Archive for the ‘On The Job’ Category


September 22, 2016

img_2707Just a quick pic I took several trips ago at Yarrie mine site. I was waiting at dawn at the main gate to the site and snapped a few picks like this one.

Driver Training!!??

June 25, 2013

Well, here I sit in the passenger seat heading north out of Perth to Tom Price in the Pilbara. In the drivers’ seat is “the new boy”, otherwise known as Stewart. Tagging along behind us is two fridge trailers and a dry pan – loaded with a weeks work of supplies for Windawarrie, Brownfields (Jundunmunnah) and a dozen or so pallets for Pilbara Food Supplies.

It’s been a few years since I’ve sat in the passenger seat and this time it’s in a borrowed truck as well. My truck is in the workshop getting a bit of attention so I grabbed the boss’s truck (cleaned his crap out 😉 and set off last night.

Stewart is along for the trip to give him some experience with triples and so he can learn where the various runs go and generally get a feel of how we do things. As soon as he is up to speed on things and we have the new truck on the road he will be chucked into the thick of it on his own.

The new truck is expected to be handed over to us on Friday 28th – only four days from now. I’m going to be the lucky driver getting this one so I’m pretty keen for Friday to hurry up and arrive. We had a look at it yesterday and there’s still a lot that has to be done to it. Someone had better pull their finger out!

I have a 3500 watt 240 volt inverter on order for it – that will power a microwave oven/laptop charger and will even be big enough to power an ordinary kitchen kettle if I want. Expresso machine, maybe? 😉

The weather up ahead of us is pretty bad. Last reports I heard from Karratha are that over eight inches of rain has fallen in 24hrs. The highway between Roebourne and Port Hedland is closed, which won’t affect us but if that weather continues to the south-east we will be in for real trouble.
At present, just north of Paynes Find, it is completely overcast. Meekatharra has had some rainfall. I think Newman has had two inches and Tom Price has already had three inches of rain. This is more than enough to start water flowing over the highway at the floodways so things might get interesting later on today. Wish I’d brought my GoPro camera long.

Ok, I’ve got to get back to criticising someone’s driving skill, bloody hard work 🙂

Cheers, Mike.

Trouble In Paradise

March 4, 2013

The joys of transport, I didn’t know they existed. Sorry, in a bad mood. I’m sitting in an idling truck I don’t dare shut off. The problem is all the magic smoke leaked out of the starter motor and now it doesn’t work. Sounds silly but I saw it and it doesn’t work.

However you look at it – the starter motor fried and the only way to get the truck started was to tow start it. Right now I’m quite happy I’m not driving an automatic. As per Murphy’s Law I’m as far from home as possible this trip and its a public holiday and no one will answer their phones.

I do have the truck running after borrowing a prime mover from one person and a driver from another and tow starting mine. I need to keep it running for the next 48 hours. That should see me home and able to fit the new starter motor sitting in the shed waiting.

I can’t help but feel a bit “why me?” because it seems the last few weeks have been one drama after another. Yeah, yeah, things aren’t that bad but they aren’t that fantastic either. A string of flat tyres and blowouts, a sprained ankle, a cyclone, a fire, a stuffed alternator, a blown hub seal, a…well there’s more but you get the idea. All of this has put a dent in my savings plan for my new car and its kind of got me down a bit.

It’s not the end of the world and I’m sure this icy cold Little Creatures Pale Ale will help improve my short term outlook. Now…if I can get the top off…it’s…it’s not a twist top…and I don’t have a bottle opener….Nooooooooo!

Cheers, Mike.

A Bit Of A (Time) Lapse

October 22, 2012

Here’s another quick post to point you towards a video I just put up on YouTube. It’s called Perth To Yandi and it is still shots taken by my GoPro mounted inside the windscreen of the truck which I have stitched together with a bit of music into a two and a bit minute clip.

I will embed the video later. Cheers, Mike.

Video – The Telfer Road

October 13, 2012

Just finished editing some video I shot with my GoPro HeroHD2 camera on a recent run to Telfer up near Marble Bar in the Pilbara.

Here’s another quick clip I filmed on my iPhone 4S on the Nifty road, a few hours further east.

Go here to see the rest of my video’s on YouTube.

Cheers, Mike.

Stuck In The Pilbara

August 2, 2012

Oh the joys of transport! I had a really productive day today (being sarcastic here), started at around 5:30am and unloaded six pallets from my second trailer. Moved onto the next drop 150km up the road and (after a 30 minute delay due to an oversize load and getting stuck behind another truck for 60km) seemed to enter an alternate dimension where time slowed down and all of the people around me had totally different priorities from my own. Past experience has shown me there is no rushing these people so I had to sit tight and bite my tongue.
Six hours later I’ve unloaded everything that had to come off and reloaded two trailers of backloading that had to go to Perth. Complete all the paperwork, hook up the trailers and released the park brake and…and…go nowhere. Check all the airlines : ok. Check all the air taps : ok. Walk back to the cab and check the brake buttons : yep, I haven’t gone suddenly stupid – both buttons set correctly. Walk up and down all three trailers rechecking airlines and taps : all ok. Crawl under each trailer and dolly to see which brakes are on and which are off : ok, second trailer hasn’t released it’s brakes – all other brakes have come off.
So it looks like there is a problem with one of the valves on that trailer so I do what on a computer would be called rebooting. I disconnect the airlines and reconnect them and hey presto, everything works. Yeah, I know, sounds stupid but you would be surprised how often it works.
Sweet, I’m outa here. I get back out to the highway, about a 25km drive, and by this stage it’s been 10 hours since breakfast so I take 15 minutes to shovel some food into me and keep going. I get to within 10 kilometres of the third drop and ring them up to let them know I’m not far away and get “Nah, you’re too late – have to unload tomorrow” from the person on the other end of the line.
I was actually pretty restrained. I managed to get out a “Fine. I’ll be there tomorrow” in a flat voice before I hung up and threw the phone across the cab. This was shortly before 4pm. I am now spending 15 hours parked on the side of the road with the nearest roadhouse with a shower and a meal 115km south of here. I put in 11 hours work and made $78 before tax for the entire day. Is it any wonder I’m not happy?
What none of these people seem to comprehend is I make my wages by driving down the road, not by sitting around on my arse while these idiots waste my time. I am payed by the kilometre – not by the day or by the hour or by the task. In order to make it worth the effort I was counting on clocking up 400-500km tonight before I climbed in the bunk. I was also looking forward to getting home for my two days off for the fortnight.
At moments like these I really wonder why I drive trucks, why I work longer hours than most of my friends and why I pay taxes that go to those lazy shits that cant be bothered finding a job. Maybe in the morning when I’m finally on my way home things will seem different but right now I don’t really care all that much.


Oops, I’m Too Late!

July 5, 2012

Oops, I got here too late. I’ll have to stay the night. Shame.

Well, in a nutshell, that’s what happened but it’s not the complete story. I am staying the night at the Spinifex Camp at Yandicoogina in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. It’s about 1300-1400km north of Perth and earlier today I spent a few hours unloading the food and supplies needed to keep the place running for another week.

“It all began…” as all good stories do with a dramatic and traumatic event. The driver that started out this run from Perth received a bad news phone call about 600km into the run – a family medical emergency on the other side of the country. Well, no-one can blame him for wanting to be there instead of here (I haven’t heard how things are going over there yet, fingers crossed) so he dropped the three trailers of food and supplies in Mount Magnet and headed back to Perth and a plane ride east.

I was just leaving Newman for Perth after unloading my three trailers and was six hours away from Mount Magnet when this all happened so it was decided I would pick up the three loaded trailers, leaving my three empty trailers, and head back north and complete the run. Of course, the delivery schedule was out the window with the extra distance I had to travel so all necessary phone calls were made to customers (did I mention there was four deliveries instead of the normal two for the run?). Murphy had to put in his two cents worth so I was a further two hours later than anticipated but I at least got the Spinifex delivery done which was the biggest freight drop of the four deliveries and the most time consuming with one full trailer of backloading to take back to Perth. In fact, there was two trailers worth of backloading but because the freight from the extra two drops was taking up the remaining trailer space it was decided that recycled glass and cardboard probably wasn’t as important as the food and ALCOHOL the other camps were waiting on. Common sense prevails, drinkers of the Pilbara rejoice!

You know one of the great things about delivering the food and alcohol to these camps miles from any town, city or coastline? It’s that when it comes down to it the people out here really do appreciate the service you provide them and are more than happy to put you up with a room,a hot shower and a feed. Most of the time I’m happy to arrive on site, unload and ask for nothing more than a signature on a manifest (ok, I do like to grumble about things when the forklift driver doesn’t know his ‘fork tilt lever’ from his ‘fork up/down lever’ and when…). Anyway, I don’t take advantage of their generosity and when days like today come along I appreciate the little things like the shower, the bed and the meal.

Tomorrow I leave here around 6am and head for the next two drops which are only about 15km apart and an hours drive from here. Then a little bit of a trailer shuffle to make sure I’m not dragging the still loaded and heaviest trailer as my third and head 115km south to Newman and unload the remaining freight around lunchtime-ish. That should be pretty straightforward (mind you, this is the Pilbara) and then another trailer shuffle to make my second trailer my first trailer, my third trailer my second trailer and my first trailer my third trailer. Got it? It’s all about setting up the roadtrain to get the best ride out of all the trailers – it’s a 12 hour journey back to Perth from Newman and the trailers ARE supposed to follow in the wheel track of the prime mover in front. It makes for a less stressful day, believe me!

Now who was the smart ass that said truck drivers just sit around all day?

Cheers, Mike.


A Letter To Main Roads Western Australia

October 31, 2011

Main Roads Western Australia

The following is a submission I made to Main Roads Western Australia (MRWA) via their website. As you can see, it started out as they probably expected but I couldn’t help myself the further I got in. I see a real problem developing on the roads I travel every day. Ok, I dont think MRWA have their head in the sand, but I think if they get some feedback from drivers like you and me they might be able to focus their efforts in areas that really count. If you read this and believe (legitmately) that MRWA might benefit from your observations then go to their website and let your views be known.

Submission as follows :

Potholes appearing on Gt Northern Hwy around SLK142, also at Bindi Bindi T intersection Gt Northern Hwy (unsure of SLK). My main concern is the lack of room at the Wubin roadtrain assembly area. I use the assembly area 2 to 4 times a week and am frequently frustrated by the lack of room despite the last upgrade.This is also a major problem at the Newman roadtrain assembly area-I have been unable to access this area on my last three trips to Newman and have utilised the Turf Club parking area as well as the first parking bay north of the Newman townsite (on the Gt Northern Hwy) for the purpose of splitting triple roadtrain trailers for the delivery of freight to the Newman townsite. I am aware that plans are in motion for upgrading the Newman roadtrain assembly area but are there plans to further extend the Wubin roadtrain assembly area? As I see it roadtrain traffic on the Gt Northern Hwy stands to increase by a significant amount before anyone could reasonably expect it to plateau and eventually decrease sometime in the far distant future when the iron ore mining boom finally loses it’s momentum. Until that time the road infrastructure must keep pace. That also includes the many inadequate parking areas dotted up and down the Gt Northern Hwy-inadequate because quite often only two or three trucks can fit in each of them. In fact, some of the parking areas are so restricted that if three trucks fit into them then they must leave in the precise order they arrived in – there is simply no room to get around the truck in front. Hopefully the first truck “in” doesn’t expect a sleep-in. This is an age when more and more responsibility is being forced upon the driver and as a driver I am being forced further and further into a corner. To get out of this corner I need the freedom to stop in a parking bay that has room for my truck when I need it, I need to have spacious roadtrain assembly areas (with night lighting-pretty please) to assemble and disassemble triple roadtrains, and I need to know that “those-who-must-be-obeyed” have some concept of the hurdles we face. Until then, catch phrases like “fatigue management” and “safe work practices” are just…well, they’re just bullshit.

Well, I hope that gives some context to my more recent tweets. If you want to follow me on Twitter there is a “Follow” link on the sidebar.

Cheers, Mike.

Customer Service Drama’s

August 10, 2011

Had a bit of trouble with the truck this run. A “Check Engine” light appeared briefly on my way back into Perth last trip and we put the little computer on her and checked out the error codes logged on the onboard computer and came up with a couple of turbo overspeed errors. There wasn’t a lot we could do at that stage so the descision was made to head out on the next run and monitor the engine and see what happened.
The run went alright, for the most part. The error came up again and the engine was derating but only enough to be a small inconvenience – fortunately for me. The problem really became apparent on hard climbs where the truck was really grunting. Arrangements where made, on the Monday, with Cummins in Perth for the truck to be looked at on Tuesday after I had got back. All the symptons were explained over the phone to Cummins in the hope they would have a bit of an idea what they would be dealing with and (maybe) be prepared with mechanics and parts to fix the problem.
Well, I got back a bit later than I had planned. I had been feeling pretty secondhand all day, not quite sick but definately not 100%, and I rocked in there late in the afternoon too find that no-one knew I was coming. Eventually I found someone who “remembered” someone else talking about it. For Christ’s sake – don’t people in the same organisation talk to to each other about their work, ie:services they are supplying to customers who are their bread and butter and without whom they wouldn’t have a job?! I didn’t take the truck into their workshop because I wanted THEM to work on it – I took it there because it had to have work done on it and it ended up being a warranty job anyway. They OWE me!

Wastegate similar to one I need

Ok, we get over that little hurdle, they promise to try and look at it that night. I tell them I will need it back by 4pm the next day at the latest, hoping that it will be ready and I can leave that night and do a run with it – you know, so I can feed myself and pay the bills.
This morning we discover that, yes, they know what the problem is and, no, they don’t have the parts and they will have to be flown in from Melbourne overnight and fitted tomorrow. Now it’s not as though I have some obscure type of turbo (actually, it’s the wastegate that is the problem) and I am asking the people that build and sell the motors to actually fix it so why haven’t they got sufficient spare parts warehoused in Perth? Why do they have get spares from the other side of the country for a motor that is as commonplace as duckshit around a pond?
While I am not going to knock back the opportunity for another night at home I am going to take a hit in the hip pocket because of lost wages, my boss is going to take a hit because the truck isn’t on the road and the company we subby to is going to have to find someone else to do the job I would normally do.
I ask you, would you be happy being screwed around like this because a major engine manufacturerer can’t (or wont) keep enough spares locally to be able to deliver a reliable and timely service to their customers? It’s not like I can just drive over to another Cummins branch and get the work done – this is Western Australia and the branch I’m at is the main one for the state.
So, I’m sitting at home looking out the window at a heap of leaves that I should put in the bin, cursing the cold weather and wishing I was up north somewhere where it was warmer. Oh well, I got another blog entry up.

At the doctors

Cheers, Mike.

PS : Just got off the phone 5mins after I posted this entry – Cummins have managed to “find” the parts somewhere and the truck will be ready shortly. Unfortunately it’s too late for me to organise a run tonight (it is 4:45pm) so the end result is the same. Cummins Fail!

On The Level

September 20, 2010

Been having a constant problem with my trailers wandering all over the road this trip. At first I put it down to the strong winds we have experienced in the last couple of days. Then I was checking all my tyres with a pressure gauge (after I used a gimpie on them – see previous post) and I even put some extra grease on the fixed turntables. Nothing helped.

Then I realised all three trailers where traveling nose high and tail low. Now, I got to say that each trip I will have different trailers and different dollies and that slowly creeping (down) ride height adjustments on the fleet of trailers doesn’t seem to feature on the workshops “tick n flick”.

So, based on previous experience with saggy arsed trailers, I crawled under each in turn and adjusted the airbag ride height valve until they where sitting as close to level as I could make them by eye. And it worked.

Instead of shambling down the road looking like a train wreck that was at the “waiting for the dust to settle” stage of a truly spectacular event, they now tag along obediently and I’m not getting the cramps in my hands you get when nothing you do with the steering wheel up front can possibly explain why you can read ALL of the signwriting on the sides of all three trailers, first in one mirror – then in the other.

Leveling up the trailers didn’t just affect each individual trailers handling, it also had two separate flow-on effects on Dolly No.1 and to a greater degree on Dolly No.2 due to the “whip like” effect generated during the white knuckle moments.

How To Create Your Own White Knuckle Experience.

You will need :

3 x Saggy Arse Trailers
2 x Old Single Point Dollies (A-Frames must be high and slope down towards Saggy Arse Ringfeder when engaged)

Quote : “Remember : Trailers are long, dollies are the short ones.”
(Wise old transport manager)

Note : The values assigned to the measurement of Inches and Degrees are intended only to indicate greater and lesser values-they are not true values.

If the rear of a trailer sways 6 inches out of line with the front of that trailer and the direction of travel it might be, say, 3 degrees off that “straight down the middle” path of least resistance or drag. Now the dolly, being attached to the trailer, is also dragged out of line but it is at , say, 6 degrees out of line because it has to turn sharper to move over 6 inches due to it’s drastically shorter length. Ok, generally speaking, when objects like these move out of line they will quite often move back toward that center line and even swing out the other side of that line like a pendulum. If this doesn’t happen then you will more than likely be able to see in your mirror an impressive cloud of dust rising into the air and a lot of stuff getting very bent and twisted. Now don’t forget that something out of line by 6 deg is going to have a more violent return swing than the trailer that was only a little out at 3 deg.

Also, we have to start looking at the 2nd trailer which is hooked up to the dolly and has just been shoved further than 6 inches out of line due to the more aggressive turns the dolly was forced through and the higher inertia forces. Let’s say the dolly and 2nd trailer were forced 8 inches out of line at the furtherest point our of line on the first swing away.

What does this mean :

A) the angle the 2nd trailer will be at?

B) the distance the rear of the 2nd trailer will be from the center line?

C) the angle the 2nd dolly will have to turn at to follow the rear of the 2nd trailer and the effects of inertia on this equipment at this step in the process?

D) the 3rd trailer, hooked to the 2nd dolly, will be doing what?

Answers :

A) the 2nd trailer will be at a greater angle due to being forced further out of line than the 1st trailer but at a lesser angle than the 1st dolly because of it’s greater length. Let’s say 4 deg.

B) the greater angle of the 2nd trailer means more inertia but it’s length should still enable it to be less than or equal to the the 1st dolly and the front of the 2nd trailer. =< 8 inches.

C) the angle of the 2nd dolly will be 8 deg to keep up with the increased angle of the 2nd trailer over the 1st trailer. Inertia increasing forcing 2nd dolly and front of 3rd trailer out to 9 inches.

D) the 3rd trailer will be going bloody spastic! It's the cracker at the end of the whip – swing it hard enough and all that velocity and inertia will do something loud or bad or both.

Quote : "Always have an excuse ready. If possible, have more than one"
(From a screwup I used to know)

Dude, I have no idea which deep, dark recesses of my mind I pulled that from! It started out as a normal post and warped into this.