Great Jobs 18-A Great Job For A Long Time
After Russ and I finished our training at North American, we picked up our first load at Youngstown Kitchens; North American hauled a lot of their new kitchen equipment to the various dealers throughout the country. We had three different loads, one for Springfield, Missouri; one for Oklahoma City, and one for Dallas. At Springfield, we picked up a couple of trunks of personal possessions headed for Texarkana, Texas. At Oklahoma City we got three rooms of furniture also headed for Dallas. And, at Dallas when we unloaded our final kitchen equipment and the furniture at the local North American warehouse, we were asked if we wanted to come back from Texarkana to move an army captain’s household possessions to his new home near a base in California. We had picked Texarkana as our last stop because we thought we would be heading back home. Still green about the furniture hauling business.
“You mean you want us to come back empty from Texarkana”? we asked.
“Well, we’ll pay the empty miles if you take the move job”.
“OK”, we decided. This was going to be our first experience at moving someone out of a house, loading our trailer with about 7 rooms of household items, and moving and unloading it into a new home. We had learned about this at the training sessions and we thought well that’s where the money is.
Actually moving household furniture has a much different and better rate than moving new kitchens, which only have a rate somewhat like general freight. Beside the moving in and out of the house is paid by the hour and any packing is also paid by the hour. Boxes and barrels used to pack small items are sold or rented. And, if help was required we could hire it at whatever agreed to rate and charge at a specified rate. Household Goods Tariffs are much different than General Freight Tariffs.
So, here was our first big moving job. We had been taught how to pack everything from dishes to wall pictures. And, we knew if we packed all that stuff we were responsible that all that packed stuff arrived just as it had left, in one piece. The Household Goods Carriers Tariffs back then allowed for about 5 bucks an hour for such packing and also for moving in and out of the houses, so we felt pretty good about doing these ourselves. Not only were we being paid all the road miles but also loading, unloading and packing, plus the rental or sale of boxes and barrels and packing materials. We just might get rich on this trip we thought.
As it turned out, we did get pretty rich on that move to California. But, little did we know that at that time people were moving to California but they were not moving back east. So, we made a good trip and pay out, but now we were pretty
much stuck for any trip back. We got a few local moves and trips up and down the coast, with little revenue and soon we decided that we were stuck.
Live and learn your profession we decided. So a trip to a Teamster Local got us some pointers. Not from the Local Agents, but from a few conversations with other truckers. They hustled their own return loads, everything from fresh fruit and vegetables, which had to be moved in reefers or insulated vans to some ‘illegal’ freight. Illegal freight is stuff that you find from various sources that does not qualify as the things you can haul under your agreement with the carrier you are working for.
We decided that if we were ever going to get back east, we needed to do something. And those long distance phone calls to Audrey almost every night were getting expensive. And, she too was wondering if we were ever going to get back, and in the meantime she had gotten a job at the muffler factory in Dowagiac. That was a good UAW Union job, making exhaust systems for GM cars.
One of the truckers told us that if he wanted a trip back east, he would go to the U-Haul outfits around town that had the same problems we had. A lot of people moved out west but since nobody was moving back they had a big accumulation of trailers that needed to go back east.
We decided to look into that, and checked out a few of the ‘U-Haul’ locations around San Francisco. One large dealer and distribution center there was really happy to see us and wanted to know how far back east we wanted to go. We considered Chicago, Detroit or even Saint Louis a good point from which we could find new loads and not necessarily back west. He told us he had over 50 units of various sizes that could go to any one of those places. So we looked over what he had and decided we could load almost 40 of the smaller units if we removed the wheels and stacked them on their tail ends with the tow end standing upright. The wheels could be packed in the empty ‘boxes’. He offered us $25 for each one to be delivered to Chicago. That was not too bad as it would pay for all the fuel back and a few good meals on the way, with a bit left over. And, Chicago was only 100 miles from Dowagiac. Well, we collected half when we left and the other half when we got to Chicago and put all the wheels back on the trailers. A bit of work but we were sure happy to get back from about 6 months of running up and down the coast of California. And, no we did not tell Dispatch how we got back from California, since taking back a load of U-Hauls was not a legal load. We got a bit of reprimand for deadheading back, because keeping loaded was not only making money for us but the company too. They wanted us to ALWAYS check with Dispatch about loads.
When we finally returned home, we had a pretty good bank account and Russ decided to get another truck to pull the new big 10 and 12 foot wide mobile homes that were manufactured right in Cassopolis, Michigan, approximately 12 miles from home.
We went to South Bend to a Dodge Dealer there and picked out a ¾ ton cab and chassis. And then we went to the Transit Homes Office in Cassopolis to get leased to them. They were the transport company that moved all the new mobile homes that were manufactured right in town. They also gave us the specs to fix up our new truck so that it could pull the mobile homes. That was a bit of a chore. We had to cut the chassis down to about 10 feet in length, and redesign the drive shaft so that it connected to the differential in a manner with the least amount of strain on the universal joints. We found a 100 gallon gas tank that fit behind the cab and mounted a tool box right behind that. And then we welded on the necessary towing bars and balls at the end of the frame, and added some extra support springs. All in all we had a 10 foot tractor which could haul the longest trailer made. At about that time a movie was out with Lucile Ball about the long, long trailer, which was a comedy about big long trailers. After all the reworking on that new Dodge, Russ was ready to go. And now we began to learn a lot more about moving new types of freight.
Moving those big new mobile homes required special permits to move them over the highways and even had to move over highways that could accommodate them. In Michigan they were permitted to move within the state any where with a special annual permit because they were manufactured in that state. Indiana required a permit for each move and flag vehicles. And, later other states had their own laws about moving mobile homes.
Just about a year in business and we were learning fast and beginning to make some bucks too.
Watch for Helmer's next chapter on Great Jobs in the June issue.
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