Truck Driving is Easy …
and Other Ignorant Myths
Trouble on the The Big Road: The Kind You Find and the Kind that Finds You
by Miles Moore, CDL
By the time we’re old enough to toilet ourselves, most of us already know the basic differences between right and wrong. However, just in case you were raised by (insert some lunatic here), and are intent upon creating your own misery, here are the basics:
1. If you think it’s wrong, it probably is, so don’t do it.
2. If it’s going to make someone else cry, it’s probably bad, so don’t do it.
3. If there’s a chance that it’s going to make you feel unusually good now, but unusually bad later, it’s probably actually REALLY bad for you or somebody else, so don’t do it.
5. If it puts anyone’s general well-being in danger, then it’s probably bad, so don’t do it. This applies to you, or anyone who looks another oxygen breathing human being.
4. If it costs a lot of money right now and isn’t something that you can talk about in church, at Thanksgiving dinner, or in front of someone you respect, it’s probably not something that will benefit you down the road, therefore it’s probably bad, so don’t do it.
6. If it SEEMS bad, then there’s a good chance that it’s either against the law, SHOULD be against the law, or will make another reasonable person feel bad, then it’s probably bad, so don’t do it.
7. Don’t do anything to anyone you wouldn’t want them pulling on you. (*Google “The Golden Rule”. It used to be a common thing, but began to fade into obscurity about the same time morons began running everything. And actually, if you skipped to number 7, then you’ll be fine.)
You may be able to see a pattern developing here. These are rules for everyday life, and being out on The Big Road underscores their validity. Unless you’re a team driver, you’re always going to be out here on your own. You make mistakes, and you have to answer for them. Even if you’re a team driver, any mistakes that you make against the law will have to be your own. It’s your CDL on the line, and therefore your way of providing for the ones you love will be in jeopardy.
If you’ve never been out on the road but still are over age 30, then you’ve probably realized that the world can be a pretty mean place, even if you’re minding your own business. Sure enough, there are a lot of good folks out there on The Big Road, but surer still, there will be times that trouble seeks you out. Yup, ‘caca happens’, and the caca which will FIND YOU, will be unavoidable and unimaginable.
As a trucker you’ll deal with a variety of people who will spin an unending and unpredictable series of events the variety of which cannot be imagined. Mechanical difficulties alone could fill an encyclopedia. Even with a new truck, things will break, blow out, wear out, fall out, split, chip, crack and mangle under the torturing demands of The Big Road. And that’s on a good day, when you haven’t hit anyone and no one has hit you. Murphy’s Law applies here. In spades.
Add to this every kind of weather, personal health problem, family issue, law enforcement bully and roving lunatic you will encounter, and … well, you can see where this is going as well.
Stories abound about the Outlaw Truckers of the 60s and 70s, when drugs and alcohol were an accepted part of the industry. Many old time drivers were often EXPECTED to take amphetamines of every stripe in order to drive as long as possible without a break. Their livelihoods “depended” upon it, they’d insist. Trucking companies truly did expect them to drive as long as they possibly could. Log books were a wink and a joke, if they even kept them at all. Some claimed it was just easier to throw the whole paper chase out the window and gamble on getting caught. It’s more cost effective, they’d argue, to pay the fine and keep driving.
This is not the memoir of a person who lived that lifestyle, therefore my narrative of such times ends here. Not having ever been a part of that culture, I am unable to address these claims. Any stories I could pass on would merely be secondhand or hearsay, so I will not pass them along. All I may offer is the general observation that most widely related tales often contain at least a grain of truth, and too many people who DID live that life lived long enough afterward to make those claims. The tales are fun hear sometimes; sometimes not even that. This book is not the venue for such wild claims, folk stories or tall tales. Truck stops are good places for that. Nursing homes are not, because most truck drivers don’t live long enough to get old. Sad but true. One thing you’ll never see online is a URL for an old trucker’s home. They ain’t no old truckers, folksies. Just as sure as there ain’t no cash if the wheels don’t roll.
At least you’ll have your… pay?
If you’re a basically healthy person, have no fear because driving a truck will take care of that soon enough. An independent study recently showed that driving a truck shortens one’s life expectancy an average of 15 years over the long haul, as it were. So If you were planning on living to be 80, then cut it back to 65. If you’re shooting for the Biblical ‘three score and ten’ then plan on 55. Etc.
I personally believe that this is very optimistic. I say that trucker timelines would more properly be measured in Dog Years. It’s just too rough on you, folks. You’ll never get another real night’s sleep on the road. Your body will never adjust. There’s just no way to dial-in to the erratic sleep, traffic, break downs, poor food quality, CRAZY hours, rapid and frequent weather changes and STRESS in general. You’ll age faster than an alleged Muslim President. If you want to live to be 100 – or perhaps 60 – then don’t do it. Sure, you may live a long time, but the quality of life is probably going to be severely lacking.
BUT, if you must pound the pavement now, and chances are you’re going to, then take the following bits of friendly advice to help you save your health.
1. Don’t go out if you’re sick. That is to say if you have a weak heart, severe diabetes, kidney problems or any other serious health issue, then find another way to make a living. You’re going to be very uncomfortable on any given GOOD day, and compounding that with health issues will make you miserable; okay MORE miserable. Don’t do it.
2. SuperTruckers get sick too. Don’t be a Tough Guy. If you fall seriously ill out on the road, best thing to do is find a safe truck stop with plenty of adequate parking. If you’re well enough to do so, then call either a taxi to take you to the doctor, or an ambulance depending on the severity of your condition. If you’re NOT well enough, tell somebody at the truck stop that you’re sick and you need help. Other truckers will help you (see, The Brotherhood), and so will the good folks that run the truck stops. They’ve seen it all. Trust me, anyone who has witnessed the whale-like carcass of a dead trucker being scooped out of his sleeper after a week in the August sun… well, they will want to make sure they don’t see any more of them.
Again, get a ride somehow. Don’t do it yourself. Sure, you can drop your trailer and ‘bobtail’ (drive without a trailer) into the given health facility, but it’s not advisable for a number of reasons. One being that an unhooked trailer is an easily recognizable target for thieves. They stand out like a sore thumb. Another is that most truck stops won’t allow your trailers to remain there unhooked at all, and almost certainly not without a dropped trailer fee. Everybody needs their cut and you’re taking up valuable real estate in their parking lot, so you gotta pay. Don’t chance it. By and large, the management at truck stops really are good people, but also good business people, and you’re taking up valuable sleeping space for the next guy who’s just spent 14 hours out there. Truck stop management knows this, so they’re not afraid to have your trailer towed by a wrecker service to a convenient impound lot (that they might also own) just down the street. Don’t leave your trailer unhooked, unlocked and preferably not unattended. If you have to go because you’re unwell, leave your tractor hooked to the trailer, call a cab or ambulance and take care of business. Truck drivers make a good living, so don’t skimp on yourself. Pay the fee, go see the doctor. The good folks at the truck stop will help you find what you need.
3. Good medicine is Good Medicine. Plenty of people out on The Big Road have to take medicine.
- Remember that you have to have your prescription bottles with you in the truck at all times. They have to be the original prescription bottles issued by the pharmacy. A snitty cop can make your life miserable if you have different kinds of drugs in one bottle, or even bottles with your wife’s name on them. In any case, really about the best thing you can do is hide your medicine in the truck, even though you could probably drive for an entire career and never hit a snag. In the unlikely event that you’re going to be searched, it’s going to take a real asshole to want to throw you under the wheels for having your blood pressure medicine in the same bottle as your FloMax. However, make no mistake, there are plenty of assholes out there. Hide the meds. It’s just easier.
- DO NOT take unprescribed meds with you. If you need them that bad you can get your own script. If you’re just partying with them, then sober up or stay home and party with your worthless friends. The Big Road is no place for you and you’re giving the rest of us a bad name.
- DO NOT take pain meds with you. If you’re in that kind of pain, you should retire, find another way to make a living, or at least stay home ‘til you get straightened out. Pain meds make you dull, sleepy, cranky and inept. Don’t even drive to the pharmacy if you’re on them because you can lose your CDL if you’re found to be impaired.
- DO NOT take over the counter medicines that will make you drowsy like cold meds, allergy meds, etc. Don’t even keep them in the truck with you. If SuperTrooper finds them on the dash or wherever, she can ground you immediately, and so can your company. They take this stuff seriously.
- DO NOT bring illegal drugs on The Big Road. If by this point in your reading you’re even CONSIDERING bringing illegal drugs out on your truck, you’re a freakin’ idiot and you should be shot right now. So put down the book, go home, stick your head in the oven and do us all a favor. *HINT* It really needs to be a gas oven. Either natural gas or propane gas will work nicely. An electric oven will just bake your head, and that will take too long. Illegal drugs are stupid. Don’t do them under any circumstances.
- Be sure to check with your company about their policies for prescription medications as well as OTC drugs. Every reputable company is basically the same, but there can be subtle differences. If you’re considering buying your own truck without driving for someone else first, see above hint about gas ovens.
Miles Moore is the pen name for an internationally recognized novelist, screenwriter and erstwhile lifestyle raconteur. He currently is semi-retired and concentrating on his developing an artificial heart for the third world market. Hear him and friend Matt “MadMan” Mayo on their weekly podcast at www.drjeffreyandthemadman.com.