This first trip south was pretty uneventful… I was new to the reality of long distance trucking, but it didn’t seem like anything to worry about. It was a motor vehicle, (big I’ll admit) but you just adjust to the size and take as much room as you need, and pay attention. To everything.
I was told by Jimmy to stop in DC at the DC truck stop and unload the overload on the back end of the trailer. It was the potatoes that I picked up on Long Island for Gastonia, NC. But I found a large cluster of straight trucks along the outer perimeter, and he told me to pay the free driver (he gave me the amount in cash,) to pay the driver to take my overload through Virginia to just over the NC state line where I would pickup this overload again. They actually had a guy who ran a business of carrying overloads of road drivers across the state of VA so as not to get fined.
Now this calls for a bit of explanation, because loading and load handling are a significant part of a driver’s job. Each state uses the scales (you’ve seen them on the roadside I’m sure) but back then only NC and VA were really into weighing loads. Here’s how it went.
A truck is loaded from front to rear with say a line of potato bags across the front on the floor about one rack high. The next line is two bags high, then three and four etc, til eventually it all loaded right up to the top of the large rear exterior door. A cutaway view of the trailer would show a long ramp-like structure of the product, the top of the ramp ending at the top of the door.This gives the loaders the ability to load heavily on the twin tandem axles, and light on the frontal ones. There was a max gross weight for trucks of a 42-foot body length and in those days if I recall correctly, it was max 32,000 lbs. They also allowed about 2,000 lbs over as a SOP to the carriers but IF you went over the MGW (max gross), you were fined not just the amount of the overload, but they also rescinded the allowance so that you were fined the full amount plus. These were some of the reasons that truckers carried significant amounts of cash with them.
Jimmy had a separate leather carrier on a chain that the driver carried chained to his belt. Worn in his pocket. Also the lading statements when delivering to a site. This system also held true for crates of citrus fruit as loaded by the growers. So the over loaders would parcel out the correct amount by weight, load it into one of their straight jobs, and then meet us just over the NC state line at Slim’s truck terminal. Reload the rig and away we went to sunny Florida with no further ado.
It may sound more complicated than it is, but it was part of the normal routine. You learned the ropes early and totally. (If that still goes on I’m not aware of it. Nowadays you will find massive trailers some 53 feet long… max length back in those days was a 42 foot box.)
Jimmy had two Trailmobiles and two Stricks. Both are still in business if my memory serves me, but the newer Great Danes were being seen coming from the west coast…now they’re very common around here.