and asking for someone to do better.
As the saying goes, The Squeaky Wheel get the Grease. I was given a couple of loads that saved the second week of being on my own. First I had to go to Cleveland, Ohio, from my delivery in Omaha, Nebraska, and then grab another run to McAllen, Texas. At a little over 1500 miles I was happy to get it and as I write I am well on my way having run 650 miles on my first day, spending the night at the XPO Logistics Truckload terminal in West Memphis and today around 400 miles to a TA Truckstop where I am waiting my turn to get a lube job done to the equipment.
Ellen will be going into Surgery on Monday morning and hopefully I will find myself in Joplin during the upcoming week because firstly, I would like to visit Ellen and see that she is okay - I know she will be because she is surrounded by family and secondly because we are being moved out of our Freightliner into a new one. The new truck is waiting in Joplin. I wonder if someone has taken a good sized Crayola and written XPO on it somewhere.