Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Questionable Logic

There's a Weight Station on Autoroute 15 just south of Montreal as you enter Canada from the States using I-87. It is usually open during the day but there is no set timetable so it can be open at 4 AM, too. It has recently been rebuilt with the last technologies, one being; Dynamic Weighing, which means that as you roll across those two steel plates on the roadbed, your per-axle weight is automatically sent to the weight station computer. It is operated in tandem using two roadside "Surprise" signs that are normally dark and pop on as you drive past. It will either remain dark if your weight is correct or pop on if the agents want to see you. Also in the States, there is a system call Pre-Pass also known as Best-Pass. These look like lamp standards that overhang the right lane and have transponders instead of lights and are located just before the weight station. As your weight is read by the roadbed sensors, the overhead transponders also reads a vehicle transponder located on the windshield. This identifies the vehicle and associates the weight and the vehicle. If there are no changes from a previous weight station, the vehicle operator gets a signal from a second overhead transponder to by-pass the station.
So here's the rub...

As a rule all legal weights in the States limit the maximum gross vehicle weight to 80,000 pounds. This is substantially less than the legal limit here in Quebec which limits weight to 97,000. (No wonder we have bad roads). So if the agents are not checking the vehicle itself or log books or tire condition, as does Ontario, and the legal weight is correct, why have stop the truck to be re-weighed on the full scale. Is it that the dynamic scale doesn't work properly? If so, what a monumental waste.

In this age of fuel conservation, why have me stop only to wave me through after reweighing. Factor in the brake wear along with the fuel to regain highway speeds and multiple that with the thousands of trucks per day and you have an important expense.

So don't ask why your watermelon costs over $8 in July!

The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has limits.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Bev Oda Resigns... finally!

“As the Minister for International Co-operation, I have had the opportunity to witness the hardships of the world’s most vulnerable peoples and have witnessed the great compassion of Canadians for those in need,” Oda said.

It's about time.  Even though it wasn't her departments mandate, Canada's record on the treatment of the country's aboriginal peoples is abysmal. Talk about witnessing hardships, look north at home. I see little compassion for our own people.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Hotter than hell!

Last week, I got a really nice run! I left on Tuesday with 9 deliveries starting in Binghamton, NY on Wednesday going down south ending in Tucker GA on Friday.

On Wednesday morning, at my first drop, signs that things weren't going to go so smoothly started to appear. My air temperature control had jammed in the hot position. No amount of air conditioning would compensate. So I called the garage back at the terminal and spoke to the head mechanic to see if, one, I could resolve the problem myself or two, get to a local service center and have the problem fixed. We danced around the issue but to no avail, the back of the dash board is too complex and I am not comfortable dismantling it without the appropriate tools. But he won't authorize a service outside of the shop because it's "doesn't put the vehicle out of service or stop it". 

I do have a couple of options though. There is a a/c unit under the bunk so I turn that on. To do so requires that the air flow control in front to be on, pushing heated air into the front. So I turn that down as low as it can go, turn the air flow setting to recirculate instead of taking air from the outside (this keeps the air pressure from outside from pushing in) and turn the bunk air up to its' fullest. The second option is that in addition to the bunk a/c there is a third unit that runs on accessory batteries. This is used went the engine isn't running so as to conserve fuel. Normally these are charged by the alternator.

So far so good. It's livable and working. Wednesday morning goes on without further hitches. The accessory a/c quits during the night Wednesday; the little display says LB for Low Battery. This is normal so I figure I'll let the accessory recharge and we'll continue. The nights cool down enough to be comfortable. By Thursday noon however things go south figuratively, like my route.

It gets no better because now the power coming off the alternator has dropped below 11 volts and automatically cuts off the accessory batteries from charging. Not a big problem as long as there is some power above 10 volts. By Thursday night, there isn't enough power to drive the bunk a/c and it quits too. I start cutting back on using the on board fridge and my electronic cooler. The microwave won't function due to lack of sufficient power. All my food is scrap. (I avoid restaurants on my trips)

Meanwhile, I have a dog on board. Harrison is not doing well. I soak him down with water several times an hour and put a fan next to him so he has some relief, but not much.

If you were following the weather news from the states, you would have heard the the southern states were experiencing historic heat records. In Athens, Georgia, temperatures hit 106° F. (41° C) breaking all past records.The temp reading on my outdoor mirror says 44° or 111°. Inside, it's about the same. Shit it's hot! It's like sitting in an oven.

Friday isn't as hot but not by much, maybe a degree or two less. No a/c whatsoever and the alternator is dying; we're down below 10 volts, more like 9.01V. Fortunately, a diesel engine doesn't need as much electrical power to work. It just chugs away by compression. The important thing is to NOT let it stop because it won't start with less than 10 volts. Here's the kicker, there's an Idle Shutdown program that shuts the engine off after 5 minutes of idle/no movement. There is a warning light that lets you know when it is about to kick in. There is also an Idle Shutdown Override and you have to wait until the warning light goes on in order to activate it.

Finally, on Friday night, I call back the terminal garage and talk to someone with a bit more sense than the first mechanic. He authorizes the alternator repair. That puts the bunk a/c back on line and I make it back to the terminal on Sunday night.