Monday, December 19, 2011

New Life

A while back, I asked Ed if he wanted to do a guest post for me. The idea sort of hung in the air for months and months, never being brought up again. But back in November, he expressed an interest in writing one and I expressed much joy at the idea. It gives me a break and we get to see life through his eyes.

The topics he chooses to cover are his choice alone, I have no input. He's done one already, this will be his second. And now I bring you Ed's View:

There are all kinds of truckers out here and they make up the industry in several ways. Here are just a few:

Regional Drivers: Home every night, these drivers only go a couple of hundred miles away each day, servicing distribution centers and local manufacturers. Some of them operate dump trucks and rock hauling trailers to supply local construction sites. They are home quite frequently.

Regional Long Haul: Covering territories as far as 500 miles away, these drivers are usually home every other day or every 3 days and on the weekends. Many less-than-truckload (LTL) carriers like UPS, Central, Old Dominion, and Conway move trailers on routes which keep trucks on a regular daily schedule, servicing the same terminals every day whether there is anything in the trailer or not. These drivers stop at the same truck stops every day and often travel the same routes weekly for years.

Long Haul: Like Salena and I, these drivers cover the contiguous 48 states, sometimes Alaska and often, Canada. They’re on the road for weeks at a time, and when they do go home it’s for just a few days at a time. They can haul everything from toilet paper to truck parts.

Since there are so many needs for trucks and so many uses for them in the transportation business, trucks are everywhere and just about anyone can drive one. Many drivers go into the business for different reasons. Here are a few of the reasons I’ve been given, in the 16 years I’ve been out here, for why people have taken to the open road:

They need to feed their family. Wife works full time, they need to work out here, to make the kind of money they need, to help their kids have a bright future. If they weren’t truckers, their kids would never have a shot at college.

They’re retired. After working in (insert various professions here) for more than twenty years or so, they want to see the country and get paid for it. These people are usually fun to talk to, but they often have no idea about the many issues that career truckers like me, face daily. The carrier they work for makes tons of money off of them while they’re usually clueless about how much they could be making out here.

They like trucking because they don’t play well with others. They’re like the atypical trucker in movies like “Duel”, or have imagined being behind the wheel in stories like Stephen King’s “Maximum Overdrive”. This is the guy who burned the town down, shot your sister, and then disappeared to who knows where. Now he’s sitting next to you eating biscuits and gravy and scrambled eggs at the trucker’s food counter. MMM, MMM, MMM he sure does love coffee! To be honest, these people have all but died out and are incredibly hard to find these days.

Team Truckers. These are the smartest people I’ve met out here. They’re the couple who went out and decided to run together to rake in the dough so they can live out their dreams. Some of them are only out here for a short time – two years or so - to make money, buy a house (for cash!) and then go back to whatever they were doing before the trucking bug hit them. They realized the only way to make really good money in trucking would be for the two of them to run around the clock for high rates, working as a very effective, well-oiled team. If they happen to own their own equipment, in a couple of years they could clear over a half a million dollars. This kind of cash can buy a nice house, car, education, or even a new life. In short, they’ve cleaned up.

This kind of thing happens all over the United States, every day. I’ve known teams who own multiple trucks, cars, homes, airplanes and even have their own small fleets. They started with nothing and earned everything in a few short years. It isn’t as easy as it sounds, though. Try living with someone 24/7 in a high stress environment, making on time deliveries, while dealing with the many personalities that exist in the trucking dispatch offices and at shippers and receivers. You also have to be your own mechanic, office secretary, and doctor. All of this while trying to maintain friendships and relationships with family and friends back home (if they’re even still talking to you).

I can tell you from experience, that I know entire platoons of Marines who couldn’t hack that type of lifestyle for a week let alone a couple of years. It takes dedication, loyalty, and a perseverance that only some people have. That’s why there’s a huge shortage of teams out here. Most just do it for a little while and then move on to other things.

A way around the problem of being cooped up for 24/7 with a significant other, is to each drive your own truck. Separately. These couples usually say that they love each other and both love driving, just don’t love being with each other all day, every day. These people do very well in the business and can multi-task while servicing several different customers with multiple trucks, instead of two people in the same truck. And they sort of each have their own life while on the road.

The list goes on regarding driver type, and it gets even more interesting in some cases. Imagine being the driver for entertainment road shows, ballet troupes, rock stars, race car drivers. What fun!

In fact, I’ve met lots of people on the road myself, just doing what I do. I met the music group Green Day at the Pilot Travel Center in Little Rock, Arkansas; when I approached them to talk, they claimed they were the “Foxboro Hot Tubs”, but I knew better, since I’m a fan of their music. I met Nickelback in Ohio, George Thoroughgood in Nevada, Reba McEntire in Connecticut and was treated to breakfast in Reno, NV by the driver of the bus that transported the cast of Girl’s Gone Wild. He didn’t know what to say when I asked if he was also the babysitter to the “stars” of the show.

We meet all kinds of people out here and it’s one of the things I love most about this job. I’ve worked in fast food, retail, construction, furniture moving and on freight docks. I was also a United States Marine. But I’ve had the most fun being an over-the-road truck driver, meeting all kinds of people from all over the United States and Canada.

Someday I think I’m going to go back to school and take U.S. History again, just so I can meld together the places I’ve been with their history. Being there in person, talking to the people who live and work there, puts history in perspective.

The information gained from being exposed to all walks of life because of the career I’ve chosen, makes my life, in a sense, take on new life.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
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Lux Perpetua
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Gil said...

Wow! Great post Ed. I learned a lot about the industry reading it..

june in florida said...

You two make a great team, i would think having a bit more space, your living quarters, makes it easier.Great post Ed thank you.

Anonymous said...

Well done good insight into the industry

Belledog said...

Way interesting. Ed dials it up to 11.

Eddie: you would grace any classroom discussion. In the meantime, here are some MIT online history course materials. For your, ahem, vast amounts of free time.

Traveling as you and Salena do, I think you might also enjoy Urban Studies classes; anything on development patterns of cities and how and why they developed.

Merry .. Christmas .. Week.
oo oo oo oo oo o

ELH said...

ED, another great post..please keep this stuff and salena are not only a great road team, but also a great writing team...
question...have you guys ever thought of writing a book??? on what makes the successful own/op compared to all the negative,whiners out there...if you guys do write that book, i want to buy one of the first ones...autogrqaphed of course..please think about that..

Marlaina said...

Looking forward to your appearance on girls gone wild. You had to expose something to get a free breakfast from them.

The Daily Rant said...

Thanks everybody! I'm glad people are enjoying Ed's input. I have to get him to post more often now!

ELH: Thanks for the compliments. And yes, we've kicked around the idea of writing a book. I would love to do it - I just need to pick Ed's brain for all he knows.

You'll definitely be one of the first to get an autographed copy - after my mother and Gil, of course!

Gil said...

Thanks for being so sweet! I think I am blushing....