It was Friday before Memorial Day weekend, 2001. I was working for a Grand Rapids, Michigan based Expediter – mostly driving a tandem axle straight truck with a 26′ box bed. Being still low on the board I had not yet been dispatched. About 10AM, I received a call from dispatch wanting to know if I could do a HOT run to Tennessee. Dispatch said that it was a straight thru, 8-9 hour run, no stops, no delays, no nothing. Had to be there. I replied I had not problem.
I signed my truck out of the yard in Kalamazoo and headed about 1 hour west on I-94 for the pickup. It turned out that it was not a heavy piece, only about 1,000lbs, but it was 20+ feet long. It was a hydraulic cylinder for under ground mining equipment. The repeatedly asked me if I was going to be able to get this there by around midnight. I assured them that I was leaving with the equipment and I had enough fuel to not need to stop and this was my only assignment.
Once loaded (it took all of 5 minutes) and I strapped the box to the sidewall, I headed south. From where I was, it was out of the way to go west and pick up I-65 South near Portage, Indiana and it was equally out of the way to go east to I-69 South near Battle Creek. I was stuck with just taking US31 due south thru the center of Indiana – this dealing with all the cities and towns, stop lights, reduced speed zones and everything else.
Once to Indianapolis, I picked up I-465 to I-65 South towards Kentucky and Tennessee. The truck was governed at 58 mph so even on the interstate, going was not exactly speedy. Eventually, only stopping a couple of times long enough to use the rest room and get a snack, I made it to Tennessee. Once to Nashville, I turned onto I-40 East for the last short leg to the consignee.
After about 9 hours on the road (and rapidly running out of log book) I located my exit. My directions was that the Mine was about 2/10 mile north of the Interstate, at the end of a small road that paralleled the Interstate. I was thrilled beyond belief that at the intersection was several motels, as I needed a place to sleep because my truck did not have a sleeper and I lacked the hours to get back to Nashville.
I turned up the access road and about 1/2 mile later I encountered a locked gate. I saw a guard shack, so I grabbed my paperwork, jumped from the truck and walked to meet the guard who had exited and walked toward me. I informed him that I had a piece of equipment for immediate delivery. He stated there was no one on the property, the mine was closed until Tuesday Morning, come back then.
I stressed that, No, I was told they needed this tonight, I just drove straight from Southern Michigan with it.
The gentleman continued to assure me that there was no one there, I could not unload, I had to return “next week”.
After about 10 minutes, and not sure how this was going to go down, I asked if there was anyone from the maintenance department there. He said he thought one of the managers was working, he would call down there to see. The guard steps back in the guard shack, and makes a telephone call. When whom ever he called answered, he explained that he had some truck driver that was insisting he is to be unloaded tonight and I have told him to come back on Tuesday, but he (the truck driver) refuses to listen to me (the guard). It was then the guard was asked what I was delivering and the guard, who had the load’s weight bills, read it off to the other person.
“Oh, okay. To where? Okay. I will send him down.”
With that the guard hung up the phone, handed me my paperwork and informed me that after he unlocked the gate, I was to follow the road to the right and into the area where there were several maintenance buildings. He told me which one I was going to and gave me the name of the person I would be meeting. He then, I believe, reluctantly unlocked and opened the gates.
I proceeded based on his directions to into the mine complex, arriving at the location requested. There a friendly man with a genuine smile and a warm handshake who welcomed me. He let me know where he wanted me to back in for unloading and once I did, he removed the crate from my truck and signed my paperwork. He then commented that there were a lot of people who were really mad at me, when I asked why – he informed me that since I did make it there (as the shipper had promised) it meant that he would be calling in his entire maintenance crew to repair the machine so the miners could work on Tuesday. And the repairs where going to require the majority of the three day weekend. Had I not made it there, they would have had the weekend off, the miners would have been able to sit and do nothing until the equipment was repaired later in the week.
He also offered me a tour (underground) of the mine. I politely declined. As I left the area, I waved at the guard, but he pretended to only slightly notice me. Sorry Buddy, like you, I was only doing my job – Pick up a HOT load and deliver it as fast and as safely as I could.
While the maintenance crew was may not have been happy losing their long weekend, the miners would have to work rather then sit and get paid because they could not work – I know that the owners of the mine and the owners of the company that sent the equipment were all happy that I did my job.