Monday, October 31, 2011

And the hits just keep on coming

We are STILL at the Choo-Choo Express Garage near Chattanooga (map). Today marks two full weeks that I have been parked here, motionless, in one of the shop's two service bays. As yet, we still do not have the parts on hand to reinstall the hub and wheel.

When last I posted here, I wrote that the parts supplier in the UK was waiting on getting the parts in house, and would ship them either Thursday or Friday after confirming with me the dimensions and sending photos. As it turned out, the parts did not leave until Friday and we were hoping to have them tonight, just as happened last weekend.

Unfortunately, the individual who completed the DHL waybill wrote "BEARINGS" in the Contents box on the form, as opposed to "Repair Parts" as I had instructed them. I got a call from DHL Saturday afternoon that the bearings were being held by US Customs, thus realizing my worst fears. Bearings, it happens, are one of many categories of highly restricted trade items and I had to complete a stack of paperwork in order to get them released. Lord only knows if I will also be asked to pay duty and/or "anti dumping penalties." Just to give you a sense of the bureaucratic nightmare this can be, here is the list of what DHL needs to clear these through customs:
  1. IRS Verification of Federal Tax ID # for the Importer of Record
  2. Power of Attorney and Federal Tax ID that will verify/match the POA
  3. Description Verification: detailed description; what the items are made of; what the items are parts of or what they’re used for. OR HTS codes
  4. Country of Origin: where the item or part was manufactured (not necessarily the shipped from location)
  5. Bearing Worksheet
This last item, the "Bearing Worksheet" again asks for descriptive information, including part numbers, manufacturer, and country of origin.

Well, of course, it being Saturday, there was no way I was going to be able to get the part numbers or country of origin from the distributor in the UK. Unwilling to wait for Monday to roll around to try to get the paperwork back to DHL, I went back to the photos they sent me on Thursday afternoon. From that, I could tell it was a Timken ISOClass bearing and that the first digit of Timken's part number was a "3". The other digits were obscured by the calipers showing the measurements.

That was just enough information, though, that after three and a half solid hours of Internet research, starting with the original, 26 year old Mercedes part numbers from my Neoplan parts book, I was able to cross-reference the bearing to the new ISO standard bearing number of 32310. Had I been able to do this two weeks ago, we could have saved ourselves much frustration and some money, because I was pretty sure I could now take the ISO part number to any Timken retailer and get this bearing right here in the US.

Armed with the part number and the manufacturer, a US company based in Ohio, I could fill out most of the paperwork, with the exception of the country of origin. Timken has manufacturing facilities worldwide, and these bearings might have been made in Japan, Europe, or right here in the US. No country markings are visible in the photos, and there weren't any on the similar Timken bearings that were sent to me in error a week ago. Presumably, since these bearings are not really meant for the US market, Timken saw no reason to etch them with country of origin markings as is only required by US law.

The intent of country of origin marking requirements is to ensure that consumers can not be misled into thinking they are buying domestic product and getting, instead, offshore product, or thinking they are buying, say, German bearings but instead getting Japanese ones. It took me a little while, but I eventually found the exemption in the federal code to these marking requirements when items are being imported directly by the end user. For the curious, it is 19CFR134.32(f).

In addition to the requested paperwork, I submitted a sworn affidavit that I was the end user and that I should be exempted from the marking requirements and returned all the paperwork by email Saturday night. Hearing nothing further, however, I called DHL this morning to check on the status. They could not find my paperwork, so I sent it all in again.

Shortly afterward I got a call back saying they could not submit the paperwork to Customs without the country of origin. After a few minutes of wrangling I convinced them that it was that way or not at all, and they are going to send it in. We will see what happens; other than releasing my bearings from bond, the other two options that Customs can exercise are to destroy the bearings (and, yes, US Customs destroys millions of dollars of goods this way every year) or have DHL return them to sender. I am promised a return call by 5pm tomorrow.

In the meantime, however, I again contacted the local bearing house here in Chattanooga, now that I had a proper ISO number for the bearing. They think they can have them here tomorrow by 11am, and I have ordered two of them. I'll go over to pick them up with the take-out in hand, to make absolutely certain it is the correct replacement. With any luck, we'll be packing and installing bearings by tomorrow afternoon.

It's been two and a half weeks since I dumped the tanks or took on water, and faced with the prospect of being here through most of this week if not longer, we had to deal with that over the weekend. The last time we were stuck here motionless, due to the engine being out, we were outside and our 50' macerator hose was a fairly easy reach to the dump station. Here in the shop we had to first run the hose out the door, and it's a 60' run to the dump. We just made it by adding the 10' hose I bought for the great manhole incident of 2009, which ultimately led to a long explanatory post on creative sanitation.

We've also had a couple of visitors in the last few days. Our good friend Russ from Nashville decided to drive down for a dinner visit on Saturday, and took us to the Bluewater Grille downtown, near the aquarium. It was quite good, if a bit busy on a Saturday night. That whole section of town is full of restaurants of every stripe and seems quite vibrant.

Today we had a surprise visit from our friend Pat, a fellow Red Cross volunteer from Baton Rouge. She and her husband are staying just a few blocks away in their Allegro motor home at the Holiday Trav-L-Park, saw on the blog we were here, and decided to drop in. She had to go back quite a few posts to find the map link, which has prompted me to re-post it today. Depending on how things go here in the shop, we might try to have dinner with them tomorrow night.

With any luck If our luck changes, we should be done and back on the road sometime Wednesday, for points unknown. And I will begin the process of negotiating with the chaps across the pond about returning over $1,000 in unneeded or incorrect parts.


  1. Wow! I hope the local bearing company comes through. I am sending you good thoughts and prayers so you can get your show on the road. What a load of bureaucratic 'stuff'.

  2. You sure do go to great lengths just to keep a shady spot when you find one.

  3. Sorry you guy's have been there so long! I hope the local bearings are correct for you.
    Good Luck!

  4. Glad you're warm and dry there. Sorry it's not where you would rather be! Those types of problems are very troublesome. Hang in there.

  5. Holy smokes - this has truly been a trial for you, hasn't it? Let me guess, you've ordered TWO complete sets of bearings, just in case you need them in the future, right?

    Here's hoping you're completed and back on the road again in no time.

  6. This is where you can use the "at least" theory.
    At least you were able to find the number on line. At least you're not out in the middle of nowhere, high and dry, so to speak.
    Also, since sometimes these things do happen for a reason, at least now you know where to get these wonderful parts closer to "home".

    In the several years now that I've been following along, I don't think you've ever ventured to say that bus ownership was going to be a "thrifty endeavour", or for those with limited patience or limited mechanical know-how.

    This seems to get proven over and over again.

    Can't wait until you start messing with boats! *snort*


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