Mike's trucking: Welcome, Kolman!

The odyssey continues. In this third installment of PR king Mike O'Neill's on-the-road blog of his cross-country rental truck jog, we find the reluctant trucker all too happy to toss the keys to veteran trucking journalist and accomplished road scholar (as testified to by his well-traveled CDL) David Kolman...

Start of Day 3: Welcome, Kolman!

Before chronicling the third day of our Philly to Vegas trip, I would be remiss to not mention the excellent service that was given to me during the reservation and pick up of our Penske International DuraStar truck. The professionalism and courtesy was extraordinary– rare, indeed, in today’s business world.

Back on the road– now with David Kolman along– we’re not off to a very good start with David insisting the air conditioning be on and me wanting it off. The outside temperature is somewhere in the high 70s to low 80s and David is dressed in long pants with two shirts. He’s driving. So I took one for the team this time.

We just passed our fifth or sixth weigh station and everyone has been closed so far, so I’m guessing a professional driver would like that. I sure have. Earlier in the trip, when my son and I saw our first weigh station, the boy says to me, “Why do they care what we weigh?” I wasn’t sure myself, so I changed the subject. He’s convinced I’m an absolute authority on matters trucking.


David Kolman (left) joins Mike for the balance of the trip....

Back to the road trip, David and I passed through Illinois and into Iowa without incident. Soon it was time to refuel and I reminded David that we were only allowed to use Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel. David said “Not to worry, Mike, that’s the only kind you can buy.” So why not just call it “diesel?"

Next, and upon entering a major truckstop, I was soon to learn that the unnecessarily long name for a trucker’s fuel was just the beginning of the fuel purchasing madness. David pulled our rig next to a diesel pump, neatly nestled between two 18-wheelers. I hopped out to fill her up. I thought, “where’s the credit card machine like I had used at the two gas stations where we stopped earlier in the trip?” David told me that I had to go inside to pay.

A smiling young lady greeted me and said, “This is my first day on the job so this may take some time.” Oh boy. Well she was right. It did take some time, but it wasn’t her fault. It’s the system.

“I’d like to buy some fuel, please.” The young attendant pressed about 25 to 30 buttons on her register and still nothing. Finally, another attendant, an obvious veteran, arrived and offered to help. Once again, I said, “I’d like to buy some fuel, please.” Here is the rest of the conversation:

Veteran attendant: How would you like to pay?

Mike: Credit card

Veteran attendant: How much?

Mike: I don’t know.

Veteran attendant: You have to give me an amount.

Mike: Okay $75

Veteran attendant: Here’s your receipt.

Mike: What if I don’t use the whole $75.

Veteran attendant: You have three days to use the balance.

Mike: Never mind, then, I’ll pay cash. Can you cancel the credit transaction?

Veteran attendant: Yes, how much would you like to pay?

Mike: I don’t know.

Veteran attendant: You have to give me an amount.

Mike: Okay, $60 (I was running low on cash)

Veteran attendant: Here’s your receipt for $75.

Mike: I thought you canceled that?

Veteran attendant: I have to put something in the machine. We don’t want you running off with our diesel.

Mike: But I wanted to pay cash.

Veteran attendant: You can pay cash, and then come back in and we will credit your account.

Mike: I didn’t know I had an account.

Veteran attendant: What is your driver number?

Mike: I’m not a driver. I’m just a regular person.

Veteran attendant: Well, I need a number.

Mike: Okay, how about Eight? (I’m guessing she inputed the number Eight)

Veteran attendant: What is the name of your trucking company?

Mike: Mike’s Trucking. (No dummy, I’ve now learned the game)

Veteran attendant: What’s your truck number?

Mike: Eight (I pressed the Eight; we are going to Vegas.)

Veteran attendant: Okay you can go pump your fuel now.

Fortunately, David had tired of waiting for me at this point, and he entered the counter area. “David, take over here please.” He did. We eventually filled up the tank and left. I may have been beat for $75, but it was worth it just to get out of there. Maybe David pocketed it? Just kidding.

Back on the highways of Iowa, David noted that he liked the slope of the windshield and hood on our International truck from Penske. “Good visibility,” he said. “And I love the cruise control, too.”

I’m so glad he’s happy. I haven’t driven yet and would not for the rest of the day. Ten hours after leaving Battle Creek, we arrived in Lincoln, NB, and called it a night. Well almost. We found our way to a local beverage and food establishment known as Lucky’s. Unfortunately, we weren’t very lucky at Lucky’s– it was karaoke night. Even the bartender hated the new sound system.

--Mike O'Neill