The Road, the Risk and the Sacrifice
How would you like to work 70 hours over an eight-day period, driving a 53-foot 18-wheeler through all hours and all terrains? That doesn't sound very appealing even when you know you are getting paid per mile. Men and women all over the US do this exact thing every single day, sacrificing their lives, their time, their livelihoods, to transport goods from one state to another without giving it another thought. That milk you're buying off of your grocery stores shelf has gone through an extensive journey and is there, now, available to you in every store, thanks to a trucker who hauled it.
A truckers day starts before sunrise and ends after sundown. Their main duties are intertwined with the safety of the vehicle and the safety of the load. Upon waking up, this driver ventures into the convenience station and does the morning ritual getting coffee, washing up, picking up a few things for the road. They get back to the truck and check their logs and messages, and off they go to another route. What's so hard about that, you ask? The road ahead is sometimes a horrible one, and many drivers don't make it to their destination. From road conditions whether due to weather or the unkempt and dangerous roads, the trucker has to know exactly when to make the turn, brake, accelerate, decelerate, etc.
Once they get to the destination to either get loaded or unloaded, the driver often has to wait for hours and is sometimes met by a person in the office who feels somehow more superior then them. The driver does not get paid for that wait time and if the driver's employer requests to be compensated for detention time, most of the time, neither employer nor the employee ever see a penny!
The driver just picked up the load, and it weighs almost 45,000 lbs. Now to move on to the next destination through rain, sleet and snow. The plan is never to just sit and drive. The planning is more extensive than that. The driver has to plan fuel stops, weigh stations, weather and road conditions. Among those obstacles, the driver also has to navigate through bad routes and deal with disrespectful drivers.
Did you know? The 18-wheeler can NOT stop like your sedan can! Please remember that the next time you decide to cut a trucker off or switch lanes only to slow down exponentially, you are risking your life as well as the lives of the respectful drivers around you! The average turning radius for a long haul truck is 55ft. Take into account that the width of most roads is 24 feet, and you can see why drivers must take extreme caution when maneuvering through turns.
Pretty soon, he/she has to fuel up and hunger kicks in. Hot meal? Forget about it. More like a sloppy Subway sandwich or a McDonald's meat clump. Sometimes, the driver does not get to eat due to the stressful dispatcher telling him that he can't be late.
Balancing life/work is nearly impossible. As a trucker, you spend most of your time on the road, and some don't go home every weekend. Your only means of communication with your loved ones is the phone you rely on to navigate you through the routes as well.
While going down the highway at 60 mph, you see the traffic in front of you braking, and naturally, you brake too. Well, the eighteen-wheeler behind you needs 40% more time to completely stop the vehicle than an average car. To avoid causing a crash or getting hit in the rear, stay back from the car in front of you 3 seconds away or enough for another length of your car.
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An 18-wheeler has several blind spots. This means that the trucker can NOT see you. If you are in one of those spots and the trucker needs to merge, the accident could be devastating and thus could claim more vehicles on the fast highway. The area in front of the truck is dangerous because of the length of time the truck needs to stop.
Please use the passing lane for what it is. Mind the truckers and other drivers around you.
According to United World Transportation, jack-knife accidents are virtually inevitable once the trailer exceeds a 45-degree angle compared to the tractor. Jack-knife accidents occur when the trailer’s tires start to skid and move faster than the cab, and these type of accidents can happen in any road condition.
Life of a Trucker
Truck drivers don't want any special attention or even a thank you. The drivers I spoke to voiced their concerns and most are annoyed by the smaller vehicles on the road completely risking their safety. I asked some truckers what they would like to see change in the industry.
"I would like to see more laws in effect and more police and cameras on highways. Many people see us as a nuisance without thinking about what we actually do."
- Joel K. AR
"Definitely more laws about texting and driving. Everyone should have to use a Bluetooth device just like we (truckers) are required to."
- Will M. VT
"More rest places. Or at least bigger places where, when you get there past 8 p.m. you won't have to sleep on the shoulder."
- Jim P. MO
The safety of those who provide a vital lifeline for Americas economy matters and next time you see a trucker, don't forget to thank them.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.