Truck Driving is easy… and Other Ignorant Myths, January 27, 2019


“Why are we here?”

The Existential Trucker

by Miles Moore

Humans have been asking this question since we figured out that there are other places TO be. Other planets. Other galaxies far, far away, other dimensions and so forth. According to the lovely woman who serves as my love interest, that’s called “existentialism”. That’s a mighty long word for something that means “why am I here?”. But I have to brag on my future wife a little. You see, she went all the way through a big city junior college right here in Oklahoma, so she’s a high intellectual. I can’t compete with that.

So, I guess what I’m going to concentrate on here is the lingering question of why I am here. Me personally, that is.

Why am I writing this book, in this period of my life when a lot of people are thinking about retiring? And why am I doing it with a paltry 600,000 miles ? That few ticks of the odo would be considered something akin to apprentice level in a respectable career full of tough professionals.

Why, indeed …

Well, I reckon it’s because of what Garth Brooks might call, a chain of events. I myself had the great opportunity to go to a very fine school. With a LOT of help from my wonderful parents, I worked my way through as a waiter, a pizza parlor worker, an auto parts counter man and a beer delivery driver. Got myself an education in journalism, and that afforded me a living as a new graduate with a beginning salary of just under $13,000. A year. Yeah, it was nothing those decades ago either. So I continued my career as a freelance writer, working many “Joe Jobs”, doing the tour through retail, food service, servicing cars, mopping bars and doing whatever I could find until my ship came in. Unfortunately, few “ships” came to port for the middle class during Reagan-omics. Even if / when mine did, I was probably hanging out at the bus station.

So, in the words of the great Ernest T. Bass, ” First one thing, then another happened,” and life kept on a’goin’.

For awhile I continued wandering through the service industry, then landed in a job teaching high school English to the Hillbilly masses. It was a wonderful, horrible, thankless job that I will never forget. I could never return to it, but I wouldn’t trade it for another career with half the heartache. But after several years and a heart attack at age 45, I decided it might be time to get away from people for awhile. Where could I work where I wouldn’t have to deal with people much? Where could I put in my dozen hours a day, at once working hard, but also not having to work with those who would drive me crazy… ?

After several weeks of doing what you’ve been doing, (we’ll come back to that again later), Trucking seemed the best answer. So I took my remaining summer pay and enrolled in a truck driving school well known for its asshole instructors and their coarse-but-effective courses. This locus of higher lernin’ was located on an abandoned WWII air base, surrounded by a sprawling inland ocean of ancient Arkansas bayous. Local commerce depended upon welfare and controlled dangerous substances, but since before Abolition, it had been gerrymandered with vast expanses of top grade river bottom land. The great slave drivers of the day turned that black dirt into cotton fields, and meandering rice paddies situated cleverly among the never-dry backwaters. It’s big there today as well. Well, they get a lot of good from the recreation it brings there too. When the smooth-mouthed locals get bored with hunting, fishing and tattooing NRA slogans on each other’s faces, they take to the wetlands for date nights with Thelma Lou. A classy night time activity consists of a mass wade-out among the ancient Goliath cypresses. The ones who don’t get too drunk or drown stick around to chastise the coach whip sized cotton mouths and cook meth. I’ll spare you the real name of that gleaming burg.

Glen Campbell and Mary Steenburgen are claimed to admitting to it being home for some reason. But those good country folk ain’t the area’s most impressive natural product. This caca hole should be red marked on the map for having the biggest skeeters this side of the Mekong Delta. Seriously. The local city handlers had hired contractors who drove around every evening fogging the air for the gigantic bloodsucking bastards, but it seemed to do little good. I think the really tough ones snorted the bug tonic before eating the littler ones. Late at night when traffic died down you can hear them droning all over the bayou; plotting and scheming to overthrow humanity. Monsters.

Anyway…

It should be said that no one needs to consider a career with a CDL unless you’ve been through a reputable trucking school. You’re going to learn a great deal about the industry into which you’ve thrown yourself, and the people who are taking a chance on hiring you. Those very folks are going to insist that you pass a trucking school because they probably can no longer insure you without it. Some of the better companies will send you to school themselves if you sign a contract of indenturement. This means you agree to work for them for a period of a year or two after you’ve graduated in exchange for them paying for your schooling. That helps to make sure that they get drivers who will stick with them for at least until they burn out and quit, or decide that this life is for them forever. It’s really a good deal for both sides, but you need to shop around. The Captain and Tenille were right. Before your time, eh? I could have said Neil Sedaka.

Anyhow… go to trucking school. Don’t Eeeven try to get a driving job without it. They won’t even talk to you and you’ll just wind up embarassing yourself. It’s well worth your time, and it’s a month that you’ll never forget.

I’ll get to a more detailed account of my own experiences as a student trucker later down the road. Pun intended. But right now, it’s back to the “why am I here” part.

How does anyone come to be a trucker? I suppose its within us all to want to be in one of the big rigs, booming across the nation in the biggest thing on the highway. What we see is a gleaming land train full of potential, and the freedom to do what we want. Why are we so fascinated with trucks anyway? It’s my guess that it’s a further extension of man’s relationship with the great beasts. Thousands of years before machinery, it was oxen, asses and horses of every imaginable type. Hannibal crossed the Alps on elephants. And when Christ came to town, He rode on a donkey colt. Once Hank Ford came on the scene, he made cars affordable, then trucks of every needed size right behind them. Two world wars perfected the engineering of our petroleum fed work hosses , then a legion of geniuses from Cummins, Caterpillar and Detroit honed the diesel engine into the work horses of our day. The love we hold for our steel beasts of burden is the stuff of legend and lore. We each have our favorites, but we worship them all, whether they are our pocket sized Toyotas, Grampa’s rattle trap 59 Chevy, or the titanically lifted four wheel drive monstrosities that the 1980s brought us. We groom them, wash them, feed and water them well. We keep them shod with the finest rubber, covered in expensive stable-like garages and put only the highest grade fuels in their tanks to enhance their performances. The greatest difference between our mechanical beasts today and those of our forebears is that we don’t have to feed ours every day if we don’t use them, and they’ll last basically until the end of time if we just keep them greased, oiled and in the barn.

Hell, chances are good that they’ll even out last the barn.

We are here at least in part due to that love for the great beasts that is somehow part of our human DNA; a symbiosis of purpose since pre-prehistoric times. But this time we’ve come back to this partnership through need; not because we have to have one of them in our lives – no.

This time we’re doing it mostly… because Truck Driving is Easy.

Miles Moore is a second generation trucker whose grandfathers never had a driver’s license. Neither of them. He is addicted to diesel smoke, fried foods and the smell of new rubber truck tires on a waxed showroom floor.

Truck Driving is Easy… and Other Ignorant Myths

So… You want to be a long haul truck driver? 
Over the Road. 
Coast to Coast. 
Whatever you care to label it, you want it, and you’re obsessed with it. You’ve been thinking, pining, DREAMING of this, for months or maybe even years. Obsession really falls short as a description, considering the time time you’ve been studying it in your own self-styled way. 
You surf the internet endlessly in your spare time, clinging to bits of whatever trucking trivia that catches your fancy. There’s probably a whole folder on your laptop crammed with it all. You have tons of stories, pictures, links and other bits of trucker-dom that you’ve accumulated like some sort of dreamy pack rat. 
You’ve researched it all (you think), and now you’re heart-bound for the wondrously stress free life to be lived and loved on the open highways. And why shouldn’t you believe all of that? It all seems so easy. 
No office politics. No cut throat co-workers. No incompetent boss breathing down your neck. Incompetent board of directors? Forget about it ! Angry strangers railing at you over nothing? Perish the thought. 
Every cell in your body vibrates with the desire to do it. Your reeling brain is hopelessly fogged with the idealistic notions you’ve packed inside it. Your very insides scream, ” “I want to be a truck driver !” 
Why? Because it’s rife with adventure, and big money. 
So nice. So peaceful. 
So … EASY. 
Despite perhaps your own better judgement, you’re convinced that you’ll quickly be serving America and swerving through her great cities and endless welcoming thoroughfares. Sure, you’ve thought it all through. No question about it. Everywhere you go, you see the drivers in their glinting machines, wheel in hand, aimed toward the scenic Vacationland for which you ache. 
Maybe you’ve even shopped for rigs to buy. Few people know tractors and trailers as well as you do right now, at least on paper. At the very least, you’ve already picked out the ones you like best, right down to the make, style and color. When you’re on the road headed anywhere at all yourself, you crane your neck to watch every gigantic rig as it comes whooshing by; a shiny fire-breathing Colossus, howling and whistling; thrumming, pounding the earth; headed for a mysterious destination with a load of even more mysterious cargo. (See the chapter titled: “OH, the Things You’ll Haul !). A new brand of blissful freedom from insulting morons and their mind numbing 9 to 5 grind is for YOU ! 
Nobody, but NOBODY can talk you out of it now. 
You’re sold that the most wonderful place to find this new Nirvana it is in the driver’s seat of a big rig on The Big Road. Floating the gears. Cruising along at 75. Waving at the pretty people. It’s clear and embedded in your pipe dream of it all; a favorite Sirius offering wafting from a perfect sound system as you blow along between the ditches. In your self induced hypnosis, you can count on numerous scantily clad body models standing on the side of the road with their short-shorts on. Maybe their toddler sons are there, pumping their arms madly for you to blow the air horns – which you do with tremendous child-like satisfaction. 
Well the good news is that you’re right about a great deal of the good stuff. It’s all out there. Make no mistake. You’ll have some fun while you’re trucking. Quite a bit actually. It will happen. You’ll also enjoy unbridled, unequaled independence Out There. Veteran truckers call it The Real World. But it’s not to be confused with the MTV series of the same name where a group of moronic, beautiful kids shack up together. Their Real World allows them to fornicate and laze around in a free party pad in the next easy chapter of their entitled lives. 
This is THE Real World, and trust me folks, it don’t get no more “real-er” than being a trucker. 
Right now, you believe in all the romantic notions of operating the biggest thing on the road. Much of it is true, but most of your perceptions are terribly, tragically wrong. Your forest is invisible behind the trees, but trust me, the rotten snags are there; titanic mountains and sprawling valleys of them. 
What IS true and good is what keeps the trucking world – and the world in general – going: MONEY. Because so many of the old guys are disappearing and the young ones aren’t showing up, we are coming into the Golden Age of money for truckers. As a successful driver, it’s true that you’ll have money in every pocket. There will be wads of cash, probably better money than you’ve ever made being a desk drone in Nowhere, America. The money IS good, but you’ll work for it all, and lose a lot on things you’ve never imagined. 
You’ll visit multiple states in one week, probably at least a few in even one day. You’ll see LOTS of open stretches of beautiful landscapes. You’ll experience the purple mountains and their majesty and the amber waves of grain. You’ll come to appreciate the remarkable night beauty of big cities from a distance … and learn to dread the realistic in-your-face squalor of those very same places. You will lose count of the number of times you’ve crossed the Mississippi, Ohio, Allegheny and Snake Rivers along with an endless list of others. That’s not to mention all the bays, lakes, puddles and trickles whose un-marked names you will never know. 
You will roll past some of the greatest, most historic, most legendary and most desirable tourist destinations in the country, but never get even more than a glimpse of an interstate sign pointing to more than 99.99 percent of them. You’ll never get to see inside of them . Ever. Not once. I’m giving you that hundredth of a percent because, well… S— happens, right? Even if you plan unbelievably well, that number probably optimistic.
You’ll sleep in the back – the sleeper – of a big truck, and in all reality, it’s very comfortable. You’ll be plenty warm in the winter and plenty cool in the summer. There will be many days when you’ll run your heater and a/c during the same 24 hour period. You’ll eat garbage mostly, unless you’re a great planner, which you also will be, but most likely not about your food. 
If you smoke a half pack a day, you’ll up that to a whole pack. Smoke one pack, then you’ll do two. If you’re overweight, that will increase with every mile you drive. If you’re skinny and have never had a weight problem, then you’re a lucky bastard and I never want to meet you. Your eyesight will dim. Family situations and relationships will erode beginning immediately. Men: you’ll pee in bottles and consider an emergency poop on the side of the road. Women, it will be worse for you in some ways, especially toiletry speaking. For all, fast food napkins and plastic grocery bags will become treasured save-ables instead of throw-aways. 
No one will need to remind you to be grateful for an ON-ramp (NOT an off-ramp) or gracious business with parking for you to sleep. Haircuts will be as rare as the change of seasons. Showers will be a treat, as will clean toilets. The overpowering stank of someone else’s bathroom odors will become as common as the acrid tang of diesel smoke, the fishy air of bug guts on the windshield and your own onion-like b.o.

The glamour… it’s overwhelming.
It’s a different Real World all right. It’s an invisible reality existing in plain sight of everyone, every day. We simply can’t live without trucks and the tough, nasty cusses who run them on every spit of road in every nasty forgotten corner of the world. 
And you want to be a trucker. 

” Driving a big truck? It’s either the worst job you’ll ever love, or the best job you’ll ever hate. Maybe both at the same time. Nobody bitches about trucking more than an old trucker, even as they love every minute of it.”

Miles Moore, Million Mile MENSA Trucker