Kings of the Road - Trucking and those who operate the giants of the asphalt

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I started driving for a living back in 2002, after having gone to a truck driving school in St. Louis, MO. Over the years I have seen a lot, experienced a lot and even learned some things, about life, about being a man and fortunately for myself and everyone else on the road, about driving.

I have traveled all 48 lower United States, plus Ontario, Canada and I visited Mexicali, Mexico once while making a stop in Calexico, CA. I have had the opportunity to visit places that children dream of when they open an encyclopedia, turn on the TV or computer or most importantly open up a book to read. Places like Hannibal, Missouri, famous for being the home of Mark Twain, New Orleans, Seattle, Chicago, L.A., NYC and many places in between.

The life of a truck driver is first and foremost, business. The job involves a lot more than driving, though that is what most people see and why a lot now want to be truck drivers. There are many early morning or late night pickups and deliveries, the occasional government inspection of equipment, driver and freight and tons of paperwork that has to be done just right. It is nearly impossible to have a set schedule and drivers are constantly "fudging" the books to make it to the next stop.

By federal regulation and state law(which is uniform throughout the U.S. for interstate drivers) a long haul driver is only allowed to drive 11 hours followed by a 10 hour break and the 11 hours driving has to be finished by the 14th hour of going on duty and only 70 hours total working and driving in an 8 day period. Many drivers flaunt these rules, though they are absolutely necessary for the protection of life and property on our nations highways.

After the business aspect, there is the fun part, traveling. On average a driver runs about 2000 to 2500 miles a week with a few pushing 4200. The miles are long and when a driver is by himself it does get lonely and boring, but there is a lot to see and many new people to meet each and every day.

I always enjoyed the occasional visit to the truck stop. This is the outpost, oasis if you will where a driver prepares for the miles ahead. Truck stops today come equipped with showers, restaurants, arcades and even a lounge with a big screened TV. A driver who is waiting on his next load can drive over, get freshened up, grab a bite and relax, not to mention a few that have a barber shop, electronics/cb store and even the occasional bar(ok, I know alcohol and the road don't mix, but it's nice to unwind after a long week.)

Speaking of the CB, this is a great tool, used by both truck drivers and the traveling public to get information and even keep each other awake and provide someone to chat with over the long miles. Back in the sixties there was a surge in CB use as it hit it's prime and a whole new language came into being. This is still around and even though the CB isn't as popular today as it once was, many still use it and enjoy the benefits.

A little about the truck itself. Most trucks weigh about 30,000 pounds empty, this is truck and trailer. With the load and freight that goes up to at or near 80,000 pounds. Most, though not all, trucks are on the order of 68 to 71 feet long and are 8 and 1/2 foot wide. It takes about 600 feet to stop a truck at 60 miles per hour.

In closing, I'll say that trucking and those who drive, dispatch, work in the warehouses and on the docks are the lifeblood of our great nation. If any of these elements of this industry cease, everything comes to a screeching halt. We need to give thanks for and to those who keep America moving and our economy(even slow as it may be) afloat and in good times, prospering. Please, as you ride up the highway, throw up your hand in thanks to those kings of the road and give us just a little more room when passing, your life may depend on it.










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Comment by Johnny on February 21, 2010 at 2:39pm
My father was a truck driver, i have very fond memories of riding along in the rig with him. When i got older it was that early childhood experience that led me into transportation and logistics managment for over 12 years. I have had a lot of good drivers work with me over the years. Through a series circumstances and this terible economy i finally decided after being unable to find a job in over a year, that it was time to re-invent myself. I have now been working as a Locksmith and I am constantly on the road, Although I dont drive a tractor, I can say that I love it all the way. I am constantly seeing new places and there is no one hanging over my shoulder, no employees to worry about and for the most part i work on my own. Also i get to help people usually in trouble get out of a jam. I have a hard time seeing my self going back to an office/warehouse setting ever again. I guess i was really a lone wolf type after all.
P.s. about two weeks ago some A!$%#@le rear ended my work truck and sped off, i was in hot pursuit but he bolted doing 70 through a school zone and I couldnt get his tag. no body got hurt though! So yes in deed for all of us who work on the road everyday to those who dont, pay attention, move over and please GET OFF THE PHONE!
Comment by Angelia Sparrow on February 21, 2010 at 10:07am
I've been driving since 2006, mostly dedicated work, but some stuff in the system. I haul auto parts and have to unload my own (48') trailer. The headlights and windshield wipers aren't bad, but an engine goes about 400 lbs. The dock usually sends a pallet-jack.
Comment by Brett McKay on February 19, 2010 at 3:15pm
Really interesting post, Matthew. Thanks for a look behind the scenes.
Comment by Matthew Robertson on February 15, 2010 at 10:28am
My only problem with multi-stop loads has been consignees who for whatever reason wanted to take their sweet time unloading me. I'm not the most patient of people and have on occasion been known to do it myself, and faster than the clowns standing around on the dock. I unloaded a partial load of rock salt at a grocery warehouse in Norfolk with a hand operated pallet jack back just before New Years. The people working on the dock couldn't believe I was even back there, much less working and then the driver who had backed into the dock beside me, before me was upset when I left 15 minutes later, as if they had done me a favor or something. I actually wish I could work like that everyday instead of just periodically.
Comment by James Murphy on February 15, 2010 at 10:09am
I myself am a driver, just returning to the fray after a long retreat into different careers. I drive local, but many of the same applies, only I think the deadlines with this company border on insane. Get freight at 3:00 am, and have to deliver it all by 8:00 am, only your farthest stop is 4 hours away, and you have 12 stops before that one. Delivery stops can vary in time, depending on the load size, and on how heavy the load is.

I still wouldn't do anything else though, I love the freedom of the road way to much.
Comment by Matthew Robertson on February 14, 2010 at 9:57am
Those delivery deadlines are the toughest part of the job. I think some people are completely unreasonable when they set appointments or even dispatchers who refuse to reschedule appointments and there are a lot who treat a driver like he's just another part of the machine. It's things like that that cause accidents, but though it happens all the time, there aren't near as many accidents as there could be, though an awful lot of "near misses" as the FAA puts it.
Comment by Myles Bancroft on February 14, 2010 at 9:03am
Hey Matthew, great post. I have a friend who's an owner-operator and I've taken short trips with him before. I used to have my CDL but lost it in a move from state to state years ago. Love your pics. There's nothing more manly than the open road. Not sure I could take the stress of making delivery deadlines though.

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