A couple of weeks ago I wrote about "Karma". This week I've been dealing with her bratty little brother, "Murphy". You all know this little miscreant, he's the inspiration for the well-known "Murphy's Law" that states whatever can go wrong will go wrong. We truck drivers firmly believe that Murphy is our ever-constant companion during our travels across the country, given the sometimes unbelievably odd mishaps we encounter.
I think it's time to put the little bastard on Ritalin.
I spent a very enjoyable last week on vacation at my friend's place in Florida. We had a great time fishing Okeechobee, traveling to the Hard Rock for a fun evening, and otherwise just hanging out and relaxing. All to soon, however, it was time to get back to work. I left the truck terminal in Lakeland to pick up my next load in Tampa. I was loaded and underway to Pennsylvania by early afternoon.
Just after getting underway I noticed that my truck was running hotter than normal. I was concerned at first, but once I got on the highway and got rolling it cooled back down. I figured it was due to the warmer than normal temperatures and the extreme weight (78,000#) of the load. I was about 15 minutes outside of Orlando when there was a loud explosion. I had just blown a tire on the trailer. Upon pulling to the side of the highway I discovered that I not only had a flat tire, but the cap had blown off and wrapped itself around the axle, preventing me from limping to a truckstop for repairs.
I called my employer to report the incident and they said help was on the way. 5 hours later, I had a new tire and was on my way. However, my ability to work is limited by hours of service regulations to a window of no more than 14 hours in a day and the delay caused by the flat tire meant that I wouldn't be able to deliver as early as I had planned. Murphy strikes.
I got back under way and managed to reach Savannah, Ga. by the end of the day. The truck was still running hot, but the temperature remained manageable and I continued to keep an eye on it.
In the morning, I added a gallon of coolant before I began my trip to help protect against overheating. The day was largely uneventful until late. As I got out of the low country and began to encounter heavier traffic and elevation changes the engine temperature started to spike near to dangerous levels. I was concerned that I was approaching the gridlock of Washington D.C. and Baltimore, Md. and would be at risk of overheating to the point that the engine might fail. I again contacted my supervisor and arranged to stop at a truckstop in Richmond, Va. for inspection and repair. He also decided to have my scheduled oil change done at the same time, hoping to avoid the need to shut down later.
The truckstop diagnosed the possible cause of the excessive heat as being a dirty and clogged air filter and replaced it (the original was quite dirty). They thought that the engine heat was a reaction to it's being starved for air, and the fact that engine temperature was lower when traveling at highway speed was due to the engine being "force fed" air. There was some problem during the repair process at the truckstop. Mainly that I wasn't actually due for the ordered oil change, which caused delays as the shop tried to resolve the issue with headquarters, which took enough time that I was unable to drive any further for that day, which meant that I would be even later making my delivery. Murphy strikes again.
Trying to make up some time, I started the next day at 4:00 am. I didn't get more than 2 miles up the road before the engine was again running hotter than normal (so much for the dirty air cleaner theory). Again, as I got up to 60-65mph the temperature dropped back into the normal zone. I continued to monitor the situation, concerned that I was going to get into the Washington morning rush hour traffic congestion.
About 30 miles south of the beltway I was obliged to cross one of the many mandatory scale checkpoints that dot our highways. It was a "weigh-in-motion" scale, meaning that I didn't have to come to a complete stop, but could continue moving at a slower speed as monitors checked my weight. As I got back up to speed, the engine temperature suddenly skyrocketed close to the shut down level. I was forced to park at the rest area and let the engine cool for a couple hours before I could add fresh coolant and try to get through D.C. when traffic had lessened. Another delay (thanks, Murphy).
When I finally got going the truck temperature again jumped up as before, dropping back and leveling off when I got up to speed. There were no other places for me to stop. I had no choice but to cross my fingers and hope. If I broke down, I'd simply have to call for a wrecker.
In the end, I managed to get through to Pennsylvania without blowing up, although the engine endured tortuous temperatures between 210 and 230 degrees. When I got closer to my destination things really got interesting. Pennsylvania is known for it's mountainous terrain. Combined with the heating/cooling problem and the excessive weight, my engine finally had had enough. My temperature spiked to over 240 degrees twice, triggering the automatic engine shut down. Each time, I was forced to sit on the side of the highway for over an hour until it cooled enough for me to remove the radiator cap and add coolant. I didn't have any leaks, the extreme temperatures were heating the coolant over the boiling point and forcing it out the overflow. Other than these two shut down incidents, I was forced to stop and idle on the side of the highway several times to let the engine cool down from 230 to 200 or so, at which point I could drive another 1/4 to 1/2 mile until I got to spots where I could run down hill and let the air cool the engine.
In the end, I made my delivery before the cut-off at the end of the day (Hah! Take that, Murphy!) My supervisor arranged for me to have my truck repaired at our facility in Allentown, Pa. That's where I discovered that Murphy can be truly relentless, if he wants to be.
Upon checking in at the terminal on Wednesday, I was told that they would need to order the necessary part(s). (For those interested, it was a failure of the clutch fan.) I went ahead and got myself a motel room. I was hot & sweaty (I had run the heat on full blast with the windows down to help take some of the strain off the coolant system) and in desperate need of a shower. The shop said they expected to get the part(s) in by Friday.
Friday came, I checked out of the motel and returned to the shop to check on the status of my truck. I was told that the part would arrive that afternoon, but that I had been pushed back on the work order list because they needed to get unassigned trucks inspected and checked out for students that had qualified to go solo. (Hi, Murph.) I would have to return to the motel for another night.
Saturday came (today). I called the shop before I checked out of the motel. They told me that they had (surprise!) ordered the wrong part(!) and would have to take the part off of a wrecked truck on the lot and replace it on my truck. Problem is (Murphy's having way too much fun, now), they only have 2 technicians working each shift on weekends. This means that it will likely be sometime late this afternoon or evening before they even start to work on my truck. Of course, this is the word I'm getting from the techs working 1st shift. They go home at 3:00 pm. Their estimate doesn't obligate the guys working 2nd (or 3rd?) shift. It's entirely possible that something may come up, or they may simply decide they don't have time to take the part off. Of course, it'll be dark by 7-8:00. I can't really see them working in the dirt parking lot by flashlight. In that case (You're really starting to get expensive here, Murphy) it'll be back to the motel.
I wish this type of week was a rare occurrence in my line of work. Unfortunately, it's not. Murphy is always riding in the passenger seat, looking for the best (worst) time to get involved. To make matters worse, he seldom has his big sister's sense of fairness (I'm sure all you who have little brothers can sympathize).
So now, as I write this, I'm sitting in the drivers "lounge" awaiting news of my fate. No sign of Murphy, maybe he's gone off to hassle someone else for awhile. If not, maybe I'll decide to forego the Ritalin and try electro-shock therapy on the little shit, instead.
Keep smiling! It can always get worse. Trust me.