17 October, 2009

Safety Is #1... or not

My week of being on call is winding down and I only have another fourteen or so hours left until the next guy takes over. I just had a call from one of the larger companies and the dude wanted to know if I could "help him out." This person had a truck broken down on the side of the road because a set of wheels came off the trailer. It sounds terrible, but it happens quite frequently when people don't maintain their equipment and drivers don't do pre-trip inspections like they're supposed to. Anyway, I was starting to think about how I'd have to tell him the trailer would be stuck until Monday when he says something that shocked me. He asked me to go out there and chain up the axle so the driver could get to his destination. His destination was four hours away! Uh, no. I'm not going to do that. I was told that there was only about 12,000 pounds in the trailer and that he's had this done before. WTF?! I told him that I'd chain up the axle to either get the rig off of the road or back to our shop for repairs, but no further. I could just picture my boss's insurance rates going up and the costs related to a lawsuit if the thing crashed and, you know, killed a busload of nuns or something. Besides, any DOT official would have to break out a fresh violation booklet if that trailer should get pulled off into a scale. I can just hear it now. "So, who chained up this axle and let you go?" The cops would let us take the trailer to our shop for repairs, but wouldn't ever let it proceed down the road. I can't believe the dude who called me actually thought we'd do that sort of thing. It's just fucking crazy! After I refused to do something so stupid, the jerk asks me if there's anyone else in the area that could do that for him. I gave him the name of another shop in the area which I know well. I know the guy who'd be running the call and he's not stupid enough to do it either. But that's not all! The company which called me also has other surprises that I learned the hard way. A vendor can only get paid between the hours of 09:00 and 17:00, Monday-Friday. The last service call I did for this company (it was about two years ago) was on a Saturday afternoon. I was on hold for an hour and a half before I actually talked to someone and got paid. I had to keep scratching out the total and adding on more time. They got billed an extra $135.00 for the time I was on hold. That was under the old rates, it would be a lot more expensive now. The dude who got me set up with a com check was some mechanic in one of their shops and he sounded totally worn out. He was the only person there and I think every department, from corporate on down, kept transferring the phones right down the chain until it got to the person I spoke with. So, having thought of the trouble with getting paid coupled with the extreme liability concerns, I politely refused. My boss hardly EVER turns work down regardless of how crazy it might seem, but I think he'd agree with me on this one. Besides, I have past experiences to draw from. One time we had a guy come to the shop after one of my coworkers went out to chain an axle after some serious wheel bearing failure. He found out that we couldn't get parts NOW and he wanted to pay for the service call (including the chain) and take off so he could get his load where it needed to be. My foreman at the time said "No, you're not taking that trailer anywhere in that condition. It's not safe." The driver turned into a real asshole and was calling everyone names and threatening us (not wise in a diesel shop). He was outside talking to someone on his cell phone trying to figure what to do. After a little bit, my foreman asked me where the guy was. I told him I last saw him outside. He wasn't there. He took off down the road. With our chain holding up one end of a trailer axle. We knew where he was headed because we always where a driver's headed. If someone runs off without paying or, as in the case of Mr. Angry, takes off with an unsafe trailer, we know what to tell the state patrol. And call the state patrol we did. I found out later that the dude didn't even make it two miles from the shop before he was stopped by the state patrol. It was this experience which led to my decision to not help the moron who called me today. The rig isn't going anywhere. Well anywhere too far. If he had asked me to fix it, it wouldn't happen because I wouldn't be able to find parts anywhere until Monday. If I did chain up the axle, he'd probably have to pull into a scale somewhere along the line and they'd put the rig out of service until it could be repaired. The dude is shit outta luck, plain and simple.

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