It’s All a Learning Curve…


Well, I’m learning as I go along.

Two big things I learned I need to pay close attention to on this trip are fuel management and routing, which are really the same thing with controlled speed thrown in the mix.  The devil really is in the details.

Especially with diesel getting as high as it is now.  I think the highest I had to pay was 3.40 or thereabouts up in the boonies.  (I threw on an extra 20 gallons before going into a remote area just in case.) That will not happen again if I can help it.

What I finally realized (and would have earlier if I had been a little less anxious / nervous about getting started) is that I have to load up on as much fuel as I can carry before I ever hitch up the trailer, and minimize the odds of having to buy expensive diesel out “there” somewhere.

As it stands, we have just about the lowest price fuel right in my neck of the woods, and every cent I can shave off of the fuel = profit.  I’m starting to think like a business owner, and it’s about time!  Sheesh!  I’m not sure what I was thinking before, but it’s OK now, I pulled my head out and started thinking!

Another thing I hadn’t thought much about was precision in routing.  I probably unintentionally added about a hundred unnecessary miles to my trip by not being nit-picky enough in my routing, which is something I need to work on and get figured out.  Every mile I run costs roughly 45 cents, so that 100 miles out of the way cost me a lot (considering what I got for the money)

This may sound like a no-brainer, but when you’re traveling over 700 miles, the route you take can have unexpected detours when you miss a turn, when the GPS isn’t exactly in sync with the world, or just plain picking a bad route, or getting off the planned path for whatever reason.  It seems like a small thing at the time, but overall it is something I really need to hammer out to keep my profit as high as humanly possible.

Oh, before I forget, never take routing advice from anyone who is afraid to cross a scale!  I mean never!  OK, back to the topic…

Finding the best running speed is a challenge since running loaded slows me down and cuts my fuel mileage down to about 7 mpg, but then again, I can burn a lot of unnecessary fuel on my deadhead home by not properly managing my speed.  I watched it closely today and watched it fluctuate between 11 and 12 with an empty trailer.  So it’s going to take some time for me to find the right balance.

The other routing issue is road quality.  I never really paid that much attention to that before, but now I have to.  And I’m sorry to report that there are tons of roads out there that are just beat to hell and not decent to run on at any speed.

Here’s some first-hand road condition info if you’re interested… Highway 83 in Texas is great from where it intersects highway 62 that comes out of Altus, Oklahoma.  I don’t know how it is south of there, but it’s good as far north as the north Wheeler county line.  North of there, it completely stinks.  Rutted, potholes, rougher than an old cob.  Which means it’s hard to run at a consistent speed.

The same goes for several highways in northeastern Colorado, namely 71, 52, 385, they are just falling apart and in a nutshell, they suck. Oh, and 390?  It’s a dirt road.  Really!

Since both of the jobs I’ve had so far took me farther than I could drive in my 11 hours, I had to split them into two driving days up and back.  Not being in a semi, that means I have to foot the bill for motels on top of fuel costs.

I’ve been working at getting this figured out.  The first trip up just happened to work right (aside from the unscheduled jackknife) time-wise.  I was about a mile from my drop site when I settled in for the night, so my delivery was easy and early, leaving me the rest of the day to drive toward home.

This time out I was later in the day getting unloaded because I didn’t get close to my drop site which left me driving more after dark on the way home than I like, or want to do.

So I’m planning for the next run and expecting (if the weather cooperates anyway) to drive for about 8-9 hours, then stop before it gets dark for the night.  If I’m not pushing hard I think I can conserve some fuel and my own energy.  The second day I need to be as close to my drop as I can get which can be challenging as some of our drop locations are wayyyyyyy out in the middle of nowhere.  If I can get unloaded just after daylight, then I can head back and have at least 10 hours of drive time left to get home on.

Don’t believe times given on Mapquest or other trip planning sites.  They’re wrong more often than they’re right. An example for you is my first trip up I-35 and over on I-70 to Colby.  I made that easily in 9 hours with no stress at all.  This trip, I went up through Kansas on well-traveled truck routes which should have been about ten minutes shorter than going interstate.

Not so much.  It saved me about 70 or so miles, but took me nearly 11 hours.  Construction, crappy roads, a lack of truck-friendly fuel / food / bathroom stops… well, it was sort of a pain in the neck.

Sorry for this thinking out loud, but it helps me to see it written down.  And maybe it will help someone else who is thinking of starting a trucking business too.

Another thing I learned is that the truck driver’s atlas is OK, but it’s not the end-all-be-all.  It’s way too vague and doesn’t give as much detail as I need it to.  Luckily I have another non-trucking atlas that has more detail around towns and such.

And as for GPS, well, sometimes it’s great and other times it really ticks me off.  I had a turn to make that the GPS entirely missed by more than a mile, which left me in the position of either going on down the road or turning around on a narrow highway to get back to the right spot. And later on I missed a turn that the GPS did show me and had to get turned around in a residential neighborhood…

Which leads me to another thought… I did things in the past three days that I never thought it was possible to do towing a 40′ trailer.

I did manage to turn that rig around on a narrow highway, with only 2 backups none the less, and navigated safely through that narrow residential area without squishing any cars or curbing the trailer.  Now that said, I would have been a lot happier not having to do either, but it’s good to know I have some skill in the event that I have to do that sort of tight-space navigating again.

I know that’s a lot of stuff to think about, but I’m sure I’m just barely nicking the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Oh, I almost forgot, I had my first visit with the Weigh Station guys in Limon.  They they were pretty nice to me, just weighed the rig and then looked over my paperwork and sent me on my way.  They thought it was funny when I told them they didn’t seem anywhere as mean as I had heard they were.

Which all leaves me wondering what my next adventure will be…  stay tuned.

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