My alarm goes off at 1:30 in the morning. It feels as if I just went to bed. My tired body begs for just five more minutes, but my wife Emily is already getting up and heading down stairs. I roll over and grab my phone, I gotta turn off that damn alarm.
My clothes for the day are waiting for me. I picked them out the night before, and laid them on the floor next to my side of the bed. I sit up, turn off the fan, and stretch. I quickly get dressed, and walk over to the sink. Splashing some water into my face, I run my hands through my hair and try to flatten it down into something more tidy. Ten minutes has already passed.
I make my way down stairs and enter the kitchen. I see my wife there, getting my lunch box and coffee ready. She is also making me a quick bacon and egg burrito, because she knows I’ll get hungry again before lunch. I sometimes have a problem where if I don’t eat within a certain amount of time, my body will start to shake. The burrito helps. I quickly pour myself a bowl of cereal, whatever bagged sugary knock off cereal we can afford. Instead of Captain Crunch, its Colossal Crunch. By the time I am finished, it’s 1:50 in the morning. Time is ticking…
My wonderful wife walks into the living room as I am putting my shoes on. She is carrying my lunch box and two giant cups of coffee. I need it. We gather up everything that I need for the day, and say a quick prayer in front of our home altar, then we open the door and head for the truck.
The white kenworth T-880 is attached to a blue Pratt chassis. There’s usually a red or yellow twenty foot shipping container sitting atop the chassis. Today it’s green. I open the driver side door, put my lunch box on the floor and climb on up. Emily hands me the two coffee cups and I lean down to give her one last quick kiss before I head out for the day.
As soon as I turn the key, the big diesel engine fires up. It’s just before 2 am, and the rumbling of my truck breaks the quiet of my sleepy little street. I clock in for work on my phone, opening the trucking app we use for logging our hours. It takes a few minutes for the software to connect and sync with the truck. I punch in all the numbers and detailed information that DOT wants to see incase they pull me over. After completing my pre-trip inspection, it’s time to roll. I make the wide turn around my neighbors house and slowly head to main street. After making another left turn, I get on the main road heading out of town. If I didn’t get fuel the night before, I’ll first stop at the Busch diesel pumps in town. It takes about 15 minutes, but then I’ll be filled up and ready for the day.
At the end of the main road is the intersection for highway 26. If you go left, you’ll be headed to Colfax. If you turn right, you’ll go through Othello and Royal City, and soon enough you’ll hop onto the I-90. I turn right. I quickly get some music playing. Depending on my mood, it’ll either be 90’s rock, or indie folk, or even some twangy country. Doesn’t really matter what music it is, as long as it helps me stay awake. By the time I roll through Othello, it’s 3:30am. By now I usually have better cell signal, so I’m able to listen to a couple Ancient Faith Radio Podcasts, or a live stream of whatever news or comedy program that might be available at that hour.
The clock says 4 a.m as I travel over the Vantage bridge. I’m on the I-90 now, heading east towards Seattle. This time of the year the sun rises early and so the dark black sky makes way for waves of purple and grey. As I travel over the bridge, I put the pedal to the metal, briefly getting my speed up to seventy. There’s a large grade up ahead and I’ve learned to gather as much speed when approaching it as I can. This little trick helps me maintain my momentum as I travel over the grade. It actually takes me about five minutes less to reach the top of the grade when I gather as much speed as I can at the bottom, versus when I approach at just the regular speed limit.
It’s almost 5am now, and I’m starting to get really tired. The town of Ellensburg is coming up, and about 20 minutes after that is the scale. If I can get past it before 6, I won’t have to go through it. My head nods, my eyes droop… I grab my coffee and start drinking. I have to stay awake! The clock on the dash reads 5:15 as I roll past the Cle Elum weigh station. It’s closed, and I smile as I drive on by. The sky is getting lighter now as I start my climb up Snoqualmie pass. I reach the summit, and there’s construction. Seems the summer time is always when the construction crews are out. I slow down and give them space. Down the other side of the pass I go, keeping my jake brakes on, so as to not speed down the mountain. Of course there’s more construction on this side as well.
Around 6:15 I see the Seattle skyline. The sky is becoming brighter, but thankfully the traffic on the road is still light. I go through the first tunnel, then the floating bridge, then the second tunnel. Soon I take the exit for I-5 South. I’m only on it for about a minute however as I have to take the 2nd exit for the West Seattle Bridge, and merge into the middle lane, as the current right lane ends. About half a mile later, I merge into the new right lane, which is an exit. It takes me down off of the bridge and into a line of trucks that are all waiting for their turn to enter the port. I quickly put my safety vest on and show the lady in the guard shack my TWIC card.
After gaining entrance to the port, I drive through a metal green shed. Inside is a series of cameras and lights and other equipment that is used to quickly inspect the vehicle and trailer. It only takes a minute to drive though, and soon enough its time to get in line for the scale. I get in line, park the truck, and jump out. I first have to unlock the chassis pins holding my can to the chassis, then it’s time to visit the porta potty. All that morning coffee has finally made it through my system, and it’s time to go!
Around 7am the lines start moving forward. Eventually I make my way onto the scale. I roll over it slowly and then pull up to the intercom. I roll down my window and press the talk button. About a minute later, a voice answers…
“Yeah, what do you want?” I usually try to interact with these people in the best, most polite way possible. I figure if I make their job a little easier, maybe they’ll help me out in return? Usually it works, but sometimes I get the person who is just pissed off at the world, and no amount of morning politeness will fix it. I tell them what I need, who I’m with, and that I’m bringing a load in and I need an empty container (20 Feet) out. It’s important to give these people EVERY SINGLE PIECE of information, because even though it should be on their computer, they won’t look at it. So if I tell them I need an empty container out, but I forget to mention its a twenty footer, or that it’s an MSC can and not a Yang Ming for example… they’ll say “Okay, you’re good to go!” without actually telling me where specifically to go in order to get my can. It can be super frustrating, and getting past the scales is paramount. If they have a problem with the booking number, or there’s a discrepancy with the load paperwork, you could be there for hours while dispatch gets ahold of the shipping company and tries to figure everything out. It’s awesome when everything goes right, but when things go wrong, they go wrong in a big way.
Once everything has been cleared, and I’ve been given my drop and pickup locations, it’s just a simple matter of driving over to the assigned row, and parking right in front of my designated spot. A top pick driver will drive up, and with his large mechanical arms outstretched, he’ll lift the 50,000 pound can off of my chassis, like it’s nothing. As soon as he lifts the can off, I drive out from underneath him and head over to the opposite side of the port. I head down the assigned row, and pull up just before my designated spot. Another top pick pulls up, grabs an empty can and allows me to pull forward. The moment the can lines up with the chassis, he gently slams the can onto my trailer. The moment he’s pulled away, I drive forward and head towards the exit.
At the exit, there’s another green metal shed with more cameras and lights and other sensors. It’s a quick scan as I pull through. As we exit, all the trucks form four lines, that merge into one and then pass through the shed. As long as there isn’t a massive bottle neck of trucks waiting to get through the sensor shed, the whole process of getting out of there is pretty easy. I hop on the exit scale, and usually they’ve already got my license plate number and can information. That means, by the time I hit the exit pedestals and am ready to speak to them via the intercom system, they’re already on top of things and will have me ready to go and clear for exit before I can even push the talk button. There’s another set of sensors to go through, this time detecting radiation. After that, it’s just a simple stop sign and the open road!
By the time I get outta there, it’s usually around 9 am. The first thing I have to do as soon as I’m out, is pull over and check the inside of the can. You’re not allowed to open the cans inside Terminal 18 in Seattle. So if it’s damaged at all in the inside (holes in the floor, holes in the walls or ceilings) I have to go back in, tell them its damaged and then wait. They’ll send someone down from the office to inspect the can and then after some deliberation, I’ll finally get a location to drop the damaged can. So far I haven’t had to turn around after leaving in order to do this, and I’m hoping it’ll be a rare occasion. Once I know the can is good, I’ll take a quick picture of the container door and send it off to my boss. The door has all the container information on it. My boss needs it so he can forward it off to the shipper, that way when I get back they already have the information and we can be good to go.
The drive back is pretty easy. I’ll eat my lunch, and finish off any remaining coffee I have left. I’ll take the time driving back and use it to talk to my wife, check in with friends, and of course do a couple rounds on my prayer rope saying the Jesus Prayer. I usually get back to Pullman between 1:30 and 2 pm. It’s already been a 12 hour day and I’m starting to get tired. If there isn’t anyone already sitting in the dock when I arrive at the shipper, it’s a quick process of hoping onto their scale, checking in and pulling around and backing into the dock. Usually however, there’s another truck (or 2, or 3 or 4…) ahead of me and I have to wait my turn. If Claude is loading, I can guarantee that he’ll have all of us trucks loaded and on our way within an hour and a half. He may be grumpy stick in the mud, but he’s the best when it comes to loading. Any one else… well lets just say they take longer, a lot longer. If Claude isn’t loading, then I can figure being at the shipper for at least another three, maybe four hours.
Once I’m all loaded up, I’ll hop back onto the scale. I’ll usually weigh out at right around 85,000 pounds (GVW) I’ll head back into the office, grab my paperwork and check out. I say my goodbyes to the loading crew and head out the door. Time to get back on the road. I’ll stop in Colfax and get fuel. Usually between 100 and 115 gallons. I have smaller tanks, and usually use about 100 gallons a day, so I have to fuel up every single day. It’s an hour drive back home in the semi. By the time I park in front of the house it’s around 5 pm. Sometimes I get home earlier, sometimes I get home even later. I have some time visiting with Emily, and get to chase our son around for a few minutes. We have dinner and I tell them about my day.
Finally around 6pm I head up stairs. After a hot shower, I say my evening prayers and get ready for bed. I’m usually in bed between 6:30 and 7, and (hopefully) asleep by 7:30 pm. And then the alarm goes off 6 hours later, and I do it all again. All in all it’s a 15 hour (or longer) work day. After 5 days and almost 80 hours of work, I’ll be exhausted and ready for the weekend. But then Monday comes around and it’s back to Seattle. It’s a good job, my boss is kind and fair. It has its drawbacks like any profession, but I’m thankful for what God has provided for me.
Thanks for reading my friends. I’m sorry this was such a longer post. My days are long, and a post describing my day would certainly be long as well! I hope you all had a wonderful 4th of July, and an awesome weekend. Time to get ready for bed. Tomorrow I’m loading three cans for Columbia grain, and then I’ll be taking one over to Seattle each day until friday. Then I’ll be hauling hay on a set of doubles every day for the next 6-8 weeks. (good thing I just got that endorsement!)
Until next time!