Hand-bombing a necessary evil in Trucking
No truck driver wants to touch every product in the trailer by “hand-bombing.” Photo: OSHA
by Don Taylor, excerpted from “Stories from the Road” used with permission
At first, I did very little driving, mostly I was hand-bombing goods all day.
Hand-bombing (also known as “finger printing”) involves manually unloading trailers. There are many reasons why this task exists.
Grocery warehouses, for example, store products by size, type and weight. If the warehouse orders, 34 cases of salmon-flavoured cat food in 5 oz cans, 54 cases of 7 oz cans, and another 100 cases in 10 oz cans, the plant where they make the cat food places it all on a single pallet. Once it arrives at the warehouse, it must be separated to allow each pallet to contain only one size and flavour.
Each pallet has a maximum height to allow it to fit into the slot in the warehouse. Even a full load of the same product might need to be hand bombed to meet the requirements for the warehouse storage area. This may be as simple as removing the top layer of each pallet.
Some hand-bomb loads are simple, some are a total nightmare. One of the worst I ever saw, and thankfully I didn’t have to hand-bomb, was a load I delivered to a warehouse in Brantford, Ontario. Whoever loaded this trailer should have been taken out and flogged for about six hours. The company had arranged for a local swamping service to hand-bomb the trailer. I’ll stop here, and explain how trailers are usually loaded.
A 53 ft trailer can hold up to 26 pallets on the floor. To accomplish this, the pallets need to be “chimney blocked.” One pallet on the left in straight, the other sideways beside it, then one on the right in straight, and the one beside it sideways. A standard pallet is 48 inches by 40 inches. The interior of a refrigerated trailer is about 102 inches wide. If the pallets are put in straight, you can get twenty-six pallets in the trailer. Turned sideways instead, you’ll get thirty. When all are turned sideways, however, they can be hard to get out, due to the construction of the pallet, and the risk of serious damage to the freight.
Back to the worst-ever story. The trailer had the pallets chimney blocked. Tricky to get them out, but not impossible. Even worse, they had pallets stacked on top of pallets. A total of 92 pallets were on this trailer that was a real mixed bag of freight. Toilet paper, deodorant, shampoo, hair conditioner, hair spray, toothpaste, mouth wash, and similar goods. All health care and beauty products. There was no rhyme or reason to how it was loaded, and the bill of lading ran to six pages.
At the destination, it all had to be sorted out by product, size, weight, scent and flavour. This was such a disaster, that the guys unloading it had to have every pallet removed before they could start sorting everything out. There were 75 cases of Mennen Speed Stick deodorant on the trailer. 25 were in the front, 25 in the centre, and another 25 in the back. Those poor guys (there were five of them) spent seven hours sorting and stacking what came off that trailer. As I said, this was one of the worst I ever saw. I’m glad it wasn’t me who had to deal with it.
After three weeks of dealing with my own hand-bombing issues, I finally told the boss I hadn’t busted my ass getting a truck-driving licence to unload trailers. He then set me up with an experienced driver to get some on-road driving experience. I instantly quit the taxi business for good.
I was ready to start my career in trucking. We left Thunder Bay and loaded 45,000 lbs of rolled newsprint in Red Rock, Ontario, heading east to Toronto. I did none of the driving on this trip, but my logbook showed otherwise.
From Toronto, we were to reload for Pennsylvania, but I’d had more than enough of this instructor, who wasn’t interested in teaching anyone anything. He barely spoke English, making the trip extremely boring. I bailed in Toronto, taking a bus back home. The boss said I was giving up too quickly on trucking. I said I wasn’t giving up on trucking, I was giving up on that instructor.
A few days later, he put me with another driver. Now the real trucking started.
“Stories from the Road” by Don Taylor is available in hard copy, paperback and downloadable electronic file at Friesen Press.