Friday, December 09, 2011

Breakdown = Extra Nap Time

Last night after we left the Midway Travel Plaza in Columbia, Missouri, we drove about two miles up the road when the trailer brakes locked up, causing smoke to rise in a continuous plume from the rear tires. Ed pulled off the interstate and into a shopping plaza to get out and assess the situation. He confirmed that the brakes actually did lock up and decided to wait for them to cool a bit before adjusting them so he could move the truck.

He knew he had to take it to a shop, so I called around to find one. The Midway, which we had just left, didn't have one. They had a place to get a tattoo, a pair of cowboy boots or fireworks, but they didn't have a shop; it's not such great truck stop anymore (TV show or no TV show) when you need a repair and you can't get know, where the trucks are. So I called the Petro in Kingdom City and found that they did have a shop and we were going to head that way, about twenty miles up the interstate.

When we picked up this trailer in Salt Lake City, the guy in the shop over there told us that although it passed the inspection, it was a piece of shit. Ed told me, when I started driving that evening, to be careful and to keep my eye on the trailer because of what the shop mechanic told him. I'm just glad I wasn't driving when the brakes locked up. I hate when my smooth, uneventful drive gets interrupted.

We got to the shop in Kingdom City and checked in around 2:30 am. I was keeping track of the time because I wanted to see how long it would take them to fix the problem. Turns out, not only did the brakes lock up, but everything down there was shot to hell. All the brake pads were cracked, the service air line valve on the trailer was full of ice, and the brake drums were too, which meant it wouldn't be long before they cracked too. I went to bed and Ed talked to the guys in the shop for a little while longer before coming in to join me. Since we're under contract to UPS for this run, we just had to wait on their decision.

Although they tried, because the trailer was sixteen years old, they couldn't find any parts to fix it. According to Ed, the trailer was equipped with Dayton wheels, which were popular in the seventies and eighties. That they were being used on a 1995 trailer, is pretty unusual.

Even removing these wheels from the hubs takes a fair amount of finesse because the mechanic could be killed in the process - they have five wedge shaped washers that are under pressure, holding the wheels against the hub. Removing them incorrectly can cause the pressurized wedge to shoot from the wheel with enough force, that they can go through a cinderblock wall! And to think, the wheels they made before these were known as "the widowmaker".

By eleven that morning, they still didn't have a decision, but after a couple of hours went by, they realized they couldn't repair the trailer at that shop, so UPS decided to have someone tow it 100 miles to Earth City, Missouri where UPS had a yard with its own service bay. So in came I-70 Towing and Recovery, who backed up under the trailer we were pulling to take it away.
It was a big, hunkin' towtruck; on the side it said "Heavy Recovery". The driver got up underneath to hook up to the kingpin.

And once he had the wrecker hooked up to the trailer, he raised the landing gear and headed east towards Earth City, Missouri, to the UPS yard where they were going to either a) unload the contents of the trailer and put them in a different trailer or b) fix the brake situation themselves - it was still undecided.

We went to lunch and then headed towards Earth City to meet up with the wrecker. By the time we got there, the wrecker had already dropped the trailer and it was in the shop. Ed checked in and was told that they decided to fix the brakes; that news came after they had a big discussion about what was wrong with the trailer and the guy in the shop told Ed that the trailer we were pulling had no business even being on the road, that it's usually used as a local run-around trailer in the train yards. Greeeaaatt. Thanks.

With the new
CSA program that the government has rolled out, the driver is responsible for the condition of the equipment, even if it's not his equipment, so double checking the work of a repair shop to make sure everything is in good condition is an even bigger deal now. Ed went back in several times to make sure he was going to FIX the problem and not just rig it so it was "good enough" to get to Atlanta.

It took them another three hours to get our trailer ready, and by this time it was dark once again and the whole day had been wasted figuring out what to do. At this point, we'd been down for more than sixteen hours and we still had to get to Atlanta, which was another 579 miles away.

We've never had anything like this happen before, especially on the UPS run. First they bobtailed us from San Francisco to Phoenix, paying us for driving with no freight, no trailer. And now we've got this situation. Thankfully, it didn't happen on the side of the road somewhere. I would have been a little annoyed being stranded on the shoulder waiting for a service truck to arrive.

It wasn't all that bad, even though it changed the rest of our trip. Instead of Atlanta, Nashville, Oklahoma City, Kansas City, Denver and Phoenix, we're leaving Atlanta and heading straight to Los Angeles, then Phoenix. That means no stops and drops and no bad weather. And, with all the down time we had today, we had a little extra time to nap, which is a treat on a run like this. If only I could store that sleep for when I need it later.


Bali Truck Festival said...

What a big truck, that would be interesting to travel with

Project Girl said...

So are you responsible for the cost of repairs? I hope not; that doesn't seem right...?

Marlaina said...

Ah, the life of a driver who pulls company trailers. The system is continues to be, even with the new CSA rules, to default to the driver. The driver did it.

This trailer was inspected! Someone signed the inspection. It's time that the 'safety' net is widened to include all players, drivers, carriers, mechanics, shippers, receivers, local governments, everyone who benefits from and/or receives money from moving freight.

A big regret in more than three-years of driving is that I did not keep track of all the trailers we dragged in for repairs before we could move the load, mostly for brakes that needed replacing. There have been plenty.

Be safe.

Gil said...

UPS is paying for the repairs to their junk equipment from what I gather. Are they paying for your down time due to their junk equipment? I hate to be the next trailer that Ed will be inspecting!!!

The Daily Rant said...

Bali: Yep - the wrecker has to be big enough to haul the big rigs!

PG: No, we're not responsible for the cost of repairs - the trailer belongs to UPS, so they'll take care of it.

Marlaina: What a pain in the ass. From what it looks like, it BARELY passed inspection. As you know, each trailer you pick up, you have to go over pretty thoroughly. But even if you check the brakes and they look good, who can tell what's going to happen down the line if the line freezes and they seize up? It's a lot better to use your own trailer in this respect. And yes, it's always the driver's fault.

Gil: Right - UPS will pay for it. The last couple of trailers we got were new, but this one was a piece of junk. And it had to cost them a pretty penny to tow it 100 miles!

The Daily Rant said...

Gil: And we requested money for the time we were down because of them. Now we just wait and see if they'll pay it.

Belledog said...

I'm amazed UPS elected to repair the brakes, and did not just find you a better trailer. (Of course, what do I know as a non-driver?)

Glad to see you made it safely to Atlanta, but that would seem to be some very odd UPS decision-making.

And what you've described sounds like a company under more stress than expected. Is it just extra traffic at the Christmas holidays?

Be safe out there.