Truckers: Warriors of the Highway
No Time for Family
Truck drivers get to see the nation on someone else's dime. They get to visit vacation spots and exciting cities all over North America, while earning six-figure incomes. Truckers are free agents, coming and going as they please, highway warriors, commanderimg luxury rigs, lounging around the best truck stops, and leading adventure-filled lives! These statements are far from the truth, but many young men and women are lured into a driving career by similar expectations.
To begin with, a driver is not a free agent, nor are they in control the lives they lead. Many truckers are away from home day and weeks at a time. The employing company controls their lives, and every now and then drivers get a few crumbs to keep them captured, by allowing 6 to 8 hours at home with their families.
Oh, but being away from the demands and stresses of home life would be a vacation in itself, you say. Perhaps some might agree, most do not. Driving for hours on end, no designated breaks or meal times does not appear to be a vacation, at least to me! Oh, but there are new federal laws that provide for proper relaxation, you say. Another, not exactly truism. Many truckers work 14-hour shifts, and can work as many as 84 hours in a seven-day timespan, or 98 hours in eight days. Not exactly anywhere near the gruesome 40-hour workweek that most are required to endure!
The big six-figure income is not reality, as many truckers are paid 20 to 50 cents per mile. For instance, earning .35 cents per mile to earn $100,000 annually, would require driving 285,714 miles per year! That equates to 783 miles each and every day for one year. Since no one is allowed or could drive for 365 days straight, it becomes more like 365 days, minus 104 weekend days, minus 7 days for a vacation, leaves 254 days of available driving time. Which in turn, would require a driver to run approximately 1,125 miles every day! This also does not take into account sick days, unavailable loads, or emergency time off.
And, of course, many memorable moments come from interacting with others driving 4-wheeled transportation. These drivers always display courtesy and respect for those big rigs, like yielding to allow the trucks to enter or exit on our interstates. Drivers of four-wheeled vehicles are considerate and enjoy sharing the highways with 18-wheelers. NOT! The average driver complains about the weight of the big rigs damaging 'their' highways, the rigs are constantly in 'their' way, and some cities mandate that truckers travel only in designated lanes. But, if the trucks ceased to exist, who would deliver every conceivable commodity to the doors of the 40-hour workweek workers?
Truckers get to sleep in lavish cabs, some equipped with televisions, microwaves, and sitting areas. Some truckers can get lucky, and spend weekends in the parking area of truck stops because their loads will not be accepted until Monday morning, or they are out of available driving time. So, they've got two whole days to do nothing but lounge in their lavish rolling homes, visit exciting areas of whatever towns they are near, and dine at 4-star restaurants (disguised at truck stops). Of course, this is another falsity. In reality, many truckers spend time falsifying log books (aka known as Creative Logging 101).
Being stuck in a cab, whether equipped with modern conveniences or not, is not a treat. The hours of a weekend can quickly turn into lonely, unfriendly, or boring experiences. Families might be hundreds of miles away, the trucker cannot disconnect from the trailer and leave the cargo unattended, and usually, they are no where near touristy areas of a town. The trucker cannot just take off in the company truck in search of sight-seeing opportunities. So, what appears to be a life of freedom and adventure turns out to be a controlled atmosphere.
When drivers arrive at their destination, the driver is welcomed by waiting employees that direct them to a reserved spot at the unloading dock. The driver can push a button and the trailer doors open or close, automatically. The warehouse workers efficiently and quickly unload the trailer, and deliver the proper paperwork to the driver to allow them to continue on their way. And, if any cargo happened to be damaged or spilled during transport, these same workers happily clean the trailer and re-stack the cargo while the driver lounges in the lavishly equipped cabin eating bon-bons and watching television. Again, this is only a figment of your imagination, folks.
Most often, the driver will receive a number when they enter the gated delivery area, and are instructed to park away from the warehouse, and wait for someone to call their number (this can be minutes or hours). Once the driver is called and given a dock-door number, the driver must manually open the doors, no matter if it's 110 degrees, pouring rain, or a foot of snow on the ground. The locks to the trailer doors can be rusted or frozen, or old and not functioning. The driver might be required to climb into the trailer to remove load-bars or other heavy, cargo stabilizing equipment. Once this is accomplished, the driver backs the trailer into the designated door, and may need to walk a very long distance to turn in the load paperwork to warehouse officials. Then drivers make the long walk back to the truck, in whatever weather conditions await them. Now, the unloading process can begin, and this can mean sitting in the cab, waiting for minutes or hours!
Many drivers face dangerous situation on and off the road. Accidents and other driving hazards abound while the truck is moving, but drivers can also face dangerous situations when they get out of their cabs. They could have a medical emergency, or encounter criminals and thieves waiting to rob them of cash or personal belongings. Some trucker's cargo has been robbed by thieves that break into the trailer while the driver is inside an eating establishment or sleeping. The entire responsibility for the valuable contents in the trailer belongs to the driver.
So, why not take a nap in that big comfortable bunk in the rear of the cab? Not that the driver doesn't deserve or need a nap, they dare not fall asleep and miss the changing of the light that signals the completion of the trailer unload. No one is going to come and gently wake the sleeping trucker to let them know their trailer has been emptied or that their paperwork has been processed. The load delivery responsibility does not end until the driver leaves the warehouse or unloading destination with signed paperwork. And, most drivers are required to send a message via the company terminal to provide notification of delivery completion.
So, okay, now the trucker is free, once again, and can do whatever he or she desires. Right? Wrong! Most likely the company will send a return message and dispatch the driver to another destination. No time for leisurely meals, relaxing baths, rest and relaxation, or sight-seeing side trips. The company is more like a commando of the driver's soul. The truck may be in the driver's control, but the trucker's life is in the hands of the owner, without any real consideration for the family that waits for their loved one to return.