Loads from hell. It seems like they run in groups. No problems and clear sailing, then you get “that load.” You know, the one that you don’t pull, it pulls you. That one load that you are saying to yourself all the way – I just want to get this SOB off my trailer.
Then, the “Load Gods” decide that they are just going to mess with you – they throw in equipment problems, flat tires, Trailer wiring issues, etc. To throw more chaos into the mix, the heavens erupt and you get pouring, blinding, rain. You can’t see that load behind you and know that it is safe.
Loads from hell: Let me tell you how it all started.
My buddy in La Fayette calls to ask me if I want to haul some AC units from Baton Rouge. The distributor is in a jam… the regular guy can’t make it and he has a load going to Ft. Worth. “You can practically name your own price.” “Okay? So how much do they weigh?” “About 15k.” he replies, “The other driver takes them all the time.”
“So, they fit on a 40 ft. gooseneck?” “Yeah, they should if they take them all the time.” So, I call his dude… A nice guy who asks me how much I want to do it. Well, let me see, about 4-500 miles? “How about $1,800?” Thinking I would shoot high to give me room to go down. He immediately says “Sounds good to me. Can you come Monday?” This is Thursday the week before. “Sure, let me find a load going your direction and I will stay in town if I have to.” Well, as things always turn out, my load is late loading. I have to drive through DFW traffic and nothing is going right. I get there a little late, no biggie.
So, I go and check in. Dude says “Oh, it’s just some left over from an earlier shipment.” Cool, I am thinking.
Forklift operator comes out and looks at my flatbed and shakes his head. “You’re going to get all this on that trailer?” he asks. I said “Sure, they told me the regular driver does it all the time.” “Ok.” he says and proceeds to bring load after load of giant ass AC units (15 -8 x 8, 6- 4 x 4) and a pallet of boxes.
I tell them, “No way, Jose.” The 14 units are going to take every inch of my 40 ft. trailer plus they are 5 ft. high and stacked double on my trailer. Let me add, I hate throwing straps over that high. Chains are out of the question because I have nowhere to run them through the aluminum base. I just tell them, “You’re going to have to find another driver to come and pick those up.” I arrange for that, thinking this sucks, the other driver is going to make the same as me for an easy load. Well, all part of the business. Just suck it up and do your end.
The strapping job is killing me, 100 degrees, humid and a bad right shoulder. I put my thinking cap on. One thing that usually works is to bribe or tip the forklift operator to help me. I give him $40 to get up on top with the forklift and let me throw him the straps. Boom, It still is a job strapping two per set, 14 straps but I save a couple hours of slinging and cursing.
So on top of this load from hell, it seems a lot heavier than 15k. Fuel milage is sucking, I am tired and had to do some creative driving and HOS skills to maximize my time. Then, the damn PHANTOM TRAILER BRAKE WIRING WARNING STARTS UP, WARNING YOU YOUR TRAILER BRAKES ARE DISCONNECTED, CHECK TRAILER WIRING!!! It had been occasionally doing this but it returns with a vengeance.
Nothing is more irritating and frustrating. It never seems to stay gone. Sooner or later it is going to be back, maybe sporadically, but sometimes it means trouble, time and money. New magnets and assemblies are over $500 a set now. The real problem is that you are loaded down with more weight than you can safely stop on a good day. Now, you have no trailer brakes and you have two states to go. What else could go wrong? A trooper stop and gives you a level 1 inspection? And you have no brakes? Well, I soon learned there were plenty of more things that can go wrong
I get on the road back towards DFW and hit 49 out of Lafayette. A heavy ass load from hell is bouncing on these Louisiana bumpy, terrible roads. I keep thinking, I don’t know to slow down or speed up and get out of here sooner. I really don’t have much of a choice. Keeping my eyes on my rearview, watching my loads… I start to thinking, I need to pull over and do my load check, my imagination or what? It looks like they are bouncing over to one edge and they had been exactly in the middle?
I pull over at the first Rest Area, the only rest area on I-49 northbound LA, and my heart stops! DAMN!! Them rascals have bounced all the way over to the passenger side edge and are up against the straps. They will probably shear the straps and bounce further, possibly flipping over on these roads! My heart is racing, what the hell am I going to do? I think of all my tricks and methods of moving loads, nothing applies. I tighten up the straps as much as I can which I am limited with these aluminum units.
My mind is going into Battle Mode/Guerilla Tactic mode. Do I call a wrecker? Do I try to make it to a business that has a forklift? Then my Guardian Angels give me some inspiration. While I am out tightening straps and looking around, Googling every idea I can come up with… I see a Green John deere tractor Lawn mower with a bucket on front, mid size, not the big ones.
A light goes off in my head! He is driving across the acres of grass, listening to headphones, boogying across the property. I take off chasing him, hollering – “Hey, Stop!” but he cant hear me. I run all the way around the back of the Rest Area building to a storage building. I convince him with a nice tip, to come and use his tractor and bucket to shove those stinking AC units over. He agrees, and we head back. I use a blanket to cushion the bucket, he moves each stack one by one. AWESOME, Thank you Lord!!!
I go into high gear using my pipe stakes, 2x4s, and then using a Guerilla tactic that has saved me and my loads more than a dozen times over the years. Also, crazily enough, I used them three more times on other loads from hell after this that go off the rails, but we will talk about these in an upcoming BLOG article maybe.
The other tactic and finishing touch, to insure that they do not bounce off or move… I always carry a box of Duplex nails and a couple different size hammers. Plus, I have these orange plastic chocks that have two holes for nails. I hammer in two nails per side on each unit to keep them wedged in. I nail into my deck all the time. Best way to make sure stuff is going to stay.
Back on the road, I am still not comfortable. I keep a vigilant eye but feeling much better that I now had a good chance to make it back to Texas. As long as I don’t have to stop and use my trailer brakes, I am good. What else can go wrong? It is getting dark now too.
Not fifty miles down the road, I start to see lightning and hear Thunder. I am thinking, now what? The rain Gods answer – We are not done with you. It proceeds to pour. All of a sudden it is pitch dark with blinding rain and no brakes. I can’t see in front of me, much less behind. I just want to get home safe and I will deliver this load from hell in the morning on the west side of downtown Ft Worth. Maybe my brakes will be working and the rain will be gone.
Secure every load as if your life or your family depended on it, because they do.
WRONG! Next morning, it is still pouring rain. Traffic in Dallas to FW is gridlock. I have no trailer brakes still, the warning chime – bing- bing is mocking me. I try to leave a gap in between the cars and drive slow. Every inch I give up is immediately filled with four wheelers weaving in and out in front of me. They are impatient and not driving safely, not worried about me. If only they knew the risk they were in pulling in front of me.
I get to downtown. I use two GPS and they both take me THROUGH DOWNTOWN Fort Worth, in heavy traffic and rain, through TWO traffic circles. I hate Traffic circles driving a Hotshot. It ranks right up there with Tarping. However, you get in a traffic circle and cars still try to get next to you and you have to be in the exact right lane to make your turn. I aged 10 years this day.
I creep along. I make it. I praise God and thank my lucky stars. My skills and I take it home, no loads, I had enough for one life, I need a brake.
Let me say this before all you haters do. I know I put myself out by writing about my mishaps but I am used to being criticized. We all have our own way of doing things. I try to help other by my mistakes. To examine their own ways and to know that these loads from hell are serious and our way of life.
I could have done things a little different. I took for granted that I did not need to go the extra steps of belly wrapping. Being in a hurry, thinking the load was not that heavy so four straps would be fine. It taught me a lesson I have relearned many times over – Secure every load as if your life or your family depended on it, because they do.
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