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Trucker's Journal

I've been a trucker since November, 2004. Before that I was an accountant for many years. I'm having fun and actually making more than I did before. Go figure....

Location: Midwest, United States

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Are truck drivers "professionals"?

According to one dictionary, a profession is "An occupation that requires considerable training and specialized study, and often, a license issued by a governmental body after extensive testing procedures." Many people think that to become a truck driver, you just need to have a job offer, then you jump in and start driving. BZZZT! Wrong! We are professionals in every sense of the definition above. My training (and this may vary somewhat for others) consisted of 4 weeks of schooling, divided about equally between classroom study and driving practice, which was in turn divided between range (a large parking lot devoid of other vehicles) and road practice, always with a seasoned driver in the passenger seat. After that, I signed with a national company which required 270 hours of driving time behind the wheel, in the presence of another driver with considerably more experience. That in itself took over 6 weeks to complete, so before I was out on my own, I had over 10 weeks of supervised training. The last part of the definition, a license, was issued by my state after passing both a written test on rules and regulations and a driving test covering all aspects of the job. If you think it's not a hard test, next time you're renewing your license at the local bureau, pick up a copy of the CDL (Commercial Driver's License) manual and study it. You'll have to realize quite quickly that it takes a lot more knowledge than your normal Operator's license.

There are bad big-riggers out there who give the entire profession a bad name, but I can daily point out many drivers of lesser vehicles who do the same thing for that portion of the population. If you pay close attention to us, you'll find that the vast majority are legal drivers and are polite.

Another aspect of what many 4-wheelers think about truck drivers as a class is disdain. They believe that all are dirty, rude, drug-users, impolite, etc., etc., etc. That is true for a small portion of us, but as above, it also true for other drivers also. Keep in mind that trucks do indeed carry the goods for America. When I think about what I've hauled in the past year, the list might surprise you:

Oil (motor oil for your vehicle, and olive oil for your cooking)
Paper (both raw paper and printed material, as well as several loads of toilet paper!)
Aluminum (the water pump in your next vehicle might have come from one of my loads)
Software (last year's TurboTax didn't just appear on the shelf at your favorite store)
Food (canned beans, biscuit mix, cherry pie filling, etc.)
Bricks (your wall or sidewalk might have been mine at one time)
Scrap (can you spell "recycle"?)
Beer and soda (picture a truck driver when you pop that top next time)
Paint (is your auto bare metal?)
Medical supplies (an entire load of surgical dressings--thank me when your appendix is removed)

That's just a very partial listing--there are many others, but I don't want to bore you with the entire thing. Among the things I don't haul because I've never driven a tanker, include the gasoline or diesel fuel you use every day, the milk you drink, even the bottled water you drink. There is very little in your daily life that hasn't been hauled by a truck at some point. Even if you live in a log home that you built yourself of trees you chopped, I would bet that the axe came in on a truck. Even if you eat only organic food grown by the farmer down the street, the bag or box you carried it home in came in on a truck. The computer on which you read this was delivered at one point by a truck. Even if you...well, you get the picture, I think. Even if nothing else, remember that your garbage is hauled away by a truck :)

The next time you are inclined to think about truckers in a negative light, stop and reflect on how much they do for you. I'm hoping that one or two people will read this and change their minds about trucking being a degrading position, and the people who do it being less than human.

Have I touched a nerve with you? GOOD!

Sunday, December 11, 2005


This is one of the hardest things to explain to a 4-wheeler. Visibility in a big rig is both better and worse than what you have. On the better side, I'm a lot higher than you are; my seat is about 6 feet above the road, placing my eyeballs about 8.5-9' up. This allows me to see above your roof (in most cases) meaning that I can see road conditions and obstructions better than you can. Incidentally, that height also allows me to see into most cars and small trucks unless your windows are heavily tinted. If you're doing something you don't want me to see, such as drinking a beer, rolling a joint, or other activities (some of which should be confined to the bedroom or other private place, either solo or as a duet), then remember that when I'm next to you at a red-light or you're passing me, then wait until later.

In direct opposition to the enhanced visibility I may have to the front, my side and rear views are confined entirely to what I can see in my mirrors. If you've never been seated in a big rig's driver's seat, you really have no idea how limited that area is. I'm sure you've seen the signs on trailers which say "If you can't see my mirrors, I can't see you." How true that is! There are times when people get so close to me the only way I can see that they are there depends on lighting. If at night, I can see your headlights shining to the sides behind my trailer, or in the daytime if the sun is right, I can see your shadow to the side following me. Your brakes are better than mine, so if I decided I need to stop suddenly, you can avoid hitting me provided your reaction time is good. If not, well, you may end up with a crunched hood, radiator, lights, etc., and I will have a small set of scratches on the trailer bumper. Believe me, I will win almost any physical contest you and I get into.

On the sides, there are huge blind spots where I can't see you in my flat mirrors. I do have convex mirrors also, and sometimes you will be visible there. If I'm trying to change lanes, please be alert for my turn signals and avoid pulling into those areas on my side where I have difficulty seeing. I don't really want to force you over with my trailer while you're next to me, but if I don't know you're there, it's a possibility.

Remember, you always know I'm there, but the opposite isn't always true. Please drive accordingly and we will both get home safely and without points on our licenses.

More later, perhaps next weekend.