The general public has this misconceived perception of a truck driver’s life. Most think that we are out there making all kinds of money, having a great time, enjoying our freedom of not having anyone telling us what to do while we get to visit all the cool sites within the United States and eat at restaurants all the time. Of course let’s not forget how much “fun” we have dodging Smokey while Bandit, Cletus, and Snowman are also having all the fun of speeding down the highways finding all those pretty women.
In reality now I would like to paint a picture of my view of a trucker’s life. Ready for this?________________________________________
Now the movie “Smokey and the Bandit” is what started people thinking about all the fun we truckers have on a daily basis. Sorry, John Q. Public, but we don’t have that much fun and the food is less desirable then you might think at some of these places. Today many truckers have refrigerators for sandwiches and cool drinks along with meal preparation items. Some of the truckers have small plug in warmers to make warm soup or coffee. To eat in restaurants on a daily basis is for the rich. To eat in restaurants every few days is for the single trucker or maybe the owner/operator (I said MAYBE). To eat in a restaurant once in the two or three weeks that you are out is the normal life of a trucker. So if your just reading this and you are not a trucker; go to the nearest truck stop and pay for a trucker’s meal when your on your way out without him/her knowing about it! Have the waitress tell the trucker its from a 4 wheeler that appreciates all his/her hard work.
Unlike the movie where it’s easy to pick up a beautiful woman; we don’t even get to SEE that many beautiful women let alone attempt to talk to them or pick them up for dinner and a movie. Most women that see us won’t even give us the time of day… Unless your really gutsy, like I am, and go right up to them and actually ask them “What time is it?” just to prove to yourself that these women WOULD give you the time of day or because your so handsome. (Cough! Cough!) Sorry that’s just one of my ego trips I tripped over. HOWEVER… I have found that many of the lady drivers out there today are really kinda cool! Many of them have a protective shell surrounding them because of the few ignorant people on the CB radio that only have one thing in mind when they hear a female’s voice. In reality many of these ladies are really fun to talk to and I find that they are no different than their counterpart when it comes to professionalism.
Loneliness is something I don’t think ever crosses the general public’s thoughts when it comes to truck drivers. The atmosphere of desertion is permanent. There are many times I wish I had a warm body just to curl up to. NO! I don’t mean for sex, not at all. Just the warmth of affection, the smell of soft perfume, the company of the opposite sex to carry on an intellectual conversation as to get a different point of view of what ever topic we are conversing about. Sometimes a series of unaccountable events happen, as if by some pre-arranged plan: a plan of which I have not the least knowledge or control. There are moments when the mind waits, as though for a revelation, while a complex tangle of calm is woven over thought; it is like a sleep, or a supernatural trance; and during this lull I am aware of a force of quiet reasoning: What the hell am I doing in a “Pickle Park” (that’s driver’s lingo for a rest area) when I could be at home with my family? I guess I’m homesick or is it the loneliness that is taken over my thoughts? Somehow this isn’t quite the same as I remembered before some 30 years ago. Now, even though these cabs and berths are so much larger it seems like I am a prisoner confined to it for days and weeks on end. It is easy to loose track of days; Friday was no different from Saturday and so on because it is a constant feeling of chasing the white lines on the highway.
Sleeping is another factor that the general public over looks. We sleep with the drone of the diesel engines and the reefers (trucker’s lingo for refrigerated trailers) humming away while being tossed around during windy weather. Sometimes it is the equivalent to sleeping out in a damp, musty barn where the dampness goes right through you and affects your every joint when you finally get behind the wheel to start the next shift.
There are many things that go on in my life on the road that is hard to put in any kind of logical or chronological order at times. Seeing all the beauty that Nature displays for us, which many people living in its presence take for granted day after day, is sometimes an awestruck adventure in itself. For example: I might pass a house with its own corral and a few horses and close by there might be a beautiful stream meandering through the property. Maybe I’ll pass by the land that the dinosaurs once roamed out West and are now being excavated by scientist for a museum. I might pass places where the Union or Confederate armies or real life settlers, cowboys and Indians or slaves in the South once lived with their families or fought for their freedom and property or searched for silver and gold in “them thar hills”. In some places you almost expect to see John Wayne or Roy Rogers and Dale Evans on horseback on a trail or sitting under the stars by a warm campfire with their homemade coffee or maybe even singing while they play their guitar. While looking in the hills and valleys you almost expect to see Indians with their families around their teepees sitting on the ground talking amongst themselves and working on some project while their children are having fun running around them. You think of how people crossed this great land with covered wagons, on horseback or simply walking, not on paved roads of today with restaurants and truck stops and flushing toilets but in the wilderness – on their own – twisting their ankles on gopher holes and rocks without a doctor to be found for weeks or months and the facilities were nothing more than a hole in the ground or leaned up against a tree. I think of all the cool sites I have seen – whipping by at 61 miles per hour (Some trucks have governors on them to reduce the speed) – like the White House or the Washington Monument (or is that a monument to Clinton?) and other monumental structures in that area or the beautiful architectural structures in various cities. Although I don’t have time to actually view these sites I enjoy the privilege that this great country of ours lets us experience while traveling through this land of ours.
I get to see how many people live today. Some with mansions, sprawling ranches, simple homes, apartments and condos. I had passed by rundown homes that you would think is abandon but you might catch a glimpse of a cloths line drying out the wash or worse yet see the homeless that live under the overpasses. While driving; the truck driver thinks of his family, loved ones and pets back home along with his/her children or friends that he/she could be with after working a normal eight hour day. Many people “think” that truck drivers have all kinds of freedom but we still have responsibilities 24 hours a day of the tractor, trailer, and cargo along with everyone around us as we drive. There are times where frustration can get the better part of us while sitting for hours not moving and not getting paid for it. For example: on one trip of mine I had no problem running my first 70 hours from Green Bay, Wisconsin down to Victoria, Texas but the return trip had hours of what I felt was wasted time. At one point I was stuck at a rest stop, out of hours, without a phone, and a port-a-potty instead of working bathrooms. I was stuck there for 18 long hours. I arrived in Mt. Pleasant, IA at Wal-Mart and made my delivery on time but had to wait for hours on end to receive the next load assignment. At this point I had already picked up an empty trailer but they told me to return the trailer, bobtail (driving a tractor without the trailer) to New Hampton, IA to pick up an empty trailer. This trailer was buried in a snowdrift from behind and had piles of snow plowed in the front of it that I had to dig out. This just to return all the way back down to Cedar Rapids, IA to pick up a load to be delivered to Rochester, MN. (whew!) Where the sense of all that was I’ll never know but hell, I get paid to do what I am told to do.
Generally I believe that most truck drivers are a poor bunch of individuals that are from all walks of life, that, for one reason or another, decided to get into this industry. I have talked to former professionals in their own field that had quit for one reason or another down to the kid that just got his drivers license then went to trucker’s school for Swift Transportation. (Now doesn’t that make you feel safe on the highways knowing that Swift Transportation will hire anyone just to hold the steering wheel? What is worse yet is that this ‘kid’ could be considered a “trainer” in just 3 months of driving.) We are under constant time constraints without any regard from the dispatchers, shipper or the consignee about traffic, construction, weather, or our own personal health. Although we don’t have the physical being of “the boss” (And no I’m not talking about our wives, guys.) we are sometimes our own worse enemy because we allow the Qualcomm (the truck’s messaging computer from your dispatcher) to control and ruin our day or night with its infernal annoying “BEEP” at any given second. We are in constant fear for our own safety from theft, personal harm, germs from facilities that only God knows who was there last, sabotage, food that either goes bad on us or is prepared without much effort by cooks who care less about the clients they feed, the animals that are blind in one eye and can’t see out of the other or are deaf in one ear and can’t hear the air horn out of the other and the worst fear of all “the professional four wheeler”. These are the morons on the road who ‘think’ that they are the only ones on the road. That’s right “They OWN the road”. These people are talking on their cell phones, texting, listening to music that is about 600 decibels too loud, fighting with other passengers, or having sex either with themselves or with an accomplice or two – or more, or worse yet… the flasher who is there to watch the reaction on your face instead of the traffic accident that they are about to cause. You even have the driver who is totally oblivious to any other traffic around them and either cuts directly in front of you for absolutely no apparent reason or aims their vehicle from the hammer lane (far left lane) to the exit four lanes across and just 200 yards to the right of them. Trust me this list can go on & on & on! I think that in MN & NJ (from observing their license plates) they must actually teach their drivers to cut directly in front of the vehicle they are passing within no less then 2 car lengths of space. I have been the victim of this act many times myself in these states and heard many remarks over the CB radio about this very thing that happens to other truck drivers. It’s amazing that for one mile in front of this 4 wheeler there are no vehicles and for one mile in back of them there are no vehicles and worse yet there are no vehicles within miles of anyone including the vehicle they are about to cut in front of but yet they find this yearning deep within them to cut right in front of us with their own personal death wish! It should be taught to all four wheelers that semis can’t just stop 40 tons of moving vehicle as fast as you can stop that vehicle that their driving.
Why we like it and keep coming back for more is either that we are glutton for punishment, cynical to our own endangerment or just plain nutz! But we do and we keep our economy running daily.
After being run ragged for years I was forced to give up my CDL because of my health. THAT may have saved my life and other's also.. Today I live in a quite little town in South Central Wisconsin with a fantastic lady named Terri.