June 4, 2009


As it turns out, the east coast is not the place to be for grain trailer freight. After delivering our load of Washington apples on Monday morning, we sat in a Walmart parking lot in northern Michigan till Tuesday morning. By that time our broker, Mark, had scrounged up a rinky dink load. It was 200 empty miles, and 200 loaded miles. Not the ratio you want, but it got us out of Michigan.

DDG...dried distilled grain. We hauled quite a bit of this stuff last summer. Its the stuff left over after they extract what they need from grain to make ethanol. It's kind of like fluffy sawdust, but dense. Its got just enough dampness in it to make it a pain to unload, because it packs down. Its used as livestock feed. I continue to be surprised by how many ethanol plants there are. They are all over the place, and all sorts of places buy the DDG, from dairies, to feed lots, to mills, like this one, where they were loading it into containers, like you see on trains and ships. I guess maybe they are shipping it overseas as well.

The load of DDG went to Elwood, IL, which is just south west of Chicago. We dumped it off Tuesday evening. Mark didn't have anything for us to do.

Sitting at the Petro Truck Stop in Monee, IL is not my idea of utilizing time to its fullest. I'd say the only positive thing coming out of all this sitting is that we've missed a good portion of the annual 72 hour DOT Blitz (as they call it). It started Tuesday morning and we've seen trucks pulled over on the shoulder, and the weigh stations are full. They're going over them with fine tooth combs, and while we have nothing to hide, its still nice to not be examined.

By Wednesday Mark had had it with east coast freight. The rates are apparently considerably lower than what we've been hauling. Just to give you an idea, the DDG was $14 a ton. We average $60-80 a ton on west coast freight.

In a desperate attempt to get us out of there, we drove empty 500 miles to Shakopee, MN which is south west of Minneapolis, to get a load of dirt.
Dirt...plain old red dirt. Well that's what it looked like to me. I'm sure its some kind of special dirt. It would have to be for someone to pay to have it trucked to them 260 miles to Fargo, ND. But to me its dirt, no matter what pretty label you put on it and I'm thinking surely, surely, they have some dirt available in or near Fargo. And then there's the miles...500 empty, 266 loaded. Even I, the worst math student in history, know enough to know that's a worse ratio than the earier 200:200.

However, their need for this particular dirt, did get us headed back west. We just dumped it off here in Fargo. Its name, by the way, is "red ball diamond" dirt. We dumped it into the parking lot at the baseball fields here in south Fargo.

From here, Mark has a load of sunflower chips to take to Spokane, but it doesn't load till tomorrow. And it doesn't deliver till Tuesday. More sitting...but we're OK because this time, with the exception of tonight, we'll do our sitting at the house. If we can load first thing in the morning, we'll be home Friday night and won't need to leave till Monday morning. Two whole days at home!

How will we fill our time in Fargo tonight? Well, Malcolm's heading out now to Northern Tool, which was his favorite in Chattanooga and he's missed it. They don't have those in Montana. And ironically, his uncle Jon, who started driving a truck and pulling hopper several months ago, just drove by on the interstate. Malcolm recognized his truck. So after he finishes at Freightliner getting a part, and Malcolm gets his tools, we're going to meet him for dinner.

Jon lives in north Georgia. We live in central Montana. We're all sitting in Fargo, ND. How small this world really is!


Sari said...

Absolutely Astounding! That's almost as crazy as discovering that Michael's boss' daughter here at Erlanger married the son of one of my childhood friends from Wisconsin! "It's a Small World After All!"

Your discovery of prices for hauling down this direction probably means you won't be coming often!? Ugh!

Jennifer said...

At least you'll be sitting tonight with family-that's cool that he just happened to be driving by. After the week you've had it's nice that you get to spend the weekend at home and hey, last weekend you got a lot of the work done. Maybe you can relax this time around! Hope you have a great weekend!!