Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Summer Reading

I did a post a few days ago about automated trucks, and in it referenced an article written by this book's author, Steve Viscelli.

I recently purchased his book and look forward to seeing exactly what kind of information this author gathered from his six months on the road.

The book jacket blurb summary says:

"Long-haul trucks have been described as sweatshops on wheels.  The typical long-haul trucker works the equivalent of two full-time jobs, often for little more than minimum wage.  But it wasn't always this way.  Trucking used to be one of the best working-class jobs in the United States.  The Big Rig explains how this massive degradation in the quality of work has occurred, and how companies achieve a compliant and dedicated workforce despite it.  Drawing on more than 100 in-depth interviews and years of extensive observation, including six months training and working as a long-haul trucker, Viscelli explains in detail how labor is recruited, trained, and used in the industry.  He then shows how inexperienced workers are convinced to lease a truck and to work as independent contractors.  He explains how deregulation and collective action by employers transformed trucking's labor markets - once dominated by the largest and most powerful union in US history - into an important example of the costs of contemporary labor markets for workers and the general public."

I suspect, from his Atlantic article and from the little bit I've read so far, that his emphasis is going to be on the outright company drivers, and operators in a lease-purchase deal. Which essentially means, still company drivers.  They get screwed because they are there for the screwing.  They take a shitty lease deal and expect to make money from it.  If you're an operator in a lease-purchase deal, you're getting screwed so hard, you're probably numb from it.  You're not exactly "independent".

I am surprised to find out that in the ten years it took him to research the book, he only found and interviewed two women drivers.  From what I can see thumbing through the book, since I haven't actually read much of it yet, he dedicates only a few pages to this one particular woman, Cathy. Her main take on her time in the industry seems to be the sexual harassment she endured.

I've been out here twelve years, and although I'm not a solo driver, I have walked around truck stops alone, I have done laundry alone, I have walked to the bathroom alone, and I have interacted with customers.  I agree with Cathy about the filth on the CB - although I don't hear much of it because we never use it - the guys are vile and disgusting and say things they'd never say to a human being's face, but I have never once in person felt harassed or demeaned.

My experience has been different. I've have had drivers hit on me, I've had drivers tell me I'm beautiful, I've had drivers give me the thumbs up when they see me pulling past them, I've even had drivers come to my rescue (once when my airlines popped off during a tight turn in a parking lot - Ed was sleeping).  I felt "cool" and admired.  I don't know if that's what was going on in the minds of those men, but that's what I felt.

And maybe that's the difference between me and someone like this Cathy chick - I engaged these drivers, I looked them in the eye, I made conversation.  I was not meek, I did not walk and talk like a person who can be easily victimized.  I showed confidence.

But this book isn't about the women in the industry, it's about drivers.  Over 100 who've been interviewed for the book.  You'll hear their take in their words.  

So, we'll see what this book has in store.  It's nice to have an outsider assess the industry in what so far seems to be an intelligent, informed way.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Music = Sheer Joy

2014: Bean There, Done That
2013: Capital Letters Indeed
2012: Look For The Sign
2011: This Is My Life
2010: The Power Of Liberty
2009: A Day At The Park
2008: A Body Temperature Of 98.6 – The Only Requirement To Work AT McDonald’s
2007: Laughter Is The Best Medicine
2006: Homeless Shelter
2005: Sorry, no post for this day. 


Heather said...

Thanks for the heads up on the book. I'll have to order one. I too would be very interested in what he has to say.
As a solo, woman driver for over 13 years, I also was not meek, or walked/talked like a person that could be easily victimized. I also walked truck stops alone, did laundry alone and because there was no one else, did all the interaction with customers. I haven't been driving OTR in 10+ years so I don't know if attitudes maybe have changed a bit but when I was driving there was a lot of harassment. I didn't listen to the radio much and it sounds like the reason why, hasn't changed. The majority of drivers were fine and the ones that weren't, were easy enough to lose for the most part. It was at shipper/receivers that I felt taken advantage of more often, and my guess was that they thought they could get away with it because I was female. I usually figured out a way to quickly put that thought right out of their head! I usually did not eat at the truckstops. Even if I took a book in or a folder of paperwork, it didn't take long for some driver to invite himself to have a seat and try to suck some conversation out of me. That was when I wrapped up my order to-go and took it back to my truck.
I may be wrong, but I think your truck driving experience is out of the ordinary in many ways. The fact that you run team and people do see you out and about with Ed makes an impression. The kind of freight (and therefore different kind of customers) you haul is a world away from what the average driver hauls. Good for you and Ed for getting to where you are in the industry. But it is a world away from the experience of the average long-haul driver.
Safe travels and as always love seeing you pop into my inbox! If you ever have time to stop while you're in CT I'd love to meet up with you two!

The Daily Rant said...

HEATHER: Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. I'm sorry it's taken so long for me to respond to it!

I appreciate your input as a solo woman driver. Sounds like things were pretty rough back then. And since you were a solo, you had to do things by yourself. Even when I went in to truck stops more frequently, I was never alone for long. Even if I was doing laundry, Ed would eventually join me. And I never ate alone, although at times I was approached for other drives while I was waiting for Ed (most often when he was having something done in the shop and I was waiting for him).

My experience is out of the ordinary. Being a team makes it different, and having the custom sleeper makes it different too - we can hang out in our truck if we don't want to go inside, many times not even parking in truck stops.

And the freight we haul does make a difference. If it weren't for Ed's experience, goal setting, and good business sense, we wouldn't be here. He's really put what he learned to good use.

And thanks for the invite when we're rolling through CT. I miss the east coast and hope we get back out there soon!

Have a great week and thanks for reading!