April 8th, 2004

i'm ready for my close up mr demille

lessons in trucking

Location: Toledo, Ohio

So I get to Connecticut and end up sitting most of yesterday waiting to get unloaded. Finally get every thing off the trailer around 7pm and I make my way through Hartford up to Springfield, MA and hop on the Massachusetts Turnpike headed for Albany. Well, actually, Broadalbin, NY, slightly west of Albany on the cusp of the Adirondack Mountains. That's where I was loaded this morning. A nice heavy load, too - I scaled out at the shipper at just under 77,000 lbs. Their scale couldn't provide me with axle weights and I didn't feel like pulling one set of axles off at a time and backwards calculating it. There was a TA just down the road on the NY Thruway, and I figured I would hit the scales there. I was feeling pretty good about the axles anyway - the trailer tandems were sitting about halfway in the slide and just under where the load was in the trailer.

Back on the expressway, I got to thinking how I was going to have to fuel around Erie, Pa anyway... and there are no weigh stations on the Thruway... so I threw caution to the wind. Pennsylvania doesn't utilize true weigh stations, they do some random mobile weighs at the rest areas, but not very often. As luck would have it, they weren't doing any as I crossed the border. Luck being the operative word, because when I scaled at the truckstop in Erie, it looked something like this:

Steer axle: 11,040 lbs
Drive axle: 34,660 lbs.
Trailer axle: 31,420 lbs.
Total: 77,210 lbs

At least a couple of you reading this are going "Oh shit". Yeah, sure ticket. For the uninitiated, you get to learn a little something about the trucking industry today. See, there are two principle things a weigh station measures: the total GVW (gross vehicle weight) and to check the distribution of that weight along the axles. While there are some exceptions to the rule, the general rule is that a semi can weigh no more than 80,000 lbs. GVW and the distribution of that weight is 12,000 lbs for the steer axle and no more than 34,000 lbs. for the drive axle and for the trailer axle (12 + 34 + 34 = 80). My drive axle was 660 lbs overweight. If you're really sharp, you'll notice I also gained some pounds (over 77,000 lbs now), but that's because I had just fueled, plus I wasn't in the truck when weighed at the shipper. But I was still under 80,000lbs, which was cool, I just needed to slide the trailer tandems forward a bit. That was the part that surprised me the most, actually. If anything, I was expecting the trailer axles to be over

After adjusting the trailer tandems I re-weighed:

Steer axle: 11,120
Drive axle: 32,620
Trailer axle: 33,340

Perfectly legal now. I grabbed some pizza from inside and trucked it on over to Toledo to crash for the night. Tomorrow I take it the rest of the way to Janesville, Wisconsin. Hopefully, by the time I reach Chicago tomorrow morning the traffic will have subsided. As it stands, I should hit the Skyway around 11am, so hopefully I'll breeze right through.

One thing that's fun about coming across the turnpikes of NY, OH, and IN is you get to see some interesting truck and trailer combinations. I'm sure many of you have seen the UPS trucks on the highway pulling two trailers. Typically, those two trailers are relatively small; most of the ones I see are 36 foot trailers. On the turnpikes though you get to see the big twins, two 53 foot trailers being pulled by one truck and, on a rare occasion, the elusive "California triple" - THREE 53 foot trailers. I didn't see any of them today, but I did see some 53 foot twins. I can only imagine driving a vehicle that's nearly 175 feet in length.

But what's wild... I've seen photos of the truck/trailer combos they pull in Australia acorss the outback. Monstrous trucks pulling 400+ feet of trailers.
i'm ready for my close up mr demille

road trains

Location: Beloit, Wisconsin

I overslept an hour this morning and drove hard to make it to Janesville by 2pm. I got there by 10 after, Chicago, thankfully, was tolerable for once. Turns out it didn't matter, they can't get unloaded for another coupe of hours. So I dropped the trailer in their dock and came back down the highway a bit for some lunch and goof'n off on the internet.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Culver's #1. Philly ribeye sandwich + chill/cheese fries to go = coronary in a carry-out bag. Mmm!

After mentioning the Australian Outback road trains, I got to surfing around looking at pictures and reading about them.

Pretty bad ass, huh? And this is a baby, they can have up to ten trailers back there by some accounts. I particularly like the cattle clearing bumper. I've seen deer nearly obliterated hitting the front of a standard semi-truck, I imagine large quadrupeds are vaporized when tangling with one of these bad boys.

And this from http://www.holidayoz.com.au :

If you are on a bicycle and you see a road train approaching, either get off your bike and wait for the road train to pass, or make sure you are right off the road as it passes, people on bicycles have been known to be sucked into the strong wind of the trucks and killed.

Who wants to vacation in the outback with me?