We Are Truckers!

Greetings from “the Road”

If you havent figured it out by now, WE ARE TRUCKERS!
We are soon to be in our six month of driving the Kenworth OTR (over the road) and it is STILL a blast!

When I first let people know that I was going to get my CDL and be a truck driver I was told by one person, “Why would you want a job where everybody hates you?”

I was befuddled by that response but almost six months in to it I can see why he said that.

There are times out here where we are “greeted” at a place picking up or delivering with a sneer or a growl. I have decided that some people just do NOT like their job and take it out on whoever is in front of them at the time. Lucky us. If we’re not on time we are greeted with a snarling “Youre late” or “ Youre EARLY”. Either throws them into a tizzy. Not all, but enough of them to make you ready for  ANYTHING when you tentatively walk through a warehouse door looking for someone…anyone…that can tell you where to park your rig.

Id say about half of our pick ups or deliveries have an appointment time that read like a cable guy schedule “Sometime between 8:00AM and 5:00PM” half of those could be “hard appointments” with an actual time like  Oct. 3 2015 at 9:00AM. And they will point out to you that it DOES NOT say 8:30AM or 9:30AM and it most CERTAINLY does NOT say Oct 2nd or Oct 4th.   If you do not make it at your scheduled appointment time you may still get to dock/park your truck and trailer at a door but you’ll be told, “We will get to you when we can…”
“Well, whats the big deal? Why cant you make an appointment time?” you may ask.   Most of the time we can and things move along very smoothly. But lets imagine that your day job expects you there ready to work at 8:00AM. Easy enough. Let’s say your job is in the Pacific Northwest like Seattle, Washington. No biggie…big city…get up early for traffic. Doable. But what if you’re waking up every morning in the Atlantic Southeast like Orlando, Florida ?
Give yourself three days to get there. No problem. What could POSSIBLY happen? 
If you just draw a straight line across the map of the USA you can clearly see its going to be a breeze. Hmmm…..no straight interstate to Seattle from Orlando?  No problem..we”ll just plot our course across the USA zig zagging though the states.  And what does EVERY state have? A major city. And what does every major city have? Traffic. How many bumper to bumper stop and go traffic jams would like to negotiate today? You’ll be fine. Keep it Zen like and you’ll make it through.
Lets throw some other curveballs at you. And these are things you already consider in your everyday 30 minute commute to your existing job in your home town.

Hows’s my vehicle doing?

Shouldn’t worry too much about that if you have dependable transportation but how may times have you gone out to your car and the battery is dead? Or you have a flat? Or youre out of gas?
The vehicle we drive NEEDS to be driving a minimum of 2500 miles a week to make money. That’s some wear and tear and also the reason why EVERY time we start the day we do what we call a “Pre Trip Inspection”. That’s basically looking and/or touching every component of the tractor AND trailer to make sure its safe to drive. 
Im not going to even ask how many of you bother to check the air in your tires before you drive because I see all of you on the side of the road in the winter with a flat.

Just ONE of the things you should be thanking your truck driver when you see a responsible one: We try to make sure our vehicle is safe to drive so it wont kill you.

I wonder if Ill run into any traffic today?

We touched on this a bit already but its worth mentioning again because we have to consider EVERY city we are going to drive through. And for all of you Indiana fans, we have to consider if the bridges will actually be safe to drive across. 
Did you know that most bridges are designed with semi’s in mind? Not your little front wheel drive scooter cars. ANYBODY can build a bridge for those. Bridges are to be designed to handle a fully loaded (80,000 pounds) tractor and trailer. 
Whenever I comment on the state of our infrastructure in any social media, you understand my concern. A bridge going out that’s on my route and I don’t know about it until I get there can ruin my day. You know what ruins my day even more? If that bridge fails while Im on it.  
So, no biggie. Just plan a route that you don’t have to deal with any bridge. HA! Even KANSAS has bridges!
What irks me even more and fuels my bridge phobia is the question: “Who gets the contract to make a bridge?” Answer: the lowest bidder. NOT the one that wants to use all the BEST and STRONGEST material. The cheapest one. UGH.

How’s the weather?

Never mind whether or not its going to be sunny in both Seattle AND Orlando..Is it still tornado season in Oklahoma? When are the first “Northeasterns” coming?
Are trucks being blown over by gusts of wind in Wyoming? Do I have CHAINS to get OVER the Rockies? Is Florida expecting a hurricane? WILL I BE STUCK ON A BRIDGE WHEN ANY OF THIS HAPPENS?!?!?  

Speaking of rain…..
Every time you drive your car on the interstate in the rain and you pass or drive near a trucker, you owe them thanks for not running over you.  
We all know how many get a little crazy whenever it rains or snows a little bit.
You know what’s really crazy? Not making yourself MORE visible in the rain. TURN YOUR LIGHTS ON. Its not for you to see, its so everyone else can see YOU. 
One little visability test you could do is cover up you rear view mirror and drive around. Hopefully you will all realize how much you actually use it. 
We don’t have one. Couldn’t use it if we did because of the 53 foot long trailer directly behind us.
We have our side mirrors but we still have a TON of blind spots. So throw in rain or snow and the visibility decreases again.
 Also, if you’ve ever ridden in a big rig you’ll know how noisy they can be. If you’ve stood next one while its idling you can get an idea. Now just imagine that a speed. Its noisy.
In order to try and combat that noise our cabs try to be a little insulated. Loud engine plus insulated cab plus possible music playing equals I don’t hear your little tweaky horn so don’t “beep” at me, get out of the way.
Also, if you ever have the honor of riding in a truck you’ll notice it’s a bumpy ride. We feel bumps more than you do in your cars. So one of things we always do is check our mirrors to make sure we didn’t just run over you because running over a Ford Focus feels like a speed bump to us. That’s kinda funny but that should also terrify you enough to respect the 70 foot long 80000 pound vehicle driving along side of you. 

While Im on the subject of sharing the road …

Let me say here that most respectful truck drivers DO NOT weave in and out of lanes. Speaking for myself and a lot of others once we are in a lane we don’t want to get out of it unless we have to. We do not have an agenda of trying to get in front of you for fun. Believe me, I would much rather drive one lane ALL THE WAY from Orlando to Seattle. But things happen. There is a very real vacuum that happens when a truck and trailer passes by at speed. The faster its going the stronger the vacuum. So, THIS is why we are going to move to the left whenever a vehicle is disabled on the right hand shoulder. I’ve had the thrill of placing safety triangles on the shoulder of an interstate right next to trucks going by at speed. Try it some time. Make sure you lean AWAY from traffic. 

There are many times a car will be coming up along my left side and cannot see a disabled vehicle on the right shoulder but they SHOULD be able to see my turn signal and that I want/need to come over. Very rarely does anyone ever realize whats going on and they will dilly dally next to me. 
Again, if possible, I NEVER want to change lanes so if you see my signal on theres going to be a good reason for it and Im coming over. You should remember at this time if I run over you I have to SEE IT in my mirror to know its happening.

I was told by many experienced drivers that when you drive in New York City they are VERY conscious of holding up traffic like slowing down or stopping to change lanes. It has been made very clear by the local law officials that a trucker is to signal which way they are wanting to go and after it blinks once you move your truck over. If the cars next to you don’t make an adjustment its THEIR Fault.

Let me quickly address on /off ramp merging.
Usually any truck on the interstate is moving at the legal speed limit. And its constant. Chances are that truck has been at that exact cruise controlled speed for hundreds of miles. As you engage an on ramp your job is to quickly identify if you can pass the truck next to you safely or do you need to merge in behind it. THAT’S IT. There is no hoping that the truck will speed up or slow down for you. If you don’t have the horsepower ( looking right at you Prius and Smart Car drivers) you slow that over blown skateboard down and get in line. If you do have the horsepower, that long vertical pedal on the right.. THAT’S the one you step on to get in front of me. And DON’T brake when you do get in front of me.

What else?
Whats the nickname for a Semi Tractor and Trailer?  An “18 wheeler“”. EIGHTEEN
Why am I reinforcing 18? Because that means We have at least 4 times the amount of tires to worry about than most of you.  A lot of the trucks out there have recapped tires which is usually their corpses you see im chunks out there on the roads. You DO NOT want to be next a rig when one of those blow. You don’t want to be tailgating a rig when one of those blow. So the lesson here is keep a safe distance away on ALL sides of a truck and trailer.  If we knew exactly when a tire was going to go we would replace it before hand.

With tires in mind, anytime you see something odd on a truck and trailer like a tire going flat or wobbling, its not a bad idea to try and let a driver know. Like Ive said before, if we don’t see it, we probably don’t know whats going on. As the trees and vegetation dries out you should say something about sparks from a dragging chain or something also. I know its tough to yell through a window but if you happen to have a CB radio most truckers monitor channel 19. 

BTW… there isn’t NEARLY as much CB radio chatter as there use to be back in the 80s. Oddly enough, most truckers tell me they stay off of it because its usually full of drivers that think theyre comedians and all they say are smart ass remarks. Cell phones has pretty much killed the CB chat. Its still handy. We usually turn it on in traffic jams so we can figure out whats going on and what lane we should be in to avoid whatever happened.

So what does all of this have to do with people hating truck drivers? 

Well, for one, all of those things I listed about how to drive around a truck with your car most people wont want to do and they already feel they own the road so they don’t want a truck driver ruining it for them. There’s one hater.

Another is that warehouse worker in shipping or receiving when we show up late because of any one or more of things that could have happened to us on the road. I understand that they have a schedule to keep. We all do. But  we represent extra work for them. Either they have to reschedule help or have to ask other workers to work our truck now that were there. Or even worse if we show up and that makes everybody have to stay later than what theyre scheduled. This equals potentially a whole warehouse full of haters 
And now,  if pulling those workers off another load and truck driver waiting to go, now THAT driver hates you and the driver after that and the driver after that….

Other truck drivers also hate you because youre physically in their way and its taking you an extra 30 seconds to park. Or you represent potentially taking a job away from them. The whole “competition” thing in truck driving is incomprehensible for me.
I had a driver snap at me “ya just had to take up the whole area?!?” at a truck stop in the middle of nowhere and the only problem was that he couldn’t walk STRAIGHT to the door of the fuel station and actually had to walk around about 1/3 of our trailer while we got ready to leave. I suppose he had a gripe. But you do run into the proverbial grumpy driver. I just listed a bunch of stuff to be grumpy about. We try not to be the grumpy drivers. Maybe that automatically happens with experience.

SO, yeah, we witness a lot of hate out here. Luckily its not everywhere nor all the time. There are the times complete strangers act like you’re long lost relatives or close friends.
And we also still get to experience the beauty and wonder of this country we live in. I’ve said it before that pictures or videos just do not to the scenery justice. You have to go out and experience it first hand. And if you actually get paid to do it: BONUS!
/Remember, if you didn’t grow it a truck driver brought it to you. And chances are, a truck driver brought the seeds for you to grow it.

Until next time,
Keep the clean side up and the dirty side down. 
Drive on!

"our" Blue 2010 Kenworth T660 and trailer

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